Community supporters, volunteers and businesses were honored Thursday night during the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony at the O’Shaughnessy Center.
This year’s Great Whitefish Award was given to Mike Goguen, a Whitefish philanthropist and venture capitalist, who has donated to many causes in Whitefish and the Flathead Valley.
He has been a major funder for the Whitefish Trail, provided a $500,000 donation to the North Valley Food Bank for its new building that opened in 2013 and an endowment, is the sole funder of Two Bear Air rescue helicopter service and has personally completed 30 rescues, funds the Two Bear Therapeutic Riding Center and has provided funding for the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Lin Akey presented the award, recalling when he first met Goguen while working on funding for the Whitefish Trail. They talked about Goguen’s different business and philanthropic projects.
“He is a gentleman who moves the needle not just in our town, but globally,” he said. “He is passionate about making a difference in others’ lives.”
Goguen, who was attending a meeting for the board of Kalispell Regional Healthcare and could not attend the chamber ceremony, accepted the award through a prerecorded video. He said seeing the goodness of the people in the community is what cemented his desire to live in Whitefish.
“As my wife Jamie always says, when your heart is in the right place there is no problem that’s unsolvable and no goal that’s unachievable,” he said. “We have so much to be proud of in this community — the philanthropic efforts of the community have produced so many great results.”
“I think if we keep focusing on bringing great compassion and more inspiration and more opportunity to every member of our community there is so much more we can do,” he added.
Business of the Year
The award for Business of the Year went to Black Diamond Mortgage.
Dave Boye, owner of Black Diamond, began the real estate lending company roughly a decade ago. This fall the company created a program seeking donations to help 30 families over 30 days by purchasing tires for them.
“He had a desire to help more,” Jeff Raper said in presenting the award.
Boye credited his entire staff for making Black Diamond a success.
“Anything good that has come out [of the business] it’s because of my team,” he said.
Tourism Business of Year
Dylan Boyle, with the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented the award, saying it was going to an owner and business that has put in a lot of hard work since 2013. Cricket Butler was honored as the owner of Whitefish Bike Retreat.
“It is a place frequented year round by visitors and locals,” he said.
The bike retreat includes 19 acres of wilderness and its own trail system, along with access to the Whitefish Trail, and lodging options for cyclists.
“This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for this great community,” Butler said in accepting the award.
Citizen of the Year
Whitefish Mountain Resort CEO Dan Graves presented the Citizen of the Year award to Nick Polumbus.
Graves said Polumbus has also been a “terrific” director of marketing and sales for the resort helping put the resort on another pace for a record year, but he is also highly involved in the community and a family man.
Polumbus has served for six years on the Whitefish School Board, serves on the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau board, with For the Children and the Gary Norby Junior Golf Foundation.
“It’s not lost on me that there are a lot people in this room who make things happen and to be honored this means a lot,” Polumbus said.
Chamber Volunteer of Year
Kevin Gartland, executive director of the chamber, said he decided this year’s volunteer award would go to the chamber’s MVP for the year — Melissa Ellis, who is the chamber’s membership director.
He said Ellis has gone above and beyond this year for the chamber especially when it has been short-staffed.
“At Oktoberfest she had her hands full with her own operation and she was dumping trash and wiping down tables and doing whatever needed to be done,” he said. “She cares about her members and would do more than anyone else to help them.”
Ambassador of the Year
Karen Beckley was given the award for serving as one the chamber’s roughly 20 ambassadors. She has volunteered with the chamber for seven years, also volunteers with the Moose Lodge and Shepherd’s Hand free clinic.
“As her husband says she truly cares for others,” Jenny Rifkin said in presenting the award.