Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. told the Independence Chamber of Commerce about his efforts to 'go green.' Begley lives the green life as he and his family reside in a self-sufficient home powered by solar energy. He often takes a bus, rides a bicycle to Hollywood events, or drives his solar-charged electric vehicle.

Independence Chamber of Commerce held its 88th annual banquet Jan. 24 at the Sheraton Kansas City Sports Complex Hotel. The program, “livin’ the green life,” appears to have been a great success. I’ve attended each banquet for the past seven years, and I think that this was one of the best. There were 553 attendees, which I thought in this economy was a great show of support for the chamber.

The main speaker was Ed Begley Jr. of television fame (Dr. Victor Ehrlich on “St. Elsewhere”) and feature films. But Begley wasn’t the guest speaker for his Hollywood career, rather for his continued interest in living the green life.

As a child, it was his father who influenced him about being “green.” His dad lived through the Depression but never used the word “green” or “environmentalist.” He was too busy turning off lights, conserving water and saving string and tin foil. Begley lives the green life as he and his family reside in a self-sufficient home powered by solar energy. He often takes a bus, rides a bicycle to Hollywood events, or drives his solar-charged electric vehicle.

He was quick to point out that people should start small do and what they can to live green.

“It took a decade and a half for me to move up the green ladder,” said Begley. “Save a little money being green, keep within your means. Reinvest your savings. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and recycled products like envelopes, paper and pens. Behave in an environmental and fiscal responsible manner.”

Public transportation, weather stripping, energy light bulbs, home gardening were also on his idea list. For more tips, tune into Begley and his wife, Rachelle Carson, on “Living with Ed” on the Planet Green channel.

IBS – main presenter

The main presenter of the banquet was IBS Secure Document Solutions, a subsidiary of IBS Industries Inc. IBS is a nonprofit organization founded in 1969 and celebrating its 40th year. Its goal is to provide employment services for persons with disabilities and develop a multitude of work skills.

“We help adults with severe disabilities and establish a cornerstone in their lives,” CEO Stan Shurmantine said. “We employ 250 people, and we must go forward and become more involved in the service economy and get away from manufacturing.”

Shurmantine said IBS was looking to invest in western Independence with a home-cleaning franchise complete with home-made dinner meals. He reminded the business community that IBS employees have positive attitudes, pay taxes, and live and shop locally.

Major awards

Three major chamber awards were given. Ron Eiman, chairman emeritus of the board for IBS, received the Lifetime Member Award for distinguished service and leadership. State sen. Victor Callahan, D-Independence, received the Distinguished Service Award for dedication to the community and in particular for his work in western Independence in the transfer of public schools from the Kansas City School District. The third honor went to Mike Sanders, Jackson County executive, who received the Distinguished Citizen Award for outstanding service for helping to clean up western Independence.

Other mentions

Platinum sponsors were Bryan Cave and Discover Vision Centers. Gold sponsors were Allied Waste, The Examiner and Space Center Kansas City. Silver sponsors were Centerpoint Medical Center, the Community of Christ, Downey Construction, the Independence School District, Stewardship Capital, UMB Bank, Unilever and Vibe Marketing Group. 

The chair for 2009 is Jim Denning. The chair-elect is Patricia Schumacher, of Ken Schumacher Insurance. Vaughn Cornish of Schmidt, Cornish & Smith is the treasurer.

The green theme was throughout the banquet. At each table there were fluorescent light bulbs from Independence Power and Light, reusable canvas bags from IBS, and centerpieces with fresh flowers, recycled tuna cans, and newspaper plant holders from Changing Seasons. An art show prior to the banquet from Green Dog Gallery showcased four resident artists’ works made from recycled objects.

There were nice comments. “What makes the chamber’s banquet different is the excellent quality of its speakers,” said Wes Cowan, vice president, Space Center.

Jodi Krantz, director of business development, Independence Council for Economic Development, said, “This is the first time I have attended. It’s a good crowd, and I enjoyed doing some networking.”

It takes the whole chamber to produce the banquet, and praise should go to the Terri Steel, Evans & Steel Financial, chair of the Banquet Committee and to the chamber staff, Penny Kruse, membership director, Kelo Berkstresser, membership services, Nedra Hoover, Membership Services, Sue McMilian, vice president-special projects, Teresa Freeland, special projects, Terri Singleton, receptionist, and Rick Hemmingsen, president/CEO.