Chamber to Present Awards for Service, Economic Development

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Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce

The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize the extraordinary talent and dedication of numerous local leaders and organizations during its Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday, October 6.

Steven Cobb will be honored as Person of the Year. The Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County, he was nominated for this award by the organization’s board President, Kimberly Lombard who noted, “Steve’s leadership and genuine approach have garnered him, and MHA, community respect. This respect has allowed services to our neighbors with behavioral health issues to grow; when people trust Steve, they are willing to listen and to try new approaches to care. Steven can talk about stigma, and the hurt it causes, in a way that makes us all want to love one another more. He works with everyone in our county: politicians, police, social workers, jail staff, courts, people who use drugs, landlords, and mothers. He pulls them together to make a real difference. And that’s the magic that makes Steven Cobb Person of the Year.”

With more than nine endorsement letters included in the nomination, Steven Cobb was lauded as collaborative, visionary, generous, honest, and compassionate. The adjectives don’t end there, and they were submitted by board members, community members, and employees. Under his leadership, the Mental Health Association has expanded services by opening an office in Dunkirk and grown the agency’s annual budget by $1 million, with 22 staff members, many of whom are themselves in recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues.

The Chamber’s annual Economic Development Award will be presented to the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College. With a staff of five full time certified business advisors and two part time advisors, the staff at the SBDC has seen a bulge in its request for services in the past four years. While it once served 350 small businesses a year, that number is now close to 800 annually.

The Small Business Development Center should be the first call for anyone interested in launching a small business in Chautauqua County. The Chamber makes countless referrals to the SBDC each year, as the primary place for entrepreneurs to get help creating a business plan, navigating the complexities of business permits, and seeking appropriate financing. The SBDC was instrumental in assisting small businesses through COVID relief programs at the federal and state level. Since March of 2020 over $33.5 million was received by area businesses to help with the economic regrowth of the region, and the team at SBDC helped those small businesses create and retain over 2,400 jobs.

Each of the six community Chambers of Commerce will present a Community Service Award during the Chamber Banquet.

The Dunkirk Community Chamber has selected WDOE Radio’s Dan Palmer for its Community Service Award. Celebrating 49 years in local radio this year, he has broadcast the play by play of more than 2,000 local high school, youth sports, and SUNY Fredonia sporting events. He also hosts a popular morning show on WDOE from 6-9am Monday through Friday, produces radio commercials, and serves as an advertising account representative. His contributions have also played a key role in the success of local nonprofits including the American Red Cross, ALS, Alzheimer’s Walk, Special Olympics, Relay for Life, and others.

The Fredonia Community Chamber chose Ian and Kyle Muldowney as recipients of this year’s Community Service Award. The identical twins run Muldowney Brothers Lawn Care, with a focus on reinvesting in their community and doing good things for its residents. They sponsor many local events including Festivals Fredonia and its community-wide Earth Day cleanup and Memorial Day flower planting. They donated a new sign to the Fredonia Police Department, and also serve on the board of directors for Chautauqua County Rural Ministries.

The Hanover Community Chamber of Commerce is honoring William Merritt, owner of Merritt Estate Winery. The winery property near Forestville has been in the Merritt family since the late 19th century. The Merritt’s turned the estate into a winery in 1976, just after New York State authorized farm wineries. It was one of the first farm wineries formed in Chautauqua County. The Merritt’s, Bill and now his son Jason, have been devoted to their business and the community and enjoy holding special community events at the winery including the annual Strawberry Festival and Septemberfest.

Tom Benson will receive the Community Service Award from the Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce. An influential part of the revitalization of downtown Jamestown, Tom’s work in recent years has been mainly centered around the National Comedy Center. In addition, he is Project Chair for the new Jamestown YMCA, a $26 million facility that will provide a new home for the Jamestown Area YMCA. He has also been a board member for the Chautauqua Blind Association and United Way of Southern Chautauqua County.

The Mayville-Chautauqua Community Chamber will present its Community Service Award to Fairlee Fischer for her nearly 27 years of work opening and managing the Thrift Store in Mayville as part of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church outreach. Proceeds from the shop are distributed to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as well as to the discretionary funds of all village churches and to the Mayville Library, the food pantry, Westfield Memorial Hospital, the fire department, the rescue squad, Hospice, and more. In addition to this vital work for the community, Ms. Fischer volunteers for the Canine Rescue in Westfield and serves on the Planning Board for the Village of Mayville.

Sue Poster, former coordinator for the Westfield-Barcelona Community Chamber of Commerce will receive its Community Service Award this year. Sue has been deeply involved in projects and programs in the Westfield region for many years, going well above and beyond her work for the Chamber. She has served on the board of Lake Shore Center for the Arts and the Westfield Fund. She was involved in the creation of the First Responders Tribute in Westfield and assisted with the Village Beautification committee, Farmers Markets, Cemetery Tours, and Lincoln Festival events.

These are just a few of the numerous dedicated people and organizations who make Chautauqua County an exceptional place to live and work. We look forward to saluting them during the Chamber’s Annual Awards Banquet, which will be held in person at the Williams Center on the campus of the State University of New York at Fredonia October 6. Advance registration is required and available now on our website at www.chamberrsvp.org.