Community Members Recognized at 2024 GR Chamber Awards Luncheon

Community Members Recognized at 2024 GR Chamber Awards Luncheon

A group of individuals and business owners were recognized Wednesday at the 2024 Green River Chamber Awards Luncheon. SweetwaterNOW photo by Olivia Kennah

GREEN RIVER — The Green River Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2024 Awards Luncheon Wednesday, in which a handful of individuals and businesses were awarded for their contributions to the community.

The awards presented during the luncheon included Volunteer of the Year, Organization of the Year, Pacer Award, Breakthrough Business, Outstanding Business, and Distinguished Citizen.

Volunteer of the Year: Ainhoa Ferrer

Volunteer of the Year went to Chamber Board Member Ainhoa Ferrer for dedicating her time and efforts to various chamber events for several years, “bringing her energy, creativity, and passion to every endeavor,” Joe Olivas, the Chamber’s board president said.

Advertisement - Story continues below...

“Whether it’s the River Festival, the Run with the Horses Marathon, or the Holiday Business Showcase, Ainhoa’s presence has become synonymous with excellence and dedication,” Olivas continued.

Beyond her event participation, Ferrer has served on the Chamber’s board of directors for six years, including four years as board president. Ferrer has also dedicated her time and effort towards spearheading fundraising events such as “Duckorating for Bills,” teaching cake decorating classes at Western Wyoming Community College, and serving on the Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism board of directors.

“But perhaps what truly sets Ainhoa apart is her commitment to nurturing kindness and talent in our youth,” Olivas said. “As a judge in local baking contests and a supporter of initiatives like The Sugar Revolution, she empowers young people to embrace their creativity, spread positivity, and make a difference in the world.”

Organization of the Year: Muley Fanatic Foundation

Muley Fanatic Foundation was recognized as the Organization of the Year, for demonstrating outstanding contributions to conservation, wildlife management and community engagement.

Olivas said that since the organization’s inception in 2012, they have exemplified its commitment to the conservation of mule deer in their habitat.

“One of the hallmarks of Muley Fanatic Foundation is their proactive approach to conservation. By fostering collaboration among local, state, and national stakeholders, they have been able to implement a wide range of initiatives aimed at preserving mule deer populations and enhancing their habitats,” Olivas said. “From landscape habitat projects to wildlife-friendly fence conversions, Muley Fanatic Foundation consistently demonstrated their ability to effect positive change on a larger scale.”

Olivas also spoke to the foundation’s effort to reach the public through fundraising events and community outreach programs. In 2023, Muley Fanatic Foundation hosted 10 fundraising events across six states, generating substantial resources to fund critical conservation projects.

Pacer Award: Salt My Soul

The Pacer Award, which honors those who exemplify excellence in business within the community, went to Karen Poulsen and her business Salt My Soul. Chamber Board Member Misty Shiner said Poulsen doesn’t only offer an impressive array wellness services through her business, but she shows an unwavering commitment to growth and innovation.

“In December 2023, she introduced Green River to the transformative benefits of halotherapy, a cutting-edge holistic approach to wellness. Driven by a relentless pursuit of excellence, Karen expanded her business, adding a second salt sauna to accommodate the growing demand,” Shiner said. “But her entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop at salt therapy. She diversified her services, offering retail options, foot detox sessions, access bars, facia release, and most impressively, becoming one of only two individuals in Wyoming to attain certification in spinal flow therapy.”

Shiner noted that she has done all of this at her business while also balancing the demands of a full-time position at Tata Chemicals.

“Karen’s dedication to her craft, her community, and her unwavering spirit of entrepreneurship make her a truly deserving recipient of this award,” Shiner said.

Breakthrough Business: Apricot Lane

Blair McEndaffer and her business Apricot Lane, received the award for Breakthrough Business. Chamber Board Member Kelly Davis said McEndaffer saw a need for a market that was lacking in Green River, and opened Apricot Lane to bring her love of fashion to the community.

“With just over 110 stores nationally and the only one in Wyoming, this boutique was awarded the 2022 Pacesetter Award at their national convention for meeting and exceeding sales goals,” Davis said. “It was also the top selling location from all stores on their opening days.”

Not only does Apricot Lane offer a new sense of style and fashion to Green River, but McEndaffer ensures that she and her shop are supporting other local small businesses.

“Blair’s community pride is evident by her efforts to collaborate with other local entrepreneurs, and participating in vendor markets, to being the head coach of the [Green River High School] softball team. Apricot Lane’s commitment to the community was most recently seen during Make-A-Wish week, as the sponsored the basketball game and made the teams’ shirts worn for the event,” Davis said.

Outstanding Business: Flaming Gorge Harley Davidson

In a celebration of excellence, Dave, Lynda and Dennis Laughlin, and their family-run business, Flaming Gorge Harley Davidson, received the Outstanding Business Award. Dave and Lynda first opened the store in Green River in 1986, becoming a beacon of reliability, camaraderie, and unwavering commitment.

Dennis, the youngest of Dave and Lynda’s children, started as a dedicated worker within the dealership, and now serves as the co-owner and general manager of the store. He can be found in a number of roles, however, working in the service bay, serving the community as an Advanced EMT, running for the Wyoming State Senate, or as a roadside rescuer, helping out stranded travelers.

“Dennis’ passion extends to our vibrant riding community. Every year, he meticulously crafts a ride schedule, ensuring that our fellow enthusiasts can hit the open road without overlapping events,” Schaefer said. “His dedication fosters camaraderie and fuels our shared love for the wind in our hair and the rumble beneath our wheels.”

Known as the “friendliest dealership in the West,” the Laughlins have made a point to treat their customers like family. Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either, as they received the Platinum Award from Harley Davidson Motor Company in 2016, and the Silver Premier Service Award in 2022.

When Dennis accepted the award from the Chamber, he gave the credit back to the city for allowing a relatively painless move back to Green River in the early 2000s, and to his team.

“None of it would be possible without our amazing team,” he said.

Distinguished Citizen: Krista Kraft

Animal lover Krista Kraft has spent 12 years volunteering to rescue and transport pets to and from different rescue facilities. This dedication to animals has earned her the Distinguished Citizen Award.

Her interest in rescuing and transporting animals first started while she served on the board of directors for the Red Desert Humane Society in 2012.

“For the past 12 years, she has been driving countless miles, volunteering her own time, with her own vehicles, on her own dime, transporting over 60 pets to different rescue facilities in efforts to increase their chances of adoption,” Ferrer said.

Her volunteering efforts includes helping several adoption events and pantry food distributions, and working alongside the Green River and Rock Springs Animal Controls in various capacities.

“Nine years ago, she established Love & A Lease Pet Care, a pet sitting business where pets can comfortably stay at home and have a sitter come visit them while their humans are away,” Ferrer said.

Her care even extends to being certified in pet massage and animal reiki. In 2019, she rescued a dog, Lucy the Mastiff, who was roaming along the Rock Springs exits off of I-80. This experience led to the creation of Follow Me Home Pet Recovery.

“This endeavor has successfully saved eight stray animals and has coached other individuals to bring strays home,” Ferrer said.