(l–r) The Uptown Cafe owner Michael Cassady; The Herald-Times columnist and disability advocate Adria Nassim; Pat East, tech entrepreneur and executive director of The Mill; Audrey Heller, producing artistic director and co-founder of the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington; and Grammy Award-winning opera singer and humanitarian Sylvia McNair were recipients of the 2021 Bloom Community Awards. Photo by Rodney Margison

During the Bloom Holiday Party in the Tudor Room at the Indiana Memorial Union on December 2, Editor and Publisher Malcolm Abrams presented the 2021 Bloom Community Awards. Both the party and the awards returned this year after a pandemic hiatus in 2020.

Bloom Magazine has four missions: to support local businesses, local charities, the arts, and diversity. The Bloom Community awards were founded in 2019 to honor individuals who uphold these missions in Bloomington.

This year’s award winners were:

Michael Cassady, Support of Local Businesses

Michael Cassady opened The Uptown Cafe 45 years ago and continues to set an example for local businesses in Bloomington. Today, the Uptown remains one of the busiest and most popular restaurants in town.

In 2017, Cassady was awarded an Outstanding Business Award for National Hispanic Heritage Month by the City of Bloomington Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs. He is also the former president of Cutters Soccer Club, a nonprofit organization that provides soccer access to children throughout the community.

Pat East, Support of Local Businesses

In 2004, Pat East founded the digital marketing company Hanapin Marketing, which sold in 2020 to UK-based BrainLabs Digital, its largest competitor. In 2018, Hanapin was named the #1 Best Place to Work in Indiana.

Since 2017, he has served as executive director of The Mill, where he’s helped put into motion projects like the Code/IT Academy, a code school for the unemployed and underemployed; ReBoot, a business pre-accelerator for the formerly incarcerated; and Bloomington Remote, which recruits people to live in Bloomington while they work remotely for companies located elsewhere. East refers to The Mill as a place where “dreamers and doers come together to build tomorrow’s companies.”

Sylvia McNair, Support of Local Charities

Grammy Award-winning opera singer and humanitarian Sylvia McNair is one of the great voices of her generation. She was a star at the Metropolitan Opera, sang with philharmonic orchestras and in opera houses across the Americas and Europe, and has sung for the Pope and the Supreme Court. She has won two Grammys and is featured on 70 albums.

McNair has performed benefit concerns for local organizations like the Shalom Community Center, Middle Way House, Susie’s Place, and Habitat for Humanity. She has also been involved with the Area 10 Agency on Aging and New Hope for Families. Since 2016, she has served on the board of the Refugee Support Network and she has adopted a refugee family.

McNair also volunteers with VITAL at the Monroe County Public Library, where she helps teach English as a new language to adults.

Audrey Heller, Support of the Arts

Audrey Heller co-founded the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington (JTB) in 2005 and has served as producing artistic director for 16 years. JTB, the only Jewish theater in Indiana, presents plays that address universal themes about the human experience, like love, respect, and forgiveness, through the stories of Jewish characters. The shows are designed to be relatable to all people, and approximately half of the people who attend JTB productions are not Jewish.

Heller has also enriched the artistic community as a puppeteer with the Puck Players Puppet Theater, a producer for the Mosaic Film Festival, on the board of directors of the Bloomington Playwrights Project and the IU Theatre Department, and as the founder of the IU Emeriti House annual art exhibit.

Adria Nassim, Support of Diversity

Adria Nassim is a columnist for The Herald-Times and a disability advocate. In her column, Nassim shares her experiences as a person with autism and cerebral palsy. “Adria is a beautiful writer,” says Bloom Editor and Publisher Malcolm Abrams. “She has opened a window for her thousands of readers. Rather than learning about autism from the outside trying to look in, Adria has taught us from the inside looking out.”

Nassim has often been seen around town with her recently retired service dog, Lucy. She works at the Institute for Disability and Community, gives speeches on her experiences, and is working on a children’s book about disabilities.