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SouthShore Chamber hosts ‘Havana Nights’ awards gala

Published on: January 25, 2018

Kelly Kowall, founder of My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin, presents the Bruce Scheller & Shirley May Military Award to members of the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Brandon.


As it does every year in January, the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce recognized its own Jan. 20 at its annual Membership & Awards Banquet at Southshore Falls. The gala included the presentation of seven awards, two special tributes, a presidential change in leadership, live music and a 50/50 drawing that paid out $535.

The first award of the evening, the Alvarez & Madden Person of the Year, went to Kathy Wallin, a longtime chamber member, cheerleader and ambassador.

Following that, outgoing President Deb Adams, of First Citrus Bank, was recognized for her service to the board throughout 2017. Before handing the gavel of leadership to incoming President Shawn Geitner, Adams thanked the chamber and the community for its strong support and emphasized the chamber’s involvement in projects that benefit not only its business members, but also South Shore’s nonprofit organizations and residents.

“Our businesses do so much more than (conduct) business,” she said. “What a wonderful world this would be if everyone around the world did the same.”

Her speech was followed by a slide presentation highlighting many of the projects for which chamber members either volunteered their time or made cash or in-kind donations.

Incoming President Shawn Geitner, founder of Believe Teas, focused on how much chamber membership has benefited her young business and thanked everyone for the opportunity to lead the board in 2018. She also commended them for their community spirit.

“If you haven’t noticed already, our chamber is very unique,” she said. “Not only does it strive to promote and nurture local businesses, it is very involved in helping and supporting the community. Making both objectives a priority is a challenge, but it also allows both to succeed.

“Our chamber is also exceptionally diverse in membership,” she added. “This is a reflection of South Shore itself and the future to come.

“Let’s continue to grow in membership and commitment to our community in 2018. Get involved by giving your time, sharing knowledge, providing resources or lending a hand. I promise, you will not regret it. As the saying goes, ‘You get what you give.’”

Melanie Rimes, executive director of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, shows off one of two special tribute awards presented during the chamber’s annual Membership & Awards Banquet Jan. 20 at Southshore Falls.

The following is a list of other awards made during the evening:

• Award of Influence: Amy Modglin, Modglin Leadership Solutions

• Exceeding Expectations Award: Dottie Minnick, Hillsborough County Small Business Development Center

• Mover & Shaker (New Member) Award: Drew’s RVs

• The Domino Effect Award (Nonprofit of the Year): Enterprising Latinas

• Above & Beyond Award: U. S. Army Recruiting Office Brandon

Tributes were made to Steve “The Mullet Man” Fagen and Ron Simpson, longtime and devoted chamber members who passed away last year. Members of both families were present as guests. Touching slide presentations were shown, and the families received commemorative plaques.

The chamber will be funding The Mullet Man Fishing Scholarship, an annual award given to a deserving South Shore child. The award is for two weeks at the Hillsborough County Saltwater Fishing Camp at E. G. Simmons Park.

Melanie Rimes, the chamber’s executive director, enlisted the help of Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman to have an already-approved community outdoor classroom at the Firehouse Cultural Center to be named after Simpson, an ardent supporter of the center.

Outgoing board members Carrie Elwell, Tony Zipperer, Allen Witt and Charlie Lewis also were recognized.

More than 200 members and guests attended the event.

“It was a beautiful evening all around,” Rimes said. “I had so many people tell me they made lots of connections that will benefit their businesses, which, of course, is our chamber’s primary role.”

Fore more photos, see the Jan. 25 edition of the SouthShore Observer News.