On Feb. 25, 2021, the Midway Chamber of Commerce held its annual celebration. In a typical year, this would mean dressing up and having a plated dinner in person with 300 attendees on a Saturday night. But this has not been a typical year and the event was moved to a Thursday over Zoom. Despite the changes, many of the same components remained including announcing award winners. Every year, the Midway Chamber accepts nominations for leadership awards in five different categories, which get narrowed down to finalists by our events committee and voted on by our board of directors. This year, we added a Resiliency Award for a chamber member who showed resilience during this difficult time of COVID and civil unrest. Here are the winners.
Rookie of the Year: Open Cities Health Center. Given to a newer member of the Midway Chamber, the Rookie of the Years award recognized Open Cities Health Center. Open Cities provides much needed support to our neighbors, including the most economically disadvantaged. Open Cities, which opened in 1967 in the basement of St. James Church, now sees over 10,000 patients annually throughout the Twin Cities and this year was one of the first sites for COVID-19 tests.
Nonprofit of the Year: Ujamaa Place. Ujamaa Place provides a holistic transformation for young African-American men experiencing inequity at the intersection of race and poverty. They help them achieve brotherhood, stability, and personal success. Services include housing, education, employment, wellness, criminal justice, culture and community.
As they celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2020, Ujamaa Place can now say they have transformed the life of over 5,000 men and has maintained a 4% recidivism rate – compared to 68% nationally.
Large Business of the Year: Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy showed their community support this year, helping those impacted by civil unrest, racial injustice, and the pandemic. In the spring, they donated over 300,000 surgical masks to frontline workers battling COVID-19. In the summer, they offered equipment rebates and free consulting services to businesses impacted by civil unrest. As the new school year started, Xcel was one of a handful of companies taking part in a $1 million donation to help fund distance learning pods for low-income students.
Small Business of the Year: The Lab. Following the start of COVID-19, hand sanitizer was one of the hardest products to find, and also one cited as important in helping stop the spread of germs. The Lab, a brewery located at 767 Eustis, shifted gears and started producing bottles and jugs of sanitizer. After the murder of George Floyd, The Lab began highlighting black-owned businesses with a local market titled “Black Business is Beautiful.” With the motto “our wallets have the power to change racial economic disparities” the event is now occurring monthly and features African-American vendors.
Volunteer of the Year: Christine Noonan, Minnesota State Fair. A member of the Midway Chamber’s board, the executive committee, and the events committee, Chris is a dedicated volunteer who prepares for meetings and offers several great ideas. Her work ethic shows in how reliable she always is when given a task. In addition to volunteering for the Midway Chamber, Chris also volunteered on a day when the Midway Chamber asked for volunteers to help distribute food at the Midway YMCA.
Resiliency Award: Bole Ethiopian Cuisine. The Midway felt the loss of Bole last May when a fire burned down the building which housed Bole, Bole Express and Napa Auto Parts. Owner Solomon Hailie showed his resilience by finding a new location in a close-by space (1341 Pascal) and will reopen his new doors in March.
The Midway Chamber is appreciative of all the work by these recipients to help build a stronger Midway.