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West Hartford Chamber Honors Community Members for Their Impact

Dr. Rick Liftig received the Noah Webster Award at the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards on June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards ceremony on June 28, honoring 2021 award winners.

The Lux Bond & Green team poses with Chamber of Commerce staff and Mayor Shari Cantor. The company received the Legacy Award at the 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Chamber of Commerce returned to an in-person format for the 2021 Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards ceremony, with a crowd of 140 people attending the event on a steamy Monday evening in an open-air pavilion at the Farmington Polo Club.

Dr. Rick Liftig, a recently-retired third-generation dentist who maintained a practice in West Hartford for many years, served as president of the Elmwood Business Association and has multiple leadership roles with other organizations including the Children’s Museum Board of Trustees and West Hartford Rotary, received 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.

Jason Jakubowski (left) congratulations Dr. Rick Liftig on winning the Noah Webster Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jason Jakubowski, CEO of the recently-merged CT Food Bank/Foodshare and recipient of the 2020 Noah Webster Award, had the honor of presenting this year’s award to Liftig.

As he accepted his award, Liftig joked that he had no problem standing in front of the microphone since as a dentist he has plenty of experience giving eight-hour monologues on a daily basis.

Liftig also offered the crowd a bit of sage advice – “Dr. Rick’s Rules for Creating Change in West Hartford” – which began with a statement that in many cases is quite true: “It takes time to change things – 3-10 years town or 7-15 years if the state is involved.” He also advocated for short meetings with agendas, and suggested watching who cleans up after events because those are the people you can rely on.

140 people attended the 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Finally, don’t take yourself, or town politics too seriously. Life is short and needs to be enjoyed. Eat more ice cream. Floss daily. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. And Please – DON’T CHEW ICE CUBES unless you really love seeing your dentist,” Liftig said.

Liftig and his wife, Kathleen, are now both retired and actively pursuing their new roles as “Nana and Pop.”

The Chamber elected a new slate of Board members and officers, and also presented the following Spotlight Awards:

  • New Business of the Year: Matt Banever, Bard’s Clothing
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Naima Craft of The Craft Baking
  • Young Professional of the Year: Dr. Shayna Burke, Board-certified allergist/immunologist and founder of Allergy and Asthma Family Care
  • Unsung Hero of the Year: Valerie Hansen, a second grade teacher at Bugbee Elementary School who helped raise more than $12,000 for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation during the “Steps for Better Breathing Walk”
  • Economic Driver of the Year: Mike Mahoney, RLMCo.
  • Volunteer of the Year: Chuck Coursey, Coursey & Company
  • Nonprofit of the Year: Mandell JCC
  • Legacy Award: Lux Bond & Green

Naima Craft was honored with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

All award winners were notified in advance, with one exception.

Chamber Executive Director Chris Conway, who served as emcee for the event, surprised Town of West Hartford Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski with the Partnership Award. Even though it’s not customary to award people for “doing their job,” Conway said that throughout the pandemic Gorski has gone above and beyond in collaboration with the Chamber and business community.

Conway also noted that the Chamber has remained active and involved throughout the community, holding successful online networking events as well as multiple forums and presentations. There have been 88 new members that have joined in the past year, and ribbon cuttings have resumed, he said.

Monday’s event featured live music courtesy of School of Rock’s Seekonk, MA, house band.

Mayor Shari Cantor. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Conway. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Robyn Rifkin. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chip Janiszewski. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Romika “Roma” Odedra of PeoplesBank. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Amy Babich. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Matt Banever (right) was awarded the New Business of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dr. Shana Burke received the Young Professional of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Mandell JCC received the Nonprofit of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Valerie Hansen was given the Unsung Hero of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Lux Bond & Green co-owners Marc Green (left) and John Green with West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Chuck Coursey won the Volunteer of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mike Mahoney won the Economic Driver of the Year Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Kristen Gorski was surprised with the Partnership Award. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

CT Food Bank/Foodshare CEO Jason Jakubowski. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Noah Webster Award winner Dr. Rick Liftig. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

School of Rock’s house band from Seekonk, MA entertained the crowd. 2021 West Hartford Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Spotlight Awards. June 28, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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