A new larger venue has given us extra space and technology to be able to provide live entertainment as well as a slide show that will highlight all of our event throughout the year. We will have live Music entertainment as well as our silent auction and wine and spirits cork pull.
2023 -"OF THE YEAR" NOMINEES
cITIZEN OF THE YEAR
started Do Your Part Recycling in 2018 when our town lost it’s recycling bins. Do Your Part Recycling is a non-profit organization with a goal of keeping as much trash out of the landfill as possible. We help educate the community as we continue to grow.
When I started Do Your Part Recycling, we set up at the local Benton farmer’s market. Then moved to our permanent location at my family’s locally owned and operated grocery store.
I strive to help and educate our community on how to properly recycle anything/ everything. Our goal is to help the environment be a safer place for years to come, not just to provide a place for recycling. Do Your Part Recycling educates local groups, clubs, and schools about the important impact recycling can have on our planet. I have always felt that small changes add up. Like the saying goes
“Be the change you wish to see in the World”.
KEEP DOING YOUR PART!!!
Lauren has been a mortgage loan originator for the Benton/ West City community over the past 7 years, currently originating for FirstTrust Home Loans. Working back in her hometown community has allowed her to become involved in local organizations such as the Benton/West City Chamber of Commerce. Lauren has served on the board since 2016 and was an executive board member from 2017-2020 serving as president for 3 of the 4 years. In her time outside of work, Lauren is a volunteer assistant coach for the state winning Benton High School Rangler Girl Dance Team. Giving back to her community is what she believes in and contributes in any way possible to our schools, athletic programs, park district, non-profit organizations, etc. “It takes a village” in our small community but that is what makes it so special!
In the 1990s I represented WQRL Radio on the Chamber Board and was elected as Secretary - a position I held for several years. While representing the Franklin County Farm Bureau I was elected to the Board once again. I am currently on the Board as an Individual Member. In the 1990s I helped to bring the Little Mr and Miss Rend Lake pageant back and a couple of years later the Miss Rend Lake Pageant as well. I am very proud to be part of a very small committee who, in 2017, decided to bring Farm City Days back after a 25 year hiatus. While at Farm Bureau (and with thanks to our farmers and friends) I helped to raise over $100,000 to be donated in food items to the 9 food panties in Franklin County. I have been on the Benton Farmers Market Board for almost 18 years. Being part of the Benton/West City community has brought many people and businesses into my life that I otherwise would not known. I have always felt the importance of giving to others and that it has never been an obligation but an HONOR to serve. I am truly humbled for this nomination.
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Cafe Bloom is always looking for ways to serve and promote the community. They fund a weather camera so the entire region can be updated about the Benton Square on the local news. Bloom regularly hosts free community events. They hosted 2 foam parties over the summer, a Halloween magic show and often do an Easter celebration with real bunnies. Cafe BLOOM is always excited to participate in community events, regularly handing out free treats from snow cones to hot coca. They are honored to open their doors for prom and homecoming photos for young people.
Cafe Bloom serves as tearoom, lunch spot and event space all in one. The goal was to invite the community into the over 120+ year old historic building to enjoy the transformation it had undergone. Each weekend Cafe Bloom serves as the host to landmark events in people’s lives. From baby showers to wedding receptions and civic organization’s events- Cafe Bloom’s goal is to bring people together. After all, “Blooming” only happens when roots are deep- after you’ve planted yourself in a community and become deeply involved.
FRANKLIN HOSPITAL DISTRICT
Franklin Hospital District Our Mission is To Serve all the residents of Franklin County by providing care that is professional, compassionate and of high quality, delivered by competent, dedicated employees in collaboration with others, who share our values, to achieve positive outcomes for our patients. Franklin Hospital provides close to 200 jobs at competitive wages for local residents . They provided emergency services and have a helipad that provides emergent transport of critically Ill and injured patients. They are continually expanding and growing to meet the needs of Franklin County.
COUNTY SEAT ANTIQUE MALL
County Seat Antique Mall - County Seat Antique Mall has over 26,000 square feet of antiques, been in business for over 19 years! The Store has undergone some great changes over the past 4 years, adding a music room, antique furniture, and 60 vendor booths. We pull customers in from the tri-state area as well as resale dealers from all over the United States. We have a full staff that is available to help you with all your antique questions and needs. Owner Joe Sprague is an active member in the community and the Chamber of Commerce. He currently sits on the Executive Board for the Chamber and volunteers on several committees. Donates prizes and awards to the Car Show, Annual Dinner and is an active participant in the Rend Lake Water Festival. County Seat is always willing to keep their doors open late for local community events throughout the year. Host special viewings of local historic items and events.
EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
31 years in Education. I currently teach 9th grade Health and History at Benton High School. I am an alumni ('87) of Benton High School and my father, Mack, taught Biology at BCHS for more than 25 years. My dad and all of my coaches influenced my decision the most to become a teacher. After high school, I attended Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) and graduated in the spring of '92 with a bachelor’s degree in Health and History Education. In the Spring of '91 I married my high school sweetheart Trudee (Buntin ) Wynn and she has always been my best friend and greatest support. In the fall of '92, I was hired to teach Health at Harrison High School in Marietta, Georgia. I also coached JV Basketball and Baseball. Because of my desire to Coach basketball at the Varsity level, Trudee and I moved back to the area, and I was hired at Mounds Meridian High School. I was at Meridian from '94 -'96. Looking back, those were some of my fondest memories of teaching and coaching. Trudee and I then came back to Benton in the fall of '96 when I was hired to coach and teach at the Benton Middle School. While at BMS, I worked alongside people like Jim Morrison, Weldon McCormick, Ron Knox and Tom Whittington who taught me much about not only teaching ... but life in general. They were more experienced and served as great mentors to me. I then accepted a teaching/ coaching position at Benton High School in the fall of 2002. I am in my 21st year at Benton High School and it has been a great place to work. Along the way, Trudee and I have raised two children (Bailey and Gehrig) that we are very proud of. Bailey and her husband Adam just had a baby girl, and I am now a proud Grandpa. My favorite thing about teaching is helping kids move forward .... even if they don't yet know where the destination is. It's gratifying to just be a small part of their journey. In my opinion, I believe Benton High School is an outstanding school because we have Administrators, Teachers and staff that truly care about the success of our students. I am humbled with just being nominated. I can think of so many teachers at Benton High School that truly deserve to be recognized for the outstanding work they do with our students. I have learned this about teaching; there is always something I can improve.... there are always new methods and technologies to learn... always a better way to teach it. I am proud to say that I work for and with some of the best educators in the area ... and I learn from them each and every day.
Alisa Leffler’s teaching career began January 5, 1995, in Benton Consolidated District 47. For the past 27 and ½ school years, Alisa has taught General Music and Choir to thousands of students in Benton. Christmas programs, Concerts, Musicals, Music Contests and working as a vocal director in Pyramid Players has provided Alisa’s students with wonderful performance opportunities and memories year after year. Teaching today includes having the children of former students in class as well as working together with staff as former students. “This is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and joy to work side by side with former students as we strive to teach the future generation.”
My name is Jeff Roper and I have been a math teacher at Benton High School for 33 years. I will be retiring at the end of this school year. I have been married to my wife, Diana, for 36 years who is the guidance secretary at Benton High School. Diana and I have two sons, Reid, who is a math teacher and athletic director at Adams School in the Marion School District, and Ryne, who is a math teacher and athletic director at Yongsan International School in Seoul, South Korea.
My career teaching objective has always been to teach students in grades 9-12 to be successful in mathematics and to prepare them for everyday life, college, and future careers.
In addition to teaching, I was the head baseball coach for 17 years, winning 339 games, highlighted with a State 4th Place finish in 2001. I was the head football coach for 13 years, winning 83 games, which is tied for the most in school history, including six playoff appearances, and reaching the State Semi-Finals in 2001. Lastly, I served Benton High School as assistant athletic director for 5 years.
My favorite thing about teaching math is when I see a student gain confidence, mature, and have that light bulb moment when they understand mathematics. In general, another favorite thing about teaching is helping students develop their SHAPE, which represents their Spiritual gifts, Heart, Ability, Personality and Experience. Our SHAPE is what makes us unique and helps students understand what to do with their life.
I consider it an honor to have taught and coached at Benton High School. My career has given me opportunities to develop relationships with students both in the classroom and on the field, as well as working with some great teachers and coaches. As I reach the end of my career, I think about 2 Timothy 4:7 which says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR:
EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR:
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR:
LaFiesta Mexican Restaurant
Award of Appreciation
Karen Freeman accepts a Plaque on behalf of her late husband Walter Freeman. Walter was a long time member of the Chamber of Commerce and was our Vice President at the time of his passing. and volunteers for the Chamber.
winners through the years
We are happy to honor the following individuals and business as our "Of The Year" winners . This community is full of amazing people who give so much to ensure a brighter future, and we are honored to recognize them. They join a long legacy of community support and citizenship.
View all past winners here...
2021 Event Images