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Community Champions Awards Luncheon

The Community Champions Awards Luncheon recognizes volunteer leaders within Aberdeen and the region.

Pictured back row, left to right: Stacy Vrchota; Brad Burdette; Brodie Mueller; Ron Lindner; Kaelynn Hanley, Gordon Tree Top and Isabella Archambault – front row, left to right: Julie M. Johnson; Pat Tollefson; Jen Van Laecken and Samantha Kay Boshard.

The Community Champions Awards Luncheon, which took place on February 13, 2024 , recognizes volunteer leaders within Aberdeen and the region. The awards winners include:

  • Woman of Spirit – Pat Tollefson
  • George – Brodie Mueller
  • STAR (Students Taking Active Responsibility) – Aberdeen Central NASA (Native American Student Association) Club
  • ViTality – Julie M. Johnson
  • Entrepreneur of the Year –  Brad Burdette
  • The Aberdeen Area Family Business of the Year – VanLaecken Orthodontics
  • Military/Veterans Awards
    • Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year – Stacy Vrchota
    • Rich Kezar Veteran of Armed Services – Samantha Kay Boshard
    • Civilian Advocate for Military and/or Veteran Groups – Ron Lindner

Awards are presented on behalf of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon is hosted by the Chamber’s Ambassador Committee. To nominate someone for any of the awards, call the Chamber office at (605) 225-2860 or email


The Woman of Spirit Award. The award, sponsored by the Chamber, replaced the ATHENA Award in 2008, but like the Athena is presented to a woman from the Aberdeen area who has attained and personified the highest level of professional excellence in her business or profession and has devoted time and energy to the community in a meaningful way.

The George Award. This award is presented by the Chamber to an individual(s) who has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community in trying to make Aberdeen a better place to live and work. A George Award recipient has stepped up and taken the initiative, rather than “just letting George do it.”

The STAR Award. STAR stands for Students Taking Active Responsibility. The Award is presented to a Youth Organization for their dedicated efforts in the community.

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This award is sponsored by the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce. In the spirit of building on Aberdeen’s rich culture of entrepreneurship, Aberdeen began the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007.

Military/Veterans Awards. The Military/Veterans Committee presented awards to active military, veterans, families and businesses.

The Aberdeen Area Family Business of the Year Award. Started in 2004, the award recognizes the accomplishments of a family business and its contributions to the community of Aberdeen and the surrounding region. Criteria includes that at least two family members work in the business, and/or multi-generational; positive contributions of the business to the welfare of the community; success of the business; and an assessment of the health and unity of the family.

ViTality Award. The ViTality award, sponsored by the Chamber, is presented to the individual who is the ‘keeper’ of the regional vision, or the person who lives in the regional growth and ‘ViTality’ spirit every day. The ViTality awarded annually to recognize individuals in a 17-county area of northeastern South Dakota who display enthusiasm for regional development. The namesake, ViTality, is in memory of Aberdonian, Vi Stoia. Stoia was often called a ‘regional thinker’, and felt that new businesses in Redfield or community work in Leola was a win for Aberdeen and the entire region. Stoia passed away in 2008 but his memory lives on in the form of the ViTality Award.

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