Grafton Chamber singles out businesses for annual recognition
There is a common thread that binds the winners of the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards.
It is that the recipients are driven by community service as much as the bottom line.
That approach is exemplified by Mike Donahue, who was named the Chamber’s 2016 Outstanding Business Person.
Donahue has been president of the accounting firm Donahue and Associates LLC since 1988. In that time, the firm has grown from two to 15 associates.
Mike Cibulka of US Bank noted more than Donahue’s business acumen in his nomination letter.
“I would like to highlight some of the many contributions to the Grafton community made by Mike Donahue that I believe qualify Mike for Business Person of the Year,” Cibulka wrote.
In addition to the Chamber itself, Cibulka noted, Donahue has provided his financial expertise to such groups as the North Shore Academy of the Arts, the Grafton Education Foundation, the Grafton Area Jaycees and the Grafton Lions Club.
His firm also contributes generously, year after year, to American Legion Rose-Harms Post 355, Cool Blue Winter Frolics, Grafton Area Live Arts, Grafton Community Scholarship Fund, Grafton Holidaze Fourth of July celebration, Mel’s Pig Roast and a host of youth sports programs.
“I truly believe that this homegrown Grafton institution has not only met but has exceeded the qualifications for this prestigious honor,” Cibulka said.
For a similar reason, The Bridge Inn has been named winner of the Outstanding Business Award.
The iconic downtown business is owned by Jill and Bill Gruetzmacher.
Tom Stanton, executive director of Mel’s Charities, wrote of the compassion demonstrated by the Gruetzmachers.
“To say Bill and Jill ‘get it” would be an understatement. At every one of our events, The Bridge provides volunteers, they promote and sponsor our ‘Great Times for Great Causes’ approach,” Stanton said.
“They help raise awareness and provide donations to Celebrate Grafton, Family Sharing, helping Strike Out ALS, the Danny Fullington Foundation, Bowl4MACC, the Volunteer Center and individuals with special needs.”
Fran Grant, biomedical science and Project Lead the Way instructor at Grafton High School, received the Outstanding Educator Award.
High School Principal Scott Mantei nominated Grant for the honor.
“Although Fran is technically an educator and not a business, she has built a biomedical science program at GHS which sets Grafton apart from other communities,” Mantei said.
Entering its fourth year, the biomedical science program has 200 students scheduled to take courses next year, which he said is a testament to Grant’s leadership.
She is also adviser to the local Health Occupations Students of America chapter, which has won numerous awards, including a state championship.
A former student, Michael McKelvey, lauded Grant as an inspiring teacher.
“She knows how to effectively communicate with students and have a little fun with lectures, too,” McKelvey said. “By making lectures fun and memorable, the scientific content of each lecture is easier to recall for many students.”
Rounding out the awards, Gary Helm, superintendent of public works for the Village of Grafton, has been named Outstanding Public Servant.
Helm has been with the village for 25 years.
John Safstrom, the village’s director of parks and recreation, had no problem noting what sets Helm apart.
“The one quality that set him apart from all others — Gary Helm loves the Village of Grafton and there is nothing he will not do to ensure its success,” Safstrom said.
“You may have heard the phrase, ‘I know a guy.’ For the Village of Grafton, its residents and business owners, Gary is ‘that guy.’”
The Chamber’s Awards Banquet will be Wednesday, May 18, at the Bog Golf Course.
The event will start with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., a sit-down dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by the awards program.
Photo Credit: THE BRIDGE INN has been named winner of the Grafton Chamber’s 2016 Outstanding Business Award. The Chamber’s awards banquet will be held Wednesday, May 18, at the Bog Golf Course.Photo by Mark Jaeger