OCCC Holds 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony, Orleans Community Health Gets Business of the Year

The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce presented their annual business awards last Thursday, Orleans Community Health gaining the premier spot with Business of the Year after a challenging time for any healthcare organization.

Mark Shurtz, CEO of Orleans Community Health, believes this award would not have been possible without the contribution of local businesses.  He remarked, “From families sewing masks and dropping them off at the hospital, to restaurants feeding the entire staff two meals a day.  With other local businesses, shops and manufacturing industries donating PPE to the hospital.  We’re here for you, but we are here because of you.”

Orleans Community Health has exhibited a dedicated resiliency in the face of COVID-19.  One remarkable feat: Shurtz reported zero positive cases in the senior living dedicated north wing of the hospital. 

Shurtz, who navigated rough waters in 2020, detailed the hospital’s mission beneath his leadership, now and ongoing, saying, “As CEO, my main goal is to build on the successes of Orleans Community Health and better position not only the staff of OCH but the community that we serve for the future. I want to ensure that we are moving in the right direction and continue to provide services that make us a healthier community as a whole.”

Darlene Hartway, Director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, remarked, “I think this year, more than ever, we realize the importance of having a local hospital.  We take it for granted to so often, but I think we can all say, we’re happy you’re here.”

Frederick Pilon, the owner of Pilon Construction Co, Inc, received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. He owns a successful business that has operated for more than 50 years in the Orleans County Community.

Pilon’s business has grown significantly over the years, beginning in the 70’s working with farmers to dig and install irrigation systems. Most of the last 30 years he specialized in installing municipal waterlines across western New York. If you drink public water in this area, it probably passes through lines installed by Pilon.

The award was accepted by one of Fred’s sons, who now works with the longstanding business, Spencer Pilon.  Briefly giving a speech, he expressed his thanks, stating, “We really appreciate the award.  My father dedicated his life to the business, his colleagues and his family.”

The Tree House, an early childhood enrichment and event studio, took home New Business of the Year Award.  “The Tree House is built on the idea that childhood is sacred, messes are mandatory, and learning is fun,” according to owner Michelle Waters.

Even though Waters first year of operation presented massive hurdles, her drive remains intact, she explained, “While the path has been bumpy, the lessons that I have learned and the relationships that I’ve built far outweigh the background noise. My mission is still loud and clear: deliver a high caliber early childhood experience. Thank you for this award, and most of all thank you for supporting my mission.”

Michelle Water (Left) accepts Best New Business Award.

Sam’s Diner, founded by Holley resident Sam Gitsis in 1978, picked up the Small Business of the Year Award. The diner was passed down to brother and sister, George and Vicky, and has become a beloved business within the Village of Holley, with George’s hard work and generosity.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, George went out of his way to make sure that his customers were taken care of efficiently and safety. He installed air purification systems and dividers, all at great expense to ensure his customers health and safety.

For several years George has supported the Holley School’s baseball team’s fundraiser by giving a 10% discount to anyone that has a “Hawk Card.” It has become a Holley tradition for high school seniors to go to Sam’s Diner for the first day of school breakfast. This year they were unable to due to COVID restrictions. George generously paid for breakfast pizzas.

Navarra’s Farm Market & Greenhouses took home the Agricultural Business of the Year Award, with Amanda Myrzwka accepting on behalf of all three owners, including her sister Jenna and brother Markus.  She remarked, “Some of our accomplishments include switching the entire market setup for the public, installing a building with gifts, building a new greenhouse which houses our classes and orders. We even expanded our farmers market with locally grown produce and put in a sign that connects to our new parking lot established in 2018.” 

Bryan and Larissa DeGraw at Meadworks in Medina received Businessperson(s) of the Year Award.  Bryan and Larissa started 810 Meadworks in November of 2014 to be a place to come and enjoy yourself for a short time. A place to people to connect and enjoy one another.

A unique establishment, their mixture of mead and axe throwing draws visitors week after week to the Village of Medina.  Bryan and Larissa, remarking on their win and a tumultuous year, through a delivered citation, said, “Six years in business is something we are proud of. This year has been one where adaptation is necessary like never before. Even with all the struggles and challenges this year has brought we are happy to have received two international mead medals.”

Bryan DeGraw with his Mead Barrels at 810 Meadworks in early November.

Home Leasing based in Rochester was presented with the Phoenix Award.  Their efforts at Holley Gardens provided for the adaptive reuse and historic preservation of Holley High School into a mixed-income, mixed-residential, and commercial development. Holley Gardens provides 41 affordable apartments to seniors 55+ in the Village of Holley, New York. The apartments include one studio, 35one-bedrooms, and five two-bedroom apartments.

Mark Zambito, presenting the award for Zambito Realtors to Home Leasing, said, “After careful rehabilitation, including the preservation of original architectural details, the building now shines again as an anchor for the Village.” He added, “Tonight, we honor them and all of those in our community.”

Ernst Lake Breeze Museum carried away the Hidden Gem Award. Gatlen and Danielle Ernst purchased the marina in 2014. At the time, there were two separate marinas in Point Breeze. The pair combined the staff and customers of these competing marinas and made them flow together. Charter boats await anyone who would like to take on the fight of reeling in a Salmon off the shores of Lake Ontario. There is a quaint café with a deck overlooking Oak Orchard River for people to enjoy breakfast and lunch while taking in the scenery.

Gatlen said upon reception of the award, “Hopefully, I can make the place better and keep the tourism in the community, and just strive to make it better for everyone here.”

Gatlen and Danielle Ernst accept their Hidden Gem Award.

Hospice of Orleans County accepted the Community Service Award, In the spring of 1988, when Mary Janet Sahukar was working at the Office for the Aging, she recognized a serious need in the community- families who were caring for their seriously ill loved ones and who had nowhere to turn for support. With her leadership and a grassroots effort, a group of thirteen community professionals and lay persons came together.

Jack Burris, last year’s award winner, read a citation from the Hospice of Orleans: “It is a great honor to be recognized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce with the Community Services Award. We are truly grateful for this wonderful recognition. Our team truly feels honored and privileged to serve our neighbors throughout Orleans County living with serious, chronic, and life limiting illnesses. We are compassion, community, hospice.”

Claims Financial Recovery Services took home Employer of the Year Award, Kelly Kiebala accepting, gave her remarks, saying, “The entire post-foreclosure mortgage industry has undergone a significant transformation as a result of the pandemic during the course of this year. Our business both internally and that of our clients has had to lean heavily on an agile approach to deal with significant ambiguity, related to our immediate future business volumes, and how we shaped the landscape of work for our staff.   

She added, “We are very proud of how we have positioned ourselves for what we anticipate being a very bright future beginning in 2021.”

Kelly Kiebala accepts Employer of the Year Award for Claims Recovery Financial Services.
The ceremony was hosted by Maison Albion, a popular event venue on West County House Road.