LITTLE HOCKING - More than 100 community members and business leaders celebrated the culmination of 2013 Thursday with the 76th annual Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce Dinner.
"Belpre, I believe, is positioned to grow and improve more now than any other time and that is thanks to the business people in the community," said Mayor Mike Lorentz. "When you look around the city there are a number of projects and improvements going on to help make Belpre the shining star of southeastern Ohio."
The keynote speaker of this year's event at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Little Hocking was Dr. Katherine Coyner, a 1997 Belpre High School graduate, board eligible orthopedic surgeon and candidate for the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine.
"I am very humbled to be here tonight," Coyner said. "Someone in some sense believes I have made great accomplishments and I don't believe I am near finished or have accomplished enough."
Coyner, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was the first female basketball player at the University of Massachusetts to score 1,000 points and 500 assists and was nominated for the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Female Athlete of the Year.
In 2004, Coyner was inducted to the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Coyner was a star basketball player for Belpre High School.
and talked about the "Rock the Gym" support program the team's family and friends created in 1996.
"We had created a culture and following of support for the girls' basketball team," she said. "As I stand here tonight, I know one thing, Belpre still holds a special place in my heart and is a unique community that has played a huge part in my life and the lives of so many others."
Throughout her speech, Coyner attributed her past, current and future success to the people of her hometown.
"It was here, in Belpre, that I learned to believe in myself and to not listen to those who had negative (comments)," she said. "It was in Belpre I learned I could do anything I set my mind to."
The Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce took time to recognize area businesses, volunteers and named the Student of the Year and Citizen of the Year.
This year's Citizen of the Year is Darien Lorentz, who has given his time to various organizations, including the Belpre Church of Christ, the chamber and organizing the annual Belpre Holiday Lights event for decades.
Rod Hineman, longtime Belpre City Schools District Board of Education member and former high school teacher, was given the Community Service Award for his several decades of service to the community.
Along with the announcements and speakers, chamber board members presented the following awards:
* Warren High School 2013 graduate Paige Griffith was given the Dick Thomas Scholarship Youth of the Year Award.
* Spirit Award was given to David Sams.
* Your Kids First was given the 10 Years of Service Award.
* Riverview Credit Union was given the 45 Years of Service Award.
* Washington County Behavioral Health was given the 45 Years of Service Award.
* Parkersburg Art Center was given the 75 Years of Service Award.
* The Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross was given the 95 Years of Service Award.
* The Lark's Nest was named the 2013 New Business of the Year.
* Bob's Market and Greenhouse was named the 2013 Business of the Year.