2015 Business of the Year – Ellison Travel & Tours
In operation since 1980, Ellison Travel & Tours employs more than 80 people in 4 locations – Exeter, Goderich, Vancouver and Ottawa. As one of the largest Canadian-owned travel agencies they provide corporate and incentive travel, personal vacation travel planning and group travel with all the qualities of a small-town business – friendly, personal attention and long-time employees. In fact, 23 of their 80 employees have worked for Ellison for more than 15-years.
Rather than fight the Internet Travel Revolution, Ellison Travel embraced it with a website geared to help people research and book trips online. With the aim of being the GOOGLE of travel websites in Canada, Ellison’s website offers a safe way to research and book travel online supported by a wealth of Ellison-Client travel information built through a variety of methods.
Ellison Travel’s commitment to community support is extensive and long-running and includes The Terry Fox Run, flights to Canada for an African children’s choir, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Free the Children, One Care Home and Community Support Services, Heart & Stroke’s Big Bike Ride, the Optimists, the Lions, the Kinsmen, Big Brothers Big Sisters, South Huron Hospital Compaign, Goderich Medical Clinic, Midwestern Adult Day Centre, Foundation for Education, Back Festival of Canada and Goderich Tornado Relief, Huron Country Playhouse, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Blyth Festival, Relay for Life, Community Living, Canadian Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish, Habitat for Humanity, Parkinson Foundation of Canada, Huntingdon Society o Canada, MS Society of Canada, Haiti Relief, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation !
2015 Entrepreneur of the Year – Veronica Brennan, Grog’s & MacPherson’s
In 1990, Veronica’s entrepreneurial undertaking began with the purchase of MacPherson’s and in 2000 with the purchase of Grog’s, which had been closed for 3 years. Over the next 25 years, Veronica’s business venture could be characterized as transformative with extensive and almost annual major renovations to both restaurants.
But as anyone knows, good customer service brings customers back and that depends on staff. Veronica is known to have some of the best trained staff in the area and that she treats them like family. Veronica employs 65 year-round staff which grows to 75 in summer months. Veronica enjoys seeing high-school students start out working with her and continuing through completion of their post-secondary education. Respect for one another, hard work and pitching in as a team is practiced by all.
In addition to her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Veronica’s community contribution is extensive. She sponsors two minor hockey teams, two Junior B hockey teams and a Pee Wee Minor Hockey team, provides door prizes and silent auction items, donates pizza for the Lioness Club of Arkona and the Port Franks Optimist Club, donates containers and staff to prepare meals for Meals on Wheels, supplies discounted pizza for fundraisers at schools and service club events, loans equipment and tools to charitable organizations for fundraisers and annually raises thousands of dollars for cancer research.
2015 David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award – Erryn Shephard
Many know Erryn Shephard as the chef who slaves away in the hottest kitchen in town, producing food that’s out-of-this-world! Erryn is an accomplished and gifted chef who, after achieving her Canadian Red Seal, apprenticed in the prestigious Greenbrier Apprentice Programme in West Virginia, followed by working with internationally recognized chefs in Texas and Ohio before returning to Grand Bend’s Oakwood Resort and Lakeview Cafe and starting her own culinary adventure 10-years ago.
However, it’s Erryn’s efforts – above and beyond her normal role of a restaurateur and chef – for which she was designated as this year’s award recipient. Erryn’s first fundraising efforts went to the dogs– The Purina Walk for Dog Guides that is! Erryn and canine friend Hari have participated and been major fundraisers for years now and this year the West Coast Lions presented Erryn with the Melvin Jones Award! Then there’s Erryn’s famous Ladies Night for Breast Cancer dinner held at F.I.N.E. every March since 2007, which has raised $85,000 for the cure!
Over the past 4 years, Erryn has been active in the Seaforth Area Food Bank’s “Souper Saturday”, at which area chefs compete for the title of “Best Soup Maker” and help raise funds for the food bank. Events such as the Aquafest Chowder Cook-off and Chilli Challenge for Cancer have both come to rely on Erryn’s consistent annual contributions. Erryn’s name and generous spirit is well-known by the Huron Country Playhouse Guild, Grand Bend Rotary and River Road Galleries. And, just this past August, F.I.N.E. A Restaurant celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary!
2015 Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Excellence Award – Mike Stanlake
Mike Stanlake works in the Community Services department of the Municipality of Lambton Shores and is this year’s recipient because he’s not just the guy in the municipal truck – he’s the guy who wants to make a better community and do whatever’s needed to help people. Mike is such an institution to local event organizers, businesses and residents that it’s surprising he’s only been with the Municipality for 6 years. Mike’s friendly, no-problem attitude and actions have earned him a reputation for making himself available beyond official work hours. A team player with a strong work ethic, Mike’s day isn’t just 7am-3:30pm, he’s on-call for snow plowing throughout the winter as well as for other emergencies. Answering phone calls during off hours is a daily practice. Mike makes “sacrifices not because he has too, but because he wants to”. He’s known for making time for people – whether a local business owner, a visitor or a person with a suggestion or complaint. Community work on time off includes meetings, working on lists and schedules, helping other volunteers with dinners and events like the Community in Bloom dinner and tour, or putting up Christmas lights for Light Up Grand Bend, or ensuring washrooms remain open for Thanksgiving Market and Christmas Comes Early, volunteering to setup blockades for local parades, or stopping in on summer events like Summer Sunset Sounds, Canada Day Celebrations and Drive ‘n Jive just to make sure everything is running smoothly and event organizers have everything they need to be successful are just a few examples of Mike’s customer service. This busy father of two is also a volunteer hockey and soccer coach and volunteer firefighter with the Northville Fire Department.