"Mapping our way to the future" was the theme of the 92nd annual Newcomerstown Chamber of Commerce Banquet last Wednesday evening. Those in attendance are planning to do just that.

With the anticipated oil and gas industry boom coming to the area, Chamber members are preparing for what opportunities may come, according to Chamber President Jeff Neidig.

"(We are to) be ready and be alert for whatever comes to the community," Neidig said. "Together, we want to map a bright future."

The Chamber has been offering workshops and programs to help get businesses ready for what could come. The Chamber has also developed a mobile app and has updated their web site. All of these aspects are part of the Chamber's efforts to aide businesses with the oil and gas boom.

Meanwhile, the annual awards banquet honors individuals, businesses and organizations that have made improvements to their business, assisted the community with their organization or cared about the community by showing their own individual dedication.

The highest honor given by the Chamber is the Chief Netawatwees Award or President's Award which is given to businesses that have made significant investments in the community over the past year.

In all, seven Chief Netawatwees Awards were presented to:

• Baker's IGA for relocating their management office/operations to Newcomerstown;

• Buckeye Health and Rehabilitation Center for making improvements to the historical building after lightning struck the main beam of the building;

• Bliss Veterinary Services for opening/creating a veterinary office in the village;

• Huntington National Bank for making improvements and additions to the Newcomerstown banking center's lobby and drive-through windows;

• Hampton Inn in Newcomerstown for making improvements to the lobby and fitness center of the hotel;

• Statewide Heating and Cooling for purchasing the former USS Radford National Naval Museum in Newcomerstown and relocating the business to the village; and

• Whitetail Country Store for opening the business that not only supplies animal feed but propane, bulk mulch, plants, gifts, candles, jewelry, cards, etc.

Charles "Charlie" Emler of Newcomerstown received the Kelly Ault Memorial Patriotism Award as presented by local veteran Denny Ross.

"I hope it's (the award) a surprise to this gentleman," said Ross who read a brief history of Emler's military and community service involvement.

Emler, a graduate of Newcomerstown High School and former human resources director at Alsco in Gnadenhutten, has been very involved with military organizations in the community over the years.

He is also a 66-year member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and married for 60-years to Martha June (Casteel) Emler, besides serving his country in the military.

Emler received a standing ovation from those attending the banquet in recognition of his service to the community.

Newcomerstown Bicentennial co-chairman William "Bill" McCulley gave an update as to the plans for the Newcomerstown Bicentennial celebration slated for next year. After doing so, he was then awarded the Helping Hands Award from the chamber.

The Organization of the Year Award went to Christ's Kitchen for their efforts in providing a free, restaurant-style meal to some 130 people every Monday night in the village. Kathy Ellis, Newcomerstown Schools' first grade teacher, was recognized as Educator of the Year. Ellis began her teaching career in 1976 and is set to retire after 37 years with Newcomerstown Schools at the end of this school year.

Newcomerstown Police Chief Gary Holland received the Hometown Hero Award after taking life-saving measures to save the life of Susan Addy of Newcomerstown back in February. Addy credits her life with the measures that Chief Holland took by applying much-needed gluclose gel to Addy when she was in a diabetic episode.

Finally, the Chamber Member of the Year went to Pat Cadle who, most recently, just retired as principal at the West Elementary School but has since become an ever-important part of promoting the community in hopes of attracting the oil and gas industry to the village.

The meal was catered by Dick's Place and Pastor Greg Circle offered the invocation. Chamber members also had displays on-hand that showcased their business.

The Chamber meets the third Monday of each month at noon at rotating locations.

Newcomerstown Chamber of Commerce officers include, Jeff Neidig, president; Pat Cadle, first vice president; Becki Allen, second vice president; Gary Chaney, treasurer; and Niki Wolfe, secretary.

To learn more about the Chamber or to become a member, visit www.newcomerstownchamber.com or call 498-4545.