By LOIS KINDLE
It’s not every day that a chamber of commerce is recognized for anything beyond its support for member businesses. But on Thursday, Sept. 23, the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce received a 2021 Harvest Award at the 20th annual Harvest Luncheon at the Hillsborough County Fair.
The awards were established two decades ago. They recognize the accomplishments of farm families, individuals and organizations committed to agricultural heritage of the county and the farming community.
The SouthShore Chamber’s 2021 Harvest Award was given in the category of Outstanding Public & Community Service.
“The chamber has a long history of support for the agricultural community, which has always been entrenched in southern Hillsborough County, and a commitment to its residents,” said Ruskin Community Foundation president, “For these reasons, the RCDF board nominated the chamber for this particular award.”
Dustin Portillo, of the Caspers Company in Tampa, introduced Melanie Davis, executive director of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, and presented its award.
“As the (Harvest) committee read about the works of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, we were inspired by its willingness to step into the lives of others and give to those in need,” Portillo said. “The chamber is one that has taken the task of bridging the gap in a community where the need is seen and there is no one else to fill that void.”
He talked about the work of the chamber’s Educational Partnership Committee, which strives to fill the needs of South Shore public school teachers that are not covered by the Hillsborough County Schools budget; its Migrant Outreach Committee, which identifies and fills the needs of members of the migrant community and sponsors an annual Migrant Graduates Banquet; and how Davis rallied 25 community volunteers and raised $10,000 to refurbish and brighten the playgrounds of Reddick and Gibsonton elementary schools. Both are Title I schools.
He also spoke about a number of other initiatives, including the sponsoring of seminars in both in English and Spanish on hurricane preparedness and Hartline’s new Flex bus schedules; its hurricane and disaster relief efforts; various collection initiatives on behalf of those in need, including diapers for mothers-in-need with babies, cash to purchase coffee for members of the military, school supplies for children in need and much more.
“The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce…obviously (does) very extraordinary work.”
“Oh, my gosh,” Davis said, after the awards ceremony. “We always give awards, so it was really nice to be acknowledged.”
Davis said the chamber doesn’t do its community outreach for accolades. Its members know if they raise up the community, the community gives back. She said it’s a matter of everyone thriving.
“Within the South Shore community, there is extreme wealth and extreme poverty,” Davis continued. “We all share the same community, and the more successful it is, the better a place it is for everyone to live and work.”
Davis said she’s excited to share this award with chamber members.
We’re going to treat this like the Stanley Cup and invite everyone to come by and have a picture taken with it,” she said. “Then we’re going to post these photos on our Facebook page.”
The chamber’s most recent efforts include its 9/11 Drive-by at the Firehouse Cultural Center and its Homeless Outreach Committee’s Homeless Initiative event in Apollo Beach.
For more information, call 813-645-3808.