Chamber honors Korengel as Outstanding Citizen at gala
By Steven Hoffman
Guests at the 53rd annual Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Gala rose to their feet to applaud Annalie Korengel, the 2019 Outstanding Citizen Award recipient.
The gala, held on Feb. 22 at Longwood Gardens, honors a local resident who, in the opinion of the selection committee, unselfishly contributes to the community’s quality of life. The tradition began in 1968.
Korengel, 51, is the pastor of the Unionville Presbyterian Church, which is known widely as “The Small Church with the Big Heart.” Korengel is credited with being a driving force for the church and for providing emotional support to local police departments as well as families who have lost loved ones to accidents or overdoses.
The Chairman’s Chamber Gala, which attracted about 300 attendees, featured a buffet dinner, dancing, a citation from State Rep. Christina Sappey, and live entertainment, all in the comfortable confines of Longwood Gardens’ beautiful surroundings.
It is customary for the previous year’s winner of the Outstanding Citizen Award to lead the presentation of the new recipient, but 2018 honoree Peter Kjellerup, the environmentalist and founder of Dansko, was out of town and unable to attend the event. In his place, Leon Spencer, a former mayor of Kennett Square, stepped in to outline Korengel’s contributions. Spencer was a recipient of the award in 2016.
Spencer began his presentation by assuring the guests that first responders like police officers and firefighters work to meet the emergency needs of the community. But, he asked, “Who responds to the needs of emergency responders?”
People like Korengel do, Spencer said, explaining that she gives comfort abundantly in her role as the chaplain for the Kennett Township, Kennett Square Borough, and Southern Chester County Regional police departments.
She is also a former Kennett Rotary Club president, a participant in grief-response organizations, and an early supporter of Family Promise of Southern Chester County, a non-profit that works to alleviate homelessness in the area.
Korengel told the audience that, second to the birth of her children, Family Promise is the most meaningful event in her life. She also gave credit to many people – several of them first responders – who gave her the inspiration to find her place in the clergy.
Joining her at the dinner table to share the recognition were her parents, her husband, her children and even her Uncle Dick Walker, who came in for the ceremony from Illinois.
A social activist for most of her life, Korengel spent her youth in Peoria, Illinois, and Minneapolis. She said it was in Illinois where she gained her love and attraction to country life, having spent time on her grandparents’ farm. She gained her appreciation for rugged outdoor living, she said, in the cold winds of Minnesota where she lived for a year-and-a-half in her early pre-teens.
In her teen years, when her father was transferred to the Philadelphia area, the family lived in West Chester and she attended the schools of the West Chester School District.
She went on to attend West Chester University, where she spent eight years sampling a variety of courses that attracted her attention and she graduated with a degree in English literature.
Korengel went on to earn masters’ degrees in divinity, social work, business administration, and human resources from Palmer Theological Seminary. She became Unionville Presbyterian Church pastor when a pervious pastor left.
Preceding the outstanding citizen presentation, Chamber President and CEO Cheryl Kuhn said she has been happy with the responses to this past year’s events, especially the golf tournament that raises money for youth scholarships. She said supporting youth is important to her, and in the future she hopes to raise more for the scholarship program.
Jim Turner, the board chairman for 2020 praised the selection of Longwood Gardens for the gala saying he has never seen a place so beautiful. He urged everyone to live active lives and “carpe diem” (seize the day) in their daily loves.
Outgoing board chairman Erik Gudmundson said he had learned in the past year that while some other chambers of commerce are failing, that is not the case with Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce. This chamber is thriving, he said, because it listens to its members and the public.
The Southern Chester County Chamber was founded in 1929 as a leading business member organization dedicated to the growth and development of its members, supporting businesses and economic development. It lists its core values as “lead, connect, educate, advocate.”