OTTUMWA — The theme of the evening was the power of partnership as Partners in Progress hosted its annual banquet Thursday night, spotlighting and showcasing the efforts of many individuals and businesses in the community.
The highlight of the banquet was the announcement of this year's Gene Schultz Community Service Award winner. Always a secret until the moment the award is given, the award is given to someone who promotes improving quality of life and making the community shine. Kim Hellige was chosen for her involvement, commitment and enthusiasm for the people and community around her.
"I'm in shock," she said immediately after receiving her award. "Thank you — I never expected to receive one of these. I don't feel like this really belongs to me, though ... but all the people I have served on committees with over the years. I appreciate this recognition."
This humble, giving attitude was one focus of David Weilbrenner's introduction of Hellige. In addition to her full-time job with the Ottumwa School District, she has also been involved in volunteering with the Wapello County trails system, the Ottumwa Parks Board, her church, the American Home Finding task force on teen pregnancy prevention and many other community organizations. Weilbrenner detailed her activities, countless hours of volunteer work and going the extra mile for everything she is involved in.
"(She) has always earned a great deal of trust and respect from co-workers, students and fellow volunteers and is very much loved by family ... (she) is a longtime and proud Ottumwan," he said. "I heard a quote a few years ago that said, 'In order to be successful, you have to make a difference.' (She) does just that."
The Gene Schultz Award is presented each year to an individual or group that exemplify Schultz's commitment to volunteer service in the community. His wife, Rose, traveled back to Ottumwa from Tulsa, Okla., for the presentation of the memorial award.
Dr. Marlene Sprouse, president of Indian Hills Community College, was the featured speaker for the banquet. She spoke about how her mission at the college to bring education as close to people as they can is built upon the importance of creating partnerships.
"Education is about growing people and fostering partnerships," she explained. "Nothing gets done without these partnerships."
Sharing words of wisdom from writer, speaker, teacher, scientist and humanitarian Margaret Wheatley, Sprouse outlined points from Wheatley's book, "Leadership and the New Science," that she sees as the cornerstone of creating partnerships. Seeing vision as expansive and inclusive, watching the patterns that emerge out of chaos and understanding that information informs us and forms us are all important in working together, whether it be in education or economic development.
"We all are products of the information and experiences we've had through life. Relationships are all there is, whether it's person to person, people to idea, people to things or people to time, she said. "Partnering for moving toward that field is so important ... we only persevere when we're truly together."
Partners in Progress is the service provider for six nonprofit development organizations in Ottumwa. Six businesses and organizations were honored by each of the nonprofits for their commitments to Ottumwa as "Outstanding Partners of the Year." Each representative of the award recipients were chosen for their dedication to helping the community succeed, supporting in many ways and being example of the values so important in growing partnerships.
The nonprofit organizations and their award winners were:
Bridge View Center: David Bradford — John Deere Ottumwa Works
Main Street Ottumwa: Mike O'Hara — O'Hara Hardware
Chamber of Commerce: Hans Wiltz — Edd the Florist and Big Apple Bagel
Ottumwa Area Convention and Visitors' Bureau: Mayor Tom Lazio — City of Ottumwa
Ottumwa Economic Development: Chef Gordon Rader — Indian Hills Culinary Arts Department
Ottumwa Property and Redevelopment Company: Anthony Christner — Christner Contracting