Riverview Chamber assembles to honor its community achievers
By MELODY JAMESON
With the tropical informality of a luau and in the dressy formality of Club Renaissance, two South County chambers of commerce have recognized their outstanding business leaders, celebrated their communities and passed on gavels for the new year.
Members and guests of the Greater Riverview Chamber, sporting leis and brightly colored floral fabrics, filled the vast hall of the Showman’s Club on Riverview Drive Friday (January 20) to relish a catered barbecue buffet – fingers encouraged – before listening intently to their keynoter, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham.
The commissioner, who represents East and South Hillsborough and who sustained a crippling permanent injury during a hunting trip years before his election, left his wheelchair behind to balance on crutches at the podium as he encouraged the audience to look ahead, beyond life’s setbacks, to accomplish all that is possible.
They gave him a standing ovation.
They then went on, with the help of Master of Ceremonies Tony Del Castillo and with trophies, to recognize their achievers during 2011. Erik Butler, who operates Take Out Butler, a delivery service that transports foods from small eating establishments to their at-home customers, was named Business Person of the Year. Four Paws Veterinary Hospital overseen by Dr. Kimberly Tyson, was singled out as the Business of the Year, with the entire staff receiving their trophy with Tyson introducing them as the winners who keep the business functioning.
Barbara Jones, a much admired Hillsborough County Sheriff’s community resource officer in Riverview, received the Citizen of the Year honor and Gaby Perham, with Mace Multi Media, was accorded the Shining Star Award citing her as an outstanding new chamber member pegged as one of its future leaders.
And in a first for the business group, it named Jim Johnson, community affairs representative for Mosaic Fertilizer, a Director Emeritus, giving him a unique, lifetime title recognizing his extensive knowledge of the community as well as unstinting community involvement.
Mary Owens, a Black Diamond business coach, walked away with the Ambassador of the Year award and Margy Watkins herself helped present the Volunteer of the Year award named for her to Larry Brooks, with AAA Mortgage. They both were recognized for their consistent willingness to help wherever needed. .
Riverview’s honorary mayor for 2012 is Lisa Kennedy, associated with Alley Cat Pest Control, whose collected votes, in the form of dollars, totaled $4,146. Half of that amount goes to the chamber to help underwrite its programs and half is shared by Kennedy’s two favorite charities, Faces of Courage, a support group for cancer patients, and Mended Little Hearts, which serves the interests of children with heart ailments.
Outgoing President Sherri McLean-Walker, with Crane Tech, LLC, inducted incoming President Ed Boothe, “knighting” his kneeling form with the chamber gavel before she passed it to him. Boothe, in turn, installed the 17-member board of directors for 2012.
In one of their last nods to achievers for the evening, chamber members applauded the efforts of Tanya Doran, the group’s executive director, who, they acknowledged, never fails to provide service par excellence.
SCC Chamber salutes business leaders
By MELODY JAMESON
Embarking on the Sun City Center Chamber’s fiftieth year, members honored its history with a “Golden Opportunities” banquet in Club Renaissance January 13. It was the first time in 19 years that the business group had paused to recognize its own, taking pleasure in a formal installation of its board accompanied by a certain pomp.
The group named Debbie Caneen, community relations director for the Sun Towers retirement center, as its Community Leader of the Year, recognizing her for chamber as well as community service. Caneen, among other activities, is a founding member of the South Shore Coalition on Mental Health and Aging.
The chamber’s Business of the Year title this year went to the Sun City Center Funeral Home operated by Mike Langjahr, known as a generous and popular host who frequently opens the facility to give non-profit organizations a commodious environment for community events.
The generous spirit of Merle Bowman brought him the Frank King Volunteer of the Year award, named for the late Frank King, long a much respected volunteer serving on the chamber staff. Bowman was nominated for the recognition based on his tangible and intangible instances of service. He is credited, for example, with obtaining and setting palm trees in the chamber building landscaping and has been instrumental in developing new policies and procedures.
Nominations for the three awards were solicited in November and the finalists were chosen by vote of the membership.
Among other highlights of the evening banquet was a ceremonial installation of the 2012 chamber officers and new directors. Each of the officers, also a member of the executive committee, was individually addressed before the banquet audience as the duties of the office were outlined and a verbal pledge to discharge them faithfully was asked. Each solemnly agreed.
Banker Jim Wilmouth of Encore National Bank, was installed as the chamber’s 2012 president, chosen for leadership ability, loyalty to the chamber mission and dedication to operating in concert with the by-laws.
Another banker, Charlotte Clark, of American Momentum Bank, became first vice president, to back up and act in place of an absent president when necessary.
Caneen, also recognized for her community leadership, was designated second vice president , to conduct board meetings in the absence of other officers and ensure decisions made are consistent with the chamber by-laws.
Don Schings, executive director of the Military Support Trust Foundation based in Sun City Center, was tapped to serve as chamber board secretary, handling its communications, records and documents.
Rick Rios, associated with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney , was named treasurer, responsible for monthly financial reports as well as guardian of the organization’s finances.
The retiring board members, James Corwin Johnson, Photography by James Corwin Johnson; Lee Collis, Sun City Center Travelworld; and Jim Johnson, Mosaic Fertilizer, were presented commemorative plaques in recognition of their service on the chamber board before the 2012 members were installed.
Incoming directors include Clark with American Momentum Bank; JR Del Castillo, ClubLink, the Canada-based resort golf club operator; Shawn Gregory, South Bay Hospital; Rick Lanese, Cohen Florida; Mike Langjahr, Sun City Center Funeral Home; Connie Lesko, Freedom Plaza; Robert Newhart, The Resort at Little Harbor; and Robyn Payant, Payant Financial.
The evening event also included a video replay of the chamber’s 2011 highlights as well as a humorous recap by Dana Dittmar, the chamber’s executive director, reviewing daily life in a chamber office. She recalled the time an emu farmer to the east called the office looking for a male emu to satisfy his needy female emu and the local grandmother who wanted to know the longitude and latitude of Sun City Center for her grandson’s homework. Then, there was the time a girl in Wisconsin called, asking for help in finding her great aunt Lucille who was thought to have remarried and moved to a new address with her husband. The girl had no idea what her aunt’s new name might be.
In each case, help was given, Dittmar said. Chamber volunteers even found great aunt Lucille after a diligent search and reunited her with her niece in Wisconsin. Finding those answers did not “send a single customer into a nearby store” and “didn’t generate one referral,” she allowed, but they did “help this Chamber meet its mission to make this community a better place to live.” The chamber attracted 144 new members in the last year, she concluded, and “We deserve a pat on the back, no doubt, but we now have new places to go.”
Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson