Stateline Chamber of Commerce celebrated excellence at 2024 Awards Gala


Stateline Chamber Awards Gala 2024, at The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms, Rockton IL

The Stateline Chamber of Commerce welcomed businesses, the public, non profit groups, organizations, and finalists who were nominated for awards on Thursday evening, Feb. 1 to The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms in Rockton, IL.

The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour with beverages provided by generous sponsors, followed by a four course sit down meal. Live music from Josh Calhoun set the scene for a full evening of fun and celebration.

Event photographer Luis Hermosillo captured all of the action through his camera lens.

Whitney Martin, assistant news director and morning anchor of Eyewitness News, served as the evening's host. Joining Martin was Stateline Chamber of Commerce vice president Ryan Rydell, who shared in announcing this year's finalists and winners.

Rydell recognized the outgoing Stateline Chamber president, George Pleshewych, and introduced incoming president Laura Baluch. Each president serves a two year term. Eight members make up the executive board.

All board members were asked to stand and to be recognized, which brought on a nice round of applause.

An impressive list of nominees were chosen as finalists, with one winner in each category. Nominations came from peers and the public.

New business nominees were Mutually Focused Financial Advisors, Ric-Rac Embellishments & Gifts, and Whiskey Hotel Barbecue.

Rydell gave the background of Will Hendrickson, the owner of Whiskey Hotel Barbecue, who took home the award. After serving in the Army, and becoming a teacher in Chicago, plus growing his skills in photography, Will decided that wasn't enough, and boy are we thankful for it.

Whiskey Hotel Barbecue is opening in Roscoe this spring, at 5522 Elevator Road near Clayton Circle, where Sabroso's used to be.

Small Business finalists Hidden Creek Estates, Radiance by Roxanne (the 2022 New Business of the Year), and Rockford Rivets received a nod. The winner was Hidden Creek Estates.

At this unique venue off White School Road, they offer a wine and whiskey bar, weddings, murder mysteries, dining,  igloos, unique vacation rentals and private champagne tastings.

Large Business of the Year finalists were Taylor Company, Hennig, Inc., and Rockford Community Bank.

This year's winner, Taylor Company, goes to market through a global reach of 160 distributors that sell, install, and service products in over 125 countries worldwide. Their machines are found at various locations worldwide including McDonalds and the Dairyhäus.

Taylor Company will be celebrating 100 years in business and has kept its small town roots with headquarters in Rockton. Taylor Company always strives to be a strong supporter of the local community and typically donates over $150K annually to community and customer backed charitable organizations.

Taylor Company president Jeremy Dobrowolski accepted the award for Large Business of the Year, along with one of Taylor's teams.

Dobrowolski recognized an employee that is retiring after 46 years at the company, which is not unusual.

In the category of Pride of The Stateline, Greg Lindmark Foundation, Old Settlers Days- Rockton Lions Club, and Winnebago County Forest Preserves were up for an award. The Greg Lindmark Foundation was named the winner.

The Greg Lindmark Foundation provides emotional and self-care support to police officers, lessening culmination stress and trauma each may face. Mental health is brought to the forefront through awareness, education and confidential counseling.

Community Service finalists were Sharon Hecox, Andrena Sayles and Winnebago County CASA.

Sharon Hecox earned this honor for her many years of reaching out to help others, both in her work at the Rockton Township and as the executive director of the Stateline Mass Transit District(SMTD).

At the Township, Hecox lovingly provided general assistance to residents, helping people apply for Social Security disability, and was an advocate to get SNAP and medical benefits. Hecox also coordinated with the DRS (Division of Rehabilitation Services) and RAMP to get water heaters for those who needed them.

Hecox was instrumental in the formation of the Stateline Mass Transit District (SMTD), assuring that everyone has safe, reliable bus service available.

Hecox also chaired a past Women In Business luncheon with the Rockton Chamber of Commerce.

In her acceptance speech, Hecox credited all of the Township supervisors that she had worked with during her 18 year tenure.

Branda LaBuy earned the award as Ambassador of the Year. Reasons for her win include helping with various events, either checking someone in, or working behind the scenes. She also has met with businesses to see how the chamber can best benefit each one through participation.

LaBuy always assures that everyone has a great time.

Chamber Champion Brent Scott was recognized for his countless hours of unselfish volunteerism in various capacities, including serving as the treasurer of the Stateline Chamber of Commerce.

Finalists for the Cyndy Fogarty Lifetime Achievement Award were Steve Cofoid, Diane Hendricks and Bob Prosser. Bob Prosser was the winner in this category.

Prosser has a history of stewardship, entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Prosser has opened 11 different businesses in our region and has over three decades of history creating economic growth and community development.

All of the winners thanked family members, and all who have supported each business or a specific individual in their efforts.

Year round the Stateline Chamber has the mission of proactively stimulating growth in our region by offering a diverse level of community and networking events, educational opportunities, professional resources and advocacy to their members.

Last year the Stateline Chamber hosted ribbon cuttings to celebrate new businesses coming to the area. They hosted a golf play day, Lunch and Learns, the Influential Women in Business Luncheon, a casino night, and the final Stateline Business Expo. The Chamber has announced the Expo will not be continuing.

A purse project event involved a collection of over 150 purses being filled with toiletries, gift cards, and other useful items to be given to kids to gift their mothers with on Mother's Day through DEFY- Domestic Abuse Beloit. John Broda and Lea Evers spearheaded this awesome event.

The Chamber's vision statement is to be the premier resource for regional business development and community stewardship.

The annual awards gala is just one of many ways that the Stateline Chamber of Commerce celebrates excellence year round.

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