From restaurant owners to non-profit leaders, The Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce honored all facets of the community who are moving the City of Portage in the right direction.
The awards banquet has been a long-time tradition of The Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce for more than two decades, according to Executive Director Nancy Simpson.
“My favorite part of this event is bringing the community together to actively recognize people for their service to the City of Portage,” Simpson said. “There’s a lot of people doing good things here, and we want to spread the word about all of the good they’ve done.”
The Chamber’s Community Awards Banquet hosted the ceremony at Woodland Park and honored 14 businesses, two organizations, seven individuals and two events, all qualifying under 12 categories of excellence.
The award categories included New Construction, Community Improvement, Business Service, Putting Portage on the Map, Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Fireman, Outstanding Policeman, Quality of Life, Volunteer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Special Event and Outstanding Public Citizen. And the list keeps growing- this was the first year the organization honored a police officer and firefighter.
Simpson said the chamber invites the people of the City of Portage to submit nominations every year, in which the nominations committee must do the not-so-easy task of choosing one winner in each category.
“There’s businesses of all different types doing some great things, and being able to honor them is exciting,” Simpson said. “I hope other businesses strive to win in the future. I think this also inspires them to want to do more.”
Grace Hilsmier, 6th grade teacher at Willow Creek Middle School, won the Outstanding Educator Award and has been teaching for three years now.
“It’s exciting, but also weird as such a young educator,” Hilsmier said. “I feel this is also an award for all of the coworkers who are mentoring me. I wouldn’t get anything done if it wasn’t for them.”
John Pomales and Matthew Pomales, brothers and co-owners of food truck Da Portable Rican, had two reasons to celebrate this year: They just opened their new brick-and-mortar restaurant two months ago and won a Community Improvement Award. “Altogether it’s been a blessing, and we will continue to move forward and continue to reach out to the community,” John Pomales said.
James Hazzard, winner of the Citizen of the Year Award, wears many hats in the community and is a part of more than eight organizations, committees, boards and volunteer groups in the area. He has been the president of The Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce for one year now, and has already made a big impact.
“I was born and raised in Portage with little means, my family didn’t have much, but I had two wonderful parents,” Hazzard said. “I remember all of the people who helped my family when I was young, and I believe it’s important to give back. I have an 8-year-old little girl and I want to teach her how important it is to serve the community, and not just donate money but donate your time, which is more important.”
Founders of non-profit Hannah’s Hope, Mike and Mary Martinez, won the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Hannah’s Hope opened an all-inclusive playground on Founders Square in Portage recently this year.
“We’re humbled the chamber would think of us,” Mike Martinez said. “It says our names on the award, but really this award goes to the Hannah’s Hope family. Without their dedication, we wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t have the playground.”
Volunteer of the Year Award winner Irma Torres also works with several organizations, some of which include The Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce; Gabriel’s Horn Homeless Shelter and Friends of Portage Township Foundation.
“Volunteering is important because a lot of people out there are in need, and so many don’t know all of the resources that are out there for them,” Torres said. “All of the organizations I serve on are all to make Portage a better place for your kids and grandkids, and also grow the business community, which is so important for the city.”
Congratulations to everyone that won tonight. Together they are making their neighbors, their communities, and Portage a better place for everyone, including future generations.
Community Improvement Awards
Wal-Mart of Portage, Yo Amazing of Portage, McEuen Law Office, Vital Nutrition of Portage, Portage 16 IMAX, T-Mobile of Portage, Soundtide Music School, Keary Bewick DDS, Kirby Risk of Portage, La Cabana of Portage, Country Inn and Suites of Portage, Coyne Veterinary Center, Da Portable Rican
New Construction Award Portage Township Park Department
Business Service Award
Putting Portage on the Map Award
Portage Township Administration
Outstanding Educator Award
Outstanding Fireman Award
Outstanding Policeman Award
Quality of Life Award
Portage Township Live Entertainment Summer Concert
Volunteer of the Year Award
Humanitarian of the Year Award
Mike and Mary Martinez of Hannah’s Hope
Special Event Award
Portage Fire Department Bike Rodeo
Outstanding Public Citizen Award