By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce met at The Regent this month to recognize top chamber members, board members and business of the year finalists as well as to announce new branding for the long-established institution.
Leading up to the business award announcements for ABC Event Planning, Grease Monkey, and Sylvan Learning of Apollo Beach, the chamber recognized Eleanor Saunders as the 2023 Riverview Citizen of the Year, for her work with the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), with locations in Brandon and Riverview serving multiple ZIP codes in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
In the closing minutes of the annual dinner, attention was drawn to a video release of the chamber’s newly designed logo, which featured not only a new set of colors, but also reference to a “central Hillsborough” chamber of commerce. More on that announcement is forthcoming.
Meanwhile, internal chamber awards for 2023 were given as well.
The newly renamed Joe Eletto Ambassador of the Year Award went to Lisa Jordan, of Accent American, who was top ambassador three times prior as well. The Margy Watkins Volunteer of the Year Award went to Daisy Vega, founder of Freedom to Walk Foundation, which raises money to help cover the expense of a medical device that helps individuals with foot drop. The condition involves difficulty lifting the front part of the foot and stems from such things as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal cord and brain injury.
Dave Lechuga, of Florida Executive Realty, received the Shining Star Award, which goes to someone in their first year of chamber membership who is active at events, volunteers time to the chamber and displays a true community spirit. Also recognized, but not in attendance, due to a mission trip to Honduras, was immediate past chamber chair Michael Broussard, who received the 2023 Chamber Champion Award.
“Your leadership has been a guiding light,” said chamber CEO Ny’Kole “Nykki” Krivda, about Broussard, owner of The Flying Locksmiths, and his ability to inspire, motivate and unite those around him. “You have not only championed the interests of businesses but have also been a beacon of support for the chamber and individuals within our community and around the world.”
Not expecting a shoutout, but receiving one nonetheless, was Eletto, a veteran and chamber member since 2004, who served on the board from 2009 to 2014. Eletto himself has been named Ambassador of the Year six times and was named Riverview Citizen of the Year in 2015. It was at the Feb. 2 dinner he learned the ambassador award will bear his name forevermore.
In making that announcement, Riverview Honorary Mayor Brian Porter said Eletto “is known for his willingness to help others and ask nothing in return” and “exudes kindness and gentleness, and is a beacon of light in this chamber.” Among Eletto’s accomplishments, Porter added, were his work to establish the chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, which he co-chairs now with Richard Rohde. Eletto was an original member of the chamber’s Taking Care of Business (TCOB) Relationship Group.
Business awards were granted in three categories, with three finalists in each group.
Craig Beckinger, in the category for up to 5 employees, received the award for ABC Event Planning, recognized for its “unparalleled creativity” and “dedication to transforming visions into reality.” Finalists for the award were Parwani Law, P.A., a full-service law firm since 2008, and Accent American, owned by Ken and Lisa Jordan, well-known in the cleaning and disaster restoration industry.
Beckinger was responsible for the chamber’s The Phantom of the Opera masquerade ball decorations. Past school board chair and member Melissa Snively, a State Farm Insurance agent, sang “The Music of the Night,” a song from the award-winning musical. Earlier in the night, Joe Zuniga, of Zuniga Marketing, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
For businesses with 16 to 19 employees, the award was given to Joe and Melissa Canfield, owners of Grease Monkey, a full-service auto repair center in Ruskin. Finalists in the category were Your Pie, owned by Theresa and Karen Sharkey, featuring pizza, pasta and salads. Also, Ebb & Flow Yoga Life, billed as a “sanctuary for holistic well-being that goes beyond traditional yoga, offering state-of-the-art sauna and cold plunge experiences in Fire and Ice classes.” Studio owner Kandi Kipp moved the business from Winthrop to Tampa, at 9270 Bay Plaza Blvd., Suite 619.
Responsible for judging the businesses were representatives from a local branch of SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. In the final of three categories, for businesses with more than 20 employees, the award went to Sylvan Learning Center of Apollo Beach, owned by U.S. Air Force veteran and doctorate recipient Vanity Barr-Little, who has a Sylvan location as well in Brandon.
The finalists in the third category were ECHO, a nonprofit that has grown to assist 30,000 neighbors annually, with services that include emergency food and clothing, financial assistance, case management, one-on-one job coaching, mobile back-to-work teams and in-house partnerships. Also a finalist, Hillsborough Community College, the fifth-largest community college in Florida’s state college system, serving more than 43,000 students annually at and through its five campuses, three centers and online platform.
“In the spirit of camaraderie,” chamber chair Tammy See, of OEL Heating and Cooling, closed the event by giving a shout-out to the group’s 2024 board of directors. Along with Krivda, See, treasurer Theresa Sharkey and board emeritus Jim Johnson, the board includes Ron Akers (FruxPay), Annette Bilyeu (Spectrum Business), Joel Brown (TECO), Dave Boyle (YMCA Camp Cristina), Jeff Campbell (Lydansco Business Consulting & Strategic Planning and Funding), Patrick Downes (St. Joseph’s Hospital-South), John R. Mayhew (Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and County Civil Mediator), Gabriel Mbulo (Edward Jones), Jason Newmyer (AdventHealth Riverview), Bill Short (retired) and Elena Westrop (Charity Clothing Pickup).
For more, visit www.riverviewchamber.com. The chamber is in Winthrop, at 6152 Delancey Station St. Call: 813-234-5944.