CONNEAUT, Ohio – New Castle native Matt Crawford, who founded the Outdoor Learning Center in Conneaut, Ohio, and became a volunteer with the Conneaut Convention & Visitors Bureau, a Conneaut Cable TV show host and videographer, was voted Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce 2019 Citizen of the Year.
“I thought he was going to cry,” said Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wendy DuBey shortly after notifying Crawford that he was the winner.
She was right on.
“I almost did,” said Crawford, struggling to find his voice. “I had heard I was nominated, but I knew some of the other nominees. I never expected to win.”
Crawford received his award at the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner in February. He was among six nominees for the community’s most prestigious award, the highest number of nominees that the Chamber has received in several years.
“It was a super ballot,” said DuBey. “And Matt is strong on volunteering – hands down.”
The Citizen of the Year Award is given to a citizen who has performed considerable public service over a period of years, over and above what one does for a living. For Crawford, on permanent disability because of MS, everything he has done since coming to Conneaut in 2000 has been as a volunteer.
“This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Crawford said.
Others in the running, nominated by community residents, included Conneaut Food Pantry Director and Corpus Christi Parish volunteer Renea Roach; Tracy and Micah Bidwell, founders of Ashtabula County “Feed Our Vets” Food Pantry; Kristina Showalter, of Castaways Pizza & Grill; Lori Riley, Conneaut Area City Schools Superintendent; and Michael Bartone of Joslin-Landis Insurance.
In addition to the Citizen of the Year, elected by past Citizens of the Year and the Chamber board, recipients of the Chamber Champion awards were also announced. They are chosen by the chamber board.
Winner of the Leadership Award is Lake Erie Automotive, which relocated late last summer to West Main Road at Gore Road. The Leadership Award is presented to a business or industry with outstanding achievements in economic development, jobs creation, enterprise growth or start-up entrepreneurship.
Chaz Giganti and his wife, Pam, who opened Charlie’s Deli on Park Avenue last spring, won the President’s Award for exemplifying the Chamber’s strategic objective to make Conneaut a better place to live, work and play.
Pat Cifelli, owner of El Camp Lanes and Pat’s Fireside Grill, won the Professional Achievement Award for demonstrating a superb record of distinguished career accomplishments and for outstanding contributions to its profession, industry or community.
The Chamber has also chosen to present the special Legacy Award this year to Ron Ross, of Ron’s Meats, who has retired and sold his long-time Main Street business.
(This article originally was published in The (Conneaut, Ohio) Courier and is reprinted here with permission.)