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Chamber applauds community leaders

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Photo by Tamie Meck TDS Telecom employees Bill Long, center, and Ray Vasquez accept the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award "for many years of exceptional service to Hotchkiss and the North Fork Valley," from chamber presid

It was fitting that the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce held its Nov. 11 annual meeting at Memorial Hall. The nonprofit was named the chamber's Nonprofit of the Year.

The building is used by the community about 450 times per year, according to board member Sue Whittlesey. Board member Paul Schmucker gave a brief history, from the pouring of the foundation in 1949 to the present. Schmucker read a long list of names involved in its inception, which he said was by no means a complete list. The $1,400 for the community room's Michigan maple floor was donated by Ola Taylor. "You're walking on it," said Schmucker. "It's still here."

Thanks to community generosity, the property has seen numerous upgrades in recent years, including installation of new energy-saving windows made possible by a $25,000 donation from Oxbow Mine.

Schmucker takes personal pride in the building. "I just feel at home in here because I feel like I'm walking around with the guys who put it together." A few of them and their descendents are still around, added Schmucker. He considers the building one of the best in Hotchkiss in terms of construction, and said it's as good as when it was built. "And we're going to keep it around as long as we can."

Business of the Year typically goes to a business that's had a really good year, said chamber president Nathan Sponseller, but this year's award honors TDS Telecom for its sustained commitment to the community.

"I kind of feel like this is a TDS Telecom/Bill Long award," said Sponseller. Long, TDS field services manager for Colorado, Arizona and Winterhaven, Calif., is also chamber vice president. Sponseller said Long works for the betterment of both TDS and the chamber. "Bill has really given a lot of time to the chamber, and TDS has provided a lot of good service to the community on an on-going basis," said Sponseller. As an example, he said, the welcome sign at the south entrance to town was blown down last spring. Long took the initiative to have it replaced.

Gates Shaklee was named Citizen of the Year. The Hotchkiss High School graduate and deputy marshal for the Town of Hotchkiss originally showed interest in education, said Carrie Yantzer, Hotchkiss K-8 principal and chamber board member, in presenting the award. Shaklee is a volunteer sports coach at HK-8 and his alma mater. "He does that on his own time and gives of his heart," said Yantzer. "So many kids tell me how much they trust and value Deputy Shaklee. Just to have that, in this day and age, is really incredible."

At the monthly town council meeting, Marshal Dan Miller praised Shaklee for his involvement in the community.

Shaklee said when he and wife Anna, who was also his high school sweetheart, were preparing to graduate from Adams State in Alamosa, they decided to return to Hotchkiss. "We wouldn't change it for the world," said Shaklee. "This is our home, this is our community, and it's a pleasure being back here."

In the annual report on the chamber, Sponseller said the organization had a successful year, increasing membership 14 percent to 108 members. Sponseller gave credit to chamber board members. "I think I've got the best board I could ever hope for," said Sponseller. "They really work well together."

Among the 2015 highlights, Ride the Rockies brought 3,500 cyclists and support crew to town. While the chamber about broke even on the event, said Sponseller, it brought good exposure to the town and the valley. "And we like to believe they left a lot of money in the process."

The Colorado Grand classic car rally donated $7,500 to the chamber, as well as a $7,500 scholarship that will be awarded to a Hotchkiss senior this coming spring. "If for nothing else, it's worth putting on just for that scholarship," said Sponseller. "We're very proud to work with the Colorado Grand."

Looking to 2016, Sponseller said there will be "no shortage of activities." The board is partnering with Delta County and others to consider improvements at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss. The Hotchkiss Downtown Improvement Committee has also made great strides with beautification and other projects.

Photo by Tamie Meck Gates Shaklee gives a thumbs-up for being called a “cheese-head” by chamber board member Carrie Yantzer during the annual meeting of the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce last Thursday at Memorial Hall. Shaklee, a deputy for the Town of Hotchkiss and volunteer sports coach, was named 2015 Citizen of the Year by the chamber.
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North Fork
Chamber of Commerce, Hotchkiss
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