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Greater Westfield Chamber Announces 2019 Award Winners

WESTFIELD — Each year, the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce solicits nominations from the membership for three awards. This year’s recipients are: Business of the Year: Westfield G&E and Whip City Fiber; Nonprofit of the Year: Westfield 350 Committee; and Lifetime Achievement Award: Sister Elizabeth “Betty” Oleksak of Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center.

“The chamber is very excited to announce this year’s recipients, as they are all so deserving of these recognitions,” said Kate Phelon, executive director. “It is never an easy decision, and I know the board governance committee made their recommendations to the full board with thoughtful consideration of all the nominees.”

Formed in 1860, the privately-owned Westfield Gas Co. manufactured and sold only gas. With electric light coming into favor with their customers, the Westfield Gas Light Co. purchased the Schuyler electric plant in 1887. Westfield later voted to acquire its own power plant, and the municipally owned and operated Westfield Gas & Electric Light Department was established in 1899. Fast-forward to 2015 when it began providing fiber-optic internet in Westfield with Whip City Fiber. To date, this municipally owned, gigabit-speed internet service is available to more than 70% of the community. Whip City Fiber offers cutting-edge global access which will support the future commercial and residential growth of Westfield.

The Westfield 350 Committee consists of 13 volunteer board members, including Harry Rock, Patrick Berry, Peggy Champagne, Amber Danahey, Cindy Gaylord, Peter Miller, Paul Nunez, Mary O’Connell, Ken Stomski, Jay Pagluica, Candy Pennington, Joyce Peregrin, and Vanessa Holford Diana, who started planning for Westfield’s 350th birthday in 2017. First Night on Dec. 31, 2018 kicked off the celebration, followed by a plethora of events up to the final weekend of celebration on May 18-19, 2019.

Oleksak is the founder of Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center. She served as the center’s administrator from 1976 until retirement in 2002, and continues her ministry at Genesis with service on the board of directors and as an experienced retreat director, spiritual director, biospiritual focusing facilitator, overseer of the Genesis gardens, and the Genesis historian. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Oleksak supported the creative efforts of the Genesis plant manager to promote and orchestrate summer fairs on the Genesis grounds in order to welcome and educate the public as to the Sisters of Providence change in ministry in Westfield from that of caring for unwed mothers to Genesis Spiritual Life Center. Genesis welcomes individuals from all faiths and all walks of life.

The three award winners will be recognized at the Chamber’s annual meeting and awards banquet on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at Shaker Farms Country Club. There will be a cocktail hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a fun-filled program and banquet. The event is hosted by Shaker Farms Country Club, 866 Shaker Road, Westfield. The event sponsor is Westfield Bank, the silver sponsor is Tighe & Bond, and the bronze sponsor is Meyers Brother Kalicka, P.C. For more information on tickets and sponsorships, call the chamber office at (413) 568-1618.

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