phoca_thumb_l_Appreciation3The 1st Annual Oconto Area Chamber of Commerce “Business Recognition” and “ Chamber Volunteer of the Year” Banquet was held on February 12, 2011 at Crivello’s on Main in Oconto.

The Chamber “Business of the Year 2011” is Thompson’s County Market and the Chamber “Volunteer of the Year 2011” is Gary Zahn.

Special dignitaries were invited which included: Reid Ribble, Wisconsin’s 8th District Congressman who was unable to attend due to commitments in Washington. He sent a congratulatory DVD with a personal message to each of the recipients. John Nygren, 89th District Assemblyman; and Dave Hansen, 30th District Wisconsin Senator were also on hand to congratulate the winners.

Over 100 people attended this event. Oconto Area Chamber of Commerce President Ron Hayes welcomed the guests, award winners and dignitaries. Kathy Hayes was MC for the event and provided background information on all of the recipients.

Gary Zahn was chosen due to his extensive involvement in the Oconto Lions Club. Bob Schwartz, a current Lion Club member said: “He is the heart and soul of the Lions Club. He brings a refreshing breath of air to each meeting.” Gary was hired as a Paraprofessional in the Oconto Unified School District. Jeff Werner, Principal stated: “He meets every new situation and challenge with a smile and can-do attitude. He has already shown his leadership ability in a variety of ways.” Gary also has been a WIAA official for 32 years and was privileged to umpire the WIAA sectional baseball games in 2004, 2008, and 2009. He was also nominated by the coaches to umpire the State American Legion All-Star Game in 2005 at Miller Park. Gary was a Little League Coach, a Babe Ruth Coach for 12 years and has organized the Little League Tournament for 13 years. He was the Oconto Jaycess Outstanding Young Man in 1985 and received the very first Pebble Award from the Oconto School System in 2010. As a Chamber member, he is chairman of the Marketing Committee and was instrumental in organizing the first Christmas Parade in 2010 and also helped to organize the first Winter Fest.

Thompson’s County Market was chosen as the “Business of the Year” due to their admirable community leadership qualities, generosity and outstanding public image and reputation. The Thompson family went into business in 1948 when George & Lucille bought the former Richter Grocery Store. Mark & Sue went into partnership with George & Lucille in 1965 and then in 1980 Mark & Sue bought the business from George & Lucille. Ken, Mike & Wendy Thompson united with Mark & Sue who are now all shareholders. Mayor Tom Fulton stated: “With employment of over 100 people, many of them are students and young people, who are then able to save for their continuing education.” They are one of the City of Oconto’s major employers. Their generosity is evident as they are major contributors to the Copperfest Celebration, Family Day at City Park and their annual $2000 scholarship to an OHS graduate. They are also sponsors of the Rural/Urban Recognition Banquet, the Red Kettle Campaign, the Walking Trail at Oconto Elementary School, the Elks Easter Egg Hunt, and the Oconto County Fair. Many of the employees made comments about their work experience with the Thompson’s. One employee commented: “when you put on the red vest, you are treated like family.” Another employee stated: “they care about things that a large business would not.” Still another employee stated: “I have worked for 22 years. We have a great group of employees and bosses. After being here for so long, they become like family. The customers are your friends and it is a nice place to work.” Congratulations to all the recipients.

If you are not an Oconto Area Chamber of Commerce member, you can join by calling Nancy at 920-834-6969. The Chamber meets the third Tuesday of each month in various restaurants in the area.