ROCKPORT — The Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce “Year in Review” Awards Gala took place at the Samoset Resort Friday, May 20. More than 200 Chamber member businesses, elected officials, and local community representatives were in attendance.

The Year in Review Awards Gala was an opportunity to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions to our community in the past year.

Deborah Meehan and husband Perry Gates. Photo provided by carolmillerphotos.com CarolMiller

The top award of the evening, the Community Person of the Year Award, was presented to Deborah Meehan of Camden.

Deborah Meehan has been a leader and passionate advocate for education in Knox County for decades. In 1980, she became the first director of a University of Maine System satellite in the Midcoast, when an office was established in downtown Rockland.

Her work then included launching a nursing education program, which provided a majority of the nurses at Pen Bay Medical Center at that time. In the early 90s, Deb was recruited by University leadership to create 11 off-campus centers around the state using the model established in Rockland. In 1995, she was recruited by local community leaders to lead “Friends of the CSD” to spearhead private fundraising to enhance construction of the then-planned Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport.

Under Deb’s administration, the Friends of the CSD raised over $9 million, allowing additions to the high school such as the Strom Auditorium, a track, an expanded cafeteria and music facilities, and a lecture hall.

Deb returned to the local UMA campus in 2006, and retired last year after a distinguished career leading what has now become known simply as “URock.”

Among her many achievements was the creation of a college program at the Maine State Prison. Deb always went well above the responsibilities of her role and has immeasurably improved the lives of countless local residents who have furthered their education under her leadership.

Once again, the Chamber presented Milestone Anniversary Awards to Maine-based businesses and organizations with local ties (or a local office of a company based outside Maine) celebrating anniversaries in 25-year increments.

Honorees celebrating 25 years in 2021 or 2022 included Bay Chiropractic Center, Grasshopper Shop of Rockland, and Rockport Automotive.

Celebrating 50 years in 2021 or 2022 are The Apprenticeshop, Coastal Opportunities, Dorr Woodcarving & Sign Co., The Leather Bench, and Margo Moore Interiors.

Celebrating 75 years in 2021 or 2022 are Eastern Tire & Auto Service, Graffam Bros. Seafood, Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District, and Maine Lobster Festival.

The Schooner Ladona was recognized for celebrating 100 years in 2022.

Celebrating 150 years in 2021 or 2022 are Schooner Lewis R. French, Schooner Stephen Taber, and Union Fair. The United Christian Church of Lincolnville was vetted for reaching its 200-year milestone in 2021.

Congratulations to the following individuals, businesses and organizations that were celebrated as the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Year in Review Award Winners:

Small Business Of The Year – Craignair Inn by the Sea & The Causeway Restaurant

This award is given to a business of fewer than 25 employees that has been in business for at least five years, that is recognized as a leader in their field, and that makes a positive contribution to communities in the Camden-Rockland region.

For the past two years, throughout the pandemic, owners Lauren and Greg Soutiea have renovated the Craignair Inn by the Sea and The Causeway Restaurant, transforming the property, the cuisine, and the guest experience.

Community Service Award – Organization – The People of Pen Bay Medical Center

This award recognizes a person, business, or organization whose activities have resulted in a significant community enhancement and/or positive contribution to the quality of life among local community members.

Covid-19 has impacted our lives in a variety of very significant ways.  Collectively, the nurses, doctors, staff and leadership of Pen Bay Medical Center have been at the forefront of caring for our communities and shepherding us through this once in a lifetime experience.  Our communities salute their dedication to keeping us safe and healthy.

Community Service Award – Individual – Shari Closter

This award recognizes a person, business, or organization whose activities have resulted in a significant community enhancement and/or positive contribution to the quality of life among local community members.

Shari Closter has been a fixture in Knox County for decades, and has dedicated herself to serving our communities both professionally and personally.  Shari is a tireless volunteer for efforts to recover lost dogs and reunite them with their families, as well as single-handedly conducting roadside clean up efforts in the area.  Shari also previously lent her talents professionally to community-serving nonprofits including the Chamber of Commerce and Trekkers.

Public Improvement Award – Rockport Public Library

This award recognizes a person, business or entity who has made a major tangible improvement to a property or program that benefits the general public.

The Town of Rockport joined together with generous donors to build a beautiful new home for the Rockport Public Library which opened in late 2020.  The new library is a true community hub to showcase the library’s collection, provide community meeting space, and expand the availability of technology.

The evening also included a social hour with hors d’oeuvres and cash bar and a plated dinner served by the Samoset staff.

The Year in Review Awards were created by Maggi Blue of Warren, and the Community Person of the Year Award was created by Richard Remsen of the Foundry & Glass Studio in West Rockport. Proforma Marketing Essentials of Camden produced the Milestone Anniversary Awards. Gala photography was provided by Carol Miller Photography of Rockland. Award videos were created by Sean Hennessy/Reel+Co (videography), Brian Goding/LaunchRamp (film editing), and John Viehman (direction and production).

Several businesses provided leading sponsorship support for the Gala: Camden National Bank (Gold sponsor), Eaton Peabody (Social Hour sponsor), and LCI (Wine sponsor). Honoree sponsors included Allen Insurance and Financial and First National Bank. Supporting Sponsors were Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Flowers by Hoboken, Fiore Artisan Olive Oil and Vinegards, The Lahner Group, Maritime Energy, and the Samoset Resort.

The Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce serves as a primary business conduit for the Camden-Rockland Region, which encompasses 27 municipalities within and surrounding Knox County.  The Chamber provides a variety of platforms and opportunities for close to 800 business and nonprofit members to promote themselves to residents and visitors to the region.  To learn more, visit PenBayChamber.com.

Deborah Meehan, the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce 2022 Community Person of the Year, is surrounded by Chamber leaders and previous Community Person of the Year honorees, including L to R: Sheila Lowe, Chamber Board Chair; Chris Rector, Bruce Gamage, Becky Gamage, Reade Brower, Deb Meehan, Ann Bresnahan, Rick Bresnahan, Gordon Page, Sandy Cox, Connie Russell, and Tom Peaco, Chamber President & CEO. Photo provided by carolmillerphotos.com CarolMiller