This is a community announcement from Tompkins Connect. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit news releases, email

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. –– Each year Tompkins Connect, a local young professional organization, celebrates exceptional young professionals in Tompkins County by hosting the Fab5 Young Professional Awards sponsored by Tompkins Trust Company. This year, two special awards were added to the typical five; an Essential Worker “Hero” award to recognize an individual who was considered “essential” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and an Above and Beyond award to recognize an individual who made significant contributions to our community in 2020.

“This past year has been challenging in many ways, but it has been inspiring to see so many people step up and help each other out,” shared David Walton, Event and Program Manager at Tompkins Chamber and member of the Fab5 planning committee. 

This year’s winners are Johanna Anderson, Patrick Blackman, Julianna Garcia, Ben Sandberg, Olivia Ashline-Royale, Emily Mallar, and Melissa Madden. Celebrate these winners at the free virtual 2021 Fab5 Young Professional Awards Celebration on Thursday, March 4 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  

The event will be live-streamed on YouTube with a watch party option. Additionally, there will be a signature Fab5 cocktail that can be purchased from Monks on the Commons and enjoyed at home while watching the event.  

Visit to register for the event. 

Not-for-Profit Leader of the Year: Johanna Anderson of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (IHNS) 

Johanna Anderson was named Not-For-Profit Leader of the Year for her remarkable leadership of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) throughout the challenges of 2020. After serving as the organization’s Executive Director for the last three years, Johanna has been commended for the motivation, leadership, and kindness that she brings to the role.

Throughout the COVID-19, Johanna and her team have had to rethink programs and budgets to continue to provide high-quality services to the many tenants who live in IHNS owned properties as well as those who rely on INHS construction services. 

Johanna has brought a plethora of experience to her position as well as a passion for the work the organization does. “Ever since I was little, I was always enamored with housing; all different types and all different styles. It was really intriguing to me to see how different people turned these structures into their place of solace and where they found peace,” reflected Johanna.

Business Leader of the Year: Patrick Blackman, Coltivare

Patrick Blackman is honored for his inspiring leadership to the Coltivare staff, TC3 students, and Ithaca community. Throughout the pandemic, Patrick has served as Executive Chef for Coltivare all while continuing to teach college-level classes, mentor students and staff, and homeschool his son. Patrick displays strong personal and professional integrity and never shies away from doing tasks to help his team succeed. 

Patrick aims to empower his staff explaining that, “as a chef… I think your personal goals should be to grow your staff so when they leave, they leave with the ability to grow into a larger role than what they came in with.”

Additionally, Patrick has partnered with the Broken Promises Initiative to offer food history, food nutrition, and cooking lessons to young people who may be disenfranchised. 

Volunteer of the Year: Juliana Garcia, Mutual Aid Tompkins

Juliana Garcia is recognized for her contributions towards developing the Tompkins County Mutual Aid response, with the help of her many collaborators. Juliana has spent countless hours bringing her vision for a Tompkins County Mutual Aid response to life by organizing and cultivating a community of other responders. 

However, Juliana shared that Mutual Aid is not a new concept to Tompkins County and explains the community effort as “helping each other and getting our needs met outside of the traditional systems and structures.” 

With the help of her team, Juliana led the coordination of Mutual Aid Tompkins information on resources throughout Tompkins County making it easier for anyone looking for help to find what they are looking for, express a need, or offer assistance to others. 

Rookie of the Year: Ben Sandberg, The History Center in Tompkins County 

Ben Sandberg was named Rookie of the Year for his creativity and commitment as the new Executive Director of The History Center during this challenging year. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ben has worked tirelessly to support the staff and stakeholders of the History Center through securing ongoing funding and implementing plans to ensure staff safety. 

Although this award has been bestowed to Ben, he passionately insists that it is a group effort, “we have such a strong incredible team that works together; there’s no other place I’d rather be and has made getting through this crisis possible.”

Ben has also sought to make The History Center more diverse and inclusive through collaborating with other community organizations to launch new programs and exhibits.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Olivia Ashline-Royale, Easy Living Hats

Olivia Ashline-Royale is recognized for her exceptional entrepreneurship and dedication to supporting the Ithaca community. Olivia, who makes all of her products by hand, employs women and also works with a small team of international artisans. In 2020, she grew her business in employees, space, and established her own supply chain of sustainable materials. 

“Tompkins County is a great place to be an entrepreneur because it is very community minded,” shared Olivia. “I think people support each other on a personal and an emotional level, so when you succeed, the town succeeds.”

Olivia practices that belief and is known for sharing her knowledge with other small business owners. 

Essential Worker “Hero” Award: Emily Mallar, RN, Cayuga Health Partners 

Emily Mallar, RN is honored for her exceptional efforts of providing rapid medical communications throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the medical community to reduce the number of hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits. In her role, she was responsible for calling those who received a positive test and offered them personal support. Additionally, Emily oversaw the construction of an interactive daily database which enabled the medical community to reduce the number of hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits. 

Reflecting on this past year, Emily shared, “my very proudest moment would be on April 8th, when we packed those two buses of team members to go help our partners in New York City and the amount of pride and courage and leadership that went into that and the whole thing from start to finish, everything we’ve done and accomplished.” 

Above and Beyond Award: Melissa Madden, PressBay Food Hub and Urban Core

Melissa Madden has been awarded for her work in developing the PressBay Food Hub, which helps small farmers stay in business and ensures that quality, local food is safely accessible to Ithacans. 

The PressBay Food Hub, which is an aggregation and distribution option for area farmers and Free Food Pantry, was an innovative response to local farmers losing market share when restaurants began shutting down at the beginning of the pandemic and there were food shortages in grocery stores. 

“We knew we probably had a population to serve and we also had this urgent need of taking, properly storing, and in a timely way, redistributing what would otherwise be wasted food,” recalled Melissa.


The Fab5 Awards are co-sponsored by Communiqué Design & Marketing, Tompkins Chamber, and Cayuga Health. The committee would like to recognize the event’s media sponsor, the Ithaca Voice, and its production sponsor Well Said Media, as well as its promotional supporter the Ithaca Times.

*These quotes were obtained through videos produced by Thomas Hoebbel Photography and Video

This article was submitted on behalf of a person or organization in Tompkins County. The Ithaca Voice posts community announcements to provide readers with information directly from local businesses and...