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Massena Chamber of Commerce hosts annual awards banquet


MASSENA - For only the fourth time in history, the board of directors of the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce presented its Board of Directors Award.

Previous recipients of the award include Larry Prashaw, Bob Coia, from Bob’s Bakery, and the Chiefs and Sub-chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. This year’s recipients though made a contribution to the chamber, unlike any they had ever received before.

The Adath Israel Synagogue donated their home in downtown Massena to the chamber of commerce, giving the chamber a badly needed new home, and one that they could be proud of.

“For many generations the Adath Israel Synagogue was the spiritual home to the Jewish community in the greater Massena area,” chambe board President Sue Stiles said. “The Jewish families in Massena have been active in the community as merchants, professionals, past chamber presidents and civic leaders. The opportunity for the chamber to maintain this historic building for use of the community is one we accept with honor.”

Accepting the plaque, which will hang on the wall in the chamber’s new home, on behalf of the congregation were Judy Witek, Lenore Levine and Miriam Catapano.

Another prestigious award, the Business Leadership Award, was presented to Patrick Peets, who was unable to attend the dinner due to a death his family.

His daughter, Shannon Peets Hendricks, who together with her brother, Jeramy, represent the third generation of their family involved in Peets’ Jewelers, accepted the award.

Real “Frenchie” Coupal, who was the award’s inaugural recipient presented the honor.

“I remember sitting where Mayor Hidy is in 1986 when they gave it to me,” he said. “It was a surprise, but it was really for my employees. It takes a team,” he said, noting teamwork has been a common thread between each of the award’s recipients with Peets’ Jewelers, a family-owned and operated business being a perfect example.

The Gert Jurkovich Commitment to the Community Award was presented to Mark Bogdan.

The award goes to an individual, group or business that best exemplifies Gert’s dedication to the community,” said Ms. Catapano, who presented the honor. “When the chamber looks at this recognition, it tries to identify someone who has left their thumbprint on the community.”

She continued, “When someone is recognized with this recognition, it isn’t the reward that matters. It is the depth of commitment, the quality of service, the product of one’s devotion. These are the things that are counted in life,” she said. “When you give purely, the honor is in giving, and that is honor enough.”

Dee Peets was recognized as the chamber’s volunteer of the year.

“Here is a list of just a few of the chamber activities that this person has been involved with in these past two years,” said Tina Corcoran, who presented the award. “Car, truck and motorcycle show, block dance, harvest festival, winter carnival, chamber office, where she’s helped with newsletters, winter carnival, soliciting donation for chamber auctions, donations for other fundraisers, the heritage festival and chamber’s annual dinner.”

Ms. Corcoran said the award “celebrates an individual who has consistently given generously of their time in support of chamber events, projects and initiatives over a sustained period.”

Mr. Bogdan also presented several awards, giving out four Community Support Awards.

“An Italian Affair has supported the many sports teams in the Massena area, and activities, including the Massena Winter Carnival since the carnival’s beginning in 2010,” Mr. Bogdan said.

Describing Meals on Wheel he said, “They provide more than a hot meal for those that are in need. Some days, it is the only personal contact the recipient has with the outside world.”

The Village Inn, which was originally known as the Woodlawn Hotel and was “the first or second” recipient of a liquor license in St. Lawrence County following prohibition, was also honored.

“The Village Inn has been a supporter in the community and a larger supporter of the Massena Winter Carnival these past two years. Last year hosting a karaoke night, and this year hosting the very successful trivia night.”

The final Community Support Award was presented to Violi’s, a restaurant started by Ross and Dominic Violi’s parents in 1945.

“In 1961, Rosario (their father) turned the business over to Dominic and Ross. The restaurant has supported many community events and fundraisers over those years,” Mr. Bogdan said.

Chamber Director Michael Gleason also presented several awards, recognizing businesses for their longevity in the community. Both the Donaldson Funeral Home and A. Cappione, Inc., were recognized for 80 years of service. Ogdensburg Command Performances, Rite Aid and the Seacomm Federal Credit Union were each recognized for 50 years of service.

On hand to accept the award for Seacomm was CEO Scott Wilson. But Mr. Wilson brought a long a couple of guests, Earl Jackson and Gary Fuller.

Mr. Wilson noted the credit union started in 1963 with a group of 10 GM employees, who each contributed $5. “Now we have nearly half a billion in assets and 40,000 members,” he said.

Mr. Jackson is the lone surviving charter member of the credit union, and Mr. Fuller is a long-time member of its board of directors, Mr. Wilson said.

Looking back on the 2010 opening of the credit union’s sixth branch in Ogdensburg, Mr. Wilson said, “It was the first time in Seacomm’s history we didn’t have a GM plant in operation. Although that physical symbol is no longer present, our vision hasn’t changed and that’s people over profit.”

Mr. Wilson said the presence of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Fuller was a reminder of that.

“That’s why I thought it would be good to have Earl and Gary there as a reminder of where we were five decades ago.”

The evening, which serves as a fundraiser for the chamber of commerce, also included both a live and silent auction.

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