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There was laughter, applause, tears of joy and sadness as recognitions and awards were given at the 58th annual meeting of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce's “Wine & Stein” on Thursday, Jan. 23.
The gala event at the Fairway Room of the Lancaster Golf Club was well attended by business owners, professionals and residents of the county.
Tears of joy mixed with sorrow flowed as Founders Federal Credit Union President Bruce Brumfield announced Lisa Muennich as the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year.
“Tonight, this is a very special recipient, representing a very unique organization who will receive this award,” he said. “This person faced great sorrow and loss yet responded in the most positive way possible.”
Brumfield shared how Muennich and her husband, Ken, had tragically lost their 14-year-old son, Seth, in September 2011.
Seth, a freshman, honor student at Buford High School, was struck by a car in front of Buford Middle School as he crossed the street planning to participate in a football game.
A month after Seth’s death, the Muennichs founded “Seth’s Giving Tree,” to keep their son’s memory alive by helping others. Since then, numerous extensions of this project have been created.
Seth was a member of his school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) so “Seth’s Giving Tree” partnered with the fellowship to provide scholarships to local athletes to attend the FCA Multi-Sport Camp.
In 2013, “Seth's Hugs,” a project which provides teddy bears to Lancaster County EMS, placed stuffed toys in local ambulances to comfort children at accident and crime scenes.
“Seth’s Hope,” another extension of “Seth’s Giving Tree,” has helped more than 100 families with Christmas gifts, food, clothing and other needs, Brumfield said.
Last year, youth from 14 local churches of various denominations united to purchase and wrap gifts for families at Christmas.
Beginning in 2015, the year Seth would have graduated, the organization will award college scholarships to county high school seniors.
Brumfield noted the overall mission of “Seth’s Giving Tree” is “to impact the future by helping instill the Christian values of faith, hope, love, integrity and generosity in youth ages 12 to 16.”
Just before calling Muennich to the stage, Brumfield quoted the person who nominated her for the Volunteer of the Year award.
“We are nominating Lisa for the impact she has had on the youth of Lancaster, giving them a means of reaching out to those in need,” Brumfield read. “Her passion for giving back to our community by starting Seth’s Giving Tree and inspiring so many other volunteers to join in this mission leaves no doubt that Lisa Muennich is deserving of the Volunteer of the Year”
Muennich humbly approached the stage and expressed her surprise at this honor.
“I’m speechless. Thank you,” she said. “If there’s anything you want to do to help these kids and bring them close to Christ, we ask you to just help.”
Also during this event, Chamber President Dean Faile recognized the organization’s ambassadors.
This group of business professionals, formed in 2009, represent the chamber at special events and serve as mentors to new members.
Faile expressed his gratitude for this group’s selfless service to the community.
“Ambassadors, thank you for the work you do,” Faile said. “My hat’s off to you.”
Carol Maroska, marketing president of the Lancaster/York district of Wells Fargo, presented the chamber’s Ambassador of the Year award sponsored by her bank.
Maroska said Wells Fargo was founded on the principles of trust, service and courtesy and this year's nominee exemplified those characteristics.
Also, she said nominees are selected based on professionalism, leadership abilities and demonstration of success within their own organizations.
She then announced Kimberly Karpovich, marketing liaison with Carolina Healthcare System – CMC Waxhaw as the chamber’s 2013 Ambassador of the Year.
“Our award goes to an individual who is very dedicated and goes above and beyond what is asked of her,” Maroska said.
“She has attended numerous ribbon cuttings, surprise patrol visits, Business After Hours, Breakfast Before Business events and visited with many current members. She has stepped up and conducted meetings when asked. She is always helping prospect for new members and wears her Ambassador badge proudly on a daily basis.”
Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152