Hoagy Higgins wins Citizen of Year at Chamber gala

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Hoagy Higgins receives his Citizen of the Year Award from Chamber President Laura Ring and Keith Newton of D.F. Richard Energy, chairman of the chamber's Board of Directors.

SOUTH BERWICK - The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce held its annual Dinner and Awards Banquet Saturday with Hoagy Higgins, HBL Group, LLC and Cornerstone VNA taking home the coveted prizes of Citizen, Business and Nonprofit of the year.

The banquet, awards ceremony and dance were held at the Red Barn at Outlook Farm in South Berwick, Maine.

Citizen of the Year

The Citizen of the Year award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the community and has made significant contributions to the vibrancy and strength of the Greater Rochester area.

Hoagy Higgins grew up on Estes Road in Rochester at the family farm behind Rand's Store. He graduated from Spaulding High School where he served in the band, played basketball and played football all four years.

Remaining in his hometown, Hoagy worked at McDonald's where he quickly became manager and was employed for 4 years. There he became involved in assisting with worthy causes. Through the restaurant, Hoagy raised thousands of dollars for Easter Seals and Muscular Dystrophy to help those in need.

In 1979, Hoagy then relocated to California where he received his real estate license and worked as a mortgage broker. However, after a short period of time, Hoagy returned home, working at Midway Buick and then at Shop & Save.

Hoagy went on to begin his insurance career in 1982. He was recommended to the Prudential District Manager by his good friend, Ron Lachapelle, who was the sales manager at the Rochester Prudential office at that time. In his 11-year career at Prudential, Hoagy went on to become District Manager overseeing several agencies and later became the Assistant to the Vice President, working in the Prudential Home office in Boston.

Following changes in the corporation, Hoagy, with his partner Ron Lachapelle, founded Lachapelle & Higgins Insurance agency in 1994, which was originally located on Windhaven Drive until they relocated to their present location at 12 Charles Street in Rochester. The business grew adding former agent Red Boynton. Then they welcomed Troy Large to the agency and in 2004 added Keith Cook - both of who continue to work there. Upon Ron's retirement, Hoagy bought out his former partner. They have been successful in keeping these dollars at home by offering unparalleled quality service.

Through the business, Hoagy has been very generous to his community by donating to most every imaginable cause, to youth programs, sports teams and their events as well as many community events.

Hoagy was very active at Holy Rosary Parish - both he and his wife served as Eucharistic ministers. They helped with New Year's Eve dances and Hoagy helped to restore the church pews. He became involved with St. Elizabeth Seton School while his children attended school where he served on the School Board and helped with several fund raisers.

As his children were growing up, Hoagy served as a Coach for Rochester Little Red Youth Football for 10 years, where he coached his son Ben.

Hoagy was a very active member and volunteer in the Rochester Jaycees for 20 years where he became a lifetime member.

As an active Jaycees volunteer, Hoagy helped conduct countless fund raisers, served on the board of directors and for many years. One of the big projects that Hoagy introduced to the Jaycees and ran for several years was the Soap Box Derby which went on for over 10 years. Because of his leadership to the group, Hoagy received the Outstanding Young Leader award from the Rochester Jaycees.

Hoagy served as the Jaycees Master of Ceremonies for their distinguished service award programs for both the Rochester and Farmington charters where he was known to call out a "Code Blue." He also helped the Jaycees with their annual Night Before the 4th celebrations for many years. And as all good Jaycees who lasted to the end of their age eligibility, Hoagy stayed on in their Alumni Association and moved onto other organizations.

Also, being a supportive member of the Chamber of Commerce for decades, Hoagy has supported many Chamber events and served as master of ceremonies at several Chamber Banquets.

Based on his love of sports and his community, Hoagy donated a great deal of time to Roger Allen Park - painting dugouts and volunteering for youth leagues for many years. For over 15 years, Hoagy served on the Rochester Elks Sports of Hall of Fame Committee, where he continues to serve as Treasurer.

Hoagy also spent several years donating time to helping the Share Fund and is a charter member for Gerry's Food Pantry.

For over 10 years, Hoagy continues to serve on the board of directors for Rochester Crimeline as well as their Golf Tournament committee to support crime prevention in his community.

As you can see, Hoagy volunteered and contributed to many organizations. According to John Creteau, "Hoagy is one of those guys who is always behind the scenes and is very humble. He had made many contributions of his time as evidenced by his lifelong service to his community and family."

Hoagy's wife, Felice, describes him as a good guy who sees the good in everything and he puts his heart and soul into anything he becomes involved in.

Hoagy always impressed upon his children to be involved in something which has done them well. His daughter Kassie was involved in dance, she went on to become Mrs. NH and she is presently an Esthetician and owner of Polished Spa in Epping. His son Ben, who was involved in sports, is now a trainer and owner of Athletic Instinct in Rochester.

When Hoagy is not giving his time to various organizations, he enjoys fishing, hunting (although he never shot a deer but ran into one with his car), going to Ron Lachapelle's camp in Errol, NH with good friends, working out at his son's gym and traveling with his wife to Las Vegas and on cruises. And most important to him, is spending time with his family.

Hoagy resides in Rochester with his wife, Felice who is the Executive Assistant to the Strafford County Sheriff. They have been married for 38 years (happily for 7 as Hoagy would say). He is the father of 2 adult children - his daughter Kassie and her husband Brendon Dubois and his son Ben and his wife Ashley, one granddaughter Lucy and another grandchild on the way.

Business of the Year

This year, the Chamber changed its business award program - now providing a Business of the Year and a Non-Profit of the Year award.

From left, Greg Hopkins, Noah Behrend and Jeremy Lovett celebrate the winning of their Business of the Year award at Saturday night's annual Dinner and Awards banquet in South Berwick.

Jeremy Lovett, Noah Behrend and Greg Hopkins.The Business of the Year award is the Chamber's most prestigious business award celebrating excellence in a business' industry and in their community. This award recognizes a Chamber member who has demonstrated leadership and involvement for the betterment of the business community and the greater Rochester area.

The Chamber is pleased to present the 2018 Business of the Year award to HBL Group, LLC.

HBL Group, LLC was started by three financial and insurance and industry executives on a picnic table at Kozy's Restaurant in Barrington. At this meeting, the letter order of the name HBL and their business plan was essentially developed.

From that meeting, HBL Group, LLC developed their mission and opened the business in Rochester in 2012.

The mission of HBL Group LLC is a commitment to helping you manage the risks that arise in everyday life - if the unexpected strikes, they will do everything they can to help you recover your quality of life as soon as possible. They are guided by the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, so you can be sure that their recommendations will help you obtain the best insurance coverage for your unique circumstances, in the right amount and at a price that fits your budget.

HBL Group strives to be a local independent, full service insurance agency offering more than just home, auto and business insurance but also offering health, life, disability, financial planning and more. They built their business from the ground up after all the partners left the corporate insurance world because they knew that was simply not how a business should be operated.

HBL Group LLC is a proud member of Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agents and the North American Insurance Alliance.

HBL Group, LLC offers auto, home, business, life, and health insurance products including secondary/seasonal homes, mobile homes, umbrellas, ATV's boats, motorcycles, golf carts, RVs and campers, flood insurance, rental properties, builder risk policies, wedding/special events, workers compensation and financial services and planning. The company has grown from a team of 3 to 11 employees with a satellite office in Portsmouth and serving all insurance needs in NH, ME, MA & CT, VT and FL with their home office in Barrington.

HBL Group owners do not charge for any of their consulting services, whether it's Noah helping a person or family with their health insurance or Greg reviewing an individual's 401k and annuity options or Jeremy helping clients through their personal/commercial insurance. Whether its multiple meetings, calls or emails with questions and explanations provided, the partners want to ensure people are well-educated and have all the information they need to make the decision that's best for them and their family.

In 2016, when a fire took place at Renaissance Firearms in Gonic, Jeremy Lovett was on the scene on a Sunday and took many photos, where were then publicized on the HBL Facebook page, with the business owner's permission, and helped them through the entire claim process and assisted them in getting established into their new location on Route 125.

HBL Group holds monthly on-site programs in businesses such as Laars and Cornerstone VNA where to be available for their employees to ask questions on insurance, whether they are a customer or not, to start the quoting process and just to serve as a general resource.

HBL Group is beyond supportive of their employees and encourages them to become involved with other organizations and have even sponsored the child of one of their employees as he competed in the national level for SkillsUSA, a technical competition.

The 3 principal owners are very involved in the communities they serve, providing leadership to such organizations including:

Greg Hopkins: Served on the board of directors of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce from 2014-2016 and continues to serve on various Chamber committees; Board of directors and special events committee of Cornerstone VNA; Board of directors of the Frisbie Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and other hospital committees; Leadership to Bridging the Gaps with their substance abuse prevention efforts.

Noah Behrend: Serves on the Ambassador Committee for the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce;

Jeremy Lovett: Jeremy is also the founding member of the Tradeport Connections - an independent business professional's organization based in Portsmouth, NH that gives to organizations such as Pease Greeters and the United Way.


Principals of the business have received recognitions including Noah Behrend has received numerous recognitions from Colonial Life on health insurance; Greg has received recognitions for several years from TransAmerica for financial expertise; and Jeremy has received several awards - In addition to receiving invitations to National Leader's Conferences, while serving as a captive agent and regional manager for a Fortune-100 insurance company, Jeremy has also been the recipient of the prestigious "Lamplighter Award" for excellence in Life Insurance sales.

Nonprofit of the Year

As many non-profit organizations make up our Chamber membership, the Chamber's board of directors decided to add a Non-Profit of the Year award.

Cornerstone VNA CEO, Julie Reynolds, right, receives her Nonprofit of the Year Award from Chamber President Laura Ring and Keith Newton of D.F. Richard Energy, chairman of the chamber's Board of Directors.

The Non-Profit of the Year award, like the Business of the Year award, is the Chamber's most prestigious business award to a non-profit that demonstrates excellence in their organization and in their community. This award also recognizes a Chamber member who has provided a significant impact to the betterment of the greater Rochester area.

The Chamber is pleased to present the 2018 Non-Profit of the Year award to Cornerstone VNA!

Cornerstone VNA was founded in Rochester in 1913 by local visionary and philanthropist Norma Snow.

Today, the team at Cornerstone VNA provides skilled nursing, rehabilitative therapies, social work as well as volunteer and support services through five distinct programs: Home Care, Hospice Care, Palliative Care, Life Care-Private Duty and Community Care. Cornerstone VNA is committed to bringing services to people of all ages, so that families can stay together at home, even when facing the challenges of aging, surgical recovery, chronic or life-threatening illnesses or end of life care. Specialty programs include Wound, Ostomy and Incontinence Care, Diabetes Management and Education, Certified Behavioral Health Program, Certified Intravenous Therapy, a Balance Therapy and Fall Prevention Program, Chronic Care Management, and a Maternal Wellness Program. Specialty services include a Telehealth Program, a sophisticated in-home health monitoring system; and Smart Care, an emergency response and communication system.

In 2017, Cornerstone VNA provided compassionate care and support to more than 3,000 patients through all of their programs, making 66,147 visits and traveling over 597,000 miles. Additionally, Cornerstone VNA provided more than $1,029,024 of free or unreimbursed care and services to members of the community. Their service area includes 25 towns in Rockingham, Strafford, Belknap and Carroll Counties in New Hampshire as well as 10 towns in York County, Maine.

When looking at the impact and contributions made to their industry and community, Cornerstone VNA has never lost sight of their commitment to be a center for excellence in home, hospice and community healthcare.

What truly sets Cornerstone VNA apart is their clinical specialties, offered to patients of all ages. For example, their clinical staff are trained in chronic care management and their licensed nursing assistants and personal care service providers are trained in Alzheimer's and Dementia "habilitation" therapy.

Many clinicians also have specialty certifications including Wound, Ostomy and Incontinence Care, Diabetes Management and Education, Intravenous Therapy, Balance Therapy and Fall Prevention, Maternal Wellness and Behavioral Health. Cornerstone VNA is also the only non-profit hospice and palliative care provider in Strafford County.

Cornerstone VNA's Community Palliative Care program is a unique specialty program, which provides an advanced registered nurse practitioner in the home. This program manages medically complex patient symptoms and specific care needs and addresses the complicated medical needs of the aging population.

Cornerstone VNA recently received a grant from the Cardinal Health Foundation to improve health outcomes for high-risk patients within the Rochester area. This grant supports the implementation of a new Community Telehealth Paramedicine Program at Cornerstone VNA in collaboration with paramedics from the Mobile Integrated Health (MIH) Program at Frisbie Memorial Hospital (FMH). Currently, FMH paramedics from MIH make home visits to patients who may not qualify for home care or who decline services.

With this new program, Cornerstone VNA telehealth units, which are portable disease management systems that offer video conferencing, medication reminders and monitoring of vital signs, will now be available to FMH paramedics to use with these patients. FMH paramedics will initiate a telehealth referral and Cornerstone VNA will deploy telehealth units to those patients and provide installation, daily monitoring and training. According to Gary Brock, Director of EMS, Frisbie Memorial Hospital, "We could not be happier with the partnerships we have developed in our emerging Mobile Integrated Health program. The partnership with Cornerstone VNA is essential in creating integrated models of healthcare that result in better outcomes for at risk patients."

Additional programs and services that Cornerstone VNA offers to help strengthen and support our community include:

  • Personal Care Service Provider training opportunities
  • Bereavement Support Groups
  • Grant funding for patients who are unable to pay for special rehabilitation equipment they need at home is pursued
  • The Hospice Care program partnering with Pet Peace of Mind, a volunteer program providing pet care to hospice patients.
  • Their Companion Volunteer Program provides support, respite and friendship to patients, families and caregivers.
  • The Kiddie Cornerstone Fund, which purchases small gifts for their pediatric patients.

Cornerstone VNA provides Community Care in the community. Their Wellness Nurse provides free monthly wellness clinics in 19 different locations. Their clinics include Blood Pressure Checks, Blood Sugar Checks, Pulse Oxygen Level Checks, Weight, Cholesterol Screenings, Foot Care, Medication and Nutrition Counseling. In addition to Wellness Clinics, Cornerstone VNA offers a free Educational Series for community members and health professionals on topics ranging from living with diabetes to fall prevention and balance therapy. Their focus on promoting wellness continues with their annual Healthy Living Expo.

Recognizing a need to provide support to caregivers in the community, Cornerstone VNA launched a special event series in 2016, called Caregivers Connect - to connect caregivers through support and education and provide them with important tools that will assist them in their caregiving roles.

And to further support caregivers, they started a monthly Caregiver Café in 2017 at the Goodwin Library in Farmington where caregivers and their loved ones are invited to join them for a morning of support, conversation and education.

In 2017, Cornerstone VNA was pleased to offer free screenings of Nine to Ninety, a 30 documentary about a family struggling to make difficult decisions for their aging loved ones.

Cornerstone VNA also features a thriving "Circle of Caring" volunteer program, which includes office, hospice, companion, pet companion and balance coach volunteers to provide companionship and transportation to home-bound community members. Over 60 volunteers gave over 7,500 hours of their time in 2017.

Cornerstone VNA has a strong commitment to supporting the community in a variety of other ways. Cornerstone VNA staff actively participate in Emergency Preparedness Planning and serve on several committees including the Strafford County Health and Safety Council, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Bureau of Emergency Management to ensure that all Hazards Plans in place are effective and meet the needs of the community. And they are actively involved in community initiatives to improve patient quality throughout the seacoast.

Their Transitions Care Nurse/Community Outreach Liaison is a member of the Rotary Club of Rochester and is a board member for The Gafney Home in Rochester.

Their CEO, Julie Reynolds, serves on the boards of the United Way of the Greater Seacoast, the Home Care Association of New Hampshire and Frisbie Memorial Hospital.

Additionally, Cornerstone VNA belongs to seven local Chambers of Commerce and staff members are very active in local business events and special projects throughout their service area.

Cornerstone VNA has been the recipient of several awards including:

2017 Telehealth Honors® program recipient, recognizing those individuals and programs who provide exceptional patient care in the home using modern telehealth technology.

2017 Vocational Award in the Health Care category from the Rotary Club of Portsmouth for guiding patients and their families to identifying programs that are best suited for them, such as Hospice Care, Home Care or remaining on Palliative Care.

For their High Standards, Cornerstone VNA continues to receive the HomeCare Elite recognition and was once again named as a Top Agency of the 2017 HomeCare Elite, a recognition of the top-performing home health agencies in the U.S.

They received a 4-Star Rating for Quality of Patient Care and Patient Satisfaction from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services. A 4- or 5-star rating means that Cornerstone VNA performed better than other agencies on the 9 measured care practices and outcomes.

Cornerstone VNA received First Place as the Best Home Health Care in the 2017 Best of the Seacoast People's Choice Awards, which was presented by Seacoast Media Group.

In their Hospice Program, Cornerstone VNA was awarded the Strategic Healthcare Programs Best Superior Performer Caregiver Satisfaction Award for the 2016 calendar year.

Cornerstone VNA has achieved level two status with the "We Honor Veterans" program, reflecting their commitment to ensuring Veterans have access to quality end-of-life care.

Several Cornerstone VNA volunteers were also recognized for their service including Longtime Companion Volunteer awards, Spirit of NH awards from Volunteer NH and the Joseph D. Vaughan Award from Governor Sununu for outstanding leadership and volunteer service.

The event was co-underwritten by Service Credit Union and Eversource.

(Material supplied by Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Laura Ring)

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