Awarding excellence

Green River is a community full of individuals and businesses that work together for the benefit of everyone. Once a year, specific members of the community are recognized for their impact and contributions. This year Green River Chamber of Commerce Awards Luncheon was hosted last Wednesday, and a large crowd gathered to recognize the award recipients.

Distinguished Citizen of the Year

The Distinguished Citizen of the Year award was given to Krista Kraft in recognition of her hard work rescuing, supporting, and advocating for animals.

"The purity of a person's heart can be quickly measured by how they regard animals." This anonymous quote was shared by Ainhoa Ferrer, who presented the award on behalf of Mayor Pete Rust, showing that Kraft's heart can clearly be seen in the work she has done for animals over the years.

Kraft has always had a special bond with animals, Ferrer shared, including all her childhood pets - dogs, cats, birds, even a guinea pig. She still has a variety of animals that are part of her family, including many that have been rescued, and she has worked to help rescue and find homes for many others.

In 2012, while Kraft was serving on the Board of Directors for the Rock Springs Humane Society, she developed and began pursuing an interest in animal rescue and transporting.

"For the past twelve years, she has been driving countless miles, volunteering her own time, with her own vehicles, on her own dime, transporting over 50 pets to different rescue facilities in efforts to increase their chances of adoption," Ferrer explained.

Kraft has worked with groups like Petunia's Pet Pantry, Second Chance to Dance Dachshunds Rescue, and both the Green River and Rock Springs Animal Control.

Nine years ago, Kraft established the pet sitting business Love & A Leash Pet Care. She has been a sitter for dogs and cats but also birds, horses, pigs, turtles, lizards, hedgehogs, tortoises, and bearded dragons. Kraft is also certified in pet massage an animal reiki.

Over the past few years, Kraft has also worked to establish Follow Me Home Pet Recovery, which helps save stray animals, inspired by the rescue of Miss Lucy the Mastiff, who is now one of Kraft's furry family members.

"She is a strong voice for abandoned, abused, and neglected animals, giving them a chance to be adored as well," Ferrer said.

Volunteer of the Year

Even as she helped the Chamber facilitate and present at the Awards Luncheon, Ainhoa Ferrer was also one of the individuals recognized and honored as she was named the Volunteer of the Year.

"For years, she has generously donated her time to various Chamber events, bringing her energy, creativity, and passion to every endeavor," Joe Olivas said of Ferrer in his presentation.

Ferrer has been on the Chamber Board for almost six years, including four as Board President. She has worked on events like River Festival, Run with the Horses and the Holiday Business Showcase, and she spearheaded "Duckorating for Bills," the fundraiser for River Festival that has become a local tradition.

Ferrer also serves on the Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism Board of Directors, teaches cake decorating classes at Western Wyoming Community College, judges local baking contests, and supports youth through initiatives like The Sugar Revolution.

"Perhaps what truly sets Ainhoa apart is her commitment to nurturing kindness and talent in our youth," Olivas said.

Organization of the Year

The Organization of the Year Award recognizes "a group that has demonstrated exceptional dedication, achievement, and impact within our community," according to Olivas, who presented the award to Muley Fanatic Foundation for "their outstanding contributions to conservation, wildlife management, and community engagement."

Established in 2012, MFF works through partnerships and projects to safeguard natural resources. They help raise awareness and support through fundraisers and outreach programs. Just in 2023, the group had 10 fundraising events across six states.

Their dedication to innovation is seen in initiatives like the Wild Things and Wild Places podcast, Olivas said, and their advocacy efforts can be seen through efforts like the successful campaign for the first Wyoming conservation license plate.

"One of the hallmarks of MFF's success is their proactive approach to conservation," Olivas said. "By fostering collaboration among local, state, and national stakeholders, they have been able to implement a wide range of initiatives aimed at preserving mule deer populations and enhancing their habitats."

Pacer Award

The Pacer Award is presented to a new business that has been open less than two years, designed to "celebrate innovation, dedication, and the entrepreneurial spirit that drives our community forward" and honor "those who exemplify excellence in business within our community," according to Misty Shiner.

Karen Poulsen was chosen as someone who exemplifies these characteristics through her business Salt My Soul, as her name "resonates with ambition, leadership, and a profound commitment to the community she serves," Shiner said.

Salt My Soul was started in December 2023 and offers a "cutting edge holistic approach to wellness," Shiner explained. Poulsen uses techniques including halotherapy, salt saunas, foot detox sessions, access bars, facia release, and retail options, and she is one of only two individuals in Wyoming to attain certification in spinal flow therapy. She has expanded her business to accommodate growing demand, all while also maintaining a full-time position at Tata Chemicals.

"May her story inspire us all to reach bigger, to pursue our dreams with unwavering determination, and to never underestimate the power of one individual to make a difference in our community," Shiner added.

Breakthrough Business

The Breakthrough Business Award recognizes someone who's been in business less than five years and made a significant impact.

"This Breakthrough Business owner saw a need for a market that was lacking in our area, a first of its kind," Kelly Davis explained as she presented the award to Blaire McEndaffer from Apricot Lane.

McEndaffer's interest in fashion began when she worked in the financial industry, and she eventually wanted to share it with the community, according to Davis. McEndaffer opened her Apricot Lane Boutique location, the first location for the fashion franchise in the state of Wyoming. The Green River location was awarded the 2022 Pacesetter Award at the franchise's national convention for meeting and exceeding sales goals, and was the top selling location from all stores on their opening days.

"Blair carefully curates a selection of uniquely gorgeous fashions, and offers it to her customers both in the boutique and online," Davis said.

McEndaffer also shares her community pride by connecting with others beyond her own business, according to Davis, from collaborating with other local entrepreneurs to participating in local vendor markets to being the head of the high school softball team.

Outstanding Business

Businesses that have operated for over five years are recognized through the Outstanding Business Award. This year's recipient has been a part of the community for much longer, however, having originally been established in 1986, when it "became a beacon of reliability, camaraderie, and unwavering commitment," according to Ryan Schaefer, who presented on behalf of Mike Shutran.

Flaming Gorge Harley Davidson, the Outstanding Business of the Year, was founded by Dave and Lynda Laughlin, and is "a business that has not only weathered the tides of time but has also left an indelible mark on our community," Schaefer said.

Their legacy has been continued by their youngest son, Dennis Laughlin, who is now the co-owner and general manager.

"He wears many hats, often simultaneously," Schaefer said, pointing out his work in the shop as well as his advanced EMT service, political involvement, assistance to stranded travelers, and support for the riding community. "His dedication fosters camaraderie and fuels our shared love for the wind in our hair and the rumble beneath our wheels."

The motto for the business is "Friendliest Dealership in the West," which Schaefer noted is "not just a slogan, it's a promise," as seen in the way they offer complimentary water and sometimes beer, and have a reputation with out-of-town riders who make a point of stopping by when they come through the area.

In 2016 the dealership received the Platinum Award from Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and in 2022 they got the Silver Premier Service Award. 

"The Laughlin legacy isn't just about motorcycles; it's about community, compassion, and a commitment to making every rider's journey memorable," Schaefer said. "Today, we celebrate not just a business, but a way of life - a legacy that continues to ride strong."

 

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