The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, May. 28, 2020

Main Street organization hands out awards

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The weather cooperated as Main Street Van Wert took a risk, given the recent rainy weather, and held its annual meeting al fresco in Wassenberg Art Center’s outdoor Art Park.

Main Street Van Wert award winners include (from the left) Adam Ries, Thomas Edison group members, and Dennis Cummings. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Keynote speaker for the evening was Frances Jo Hamilton, director for Heritage Ohio, who talked about growing up in the central Ohio community of Delaware, where her grandmother was a downtown business and building owner. She also detailed the struggles that community’s downtown area underwent for decades as businesses left for the suburbs and other businesses failed.

As an adult, Hamilton volunteered with Delaware’s Main Street organization, later sat on its board, and was hired as executive director in 2007. In 2016, she was named to her current position with Heritage Ohio, the statewide Main Street organization.

She talked about the impact that volunteers have on Main Street organizations, and expressed her gratitude for the large turnout for the annual meeting.

“When communities make this a priority, I just like to say a nice thank you,” she noted.

Hamilton said that many people share a love of place, while often that place is the community in which they now live or grew up. 

She stressed that community members need to take action when their downtown is at risk of dying, and talked about how Delaware residents volunteered and partnered with downtown businesses in that city to create what today is a vibrant and successful downtown area.

MSVW Executive Director Mitch Prices provides a recap of the past year.

MSVW Executive Director Mitch Price also gave a recap of activity in the downtown area during his tenure, noting that four new businesses have been started or relocated to the downtown area, volunteers have donated 2,800 hours to MSVW, 10 events have been held in the downtown area, with 10 hanging flower baskets and 40 new downtown banners purchased. A majority of the money needed to purchase a new wireless downtown public address system was also donated by the City of Van Wert, with approximately $1,500 remaining of the nearly $6,500 purchase price yet to raise.

In addition, Price thanked his board members and volunteers for their assistance in making Main Street such a success, while noting that his position is one he loves and also fits into his love for the community.

“I’m very passionate about Van Wert; I’ve always been passionate about downtown,” he added. “I love Van Wert.”

Price also said he hopes he can stay in the Main Street job for a long time.

“This is my dream job and I’m glad I get to do it,” he noted.

Three special awards — The Leslie Knope Award, Edison Award, and Mister Rogers Award — were also given out at the annual meeting. 

Former MSVW director Adam Ries received the Knope Award, named for the “Parks and Recreation” TV show character, which is awarded to a person who shows unrivaled support and advocacy to the downtown organization and the things it does.

Ries was thankful for the award, while adding that it’s important for people to make a difference where they live.

Heritage Ohio Director Frances Jo Hamilton also spoke at the meeting.

“I think Main Street is really unique and I have so much love for the organization still,” he said. “There are so many things in Van Wert that are making a difference, but I think Main Street is making Van Wert a better place to live and that’s something I want to continue to be a part of, if I can.”

The Edison Award, named for inventor Thomas Edison, is given to those who market their businesses creatively, provide entrepreneurial leadership, and bring fresh, new ideas to an existing building or business.

Dennis Cummings, who owns the building at 109 W. Main St. that houses Décor and Moore Gift Shop and Brewed Expressions, rehabbed the rundown structure, redoing the building’s tin ceiling and upgrading the building’s interior and exterior.

Cummings gave some of that credit to Ries, who he said provided him with resources and encouragement that allowed him to create the project.

“It was a dream started by him,” Cummings said, pointing to Ries.

The third award presented was the Mister Rogers Award, named for the famous children’s television personality and given to a “good neighbor” of MSVW.

This year’s award went to a group from Thomas Edison Center that have helped Price with tending the flowers and plants in the downtown area.

“This group is always willing to go the extra mile for me,” Price said. “I needed help with the downtown plants because that’s the last thing I wanted to hear: that they’re going to die. Every time I called this group, they would always help me and they would always make me smile.”

Amber Cereghin, a staff member at Thomas Edison, spoke about how amazing it felt for her to be accepted by the group she works with, even though the world they live in is very different from that of most people.

Michaella and Dru Johnson provided dinner entertainment, while Black Angus on Main provided gourmet hamburgers, homemade french fries, and fixings, and Truly Divine provided dessert.

Sponsors for the event included Central Insurance Companies, Perry Pro Tech, TSC Wireless, and Cooper Farms. 

POSTED: 06/12/19 at 12:38 am. FILED UNDER: News