AUGUSTA — When the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce honors its members at the annual Kenney Awards on Friday, the winners of three awards — President’s Circle, Community Service and Cynergy Professional — will be determined by live text voting by those attending.

Katie Doherty, president and CEO of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said nominees for these awards are often surprised and a little embarrassed to be singled out. But in each case the nominees, who are chosen by their peers, deserve the attention, she said.

“It’s nice giving them that recognition,” Doherty said. “They are deserving of it.”

The exposure they receive at the Kenneys and after also opens up opportunities to meet and work with new people and organizations.

“We cover 23 different communities, from small business entrepreneurs to the largest employers, and every single different industry, and we highlight and bring it all together, which is nice,” she said.

This is the first time since 2020 that the event returns to its traditional, formal format at the Augusta Civic Center.



The President’s Circle Award recognizes companies active in the region whose impact is shown through revenue and job creation; nominees are leaders in their industries and maintain an exemplary business image.

Justin Wing Contributed photo

For more than 40 years, the family-owned American Awards has crafted awards and trophies to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones for people across central Maine.

“We know that most of our awards will be a source of pride and gratification for their recipients for both kids involved in sports or school, or adults being recognized for professional milestones,” American Awards owner Justin Wing said, “and because of this, we construct every award with the utmost care and diligence.”

Wing said because it’s a small business, he’s involved in every product and he takes pride in having a store in Augusta where people can see for themselves the quality of the products.

When Dave Tracy moved to Augusta to work for Hershey’s Ice Cream more than three decades ago, it was perfectly natural for the branch manager at the ice cream wholesaler to be a part of the community while providing ice cream products to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, retail stores and other places across Maine and northern New Hampshire.


Hershey’s Ice Cream Contributed photo

“We do Little League; we still have a Hershey Ice Cream team and I coached for about 10 years,” Tracy, who has been in Augusta for 37 years, said.

Hershey’s Ice Cream has taken part in the annual Fourth of July parade, with people dressed up as clowns handing out popsicles, and has provided ice cream for a range of other events.

“I never thought (of) myself as a spearheader of doing stuff, it was just fun,” he said. “If anyone needs help, I’ll get involved with it, usually involving ice cream.”

One River CPAs Contributed photo

At One River CPAs, company officials are focused on being a part of the communities where they work and fostering the next generation of accountants through internship opportunities for college students.

It has raised money for organizations like the Special Olympics and Camp Sunshine with the One River CPAs 5K & Kids Fun Run and makes time for its employees and interns to volunteer for local nonprofit organizations like the Augusta Food Bank.

“(We) believe that active involvement in the community through volunteering and community service allows employees to have a well-rounded work experience while learning the importance of giving back and being part of a rewarding and thriving community,” Alison Lorenz, managing director said.



Nominees are recognized by their peers for their ongoing efforts to better the Kennebec Valley.

Carrie Arsenault Contributed photo

Carrie Arsenault, the capital campaign director for Gardiner’s Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, has been a member and past president of the Augusta Kiwanis Club, serving children in the community and helping to connect people who are looking for local initiatives to support with organizations that need help.

She is one of three chairpeople at the Gardiner Area Thrives Coalition, which works to make Gardiner a place where youth can thrive. She also serves on Gardiner’s Economic and Community Development Committee.

“We do live in a very supportive area,” said Arsenault, 47. “The people that serve do amazing things and make sure the nonprofits are lifted up.”

Rebecca Pushard, an on-air personality at WCTB, True Country 93.5, believes that people have different gifts and talents and it is up to them to discover what they are. About a decade ago, Pushard discovered she could sing and she uses her talent to sing the national anthem at events both locally and out of state.


Rebecca Pushard Contributed photo

“I just let it rip,” she said, noting that she’s performed at more than 60 events.

Pushard, 52, takes on speaking engagements and serves as emcee at a range of events, including the Mrs. Maine America Pageant and the Sexual Assault and Crisis Center Celebrity Dinner, among others. With some of her family members serving in the military, she also works to raise money for veterans programs in the community and at the Togus VA Medical Center.

“It’s our obligation to give back,” she said. “I live in Manchester, and I grew up in the Kennebec Valley. I have always felt so supported, and I feel that any opportunity to give back — it’s important.”

Chris Vallee Photo courtesy of Mike McDougal

The first time Chris Vallee, a Hallowell Realtor, hosted a fundraiser with Dawn Gallagher, they were able to raise $100,000 for Slates, the Hallowell restaurant that burned in 2007. Since then, he said, he’s held fundraisers at the Quarry Tap Room “pretty much for anyone who’s in need,” from people to nonprofit organizations.

He also launched the Central Maine Idol competition that brings together Maine musicians who compete for a cash prize at the end of a multi-week elimination.

“I’ve always owned small businesses and the community has always been good to me,” Vallee, 58, said. “I think it’s people’s duty to give back as much as possible. I think the more you give the more you get. It’s rewarding.”



This award honors chamber members who have shown exemplary leadership and commitment to the betterment of the Kennebec Valley.

Heather Allen Contributed photo

Heather Allen, an  associate real estate broker at Sprague & Curtis, has served as the co-chairwoman of Cynergy’s Steering Committee, which focuses on providing opportunities for networking, contributing to the community and professional growth and development.

“I was born and raised in Augusta, and I want to see the city prosper,” Allen, 36, said. “I lived out-of-state for many years and I am happy to be back in central Maine. I have a niece and nephews and hope to have kids one day that I want to have opportunities in the area.”

Allen is also an active volunteer for the United Way of Kennebec Valley and a recent graduate of the Kennebec Leadership Institute. She also designed one of the sturgeon sculptures on display along Water Street as part of a public art project in downtown Augusta.

Michael Hall, 39, came to Augusta in 2016 as the executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, an organization dedicated to building a vibrant downtown neighborhood by showcasing its assets and drawing people to the historic section of the state’s capital city.


Michael Hall Photo courtesy of Keith P. Luke

For Hall, who has built working relationships and friendships through his position with the Downtown Alliance and with Cynergy, working to improve the community boils down to this: he lives in Augusta and he’s put down roots.

“I think the work is important to try (and) make this an even better place, the best it can be,” he said. “It’s got so much potential here, and I think everybody should be working to make it a better place.”

Hall said he’s attributes  his nomination for this award to the entire Augusta Downtown Alliance board because he couldn’t do his job effectively without them.

Matt James Contributed photo

Matt James, 35, an on-air personality at WMME,92 Moose, said while he enjoys his job, what motivates him is knowing that he and his colleagues are part of some of the biggest events across central Maine.

James has taken part in Maine Special Olympics Request-a-thon and the annual Camp Out Hunger Food Drive with 92 Moose, but he has also worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, United Way of Mid-Maine, Maine Children’s Home, American Lung Association and Little Pink Houses of Hope. In addition, he serves on the Committee for Kelly’s Cause for Brain Tumors.

“I want to leave a legacy of community,” he said, “of giving back in any way we can to whoever may be in need. I have a soft spot for area youth and want to impress on them the importance of volunteer work and giving back. I want them to grow up with community-involvement being a built-in part of their DNA.”

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