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RBGA’s annual dinner praises businesses, individuals going above and beyond

GODFREY — As they have done for many years, stalwart economic groups of the region presented awards Thursday night recognizing businesses and individuals who they selected as going above and beyond for the Riverbend.

At the annual RiverBend Growth Association (RBGA) awards dinner, the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) presented its Spirit of Tourism Award to Madison County Transit/City of Alton/Amtrak for the Multi-Modal Transportation Center in Alton; and the RBGA presented four Chairman Awards.

Recipients of the RBGA awards were the Boys and Girls Club of Alton’s Executive Director Al Womack; Alton’s Gordon Moore Park Restoration Committee, chaired by Liberty Bank’s Dale Blachford; Wood River’s Amare, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization offering recovery-from-addiction programs and services, operated by founder Ty Bechel; and, Lockhaven Golf Course, of which father-and-son team of Heinz Peter and Heinz Peter Jr. invested capital for improvements to the building, as well as the course itself, seeing potential in bringing back to life the golf destination of the former Lockhaven Country Club.

RBGA interim President John Keller, retired from Carrollton Bank, presided over the banquet — the first person to do so in 15 years since immediate past president, Monica Bristow, resigned a few months ago and became appointed a few weeks ago as Illinois’ District 11 state representative, filling the seat of Alton Democrat Dan Beiser, who recently retired.

“Instead you get me,” Keller said to a full house at Lewis and Clark Community College’s Commons.

Bristow though, who received a standing ovation upon introduction by Keller, attended along with state official representative from State Rep. Mike Bost’s, R-Murphysboro, staff, Matt Rice.

Keller introduced and welcomed the state officials along with other elected officials and special guests, including Alton Mayor Brant Walker; Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick; Grafton Mayor Rick Eberlin; Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler; circuit judges Kyle Napp and David Dugan; retired judge, Eller Duff; and, several other municipal and county officials, as well as board members from the Alton school district and a trustee from the Lewis and Clark Community College district board.

“We are honored by the presence of many tonight,” Keller noted, before recognizing RBGA staff. “You all should be honored — and I am very lucky — to have this team in place to represent us and our area, as they all know what they are doing, and they do it well.”

He also thanked multiple volunteers who helped with the banquet’s registration and logistics, which was followed by prayer before the dinner, led by OSF Saint Anthony’s HealthCare’s Sister Anselma. LCCC Catering Manager of Dining Services, Stacey Harmon, and Chef Tim Weaver, led by their staff, provided the evening’s meal.

Keller preceded the awards presentation with an update on the RiverBend CEO Program, which stands for “Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities,” started in Effingham, Illinois. The program now is in more than 40 schools in four states. The Riverbend CEO Program had a total of 17 students join in its first year from Alton High School and Marquette Catholic High School.

“I am pleased to report that the program has expanded into East Alton-Wood River High School this past fall,” Keller said. “Students from three of our Riverbend high schools now have the opportunity to participate in this awesome program.”

Keller recognized the program’s board chairman, Tom Long.

“He, like many of us in this room, believe the CEO program is one of the keys to the Riverbend’s successful economic future,” Keller said.

Other CEO board members in attendance were Blachford, Mike Bellum and Matt Waters.

Keller appealed for program support via mentors, speakers, business leaders giving workplace tours, offering of meeting places and financial donations.

“For the program to be a continued success, we need your continued support,” Keller explained.

Current CEO program supporters were listed on a slide that was played at the RBGA awards dinner.

“I thank you for your time, attention and your support for CEO,” Keller noted.

During Thursday night’s RBGA business meeting, included in the evening’s agenda, RBGA members elected its new chairman for its upcoming year, John Roberts. Roberts, along with outgoing chairman, Augie Wuellner, presented the RBGA Chairman Awards, following Alton CVB chief executive officer and President Brett Stawar presentation of the CVB’s Spirit of Tourism Award.

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