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The spirit of giving isn’t exclusive to the holidays

The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s Pinnacle Awards Ceremony looked a bit different in 2020 but the significance of the event has not diminished. The contributions of this year’s honorees during a year of unprecedented challenges speaks to their professional excellence and dedication to the community.

On Nov. 19, the Chamber livestreamed the event sponsored by Eversource Energy Services, Sanel NAPA and Business NH Magazine, with the assistance of ConcordTV, bringing positive stories and energy to all who wanted to attend and recognize three businesses, one business leader, a young professional and a volunteer who have all served our community in outstanding ways.

Small Business of the Year

The Small Business of the Year Pinnacle Award recipient is The Works Café. Established downtown in 1994, The Works Café invites conversation and connection. It’s not uncommon to stumble upon community members discussing local politics or to spot presidential candidates chatting up customers.

This civic-minded business supports countless nonprofits, causes and events in our community, providing food for New Hampshire Public Radio’s fundraising campaign volunteers, donating trays of bagels to each polling location in Concord for every election and gift cards to local fundraisers. The Works Café encourages its employees to get involved in civic engagement, providing lunch on election days for staff who vote. The Works Café further supports the community by paying staff to volunteer for a day at a nonprofit of their choice.

Serving locally sourced food to support local farmers is a foundation of The Works Café’s mission and proudly continues today. From NH eggs to seasonal New England veggies, the menu is local – even the brownies!

This small business also took the initiative to reduce its environmental impact and worked with the city to set up a recycling specific dumpster behind the building. Coffee and veggie scraps get composted and used on a farm in Contoocook. Leftover bagels are donated to soup kitchens. A founding member of Green Concord, The Works Café transitioned to paper straws, “bioplastic” plates, cups and cutlery that decompose, and strives to continue reducing its environmental footprint every day.

The Works Café’s outstanding effort to keep its doors open during COVID-19 and support its staff is a shining example of how our members have made us very proud during this pandemic. It immediately transitioned into take-out services and rapidly set up an efficient online ordering system – there’s even a Works Café smartphone app! In addition to masks and gloves, The Works Café also implemented plexiglass barriers to further protect customers and staff. Their cheerful innovation and flexibility serve as a reminder that things will get back to normal. We’re honored to recognize The Works Café as Small Business of the Year.

Business of the Year

Another stand out Greater Concord Chamber member during this difficult time is The Common Man Concord, our Business of the Year Pinnacle Award recipient. As part of The Common Man Family, the Concord restaurant abides by the values guiding this independently owned hospitality business: to provide stellar customer service, honest food, and do good in the community.

The Common Man Family began supporting community efforts in New Hampshire as soon as it began – 50 years ago this month! Encouraged to make a difference, managers organize fundraisers, staff get paid for volunteer work and a “Common Effort” fund continuously supports those in need – most notably providing $108K in aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

This year, despite being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Common Man continued to put their community first. To support furloughed staff, the organization provided family-size meals to affected households daily, extended health benefits, and distributed grocery and baby supply funds through an Employee Emergency Assistance Fund. The Common Man also partnered with the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association to provide grants for fellow hospitality workers across the state.

During the shut down, minimal Common Man staff and a dedicated management team worked tirelessly to provide exceptional service. They surprised take-out patrons with bundles of their famous crackers, cheese and dip, and snuck hand-packed pints of Common Man ice cream into bags. They created family-sized portions of more popular entrée items as take and bake meals for families to prepare at home and launched a Feed It Forward initiative, which invited take-out guests to make a donation that would directly fund meals for those in need. For every $10 collected, they prepared and delivered two home-cooked meals in coordination with The Friendly Kitchen and other local agencies.

The Common Man’s work did not end there. It provided health care workers and first responders with a 50% meal discount and donated meals to local hospitals to feed doctors and nurses who were working around the clock. To recognize teachers and families adapting to remote learning, The Common Man offered a Teacher Appreciation Week discount, Kids Eat Free week, and collaborated with the TIGER program at Plymouth State University to create educational videos for parents to use at home. It worked with New Hampshire artist Stacey Lucas to create colorful signs with uplifting messages and posted them near its restaurants. The Common Man also fired up their antique trolley for use as a “Mask Mobile” in partnership with New Hampshire Rotary Clubs to deliver reusable and washable cloth masks free to Granite State residents.

The Common Man is not only an outstanding community supporter in the best of times, it also took every challenge this pandemic presented as an opportunity to be innovative, creative and work hard to support staff, guests and the community. We’re proud to recognize The Common Man Concord as our 2020 Business of the Year.

Nonprofit Business of the Year

The Chamber’s Nonprofit Business of the Year Pinnacle Award recipient is Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association. Incorporated in 1899 and serving Greater Concord for over 120 years, CRVNA provides health and wellness services through all stages of life. Today, CRVNA offers home care, hospice care, palliative care, personal home services, pediatric and maternal child health services and wellness programming. CRVNA is the state’s largest home health and hospice care provider, with more than 400 clinicians and staff serving an average of more than 8,000 NH residents every year. Exemplary service to the community is guided by the nonprofit’s values: respect, compassion, competence, culture of excellence, leadership and stewardship, which shows through their work with patients, families, community members, volunteers, fellow staff members and supporters.

In 1994, CRVNA established New Hampshire’s first hospice house on Pleasant Street in Concord. This initiative provides terminally ill patients and their loved ones with skilled, 24-hour care in a comfortable place to call home. Run for 25 years and raising over $1 million, CRVNA’s hospice services supports 900 patients each year in 44 communities. This exceptional hospice care has helped Concord area families navigate end-of-life with compassion and dignity for decades. Hospice patients not only receive nursing care, each is given individualized treatment that may include emotional support, companionship and spiritual care. Support is also given to the patients’ caregivers who are often families and loved ones.

CRVNA also established the annual Hospice Lights of Life program for the community to remember loved ones and friends while illuminating the vital role of hospice care in New Hampshire. It’s hard to miss the 1,440 Lights of Life candles displayed in over 160 businesses throughout Greater Concord every December.

The important role of health care workers in our community became even more evident this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CRVNA adapted their home care to follow state and CDC guidelines, ensuring the safety of patients, staff and the broader community. The organization also saw a need to shift their programming and began offering resources for families facing limited or no in-person contact with loved ones. CRVNA quickly launched no-cost, online programming that addresses topics like coping with isolation, life after loss and a virtual gathering for individuals experiencing memory impairment. The scope of CRVNA’s community benefits is astounding. In 2019, CRVNA provided more than $5 million through health clinics, community building activities, education programs, health professions education, charity care and more.

CRVNA continues to seek out ways to better serve our community, most recently by announcing its intent to merge with Central NH VNA & Hospice. The merger will expand CRVNA’s services to reach 83 communities in central New Hampshire. This nonprofit’s impact on Greater Concord is inspirational and has earned a trust, respect and appreciation from our community that is generations deep. We are honored to recognize Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association as Nonprofit of the Year.

Business Leader of the Year

The Chamber’s Business Leader of the Year Pinnacle Award recipient is Christopher Emond of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire. As executive director for twenty years, his tireless work to improve the accessibility of safe and affordable child care – with enormous success – made a dramatic impact on the Capital area and Lakes region. This essential service allows thousands of parents and caretakers to serve in our state’s workforce and supports the next generation of New Hampshire residents to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

When Chris took on this role, the club was the Concord Boys and Girls Club and dependent on federal grants for 45% of its annual budget. Chris successfully enacted a strategic plan to create self-sufficiency for the organization. He pioneered a weekly fee-for-service model which still allowed the majority of after-school program members to receive financial assistance. Some pay as little as $5 a week, but this membership revenue enables the club to weather significant challenges and gives parents and caretakers a sense of ownership in the programs. Chris also established an individual giving initiative which raised millions in unrestricted funds while introducing hundreds of new volunteers and donors to the club. When Chris began at the Concord Boys and Girls Club, the organization had eight staff members and an annual budget of $1.1 million. Today the organization employs over 80 staff and has a budget of $8 million.

Part of Chris’ work to expand accessibility of child care services included geographic expansion of the club. In 2015, the Concord Boys and Girls Club merged with the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, forming the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire. Since this merger, the Lakes region site’s membership has grown by 500%. Today the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire operates 23 sites in 14 towns and serves over 1,200 kids. Chris’ exceptional leadership allowed the club to expand into underserved communities while encouraging each site to retain its unique history and connection to the communities it serves.

The organization offers a variety of childcare and youth development programs, serving infants through grade 12. The development and education focused curriculum incorporates the arts, educational enrichment, leadership development, life skills and technology into daily programming. The club serves 4,000 snacks and hot meals every month to families in our community and 85% of current club members say that there’s an adult at the club they can turn to in a crisis. In 2020, there is a renewed appreciation for organizations that support our community’s families and children.

Under Chris’ skilled leadership, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire brought back its entire staff just two weeks after the initial COVID-19 wave closed the club’s door. Chris applied for emergency status so the centers could serve children of essential workers during the pandemic and secured federal and state funding to ensure the club could remain open. He also opened four soup kitchens providing meals for those in need during the pandemic and served our state on behalf of the entire child care industry through his involvement on the New Hampshire Reopening Taskforce. Chris’ instrumental work on the Day and Overnight Camps subcommittee created guidelines that ensured children’s safety and allowed parents and caretakers to return to work.

Outside of his role at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire, Chris serves on the Merrimack County Development Committee for Granite United Way, as well as the Advisory Board for NHTI-Concord’s Community College. He’s been a Rotary Club volunteer for 18 years. His dedication to the community, in particular to the families and caretakers who rely on safe and affordable child care has strengthened the entire business community in our region and impacted our next generation of leaders.

His influence here will be felt for generations. We are delighted to present Christopher Emond with Business Leader of the Year.

W. Grant McIntosh Volunteer of the Year

The Greater Concord Chamber’s W. Grant McIntosh Volunteer of the Year is awarded to Jayme Simões of Louis Karno & Company Communications, LLC.

Jayme is an active board member and the pulse behind the Chamber’s award-winning website and social media presence that promotes Greater Concord as a travel destination. The blog-based site receives 6,000-9,000 visitors monthly promoting Chamber members and Capital area businesses to prospective customers. In 2020, his work highlighted restaurants providing options like take-out, curbside pickup and delivery during a crucial time for businesses to adjust to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Co-Chair of the Chamber’s Creative Concord committee, Jayme contributes to projects like the Chamber’s public art initiative with the City of Concord. Working through a rainy, wet deluge, he provided hands-on support for artist John BonSignore to set up sculptures in front of the Capitol Center for the Arts. Jayme generously shares his public relations expertise through educational Chamber programs, offering guidance on SEO optimization and effective use of social media.

Volunteers are the life blood of the Greater Concord Chamber. We are excited to recognize Jayme Simões as our Volunteer of the Year.

Young Professional of the Year

Phil Sletten of New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is Concord Young Professional of the Year. As Senior Policy Analyst, Phil researches and informs public debate on policy issues, particularly state budget and revenue policies and their effects on low- and middle-income families. Phil does a tremendous job of not only educating his peers and writing reports for the public, but presenting to audiences like the Chamber’s Legislative Outlook Forum, New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange and CYPN’s Budget on Tap event. His down-to-earth approach to explaining state and federal budget policy, is appreciated by people of all ages – especially his peers.

Phil is an extremely dedicated volunteer and community leader. He served on CYPN’s steering committee, making sure the group followed procedures, oversaw the overhaul of organization bylaws and was a steady voice of leadership. He also coined the phrase, “friendless fifth,” a reference to the more than 20% of young people in New Hampshire who responded to a Stay Work Play New Hampshire survey saying that they didn’t have a single friend within driving distance. This became a passion project for Phil and the whole CYPN team – they broadened marketing efforts, attracted event attendees from towns outside of Concord and diversified programming to include health and wellness, hiking, civics education and nonprofit leadership.

Phil is a tremendous asset to the Concord community and we’re delighted to recognize him as Concord Young Professional of the Year.