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Connellsville chamber honors residents who are committed to community

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 12:31 a.m.
Lisa Malago, a businesswoman and volunteer who has been involved for years with the Special Olympics, received the 2013 Athena Award. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Awards presented at the dinner included (front, from left): Daniel Cocks, Beautification for ArtWorks; Sheree Cockrell, Beatification for her murals; John Truxel, Distinguished Citizen; (back) Jeff Conko, accepting for South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club, Community Service Group Award; Christine Wallender, Special Recognition; and Terry Shallenberger, Community Service Individual. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Athena Award winners past and present who attended the chamber dinner were recognized. They are (front, from left) Ceanne O’Hanlon Lincoln (2004), Lisa Malago (2013), Judy Lynn-Craig (2010); (middle) Nancy Henry (2003), Christine Jenko-Lowery (1994), Rose Durbin (2008), Isabella “Cookie” Pilla (1988); (back) Robin Bubarth (2000), Lori Kaczmarek (2007), Marilyn Fink (2006), Gretchen Mundorff (1991), Patty Lint (1999), Ann Watson (1992), Lynda Sparks (2012) and Ruth Walters, (2002). Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier

It was an evening filled with honor, excitement and surprise as the Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards dinner, honoring several groups and individuals for their achievements and contributions to Connellsville and the surrounding area.

“This is an event where we recognize those groups and individuals who have made a difference and thank them for their contributions to the community,” Chamber President Bill Fiesta said. “They have all helped to make Connellsville a better place to be.”

Awards Committee member Gretchen Mundorff said the group enjoys surprising recipients. That goal was achieved on Tuesday night, because most of the award winners said they were not aware their names would be called.

“I was totally surprised,” said Daniel Cocks, who received a Beautification Award for his business, ArtWorks. “No one mentioned anything to me.”

Chamber board members made the presentations. Each winner received a plaque after descriptions of their achievements and contributions were explained to the crowd of nearly 150.

The first winner of the night, for Special Recognition, was Christine Wallander. Board member Robin Bubarth listed all of Wallander's work with the library and other groups within the community.

The Special Service Group Award was given to South Connellsville Rod and Gun Club, accepted by club President Jeff Conko.

Board member Michael Edwards presented the Community Service Individual Award to Terry Shallenberger for his work with the train canteen and a proposed soccer complex he hopes to bring to Connellsville.

“We don't do this for awards, we do this because it's the right thing to do,” Shallenberger said.

The Beautification awards were presented by board member Bryan Kisiel, who said the awards were for those who have “made outstanding efforts to beautify our community.”

The business awarded a Beautification Award was ArtWorks. The individual awarded a Beautification Award was Sheree Cockrell for her murals she painted on the outside of the ArtWorks building.

The Distinguished Citizen Award went to John Truxel, presented to him by Chamber President Bill Fiesta.

“I'm just happy to be able to represent Connellsville in everything that I do,” Truxel said. “I wouldn't change anything.”

The final award of the evening, the Athena, was presented by former winner Gretchen Mundorff, who was pleased to announce that this year's award winner was her longtime friend, businesswomen and volunteer Lisa Malago. Malago has been involved for years with the Special Olympics.

“I was very surprised,” Malago said. “I am very, very honored and very proud to share the honor of winning this award with all of the women who have received it in the past.”

The dinner was also a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the Athena, and 14 of the past winners were in attendance. All were recognized and applauded.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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