Chamber honors Andrew McElderry, Don Benton, Best Western

Jan. 26, 2011


Andrew McElderry gathers his thoughts, which seem too large for his big pink hat, moments after being named 2010 Chamber Member of the Year Saturday. Chamber director Kerry Cobb, left, introduced McElderry, saying he spent countless hours leading the Chamber through difficult times in mid-2010.

Greg Walden has given plenty of speeches in his long political career, but on Saturday in his hometown of Hood River he spoke two words he's never uttered before (at least in public):

"Let's disco!"

Walden, the Republican U.S. Congressman, was guest speaker at the Hood River Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, where 1970s dance and fashion filled the hall with bright lights, loud outfits and wild hairstyles.

"My mother always warned me there could be flashbacks from that era, and believe me tonight I think I have seen some flashbacks," Walden said, looking out at the garish polyester suits and gowns, scarves, and sunglasses.

"What's most surprising about all this is that in this day of Youtube, you folks are actually wearing these things," said Walden, who was on hand with his wife, Mylene.

Walden may be a powerful Congressman, but the real big wigs were on Chamber members heads.

There were some surprising get-ups, from Cheryl White as Charo to Mark Brown as Village People construction worker to Chuck Hinman in full earth tone polyester splendor and Lisa Marie Nelson in spot-on replication of a famous 1970s TV character (photos at right).

Everywhere you turned there were shiny gowns, tan leisure suits, yellow pant suits, smiley face earrings, medallions nestled in chest hair, wide lapels, "afro" wigs, and billowy sleeves.

But there was no surprise, except to the recipient, when the Chamber Member of the Year was announced: Andrew McElderry, owner of Hood River Cinema and Skylight Theater and Pub.

An emotional Kerry Cobb, Chamber executive director, gave the award to McElderry.

"He saw problems and he solved problems," Cobb said of McElderry, who worked along with Mark Brown, 2010 Chamber president, when the Chamber went through extensive reorganization mid-year, a process dominated by the departure of former executive Mary Closson.

McElderry "saw problems and solved problems," Cobb said. "He worked many long hours, mending relationships while attending to the demands of running his own business. Yet if we had a list of 10 things to do, he would take five of them."

"He believed in us, and he believed in the Chamber. He made us laugh, and when we were tempted to give up, he helped us keep going."

On Saturday, Brown told McElderry, "Thank you, for stepping up and helping."

McElderry, wearing an oversized pink cloth top hat, said, "I am dumbfounded," at the honor.

"I really didn't expect this," he said, offering thanks to his wife, Melissa, for her support while he worked to buoy the Chamber.

"I believe in the Chamber. I believe in this town. I love this town," Andrew said.

His award was not the only one of the night. The Chamber gave the Business of the Year honor to Best Western Hood River Inn, and Cobb announced a new honor, the Community Service Award, "for someone who went above and beyond the call of duty."

Don Benton is the first recipient. Brown described Benton as "a man who serves on so many boards," including Ambassadors and Police Citizen Advisory Board, and is always willing to help," and was involved in many things from directing traffic at the Christmas parade to mentoring students at the high school.

The business of the evening concluded with the auctioning of a flag to fly over the U.S. Capitol, led by Walden.

Steve Benton and David Ryan bid $1,700 each for two flags.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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