The Gallia County Chamber of Commerce, during its 81st Annual Awards event held this evening at Bossard Memorial Library, honored the late Chester “Mike” Polcyn, known to the community as Gallipolis’ own Santa Claus, with the Bud and Donna McGhee Community Service Award.

Marianne Campbell delivered the speech naming the awardee, who is kept secret until the night of the event and expressed the Chamber’s sadness over his loss on Wednesday.

“Our honoree gave 40 years to our community as Santa Claus. He was so beloved by both children and adults in this unique role. We claimed him as our very own Santa. His commitment and dedication to being Santa was his passion. He gave his all,” said Campbell. “He became Santa when his first-born was in kindergarten and the school PTO needed a jolly elf to pass out Christmas treats. By the following year, he totally embraced his role as Santa, by growing a beard and purchasing his own custom made Santa Suit. Through the years, he became endeared to our entire community, providing cheer at community events, parades and schools. I’m sure those of you who have attended the Christmas parades over the years clearly remember seeing Santa atop the Gallipolis Fire Department’s ladder truck, with many young children excitedly surrounding him, thrilled to be with Santa and also having a memorable ride on the fire truck, as the finale of each year’s parade.”

Mr. Polcyn continued his service as Santa for 40 years, said Campbell, until a health issue prevented him from returning in 2016.

“Even though he is not with us in person this evening, he certainly is in spirit, and we share the sorrow with his loving family,” said Campbell, who expressed their regret that Mr. Polcyn could not be with them to hear and know he was chosen to receive the recognition “he so richly deserves” as the 2018 Bud and Donna McGhee Community Service Award recipient.

Also recognized during the awards ceremony were:

The Beautification Award – Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum

The Community Involvement Award – Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library

Sudden Impact Award – Field of Hope (Hope House)

Small Business of the Year Award – Guinther’s Custom Cuts

Committee of the Year Award – Rockets Over Rio

Chamber 1st Vice President Meagan Matura announced the renaming of the Committee of the Year Award as the Ray McKinniss Committee of the Year award.

“[Ray McKinniss] brought so many things to the community and he always said you can’t do anything alone. You have to form a committee. And that your success is only as good as the people that you surround yourself with. He gave so much to River Rec. He chaired it more years than I can remember. He brought us Chautauqua. He brought us the Farm Festival. He brought us so much,” said Matura.

During his welcome Board President Josh Simmons recapped the Chamber’s accomplishments and initiatives over recent years and officially welcomed new Executive Director Rachel Newberry.

“With Michelle Miller as Executive Director, we accomplished a number of advances on behalf of our membership and now we are most fortunate to have Rachel Newberry in that leadership role,” said Simmons. “She is following Michelle, who again is authoring the Gallia Hometown Herald. Rachel took over in November and in the three months she has been here, she has been doing an excellent job.”

President Josh Simmons and outgoing Past President Bryan Long.

Simmons also recognized outgoing board member and past president Bryan Long for his 10 years of service on the Board and welcomed new board member Jenni Swain with Ohio Valley Bank. He also recognized the current Board Members, as well as the staff. Following the awards, Simmons officially “passed the gavel” to incoming president Meagan Matura, who will serve for the next two years as the Chamber Board President.

Matura began her speech with a Coretta Scott King quote, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its people.”

“The compassionate actions by the people of Gallia County

Meagan Matura is installed at Chamber President by former President Josh Simmons.

are visible every day. The people of this community represent our competitive advantage against others. The people have imagined unique businesses. They run large employers we are fortunate to have,” said Matura. “They invest in our buildings. They invest in our infrastructure. They volunteer to make Christmas magical. They give us fairs, festivals and other unique events to enjoy. As Chamber president, I reflected on our mission. And I thought, we are a group of people here to help strengthen the community through the enhancement of commerce. Each member we serve is unique and we have to tailor our services to meet you, our members’, needs. We have organized an amazing staff and board.”

Matura reintroduced the Board members and the Chamber staff.

“I want all of you to take a look around the room. These are people that are volunteering their time and staff that dedicate their days to help you. I encourage each of you to contact your Chamber team. Look to us as your support for whatever you may need and contact any of us for help. We are constantly seeking ways to add value to your business and enhance our services to better assist you. We welcome any ideas and suggestions you may have,” said Matura.

Matura closed out her speech by expressing appreciation for those who have chosen to locate their businesses in Gallia County, those who have invested in the county and to those who make the community “unique”.

A networking event was held at the Colony Club following the awards ceremony.