Award Winners Announced

Chamber of Commerce honors local people, businesses, organizations, and others during ceremony at Hanson Hills on Thursday
The 2020 Grayling Chamber Awards event – a ceremony held on Thursday, June 17, that was part in-person and part virtual – honored a former fire chief, the school district, a local day care provider, hospital staff, and a local man who helped to provide protective equipment for the community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce opted to forgo its normal indoor Awards Gala in favor of an outdoor event at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area pavilion with just the award nominees present, and chamber officials streamed the presentations live on Facebook.
The Chamber of Commerce started the ceremony with the presentation of the 2020 Kirk Wakefield Service Member of the Year Award.
“This award was inspired by the 2018 recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award, the late Kirk Wakefield. This award may be given to someone whose contributions and/or commitment of service as military or first responders has made a positive impact on the Grayling/Crawford County community over the past year. This award recognizes those who continue to put their lives on the line for the safety of others in our community/country,” according to the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s winner was former Grayling fire chief Russ Strohpaul. (He was the only nominee.) Strohpaul was not able to attend the event and his son Andy Strohpaul accepted the award on his behalf. Undersheriff Ryan Swope, previous Kirk Wakefield Service Member of the Year, presented the award. The sponsor for the award was Arauco.
“Chief Strohpaul built a strong Grayling Fire Department that our community should be proud of. He was a well-educated fire fighter, hardworking, caring, dedicated, and determined leader, and has held many titles throughout his 40 years of service to Crawford County including fire chief, assistant chief, captain, and lieutenant. Russ built strong relationships with businesses and organizations through the department to keep the residents of Crawford County safe,” according to his nomination information.
Next, the 2020 Grayling Chamber Awards ceremony presented the 2020 You Made It Happen Award (sponsored by the Grayling Promotional Association). 
The award is “given to a person, business, or organization who – through exceptional contributions and/or commitment – positively affected the growth of the Grayling/Crawford County community over the past year by implementing one specific event, service, project, or idea,” according to the Chamber.
There were six nominees and the winner was the Crawford AuSable School District’s staff for navigating through the education process during the pandemic.
“The entire Crawford AuSable School District had to implement new and creative ways to keep students safe, confident, and motivated to continue their education when moving from the classroom to the computer screen. These teachers did not just teach, they worked tirelessly to make sure our families were safe, our kids were fed and warm, and that they were okay. Virtual learning tasked them with what seemed like an impossible challenge, but they rose above and beyond,” the nomination form said.
Six local businesses were nominated for the 2020 Longevity Award, an honor that goes “to a business that has withstood the test of time, has sincere relationships with their employees and their customers, has helped make an economic impact in Crawford County, and continues to help our community thrive. Must be a current Chamber Member as of 2020.” Michelle E. Millikin, Home Waters Real Estate Realtor, sponsored the award.
 The Chamber presented the Longevity Award to Crawford AuSable Day Care & Preschool.
“Been in operation since 1980 and is the only childcare center in Crawford County. They have overcome many challenges and only came out bigger and better, including opening a new larger facility where they provide services to over 40 families yearly,” according to the nomination form.
Crawford AuSable Day Care & Preschool also won the 2020 Chamber Member Business of the Year Award. It was one of two nominees. Grayling Restaurant sponsored the award.
The award is intended for a “Chamber member business that exemplifies exceptional customer service, generosity, giving of their time, money, staff and/or facilities for community benefit, or has implemented new construction or renovation projects that serve as an investment or as an enhancement to Crawford County over the course of the past year,” according to the Chamber.
Justin Andre, representing the Grayling Rotary Club (previous winner of the award), presented the 2020 Chamber Member Organization of the Year Award to Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital for its work during the pandemic. Spike’s Keg ‘O’ Nails sponsored the award.
The award goes to “a Chamber member organization that has exemplified excellence in service work throughout the past year. For showing generosity by giving time, money, staff/volunteers, facilities, among other things for community benefit, setting an example for other organizations in the community, supporting the Chamber, and being a leader in the organization as well as the community,” according to the Chamber.
“When Michigan was noted to be one of the highest states for COVID-19 infection, Grayling Hospital was designated by Munson Healthcare to be the COVID treatment center for northeast Michigan. Employees in all departments rallied to care for the sickest patients, and continued to care for non-COVID patients, all during an evolving pandemic. Grayling Hospital is a major employer in Crawford County and provides many jobs for our community, as well as holding a partnership with Kirtland Community College, developing educational programs to prepare residents for healthcare careers,” according to nomination information.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the 2020 Citizen of the Year Award. Out of three nominees, the winner was Rick McBride. Kevin Jansen, previous Citizen of the Year winner, presented the award, and it was sponsored by Consumers Energy.
Citizen of the Year goes to a “person who goes above and beyond the call of duty, is always there when someone needs a hand, and who has contributed to make Crawford County a special place. The purpose of the Citizen of the Year Award is to recognize those who contribute and give back to their community. The nominee may be recognized for contributions made during the previous year or over the course of a lifetime,” according to the Chamber.
“McBride spent many hours making and delivering more than 1,000 face shields in the spring of 2020 using 3D printers. (He) volunteered over 100 hours at 17 District Health Department vaccination clinics with plans to continue, (and he was) a lead mentor for the GHS RoboVikes. (McBride) volunteers more than 500 hours each year to be a positive role model, influence students to consider STEM careers, teach technology, and give back to the community,” according to his nomination information.

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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