Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce Announces 2019 “Of the Year” Award Winners


Contact: Kate Phelon, Executive Director

WESTFIELD, MA – 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 & 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.”

“You made my day,” said Tony Contrino, General Manager of the Westfield Gas & Electric and Whip City Fiber when notified as Business of the Year by Kate Phelon. “It’s really a testament to everyone who works here,” added Tony. Formed in 1860, the privately-owned Westfield Gas Company manufactured and sold only gas. With electric light coming into favor with their customers, the Westfield Gas Light Company 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 on June 1, 1899. Fast forward to 2015 when they began providing fiber optic internet in Westfield with Whip City Fiber. To date, this municipally owned gigabit-speed internet service is available to over 70% of the community. Whip City Fiber offers cutting-edge global access which will support the future commercial and residential growth of Westfield.

When Harry Rock was notified of the award for Nonprofit of the Year, he stated, “I am stunned. You’ve got me speechless,” said Harry. He added, “It takes a village and I am so happy for the volunteers who worked so hard and put in the hours.” The Westfield 350 Committee consisted of 13 volunteer board members including 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 in 2017. In celebrating the 350th birthday of the City of Westfield, First Night on December 31, 2018 kicked off the celebration followed by a plethora of events up to the final weekend of celebration on May 18th and 19th. “I couldn’t wait to contact Harry with the news about the award, as I knew he would not only be honored, but very surprised,” said Kate Phelon. “This recognition is so deserving to Harry and the entire committee for pulling off a celebration that will go down in the history books,” said Kate.

When contacted about being selected as the Lifetime Achievement recipient, Sister Betty stated, “I am very humbled, yet honored.” She is the founder of Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center. Sister Elizabeth served as the center’s administrator from 1976 until retirement in 2002. She continues her ministry at Genesis with service on the board of directors and as an experienced retreat director, spiritual director, biospiritual focusing facilitator, oversees the Genesis gardens, and is the Genesis historian. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Sister Elizabeth 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 & Awards Banquet on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Shaker Farms Country Club. There will be a cocktail hour from 5:30 to 6:30 pm followed by a fun-filled program and banquet. The event is hosted by Shaker Farms Country Club located at 866 Shaker Road, Westfield, MA. Our Event Sponsor is Westfield Bank; our Silver Sponsor is Tighe&Bond; and our Bronze Sponsor is Meyer’s Brother Kalicka. For more information on tickets and sponsorships, please call the Chamber office at (413) 568.1618.

About the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce is the voice for our member organizations representing a combined workforce of over 10,000 employees throughout the Chamber’s ten communities of: Westfield, Southwick, Russell, Granville, Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Montgomery, Tolland & Woronoco. Our mission is to develop and foster a prosperous business environment by serving, protecting and promoting our members through advocacy, education, information, marketing, and networking programs and activities.


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