His acceptance speech was easily the most brief, but the thoughts shared Friday night by United Food Bank President and CEO Bob Evans were certainly among the most poignant.
“This is humbling, and I want to thank all of you,” Evans began, after United Food Bank was announced as “nonprofit of the year” at the annual Mesa Chamber of Commerce Leadership Awards, Friday at the Hilton Phoenix/Mesa hotel. “But especially, I’m receiving this award on behalf of the staff, and the thousands of folks who wish they were sitting at these tables tonight, but they’re not.”
In front of hundreds of the city’s political, social, and industry leaders, Evans was, of course, referring to recipients of the more than 45,000 meals United Food Bank serves every day.
While Friday’s event marked the 101st annual chamber awards, United Food Bank — now in its 30th year, with a reach of more than 25,000 square miles spanning five Arizona counties — marked the first nonprofit honored for its service to the community.
“Mesa is rich with many great nonprofits,” said chamber President and CEO Sally Harrison. “I am so excited that our first award recipient is the United Food Bank. I have had the pleasure to work with Bob and the dedicated and hardworking staff at the food bank for several years. There aren’t many groups as passionate about their work.”
The inaugural “Nonprofit of the Year” award was one of a dozen awards handed out Friday — the lot honoring local leaders in business, education, and local development.
CMC Steel Arizona was honored as the large business of the year, with Hyatt Place Phoenix/Mesa and AlphaGraphics named medium and small businesses of the year, respectively. Finalists in the large business category included the architecture, engineering and consulting firm HDR and CenturyLink, while CleanAirCab, a local green taxi service, and Udall Shumway, a Mesa-based law-firm were finalists in the medium business category. In the small business category, finalists including Norris Air and B and B Commercial Real Estate.
Mark Gallo, who since 2009 has run Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park as the City of Mesa’s stadium manager, and Hilton Phoenix/Mesa general manager Gary Levine were honored with the Visit Mesa visitor industry awards. Levine received the “Industry Vision Award,” while Gallo, upon receiving the “Industry Champion Award” for his work in making the Chicago Cubs spring training stop the place to be each spring, gave an impassioned response to the city he grew up in and works for.
“I’m a Mesa guy. This is my city. I grew up here — elementary school, junior high, Mesa High School, Mesa Community College, and then I’m a Sun Devil,” Gallo said. “This is my community, and I love this city.”
Nammo Talley, a manufacturer of ammunition systems and missile propulsion products, was presented with the SCF Arizona safety award, while SRP, the nation’s third largest public power utility provider, was honored for its 110 years of service to the greater Phoenix area.
Otto Shill III of Jackson White Attorneys at Law was named the chamber’s “Volunteer of the Year” for his service as the chamber’s 2012 chairman of the board.
As part of the Excellence in Education portion of the program, Niccole Cerveny, a professor of geography at Mesa Community College, was honored with the “Professor of the Year” award, while Skyline High School’s Ken Sorenson was named “Teacher of the Year” for his work as an AP English teacher. Morgan Schneck, a future nurse-in-training from Mountain View High School was honored as the city’s “Student of the Year.” Schneck is a clarinet section leader in the MVHS marching band and an officer in the National Honor Society, in addition to actively participating in a number of other clubs and organizations.
“Some moments in life just take your breath away,” Sorenson said, “and this is certainly one of them.”
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