Banquet focuses on collaboration, growth, people


FERDINAND — Rich Helming of Ferdinand, 78, teared up Wednesday as Ferdinand Town Council President Ken Sicard presented the annual Community Service Award to him.

Leann Burke/The Herald
Rich Helming of Ferdinand received the Community Service Award on Wednesday during the annual Ferdinand Chamber of Commerce dinner.

“I’m honored to receive this,” said Helming, a life-long Ferdinand resident. “I’m sure there’s people who have done as much as me, so I’m honored to receive this. I really am.”

The award presentation came as the conclusion to Sicard’s State of the Town remarks at the annual Ferdinand Chamber of Commerce dinner. About 300 people attended the event at the Ferdinand Community Center. The evening also included the presentation of Southeast Dubois Schools’ alumni award to 1994 graduate Phil Barth, a state of the schools address from Southeast Dubois Superintendent Rick Allen and a keynote address from Pat Koch of Santa Claus.

Before presenting the award to Helming, Sicard ran through the list of contributions Helming made to the town, primarily in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s when he was owner of Fleig’s Cafe, a Ferdinand staple.

“When people came to town, it was not unusual if they were told, ‘Meet me at Fleig’s,’” Sicard recalled. “To this day, as I meet people from around the state, when we get to talking about Ferdinand, the comment comes out that, ‘I know where Fleig’s in located.’”

Under Helming’s ownership, Fleig’s sponsored several community groups, activities and events. Helming also served as president of the Ferdinand Jaycees, and participated heavily in local politics.

“He was a marketer of Ferdinand before marketing was around,” Sicard said.

During his State of the Town remarks, Sicard focused on the projects happening around town, including: a completed apartment complex on the town’s north side: the coming Scenic Hills at the Monastery, a senior living facility being built on the Sisters of St. Benedict grounds, and a Kerstiens Homes and Design development on Industrial Park Road.

“For all of you living in Jasper, Huntingburg and Dale, we are working on housing in Ferdinand, so feel free to come check us out,” Sicard joked.

The town is also working to add facilities around the Old Town Lake to create the town’s third park. The project, paid for in part by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, will include a multi-purpose trail, a boat landing and a fishing pier.

Sicard also noted new businesses in Ferdinand such as First Steps, which serves new parents; Soup-N-Such Bistro in the Wollenmann House; and U Storage & Warehousing in the old Mobel office and factory. He also noted that Weyer Complete Auto Service has a new owner, and Ferdinand Antique Emporium moved to a new location on East 23rd St.

Earlier in the evening, Southeast Dubois Schools Superintendent Rick Allen shared photos of Forest Park Junior-Senior High School’s $3 million Career and Technical Education addition that houses the school’s engineering and vocational classes. The classes are hands-on, and give students experience with engineering and design tools and computer programs that are used professionally and in local businesses.

Allen also spoke about the $1 million county-wide Regional Opportunities Initiative grant that is being used to create an advanced manufacturing academy at Vincennes University Jasper Campus to create opportunities for students from all four school districts to take vocational classes and work with local employers while still in high school. All four of the county’s school districts applied for the grant together and are working together with VUJC on the hub.

“The approach we used [for the grant] was collaboration,” Allen said.

The grant is also helping local schools add science, technology, engineering and math programs throughout grade levels.

The star of the evening appeared to be Pat Koch, who received a standing ovation for her keynote speech about true hospitality. During her remarks, Koch reminded those in attendance of the importance of being truly present in the moment with people and serving the community. She encouraged people to start the day by choosing to approach everything with a positive attitude, and she reminded people to play and smile more. The crux of her speech was simple: emphasize the people around you.

“Life is about people,” Koch said. “It’s about relationships.”

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