The White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, at its annual dinner last Monday night (Oct. 21), presented the winners of its major awards, “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award, Lady Laker Award, the El Award and The new Legacy Award.

The dinner attended by chamber members and guests was held in the Sundance Saloon and Grill at Double JJ Resort in Rothbury.

The chamber of commerce introduced a new award this year, the “Legacy Award”, which recognizes an outstanding individual, organization or business for the impact that they and/or their business have had in the White Lake Community for the past 10 years or more.

Legacy Award

The inaugural winner has a nearly 45-year legacy in the local tourism economy, and has been an employer of hundreds of young people over the years.

The Cordray’s with Happy Mohawk and White River Campground were the award winners.

Jim and Joy Cordray of White River Campground and son Dave and daughter-in-law, Jill Cordray of Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery have a rich history and deep involvement in the community that dates all the way back to 1975 when Jim and Joy purchased the campground and the Livery in 1977.

The White River Campground and Livery are located in Blue Lake Township and is has 300 acres with over 250 licensed sites. Both entities combined have employed hundreds of people over the past 45 years and have served thousands of guests from local residents to visitors from all over the country and world.

Jim was very instrumental in the initial development of the chamber of commerce as it merged to serve both Montague and Whitehall and was part of the renovation of the Chamber Depot building (former railroad depot). He also served on the chamber board of directors for several terms.

The Cordray’ projects and expansions over the years have been numerous and ambitious.

The Cordrays have been involved with statewide associations and they have spent their fair share of time in Lansing, lobbying for the associations he was involved with and back in the day, also for the chamber. Their support in the industry has been local, statewide and even nationally.

When asked what the biggest challenge was in the business, Jim shared that it is staying ahead of the times and looking at the dynamics of the industry and as an entrepreneur, being responsible. Determining the market in a seasonal, recreational industry is a balancing act.

The Legacy award invited chamber members to nominate an individual or organization or a business who has demonstrated a track record for business health and growth. Chamber members were then given the opportunity to vote for this year’s recipient.

The award was presented by its sponsors, Sharon and Dennis Blankenship.


of the Year

The winner of this year’s award has a business which has literally risen from the ashes.

Mark Peets of Pappy’s Pad is this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Peets worked at Howmet for 26 years when he decided he was done working at a desk and computer, and began to work with his hands.

He’s been a licensed builder since 1990. He has built new homes and a lot of remodeling from 1990-1995, and then Peets Builders 2000-2018.

Peets bought a building at 8812 Ferry St. in downtown Montague in April 2016. He was remodeling it and started making signs for customers when there was a fire on Dec. 6, 2017. He rebuilt and reopened this past spring. Pappy’s Pad specializes in creating custom made signs, engraving, and woodworking. Using the latest technological innovation in the industry, the company offers clients top quality laser services and versatility with designs.

The award was presented by Gered Dahl of Tri-County Feeds, last year’s recipient.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, the chamber of commerce acknowledges a local business for all its efforts in the White Lake Area. This exciting Entrepreneur of the Year award recognizes a new or existing business and the owner whose extraordinary vision and efforts have helped to enhance the local economy. The Entrepreneur of the Year Award is sponsored by community members, Deb and Dave Hays.

Lady Laker

The prestigious Lady Laker Award went to Sharon Blankenship, Montague branch manager for Shelby State Bank (SSB).

The Lady Laker award recognizes a professional individual within the community who has served in an exceptional manner, especially in mentoring and assisting future leaders in the White Lake area. Nominations were submitted to a committee of past recipients and then voted upon. Don Rypma of Rypma Chevrolet, Buick, GMC is the sponsor for this award.

Blankenship certainly fits the criteria for the award.

She has been in the financial business for over 40 years after graduating from college. She is currently with SSB, but has worked for Community Shores Bank, PNC and Huntington.

Blankenship is also co-owner of Great Lakes Logging with husband, Dennis. She not only handles the financial side, but has been known to work in the forest alongside her husband.

The outdoors lover is the founder of National Outdoor Women (NOW), Inc. The focus of NOW is to give women and others the confidence in outdoor activities and survival. Education, self-defense, first aid, and enjoyment of outdoors is done in a non-competitive atmosphere for women of all ages who come from across the U.S. to the retreat.

She loves to hunt, fish, pan for gold, Scuba dive and beekeep. Blankenship recently shot a 250 lb. bear in the Upper Peninsula.

The award winner is an original steering committee member of the recently formed White Lake Area Women Making A Difference. As of last Monday the group of local women are 99 members strong. The concept of the group is for each member to write a $100 check to a selected non-profit group on a quarterly basis. In its first year the non-profit group has donated over $31,000 for local projects.

Blankenship serves as treasurer and secretary for the Montague-Whitehall Rotary Club, and has also accepted the role as treasurer of Rotary District 6290 which includes 60 clubs from Holland, Michigan to Wawa, Ontario, Canada.

She has also served on the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce board as secretary and chairperson. She will finish her six-year term at the end of this year.

Blankenship is also an active member of St. James Catholic Church where she serves on the finance council and on the RCIA team, is member of the Seaway Gun Club for which she is the treasurer and was the charter president for both the White Lake Optimist Club and the National Wild Turkey Federation Dune Drummers.

She lives in Twin Lake with her husband. She has two sons, Joe and Chris; a stepdaughter, Nicole; and new granddaughter, Coraline.

The award was presented by Peggy Anderson, last year’s Lady Laker.

El Award

The 2019 El Award went to Greg Means, managing editor of The White Lake Beacon.

The El Award recognizes an outstanding local business person or community member and is in memory of the late Eleanor Polley, a former director of the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The sponsor of this award is Pitkin Drug and Gift Shoppe and Shelby State Bank.

Means has been an editor at the White Lake Beacon for the past 36 years. Prior to 1983, he was news writer the Oceana Herald-Journal for a three years and for St Ignace News from 1976-1980. He attended Lansing Community College and graduated from Central Michigan University with BAA in Journalism.

In 2015 Means received the Service Award from the Whitehall Sports Hall of Fame. He is an active Rotarian and served as the club president in 1991-1992 term. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce for six years back in the early 2000’s. He is deeply rooted in this church and is involved in leading small groups, teaching children’s Sunday School and serves as an usher and greeter. He has volunteered for many years for the Relay for Life, the White Lake Community Foundation for which he served as a chairperson, the Whitehall Education Foundation and served on the Kid’s Space playground committee.

Means has gone above and beyond the call of duty as a news writer and editor. His true passion for the community is reflected in his work. Due to many stories covered regarding businesses in Montague and Whitehall, the community is well informed in an accurate and timely manner. He has dedicated his entire life to journalism and is a true reporter 24 / 7.

Means has won 11 MPA (Michigan Press Association) Awards since 2005. The most recent award he received was third place in the Class C Weekly Spot News Category for the article that recounted the life of Orville “Smitty” Smith who had passed away suddenly in June 2015. In 2013 he received two first place awards for the coverage of the fire which destroyed the Michillinda Lodge.

According to Jim Young, retired publisher of the White Lake Beacon and Oceana’s Herald-Journal, Greg Means has been repeatedly recognized for his editorial work at the White Lake Beacon by the Michigan Press Association.

Welcoming guests to the dinner was Lisa Stafford, chamber chairperson. Amy VanLoon, chamber executive director for the past 15 years, was the emcee. She gave a report on the chamber’s activities for the past year.

Several chamber members were recognized for business anniversaries.

100 Years — Michigan State Parks

65 Years — HarborLight Credit Union

50 Years — Confessco

35 Years — Muskegon Winter Sports Complex

25 Years — White Swan Inn

25 Years — Brown-Pixley Financial Services

20 Years — Johnson’s Great Outdoors

10 Years — Posh by Pitkin

10 Years — White Lake Chamber Music Festival

10 Years — Art of Cookery Cooking School