The Sussex County Chamber of Commerce 36th annual Toast to the Stars Awards luncheon reflected a changing of the guard at some major county institutions.
Richard Lecher, SCARC’s president and chief executive since 1972, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the March 23 event at the Lafayette House.
SCARC, based in Augusta, was formed in 1957 to meet the needs of children with developmental disabilities. Since then, it has grown from a staff of seven, serving about 35 children and adults with developmental disabilities, to employing about 290 staff members and serving more than 600 children and adults throughout their lifespan.
“I was thrilled to have received this recognition from the Chamber of Commerce ... ,” said Lecher, who retired March 31.
“The chamber is our premier business entity in Sussex County, and an award from them is prestigious and honorable. I appreciate this honor as a result of my 50-year career at SCARC Inc. It brings many fond memories to me of SCARC’s progress through the years to serve children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families in Sussex County.”
Becky Carlson, executive director of the Center for Prevention & Counseling in Newton, received the Businessperson of the Year Award.
She plans to retire June 30 after working at the nonprofit agency, which provides substance use prevention, counseling and recovery support services, for 23 years.
The Chairwoman’s Award was given to state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-24, who is not running for re-election this year.
He was elected to the Senate in 2008 after serving on the Sussex County Board of Freeholders and Franklin Borough Council.
During the luncheon, Tammie Horsfield, chamber president, noted that Sussex County businesses had struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. “Now they’re coming back to regain their momentum.
”Most businesses continue to face challenges: work shortages, unfortunately inflation and rising interest rates ... . And yet here we are together, lifting each other other up, showing our support by showing up, celebrating all the things I mentioned earlier: talent, intellect, heart and soul, grit, determination and brilliance. This is what the Sussex County business community is all about.”
Other award winners:
• Norwescap received the Business Innovation Award in recognition of an “organization initiating new approaches ... and challenging the status quo with outside-the-box thinking.”
The nonprofit was recognized for opening the Sussex Borough Community & Cultural Center in 2022. It was the result of a series of community conversations and workshops facilitated by the nonprofit a year earlier.
The center provides programming and resources, including programs for young people and senior citizens, an accessible “laptop lab,” small business and entrepreneurship workshops, health and wellness programs, pop-up produce/dairy distributions and free community meals, cooking classes, vaccine clinics and health screenings, and arts and crafting workshops.
• The Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award went to Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services.
• Robert Boyle, founder and chief executive of internet-service provider Planet Networks, was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
“Any business is only as good as its team,” he said, thanking his “amazing people” as well as the customers. “My job is to serve my team and serve our customers. That’s been our recipe for success.
”Before someone asks, we’re trying to get to all of you as fast as we can,” he added, referring to the company’s efforts to place fiber cable throughout the county.
• Lidia Zdunek, vice president and business banking officer at Lakeland Bank, won the Rising Star Award. She is the past chairwoman of the chamber’s board of trustees.
• The Workplace of the Year Award was presented to Thorlabs, based in Newton.
• Catherine Kut of Realty Executives Exceptional Realtors received the Chamber Champion Award.
• The Customer Service Award went to The Chocolate Goat Gift Shoppe in Lafayette.
• The Outstanding Community Event of the Year Award went to the New Jersey State Fair/Sussex County Farm & Horse Show.
• Healthy Living Awards were given to the Farmers Market at the Shoppes at Lafayette, Sparta Farmers Market, Sussex County Fairgrounds Farmers Market and the Hopatcong Farmers Market
• Chelsea at Sparta received the David C. Herzenberg Award.
• Crystal Springs Resort of Hamburg and HQW Architects of Sparta received Quality in Business Awards.
• Quality in Living Awards went to Benny’s Bodega, a nonprofit set up as a store where struggling families can get necessities free of charge and free of shame, and Ridge and Valley Conservancy, which preserves natural areas in northwestern New Jersey. Both are located in Newton.