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Vern Wells picked up his First Citizen Award at the M-I Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center.


MONMOUTH — Friday’s Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center community awards banquet was canceled, but winners still received their awards.

Even as she was working out the details about the venue and vendors, Kathleen Mason, MICC executive director, made sure to acknowledge the award recipients.

At press time, most recipients had stopped by the chamber office in Monmouth for a certificate and to snap a picture.

Mason sent out a notice of the banquet cancellation on Thursday after board members decided to cancel in light of health safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“We are sincerely sorry for any disappointment and inconvenience that this will cause to our Monmouth-Independence communities,” Mason said.

She included contact information for people to request refunds for their tickets, donated items or sponsorships.

“Our primary vendor was Western Oregon University,” Mason said. “Their staff, from President (Rex) Fuller down to the event and catering staff, could not have been more understanding and accommodating. We were not charged any fees, which definitely helped since this is the chamber’s largest and most popular event of the year.”

Petals & Vines Flowers and Gifts was a vendor as well as an in-kind donor.

“We had almost 50 local businesses donate items for gift baskets, or gift baskets out-right, or special silent auction items like the flat screen TV donated by Minet,” Mason said. “While we are still waiting for responses from some businesses, Minet, as well as other businesses, are allowing us to keep the donations.”

Mason said the chamber plans to schedule an online auction in the next month or so.

“As the annual community awards banquet is our biggest fundraiser annually — besides membership — we are hoping that the Monmouth-Independence community will step up and bid on the wonderful gift baskets.”

At this time, there are no plans to reschedule the event, Mason said.

“The chamber urges people to continue to ‘shop local.’ Your local businesses need your support at this time, but always venture out with mandated health guidelines in mind,” she said.

She suggested finding businesses through the chamber’s website, micc-or.org.

“Contact them through social media, call them, or visit their website to see what their hours are and what items would be available for sale,” Mason said. “If you are concerned about going out but want to purchase an item or food, do ask the businesses if they have home delivery.”

The Monmouth-Independence Chamber office is open for business, but with public safety in mind, she said.

“We are always available for phone calls as well as email, but do welcome walk-ins,” Mason said. “We will practice ‘social distancing’ when you do come in, though, giving you a friendly greeting but not shaking hands, and staff will keep about a 6-foot distance from visitors. Our business is helping to keep local businesses alive, productive and successful, especially during trying times like this. We are working hard to get the word about resources available to businesses and reminding the community that Monmouth and Independence are open for businesses, one way or the other.”

The 55th Annual Community Award winners

First Citizen Award: Vern Wells

Junior Citizen Award: Jonathan Steinke

Education Support Staff Award: Donna Wedel

Distinguished Service Award: Shawn Irvine

Educator of the Year Award: Dr. Jennifer Kubista

Retail Services Award: (a tie!): Independence Cinema and Petals & Vines Flowers and Gifts

Food and Beverage Services Award: Arena Sports Bar & Grill

Professional Services Provider: Indy Commons

Financial Services Provider: Oregon State Credit Union

Non-Profit Organization Award: The Thoughts & Gifts Project

Personal Services Provider Award: Curves

Business of the Year Award goes to Arena Sports Bar & Grill.

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