Community Excellence Award winners are pictured from left, front row, Sew Caring’s Maureen Waite, Savannah Burris, The Skillet’s Heather Kellan and Holyoke City Council member Kevin Scott. In the back row are Sew Caring’s Cathy Edge, Diana Green, Maxine Brandt and Lenette Hutt; S&W Auto Supply’s Stacy Rueter; and City Council members Scott Murray and John Schneider. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
Volunteerism, generosity, friendliness central to Community Excellence Awards
Selflessness seemed to be the overarching theme of the 26th annual Community Excellence Awards, hosted by Holyoke Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 4. Whether they give of time, money, resources or kindness, each of this year’s award winners has shown generosity to the community of Holyoke in their own unique way.
Those recognized were S&W Auto Supply NAPA, Business of the Year; Heather Kellan, Employee of the Year; Savannah Burris, Youth of the Year; Sew Caring, Citizen of the Year; and the City of Holyoke, STAR of the Year.
Gathered at the Phillips County Event Center, a crowd of about 80 enjoyed a meal catered by Outback Cookin’ & Catering and served by Holyoke FCCLA. Plaques were then presented as selections from nomination letters were read.
S&W Auto Supply
Business of the Year
Winner of the 2018 Business of the Year, S&W Auto Supply excels as both a business and a part of the community. As the nominator said, owner Kameron Knight has donated countless items and money toward city and chamber events, such as Dandelion Daze and Country Christmas. He’s helped make fundraisers for such organizations as the school, hospital, Peerless Theatre and the county fair possible.
Having been in business for 55 years, S&W also shines in the work of auto supply. “They are always service with a smile and are willing to go the extra mile to get parts in when they don’t have them in stock.”
As with any successful business, it’s the employees who make it possible. “Kameron, Stacy, Gerald, Jason, Jim and Braden make S&W Auto Supply NAPA a great choice for Business of the Year.”
Employee of the Year
Recognized by multiple people in the community for the great job she does, Skillet waitress Heather Kellan is the 2018 Employee of the Year. She’s described as going above and beyond. In addition to serving well, she is “always smiling and happy” and is a “ray of sunshine.” When she’s working, customers enjoy a pleasant atmosphere in addition to the food they order.
One nominator in particular is blind, and he commended Kellan for remembering his drink and how he likes his food. “It is helpful to me to go to a place where I don’t have to memorize the menu and she informs me of any specials,” the nomination letter read.
Youth of the Year
In being nominated for Youth of the Year, Savannah Burris was recognized as an employee and a volunteer at Regent Park Nursing & Rehab and Carriage House. “I was particularly impressed with Savannah’s ability to develop relationships so easily,” her nomination letter read.
Burris began working at Regent Park during the summer of 2016 and had a positive attitude from the very beginning. When summer ended and she went back to school, Burris continued to visit the facility as a volunteer after school and on weekends.
Though she’s a busy high school senior, Burris makes time to impact the lives around her. “Savannah always made time for our dear residents,” the letter continued. “I believe she truly loved them as if they were her own family.”
Citizen of the Year
Another award winner nominated by multiple community members was Sew Caring, Citizen of the Year. Sew Caring is a group of 13 women who meet regularly at Creative Traditions to complete sewing projects for a number of organizations. They make such things as pillow cases and walker bags for nursing home residents and bags and baby blankets for new parents. They’ve also served veterans, rehab patients, and those in women’s shelters and group homes.
From the nominators’ perspectives, the women are seen as “angels” and “a true blessing.” One described that when donations arrive, “the first thing that comes to mind is the amount of time, thought, energy and heart that gets poured into each individual item.”
City of Holyoke
STAR of the Year
At the end of the awards program each year, Holyoke Chamber of Commerce recognizes the STAR of the Year. The award is given to a business, agency or individual that has come alongside the chamber, helping it be more successful than it would have been on its own.
Board members selected the City of Holyoke as the 2018 STAR of the Year. Beginning in March and continuing through December, the City contributed $500 each month to the chamber.
“We thank you for partnering with us for the betterment of our local businesses, community members and those who visited our ‘city of Pride and Progress,’” board members said.