BATAVIA – The Batavia Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that the 2020 Citizen of the Year is Robert “Bob” Hansen, and that the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is the Spirit of Batavia award winner.
According to a news release, the Inspire 2021: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us, will be held in May 2021 because of the pandemic. The event is usually held in January.
“Truly great people do not have it as a goal to be a great person,” stated Margaret Perreault, CEO of the Chamber. “It is never about the accolades they will receive. Great people just like to help and make a difference in small ways. It is in that determination that makes them inspirational. In Batavia, we are blessed with humble leaders who are willing to make a positive difference.”
According to the release, Hansen is currently serving as president of the Batavia MainStreet board of directors and is in his second term. Although he’s worked with many boards and organizations, including the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, his voluntary project during the past year is one of the most visible in Batavia’s recent history. Hansen was instrumental in bringing the Boardwalk Shops to Batavia. Hansen is also the owner of Funway.
Hansen has been a prominent player in many other community events, according to the release.
Batavia Mayor Jeffery Schielke described him as “an all hands-on type of guy.”
“Whatever he jumps into, he goes in with full force and with determination that he’s going to get something accomplished,” Mayor Schielke stated. “Bob has been, I think, very visionary as far as what the needs or wants of Batavia are.”
Hansen chaired the committee that organized the event Post to Present: Celebrating 60 Years of Skating in Batavia. This photo recreation of “Skaters on the Pond” drew more than 500 people to the Depot Pond in January 2018.
Hansen was also involved with the addition of the pet parade during Windmill City Fest and the Halloween Parade before it morphed into Batfest. He started Socks with Santa where Funway would put together stockings for Santa to hand out during the annual tree lighting ceremony. He also provided Santa, the DJ and sound system for the event. After tremendous growth, the event, Celebration of Lights, has now become a Batavia Park District mainstay, the release stated.
Spirit of Batavia Honoree
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce also announced that the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Batavia Award. This is the fifth year the award is given to an organization that has made significant contributions to the Batavia community, the release stated.
The 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization is led by Eileen Pasero, who was named executive director in September 2019. Other staff include Jen Meiring, director of the Clothes Closet, and Laurie Franco, assistant director of the food pantry, along with many volunteers.
“There are many dedicated people who’ve stepped up to be involved with the food pantry,” stated Mayor Schielke. “It is a really stellar organization that really speaks to the heart and soul of Batavia, providing food, comfort and clothes to people who otherwise might go without.
“I feel very strongly that they deserve this award. They have really risen to the occasion at this time of COVID-19, helping to make Batavia a welcoming place while maintaining a low profile,” he concluded.
The food pantry developed an online ordering system with drive-up, curbside contactless distribution. Volunteers do all the shopping for all clients. Currently the food pantry serves about 725 families while utilizing around 35 volunteers. Another 20 volunteers help staff the Clothes Closet, the release stated.
“I have a dedicated volunteer group,” Pasero stated. “I am so grateful to our staff, our board, and our volunteers because they’re the ones that are making it work. I cannot express my gratitude towards them enough because they are rock stars.”
More information about the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is available at https://bataviafoodpantry.org/.
Batavia Community Impact Award
The Batavia Chamber also created the Batavia Community Impact Award to honor special projects and initiatives. This year’s honorees are: Taking Care of Our Caretakers, led by Jamie Saam and Sarah Vogelsinger, with Kurt Hagemann, Marcia Boyce, Abby Beck, Jamie Koc and Katie O’Brien; and Isabella Irish and Katya Smith for leading the Batavia Peace Rally on June 3.
“We want to recognize the one-time efforts of exceptional merit. The two projects called people to action and were inspirational. We will be proud to honor them at Inspire,” the Chamber stated.