BY DONNA RHODES
PLYMOUTH — Members of the Plymouth Regional Chamber of Commerce enjoyed a night filled with networking, inspiration and awards last week as they gathered at the Plymouth State University Welcome Center for their 22nd Annual Meeting.
After a buffet dinner, the meeting got underway with recognition of new board members and a welcome to new businesses who joined the chamber over the past year. There was also a special greeting sent from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office, congratulating the Chamber for their 22 years as an organization and the businesses who are all a part of its success.
“Their contributions to the economy and the local community serves to show how communities benefit when we all work together,” Shaheen wrote.
The Chamber also took a few moments to thank their Executive Director, Scott Stephens, for his tireless work.
“He puts us on the map — north, east, south and west,” said Kelly Beebee of Meredith Village Savings Bank. “He loves his community, and works to better us all as a whole.”
Keynote Speaker for this year’s meeting was recently elected District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney.
Kenney said success today is “all about networking, something a chamber does better than anyone else.” He shared some of his experiences in the North Country as he campaigned for office and spoke about how he hopes to help get a better infrastructure for residents of his district while being mindful of every penny along the way.
Kenney also lauded the chamber for their many initiatives such as the Enterprise Center, their work with Plymouth State University and the welcoming nature of the entire community, one that makes it a great place for businesses to thrive.
“I’m ready, willing and able to pick up the phone and ask people to visit Plymouth. You have the New Hampshire tax advantage and a lot to offer here,” said Kenney.
As part of their final business for the night, Micah McLane of Off Campus Rentals in Plymouth and Steve Rand of Rand’s Hardware accepted the chamber’s Green Award, which annually recognizes a business that demonstrates exceptional commitment to the environment.
“PAREI has been very instrumental in helping us make energy improvements at Rand’s Hardware. Get yourself familiar with them as I did and you’ll be rewarded,” Rand said.
The Chamber Champion Award went to PSU professor and the Director of Professional Sales at the university, Bob Nadeau. Nadeau was selected for his extraordinary support to both the Chamber and the community. During the presentation, the board said Nadeau “set the bar high and took our programming to a new level. Clearly the word spread that we had a new rock star in town.”
Nadeau said he was humbled by the award and has enjoyed his work with the Chamber of Commerce. “You’ve been a gracious community, and on behalf of my family and myself, thank you all,” he said.
Closing the night was the final presentation for the 2014 James C. Hobart Award for an Exemplary Volunteer. It is given out each year to the person or organization that the Chamber feels best exemplifies the spirit and dedication shown by Hobart in nurturing volunteerism through the community and Chamber.
Last year’s recipient, Kevin Lincoln, led the presentation by praising Holly Kerouac of Bridgewater for all she does in her community. Lincoln said her business, Newfound Grocery, is “the anchor of the community’s economy and the heart of the social scene.”
Among her many contributions, Kerouac organizes fundraisers like the annual Turkey Trot, hosts toy and food drives to help families in need over the holidays, and this year helped Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department hold one of their most successful ice fishing derbies ever. Her store serves as an information center for visitors to the area and is a gathering place for residents.
Lincoln also praised her for caring about her employees who in turn care for their community. Besides running the store and organizing her many events, he pointed out that she can also be found helping her husband Craig Hall with his excavation company.
“I cannot think of a more perfect candidate than Holly,” he said.
Kerouac, who took over Newfound Grocery ten years ago, was shocked by being recognized for just doing what she does naturally.
“It’s been a blast though. Thank you all,” she said.
Kerouac joked that she is not one for public speaking and was already worried about presenting the award to next year’s recipient.
Her volunteerism speaks for itself though, and while she said it can be a lot of hard work at times, that’s what she and her community are all about.
“It’s just what we do and why we came here,” said Kerouac.