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  • Times Record By Cory King From the Chamber

From the Chamber: Dinner recap plus Midcoast Community Alliance, Jim Howard honored

The SMMC Annual Awards Dinner was held at St. John’s Community Center, this past Friday, March 6, from 5-8 p.m. where they honored four organizations and four individuals for outstanding contributions to the region. The event was sponsored by BerryDunn, Andrew & Karen Sturgeon, Wilcox Wellness & Fitness and U.S. Cellular, and with generous support of the chamber’s six cornerstone members who were unveiled that night. Dinner was provided by Cook’s Lobster & Ale House, handmade engraved cutting board awards were created by Forwood Thinking, photography was courtesy of Jeff Morris of The Pierce Studio, and wine centerpieces featured donated wine from Cellar Door Winery.

As far as the Cornerstone Members go, that is a unique class of member for the chamber created only two years ago. Essentially, the businesses in this program combine their annual dues with a preferred marketing package based on a three-tiered system. Each tier has their own unique marketing products, but essentially, the cornerstone members get tied to all of the major chamber events for the year and the vast majority of all programming too. These cornerstone members were unveiled for the first time, prior to the award presentations, on Friday night.

The 2020 Cornerstone Members are: Mid Coast-Parkview Health, the chamber’s 2020 Healthcare Cornerstone Member, and Priority Real Estate Group, the chamber’s 2020 Commercial Real Estate Member. They are joined by: REMAX/Riverside, Bath Savings Institution, Barnard Financial, Riley Insurance and Sitelines.

Along with the cornerstone member unveiling, Board President Andy Sturgeon welcomed the guests and highlighted some of the outstanding achievements of 2019. Executive Director Cory King then spoke briefly on the upcoming projects for the chamber in 2020, and took a few minutes to highlight the workforce needs in the region. The chamber will be unveiling several workforce projects and programming in 2020 through a coalition of businesses, municipality representatives and educators.

But the main reason for the night were the awards. Each award winner received a framed plaque, an engraved cutting board, a copy of their speech that was given and an appreciation pin. The appreciation pin is a token from the chamber which the recipient could give to anyone that was instrumental in their career or personal successes. Pins can be awarded that night to people in the room or given privately. Several winners gave out their pins that evening.

Award winners included Nick Favreau, Kevin Clark, Diane Bowen, The Highlands, One River CPAs and Region 10 Technical High School. Each of these winners were profiled in this column over the past few weeks. Here are profiles of our other two award winners.

Midcoast Community Alliance is a grassroots community non-profit organization that was started to help prevent teen suicide and limit suicide ideation. They were awarded the 2020 Director’s award. Started in 2016 at the Bath Area Youth Skate Park following another local teen suicide, Jamie Dorr convened local leaders to discuss why this was prevalent in their small community. Monthly, mental health experts, community organizations, municipal officials, educators and concerned citizens came to the meetings to discuss the issues. What they discovered is people looking for services didn’t always know where to look, so Midcoast Community Alliance was born to try and provide all the services needed in one place.

This has blossomed into a 6-day per week facility that averages 70 children and young adults per day enjoying educational programs, pool, beanbag toss, skateboarding, computer gaming or just hanging out. They also provide free snacks, free winter clothes and even provide a free dinner three nights per week, cooked by citizens who sign up to provide it. What’s more is they have a youth leadership team who authorizes any new program and if the kids don’t like it, they don’t do it.

MCA has made it all about the children and young adults and what they need and they’re constantly evolving what they provide. They are a completely community-initiated organization, trying to do the right thing for as many young adults as possible, and led by their outstanding leader- they are helping to build a stronger community.

And speaking of leaders, Jim Howard lives his ambitions through his actions and because of that our entire region is stronger. Jim is the founder of Priority Real Estate Group who has had tremendous business success and is genuinely a self-made man. Yet, his philanthropic efforts, both publically and privately, are what takes his regional contributions to another level, and worthy of receiving the 2020 Harry C. Crooker Lifetime Achievement award.

Jim was homeless at age 15, and lived with his best friend’s family as he worked 45 hour weeks at Aamco gas stations while also attending Voc. Region 10 and graduating from Mt Ararat High School in 1983. Jim took the knowledge he gained, and went to Tri-Sports in Topsham for a decade honing his business skills before becoming a consultant. Being a consultant lead him to become the COO of Home Vision Video, which he sold in the mid-’90s and started Priority Group.

Yet, if you asked 20 people to describe Jim, 19 would begin with his philanthropic nature. Jim knows what it’s like to want and so he has built it into his business plan to give back as much as he can, as often as he can, to help the community grow. He gives easily to over three dozen organizations/projects annually, and that doesn’t count the time he volunteers for projects and activities too.

Jim was not able to attend the dinner, so his award was given a week prior and filmed by local videographer Charlie Hudson and it was aired during the awards night. The video of Jim’s award and his acceptance speech is on the SMMC YouTube Channel for those that want to see it. The speeches for all winners are available at the SMMC office. Thank you to all of those that came out to support our winners.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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