In his first year as president of the Bellport Chamber of Commerce, Chris Hane grew the membership by over 30 percent — to 133 paid members.

Regular meeting attendance also rose by about 15 members on average, to 42.

He also initiated a new website that was rolled out in recent weeks.

“Since Chris is always willing to donate his time and abilities to empower the members to be successful, it’s no surprise he’s making waves,” said the chamber’s vice president, Merri Avino of Avino’s Italian Table.

Avino was offering her congratulations Tuesday night to the co-owner of MVP Automotive in Bellport and Brookhaven for the honor of being named the Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition’s Outstanding Member of the Year for the Town of Brookhaven.

Hane was picked among the individual members of the year from each of the coalition’s 20 chambers for the top award, which was presented at the group’s annual award gala at the Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station.

“People join chambers of commerces for different reasons, and I think it’s safe to say most people join to promote themselves,” Hane told the large gathering. “We want to be successful; we want to make money … But it can’t be a one-way street; it has to work both ways.”

“We need to make sure that you being successful will, in return, help promote your chamber of commerce,” he continued. “And by being here tonight, you’ve proven that. You’ve taken time from your busy schedule to promote your chamber. So give yourselves a pat on the back.”

Hane was not the only chamber member honored from the greaterpatchogue.com coverage area.

Roy and Kathy Pelaez of the Island Empanada restaurants, one of which is in Medford, were awarded $1,200 as recipients of the Small Business Improvement Award.

The Medford Chamber of Commerce’s member of the year was vice president Larry Jaeger of Belzak & Bodkin Realty. And the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce celebrated the work of Melissa Kuehnle, a vice president for the group and the director of communications and external relations at St. Joseph’s College. She’s also a Patchogue-Medford High School graduate.

“Melissa is the epitome of local girl makes good,” said the chamber’s executive director, David Kennedy.

“Working with such amazing people really does help me get through my day,” Kuehnle said. “Knowing that I do so much for such a great community … that’s where it all starts. It starts in your backyard; it starts in your neighborhood. And I just want to say thank you.”

The Bellport chamber also received the 2016 Stimulus Incentive Grant, a $1,000 award that Hane said would go toward funding the new site.

Top photo: Merri Avino of Avino’s Italian Table speaks on behalf of award recipient Chris Hane. (Michael White)


Melissa Kuehnle is joined by Patchogue chamber president Jacqueline Hensley to accept her award. (Michael White)