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Chamber of Commerce presents York the Lifetime Achievement Award

HOULTON, Maine — Sold out crowd on hand to laud local businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals during annual Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce’s awards dinner and ceremony.

One hundred seventy-eight people attended Saturday night’s event, filling three large conference rooms at the Houlton Lodge of Elks on Main Street.

The Chamber presented several major awards, including a pair of new honors, this year during the gathering that also served as the organization’s business meeting,

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jerry York; Business of the Year was presented to F.A. Peabody Company; and the Community Service award was bestowed on the Backpacks for Kids group.

Two new awards, Young Professional and Above and Beyond Award, were also introduced. Cameron Clark received the first Young Professional award, while Above and Beyond honors went to four local banks — Machias Savings, Katahdin Trust Company, County Federal Credit Union and Bangor Savings Bank — for their support in sponsoring Chamber events.

Lifetime Achievement

“It is always a pleasure and a privilege to honor a person in our community with the Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Kent Good, chamber president. “It doesn’t mean they are old or are finished giving, it simply means they have packed a lot into their years and it is time to recognize those accomplishments.”

Jerry York grew up in Houlton with his two sisters, Dawn and Nancy, and his brother Dick. Their father Gerrard Sr. put the family into the automotive business when he purchased an auto dealership, located on Bangor Street, from the Ralph L. Berry Company in 1968.

At that time, it was Aroostook County’s first Ford dealership and was one of the oldest in the country. The company then became known as York Ford Sales. Dick and Jerry joined the family business in 1975 and Jamie York, Dick’s son, joined the company in 2005. Together the trio has been instrumental in growing the company into what is today one of the largest employers in Houlton.

Jerry York also is a staunch supporter of organizations that are dedicated to making the community a better place, Good said.

“He has served as a board member of the Houlton Regional Hospital and was a founding member of the Southern Aroostook Development Corporation,” he added.

An avid golfer, York also has devoted a number of resources to the Houlton Community Golf course to help expand programs, such as Golf for Life.

“I want to thank the community, friends and family for all of the support that has been given to myself and others,” York said as he humbly accepted the award.

Community Service

“More than 22 million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program,” Jane Torres, executive director of the chamber said. “For many of these children, school meals may be the only meals they eat that day. But what happens when they go home over the weekend?”

For more than 15 years, the Feeding America Backpack Program has helped children get nutritious and easy-to-prepare food so they have enough to eat on the weekends. Today, bags of food are assembled at more than 160 local food banks and then distributed to more than 450,000 children at the end of the week.

Jerry Wilson, right, accepts the Community Spirit award from Jane Torres, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce Saturday evening. Looking on is Chamber president Kent Good. Wilson accepted the award on behalf of the “Backpack for Kids” organization. (Joseph Cyr)

“Here in Houlton, a group of men led by Moose Karnes and Jerry Wilson and affiliated with the Methodist Church, joined the program because they recognized a need in our communities,” Torres said. “The Houlton Area Backpacks for Kids Program was launched through the efforts of Moose and Jerry in 2012. They hit the ground running and every Thursday throughout the school year they collect, pack and distribute food into backpacks so the children of Houlton and Hodgdon will not be hungry over the weekend.”

On Thursdays, the group packs 42 backpacks and delivers them to the schools on Friday. The bags are very discreetly given to the children by their teachers or the bus drivers and on Monday the bags are returned and the cycle begins again.

County Yankee Grocer and the Houlton Rotary also are huge supporters of the program, as are many private and anonymous donors.

“It takes a lot of food to fill those backpacks and a lot of dollars to buy the food that isn’t donated,” Torres said. “It also takes a tremendous amount of organizing, hard work and constant worry to continue to run the program.”

Wilson accepted the award from Torres and thanked the Chamber for the prestigious award.

Business of the Year

The award for Business of the Year is presented to the business that embodies the spirit of Houlton, explained Good.

In 1927, F. A. Peabody was incorporated under the direction of Alton E. Carter and Frank Allen Peabody. By 1933, the name would be changed and forever after be known as The F.A Peabody Company, Good said. Oscar Benn, father-in-law of Bob Anderson, took over as president of the company until his retirement in 1967 at which point Bob became majority shareholder and assumed the title of president.

Members of F.A. Peabody Company accept the Chamber’s award for Business of the Year during Saturday night’s awards ceremony. Taking part are, from left, Chelsea Henderson, corporate secretary and vice president of HR for FAPCO; Tim McAfee, CEO of Pioneer Broadband; Steve Fitzpatrick, Houlton Branch Manager of Insurance Division; and Connie Hagan, vice president of FAPCO administrative services. Not pictured are Max Lynds, vice president of Life and Benefits; and Christopher Anderson, president. (Joseph Cyr)

In 1988, Christopher Benn Anderson (grandson of Oscar Benn) became president with Bob assuming the title of CFO. Chris Anderson brought a unique perspective to the company that led to an interest in connectivity throughout Aroostook County, Good continued. In turn, this led to the formation of the Pioneer Wireless Network in 2001 and the ultimate connection of fiber optics with Pioneer Broadband that would give the Greater Houlton Area internet service speed that would rival any big city and open the possibilities of businesses that could work from a home base at a global level.

“What is most amazing about Bob and Chris is their ongoing support of a staff of 92, encouraging and promoting the success of each and every one as if they were family,” he said.

Chris Anderson was unable to attend Saturday’s gathering. Chelsea Henderson, vice president of human resources, read an acceptance letter from Anderson.

“On behalf of the employees of F. A. Peabody Company, thank you for recognizing us as the 2018 Business of the Year,” she read. “I am currently away, otherwise I would be there with all of you to accept this award. Our company’s success is a function of the committed people working at FAPCO who strive for excellence every day. Daily, I am amazed at the ideas and energy that they reveal in their quest to do better.

“Not only is Houlton our base of operations and the origin of our growth but it is our home,” she continued. “Houlton has been good to us and I trust we have been good for Houlton. I travel the state often and while I may be biased, I truly believe Houlton stands out as a top community in Maine.

“I sense a coming renaissance here; a community poised for discovery. And with that discovery will come opportunity,” Henderson said. “Actually, it is not simply a sense but rather a logical thought based on a number of positive factors that will lead to prosperity.”

Young Professional Award

“The Greater Houlton Chamber is proud to introduce the first Young Professional Award,” Torres said. “As a Chamber we feel strongly that the young people of Houlton who are working to make our community a better place, bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the table and that they should be recognized. This being the first year we had no trouble at all choosing a winner.”

Cam Clark, son of Jayne and Bruce Clark, has been on the scene at Chamber events since he was about 12 years old. In high school, he started a business mowing lawns, made picnic tables and later began making wood carvings with a chainsaw under the name Cam’s Chainsaw Carving.

Cameron Clark, middle, was the recipient of the inaugural “Young Professional Award” during Saturday night’s Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony. With Clark are Kent Good, left, chamber president; and Jane Torres, executive director for the chamber. (Joseph Cyr)

By the time he went off to college at Husson, he changed the name of the lawn mowing business to Cam’s Lawn and Landscaping LLC. He is entering his third year at Husson majoring in business and continues to come home on weekends to run his ever-growing business.

“I would like to thank my family and friends for their continuous support,” Clark said. “I also want to thank you — the business men and women of this community — that have inspired me. I have watched many of you, how you run your businesses, how you treat your employees and how much you give back to support our community.”

Clark said he was looking forward to many more years in the Shiretown.

“I am constantly looking at the resources we have in this area that could lead to new markets, but until I figure out what is next for me, when the grass is growing, Cam’s Lawn Care will be mowing.”

Above and Beyond Award

The inaugural “Above and Beyond” award was bestowed to Machias Savings, Katahdin Trust, Bangor Savings banks and County Federal Credit Union for their support of Chamber projects over the years.

“It’s not an award that we will give out every year, but we feel that it is appropriate for this year because all four of the recipients seem to have gone to a new level in support of Greater Houlton Area nonprofits,” Torres said. “We are pleased to call this the Above and Beyond Award. These four businesses all do the same thing. They pride themselves in being community builders and are proactive in asking, ‘what can we do for you’ on a consistent basis. We take these entities for granted sometime but want them to know how much they are appreciated and valued in the Greater Houlton area.”

The evening concluded with a live auction, which serves as a fundraiser for the Chamber.

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