AUGUSTA — More than 800 people gathered on Friday evening in the Augusta Civic Center’s main auditorium to celebrate the annual awards given out by the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The banquet there was held to present the 2014 awards to various businesses and organizations.
Business of the Year went to MaineGeneral Health for opening a new regional hospital Nov. 9 in Augusta.
In accepting the award, the hospital organization’s chief executive officer, Chuck Hays, asked all the attendees from the hospital organization to stand and be recognized, thanking them for the holidays, weekends and free time they sacrificed to help accomplish the Alfond Center for Health.
Hays said the 192-bed hospital so far has delivered 158 babies and performed 1,200 surgeries, plus an additional 600 surgeries at the Thayer Center for Health, its outpatient center in Waterville.
The Downtown Diner, owned by Mike and Kim Meservey, was one of three organizations to receive the President’s Award.
“It’s exciting,” Kim Meservey said. “It’s great for the downtown, and it’s an honor to get this award.”
Meservey said she was joined by a number of others calling themselves “the downtown darlings.”
Meservey said, “Any girl who works downtown, goes downtown or supports downtown is a downtown darling.”
Mike Meservey, in accepting the award, offered attendees a little history of how he and his wife started working together.
Kim Vandermeulen, who is chief executive officer of Alternative Manufacturing Inc., of Winthrop, and the new chairman of the Chamber board, said the Chamber is undertaking a new objective this year.
“We would like to work with a bunch of other folks on incubator entrepreneurial sites to help smaller businesses get up and going, offering them expertise and maybe office space,” he said.
Several people had their own agendas.
The awards ceremony was interrupted briefly when two women from the protest group Code Pink stood up on chairs, hoisted a sign and began chanting when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was introduced. Ridgely Fuller, of Belfast, and Lisa Savage, of Solon, said they oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Both women were escorted out of the auditorium when they finished chanting.
Charles “Wick” Johnson, president of Kennebec Technologies, passed out “Lithgow Now” buttons to anybody he could find involved in the city of Augusta, including Mayor William Stokes; City Manager William Bridgeo; former Mayor John Bridge, who also sported a custom-made tie featuring photos of the Kennebec Valley YMCA, one of his favorite projects; Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta; and Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta.
Johnson is helping to head a capital campaign that so far has raised $2.5 million of a $4 million goal to expand Lithgow Public Library.
“We want to go to referendum in June,” Johnson said. He said the city has succeeded in doing a number of projects that people said would never be completed, including the Kennebec Valley YMCA and others. “Now it’s Lithgow’s turn,” he said. “A lot of great pieces are in place already.”
Before presenting the award to Hays, Collins recalled having stood in a conference room at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which is next to the new hospital, and talking about obtaining federal funding to upgrade Interstate 95′s exit 113, which allows better access to the hospital. “There was so much pressure,” she said. “The Alfond Foundation money was contingent on getting the federal funding.”
She had high praise for the new hospital.
“It is a wonderful asset for the entire region and will help attract health care professionals to the region as well as providing excellent care,” Collins said. “It’s a tribute to the region that people came together in such a way.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, also was at the awards celebration, greeting people as they came in through the main door.