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Chamber honors Caroline’s best at awards banquet

PRESTON — The Caroline County Chamber of Commerce celebrated its best for 2016 on Thursday, Jan. 28, at its annual awards banquet at Preston Fire Hall.

The event featured a dinner catered by the Chesapeake Culinary Center, which also received Caroline’s Best Nonprofit award. Turnbridge Point Bed and Breakfast in Denton received Entrepreneur of the Year. The chamber presented Caroline Circuit Court Judge Karen Jensen with the Community Service award. Amy Cawley received the Agriculture award. Medifast in Ridgely was named Large Business of the Year, with Shoreline Vinyl Systems receiving Mid-Sized Business of the Year and Rowe Insurance being named Small Business of the Year. Cindy Riddleberger was named Businesswoman of the Year and Brent Fuchs received Businessman of the Year.

Rob Griffith and Steve Konopelski got married and moved to Denton in August 2014, with their sights set on opening a bed and breakfast.

Konopelski had previously transitioned from the Broadway stage to pastry arts, gaining hospitality experience at several notable New York restaurants, hotels and inns, including a lengthy stint under a James Beard Award winning pastry chef. Griffith is a patent attorney with a firm that handles Samsung Telecommunication patents.

Griffith and Konopelski moved to Denton to be closer to family and to pursue a business where their talents could be combined. Through the coordinated efforts from the Town of Denton, Caroline Economic Development Corporation, the Caroline Office of Tourism, Department of Health, and MJH Construction, renovations at 119 Gay St. began in February 2015, with much of the concentration on commercializing the kitchen.

The Bed and Breakfast at Turnbridge Point opened its doors to guests in May 2015 and occupancy during that first summer far exceeded expectations. Turnbridge Point also began offering on- and off-site catering and personal and group baking classes under Chef Steve.

“Due to popular demand, they also began selling pastries at Denton’s Farmer’s Market and holding a monthly brunch so anyone could experience Chef Steve’s culinary delights,” said Joseph Anderson, CEO of Combined Technology Solutions in Ridgely.

In late 2015, Konopelski was selected as one of ten contestants to appear on the “Holiday Baking Championship” on Food Network where he successfully navigated each challenge during the eight episodes, even winning a few, and finished as one of the top three finalists.

“In coordination with the show, Turnbridge Point offered holiday pies and cookies at the Denton Holiday Marketplace, increasing exposure for the already in high-demand brunch, currently sold out through April,” Anderson said. “We are honored to present the 2016 Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Steve Konopelski and Rob Griffith of Turnbridge Point.”

Karen Jensen was appointed as judge of the Circuit Court of Caroline County in 1999 by Gov. Parris Glendening and reappointed in October 2015 by Gov. Larry Hogan.

“During her time on the bench, she has accomplished a great many things that have resulted in better outcomes for those paying their debt to society, their victims and the community,” said Caroline County Commission Chief of Staff Sara Visintainer. “Among the highlights of her time on the bench is her creation of the first Problem Solving Court in Caroline County. This program helps nonviolent offenders with substance abuse, dependency and mental health issues to avoid jail time, while going through an intensive and comprehensive program focused on reducing the likelihood of future crimes and dealing with the underlying issues that caused them to offend.”

Jensen is a founding member of the nonprofit Mid-Shore Pro Bono, which assists low-income residents of Caroline County as well as Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Kent counties with civil legal advice and representation, ranging from foreclosure and family law issues to landlord-tenant, veterans issues and bankruptcy. She is an active member for the advisory committee of Mid-Shore Pro Bono, which now is in its 11th year.

“Judge Jensen also created a family- and child-centered domestic relations case management system, which more effectively helps families resolve conflicts, resulting in better outcomes for children and less burden on the court system,” Visintainer said. “Judge Jensen has received numerous awards honoring her efforts to improving access to justice issues, including the 2015 Daily Record Leadership in Law award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Mid-Shore Pro Bono, the Caliber Award from Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems and the Mid-Shore Women’s and Girl’s Fund Annual Service Award. She was also named Judge of the Year by the Maryland Access to Justice Commission.”

Jensen has been a Character Counts coach for a sixth-grade class at Lockerman Middle School since 2009, an active volunteer with Rebuilding Together, a committee member of Young Life of Caroline County and Sunday school teacher at Calvary Baptist Church.

“I have worked with Karen on various projects and initiatives for almost 10 years, and I can say that there isn’t anyone who better personifies a commitment to community improvement more than she does, or who does so with greater passion and an unshakeable belief that we can make things better,” Visintainer said.

Established in fall 2004, the Chesapeake Culinary Center is a nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of the community through job-training and economic development.

The Chesapeake Culinary Center has partnered with the Caroline County Board of Education to develop the Caroline Schoolhouse’s Culinary Arts Center in the former Caroline High School building. This structure, circa 1901, sat vacant for more than 20 years, but is in Denton’s Central Business District.

The Town of Denton, working in partnership with the Denton Development Corporation, acquired the building in 2004, and stabilized the structure in 2006. The town has leased the building to the Caroline County Board of Education to provide culinary arts training opportunities to youth and adults throughout the Mid-Shore region.

In addition to serving as the headquarters for the Chesapeake Culinary Center, the multi-use facility is home to the Career and Technology Center’s culinary arts classes, the Shore Gourmet Market and a Community Kitchen Incubator, designed to assist agriculturally based start-up businesses.

The Caroline Schoolhouse’s Culinary Arts Center offers a broad range of programs suited for all different levels of interest in the culinary arts, including the Board of Education Culinary Arts Program where students from Caroline County can take credit courses to prepare them for higher education or entry-level careers.

There also are after school and summer programs where students learn basic culinary skills and become familiar with the various restaurant positions, including hosting, hotline, serving and bussing. Students are also taught the business components of restaurant management, such as inventory and costing.

The center also offers adult continuing-education classes through a partnership with Social Services and the Workforce Investment Board, for those in need of a job skill or looking to explore the culinary field.

Caroline County resident Amy Cawley is the Farm to Food Bank coordinator for the Maryland Food Bank for the Eastern Shore. This program engages a network of farms across the state in a partnership to provide hungry Marylanders with local produce.

“Since June of 2011, Amy has worked tirelessly with farmers, volunteers, and pre-release inmates to procure 4.6 million pounds of farm fresh produce from Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” said Aly Valentine of the University of Maryland Extension Office. “Prior to working with the Maryland Food Bank, Amy spent two years as an adjunct instructor of Health and Nutrition at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, and seven years teaching freshmen health and physical education at Salem Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C. She earned a Master of Science degree in Exercise and Sport Science from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Science degree from Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C.”

Cawley is secretary of the Maryland Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, board member for Maryland Agriculture Education Foundation and LEAD Maryland, active member of the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association, and volunteers for Common Ground and Caroline County Recreation and Parks.

“During the holiday season she can be found assisting her father at Cawley Family Farm by making fresh wreaths and selling Christmas trees,” Valentine said. “On the weekends in the spring, summer and fall she works at Clayton Farms. When there is spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the beach, watching sports, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and making people laugh.”

Medifast is a leading manufacturer and provider of clinically proven weight-loss and healthy living products and programs. It has been a proud corporate citizen of the Caroline County community since opening its Ridgely distribution and printing center in 2003. Over the years, Medifast made partnerships with many organizations in the area, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Food Bank and The Benedictine School.

“As the home field sponsor for the Caroline Cougars local youth football team, Medifast has been instrumental in not only providing a field for the team, but also much needed enhancements to the field including goal posts, and utilities to the field and clubhouse,” said Choptank Transport Executive Vice President Steve Covey. “Accepting the award on behalf of Medifast is Executive Vice President Guy Sheetz.

“Guy oversees the procurement, logistics, product development and manufacturing operations in Ridgely,” he said. “He is actively involved in the community and supports a number of local volunteer and youth organizations. He is a member of the McDaniel College President’s Advisory Council. He volunteers his time with Habitat for Humanity and Medifast’s Community Impact Programs.

“Medifast encourages their team and employees to volunteer their time for the Maryland Food Bank, Rebuilding Together and the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House at Johns Hopkins,” he said.

“Founded in 2003 by Caroline County native Eric Good, Shoreline Vinyl Systems has grown to become an industry-leading manufacturer, wholesaler, and distributor of vinyl fence, vinyl railing and vinyl pergola systems on the east coast,” said Caroline Chamber member Jeff Powell. “Shoreline sells its products through over 300 dealers across eight states, and is currently in the process of expanding that footprint into four additional states in 2016.

“Since the beginning of 2014, Shoreline has increased annual sales by 56 percent, they have expanded their operation into a 91,000-square-foot facility, formerly occupied by Boaters World in the Denton industrial park, and they have added 24 jobs which has doubled the size of their workforce,” Powell said. “Shoreline attributes this recent success to their continued commitment to delivering quality over price, for their dedication to always providing first class customer service and for sticking to their core value of being a small-town, family owned and operated business who ‘Says what they do, and Does what they Say.’”

Rowe Insurance Agency was started by Leroy Rowe in 1990.

“Leroy recognized the need for insurance representation in the northern end of the county and felt Greensboro was a good place to start,” said Caroline County Chamber of Commerce President Carville Leaf. “In 1993, his daughter Laura came to work with him and three years later, he retired, confidently handing her the reins.

“Under Laura’s leadership, the business has continued to grow and expand, even moving into a new, larger building at the same location in 2005,” he said. “Rowe Insurance is pleased to have been part of the community for 26 years, and looks forward to serving the citizens of Caroline County for many years ahead.”

Cindy Riddleberger was raised in Ridgely and is a 1977 graduate of North Caroline High School. She was senior class president and a member of the inaugural softball team.

In 1987, she joined her father, Archie Carroll, and sister, Sherry Hollingsworth, in the family insurance business representing Nationwide Insurance.

“While working with her sister Sherry, Cindy contributed to the achievement of Nationwide’s most prestigious award, Hall of Fame,” said Pam Hutchinson of Choptank Transport. “Agencies were required to achieve the President’s Conference Award for 20 years in order to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.”

Cindy’s son Matthew joined the agency full time, making them a third generation agency. The company recently purchased and rehabilitated the former Citgo Gas Station in Denton for the agency’s new home.

“We have always had great associates to help us take care of our policyholders,” Riddleberger said. “Their dedication and loyalty has enabled our agency to be successful since it began in 1959. I’m proud to be a native of Caroline County, and I’m thankful for all the wonderful people who have supported the family business. Without them, we would not be where we are today.”

Brent C. Fuchs, a 1996 graduate of North Caroline High School, is an associate of Heritage Financial Consultants, LLC. He is a registered representative and an investment advisor representative with the Series 7 and Series 66 FINRA registrations. Fuchs has been affiliated as a financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors (broker/dealer) since 2000. In addition to his securities licenses, he also is a licensed life and health insurance agent.

“Throughout Brent’s career, he has strived to obtain the most relevant and advanced financial planning designations to serve his clients in the areas of comprehensive financial planning, retirement planning, and estate planning,” said Bill Towers of Towers Concrete Products Inc. “In 2003, Brent obtained the Certified Financial Planner certification, a benchmark certification for the financial planning industry. Additionally, he holds the Chartered Financial Consultant and Chartered Life Underwriter designations from the American College and the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation from the College for Financial Planning.

“Brent has achieved President’s Club recognition with Lincoln Financial Advisors and has qualified multiple times for the Million Dollar Roundtable, the premier association of the world’s most successful insurance professionals,” Leaf said. “Brent is also a member of the Resource Group — composed of the top 200 advisors within Lincoln Financial Advisors.”

Fuchs volunteers his time coaching Little League T-Ball, as well as indoor and outdoor soccer. He also supports a number of local organizations, such as the 4-H Club, Caroline County Library, Caroline YMCA and Caroline Hospice.

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