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Chamber announces annual award winners

Credit union chosen business of the year; Bigelow achiever

 

Shannon Burge, left, and Beverly Rodriguez, right, accept the Business of the Year award from chamber President Kerry Higgins. - Scott Hunter photos

The Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce named its "Achiever of Year" and "Business of the Year" at a special awards luncheon last Thursday at the Moose Lodge.

The chamber membership chooses the honorees through a ballot process.

The "Achiever of the Year" is Debbie Bigelow, chief executive officer at Coulee Medical Center.

Bigelow stepped into the hospital position during a time of turmoil and was instrumental in rebuilding trust and confidence. She recently announced her intent to retire from the position as soon as hospital district commissioners find a new administrator.

Bigelow had been a fixture at the hospital for a number of years as the chief financial officer and has been active in community activities, which include serving as chamber treasurer since 2012.

"There are a lot of really high achievers on this list," Bigelow said. "So I'm a little embarrassed because there are so many people that are so deserving for all the work that they do."

Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal, however, reiterated that the chamber membership felt Bigelow deserved the award.

Winning "Business of the Year" for the second straight year was the Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union. The credit union has been one of the strongest supporters of community projects and for the past couple of years has provided funding for the July 4th fireworks over the dam.

"Without their support, the festivals and events would be much more difficult," Chamber President Kerry Higgins said.

Higgins noted that he also serves on the credit union's own board.

"I get a glimpse of the hard work they do for their members - everything from protecting from fraud to keeping branches up and running during the fires," he said.

The credit union is celebrating its 75th year in 2016, established in 1941, primarily to serve those working on Grand Coulee Dam.

Now, the credit union has nearly 14,000 members and seven branches.

The chamber of commerce board is made up of: Higgins, president; Bob Valen, vice-president; Lynda Anderson, secretary; Bigelow, treasurer; Scott Hunter, past president; and Sheryl Moore, Kevin Portch, Jerry Sands, Wade Taylor, members at large.

Nevsimal outlined a number of goals and plans for 2016.

Debbie Bigelow, right, accepts the Achiever of the Year award from chamber Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal. Shannon Burge, left, and Beverly Rodriguez, right, accept the Business of the Year award from chamber President Kerry Higgins. - Scott Hunter photos Debbie Bigelow, right, accepts the Achiever of the Year award from chamber Executive Director Peggy Nevsimal.

They include strengthening the relationship with the Colville Tribes; hosting quarterly educational seminars for the community; adding a building inventory list and business opportunities to the chamber website; distributing a consolidation survey to the community and facilitating consolidation discussions with local municipalities; launching ad campaigns on Facebook, Google Ads, and Instagram; establishing and distributing a travelers' survey to lodging establishments; and continuing to research and secure sponsorship funding for local festival expenses.

Nevsimal stated that a goal for 2016, was to increase chamber membership to more than 100.

The chamber sponsors six major festivals or events each year. They include the Triple Fish challenge in April, Colorama on Mother's Day weekend in May, Koulee Kids Fest in June, the Festival of America (July 4), Harvest Festival in September and the Vintners & Brewers Tasting and Auction in December.

Nevsimal pointed out large gains in a number of the festivals it sponsors as well as traffic on its website and Facebook page.

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