Jim Merryman, the president and CEO of Albany-based OFD Foods Inc., isn't someone who seeks out the spotlight.

But the spotlight found him Saturday, as the business leader was honored with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce's 2018 Distinguished Service Award, for a lifetime of service to the community.

The award to Merryman, 64, topped off the chamber's annual Distinguished Service Awards banquet, held at the Albany Boys & Girls Club.

"I love this community," Merryman told the more than 350 people in attendance. "I love everything about it. We control our own destiny. All of us are working hard to control the destiny of this community."

In comments after the banquet, Merryman talked about the importance of service: "It's an obligation that you give back to the community," he said. And while he's sympathetic to people who say their schedules are too jammed with other obligations, he's not necessarily buying that: "There always are choices that we make. Giving back allows you to free up time. When you give back, people give to you too."

Merryman serves on the boards of Linn-Benton Community College, Samaritan Health Plans and the Albany chamber, among others. He was instrumental in the creation of the Pipeline project, which seeks to connect high school students to job opportunities that don't necessarily require four-year college degrees.

The theme of service to the community ran through Saturday's banquet.

Chris Reese of Southpaws Perfect Pizza, winner of the Jim Linhart First Citizen award (given to people between 40 and 55 years old), vowed to "spend the rest of my life serving this great city of Albany. ... I choose to form a tidal wave of positive change."

Reese, who served in the Army and the National Guard for a total of 23 years, was honored for his service on nonprofit boards and for his commitment to serving as a sports coach and as a mentor to youth.

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For Erik Fedler of Central Willamette Credit Union, winner of the Junior First Citizen award (given to people under 40), even a small gesture — a compliment or a word of thanks, for example — can add up in a big way. "The biggest impact you can have sometime comes from the smallest things," he said.

Fedler was honored for his service with a variety of Albany organizations, including the Albany Public Schools Foundation, the Albany Boys & Girls Club and the Historic Albany Carousel and Museum.

The evening began with honors for former state Rep. Andy Olson of Albany, who served 14 years in the House after retiring from the Oregon State Police. Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist presented Olson with the chamber's 2019 Legacy Award.

In his remarks, Olson recalled how, some eight months after retiring from the OSP, he came across a meeting between Nyquist and Janet Steele, president of the Albany chamber. As it happened, Nyquist and Steele at the time were pondering who would make a good candidate for the House seat being vacated by Betsy Close.

Joked Olson: "I popped my head into that office at the wrong time."

Olson was presented with a U.S. flag and an Oregon flag at the banquet. After the banquet, Olson had praise for the community: "Albany has been very good to me. I love Albany."

Parr Lumber was honored as the small business of the year, an award that goes to businesses with fewer than 25 employees in the Albany area. Parr Lumber has been involved with Albany Area Habitat for Humanity and its ReStore, Furniture Share, Altrusa International, the Albany chamber and many other organizations.

Mennonite Village won the award as the large business of the year. Mennonite Village was honored for allowing its employees to serve on boards and in other nonprofit organizations and for a wide range of community activities and partnerships.

Rosemarie Howard of South Albany High School was honored as the distinguished student of the year. Howard is president of the school's Key Club and is active with the student newspaper and her church. 

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