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Marie Gremore (right) was honored as the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year during last week's awards event at R&D Catering and Banquet Facility. She accepts the honor from Chamber President Angela Olson (left) and Russ Korpela.

New Richmond Chamber honors volunteers, businesses

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A near-capacity crowd attended the 2012 Awards and Recognition Banquet for the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 25.

The evening was filled with annual reports, raffles, silent auctions and awards. The annual dessert auction, which raises funds for the chamber, raised $9,302 when seven fancy cakes were auctioned off.

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Outgoing Chamber President Mike Giese conducted his closing business meeting, directing the election of new Board of Directors members and the 2012 board officers.

The 2012 president will be Angela Olson. Vice president is Scot Destasio, treasurer is Chad Derrick and member at large is Jill Schreck.

The year's awards went to the following recipients:

Ambassador of the Year; Marie Gremore

Mom & Pop Business of the Year: 45th Parallel Distillery, which was founded in 2007. According to Chamber Executive Director Russ Korpela, the success of the business can be attributed to the "exacting care and detail from the raw ingredients to the hand-crafted nature of the manufacturing process."

"Few would think that their world class product would come from a little town like New Richmond but it does," Korpela said. "Their business name refers to a map and they have helped put New Richmond on the map with their products, tours and classes quickly making them one of our most popular tourist destinations."

Small Business of the Year: R&D Catering/Ready Randy's, which served New Richmond for 25 years.

"Countless people have enjoyed their service and delicious offerings," Korpela said. "It is safe to say that if you have been to a charitable golf event, graduation party, Chamber event, wedding or family reunion your stomach has gone home happy." In 2006 the business owners Deb and Randy Calleja made a huge investment in the community by constructing a sports bar and banquet facility that is capable of handling more than 400 people and is now home to a significant percentage of the events in New Richmond, including weddings from throughout the region and the very event you are attending this evening.

"In addition to their business efforts, the Callejas donate countless hours and contributions to many charitable causes every year," Korpela said.

Large Business of the Year: Bernard's Northtown, which has served the New Richmond community for 80 years. Korpela said Bernard's has weathered the ups and downs of the economy to become a significant employer and strong community supporter in New Richmond. The business even finished a new 6,390 addition and a significant renovation project to its building to position itself for the future, Korpela noted.

The business also is a major sponsor of many local events and programs, including the St. Croix County Fairplex, coat drives, an annual car show and local charitable efforts.

"Bernard's continues to send an optimistic message by investing, expanding, hiring and generously contributing in the New Richmond area," Korpela said.

Chamber Member of the Year: Cindy Prokash for her outstanding contribution to the Chamber in a volunteer capacity. "This year's winner is no stranger to helping out with the Chamber because her spouse has been a previous winner of this award," Korpela said. "She is a person that I know I can hand off a task to and it will be done and done well with no oversight needed."

Prokash has hosted Ambassador visits and is a regular visitor to the Chamber office. She has organized volunteer groups of as many as 20 people to handle entire shifts of Fun Fest and other activities.

"If I had 20 of her, my work life would be very easy," Korpela said.

Citizen of the Year: Jim Zajkowski, a New Richmond City Council member for the past 20 years.

"Jim has served on nearly all the city subcommittees, including finance, parks, budget, streets, property and Plan Commission," Korpela said. "Jim has also worked very hard in the past years with the surrounding townships on developing a boundary agreement that would significantly improve relationships between the city and the townships."

Korpela also noted that Zajkowski has been a strong advocate for city parks, trails, athletic fields and recreation centers through the years.

"He has made a significant impact on our community and has helped to make it what it is today."

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