LIMA — Nearly 350 people turned out for a Star Wars-themed Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala on Wednesday, where six area business leaders were recognized for their professional accomplishments and contributions to the community.
A total of 18 area businesses and individuals were selected as finalists in six award categories, which included Small Business, Young Leader, Emerging Business, Woman Owned Business, and Non-Profit Agency of the Year, and the ATHENA Award, which recognizes individuals who help empower women achieve success in their careers.
Chad King, vice president relationship manager at Chase Bank, won the evening’s first award, Young Leader of the Year.
“It’s a big honor to win this award,” King said. “I hope to continue to take on leadership roles and be active in the community.”
King added that he believes there are many other “great young leaders” in the community, and that he is proud to be a part of this group.
The Emerging Business of the Year Award winner was Sara’s Sweets, a dessert shop that has grown rapidly since obtaining its own storefront on Eastown Road.
Owner Sara Anderson gave thanks to everyone who supported her dream, and said she is looking forward to continuing to serve the Lima community.
Non-Profit Agency of the Year went to West Ohio Food Bank, which is run by Linda Hamilton.
“We were in a strong category with Family Promise and Lima Family YMCA, so we are very proud to have received this award,” Hamilton said.
Dr. Nicole Nelson, medical director of the Radiology Department and Women’s Wellness Center at St. Rita’s, accepted the ATHENA Award.
“I am very fortunate in everything I do, I have a whole team of people that make me look good,” Nelson said.
She added that the finalists for the ATHENA Award were good examples for young women.
Other winners included Westrich Furniture for Small Business of the Year, and Women’s Health for Life for Woman Owned Business of the Year.
The evening’s emcee was Marc Bowker, owner of Alter Ego Comics, who said jokingly that recruiting a comic book “nerd” for a Star Wars-themed gala seemed appropriate.
“Who better to do this than the biggest nerd in the room?” Bowker asked the crowd.
Several attendees of the gala fully embraced the Star Wars theme, with some donning costumes and carrying light sabers. Judy Wells, a finalist for the ATHENA Award, wore a black cape and T-shirt depicting Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
The event’s keynote speakers were Lisa Kroehler, of I Do Windows and Roof Cleaning, Tracie Sanchez of Lima Pallet Co., and Jill Bakies-Lewis, of Beauty by Jill Salon and Spa. The trio spoke about how they got started in their respective business, who their mentors were and what they hoped their legacy would be.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima