The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce recently handed out several community service awards to deserving recipients in recognition of their charitable efforts in the Huron Valley communities.
Chris Baker — who owns Bakers of Milford, the Comeback Inn, and the South Lyon Hotel — earned the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award for his exemplary community outreach.
“You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the community who wouldn’t agree what a giving person Chris is on a daily basis,” said Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joell Beether.
“It’s a huge honor,” Baker said of the award. “I’ve served on the selection committee in the past and know the process, and the quality of people nominated. It’s a hard decision given the great people in our community, so it’s incredible to be added to that list.”
Baker currently serves on the chamber’s Board of Directors and the Carl’s Family YMCA Board of Directors. He is co-founder and chairman of the committee for Brewed in Michigan, an annual event where 30 different breweries around the state showcase their craft beers along with local restaurants that offer food samplings.
“We had over 800 people attend it this October,” Baker said. “We choose a different charity (that benefits) every year. This year we chose the Huron Valley Promise.”
Baker is also the co-founder of the Joey Kocur Celebrity Softball Fund-raiser event, during which he helped raise over $150,000 to go toward local charities.
As if he isn’t busy enough, he also serves as a Crazy Putt-Putt event committee member, and hosts numerous events at his restaurants, including car cruises. He is known for giving away gift certificates and making donations, and continues to sponsor numerous local athletic teams and events.
“I try to help out wherever I can,” Baker said. “Bakers has a banquet center, so we can help other organizations and causes.”
Baker and his late father, Paul Baker, partnered together to buy Bakers and the South Lyon Hotel in the late 1990s; the Comeback Inn was bought in 2005.
After his father’s passing, Chris took over the reins and has continued to be successful as both a business owner and man of integrity and humility.
“I have a great wife and three young kids who are supportive of my community and charitable endeavors — I couldn’t do it without their support,” he said.
The recipient of the chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award is determined by a committee comprised of community members not affiliated with the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“An outside committee, apart from the chamber and non-biased, reviews the nominations that are based on a certain criteria,” Beether explained. “It’s a long process.”
Baker was chosen for this year’s award based on his personal effort and the results realized; the extent of his personal sacrifice; the degree of his selflessness and sincerity of his motivation; and the uniqueness and originality of his service.
“I’ve always been active in the community and community events,” Baker said. “My father won Citizen of the Year Awards in South Lyon and Novi. I learned a lot from him, both in business and community involvement. I had a great teacher.”
The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce also presented Veterinary Care Specialists of Milford, a 24-hour emergency and full-service pet hospital, with the 2011 Business of the Year Award.
“The business is very involved with Community Sharing and has provided free animal services like spaying and neutering,” Beether said.
Owners Peter Barnes and Dr. Julie Hass, a husband-and-wife duo, have actively served the Huron Valley community since 1997. Some of their involvement includes participating in Community Sharing’s pet pantry, which supplies local families with necessities to maintain their pet’s health. One recent initiative the pair created was a pet calendar for the pet pantry and pictures with Santa. They also spearheaded the Dogs Playing Poker fund-raiser, in addition to the Pet-a-PALooza event in Highland as part of the Highland Heydays celebration.
The business also donated oxygen masks to several Oakland County fire departments for cases in which pets have sustained an accident or smoke inhalation.
Barnes serves on the Huron Valley Chamber Board of Directors. Both he and Hass volunteer their time to the Rotary Club of Milford and the Huron Valley Optimist Club.
“We are very honored to receive this award,” Hass said. “We feel this is an extraordinary community with such compassionate, considerate and kind people who devote their time to causes, and one that is not easily replicated. We are fortunate our business and home is in a supportive community.”
The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award was established to give perpetual recognition to a member business that contributes extraordinary effort to the betterment of the community.
The recipient is selected from community nominations by the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for community involvement.
This year’s Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Kim Galbraith, creator of the Huron Valley Referral Network, the Early Bird program for renewals, and the Off-the-Clock Happy Hour program.
“These are great opportunities to develop relationships and put the businesses in the spotlight,” Galbraith said.
She also volunteers for such events as the Milford parades, Crazy Putt-Putt, Brewed in Michigan, and Milford Memories events.
“There are so many people that contribute to the chamber and I am both thrilled and humbled to receive this award,” Galbraith said. “I believe we have a great chamber that’s full of energy.”
Apart from her membership with the chamber, Galbraith is a member advocate, owner of 2 Moms & A Mop, and an active parent in the Huron Valley School District, serving on the district’s Grassroots Legislative Committee.
The volunteer award is meant for individuals who have provided a service for the chamber by choice, without financial reimbursement, for the benefit of the community and the services the chamber provides.
“I believe the chamber, and all the people I’ve met through it, has given me 10 times more than I have given them,” Galbraith said. “We have amazing community members and business owners and it’s been a privilege to work with them.”
This year’s Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Richard Harrison for his role in moving the chamber forward.
According to Beether, the Ambassador of the Year Award is bestowed on an individual who goes that extra mile to work with and mentor more business people and community members to promote the chamber.
Harrison participates in a number other outside activities and regularly attends chamber functions and events. As a leader of the chamber’s Ambassador Group, he is well respected by members, as well as the community, according to Beether.
“He’s always willing to assist, whatever the call might be,” Beether said.
The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce also handed out the 2011 Milford Memories Volunteer of the Year Award to Bill Hermann in recognition of his community service at the annual event. Hermann met the criteria, which is similar to the criteria set for the Citizen of the Year Award.
Hermann had been the Milford Memories Beer Tent chairperson since 1997. Additionally, he helped with all the planning for his area by doing things including recruiting many volunteers, setting up the entire beer tent, and supervising and running the area efficiently.
Each of the award recipients will be formally recognized at the chamber’s Holiday Gala on Dec. 3 at Dunham Hills, located at 13561 Dunham Road in Hartland. The event will be held at 6 p.m. and includes dinner, dancing and an auction. Tickets cost $60 per person. Call the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce at 248-685-7129 for reservations.