2020 Darien Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards
The Darien Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce to the Darien Community the 2020 Awards for “Volunteer of the Year”, “Business of the Year” and “Employee of the Year” of a Darien Chamber member. The awardees were honored at the Annual Meeting with Awards and Holiday Cheer via Zoom on December 15, 2020. As we fight through the pandemic, we have modified from our usual gathering style and opted for a virtual meeting. Some attendees enjoyed a beautifully wrapped holiday cheer package composed of an appetizer from Michael Joseph’s Finefoods Catering, a half bottle of Prosecco from Sipstirs and a mini poinsettia from Nielsen’s Florist. We celebrated our annual award recipients during the meeting each receiving a Proclamation from First Selectman, Jayme Stevenson.
The Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Erica Jensen and Corrie Belardinelli of Helen Ainson. For over 12 years they have volunteered their time to help organize Darien Sidewalk Sales & Family Fun Days. They have done everything from promote and secure sponsorships, mentored new retailers with a “Sidewalk Sales Guide to Maximize Sales”, to recruit their family members to help with the car show, and place signage around town. They are instrumental to the success of this summer celebration, especially during the challenging 2020 Summer Sales event. Corrie has taken on additional leadership responsibilities and volunteered to serve as a Board of Director on the Full Board in 2020 and will continue in 2021. Erica and Corrie’s dedication to the Chamber of Commerce, Sidewalk Sales and promotion of Darien has helped put Darien “on the map” as a shopping destination, which assists all other local businesses.
The Business of the Year was awarded to Sipstirs. Accepting the award at the event was David Wagner, owner of Sipstirs. David currently serves as the Vice Chairman on the Executive Board of Directors in 2020 and will continue in 2021. Sipstirs has forged strong relationships with other businesses in town to elevate all of Darien’s small businesses, providing support and collaboration during this difficult year. Sipstirs continues to actively volunteer their time and spirits to Darien Chamber events. Sipstirs has taken a leadership position in promoting the Darien Business Community and the quality of life in Darien.
The Employee of the Year award is given to an employee of a chamber member who has been nominated for exemplary service to the business he or she works for. It is based on the qualities of delivering excellent customer service, loyalty and trust and is given in memory of Stephen F. Zangrillo, founder of the Darien Sport Shop who built his business based on these attributes. This year, The Darien Chamber of Commerce awarded 3 employees who have shown above and beyond their call of duty during the pandemic. In alphabetical order, the first employee of the year was awarded to Lisa Elwell of Baywater Properties. She has been an incredible contributor to the vitality of our downtown during the COVID crisis. Lisa has helped coordinate so many of the Baywater initiatives during the pandemic, including the most recent collaboration between The Corbin District and the Darien Chamber of Commerce, the Darien Together program to support shopping locally this holiday season. She continually works hard to bring people together among our retailers and residents to downtown to support local restaurants and retailers. Lisa brings a great attitude to everything that she does, is totally committed to Darien and to supporting local business. She understands the mission and is an incredible ambassador for The Corbin District and The Chamber of Commerce. The second employee of the year was awarded to Jane Matthews of At Home in Darien. Jane has been amazing in assisting senior citizens, the most vulnerable population during the pandemic. Jane provides safe and reliable transportation and has gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 crisis, taking service to the next level by taking on important assignments such as shopping and delivering of groceries, prescriptions, and assistive items, and other helpful tasks in order to keep seniors safe at home. Jane does it all for At Home in Darien with a big heart and a big smile (under her mask), therefore earning the trust and friendship of Darien’s seniors. The third employee of the year was awarded to Tony Mica of Palmers Market. Tony has done an outstanding job during COVID-19. He worked tirelessly 60-80-hour weeks since the pandemic hit, procuring products for the shelves which has been extremely challenging and time consuming. Tony does it all with a smile! Both Palmers and the Darien Chamber of Commerce are lucky to have Tony as part of our family.
Honorary Awards were also given to three residents of Darien. Sophie Curtis was awarded for starting the Rescue Main Street movement during COVID along with her siblings, Ben, Will and Grace. While only a freshman at DHS at the time, she started a gift certificate “swap” program to support local Dairen businesses, raising over $11,000 that went directly back into our local businesses. Not only was her gift certificate “swap” a success for our local businesses, her efforts also allowed $1,400 to be donated to Darien’s Human Services department to aid those in need of assistance. Sophie and her family’s dedication to Darien small businesses and entrepreneurship should be celebrated and praised. The Darien Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Darien are thankful for her perseverance and commitment to our businesses. Yakov and Rebecca Gorodnitsky were awarded for their dedication to providing PPE to local healthcare first responders in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when it was most needed. In addition, they selflessly donated to over 80 different locations, including the Darien Chamber of Commerce, to distribute to our members without access or the means to obtain PPE once they were able to open back up in Phase 1.
The Mission of the Darien Chamber of Commerce is to take a leadership position in promoting the business community and the quality of life in Darien. The DCC is generously sponsored by Elite Sponsors, Bankwell and DR Bank, and Select Sponsor, First County Bank, throughout the year.