Chamber banquet moves back to PSU campus

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Pam Henderson was announced as the winner of the 2021 Spirit of Pittsburg Award at the annual Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Thursday.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — After an unprecedented year that saw the annual Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet move to Kansas Crossing Casino, the event returned to the Overman Student Center at Pittsburg State University on Thursday, where Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, presented the Spirit of Pittsburg Award to his longtime local district director, Pam Henderson. 

“Thank you all and it is truly an honor for me to receive this award tonight,” Henderson said in accepting the Spirit of Pittsburg recognition. “You’ve heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I have lots of villagers.” 

Besides presenting the award to Henderson, Moran also spoke earlier during the banquet, saying the Pittsburg community should be a model for others. 

“It is things like this that pull us together, and places like Pittsburg, that have decided that ‘We don’t care about what your politics are; we care about what we can work together on and get things done and make this a better community,’” Moran said. “And we so desperately need — where I work, in Washington, DC — we so need that sense of community where we recognize the value of each person, whatever their particular opinion is or whatever their particular issue is.” 

Other award recipients at the banquet included ReNu Medical & Spa, winner of the Small Business of the Year Award, CDL Electric, winner of the City of Pittsburg Employer of the Year Award, Kelli Winemiller, winner of the Educator of the Year Award, Chris Bohrer of Wood-Dulohery Insurance, winner of the Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award. 

The Business Education Alliance (BEA) Bill Coleman Business Partner of the Year Award went to Jason Wesco and Daniel Creitz of Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. The BEA Koeta Bryant Education Partner of the Year Award went to the Pittsburg High School Counseling Department and its staff members Gina Ulbrich, Jessica Stegman, Stef Loveland, Maggie Serrano. 

“As those of you that have been to the Chamber banquet know, the Spirit of Pittsburg Award is always a little shrouded in secrecy, and we’ve got to be strategic sometimes to make sure that we get the right people to the banquet,” Chamber President Blake Benson said shortly before Henderson was announced as the winner. 

After Henderson accepted the award, however, Benson noted that “the fact that she had an acceptance speech in front of her means maybe she caught on a little better than we intended.” 

Henderson joked that it’s hard to trick her, given her career in politics and her husband’s in law enforcement. The chamber’s disinformation tactics found a more vulnerable victim, however, in one of its own employees. 

“I write a press release to send out every year with the award winners,” Chamber Director of Marketing Josh Lowe said at Thursday’s banquet. “I was like waiting and waiting for who the award winners were, and finally they were like ‘Just don’t put the award winners up on the screen.’ And I was like ‘Well, I included it in the press release, do you want me to do that?’ And they made up a name. So, I guess I need to fix that before I email out the press release.” 

Lowe made his comments in an improvised speech to accept the 2021 BEA Jerry Lindberg Volunteer of the Year Award.