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By Keith Gushard

Meadville Tribune

People may live in a region together, but it is their interactions that strengthen the bonds to make it a community, according to the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, which honors individuals and businesses that work to make Meadville and western Crawford County a strong, active place with its annual Diamond Awards.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic meant the awards had to be presented virtually. Nominees were announced June 1 by the Chamber and the awards were presented this week online. Winners in each category are profiled in the Chamber's Foundations magazine included with today's print edition of The Meadville Tribune.

"I was overwhelmed to read all the remarkable things that these people and businesses are doing in our community," Christa Lundy, executive director of the Chamber, said of both the winners and nominees. "We are especially blessed to have so many community-minded individuals and companies wanting to give back, volunteer and be a part of the community that they live and work in." 

Jason Nesbitt, executive director of the Center for Family Services, is the 2020 Emerging Leader of the Year. The award recognizes someone under age 40 who demonstrates leadership qualities with a business or agency as well as within the community as a whole.

Emerging Leader of the Year was established to foster young leadership and retain young people in the community. Nominees must live and work in the Meadville-western Crawford County area and work for a Chamber-member firm to qualify.

Pampered Palate Cafe & Bistro in Meadville earned the Small Business of the Year Award, for firms with fewer than 50 employees, while Earth, Wind, and Wire Studio and Rock Shop in Cambridge Springs received the New Business of the Year Award, for those in business less than three years.

The Crawford County Historical Society earned the Small Nonprofit of the Year Award, for organizations with an annual budget of less than $500,000, and Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania earned the Large Nonprofit of the Year Award, for those with an annual budget in excess of $500,000.

Award selections are based on the overall success of a business or agency while at the same time supporting initiatives and organizations that enhance the quality of life in Meadville and western Crawford County.

A panel of judges analyzes nomination applications to develop a list of finalists in each category. The applications then are reviewed again and debated by the panel before winners are chosen.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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