Serving The Beloved Community

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Rim Country’s the best place you’re ever going to live. And this week, we got another reminder of why that’s true.

It’s not the water — although we’re in love with the East Verde.

It’s not the pine trees — although we love the vanilla smell of the bark.

It’s not the line of the Mogollon Rim — although sitting on the edge with feet dangling remains an irresistible pleasure.

Nope: The key to Rim Country remains the people who have made this our beloved community.

This week, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and others joined to honor some of the most great-hearted, tough-minded, community-centered people in Rim Country.

Start with the marvelous lineup of non-profit organizations and volunteers.

John Wakelin earned a well-deserved individual award for his seemingly limitless willingness to serve others. So did the Payson Senior Center, recognized as the top non-profit organization for 2012. Of course, that was a tough call — with marvelous groups like Tonto Rim Search and Rescue and Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Inc. in the running.

But the awards mostly recognized Rim Country’s top businesses, as measured by their community spirit, grit and survival instincts.

Make no mistake, these past four years have tested us all — including each of the businesses nominated and lauded for their contributions to the community, their service to their customers and the creativity and stubbornness it has required to just stay in business these days.

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John Wakelin

Home Depot won the award for top large business, not only for its customer service but for how often the store managers and employees have made donations to community groups, from the Payson Community Garden to Habitat for Humanity.

The honor didn’t come easily — since Home Depot had to contend with the marvelous business sense and community spirit of runnersup — Chapman Auto Center and Hospice Compassus.

In the small business category, Messinger Payson Funeral Home won top awards, after investing in this community by building a wonderful new facility that the owners have already turned into a community gathering place. Again, the choice wasn’t easy — given the business sense, adroit advertising and community involvement of Mattress Experts and the creative energy of the Payson Farmers Market, runnersup in the small business category.

Other awards went to Best Western Manager Stephanie Creasy for her community involvement, business skill, customer loyalty and leadership in the business community.

The event also honored Mattress Experts co-owner Cindy Gregory for her tremendous community involvement. Gregory observed that co-owner Kristine McCormack deserved much of the credit, since she kept the business humming along so efficiently that Gregory had time for her volunteer contributions.

Finally, Payson water czar Buzz Walker received recognition for his decades of effort to build up and maintain Payson’s infrastructure, now being tuned up again in anticipation of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir in 2014.

The awards ceremony drew a brave cross-section of the people who make Rim Country such a heartening and inspiring place to live — and do business. You see them everywhere — raising money for the food bank, making plans for a university, giving new businesses a boost, delivering meals to shut-ins, sprucing up the Time Out Shelter, scrounging up money to build a new animal shelter, finding places for homeless teens to live so they can finish school.

So this week, a few of the shining stars won recognition — with lots of the people who have also made their great-hearted contributions grinning and applauding in the audience.

They are the beloved community.

And we’re honored to serve them — and the community that we all love.

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