Awards & Events

Shenango Chamber Honors eAcademy Leader, Beautification Committee

WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. – Little did Lisa Evans suspect how an advertisement for a job opening five years ago would change her life.

Evans, happy as a stay-at-home mom, had just completed her master’s degree when she saw the ad for a two-year, part-time teaching position that she thought would enable her to maintain her accreditation.

Evans, program director at the eAcademy@LindenPointe in Hermitage, was recognized last night as Shenango Valley Business Ambassador at the annual dinner of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce. Also honored during the program was the Sharon Beautification Commission.

The awards recognize those “who are not only making a difference in the community but are bringing positive attention to the region, helping to put the Shenango Valley on the map as well as attract businesses, visitors and positive media attention” said Sherris Moreira, the chamber’s executive director.

“But their work should do one more thing. They should help raise the value of this area in the eyes of its residents,” she added. “They should inspire us to do more for our Valley.”

The eAcademy provides high-school seniors the opportunity to meet business leaders, develop entrepreneurship skills and see what is going on in the community outside the classroom.

“Every once in awhile an opportunity comes along where you get to break all the rules, have so much fun and not get in trouble,” Evans said.

She enjoys being able to write her own curriculum, work independently and help create a different startup business each year.

Prior to launching the eAcademy, Evans started, owned and managed several businesses. During that time she discovered her best employees had three skills in common. “I could teach an employee just about any workplace skill that they need, but effective communication, independence and resourcefulness is much harder to teach,” she said. “The lack of those skills caused the most difficulties and conflicts in the workplace.”

Starting with five school districts, the eAcademy now has participation from 11 local school districts.

“We built this program together,” she said. “We tried activities that didn’t work and we kept the ones that were impactful. … In the end, we threw out the rubrics and let the students lead.”

Launched about 15 years ago to combat blight, the Sharon Beautification Commission is responsible for several projects in the downtown area, including planting greenery throughout the downtown, the flower baskets hanging from light poles, LED-lit snowflakes on display during the holidays and the recently completed bridge lighting project, all of which were completed by volunteers or funded by donations.

“This is an amazing group of volunteers. Everybody gives their all and they get dirty,” said Laura Ackley, general manager of Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa, Sharon, and a longtime member of the commission. “It relay does take a village.”

“We have a lot of hope for our community,” added Brian Kepple, who heads the commission. “There’s more to come. We’re a very vibrant organization and we have big, big plans. We can’t wait to get moving with them.”

The Shenango Commerce also recognized the outgoing president of its board of directors, Don Owrey, as well as veterans and their families.

The chamber needed to get the right infrastructure in place and “a lot of the fundamentals down,” said Owrey, president of UPMC Jameson in New Castle.

“We’re in a really good position and there’s a lot of outstanding things going on in the community and we should embrace that,” he continued. “We relish our past, we appreciate it, but we can’t live there. We have to create our future together.”

“He has always kept us on track. He always brings us back to where we need to be,” said Shane Nugent, vice president of the Nugent Group and chamber vice president.

Also during the program, Moreira offered a brief outline of the organization’s 2019 plans, including:

  • Focusing on helping businesses recruit highly skilled by better marketing quality of life amenities.
  • Collaborating with the Youngstown/Warren and Lawrence County regional chambers as well as Penn Northwest Development Corp. and VisitMercerCountyPA for joint events and to address common problems in the region.
  • Working with local partners to improve their online presence.
  • Creating a next-generation advisory council composed of 19- to -30-year olds to help solve regional challenges and get a better understanding of their needs.

Pictured: Lisa Evan, program director at eAcadmey@LindenPointe; Shenango Valley Chamber Executive Director Sherris Moreira; and Laura Ackley and Brian Kepple of the Sharon Beautification Commission.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.