By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Mt. Pleasant resident Al Huisinga was named the first Ambassador of the Year by the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance with a tree planted in his honor on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University.
The distinction of Ambassador of the Year was conceptualized by Chamber Executive Vice President Kristi Ray in an effort to encourage Chamber ambassadors to attend ribbon cuttings and other events organized by the Chamber. Ambassadors earn points throughout the year, first earning a certificate, then attending a Chamber dinner and finally getting a tree planted in their honor if they meet the quota.
Although Ray thought it nearly impossible for someone to hit enough points for a tree planting, she wasn?t surprised when Huisinga was the first to do so.
?I can?t think of anyone more deserving to plant the first tree in his honor than Al,? Ray said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, June 19 at Iowa Wesleyan University (IW).
Ambassadors are able to choose where they want the tree planted, and Huisinga immediately chose IW.
Meg Richtman, IW vice president for Strategic Initiatives, was honored to have Huisinga choose the university campus as a place for the tree, saying it?s his dedication to the community and making people feel welcomed that earned him the title of Ambassador of the Year.
?Al is at most of our sporting events, at a lot of our community events and is a significant donor to us in time and treasure,? Richtman said.
As Huisinga thanked the Chamber and fellow Ambassadors for the honor, he joked that the reason he attends so many community events is because his wife Melinda Huisinga kicks him out of the house. On a serious note, he thanked the other Ambassadors for making it fun.
?I will drive by (the tree) as long as I can remember,? Huisinga continued to say light heartedly, adding that he unofficially named the tree The Ambassador. ?If it gets decorated, it?s because Melinda put Christmas lights on it,? he said as the crowd laughed.
Huisinga hopes that as the tree continues to grow, he can also watch the university grow and that he and Melinda can continue lending their support.
?I?ve always believed we?re here to serve others,? Huisinga said, recalling a quote he has lived by for the past 50 years. ?Volunteerism is the rent we pay for the space we occupy,? he said.
Huisinga believes each and every Ambassador deserves to be recognized as he was Tuesday. It takes a village to raise children and the bottom line is that?s what a community is all about, he said.
Each year, a tree will be planted for the Ambassador with the most points by Tim Egli, of Egli Landscaping. Huisinga?s tree is a Black Gum Tree.
Mark Hempen also met the Ambassador quota for a tree, which will be planted next year at Henry County Health Center.