NEWINGTON - Business, organizations and people in town can give each other a pat on the back for a job well done.
Forty-five first place winners emerged triumphantly from the 2019 Best of Newington Awards, presented at the Newington Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner May 31. About 180 people attended the event, held at the Indian Hill Country Club.
Local residents voted for their favorite restaurants, doctors and other service providers the last few months, resulting in a top three in each of the categories. All of the nominees were invited to the Awards Dinner, where first place winners received trophies. The chamber also awarded two scholarships to Newington High School seniors. The recipients were Maggie Callahan and Shihao Michael Zhai.
Chamber President Kathy Braga presented nine other special awards, selected annually by the Board of Directors.
The first was Chamber Member of the Year, which went to Rev. Jim Wiltshire, pastor of The Chapel. He and his wife opened their congregation in October 2016 and the family has become an integral part of the Newington community.
“Jim Wiltshire has exemplified leadership in our community, in our chamber and on our board of directors,” Executive Director Peter Forcellina explained. “He’s a very generous and kind person.”
This year the pastor was appointed a chamber board executive, and will be working on a new leadership initiative with Forcellina for 2019-20. Wiltshire was “shocked” to receive the award.
“I never expected it,” he said earlier this week. “I am completely honored.”
The Business of the Year is Turgeon Jewelers, and Business Person of the Year is Dr. Steve Judson of Judson Family Chiropractic.
The Public Safety Award went to the Newington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
CERT volunteers not only provide first aid and other assistance during disasters, but also at events like the Newington Library 5K Road Race Challenge and the Newington Memorial Day Parade.
The Lucy Robbins Welles Library received the chamber’s coveted Public Service Award this year. LRWL staff and volunteers are making special accommodations for library patrons since the Town Hall/Community Center Project broke ground earlier this year. For example, Lucy-To-Go allows people to reserve their items ahead of time and have them brought out to their vehicles curbside upon arrival.
“With the construction going on there’s less parking available,” Library Director Lisa Masten said. “In our 80th year, it’s very important to us we continue to meet the needs of our patrons even as those needs change. We have a great staff and we are proud to be recognized by our community.”
The Youth Service Award went to Stew Leonard’s. The Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation provides swimming lessons to at least 100 underprivileged children in town each summer, through a collaboration with Newington Parks and Recreation.
The Beautification Award was presented to Artichoke Basille Pizza, which constructed a new building at 2391 Berlin Turnpike, its first free-standing restaurant and first Connecticut location. Franchisee Matt Rusconi and co-owners Francis Garcia and Sal Basille were welcomed to the community with open arms in February.
Chamber board members gave Special Recognition awards to LifeWay Church and Turnpike Motors.
Mill Pond Church and Cedar Mountain Church joined hands to become LifeWay, completing the transition into their new home at 2172 Berlin Turnpike just last month.
Turnpike Motors is a local landmark and a member of nine different Chambers of Commerce, including Newington. The full-service auto body shop celebrates is hosting its Annual Multi-Chamber Appreciation Night July 16. The event is an opportunity for business people from area towns to meet and network in a fun and lively atmosphere.
Forcellina was happy with the Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner, his very first as Executive Director.
“It was well attended and there was just a very positive vibe,” he pointed out. “It was the last day of our fiscal year and several people told me they loved the New Year’s Eve theme.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.