FOLLANSBEE - The city's chamber of commerce held its annual Christmas dinner Wednesday at the St. Francis Center to recognize members and businesses of the community for their services.
Former state Sen. Ed Bowman, D-Weirton, and Follansbee Mayor David Velegol spoke to the audience to kick off the evening before Tony Paesano, chamber president, announced the award winners.
"Making a difference everyday - that is the legacy of this chapter," Paesano said. "As Winston Churchill said, 'we make a living by what we get, and we make a life by what we give.'"
CHAMBER HONOREES — Austin Loppman, from left, of the Tri-State Young Marines, as well as John Barlow, Jason Rine, Terry Mains and Suzanne Davidson were awarded with mini-grants at the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas dinner held Wednesday at the St. Francis Center. — Shae Dalrymple
Mini grants in the amounts of $300 to $750 were awarded to local educators and children's programs, including the Backpack after-school program, which not only houses, feeds and tutors kids in need but also sends them home with food on weekends.
Suzanne Davidson was awarded the grant for her "Bound for Mars" project specializing in areas of space science.
Austin Loppman of the Tri-State Young Marines and John Barlow, who volunteers daily to provide veterans transportation to veterans hospitals, also received mini-grants.
In the individual awards category, Suzanne Davidson was awarded the education award for creating the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Program. The club meets once a week after school to promote the love of science, officials said.
Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, accepted an award for economic development. Ford has more than 25 years of experience and recently was recognized in the Wall Street Journal for local land acquisitions.
"(Ford) has brought jobs to Brooke County because of his work," Paesano said. "He makes a difference."
Municipal Court Judge Michael Fuscardo, a former Brooke County magistrate and police officer, received an award in recognition of judicial achievement. Fuscardo worked for Weirton Steel for five years after high school and then moved on to the Brooke County police department. He worked as a police officer there for about 10 and a half years before he was attacked with acid while responding to a call. The incident left him blind, and no amount of surgery or time has been able to restore his sight. He later accepted a position as magistrate and served for a total of three years. Mayor Velegol approached him two and a half years ago, and Fuscardo has been a judge in the city's municipal court ever since.
NC Sportz and Crown of Gold salon received business of the year awards. Crown of Gold will be celebrating its 25th year in business on March 1.
Riesbeck's grocery store won corporate business of the year award.
Kayla Cutrone, 22-year-old daughter of Skip Cutrone of Vito's 2 Restaurant in Follansbee, was recognized for a myriad of achievements in community service. Since 2010, she has helped to organize, prepare and deliver dinners to families in need on Thanksgiving day. An all-time high of 611 dinners were served on Thanksgiving this year. When she heard about the devastation caused by tornadoes in Oklahoma last spring, Cutrone helped victims by raising $12,400 for the Barrett family of Newcastle, Okla., who lost everything in the storms. Cutrone flew to Oklahoma to personally present them with the check, which they used for a down payment on a house. Brandon and Amy Barrett attended the ceremony with their two children and were given a key to the city by Paesano. Cutrone went on to raise $14,800 for the Mozingo family after their home was leveled in a gas explosion a mere mile away from her own family's home. A week after the burial of Hannah Mozingo, 13, Cuttrone presented the Mozingos with the check.
The citizen of the year award went to Jim Mirasola for a lifetime of service, including 26 years as city clerk.
The evening ended with a surprise award for Tony Paesano including a key to the city and a tri-fold with photos from his extensive career in the area which left him "speechless."