by Phil Ambroziak

The nominees are in.

The Meadow Lake and District Chamber of Commerce has announced the top five finalists in 10 categories for next week’s Business Excellence Awards (MLBEX). Chamber administrator Trevor Dignean, meanwhile, said he is more than pleased with the vast number of suggestions brought forward by members of the local community.

“We had more than 60 nominations submitted online, many of which saw nominations for 10 different people or businesses in 10 different categories,” Dignean said. “Quite a few nominations were also handed in to us at the Chamber office, so, overall, we are very pleased.”

The top five nominees for Volunteer of the Year are Bluesette Campbell, RCMP Cst. Brody Cameron, Nicky Munroe, Courtney Hildebrand and Jeff McCallum.

Finalists for Multicultural Business of the Year include McDonald’s Restaurant, Schwing’s Meating Place, RobWel Constructors Ltd., Your Dollar Store With More and McCall’s Hair Design.

Nominees for New Business of the Year are The Medicine Shoppe, Rise Up Health and Fitness, Devour Grill and Bar, Snipe and Celly Pro Shop and Pure Energy Health and Fitness.

Up for Non-profit Organization of the Year are the Door of Hope, the Meadow Lake and District 4-H Club, the Turning Point Youth Centre, the Meadow Lake Lions Club and the Meadow Lake Kinsmen.

Indigenous Leader of the Year finalists include Jenalee Blatz, Shane Gladue, Tammy Wigton, Clay Debray and Val Jean Chatelaine.

The Female Entrepreneur of the Year nominees are Coral Budd (Pure Energy Health and Fitness), Sam Hadland (Studio 26 Salon), Kassidy Dunsing (Eatery On Main), Jenalee Blatz (Rise Up Health and Fitness) and Destiny Miller (Devour Grill and Bar).

Finalists for Young Business Leader of the Year are Shaena Thomson (Vast Wilderness Co.), Kassidy Dunsing (Eatery on Main), Jenalee Blatz (Rise Up Health and Fitness), Destiny Miller (Devour Grill and Bar) and Jenay Gorst (Rytt Contracting).

Customer Service of the Year nominees are Kurt Hadland (Trophies R Us), Laura Ogilvie (Eatery On Main), Nori Gjolena (Martodam’s The Clothing People), Andrew Nagy (ML Co-op Grocery) and Amber Ambroziak (Aurora Cinemas).

The Community Builder Award finalists are Marty Bishop, Dick and Wendy Nitschelm, Dr. Gavin Van de Venter and Tammy Mutch.

And, Business of the Year hopefuls include Rise Up Health and Fitness, Eatery On Main, Nu Line Auto Sales, Aurora Cinemas and Martodam’s The Clothing People.

Nominations closed Feb. 21 while the MLBEX gala itself is set for next Friday (March 20) at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre. Dignean is aiming to sell out the event this year – a full 220 seats.

“The board has challenged me, and I’m up for that challenge,” he said.

As for exactly which nominees were selected to make the final ballot, Dignean said a committee made up of a cross-section of community members was responsible for the final choices. This group, he added, will also be responsible for determining the winner in each category.

“This way, the Chamber board and myself will be kept out of it,” he noted. “We’re going to let people from the community decide who gets an award.”

Dignean believes the strong response generated this year speaks highly of the hard work of the current Chamber executive.

“It’s a new and different board, while I am also new to the role of administrator,” he said. “I definitely believe that’s a big part of it. Everyone is energetic in terms of getting things done.”