Submitted by: Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year for local businesses at its 15th Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, December 5th, at the Four Points by Sheraton, presented by First Federal. This year’s awards recognized individuals and businesses for their contributions to the county, as nine awards were presented to deserving winners.

(Pictured bottom left to right): Sonja Wingard, Animals as Natural Therapy (Nonprofit of the Year); Connie Shannon, Fairhaven Village Inn (Tourism Business of the Year); Jim Jorgensen (Lifetime Achievement); Natalie Ransom, Pozie by Natalie (Chamber Ambassador of the Year); Ray Deck III, Skookum Kids (CEO of the Year). (Top left to right): Arron Nelson, 2020 Solutions (Small Business of the Year) Doug Thomas, Bellingham Cold Storage (Maritime Industry Award); Wes Herman, Woods Coffee (Large Business of the Year); Gurpreet Dhillon, PeaceHealth (Young Professional of the Year). Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography

“The Annual Awards Dinner provides us with the chance to recognize member businesses and business professionals that excel in our community and lead by example,” said Shelli Jones, Marketing Coordinator for the chamber. “It’s very fulfilling when Award Dinner attendees tell us how energized and motivated they feel after the ceremony. Between the finalist videos and the acceptance speeches, people leave the event inspired and that’s the best result we could ask for.”

The Small and Large Business of the Year awards are based on criteria including company management, community service and contribution exceeding the scope of the company’s mission, economic stability, ethics and integrity, growth of the company, new jobs created in the community, and upward mobility for employees. Companies considered are those who put resources and energy back into Bellingham and Whatcom County.

The finalists for the Small Business of the Year award were:

We were honored to present the 2019 small Business of the Year award to 2020 Solutions.

About 2020 Solutions:

Aaron Nelson of 2020 Solutions accepts the 2019 Small Business of the Year award. Photo credit: Radley Muller Photography

One of the first dozen cannabis retailers in the state, 2020 Solutions opened July 10, 2014 at 2018 Iron Street in downtown Bellingham. Since then, additional stores have been launched at 5655 Guide Meridian and 4770 Pacific Highway, both on the north side of Bellingham, and at 1615 Basin Street S.W. in Ephrata. A broad selection of cannabis flower, edibles, concentrates and accessories are available at 2020 Solutions, which also includes certified medical marijuana consultants on its staff to discuss options with patients.

2020 Solutions now has three Bellingham locations, which gross $10 million in cannabis sales per year, and is in the process of opening a fourth store.

The Large Business of the Year finalists were:

The Large Business of the Year was awarded to Woods Coffee.

About Woods:

Woods Coffee employs 350 employees working in their 18 stores, corporate office, bakery, roastery, distribution center and as delivery drivers.

Their desire is to create a space where ALL people are welcome and feel like part of the family…regardless of ethnic background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.

The CEO of the Year award is given to a CEO, President, Chairman or General Manager who demonstrates a clear, consistent vision for their company, has proven sound professional judgment and ethics, is highly respected among peer and competitors, and is trusted by investors and the community. The CEO of the Year empowers his/her employees and is a steady employer in our community. He/she is able to balance the needs of consumers, employees and investors and is a positive influence on his/her industry.

The following were the CEO of the Year finalists:

The 2019 CEO of the Year is Ray Deck III of Skookum Kids.

About Ray Deck III:

Ray Deck III is the founder of Skookum Kids, an organization that exists to be a helpful cog in the foster care system. Kids are removed from their homes at various times of the day and night and DCYF (Division of Children Youth & Families ) needs to scramble to place those children.

Skookum Kids takes them in for the first 72 hours when children need extra special attention in the Skookum House program. Approximately 200 children every year spend their first few days in foster care with Skookum, in the care of trained volunteers and 21 employees.

Ray believes that Skookum is a unique approach and other communities will be able to benefit from it. He has identified areas that need Skookum House and he’s currently working on opening one in Yakima.

The Nonprofit of the Year award is based on the organizational purpose of the non-profit, its contribution to the community, its ethics and integrity, community service, exceeding the scope of its mission, and the upward mobility of its clients.

Nominees for this award are recommended by the general public and chamber member businesses, and are evaluated by the Annual Awards Committee.

The finalists for the Nonprofit of the Year award were:

The 2019 Nonprofit Organization of the Year is Animals as Natural Therapy.

About Animals as Natural Therapy:

Founded by Sonja Wingard in 1999. Animals as Natural Therapy provides equine experiential learning for youth and veterans with special attention to at-risk youth. creates a culture of safety where horses help to soften the resistance that humans use as a coping mechanism. Some of the horses themselves have experienced abuse. However, they are able to share their recovery and forgiveness with the participants at ANT, who then find hope.

They provide equine experiential learning for youth and veterans with special attention to at-risk youth.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors recipients based on their contributions to the community in areas such as civic, business, humanitarian, cultural and educational activities in Whatcom County. This award was formerly known as the Man and Woman of the Year award.

The Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Jim Jorgenson.

About Jim:

Jim Jorgensen spent 30 years teaching in the Blaine School District and spent 40 years with his salmon fishing business. He served as a commissioner on the Port of Bellingham and was instrumental in the creation of Blaine Marine Park.

How are finalists and award winners chosen?

Nominations were accepted June 10 through August 1, 2019, at which point the Annual Award Committee evaluated the nominations and determined the three finalists for each award. 

Nominations for the awards are submitted by the public and Chamber of Commerce members. Upon submission, the nominations are evaluated by the Annual Awards Committee consisting of active Chamber members who volunteer to serve on the committee. The committee determines the three finalists for the Small and Large Business of the Year, the Nonprofit Organization of the Year and the CEO of the Year. The committee meets with the finalists and conducts interviews to ensure that all businesses are evaluated on the same criteria. The results of the interviews are used for the committee to debate the merits of each finalist. A blind vote is taken to determine the award winners.

The Young Professional of the Year is determined by the Top 7 Under 40, an awards ceremony in partnership with the Bellingham Business Journal, Whatcom Young Professionals and the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce. The nomination process is promoted through the three organizations and evaluated by a committee of community leaders and representatives from the three event partners. The winner of the Top 7 Under 40 is also crowned the Young Professional of the Year.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is voted on by a group of community leaders.

The Tourism Business of the Year Award is nominated and voted on by the Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism board of directors.

Additionally, awards were presented to the Tourism Business of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Chamber Ambassador of the Year and the for the first time, the Maritime Industry Award.

Those award winners are:

Young Professional of the Year: Gurpreet Dhillon, Director for the Cancer Center, Palliative and Hospice Care at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital.

Tourism Business of the Year: Fairhaven Village Inn

Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Natalie Ransom, Pozie by Natalie

Maritime Industry of the YearBellingham Cold Storage

Videos of each award winner, award winners’ acceptance speeches and videos highlighting the finalist can be found at Bellingham Chamber’s YouTube page. The award videos were produced by Veritas Media Productions for the past four years. The videos were voiced over by Dave Walker of KAFE 104.1 and Deb Slater.

The 2020 Annual Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, December 3rd.

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