Tonawanda News

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November 8, 2012

Area volunteers to be honored by chamber of commerce

Tonawanda News — The Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas will honor three award winners at a dinner Wednesday at Banchetti By Rizzo’s banquet hall.

The chamber’s tradition began in 1956 with the Citizen of the Year Award, and they added the Business of the Year in 1985. Sporadically, the organization awards a lifetime achievement award when a desrving individual comes to the attention of the judges. 

This year, Matthew Piorkowski, owner of Matt’s Music Store in North Tonawanda, will be given the Lifetime Achievement award. 

“He is always giving back his time and talent,” Joyce Santiago, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce said.

Piorkowski’s Oliver Street store has been open for 49 years and throughout that time he has made a big difference in many of his students’ lives and has also devoted much of his time to charity.

His jazz band, Matt’s Music Sensations, has played for Camp Good Days, Special Times and local nursing homes.

 He’s also been known to give instruments to children whose families’ can’t afford them. 

“That talent will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Piorkowski said. “I love helping people.” 

Another long-time volunteer, Larry Denef, will accept the Citizen of the Year award. 

Denef, among other accomplishments, is the president of the Canal Fest board of directors.

“I put my all into that and try to make it better every year,” he said.

Although Denef is best known for the fest, he’s been an active volunteer since 1984 after being inspired by the death of his father.

“It just pushed me in that direction,” he said.

So Denef joined the Power Squadrons, a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to improve maritime safety and enjoyment. He became very involved in the organization and his family was named the WNY Boating Family of the Year. 

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