When the Citizen of the Year and Local Business of the Year awards were announced at the sold-out Squamish Chamber of Commerce AGM and President's Dirty Thirties Revival Gala on Saturday (Jan. 31), it was obvious the recipients tapped their environments for inspiration.
For Callaghan Valley Local Organizing Committee (CALOC) managing director Denise Imbeau, this year's Citizen of the Year, it was the snowy mountains of the Callaghan Valley that compelled her to gather a legion of volunteers and ensure the success of local Nordic sports.
"I do love my community - that's a constant theme for me," said Imbeau after receiving the award from The Chief newspaper publisher Tim Shoults.
"So most of what I do is for you even though it doesn't always necessarily seem like that. I think sometimes I'm a bit overwhelming, I admit  I just wanted something to happen for Squamish so I put my hand up fast and said 'Squamish can do that' But the reality is I had no idea whether we could."
Imbeau was born and raised in Squamish and has dedicated her time to a long list of volunteer initiatives, including coaching girl's softball, being a board member of the Squamish Skating Club and Team Squamish, a Rotary Club member, a Communities in Bloom guide, and holding positions on the Chamber of Commerce Olympic Coordinating Committee, the Seniors' Centre Fundraising Committee and Community Christmas Care. The list goes on.
But it is her passion for Callaghan Valley that stands out. And although Imbeau tried to spread the spotlight to the rest of the CALOC executive and volunteers during her speech, she was the keystone, said executive member Mayor Greg Gardner.
"CALOC would not have happened if Denise had not put her time into it. She was the driving force behind CALOC. Many of us got caught up in her energy and lots of people worked alongside her, but she was the reason it happened," he said.
As for Echoflex Solutions Ltd cofounders Brian Aikens and Shawn Pedersen, it was a chat between friends while mountain biking local trails that ignited one of the leading technologies for energy conservation. The company won Local Business of the Year over finalists Trinity Romance and Play N Trade.
The company, which manufactures and distributes EnOcean's patented radio and energy harvesting technology, is proving that high tech development can prosper in a small town like Squamish, said Pedersen.
"There are a lot of people that don't think a high tech company can exist in a small town but our point is it does better in this kind of world. It fosters creativity just by virtue of its recreation," he said, after receiving the award from Squamish Sustainability Corporation's Dave Thomson and Westmana Development Corporation's Rene David.
"The success of our company has been because we have everything that is in Squamish. Our guys are mountain climbers, they're wind surfers, they're skiers and that has really helped us."
Echoflex Solutions Inc. employs a team of nine local residents and 15 representatives across North America.
After the awards, guests dressed in 1930s style clothing danced to the Hair Farmers and bid on live and silent auction items, which raised $3,795.