Bernie Van Etten Receives Inaugural David Fell Spirit of Service Award


Natural Stone Institute
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Oberlin, OH, February 23, 2023 — A new award was unveiled at the Natural Stone Institute’s annual Awards Ceremony at StonExpo. The David Fell Spirit of Service Award is presented to a company and/or individual who has participated in the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program to recognize their efforts for demonstrating the qualities and characteristics of leadership within their company, the community, and beyond. The inaugural David Fell Spirit of Service Award was presented to Bernie Van Etten of Murphy Marble Company.

Bernie believes it is important to participate in the R.I.S.E. program because he is blessed to be in such a great industry. “You want to give back to society whenever you have an opportunity to do so. The Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program has worked hard to put together a great program to help provide homes for severely wounded veterans. Having met a few of these veterans in person, they are tremendous people and heroes in every sense of the word.  Combine that with Gary Sinise, who is one of the most incredibly generous and talented people you will ever meet. The energy and excitement the R.I.S.E. program puts forth makes you want to contribute and be a part of their incredible work. It is truly an honor to have participated with R.I.S.E. by providing smart homes for severely wounded veterans. It never felt like work while providing the stonework for the homes we helped with.”

Murphy Marble also helped provide lunch at the home dedications for U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Chad Watson. Their company, along with their local deli, felt that anything they can contribute helps the Foundation put more dollars towards constructing homes.

“Working with the R.I.S.E. program gave me a chance to meet some great people, including Gary Sinise himself and Lieutenant Strickland, who was the recipient of the home built in St. Louis. The entire organization and their employees give you the motivation to participate. Gary Sinise has a saying, ‘We can all do a little more.’ Gary and his organization give so much of their time, talent, and finances that it’s contagious. My family company and I are blessed to have participated in the R.I.S.E. program.”

The Natural Stone Institute was also proud to present Gary Sinise with an honorary lifetime recognition for the David Fell Spirit of Service Award for his leadership in creating the R.I.S.E. program. Gary embodies the characteristic of being a selfless, exemplary leader who impacts everyone he encounters. It is through his passion and dedication that others are stepping up to support his noble mission. Through the R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), the Gary Sinise Foundation builds specially adapted, smart technology mortgage-free homes for severely wounded veterans and first responders. Barbara Titus, V.P. of Operations for the Gary Sinise Foundation, attended the ceremony to accept the award on Gary’s behalf and thanked the membership for rallying behind the R.I.S.E. program. A video message from Gary Sinise himself was shared with those in attendance.

The Natural Stone Institute would like to thank Joey Marcella (Mario & Son), who designed and donated the award.  Joey stated that the design was “inspired by the winged goddess of Samothrace. It signifies a stoneworker’s intrinsic connection to their craft. Like the wing, those possessing the award have elevated above and beyond in a spirit of service to others.”

Learn more about the David Fell Spirit of Service Award at www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/spiritofservice. To learn how your company can get involved in future R.I.S.E. projects, please visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/RISE.


About the Natural Stone Institute
The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association representing every aspect of the natural stone industry. The current membership exceeds 2,000 members in over 50 nations. The association offers a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development opportunities, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Two prominent publications—the Dimension Stone Design Manual and Building Stone Magazine—raise awareness within the natural stone industry and in the design community for best practices and uses of natural stone. Learn more at www.naturalstoneinstitute.org.



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