"Use these awards as inspiration" read the title of the editorial on May 8th in the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews).  After a couple of grammatically-hard-to-read paragraphs, novice editor Patti Klevorn finishes her editorial introduction with a cringe-worthy:   "Not only does it work, and the community benefits, volunteering and living and working to high standards feeds the soul too."

When I read about this event and weigh all the available facts dealing with it, inspiration is not what comes to mind.  Maybe exasperation, but this is why I arrive there.

The annual dinner of the Ludington/Scottville Chamber of Commerce (LSCC) is thrown in gala fashion, usually taking place on the weekend of the Kentucky Derby with a showing and the usual fanfare you would expect seeing in Louisville.  For at least the last five years the event is held out at the Lincoln Hills Golf Club with a modest dinner and award presentation that costs $40 (the last three years, $35 before) for all who attend. 

The golf club is enclosed in a restricted entrance area on the way past the guard shack to Epworth Heights, you would be hard pressed to find any place in Mason County more exclusive to the elite in society.  It is rather ironic that the most iconic of their awards of recent vintage is for volunteers doing community service, when the nominees for these awards can work all year and get paid $40 less for their efforts than what it costs to attend.

The irony is stretched further when you consider that voluntary community service is far from what the chamber of commerce is actually interested in promoting.   The mission statement for the L/SCC is simple: "The mission of the Chamber is to promote economic growth and prosperity for its members and the community."  If that's not clear enough, the more complex vision statement more clearly explains that the chamber works for those businesses that are out to grow and make profits. 

These volunteers are definitely all inspirational in their work, but deserve an awards ceremony that those in the community who benefit from their work can attend and appreciate without paying out over $40 and feeling out of place.  And where the nominees can get a fairer evaluation.  You may notice that the winner of this year's community service award divides her volunteer time at the district library, Sandcastles Children's Museum, and the Ludington Petunia Parade. 

All three of these institutions are members of the local chamber of commerce, the latter was also nominated in this category this year.  Other nominees include Rick Plummer of the Mason County Historical Society (a member of the LSCC), Tom and Patricia  Ezdebski, both of Spectrum Health (a LSCC member), and Dave Preston (LACA board, LSCC member), with Sheila Preston (Sandcastles Board, LSCC member).

The only person who wasn't a LSCC member but who was nominated for the community service award was Ed Santarelli, who lives and does his works from New York, with his non-profit organization, Ludrock Inc.

Looking at their traditional award, business of the year, it should not be surprising that all are dues-paying members of the LSCC.  As has been noted in a prior article, all of the nominated businesses were located outside of the downtown areas of both Scottville and Ludington. 

Noting the chamber's credo in its mission and vision statements, it's hard to understand why the epitome of our local businesses worthy of commendation amounted to two realty agencies, a water/fire damage restoration business based in Manistee, and the eventual winner, a fairly new auto-repair shop, the Shadetree Mechanic.  Did any of these businesses really have such success and growth in 2016 that they merited the award in the first place over all of the other businesses you and I use every year?  

Lastly, they have a category called the Future Five, which is surely another bit of aggrandizement of a handful of people that the LSCC cherry-pick due to politics and/or achieving their vision.  This year they nominated Spence Riggs, you may remember him for joining the Planning Commission immediately after buying three small lots, and then helping author, pass, and advocate for new zoning law to make his three lots suddenly worth a lot more (see Lots a' Planning in a Riggsed System).  Riggs serves as the latest director of the Mason County Growth Alliance (LSCC member, and they share a roof out at the airport), an economic development institution for many years which has sapped a lot of money from Mason County taxpayers and hasn't delivered anything worthwhile over its existence. 

Then there's Krystal Young, West Shore Community College (another LSCC member) Business Opportunity Center Director "My most important role in serving our community is building bridges and making connections. Communication between individuals, businesses, and various entities is crucial to ensure our community is moving in the desired direction."   Her most important role doesn't seem very well defined, which indicates it's about as useful as Spence Riggs' post.

Next, there's Shelby Soberalski  "Currently I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with the Pennies from Heaven Foundation and my job focuses on helping eliminate poverty in our area."  Beyond being a VISTA member only since October 2016, Shelby works as a sales associate at Todd & Brad Reed Photography (a LSCC member) and was Miss Ludington until the beginning of this year.  She looks to have multiple talents and interests and certainly looks to have a bright future, but she appears to be more of a future community service winner rather than an entrepreneur. 

And then there's another beauty contest winner in the five, Jamie Spore:  "I am fortunate to currently be a member of numerous amazing community organizations, such as the Lakeshore Parrot Head Club, the Ludington Optimist Club, the Mason County Mutts, the Ludington Area Jaycees, and Ludrock Nation."  Her resolve and perseverance can move mountains, but as Shelby, she looks to be more into community service than any business of her own.

Lastly, there is Adam Lamb:  " When the paperwork showed up from the state with the letter saying that Ludington Yacht Sales, LLC was now an officially registered business, it was literally a dream come true."  If you have ever checked out this used watercraft business that is operated in a small storefront at 103.5 Loomis Street, you will probably find them closed, and without any regular hours posted on their door.  They do have pamphlets of their most recent boats for sale available and definite internet presence.  This business is a brokerage for watercraft sales, has Gary Ferguson-Holman as a local contact, and is a member of the LSCC, of course. 

A review of the Future Five shows the first two engaged in specious economic development jobs that have shown little if any concrete results from their efforts over the years.  The next two are engaged exclusively in community service projects, and the last one is an internet salesman of used watercraft.  None of them are running a traditional business that makes a product or provides a service. 

If that's what our local chamber of commerce wants to project as our community's future, be very afraid, not inspired-- unless you're the editor of a local newspaper, a member of the LSCC, who wants to prop up this otherwise fatuous springtime ritual as something that it isn't. 

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Hey guess what? I work every day... So, Please send my award by mail!

We know how the cops get awards in this town. They Kill people for them!

I watched about 11 minutes of this and wanted to vomit.

As soon as they started thanking God I was out'

These people live in very sick little world to me.

The rest of you can applaud or kiss their feet if you like.

The whole thing is garbage.

I'm impressed that you lasted eleven minutes without purging your stomach of its last repast, not so impressed if you actually thought viewing the puerility wouldn't provoke such a response.  Piety is often used by those who want to suggest they are doing the work of God in their public service, but who are otherwise performing or allowing some God-forsaken acts.  To the informed, their spirituality is seen as nothing but blatant hypocrisy.

The flamboyant chapeau fails to conceal the prior ethical transgressions of the Chamber president, it only makes her look like a big blue McMushroom. 

The biggest surprise to come out of this year's dinner is that the new bicycle/coffee shop at 102 W Ludington didn't come up for business of the year honors.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars used to put in upstairs apartments and improve the façade, much supplied by the State through direct duplicity and fraud, apparently can't guarantee a nomination for her business. 

I am convinced that the LDN editorial was written by a third grader who has been held back for 12 straight years. Not surprisingly that type of mentality is always on display every other Tuesday night at City Hall. Next year The Ludington Torch should be nominated for business of they year and Mr. Rotta as one of the future five award recipients. I'm sure the LDN will second this motion and along with the Council and Mayor will gladly endorse him and his internet site for any an all available awards. After all Ludington's political landscape is part of  an open and fair community.

I'm too old to qualify for the Future Five, but I sometimes think I qualify for the Outdated One. 

I can't say the Ludington Torch would qualify as a Business of the Year with our economic bottom line, but I do appreciate your continued support and contributions to the public discourse-- a business that needs running by sensible persons rather than what we've been getting from other media outlets.

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