Paw Paw Chamber hosts the community for one big night out!

The Paw Paw community came out in force for the Paw Paw Area Chamber of Commerce annual “Spoonfuls & Spirits” dinner, held March 2 at the Paw Paw Lions Club.2019 community awards to, from left: Jason Bull and Erika Frazier, of Freshwater Community Church; Marilyn Clear and Doug Craddock, of the Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Festival Committee; Diana Rodriguez, on behalf of Rene Rodriguez and StudioOne Creative; Ron Douglas, Sr., of the Paw Paw Fire Department; Curtis Eldred, of Takokat; Ted Major; Courtney and Josh Gettig, Anthony Gettig, and Hailey ardy, of Van Buren Coffee CompanyFrom left, Chamber Board vice-president Patrick Bauschke “locks up” State Rep. Beth Griffin, State Sen. Aric Nesbitt, and former State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker. Guests are served one of the specialties of La Cantina, who won the People’s Choice Award.

    PAW PAW - The Paw Paw Area Chamber of Com-merce hosted member businesses and the community Saturday, March 2 at its annual “Spoonfuls & Spirits” awards dinner.
    The event featured 17 local eateries, caterers, wineries, breweries, and coffee shops, who provided the evening’s repast for more than 260 guests at the Paw Paw Lions Club.
    The evening’s Mardi Gras theme was played out in the hall’s decorations and the jail photo booth, where guests were “locked up” until they could roust their bail.
    The gala was generally social, with the focus on food, drink, and community; but for a short program, Chamber vice-president and Spoonfuls emcee Patrick Bauschke  cast the spotlight on the Chamber’s annual awards and their recipients.
    The 2019 Legacy Award, given to someone whose longtime involvement in and contributions to the community have left a lasting footprint, was presented to the Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Festival Committee.  Scant  official records indicate that the festival began in Paw Paw in the mid-1940’s, ac-cording to Festival Director Marilyn Clear.                  Some of the same attractions offered at those early festivals continue today, such as grape stomping, a carnival midway, a festival parade, and, of course, wine tasting and sales.  Today’s Wine & Harvest Festival still highlights two of the Paw Paw area’s bigger industries - grape growing and wine making - while many local business owners have said the weekend after Labor Day is their busiest of the year. Service groups and non-profits have also tagged in, earning revenue to fund their causes throughout the year.      
    Clear estimates the festival draws over 50,000 people to Paw Paw and the surrounding area every Sep-tember. And, the state of Michigan estimates the festival’s economic impact on the community to be around $3.5 million for the three days.  
    This year’s Pioneer Award was presented to Van Buren Coffee Company, as a business which has taken some risk in making a significant investment in the community.
    Van Buren Coffee roasts  Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffees only. Owners/brothers Josh and Anthony Gettig founded the company in 2017 on a mission to change people’s lives -- the farmers who grow the beans purchased and roasted by VBCC, and their customers, who can enjoy coffees from around the world.
    Since they opened, the Gettigs have teamed up with various big and little community causes, hosting fundraising events at their coffee shop, at 38772 W. Red Arrow Hwy., Paw Paw,  and packaging signature “cause coffee” blends, with proceeds from the sales going back to the cause.
    Between them, the brothers own and operate several small businesses, but in its short time in operation, the  coffee company has expanded sales from over-the-counter to online purchasing through Amazon and their own website.
    The Chamber’s Community Partner Award recognizes a business or organization which has demonstrated remarkable community involvement through financial, marketing, and/or volunteer support. This year’s recipient was Freshwater Community Church, Paw Paw.
    Freshwater Community Church opened in October 2005. The congregation quickly outgrew its original location, and Pastors Troy Gentz and Jason Bull arranged with the Paw Paw Public Schools to rent space in the old Michigan Avenue school building. Freshwater renovated the auditorium for use by the church as a sanctuary, and still by the community as a public auditorium. When the PPPS Community Education Program moved out of the building, Freshwater bought it from the school district, with hopes of it being an active community hub all week long.
    That goal, coupled with the maintenance needs of an historic older building, led to a major renovation project to create a large fellowship hall, which was completed last spring. The project was designed to transform the former Michigan Avenue Academy into a space better suited for church services; but it was important to Freshwater that the renovations incorporate the building’s history. Exterior and interior work preserved much of the building’s original brick work, but modern architectural features, such as the glass tower on the building’s north side, were included.
    The Freshwater congregation is encouraged to be actively involved in the community, and large crews of volunteers are dispatched to almost every activity that happens in the village, from help planting flowers to hosting the Wings of God talent show and Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
    Most notably to the Chamber is Freshwater’s ongoing participation in Paw Paw Days, setting up, operating, and tearing down the Kids’ Zone play area. The Chamber’s focus has always been that Paw Paw Days be a family event, and the play area helps fulfill that vision.
    The Chamber’s Rising Star this year was TAKOKAT, and owner Curtis Eldred. Opening about a year ago at  237 E Michigan Ave., Paw Paw, Eldred said, “We didn’t know about restaurant stuff; we knew about hard work, integrity, family, and food.
    “Now, we know all about restaurant stuff, and we absolutely love it, and we totally love this town!”  His small restaurant, which was recently voted as MLive readers’ favorite diner in the Kalamazoo area, started out as a buffet, but Eldred soon developed a menu and has become known for fried cheese and his sauces. With his wife, Tanya, and other family members on staff, Eldred is settled here, learning and offering something new every day.
    The Chamber’s Good Citizen Award is reserved for an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure Chamber and other community events become reality, and whose contributions have been indispensible in the successful execution of those events.  No one fit the bill better than Rene Rodriguez for this year’s honors. As the owner of StudioOne Creative, a graphic communications company in Paw Paw, he focuses on getting results for his clients through a variety of marketing services.
    Rodriguez recently stepped down from a position on the Chamber Board of Directors, a role he has served multiple times, as president, vice-president and director. He has chaired many committees from the marketing, event, website, HR and is one of the founders of the Ambassador Committee. He continues to offer spare time to the Chamber, developing the branding and marketing strategy and helping to guide programming to better support the Chamber's membership.    
    The partnership the Chamber has with Rodri-guez has been and continues to be supportive, positive, and in sync with the vision  to encourage growth, em-brace change, expand opportunity and enjoy life in the Paw Paw Area.
    The Chamber Board of Directors reserves Special Recognition honors as an opportunity to look outside the Chamber membership and acknowledge an individual from the community who has provided vision and leadership or contributed significantly to the improvement of life here. The Board presented two Special Re-cognition Awards on March 2, to the Paw Paw Fire Department and to life-long Paw Paw resident Ted Major.
    The PPFD marked its 150th year in operation in 2018, and is one of very few in the state which is still manned solely by volunteers. Activities last summer celebrated those generations of volunteers who have answered the bell or siren of the fire alarm for the residents of Paw Paw and surrounding areas. They’ve left their jobs in an instant and raced to the scene of a blaze within minutes. Some still ride the trucks with the ghosts of their fathers to great-grandfathers as their guardian angels. It is an honored tradition in the community of Paw Paw to be a member of the fire department, and an honor to acknowledge the history as a part of the community’s.
     Now in is mid-90s, Ted Major is still sharp as the proverbial tack. His interest  in the welfare of the community and vigor for starting a project and seeing it through has involved him in much of what goes on here.
    Major is a graduate of Paw Paw High School. He served in the U.S. Navy in Korea, and developed technology still used today in sonobuoys.
    Major runs a farm here and is very active in environmental concerns of the community. He has been involved in Maple Lake maintenance and clean up efforts, and is always seeking out resources to do the work better, less expensive or or disruptive to the natural landscape. He is a founding member of the Paw Paw Area Rotary Club, and a lifetime supporter of Paw Paw, the farmers, and businesses.


The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes
32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-5080

Email Us

Facebook Pinterest