Mike McKibbin

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March 13, 2013
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Community volunteers awarded for their efforts in 2012

Masks of all colors, shapes and materials were all the rage, as the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner at Grand River Hospital on Saturday, March 9, drew around 170 people.A masquerade ball was the theme of the evening, and many of the formally dressed ladies and gentlemen had fun hiding behind those masks.The evening also had a serious side; presenting awards for the person and business of the year, woman of distinction, plus a lifetime achievement award.Chamber President and CEO Frank Ladd said the awards denote the extra effort the winners made to make the Rifle area a better community."Volunteers don't have any more time than any of the rest of us, but they have more heart," Ladd said. "It's good for the heart and good for the soul to volunteer, and no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."The American Family Insurance Woman of Distinction award for 2012 was presented by the 2011 winner, Tami Sours. She said the award is given to a Rifle businesswoman who goes above and beyond her paid position to help the community."This woman acts with passion from the heart," Sours said before announcing the winner, Shelley Aibner, a massage therapist who is active in the New Ute Events Center and city recreation center efforts, among others.A surprised and emotional Aibner pulled her mask over her face a few times to compose herself."I love Rifle," she said to cheers and applause. "We've been blessed in so many ways, I had absolutely no clue. As I sat there and listened to that description, I thought, 'that's so cool'."Aibner said she and her family had to relocate to Rifle due to economic reasons 12 years ago."I didn't want to be here, but we made friendships and got to know the businesses and soon we thought 'what an exceptional group of people'."Aibner said while she is passionate about the events center and recreation center, "I hate tax increases [to fund them], I really do. But I really want an events center and a recreation center for the people and so our businesses can flourish."The Oran H. Harmon Person of the Year award was presented by 2011 award winner Helen Rogers, who said the 2012 winner was passionate about the Future Farmers of American organization and as the coordinator of the Community Counts organization that helps the energy industry and residents co-exist."She's always a voice of reason when things get tough and she always asks 'what can I do?'" Rogers said as she introduced Nita Smith, owner of NLS Business Solutions and the chair of the chamber board of directors."I had no idea about this," Smith said. "Although I should have had an idea when our sons and daughter-in-law showed up. I thought that was because my husband couldn't make it.""Rifle is near and dear to me and it's why I joined the chamber, to help the businesses here," Smith added.Business of the Year 2011 award winner Encana Oil & Gas representative Sandy Kent noted the owner of the 2012 winner was a Rifle High School graduate, had worked as a landscaper and a chimney sweep before Grady Hazelton opened WingNutz in 2005."We always try to be a part of the community," Hazelton said. "We appreciate being a part of the community."June Renfro, a past winner of the John B. Scalzo Lifetime Achievement Award, described the 2012 winner as someone who often worked in the background for the last 30 years."Hunter's tents, auctions, fair parades, he was always there," Renfro said.Coming to Rifle from Missouri in 1981 to work at the Unocal oil shale project, Renfro said he ended up working on the Glenwood Canyon project, then opened the Rifle Fireside Lanes bowling alley and was a Garfield County Commissioner for 12 years."Now he's enjoying motor homing in the winter, so he's not with us tonight, he's in Arizona," Renfro said. "Can you guess who it is? It's Larry McCown."Renfro said the chamber would present McCown with his award plaque at a future chamber event.The event also included a dinner and a live and silent auction of items donated by local businesses, followed by dancing.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 13, 2013 05:32PM Published Mar 13, 2013 05:26PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.