Chamber honors businesses at anniversary event (updated)

The Claremont Chamber of Commerce commemorated the organization’s 90th anniversary Wednesday at its annual awards luncheon by celebrating the businesses that have helped define the Chamber over the near-century of its existence.

City businesses weren’t the only ones honored. Claremont-based Shoes That Fit received special recognition as the Chamber’s first Nonprofit of the Year. The award was introduced to reflect Claremont’s abundance of volunteers and charitable organizations.

“So much good work gets done right here in little, old Claremont that I think it’s terrific that they are singling out nonprofits for the good work they do.” said Lee Kane, Shoes That Fit’s program manager. “We are really honored to be the inaugural charity. It’s all kind of overwhelming.”

Executives gave recognition to the top 10 nominees after being flooded with submissions for the new award. However, only Shoes That Fit won the coveted prize. Founded in Claremont in 1992, Shoes That Fit has transformed into the largest national organization of its kind. Over one million pairs of new shoes and other items have been given out to economically-disadvantaged school children throughout the nation, a number that continues to grow rapidly.

“Shoes That Fit is uniquely efficient and effective in life-changing operations,” said Maureen Aldridge, Chamber chief executive officer. “Today, Shoes That Fit is helping children in need in thousands of schools not just here in Claremont, but across America.”

It’s all part of a grassroots effort that leads right back to Claremont, according to Ms. Kane. Shoes That Fit continues to operate out of its headquarters here in town.

“We couldn’t do it without all the folks that help us, and Claremont has been really supportive,” Ms. Kane said. “We are very touched to be honored by our hometown and recognized for all the great work.”

Volunteerism continued to set the trend at the mid-week luncheon, held at the Claremont DoubleTree Hotel. Diana Miller and Cathy Curtis of Colors 91711 and Susan Pearson of The Bath Workshop shared the title of Business of the Year, noted for their community service. Their help in pulling off the city’s Zip Code celebration held last September was cited among notable achievements.

Ms. Miller and Ms. Curtis have become known about town not only for their fine yarns and knitting circles that the Chamber feels “has made the corner of Harvard Avenue so colorful,” but for dedicating time to community events like the annual Wine Walk and Blues and Brews.

Four years after opening The Bath Workshop in Claremont, Ms. Pearson has kept busy hosting bridal showers, birthday parties and other gatherings with her custom bath and body business, while also helping with Shoes That Fit’s backpack and Easter basket campaigns.

“She is very creative in seeing the big picture in her volunteering for Claremont,” Ms. Aldridge said.

Ed Reece of ISN Global Enterprises, Businessperson of the Year, and Michelle DeMott, recipient of the Prestigious Chair’s Award, were also among honorees. Bridget Healy passed down the gavel to Jess Swick, who will take over her post as Chamber chair.

—Beth Hartnett


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