Friday, January 15, 2021

Chamber announces business awards; recognizes community successes

By Lorraine Glowczak

Customarily it is an evening of networking between business owners, entrepreneurs and community members that includes an ideally prepared menu and a special guest speaker – all of which is located at a venue within one of the 10 towns the chamber represents. But, because of the required social distancing due to COVID, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s (SLRCC) annual meeting was held this year via Zoom from 8 to 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7. 
Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce 
President Zachary Conley personally delivered
the annual chamber awards to this year's award
winners at their annual meeting on Jan. 7. 
Congratulations to Conley, left, who was elected
chamber president for the third consecutive year
and to Community Service Leader, Richard 
'Richie' Vraux of Better Homes & Gardens
Real Estate - The Premier Team.

The challenges presented throughout 2020 did not prevent the Chamber from celebrating a successful, albeit a very challenging year and to announce the annual leadership award winners.

“I am proud of not only the chamber and board members who spent hours of time helping businesses and community members, I also want to congratulate the community itself for all we’ve done together throughout this crazy year we call 2020,” said SLRCC President, Zachary Conley of Modern Woodmen of America. “We’ve seen businesses help other businesses and we’ve seen grocery stores open earlier to accommodate the medically vulnerable and elderly.”

Before announcing the annual award winners, SLRCC Executive Director Robin Mullins presented her annual report. She shared the work the chamber has done for area business communities to support them throughout 2020. As a result of their efforts and support, there was an increase in chamber memberships this year, from 266 in 2019 to 285 today.

As always, one of the highlights of the annual meeting is the announcements of the Community Service Leader, Frank Koenig Chamber Hall of Fame, and the Business of the Year Awards.

The winners were presented their plaques in person by chamber members and are as follows:

Community Service Leader Award: Congratulation to Richard “Richie” Vraux.

Vraux, is a REALTOR® with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Premier Team and he was
nominated by Deb McPhail of Gorham Savings Bank. He volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Consumer Affairs with the Greater Portland Board of Realtors, Preble Street Soup Kitchen, Windham and Raymond Food Pantries, Cystic Fibrosis of Northern Maine-Rockland, 911 Memorial Scholarship Fund-Gorham and Hands Around the Cove Committee – United Way.

“I am really happy to present this award to Richie, a dear friend,” McPhail said. “Whether it’s for the Chamber of Commerce, Sebago Lakes Rotary, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the Windham Food Pantry, Windham Veterans Center or any other deserving non-profit or person in the community, Richie is silently helping out. He is not the face you see or the voice you hear. He is the quiet one behind the scenes giving back to his community in any way he can. He has a positive attitude and is always willing to help anyone in need.”

Frank Koenig Chamber Hall of Fame Award: Congratulations to Ruth York

Ruth York is a Group Sales and Special Events Director of Point Sebago Resort and she was nominated by Ed Getty of Getty Real Estate Services.

“Ruth has been with the Chamber for 15 years (give or take),” Getty said. “During that time, she has given of herself in both time and resources. She has been very active as a Board Director, committee member and committee chair. Her leadership and forward thinking have helped to take an idea (i.e., Sebago Spirits fundraiser) and turn it into a successful event that the Chamber will hopefully have for many years to come. And, although she is retiring from the SLRCC board, she has committed to staying on as the committee liaison for Point Sebago (and other future events, including Sebago Spirits). Her dedication to the SLRCC is to be commended and recognized.”

Business of the Year: Congratulations to Octagon Cleaning and Restoration

Rob and Kathy York, owners of Octagon Cleaning and Restoration, were nominated by Josh Fifield of Clark Insurance. This is the fourth year this business has been nominated.

“Robert started his business in 2002, then called Maine Cleaning Services. His office was his car and his cell phone, and he alone spent nights cleaning office buildings. In 2008 he took the business in a new direction and changed to Octagon Cleaning and Restoration - a business focused on air quality dealing with mold, water, and fire restoration and carpet cleaning. Robert grew the company every year since its inception providing additional jobs to the community and advancement opportunities for those team members that excel,” Fifield said. “Fast forward to 2020 and the company has grown to 30 employees, 22 vehicles and has added air duct cleaning, asbestos removal, and infection control to the list of services with offices in Maine and New Hampshire. In this year of COVID19, Octagon was utilized by government officials and facilities to combat influenza, coronavirus, and other types of contaminants that require aggressive sanitization in the indoor environment.

“At a time when many businesses have struggled, Octagon has flourished hiring nine new people to keep up with the demand. Another area of innovation for the company has been its use of solar energy,” Fifield said. “Solar panels have been installed in the Windham office (with plans to expand). The Octagon team realizes how blessed they have been, that is why they developed Octagon’s Give Back program. Each quarter they choose a deserving family (families are nominated by the community and chosen based on need) to receive up to ten thousand dollars in restoration services. They have also donated several thousand dollars to animal shelters, soup kitchens, and veteran charities during the pandemic.”

It is true that 2020 may go down in history as one of the most challenging times, but despite it all, it may also be remembered as one of the most transformative years of the 21st century.

It is really cool to see how fast people came together in the face of adversity,” Conley said, referring to the business and community members SLRCC represents. “That’s what we all did in 2020. We came together.” <

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