Mon Valley Regional fetes award winners
At the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce annual awards event Thursday, Executive Director Debbie Keefer recognized Ken Wiltz as a guiding light.
She said Wiltz exemplifies the commitment that has made so many local businesses and organizations successful.
The event took place at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township.
Wiltz, a long-time Charleroi Area School Board member and former executive director of the Mon Valley YMCA, received the "Shining Star Award."
The award goes to people who impact their communities through ongoing dedication.
"While watching young lives being improved by the activities at the Mon Valley YMCA, Ken was responsible for leading the facility through two major expansion projects throughout the years," Keefer said. "When there are less public and private dollars to work with in a nonprofit, Ken Wiltz forged ahead with his board.
"Ken's life has a lot to do about youth, helping them and shaping them. It seems as though he has been doing his shining for a long time."
Wiltz retired last year after leading the YMCA for 37 years.
"I am very privileged to be joining such a distinguished group of people who have been honored with the award in the past," Wiltz said. "I must admit that I'm somewhat baffled at my good fortune in joining them. My emotions are mixed; surprise, pride, humility, gratitude."
Wiltz said he first became involved at the YMCA as a volunteer janitor and day camp counselor while in college.
He continues to serve on the YMCA board of directors and the chamber board of directors.
Wiltz has served 36 years on the Charleroi Area School Board, currently as president.
"This award to me is simply a good reminder that the spirit of democracy rests in our energies to make our community better and safer and how service becomes synonymous with America," he said.
Wiltz acknowledged the support of his family and others who helped him achieve his goals.
"I feel all of you out there are shining stars, simply because of your willingness to give of your time, your talent, and I know a lot of times, your treasure, to make our community better," he said.
Before the awards ceremony, Wiltz said he was flattered.
"I think it ranks as one of the nicest awards that I've been given," he said. " ... People have got to give back to the community.
"It was humbling. I was a little shocked by it. I didn't expect it, because you always do what you do as a labor of love. You don't look at it and say you're doing anything special. You just do it."
Michael and Lori Coury, owners of Salatino's River House Cafe in Charleroi, received the "Outstanding Business Development Award."
It goes to a chamber member that continually provides outstanding products or services.
The Courys opened Salatino's Pizzeria in Charleroi in 2004.
Four years later, they opened the River House at 506 McKean Ave., a larger- scale operation that employs 40 people.
Keefer called the River House "an anchor business in downtown Charleroi" that employs an "incredible work ethic."
She said the owners have shown that hard work pays off.
"Managing a restaurant may be the most difficult business of all categories to succeed," Keefer said.
"These people, I didn't know how they stood on their feet, at times. They were working so hard. They now have one of the most popular eating and night spots in the Mid-Mon Valley.
"They have become the town's cheerleaders for any new business or prospective business that might look at Charleroi as a place to start."
Keefer recognized the Courys' support of community events.
"What you have done is revitalized the community and improved our quality of life," she said. "You will always be an example of entrepreneurial excellence."
Lori Coury said the award put her involvement with the business into perspective.
"This award has allowed us to step back out of the day-to-day hustle and recognize what we have accomplished as a business, as a family, and as partners, husband and wife, and professionally," she said.
"Mike and I have been very blessed to have such a wonderful support system, including our staff and our family, and the wonderful friends and customers that we have grown to become very fond of.
"We don't take your visit lightly. We want you to walk out knowing that you are so appreciated by us that you chose to dine with us that evening. As for our growth, we are only getting started. We promise to provide you with more new and exciting things."
The "Excellence in Business Award" went to MarBill Diamonds & Jewelry in Rostraver Township.
It goes to businesses that show significant growth, leadership and "entrepreneurial spirit."
In 1964, Bill Horrell Sr. and his late wife, Anna Louise, opened the business at 400 Broad Ave. in North Belle Vernon.
It initially was a catalog outlet.
In 1986, the Horrells added the jewelry department, which has become one of the most prominent in the region.
They named the business after their daughter, Margaret, and son, Bill Jr., who is now the company president.
Keefer said MarBill "is a household name in the Valley" with a tradition of professionalism.
"The store on Broad Avenue was just always a friendly place to go," she said. "It was the place to go if you needed a clock radio, a toaster, a plate for your deviled eggs. It was all at MarBill's. There was always a case for jewelry, and the case got bigger and bigger.
"I think the big thing is trust. I think that everybody who has been to the store knows how the staff makes you feel, that you're treated royally when you enter the door, and you'll learn everything you'll need to know about that particular piece that you want to buy."
Bill Horrell Jr. said running the business has been a family affair covering three generations.
His wife, Linda Horrell, is vice president. Their son, Michael, is a graduate jeweler.
"It is an honor to be honored, especially by your peers and the chamber," Horrell Jr. said.
"When you go into business, you don't think about things like this. You just think about surviving. Like my dad always said, when you go into business, it's like sitting down to play poker. You sit down with the intentions of winning, and then you keep playing to stay even.
"We've been staying even for a long time. We've suffered thorough some ups and downs in the Valley, but thank goodness for the Valley people. We have a strong, strong customer base, and we are so thankful for that."
Horrell Jr. acknowledged the sacrifices his father made for the business.
"My dad still works. Every day, he comes to work," said Horrell Jr., holding back tears. "He bought the business to put my sister and I through college. My dad said he's not going to rust out; he's going to wear out. He's still going. Thanks, dad."
Horrell Jr. said it has been a privilege to work in a business connected to important occasions.
"Our business is great because it's all about relationships with people; weddings and anniversaries. It's a great business. We love it," he said.
The "Regional Service Award" went to the Charleroi Food Pantry, part of the Greater Washington County Food Bank.
The award recognizes organizations that contribute to quality of life.
Keefer lauded the devotion and commitment of pantry coordinator Susan Braunegg.
"When I first met her and heard her presentation about the food pantry ... I thought, 'This lady is unbelievable.' Then, I was awestruck by her passion and deep concern for her fellow man," Keefer said.
"Then, I was just impressed by the volunteer base that I found out she had and her ability to pull in donations ... so that place could be open two times a week, every single week of the year."
After the dinner, Braunegg said the honor was humbling but preferred credit be given to each of the pantry volunteers.
The winners received citations from state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, and state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.