RIO GRANDE — The Gallia County Chamber of Commerce honored volunteers and businesses Thursday night at the University of Rio Grande during its 80th Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet. Field of Hope Community Campus Executive Director Kevin Dennis was given the Bud and Donna McGhee Community Service Award.
The Bud and Donna McGhee Community Service Award is traditionally kept a secret until the night of the banquet every year. The award is meant to honor an individual known throughout the community for lifetime exemplary leadership, volunteer service to the community and continued success in making the region a better place to live.
Dennis was born in Zanesville and moved to Gallia County at the age of 7 where he later graduated from Gallia Academy High School and then from Ohio State University with a degree in chemistry. After working with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and American Electric and Power, he retired in 2010.
Dennis served as the project director for the Field of Hope initiative, seeking to revitalize the old North Gallia High School and turn it into a substance rehabilitation facility, a food pantry and youth center. In 2015, Dennis would become the campus’ executive director. He has also served as a past president of Rotary, was a youth leader for 25 years, honored as a hometown hero by the Modern Woodmen of America and served as chairman of the Mason County Local Emergency Planning Committee.
Dennis would go on to tell those assembled at the banquet about the necessity of tackling the drug epidemic in southeast Ohio and would list statistics naming Ohio, and specifically Gallia, as an area suffering through some of the worst heroin addiction cases in the country. He would share his family’s personal struggle as a daughter would succumb to addiction but eventually work back to sobriety and become a leader with the Field of Hope initiative. The family would eventually publish a book about their experience titled “God Can.”
“I really believe in my heart folks that God is going to turn this around,” said Dennis to the crowd. “He can do it. I’ve seen it individually and I’ve seen it in the community. I think someday the state of Ohio is going to look at this little pinhole in southeast Ohio and say ‘Wow. It started down there. Now we know how lives can be changed.’”
Other award winners included: Kyla Carpenter was awarded the 2016 Marianne Campbell Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award. Body Barn Fitness Center II, Holzer Therapy and Wellness Center, the Gallipolis Red’s Auto Center, Smith Chevrolet and Twinkleberries Coffee and Bake Shop took home 2016 Beautification Awards. The Hoop Project was awarded with the 2016 Committee of the Year. River City Leather took home the 2016 Community Involvement Award. The Colony Club received the 2016 Sudden Impact Award. Rocket VII Interactive was named the 2016 Small Business of the Year.
(Editor’s note: Photos of additional award winners from the chamber banquet will appear in the upcoming edition of the Sunday Times-Sentinel.)
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.