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Chamber members honor peers at annual banquet
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

March 28. 2014 9:02AM
Hits on the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce’s website soared 245 percent over the last 12 months, going from 59,521 hits on the members page to 145,974.

BVACC President/CEO Kim Cerwick reported those numbers and other impressive stats at the group’s annual banquet March 20. The annual event drew just under 200 Chamber members and guests to the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Brandon.

“There was nothing under 100 percent increase,” Cerwick said.

Board chairman Tom Wullstein promised the members that 2014 will be “the greatest year in the history of the Chamber.”

He backed those words up as he shared a few new things coming this year, starting with a new “Buy Brandon” campaign. Upgrades are also being made to the Chamber’s “Hot Deals,” an online program that allows Chamber members to get the word out on in-store specials and sales. The BVACC will also take the lead on American Express’ national advertising campaign, “Small Business Saturday,” in Brandon, which will be held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It’s also the kickoff to the holiday season in the city, as the Christmas Lights Parade is scheduled for that same evening.

“If we all work as a team, it ends up better for us all as an individual,” Wullstein said.

That “team” attitude is what landed two individuals and a Brandon business BVACC awards.

Paul VandeBerg, of Alliance Communications, was presented the Chamber
Achievement Award. The honor, which has only been given twice before – first to Amy Ahlers, next to Greg Carmon – is not presented annually. The award recognizes the recipient for “going above and beyond,” which VandeBerg has certainly done.

“He steps up continually and is very integral to the community and to the Chamber,” Wullstein said.

The Brandon husband and father of three attends nearly every Chamber event, volunteers at most of them, has served as chairman for various committee, served four years on the Chamber Board of Directors, and is a past-president of the group.

“I first want to thank and praise God for all the wonderful blessings in my life,” VandeBerg said. “To receive this award if front of fellow business and community people that I respect and have enjoyed working with over the years is very special.”

VandeBerg said his volunteer efforts wouldn’t be possible without his employer’s support.

“I have an awesome employer that allows me do this, and it’s something that I get a lot of enjoyment and reward from, too. It’s great to help other people and other businesses network. It’s also part of my job and is what I love to do; it’s just a natural thing – it’s not work, so there’s no reward needed.”

VandeBerg has been involved with the Chamber since 2001.

Another past BVACC president, Anthony Siemonsma, a financial advisor for Edward Jones, also garnered an honor at the banquet. He was selected as this year’s Chamber Member of the Year. Award presenter and Chamber Board member Trevor Guthmiller said Siemonsma’s selection “was an easy one.”

Siemonsma was instrumental in helping plan and execute the organization’s big fundraiser, Auction Amore, has served on the Chamber’s fundraising and special events committees, was the group’s past-president, and worked with Bethany Meadows staff in the presentation to state officials to bring a veteran’s nursing home to Brandon.

“The state still hasn’t decided what it wants to do … but if Brandon is selected, it will be in part because of Anthony’s help,” Guthmiller said. “Like with his duty to his country, Anthony’s commitment to the community of Brandon and the Brandon Chamber is very much valued and appreciated.”

Siemonsma said he’s in the type of business that allows him to be involved in the community.

“I wanted to get involved and I wanted to meet people,” he said. “This was one of the best ways to do it and have fun doing it.”
Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Brandon was chosen as this year’s Chamber Business of the Year. The hotel, which features a convention center, has been instrumental in helping to make many of the Chamber’s events successful endeavors.

General manager Beth Wooten said she and her staff “love being part of the Brandon community and are happy to be involved with so many organizations. … We play an important role in many of those events, so we hope that we’re comforting when we need to be and celebratory too, when it’s appropriate,” she said.





Paul VandeBerg (third from left) was the recipient of the Chamber Achievement Award, an honor that has only been given out twice before. The award reflects VandeBerg's willingness to go above and beyond. He's pictured with (from left) BVACC president/CEO Kim Cerwick, his wife, Tammy VandeBerg, and Tom Wullstein, chairman of the BVACC Board of Directors. Photo by Jill Meier



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