The Charleston Area Alliance honored 13 individuals and organizations for their positive impact on the Kanawha Valley at the 10th Annual We Love Our Community Awards March 21 at the University of Charleston Russell and Martha Wehrle Innovation Center.
Sponsored by Spilman Thomas & Battle, the awards program honored:
Kanawha Heritage: Pugh Furniture celebrates 100 years since its founding in 1917, marking a legacy of quality and customer-service focused furniture sales in the Kanawha Valley. Since it launched as a furniture wholesale business servicing general stores, mom and pop furniture stores and company stores, Pugh has evolved into a furniture warehouse serving customers throughout the region.
Best Development: The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern West Virginia opened its new home in October 2016, responding to the need for a larger home closer to Charleston Area Medical Center Women and Children’s Hospital. The new ADA-compliant 19,000-square-foot house features a common room, 14 guest suites and a third-floor shell for future expansion.
Best Redevelopment: Frank and Camilla Baer redeveloped the historic Thomas Hill Building at 950 Kanawha Blvd., which opened in August 2016. The private investors created a dynamic design that provides a positive enhancement to downtown Charleston. Baer Place, the five-story, 30,000 square-foot, mixed-use project, features two residential units and three-story commercial office space.
Best Redevelopment: The University of Charleston opened the Russell & Martha Wehrle Innovation Center in December 2016, which features a 32-000-square foot addition to the front of the 40,000-square-foot renovated gym, athletic offices, academic classrooms and state-of-the-art flexible facilities for student collaboration and project development.
Jeff Miller Sustainable Development: The Bullock Family’s investment and redevelopment has revived Elk City district on Charleston’s West Side. John and Ellen Bullock, and their children Tighe and Megan, have led more than a dozen projects transforming vacant buildings into mixed-use properties including residential, retail, restaurant and commercial office components. The Bullock Family’s redevelopment has attracted many creative entrepreneurs to the district, including Kin Ship Goods, Bully Trap Barbershop, Elk City Records, Basecamp Printing.
Community Celebration: The Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau Sportsfest is an annual three-day sports festival that celebrates athletics, community and local business. The festival highlights the terrain and unique culture of the Kanawha Valley and attracts more than 1,000 athletes to the region competing in a variety of sports.
Arts to the Max – Organization: The West Virginia Youth Symphony has provided music education through orchestral programs and performance opportunities since 1949. The Symphony serves more than 100 students each year, providing superb orchestral and chamber music instruction from the Mountain State’s most respected professional musicians.
Arts to the Max – Individual: Maestro Grant Cooper has led the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in more than 700 performances as the organization’s artistic director and conductor between 2001 and his retirement this year. During his tenure, Cooper has expanded the Symphony’s audiences reached and the depth of programming performed, sharing orchestral music and enhancing quality of life.
James R. Thomas Outstanding Volunteer: Catherine Nutter, owner of the House of Luxe, has built a strong partnership among downtown business owners to enhance and maintain downtown Charleston as a vital and thriving retail and cultural center. Through her leadership, downtown business owners have implemented innovative ways to promote local retail.
Youth Volunteer: George Washington High School Senior Katie Martin has brought meaningful change to the Kanawha Valley. She is a member of the Beta Club, Key Club Theater Group and the marching band. A principal chair oboist with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Martin teaches music at Christ Church United Methodist Church. She is also on the YWCA Charleston Board of Directors.
Do the Charleston: Jack Cavender, vice president of City National Bank’s commercial loans division, continually works to make a positive difference and improve the quality of life in the Kanawha Valley. His work with the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, Charleston Ballet, Charleston Area Alliance and Capitol Market has propelled development projects, cultural experiences, entrepreneurial development and business expansion.
Servant Leader: Dan Vriendt, the City of Charleston city planner, devotes an immeasurable amount of time to the community and programs that serve neighbors. Whether he is at a neighborhood forum, City Council meeting or working one-on-one with a small business, Vriendt is committed to the City of Charleston’s business and community enhancement.
Placemaking: Charleston-based photographer Kevin Jack captures glimpses of human life, along with buildings and landscapes in downtown Charleston. Jack turns his lens to overlooked assets, creating beautiful scenes from Hale Street’s retail to kids hula hooping at Downtown Streetfest. Through his website and social media outlets, Jack has created an online sense of place for downtown Charleston.
The awards program committee, including Terry Pickett, Joe Jones and Jennifer Vieweg, also presented Susie Salisbury, the Alliance’s vice president of community development, with an honorary We Love Our Community Award for her work to enhance the City of Charleston. Deputy Mayor Rod Blackstone also read a proclamation praising Salisbury's work.
St. Albans-based artist Emily Wall created the award artwork, pulling inspiration for each award from the recipients’ community service.