SHELBY -- Betty Preston's eyes were misty as she stood at the podium, but she was wearing her trademark grin.
Preston received the 2019 Chairman's Award on Thursday night during the Richland Area Chamber's annual meeting and dinner. The award was given by past-chair Eric Snyder, who selected her for the award.
"I've had the opportunity to help behind the scenes in helping to recognizing a lot of amazing leaders and people who have truly moved this community to a next level," said Preston. "Quite frankly, it felt very unusual to be on the other side of the podium. I'm quite humbled by that, astonished, really."
"I'm very thankful to so many that have helped move Richland County forward and if I can help be a small part of that, that's been a cool thing," she added.
Preston is a talented fund raiser, but she doesn't see it that way. For Preston, it's all about inspiring those who have something to give to make a difference in the community.
"I do love this community and when we give at whatever capacity we can, whether through mentorship or our financial gifts that we've been given, we're better for it," Preston said while accepting her award.
Preston retired from North Central State College as vice president for Institutional Advancement in 2015, after 26 years with the institution. During her time there, she served as the first director of the North Central Technical College Foundation, which would later become the North Central State College Foundation.
She also developed the North Central Ohio Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, came up with the idea for the college's annual Rock-N-Ribs Festival and spearheaded the capital campaign that funded the renovation of the college's Kehoe Center in Shelby.
Preston has also lent her talents to other causes and projects in the community and currently serves as a board member for Kingwood Center Gardens.
The 2020 ATHENA Leadership Award went to Zoi Romanchuk, president of PR Machine Works and owner of Slick Automated Solutions. The two finalists were Michele Gorman, dean of students at The Richland School of Academic Arts, and Kristie Massa, marketing & communication manager for Park National Bank.
After earning bachelor's and master's degrees in Slavic Languages and Literature from UCLA, Romanchuk began her professional life working as a United States missile inspector in the Soviet Union and as a freelance Russian translator. She moved to Richland County in 1985 and quickly became involved in the manufacturing industry.
"Zoi is a pioneer -- someone who is unafraid to go where others may not," said Jodie Perry, president and CEO of the Richland Area Chamber. "Russia during the Cold War? No problem."
"How about being a women in manufacturing? Again, that's no problem for Zoi."
Sally Gesouras, who won the award in 2017, described Romanchuk as someone who is modest about her accomplishments, but influential to many.
"Don't let Zoi's low-key leadership style fool you, her opinion and respect is sough by many community leaders," Gesouras said before presenting the award.
Romanchuk currently chairs the Chamber's business advocacy committee, is an executive board member of the Regional Manufacturer's Coalition and serves on the board of directors for the Ohio State University at Mansfield. She recently became a national board member of Women in Manufacturing, a national trade organization.
"I'm really honored to be in the same company of all the women who have won this award before me," said Romanchuk. "I look forward to helping Mansfield rise."
Richland Young Professionals presented two awards. Suzanna Hammond, museum manager at Little Buckeye Children's Museum received the RYP Community Award Hero. Brennan Robinson, owner of Brennan's Barbershop & Shave Parlor, received the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.
The chamber also presented economic excellence awards to Mansfield Engineered Components, City of Mansfield Engineer Bob Bianchi and Bellville Mayor Teri Brenkus.