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Chamber of Commerce to honor select few for excellence

BY: Community Papers of WNY Staff | November 08, 2012

Each year The Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas Board of Directors selects a few individuals who they feel have gone above and beyond their civic duties to achieve personal excellence; be it through their hard work and perseverance at their jobs, as a business owner or through their loyalty to bettering The Tonawandas.

This year, during the Annual Dinner and Installation of Officers, presented by The Chamber of Commerce of The Tonawanda, three awards will be given in honor of excellence in 2012. Those recipients are Larry Denef as the 2012 Citizen of the Year, Painters Plus Home as 2012 Business of the Year, and Matthew Piorowski will be honored with a Life Time Achievement Award.

“We put an ad in the paper every year and ask the public to submit a letter of nomination for someone they feel should be recognized,” said Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas Joyce Santiago. “Then I read each allowed out loud in front of the board and they vote on who they thing should be awarded.”

The chamber released the following information about the candidates in the November edition of the Tonawandas Newsletter:

Larry Denef:

Since 1984, Denef has volunteered for the Power Squadrons, a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to improve maritime safety and enjoyment through classes in seamanship, navigation and other related subjects; he served as Commander of the Swiftwater Power Squadron and in 1994 he was awarded the Commander’s Cup for his outstanding leadership as well as being awarded a Member Achievement Award in 1996 for his outstanding service; In 2000 he and his family were named WNY Boating Family of the Year by the International Order of the Blue Gavel in recognition of all of the time devoted to safe boating and other water related volunteer work; Larry is a devoted Elks Lodge #860 member and volunteer and has served as a member of the Community Advisory Panel for 3M, FMC, Dupont and Ashland Chemical. In 1999 Larry became a member of the Niagara River Yacht Club and has contributed countless hours.

Jesse Gooch:

Business owner Jesse Gooch started his business from the ground up after learning his trade working for another company. Through hard work, good business practices and great customer service the business has grown and employees have been added through the years since starting in 2007.

Nominations came in not only from city officials and customers, but from devoted employees and other area businesses that collaborate on charitable fund-raising efforts with them.

The company’s dedication to the community was cited due to their program Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Paint Exteriors) in which a homeowner is chosen to have their home painted for free when they cannot paint it themselves due to unfortunate circumstances. The company also removed graffiti in and around Gateway Harbor, raises money for charities with the annual Goochfest music celebration, and donates time, money and services to fund-raisers including the Chamber’s annual Clambake raising money for the Chamber and DeGraff Memorial Hospital.

Painters Plus was chosen for growing a successful business here in the Tonawandas, being a great employer and giving back to the community by utilizing talents, time and blessings.

Matthew Piorkowski

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given sporadically over the years when it comes to the Chamber’s attention that an individual has dedicated their life making the Tonawandas a better place by utilizing their time and talent.

Piorkowski, owner of Matt’s Music Store, has done just that. Not only has he owned a successful business in North Tonawanda that will be celebrating its 50th year this coming March, he has added to the quality of life of the many students he has had over the years. Along with music lessons, students learn life lessons such as leadership, volunteerism and commitment.

Piorkowski’s charity work is endless. His jazz band made up of his students, Matt’s Music Sensations, has played for Camp Good Days and Special Times, local nursing homes and at the Sikora Post Satellite location of the MDA telethon to name a few.

He doesn’t let financial hardship stand in the way of a child that wants to learn music. He has been known to give instruments and lessons to students with families facing hardship and he donates music folders to our high schools each year. His Music is also along time sponsor of two local Little League baseball teams.

He has led a very interesting life. He has appeared on the Lawrence Welk Show, played for Pope John Paul when he came to Niagara Falls and has appeared with famous people, including Bobby Vinton. His joy comes from his dedication to music and his community.

“It’s nice to be able to give recognition to these people who have worked so hard,” said Santiago. “They really do make a difference in the Tonawandas.”

The event will be held next week at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 with a cocktail reception beginning at 6 p.m., at Banchetti By Rizzo’s 550 North French Road, Amherst.

Dinner choices include Petite Strip Steak and Chicken Saltimbocca Combo; Swordfish Pescatore; or Vegetarian Pasta Primavera.

Tickets are $35 per person. Please RSVP with dinner choices by calling 692-5120.

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