'Giving back' theme among chamber's award winners Shamokin Area principal is Member of the Year
SHAMOKIN - Giving back to the community was a theme among winners as the Brush Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce saluted members during its annual awards dinner Thursday night at the Knights of Columbus.
Chris Venna, Shamokin Area Middle-High School principal, who joined the chamber board a few years ago and now serves as treasurer, won the chamber's highlight award, Member of the Year.
"I'm very honored to receive this award, and also very humbled," Venna said to a crowd of 77, noting other deserving nominees.
Venna spoke about the decision he and his wife, Tara, made to stay in the area to start careers and raise their children, and their efforts to give back to the community while pursuing opportunities.
"That's what the people in the room have done," he said.
Showing pride in coal region roots and giving back to the community was a theme expressed by Dan Hauer, co-owner with Geno Welsh of Brewser's SportsGrille, Coal Township, which won the Community Pride Award. Hauer and Welsh had opportunities to go elsewhere to pursue their careers, but chose to start a unique local business in which they focus on helping the community, Hauer said.
Hauer, who is also a teacher at Southern Columbia Area's G.C. Hartman Elementary, said helping youth and the local education system is important. With the right support now, those youth can some day "give back to the economic growth of the Brush Valley."
Two local businesses that are doing just that were saluted Thursday night as well. Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital (G-SACH) won Large Business of the Year and Family Home Medical, Mount Carmel, Small Business of the Year.
The 16 months since SACH merged with Geisinger at the start of 2012 has been "very good for us," said Earl Foura, chairman of the G-SACH board. He said Geisinger has spent $9.7 million at the local campus.
"The community hospital would not have been able to make these investments," he said.
Family Home Medical made news in the past year both for an innovative new program and its move in February to the former Rite Aid building at Oak and Fourth streets in Mount Carmel's downtown.
Sandy Winhofer, chamber director, praised the company's investment in the downtown, and noted its work in both Mount Carmel and Shamokin to open Our Family Homes, an alternative to nursing homes where elderly residents share a residence while Family Home Medical provides around-the-clock care.
Kathleen Hoffman, chief operating officer, accepting the chamber award on behalf of owner Warren Altomare, said the company is "extremely honored" to be selected.
Sen. John Gordner, R-27, was selected as the Elected Official of the Year. He said he's had to "step up" as the new senior leader of the local legislative contingency with the retirements of Robert Belfanti and Merle Phillips at the end of 2010, and said he's been helped in that effort by state Reps. Kurt Masser, R-107, and Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108. He said the trio can "tag team" their efforts, along with his seniority, to get things done, noting the recent groundbreaking for the long-awaited, $14 million Shamokin Creek Flood Control Project in Mount Carmel.
Gordner praised the "small but mighty" Brush Valley chamber and said its members should be proud of what they accomplish.
Winhofer said there were a lot of nominees and more votes for this year's awards than she can remember, a sign that the chamber is healthy. Sponsors were Service Electric Cablevision and McCann School of Business and Technology. The Vennas were floral sponsors. One Smart Cookie catered the meal.
Other award nominees were:
Member of the Year: Jack Richford, The Center for Movement Arts, Shamokin, and a community member; Rita Rovito, Union National Bank, Mount Carmel; Tara Venna, community member, and Thomas Harlow, G-SACH.
Large Business of the Year: Michael Foods Egg Products, Klingerstown; Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Coal Township; PPL Corp., and Shamokin Area School District.
Small Business of the Year: Archie's Shoe Store, Kulpmont; Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Shamokin; Fun Shop, Shamokin; Gigi's, Coal Township; Matlow's, Mount Carmel; Pappy Baluta Plumbing and Heating, Kulpmont, and Star Physical Therapy and Fitness, Marion Heights.
Community Pride Award: City of Shamokin; Jeanne Shaffer, Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities; Lower Anthracite Regional Recreation Committee, Coal Township; Mountain View; Pappy Baluta, and Shamokin Area School District.
Elected Official of the Year: Coal Township commissioners; Craig Fetterman, Coal Township commissioner; Edward Griffiths, Shamokin Area School Board; and Tony Matulewicz, Mount Carmel Borough Council.
Voting by chamber membership took place over the past several weeks.