Chamber honors Greenwich heroes

Sgt. Michael O’Connor, at left, was handed the Public Service Award by Chief of Police James Heavey at the awards luncheon. —Ken Borsuk

Sgt. Michael O’Connor, at left, was handed the Public Service Award by Chief of Police James Heavey at the awards luncheon. —Ken Borsuk

It was a chance for the Chamber of Commerce to honor those giving back to the community, and local businesses, first responders and Greenwich citizens got a chance to shine.

The annual Greenwich Chamber of Commerce awards luncheon, which was sponsored by Webster Bank, was held April 10 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. Chamber Executive Director Marcia O’Kane noted that the record turnout of 200 attendees was so great that they had to ask the hotel for extra room.

“This is a chance to celebrate our town heroes,” Ms. O’Kane said. “They’re those who have gone beyond our expectations in giving back to the community. Everyone knows how wonderful our town of Greenwich is because of the combination of the business community and the nonprofit community and the volunteer community and the service sector all working together to make it happen.”

Ms. O’Kane’s sentiment was seconded by First Selectman Peter Tesei, who called the event “a celebration of community and the people in the community who make it so wonderful to live, work and play in Greenwich.”

“What can be said about the folks being honored today,” Mr. Tesei said. “When you look down the list of individuals and you see what they’re affiliated with, it speaks volumes about our community and highlights many of the positive attributes of it.”

Mr. Tesei was joined at the event by Selectmen David Theis and Drew Marzullo, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th) and Chief of Police James Heavey, Fire Chief Peter Siecienski and Greenwich Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) Executive Director Charlee Tufts. The heads of the emergency services branches in Greenwich were all on hand to personally hand the awards to their honored personnel as Chief Heavey gave the public service award to Sgt. Michael O’Connor, a lifelong resident and 28-year veteran of the department.

“Sgt. O’Connor has continuously demonstrated exceptional dedication to the Greenwich community and has shown great compassion to community members in need,” Chief Heavey said, later calling him a “shining example of selfless service and an inspiration to his fellow police officers.”

Chief Siecienski thanked the Chamber for its support of the new Greenwich Avenue Central Fire Station and credited all his “public safety brothers and sisters” for their work as he handed the award to Mark Horvath, a volunteer captain with the Glenville Fire Co. for the past 12 years, averaging more than 1,000 responses a year as a member of the fire police, protecting scenes and people.

“His constant safety and his knowledge and know-how protects the scene,” Chief Siecienski said. “Mark is a quiet, unassuming man who has gained the respect of career and volunteer firefighters like no individual I’ve seen since coming to the town.”

Ms. Tufts honored GEMS’ Karin Brion and Robert Camp for their work correctly diagnosing a woman suffering a heart attack, getting her the help she needed to bring her back and stabilize her when her heart stopped in the ambulance and getting her to the hospital in time for treatment to remove blockage in her heart so she could go home healthy two days later with no debilitation.

The Non-Profit Leadership Award was given to Chris Franco, whose work leading the Greenwich Point Conservancy through restoration of historic buildings at Greenwich Point was soundly praised. The 1903 Innis Arden Cottage has already been restored to much acclaim, and this summer the “old barn” built in 1887 is expected to be completed and turned into a new concession stand, welcome center and dining deck named after town resident and Greenwich Point advocate Sue Baker. The conservancy is in its 10th year and has invested $2.5 million of private funds into its preservation efforts.

“We do the things we do because we love Greenwich Point and we have a passion for historic building preservation,” Mr. Franco said, thanking his fellow board members on the conservancy and all the volunteers they work with.

The Corporate Leadership Award went to James McArdle III who is the latest generation of the family to run McArdle’s Florist and Garden Center in Greenwich. The business recently marked its 100th year in town, and Frank Corvino, Greenwich Hospital’s CEO, noted as he presented the award to Mr. McArdle that it is the oldest family business in town and discussed its long history partnering with local organizations and charities.

“This is an incredible honor,” Mr. McArdle said. “We have a rich heritage in this town and I’ve been blessed to grow up here and run a business here. This town is full of wonderful people, businesses and organizations.”

The Chamber of Commerce Award, given to someone who, on a volunteer basis, helped the Chamber’s efforts in town, was given to Jim Hohorst, the founder of Student Employment Software. Mr. Hohorst accepted the award on behalf of all of the Chamber’s volunteers.

“I think you are going to see the Chamber becoming more and more relevant in the community and I’m very proud to be part of this,” Mr. Hohorst said.

The Small Business Award went to Christine Georgopulo, owner of the Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom on Greenwich Avenue, and the first-ever Malcolm S. Pray Excellence in Business Award was given to her business neighbors Ian and Shep Murray, whose popular Vineyard Vines store is also on Greenwich Avenue. Demi Ferraris accepted the award on the Murray brothers’ behalf and talked about joining their start-up company and selling their ties out of her car as their first official salesperson, watching the business grow with each passing year.

“Shep and Ian’s commitment to helping youth and giving back to the community is part of their ‘every day should feel this good’ way of life,” Ms. Ferraris said. “Being the first recipients of this award certainly resonates with them and they will strive to be the next Malcolm Pray.”

The remarks that got the most reaction came from Peter Malkin, who received the R. Michael Dunne Quality of Life Award for his work with groups like the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, Greenwich Green and Clean, Greenwich Adopt a Road, and those improving the Greenwich Common connecting Town Hall with Greenwich Avenue. Mr. Malkin has been a key part of raising money for public/private partnerships in town, and he had some strong advice for the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members who have objected to some of that work.

“Without public/private partnerships and private contributions, we would not have the Greenwich Senior Center or the Bruce Museum or the Havemeyer Building or Bruce Park or the Griffith Harris Golf Course,” Mr. Malkin said. “Efforts like these are what make our town special and should be encouraged, not criticized, and frankly, not made as difficult by the RTM to accomplish.”

Mr. Malkin also had strong words for the Board of Education, whose continued use of the Havemeyer Building as a headquarters prevented it from being developed into a town arts center.

“Maybe someday the Board of Education will get out of the Havemeyer Building and it will become what it should be,” Mr. Malkin said to the sound of laughter and applause from the audience.

 

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