Community of Lebanon Association recently selected Greg Vaitl, owner, supervisor and funeral director of Christman’s Funeral Home as its Merritt Marks Memorial Business Person of the Year.

A lifelong resident of Lebanon, Vaitl said he is humbled and grateful to be named CLA’s Business Person of the Year. “I don’t volunteer or participate in community outreach efforts to be recognized. I give back to the community because it’s what I want to do; there’s something about doing community outreach that I find so fulfilling,” he said.

He began working at Christman’s in 2006. Three years later, he purchased the funeral home, which was founded in 1941. “At first I was just trying to get my bearings in the business, but after that we started to become involved in community efforts. Lebanon is a close-knit community, and since I grew up here I knew where there was a need to be filled. I try to focus on a lot of different areas including efforts to aid veterans,” Vaitl explained.

Christman’s has provided free coffee and hot chocolate at the annual Lebanon Holiday Parade for several years. “The parade is really fun, but it can be cold standing and watching it. Coffee and hot chocolate really help you warm up,” Vaitl said.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and Christman’s staff members helped Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz and other volunteers create and distribute fabric face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This year Vaitl and Christman’s staff helped Lebanon County Christian Ministries serve lunches during the organization’s free lunch program, and Christman’s also sponsored some of the lunches. This year marks the second year of Christman’s Christmas, which Vaitl said provides Christmas gifts for families in need. He said the business works with local school districts to select families for the program. Last year, Christman’s provided gifts for three families, and this year the business plans to expand that number to 10 families. He said since its reach is expanding, Christman’s Christmas will be spun off as a non-profit next year.

“I’ll continue to look at other opportunities to fill a need in the community,” Vaitl said.

According to information on Christman’s Funeral Home’s website, Vaitl is a member of Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Myerstown-Elco Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club of Lebanon and serves on the Board of CompeerCorps.

The CLA’s Businessperson of the Year award is given annually to a local business professional who best exemplifies Merritt Marks’ philanthropic nature of inspiring those around him, community service and the desire to make Lebanon’s downtown a better place to work and do business. One of the founding members of the Center of Lebanon Association in the 1980s, Marks coined the phrase ‘It’s a great day in Lebanon, PA’.

Cheryl Batdorf, who serves as CLA treasurer and chair of the Business Person of the Year committee, said Vaitl is the 35th recipient of the award that was initially presented to its namesake, Merritt Marks. Last year’s recipient was Vin Garcia, and in 2021, Dave and Laurie Funk were award recipients. Honorees are selected by a committee of past recipients. Among the criteria for the award is being a CLA member.

Batdorf said the Merritt Marks Memorial Business Person of the Year award will be presented to Vaitl at an event early next year. CLA also plans to present its Lester Leffler Community Volunteer Service award and its Golden Broom award at the same event; the Golden Broom award is presented to an individual who goes above and beyond in doing their part to beautify downtown Lebanon. Batdorf said details of the awards event have not yet been finalized. “Traditionally it’s been a dinner, but we’re considering hosting a breakfast or luncheon,” she said.

When finalized, information about the event will be posted on CLA’s website and its Facebook page.

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Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...