Thousands of dollars in grant money and a handful of awards were given out at last Saturday's Aurora Chamber of Commerce Banquet, with Marcia Sadler and Billy Redus taking home the top awards on the night.

The annual banquet is an opportunity for local businesses and community members to come together to celebrate the good work being done in the Aurora community and surrounding area. The community members who have had the biggest impact and made significant contributions to the area's well-being are traditionally recognized with awards such as the Community Service Award and the Lloyd R. Ellis Award. This year's award winners were as follows.

Community Service Award

The Community Service Award, given each year to an individual who has given their time, attention and resources to the community for at least 10 years, was awarded to Marcia Sadler.

Sadler claims Aurora as home and is always the first to volunteer when there is a need or a good cause. She is ready to work. She brings food. She will run errands. She will make phone calls. She will plan.

She is active in Main Street, Aurora Rotary, Aurora Chamber, Aurora Economic Development, Youth Empowerment and the Aurora Houn’ Dawg Alumni and Outreach Center.

Raised in Iowa and living for a while in Branson, she has made her home in Aurora for the past 20 years.

She works in customer relations for Empire District Electric Company/Liberty Utilities. She has been instrumental with organizing tree planting efforts at the old armory and Mercy Hospital in Aurora through a Rotary program. She will also be playing a key role this year as the Houn’ Dawg Alumni and Outreach group brings a Smithsonian Exhibit called Hometown Teams to Aurora.

For 20 years, she has been a vital, behind-the-scenes type of person, making the magic happen for a variety of events, projects and efforts in the Summit City. When she’s around, everyone and everything begins to look a little better.

Her colleagues and friends describe her as always kind, positive and helpful -- never worrying about credit or the extra effort it takes to make sure things succeed.

She is married to Tom and has a son, Jon. She is also a Loyd R. Ellis Award winner. Her parents, Robert and Ruby Besch, have always been supportive—along with her brother, Mark.

Lloyd R. Ellis Award

This year's Lloyd R. Ellis Award -- named for a prominent entrepreneur, real estate and insurance salesman and judge -- went to Dr. Billy Redus, superintendent of Aurora schools.

Redus has worked in and around the Aurora area for over 25 years. He has worn numerous hats and titles and has been involved in a variety of organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Aurora Rotary, Aurora Economic Development, Bright Futures, Youth Empowerment and the Lawrence County Prevention Team.

He can be seen dressed as Santa Claus at Christmas or in camouflage and a sock cap if there is work to be done or some hunting that needs to take place.

He has worked for Aurora Schools three times (officially) and has worn four different hats during those years. He now leads the district as superintendent and always does so much more than what his job requires. He is humble when it comes to his degrees and titles, and will often answer to just “Billy” when someone has a question or concern.

Redus always works hard to put kids first and encourages his employees to give back to their community in a variety of ways. He has volunteered as Santa Claus the last few years and is devoted to making the dreams of children come true. It is not unusual for him to come in early or stay late to make sure students, teachers and community members have the needed resources for their projects and activities. He is honest and humble and is a perfect role model for all of us as he wears his heart on his sleeve.

Dr. Redus is married to Amy and has two sons, Blane and Jake. His parents are Jacquie Mais, the late John Mais and Billy R. Redus. He gets support from his brother David and sister Morgan. He comes from a family of educators, who are as comfortable in a classroom as they all are in the outdoors.

The communities of Marionville, Crane and Logan-Rogersville have all tried to lay claim to him, but his address is Aurora and he truly exemplifies what it means to be a Houn’ Dawg with his determination to find ways for everyone to succeed.

More awards and grants

Other awards given out Saturday night included:

Top Dawg Student Award -- AHS Professional Development Leadership Class (Jessica Bussard, Breeana Hopper, AllyBrighton Grosenbacher and Luke Shoemaker) Stepping Up to the Plate Award -- Matt Maples and Jon Holmes Top Dawg Award -- Michele Parbury, Martha Youngblood and the Aurora Rotary Club

The Aurora Area Community Foundation presented more than $20,000 worth of grants to various projects and organizations on the night, as well.

From the Houn' Dawg Education Endowment Fund:

Holly Harmon and Amy Shaw -- Aurora High School Mona Thach -- Pate Early Childhood Center Leanne Cope and Quincy London -- Aurora High School Faith Cline -- Aurora Junior High School

From the Christian Church Endowment Fund:

Moses Basket -- First Presbyterian Church Come and Dine Community Dinners -- Aurora First Baptist Church For the Kids -- Virginia Gaston

From the Aurora Area Unrestricted Community Grantmaking Fund, John J. Lee Memorial Fund and the Charles and Arlene Spangler Endowment Fund:

Aurora United Methodist Church -- Vince Osiel Aurora Beautification Company -- Scott Pettit Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation -- Jennifer Olson Verona Schools Guidance Program -- Julie Rysted Aurora Rural Fire Protection District -- Brian Cook Verona Wild Clovers 4-H Chapter -- Debbie Pankau Aurora Alternative High School -- Brad Boettler Aurora Missouri Historical Society -- Mary Strickrodt For the Kids -- Virginia Gaston Aurora High School Leadership Class -- Kim Mobley Verona Schools Kindergarten Program -- Brandi Freiburger Verona Schools Special Services Program -- Shelly Gatton

AFB International also gave out three grants on the night to the following projects:

Eagle Lake Camp at Aurora United Methodist Church Proposed STEM project at the Houn' Dawg Alumni and Outreach Center Aurora Police Department establishment of a K-9 unit

Congratulations to all award winners and grant recipients.