Local Citizens of the Year honored

From the left: Citizen of the Year honorees Sarah Conklin, from Fontana, Beau Roddy, from Walworth, and Sara Nichols, from Williams Bay, are recognized by the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce May 3 at Abbey Springs Country Club in Fontana. (Penny Gruetzmacher photo)

All three recognized for making a notable difference

By Penny Gruetzmacher


The 43rd Citizen of the Year event May 3 at Abbey Springs Country Club resulted in Beau Roddy, Walworth, Sharon Conklin, Fontanta, and Sara Nichols, Williams Bay being named Citizens of the Year.

The annual event began with David Barnett, president of the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce recognizing past award winners. Barnett also introduced the chamber’s board members: Becke Connolly, vice president; Marisa Nor, treasurer; Tessa August, secretary; Kate Bishop, Meg Hewitt and Marsha Blimbergs, directors; and Cherie Setteducate, executive director.

The nominating committee for Citizen of the Year consisted of: Bishop, Jake Ries and Setteducate. Ries began by saying there were many deserving candidates and if the person someone nominated did not get selected, they should consider nominating them again.

After reviewing qualifications for Citizen of the Year, Ries explained the criteria for picking the winners, with the nominee doing the following:

  • Personally helped the less fortunate and continues to do so;
  • Gives freely of his or her own time endeavoring to make the community a better place;
  • Volunteers to help the sick, elderly or handicapped in the community and continues to do so, and;
  • Sets an example of a civic minded involved and caring role model.

Bishop introduced the nominators and they, in turn, introduced their candidates and explained why they had selected them.


Meet the honorees

Beau Roddy, the Walworth Citizen of the Year was nominated by his sisters Mary Roddy and Tabitha Roddy. He is a Special Education teacher at Badger High School and has spent several years as a softball coach.

Beau Roddy and his wife, Claire, are also active members at St. Benedicts Catholic Church in Fontana.

Roddy, who said he was thankful for the award and for his friends and family, next introduced Alex Emma, a young man that he has mentored for the last seven years. Emma was a former student of Roddy’s, but now is an assistant coach for him. Roddy said he was deeply honored and encouraged by the award and plans to continue helping others and volunteering.

Sharon Conklin, the Fontana Citizen of the Year was nominated by Terry Schubert (a statement from Schubert was read by Jennifer Ott-Wilson), Ann Catlow and Maggie Brady.

Stories shared about Conklin included her involvement with Lakeland Animal Shelter. In the past, she hosted parties at Chuck’s Lakefront in Fontana, where she would collect a carload of items for dogs and money and donate those items to the animal shelter. Conklin, who held such events for six years, raised about $6,000 in addition to a variety of donated items.

Conklin also held parties during the Christmas season and invited her friends to help provide a Christmas to less-than-fortunate children in the Walworth School system.

The statement from Schubert talked about the needs of local children and how many poor children received Christmas gifts due to Conklin’s generosity and efforts.

Conklin said when she was young, her mom was a struggling single parent who did not have any money for Christmas gifts and the Salvation Army stepped in and helped her family with gifts and food. That experience, she explained, makes her do everything she can to be kind and generous when possible.

Sara Nichols, the Williams Bay Citizen of the Year was nominated by Judy Johnson and Pat Grove. Nichols is the Open Arms Clinic Executive Director.

Grove talked about the clinic, which has been run by about 2,000 individuals volunteering their time for Walworth County residents. She said Nichols gave freely of her own time, volunteering and researching the many needs of people in the county. Grove said Nichols is well respected and also serves as the President Elect of the Elkhorn Rotary Club.

Johnson also talked about Open Arms Clinic and its history. She said this is the fifth year of Nichols being full time Executive Director of the clinic and said her skills are priceless because Nichols is the face of the clinic. In 2014, Open Arms Clinic moved to a large facility just south of Elkhorn.

Nichols said she was deeply humbled to be receiving this award and said instead of moving mountains, she had moved a few small stones to help more than 8,000 people in Walworth County without medical insurance.

Nichols said it was important to her to help people who fall through the cracks. She also said she hoped she would inspire one more person to help others, and that they would inspire someone and so on.

For more information about the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce visit genevalakewest.com or follow them on Facebook.

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