BROOKVILLE — “A Day at the Derby” was the theme for this year’s Brookville Area Chamber’s Annual Awards Dinner. Horse races and other fundraisers were part of the night’s entertainment.

While many attended to support the Chamber and to have a good time, the impact of the coronavirus could still be seen in a few empty tables as some businesses opted not to send employees. One of the award winners, who has family members who are at risk with the coronavirus, also made the tough decision to skip this year’s event.

Those who did attend, including officials from the borough as well as from Jefferson County, were dressed for the theme. Many of the ladies attending wore dresses and large brimmed hats while a gent or two sported top hats.

Brenda Stelika, Chamber board president, noted the hard work that Jolene Hartle, Chamber executive director, has been doing. Hartle was commended on getting 16 new members for the Chamber already this year.

The Chamber Board of Directors is also busy this year.

“We have a lot of things going on this year; we are trying to do a lot,” Stelika said. “There will be a lot of Eggs & Issues events. We are working on a strategic plan that is a one to three to five year plan. We as a Chamber can focus on the important needs of you, as a member so that we can help your business grow, but also the community.

“We’re looking at internal operations. And I think any business should do that. You have to look at how you can improve efficiencies. We’re collecting data on our members. In the past, we’re kind of looking back, there’s some things that we need to better understand about you and your business. So we are working to clean up some things and to collect better data,” she said.

“We have an executive committee that, as I mentioned, is working on a strategic plan...we are working on a plan that will just make things better, like our website – more information to share with you, more effects and things like that – working with partners, you as a member, some of the other businesses in town or groups. We want to partner. I think that’s a very important thing as we work together that we partner. The partnership is the Chamber to the business and the business back to the Chamber, but (also) business to business. One of those things that you should do as a business is to network and work with one another, because we are a team here and we can really make things happen in Brookville and the surrounding areas.”

Stelika noted that the Chamber board wants to have a Chamber Open House and wants to get information on all its upcoming events out to its members. She urged those attending the dinner to read the weekly email blasts that Hartle sends out for the dates for events going on. She then introduced those board members in attendance, adding that there is an open position on the board currently. Any member interested in the position was asked to get in touch with the Chamber. There are four seats on the board that open annually as well. Stelika noted that if someone wasn’t sure if they wanted to be on the board at this time, they could think about it and “maybe in a few months” they might be ready to become a board member.

The main event of the evening was the presentation of the annual awards – President’s Cup, Small Business of the Year, Large Business of the Year and the Walter Dick Award. Chamber board member Steve Kornbau presented each of the awards, giving a description of what the awards stand for as well as some information on the winners.

The President’s CupThis is, Kornbau said, “an award for a nonprofit 501c3 and part of this award is to demonstrate substantial and meaningful contributions to the community.” The award this year went to the Coolspring Power Museum, located about 10 miles south of Brookville on Route 36 in Coolspring. “The museum houses and maintains a collection of early internal combustion engines once used to provide power to industry and the oil fields and farms before electricity became prevalent. Engines featured were built between 1876 and around 1920, a period of rapid growth in industrial development. Several hundred engines of all sizes and configurations are on display from the very small up to a 600 horsepower snow engine weighing 140 tons, complete with a 20 foot diameter flywheel. Many of the engines were found in and around western Pennsylvania, including a large collection of engines built in the state. Engines on display exhibit a wide range of design features, construction techniques and mechanics that illustrate the early history of internal combustion machinery. Coolspring Power Museum has focused on restoring and displaying art history here in Western Pennsylvania for decades.

Accepting the award was museum board member Chris Austin. “We’ve been growing the past 10 or 15 years by leaps and bounds. Some of that has to do with the internet and Facebook but a lot of it has to do with local support from the Chamber of Commerce. We thank you very much for this award. We know about all your help. Your name comes up in the board meetings quite often. You’ve been great supporters to us and you’re helping us grow too and hopefully we can do the same for Brookville.”

Small Business of the YearJust one of the criteria of this award, Kornbau said, is that the “nominee must demonstrate a positive impact on the local market, either by providing a unique and requested product service, as well as being involved in the business community through an association with professional business and a trade association.

Kornbau noted that the business was located five miles outside of Brookville and has “five employees who all live in the Brookville community.

“The business has been expanded, and has plans to further expand for services in the future,” he said, noting that it does work in Jefferson and surrounding counties and provides “service to many local industries, commercial and residential customers, as well as the Borough of Brookville.”

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This business was voted “favorite electrician in Jefferson County for two years in a row” and provides “service or support to local businesses by purchasing...materials and service here in the community whenever possible.” It also supports local organizations, Kornbau said, naming several including the Brookville community theater, the Brookville Laurel Festival, Light Up Brookville, the Pine Creek Volunteer Fire Company, Summerville Volunteer Fire Company, Summerville Library, Summerville Veterans Memorial, and Western PA Cares for Kids.

The Small Business Award for 2020 was awarded to Caylor Greeley Electric. Brad Greeley accepted the award. “Thank you. I enjoy working in Brookville and see a whole lot of familiar faces here. Everybody is really good to us and I appreciate it,” he said.

Large Business of the Year

This award is similar to the Small Business of the Year award except the business is bigger.

“As the fifth largest employer in Jefferson County in 2019, Miller Fabrication Solutions provides approximately 400 jobs for area residents. Company representatives serve on the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission to provide job training, and currently serve with the workforce solution of Northern Central Pennsylvania. In 2019, the fabricator magazine named Miller Fabrication Solution to its Fab 40 list for the second consecutive year. Miller was 11th on the list, which recognizes the nation’s 40 most successful metal fabrication operators based on reported revenues. Miller’s regularly participates in What’s So Cool About Manufacturing is statewide video contest that excites students to explore manufacturing careers by producing profiles of companies in Pennsylvania. In 1963, the Millers founders, the grandparents of current CEO Eric Miller, started the company with a commitment to giving back. They identified pillars of the community, including education and an excellent library, that would receive their charitable focus. That commitment to giving back continues today more than 50 years later. Miller has also sponsored the annual Laurel Festival, 5Ks and other community events; the company hosts an annual blood drive in conjunction with the Red Cross; Miller also encourages and provides employees with time to pursue involvement in the community.”

Accepting the award was David K. Miller, chairman of the board at Miller Fabrication Solutions. “It was 60 years ago approximately, that my dad started the company to provide for the family. He wanted to give my mother, my sisters and I a stable home. The business grew and we got some employees. We ended up having a series of points that matter to us. Seeing that our employees did better in life, we looked for the good in all those people. We also tried to see that our customers, our vendors and our community benefited. It’s been quite a ride, so I want to thank the Chamber for this tremendous honor and I think it’s a great thing. Thank you.”

Walter Dick Award

This award is unique because it is the “secretive” award, Kornbau said. “It’s an award towards a person, as opposed to a business or an organization. Someone who has demonstrated a servant leadership and giving to the Brookville community for a prolonged series of time – for decades, a philanthropist.

Kornbau described the winner as a “person who has grown up in a family that has been present in Brookville for generations. Seeing parents that have modeled a generous spirit, and this person is carrying on the legacy to the present.”

He then read a description from the winner’s spouse. “This person went through the Brookville school system and the school system must have had good guidance counselors because when they applied for college they knew they wanted to become a nurse, nursing was absolutely the best vocation for my spouse. If you have ever been in the hospital and had a good nurse really helping and caring for you, you can understand how much better they make your time in the hospital. They were one of those special nurses while working in the hospital; their gift of compassion, caring can be felt personally, and by the willingness to help through serving on various beyond hospital projects and organizations.”

He then noted some of the many projects the unnamed awardee had been involved with in the community. These included serving on the YMCA board of directors, chairperson for fundraising of the Town Square, attends Grace Lutheran Church, where she is currently on the church council; she’s taught Sunday school for more than 15 years; has volunteered as a nurse for the Community Vacation Bible School; on the preschool committee for Grace Lutheran Church; involved in multiple community boards, including the United Fund and the Brookville Civic Club. She was also asked to serve on the Jefferson County Leadership Council, which U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson is forming to represent local industry, health care, education, retail banking and local government.

Her children wrote that she “always spoke about how it’s a community (Brookville) that cares for each other, and has been home to many generations. Our mother was so proud of growing up in Brookville and always knew that she would raise her family here. Growing up, we can remember our mom always cooking at large meal, even two some nights and leaving it out in the kitchen. Our friends and neighbors always knew they were welcome to stop in and grab a plate if they were hungry, which they often did and appreciated it... She is passionate about helping others, and makes it a top priority.”

Kornbau said, “People like Barb make a difference in our community” as he announced Barb Conti as the 2020 Walter Dick Award winner.

“So the unusual thing is that Barb could not be here tonight; she’s supposed to be here but basically because within her family there’s several individuals that are high risk and we all know that the community that we’re in, and the times that we’re going through so she was not able to be here but I did talk with her earlier today and she was stunned. We had to tell her at some point and that’s just kind of the way that things went, but she did, give me a couple of words that she wanted me to read to all of you. And this is from Barb she said, “Receiving the Walter Dick Award is the biggest honor of my life. I’m very humbled to receive this award. I know there are many deserving people in our community. I know so many people in Brookville, who constantly care for each other. I’m proud and blessed to live in Brookville. Thank you again and may God continue to bless our town.

“So, it’s kind of an unusual night. She’s not here but we’re going to figure out how to honor her in the future. It just wasn’t exactly the way we wanted it to turn out but we celebrate what Barb Conti has done for many years and many of you know her,” Kornbau said.

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