Celebrating a Year of Impact and Vision at the Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce

Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce recently marked another milestone at the historic Elms Hotel and Spa during their Annual Holiday Luncheon. This popular event is not just a festive gathering but also a platform to reflect on the Chamber’s achievements and future aspirations. Chamber Director Brian Rice, in his inaugural year, led this year’s address with an insightful overview of the Chamber’s journey and plans.

Rice’s address focused on a crucial theme: returning to the Chamber’s fundamental mission. He emphasized the Chamber’s role in fostering a thriving community by engaging businesses and driving purposeful change for an enhanced quality of life.

The Chamber’s 2023 journey was marked by significant achievements:

– The Chamber played a pivotal role in introducing 11 new businesses to Excelsior Springs, offering them essential resources.

– Monthly luncheons and After Hours events were reimagined to foster greater camaraderie among members.

– A major accomplishment, uniting over 80 businesses with a collective vision for community enrichment.

– The Farmers Market, in its second season, became a hub for wellness, entertainment, and farm-fresh foods.

Looking ahead, the Chamber aims to elevate its community engagement further in 2024.

The Chamber has been instrumental in transforming Excelsior’s westside, with plans to use the one-cent CID sales tax for infrastructure and design improvements. Collaborations with various local entities have strengthened, driving meaningful community enhancements.

Additionally, the Chamber’s involvement in leadership development, notably through the Citizens Leadership Academy, highlights its commitment to nurturing future leaders.

The Chamber’s advocacy in 2023 was noteworthy, supporting significant initiatives like the construction of the new Lewis Elementary School and the Recreational Marijuana Tax. They also played a crucial role in securing funds for various local projects, like the RAISE grant received by the City of Excelsior Springs and scheduled to start in 2025. .

Rice closed his address with optimism, assuring that the Chamber’s initiatives would greatly influence local businesses and the community.

The luncheon also honored outstanding community and business contributions, presenting the following with business awards and their nominations as read:

Chamber Business of the Year - Shamrock Hills Vineyard & Winery

In less than a year, Denise and Mike Riley have proven themselves an invaluable asset to Excelsior Springs and the Chamber of Commerce. The couple joined our community and opened their wedding venue, Shamrock Ranch, in 2021 – but their dreams and vision stepped into high gear this April when they opened Shamrock Hills Vineyard and Winery.

Born from the legacy of Four Horses & A Dog (using the grapes of the Stubbs and Jennings families), Shamrock Hills has quickly grown into its own with the addition of its own tasting room and the planting of their own grapes. Denise and Mike spared no expense in making their picturesque property a special destination.

Shamrock Hills isn’t just a place to savor exceptional wines, it’s a hub of community connections and partnerships. As an establishment dedicated to creating memorable experiences, Shamrock Hills has actively collaborated with the Chamber and local businesses, fostering an atmosphere of shared creativity and celebration.

Their partnership with the Chamber fully embraces our trolley service and events, promoting Excelsior Springs not only locally, but across the region. Denise’s dedication and service on Chamber committees and her participation in Chamber events demonstrates the Riley’s commitment and value to the Excelsior Springs community.

It is because of these contributions and many more that Shamrock Hills Vineyard and Winery receives this year’s Chamber Business of the Year Award.

Excelsior Springs Chamber Member of the Year - Excelsior Citizen

The Excelsior Citizen has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to sharing the stories that make up the fabric of our community. Their dedication goes far beyond the definition of a local media source as they generously share their expertise and resources to uplift and educate others.

Courtney and Jason Cole work around the clock to keep the community informed and updated. It doesn’t matter if there is a question about whether the community has changed the date of Halloween or what the road conditions are like on a snow-packed morning – they are always helping.

The role Courtney and Jason play in disseminating both the uplifting and challenging narratives of our town is integral to our collective identity and growth. By sharing the good news, they highlight what’s best of our community, fostering a sense of pride and camaraderie among residents.

However, their willingness to tackle difficult stories with sensitivity and integrity is equally commendable. This balanced approach ensures that our community remains informed, engaged, and prepared to face any challenges head-on.

Furthermore, the Excelsior Citizen’s ability to elevate our local stories to a national platform is nothing short of extraordinary. Their relationships and business model have garnered attention far beyond our local boundaries, putting Excelsior Springs on the map and attracting interest from a wider audience. This national recognition not only boosts our local economy but also encourages a broader dialogue about the issues and successes within our community.

Because of their outstanding contributions, their deep sense of civic duty, and their dedication to telling Excelsior’s stories with professionalism and empathy – I can think of no one better than Jason and Courtney Cole and the Excelsior Citizen as recipients of this year’s Member of the Year Award.

Excelsior Springs Chamber Volunteer of the Year - Julia Westerheide

Those who know Julia understand how fitting this award is. You know how devoted she is to her family and friends. You know the level of detail and commitment she gives to every project she touches and the pride she takes in her work.

I learned of that commitment last year as I joined the Chamber as president and immediately needed assistance with bookkeeping. I was impressed with Julia’s QuickBooks skills, her abilities and her dedication to the task. She worked days, nights and even weekends until the task was completed. She unraveled so many complications and bookkeeping puzzles, most beyond my capabilities to solve. She took pride in making sure everything was done on time and done right. She never wavered at any request I would make.

When Lindsay rejoined the staff full-time in November and the Chamber couldn’t afford to pay for three employees, Julia never flinched. She graciously gave up her salary, but never stopped working. Now as a “full-time volunteer,” Julia continued to support me and the Chamber with unmeasurable time and talent.

This past year, Julia gave every spare moment she had to the Chamber with her QuickBooks skills – again, working days, nights and

weekends. Whenever possible, Julia even supported the Chamber financially with sponsorships and personal financial contributions. Her

dedication to the Chamber will never be matched and never be forgotten.

It is with great pride and joy that I present Julia Westerheide with this year’s Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award.

Young Entrepreneur Award - CJ and Zander’s Candle Company

The Chamber of Commerce is excited to introduce our newest business award category: the Young Entrepreneur Award. Its purpose is to recognize and encourage students of the Excelsior Springs School District who demonstrate a strong passion for entrepreneurism.

Over the past year, middle School students Camden Johnson and Zander Wilkins have demonstrated their outstanding entrepreneurial talents with the founding of CJ and Zander’s Candle Company.

Camden’s creativity and craftiness has him constantly trying new things. He discovered the fun in candle making after buying a starter kit from Hobby Lobby. Loving the craft, Camden knew that to support his hobby he’d need to start selling the candles he created.

Partnering with his friend, Zander, and forming CJ and Zander’s Candle Company, the two boys have spent the last year growing their business by designing their own logo and packaging, sampling and creating seasonal scented candles, and learning the skills of marketing and sales. In addition to keeping up with their middle school classes and activities, the boys can be found with pop-ups in local stores like Style by Ry and Other Trails Coffee Shop, at events like Waterfest, the Farmers Market, Small Business Saturday and at the high school’s Holly Days.

They are constantly researching new scents and trends and are even working with local businesses in creating items unique to that business.

To see such an entrepreneurial spirit in students like Camden and Zander is an inspiration to us here at the Chamber of Commerce. We’re proud to be part of a community that cultivates young entrepreneurs and encourages them to follow their dreams. Thank you, Excelsior Springs, for encouraging these young men.

We are honored to present this year’s Young Entrepreneur Award to CJ and Zander’s Candle Company.

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