Large crowd gathers to celebrate winners during Annual Awards Banquet

Palmyra Area Chamber of Commerce members filled Farischon Hall on Thursday, Jan. 11 to celebrate the achievements of residents who made a positive impact on their community during the past year.

2017 Chamber President Charlene Jones-Liendo welcomed everyone to the annual meeting and dinner catered by HATS Restaurant. The tables were decorated with centerpieces that reflected the wares and services from several local businesses. After everyone enjoyed their dinner, the awards ceremony began with Palmyra Area Food Bank Secretary Christine Crawford presenting the Citizen of the Year Award to Dr. Bill Wommack.

Crawford nominated Wommack for the distinction, and she said he regularly donates his time and creativity to lend a helping hand to people in the Palmyra area. Each week, he takes a trailer to the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri to bring needed items back to the Palmyra Area Food Bank. Crawford said that Wommack handcrafts wooden items each year to benefit the American Cancer Society during the Flower Children's Auction.

“He has provided these impressive wooden items for as long as Mark Bross, who helps coordinate annual event, says he has records,” she said.

Crawford noted that Wommack also donates his woodworking creations to other fundraising efforts in the area. She said he also opened his door to individuals and families awaiting a space at the Heartland Ministries facility, and he is “a well-known and longtime compassionate and professional veterinarian in our community.”

“You're a wonderful group of people... I'm proud that you stayed behind me at least long enough for me to get my train on the right tracks,” Wommack said with a laugh.

Tracy Fountain received the Educator of the Year Award from her nominating colleague, Palmyra High School Counselor Kendra Tiemann. Tiemann described Fountain as “encouraging,” “committed,” “positive,” “creative” and “intelligent.” She said Fountain has taught Freshman English for the past five years, going above and beyond by secretly decorating teacher bulletin boards on weekends, volunteering to sponsor Key Club and head the basketball concession stand and donate tennis shoes, clothing and money for extracurricular activities to students without access to those resources.

Fountain said she loves all of the children she teaches, and she stressed that she knew Palmyra High School was the right place for her.

“This is it. This is where I need to be,” she said.

Ken and Penny Kroencke received the Volunteer of the Year Award from Palmyra Senior Nutrition Center Director Tammy Nix, who described them as each having a “heart of gold.”

Nix said Ken Kroencke drives to Monroe City twice a week to pick up food for the nutrition center, and he delivers food to homebound clients several times each month. She said Peggy Kroencke also volunteers in the kitchen multiple times each month and serves on the center's advisory council. Additionally, the Kroenckes volunteer to help victims of natural disasters through Immanuel Baptist Church. Nix said she could always count on the Kroenckes.

“I know whenever I am in a bind, I can call either one of them, and they are always willing to help me with a smile on their face,” she said. Ken Kroencke gave credit to God for the service he and his wife provides, noting “it's very rewarding” to bring meals to homebound residents.

“The Lord has blessed me with the ability to do so many things, and some things I'm good at, some things I'm not — but I'm going to try,” Ken Kroencke said.

2018 Chamber President Mason Owen presented the Paint Brush Award to The Rebel Pig, noting that word of the barbecue restaurant has spread as far north as Iowa and as far south as St. Louis.

“My favorite one was 'Oh, you're from Palmyra? Have you heard of that Feral Hog?'” he said with a chuckle.

Owen said members of the community were “glad that Doug Dry has fulfilled his dream of being a restaurant owner and chef, and we are grateful for the tasty barbecue served there.”

Chamber Administrative Assistant Susan Berti presented the Business Hall of Fame Award to Lovegreen Motors. She noted how a portion of the family business still stands at the corner of Main and Church streets. The business was started by E.D. Lovegreen in 1934. Berti paraphrased the motto in the opening ad: “We are open and ready to serve you. We are confident we will do it well.” The business employs nine people, and Jim Lovegreen remembered his father, E.D., promoting Palmyra years ago by pointing out aspects like the best curbs and gutters in the area.

“Palmyra's been good to us, and I appreciate the award,” Lovegreen said.

Jones-Liendo recognized Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd with the President's Award. She said she knew Shepherd for more than 20 years through business, and she recently got to know her on a more personal level. Jones-Liendo said she saw Shepherd “perform at the Taste of Palmyra,” noting she was “always ever-present at the Marion County Fair helping where needed.”

“Thank you so much, there are so many more who are so much more deserving, but I'm so honored,” Shepherd said.

Jones-Liendo presented service awards to board member Randy Hopson and outgoing board member Josh Steffen. Randy and Michelle Hopson also received a card for their yearly efforts in coordinating the Marion County Fair.

After the awards were presented, the 2018 Palmyra Area Chamber of Commerce board members were announced: Mason Owen, president; Jason Janes, vice president; Charlene Jones-Liendo, past president; members Bryan Bartz, Tavner Brown, Randy Hopson, Heather McChristian, Kelly Porter, Teresa Smyser, Kayla Wittler; and Secretary/Treasurer Susan Berti.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com