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West Hartford Chamber Honors Community Members for Their Impact

From left: WHCC Chair Chip Janiszewski, Mayor Shari Cantor, Noah Webster Award recipient Christopher Clarke, WHCC Development & Programs Dir. Kate Kobs, and WHCC President & CEO Chris Conway. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce recently held its Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards ceremony honoring 2022 award winners.

USJ President Rhona Free (third from right) was the recipient of the inaugural Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award. From left: WHCC Chair Chip Janiszewski, WHCC Development & Programs Dir. Kate Kobs, WHCC Board Member Robyn Rifkin, WH Mayor Shari Cantor, Free, Marianne Basil Sawicki, Cynthia Basil Howard, and WHCC President & CEO Chris Conway. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce recognized businesses and individuals who have had a major impact on the community at its annual dinner and awards ceremony, held in late June at the Farmington Polo Club.

Several hundred people were in the audience as the inaugural Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award was presented to Rhona Free, president of the University of Saint Joseph and the Chamber’s prestigious Noah Webster Award – given each year to the person, persons, or organization exemplifying an extraordinary commitment to the West Hartford community – was presented to Christopher Clarke of Merrill Lynch.

Noah Webster Award recipient Christopher Clarke of Merrill Lynch. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“This is not a ‘me’ award, this is a ‘we’ award,” said Clarke as he thanked his Chamber of Commerce partners, family, and co-workers. Dr. Rick Liftig, last year’s Noah Webster Award winner introduced Clarke.

The creation of the Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award was announced at the 2021 Chamber Annual Meeting, and honors the Chamber’s first woman chairperson. The award “recognizes a woman, who through her work service, and/or philanthropy, has empowered women to advance in business or leadership roles. It also recognizes the award winner’s track record of mentorship, setting positive examples, or creating opportunities for the advancement of women.”

Elizabeth Gustin Basil’s daughters, Marianne Basil Sawicki and Cynthia Basil Howard helped present the award to Free.

Dr. Rhona Free, president of the University of Saint Joseph, received the inaugural Elizabeth Gustin Basil Women’s Leadership Award. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Spotlight Award winners were also celebrated at the event.

“This year we received more nominations than in any year. in recent memory,” said Chris Conway, president and CEO of the Chamber. Choosing the winners was very challenging, he said.

Spotlight winners were:

  • New Business of the Year: Ashley Sodipo, Pink Flamingo Party Co.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Yvonne Alston, Indelible Impressions Consulting
  • Young Professional of the Year: Kathryn Joerg, Junior League of Greater Hartford
  • Unsung Hero of the Year: Avi Smith-Rapaport, We Care Computers
  • Economic Driver of the Year: George Howell, West Hartford Housing Authority
  • Volunteer of the Year: Christine Looby, Trinity Health Senior Communities
  • Nonprofit of the Year: Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society
  • Legacy Award: Marilyn Caruso, Toy Chest
  • Community Partner of the Year: Jennifer Evans, West Hartford Community Interactive

New members of the Chamber Board of Directors were elected, and Chip Janiszewski was elected to chair the Board. Outgoing officers were also recognized.

West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Chip Janiszewski. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conway noted some of the successes of the Chamber over the past year, including adding 88 new members and holding two community resource and job fairs. Events that had been canceled due to the pandemic returned in the past year, including the Holiday Stroll which was attended by an estimated crowd of 8,000, and the Mayor’s Annual State of the Town luncheon.

There was also a tribute at the dinner to Tony Leesha, a longtime Chamber member who passed away in late 2021. In his honor, $1,825 was raised and donated to the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.

Ashley Sodipo (second from right) of Pink Flamingo Party Co. won New Business of the Year. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Yvonne Alston was named Entrepreneur of the Year. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Kathryn Joerg won the Young Professional of the Year award. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Avi Smith-Rapaport won the Unsung Hero Spotlight Award. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

From left: WH Chamber Chair Chip Janiszewski, WH Mayor Shari Cantor, WH Housing Authority CEO George Howell, WH Housing Authority Board Chair Clare Dowd, WH Chamber Director of Development & Programs Kate Kobs, and WH Chamber President & CEO Christopher Conway. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Christine Looby won the Volunteer of the Year Spotlight Award. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society received the Nonprofit of the Year Spotlight Award. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Chip Janiszewski.. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chamber Director of Development & Programs Kate Kobs. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Roma Odedra of PeoplesBank. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Conway. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dr. Rick Liftig, the 2021 Noah Webster Award winner, introduced 2022 recipient Christopher Clarke of Merrill Lynch. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

School of Rock House Band performed. 2022 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 27, 2022. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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