Many deserving members of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce were recognized at the nonprofit business organization's annual meeting at Charley's Boathouse Grill last Thursday.
Six Beach community stars were presented awards, while ambassadors, directors, committee chairs and event chairs were acknowledged for their hard work and dedication. A change of the guard was also witnessed as Chamber board chairperson of the past (nearly) two years, Norma Jean Pevey, spoke her final words as an official and welcomed 2014 chair John Gavin of Gavin Ace Hardware.
FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera was quick to note that the local business group could not function without its tireless volunteers who seek duties or are called upon for assistance.
FMB Chamber officials honored award-winner members as well as ambassadors, directors and chairpeople during its annual meeting at Charley's Boathouse Grill. Pictured are (l to r, standing) Steve DeAngelis, David Anderson, Sandy Lepley, John Gavin, Eric Tibbs, Norma Jean Pevey, Terry Luster and John Armistead; (l to r, seated) Bud Nocera, Bruce Cermak and Robb Capps.
"This chamber is blessed with great volunteers," he said. "They are here to help spread the gospel of the chamber, to help get new members and to explain to new members how to get the most from their membership. This organization is not about the president or chairman of the board. It's about the community, membership of this chamber and our volunteers."
Awards were given to Century 21 Tri-Power's Sandra Lepley for Ambassador of the Year; Premier Florida Realty's Robb Capps and Kiwanis Fort Myers Gateway to the Islands' Terry Luster for co-Volunteers of the Year; Beach businessman John Richard for Member of the Year; and Surf Club owner Bruce Cermak for the "Petro" Award.
Nocera called the "Petro" Award the Chamber's highest award that goes to a member of the community "who exemplifies what this Beach is all about" as well as "the spirit of caring and selflessness" that signifies its name-sake D.J. Petrucelli -the late, longest-serving Chamber of Commerce director in the United States.
"This is quite an honor. I knew Petro for a long time. He was quite a character and quite a man. He always got things done," said Cermak. "I will hang this in my home very proudly."
Richard was chosen Member of the Year for granting the Chamber a parking lot space on Old San Carlos Boulevard and allowing officials to tap into the power supply and Wi-Fi for computer usage to help provide visitor information back on the Beach. Unfortunately, he was out of town and unable to attend.
"Both John and (Santini Marina Plaza manager) Al Durrett both graciously allowed us to use their property so that we could cover both the north end and the south end of the Beach," said Nocera. "We appreciate what they do."
Pevey recognized Lee Memorial Health System's John Armistead, whose director term ended last month, and Edward Jones' Eric Tibbs, the 2013 vice chair who is exiting the board.
Officials also honored Luster for his role as Ambassador committee chair, Ann Alsop for her duties as Past-chair committee chairman and Red Coconut RV Park's Tom Myers for being Traffic committee chair. Event chairs for 2013 were recognized: Resort Sports' Deborah Regnone for Mini Master Golf; Nervous Nellies' Steve DeAngelis for Taste of the Beach; Luster for Business Expo; and Capps for Tapa Hop and Christmas Boat Parade.
In keeping with the theme of volunteerism, Nocera praised the unsung volunteers that run the visitor information trailer, "Roxie." They include AAA's Donna Bates, DiamondHead Beach Resort's Brandan Brandise, Ali Carter, Michelle Forneris and Jackie Hornack, Beach Lions Club's Patsy Dorsey, Fort Myers Beach Realty's Jessie Titus, and individuals Carolyn Crosby, Sandy Hein, Joni Johnson, Debby Kildow, Cheryl Nye, Pam Schindler, Jean-Ann Walker and Debbie Whitehead.
"All of these people give of their time to talk to the visitors that come to our beach," said Nocera. "They provide them with their first-hand information on what to see, where to go and what's happening on the Beach."
Change was a word that Beach Chamber officials used to describe the organization's state and philosophy for the new year. Instead of a fancy Gala, the annual meeting was held at a luncheon. The FMB Chamber is also downsizing by moving into office space on the Beach instead of being housed in a building off island.
"This year, you're going to see a chamber that is going into a much more frugal mode," said Nocera. "Also, at the same time, it's going to be a chamber that will be maximizing some of the key functions that any chamber of commerce should be doing. One of those is business-to-business networking."
Pevey, who has given three years during her so-called retirement to the Chamber organization, agreed change was imminent for the current Beach Chamber. She listed the Bambi, Charley's Boathouse Grill as a permanent luncheon site and "coffee connections" as a newly instituted event to allow members to network.
"We have seen a lot of changes," she said. "Don't be afraid of change. Think outside the box."
Hiring Nocera as president was one of the many changes the local chamber faced when he was brought on.
"(Bud) has been the best asset to this chamber in many, many years," Pevey said. "He is an incredible visionary that I have learned so much from."
Gavin will be followed in line on the 2014 Beach Chamber Board of Directors by Krusty Pete's David Anderson, who will serve as chair-elect, and Capps, who will serve as vice-chair. Gavin encouraged members to volunteer and dig deeper into the Beach Chamber business family.
"(The Beach Chamber) basically is an extended family of mine," he said. "We do have a loving care of brotherhood and sisterhood for each other. If you come to get involved in one of our committees or one of our events, you will find a family atmosphere that I am very proud of."
Beach Chamber Awards
- Ambassador of the Year Century 21 Tri-Power's Sandra Lepley
- Volunteer of the Year (tie) Premier Florida Realty's Robb Capps; Kiwanis Fort Myers Gateway to the Islands' Terry Luster
- Member of the Year Beach businessman John Richard
- "Petro" Award Surf Club owner Bruce Cermak
2013 Committee chairs
- Ambassador Kiwanis Fort Myers Gateway to the Islands' Terry Luster
- Past-chair Ann Alsop
- Traffic Red Coconut RV Park's Tom Myers
2013 Event chairs
- Mini Master Golf Resort Sports' Deborah Regnone
- Taste of the Beach Nervous Nellies' Steve DeAngelis
- Business Expo Kiwanis Fort Myers Gateway to the Islands' Terry Luster
- Tapa Hop Premier Florida Realty's Robb Capps
- Christmas Boat Parade Premier Florida Realty's Robb Capps