The winners of annual business awards were announced prior to the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce annual banquet this week. The awards were determined in a number of different categories and are traditionally presented at the banquet, held this year at the Bitterroot River Inn May 22.

One of only three Lifetime Achievement Awards ever presented by the organization is going to Pat Easley, who retired after many years as Office Manager at the Hamilton Chamber office. She has assisted the Chamber Board and Executive Directors through the years, providing smooth transitions from one Executive Director to another and from one major event to the next.

The Economic Development Award goes to the Hamilton Business Relief Fund that was organized during the COVID-19 pandemic by a coalition of businesses and Hamilton city officials. The Bitterroot Valley Community Asset Award went to another special fundraising effort - Project 59870 of Stevensville. The project grew from a Sharing Tree Project and included a Business Relief Fund and is now raising money for the Stevensville Civic Club's Splash Pad plan at Lewis and Clark Park.

Other business awards:
Business of The Year is Hamilton Packing Company, which was purchased by Jason and LaRynn Schlange in 2019, who have continued growing the long-running processing facility north of Hamilton. The New Business of the Year award recognizes Backyard Tap House of Florence with owners Chris and Tessa Lynn. Business Person of The Year has been awarded to Jaime Devlin of A2Z Personnel. She is also on the Stevensville Town Council, is vice-president of the Stevensville Play House theater group, and is part of Project 59870.

Other individual awards:
Spark Plug Award to Rebecca and Mike Swanson, new owners of Old West Candy & Antiques in Darby. Volunteer of the Year to Kerry Morris-Hanson, coordinator of the Adopt A Cop program. The Laurel Award (named after former Hamilton Mayor Laurel Frankenfield) has been won by Carol Saylor for her work since the 1990s in such things as Girl Scouts, Bitterroot Building Association, Trapper Creek Job Corps and Chamber of Commerce. The Unsung Hero award is for someone whose efforts might go unnoticed. Noticed this year is Cameron Criddle of Bee Hive Homes in Hamilton, who also supports many kids activities. The Chamber Volunteer is awarded to one of the friendly people who greet visitors at the main Chamber of Commerce office in Hamilton. Winner is Ida Mann. Congratulations to all the deserving folks who are helping the Bitterroot Valley in so many ways.

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