Chet Greason, email@example.com
It was an evening of solidarity amongst the various facets of society at the 18th Annual Business Excellence Awards, put on by the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce and held at the Arden Park May 1.
Solidarity was the theme of the speech delivered by keynote speaker Ryan Erb, executive director of the Perth-Huron United Way.
"Not-for-profit, for-profit; these are unfortunate labels," he said of those selfsame facets. "Surely there's more to you than your bottom line; and I know there's more to what I do than not having one."
He spoke of preconceptions regarding the non-profit world approaching those in the for-profit realm with their hands out, only to be met by hands up.
Instead, he said, the two sectors should be ideally joining hands in collaboration to make a better society.
As proof this is often the case, Erb noted that his organization collected $1.13 million in 2013, almost $20,000 over its intended goal.
"The Stratford/St. Marys area is an amazing region of incredible philanthropy," he concluded.
A culture that laughs together
Each award was preceded by a short video offering each candidate a chance to briefly explain their organization. By far, the most popular segment was that of Royal Palisade Retirement Community, who retained some of its tenants to explain for themselves what they loved about the residence.
One woman said the wine, another the dancing; one man pointed out the fact that women outnumbered men at Royal Palisade, while another said he couldn't remember what he liked about it before bumping fists with an offscreen compatriot.
The segment had the audience hooting with laughter, and later cheering when it was announced that Royal Palisade had won that night's award in the service/professional category.
"We had a blast with that!" laughed general manager Randy Peltz, who accepted the award.
Clothing store Danna Nicole was given the excellence award for the retail category. Its proprietor, Danna Link, said Stratford is "the perfect place to open a business."
Espresso bar Revel Caffé was named the winner in the hospitality category.
"I feel privileged to be part of a community that supports each other," said Annie Campion of the downtown coffee-lover's destination.
She thanked her staff, the roasters and pickers the business employs in Nicaragua, and her fellow nominees. She also thanked her husband and partner.
"He makes everything I do worthwhile."
TG Minto, a supplier of injection molded interior and exterior automotive parts, is owned by Toyota Gosei Japan. The plant was named this year's manufacturing award winner. Assistant general manager Miriam Bugeja thanked the Chamber for the award, and spoke of the factory's plans to expand operations.
Frank McCully, of RBC, prior to handing out the commercial award, said that Stratford is the most dynamic business community in Ontario because it "continues to embrace the future without jettisoning the past."
Moments later, McCully handed the trophy to Todd Hartung of Belliveau Construction, the third of three generations to helm the general contracting and building company since its inception in 1952.
Robert Rose and his Canadian Grub Restaurant was named this year's winner in the young entrepreneur category. Rose thanked his wife.
"She pays the bills," he laughed.
Rose also joked that he can't imagine how other businesses manage having more than three employees.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to the restaurant," he said.
The Alzheimer Society of Perth County was given the community service award. Executive director Debbie Deichert noted Perth County is the leading giver in the province. She thanked her organization's board, staff, and volunteers, without which the popular Soup's On fundraising event could never happen.
Emcee Eddie Matthews, of CJCS, asked the audience if anyone could think of another event, besides Soup's On, that could generate $30,000 in just four hours.
Matthews then had a moment he described as "strange" when his emcee gig overlapped with his being awarded that night's personal excellence award, but he handedly recovered, thanking fellow nominees Nancy Orr and Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa by saying he was both thrilled and humbled to be named in the same category as them. He added that he's enjoyed every minute he's spent being part of the community in Stratford.
In closing, he told the audience there were three types of learners in the world: "Those who see, those who listen, and those of us who have to pee on the electric fence before we learn not to do it."