The 2022 Imagine Portland awards were, in some ways, a re-imagining.

With 400 people at Ocean Gateway on June 16, this year’s awards presentation was the largest Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce event since a record-breaking 850 people attended Imagine Portland in the pre-pandemic winter of 2020.

Party sizes have shifted downward since then, for reasons we all know, and other lasting cultural shifts have come about as well. As so many of us were learning how to work differently during lockdown, the chamber was learning to work differently in another way – taking a leadership role as 400 businesses signed a Standing in Solidarity racial equity pledge.

The 2022 Champion Award was presented to two leaders who championed that effort, Unum Chief Operating Officer Mike Simonds and L.L. Bean Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith.

“More than an award for Steve and I, this an award that signifies a community coming together around an important set of issues regarding racial and social justice,” Simonds said. “It has been uplifting to see firsthand what southern Maine is about and see people move from seeing what is right to doing what is right.”

The two of them gave so much time and energy and brought passion to what we were doing,” said the chamber’s chief executive officer, Quincy Hentzel. “Their work is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together.”

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Jim Erwin, a partner at Pierce Atwood LLP who serves on the chamber’s board and chairs the University of Maine board, was named volunteer of the year.

“The tens of thousands of civic organizations, past, present and future, across the landscape of this great nation are among our greatest civic and cultural assets,” Erwin said. “Today’s chamber is a prime example of this. We come together to solve problems.”

Those problems include affordable housing and the needs of our immigrants: language acquisition, economic integration and civic engagement. That’s where the other two honorees make a difference.

Real estate developer Kevin Bunker of Developers Collaborative accepted the Collaborator Award for work reaching across community organizations to build affordable housing that revitalizes neighborhoods.

Coffee by Design co-founder Mary Allen Lindemann, who volunteers with Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, accepted the Catalyst Award for her tireless efforts to invite, encourage and equip immigrants to participate in the region’s economic, social and cultural life. In fact, she invited Sudanese dancers Veeva Banga, Choisre Nyemba, Orino Nduma and Apiyo Charles to get the party started as the awards concluded and the largest cocktail reception since the pandemic began.

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


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