Watts has got the power

Greg MassPost Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Many of the city’s biggest names in business were on hand Wednesday at the Hotel Colorado for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s 16th annual awards luncheon. But of the 20 awards given out, the glowing Ginger Watts was the big winner of the day. Watts, owner of American Family Insurance in Glenwood Springs, won the chamber’s Athena Award, which honors women “who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishment.”Several past winners presented the award to Watts, including Tillie Fischer, winner of the award in 1996. “Athena was chosen because Athena is the goddess of wisdom and courage,” Fischer said, telling the story of how the nationwide award began. She described the symbolism of the Athena statue, which has a marble base, a bronze body and a crystal orb.Donna Fell, the 1995 Athena winner, announced Watts as the winner.”She’s an amazing mentor to so many young girls,” Fell said.

Mary Steinbrecher, the 2002 Athena Award winner, handed the statue to Watts as she wiped tears from her eyes. Before Watts spoke to the audience, 2000 Athena Award winner Debbie Wilde told a story about a work trip she and Watts took with about 20 teenage girls to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.Watts inspired her team to reach out to a Cheyenne woman and her daughters who were suffering from grief and depression. By the middle of their weeklong visit, the family was thanking the group for coming and changing their lives.”You can take this lady out of the community and be proud to say she’s from Glenwood Springs,” Wilde said. Watts told the audience of 200 that when she was growing up, her parents always encouraged her to give back to the community. Her mother, Jeannine Ford Artaz, stood at her side, beaming with pride.”We’re blessed to be born in a free country where we have the freedom to own and operate a business as we choose,” Watts said. “I have to dedicate this to my beautiful little girl Alison.”Watts received a standing ovation from the crowd.Some other special awards were given out Wednesday. Glenwood Springs High School DECA student Jeri Polowchena presented the 2003 DECA Entrepreneur of the Year award to John Haines, selected for his purchase of a block of marble from the Colorado Yule Quarry that will be used to replace a cracked block in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.”I really don’t feel like I deserve it. I was just trying give back to the community that’s given so much to me,” Haines said. Colorado West Broadcasting, owner of KMTS and KGLN radio, won the Philanthropic Business of the Year award for the radio stations’ support of projects and fund-raisers and for broadcasting school and community events. The Post Independent won an Award of Recognition for the newspaper’s “immediate and long-term coverage” of the Coal Seam Fire.

Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association executive director Marianne Virgili was also recognized at the luncheon. As director, Virgili isn’t eligible to win any of the official awards, so she was given an honorary award of recognition in the form of a beautiful painting for her work. “I am much more comfortable giving awards than receiving them,” Virgili said. “I am so fortunate to be able to work with the best and the brightest people in our community every day.”In addition to those awards, 14 business people and companies won Top Brass awards at the luncheon:-Amy Luetke of the Property Shop real estate company -The Flower Mart-Kelly Whittington of Alpine Bank-Kimberly Henrie, local author who wrote a chapter included in “Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul”-Kim Hilderbrand of Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center-Mike Wilde, science teacher at Glenwood Springs High School-Deborah Korbel, owner of Paradise Day Spa-The Property Shop-The Sopris Restaurant-Springs Theater-Structural Associates-Valley Wellness Centers-Village Inn-WestStar Bank

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