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Chamber honors foundation, Mayo Clinic housing collaboration at annual bash

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The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off its first annual "celebration" in the expanded Mayo Civic Center with a new award.

Interim President Kathleen Harrington told the crowd of about 870 people gathered for the event that she hopes the Community Collaboration award will become an annual feature.

The award is to honor groups that "show how hard it is to come together, but proving to us that the product is worth it," she said. "The work of real collaboration is very, very hard and rarely achieved."

Harrington then announced that the Rochester Area Foundation and Mayo Clinic were being honored for their work on the Coalition for Rochester Area Housing.

"We thank Mayo Clinic for its continued engagement on housing and your extraordinary generosity for caring for our community," she said.

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The coalition was formed in December to try to address Rochester's growing problem of not having enough affordable housing for low-wage people currently working here and those expected to come due to the Destination Medical Center initiative.

Mayo Clinic donated $4 million toward the program, which was two-thirds of the coalition's two-year fundraising goal. 

The formation of the coalition followed months of lobbying by Communities United for Rochester's Empowerment, for Mayo Clinic to support affordable housing efforts.

Rochester Area Foundation President Jennifer Woodford told the gathered community and business leaders that receiving such an award was "a tremendous honor in a community known for its collaboration."

As the evening wore on, Harrington, with the help of Chamber Chair and DMC leader Lisa Clarke , presented the more familiar list of chamber awards.

•  Small Business of the Year: Healing Rhythms Music Therapy, which provides a variety of music therapy services throughout the community. It opened a multi-treatment facility on 19th Street Northwest that is Rochester's first music therapy clinic in 2017.

 Founder Christina Wood thanked the chamber for embracing her organization.

"My heart is full of gratitude," she said. "And I can't wait to see what will happen in the new year."

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• Large Business of the Year: DoubleTree by Hilton owned by Rochester developer Gus Chafoulias. The hotel at South Broadway and Second Street Southeast in downtown Rochester features more than 200 rooms and employs a staff of 131.

• The Nonprofit of the Year: Madonna Living Community. The senior living and health care facility has long served Rochester. Administrator and CEO Christine Bakke told the crowd that "We're excited about our 50th anniversary and we're excited about 50 more years."

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: Former University of Minnesota Rochester Chancellor Stephen W. Lehmkuhle was honored by the chamber and Greater Rochester Advocates for Universities and Colleges for his 10 years of work establishing the UMR campus in Rochester. He retired in 2017. The award was presented by GRAUC chairman and former chamber president John Wade.

"I've been so privileged over my 40-year career to get up every day and try to make the world a better place," said Lehmkuhle as he accepted the award.

•  Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Lynn Clarey of Sterling State Bank. Clarey, Sterling State's vice president of business development, helped launch Rochester's Tee It Up for the Troops golf tournament.

• Volunteers of the Year:  The 11 members of the steering committee of the chamber's

the Leadership Greater Rochester program. Tyler Niemeyer of Braun Intertec Corp. accepted the award for the group.

"I think I speak for whole committee when I say that the reason we're standing up here and involved with the program at all is because of the profound the program had on us and the impact on the young leaders that you send us every year," Niemeyer said.

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Then he pointed out to the crowd that the annual program will start accepting applications for 2018 participants next week.

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