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Chamber members celebrated a year of accomplishments at our biggest annual event and volunteer leadership set an optimistic tone for the future. Nearly 1,100 people joined us at University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center on January 26 to honor those volunteers that helped lead the Chamber in 2017 and look ahead to 2018.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the annual Springfieldian award, given this year to philanthropist, businessman, attorney and civic leader Sam Hamra. His family, friends and colleagues gathered to honor Sam for a lifetime of work and giving back to the community that he and his wife, June, adopted as their own more than six decades ago.
The event would not have been possible without the support of a long list of sponsors:
Outgoing board chairman John Wanamaker of BKD, LLP took a look back at a year of legislative successes and the beginnings of an effort to create a community-wide vision for Springfield. He said creating a progressive and inclusive community is incredibly important to him, especially as his four daughters make decisions about where they want to live their adult lives.
“I truly think that we are on the verge of great things for Springfield if we are fully willing to come together as an entire community, embrace a bold vision for what our community can become and have the strength and fortitude to act to make that vision become a reality for our city and our region,” he said. “And above all, we cannot and we should not be afraid to reach for the stars with bold ideas that can move our community forward.”
Later in the evening, 2018 chairman Doug Neff of Commerce Bank took to the stage. He said that while he never imagined a “small-town farm kid from western Kansas” like himself would be chairman of a Chamber of Commerce like the one in Springfield, he is proud of his role – and his adopted community.
“When my family and I first moved to Springfield, I never would have dreamed I’d be the leader of this group … but that’s the point,” he told the crowd. “We can’t depend on anyone else to build on our strengths, to lead in a positive way, to spread the message about who we are. We can’t wait for someone else to step up and be the leader. Don’t look for others to be the leader. Become the leader.”