Cara Fox - Business Citizenship Award winner (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Cara Fox - Business Citizenship Award winner (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce held its 90th annual dinner Wednesday night to celebrate last year's achievements and to recognize community members who have answered the call of civic duty time and time again.

River Valley Financial Bank president Matthew Forrester received the annual Jeff Garrett Community Service Award, while Cara Fox, owner of Little Golden Fox boutique in downtown Madison, received the Business Citizenship Award.

The honors were announced at the student campus center at Hanover College.

Forrester has been the chief executive officer and president of River Valley BanCorp since 1999. He helped found the local nonprofit La Casa Amiga and has served on various boards such as the Community Foundation, Girls Inc. and Hanover Board of Trustees.

Nominees for both awards were judged on many criteria including participation in community service projects, youth work, civic club service, church activities, civic improvement projects, the United Way and industrial development.

Bob Pimlott, who received the award in 2013, presented Forrester with the recognition and read several letters of support from those who nominated Forrester. The letters mentioned Forrester's involvement in his church, his willingness to listen and his commitment to higher education.

"One letter summarized our recipient very well when it said, 'He never turns down a challenge when it leads to the betterment of people.'" Pimlott said.

Forrester gave an emotional speech and deflected the praise to his bank and the community involvement of its employees.

"This means an awful lot to me and especially to the bank," he said. "We're a hometown bank, and we're very proud of this community."

Forrester said River Valley Financial Bank's board of directors and employees make it a priority to contribute thousands of hours in community service each year, as well as the most monetary contributions of any local business.

"I'm a small-town guy," he said. "I come from up in Fort Wayne. But this is home, and I sincerely appreciate every opportunity everyone has given me."  

John and Lori Heitz, owners of The Red Pepper, The Red Pepperoni and Red Peppermint restaurants, presented the Business Citizenship award to Fox. The couple won the award last year.

Lori Heitz noted Fox's leadership and devotion to the community and local artists.

"She has helped support multiple local artists through sharing their arts and crafts and brought new opportunities for the community to learn about different forms of arts," she said.

The award comes during a transition period for the Little Golden Fox. The shop recently moved from Broadway to 602 W. Main St., which Fox said has "plenty of room to grow."

"We've got some great things happening ahead of us," she said.

Before the presentation the awards, chamber directors gave an update on last year's business and achievements.

Marta Belt, who served as the board of directors president in 2013, said the chamber focused on expansion, retention and communication. The chamber increased its membership by 20 percent and improved its presence through its website, social media and newsletters.

"Most importantly, we focused on making the chamber relative again in Jefferson County," she said.

Belt commended chamber Executive Director Trevor Crafton on bringing in new members.

"Trevor was able to bring us over 70 members to the chamber, and it's just amazing to see the difference it makes, not only for our bottom line, but for the community," she said. 

This year's board of directors president will be Ben Foley, of the accounting firm Sherman, Barber & Mullikin.