Michael Murphy (L), of Bowen Center, presents the Large Business of the Year award to Miller’s Merry Manor of Syracuse. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Michael Murphy (L), of Bowen Center, presents the Large Business of the Year award to Miller’s Merry Manor of Syracuse. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
SYRACUSE - Celebrating the businesses in the community, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce handed out six awards Thursday evening at ProWake Surf Shop during.

Michael Murphy, representing award sponsor Bowen Center, presented the Large Business of the Year award to Miller’s Merry Manor of Syracuse.

He said Miller’s Merry Manor was “healthcare heroes in every sense of the word. Taking care of our most prized generations through the latter stages of life, we are so fortunate to have a nursing care facility like this in our area. Providing short-term and outpatient rehabilitation care, physical, occupational and speech therapy, hospice care, long-term residence and adult daycare, Miller’s Merry Manor does it all.”

Murphy said Miller’s was a premier rehabilitation provider in Syracuse and is a 100% employee-owned company made up of a network of owners who are deeply rooted in the places they call home.

The other nominee for the award was The Papers Inc.

Key Bank’s Amy Rensberger presented the Small Business of the Year award to Davidson Auto Deals.

“Entrepreneurship is a specialty of Travis and Heather Davidson,” Rensberger said. “With recently acquiring Peterson’s Fish, becoming real estate agents and partnering with Backyard Barns, they have invested their lives to this area. But one business stands apart - Davidson Auto Deals always took the promotion of the business to the next level by including the community in their giveaways and special events. Always taking care of Syracuse in the process,” she said.

The other nominee for the award was The Channel Marker.

Lake City Bank sponsored the New Business of the Year, presented by Kim Strawbridge and Brittni Kuhn, to Brew City Roasting Company.

Brew City has been in Syracuse a short time, but in business for years in other locations, they said. Owners Cassandra and Derek Porier took an old building and turned it into a grand lake-themed coffee shop. They invested in Syracuse with “great offerings of delicious pastries, on-site roasted coffee, teas and partnering with local non-profits and businesses to create packages for their clients and raise funds for special projects.”

Kuhn and Strawbridge said Derek and Cassandra bring “special skills in the culinary field to their business, having worked in the corporate world and in other countries.”

The other nominee for the award was Uptown Beauty Join.

Rich Haddad, CEO and president of the K21 Health Foundation, presented the Organization of the Year award to Wawasee Community Schools.

He said Wawasee Schools is one of the largest employers in the community. Its employees have one of the most important jobs in teaching, caring for and directing youth to higher goals in life.

“Wawasee Community Schools has been hit hard the last few years. The impact of COVID alone has shook their core, but through it all they have come out standing taller than before,” he said. “With the guidance of the new superintendent, Dr. Steve Troyer, the school system is working on revamping systems, implementing new resources and looking to change the tide of their educational opportunities.”

The other nominee for the award was The Knights of Columbus 6323 of Syracuse.

Dr. Richard Brungardt, veterinarian at Lakeland Animal Clinic, presented the Volunteer of the Year award to David and Kathleen Johnston.

In his presentation, Brungardt said the Johnstons were a “wonderful couple who have energy beyond their years. They do circles around the most productive and spring into action when the need arises.”

He said they love Syracuse and can be found doing a variety of work, caring and giving through their service to Grace Lutheran Church. David also serves on the Syracuse Park Board, and Kathleen is on the Teen Parents Succeeding board. They both have assisted the Chamber with highway clean-up and the SWCC Foundation placemaking task force.

“This duo genuinely cares about Syracuse, humbly making a difference in all they do,” Brungardt stated.

The other nominee for the award was Roxann Arnott.

The last award - Ambassador of the Year - is a new award. It was presented by Gabe Ritter, of Ritter Electric, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, to Chamber ambassador Mason Slabaugh, from the Tippecanoe Lake Country Club.

“Before I get into this, when I found out who this individual is, this humble person ... I know that humble people are usually good leaders, wouldn’t you agree? So we need to give this person a big applause,” Ritter said before reading the prepared remarks.

“This year’s Ambassador of the Year is one who steps up to the plate when asked and even when not asked,” Ritter read from the remarks. “A true champion of the Chamber, this individual looks at the community and when they see a need to help, does it without hesitation. This person has been instrumental in recruiting new members throughout the year, assisting with events, providing insight into potential members, attending nearly all meetings, ribbon-cuttings and member-of-the-month opportunities.”