Chamber event

Shown at the Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and awards presentation were Ryan Race, Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce president; Mandi Wilton Davis, executive director of the United Way of the Bradford Area Inc.; Dr. K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford; John Watson representing the Oak Hill Cemetery Association; Bill Graham of Graham’s Greenhouse & Landscaping; and the chamber executive director Kara Kennedy.




That’s a word that Kara Kennedy, executive director of the Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce, used to describe a business, an individual and two organizations in the Bradford area that received awards Thursday evening. The chamber’s annual meeting and awards event took place at the Pennhills Club in Bradford Township.


Graham’s Greenhouse & Landscaping on East Main Street in Foster Township received the Exemplary Business Award; United Way of the Bradford Area Inc., the Community and Spirit Award; Dr. K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the directors’ award; and the Oak Hill Cemetery/Oak Hill Cemetery Association, the Legacy Award.


“There is a quote by Andy Andrews that begins, ‘When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution,’” Kennedy said. “There is no doubt that our annual award recipients who we are recognizing here this evening have demonstrated that type of commitment. And that they, along with our chamber members, represent those committed hearts throughout our community who are searching for — and working hard to implement — solutions.”


Bill Graham, who co-operates the greenhouse and landscaping business and was one of the family members to accept the award, expressed appreciation for the community’s support of the company.


The business celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016 and is operated by Bill and Kim Graham, along with their sons Ben and Fred Graham who are the fifth generation of the Graham family to be involved.


In 2015, Graham’s re-landscaped the front of the Bradford Family YMCA, donating plants, materials and their services. The company also donated landscaping services and materials to a Habitat for Humanity home in 2013, and this summer, the company plans to landscape a Habitat home on Congress Street.


During the event, Fred Graham stepped up to the podium, stressed the importance that people should spend locally –– in Bradford and in nearby communities, and said individuals should also make sure their properties are kept up with landscaping.


The awards presentation also included Mandi Wilton Davis, executive director of the United Way, who spoke about the organization that has a mission to raise and distribute funds for the purpose of community building and enhancing the quality of life.


She said she is grateful to lead an organization that has had an impact on the area for more than 90 years. The United Way got its start as a community chest in 1925, and throughout the years has brought in more than $21 million benefitting nonprofit organizations in Bradford and surrounding areas.


The Bradford’s United Way most recent campaign surprised its $340,000 goal. The Smethport and Port Allegany campaigns for United Way both raised more $17,000.


“Being a fundraiser is hard, but asking people to give of their treasure is a little easier in this community. I have been witness to the generosity that you do not find easily elsewhere,” Davis said. “And I have the privilege of witnessing, too, the work that is done by the programs and services funded by the United Way’s annual efforts.”


A major accomplishment in 2017 had been the implementation of 2-1-1, a comprehensive information and referral system to link residents in need with a variety of health, human and social services in McKean County.


A student United Way launched at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in 2017 as well.


The presentation continued with the director’s award, which recipient Evans said he is honored and humbled to receive. He pointed out that many others equally deserve the recognition.


Making per capita comparison, Evans said that Bradford has much more civic involvement and a variety of social services than two other places he lived in –– Pittsburgh and Rapid City, S.D. He attributed that to the city’s remote location, along with the community’s spirit and “recognizing our challenges while working constantly to make our community as fine as it can be.”


Evans is the longest-serving administrator in Pitt-Bradford’s more than 50-year history, and the longest-serving chief student affairs officer in the history of the University of Pittsburgh system. Evans’ planned retirement is slated for later this summer. He arrived at Pitt-Bradford as dean of student affairs in 1976 and was appointed as vice president in 1994.


During his time at Pitt-Bradford, Evans has taken part in the growth and development of the college, including its transformation into a four-year college in 1979 and its move into NCAA Division III athletics in the 1990s.


Through the years, he established the Office of Career Services, the Office of Student Activities, the Office of Counseling Services and the Office of Community Engagement. Evans also crafted the preliminary planning proposal to establish the Office of Campus Police.


In accepting the chamber’s legacy award, John Watson talked about the Oak Hill Cemetery/Oak Hill Cemetery Association.


The cemetery on East Main Street includes more than 30 acres and is the largest cemetery in McKean County and one of the oldest in northwest Pennsylvania, founded in 1881. The association was formed in 2008 to manage the care of the cemetery.


“It is an unbelievable, monumental job to try to keep this going,” Watson said.


The cemetery has 13,000 internments, including 7,000 headstones and markers, a community mausoleum and the Cremation Garden of Peace. With the cemetery’s size and steeply sloped hills, maintenance costs nearly $5,000 every time the lawn needs cut.


Each of the award winners received a Case knife, a city proclamation, a state House of Representatives citation, a state Senate citation, and a certificate from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.