BY KATHY GIBBONS
TRAVERSE CITY – Terry Berden, CEO of Great Lakes Stainless, is the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce 2012 Distinguished Service Award winner.
The honor was announced at Friday night’s Chamber Annual Celebration at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. About 700 had signed on to attend the event.
Laura Oblinger, the chamber’s chief operating officer, said Berden, 62, was selected because of his giving nature. Growing up spending a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm in Cheboygan, he’s said that much of his work ethic and values grew out of that experience.
In videotaped remarks before announcing the award, Chamber Board Chair Rachel Roe talked about a time when Berden saw a couple standing by a curb with a sign saying they would work for food.
“He pulled over, drove them to his shop and offered a job at twice minimum wage,” Roe said.
In another case, Berden had signed on to volunteer with Freedom Builders and learned that a single mom would be without a furnace in the wintertime.
“Our honoree installed a furnace that weekend,” Roe said.
While Berden’s company submitted the low bid to install heating and cooling for the Goodwill Inn, he turned around and donated money to help build it, Roe said.
“It’s that deep-seated natural ability for him to give back with absolutely zero return expected,” Oblinger said. “Anytime you’re encountering an interaction with Terry, it’s always been sincere and genuine.
”He’s the salt of the earth.”
Berden was visibly moved as a video presentation that started out showing pictures of him as a child revealed that he was this year’s award recipient. His wife, Rae, who was in on the secret, patted him on the back as he choked up while Roe announced the award.
The Chamber describes the Distinguished Service Award’s purpose as being to recognize the extra endeavors of individuals who make the Traverse City area a better place to live. Berden volunteers with prison ministry and works with the Women’s Resource Center, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, City Opera House, Father Fred Foundation and Child & Family Services. He was instrumental in building Munson Medical Center’s Hospitality House because he learned out-of-town patients’ families were sleeping in their cars.
“I’m speechless,” Berden said after. “And I’m not speechless very often.”