WESTMONT – A village is often defined by the quality of its schools, businesses, and parks – but it’s the people that make a community a special place to live.
That impassioned message rang loud and clear Thursday at the 2014 Westmont Community Awards Dinner.
“I realize that our village, our town, is made up of people who are seated here right now,” said Gregg Pill, president of the Westmont Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.
“There are people who volunteer, who lead various organizations, and participate in the community. They are the spirit, create the environment, and enable others to go ahead and succeed and have a wonderful community.”
Pill and the Westmont Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau (WCCTB) hosted its annual awards dinner Thursday at the Oak Brook Hills Resort, honoring a number of businesses and residents for their service to the community and work throughout the village.
“Is this a great town or what?” asked resident Jimmy Wright as he accepted the Westmont Special Events Corporation Making Memories Award, which is given annually to the individual who supports community events and helps showcase local businesses.
A lifelong Westmont resident, a younger Wright immersed himself in the community when his father, James Wright, served as Westmont’s mayor from 1973-77.
“I’m very humbled by all this,” Wright said. “This was a shock to me when I was told about this award, and I think my response was, ‘why me?’”
The 2013 Public Safety Officer-of-the-Year Award went to Captain Craig Skala, Sr., of the Westmont Fire Department, who is not only the part-time captain, but also the full-time administrative director.
“We know his accomplishments, but none is bigger than being a husband, father and grandfather,” said Debby Piha, who presented the award. “The look in his eye, his joy, when he is seen with his family may answer why he does it. He is one of Westmont’s finest.”
When Westmont Fire Chief David Weiss learned the Public Safety Officer-of-the-Year Award would be a fire department representative, he didn’t wait long to nominate Skala, explaining that he “exemplifies” what the community looks for in a leader.
“I work with a great group of professional men and women,” Skala said. “Over the years, I’ve watched the department grow and it’s really been a privilege to be a part of it all.”
Several Westmont businesses were also honored for their accomplishments.
Post-hospital physical rehabilitation clinic Burgess Square Healthcare & Rehab Centre took home the Dick Busse Business-of-the-Year Award.
Burgess Square Healthcare & Rehab Centre Administrator Mike Hensley accepted the award, thanking the chamber and the entire Westmont community. He said the Burgess Square team is one of the best he’s worked with and successfully rehabilitated over 500 people in 2013.
“[Administrators] John [Vrba], Anthony [Schreiber] and I don’t agree often, but we do agree that care comes above all else,” Hensley said. “We believe that if we keep doing the right things, it will all work out.”
The evening concluded with the Westmont Citizen of the Year Award, which honors a resident that exudes tremendous leadership and initiative in the community.
Cathy Casey-Crane or Joyce Feltz were the finalists for this year’s top individual honor, and Mayor Ron Gunter said each demonstrated “exceptional” involvement and leadership with the village of Westmont.
Ultimately, Feltz was selected for the award due to an active participation in a variety of clubs, [nonprofits] and organizations.
Feltz is an active member of the Westmont Historical Society, recently served as a missionary in the Dominican Republic and coordinates weekly Bible study at Holy Trinity Church and volunteers in its food pantry.
“I just want to thank everybody for the opportunity to serve the village of Westmont and all its people,” Feltz said. “There’s nothing greater than being a volunteer because you get so much more out of it than you put into it.”
Do you consider yourself a Westmont historian? If so, check out the fun quiz that was handed out awards dinner attendees.