Bristol chamber presents awards at annual dinner

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Bristol Chamber of Commerce hosted the 130th Annual Awards Dinner on Wednesday, June 5, at the Aqua Turf Club.

Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Health, was presented the E. Bartlett Barnes Distinguished Service Award.

“I’m truly humbled to receive an award in the name and honor of a person that represented the values, the leadership, the dedication, and commitment to this City, to its people, to volunteerism, and to what was right and best for all citizens of the state of Connecticut,” said Barwis.

For the first time ever, the chamber presented the Outstanding Youth Community Service award, created this year. For the inaugural presentation, Bristol Central High School InterAct Club was recognized for all that they contribute to the community.

BCHS InterAct formed in 1998, as a junior division of the Rotary Club, explained Ashley Watson, co-president of the club.

“Each year, the InterAct Club completes countless community service projects both at the local, national, and or international level,” said Watson. “BCHS InterAct activities include the powderpuff football game, Mr. BCHS, The Great Pizza Challenge, Charity Cycling Challenge, activities at the Bristol Senior Center, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, Barnes Nature Center, and the Indian Rock Nature Center.”

Keeping with the spirit of volunteerism, the chamber presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Wanita Parent. Susan Sadecki, president of the Main Street Community Foundation said Parent is “exactly who you want as a volunteer,” no matter what project you have in the works.

Parent said she was deeply honored and humbled to be accepting the award, and recounted how the spirit of volunteerism was fostered at a young age by her parents – her father was a volunteer ambulance driver in Thomaston, where her mother served as a volunteer as well. Parent encouraged all gathered to volunteer throughout their communities, as “the difference you can make is limitless.”

Sadecki accepted the Special Recognition Award on behalf of the MSCF. Cindy Bombard, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, described the Bristol community as fortunate to have the MSCF, which has distributed donations totaling more than $1.7 million in grants since it was founded in 1995.

Bristol’s director of economic development, Justin Malley, presented the Outstanding Community Service Award to the Bristol Housing Authority. Malley described the BHA as a place where diversity and opportunity can be fostered.

Mitzy Rowe, CEO of the BHA, said the mission of the housing authority is to serve, be it through helping a family buy their first home or first car, encouraging students to attend school, and for all other firsts a family may experience while living and working in Bristol.

Stephen Lewis, president and CEO of Thomaston Savings Bank accepted the Distinguished Business of the Year award, on behalf of the bank. Lewis took a moment to recount the philanthropic efforts of Thomaston Savings Bank employees, including over $600,000 worth of donations, and over 5,000 volunteer hours clocked over the past year.

John Smith presented the Spirit of Bristol Award to the Quota Club. Smith said that the Quota Club “embodies all the characteristics of the All Heart experience of Bristol.”

The Bristol Quota Club was established in 1941, and works with those who are less fortunate in the greater Bristol area. Quota Club efforts have helped disadvantaged women and children by providing scholarships and volunteer efforts to various groups – such as the Zion Lutheran soup kitchen, Bristol Youth Services, the Bristol Family Resource Center, Prudence Crandall Center for Women, and the St. Vincent de Paul shelter.