Carbon County Chamber of Commerce honored community members who strive to make Carbon County a better place to live, learn, work and play. Awards were presented to various groups and individuals who make a difference during the annual event Monday at Penn's Peak, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe.

Mike Heery, CEO and president of the chamber said the event is held every year to thank and honor those community leaders who help create a better world by starting in their own backyard.

The following awards were presented: Jim Thorpe Lions Club, "Service Club Organization of the Year Award," sponsored by the Jim Thorpe Council; Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, "Citizen of the Year Award," sponsored by the Palmerton Council; Charles DePuy, "Teacher of the Year Award," sponsored by the Panther Valley Council; David Althouse, "Outstanding Leadership Award," sponsored by the Penn-Kidder Council; Rotary Club of Weatherly, "Service Club Organization of the Year Award," sponsored by Weatherly Council; and Sheila Knappenberger, "Volunteer of the Year Award," sponsored by the Lehighton Council. Also all recipients were presented House of Representatives Citations, sponsored by state Rep. Keith McCall.

Knappenberger, senior accountant with Buckno Lisicky & Company, and Anne Marie Fitzpatrick and Ray Brader, shop owners in Jim Thorpe, were also recognized by the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce as recipients of the "Spirit of Carbon County Award." Knappenberger was recognized for her role in operating a successful business while actively promoting the area, while Fitzpatrick and Brader were recognized for organizing the Jim Thorpe Birthday Celebration.

Knappenberger said she was surprised to be nominated for two awards.

"I don't do what I do to be recognized," she said. "I do it because I want to help my community."

"Community Spirit Award" recipients Fitzpatrick and Brader moved to the area 20 years ago and own Nature's Trail gift shop. They have organized the Jim Thorpe Birthday Celebration for the past 14 years.

Fitzpatrick and Brader thanked the chamber for the honor.

"We've enjoyed organizing the event because we want people to appreciate Jim Thorpe's accomplishments," said Fitzpatrick.

Accepting the award for the Jim Thorpe Lions Club was Ron Sheehan. The Jim Thorpe Lions Club was recognized not only for its trusteeship of the Asa Packer Mansion for the past 59 years, but also for helping the library, Little League, St. Patrick's Day Parade, CCCC, fire company, children's fishing contests, children's summer recreation programs, support of food pantries and more.

"I am pleased to accept this award because it doesn't only recognize the club for the work at the Asa Packer Mansion, but also for all the other projects we do to help the community." said Sheehan. "Jim Thorpe Lions Club is celebrating 61 years of service in Jim Thorpe."

Palmerton Council recognized Special Olympics of Pennsylvania. Chris Anthony accepted the award for the organization. He noted that the organization has 100 volunteers who strive to help intellectually challenged people enjoy athletic activities.

"We've performed exceedingly well in the state events," said Anthony. "I'm extremely proud of the management team." Anthony added that his reward was seeing the emotions on the athletes' faces when they compete and win.

Charles DePuy accepted the "Teacher of the Year Award." DePuy is a lifelong resident of Lansford. He has taught elementary school children for 37 years at Panther Valley School District, plus has coached basketball, track and football and has been involved in Lansford Little League for more than 30 years. He also participates in projects for the Lansford AMVETS.

"This is a humbling experience for me," said Depuy. "Everyone is a teacher. All you have to do is teach someone to read, do math or ride a bike and you are a teacher. I've always felt that being a teacher was a gift."

David Althouse, CCCC chairman of the board, was presented the "Outstanding Leadership Award." Althouse grew up in Jim Thorpe. He is involved in his church and Penn-Kidder Council. Althouse spoke about some of the changes he has implemented in the chamber that will help with making payroll for chamber employees easier, plus changes that are coming to the chamber Web site to make it more useful to tourists. He noted that the chamber is also looking to change its presentation of e-mail "blasts" that will make it more appealing. He noted that there are openings on the board for others to become more involved in the chamber decisions.

The Weatherly Rotary Club was awarded the "Service Club Organization of the Year" award. Accepting the award on behalf of the Weatherly Rotary Club was Lee Zink. The Rotary Club of Weatherly offers scholarships to graduating seniors, distributes dictionaries to third-grade students, provides refreshments during Halloween and Christmas celebrations and sponsors essay contest and biddy basketball programs for children. Their biggest contribution was raising $75,000 for a down payment on the Train Works property, and they took out a $125,000 mortgage to purchase the property.

Heery noted that the chamber has had financial struggles the past year because of the economy but feels that it is overcoming them. He noted that the chamber is also part of the Lehigh Valley Chamber and that events are reciprocated where both organizations are open to attend each other's events.

He also noted that the chamber offers a great deal to members, including, increased networking opportunities, health and supplemental insurance programs, participation in countywide directory, monthly newsletter and e-mail action alerts, member-to-member direct mail opportunities, members-only referral program, advocacy provide a strong voice on county issues, small business assistance and education opportunities, presence for your business via chamber Web site, professional staff to address the needs of members and to implement programs, strong local councils to assure that existing community programs continue and new programs are added, participation in county leadership program and increased representation locally, regionally and statewide.

The next networking event is breakfast at the Blue Ridge Country Club at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. Reservations are due by Nov. 16 by calling (610) 379-5000 or e-mail at mail@carboncountychamber.org [2].