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Gresham chamber recognizes local business and nonprofit organization volunteers

It seems fitting that in keeping with the season of giving, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce took a moment to acknowledge those who don’t wait for a holiday to make their community a better place.

During the inaugural Business Excellence Awards luncheon Thursday, Dec. 7, the chamber honored volunteers from local businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as an Entrepreneur of the Year. Chamber members were nominated, with winners selected for their exceptional volunteerism.

The event replaces the Golden Note Awards, which recognized individual volunteers with a nonprofit organization. This year’s addition of excellence in business awards expands the chamber’s recognition for volunteerism within the business community, said Chamber CEO Alison Hart.

“We thought it was important to acknowledge the diversity of our membership by including both our business and nonprofit members,” Hart said. “The winners exemplify the caliber of businesses in this region and their volunteers.”

This year’s winners for the Excellence in Business Awards were:

Large Business (companies with more than 50 employees) — Adventist Health.

Tom Russell

Adventist Health’s mission is to administer compassionate care to all patients while providing a regional presence that serves the community’s needs. The hospital has been recognized nationally for its exceptional services in gynecological and spinal surgeries, and regularly provides workshops, seminars and support groups for community members with health issues. Adventist Health’s president and CEO, Tom Russell, has advocated for the needs of patients to state legislatures and various government officials and recently was presented with the 2012 Grass Roots Champion Award for his leadership.

Small Business (companies with fewer than 49 employees) — Riverview Community Bank.

Casey Ryan

Serving the community’s financial needs may be the purpose of a bank, but supporting those who live within its service area is equally important to Riverview Community Bank. Led by Casey Ryan, vice president and branch manager, Riverview’s presence in East County is felt by numerous charities, nonprofit and service organizations. The bank is a corporate sponsor for community events and festivals from Gresham to Corbett, while Riverview’s employees have given numerous volunteer hours to the Teddy Bear Parade, SnowCap Community Charities and local school functions. Riverview also supports local businesses through the Gresham chamber’s Try Local First program and annually, helps steer the Fill-A-Bag campaign to feed the hungry during the holidays.

Golden Note Volunteer of the Year, supported by business — Ed Hoover, Adventist Health.

Ed Hoover

With more than 1,700 volunteer hours to his name, Hoover has been described as “an inspiring coach and mentor to others and an advocate for those in need.” By teaming up with churches, schools and health plans, Hoover has been able to establish alternative access for health screenings and services needed by uninsured or underinsured members of the community. To date, Hoover has reached more than 2,300 people through health education classes, health fairs and other events.

• Golden Note Volunteer of the Year, supported by a nonprofit organization — Merlin Aufdengarten, SnowCap Community Charities.

Merlin Aufdengarten

Aufdengarten’s passion for those who have come upon tough times has led him to devote more than 1,215 volunteer hours to those in need. He has delivered food to hundreds of senior citizens and disabled people and helps acquaint newbies to his style of volunteerism. But his pet project is aiding convicted felons in finding employment. He developed an employment seminar for felons, assisting them with their résumé and interview skills, and now helps employers consider the person’s past work experience to provide him or her with a second chance.

Entrepreneur of the Year — Sue Piazza, Take Shape for Life.

Sue Piazza

For the past five years, Piazza has coached others in their efforts to achieve their optimal health goals. Her independent business has grown to more than $6 million in annual sales, and she now assists 450 other coaches in their Take Shape for Life businesses. But in June 2011, Piazza launched the Fab50 Project to raise $50,000 for five local charities in honor of her 50th birthday in June 2012. With the support of nearly 400 people and 100 businesses, her project raised $78,000 in 12 months, which allowed her to present checks for $13,000 to six different charities at her birthday party.

Judging this year’s awards were Travis Stovall, executive director, East Metro Economic Alliance; Mike McLaran, CEO, Oregon State Chamber of Commerce; and Erik Pozzo, Oregon Entrepreneurs Network and Angel investor.

The chamber’s Try Local First Committee presented Community Newspapers President Mark Garber with its fourth annual Champion Award. The award is in recognition for The Outlook’s efforts to encourage support of local businesses through the newspapers editorial and advertising departments.

For information on next year’s Business Excellence Awards, call the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center at 503-665-1131.

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