Hard Work Recognized

Sometimes, those who dedicate years of service to the betterment of their communities are never recognized for their hard work.

That was not the case for Donald Emhardt this week as he received the 2014 Joseph H. Mason Community Service Award for his extensive volunteer efforts in the area.

The Salute to Labor Dinner was hosted by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County and held at the Jamestown Elk’s Lodge on Fourth Street.

Tory Irgang, executive director of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, along with members of the Mason family, presented this year’s award to Emhardt.

“The Joseph H. Mason award goes back to 1981, and was named for a man who performed a tremendous amount of community service,” Irgang said. “I think when you hear about all of the work that he does in his spare time, it’s impressive. It’s not only about being an electrician but being a good community member, and we all benefit from that.”

Aside from working as an electrician for 40 years, Emhardt served as president of the IBEW Local 106 and IBEW Local 56 unions.

“Don is one of very few people who has served as president for two local unions,” Irgang said.

Currently, he is the town supervisor of Chautauqua, volunteers with the Dewittville Fire Department, participates on the ice rescue team for Chautauqua Lake, serves as vice president of the Chautauqua Lake Association and is a board member for the new Chautauqua Lake Management Alliance.

“I’d like to thank my family who puts up with me leaving in the middle of dinner, or the middle of the night,” he said, further thanking his co-workers for helping him in the days following a midnight rescue or fire.

In terms of his heavy involvement with Chautauqua Lake organizations, he said the lake is the economic driver to the whole county.

“We’re starting new things and hoping to clean it up,” he said. “One hundred years of bad is going to take some work.”

In working with the ice rescue team, he has helped save five people from the icy waters of the lake.

In addition to honoring Emhardt’s years of service, the event highlighted the significance of organized labor.

Jacqueline Chiarot attended on behalf of Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, to commend Emhardt for his work, while Chautauqua County Legislator Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, represented Sen. Cathy Young. Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, was also in attendance to congratulate Emhardt.

“The United Way accomplishes great things in the community by working together, and the labor community does the same thing,” Goodell said. “Don epitomizes what’s bright about the labor movement, the United Way and a positive community. He provided leadership through two unions, but he didn’t stop there. He provided leadership in the community in a way that makes a long term, lasting impression.”