FOLLANSBEE - The Follansbee Chamber of Commerce held its annual Christmas dinner Wednesday at the St. Francis Center to recognize members and businesses of the community for their services.
Former state Sen. Ed Bowman and Follansbee Mayor David Velegol spoke to the audience to kick off the evening before Tony Paesano, president of the chamber, announced the award winners.
"Making a difference every day, that is the legacy of this chapter," Paesano said. "As Winston Churchill said, we make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give."
GRANT WINNERS — Austin Loppman of the Tri-State Young Marines, John Barlow, Jason Rine, Terry Mains and Suzanne Davidson were all awarded with mini-grants at the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas dinner Wednesday. -- Shae Dalrymple
Mini grants in the amounts of $300 to $750 were awarded to local educators and children's programs including the Backpack after-school program, which not only houses, feeds and tutors kids in need but sends them home with food on weekends. Brooke County educator Suzanne Davidson was awarded the grant for her "Bound for Mars" project specializing in areas of space science.
Austin Loppman of the Tri-State Young Marines and John Barlow, who volunteers daily to provide veterans transportation to veterans hospitals, also received mini-grants.
In the individual awards category, Davidson was presented with the education award for creating the S.T.E.M. Program. S.T.E.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and the club meets once a week after school to promote the love of science.
Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, accepted an award for economic development. Ford has more than 25 years of experience in the field and was recently recognized in Wall Street Journal for local land acquisitions.
"He has brought jobs to Brooke County because of his work," Paesano said. "He makes a difference."
Judge Michael Fuscardo, a former Brooke County magistrate and police officer, received an award in recognition of judicial achievement. Fuscardo worked for Weirton Steel for five years after high school and then moved on to work in local law enforcement.
He worked as a police officer there for more than 10 years before he was attacked with acid while responding to a call.
The incident left him blind, and no amount of surgery or time has been able to restore his sight.
He later accepted a position as magistrate and served for a total of three years.
Mayor Velegol approached him two and a half years ago, and Fuscardo has been a judge in Follansbee's municipal court since.
NC Sportz and Crown of Gold salon received Business of the Year awards. Crown of Gold will be celebrating its 25th year in business on March 1.
Riesbeck's grocery store won Corporate Business of the Year.
Kayla Cutrone, 22-year-old daughter of Skip Cutrone of Vito's 2 Restaurant in Follansbee, was recognized for a myriad of achievements in community service. Since 2010, she has helped to organize, prepare and deliver dinners to families in need on Thanksgiving day. An all-time high of 611 dinners were served on Thanksgiving this year.
When she heard about the devastation caused by tornadoes in Oklahoma last spring, Cutrone worked to help victims by raising $12,400 for the Barrett family of Newcastle, Okla., who lost everything in the storms. Cutrone flew to Oklahoma to personally present them with the check, which they used for a down payment on a house.
Brandon and Amy Barrett attended the ceremony with their two children and were given a key to the city by Paesano. Cutrone went on to raise $14,800 for the Mozingo family after the loss of daughter Hanna and home in a gas explosion a mile away from her own family's home.
A week after the burial of Hannah Mozingo, 13, Cutrone presented the Mozingos with the check.
The Citizen of the Year award went to Jim Mirasola for a lifetime of service including 26 years as city clerk.
The evening ended with a special surprise award for Paesano, including a key to the city and a tri-fold with photos from his career in the area which left him "speechless."
(Dalrymple can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)