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Chamber recognizes excellence in business

Johnston's work with youths earns her Honoree of the Year Award


Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Karen Johnston thanks attendees at the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Centers third annual Business Excellence Awards Luncheon after being named the chambers Honoree of the Year. Johnston, who is co-owner of All About Automotive in Gresham, was recognized for her service to local youths.

In the spirit of the season of giving, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center took time Thursday, Dec. 4, to acknowledge those who don’t wait for a holiday to make the community a better place for all of us.

The chamber hosted its third annual Business Excellence Awards Luncheon, honoring businesses that contribute to and support the area’s economic growth and prosperity, as well as individual volunteers and nonprofit organizations. Chamber members were nominated among five categories, with winners chosen for their exceptional display of community mindedness.

“It’s important to recognize the things that are getting done, by those businesses and individuals who strive to make a difference in our community,” said Bob McDonald, acting CEO for the chamber.

This year’s winners for Business Excellence Awards were:

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Adam Reid, owner of Origins Coffee, Tea and Desserts, was presented with the Small Business of the Year Award, for his willingness to support other local businesses through commerce, mentorship and resource connections. Small Business of the Year (companies with less than 49 employees) — Origin’s Coffee, Tea & Desserts

Origin’s owner Adam Reid has a passion for his community and empowering startup businesses with the tools they need to succeed. Through his coffee shop, Reid provides a gathering spot for entrepreneurs and business owners to share their knowledge and experience through mentorship, problem solving and tangible resource connections. Origin’s also advocates the chamber’s Try Local First program by utilizing local vendors for many of its products and services and is a strong supporter of multiple local nonprofit organizations.

Other Small Business of the Year nominees: Accent on Attitude, Brainjar Media, Golden Montessori School, Jared Koga, CPA, Nancy’s Floral, Riegelmann’s Appliance and Skyland Pub.

Large Business of the Year (companies with more than 50 employees) — Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center

For more than four decades, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center has upheld a commitment to effectively serve the individuals who live and work in the community. They have maintained that commitment though investments, partnerships and grants with a variety of civic, community, education and business organizations. The facility continues to evolve to best meet the changing and growing needs of the community by making performance excellence their key strategic priority. Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Gretchen Nichols, chief administrative officer for Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, acknowledges guests at the chamber luncheon after the hospital was chosen for the Large Business of the Year award.

Other Large Business of the Year nominee: Weston Buick GMC.

Nonprofit of the Year Birch Community Services

In order to change the realities of poverty and hunger, Birch Community Services believes in accountability and the power of human dignity. The organization has empowered more than 7,000 local families to find their financial footing since 1992 and has helped redistribute 7.1 million pounds of food clothing and household items to families in need. Birch Community Services also is an active partner with local government agencies with job training, product redistribution and environmental sustainability.

Other Nonprofit of the Year nominees: Gresham Breakfast Lions Club, My Father’s House and Soroptimist International of Gresham.

Honoree of the Year Karen Johnston

Local business owner Johnston is a tireless volunteer with countless hours devoted to programs and events that support youths in the community. She also serves on numerous boards and committees that help strengthen and further develop local organizations. Johnston is most proud of the success of the annual Back to School drive she coordinates, which raises funds and school supplies for local needy students. Well respected by her peers and known for her positive attitude and ever-present smile, Johnston is the go-to person for getting things done.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Volunteer of the Year Connie Fort was honored for her numerous hours of time dedicated to the most vulnerable community members, including the homeless. Volunteer of the Year Connie Fort

Fort is the kind of volunteer who believes that impacting the community begins with relationships. She is liberal with her time to agencies, churches and organizations that work with the homeless and Gresham’s vulnerable neighbors. Fort launched a pilot project that provides medical, foot, nail and hair care, as well as resource navigation to those in need during the winter months. Today, what are now mini-clinics serve nearly 250 medically needy citizens each year.

Other Volunteer of the Year nominees: Christy Brewster, Jennifer Caputo, Karen Johnston, Lori Stegmann, Marilyn Shephard, Paul Lother, Sue O’Halloran, Warner Allen and Wendell Cook.

Try Local First Gresham High School Gopher Spirit Club

Founded eight years ago, the spirit club is made up of school parents who have spent tireless hours fundraising to purchase sports equipment and supplement the costs of student activities. The group has contributed more than a quarter million dollars since its formation — its pride is the purchase of a new sound system for the football stadium at Gresham High School. The spirit club also hired the services of a local contractor to install the system earlier this school year.

And in a surprise twist, Chamber President Matt Miller and McDonald presented Try Local First Committee Chairwoman Bess Wills with an award of her own.

“She is the mother of Try Local First, and we are indebted to her for all the work she does to encourage the community’s support of our local businesses,” Miller said.

Judges for this year’s Business Excellence Awards were Kedma Ough, Mt. Hood Community College Small Business Development Center; Tim Casey, Bend Chamber of Commerce; Claire Lider, U.S. World Class Taekwondo and 2013 Small Business of the Year; Jean DeMaster, Human Solutions and 2013 Nonprofit of the Year; and Yvonne Mills, the Boeing Company and 2013 Volunteer of the Year.

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

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