Lifetime Achievement Award – Ellis Erb

Lifelong Lake Township resident Ellis Erb will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce at their Annual Leadership Awards Dinner on February 17, 2015, at the Hartville Kitchen. His keen philanthropic interests, combined with his business skills and building photo (3)knowledge, have enabled Mr. Erb to promote positive interests in our community for residents of all ages.

Founder of Ellis Erb, Inc., his commitment to our community remains strong.  He is currently serving his fourth term on the Board of Lake Township Trustees.  Even so, Mr. Erb’s desire to make a positive difference has been multi-generational.

His career began as a building contractor in residential and church construction. He was instrumental in the founding and development of the Lake Senior Center, serving as its first president.  He was one of the community leaders who helped purchase and design the Lake High School Athletic Complex.  He worked on all of the Lake Local Schools facility designs. Mr. Erb and his team built the 7-acre Alumni Field 2 lake high schoolHartville Hardware,  America’s largest independently owned hardware store.  Some of his other local well-known buildings are the Hartville Village Hall, Lake Center Christian High School, the Chapel in Marlboro, Consumers National Bank, Grinders Above & Beyond and Schoner Chevrolet.  The additions to the Hartville Church of the Brethren and Advent Lutheran Church are his work. He built the Edison Park Plaza, which included the True Value Hardware, and the nearby residential area. He developed the Indian Village residential allotment and the Cheviot Court Condominiums.ellis buildings

Mr. Erb served as Street Commissioner for the Village of Hartville for fifteen years. He was an active member of the Hartville Lions Club. Currently, Mr. Erb is a voting member of the Stark County Regional Planning Commission and the Stark County Township Association. He is a member of the National Association of Home Builders.

He and his wife Janice are members of Grace Brethren Church.  They have four children, ten grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.


Contributions by:  Penelope Frederick, The Hartville News

Community Service Leadership Award – Crissy Mudd

Crissy Mudd continually  inspires her Teen Leaders at the Lake Community YMCA through her work as the Teen & Family Director.  The Lake Chamber will Crissy Mudd Community Service Awardhonor her with the Community Service Award at their Annual Leadership Award Dinner on Tuesday, February 17 at the Hartville Kitchen.  The Leadership Award is presented to an individual that has distinguished herself by selflessly demonstrating an act of community servitude, a spirit of volunteerism, uniting the community in a common goal, or raising awareness of an issue.

Mudd and her Teen Leaders partnered with GentleBrook clients to “Disable the Label” and Teen Leader Hunter Bussey stated  “We are making a difference and spreading the awareness to others about their choice of words that they use.  One small act of kindness can spread the wordmake a huge difference in someone’s life.  I am thankful to be in YMCA’s Leaders Club to take a stance!”

The majority of Crissy’s role at the Lake Community YMCA is with the Teen Leaders program.  Teen Leaders is a Middle School and High School program that meets bi-weekly to impact the community through service projects and volunteering.  They gain personal growth through experiencing leadership roles and responsibilities.  Last school year the program had over 2,400 service hours recorded.  Mudd stated, “We have one of the largest, if not the largest, Teen Leader programs in the state of Ohio. The best part is splatter scatter 1having the teens realize that no matter what it is that we do it is fun to help others and that we receive so much more than we give!  True happiness is found when you are serving others! ”  Mudd has been married to her high school sweetheart, Mark, for 24 years.  Together they have four children.

The family attends Rivertree Church where Mudd and her daughters serve in Treehouse Kids nursery, caring for children.

Contributions by:  Penelope Frederick, The Hartville News


Community Impact Award – Debbie Marshall

Lake High School Guidance Counselor Debbie Marshall impacted the Lake Township area and surrounding communities with the creation of Lake Community Cares.  Lake Community Cares is an educational support series to help families dealing with the crisis of addiction in our community.

Debbie Marshall Community Impact

When Lake High School counselor Debbie Marshall accepts the Community Impact award at the Lake Chamber of Commerce Award dinner on February 17, she has quite a story to tell about the need for intervention and education. Her involvement began with conversations with her friend and former colleague Jan Miller regarding the growing crisis. Certainly, Mrs. Marshall has been a driving force to educate our community. She attests to bringing on a broad range of professionals to help fight against addiction’s grip. As a result, in 2014 Lake Community Cares was formed.

To educate and support families about substance abuse in our community, the group had created a series of topics. “Gone but Not Forgotten” held in November, featured three Lake High School seniors, who had each lost a brother to heroin overdoses within a year. From L Taylor Alaina Amanda“Hidden in Plain Sight” held in January of this year was an interactive exhibit, showing more than 150 items, which may be found in a teenager’s room and may reflect addictions and risky behaviors. On February 23 the group will host a town hall meeting featuring Sheriff Maier and Judge Forchione. In addition, a support group for those suffering from addiction is in the planning stages.

The Stark County SOLACE (Surviving Our Loss And Continuing Everyday) group will be in Hartville for the next three months. Uniontown Police Department now has a drug drop off box. She hopes to continue providing educational support programs.

faces of the community for debbie marshall video

Mrs. Marshall has been with Lake Local Schools since 1997 and currently works with Junior & Senior Career Tech/Prep students.  She is a graduate of Kent State University, and has a Master’s Degree from Malone University in school counseling. She and her husband Joe have two children.

Congratulations to Debbie Marshall!

Contributions by:  Penelope Frederick The Hartville News

Economic Impact Award – Downtown Hartville Second Saturday Series

This year we have the privilege of honoring an organization of merchants who collaborated in a grassroots economic impact photo with titlescampaign to showcase and highlight the Historic Downtown Hartville area.  For its downtown revitalization efforts and support of arts and history, Tara Wiederman, Megan Wise and Emilie Ketcham representing the Downtown Hartville Merchants Association, are the recipients of the Economic Impact Award for the Second Saturday Series.  The trio will be honored at the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce Annual Leadership Awards Dinner on Tuesday, February 17 at the Hartville Kitchen.

The organization’s goal for the Second Saturday Series is to showcase the arts and history of their community and to create a gathering place for residents and visitors of all ages. Last year, they sidewalk sale Collage 1increased downtown visitors by 10% over the previous year’s project and 400% compared to a typical Saturday, translating to a 100% sales increase at downtown businesses during the event.

This year, Arts in Stark has awarded grant dollars to help the organization further their goal to position Downtown Hartville as the history and arts center for the Village.  2015’s themes include sidewalk sale, Old Fashioned Days & Car Show, Get Out and Play Day and Art & Music Fest.  For more information on upcoming events, visit them at their website or on Facebook.


Contributions by Penelope Frederick, The Hartville News


Outstanding Business Professional of the Year – Sue Grabowski

We’d like to Congratulate and give a glimpse into the work of our Outstanding Business Professional for 2014, Sue Grabowski, President of Grabowski & Co. in Uniontown.  Sue will be honored at the Lake Township Chamber Leadership Awards Dinner on Tuesday, February 17 at the Hartville Kitchen.  Hands down, this is my favorite event of the year because it showcases the amazing community we serve and the incredible support these leaders receive from their colleagues, clients, family and friends.

Sue’s business has experienced incredible growth and accolades since the inception of Grabowski & Co. in 1997.  She remains humble and dedicated to her mission of staying true to helping her clients tell their stories through the power of the written word.

Sue is a Canton native and a 1991 graduate of Malone University with a degree in Communication Arts with a concentration on journalism. Early on, she gained experience at a local newspaper, Babcox Publications and Covington Communications, an Akron-based marketing communications firm, before joining Progressive Insurance in 1995 as a senior communications representative.

Sue left Progressive and launched Grabowski & Co. in 1997 in her home. Today, Grabowski & Co. is a strategic marketing communications firm that employs 21 and serves Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofits. Clients include The Timken Company, TimkenSteel, Veyance Technologies, Akron Children’s Hospital, Malone University, Premier Bank & Trust, Kenan Advantage Group and Morgan Engineering. In the past seven years, Grabowski & Co.’s work has garnered more than 60 local ADDY® Awards, including three “Best of Show” and four “Judge’s Award” honors.

Grabowski & Co. has been included on the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Weatherhead 100™ list of fastest-growing organizations in northeast Ohio. The company also received a 2010 Business Excellence Award from the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Sue is a graduate of Leadership Stark County. She currently serves on the board of Pathway Caring for Children, Mobile Meals of Summit County, Absolute Hospice and Indigo Ink Press. She is on the Development Committee at Lake Center Christian School. She  also is a member of the Business Excellence Award Committee of the Canton Regional Chamber of  Commerce and formerly served as Board Secretary for the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce.

Sue has been married to Leonard for 20 years. Her proudest productions are her three children – Abbi, 17;  Mitch, 14; and Zane, 10. The family lives in Uniontown.

YMCA Teen Leaders & GentleBrook Clients Work Together to Disable the Label

GentleBrook and the Teen Leaders from the Lake Community YMCA have joined together to take a stance on the use of the “R” word.  Natalie Mudd a Teen Leader from the YMCA said, “The “R” word is very hurtful to those who are called it and disrespectful to the developmentally delayed!  I am so happy to be a part of this project because we are a voice for the voiceless.”  The Teen Leaders accepted the challenge to take part in the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.

Joining forces, GentleBrook and YMCA together started a campaign and then made a video to help further their impact.  “We are making a difference and spreading the awareness to others about their choice of words that they use.  One small act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life.  I am thankful to be in YMCA’s Leaders Club to take a stance!” Hunter Bussey said.  The video was made to emphasize that all people should be accepted and respected.  It is very apparent in the video that there is mutual acceptance, love and respect between the YMCA teens and the GentleBrook staff, workers, and residents.  There is a great amount of pride to see the progress that is being made!  “At GentleBrook, we are so inspired by this young group of individuals, they truly are making their mark on the world by spreading the word and embracing differences.” Dianna Huckestein, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, GentleBrook.

About GentleBrook

GentleBrook is a not-for-profit organization that offers residential services, day habilitation, vocational services and supportive employment programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. Since September 1974, the organization is dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, with their mission of maximizing each individual’s potential and independence.


In addition to the organizations core services, GentleBrook also operates 3 retail store locations (Stark, Coshocton, & Holmes Counties) for product sales, offer community event rentals at their GentleBrook Centre, Woodshop & Craft Production Program, Farming & Horticulture Programs, along with many community partnerships to further enhance and enrich the lives of their clients and the local communities in which it serves.

GentleBrook’s corporate offices, one of their residential-intermediate care facilities (ICF), and one of their day habilitation sites are located in Hartville Ohio, their other residential facilities and day habilitation work site is located in West Lafayette, Coshocton County.  All of GentleBrook’s facilities are licensed and certified by the State of Ohio.

GentleBrook currently provides residential, day habilitation, and vocational services to more than 250 clients.

For more information about the services and programs GentleBrook offers visit

 About Lake Community YMCA

The Lake YMCA building opened in September of 2004. The facility is located within the Lake Community Center complex along with Lake High School and Middle School, Mercy Medical Center, the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce, and the Stark County Public Library. These community partners give the Lake YMCA a very unique opportunity to collaborate on various programs and share resources that provide high quality services to the communities of Uniontown, Hartville and Lake Township.

lake y logo

Since opening, the Lake Community YMCA has continually strived to serve the needs of the community through programs that focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Key program areas include child care (before/afterschool), youth and adult sports, health and wellness, swimming, teens, families, and seniors. Lake YMCA currently serves over 7600 members.

The Lake YMCA is a branch of the YMCA of Central Stark County, which was founded in 1866.  Today the YMCA of Central Stark County serves nine communities:  Alliance, Canal Fulton, Canton/Canton South, Jackson Township, Lake Township, Louisville, North Canton, Meyers Lake and Minerva.  YMCA Camp Tippecanoe, located in Harrison County, offers residential camping programs each summer.

The YMCA of Central Stark County serves over 90,000 program and membership participants each year.  These participants are served by over 800 full and part-time staff.  Over 2,500 people volunteer their time every year at the YMCAs as board and committee members or assisting with various programs.

OUR VISION: For Youth Development

  • For Healthy Living
  • For Social Responsibility
  • OUR MISSION: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all programs.
  • OUR PROMISE: No one is turned away from the YMCA due to an inability to pay.
  • OUR CHARACTER PILLARS: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship

A Networking Story: ONE Bite Taste Event – A Year Later, Partnerships have Grown & Prospered

As we started planning this year’s One Bite Taste Event for the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce, the same theme kept popping up in our brainstorming session.  It was the absolute success of the networking that occurred at last year’s event.  Introductions were made, mutual interests were realized, partnerships were created.  Like I’ve never seen in my 7.5 years at the Chamber.

What is it about our members that made this so naturally occur?  I’ve said this for a while now, and it’s pretty simple.  They’re here to see what they can give, not what they can get.  They don’t come with a mindset of what’s in it for them, they’re genuinely interested in who they will meet and what they can learn.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  And it makes me so proud to be a part of this business community.

I’d like to share a story from that evening of a partnership that has grown and prospered over the past year with two of our member businesses.  Lisa & Alan Frank, owners of Ermanno’s Pizza in North Canton, connected with Rudy Moyer, Master Gardener at GentleBrook Farms during the event.  Lisa tells their story below:

alan rudy at gentlebrook“This was an opportunity that worked out the way all great things do—unexpected and at just the right time. We met Rudy Moyer at One Bite, an event through the Lake Chamber. As he talked excitedly about his parsley pesto (It’s seriously some good stuff!) and explained to us what he did and his connection with GentleBrook, we knew the stars had aligned, and we had met someone who was not only a master in his field, but had a true passion for making a difference through his work. We learned about GentleBrook and the delicious things they were planting and harvesting. This connection literally helped pave the direction we were heading. We wanted to source locally, support locally and work with others who were just as passionate in our business.  This sums up Rudy and his GentleBrook horticulture team perfectly.

You almost just want to capture Rudy’s love for his horticulture team and his work in a photo. We can taste this local love and hardworking passion in the lettuce, basil, spinach and arugula that Rudy and his GentleBrook team grows and harvests for us. We are continuously collaborating with Rudy and his team on different, unique items for our pizzas and salads. Do you know how many different kinds of basil there are? Do you know that arugula just isn’t “arugula”? There are different kinds based on where you live? Have you ever tasted a Mexican Sour Gherkin or seen a tie-dyed tomato or nibbled on Swiss chard straight from the garden, bit into a ghost pepper (Now that will wake you up!)

After a morning with Rudy and his team, we felt like we had just traveled the world and took our palates on a wild ride. We use arugula, basil (Arat, Genovese, Thai and Purple Ruffles), cilantro, lettuce, spinach and a variety of dried herbs all year and seasonal items when available. But we are actively working with10533271_704886176213310_5631071886302582614_n Rudy and discussing our needs for year-round produce. We are so excited about how much this beautiful partnership has blossomed in just one year and can’t wait to see how it evolves in years to come.

All this in just ONE BITE of Rudy’s parsley pesto? OK—we may have eaten way too much of that parsley pesto! But it was so worth it!   In more ways than one.  That’s why we will return to the One Bite event this year!”

For more information on Ermanno’s Pizza, go to (they are changing their name soon to SOL Pie Pizza) and GentleBrook, go to  Interested in attending or participating in the One Bite Taste Event?  Call Christa Kozy at 330.877.5500 or visit Lake Chamber’s website.

ermannos to sol


Intern Insider

“…to be a strategic short term investment to the long term work of the organizations we partner with.”
So reads the mission statement of the Oral Roberts University Missions & Outreach Department, an organization that that has been a large part of my college experience and has impacted the way I live forever.

The summer before a college student’s senior year is otherwise known as “internship summer.” It’s the last chance to get professional experience before graduation comes in a few short, scary months. Pressure is on in the search for the perfect internship. I had two things in mind during my hunt: the above mission statement, and an unforgettable quote from one of my favorite professors, “20s are for learning, 30s are for earning.” In other words, my utopia internship was somewhere that I would have opportunity to contribute and also be contributed to. I wanted to actually make a substantial contribution other than coffee runs and making copies, but I also wanted opportunity to learn and grow as a young professional.

During my search I got connected with Lake Chamber President Christa Kozy as a reference to possible opportunities in my hometown. Naturally, a little bit about what she does at the chamber was weaved in our conversation. Christa was telling me about the various businesses she recommended I inquire about internships and all the while I was thinking, ‘Why don’t I just work with you?’ When she told me the summer would be busy with event planning, blogging, and staying on top of social media platforms, I finally brought to life my original inner thought. I saw that my skill sets matched the need, allowing me to potentially make a substantial contribution while also learning from such a poised yet personable professional.

When all things were made official, I came home and began my internship at the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce. What I set out to find in the perfect internship has been fulfilled in more ways than I imagined. I could make a list of the connections I’ve made or job references gained. I could tell you the number of blog posts I wrote or fliers that I posted around town. I could tell you how this summer has prepared me for postgraduate life and how this was the ultimate internship for a Communications major. But it’s all so temporary. The greatest impact of this experience has been the people of Lake township. I have had opportunities to speak words of encouragement to people of all sorts and have been immensely touched by the integrous work I observed in this community. In every interaction, from mechanics to doctors, from bankers to baristas, I was impacted by the truth that Lake township is made of a different caliber of people. You are hard-working, respectable, and determined. You are full of kindness, faith, and life.

My skills may have been sharpened, and I may have made life a little easier in the chamber office for the summer. But I finish this internship with much more than a resume-builder. I finish with a certain sense of responsibility to carry on the business and life principles I acquired through learning from the finest of people, all of you. That transcends job descriptions and resumes and bleeds into every sphere of influence I may ever have. In whatever job, city, or community I find myself in, I will serve better thanks to the people of the greatest little town there ever was, Lake.

intern collage

3 Reasons Your Small Business Needs an Online Presence

A recent study conducted by Verisign discovered a sad majority of small businesses don’t realize the benefits of having a great online presence. Many times the business lacks the technical know-how to develop a web presence, while others fear that it’s just not affordable. But the truth, backed by this research, is that those implementing it are experiencing formidable profits – and with little cost, effort or upkeep.

It was also discovered the small businesses that do take advantage of online resources elect for social media instead of their own internet space. And those with e-commerce ability choose to establish themselves on sites such as eBay and Etsy. Though these avenues are tempting because of ease of use, small business owners are missing out on the value of possessing their own website.

online presence

1. Great Online Business Presence Builds Trust

A Weebly survey found 56% of consumers would not trust a business without a website. Developing a great online presence goes beyond purchasing a domain name and posting a picture of your business with contact information. It should reflect a digital version of your business. Establishing your small business online heightens credibility. Those potential customers who check you out online and find a well maintained website will see you as an expert instead of an amateur mom-and-pop shop. Giving potential customers a positive impression of your business makes future sales more likely. Also, having branded email that advertises your company’s domain name boosts customer trust and business credibility, making you appear as a legitimate business.

2. Online Presence Builds a Greater Clientele.

With web-influenced predicted sales reaching $1.409 trillion in 2014, those without an online presence are at a clear disadvantage. Avoiding this crucial marketing avenue is like saying, “I don’t need any new business.” Even if you are already a well-established business, coupling that with an awesome online presence will set you apart. Your company’s website is not limited to the address at which your business stands. Your online presence stretches to the ends of the earth, reaching potential customers that word-of-mouth and newspaper ads never could.

3. Great Online Business Presence Makes Marketing Easier

No matter what your message is, why you are communicating it, or what it may look like, you will be unable to engage with customers without relevant technology. If you allow your website to work for you, potential buyers won’t feel pressured by a salesman. Posting great descriptions of your products or services online lets the customer make relaxed decisions. Online marketing is also faster and more cost-effective than conventional printing and mailing, as it reaches a wider audience in less time. Remember that online, special preference is given to local business so take advantage of the opportunity to out-do big business competitors.

Verisign also found that prior to the creation of websites, the greatest perceived inhibitor of small businesses was lack of technical knowledge and cost to develop the site. However, after developing a website, only 8% of small business respondents found the cost to develop their website as a real barrier and technical know-how concern decreased from 45% to just 22%. Even though small business owners expressed several perceived and actual barriers to developing their own website, more than three-fourths said they would recommend investment in a website to other small businesses, concluding that the value of having one’s own website outweighs all feared or actual barriers. Some other obstacles included investment of time, security and ongoing website maintenance. Finding a website design and development company you can trust will ease those concerns. 21st Web Designs offers a free sit-down consultation at which we will explain how affordable and easy it is to implement your own small business online presence.


Marie Thompson 21st Web Designs

, Copywriter

Marie serves as the Copywriter, Co-founder and Client Accounts Manager of 21st Web Designs, an Akron Canton, Ohio website design and development company for small business that strives to end the cycle of poverty through a portion of our profits.


7 Years Later, the Reasons I Didn’t Change the Mission of the Lake Township Chamber

May 1, 2007.

When I walked in the door of the Lake Township Chamber of Commerce my first day I didn’t know that I had just joined a business community like no other.

Fast forward to today:  May 1, 2014.

I still walk in that door every day and thank my lucky stars I am a part of that business community that is like no other.

If you know me well, you have figured out by now that milestones, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. are all a pretty big deal to me.  For me, they serve as benchmarks, times to reflect, and of course, a reason to have some cake and celebrate.

Today, I’m celebrating the opportunity that was presented to me on May 1, 2007 to join this community and be a part of its Chamber of Commerce with the mission at right–our mission 500

That mission statement isn’t just words on paper to me.  It’s how I approach every day here.  A few months after I started at the Lake Twp. Chamber, someone somewhere who didn’t know our community but felt they knew a lot about Chambers told me to suggest to the Board of Directors that I drop “While reflecting the values of the community” from the end of our mission.

I told them to pound salt.  (In a nice way, of course)

Because they were missing the best part of our Lake Township community.  Our values–and our commitment to them.  Seven years later, I’m so incredibly proud of staying true to this area–that is not my hometown, but has become my “home away from home.”  The connections we have been able to make together as a business community over the last 7 years I have been here and the 18 prior to that have built an incredible foundation for our future success.  

At every event, I’m always so amazed that people thank me–because it’s all them–being who they are that make this work, and grow, and thrive.  I’m just blessed to be a part of making the connections that build on our foundations of those who sat at a table 25 years ago and thought what a great impact we could make by working together instead of going it alone.

our values

So, to all of our members and supporters, thank you.  Our theme for our 25th Anniversary this past year
has been “Together We are ONE Chamber, ONE Community.”

Truer words were never spoken.


-Christa Kozy