Chamber honors local business

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce honored local business during its annual awards banquet, held at the Elks National Home.


Andrew Solutions
    One award, the Large Business of the Year, goes to a company with at least 51 employees that is recognized for its integrity and has actively contributed to the Bedford area. This year’s winner is Andrew Solutions. The company, with a facility in Forest, has had operations in Bedford County for 25 years. It has been a member of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce for 20 years and Andrew employees have volunteered at Chamber events and functions and have served on the Chamber’s board of directors.
    Andrew employees have financially supported area organizations, including United Way of Central Virginia, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Virginia and the American Cancer Society. Over the past year, Andrew employees have given $15,000 to those three organizations.
    Another contribution that Andrew has made to the area is jobs. In spite of last year’s tough economic climate, employment at Andrew’s Forest facility grew by 9 percent.

Clam Diggers
    The Small Business of the Year has the same criteria as the large business award, but goes to a business with 50 or fewer employees. Clam Diggers was this year’s winner.
    “This is the place you go to find your friends, your neighbors, and your business associates,”  Susan Martin, the Chamber’s president, commented.  “After earning its place in Bedford City as an excellent seafood restaurant, as well as becoming the only place offering fresh seafood for purchase, the owners decided Bedford City needed a Pub where as the popular song goes, ‘everybody knows your name.’” 

Otter Peaks Alpacas
    Agriculture is a major part of the Bedford area’s economy and the Chamber recognizes this with an award.  Otter Peaks Alpacas, LLC was named Agri-Business of the Year. The nominations that Otter Peaks Alpacas received cited it  for “strong commitment to support local businesses,” “designing and operating their business in an environmentally friendly way,” and “unselfishly sharing with others their experiences and knowledge.”
    Peaks Alpacas has a strong focus on agro-tourism, encouraging individual visitors and groups, including school groups, to visit the farm and learn about alpacas. It also take its alpacas to schools and various local events.
    Alpacas are a domesticated camelid from South America, related to llamas. They have been raised for their thick wool for centuries by people in the Andes Mountains. The alpacas at Peaks Alpacas are sheared every year in the spring and the wool is sold.

Bedford Community Health Foundation
    Non-profit organizations were also honored by the Chamber. The Non-Profit Organization of the Year goes to an organization that provides outstanding programs or services that directly impact the Bedford Community.  The Bedford Community Health Foundation was this year’s recipient.
    The Health Foundation was cited for being well managed and having a strong commitment to good, ethical business practices. Over the past 27 years, it has distributed $4.7 million in grants and scholarships within the Bedford Community. Bedford Christian Ministries, Bedford Christmas Station, Astride with Pride and the Bedford Area YMCA have been among the recipients of the grants. Back in the ‘90s, a Health Foundation grant also rescued the LPN program at Bedford County Public Schools.
    The Health Foundation has also assessed community needs and organized services to meet those needs. Bedford Ride, a non-emergency medical transportation program, was the result of a community health assessment carried out a decade ago which found a number of people who were unable to get to medical appoints because they had no transportation.

Sara Braaten
    Individuals were also honored.  Sara Braaten was named this year’s Citizen of the Year. Two years ago, the Bower Center for the Performing Arts found itself unable to pay an executive director. Braaten took the job and has served without pay ever since. A retired teacher, Braaten spends her retirement working at the Bower Center almost every day and often into the night. Not only does she do this without pay, but also personally contributes financially to certain programs to make sure that they succeed.
    Braaten, in her unpaid nearly full-time job, has coordinated efforts with other arts organizations in the area to coordinated efforts and avoid overlapping events.

Tony Ware
    Tony Ware was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented every three years to an outstanding individual who has given substantially of themselves consistently over time for the improvement of the city of Bedford or Bedford County, particularly in the areas of economic development, education, charity, health, arts and the environment.
    Martin described a typical scenario for the things Ware does:
    “It’s 3 a.m. and he arrives at his destination.  This time it’s Big Otter Mill.  He spent all day yesterday preparing for the day’s event and today he spends all day volunteering for the fundraiser. He finishes his day at 4 p.m., cleaning up the site and hauling his equipment back home.  Repeat this scenario many times and for many years for the Miller Home where he is on the board of directors, and many other organizations.”
    Ware also also serves on the board of directors at Sedalia Center, is a member of the Big Island Fire Department and chairman for Bedford Ride’s Big Island Area. He also served on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors for 20 years.