It takes hard work and dedication to build a community, and various individuals were recognized Thursday by the Fredonia Chamber of Commerce for giving so much to the village.
The chamber presented six awards during its annual awards banquet at The White Inn: Bob Scudder of Fredonia Hardware (Business Person of the Year), Rick Cramer of Culligan Water Conditioning (Retailer of the Year), Jeff and Melanie Gambino of The White Inn (Taste of Fredonia), David Dengler (Community Service), Doug Manly (Spirit of Fredonia) and Tom Lafferty and Nick Green (Service to Humanity).
"I'd like to thank God for bringing us over here in 1986; it was a big decision ... Fredonia reminded me of the town of Tonawanda, where I grew up in the '60s and '70s. It had that neighborhood feel," Scudder, who purchased Fredonia Hardware from Bob Lesch in 1986 and owns East Main Laundry Company and a two-acre blueberry farm, said. Scudder is also a Chautauqua County legislator and a partner in Pro Home Repair. "I love serving the community in many capacities, but I get the reward of getting to know and serve you. It's been a pleasure."
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
The following individuals received awards as part of the Fredonia Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet at The White Inn on Thursday: Front row, from left — Melanie and Jeff Gambino of The White Inn (Taste of Fredonia), David Dengler (Community Service), Doug Manly (Spirit of Fredonia), Tom Lafferty (Service to Humanity) and Bob Scudder of Fredonia Hardware (Business Person of the Year); back row, from left: Nick Green (Service to Humanity) and Rick Cramer (Retailer of the Year).
Lafferty and Green received their awards for "defining others over self," according to the banquet's emcee, Greg Krauza. The two men have volunteered in various community organizations and have traveled to many disaster-stricken areas, as part of church mission trips to help in rebuilding efforts.
"This is a caring community ... a commodity you can't buy and no government agency can make a habit of. Just neighbor helping neighbor," Lafferty said, adding his fellow neighbors had recently helped his wife by driving her to Hamburg for cancer treatments.
Dengler came to the Fredonia area after taking over the Larson-Timko Funeral Home in 2010 and quickly got involved with various community groups.
"When you come to a new community, the last place you want to be to meet people is a funeral home since it's kind of quiet," he joked, adding he has met good people that care about the area.
"Fredonia has enriched our lives, and we have tried to return that gift as best we can," Manly said, giving examples of several people that have touched the lives of himself and his late wife, Ann. "The spirit lives on."
Manly is an honorary member of the Fredonia College Foundation and has been active with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. He recently started doing stand-up comedy for retirement communities.
The Gambinos bought The White Inn in 2011 and have invested much time and money into renovations. The inn won the 2013 Taste of Fredonia due to its bacon-wrapped tenderloin, prepared by Chef Dave Reynolds. John Sweeney is the inn's pastry chef.
"Our staff is 90 percent of the ingredients here," Jeff Gambino said. "Our kitchen staff genuinely cares about the selections they pick. We are blessed to have them."
Various area officials congratulated the awards recipients.
"The people that we're honoring tonight are outstanding, what we call 'the salt of the community,' and I'd like to honor all of them and thank them for their hard work in making this community what it is," Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe told the audience.
"It's wonderful we have people like this to continue to benefit our community, as a whole," Pomfret Town Supervisor Donald Steger said.
State Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Chautauqua) and Jacqueline Chiarot of U.S. Congressman Tom Reed's office were also present.
"The quality of a community depends on the people within it," Goodell said. "What an incredible group of people (the awards recipients) who have donated and contributed to this community, not only hundreds of hours, but their passion and energy, to make this a better community."
The chamber's 2014 board of directors was also officially sworn in. Dengler will join current Vice President Roberta Coniglio as co-vice presidents. Continuing on in their roles are Timothy Murphy as president, Daniel Siracuse as secretary and Kelly Brown as treasurer. Krauza and Peter Aleksandrowicz will join as new board members.
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