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Chamber event honors 'awesome work' of members

Mar. 14—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and nonprofit founder Charlie Batch commended the work of the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce members during the annual dinner Wednesday, adding that if there's any way he can help, he'd be happy to collaborate.

"They're doing awesome work up here," he said.

Batch was the keynote speaker at the event dedicated to honoring Chamber members' work, from fighting food insecurity and promoting the region to impacting the community and providing years of great business service.

Nearly 300 members from about 40 different organizations gathered in the Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown to receive awards in nine categories, including community impact, excellence in business and community service.

"The night was really well put together," Bridge Perspective photography studio co-owner Bobby Bridges said.

He and his wife, studio co-owner Serena, won the entrepreneurial excellence award.

Serena Bridges complimented the Chamber for celebrating its members, and her husband touted the group's ability to make every business and entrepreneur feel like they're winning the grand prize at the ceremony.

She gave a "shout-out" to Chamber Membership Director & Social Media Manager Jennifer Tiffany for promoting members on social media as well as the winners videos she and Chamber Executive Director Amy Bradley created for the ceremony.

"We really enjoyed the night," Serena Bridges said. "What an honor this was for such a big chamber of commerce and so many people."

She also thanked Johnstown Area Regional Industries Marketing and Outreach Specialist and You in Flood City Creative Director Tasha Adams for nominating them.

Award winners included the Cambria County Library for community impact; Frank Duca Funeral Home for excellence in small business; Mihalko's Contracting and Restoration Services for excellence in business medium-to-large; Croyle-Nielsen Therapeutic Associates Inc. for community service; and Nulton Aviation Services Inc. for innovation.

Volunteer of the year went to Michele Bonerigo for her years of service to the Chamber's Women's Informational Network committee, Leah Spangler received the community leadership honor and the cultural affairs award was given to the Community Arts Center of Cambria County.

Each honor was accompanied by a video of the recipients talking about their business.

Amy Nielsen said in her interview that she didn't know if she could be more proud of an award than community impact, and Frank Duca Jr. stated he was overwhelmed by the recognition.

Bradley said choosing the winners is always a tough decision because there's so many deserving organizations in the region.

The evening closed with Batch sharing heartfelt and sometimes humorous stories from his life growing up in the Homestead section of Pittsburgh, playing in the NFL and running the Best of the Batch Foundation, which he called his life's work.

The foundation helps school-aged children in eight western Pennsylvania counties with free programing, education, mentoring and related services.

He shared three main points with the audience — eliminate self-doubt, be resilient and be a professional by accepting responsibility even when the leader is not at fault.

In conveying those messages, Batch shared the story of the 2010 NFL season when he remained prepared so he could step up and help the Steelers succeed; his response to the 1996 murder of his sister, which led to Best of the Batch Foundation; that nonprofit's growth to impacting nearly 4,000 youngsters per year; and his last professional football game — a 2012 win against the rival Baltimore Ravens.

Bobby Bridges said Batch was a great guest speaker to have, especially because some of what he touched on could be applied to business.

Listening to the nonprofit founder talk about the challenges he faced was inspiring, he said.

Batch said afterward that he had a chance to talk to many of the attendees throughout the evening, and said they're all doing great work in Cambria County.