Four Union organizations were honored for their excellence in the community during the Union Area Chamber of Commerce’s Evening of Excellence awards banquet Thursday, Nov. 2.
The annual event was held at the city auditorium. Awards given to area businesses and organizations for their role in driving Union’s business community and economic growth.
Award categories include Nonprofit of the Year, Community Partner of the Year, Uniquely Union and Outstanding Community Project.
Fricks Market was honored with the Uniquely Union award for its efforts to help outside organizations and friendly service to the community.
The Disabled Veterans Memorial for which Veterans Memorial Park was named after was named the Outstanding Community Project.
The Nonprofit of the Year award was presented to Badge of Hope ministries for its work in building relationships in the community and among law enforcement and their families.
The Union School District was recognized as Community Partner of the Year for its dedication and support of the community.
Union High School alumnus and Emmy Award-winning television correspondent, producer, videographer, and communications specialist Alex Fees was the keynote speaker. Fees currently serves as a communications coordinator for the Rockwood School District.
In 2015 and 2016, Fees was a reporter and producer at Tribune Media’s KTVI Fox 2 and KPLR News 11. For 15 years he freelanced as a correspondent and videographer at KSDK News Channel 5.
He also wrote and produced a weekly kids show for the St. Louis Cardinals, “Cardinals Crew,” for many years.
Fees is a 1982 graduate of Union High School. He attended East Central College before graduating from Southeast Missouri State University.
Uniquely Union recognizes a local business that sets itself apart from other businesses in the community.
“Fricks Market is a small, hometown deli and grocery store that offers excellent service with a smile,” said Dr. Steve Weinhold, Chamber president.
In addition to being a deli and grocery store, Fricks hosts customer appreciation days, food drives and special events throughout the year.
“They even have live music periodically in the store on Saturdays,” Weinhold said.
The owners allow organizations like the Union Kiwanis Club, Union High School DECA, Union Lions Club, and local Boy Scout troops to ring bells, conduct peanut day drives, sell hot dogs and candy, and sell Christmas trees to benefit their organizations.
Fricks Market is a proud supporter of Union community events, including sponsoring the Union Chamber’s Wingfest Eating Contest this past October.
Store Manager Pam Janssen accepted the award on behalf of the Jennifer and Darren Newbanks family, owners of Fricks.
“Through all the ups, downs and changes Fricks has gone through over the years, our customer base hasn’t changed that much,” she said. “So anything you need at any given time, we’re happy and blessed to serve the Union community.”
Outstanding Community Project
The Outstanding Community Project is awarded to a project or event that has made an exceptional contribution to community needs.
“The Disabled Veterans Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park is a state-sanctioned memorial that was more than 20 years in the making,” said Steve Campbell, Chamber vice president.
The memorial is five-sided with each side recognizing a branch of the armed services. In the center are plaques honoring disabled veterans, an American flag, and a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Mark Vincent, county counselor and president of Pathway Finders, the group that spearheaded the memorial project, said the memorial is just the first step in honoring and assisting Franklin County’s veterans. He said the organization is looking to use the remaining funds raised for the park to assist other veteran projects in the area.
“Everyone thinks we built the memorial and now it’s over. We’re not done. Our board is going to be reorganized,” Vincent said. “Our challenge going forward is to assist all the veteran organizations in Franklin County. If they need help with a project, we’re here.”
Nonprofit of the Year
The Nonprofit Organization of the Year recognizes a local 501 (c3), (c4), or (c6) organization whose exceptional delivery of services to the community sets a high standard of quality and impact.
Badge of Hope was founded in 2010 with the desire to be an encouragement and help to those struggling with the stresses of law enforcement in their marital relationships.
Badge of Hope reinstated the Shop With a Cop program last year, giving 10 kids a $100 gift card during the holiday season. This year, the group expanded the program to 26 youth who will get to participate over two weekends.
The organization also created and delivered baskets of food for the New Haven and Gerald police departments at Thanksgiving last year and bought pizzas for officers in Union and St. Clair. Gift cards were delivered to officers in Sullivan during Christmas.
“This doesn’t even begin to cover what they do both locally and throughout the United States,” said Bob Schmuke, Chamber treasurer.
Kristi Neace, who founded the organization in the area, and her husband, Union Student Resource Officer Rick Neace, accepted the award.
Kristi Neace said in the time since Badge of Hope was founded, the amount of suicides and divorces in the law enforcement community has decreased nationwide.
“We offer a salute to all those who bravely and unselfishly serve our community every day,” Kristi Neace said. “It’s quite an honor and we appreciate this honor more than you can ever know.”
Community Partner of the Year
The Community Partner of the Year is awarded to a business or organization that has provided outstanding dedication and support of the Union community.
“This past spring, the district took the first steps to gain a better understanding of what local employers are looking for in high school graduates as part of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education program, Pathways to Prosperity,” Vogt said.
Pathways is an initiative to build career pathways for high school students and ensure students are ready for both college and the workforce when they graduate.
Building on the Pathways to Prosperity program, the school district partnered with the city and Chamber to host this year’s career fair and expo.
Vogt said the goal is to bring local businesses to the high school to get them in front of their future workforce and so students have a better understanding of what Union has to offer.
The district also is home to one of the largest craft fairs in the state of Missouri.
“The Union Middle School craft fair not only benefits the students and teachers at Union Middle School, but local restaurants, gas stations and hotels thanks to the large crowds drawn to this annual event,” Vogt said.
Weinhold, who accepted the award on behalf of the school district, said the Union community is a great partner and its service to Union students is exemplary.
“I am very proud of our teachers, our administrators and employees. But most importantly our students and the volunteer work they do in the community,” Weinhold said. “It is a pleasure being part of the school district and a partner of the community.”