POLAND — Noting that many in the crowd at Poland Spring Resort hadn’t seen each other in person for 16 months due to the pandemic, Shanna Cox opened the 133rd annual Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce awards on Thursday calling it a day “to celebrate each other, to celebrate obstacles we overcame and to celebrate the leaders who continuously move our region forward.”

That celebration kicked off with the new, first-time Leading Through Change Award.

Cox, the chamber president, said Dr. John Alexander fit that award by giving of his time and expertise as he educated and reassured local officials, first responders and business leaders throughout the past 16 months.

Alexander is chief medical officer for Central Maine Healthcare.

“I think this will bring us closer together and make us stronger as well as be able to adapt to anything that comes at us,” said Alexander, who, like other awardees, had prerecorded remarks.

Roger Philippon, the recently retired dean of planning and public affairs at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, was honored with the Community Service Award for his work at the college and in Community Little Theatre, where he’s appeared in 30-plus stage productions over 25 years.

Philippon said he wanted to recognize the importance of friends, family and colleagues, including his wife of 42 years, Celeste, and his “local celebrity” son, Joe, a Lewiston police officer.

“One of my favorite movies is ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,'” he said, and at the end, George Bailey finds a book with an inscription: “It says, ‘Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings.'”

Cox introduced a video for Jules Patry, the owner of DaVinci’s Eatery and recipient of the Business Leadership Award, by saying Patry was a man of few words and doesn’t spend them talking up his own work.

He’s restored two downtown properties bringing housing to Lisbon Street, the latest at 199 Lisbon St., and offers his time mentoring other small business owners, she said.

“I’m excited to be part of the economic redevelopment of downtown Lewiston,” Patry said. “I’d like to thank my staff for all the hard work they do. I’d like to thank my wife and son for putting up with the hours that are involved in running a successful restaurant. I’m honored and humbled.”

Betsy Sawyer-Manter, president and CEO of SeniorsPlus, accepted the Theresa Samson Women’s Business Leadership Award.

She called Lewiston-Auburn an optimistic place with a sense of joy.

“I’ve worked as a social worker my entire professional career,” she said. “To be in the caliber of women who come before me, and have been chosen for this prestigious award, is amazing. I think it takes both sexes to make a really good work environment and it’s great just to see women attain those leadership positions.”

Cox said the Ken Additon Small Business Advocacy Award winner this year didn’t fit the typical scope of the award, “though it may be my favorite.”

Anania & Associates​ saved the former Jones & Vining plant last year after owners announced it was closing. The facility reopened under the name Poly Labs. Anania & Associates had previously stepped in to invest in and buy another local company, Elmet Technologies.

Through advocating for both companies, they were able to keep people employed and “keep this important business in this region,” Cox said.

Jennifer Hogan, president and CEO of Community Credit Union, was recognized for years of chamber involvement with the Ray Geiger Chamber Champion Award.

“I’ve given to the chamber because I care, I’m passionate about it, I’m passionate about what the chamber means to this community,” she said.

For the final award of the afternoon, Cox said she didn’t give a President’s Award last year because she hadn’t been in the position very long. This year, she recognized Alex McMahan and Allison Carmen from The Healing Community MEDCo for the work the company does for the community, a lot of it without recognition.

“They’re not just great mentors and chamber members, which is both true, but they ensure that every one of their buildings and businesses employ local artists and put up local art. They find different folks in the community that they can mentor,” she said. And over the past 12 months, MEDCo donations and chamber members’ matching donations bought $15,000 in groceries for local families.

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