After attendees greeted each other during a wine and cheese reception in the art gallery, the award for outstanding community service and business of the year was presented to two Madawaska organizations that had made a difference throughout the year.
“It’s the big heart of the small community that matters,” said Helen Butler, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, when the Business of the Year honor was handed to American Legion Post 147 for its work in raising funds and volunteering, including the recent donation of more than $14,000 to Angel Flight Northeast through a community supper and related fundraising.
“They are always volunteering their time, their efforts – everything about them is about giving,” Chamber President Mark Epstein said of the organization, adding that they also volunteer at the Acadian Festival and for other causes. “It amazes me how much they give to the community.”
Richard Cyr, Commander of the Madawaska post, accepted the award on behalf of the Legion.
“I didn’t think it would be that big up here,” Cyr said of the Angel Flight Northeast network of pilot volunteers, who provide transport to Valley residents requiring medical treatment. “But 6,000 people used it last year, and Sue Hebert, Roger Corbin, Helen and I talked about it, and we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And this year it doubled. When we did the fundraiser, we made 160 pounds of beans!”
The annual Outstanding Community Service Award was given to Jean Ouellette for her many contributions in improving the quality of life for local residents.
“I love doing what I can to help all businesses succeed,” said Ouellette while accepting her award.
Ouellette was nominated for her intense and long-time involvement in the Madawaska Snowmobile Festival, the Madawaska 100, the Acadian Festival, as well as for being a past Chamber of Commerce president and her donations to several area organizations.
Newly-named Executive Director Roger Thibodeau, who Epstein said had “gone above and beyond his hours” regularly to help run the Chamber since last summer’s appointment as acting executive director, joined Epstein in presenting both awards.
In an effort to raise local community awareness for the need for more volunteers for festivals and events, Epstein raised the point that while the economy was tough, the Valley is also a “great area” in which to raise a family, and encouraged young residents to stay in the St. John Valley.
“We need to keep these kids in the area,” Epstein said.
The chamber, he said, is beneficial to businesses through its website http://greatermadawaskachamber.com, and is always looking for help.
“If you want to see what it’s all about, join us. It’s fun,” he said.
Different this year at the Chamber, Epstein said, is a “friendly competition” in which local businesses can challenge each other.
Next up for the Chamber is the Top O’ Maine Trade Show, the director said, coming up the weekend of April 30 and May 1. Meet Our Colors Art Gallery Director Julie Lang also invited the public to upcoming exhibits, which change every few months, and said that art and photography are welcome at the gallery. Coming soon is a new website, www.meetourcolors.com, which will be ready soon, Lang said.