The leader of a Whitefish organization that works to promote and funnels donations to nonprofits throughout the community was honored last week with the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce’s Great Whitefish Award.
Linda Engh-Grady, president of the Whitefish Community Foundation, was given the award during the chamber’s annual event at the O’Shaughnessy Center. The award is considered to be a kind-of lifetime achievement award for someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the Whitefish community.
Engh-Grady thanked her colleagues and said the foundation is doing better and better each year for the community.
Mike Jenson presented the award to Engh-Grady, recalling that when the foundation’s board of directors hired her as its full-time director it was an easy choice. Engh-Grady joined the foundation in 2008 and it’s since grown to now include nearly $30 million in assets and includes about 100 funds and endowments. The foundation’s Great Fish Challenge gave out more than $2 million last year.
“It’s a situation that has benefited everyone of us,” Jenson said. “We started with nothing and did pretty well the first few years. The time since Linda has been here, we’ve flourished.”
Business of the Year
The award for Business of the Year went to National Parks Realty. In giving the award, Lin Akey read off a long list of donations the business has made to the community.
“This award is for a business that invests in the community and is successful, but also reaches out to be part of that community,” he said. “This company does a great job of bringing people to our community, but also reinvesting in our community.”
Paul Johannsen, accepting the award for National Parks, said “We’re very proud of giving back to the community.”
Tourism Business of Year
Dan Graves, chamber board president, said the first thing he does when out of town visitors come to his house in the winter is to take them through downtown Whitefish to show them the winter decorations — the garland draped across the streets accented with snowflakes and red bells. It reminds him of Bedford Falls, the fictional town in the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“Visitors love what the town looks like,” he said.
In honor of the work they do to decorate town each winter, the Whitefish Shines group was given Tourism Business of the Year. Jim Trout, Trek Stephens, Michelle Howke and Chris Schustrom accepted the award on behalf of the group.
A group of dedicated volunteers have been repairing, replacing, improving and hanging and taking down those same decorations every winter season for what Schustrom said is currently the project’s seventh decade.
“Thank you so much for this award, which is really an award for all of Whitefish,” Schustrom said. “This is a great honor.”
Citizen of the Year
Allan Satterlee, who serves on the chamber board, presented the Citizen of the Year award noting that it’s for an individual who works hard for the betterment of the community with no expectation of financial gain.
He presented the award to Marcus Duffey, saying he is a dedicated father and husband, attends most social events in Whitefish and serves on countless committees and volunteer groups, including the chamber, the Montana West Economic Development Board and the North Valley Hospital Foundation board. Duffey, who is general manager and a partner in Great Northern Brewing, also started Pints with a Purpose, which gives to nonprofit groups through the brewery’s tap house.
In accepting the award, Duffey said it’s really easy to serve Whitefish.
“It’s an amazing community of people that come from a lot of different walks of life that ultimately prescribe to the same thing — a better life for themselves, their kids and the people they employ or the people they serve,” he said.
Chamber Volunteer of Year
Tony Veseth was named chamber Volunteer of the Year. He has served on the chamber board for about eight years, has volunteered extensively for the chamber’s Great Northwest Oktoberfest and was previously named chamber Ambassador of the Year.
“Nobody understands the chamber philosophy better,” said Kevin Gartland, executive director of the chamber, of Veseth. “He even has his own lederhosen to help with Oktoberfest. Everything I’ve asked him to do, he does.”
Ambassador of the Year
Chamber ambassador Tony Veseth presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Jenny Wessel Rifkin.
He said she fits with the ambassador model of those that are “the most ambitious people who care about this town.”
Wessel Rifkin said she first lived in Whitefish in the late 1990s and moved away before returning in 2013.
“I know I can do more for the community and that’s my goal for 2018,” she said.