WALLINGFORD — While the main speaker was unable to make it, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce still honored its award winners Wednesday night at its annual dinner.
Rand Pecknold, the coach of the NCAA Division I National Champion Quinnipiac University hockey team, was scheduled to give the keynote speech and accept the Business Leadership Award at the event at The Farms Country Club but had a family emergency, chamber Executive Director Ray Andrewsen said. That didn't stop the chamber from celebrating Pecknold, the team and its national championship.
It also honored its own with its annual awards. The Nonprofit of the Year award went to the Spanish Community of Wallingford, which provides a variety of services to the Hispanic community.
"It's a true honor to be recognized," said SCOW Executive Director Adriana Rodriguez. "We have been very busy," she said, especially during the pandemic, when the organization gave out 3,000 COVID-19 test kits and sanitizer, and held over 100 vaccination clinics. She credited her staff with the organization's success. "Together we have make a difference," she said.
The Diversity and Inclusion Award went to Area Cooperative Educational Services.
"With a diverse workforce, we find we are able to collectively address diversity of opinions by eliciting views, perspectives and opinions that are different from our own so collectively we can be innovative and cover all kinds of angles of issues that no one of us alone would be able to consider," said Thomas Danehy, ACES executive director. "So hats off to our folks at ACES who lead the way in helping us, and me, to consider, think about and address diverse opinions so at the end of the day we make the best choices for the diverse communities for whom we work."
The Record-Journal's Business Development Manager Dundee Benson received the Community Impact Award for her work with a variety of organizations in the community including the steering committee for Wallingford's 350th Jubilee, chairing the chamber's Marketing Committee, and promoting events such as Celebrate Wallingford, the Wallingford Stroll, the Fishbein Road Race and the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust's Magical Elf House.
"Her deep commitment is apparent in her many roles and committees she has served on or currently serves on," said Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals Corporate Director Thomas Curtain while introducing Benson.
"I am so proud to be among all these other awardees tonight," Benson said.
Suzio York Hill Companies, which supplies crushed stone for road building and other construction projects, received the chamber's Heritage Award, and Shining Star Awards went to Nutmeg Kettlecorn, Kamco Supply and C. Cowles & Co.
It was Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson Jr.'s last Chamber annual meeting as mayor. He announced earlier this year he wouldn't be seeking re-election after 40 years in office.
"You make a difference," he told the crowd. "Wallingford is the place it is because of you people, your employees, the commitments you have, the services you provide. You are part of the heart and soul of the community. Without you, it couldn't function the way it does."
North Haven First Selectman Mike Freda said he will miss Dickinson. "We have worked so closely through the years together on so many different projects,” he said.
He also acknowledged the effect COVID-19 had on the community over the past several years, and the role businesses and nonprofit organizations have had in recovering from that.
"In this room tonight we have businesses, we have school systems, we have a university, and many times in the past three years Mayor Dickinson and I have talked about how difficult it's getting in local government," Freda said. "Particularly coming out of the pandemic. What we see is a high level of anxiety in our communities. We see people on edge. We see a certain fragmentation of our society because of those two years or so when people weren't able to do the things that they normally would do."
As local officials, they deal with the resulting mental health issues as best they can, Freda said.
"Where you come into play for us in local government, you continue to help us tighten up some of the frayed threads of the fabric of our community, and the fabric has become somewhat frayed because of the pandemic and the things we've gone through,” he said. “By helping us reweave those tattered threads, you're really helping us in local government, in addition to all the things you have helped us with down through the years with your businesses being part of our community."