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Genoa Chamber of Commerce's 60th annual dinner and awards ceremony honors community

GENOA – Awards presented in recognition of service to the city of Genoa at the Chamber of Commerce’s 60th annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Thursday left some recipients in tears.

The event was held at the Custom Aluminum Products building at 312 Eureka St. in Genoa.

Special praise and a standing ovation were given to Roger and Joanne Watson, who were the only individual recipients of the chamber’s Ambassador Award, for their decades of service to Genoa.

Joanne, who moved with her husband, Roger, to Genoa in 1964 and worked with him to found the Kishwaukee Valley Historical Society, said the award means a lot, and she was completely shocked and surprised, especially after being presented the award by two of her daughters, whom she did not know would be in attendance.

Roger, fighting back tears, said he was at a loss for words.

Alan Browne Chevrolet, which held a successful toy drive during Christmas; the DeKalb County Community Foundation, which has supported city programs; the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership, which has aided nonprofit organizations around the county; Genoa-Kingston School District 424, which has expanded student services through various community partnerships; Genoa-Kingston Fire Protection District, which has supported multiple chamber events; and Custom Aluminum Products, which has provided economic growth to Genoa, also were recipients of the Ambassador Award.

Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cortney Strohacker received a surprise award for excellence in leadership, the first time such an award was presented, leaving her in tears.

“She has the ability to take an average team of individuals and transform them into superstars,” said chamber Associate Director Krissy Johnson, who presented the award. “She has driven the chamber to succeed with her integrity and vision, and no matter how you define leadership, Cortney possesses those qualities.”

Strohacker said that she never wants the awards to focus on the chamber, but to be recognized in that way was very special.

Other awards included the Excellence Award, which recognizes businesses that enhance the community, whether it be new or improved businesses, renovation and expansion projects or an outstanding achievement within the business community.

This year’s recipients were the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.; Karlsbad Tavern, which underwent a substantial renovation last year; the city of Genoa; KishHealth Systems, which now is a part of Northwestern Medicine; Energym Gymnastics; and Lloyd Landscape and Garden Center.

The Outstanding Ambassador of the Year Award went to Sherry Frankenbach, and the Dave Tobinson Award went to Rich Gentile.

Anniversaries of chamber members also were highlighted. Among the longest-serving organizations were Tobinson Ace Hardware with 90 years of service, the Genoa Public Library with 95 years and St. Catherine’s Catholic Church with 105 years.

With respect to the event’s theme of “Cultivating Tomorrow Today,” representatives from Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College, Family Service Agency of DeKalb and the DeKalb Ogle Workforce Development Consortium presented materials on various services they offer to adults and students.

The event also featured keynote speakers Steve Dillett, Custom Aluminum Products president, and District 424 Superintendent Joe Burgess, who is retiring at the end of the school year after 33 years in education.

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