At its 30th Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner, the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce announced new board members and recognized its ‘Spotlight on Success’ honorees.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce honored member businesses for their outstanding work in several categories at its annual dinner Monday night at the Pond House Café, and presented its top honor – the Noah Webster Award – to Charlie Hilborn.
Dr. Rick Liftig nominated Hilborn, a lifelong West Hartford resident, owner of Sheehan Hilborn-Breen Funeral Home, and originator of the “Elmwood is Blooming!” project, for the Chamber’s highest honor.
“There are a couple of types of businesses that we don’t prefer visiting. One of them is going to the dentist,” said Liftig, who is a dentist, as he presented the award. “The other is the funeral home. But both the dentist and the funeral home director have something in common: They’re there to help you through tough times and hold your hand, and both of us by definition are involved in helping our community.”
Hilborn had the idea of making Elmwood more beautiful with flower pots, persisted, and found a partner in the Knox Foundation. “With the help of his trusty Cole Hann shoes he made the dream a reality knocking on every door in the neighborhood,” Liftig said.
Last year, the first year of the initiative, Hilborn arranged for the Knox Foundation to place and maintain 51 planters throughout Elmwood that had been sponsored by local businesses and the Elmwood Business Association. This year, Elmwood had 61 planters installed last week, and Hilborn has facilitated the outreach to extend to the Bishops Corner Neighborhood Association, Park Road Association, and Home Design District.
“Elmwood is blooming as is the rest of town,” Liftig said.
The Noah Webster Award, which was established in 1989, is given to any one nominated person or business that has exhibited extraordinary commitment to the Town of West Hartford and its community.
Dave Calibey, chairman of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, said that Chamber has had record attendance this year, with sold-out events and on average 60-70 attendees at the 7 a.m. “Connections” meetings. He credited Executive Director Barbara Lerner and Associate Director Morgan Hilyard, as well as the organization’s active committees, for much of the success.
Calibey also highlighted the Chamber of Commerce’s newer initiatives, including the Health Fair in Elizabeth Park, a tech turn-in, and the establishment of the young professionals group FLOW (Future Leaders of West Hartford).
In response to member requests, the Chamber has also produced a 2017 Community Guide, which was passed out to meeting attendees and is also available online to members.
Lerner said that the Chamber had difficulty getting applications for its scholarship, and instead the Youth to Business Committee decided to fund a grant through the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools. This year the $2,000 will be split between the “Make It So Build and Craft” summer program at Conard High School and “Introducing Micro Business” at Hall High School.
Hilyard announced that Amy Babich of Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate as recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award and Dave Reeve of Raymour & Flanagan as Ambassador of the Year.
Spotlight on Success Award winners, announced by Lerner and highlighted in a video produced by David Chmielewski, included:
- Ethan Frankel – Bike West Hartford
- Gina Mariano-Bunch – Daley Moving & Storage
- Julianne Roth – Companions for Living
- Tanya Maher- Supporting Strategies
- Gary Dahms- Salons by JC
- Al Marino and Barbara Karsky – Foodshare and the West Hartford Center Business Association
The Chamber also announced its grant recipients for 2017: Playhouse Theatre Group, which received $2,400 for programming; the West Hartford Public Library, which received $1,100 for a STEM program in collaboration with Talcott Mountain Science Center; and Mercy Community Health, which received $1,500 for ADA-compliant furnishings for its secret garden.
Also at the annual meeting, the Chamber named new board members Jack Phelan (Bouvier Insurance), Jeffrey Brine (Kurien Oullette LLC), Tom Hickey (WH Media), Tony Leesha (Computer Repair and Upgrade), Gina Mariano-Bunch (Daley Moving & Storage), Matthew Banever (Daswani Clothiers), Tony Anthony (The Upton Law Firm), Amy Babich (Berkshire Hathway), Matthew Cuddy (Farmington Bank), -Steve Hunt (Thomas Fahy Insurance), and Nathaniel Mardoc (Comcast Business).
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