Similarly, the Citizen of the Year is a member of the Hamilton community who has left a special mark on the city in 2023, transcending his or her everyday job in volunteer efforts, a financial commitment, a significant achievement, or a powerful idea that will make a positive difference in local quality of life.
Both award winners will be honored at the chamber’s Annual Meeting, which is Jan. 26, 2024. This is the first time where both awards will be at the annual meeting.
“It’s moved around,” said Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates about presenting the Small Business Person of the Year award. “One year, we did it at the State of the City. Other times, we’ve done it as its own event. But because we’re doing the annual meeting at Spooky Nook (Sports) again, it will probably be a larger attendance than we normally get. And we decided to do it all at once.”
The 2022 annual meeting was conducted for the first time at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, and about 500 people attended the event, where Neil Cohen was named Citizen of the Year. At a much smaller event, Warren & Marian Wohlafka, then-owners of the business SANE (Sewing Aids and Notions for Everyone), were honored together as the Small Business Owner of the Year. The couple retired in February.
“When we do a separate event, we get nowhere close to (several hundred attendees), so I think it will be nicer to have a larger number of people in the room and combine it with Citizen of the Year, which is also a big deal,” said Bates. “We’re going to handle all the big deals at the same time.”
While the itinerary of the chamber’s annual meeting is still being worked out, it’s important to honor those who have given back to the community, both as a small business and a person involved in the community, Bates said.
“We have amazing people, and that’s really what it’s about,” said Bates, adding it’s “really about the person behind the business” and their passions in terms of the Small Business Person of the Year and the “unsung heroes that do amazing things every single day and get no recognition for it” with the Citizen of the Year.
In both cases, they do what they do not to seek recognition but because it’s for the betterment of the community.
The nominations usually draw out “amazing stories” with both categories of nominees, especially the small business owner because, as Bates said, “We think we know, but we have no idea how much they give back and help other people and other businesses, or donate and contribute. It’s really humbling to see.”
Showcasing both honorees hopefully inspires others to do more, he said.
HOW TO NOMINATE
To nominate a small business or a person for either the Citizen of the Year or Small Business Person of the Year honors, a nominating form must be filled out and submitted by the end of the day on Dec. 4, 2023.
Citizen of the Year nominees must be a member of the Hamilton community who has left a special mark on the city in 2023, and done so in a way that transcends his or her everyday job.
Small Business Person of the Year nominees are those who operate a successful small business and who the nominator believes deserve special recognition for his or her efforts.
People can nominate someone for the Citizen of the Year at bit.ly/HamiltonCotY2023 or Small Business Person of the Year at bit.ly/HamiltonSBPotY2023.
Below are the recipients of the Small Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year awards in the past five years:
Small Business of the Year
2022: Marian and Warren Wohlafka
2021: Andy Schuster
2020: Thommy Long
2019: John Kirsch
2018: Kym McCaughey
Citizen of the Year
2022: Neil Cohen
2021: Brad Baker
2020: Jack and Karen Whalen
2019: Kathleen Klink
2018: Pastor Shaquila Mathews