By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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On Sunday, almost 120 people gathered at the Northwest Maritime Center to recognize the honorees for Citizen of the Year, Business Leader of the Year and, in a new category, Young Professional of the Year, sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.
The top citizen was Shirley Moss, top business leader was Charley Kanieski and the inaugural young professional was Will O’Donnell.
“This is one of the most exciting events in Jefferson County every year,” said newly installed Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Vice President Amanda Funaro.
“When I look around the room, I see at least one person at each table who I could put my arms around and thank them for their contributions to the community.”
The award finalists were chosen by a Chamber of Commerce committee after nominations closed Jan. 7.
Citizen of the Year Moss, Port Townsend Food Bank director, was nominated for the recognition along with Gary Kennedy, Northwest Maritime Center board member; Rena and Earll Murman, community volunteers and tutors, and Kelly and Laurie Liske of First Federal, co-chairs of Christmas for Children.
Upon accepting, Moss read a letter from a food bank client “that says more about the food bank than anything that I could say.”
Moss read the letter to the crowd:
“When an OlyCAP [Olympic Community Action Programs] counselor told me that I would have to use the food bank, I had no idea it would be so helpful.
“Before I started using the food bank, there were some tight moments because I was living on $10 to $15 for the last part of each month.
“The fact that you are there when I have no money after paying bills has made all the difference, both practically and psychologically in terms of the stress.
“One thing that I’ve seen from living marginally is that the difference between making it and not making it is quite small, and there are many things I can now do than before when I was not using the food bank.
”Those who are struggling are not made to feel ashamed for needing the help,” the letter Moss read concluded.
As a personal note, Moss thanked her life partner, Greg Root, for standing with her.
“This is my sweetie of 42 years, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to live with the manager of the Port Townsend Food Bank,” Moss said.
During the applause, Root responded by saying “it’s not that hard” to those at his table.
Young Professional of the Year O’Donnell was recognized for his bringing the local farmers market from a home in a parking lot to one that is recognized as one of the largest and best in the region.
“I feel so blessed to live in Jefferson County and Port Townsend,” O’Donnell said.
“It’s such a beautiful place, where people are inspired, innovate and take risks and to dream big.
“We have so much community support, and it is all thanks to you.”
Aside from O’Donnell, nominees for the Young Professional award were Frank DePalma, Totera Web Designs president, a board member of Co-Lab and Quimper Mercantile, and a Team Jefferson Economic Development Council team member, and Jordan Eades, co-owner of Hope Roofing.
Charley Kanieski, Business Guides owner, was honored as the recipient of the Tim Caldwell Business Leader of the Year award.
Also nominated were Dana Petrick of Dana Pointe Interiors and Steve Rafoth, owner of Enclume Design Products.
Kanieski said he has strived to provide more than standard accounting services and sought to offer answers to questions small-business owners ask that are not easily answered.
His value-added business took off, and he has helped many such business people, including Port Townsend Mayor David King who thanked him publicly Sunday.
“It’s all because of you, this business community that allowed this to happen in Port Townsend,” Kanieski told the audience.
“I’m living the dream. It’s fabulous, so thank you all.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.