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South Shore chamber members celebrate new direction

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image County Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Sandra Murman present Executive Director Melanie Morrison, board members and staff of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce a commendation for its hard work during the past year. Photo by Huth and & Photography

The first annual awards since the merging of the Apollo Beach and Ruskin chambers July 1 was definitely a joint affair.

By PENNY FLETCHER

APOLLO BEACH — Excitement was evident following the first annual Inaugural Awards Members Banquet Jan. 27 attended by about 150 of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s 480 members.

The first annual awards since the merging of the Apollo Beach and Ruskin chambers July 1 was definitely a joint affair with members from both communities equally participating, said the chamber’s executive director, Melanie Morrison.

Chamber members were especially proud to be presented with a commendation by County Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Sandra Murman for making South Shore a notable presence in the county and working hard to become a destination for out-of-town tourists.

But according to President Elect (for 2013) Ron Simpson — who also garnered the Volunteer of the Year Award at the banquet — that work has just begun.  

Simpson and incoming president (for 2012) Joel Meek recently attended a seminar in Knoxville, Tenn. and plan to implement much of what they learned there.

“Knoxville was just named the national Chamber of the Year,” Simpson said in an interview following the banquet. “It has more than 2,200 members and an office staff of 35. Joel and I learned a lot there and we’ve already started implementing some new things.”

One of those things will be the new Web site Simpson is designing which will be live sometime before the Manatee Arts Festival in March. The site will appear at www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org and will allow members to have their own links and web pages; run specials; advertise and many other benefits.

When asked if both the Apollo Beach and Ruskin offices would remain open, Simpson gave a definite yes.

“If you remember, the Dickmans donated the building in Ruskin many years ago – as long as there is a chamber in it – and the county opened a Small Business Information Center in our Apollo Beach office two months ago, so what they pay us pays our rent there,” Simpson said.

This makes it possible to maintain both offices, he added.

Acting as chairman of the chamber’s Ambassador Program; involvement in the two-chambers merger transition team; and hands-on work at three major events- the Seafood Festival, Pigs in the Park Barbecue fundraiser and co-sponsoring (with Friends of the Park) the annual Chili Cook-off were what earned Simpson the title of Volunteer of the Year, he said.

Many other awards were announced at the banquet, which was held at the South Shore Falls Clubhouse in Apollo Beach from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Morrison said.

“The food was catered by the South County Career Center’s Bobcat Bistro. Music was by Cloud Seven,” she added.

Robin Roberts was chosen by her peers as Ambassador of the Year because of her work at many events and chamber functions.

“We do the voting for that like Riverview and Brandon (chambers) do. We send the ambassadors a mailing encouraging them to vote among themselves,” Simpson said.

There are currently about 30 ambassadors, with 20 active, he added. “Adding responsibility to the title of ‘ambassador’ will be part of this year’s new goals.” 

Not just individuals, but businesses also received awards at the banquet.

Logan Sultenfuss accepted the award for Small Business of the Year for Apollo’s Bistro which is located at the Apollo Beach Racquet and Fitness Club, and Ron Seagren received the award for Large Business of the Year. His business, ServiceMaster, does carpet cleaning and disaster restoration.  

The E.G. Simmons Award, a special award designed to acknowledge outstanding community service was earned by Don Pearson.

“Don spent countless hours making South Shore a real part of the Toys for Tots program,” Morrison said. “He organizes the annual holiday toy drive and does a lot of hands-on work with it every year.”

To find out more about the South Shore chamber and its benefits call the Ruskin office at (813) 645-3808, or the Apollo Beach office at (813) 645-1366. Until the new site goes live interested persons may also visit www.ruskinchamber.org.

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