Chamber customer service awards to Janice Splawski, Susan Roy

Chamber customer service awards to Janice Splawski, Susan Roy

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The biggest group of nominees in the Chamber of Commerce business award program this year came in the customer service category. AEDC director Garry McKinnon called customer service the bedrock upon which any successful business is built, and said its central importance was the chief reason the AEDC sponsored the award.

Emcee Michael McKinnon emphasized that the real honour was bestowed on all of those nominated. The nominations are open, and come from the public – “the people you serve every day,” he said, and are a validation of the commitment and hard work the nominees each put in.

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“The Chamber has chosen to single out two for this award, but really, all fourteen of you are fully deserving of this recognition. The Chamber’s recognition is nice, but it is the time and trouble your customers have gone to nominate you that is the real honour here tonight.”

Janice Splawski has been serving Royal Bank and RBC clients at the corner of Main and Gorrie Streets in Atikokan for over four decades. She started as a stenographer and worked her way up through DDA clerk (running those old posting machines), to customer service rep, to client advisor… No matter the specific task at hand, working in a bank is all about working with people, says Janice, and that’s something she has enjoyed right from day one.

Her nominator noted the friendly, professional attitude she brings to all her work at the bank, and her commitment to offering customers solutions and options, whatever their banking needs.

Atikokan born and raised, she and Jake have two daughters, both of whom have made their homes right here in Atikokan. Janice and Jake will mark 48 years of marriage this year, but there is one thing Janice has been doing even longer. As a girl, young Miss Habinski took piano lessons from Myrna Price. Then Faith Lutheran Church got a new organ, and needed someone to play for services. They called on Janice, and that’s a post she has been filling ever since – fifty-five years of service!

Susan Roy was nominated as  a “definite asset to the staff at Foodland”.

Everyone gets a cheery hello and big smile, and she has mastered the art of engaging the customer without missing a beat, whether on cash or stocking the shelves.

Susan started in the bakery “twenty-ish” years ago, and today works cash and handles the cracker aisle. We’re pretty sure she knows everyone in town – and she enjoys welcoming new people.

Susan loves fishing, the family cottage on Calm Lake, and wood working. Closest to her heart are her Sundays with her three grandchildren.

The other twelve nominees are:

Beer Store customer service rep Cyle Peacosh (three years), is also the health and safety lead for the operation here, and has started training for a management position with the company through its high potential program. Cyle likes the pace  – “You’re never sitting still here” – and really enjoys interacting with customers.

He was nominated by two different customers, both of whom commented on his welcoming smile and willingness to go out of his way to help people with their cases, be they full or empty.

Crystal Lafond has several titles at CIBC – customer services rep, financial services rep, and digital specialist – all earned after a lot of training. She returned to work three years ago after starting a family with husband Christian – “I hadn’t worked in a long time [and] I used to be nervous about going into banks, so this was going out on a limb for me.”

She was nominated for always being willing to go above and beyond for her clients, and making clients and co-workers feel welcome and comfortable. Crystal was one of the main people in the People for Playgrounds effort that produced the wonderful play space over at Centennial Park. She has accepted a position at PJ’s where she will take over as manager in the fall.

New to the community, Manitoban Corrine Gamble has been the resident baker at Robin’s Donuts for the past eight months. The baker can’t hide in the back at Robin’s. When things get busy in the morning, she’s out front slinging coffee with the rest of the crew. Our nominator said “She is so friendly and helpful, she brightens our morning with her cheery and efficient service.”

Corrine attended Red River College in Winnipeg and qualified as a commercial pastry chef. That led to a long career with Safeway in the big city. Her baking skills were strong, but it was her talent for decoration that had her in demand right across the city. She’d float from bakery to bakery completing projects. As soon as owner Sherrie Tattrie realized her talent, theme decorated cakes and cupcakes became part of the Robin’s product line.

Kitrina Jacobson was nominated for the professional standards with which she completes her work, while treating everyone she deals with with courtesy and respect. She is the Town’s by-law enforcement officer, which has got to be one of the toughest jobs going. She came to Atikokan from Sioux Lookout in 2013, where she had serve in a similar position, part-time, for four years. She completed the law and security program at Mohawk College in Brantford.

Kitrina was the first female to join Atikokan Fire Rescue, hired by Chief Garth Dyck shortly after coming to town. (There are four females on the service now.) She loves it, calls it an amazing experience, with lots of hands-on training. As a group, the volunteer firefighters have great knowledge and experience, and are willing to share it. She is committed to improving all of her skills, and is also willing to serve in the public education component of the job, which means organizing events, visiting schools, and, occasionally, masquerading as Sparky the Fire Dog. Kitrina also volunteers with the district Victims Services Program. This involves front-line work assisting victims of loss, abuse, fire, and accidents.

Shawna Johnson one of the newer staff at Robins Donuts, has already made a good impression on customers and the boss. Our nominator and her boss both commented glowingly on her friendly service, the  way she never fails to offer customers a drinks tray or bag, and encourages them to try an apple fritter or other treat with their coffee.

She grew up in Atikokan, but has moved around the district some over the years. She loves being around people, socializing, and making others smile – one of the reasons she has taken to this job. (She works the morning shift, serving customers and preparing donuts for the next day’s baking. Shawna is a mom – Pacey is four now – and is getting into quilt making and beading these days. Most of all, she is looking forward to summer.

Jackie King is a registered practical nurse with the Family Health Team, a position she has held for four years. She is leader for two major programs at the FHT – hypertension and wound care – and is heavily involved in its cardiac care services. She works with patients in their hoems, in hospital and long-term care, and, of course, the Family Health Team’s Zuke Rd. site, where she is based.

Jackie has been an RPN for over 20 years, and brings a calm, sure hand to her work that patients appreciate. They and her co-workers have noted her cool head in difficult situations, and her willingness to go the extra mile to serve her clients. She is diligent about training, and keeping her skills current – there is a surprising amount of change and growth in health care best practice guidelines.

Diane Kirjewski has worked with Renee’s Cuts and Curls for 29 years, “and I am still happy to be doing what I do,” she said. “I still enjoy the job and the people. When I get up in the morning, I am happy to go to my great clientele.”

Diane says part of her job is just listening to her clients, being a shoulder to lean on. And when you have clients coming back for decades, and get to watch with them as the kids grow up, and the families move on…  and the grey hair start to appear… well the work really takes on a whole new depth. Although she call herself a home body, Diane does like to travel when she can. She misses regular bowling, loves to walk her dog, and puts friends and family at the top of her priority list.

Tom Knowles has been a full-time clerk at Foodland since October, 2015, and everyone there has come to  enjoy his amenable nature and gentle humour. His special strength has been working with seniors; he engages easily and happily with them, and our nominator appreciates it. He’s the delivery guy Tuesdays and Saturdays, and increases his contact with seniors, the main users of that service, and has been able to add his own personal touch top the service.

Tom was student council president and the morning voice at AHS back in the day. Nowadays, he’s a keen reader, enjoys outdoor activities, and is expanding his horizons in the young professionals network.

Hailing from Wabigoon, Donna Leckner has been working in many areas at Atikokan Foodland for almost two years. She calls Foodland her “Happy Place” as she loves the social aspect of coming to work and yakking with the customers. She has worked on the floor, meat room, and stocking, but particular loves making cardboard bales with the box crusher…

Our nominator noted she know where everything in in the store is, and even knows all the cigarette brands and where they are. Donna is always willing to accept additional responsibility, and is guided by a philosophy of: Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do.”

Lisa Machura has been a customer service representative for Service Ontario for four years. She knows drivers’ licences, health cards, hunting and fishing licences, and lots more, inside out. She loves the satisfaction of assisting clients with the various government programs.

One thing that she feels is very important in her position is maintaining confidentiality and respecting the privacy of clients. Sometimes they are dealing with difficult situations, and lessening that load with a professional approach is helpful. Our nominator attested that she goes “way beyond” the norm to help people out, and is clearly a caring and compassionate person.

Lisa loves the wilderness of this area, is a long-time volunteer with Atikokan MX, and most definitely not looking forward to the empty nest this coming fall.

Annette Tanner is known for her bubbly personality, and recently ran her own business Sweet Stella Z’s. She is now the medical office administrator at North Stream Rehabilitation.

Tanner has been in customer service for over 25 years, and says the jobs she had in Atikokan as a teenager really set the stage for her work in customer service. She loves working with the crew at North Stream, where the common goal is to live a life of wellness. The passion, energy, and dedication of the team  inspire her every day.

It’s mutual, too. Her boss says Annette “is quick to see a situation from the client’s point of view, and will work toward exceeding their expectations on a consistent basis. Annette is keen on value of alternative remedies such as essential oils and offers make and take workshops in the community. She is also a director on the Chamber of Commerce….

Now into his second year of regular duty with Atikokan Medical Associates and the Family Health Team, Dr. David Renner has earned accolades galore for his compassionate, empathetic care, and the great breadth of experience and knowledge he brings to his role as a primary care physician.

Our nominators say “David Renner as a person makes relationship building a top priority…. and sets a wonderful example to all of what a ‘purpose driven life’ is all about.” He has gone out of his way to get to know all of the people he works with – and that’s a big group – and jumped right into community life. We’ve seen him out peeling potatoes, skating at the arena, and hunting for frogs.

For his part, Dr. Renner, praises the staff for their excellence, which allows him to really focus on patient-centred care. “Although some may think a small town has privacy issues, I think it is a great strength: One cannot hide from the truth here, and the love and concern I see in the group for everyone is not found in other urban settings.”

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