By Brendan Lewis, Sun Correspondent
UPDATED: 11/13/2014 12:51:45 AM EST
LOWELL — For a night that recognized the achievements of individuals and businesses, attendees of Enterprise Bank’s 5th Celebration of Excellence awards were shown the importance not of one person or group, but rather the greater sense of community and camaraderie.
From the heart-aching tales of combat from Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta, to Tuscan Kitchen owner Joe Faro’s recollection of his reason for doing what he does, the common thread was always relying on not just one but the whole.
The Celebration of Excellence, emceed by Enterprise Bank CEO Jack Clancy, honored a host of individuals for awards such as the business of the year, educator of the year and nonprofit of the year.
But the crown jewel of the night certainly appeared to be the hourlong keynote address by Sal Giunta, the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
Guinta had the room of roughly 2,000 at Lowell Memorial Auditorium hinging on his every word as he described the night in October 2007 when his unit was ambushed in Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sgt. Giunta went straight into enemy fire to save his friend, and when he was brought to safety, continued to thrust himself back into enemy fire until his whole unit could move out.
“It is not about the person. It is about the unit,” said Giunta, with regard to the main sense he gleaned from a fellow soldier. “Every single moment we’ve been together it’s always been about us.
But despite his bravery, the modest veteran would go on to tell the audience that the point of his story certainly wasn’t about him or the larger conflict.
“It has nothing to do with any war at all. It has to do with the spirit in the person. And I stand here tonight, because this is what it is about, the heart of the individuaI,” said Giunta. “I want on all your teams. You are changing the world one at a time and I want on your team. Take me with you.”
But before Giunta spoke, many individuals in Middlesex County and the surrounding areas spoke about and were recognized for many different charitable and selfless reasons.
George L. Duncan Award of Excellence winner Dorcus Grigg Saito.
“This particular award means so much to me. I still remember the first time I went to visit George in his office on Merrimack street, over 15 years ago. I was new to to town. Yes, I was a blow in, what Lowellians call any one who wasn’t lucky enough to be born her. “First I was struck by the diversity of the Then I saw the way that George treated his staff.
Tuscan Brands, which includes the Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Markets, owner Faro was awarded the George L. Duncan Award of Excellence.
“Passion is something we say a lot at Tuscan brands and it’s something that we talk about. We talk about it with our guests. We talk about it with our employees. I talk about it at home with my family,” said Faro.
Faro said that many people will ask him where his passion comes from. And he said that when he was serving veterans the other day at one of his locations, he finally figured it out.
“I just looked at the whole thing and the beauty of it all just made me say, ‘That’s why. That’s why I do it all,’” Faro finally said.
And business owner Nancy Chippendale accepted the first award of the night, which was the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, for her business, Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios. She, like many during the event, felt the need to share the love.
“I could not have achieved this success without my family. My husband has been supporting me for 16 years and now I have the honor of working besides my daughters as well. I can’t take all this credit. My dance studio is truly a family business,” said Chippendale.
And Parlee Farms co-owner Mark Parlee got the crowd laughing and applauding while describing the conscience fund, a jar by the checkout that is given to local charities. Parlee went on to describe the meaning behind it.
“The largest community effort started with something called a conscience fund,” said Parlee, with his wife Ellen standing by his side. ”If you felt you had more than a sample in the pick-your-own field, please consider making a donation to clear your conscience.”