Minerva businesses receive Chamber salute

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CCM/Thomas Clapper Community Salute Awards were awarded to the following Minerva businesses. Seated (from left): Eric Niemeyer, CEO of Lifecare Family Health and Dental Center, Diane Evans, E. David Hank Appreciation Award winner, Ashleigh Kramer, of The Komfort Zone and Jan Kishman of Kishman’s IGA; (back row) E. David Hank Appreciation Award winner Jeff Evans, and Kevin and Duane Ray of Ray Electric.

By Thomas Clapper

CCM Reporter

Minerva Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner and Community Salute Awards on May 8 at the Minerva Community Building featuring special guest speaker Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik.

Following the dinner catered by Kishman’s IGA, Minerva Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Denise Freeland introduced Mihalik. 

The Ohio Department of Development is a state agency committed to empowering communities to succeed by investing in the people, places and businesses of Ohio. Mihalik was appointed director by Governor Mike DeWine in 2019. 

Prior to that she served as the 55th mayor of Findlay.

Her work resulted in Findlay being recognized as the top micropolitan in the nation by Site Selector Magazine for economic development and job creation every year since 2013.

“One of the things I have noticed the most about Minerva and smaller communities is that there are a lot of people so willing and capable of rolling up their sleeves and taking visionary steps to get things done for the community,” said Mihalik. “There is momentum happening in America and you are absolutely making a difference in the Minerva Community. 

Mihalik said she is originally from Syracuse, IN and went to University of Findlay. She landed an internship with the city, and she would soon become the first female mayor of Findlay. 

“I became mayor and inherited Findlay with no money,” said Mihalik. “I put into action what I call the Findlay Formula which involved collaborating with businesses and residents at a local level. Businesses chose to invest. Today we are seeing real tangible growth in the state. I want you to continue to think big because small to mid-level communities have big goals and Ohio is full of hardworking people.”

Mihalik said there is currently more than $1 billion in projects going on across the state of Ohio and they are making comprehensive investments in the state. 

“Ohioans don’t wait for others, we have a great passion for innovation and the world is watching Ohio,” said Mihalik. “I know how important manufacturing is to Ohio and this area. Partnerships with agencies, organizations and many other groups help with collective problem solving and that leads to greater things. You have been so great, no matter if you know it or not and we will continue to improve and get better.”

Community Salute Awards were presented by Chamber members and those on the board.

Outstanding Large Business

The Outstanding Large Business award was awarded to Lifecare Family Health and Dental Center. CEO Eric Niemeyer accepted the award. 

Lifecare opened its doors as the Richard D. Watkins Canton Community Clinic in September 1994 as a free clinic. Access to primary medical care was made available to low-income, uninsured and underinsured residents of Stark County by a small, part-time staff and 13 volunteer physicians and dentists, as well as 12 volunteer nurses. Dental care was added in 1996, and it became a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2006. In 2007 it moved to a permanent location. In 2013, it opened a second location, and in 2015, a third location.

Today, Lifecare’s dedicated 100-member team of family physicians, dentists, optometrists, certified nurse practitioners, counselors and healthcare professionals provides affordable, accessible and comprehensive health-care services, including medical, dental and behavioral health care. Services are available to residents of all Stark County communities, regardless of ability to pay and health-insurance status.

Outstanding Small Business

The Outstanding Small Business Award went to Ray Electric, owned by Duane and Kevin Ray. 

Duane founded Ray Electric in 1970, and Kevin started working with his dad as soon as he could hold a flashlight, joining him full time in 1993. Ray Electric offers residential, commercial, industrial, and farm electrical services and employs six people.

Duane and Kevin have volunteered their time and expertise for approximately 30 years at the Minerva Homecoming. They place the electrical boxes, hook up every trailer, and provide and hook up lights for the Rotary tent, making sure all electrical connections are made safely.

They have also helped with connecting vendors at many festivals, have done much of the electrical work in the Roxy Theatre, and are always willing to come at a moment’s notice when we have an emergency.

Duane is a member of the Minerva Rotary Club with 48 years of perfect attendance, and Kevin has been with the Minerva fire department for 30 years.

Outstanding New or Emerging Business 

The Outstanding New or Emerging Business Award was presented to Ashleigh Kramer of The Komfort Zone.

Ashleigh began operating a home bakery in 2016, and, while looking for just the right commercial location, began taking the Komfort Zone camper, a mobile bake shop, to events in 2022. The Komfort Zone bakery, icecream and candy shop opened at 204 N. Market St. on May 4, 2023.

The Komfort Zone offers freshly made baked goods, premium ice cream, chocolates and novelty candy, as well as soup and hot foods in the fall. This year, they have added a second ice cream case to offer more flavors, and they are exploring pizza and other food options.

In their first year, the Komfort Zone has done a school supplies drive, served as a drop-off site for Christmas toys for the Jacob’s Heart Foundation, and sponsored or donated to other local organizations. This spring, Ashleigh and her crew partnered with the Minerva High School track and field team for a fundraiser, producing 771 ice cream pies.

Economic Development Award 

The Economic Development Award was presented to Kishman’s IGA Malvern store. 

The Kishman family bought the former Woods Grocery in 2021, and, in the past three years, has undertaken extensive repairs and renovations.

In that time, they have painted, replaced the ceiling, installed new lighting, and replaced dairy, meat, and deli coolers, as well as deli and frozen foods freezers. They replaced the bathrooms and register system, repaired sections of sidewalk, added additional exterior lighting, and reorganized and expanded the beer, wine and liquor departments, making them more accessible.

The Kishman’s IGA Malvern store employs approximately 20 people and serves customers from Malvern, Magnolia, East Canton, Carrollton, Waynesburg, Atwood Lake and Harlem Springs. It is known for its fresh meats, and also offers a deli with grab-and-go items, a full liquor store and fresh produce.

E. David Hank 

Appreciation Award

This year’s recipients of the E. David Hank Appreciation Award are Jeff and Diane Evans. 

Lifelong Minerva residents, Jeff and Diane have a long history in our business community. Diane’s parents owned Walker’s Corner, and Jeff owned Jeffery’s men’s clothing store from 1984 to 1990. Diane has been an Edward Jones financial advisor in downtown Minerva since 2004, and last year, Jeff opened The Lincoln House.

In 2016, Diane and Jeff spearheaded founding Minerva Mission, a nonprofit focused on the needs of children and their families in the Minerva Local School District. Through partnerships with the school and many local churches and businesses, Minerva Mission has grown to include a diverse group of approximately 35 volunteers and mentors.

Minerva Mission provides mentoring programs in all three schools, the weekend food backpack program, and care closets.

The organization helps with Family Fun Day, funds scholarships, coordinates student volunteer opportunities, and sends kids to summer camp.

In addition to their work with Minerva Mission, Diane also chaired the 20/20 Vision Committee, a local arm of ArtsinStark, for 12 years, and its successor, Minerva Arts Council, for one year.

She is a member and past president of Entre Nous, and teaches financial peace classes. At the Lincoln House, Jeff offers leadership training, co-working spaces, meeting rooms, and an Air BnB.

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