By Kelley Lane for Seward City News –
The Chamber of Commerce held their annual Community Awards dinner at the Seward Resort this past clear, frosty Friday night. The evening included a full meal, expertly catered by The Breeze Inn, with Shelly Shank on site, along with her skilled staff. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cindy Clock spoke of her appreciation for having “the best job in town,” and expressed her gratitude to the Chamber’s Board of Directors. The atmosphere was cheery and cozy, a small town coming together to honor its own and celebrate the community focus that Sewardites share. The buzz of conversation paid testament to the fact that people in Seward find it easy to talk to one another, and they delight in opportunities to be together, perhaps especially in the winter.
The Chamber received award nominations in five categories: person of the year, business person of the year, business site improvement, business of the year and community service. Nominations are made to the Chamber of Commerce through the winter and recipients chosen prior to the Awards Dinner. Once award recipients are chosen, the person who nominated them is asked to prepare comments to present the award to the winner. This unique presentation method provides a more intimate atmosphere and allow for greater involvement and diversity of faces at the podium.
The first presenter was Dana Paperman, glowing with pride and familiarity as she presented the “Person of the Year” award to her husband, David Paperman. Dana spoke of David’s long standing involvement in community and civic life in each place that he’s lived, starting with New Jersey, including Hoonah, Alaska and continuing on with the many ways that he has volunteered here in Seward. Many Sewardites have known Dave the last few years as one of the core organizers of the Skip and Marie Fletcher Winter Movie Series, which screens two movies each Friday night at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rae Building. Paperman graciously received his award, and afterwards explained that part of the motivation for his civic involvement came from his parents, who “were always active in temple and social networks and I admired that. As I grew up, I learned about civics and community and the idea that together we can do that which we cannot do alone.”
The “Business Person of the Year” award is given to a Seward Chamber, CVB member who has “stimulated economic development in Seward through business activity and exemplifies professional excellence in business and / or their profession.” The award was presented by nominator Ron Wille, who bestowed the plaque upon Kerry Romig, of Frontier Trading Post. Romig is the owner of a Seward’s only year round health food store, which is located on Fourth Avenue in downtown Seward. Romig offers healthy food options, cooking and healthy living classes and generously donates the use of her store for the operating of the weekly “Salad Club, a produce buying club that brings organic produce to Seward year-round.”
Christy Terry gave the award for “Business of the Year” to Samson Tug & Barge, a local Seward year round business that employs five full time, benefitted positions. Terry spoke of her high regard for this business, that has its base in Sitka, Alaska and operates out of Port of Seward, Alaska Railroad Terminal Reserve.
The “Business Site Improvement” award is given to a Seward Chamber, CVB member who has enhanced or remodeled their place of business.” Kris Harris, Chamber Membership Agent, did the honors of present this year’s award to Crista Tritz, who remodeled and restored the home located at the corner of Fourth and Madison Streets into a new, larger location for the Retreat Day Spa and Salon. The home had been falling into disrepair, but thanks to Tritz’s efforts, it is now a thriving business offering salon and spa services, and according to Harris, a “place to be pampered.”
The final award was announced by Suzi Towsley and Brenda Ballou and is awarded for outstanding community service. The award was given to the American Legion Auxiliary, Seward Unit 5, and accepted by a team of four Legion regular women volunteers. The list of the activities and events that the American Legion sponsors was long and varied, including providing winter holiday meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, care packages sent to active duty soldiers and meals on wheels. The Seward Legion will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2019, and offers monthly Sunday morning breakfasts and “bingo, every Monday night,” said Suzi Towsley.
The evening rounded down with slices of carrot cake baked by Susan Willetts of For Goodness Cakes, cut from the beautiful sheet cake with an Alaska Railroad Engine and the Seward logo “Alaska Starts Here.” Sewardites lingered to talk more and congratulate the award recipients. The feeling of town and civic pride brightened the cold night air.