Community and business leaders honoured at Chamber of Commerce awards night

Whether it was their committed staff, the memory of his late wife, or the community at large, those receiving recognition Thursday night from the Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce were quick to redirect the praise.

“I’m so grateful to give back to a town that has given me so much,” said Mackenzie Arts, one of two winners of the youth award at the annual general meeting (AGM) and awards night.

The annual event sees businesses, community builders and young go-getters honoured for their work. At this year’s ceremony, the Chamber presented awards to four businesses, four individuals and two youth.

Les Lakewood started his coffee shop, Little Red Coffee on Queen Street, nearly two years ago.

A web developer who had some non-public facing businesses, Lakewood decided to see what the other side of business ownership was like, and opened the coffee shop. Using a few coffee shops in Toronto as inspiration, Lakewood said the business has since gone off in directions he never imagined.

Les Lakewood, owner of Little Red Coffee, received a business award at the Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce awards night. Credit: Luke Edwards | Fort Erie Radio

Little Red Coffee now offers coffee, baked treats, sandwiches, and is soon to add ice cream. They also do catering.

“I never thought about doing catering when I started but now we’ve been doing it for about a year,” he said.

Beyond that success, Lakewood also describes Little Red Coffee as having a “focus on community building and good food.” He strives to make the area a safe space for everyone, and has supported mental health projects in the past.

Like the other award winners, he credited his staff and others for his successes.

“My team is awesome. I would not be able to do it without them,” he said.

Here’s a rundown of the other winners:

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Brent Jones: A local Realtor, podcaster, and most recently founder of digital news media site forterieradio.ca, Jones was honoured for his work leading the fundraising efforts for last year’s Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, where he helped raise more than $5,000 for the Brain Injury Association.

Last fall, through his Fort Erie Podcast, Jones and his listeners raised money for Strong Fort Erie Neighbourhoods, the Crystal Ridge Dream Centre, Salvation Army, COPE and others.

Mark Schmitt: Fort Erie’s fire chief said he initially didn’t want to accept the award. But as he was brought to tears telling the crowd how Thursday marked three years since his wife Jessica’s death, he said the award was really a testament to her.

“I continue to volunteer in her memory,” he said.

In addition to his work as a firefighter, Schmitt also supported CNOY last year, following in the footsteps of his late wife.

Megan Muir: Muir admitted she’d much rather be the one capturing a special scene or event than being up front and centre, however the photographer said she’s been honoured to preserve the memories and special moments of the region for the past 15 years.

Theresa Murphy: A longtime educator in the Niagara Catholic District School Board, Murphy has been a staunch supporter of many projects as a volunteer in Fort Erie over the last seven years. That includes faith work as president of the Catholic Women’s League, and parish leadership team member for St. Michael’s Church.

She also serves on the Fort Erie Multicultural Centre board of directors, is president of Strong Fort Erie Neighbourhoods, a member of the Age-Friendly Network, and supporter of various food security projects in the region.

YOUTH AWARDS

Mackenzie Arts: The Greater Fort Erie Secondary School student has been involved with student council, the school’s athletic council, the Take Action, prom, and semi-formal committees, and is an enviro-thon participant. She also leads the Gryphons for God club, and outside of school was regional chair for the Fort Erie Youth Panel, chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, and is involved with her family’s church.

Soleil Loiselle: A Grade 12 student at Lakeshore Catholic, she’s involved wit the art club, choir, eco club, Terry Fox Run, and Gator Walk fundraiser for Dominica. She’s also supported school campaigns for people living with disabilities, namely an annual bracelet campaign for Autism Ontario. She’s also a regular volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and Embrace Centre.

BUSINESS AWARDS

Rizzo’s House of Parm: Opened in 2022 by Matty Matheson, the team that run Rizzo’s aims to foster a sense of community from their Crystal Beach location.

Borderview Veterinary Hospital: The hospital has been patching up pooches and other pets for more than 40 years, with current owner Dr. Jonathan McTaggart leading the way for nearly 20 of those years. They recently opened a renovated, purpose-built 4,000-square-foot facility.

Miskow Generators and Electric: Miskow is newer to the scene, having opened in 2007. However, the company, under the stewardship of owner Don Miskow, also recently expanded and opened the newly expanded space in 2021.

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