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Chamber event celebrates Carbon businesses

The red carpet was rolled out Friday night for the annual Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Awards Gala at Blue Mountain Resort.

More than 200 business owners, patrons and supporters attended the Old Hollywood-themed evening where local shop owners, manufactures and volunteers were recognized by the growing organization.Popcorn and champagne were handed out during the traditional pre-dinner basket raffle before guests and honorees made their way to the white, gold and candle decorated tables for the ceremony."What a beautiful crowd," said Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber.Iannelli said the chapter of the chamber has become the seventh-largest chamber in the state."Anything we can do to create a positive economic environment, we're all in."Iannelli introduced the event's emcee, Marlyn Kissner, executive vice president of the GLVCC and executive director of the CCEDC.Kissner told attendees, "This night is all about you."A Superman-themed video played on screen for CCEDC President Mark Harleman, who continues to battle cancer. He quickly completed the official order of electing new board members to the CCEDC, Pat Handwerk and Jared McEvoy.Before leaving the stage he quoted the Man of Steel, saying, "In issue 75 he says, 'dreams save us, dreams lift us up and transform us. Until everyone has dignity, honor and justice I'll never stop fighting,' and I'll never stop fighting."Lorie Reinert, executive director of the Chamber Foundation of Main Street Lehigh Valley, presented Kissner with a check for $12,000 to be applied to future chamber projects.AwardsThe first honoree, Alicia Kline, was called to the stage to receive the Young Professional of the Year award presented by last year's recipient Jared McEvoy."Back in March I Googled how to start a nonprofit, and now Turn To Us has 119 clients and has raised $16,000 in in-kind goods and services. We couldn't have done it without the chamber."She dedicated her award to a 38-year-old client named Michael who had recently passed away after a battle with cancer.Joan Turko presented Shawn Kresge with business of the year."Last year he presented the award to me. Well now it's payback time," she said."We've all heard about 'Where's Waldo,' well where's Shawn? At a Flyers' game, or Florida or Cape May or a charity dinner."She said Kresge has always been there for the chamber, whether delivering water to the middle of the adventure race or delivering turkeys to needy families.Kresge gave the credit for his award and success to his staff. "I wouldn't be up here if I didn't have great employees, and this goes out to them."Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko introduced the Rookie Business of the Year."The top three honorees here complete a trifecta for Jim Thorpe. As mayor it's great to see the businesses of Jim Thorpe doing so well," he said.Sofranko called Somersault Letterpress owners Amy Pienta and Mitch Hanson to the stage."They changed the approach. That's a hard thing to do in a small town. They're an outstanding asset to the borough and the county."The couple thanked the chamber for all its help over the past year."A year ago today we were on our way here," Pienta said."Everyone made us feel so at home. We couldn't be happier," Hanson said.Nick's Lakehouse, Louie's Prime and Shenanigans owners Louis and Cyndi Pantages were presented with the Tourism and Entertainment Business of the Year Award by Mauch Chunk Trust President and CEO Patrick Reilly."The hospitality business is truly brutal. While we are having a good time, they are working their butts off," he said.The Pantages accepted their award with Louis telling the audience, "My grandfather opened a restaurant in 1932, then my father followed him and I'm the third generation. It's not an easy business, but it is rewarding."The couple thanked their employees for all their hard work.Sharps Compliance Inc. of Nesquehoning, was recognized in the Economic Development Project category.Carol Obando-Derstine of PPL Electric Utilities said the plant has added $2 million in revenue to the economic landscape while hiring local business and bringing jobs to the county.Todd Taylor, the plant manager, said, "I run the plant but the people behind that really did all of this. We're going to continue to hire local and use local vendors."Carbon County Commissioner Tom Gerhard presented Joe Cyburt with the Volunteer of the Year Award by saying, "He is hard working and dedicated to serving people here in Carbon. I can't think of a more deserving person for this prestigious award."Cyburt has been organizing the popular Weatherly Hill Climb for years."In 2001, the rumor was it would be our last event. I vowed to keep it going. Friends and family jumped in and took it to a whole new level. The biggest thing is what it does for our town and the nonprofits involved," he said of the event.The William H. Bayer Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Bob Silver by Mark Sverchek of the Sverchek Agency."He is truly involved in the community. He's been a mentor to those in Lansford," Sverchek said."Awards are great, but my rewards come from serving the community as mayor, serving in the U.S. Army and the smiling faces on children. I look forward to many years of volunteering," Silver said accepting his award.Award recipients said they would display their new engraved glass within their respective businesses."I wish we could give out thousands of awards because this county is amazing," said Alice Wanamaker, member relations director for the Carbon Chamber & Economic Development.

CCEDC's 2016 award winners Mitch Hansen and Amy Pienta, Alicia Kline, CCEDC's Alice Wanamaker, Shawn Kresge, CCEDC's Marlyn Kissner, and Cyndi and Louis Pantages. KELLEY ANDRADE/TIMES NEWS