By Emily Jaycox
For the Independent
The Stettler Regional Board of Trade (BOT) held its 2018 business and citizenship awards gala on Oct. 25, at the Stettler Community Hall.
Male Citizen of the Year – Doug McKay
Doug McKay, 2018 Male Citizen of the Year, uses his gift for music to make things a little easier for people who are grieving loved ones by volunteering his keyboard skills to play at funerals.
“It’s quite a thing,” said McKay of the award.
“I never imagined it.”
A group of McKay’s friends, who wished to remain anonymous, nominated him for his caring and support of “all those living after somebody has died.”
McKay has played piano and organ at many funerals in the community of the years.
McKay has also served on hospital boards and school boards, and served two consecutive terms on county council from ’98 to 2004.
He ran again in 2017, but lost in a close race against three other opponents in his ward.
He is currently the office administrator at the Stettler Medical Clinic.
“I’m very appreciative of people’s recognition of my involvement in the community.”
Female Citizen of the Year – Winnie Bissett
Winnie Bissett, executive director of the Heartland Youth Centre for 29 years, was named the Female Citizen of the Year at the awards gala Oct. 25.
“I guess when I was first told I was shocked,” said Bissett, adding she feels she is just one of many in the community who could have been chosen.
“I’m honoured, I’m humbled.”
Bissett started with the Stettler Boys and Girls Club in 1989. It merged with Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) in 1995 and became the Heartland Youth Centre.
Besides her after-hours work with youth through the centre, Bissett is involved in the community through volunteerism and sports.
She has helped organize the Christmas hamper, organized athletic events, coached school and community sports teams, and held a fundraiser for a friend with lyme disease who required specialized treatment.
“It’s nice to be recognized.”
When everyone volunteers, that is what “keeps a community going strong,” said Bisset.
Bissett received 10 nominations from a group of her staff.
“She loves her community a lot and is always trying to get people more involved, including the teens here at the centre,” said Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for BBBS and one of Bissett’s nominators.
“She motivates everyone all the time, so it was high time that, as a community, we thanked her for that.”
Youth Citizen of the Year – Mya Prehn
Eleven-year-old Mya Prehn has been awarded the 2018 Youth Citizen of the Year.
“I am overly excited and so grateful,” said Prehn in an interview.
“I can’t believe what a great honour it is.”
The humanitarian-minded sixth grader went on a trip to India with her mother in March to help build a school in India, held a cupcake stand in July, raising $100 for the Stettler Hospital, and cut her hair and donated it to cancer at the end of September.
“Seeing smiles on peoples’ faces just makes me fill up with joy,” she said.
“I just want to make people’s lives a little bit better.”
“I am very proud,” said Erin Prehn, Mya’s mother.
“I do think it’s a great honour for her and I hope it will inspire her to continue to be kind.”
A consciousness of what others are experiencing is a value Prehn and her husband have strived to instill in their daughter, she said.
Erin says the trip to India was “good for [Mya] to see and experience first-hand.
“I think it was life-changing for both of us.”
Erin received the Female Citizen of the Year award of couple of years ago, so she says it’s special that Mya now has this honour.
At seven-years-old, Mya spearheaded a healthy lunch initiative “Lunch Apeel,” a sticker program that encouraged students to make healthy choices.
The program raised $5,000 for the Breakfast Club of Canada.
With all Mya has already accomplished, Erin says she is glad for the recognition, but also hopes the award will inspire her and drive her forward to accomplish even more.
Business of the Year – Stettler Funeral Home and Crematorium
The Stettler Funeral Home and Crematorium was named the 2018 Business of the Year.
“We’re very honoured and privileged to be nominated,” said Verna Rock, manager.
Rock says she was told so many nominations came in for them that the decision was unanimous.
The Stettler Funeral Home and Crematorium is quite involved in the community through its programs and services, according to Rock.
The funeral home has held its “Tinsel and Tears” Christmas event for 10 years now.
Families can come and light a candle for someone who has passed, and there are memorial tree ornaments and entertainment provided.
They also do a balloon release and barbecue in the summer where, mostly children, who have lost a family member can send off a message on a biodegradable balloon and ribbon.
In cooperation with the Stettler RCMP, fire department and emergency services, the funeral home puts on a demonstration for grads at the high school each year called “Don’t Put us to Work.”
The demonstration shows the students the aftermath of drinking and driving and what a family goes through when they have to plan a funeral.
Small Business of the Year – Little Keepsakes
Little Keepsakes, a child and baby clothing and every day giftware shop, opened three-and-a-half years ago.
They carry mid-to-mid-high end clothing brands, and giftware for all occasions, including figurines, mugs, jewellery boxes, sympathy items and more.
“We try to be diversified a bit,” said Vivian Finlay, who is co-owner and partner with Karla Ballie.
Finlay says they were “very pleased and very surprised” at the nomination.
So surprised, in fact, that when they got the call from the BOT, that she reminded them which store they were.
Although unexpected, the award is very welcome, as retail takes up a lot of personal time, says Finlay.
“It kind of gives us that little push to try harder to know someone has acknowledged our hard work.”
Little Keepsakes strives for customer service, greeting visitors within minutes of coming through the door, and listening to them about what brands they’d like, says Finlay.
She says she hopes their customers like them for what they carry, because they are local, and for their pleasant service.
New Business of the Year – Stettler I.D.A. Pharmacy
The Stettler I.D.A. Pharmacy, located at 4934 50 St., was named the 2018 New Business of the Year.
The I.D.A. opened in July, 2017 and it co-owned by Wendy Bignell and Amer Sharaf.
“[We’re] very happy; honoured,” said Bignell in an interview.
The pharmacy strives to provide excellence in patient care, says Bignell.
“I hope people are happy with our service,” said Bignell.
“They must like us.”
The Stettler I.D.A. has a rating of five stars on Facebook.
“Fantastic service as well as product selection,” said Teela Uffelman in a Facebook review.
“They’re always willing to answer my smattering of questions and take the time to make sure I’m comfortable.”
Customer Service Award – Extreme Pita
Extreme Pita in Stettler has been honoured again with the 2018 Customer Service Award, after receiving the new business award in 2017.
Co-owners, sisters Jaime Comchi and Amanda Ollerhead, opened the Stettler franchise location in March, 2017.
“We’re excited to be recognized two years in a row,” said Comchi.
When they first opened, they didn’t know how successful they would be.
“You hope for the best and see what happens.”
Comchi says she feels like she is “a part of the big kids in town” now with this recognition from the BOT.
The partners attend BOT mixers and events and rely on the BOT as a resource so this makes them feel included, says Comchi.
“It’s nice to be part of the team.”
Customer service is important to the Extreme Pita franchise and to the sisters, treating their guests like family and going the extra mile, says Comchi.
“I’m actually pretty excited about getting the service award.”
It’s not uncommon for them to deliver lunch orders, or to start orders for regulars when they see them parking their cars, says Comchi.
“We do the little things to make it recognizable in the community that we do our best,” she said.
“It’s nice to be recognized and we’re just doing what we would’ve done anyways.”
The restaurant has a wall for awards, and it’s the owners’ dream to fill it one day.
If the sisters win a BOT award five years in a row, Ollerhead has said she’ll wear a prom dress to the awards dinner, says Comchi.
Community Service Award – Stettler Regional Fire Department Volunteers
The Stettler Regional Fire Department Volunteers were honoured with the community service award at the 2018 Stettler BOT business and citizenship awards gala.
“We’re very surprised, actually, that we were all nominated as a group,” said Regional Fire Chief Mark Dennis in an interview friday, Oct., 26.
“We see [firefighting] as something we do as a service,” said Dennis, adding the department wasn’t expecting an award for what they do.
“It’s pretty amazing to be recognized.”
The department was recognized for their community service that goes above and beyond fire department duties.
The Stettler Regional Fire Department is involved in the community, participating in the food bank drive each year, and various fire prevention activities in the community “over and above firefighting responsibilities.”
The community was well-represented at the gala and “it was wonderful to see all the community spirit,” said Dennis.
The regional fire-rescue covers the town and county of Stettler, with stations in Stettler, Big Valley, Byemoor and Donalda.
There are 32 firefighters at Station One in Stettler.
Product and Innovation Award – Two Way Oilfield Ltd.
Two Way Oilfield Ltd. won the 2018 BOT product and innovation award.
“We’re excited and honoured to be selected,” said Janice Strome, office manager and co-owner with her husband, Ken Strome.
Two Way Oilfield was started 30-plus years ago, says Strome.
The business had to diversify when the oil industry fell, and now focuses on repairing “anything with an engine,” from weed eaters, to freight trucks to farm equipment.
“We wanted to diversify a bit to ride out the rough parts of the economy.”
Strome believes they were nominated by a customer.
“Thank you to the Board of Trade for organizing a very nice evening and to our customers for allowing us to thrive.”
Heritage Award – Rhonda McCulloch Danceology
This year’s Heritage award recipient is Rhonda McCulloch Danceology.
The dance studio, which opened 34 years ago, does volunteer work in the community through free dance performances at different events, as well as participating in fundraisers for charity.
“I have a really hard time being boastful about what we do,” said owner Rhonda McCulloch.
Danceology students have been involved in events such as Spooktacular, Sharebear Markets, the Princess Ball, and others.
This summer nine students were awarded full scholarships to the 360-degree Dance Festival and Celebration in Palm Springs, California because of their community service.
Danceology started “Dancing from the Heart” four years ago.
The dance festival was started as an affordable performance festival, but also raises funds for charities.
Dance studios from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan attend each year. It has raised over $40,000 to date.
The festival raised over $25,000 for STARS Air Ambulance alone.
McCulloch credits her “wonderful, passionate” staff with inspiring children and bringing out the best in them through the “caring and loving environment” they create.
Most of her main teaching staff have been with the studio for 10 to 15 years and some are former students themselves.
Many past students have gone on to professional performance careers, obtained degrees and master’s degrees in fine arts, and are teaching dance throughout Canada and the United States.
Eco Excellence Award – Consignment Closet
The Eco Excellence Award was presented to the Consignment Closet at the BOT business awards gala Oct. 25.
“We’re keeping everything as green as we can,” said Betty Muhlbach in an interview.
Consignment and thrift are already forms of recycling, but Muhlbach takes it further with her business practices.
When items haven’t sold for over 90 days, Muhlbach sends them to the Salvation Army, which removes buttons and zippers in order to recycle polyester fabrics.
She also uses second-hand items whenever she can rather than buying new.
Everything in the store is second hand except for a few hangers, including the clothing racks, cash register, and a grandfather clock, says Muhlbach.
Muhlbach uses previously-used items “to keep costs down and to keep things out of the landfill one more time.”
The Consignment Closet was nominated for the eco award by the Stettler Beautification Committee.
“I think they just heard I’m very environmentally-oriented.”
The store opened three years ago and this is the first BOT award it has received.
“I’m just surprised and truly honoured to be recognized as helping the environment, which I think is extremely important.”
The Stettler Independent Consumer Choice Award went to The Fresh Wife
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Generations RV declined to comment for a story