Pictured are the 2023 award winners at the 2024 B-U Chamber of Commerce's Annual Awards Dinner. From left are 2023 Business Man of the Year Rick Simon, Business Woman of the Year Erika Klie Kolenich, Citizen of the Year Keith Buchanan, J.F. Allen President Greg Hadjis accepting the Business of the Year Award and Dave Long accepting the Organization of the Year award on behalf of the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur. (Photo by Lily Hicks.)

B-U Chamber of Commerce names Community Care’s CEO Emeritus ‘Business Man of the Year’ at annual awards dinner

BUCKHANNON — Business owners, industry leaders and community stakeholders gathered at Brushy Fork Event Center on March 7 for the 2024 Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce Leaders in Action Annual Dinner.

Each year, the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce recognizes outstanding individuals and businesses for their contributions to the community. The awardees for 2023 “exemplify dedication, leadership and a commitment to enhancing the quality of life in Buckhannon and Upshur County,” according to event emcee and Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner.

The Chamber of Commerce awarded Rick Simon the 2023 Business Man of the Year accolade for his exceptional leadership as CEO Emeritus of Community Care of West Virginia. Over his 30-year tenure, he transformed the organization from a single clinic to the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the state, operating 17 community health center locations, 50 school-based health clinic sites, eight pharmacies and a dental office, Skinner said.

Simon expanded services to include dental, school-based health, behavioral health and addiction treatment, earning the organization one of the highest quality rankings among all federally qualified health centers in the United States.

“He forged partnerships with local and regional healthcare companies to ensure patients in our community received the best care possible,” Skinner said. “He and Skip Gjolberg, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital, have created a strong medical-provider partnership here in Buckhannon that has profoundly improved both organizations.”

Skinner noted that just before his retirement, Simon worked with Aetna Better Health to secure a $1.2 million grant award for West Virginia Wesleyan College to expedite the launch of its Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

“The program is another partnership that will help with workforce fulfillment for Community Care of West Virginia’s behavioral health staff, increasing patients’ ability to receive care,” he said.

The Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur was named the 2023 Organization of the Year for its century-long commitment to serving the community. Comprised of members from various backgrounds, the club is dedicated to supporting dozens of local organizations through volunteering and fundraising.

“The COVID epidemic did not stop their volunteer efforts,” Skinner said. “This organization and its members pivoted to assist with the COVID vaccination clinics for the community and recognized Upshur County’s health care workers and first responders as they dealt with the pandemic.”

“For many years, their signature volunteer activity has been partnering with St. Joseph’s Hospital in providing cost-effective blood screenings throughout the year,” he added.

J.F. Allen Company, founded in 1946, has become a leading heavy construction firm in the Appalachian Mountains, specializing in asphalt paving, road construction and environmental reclamation. With over 250 employees, the company operates in several states, providing state-certified materials from its quarries and asphalt plants.

The company’s leadership transitioned to John Allen, Jr. in 2017, who continues the tradition of community involvement and charitable donations. Their recent donation of land for a sports complex in Buckhannon exemplifies their commitment to the region. J.F. Allen Company’s success is attributed to its employees, safety focus, and dedication to quality, making them deserving recipients of the 2023 Community Care of West Virginia Business of the Year award, Skinner said.

Erika Klie Kolenich, named the 2023 West Virginia Wesleyan College Businesswoman of the Year, is a successful attorney and community leader in Buckhannon. She graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College and earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron before returning to Buckhannon to open her own law practice in 2005.

“In addition to her professional accomplishments, she is an active community leader, serving on the board of Head Start for 15 years, former executive producer and current board member of Buckhannon Community Theatre,” Skinner said. “She also serves on the boards of the City of Buckhannon Historic Landmarks Commission, and the newly created Colonial Arts Center Board of Directors.”

Keith Buchanan, named the 2023 Citizens Bank of West Virginia Citizen of the Year, has been a pivotal figure in Buckhannon for nearly three decades. Despite not being a native, his connection to the community began during his time at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he made lasting connections and eventually settled with his family.

Known for his storytelling talents, he has contributed significantly to the community through initiatives like the Gateway Project and the Buckhannon Mural, showcasing the city’s identity. His involvement in the arts, particularly with the Buckhannon Community Theatre and the Colonial Arts Center, highlights his commitment to enriching the cultural landscape of Buckhannon.

“As you would imagine, nearly everyone in our community has a story about the story-telling guy himself,” Skinner said. “Whether it’s offering a last-minute helping hand at community events, performing music to drum up interest for a local business or organization, or simply being greeted by his signature whistle that always precedes him,” the mayor concluded. “For his unwavering dedication to Buckhannon’s growth, his ability to turn visions into reality, and his talent for storytelling in all forms, he is certainly a deserving recipient of this award.”

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!