Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce President and CEO JoAnn Ryan with Community Leader award-winner Jacque Williams. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce President and CEO JoAnn Ryan with Community Leader award-winner Jacque Williams. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

NORTHWEST CORNER — The Northwest Chamber of Commerce held its 20th annual Celebration of Success event at The Inn at Mount Pleasant on Wednesday, July 28.
The chamber holds the event yearly to recognize both individuals and organizations who have demonstrated exceptional and unselfish service to the Northwest Corner.
“It’s been quite an unusual year-and-a-half for all of us,” JoAnn Ryan, President and CEO of the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview before the event. “These award winners were all well received by the nominations committee because of what they all did during this pandemic. I think the award winners all deserve their recognitions because of their dedication, passion, and love for their community. They have all accomplished so much in such a trying year. We could not have functioned at all if it wasn’t for these outstanding leaders that we have.”
Community Leader award
Torrington resident Jacque Williams won the Community Leader award.
Williams is a singer, songwriter, community organizer, radio show host at community radio station WAPJ, an advocate of the arts, and a supporter of his community.
“Jacque is just a great guy who helps everyone,” Ryan said. “He always has a focus on the community.”
State Rep. Michelle Cook (D) presented Williams with his award.
“There is nothing bigger than the heart that Jacque holds, along with the passion that he has for the one thing he loves the most: arts, culture, and music,” Rep. Cook said. “Anytime you are around him, he is singing, he is dancing, and if he has a microphone in his hands, so will you. Back in 2009, he was serving on the Torrington Arts and Culture Commission. This thing that no one knew about, but he had a passion, and he had a drive and desire that we all knew what that was. It was important for him to combine folks of like mind, but also that people understand what culture was, and to blend that with arts. His movement is all about making sure we always remember what makes us united: it is our culture. It teaches us about each other. It defines kindness in each other and it takes away the angst, anxiety, and hate that is out there in a way that we have never seen before.
“I am totally humbled by this award,” Williams said in an interview before the award ceremony. “This was quite a shock and surprise to me. And I’m doing a lot of self-reflection in light of the previous recipients of this award. They were all very dynamic individuals who have all left legacies here in the Northwest Corner. I am honored, but I am humbled. Anytime you can give, it’s always gratifying. But I am compelled to give because of the way this community welcomed me when I moved here. The support and friendship that I received from numerous families, small businesses and friends, only make it that much more pertinent that I do my best to give back.”
Business Leader award
Five Points Arts organization was awarded the chamber’s Business Leader award, which was accepted by Five Points founder and Executive Director Judith McElhone.
Five Points originally started as a gallery at a small storefront in 2012 at 33 Main Street, but eventually grew into a large two-floor gallery with exhibitions from artists around the world.
Eventually, Five Points opened an annex gallery on 17 Water Street and its Launchpad Studios on 5 Water Street.
In July 2020, Five Points purchased the former University of Connecticut Campus on University Drive with plans to open it up as an arts center in October.
“To buy the former University of Connecticut campus and create this wonderful art center is unique and quite amazing,” Ryan said.
McElhone was introduced by attorney and Torrington’s Corporation Council Victor Muschell.
“Around 2012, a little pop-up art gallery appeared,” Muschell said. “That pop-up art gallery took a life of its own and grew, and grew into the Five Points Center for the Visual Arts. It’s become one of the state’s outstanding visual arts venues. Who would have thought? There had to have been some flame and passion, along with expertise, that grew Five Points from that little pop-up, into what we are all blessed with now.”
McElhone thanked the audience and announced that Five Points Arts Center received a $2,733,500 bond from the state for infrastructure and equipment.
“Nine years ago, [Five Points] started when the city asked me to consult with Arts and Culture Torrington on a pop-up gallery during a Main Street event,” McElhone said. “I said, sure. This can be fun. When we first started I contacted artist friends and colleagues, and I said to them ‘We are doing this in Torrington. Can you come and exhibit?’ And they said ‘Why would I come to Torrington?’ Years later, I now have 500 artists who are all waiting to show at Five Points Gallery.”
McElhone said that the guestbook at Five Points Gallery lists visitors from every town and city in Connecticut, 29 states, and 10 countries.
“And the art submissions have come from more than 30 states and eight countries,” McElhone said. “I asked artists about how they all found us. They told me that they saw our website and we can see what you do.”
Quality of Life award
The Chamber awarded its Quality of Life award to both Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and Sharon Hospital/Nuvance Health.
“Going through Covid and the pandemic, the two leaders who helped everyone have been those two hospitals,” Ryan said. “Both of them have stepped up to the plate to keep us all safe and healthy.”
Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone presented the Quality of Life award to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital President Dan McIntyre.
“The definition of ‘quality of life’ is the degree that an individual is healthy, comfortable, and able to participate, and enjoy life,” Mayor Carbone said. “Charlotte Hungerford’s mission statement is equally simple: ‘to improve the health and healing of the communities we serve.’ I can tell you from the perspective of a municipal leader that the role that Charlotte Hungerford Hospital has played in our community goes far beyond patient care, safety, and clinical excellence. Our hometown hospital has repeatedly, and successfully, stretched its resources to ensure access to quality and integrated health care. They have become a community partner in every sense of the word.”
Mayor Carbone added, “I know that my quality of life during the pandemic was certainly improved due to the partnership that this hospital made with the city of Torrington in protecting the health and safety of our community.”
“It’s no secret that amid adversity that part of our human nature drives us to connect with one another and to see what we can do to face things together, ” McIntyre said. “That’s exactly what happened with the staff of Charlotte Hungerford and our community partners locally. And that is exactly what happened with our broader Hartford Healthcare organization and its community partners on a statewide basis. We pulled ourselves together to face the fear, the uncertainty, and the doubt that was in the minds of everyone who was affected by the pandemic. Every day for the last 17 to 18 months, I would get up with my senior staff and make sure that our doctors, nurses, housekeepers, and staff all had what they needed to do to deal with this.”
The Quality of Life Award presented to Sharon Hospital/Nuvance Health was accepted by Andrea Rynn, Assistant Vice President at Nuvance Health.
“For 112 years, Sharon Hospital has been serving the Northwest Corner,” Rynn said. “It was built for the community with the community’s input. Our mission remains the same: we are here to build a healthier community together. Sharon Hospital provides quality care with compassionate caregivers to deliver a variety of important programs and services to the community across the Northwest Corner, even across the border to residents of New York. We continue to innovate as health care changes, which is an important thing because when communities evolve, we need to evolve with it.”
Hospital Doctor Mark Hirko, who also accepted the award, called working during the pandemic “a difficult and very humbling time.”
“As everyone said here today, it takes a community,” Hirko said. “And the community came to the fore in dealing with the pandemic. Before the pandemic, we haven’t had any philanthropy in a decade in the region. To get $2 million in donations in eight months was fabulous. But I think it is much more important to thank the community and our staff members because this is their award.”