2017 Chamber of Commerce Award recipients honored in Vergennes

VERGENNES — Kennedy Brothers, Sweet Charity and Swift House Inn owner Dan Brown received top honors at the annual meeting of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night at the Vergennes Opera House. The event drew a crowd of about 70 for dinner, silent auction and the awards presentations.
Kennedy Brothers received the 2017 Business of the Year Award, which recognizes businesses that have grown, sometimes despite adversity, while providing excellent products or services while doing well by their employees and the community.
Bob Feuerstein and Lillian Kennedy are the owners of the Vergennes-based Kennedy Brothers, which is now a 41,000-square-foot building for commercial space and, after five years of significant capital improvements, is nearing 100 percent occupancy.
The space is home to a variety of businesses such as Shacksbury Cider, the Addison Northwest School District, two gyms, a retirement counselor, CPA, family therapists, chocolate maker, and a clock shop.
There’s also a café serving coffee, tea, baked treats, and sandwiches, as well as co-working and conference space. Vergennes’ weekly Farmers’ Market is held in its parking lot.
Amey Ryan, left, Liza Sacheli and Beth Stanway enjoy the festivites.
The Addison County Chamber presented its 2017 Buster Brush Citizen of the Year Award to Dan Brown, co-owner of the Swift House Inn. Brown exemplifies the criteria for which the award is given —a history of getting things done to make the community better in a variety of ways with no intention of personal reward or recognition.
In addition to Brown’s many civic contributions, he was especially noted for his recent work with the Charter House Coalition and Town Hall Theater.
For last year’s massive “Charter House Challenge” project, Brown coordinated a successful effort to remove three sides of Charter House’s clapboards and replace them with new siding and paint the porch and trim as well. “Long hours, unpaid, getting the best out of 40-plus volunteers, for 2-plus weeks, during the hot summer of 2016, for a project he believes in,” is how Steve Jewett, president of the Charter House Coalition’s board of directors, described Brown’s commitment and skill.
“Dan is close to being a logistical genius, if he isn’t one. He’s more than a nice guy, he’s a great leader.”
Brown’s work tor Town Hall Theater has also been astonishing, said Jewett, adding that Brown has been described as a “tireless board member” who has been the chair of a committee “that is mapping out Town Hall Theater’s strategies as it heads into its second decade. He is dedicated, inspired, hard-working, and a real blessing to the theater.”
“Perhaps it’s his years flying planes in the service of this country,” said Doug Anderson, executive director of the Town Hall Theater. “Perhaps it’s the unique perspective an innkeeper has when it comes to selflessly serving the needs of others. Perhaps it’s just genetic: he was born a caring, dependable, community-minded guy. Whatever the cause, he is one of Middlebury’s great resources.”
The Chamber’s Community Achievement Award is given to a non-profit organization that provides a significant and sustained contribution to the wellbeing of the area. This year’s award was presented to Women of Wisdom, the non-profit organization that operates Sweet Charity resale shop in Vergennes. The award was accepted by Jeannie Peluse, Meg Brash and its board of directors.
Women of Wisdom, known affectionately as WOW, was formed in 2007 by a group of civic-minded women intent on giving back to their community. They pooled their resources and set out to make a difference in the towns in which they live. They launched Sweet Charity, a non-profit resale shop filled with pre-loved goods for the home. Located on Vergennes’ Main Street, the proceeds from Sweet Charity fund a giving circle that uses its resources to empower women and children in need.
Fast forward 10 years, Sweet Charity continually provides a revenue source for funding local philanthropic projects chosen by Women of Wisdom and for the work offered by Hospice Volunteer Services of Addison County, which helped fund the creation of the store. Recently Women of Wisdom presented Hospice Volunteer Services with a 3rd quarter funding check of $4,000. To date this year, WOW has given HVS $18,000 in much needed funds.
Chamber attendees also voted on a new board of directors for the 2017-2018 year. New to the board this year, serving one-year terms expiring at the 2018 annual meeting are Tim Brownell, Addison County Home Health & Hospice; Robert Feuerstein, Kennedy Brothers; Meaghan McLaughlin, National Bank of Middlebury. Other board members include:
Executive board: Geoff Conrad, Middlebury Inn; Bethany Dever, Dever Accounting Services; David Donahue, Middlebury College, Board Chairperson; Judson Hescock, Neuse, Duprey & Putnam, P.C.; Hannah Manley, Homeward Bound; Shawn Oxford, Bristol Financial Services, Past Chair; and members Don Devost, Addison Advisors; Karen Duguay, Better Middlebury Partnership; Renny Perry, Vergennes Partnership; Bill Sayre, Addison County Regional Planning Commission; and Len Schmidt, Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center.

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