Chamber of Commerce marks decade of awards
By Jenn Watt
Fuel for Warmth and the woman who founded it received a hearty community thank-you on Saturday night when both the charity and Joanne Barnes took home Not-for-Profit of the Year and Highlander of the Year at the Business and Community Achievement Awards.
The evening celebrated excellence in the public and private sector, calling attention to hard work, perseverance and charity within the Highlands community. This is the 10th year that the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce has hosted the event – and the 10th year for MC Mike Jaycock.
“Food insecurity looms for many residents of Haliburton County. The consequences often go beyond hunger affecting all aspects of life, family, education and health,” said Jaycock, reading the anonymous judge’s words in selecting Barnes for the award. Barnes is manager and founder of Fuel for Warmth.
She is also the manager of the Minden Community Food Centre, which includes community kitchen and food bank.
“She cares deeply about the clients of the services and treats everyone with dignity and respect,” the judge’s note read.
Barnes was humble in accepting the award, saying it was all in a day’s work.
“What I do is just everyday for me. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged and even without the acknowledgement I would still be out there doing it. I enjoy helping people. It’s nice to see them come into the office very downtrodden, but when they leave the office they have less weight on their shoulders. My mandate is to feed people and keep them warm,” she said.
When it came to the Not-for-Profit of the Year, it was noted that Fuel for Warmth had served some 400 families since it was established in 2009. The program assists with whatever type of heating the home uses, from oil to wood pellets. In the last two years, the Christmas Shindig fundraiser has raised more than $23,000 for the organization.
The Business Achievement Award was given this year to Moose FM.
“In a time when competition for commercial radio is fierce, in 2015, 93.5 Moose FM was Vista Radio’s No. 1 station out of 64 with regard to listener engagement,” the judge’s comments read, going on to note the station’s ongoing commitment to raising money for the food banks and health care via radiothons. The award was accepted by Moose FM host Rick Lowes.
Customer First Business Award was given to Big Hawk Lake Marina.
The judges noted that the marina was the heart of the community, providing friendly service and going out of their way to help patrons. For example, they keep their own boats in the water long after most cottagers have put theirs away and lend them out for free to those who need to make unscheduled trips back to their properties before the ice comes in. They also installed a defibrillator at the marina to improve safety for the community. Owners Ron and Kathy Socha accepted the award.
The Customer First Employee Award was one of the surprises of the evening, with the judges deciding in its inaugural year each of those employees nominated for giving excellent service would share the award. The winners were Cody Cox (Todd’s Independent), Dave Adams (Sir Sam’s Inn), Gail Crowe (Remedy Rx), Heather Kennedy (The Highlander), Ian Anderson (Chaulk Woodworking), Jason Cochrane (Dollo’s Foodland), Paul Walker (Walker’s Home Hardware), Ryan Urquhart (Halco Electronics), Sandra Stevens (Pinestone Resort), Stevi Young (Highland Glass and Windows), Terri Johnson (HHHS long-term care), Vicki Fraser (Haliburton County Public Library).
Entrepreneur of the Year Award was given to Jim Love of Digital Reno. Being an entrepreneur is about taking risks, the judge wrote. “Nothing is more fraught with risk than picking up stakes and moving to rural Ontario to launch a new idea,” which is what Love did, bringing his tech company to Haliburton with intentions of creating sustainable high-tech jobs.
The Innovation and Creativity Award was given to Into the Blue Bakery, which can be found around the county making wood-fired pizza. Recently, owner Janine Papadopoulos expanded with a bread and bagel club, to further the business through the winter season.
“Without a storefront location, Janine was able to negotiate the use of two local kitchens: Baked and Battered … and Abbey Gardens,” the judge’s comments read. Seven local people are employed by the company in the summer and Papadopoulos gives back by doing charitable work and donating five per cent of profits to local food initiatives.
“You have embraced me in my short five years here in Haliburton and you’ve allowed me to do something I’m passionate about: baking,” Papadopoulos said.
The New Business Award went to ACM Designs, a company owned by Andria Cowan Molyneaux, providing residential interior decorating specializing in aging in place. The judge noted that Cowan Molyneaux did substantial volunteering, has a specialty in providing design solutions to make homes more accessible and has been writing a column in County Life newspaper, sharing her knowledge with readers.
“I was very lucky to retire from 22 years of policing in Toronto and I thought, what would be the most natural thing to do? Go into interior design,” laughed Cowan Molyneaux. “So here I am.”
“I have to say as a woman as well taking risks, finding money, finding friends, understanding business relationships and committing to something that I really am passionate about and sharing that with my community is very, very important to me,” she said, thanking those who had helped her along the way.
The Skilled Trades and Industry Award was given to Timestone Marble and Granite, which makes kitchen and vanity countertops.
“They go out of their way to help customers realize their visions for countertops and vanities, sourcing material from as far away as Peru,” the judge’s comments read, noting customers had commented on friendliness and willingness to go above and beyond.
The Tourism and Hospitality Award was given to Heather Lodge on Twelve Mile Lake near Minden. Maria Micallef and James Jennings bought the adult-only resort in 2013 and have made substantial changes since then.
“Offering exceptional made-to-order gourmet meals each handcrafted by chef James and a warm and welcoming intimate atmosphere, Heather Lodge creates an overall spectacular experience for couples of all ages,” the judge’s comments read. When they purchased Heather Lodge, Micallef and Jennings ran the resort by themselves. Today they have 22 employees.
The Warden’s Award was one of the more emotional moments of the evening. Warden Carol Moffatt gave her speech by video as she was unable to attend the ceremony. This year she selected the firefighters of Haliburton County to be acknowledged for their commitment to creating a safe community.
Moffatt spoke from experience; she’s been married to a firefighter for the last 25 years.
“They run in when everyone else is running out. They see people at their worst and they see some pretty terrible things, but they keep going back,” she said.
Haliburton County has 150 volunteer firefighters serving out of 10 halls in four municipalities.
“They deal with the smashed, the bleeding, the broken and the dead and for that they take home a couple thousand dollars pay,” Moffatt said.
Fire chiefs from the four municipalities were present to accept the award.