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West Hartford Chamber Announces 2020 Award Winners

Foodshare Executive Director Jason Jakubowski (we-ha.com file photo)

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce will present the winner of the Noah Webster Award, as well as many other spotlight awards during a virtual ceremony and annual meeting on Monday, June 22.

Submitted by West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce their 2020 awards recipients. 

The awards will be presented virtually via Zoom during The Chamber’s Annual Spotlight Awards & Annual Meeting on Monday, June 22, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The ceremony, which has been held at the Pond House for the past several years, will be done via Zoom as a live broadcast. In order to create an exciting and fun event for award recipients and attendees, the Chamber has partnered with Direct Line Media and School of Rock West Hartford to produce the live virtual ceremony.

The Chamber has also partnered with the Pond House to create a series of $15 prix fixe take-out meal options for those who wish to enjoy a fabulous meal similar to the prior years in-person events. There is even an option to purchase and donate a meal to a healthcare worker. You can follow this link for details on purchasing tickets for this virtual event and to learn more about The Pond House take-out meal options.

Noah Webster Award

Foodshare will be the recipient of the 2020 Noah Webster Award which is given each year to the person, persons or organization exemplifying an extraordinary commitment to the West Hartford community. “Foodshare is extremely honored to be the recipient of the prestigious Noah Webster Award … and as a West Hartford resident myself, I couldn’t be prouder,” said Foodshare President & CEO Jason Jakubowski upon hearing the news of his organization’s recognition. “Thank you to the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, the local community partners and all of the West Hartford community for supporting our ongoing efforts to help our neighbors who struggle with hunger.”

In addition to the Noah Webster Award, the Chamber is also awarding individuals, businesses and organizations in a variety of Spotlight Award categories during the live virtual event which include Legacy Award, Entrepreneur of the Year, Economic Driver of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year, New Business of the Year, and Unsung Hero of the Year.

Legacy Award

Ryan Keating (left) and Michael Keating (center) with Jeff Lovanio in an Experience We-Ha podcast (we-ha.com file photo)

Keating Agency Insurance is the recipient of the Legacy Award, which recognizes a business or organization that has been operating for twenty-five years or more and has consistently made a positive impact in the local community. “It was a wonderful surprise to find out I was nominated and awarded the WHCC 2020 Legacy Member of the Year,” says Michael Keating, whose father founded the agency in 1969. “There are many other worthy local businesses here in town who also contribute on a day-in and day-out basis so this truly is special,” he added. “Having lived here in town since 1965, I have witnessed the ups and downs of our local economy and the impact it takes on citizens and business owners. We try as a local family business to ‘pay it forward’ and stay involved in the community.” Keating, who now runs the agency with his children Ryan and Maura, went on to recognize the Chamber for the support they have provided his business over the years. “One constant over the 51 years we have been in business has been the Chamber of Commerce. This year especially, the value and information they provided back to the local business community was on display with COVID-19.”

Entrepreneur of the Year

Annisa Teich (we-ha.com file photo)

Annisa Teich is being recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year. Teich, who purchased West Hartford Co-Working in 2018, has significantly grown her shared workspace. Last year she moved from a second floor space on Farmington Avenue to a larger ground floor spot on New Park Avenue on the Hartford/West Hartford border. She is also the founder of The Small Business Collective, a company that supports small businesses in areas such as branding, marketing, and expansion. “I’m honored and humbled to be included among fellow business leaders I know and love,” says Teich. “In taking over West Hartford Co-Working, we hoped to expand our support of the community with both space and business services and I’m glad all our hard work and love is helping our community thrive!”

Economic Driver of the Year

The Design District of West Hartford is the recipient of the Economic Driver Award, which goes to a person, business, or organization which has made a positive impact on the local economy in areas such as business development, job creation and beautification. “Winning Economic Driver of the Year is truly an honor for everybody in the Design District,” says Dave Chmielewski, Design District President. “I want to thank all of our members of the Design District, all of whom have worked hard, for making our part of town transform into a destination for people to shop, eat, discover and enjoy themselves. Also, thank you to the West Hartford Chamber for the recognition and the amazing award.”

Nonprofit of the Year

Eric Feeney (center) announces raffle prize winners at a fundraiser at Donut Crazy. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Receiving the Nonprofit of the Year award is Friends of Feeney, whose mission is to help children and families who need assistance after heartbreak and tragedy. “This is incredible news! We are thrilled that Friends of Feeney is being recognized in this way. Thank you for honoring us with Nonprofit of the Year,” said founder Eric Feeney. “We’ve worked hard to make sure that our cause is one that is meaningful to the community and supportive to those who truly need help. This award only encourages our energy and inspires us to continue our mission.” Feeney, who is a teacher at Wolcott School, was motivated to start his organization after two of his students lost parents. “Additionally, I would like to thank the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce. Their support and generosity has been extremely beneficial to our nonprofit organization. It is so clear that all Chamber members genuinely care about this community and are willing to support Friends of Feeney as we continue to help children and families. “

New Business of the Year

Float 41 opened in Bishops Corner. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Float 41, a brand-new floatation spa in Bishops Corner, is receiving the New Business of the Year award. The business started by Ryan and Sarah LaTeano opened just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ryan, a home improvement contractor and Sarah, a former Air Force Reservist, literally built their dream business with their own hands. In the year leading up to their grand opening, the LaTeanos were active and visible members of the Chamber and the West Harford Community. In spite of being closed for months due to the pandemic, the couple remained positive and connected to the community. They ran a promotion, which provided donated floats for frontline workers to use once the center reopened.

Unsung Hero of the Year

From left: Sally and Bob’s owners Helen Brower and Cesar Contreras and Sooceropolis owner Milton Ortega. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

The Chamber will also present the Unsung Hero Award to Milton Ortega from Socceropolis.  “The Chamber received several nominations in this category, all of whom would be worthy recipients.  Milton’s work behind the scenes in various initiatives benefiting children, the elderly, underserved and frontline workers, could not go unrecognized,” says Chamber Executive Director Christopher Conway.

Additional Chamber Awards

In addition to the Spotlight Awards, the Chamber will present its Ambassador of the Year Award to Christopher Clarke of Merrill Bank of America.  Eric Bergenn is named Young Professional of the Year.  The Chamber Volunteer of the Year award is going to Dave Calibey of Big Thunk, who has donated both his time and talent to the Chamber for many years, including serving as Chairman of the Board from 2016-2018.

At the ceremony, the Chamber will also recognize outgoing Members of their Board of Directors and welcome in a new group of Members. Robert Kulakowski of Cedar Hill Home Inspection will end his term as chairman.  Amy Babich of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England, will assume the chairperson role effective July 1st 2020.

Gold Sponsors for this year’s event are Cedar Hill Home Inspection, Direct Line Media, School of Rock West Hartford, and Westfield Bank. This year’s Silver Sponsors are BlumShapiro, Comcast Business, Coursey & Company, and Keating Agency Insurance.  WHMedia is this year’s Media Sponsor.

For tickets and sponsorship information, please call the Chamber at 860-810-5663 or visit the website.

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