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Grand Island Chamber of Commerce: Citizen of the Year honorees named

Sat, Apr 14th 2018 07:00 am
Compiled by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce
The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce will hold the 52nd annual Citizen of the Year awards dinner on Thursday, April 26, to honor six award recipients who have made Grand Island a better place to live, work and play.
The awards dinner will take place at the Radisson Grand Island, 100 Whitehaven Road.
Award categories and winners are:
•Agricultural Development: GI Farms Inc.
•Business: Pink Martini Gift Shop
•Community Service: Richard Crawford Jr.
•Educator: Denise Dunbar
•Organization: Grand Island Fire Co.
•Lifetime Achievement: James Sharpe
Grand Island Fire Co.
The Grand Island Fire Co. was established in 1938 by a concerned group of Island residents who dedicated themselves to the protection of life and property. Since then, this all volunteer fire company has grown into one of the finest emergency services organizations in Western New York, providing emergency medical and fire suppression services, as well as marine rescue.
As of 2003, the company is housed in a modern, efficient headquarters facility with two substations. A cadre of highly trained firefighters, paramedics, advanced EMT's and EMTs provide fire and EMS service. The one-truck operation of 1938 has grown to an emergency fleet consisting of three advanced life support rescue vehicles, four pumpers, one heavy-duty rescue truck, three utility vehicles, a boat, and vehicles for chief officers
But it's not buildings and equipment that make up the Fire Company. It is the dedicated, caring people, who have served and continue to serve as the backbone of the Grand Island Fire Co.
In Grand Island, 911 calls for fire and medical problems are dispatched directly by the Grand Island Fire Co. Communications Center. What makes Grand Island unique is that the 911 call center is centrally located and dedicated to the residents of Grand Island. Other 911 calls outside of Grand Island are actually dispatched and managed outside of their parent community. National protocols are integrated with local practices and resources to get the right help to the right place in the right fashion. Callers needing police assistance are transferred to the appropriate police agency.
The company is currently comprised of 80 brave and devoted, active volunteers who respond to over 1,300 calls annually. They are not only known and appreciated for their quick response time and lifesaving efforts any time of day or night, 365 days a year, but for their ongoing education and standby services offered for community events.
Pink Martini Gift Shop
Island residents in need of a special gift don't have to travel far to find one, not with all that the Pink Martini Gift Shop has to offer. The store, its own jewel of Grand Island, has been known as the Island's gift shop for over 30 years, previously operating as Pam's and Maria's Hallmark.
Owner Diana Nobumoto dedicates her success to her family and says the best part of operating her shop is interacting with all her wonderful customers. Her customers share the sentiment, knowing they are always welcomed with her sunny and helpful disposition.
Before Nobumoto began her business venture, she was busy raising her three children, was highly involved in the schools as a volunteer, managed the Connor Middle School yearbook, was back stage director for many middle school musicals and served as president of the Music Boosters for six years. She is known for her passionate energy, pouring all of it into whatever she is involved with. It's no wonder she has carried this same ethic into her enterprise.
She was awarded as a PTA Honorary Lifetime Member in 2012 along with the Gamma Delta Good Apple Award, given to a non-teacher dedicated to students and learning. She is also a recipient of the Grand Island Central School District Friend of Education award as well as Mount St. Mary's Hospital GIHS Volunteer award.
Pink Martini was born from a discussion Nobumoto had with the previous owner who mentioned the possible availability of the business. She quickly decided the store would be an amazing opportunity. While many think the name is derived from the cocktail, in fact it is the namesake of the world-renowned "little orchestra" band, Pink Martini, that she and her daughters enjoy.
From cards to toys, unique jewelry, Grand Island/river-themed items and many other gifts for any occasion, it's nearly impossible to not find something for yourself, a friend or loved one.
Nobumoto has been married to her husband, Tak, for 25 years and is mom to Adam, Maggie and Emily, and grammie to Edward and Theo. She opened the doors to Pink Martini in 2014, where she has worked to share pretty, packaged smiles with the community ever since.
Denise Dunbar
There's a saying around town that Charlotte Sidway Elementary School is the Disney World of elementary schools. Because of the atmosphere Principal Denise Dunbar has strived to sustain since she took the helm in 2006, the students love going to school there, the teachers love to teach there and parents love the transformation that happens to their children there. Dunbar's name has become synonymous with the school, where she said she works with "the most dedicated and passionate faculty and staff there is."
Dunbar says safety and security of all students and staff is first and foremost in their minds every day. Gone are the days where the community's youngest students come to school for nap time and show and tell. Dunbar explains that since standards are much more rigorous than before, "Teachers are raising the bar and students are challenging themselves to achieve. Expectations are higher and technology has become a huge component to the educational day." Yet, the curriculum is carried out with the realization that students are just 4 to 7 years old in a building that is home to pre-K to first-grade students only.
Sidway's reputation as a model school is transcending well beyond the bridges. Dunbar has hosted several administrators, principals, curriculum directors and superintendents from the Erie County Elementary Principals Association to visit the co-teach flexible classroom and observe Reading Recovery and Early Literacy and the RTI (Response to Intervention) model. Several of her teachers have presented to administrators at Erie 1 BOCES and have been written about in the New York State School Boards Association publication.
When asked how she knows the names of hundreds of students, she says, "I take time to know students and their families. I try to remember something unique about each child, and spend as much time in the classrooms as possible in order to get to know students in their classroom settings."
Dunbar pours the same heart into the Grand Island community. "I believe that if everyone contributes and is active in their surroundings, our communities will be safer and stronger and there will be more unity in our world." She carries this philosophy out in her own community service. She has been a member of the Zonta Club since 2012, serving on the board of directors as well as several committees. She is also a volunteer for the SPCA and John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. She is seen volunteering there almost every Saturday for pet therapy with Pearl, her Boston terrier.
Other projects close to her heart include working with Zonta clubs assembling birthing kits for third world countries, raising scholarship money through Zonta's annual fashion show, and supporting an initiative to bring a satellite location of the Family Justice Center to Grand Island. In addition, she is an active volunteer and member of the Sidway Relay For Life team.
She is married to husband, Mark, and they are parents of two children: daughter, Nicole, and son, the late Nathan Dunbar.
Richard W. Crawford Jr.
Despite being well known for his political career on Grand Island, where he served as town councilman for 19 years, Richard "Dick" Crawford is probably more importantly known for his dedication to the Grand Island Lions Club and his active involvement and community service to countless organizations.
As a member of the Grand Island Lions Club, Crawford has served as president twice and chaired many of the club's fundraising programs. He was honored with a Melvin Jones Fellow, the highest award given to a member, and a Robert J. Uplinger Humanitarian Award. The awards honor outstanding Lions who perform exemplary service to a club, district or community. These honorees possess the highest examples of Lionistic character, ideals, purpose and service.
Crawford is also a founding member of the Grand Island Alumni Association, which provides scholarships for college-bound students. In addition, he has served on committees and supported the Grand Island Rotary, Zonta Club, Grand Island Republican Party, Kaegebein Playground Committee, St. Stephen's Playground Committee, American Cancer Society, Elder - Grace Lutheran Church and Young Life. His memberships also include the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, Niagara Sailing Club, and life member of the VFW Auxiliary, Grand Island Rod and Gun Club, Niagara Frontier Recreation and Park Society, and life member of the New York State Recreation and Park Society.
As a former member of the Town Board, Crawford served as liaison to the Library Board of Trustees, Cable TV Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Traffic Safety Advisory Board, Highway Committee, Economic Development Advisory Board, Architectural Review Board, Citizens Corps and the Community Emergency Response Team. Working with these various committees and Town Hall personnel, he strived to provide top quality services, and maintain a fiscally conservative approach to spending and future planning for Grand Island.
As an elected official, he believes in providing an open forum to openly discuss and implement plans for the betterment of the town. After serving 10 years as the town's deputy supervisor, and three years as deputy town highway superintendent, Crawford was elected town highway superintendent, where he has received positive public acknowledgment for his response to community concerns as well as public support of the workers he supervises.
In addition, Crawford enjoyed 35 years working as an independent sales representative for orthopedic implant companies. He is a graduate of the Grand Island school system and SUNY Brockport and has been married to his wife, Marla, for 22 years.
Grand Island Farms, Inc.
The farm-to-table movement has become an integral part of the Grand Island community with the founding of Grand Island Farms Inc. The 36 farms and supporting members that belong to the not-for-profit have provided fresh meats, produce, and other agricultural products to the community on a regular basis since its inception in January 2017. Grand Island Farms, Inc., is the successor to a loosely formed group of about 20 farms that held a few highly anticipated market days in the summer of 2016.
The Grand Island Farmers Market currently makes its home at the Long Road farm of Tom Thompson & Son. Visitors have the opportunity to see chickens and ducks walking the grounds, as well as corn ripening in the adjacent field. The weekly farmers market has become a fun, family experience for people of all ages. Visitors can listen to live music while enjoying food that is cooked on premises. In addition to the weekly farmers market, popup markets and other events are held throughout the year.
The Grand Island farmers are proud to provide fresh, locally grown, organic food including poultry, beef, pork, goat meat, and duck; a wide range of seasonal produce including corn, garlic, microgreens, pumpkins, zucchini, winter squash, tomatoes, onions, and more, while eggs are always available. Fresh plants, both flowers and vegetable, are available, both at the farmers market and at the recently re-opened EH Greenhouse on Ransom Road. Several varieties of local honey, herbal remedies and loose teas are also offered in addition to handmade furniture, hay, straw, and firewood.
The members of this "Salt of the Earth" group give back to the community however they can. They host monthly meetings, open to the public, each with a seminar on topics related to farming and gardening, including beekeeping, garden planning, seed starting, and microgreens. They are always providing interactive ways to educate and share through social media. Grand Island Farms also offers a weekly farmers market at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
The group participates in the Grand Island Independence Day Parade, as well as in the annual Taste of Grand Island. In October, an annual farm dinner is offered, featuring locally grown food. In the fall, an annual artisan event is held at a farm on Baseline Road, and farmers celebrate Halloween with pumpkin carvings. Christmas is celebrated at the Thompson farm with a winter market that features seasonal crafts and Christmas trees.
Officers for Grand Island Farms are: Tom Thompson, president; Sheila Daminski, secretary; and Chris Beyer, vice president. John Pedlow, Brett Lombardo, Amanda Thompson, Liz Colosimo, and Steve Birtz round out the board of directors.
Jim Sharpe
Hardly anyone is more deserving of a Lifetime Achievement Award than Jim Sharpe, who has spent more than 50 years serving his country and community.
Sharpe's service began in 1966, when he joined the U.S. Air Force. Now a proud veteran, he serves on the Grand Island Veterans Memorial Wall Committee and is treasurer for the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial Park Project.
After returning to Western New York, he worked in a variety of technical fields. He discovered a knack for networks, and worked as a technology consultant for the Niagara Falls City School District from 1994-1999. Sharpe implemented creative systems and enhanced the educational experience, earning region-wide recognition. From 1999-2012, he was the systems engineer and technology director for the Sweet Home School District. Sharpe was awarded the Apple Excellence Award for Technology in Education in 2006 and again in 2009.
During this time, Sharpe began to devote his life to public service. In 1990, he successfully ran for Grand Island Town Council and was re-elected for a second term in 1994. He served as deputy supervisor from 1992-94. He was appointed deputy supervisor in 2016, and devotes many hours a week in his volunteer role. He manages the Town of Grand Island's community grants and has secured over $1.5 million for sidewalks, an elevator in Town Hall, the town master plan, Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and Agriculture and Market protection plan.
Sharpe served on the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce board from 1998 until January of 2018, helping steer it to success as president from 2000-04, holding positions of first and second vice president and director at different times. He was honored with the Citizen of the Year for government in 1993, vice-chair, Sesquicentennial Committee in 2002 and the distinguished director award in 2007. Sharpe is well known at the Grand Island schools as the guy who has run KidBiz for the past 20 years, a program that many other communities are using as a model. He has also served on various committees including: Grand Island telephone book, Town Center/Long Range Planning Committee, Grand Island Independence Day Parade, community youth programs, scholarship, Citizen of the Year, employees relations, media, Light Up the Boulevard Parade, and the Grand Island School and Business Alliance (GISBA).
Sharpe is passionate about preserving Grand Island for future generations, tirelessly devoting years and years of service to this goal. He chaired the master plan committee from 1990-94, as well as the Parks and Recreation Plan Committee. The American Planning Association awarded him the Public Education Planning Award in 1994 for the town's comprehensive master plan, created under his supervision. He again chaired the Long Range Planning Committee for updating the master plan from 2006-08 and has resumed this responsibility since 2016.
Sharpe also found time to serve on the Erie 1 BOCES Advisory Council and acted as president to The Landings Association at River Oaks, where he resides with his wife, Cindy, and his son Eric nearby. He looks forward to continuing his service to the Grand Island community he loves for years to come.
This year's sponsors of the Citizen of the Year Awards include:
•Fuccillo Automotive Group
•Niagara Frontier Publications
•Mr. Best Wrench
•Toshiba Business Solutions
•Pinto Dumpsters
•Elderwood of Grand Island
•Financial Trust Federal Credit Union
•LDC Construction
•Assemblyman Angelo Morinello
•Dana's Stylin' Pets
•Grand Island Optical
•Island Ship Center
•Century 21
•Premier Sound
•New York Life Insurance
•Key Bank
•Grand Island Waste Management
•Aceti's Wine & Spirits

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