The Kenai Chamber of Commerce handed out its sixth annual awards Jan. 21 at a gala ceremony held at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.
Winning the awards were Era Aviation, Business of the Year; Mike Navarre, Volunteer of the Year; Kenai Mayor John Williams, Community Service; Michelle Glaves, President's Choice; Dick and Barbara Hultburg, Pioneer; and Louis and Terry Schilling, who received the chamber's Log Cabin Award.
Although several of the chamber's awards are typical of similar awards ceremonies, the Log Cabin and Pioneer awards are somewhat unique. They're given each year to people who are recognized as having made long-term contributions to the area's growth and development.
This year's Pioneer Award, which is given to individuals who have been in the community for at least 25 years, was given to two individuals who have been in Alaska since 1967 and in Kenai since 1977. The Hultburgs raised their three children in Kenai and have participated in more community service projects and public service organizations than can be counted.
Dick Hultburg is a former teacher, vice principal and principal at Kenai Junior High and Kenai Central High School. He's also served on the city's parks and recreation board for the past 25 years, the Peninsula Oilers board of directors, the United Way and is active with the Moose Club and the Lutheran church.
Barbara Hultburg has long been a champion of the arts who founded the Kenai Art Guild's arts and crafts fair, worked with senior citizens and Campfire Girls and ran a crafts store, Puff N Stuff, in Kenai for seven years. It was at the store where many young and old people were entertained both by Barbara's superior knowledge of arts and crafts, but by Dick's love of baseball cards, which he sold in a corner of the craft store.
The recipients of this year's Log Cabin Award, Louis and Terry Shilling, also are well known in the community for their wide range of contributions to the area.
Arriving in Kenai with nothing in his pockets in 1960, Louis Schilling built a large construction company from the ground up. He and Terry were married in 1965 and have been a vital part of the Kenai community ever since.
A true Pioneer of the area, Schilling's company is responsible for building several prominent buildings in town, including the Kenai Dental building, the Kenai Depot, Dan's TV, Little Ski Mo's, the Willow Street Shopping Center and a number of others.
The recipient of the Community Service Award is another longtime Kenai resident, Mayor John Williams. Williams was recognized by the chamber for his long history of public service, most notably serving as Kenai's mayor for the past 17 years.
Williams also has been active in a number of community service organizations, including the United Way, the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts to name a few. He and his wife of 36 years, Sharon, raised their four children in Kenai, and have seven grandchildren.
Keeping with the theme of longtime area residents, 45-year Kenai resident Mike Navarre was named Volunteer of the Year for contributions to Little League, the Boys and Girls Club and the United Way, as well as organizing a charity golf tournament that for 15 years benefited countless community organizations.
Michelle Glaves won the President's Choice, which was chosen by last year's chamber President, Cherie Curry. Glaves was honored for her tireless dedication to chamber activities, including invaluable time spent helping to train and mentor new chamber staff in the past year.
Era Aviation, this year's Business of the Year, was recognized for its long-running service to the peninsula. Era has operated nearly 200,000 flights in and out of the Kenai area since 1983, flying an amazing 2.2 million passengers to and from the area. Era also employees in excess of 600 employees in Alaska, including more than 40 in the Kenai area.
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