Denu, Swift House efforts are recognized

FERRISBURGH — Among those community leaders who excel at contributing to their communities, Middlebury businessman Eric Denu was named the 2013 Addison County Chamber of Commerce Buster Brush Citizen of the Year at the chamber’s annual meeting last week. The Swift House Inn was recognized as the Business of Year, and the Community Achievement Award went to Addison County Home Health and Hospice.
The awards were presented Thursday night, Sept. 12, at the Basin Harbor Club in front of a crowd of 100.
Cornwall resident Alex Wolff, a nationally renowned sports writer with Sports Illustrated, entertained the audience with a captivating speech outlining how and why Addison County should consider itself a year-around recreation destination with its ideal biking terrain, and winter sports facilities at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton and the nearby Middlebury College Snow Bowl.
With references to international cycling stars and other world-class cycling venues, Wolff previewed a new event this coming June — the Addison County Gran Fondo — at which hundreds of cyclists from around the New England region and Canada are expected to turn out for what will be the first event of its kind in Vermont.
Read the full text of Wolff’s speech here.
A Gran Fondo, Wolff explained, spans terrain from the county’s relative flats and rolling farm hills in the west, to the high points of Brandon, Middlebury, Lincoln and Appalachian gaps. Distances cover from as little as 30 or 60 miles to more than 100 miles in a day. Everyone gathers at the end of the day for a competitors’ feast and festival.
“Events like the Gran Fondo fit in perfectly with the attitude that’s driving the new endurance sports boom,” Wolff explained. “It’s less a bicycle race than a bicycle challenge and festival. It’s less about ‘competers’ than ‘completers,’ and everyone celebrating everybody else who’s out there.”
Wolff added that the county’s growing reputation as one of the premier cycling areas in New England, and its long-running traditions of excellent local foods, makes Addison County ideal for this type of event and ripe for attracting new visitors.
“With our farm-to-plate reputation, and varied terrain that won recognition from Yankee magazine as supplying ‘the best road cycling in New England,’ we have the ability to stage something people will travel long distances to be a part of,” he said. Wolff noted that Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater has already jumped on board, agreeing to host a panel discussion on the sport of cycling with big names in the sport having already expressed interest in being on the panel.
“(And) the envisioned date, June 21,” Wolff added, “would help goose the listless retail period between college graduation in May and the July Fourth holiday that kicks off high summer.”
The Gran Fondo would be just one of several successful sporting events already being staged in the area. The Kelly Brush Century Ride, held each year in early September, regularly brings almost 1,000 or more bike riders into Middlebury for rides of up to 100 miles through Addison and southern Chittenden counties. Middlebury is also host to 1,000-plus runners in the Middlebury Half Marathon held in early May, while Middlebury College hosts numerous sporting events at the Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center. Rikert, Wolff added, is set to attract more prestigious (and larger) races and events because of the recent addition of snowmaking — making it one of the best venues in the Northeast for races that demand guaranteed snow conditions.
Those events, plus many others throughout the county, provide an opportunity for Addison County residents to think of the county as a destination resort with many varied interests and activities, including intellectual offerings like theaters, museums and ongoing lectures and programs — activities that ski resorts can’t always offer.
It was a message, many members said afterward, that made them think of the county in a new light.
In receiving the Citizen of the Year Award, Denu said he was “humbled” to be linked to one of his mentors and friend Buster Brush, adding he was honored by the recognition.
The owner of Middlebury’s Countryside Carpet and Paint, Denu hails from Bridport and, like Brush, is active in helping area youth and has been a long-time member and past president of the Middlebury Rotary Club. Also like Brush, Denu is a multiple Paul Harris Award recipient, which recognizes service above self and financial support of the foundation. Denu and his business are also generous supporters of many community projects, including most recently, supporting the newest Habitat for Humanity house. Denu also is assistant coach of Middlebury area sports teams.
The Swift House Inn, located in Middlebury, was recognized as possessing “excellent business practices” and having “a positive economic impact on the community through improvements or sustained efforts,” and while “promoting Addison County.”
Owned by Dan and Michele Brown, the 22-room Swift House Inn was recognized for its ability to “compete very successfully with the larger properties in the area, knowing their customers and how to attract more of them. They offer old-fashioned service, an excellently maintained property, while using the latest in marketing tools.” The inn was also singled out for being “able to create a separate identity and excellent reputation for its restaurant, Jessica’s at Swift House Inn. The quality of the food and service at Jessica’s has led to strong business, as well as being a recipient of a Wine Spectator award for its extensive wine cellar.”
In addition to running the inn, the Browns are very involved in the industry and community. Dan serves on the Select Registry Board, which serves top B&Bs in the U.S. and Canada; was a founding committee member for the Vermont Inn and Bed & Breakfast Association; and is an active member of vtinns.com. He is on the board of Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater, as well. Michele is on the board for the Opera Company of Middlebury and volunteers at the Charter House. They are both active at the Middlebury Congregational Church.
For those who know Addison County Home Health and Hospice it’s no surprise that the agency was honored for its “outstanding service to the community.” The nonprofit has, for the past 45 years, been an integral part of the healthcare delivery system in Addison County. Its dedicated staff of 185 people is committed to providing medically necessary services to all residents of Addison County regardless of location, medical condition or ability to pay.
Services provided include nursing, rehabilitation therapies and medical social work. Its employees covered more than 750,000 miles in Addison County last year, making 87,000-plus visits.
During the past year its work has been recognized far and wide. ACHHH was named 2012 Top Agency by HomeCare Elite, a compilation of the top-performing home health agencies in the nation. Winners are ranked by an analysis of quality outcomes, process measure implementation, patient experience (Home Health CAHPS), quality improvement and financial performance. In a comparison of Vermont agencies, benchmarked against national peers, Addison County Home Health and Hospice consistently ranks first or second in a review of patient satisfaction and quality outcome data.
Executive director Larry Goetschiusaccepted the award on behalf of the nonprofit and its staff.
Annual meeting attendees also voted on the board of directors for 2013-2014. New to the board this year is Michael Norris, Holden Insurance. Norris is serving a one-year term expiring at the 2014 annual meeting.
The board and chamber members also recognized Jeff Costello, of Costello Home Works, who is leaving the board after serving his term. Tim Buskey, Vergennes Residential Care Home, is the outgoing chairperson while Steve Misasi, Misasi & Misasi, is the incoming chairperson.
Other board members include:
•  Bonita Bedard, Vermont HoneyLights, representing Five Town Business Council
•  Geoff Conrad, Middlebury Inn
•  Sam Cutting IV, Dakin Farms
•  Don Devost, Addison Advisors
•  David Donahue, Middlebury College
•  Larry Goetschius, Addison County Home Health & Hospice
•  Andy Mayer, Addison County Chamber
•  Kate McGowan, United Way of Addison County
•  Kelley Mills, Hannaford Career Center
•  Sal Morana, Porter Medical Center
•  Shawn Oxford, Bristol Financial Services
•  Bill Sayre, A. Johnson Lumber Company, representing Addison County Regional Planning Commission
•  Darcy Tarte, Peoples United Bank, representing Addison County Economic Development Corporation
•  Grover Usilton, National Bank of Middlebury
•  Ben Wilson, Middlebury College, representing Better Middlebury Partnership

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