MOUNT VERNON — In a long-standing tradition, the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce recognized businesses and individuals that help drive the business community in Jefferson County.
The chamber hosted its 102nd Annual Awards Press Conference Wednesday, March 15, at the Muni-West building in Mount Vernon. Executive Director of the Chamber Jamie Storey said that as they wind down the 22-23 fiscal chamber year, Wednesday served as an introduction of this year’s award winners.
“Each of the recipients will be joining us the evening of our Annual Awards Banquet to officially accept their awards,” Storey said. “So I hope you join us as well.”
Chamber President Kay Zibby-Damron was the next to speak during the conference. She said that the annual dinner is an opportunity to celebrate the work that the chamber has done over the year, but also to celebrate student accomplishments and the award recipients for what they do in the community.
“I just want you all to know that we appreciate your engagement and involvement with the chamber and we are going to continue to do our work to make sure we have a thriving healthy business community and everybody remembers to shop local,” Zibby-Damron said.
Bluford Superintendent and Vice President of the Chamber Education Council Dr. Shane Gordon spoke next as he said he was thrilled to be able to recognize two great Jefferson County students this year.
“Four years ago the student recognition program with the Education Council changed into more of a scholarship program,” Gordon said. “This year we are proud to announce that in addition to awarding student scholarships we have had a return of the Student of the Year award. This program recognizes one student from MVTHS (Mount Vernon Township High School) and one student from Waltonville, Webber or Woodlawn.”
Gordon said that they received 14 applications that were reviewed by a selection committee.
“It was stated how difficult the decision was, because there were several fabulous candidates who do and continue to make the county high schools proud,” Gordon said. “In addition to being recognized as students of the year each recipient will receive a $1,000 scholarship.”
Gordon officially announced Callie Prost as the MVTHS Student of the Year and Brooke McKay of Woodlawn High School as the County Schools Student of the Year.
The next award announced was the Friend of the Chamber award. Storey explained that this award is not necessarily given out every year. She said Friend of the Chamber is typically awarded when the chamber staff along with its councils see a person or a member business that steps up and helps the chamber throughout the course of the year.
“This year and quite honestly every year they have been a member, Pepsi MidAmerica is constantly supporting the chamber’s staff, our initiatives, events and so on,” Storey said. “They not only donate products for giveaways and sponsorships, they print and supply banners for our events and most of all they provide support with their staff volunteering for our councils. You could almost always bet to see a friendly face from Pepsi at any given chamber event.”
Storey also noted that the Mount Vernon Pepsi MidAmerica is part of a family-owned company that has been operating for 87 years. She said that the Mount Vernon facility serves large format grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, independently owned stores along with full-line vending accounts in Jefferson, Marion, Washington, Clinton and Clay counties.
Storey then introduced Ben Landesman, Brittany Hand and Scott Howe representing Pepsi MidAmerica.
“We really wanted to say thank you. We are glad to be chamber members, we are glad to volunteer our time in support,” Landesman said. “I live in this community and want to support this community, my kids go to all the events and everything else. So anything we can do to make these events better and stronger.”
Vice President of the Chamber Ambassadors Council Kari Docherty announced the Ambassador of the Year award. The award recognizes a chamber ambassador who goes above and beyond with volunteering their time to welcome people to various chamber events.
“When I asked the Ambassadors Council to vote for a person they felt best represented our council for Ambassador of the Year, there was one name I felt was going to be at the top of everybody’s lists,” Docherty said.
Docherty said that this person has been an ambassador with her for the last five years. She said this ambassador always attends the ribbon cuttings and business after hours with a smile on her face.
“She is always there to lend a hand whether it is freezing at the Cedarhurst The Lights the first night as a guide, freezing again for the Downtown Christmas Parade and helping with our annual banquets and events,” Docherty said. “We can always depend on her whenever needed. I am so proud to have her on this council and even more proud to call her my friend. I am honored to present this year’s Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year award to Angela Witges.”
Witges thanked the chamber for the recognition.
“It has been exciting to be involved with the ambassadors and everything that they do for the community, but just like everything else it is a team effort,” Witges said. “All the other ambassadors with me make a good group and the chamber itself is doing everything that they can for Jefferson County. So thank you everybody.”
Zibby-Damron next announced this year’s Young Professional of the year. She said that this is a recognition that is really important to her.
“One of the things that I have really wanted the chamber to continue to work on this year and moving forward is what are we doing to connect with our young professionals, our young entrepreneurs, our high school students. What are we doing to let them know of all the opportunities there are here in Jefferson County for them,” Zibby-Damron said. “You don’t have to fly away to be successful or have a great career, you can do that right here at home.”
Zibby-Damron said that the 2023 Young Professional of the Year embodies the goal of the chamber to build up young professionals in the county and they feel that recognizing the bright, driven, young, visionaries of our community is important. This award honors a young professional age 21 to 40 who goes above and beyond in their performance in the workplace community.
“This young professional is certainly innovative, determined ... has huge dreams and has been working really hard to make those a reality,” Zibby-Damron said. “It is my pleasure to introduce the 2023 Young Professional of the Year A Pocket Full of Sunshine Owner and A Walk in the Wind Owner Talia Campbell.”
Campbell founded A Pocket Full of Sunshine, a special event venue, in February 2017. She thanked the chamber and said that she was surprised when she received the phone call informing her of the recognition.
“I just want to thank everybody for considering me,” Campbell said. “Hopefully I will be able to fill more businesses and I appreciate it.”
Zibby-Damron next introduced the Citizen of the Year award and announced Sheila Jolly-Scrivner of the Mount Vernon Airport Authority as this year’s recipient. Zibby-Damron discussed what Citizen of the Year represents.
“It is someone who has truly made an impact in the community in either their professional work or volunteer work, just the totality of everything that they have done,” Zibby-Damron said.
Zibby-Damron read a nomination form someone sent nominating Jolly-Scrivner for the award.
“Ms. Sheila is a perfect candidate for Citizen of the Year. I met Sheila many moons ago when we both served for Jefferson County Toys for Kids. For 22 years I have known her to always be giving back to her community in a multitude of ways,” Zibby-Damron read. “Through the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, her work at the airport, the mentoring she has done in the county, the service she has provided to the Mount Vernon Tourism Board. Sheila Jolly-Scrivner definitely makes Jefferson County a better place to live and work and I cannot think of a better candidate for the 2023 Jefferson County Citizen of the Year than Sheila Jolly-Scrivner.”
Jolly-Scrivner gave her reaction to being named Citizen of the Year.
“I want to thank God for giving me the parents He did, the brother and sister I have, the children I have and for planting me in this community,” Jolly-Scrivner said. “I love this community and I couldn’t be happier to be here. Thank you very much for this. This is very humbling.”
Vice President of the Small Business Council Ross Rubenacker concluded the award announcements portion of the press conference as he introduced the Small Business Person of the Year award.
“Our council has the privilege to review the nominations we receive from the community for Small Business Person of the Year and then we take our nominations to the full board,” Rubenacker said. “This year I think we received six nominations from the community.”
Rubenacker announced that Managing Partner of Affordable Gas & Electric (AGE) Jeff Haarmann was the 2023 Small Business Person of the Year.
“Since 2012 AGE has served hundreds of municipalities, businesses and large industrial customers. In the past year AGE has expanded their company further. Jeff has now expanded his reach across the country, speaking to large groups of people, most recently in Georgia at the Feed Mill of the Future Conference,” Rubenacker said. “AGE also guided Centralia High School to a long-term, clean energy power solution that will provide substantial savings for 25 plus years. Clean energy with no capital cost to the school district.”
Rubenacker also read a nomination form someone sent in for Haarmann to be named Small Business Person of the Year.
“Jeff is quick to make contributions to the community. For example, he is an active member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and has sponsored many events.” Rubenacker read. “In addition, he is very active in the Jefferson County CEO Program. Jeff is a great mentor to young adults interested in the business world and plays a very influential role within the program and the lives of the students.”
Haarmann expressed surprise and enthusiasm with the award announcement.
“Thank you, I really don’t know what else to say. To receive it in front of the CEO students though is a big honor for me. I have sold two things in my life, cable when you could only watch ESPN on cable and electricity,” Haarmann said. “It is not the most innovative things in the world, I have had a good career and the chamber has been very influential in our business all the way back to Brandon (Bullard when he was Chamber Executive Director and AGE was first getting started in the area) and all the way back to my days in the cable world.”
With Zibby-Damron’s term as chamber president ending at the upcoming banquet, Incoming 23-24 Chamber President Chris Bernard of Peoples National Bank spoke on the future of the chamber. Bernard said that he will be focusing on strengthening local business in the community along with many other goals.
“Our upcoming theme for this year is ‘Business Grows Here,’ and that is exactly what happens here in Jefferson County and that is our mission,” Bernard said.
Bernard also announced the incoming Vice Presidents for this year including Brian Harland — Small Business Council, Docherty — Ambassadors Council, Andrea Kosydor — Special Events Council and Melanie Andrews — Education Council.
The recipients announced on Wednesday will receive their awards during the chamber’s Annual Awards Banquet on March 30, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mount Vernon. Thursday, March 16, marks the final day people can purchase tickets for the event. For more information, people may contact the chamber at (618) 242-5725 or visit southernillinois.com.
MOUNT VERNON — The Jefferson County Farm Bureau will host a $1 Farmer’s Share Breakfast from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 25, at West Salem Trinity United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon.
According to a Farm Bureau news release, the breakfast will consist of scrambled eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, orange juice, milk and coffee. The cost of the breakfast is just $1, and the $1 amount is an approximate estimate of the average income received by a farmer for the agricultural commodities in a breakfast purchased at a restaurant.
Jefferson County Farm Bureau Manager Sydney Lay said the breakfast has been an annual tradition locally since around 2018. The event could not be held in 2020 due to COVID.
“We’re excited to be able to host our breakfast again and help celebrate National Ag Week and bring awareness to our local farmers, our local ag industry, and the U.S. food industry as a whole,” Lay said.
This year, all proceeds raised from the breakfast event will go toward the Jefferson County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom (AITC) program. AITC teaches lessons to school children throughout Jefferson County about the importance of agriculture in our every day lives, the release states.
The breakfast is held in celebration of National Agriculture Week March 19 to 25. The purpose of the breakfast is to demonstrate the value of food in America and the role that agriculture plays in providing food.
“Not only is America’s food supply the world’s safest, but it’s also the most affordable,” the news release states. “The safe, abundant, and affordable domestic food supply produced by America’s farmers and ranchers is responsible, at least in part, for our nation’s increasing standard of living. Compared to food, Americans work longer each year to pay for their housing, federal taxes, and medical care.”
For more information on the Farmer’s Share Breakfast, contact the Jefferson County Farm Bureau at (618) 242-4510.
MOUNT VERNON — A free kidney and health screening and a wellness fair are planned for Friday, March 24, at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building at Veterans Park.
The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) is teaming up with SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital to provide the free kidney and health screening for all community members ages 18 and up. Anyone interested in getting screened for kidney disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes is encouraged to attend from noon to 4:30 p.m. on March 24.
In addition, Good Samaritan Hospital will also host a wellness fair open to all ages that day in conjunction with the health screening event. The SSM Health Wellness Fair will also begin at noon but it will extend until 6 p.m., states an SSM Health news release.
The kidney and health screening will be offered by the NKFI’s KidneyMobile, the nation’s only custom mobile unit that travels across the state screening people for kidney disease and its two main causes: diabetes and high blood pressure.
“SSM Health is excited to team up with the KidneyMobile to provide accessible health screenings and community health resources,” said Julie Robertson-Brooks, SSM Health Southern Illinois Community Health Manager. “This health screening and wellness fair provides an opportunity for participants to learn more about the risks associated with chronic disease, promote early detection through free screenings, and help find local resources to better manage their health. We are grateful to the KidneyMobile and our other community partnering organizations to bring this opportunity to our Mount Vernon community.”
In addition to a free screening, attendees will also be able to talk privately with a physician regarding their results. There is no cost to be screened but appointments are strongly recommended at https://mobilescreening.nkfi.org/preregistration. Though they are recommended, appointments are not required, the news release states.
“One in three American adults is at risk for kidney disease, while one in seven already has the disease,” said Jacqueline Burgess-Bishop, Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. “That means hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois are affected. Our goal is to educate the community about the risks for kidney disease and detect it early so that they can manage the disease and slow its progression.”
According to the news release, the SSM Health Wellness Fair will have informational tables for various service lines including primary care, behavioral health, nutrition, weight management, diabetes education, sleep, cancer care, surgical services, therapy, wound care, and many more. The SSM Health Medical Group will be selling discounted lab vouchers for $45. Lab vouchers include CBC, CMP, TSH, and lipid panel. Hemoglobin A1c and prostate-specific antigen can be added for an extra cost. There will also be surprise visits by two pet therapy dogs throughout the event. Several community partners will be present. A variety of attendance prizes will be raffled off during the event.
In bringing these two events to Mount Vernon, SSM Health is grateful for the partnership with the KidneyMobile and local organizations, the release states.
Each year, kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer, but while the majority of Americans can recite the common tests for breast and prostate cancer, many do not know the risk factors and tests that could keep them off dialysis and the transplant waiting list. Because kidney disease often develops slowly with few symptoms, it can frequently go undetected until it is very advanced. Simple steps such as controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, keeping weight down, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and avoiding excessive use of pain medicine, can help reduce risk, the release states.
For more information, visit www.nkfi.org.
MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Schools District 80 Board of Education approved for the district to move forward with seeking Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sidewalk bids during its recent meeting.
According to Sentinel archives, this project stems from an ADA compliance check held in 2018 where the district was visited by two representatives from the Attorney General’s Office to review an ADA compliance complaint at the Dr. Nick Osborne Primary Center. Access to a pavilion was the initial complaint but the AG’s representatives also found other issues with the playground area as well.
“Years ago we were required by the state to do some ADA accessibility upgrades at the primary center, five or six years ago,” said Superintendent Ryan Swan.
By this point the majority of the issues found in the compliance check were corrected as Swan explained.
“We have been in the process of chipping away with that. We removed the pea gravel from over there, replaced it with mulch, we put in the new sidewalk with the stainless steel railing that is ADA compliant,” Swan said. “We actually took out some areas over there, there were some benches and stuff that weren’t ADA compliant.”
Swan said after a recent inspection to see the district’s progress there were two more findings the district would need to correct.
“Number one was a grate, a drainage grate that sits on the sidewalk and we already completed that last week or the week before,” Swan said. “It just had to have smaller openings in (the grate), basically so a wheelchair wouldn’t get stuck.”
Swan said the second thing that the district would need to have was an ADA compliant sidewalk going to the pavilion at the primary center.
“We already have the design work done on that from the architect and we already have money set aside in our COVID grant money and/or our health life safety money to cover the cost of that,” Swan said. “I would like permission to move forward with going out for bids and see if we can get that sidewalk taken care of and that will take care of all our requirements for our ADA upgrades at the primary center.”
Board President Matt Reynolds asked if the design was up to date with ADA guidelines and Swan said that was the case. Reynolds recalled his own experience where being a quarter inch off caused issues due to the guidelines being recently changed.
“It only takes a minute amount for them to make a change, I just wanted to make sure we were up on that,” Reynolds said.
Swan commented on reaching the final phase for ADA compliance at the primary center.
“I am just glad we have been able to work on that and be able to get those requirements taken care of so we meet those ADA requirements for the primary center and be able to have health life safety funds or even using grant funding to fund those,” Swan said.
The exact cost estimates for the project were not available as of press time.
IN OTHER BUSINESS:
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mount Vernon Sentinel’s ongoing series titled “Know Your Neighbor” focuses on different people in various Jefferson County communities. If you know someone who you think would be a good candidate for the series, feel free to call the Mount Vernon Sentinel at (618) 246-2000.
MOUNT VERNON — Wannabe astronaut Dr. David Asbery was launched into Danville, Kentucky, on May 15, 1969 as the second child of Leroy and Imogene Asbery. He had an elder brother and later, a little sister.
Born on the edge of poverty, David spent the days of his youth on a farm, immersed in books, dreaming of being a space explorer and in the company of his maternal grandmother due to his parent’s emotional detachment and his mother’s struggle with depression.
Grandma made certain they had a solid foundation with belief in and dependence on God by accompanying her grandchildren with regular attendance at the little 40-member church. They also taught them the importance of a good work ethic, the difference between right and wrong, the necessity of working for anything you wanted and to never view yourself as better than another person.
He graduated from Lincoln County High School in 1987 while also working 40 hours weekly at the neighborhood McDonalds. Even though he did not excel academically, he still managed to have a high grade point average and an equally lofty scholastic aptitude test tally.
Not certain of his career path upon graduation, David joined the United States Marine Corps in 1987. His high school counselor quipped David was wise to sign up in the military “Because he probably didn’t have anything else going for him,” but a potential in the medical field was suspected.
After basic training his military occupational speciality was 23-11 Ammo Tech in Huntsville, Alabama, he was deployed to South Korea as a bodyguard for a colonel, and also went to the Philippines and Okinawa. While in Japan on a training exercise, David stepped on an explosive device which resulted in a severe ankle injury, resulting in a medical discharge.
Back in the States, unmoored, he attended a Community College in Somerset, Kentucky, then became a student at the University of Kentucky and pursued his degree in medical school. His residency was completed in Wilmington, North Carolina, Division of Chapel Hill.
While in medical school, he was set up by a friend for a blind date with Kathy Fisher. Immediately he was smitten by her beauty, plus, David said, she had an A-type personality much like him. However, he recalls her teasing him because she thought his pants were too short and she laughed at his 3000 Mitsubishi, referring to it as a “figure eight bubble car.”
Initially David was surprised she was even interested in him because he had always viewed himself “As a geek and a nerd.” He recalls with great fondness “How devoted she was to me and she loved me.” They married after two years of courting and he began implementing his medical training in the mountains of North Carolina, Northern Alabama and Dublin, Georgia.
Remembering their financial difficulties when they started a family, David speaks of the necessity of being innovative by hoisting a garden hose over a tree branch in an effort to make a swing for the kids. It is not uncommon for those not in the medical field to assume every physician is immediately financially affluent. Kathy did work in real estate to assist with family expenses.
In May of 2007 after much prayer, deliberation and what they believe was divine intervention, the Asbery family relocated to Mount Vernon and David served as an OB/GYN with St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Medical Group until March 2010.
He then established Asbery and Associates, as a “World class medical center that provides outstanding comprehensive care for women of all ages.” Perpetuating his solid spiritual foundation developed in his early years, the mission statement for his Mount Vernon facility is: Serving God Through Serving People. He is adamant “This is first my ministry and secondly my business.”
In what way, if any, does bringing God into his daily patient visits and surgeries accomplish? According to the National Library of Medicine, “Spiritual commitment tends to enhance recovery from illness and surgery. For example, a study of heart transplant patients shows that those who participated in religious activities and said their beliefs were important, complied better with follow-up treatment. They had improved physical functions at the 12-month follow-up visit and had higher levels of self-esteem, and had less anxiety and fewer health worries. Maybe spirituality enables people to worry less, to let go and live in the present moment.”
Crystal Gray, Cathy Olsen, Meagan Rich, Allison Harris, Jerilee Hopkins, Summer Hobson and Shannon Marler, all just a few of the myriads of patients of Asbery, have publicly credited him with having saved their lives and/or the lives of their child or children. He is called “Amazing, humble and truly having a gift from God.”
When reminding David of his loyal followers and the plethora of accolades patients readily extol to him and others, David exhibits that humility by paraphrasing the poem Abraham Lincoln favored that was written by Saxon White Kessinger, The Indispensable Man.
“Our staff have a Biblical playbook,” David said, “and we follow it. But we treat non believers with the same care and compassion as we do fellow Christians. I believe I am a tool and God is the carpenter. I’m just the mule that pulls the cart.”
There are so many one-liners, poems and sayings David reminds himself of on a daily basis, but some of his favorites come from Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway, and one taught to him by his grandfather: There is a seat for every butt, but for every seat there may not be a butt! But not every butt fits in every seat. Translation? Not every physician and patient are compatible or a good fit for each other.
Kathy and David have four children, Kadin, Cullen, Liam and Elliana.
For his patients and this area David said, “This community has been a blessing for this family.”
Apparently the reverse is also accurate. David has been on numerous mission trips, is a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons.
He is an active staff member of SSM, Crossroads Community Hospital, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Surgery Center and Heartland Regional Medical Center. David is past president of Good Samaritan Medical Staff, Chair of Obstetrics Department, and Chair of Surgery Department. He serves on the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees.
In addition to the mainline of OB/GYN services offered by Asbery & Assoc., they also provide Nurse Midwifery, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, Urogynecology, and In-Office Surgical Procedures.