Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Shanna Cox, left, laughs along with Robin Robbins during the social hour prior to Thursday night’s annual awards dinner where Robbins, of Androscoggin Bank, received the Ray Geiger Chamber Champion Award. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce honored five people in the business community during its annual awards dinner Thursday night, and announced the new Charles Morrison Legacy Fund, a workforce initiative with a $150,000 matching grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation.

Chamber President Shanna Cox announced the new initiative to a packed house at the Ramada by Wyndham Lewiston Hotel & Conference Center, donating the first $5,000 herself and announcing a second anonymous donation of $5,000.

Cox said she repeatedly hears from businesses about the need for more workers and acknowledged that many workforce development efforts are underway. She described the fund as bringing those efforts together and expanding upon them with more resources and strategies.

“It really is a vibrant community and we’re proud to be partners along beside you and we’re grateful for the ability to ride along as you become the place that everybody looks to for how things get done,” said Nicole Witherbee, chief program officer at the John T. Gorman Foundation.

Plans are still in the initial phase of development, Cox said. “We invite you to join us in helping our local economy grow, businesses to prosper and residents to thrive.”

For its award honors, the chamber ran short videos featuring each winner talking about their work, philosophy or hope for the community.

• Maureen Andrew, a hospice nurse at Androscoggin Home Healthcare + Hospice, received the 2020 Community Service Award.

Andrew works with staff and volunteers to raise money for patients who are under- and uninsured at the hospice house.

“I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who have and there’s so many people in our community who don’t have, I want to kind of even the playing field,” she said. “People need people, we need to be together and we’re all in this together.”

• Owner John Emerson, received the 2020 Business Leadership Award on behalf of Emerson Chevrolet Buick.

The dealership is involved in supporting a number of local youth projects.

“The key with the young people is to plant the seed, when you get to the point where you can give back, make sure you do,” he said.

• Sandy Buchanan, general manager and operations director of Western Maine Transportation Services, received the 2020 Theresa Samson Women’s Business Leadership Award.

“Maine is very independent and the thought of using public transit is a new concept for people,” she said. “I would like to see the leaders think about how transit would benefit them, how it benefits the members of the community, how it benefits the environment, how it is an efficient way to allow people to move around in their communities and beyond.”

• President and CEO Mark Samson of Dirigo Federal Credit Union received the 2020 Ken Additon Small Business Advocacy Award.

“It doesn’t have to be the grand idea all the time, we can do little teeny things that can make a difference in somebody’s life,” he said. “We’re very optimistic about what the future is going to look like, so investing in your business, investing in your customers, or your members in our case, investing in your staff, getting out there and volunteering, doing community events, we’re here to serve the people who live locally and work locally.”

• Robin Robbins, senior vice president and treasurer of Androscoggin Bank, received the 2020 Ray Geiger Chamber Champion Award.

“We need to take care of our community and make it grow and thrive and get excited about it,” she said. “This is a hidden gem and we’re going to conquer the world, just you wait and see. … Learn from the past, take risks, chances, let’s get out there and change this place so everybody wants to live, work and play in the L-A metro area.”

Each winner received a standing ovation.

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