A quilting guild, a store that links farmers to consumers, and a lifelong resident with a penchant for helping his neighbors and his community were recognized at this year's annual meeting of the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce. The chamber also elected a new board member and said farewell and thank you to another.
S&B Quilters Guild, an organization that's kept the community in stitches since 1989, was named Non-Profit of the Year. Outgoing board member and Katherine Colwell presented the award "for decades of promoting the art of quilting in the North Fork Valley and for their charitable work."
S&B's mission is "to promote quilting and to expand and enhance our knowledge of quilting and quilting techniques in an atmosphere of sharing and fellowship." Since the early 2000s, the guild's Veteran's Quilt Project has provided quilts to military veterans; and for more than two decades its Caring Quilts project has provided quilts to community members when crises occur. They offer programs, workshops and sew groups, hold an annual quilt raffle, manage the Delta County Fair needlework exhibits at Heritage Hall every August, and every other year host the Cabin Fever Quilt Show at Heritage Hall.
Johnny Marta was named Citizen of the Year. Marta is a lifelong Hotchkiss resident currently serving on the Hotchkiss Town Council. Susan Spencer, who nominated Marta, knows from personal experience that he goes above and beyond just being a good citizen.
"If there was an honor for the 'Citizen of the Decade' or the citizen of the century, I would not hesitate to nominate him," said Spencer. "I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award than Johnny Marta." If not for him, she said, Hotchkiss Elks building would have fallen apart many years ago. He also helps maintain the Hotchkiss Senior Center, and with wife Billie, tidies up after events. He plants and waters flowers throughout town, and served multiple years on the North Fork Mosquito Abatement District.
He and Billie have won the annual chamber Christmas lighting contest at least 20 of the past 21 years. A neighbor herself, Spencer said the neighborhood depends on Marta for many things, including maintaining the watering system and controlling weeds. He also helps seniors with maintenance projects like winterizing sprinkler systems.
The Farm Runners Station was selected as Business of the Year. Newly-elected chamber board member Mitch Swanda presented the "much-desired" plaque to owner/operators Matthew Kottenstette, Emma Stopher-Griffin, and Katie Darlington.
Swanda called Farm Runners "a very good business model that brings a much needed service to the North Fork Valley." Farm Runners began in 2012 as a regional food distributor helping family farms find and deliver products to market. They deliver CSA shares to the Roaring Fork Valley, Crested Butte and Gunnison, allowing producers and growers more time to focus on their business.
The brick-and-mortar Farm Runners Station opened at 235 Hwy. 133 in June, offering farm-fresh locally grown produce, value-added products and scrumptious baked goods. In doing so, said Swanda, they not only help local farmers and producers, they make local products more accessible to local consumers.
"The joy, the happiness and the fun you bring to us ... I think is just really awesome," Swanda said. "That's what life is all about: enjoy what you're doing and people will pick up on that."
The Hotchkiss Fire Department and fire chief Doug Fritz hosted the meeting; Pat Medina with Pat's Bar and Grill served a small banquet of meats, cheeses, fruits and cheesecakes.
Chamber members also welcomed Swanda, Bank of Colorado branch president, as a newly-elected board member. They are seeking one more member to fill the board. Visit www.hotchkisschamber.com for more information.
Chamber board president Nathan Sponseller thanked outgoing board members Lynda Cannon and Katherine Colwell. Cannon, co-founder of the annual Farm to Fiddle Festival, served a two-year term. "We really appreciate the assistance she provided over that time," said Sponseller.
Colwell is stepping down as communications director in order to focus on her art. The past eight years she has maintained the two chamber websites, Facebook page and calendar of events, replied to all emails and phone calls, and created the weekly chamber newsletter.
She helps the chamber in "endless ways," said Sponseller. "I've always said I don't know what I'd do without her, and now I get to figure that out."
Colwell said that during the 2010 election she agreed to answer phones, "and it evolved from there." The experience has been "really phenomenal and goes way beyond just answering emails. I've learned so much."
Board member Robbie Winne will ease her way into the position.
Sponseller also updated members on 2018 highlights and said that 2019 is shaping up to be very busy. Chamber members will be involved in the Hotchkiss Prosperity Plan, a recently-kicked-off study grant to assess the local economy and identify areas for business development and economic growth. That is expected to wrap up in June. The chamber will also hold the annual E-waste recycling fundraiser in April, and host with Crawford and Paonia an estimated 300 people during Rural Philanthropy Days conference June 12-14.
"It takes volunteers to get things done, and we've got some good ones," said Sponseller.