Fab5 winners celebrate with family, community

Local Ithaca leaders share their stories of giving back

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Elaan Greenfield, owner of jewelry company Dear Elaan and metalworking business The Metal Smithery, began her metalworking journey over a decade ago, in 2007.

“I was looking for a piece of jewelry to commemorate myself becoming a mother, and I really could not find any jewelry that I liked that I felt like symbolized me and my son, and it was really important for me to have something,” Greenfield said.

At the time, she was in western Massachusetts, and a college there offered a class for metalsmithing. Greenfield signed up and immediately fell in love with the craft. She had found her passion and she didn’t stop at her own piece of jewelry. Greenfield created Dear Elaan not long after and continued making jewelry for 13 years, and in 2018, she created The Metal Smithery to teach that love to others.

“There isn’t a community for metalsmiths or a space that teaches metal work in this area, so I really wanted to do that and create a space for this and teach more people and offer it to all ages, so I just took it to this level and found a space, and here I am,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield’s efforts were honored on Monday, March 2, when she received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the annual Fab5 awards ceremony at Coltivare, sponsored by the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, Tompkins Trust Company and United Way, at Coltivare. She was just one of five community members to be honored at the event, and to hear them tell their stories, it’s clear their efforts have left a mark.

The Fab5 awards began in 2015 when Communiqué D & M Inc. came to Tompkins Trust Company with the idea to recognize impactful young professionals. As Abby Peterson, vice president and marketing communications manager at Tompkins Trust Company, said, it was all about recognizing a group that hadn’t been properly appreciated before.

“The genesis behind the awards were they recognized there really was no mechanism to recognize young professionals specifically in Ithaca,” she said. “Syracuse has 40 under 40, a lot of surrounding cities have their 40 under 40 awards, but we didn’t have anything like that specifically for Ithaca, so the goal was to really put together a program that highlighted all of the talent and all of the young professionals in Ithaca who are doing such great work.”

In the five years since its inception, the awards have grown. Nominees are submitted by members of the community, and a committee of past winners chooses which nominees receive the awards. At first, the three partners – United Way, the Chamber and Tompkins Trust – chose to exempt themselves from any nominations. But this year, that has changed, allowing Peterson to be chosen as Business Leader of the Year and Chamber Director of Strategic Communications and Partnerships Dominick Recckio to win Not-for-Profit Leader of the Year.

“I was a little surprised, to be honest,” Peterson said of her nomination and win. “I’ve been blown away every year by all the winners, so it’s definitely an honor to be in that group.”

Peterson grew up in Vermont and graduated from Ithaca College. After college, she moved back to Vermont with her now wife, Meagan Howell, and worked for a small marketing agency in Burlington.

A year later, the two decided they missed Ithaca and all its unique offerings, so they moved back to the area. Howell started working for Tompkins Trust Company, while Peterson continued her work for the marketing agency remotely. A year later, Howell told Peterson about an opening at the trust company, and Peterson began her journey there. She said she’s loved it ever since.

“The company culture is something I think we talk a lot about, but it’s for good reason,” Peterson said. “I work with some of the best, smartest, most talented, kindest people that you could ever hope to work with, and that is a huge part of what makes me want to come to work every day.”

As Business Leader of the Year, Peterson is recognized as an individual who has “excelled in demonstrating their leadership ability as a business professional in the Tompkins County area,” according to the Chamber website. “This leader has shown great teamwork, communication, perseverance and vision.”

Recckio, like Peterson, was surprised to hear of his nomination, but he’s also glad to be among the winners. His journey to the Chamber started back at Ithaca College, where he was a student and taking the class Ideas into Action: Starting your own business.

The class, along with a couple professors, got him hooked on entrepreneurship, and after graduating, he looked for internships with startups. He worked with Rev: Ithaca Startup Works for a short period, through which he was introduced to the Chamber and its role in the community.

“When I decided I wanted to be in Ithaca after graduation, the member relationship manager role at the Chamber was one of the first things I had come across, and it sounded like a good opportunity to work with small businesses, support the local startup scene,” Recckio said. “That was about three and a half years ago, and it’s been great ever since.”

Recckio has since worked his way up through the Chamber, now overseeing the Live in Ithaca initiative and Chamber communications and partnerships. He said he enjoys working for his organization, which isn’t often recognized as the nonprofit it is, and having his and other Chamber work be appreciated.

“I love that the Chamber is involved in so many things throughout Tompkins County and the region,” he said. “We’re always looking to do things that make the community thrive more, whether that be our small businesses or the nonprofits that we work with, and it’s really exciting to work with over 700 members.”

Volunteer of the Year Harmony Malone, program leader at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), also has a love for Ithaca, having lived her nearly her whole life. Her first summer job was working at Southside Community Center at the Community Unity Music Education Program, where she is still co-director, and she got even further embedded in the community as after-school program director for Southside.

Cecil Malone, Harmony’s great-grandfather, was well known in Ithaca for his dedication to helping those in need, so much so that Ithaca dubbed Feb. 9 to 15 as Bishop Cecil A. Malone Memorial Week. Harmony said she’s consistently sought to follow in his footsteps.

“Our family is known for constantly giving back to the community, for being involved at the center, for doing a lot of work for people of color and creating programs and helping with sustainable housing,” Harmony said. “I’ve always done this work since the time that I was young, and it was just natural to transition right into it as an adult.”

Another longtime love of Harmony’s was dance, so three years ago, she combined her dedication to giving back with her love of dance to create UNITED, a youth performing dance group. One of the troupe’s first performances was at the Kwanza event at Southside.

“After we performed, it was huge,” she said. “We had tons and tons of people requesting us, we had tons and tons of people asking us to perform here and there, we had children who were so energetic about being a part of this.”

Within just a few years, the program has grown exponentially, with 45 students having auditioned this year. She said she loves passing along some of her life lessons to kids who have had similar journeys to her own and inspiring them to achieve.

“The most important lesson that I teach all of my students is that the most powerful weapon we all wield is the power of our voice,” Malone said. “I encourage them to, even when they’re afraid, speak their mind and speak their truth and to hold people accountable.”

Austin Reid won Rookie of the Year for his work at Hillel at Ithaca College. Fitting the “rookie” term, a year and a half ago, Reid started with Hillel, a religious organization on campus that works to “foster Jewish identity, provide leadership opportunities and enhance a commitment to Jewish life that will continue after college,” according to its website.

“One of the main goals of Hillel is to just engage every Jewish student, no matter where they’re coming from, who they are, in Jewish life and help them find a way to create meaning in whatever way that looks like for them,” Reid said. “We’re trying to be a place where people can find meaning in life and a community on campus.”

Reid heard about Hillel in his senior year of college at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, when he was applying for jobs. He moved to Ithaca in 2018 to join Hillel as a Springboard Fellow and since then has helped to create several new Hillel initiatives like Keshet, an affinity group for LGBTQ+ Jewish students, and a speaker series profiling Jewish communities from around the world.

Reid is a board member at Tompkins Connect, the hosting sponsor for the Fab5 awards, where he heard about his win. He said he was proud of the win and recognized that the award is important for the community to have.

“Especially for recent college graduates who are starting their first job out post-graduation, there might be some imposter syndrome. I know I felt that moving here,” he said. “This award can show how even in your first couple years after graduation, young graduates have an ability to make a real impact on their communities and be celebrated by their peers.”

Malone said that the Fab5 helps to shine a light on people like Recckio, Reid, Peterson, Greenfield and herself and helps encourage others to improve the community in whatever way they can.

“It’s a reminder to the community that we see you,” Malone said. “These awards are honorariums, and it’s just something that reminds you of where you are and reminds you to carry on and that even though you may have difficulty in your journey that this is all worth it.”

Peterson said the awards continue to inspire others in this way and she looks forward to what the future has in store.

“It’s exciting to look around at the other winners and the past winners and realize that this group is part of a larger generation that has a potential to really shape Ithaca and Tompkins County in the years to come,” Peterson said. “That’s a little bit of pressure but also really exciting.”

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