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Alliance honors community contributors

Citizen of year, community service recipient, businesses, others recognized at gathering

ADA — The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance named Deb Curlis its Citizen of the Year Thursday evening during its annual meeting.

Curlis is the marketing and events coordinator at Community Health Partners in Ada, where she has been described as being an invaluable asset to her organization, said Jesse Purcell, Director of Chamber and Tourism in her introduction.

Curlis volunteers her time on several boards and committees including the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wilson Football Museum, Ada CIC, Richland Manor, Buy Ada First and the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance Chamber and Tourism Committee, said Purcell.

Curlis also serves as an Ohio Northern University Entrepreneur Advisor and the Ada Rotary secretary.

“To say Deb is a caring individual does not encompass the true compassion of her spirit,” said Purcell.

“Deb holds countless events throughout the year including Beacon of Hope, Festival of Trees, and several community garage sales and book sales to benefit Hospice and those in need.”

Curlis said she and her husband had lived most of their lives in Hardin County, but now live near Findlay.

She became active in the Ada business community shortly after accepting a position with Community Health Partners and joining the Ada Chamber of Commerce.

Her involvement quickly resulted in Curlis leading the organization.

Her goal, she told the crowd at the banquet, was to fill each storefront in the community and as she leaves office as chamber president, she has nearly met that goal.

She said she will continue to work with the chamber and place a new emphasis on home businesses in the near future.

“This means so much to me,” she said of being named Citizen of the Year.

“I have made so many wonderful friends here.”

The Alliance’s Business of the Year honors went to Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative.

The power company opened its new $7 million facility on Kenton’s west side earlier this year.

In her introduction of the company, Purcell noted the many ways Mid-Ohio serves the community.

It offers a large meeting room for gatherings and sponsors youth tours to Washington, D.C., to name a few, she said.

Being involved in the community is one of the goals of each of the electric cooperatives, said Mid-Ohio President and CEO John Metcalf.

Ten years ago, he noted, the company started Operation Roundup, which allowed its customers to round up their payments.

The added money was collected and presented as grants to worthy projects within the community, said Metcalf.

In those ten years, Mid-Ohio has distributed $400,000 in local grants, he said.

There are 24 cooperative energy companies in Ohio, he continued.

“We all try to give back to the community we serve,” said Metcalf.

“We are extremely honored to accept this award.”

Dave McPheron accepted the Community Service Award on behalf of the OSU Extension Master Gardeners volunteers program.

The Master Gardeners “literally changed the landscape of Hardin County over the last sixteen years,” said Purcell in her introduction.

“Evidence of their work would include Veterans’ Memorial Park, the gardens at Hardin Hills, the Herb Garden at the Hardin County Museum, Gene Autry Park, the sloping garden next to the Kenton movie theater and the Friendship Garden at Simon Kenton Harco Industries,” she noted.

“The Hardin County OSU Extension Master Gardeners volunteers program is a model of community service and the program is educationally designed to meet consumer horticulture needs,” Purcell said.

“The organization plans to continue growing and educating the community about plants and their care, along with the importance to the environment in the community.”

“It is a thrill to be here,” said McPheron in accepting the honor, “and get recognition for doing something we do for fun.”

The organization has 32 active Master Gardeners who enjoy sharing their love of horticulture with the public and answering questions about plants.

Without the OSU Extension Office and the tax levy which supports its programs, the Master Gardener program would not exist, said McPheron.

He thanked the community for its continued support of the extension programs.

The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Iron Fit Gym of Kenton.

“Iron Fit Gym was established in August of 2015,” said Purcell.

“Over the last 18 months, they have invested over $100,000 in capital improvements to the exterior, interior, and equipment to build their business in a part of Kenton currently experiencing less economic development.”

Co-owner Amanda Crates-Bayliff said she joined owners Meg Manns, Joe Bayliff and Aaron Johnson to build the gym because they wanted to contribute something positive back to the community.

“They partner with the (Hardin County) Recovery Court to provide memberships to recovering addicts,” noted Purcell.

“Iron Fit Gym has hosted a 5k run in partnership with St. John’s, and hosted two powerlifting meets with an entry fee of a toy donation for Helping Hands during the holidays.”

“We are proud to be a part of what makes Hardin County great,” Crates-Bayliff said.

A new award was introduced Thursday which recognizes outstanding professional women.

The first Women L.E.A.D. Award was presented to Christina Cross for her work in helping organize the Women L.E.A.D. Program.

“Since Christina’s arrival in Hardin County,” said Purcell, “she has quickly become a mentor and community leader, sharing her insights in leadership, work ethic and vast national work experiences. Christina currently manages her own law firm, as a licensed business attorney to practice law in Ohio, California and District of Columbia. In addition, she is a Kenton High School teacher of American government and politics, mock trial and the Wildcat Community Connector Internship program.”

“I am very honored and touched,” said Cross as she accepted the honor.

She said when she moved to Hardin County, she saw the need for an organization to help professional women network with each other and educate younger women.

The Women L.E.A.D. Program is a response to that need, she said.

Times staff writer