Touting involvement and support in the community, the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce held its 23rd Annual Gala Wednesday, Feb. 3, recognizing excellence from businesses, organizations and individuals that call Holyoke home.
Originally scheduled for Monday, Feb. 1, the Gala was postponed due to the snowstorm that hit the area. A solid turnout made the postponed event a priority at the Phillips County Event Center two days later.
Citing encouragement, friendliness, compassion, mercy, support, participation, integrity and more, awards were presented to businesses, youth, employees and citizens.
Holyoke Community Federal Credit Union was named Business of the Year. Their participation in community activities was emphasized, as well as their donation of the old Peerless Theatre to the community close to 20 years ago.
“He greets every single customer with a friendly greeting as he fills grocery bags and carries them out to their cars,” said the person nominating Eric Nickell of Holyoke Marketplace as Employee of the Year.
Youth of the Year honors went to HHS senior Jahir Gardea. “Through his compassion and the positive attitude he displays in everything he does, he has demonstrated a commitment to this community, his family and everyone who knows him,” said his nomination letter.
“They encourage us to be good to each other, to think of others, to honor ourselves, to read the Bible, to include others and to get along,” said four junior high youth who nominated the JH/HS Fellowship of Christian Athlete leaders as Citizens of the Year.
Ardie Besse has been a tremendous supporter of the community, as well as a volunteer for many years, leading to her selection as Citizen of the Years.
Also selected as Citizen of the Years was Joy Schafer, driven by the spiritual gift of mercy, who views her service as volunteer coordinator for two food programs in the county as a ministry.
The last award of the evening, Star of the Year, is the only one that was not announced in advance. The Holyoke Enterprise was indeed surprised and honored to be selected. “This business is definitely based on integrity and timeliness,” said the award letter.
Click here to read the award bios.
“We let Mary Tomky retire, she trained her replacement, we held a celebration to thank her for her years as executive director, and then we called her back,” said Chamber president Gloria Bergner to acknowledge the dedication of the former executive director who thought she retired!
Tomky had a little more than a month of retirement, then came back in December to fill in while the Chamber searched again to fill the position.
Thanking the board for their kind words and thoughtfulness, Tomky did emphasize with a smile that they’re still looking for an executive director, the role she assumed 14 years ago.
Mary Tomky, temporarily back in the Chamber executive director role from retirement, addresses the Gala crowd.
—Johnson Publications photo
Promoting their upcoming show “Murd-Arrr!!! Pirates of the Salty Dog,” Phillips County Players, decked out in their pirate gear, provided entertainment at the Chamber Gala.
Their clever script combined their pirate-themed show with Chamber award winner references.
“Murd-Arrr!!! Pirates of the Salty Dog” performances are scheduled at the Peerless Theatre in late February.
Silent auction items lined the perimeter of the Gala banquet area and, as always, provided friendly competition for top bids.
Chamber board members emceed last week’s Gala, with Randy Schafer giving the invocation. R & B Catering prepared the dinner, with dessert by The P Pod, and Holyoke United Methodist Church youth group members handled serving.
Decorations for the evening were compliments of Kimberlee Bennett’s FUNtastic Designs, assisted by Laura Roth.
Seaboard Foods sponsored the awards, and CHS Grainland the door prizes of scrip for answering trivia questions throughout the evening.
Holyoke Enterprise February 11, 2016