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CCEDC celebrates area businesses at annual gala

  • Chamber award winners Christopher Ondrus, Maya Kowalck, Joan Turko, Slate Altenburg and Sky Fogal pose together with the dinner's giant Mardi Gras themed mask. KELLEY ANDRADE/TIMES NEWS
    Chamber award winners Christopher Ondrus, Maya Kowalck, Joan Turko, Slate Altenburg and Sky Fogal pose together with the dinner's giant Mardi Gras themed mask. KELLEY ANDRADE/TIMES NEWS
Published November 24. 2015 04:00PM

The Palmerton Blue Mountain Resort decorated in glittery beads, peacock feathers and rich purple linens served as the backdrop to the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation's annual dinner celebration Friday night.

The evening began with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., where the business owners, associates and friends donned colorful masks for the Mardi Gras Masquerade themed evening.

Shawn Kresge Electric sponsored beads, which were sold to attendees who hoped to win one of the many locally donated raffle prizes.

According to Chamber Executive Director Marlyn Kissner, "Tonight is really all about our businesses and volunteers, you are the drivers of what we do here," she told the crowd.

The chamber took two days to set up the Blue Mountain Resort ballroom before the formal affair.

"There's nobody who loves Carbon County more than Marlyn and Alice," said Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber.

Over 200 people were in attendance.

A short remembrance video honoring the memory of chamber members Jack Sturm and Pete Turko was shown at the top of the program.

"Volunteers are the life blood of the organization. We want to remember to really special people," Kissner said.

The 2016 chamber golf tournament has recently been named in Sturm's honor.

Before naming the Carbon County Chamber's 2015 winners, Patrick Reilly addressed the crowd. "It's been an amazing year for the county," he said before introducing a short montage of video clips highlighting the coal region's accomplishments.

The focus of the night was then turned to small and large businesses alike that were nominated and won in the respective categories.

Small business winner of the year went to Jim Thorpe Yoga. Owner and instructor Maya Kowalcky deferred credit to her close-knit staff and community.

"I'm still really shocked people nominated us and chose us," she said. "I'm honored; it's all about community really. Everyone who teaches is so talented and gifted. It just created this very warm community."

Large Business of the Year winner was PenTeleData. The award presented by Wayne Nothstein and Tom Gerhard to Vice President of Operations Jaime Mendes.

PenTeleData was started in 1994 with the concept of providing high-speed data and Internet connectivity for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey for home and businesses alike.

The business covers 28 area counties with more than $300 million in fiber-optic infrastructure covering over 10,000 miles.

Tourism and Entertainment Business of the Year was awarded to Pocono Whitewater, also located in Jim Thorpe for 39 years. State Rep. Doyle Heffley presented the award to Sky Fogal of the family-owned business.

"I'm going to have to put this award on the shelf with the others," Fogal joked.

Barbara Franzosa won Volunteer of the Year award, presented by Pat Reilly.

"Barbara is always involved in her community," he said.

"There is nothing more dear to my heart than volunteer work," a visibly touched Franzosa told the audience.

The Young Professional of the Year award was presented by last year's winner Jared McEvoy and Bob Silver to Christopher Ondrus. "We can learn a lot from him, he is a type of mentor," McEvoy said.

Ondrus is the president of the Lansford Alive initiative, "I love this community and the residents," he said of Lansford, where he works as a part-time police officer.

Nesquehoning property buyer Technical Processing and Engineering Inc. took the award for Outstanding Economic Development Project.

The corporation won the development award for being considered an outstanding economic project designed to bring jobs and economic growth to the county through its new location.

The president and founder Slate Altenburg accepted the award presented to him by Melinda Stumpf and Kathy Henderson.

The biggest honor of the night, the William H. Bayer Lifetime Achievement award in honor of the late Bayer for his dedication to the community, is an award to remember his commitment to the Carbon region. The winner of the prestigious award was lifelong Carbon County resident Joan Turko, owner of Turko Specialty Advertising, located in Palmerton.

Turko is dedicated to her community. Volunteering for many community projects and chairing the board of Concourse Club.

Turko organized the scarecrow display project for the Palmerton area five years ago to support businesses and organizations through the area.

Marj Federanich and Shawn Kresge presented Turko with the award.

"No is not a word in this woman's vocabulary," Federanich said. "She has been involved in many things; she always has time to help out a friend."

"I've known Joan for 15 years, she's great, she's in the community," Kresge said.

As Turko accepted the granite and glass award she revealed her reasons for her community involvement was really all about her own happiness.

"Anytime I've been involved in anything, I've gotten more out of it then them. I am rich in family, friends, and faith. I give my thanks to the chamber for this," Turko said.

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