By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
A local fast-food businessman always willing to help his community was among the award-winners at Tuesday night’s Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce annual membership dinner.
Keith Schreiber, co-owner of the town’s Dairy Queen restaurant, was saluted as 2012 Citizen of the Year. The Chamber also bestowed honors on three “Champions”: Gerald Eighmy (President’s Award), Wildfire Dance LLC (Leadership Award) and Professional Achievement Award (Joslin-Landis Insurance).
A capacity crowd was on hand for the Mardi Gras-themed evening, held at the Conneaut Moose Lodge.
Schreiber, who joined the family business 13 years ago, acknowledged he was uncomfortable with public speaking.
“Handing out Dilly Bars and calling out numbers,” he said. “That’s my experience with a microphone.”
Schreiber, who was the city of Conneaut’s assistant Public Works director before trying the restaurant business, was lauded for the generosity and support the eatery regularly showers on the community. The business sponsors many civic events over the course of a year.
He recalled jumping into the business after a talk with stepfather Charles Lewis, who launched the restaurant.
“That was the best decision I ever made,” Schreiber said. “I regret I didn’t make it sooner.”
Schreiber praised his wife, Ida; mother, Linda; his stepfather and other relatives, as well as his loyal customers and dedicated employees. “We have the best staff of any Dairy Queen anywhere,” he said.
“I don’t look at myself as being worthy of an award like this,” Schreiber said. “I am truly honored.”
Schreiber received a rousing, standing ovation from the crowd that nearly matched the reaction that followed his big announcement: “We open (for the season) tomorrow,” he said.
Mike Joslin and Scott Landis accepted the Professional Achievement award on behalf of their business. Joslin noted his three sons have joined him in the business.
“This is a truly gratifying, humbling award for us,” Joslin said, at the same time thanking a staff he said has a combined 150 years of business experience.
Landis thanked the Chamber, adding “It’s a pleasure to work with this family group of ours.”
Mary Murtha founded Wildfire Dance after a personal tragedy, she said after accepting the Leadership Award. “I lost my first child when I was 21 years old,” she said, fighting back tears.
Today, more than 700 girls are enrolled in Wildfire, which has branches in a handful of states. Wildfire began with 20 girls who received dance instruction at the long-closed Monroe Elementary School, Murtha said.
“Thirty-three years later, here I am,” he said. “My life is filled with girls who love to dance. Thank you for letting me run a business I love.”
Gerald Eighmy took ill the day of the ceremony and was unable to attend, said his presenter, Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. Eighmy, a local industrialist, has operated businesses in Conneaut and northwestern Pennsylvania, and is heavily involved —financially and time-wise — in the CARE for Kids program, which is working to create a scholastic sports complex adjacent to the Conneaut High School football stadium. He also is a long-time UH Conneaut Medical Center board member.
Scott Eighmy, Gerald’s son, accepted the award for his dad. “He really loves Conneaut,” Scott Eighmy said.
Chamber leadership also bestowed the past-president award to Hattie Grubke-Barnard, who thanked Wendy DuBey, executive director; Chamber directors and members for their support. She also introduced past top citizens who were in the audience.