2017-01-11 / Front Page

O'Neil receives Kany award from chamber

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Staff Writer
SACO — Each year, the Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce + Industry recognizes someone who demonstrates exceptional leadership in community service with the Kany Award.

This year the recipient was Renee O’Neil, former business manager for City Theater in Biddeford who in the 1990s led an effort to restore the 1896 theater designed by architect John Calvin Stevens to its original elegance.

O’Neil received the award, and a painting of City Theater by Saco artist Tammy Charles, at the chamber’s annual meeting, held at PeoplesChoice Credit Union.

Local businessman David Flood presented the award to O’Neil. He described the theater when it was in disrepair, used as a storage facility with a pile of sand in the orchestra pit serving as a horseshoe pit.

“It was a big mess,” said Flood. “A whole lot of people would say, maybe someone should do something about it,” said Flood.

“She took responsibility of fixing it up, and it wasn’t simple,” he said. There needed to be a budget, measures taken to make sure the building was safe, research done on how the building originally looked and a vision for the theater’s future.

“I don’t think Renee did this all by herself, lots of other people helped. But if you take Renee out of it, I don’t think it gets done. I think it’s still a big mess,” said Flood.

O’Neil has also served on boards with Heart of Biddeford and Engine and was hired as the clerk of the works to oversee restoration of the Biddeford City Clerk’s Office after water damage from a burst pipe. She is also a member of Biddeford’s Policy Committee.

“It’s an absolute privilege to receive this type of recognition," said O’Neil. No longer the business manager for the theater, it makes her proud to see those in charge of the theater continue with her vision. 

“We didn’t have money, but I had time,” said O’Neil. She said she put a plan together, and if it weren’t for the support from the city, state, federal government, local businesses and community members, the theater would not be what it is today."

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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