~ PVN staff report
ALMA, June 2 — Under a setting sun that projected a rainbow above the horizon of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce celebrated local businesses and handed out awards last Thursday at River’s Bend Ranch during its 96th annual banquet.
“Isn’t this an amazing place?” asked Susan Corbett, owner of the property. She told the story of how her parents found the small farm in an elbow of the Shenandoah River’s South Fork. “They fell in love with Page County and Luray, and they invested heavily here.”
The horse racing theme fit well on a scenic horse farm, and prizes were presented to attendees with the “Best Bow Tie,” “Best Hat” and “Best Overall Racing Attire.” A silent auction was held for 10 prize packages that each contained multiple products and services from local merchants.
Chamber President Gina Hilliard welcomed attendees and thanked a host of sponsors, some of which addressed the crowd of more than 100. Local officials were recognized, including Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain who was in attendance.
The event marked the 96th annual banquet and awards ceremony for an organization that dates back to May 17, 1926, when the Luray Chamber of Commerce was formed out of the Luray Board of Trade. “President J.R. Mims hosted the first meeting in the inn, and the first order of business was to produce a float to represent the new organization in Winchester’s Apple Blossom Festival. The main concerns of the year were to make improvements in the telephone service, roads, bridges near Luray, publicity for the area, a post office for Luray, education and condition of the schools, new business for the area, and to install lights for the town that would be on all night.” (Taken from the night’s program.)
The main event of the evening was the presentation of four annual awards given by the Chamber. Dr. Kim Blosser, president of Laurel Ridge Community College, read the following descriptions of each recipient before presenting each award:
Agricultural/Eco-Friendly Business of the Year
Page County Tree Board
Page County is blessed to have such a beautiful and vibrant backdrop. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Shenandoah River and everything in between, a healthy ecosystem is important to keeping our little slice of heaven beautiful. For this year’s Agricultural and Eco-Friendly Business of the Year Award, we want to recognize an organization that goes above and beyond to keep our landscape and ecosystem thriving.
This small non-profit organization offers community forestry advice on trees and their role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. This organization works with the Department of Forestry to obtain grants for planting trees on county property, helps our towns with tree planting and management, and even played a part in the idea and logistics for the Luray Hawksbill Greenway.
This organization has played a major part in the planning and planting of trees throughout the county. The role this organization plays in our day to day lives throughout Page County is vital. The research of what types of trees, the planting, and the work to help keep them maintained and healthy are necessary based on the areas that planting is taking place helps to keep all other aspects of our area thriving.
Run by directors Lesley and Tom Mack, Chris Andersen, and Charles Newton, it is our honor to present this year’s Agricultural/Eco-Friendly Business of the Year Award to the Page County Tree Board.
“It’s been a pleasure to plant so many trees, and I encourage you to do the same,” Charles Newton said in accepting the award.
Service Business of the Year
Choices – Council on Domestic Violence
Throughout Luray-Page County, we’re lucky to have so many different businesses and organizations that work within our community. The organization that we’re honoring this year works with individuals who are looking for support and safety.
With a staff that goes through extensive training, they offer shelter, counseling services, court advocacy, and more for women and children that have been the victims of sexual violence and domestic violence. The services that this organization, their staff, and partners provide truly help a part of the community with no where else to turn. Even for those that can’t come into the shelter, they also operate a 24-hour emergency hotline for people that are in emergencies and need shelter.
In addition to the services, they offer for sexual and domestic violence victims, they also offer shelter for women and children that are experiencing homelessness.
This year, we are honored to present the Service Business of the Year Award to Choices – Council of Domestic Violence.
In accepting the award, Vanessa Kulick Price of Choices credited the staff for their “tireless” efforts, noting that “I consider them to be part of the ‘first responders’ of our community.”
Hospitality Business of the Year
The hospitality business is one that truly thrives in Page County. Throughout our area, you’ll find amazing cabins, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and motels, hotels, and inns. So often when someone is visiting the area, they find a lodging establishment that they like and that fits their needs, and they visit year after year. We are honored to present the Hospitality Business of the Year award to a business that has been operating for over 80 years and is still going strong.
This motel has been operating since 1942 as a small, family-owned motel just a few minutes from the Shenandoah National Park. For over 80 years, this motel has been family owned and operated, and has offered countless visitors and locals a comfortable place to call home during their time in Page County. Staying open for that long is quite an accomplishment and is something to be celebrated. They have thrived because of their friendly staff, comfortable rooms and accommodations, and reasonable rates.
It’s our honor to present this year’s Hospitality Business of the Year award to Hillside Motel.
In accepting the award, third generation owner Alan Griffith talked about how his grandparents had opened the motel in the 1940s and passed it on to his parents.
Mary Lee Bryant Volunteer of the Year Award
Each year, when nominations for our Annual Banquet and Awards rolls around, is a chance to recognize all the amazing volunteers that help to keep our community a safe and happy place to live. This year, we are excited to award the Mary Lee Bryant Volunteer of the Year Award to a member of the Page County Community that goes above and beyond to not only help the youth of our community, but the adults who are struggling as well.
Audre King, the founder of Living Legacy and the West Luray Rec Center, has been selected as this year’s winner for the work he’s done to give the youth of Luray-Page County a safe place to thrive. In addition to Living Legacy, he also founded the ER Church that not only celebrates their faith, but also provides meals to citizens that are in need.
At the West Luray Rec Center, Audre and other volunteers offer kids a place to hang out after school, get help with tutoring, get mentored on resume building and interviewing techniques, learn how to take care of their bodies and minds, and more.
After growing up in Luray and attending college at Ferrum College, Audre knew the struggles that so many people in our area face. When him and his wife, LaToya, came back to the area, Audre wanted to give every kid he could a chance to learn, excel, and be happy in life.
Audre has recognized the need for mental health care in Page County and has worked with various organizations to offer free Mental Health Mondays at the West Luray Rec Center. In addition to Mental Health Mondays, he also has allowed programs like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous to hold meetings at the Rec Center, to make sure that everyone is getting the help that they need.
Audre has truly gone above and beyond to overcome the difficulties he faced growing up and teach the kids that he mentors that they are more than their hardships and that they can succeed in life.
We are honored to present this year’s Mary Lee Bryant Volunteer of the Year award to Audre King.
In accepting the award, King humbly thanked the community that had backed his efforts thus far, and pledged to keep growing with the community through his efforts at the Rec Center and beyond.