GREENFIELD — With tears in her eyes, Jessica Green stepped behind the podium.
She’d taken a risk three years ago, thrown all her energy behind that little clothing store. But it was only successful thanks to the encouragement and support from those seated around the room.
The owner of Lucy Couture and the newly opened Eddie Lawrence, two Greenfield boutiques, was honored Thursday as the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s businesswoman of the year.
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The chamber honored hardworking entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders throughout Hancock County with its annual Community Walk of Fame Awards and dinner this week at Adaggio’s Banquet Hall.
Nearly 200 people filled the venue Thursday to hear who would take the top honors of the evening — after all, most of the community had a say in who ought to win.
Nomination forms circulated throughout the county for months, and the chamber’s executive committee narrowed the suggestions to three nominees per category, selecting a Businessman and Businesswoman of the Year, Community Hero and Chamber Champion.
The Community Walk of Fame is the chamber of commerce’s chance to highlight the hard work and accomplishments of the community’s business and nonprofit leaders, said president Retta Livengood. The chamber’s largest fundraiser, the event supports community programs like monthly luncheons and career-exploration events for local high-schoolers, Livengood said. The fundraiser averages about $10,000 raised for the cause.
“It is so fun to be able to recognize people who do great things, in part because they don’t do it for the recognition,” Livengood said.
Green and Matt Moore of Moore’s Repair Service took home the businessman and businesswoman of the year awards. When Green’s name was read, she gasped and looked wide-eyed around the table at her husband and co-workers who came to support her before handing off her infant daughter to go accept the award.
Green told the crowd she felt there are other inspiring and hardworking women in the community who are more deserving and experienced than she.
“I’m a little shocked, to be completely honest,” she said.
She added that Lucy Couture, her first business, recently received a nomination for best boutique of 2017 by the Indy A-List, a rating from recommendation service Angie’s List. Being named businesswoman of the year on the heels of that award took her breath away, she said.
Moore, who took over his family’s business about six years ago from his parents, said he was grateful for the community’s support. When Livengood stopped by his shop on north State Street, he thought she was visiting to show off her new Jeep, he joked. He didn’t realize he’d been nominated for the community award.
At the repair shop, he wears many hats: janitor, maintenance man and CEO, he said.
Being recognized for all that work is quite the honor, Moore said.
Many honorees said being touted by their peers, those who know best what they do day in and day out, made the nominations extra special. As Deby Low of Forty Financial accepted the Community Hero award, she thanked her parents for their example and her husband for allowing her to say yes more than she says no to business and philanthropic opportunities. Low is involved with the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department, serving as a board member, and the community health initiative led by Hancock Regional Hospital, Healthy 365.
It was a common theme among the honorees — deferring the praise to their co-workers and support systems.
Jon Smith of Smith Projects, who received the Entrepreneurial Spirit award, also thanked others who made his success possible.
“A lot of great people helped me out,” he said. “If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Brad Herndon, president of the Rotary Club of Greenfield, accepted the Nonprofit of the Year award alongside president-elect Jeannine Gray. He said the club’s leaders are excited to serve the community through charitable events like the Gift of Life auction, which has raised more than $500,000 in the last 18 years to pay for treatment for children with life-threatening illnesses.
As the chamber applauded community members, its board also looked inward toward those members who help make the chamber a welcoming place for new businesses and who bolster the success of events like the walk of fame.
The ceremony offers honors for those whose contributions assisted the chamber of commerce itself — the Chamber Service award and the Chamber Champion award.
Nick Ludlow of First Merchants Bank received the Chamber Service award. He said serving as a chamber ambassador — a volunteer whose job it is to help connect new business owners to existing members of the chamber — helped him to meet and learn from scores of local business leaders.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell received a warm round of applause after being named the 2017 Chamber Champion. The award recognizes a member of the chamber of commerce who goes above and beyond in service to the organization.
Fewell thanked chamber members for their dedication to the city he leads, saying he’s pleased with all they’ve accomplished together.
“I’ve served on the chamber for nine years; once you get in, they don’t let you leave,” he joked.
Chamber leaders enjoyed the opportunity to honor the people whose work improves Greenfield and Hancock County, said board chairman Joe Skvarenina.
“You wish everyone could win,” he said. “A lot of people work really hard and we feel like it’s important to show our gratitude.”
Businessman of the Year: Matt Moore, Moore’s Repair Service
Businesswoman of the Year: Jessica Green, Lucy Couture and Eddie Lawrence
Community Hero: Deby Low
Nonprofit Community Service of Year: Rotary Club of Greenfield
Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Jon Smith, Smith Projects
Chamber Service Award: Nick Ludlow, First Merchants Bank
Chamber Champion Award: Mayor Chuck Fewell, city of Greenfield