The largest event in the history of the Portland Regional Chamber, Imagine Portland 2020, drew nearly 850 people to Brick South at Thompson’s Point on Jan. 29 for awards presentations and power networking.

“Everywhere I turn, there is somebody who is really committed to making Portland the best place possible to live and work,” said Jennifer McCarthy, chief operating officer of MaineHealth. “We’ve got nonprofits, we’ve got big companies, and it’s a great mix.”

Surprise guest Gov. Janet Mills gave a rousing speech uplifting the area as a vital business hub. “Your efforts transform the Portland region into an economic engine for the entire state,” she said.

Chamber President Quincy Hentzel introduced an awards program that emphasized housing, education, health care and volunteerism. “Over this past year, we’ve asked members what you want from your chamber, and what we heard from you was advocacy,” she said. “We take a stand on issues that are important to you.”

“These are really important issues, and for the chamber to address them is fitting,” said Avesta Housing President Dana Totman, recipient of the Catalyst Award in recognition of his advocacy of healthy, sustainable communities and affordable housing options.

The Collaborate Award went to Portland Adult Education, which provides job and workforce training, English classes, college preparation and enrichment classes for 4,500 people.

“I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of the incredibly dedicated staff, volunteers and especially the students of Portland Adult Ed for the hard work and dedication they put in to make this community the great place that it is,” said Executive Director Anita St. Onge. “The city of Portland has shown the rest of the country how to lead a welcoming community.”

Champion Awards went to William Caron Jr., chief executive officer of MaineHealth, and Richard Peterson, president of MaineHealth and CEO of Maine Medical Center, in recognition of their work creating an integrated healthcare delivery network.

The surprise award of the evening was for nonprofit of the year, selected by more than 500 event attendees who voted by phone, choosing between a field of finalists that included Boots2Roots, Junior Achievement of Maine, Mitchell Institute, ProsperityME and Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center. PSL Services/Strive, which serves Mainers with intellectual disabilities, won the $5,000 award, courtesy of Wex.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]


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