Wakarusa honors Businesses of the Year

GVC Mortgage was named Small Business of the Year as the Wakarusa community gathered to celebrate another year of accomplishments in business, education and civic dedication Sept. 20. The dinner and awards event was sponsored by the Wakarusa Chamber of Commerce, and featured guest speakers and accolades for many.
The ceremony at Nelson's Banquet Hall in Wakarusa recognized the achievements of several local businesses, along with one outstanding Wa-Nee educator, and an individual deemed a loyal "Friend of the Chamber."  Several representatives from the Chamber served as presenters throughout the night, and awards were given to the following persons and entities that were chosen as exemplary in local commerce as well as leaders of their community.
Deb Shively, Chamber executive secretary, presented GVC Mortgage with the Small Business of the Year award.  Longtime Wakarusa resident Tim Weldy is the principal manager and certified mortgage loan originator for the enterprise, and has been involved in this line of work for 12 years.  Weldy's wife, Ruth, is Weldy's high school sweetheart; both are graduates of NorthWood High School.  They are the parents of two daughters, Sarah, 11; and Alexis, 8. Weldy is assisted in the business by Jennifer Cripe, who is also a certified mortgage loan originator. She is married to Brent Cripe, and they have two children, Trevin, 11; and Kaylee, 8.
Medium Business of the Year - KeyBank
The Wakarusa branch of KeyBank has been in alliance with the Chamber of Commerce for many years throughout various projects, noted presenter Cindy Hill.  The KeyBank location has continually served as an financial institution for more than 125 years, making it an integral part of Wakarusa's history as well.
KeyBank employees were cited for having a combined total of more than 115 years in banking experience. Scott Mattern, Pam Geyer, Melanie Weldy, Danielle Adams, and Joyce Homes were lauded for their community involvement, including launching "Neighbors Make a Difference Day," and helping with the Maple Syrup Festival. Mattern is also the co-chair of the Chamber Retail Committee.
Large Business of the Year - Horizon Transport
Wakarusa Town Manager Tom Roeder honored an impressive representation from Horizon Transport with this award. Nearly 50 individuals affiliated with the company were on hand.
The business was originated more than 26 years ago by Melvin Schrock and his wife, Ruth Ann. Schrock was working as as RV delivery driver for Coachmen Industries when he envisioned a business venture through which other drivers could be recruited and hired for delivery work. Horizon Transport is currently owned by a second generation of Schrock family. Schrock's son, Marion, purchased the company in 2004, and has worked in daily operations since 1993.
Horizon Transport currently boasts an independent contractor base of 1,400 individuals, having begun with just 10 drivers in its early days. They specialize in the transportation of new recreational vehicles, general freight, small vehicles, and mobile homes, all with an emphasis on safety and a reputation for superior service to both its workers and its customers.
New Business Award - Livin' Lite
Chamber board member Troy Schwartz described how Scott Tuttle teamed up with Bearcat Corporation in 2003, for the purpose of providing entry level lightweight campers. Just six months later, Tuttle entered into another partnership, during which Heartland RV was created, which soon became an area leader in luxury fifth-wheels and travel trailers.
Tuttle has since shifted his primary focus to the growth of Livin' Lite, and despite a devastating fire that threatened to decimate the company in the fall of 2008, Livin' Lite literally rose from the ashes to forge ahead with new designs and camping units that have captured the attention and allegiance of automobile giants Ford and Chevrolet.
Presently, Livin' Lite is listed among INC. Magazine's top 500 fastest growing companies in the nation, and is also named as one of Indiana's 50 "Companies to Watch."
Educator of the Year - Rita Harnish
Physician Robert Abel presented Rita Harnish with the Educator of the Year award. Harnish has taught science at NorthWood High School for 30 years, encompassing biology, honors chemistry, biochemistry, physics, earth science, and physical science, among other subjects. Over the past 10 years, 63 percent of her students have qualified for college credit by passing the chemistry AP test, and Harnish is often cited as being the reason that students enter college so well prepared for science courses.
Harnish's leadership skills extend beyond the school day and the classroom, as she serves among her colleagues as Department Chair and Developing Curriculum. She also coaches the Science Academic Team and sponsors the National Honor Society. For the past four years, she has also taught chemistry at Indiana University of South Bend.
"Friend of the Chamber" Award - Randy Lawson
Chamber board member Eric Brown described honoree Lawson as not only a "friend of the Chamber, but a friend to everyone!"  Lawson has lived in the Wa-Nee community for nearly 40 years, and has worked at NorthWood Middle School for 27 of those years.
Lawson is active in Wakarusa life on many levels, working with Little League, the Maple Syrup Festival, various Chamber-sponsored events, and volunteering in many capacities with NorthWood Middle School athletics. He was thanked for his gestures great and small, whether it was baking cookies for the volleyball team or helping prepare the town for President Obama's visit. And of course, his hobbies also reflect his loyalty to Wakarusa — he enjoys watching sports at the middle and high school levels, and taking in a good round of golf.