Geneva honors own with annual awards

    They came, they met, they celebrated.
    That was Thursday evening's annual meeting of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, at which five awards were presented. More than 40 people attended.
    A lengthy moment of silence was observed for influential banker and civic linchpin James D. Briggs Jr. who died, at age 89, in Adams Memorial Hospital a short time before the meeting.
    The largest tribute was the Lifetime Achievement Award, given to Rose Bryan, who has been in charge of the Geneva branch of the Adams Public Library System (APLS) since 1994. Before that, she worked in libraries in the South Adams Schools District from 1972-94.
    The Business of the Year Award went to the Limberlost State Historic Site, which will be improved in the coming year by building a visitor center. Randy Lehman, the site manager, said groundbreaking for the center will be late this summer and it should be ready for use by the spring of 2012.
    The Industry of the Year Award was given to Shetler Wholesale Co., which is in the former Nudor building on the north side of town. The firm was founded by William Shetler in 1982 and was bought in 2001 by Dennis Klopfenstein.
    Joe Seffernick, who has been involved in Little League baseball and is helpful to numerous other people, received the Citizen of the Year Award.
    Meanwhile, the Bird Award, a larger-than-life cardinal, was presented by Stan Mosser to Curt Chaffins, a longtime employee of the Town of Geneva. Mosser joked that Chaffns was given "the bird" because, once, when removing show with a plow, he "took some street lights, too, and did a good job of 'beautification.'"
    Kelly Ehinger, director of APLS, presented the award to Bryan, whom she has known for 14 years as Ehinger headed the Decatur branch of the library system.
    Ehinger called Bryan "a great all-around asset"
    Eleanor Morris of Geneva, a member of the APLS board and a former member of the Geneva Library Board, said Bryan brought the Geneva library into the computer age "and beyond" and added, "We all are in her debt."
    Ehinger said, "Rose has a really good sense of how programming can positively impact the lives of people in our community. When the economy dipped, Rose was instrumental in preparing programming to help those out of work and she spent countless hours helping people create resumes, file for unemployment, and search for jobs."
    Ehinger revealed that Bryan once saw a young mother in town feeding her infant a soft drink, so she developed a story-time program, used nutritional lessons from Purdue University, and brought in guest speakers to talk about improving nutrition for babies.
    Said Ehinger, "This type of coordinating effort exemplifies the impact Rose has on the community. She sees something that can be done to help those in the community and she does it."
    Randy Lehman said a visitor center has been wanted for many years "to make the experience better" and, finally, "we succeeded" by getting enough money from state and local sources.
    He said the Limberlost Conservation Association and Bank of Geneva were crucial fiscal backers of this project, although much state money came in, too, such as $170,000 from the Indiana State Museum.
    The Shelter firm sells imported items, with about 40 percent of customers being Amish and Mennonite and 40 percent being retail stores. Klopfenstein says Shetler Wholesale sells to more than 1,000 stores.
    During the award presentation, it was stated that the company has made rapid growth in the Midwest, East, and south and is branching to the west and southwest, while gaining sales internationally. It was noted that the firm had its best year in 2010 and is doing even better in 2011.
    Klopfenstein said employment is seasonal and ranges from 14 to 20 people.