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Annual Award Winners Announced at Chamber’s Annual Meeting

Member businesses and individuals of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce were recognized during the organization’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at Rolling Pines Golf Course & Banquet Facility in Berwick, and sponsored by PPL Electric Utilities.

More than 200 people attended the dinner meeting, which celebrated outstanding member achievements, elected members to the Board of Directors, highlighted Chamber activities of the past year, and previewed the year ahead.

The Chamber’s four annual awards were presented businesses and individuals for their significant contributions to the community. The following awards were presented to the following recipients:

Small Business of the Year
(Sponsored by First Columbia Bank & Trust)
Steph’s Subs

Large Business of the Year
(Sponsored by The Columbia Alliance of Economic Growth)
SEKISUI SPI

Community Progress Award
(Sponsored by Commonwealth Health-Berwick Hospital Center)
LCBC Church Columbia-Montour

Outstanding Citizen
(Sponsored by Berwick Industrial Development Association)
Denise Stone, Geisinger

The Small Business of the Year award goes to a member business of 30 employees or fewer than has done one or more of the following: demonstrated business leadership evidenced by diversification and creativity in the development of new products, services and/or markets; demonstrated staying power and positive response to adversity; or demonstrated community involvement.

In an area full of giving people and businesses that support their community, Steph’s Subs sets the example. There aren’t many positive community causes, especially those in Bloomsburg, that owner Steph Severn doesn’t support, and her personality matches her generosity, as she is one of the most genuine people one will ever meet.

The list of ways that Steph and her business support the community is very lengthy. For instance, each fall Friday for the last several years, before every Bloomsburg High School football game, she has invited the team to her restaurant for a free meal. There probably isn’t a nonprofit in the area that she has not donated to in some way, and she also generously gives her time through service on a number of boards and advisory committees throughout her career, including the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc., and Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital’s patient-family advisory boards.

In terms of staying power, Steph’s product is an area mainstay. Whether one bit into a sub that she made in 1978, or 2005 after she decided to open her own business, or yesterday, the taste is the same. Steady and constant quality is a hallmark of a good business, and Steph and her business certainly have those attributes.

Another part of being a community-minded business is encouraging the next generation. Many a Bloomsburg University or high school student have worked at Steph’s Subs over the years, but these many students have received far more than just a paycheck. Steph personally takes these students under her wing and serves as a mentor to them, imploring them to continue their education, but also do volunteer work and be active, positive citizens in their community, whether that’s here or elsewhere. When we consider the challenges of workforce, this may be the most important thing of the many that Steph and her business contribute.

The Large Business of the Year Award, goes to a business with 31 or more employees, and the criteria is the same as for the Small Business of the Year honor.

Many in the local business community as well as others that work with SEKISUI SPI or its employees have heard great things about its culture and purpose. SEKISUI’s culture includes ensuring total customer satisfaction, providing superior value, caring for the environment, promoting a team spirit among all personnel, and recognizing and rewarding excellence of individuals. Its purpose comes from making positive contributions to society, such as through research and development, being environmentally conscious and committing to zero-landfill, as well as empowering its employees.

Over the last several years, SEKISUI has greatly invested in its culture and its people, as well as its facilities in Columbia County. In 2016, it opened its second manufacturing plant here, its “South campus,” which was part of a $15 million investment in the area. Any business that makes such a significant investment in a region usually only does so if it knows it has an adequate workforce. SEKISUI president and COO Ronn Cort, who has worked around the world and in areas with far larger populations than Columbia County during his career, noted that the workforce in this area is the best he has ever worked with. He serves as an Ambassador for our area in spreading that message.

The people that make up that workforce have been empowered to make a difference in their community, and one conduit of doing so has been the United Way of Columbia & Montour County. Over the last five years, SEKISUI’s employee campaign has grown by 79%, and when combined with the corporate matching and additional donations, SEKISUI’s contributions over the last five years to the United Way have grown by over 250%. SEKISUI also sponsors programs such as Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s Theatre in the Classroom, the Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Central Penn, scholarships at both Bloomsburg University and Penn College, and through its “Noble Acts” program, has also given corporate and employee donations to organizations such as Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, AGAPE, Bloomsburg University’s STEM Magnet Program, the Columbia County Traveling Library, Central Columbia School District and many more.

The Community Progress Award goes to a member business or organization that showed improvement in the internal or external appearance of a commercial property through either new construction, renovation, restoration or remodeling, and completed that construction within the last three calendar years or by December 2017.

Founded in 1986 in the Lancaster area, LCBC Church has grown to 11 campuses in Pennsylvania and is now one of the largest and fastest growing churches not only here but in the country. The Columbia-Montour campus was launched in 2015 in Berwick, and in 2016, plans were made to move to have it more centrally located in the area and have a building that would be able accommodate continued growth.

LCBC Church chose the former Giant Food Stores building on Rt. 11 and Central Road that had sat vacant for well over a decade. It invested $4.2 million to transform this building from an eyesore, to a vibrant, uplifting and inspirational location for its hundreds of weekly churchgoers. Since opening the new church in July of last year, LCBC’s high-energy worship services have attracted thousands. The church here averages about 1,000 in attendance per week, and all LCBC campuses average just over 17,000.

With this investment also comes a commitment, as LCBC Church has a 15-year lease on this property, with options to extend it to nearly 30 years if they choose. Occupancy rates for both homes and commercial buildings are one indicator of a community’s overall health, and how much progress they can truly make. Thanks to LCBC Church, our community has progressed and gotten that much healthier.

The Outstanding Citizen Award is presented to an individual that is an employee or volunteer of a member organization who is involved in civic activities beneficial to the Columbia Montour region and who projects a positive community image.

Now in her second stint at Geisinger, where she currently is a director of service line development with the Geisinger Foundation, Denise Stone has lent her expertise to several community organizations throughout her career, all of which have helped make our community and these respective organizations better.

She currently serves on the Columbia Montour Chamber and Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. boards, the Chamber’s membership committee, and is a member of the Bloomsburg Rotary Club, Bloomsburg American Legion and Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital Auxiliary. For just short of a decade, while her sons where in school, she also served as the president of the Bloomsburg High School football boosters.

One of her most notable contributions to our community was as part of her recently concluded service on the board of the Columbia County Traveling Library, which last year purchased a new bookmobile for the first time in over 20 years, with a price tag of $280,000. Additionally, the Traveling Library needs to raise about $40,000 each year to deliver the service the community expects, so it had some pretty significant work to do.

She was instrumental in helping the Traveling Library develop its fundraising capacity, and she immediately lent her expertise and took over as chair of the bookmobile campaign. The Traveling Library board did not have her level of fundraising experience or network, so Denise helped them develop those relationships and expand their network. Her depth of knowledge, personable nature, and determined approach served the Traveling Library extremely well, just as these same attributes have served every organization that Denise has been associated with. When it came time for her service to the board to end a few months ago, the Traveling Library had already raised $200,000 of the $280,000 that it needs to finance the bookmobile.

Denise resides in Bloomsburg with her husband, Matt, and two college-aged sons.