Mary Snider: Citizen of the Year

Mary Snider sets a high standard for those who volunteer in our community-and has for more than 45 years.

Her years of dedication to the Virgil Business Association and organizing the Virgil Stampede have earned Snider the title of Citizen of the Year, presented by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce at Tuesday's Spirit of Niagara award night.

VBA member Dennis Dick, who has worked with Snider and other Virgil business people on many of the more than 40 annual stampedes, presented the Lord Mayor's Award of Excellence to Snider on behalf of Dave Eke, who was out of town.

Snider, he said, has been the VBA's only secretary and treasurer since 1966, and every year runs the stampede, co-ordinating organizations and volunteers-an undertaking that is usually a five-person committee responsibility, he said.

She has never charged for mileage or fuel, and recently, when the old typewriter she uses to type up minutes of monthly meetings wore out, she paid for a new one herself, refusing any assistance from the VBA treasury, said Dick.

She was instrumental in drafting the VBA's constitution and has done 95 per cent of the background work of the stampede since 1966, he said, adding that this month marks her 88th birthday.

"She has made every business member look good in the eyes of the community and given us a great reputation."

Under her direction, the VBA has helped purchase CAT scans and MRIs to benefit the region, and has a long list of accomplishments in the community, including helping to fund two arenas-the VBA has returned more than $1 million to make the town a better place for all.

As Snider walked toward the stage to receive her award, the crowd stood and applauded her for her service in the community.

"This is most unexpected," Snider told the crowd.

"After all these years, it's been so worthwhile. I've made many friends and it's a pleasure to serve this community."

The Business of the Year award was presented to Sue Murray of Niagara's Finest Inns, for its impact on the industry, for being a leader in the community and for demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

Niagara's Finest, which includes the Charles Inn, Harbour House, Shaw Club Hotel and the Colonel Butler Best Western Inn, has been recognized with many prestigious trade awards for its hotels and spas, and has shown good corporate citizenship through its annual support of the Red Roof Reterat and last year, for the family of Rich Hoadley.

The Spirit of Niagara also includes a President's Award, given by the Chamber of Commerce to recognize an individual's contribution to the local business community. This year, that award went to Bob Waugh, for his on-going support of the Tuesday morning breakfast club, a monthly meeting of people who get together to talk about a variety of topics, at the Riverbend Inn, sponsored by RBC but organized by Waugh.

These breakfasts, says Chamber president Ray Guy, are not to be missed.

"Full of challenging conversation, host to interesting local speakers, they are a tremendous way to network in Niagara-on-the-Lake."

Retired as vice president, chief financial officer and a director of General Motors of Canada, Waugh has been recognized on many levels for his volunteering, and his organizational skills are being put to good use in NOTL, including keeping the monthly meetings of the breakfast club running efficiently, said Guy.

The Chamber also took the opportunity Tuesday to thank Colleen Blake, as she retires from her role as executive director of the Shaw Festival.

Today, 50 years after its beginnings, the Shaw presents 10 to 12 productions each year, performed in four theatres spaces for an audience of more than 250,000, said Guy.

"It has become a major Canadian cultural icon, a gem in this country's rich cultural heritage and a major badge of honour for the town of NOTL," he said, thanking Blake for her contribution to the Shaw and the success it adds to the attraction of the area and the local business community.

Ruedi Suter, chair of the Niagara District Airport commission, is this year's winner of the Christopher Newton Award for Extraordinary Vision in Business, for his role in the recent upgrades to the facility and successfully carrying out the commission's vision of developing a dynamic general aviation airport with emphasis on tourism-related flying, fight training and executive charters.

Jansin Ozkur, chair of the Spirit awards committee, presented the award named after Newton, well-known for the remarkable job he did, during his years as artistic director, of establishing the Shaw Festival in the community.

Stan Harrington, former president of the Chamber and of the Old Town Business Association and more recently of the Royal Canadian Legion's local branch, was recognized with his grandson, Damien Rosa, with the Chamber's leadership award for their contributions to the community.

The Peter Ling Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit was presented by Debi Pratt of Inniskillin Winery on behalf of the Ling family, in memory of a long-time chamber board member and business owner who gave generously to local causes, to the original Icewine Festival Committee. Chaired in 1997 by Greg Berti of Hillebrand back in 1997, the committee was recognized for its work in developing and expanding local icewine festival events that bring life and visitors to town throughout the month of January.

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