Chamber of commerce presents annual awards

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GREENFIELD — Jim Peters, who knows something about volunteerism, says his job is easy because so many people give of themselves to make the community a better place.

“It’s contagious to be involved with a community that has so many people really engaged,” Peters said. “There are a lot of volunteers. If it were a struggle to find other people to volunteer, it wouldn’t be near as enjoyable. My part’s the easy part, when there are volunteers willing to step up and pitch in.”

His part — marshaling volunteers for disaster preparedness with the local arm of the Salvation Army as well as a countywide collaborative group — was among those recognized Thursday night at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Walk of Fame celebration. Awards went to business people and nonprofit organizations to recognize their contributions to the community.

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The annual event, which attracted about 200 people at Adaggios Banquet Hall, featured a dinner and silent and live auctions that raised money for the chamber.

Peters received the chamber’s Community Hero award. He first got involved with the local Salvation Army in the early 2000s and is transitioning from its advisory board chair to disaster services representative. Peters also co-chairs the Hancock County Community Organization Active in Disaster and has been with COAD since it was formed six years ago. Both volunteer roles follow a private sector career in disaster preparedness.

When it comes to that line of work, Peters said sometimes it can be challenging getting people to be engaged in something that may or may not happen anytime soon.

One way that he works to improve that is getting the message out in the community by giving presentations to various groups.

Another way to draw engagement is by stepping up to fill community needs, such as organizing warming houses for the homeless during last winter’s cold snaps. That drew a lot of volunteer interest, he continued, adding it resulted in over 30 people getting certified in how to run a shelter. If a disaster rocks the area and shelters are needed, their knowledge will be invaluable, Peters said.

He said events like the Community Walk of Fame Awards Celebration can help invigorate engagement too.

“I appreciate the chamber, and the more that these kinds of things can be done, I think it does encourage people to step up and say, ‘Hey, I can do this or I can do that,’” he said.

Peters said he was shocked and humbled when he heard his name called for the award. He praised his fellow nominees for their contributions to the community. Denise Arland of Families United for Support & Encouragement and Linda Zimmerman of Hancock Regional Hospital and the Hancock Health Foundation were also nominated for Community Hero.

Like Peters, Tania Cruser of Edward Jones also referred to widespread community engagement when she accepted her award for Businesswoman of the Year.

“This community is so caring, so to be recognized in any way among all these amazing people who do what they do every day is just really an honor,” she said.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit award went to Bill Huffman of Photon Automation. The laser equipment supplier CEO said in a video screened at the event that entrepreneurial spirit is all about being flexible and agile and adapting to market conditions and technology.

“The entrepreneurial spirit really isn’t satisfied with the status quo,” Huffman said. “I’d say the entrepreneurial spirit — when it’s within an organization, when it becomes part of the organization, within the DNA of that organization — it empowers individuals to be a part of change and also be very creative.”

Photon Automation pioneered a form of laser welding that has gained traction in advanced manufacturing. Huffman announced in December that his business, which occupies the former American Legion post on Center Street, will expand.

The Chamber handed out several other awards. They went to Brad Arthur of Bradford Builders, Businessman of the Year; Jane Barton of the Daily Reporter and Denna Gundrum of Penny’s Florist, Chamber Champion; Hancock Hope House, Nonprofit of the Year; and Mark Griffin, Chamber Ambassador of the Year.

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Community Walk of Fame Award winners

Businesswoman of the Year: Tania Cruser, Edward Jones

Businessman of the Year: Brad Arthur, Bradford Builders

Entrepreneurial Spirit: Bill Huffman, Photon Automation

Chamber Champion: Jane Barton, Greenfield Daily Reporter; Denna Gundrum, Penny’s Florist Shop Home Decor & More

Community Hero: Jim Peters, Salvation Army and Hancock County Community Organization Active in Disaster

Nonprofit: Hope House

Advancing Work Ethics: Innovative Pharmacy Solutions

Ambassador of the Year: Mark Griffin, Greenfield Banking Co.

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