GIBSON CITY — Gary Lutterbie, the winner of the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award, does not just talk the talk.
"Gary is a doer," Karen Kummerow wrote in her letter nominating him for the award.
The award has been presented each year since 2007 to a Gibson City resident who, over numerous years, has contributed to the community through volunteering, initiation of a community program, commitment to service for others, or any other attributes that positively affect the community.
Lutterbie, no doubt, fits the bill.
Over the years, Lutterbie has been heavily involved in the city’s recycling program, leading crews two months each year in the collection and sorting of recyclable materials as they are dropped off by residents at the recycling depot.
"Gary always has a great crew ready to go, and they do a wonderful job," Kummerow said. "He is always upbeat and positive — even when it is -20 degrees and someone has just brought in a whole load of unsorted, non-rinsed recyclables."
Lutterbie also is the chairman of the city’s fishing committee, and, as such, was instrumental in bringing a public fishing pond and picnic area to the city’s west edge.
"It is already a beautiful and functional space, but Gary and his board members have more plans to improve the area," Kummerow said.
Lutterbie is also active in helping with home repairs through local churches’ annual Poured Out Church initiative; serves as treasurer of the Foosland Sportsman’s Club; serves as a volunteer for the Gibson Area Food Pantry; has assisted the Gibson City Rotary Club with improving the playground at the city’s North Park; serves as a board member for the American Lutheran Church; and has installed wheelchair-accessible ramps throughout the city, nominators said.
"He is good at motivating people to work together for a great cause," Kummerow said.
Lutterbie was presented with the award during Thursday night’s annual banquet and meeting at Gibson City’s Kruse Center.
Citizens of the Year
Also during the event, Rick and Jean Ertel were presented with the Outstanding Citizen of the Year award.
The two were honored for their work in establishing and maintaining the Gibson Area Food Pantry, among other community activities.
Since 1962, the Outstanding Citizen of the Year award has been given to an individual or group in recognition of service to the community during the previous year or over a longer period.
In presenting the award, the chamber’s president, Bill Kirby, said he sees the Ertels volunteering at the food pantry "all the time," adding that "I cannot say enough about their servant hearts."
Nominator Susan Riley said the Ertels work at the food pantry for three days every two weeks, ensuring the pantry continues to provide food to an average of 70 low-income families in and around Gibson City each month.
"As a teacher, Rick was acutely aware of the need for a food pantry and jumped at the chance to help establish one here," Riley said. "He’s been an integral part of the effort since its inception. He’s now taken over presidency of the (food pantry) board and commits endless hours to running it."
While her husband is teaching during the day, Jean Ertel picks up donations of food from the local County Market grocery store and brings them to the pantry, Riley said. She also cleans the facility and maintains it for health department inspections, Riley said. And on distribution days, she can be seen doing "multiple jobs because she simply does whatever it takes to keep it running smoothly," Riley said.
The Ertels also oversee the "backpack" program that provides food to needy school children for them to take home on weekends.
Jean Ertel also bakes pies and cakes for the mission fellowship meals at her church and for the church’s youth group’s cookout each Memorial Day weekend.
"If the award is for people who make Gibson City a better place to live, Rick and Jean surely deserve it," Riley said.
Junior Citizen of the Year
Also during the event, Claire Retherford was presented with the Outstanding Junior Citizen of the Year award, along with an oversized $500 check.
The award has been given annually since 1972 to a senior at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School who demonstrates dependability, achievement potential, good attendance, good character and the ability to work well with others.
Kirby said the committee choosing the winner of the award had a tough time picking Retherford from the three nominees, who also included Josh Bleich and Jenny Patel.
"There was a lot of conversation that went back and forth, because all three seemed very, very deserving," Kirby said. "It seemed like we almost came to a stalemate."
In her time at GCMS High School, Retherford, an honor roll student, has participated in volleyball, basketball, track-and-field, student council, Project Ignition, the Interact Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the school’s musical, band, the Red Army student-cheeering section, mental health advocacy group and National Honor Society, while also serving as class president and a freshman mentor.
Outside of school, she has volunteered with the local food pantry, the city’s recycling program, volleyball and basketball camps, youth groups, Meals on Wheels and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She has also taught Sunday school classes.
In the summers of 2016 and 2017, she was employed as a seasonal worker for Dow AgroSciences in Gibson City. She has also worked as a waitress and banquet worker at Railside Golf Course in Gibson City, has umpired softball games and occasionally babysits.
Retherford said she loves nutrition and "all things health-related."
"I love working out and playing games," she said. "Also, I like to draw and paint in my free time."
Upon graduating from high school, Retherford plans to attend a four-year university to study pre-medicine and continue her career in athletics. She plans to go to medical school after that.
Retherford’s past honors have included being named captain of her school’s volleyball, basketball and track teams, sophomore and junior student of the year, freshman math student of the year, sophomore foreign language student of the year, junior social studies student of the year and September student of the month.