The 18th annual Greater Manlius Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizens of the Year Awards reception, which was held March 7 at Drumlins Country Club. (Hayleigh Gowans)
By Hayleigh Gowans
The Greater Manlius Chamber of Commerce recently recognized a group of outstanding citizens and organizations in the town of Manlius at the 18th annual Distinguished Citizens of the Year Awards reception, which was held March 7 at Drumlins Country Club.
Each year, the Manlius Chamber takes nominations from the community and selects several awards to distribute to recognize outstanding citizens, businesses and organizations in the town. This year, the following awards were distributed: Not-for profit of the Year, David’s Refuge; Educator of the Year, Ben Gnacik; and three Business of the Year awards to the Fayetteville Free Library, Manlius Library and Minoa Library.
In addition to the chamber awards, each awardee also received a citation from the Manlius Town Board and from New York State Senator John DeFrancisco to recognize each individual or group.
David’s Refuge is a non-profit that was started in Manlius in 2012 by Warren and Brenda Pfohl, who were caretakers to their son David. After David’s passing, they wanted to use their experience to provide “care for the caregiver.” The organization now works with 18 bed-and-breakfasts in Central and Western New York to provide hundreds of parents of children with disabilities or chronic disease a chance to relax so they are refreshed to take on the many tasks that come with their situation.
“The Manlius community has embraced David’s Refuge us from the beginning, so to be here today six years later is really an honor for us knowing that our local community is still supporting us so strongly today,” said Kate Houck, executive director of David’s Refuge. “It means a lot that the community is willing to help us serve the unserved population — the parents of the children in our community.”
Ben Gnacik, Educator of the Year, is in his 10th year teaching science courses at Fayetteville-Manlius High
School. Before coming to F-M, Gnacik worked for two years in the Syracuse City School District, and four years at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Mass. For the past nine years, he has organized an annual education trip to Belize that about 30 students participate in, and he is also the advisor for the school’s New York State Science Honor Society.
Last year in his Anatomy, Physiology and Epidemiology class, Gnacik led students and allowed them to take a hands-on approach to create an informational vaccine campaign, which is used by local pediatrics offices and is listed on vaccine databases worldwide.
Gnacik also spearheaded the effort to bring the FM Relay for Life fundraiser back to the community after a 10-year hiatus. In the past three years, the event has raised more than $200,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“It’s humbling and nice to be recognized for something that I look forward to doing every day,” said Gnacik. “I think to get an award like this just makes the day even better.”
The libraries of the town — Fayetteville, Manlius and Minoa — all took home a Business of the Year award. Fayetteville Free Library Director Sue Considine, Manlius Library Director Jen Milligan and Minoa Library Director Laura Ravera were all on hand to accept the awards. Each of the libraries has served the community for decades and is continuing to evolve to keep up with the needs of the patrons, said Considine and Milligan.
“I think it’s really important the chamber recognizes the importance of public libraries and the value that they add to the quality of life in the town of Manlius,” said Milligan.
“I think it’s important that the chamber recognizes that these three libraries serve three distinct communities but at the same time we share a larger community,” said Considine. “Everything is about partnership; collaborating to share resources and ideas is important so the chamber and these sorts of organizations help provide that for our public libraries.”
“It’s really an honor for us because the Minoa Library is so much smaller than the Fayetteville and Manlius ones,” said Ravera.
To learn more about the Greater Manlius Chamber of Commerce, go to manliuschamber.com.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.