DUBOIS – Business owners, employees and members of the public gathered at the Lakeview Lodge in Treasure Lake Saturday for this year’s Greater DuBois Chamber of Commerce – Economic Development’s Business Bash.
It was a night of socializing, prizes and awards. The Small Business of the Year, Community Cup and Distinguished Service awards were presented as well as some special presentations from State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-75 of DuBois.
Chamber Director Jodi August noted 55 new members joined the chamber in the past year and thanked both members and also the board of directors. “The chamber is strong thanks to our board,” she said.
The Small Business of the Year award was presented by Jamie Williams from The Winery at Wilcox, last year’s recipient, to Cooper Tire and Auto.
He noted the business was originally founded in 1946 by Howard Cooper and is not a franchise of Cooper Tires, though they do sell the brand.
Williams said they have seven full-time employees and offer an array of products and services, including oil change and alignments
In 1972 Patrick Riley Sr. took over the business and in the 1990’s his son, Patrick Jr., took over, though Patrick Sr. is still involved.
Cooper Tire and Auto is committed to the community, Williams noted. From the Economic Development portion of the chamber to spearheading a new YMCA building and being active with DuBois Central Catholic schools, the family believes small businesses are vital to a community’s success as a whole.
Patrick Riley Jr. thanked the community and especially their customers for their support and specifically thanked his family, especially his wife and children for their help and patience.
“This is about my father more than any one person in our organization,” he said, adding that his father instilled values that made it understandable why community involvement is important. He quoted the final line of the Jaycees creed: “… service to humanity is the best work of life.”
The Community Cup award was presented by Ray Donati of Goodwill Industries, last year’s winner, to Domtar Paper Co.
He said the company came to the area in January of 1992 with a plant manager and six employees. The plant converted raw paper into copy paper.
In 1995 they added an additional process to create book paper, so that novel you are reading … the paper could have come from a local industry.
Currently Domtar employs 85 people and operates 24 hours a day. They produce 800 tons of copy paper per day and have donated more than 35 tons of paper to non-profit organizations, including the DuBois Chamber.
Domtar is involved with first-responder programs, Toys for Tots, local food banks, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Scouting, Special Olympics and so on, especially the annual Golf Tournament for America’s Heroes, encompassing two golf courses and raising thousands for veterans and their families.
Manager Kip Jones said he had been present as one of the seven employees when the company opened in 1992. “It’s been a fun ride,” he said.
For years the company kept a low profile, but former Chamber Director Nancy Micks kept asking him to host a mixer, and finally eight years ago they held a mid-day event.
Seven years ago, they did a climate survey and were advised to take something positive about the company and grow it. The company decided to become more involved in the community and make it a better place.
Their biggest event, the golf outing, is a big undertaking, but, “It’s so worth it,” Jones said. He added that the employees also do things on their own, which the company doesn’t track, but he said it is a very important part of their lives. “We don’t do it for the recognition. If you do it for the recognition, you do it for the wrong reasons.”
Jones also quoted Ronald Reagan who said, “You can’t help everyone. But everyone can help someone.”
In the past 25 years, Domtar has produced more than 4.7 million tons of converted paper.
Rep. Matt Gabler presented citations from the state House of Representatives, the state Senate and U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson to Cooper Tire and Auto and Domtar Paper Co. for their years of service to the community, and he noted that businesses like this are the heart and spirit of a community.
The final award, DuBois Area Jaycees Distinguished Service Award was presented by Rachel Syktich-Steele and was awarded posthumously to Pastor David Bish.
Syktich-Steele noted he was born in 1961 in Butler and received a degree in industrial arts education. In 1987, he and his wife moved to Chicago where he achieved his Masters in pastoral studies.
He returned to Pennsylvania and worked as a youth pastor in Butler until he felt the call to move to DuBois and found a different kind of church, one that was contemporary and especially focused on welcoming others.
Tri-County Church was founded in 1995 and Jesus was the focus and the subject of the church, that the people were to live and to love as Jesus did.
Bish was also deeply involved in his community, in the lives of his children, was an avid hunter and fisherman, but felt his real purpose was reaching the lost.
One thing he often said, Syktich-Steele said, was, “We don’t go to church, we are the church.” Eventually he would write a book with that title.
As well, a building was constructed in 2003, and branch churches opened in downtown DuBois and in Clearfield. She concluded that her speech about him could not do justice, and concluded with a video of Bish in his own words.
The award was then accepted by his wife, Lori, and children Kyle, Braden, Bevin and Jocelyn.