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Torch Awards honor best in area

April 27, 2108

Victor Lopez doesn’t allow even the smallest variation in his products. He can’t.

Global Medical Industries supplies the medical, aerospace and automotive industries, where being off by even a fraction of a millimeter could spell the difference between life and death.

The local company has finished its first year in business without one single part being returned because it wasn’t made correctly. Lopez is understandably proud of that.

Even so, the founder, president and CEO has prepared for that day. Lopez said he’ll evaluate the problem and what caused it, fix it if he can – or replace it if he can’t.

His approach to business earned him this year’s Entrepreneur of Integrity Award from the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. Lopez received a crystal statue Thursday at the 13th annual Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics luncheon.

About 400 people attended the event at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation.

The awards recognize businesses, nonprofits and individuals who “do it right,” according to BBB officials. Recipients included nine high school and college students who received scholarships.

Each individual or business was introduced along with a story about a time when they confronted a dilemma and responded by making an ethically sound decision.

“A few bucks is not going to make anybody richer, so throw it away and remake it,” Lopez said of his philosophy. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Business winners were Aaron’s Oriental Rug Gallery, Cottage Flowers, Korte Does It All and Preferred Automotive Group

Bob Anderson, who owns Aaron’s, allows customers to take several expensive rugs home on the honor system “to see what really works best in their lighting and in their home.”

Jerry Schowe, owner of Cottage Flowers, never wants to take customers for granted.

“We treat every day like the first day in business,” he said.

Korte’s staff was complimented for its phone manners, arriving on time, wearing protective booties inside customers’ homes and never leaving a mess.

Jay Leonard, who owns Preferred, joked about his industry’s reputation. But he also talked about his vow to do things differently.

Leonard’s wife refused his first marriage proposal because, she said, he worked too much. He was a salesman at a new-car lot, where he worked 12 hours a day. Two weeks after she turned him down, Leonard launched his own business and made a promise to his fiancée.

Now, he makes it home for dinner. And so does his staff. Preferred’s lots close at 5, 6, or 7 p.m., depending on the day of the week.

Volunteer Center, which matches volunteers with local nonprofits and individuals in need of help, was chosen in the nonprofit category. Embassy Theatre Foundation, which preserves and operates the historic Embassy Theatre, was named Pillar of the Community.

Shirley Woods, a community activist and founder of the Euell A. Wilson Community Center, was recognized as the Individual of Integrity.

After her son, Euell Wilson, died suddenly, Woods wanted to honor his memory and help local youth stay out of trouble. She started by inviting neighborhood kids to gather in her backyard after school to play games and learn Christian values.

Some years later, a young woman approached Woods in the grocery and said she’d grown into a happy and successful person because of the program’s influence.

Woods, who received the day’s only standing ovation, was visibly touched by the memory.

She said, “I could have just passed out in Walmart.”