A veritable who’s who of the Cape Coral business community gathered Friday for its annual celebration that not only served as an induction ceremony but as a thank you to individuals and businesses who went above and beyond the call.
The Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman’s Gala was a celebration of its successes over the past year that was highlighted by the presentation of annual awards to volunteers, outstanding businesses and strategic partners, and the swearing in of its new board of directors.
Numerous local dignitaries were among the nearly 150 in attendance. Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery catered the event, with Sushi Bar providing the sushi. There were also silent auctions, raffles, a photo booth, and a DJ among other things.
Outgoing chairperson Annette Carrasquillo had the honor of presenting individual awards to those who have gone the extra mile for the chamber. Karen Barnes was named volunteer of the year, Rhonda Chapman was named Trustee of the Year, Matt Connar was Board Member of the Year, and Suncoast Beverage of Fort Myers earned the honor of Business of the Year.
“It was a complete surprise. I love volunteering and giving back to the community. I don’t do it for recognition. I was born and raised in Cape Coral and I love the city,” Barnes said, who admitted that like many businesses, she just paid her dues for years before becoming involved. “For any organization to work it takes volunteers.”
“I enjoyed everything I did to give back to the community, and the main thing is to make sure a goal is in mind,” Connar said. “Giving to give is good, but giving with a goal in mind (such as the hugely successful Taste of the Cape) is better.”
Among the Chamber Champions named were B-2 Solutions, title sponsor Siesta Pebble, CenturyLink, Waste Pro and LCEC.
“We’re very honored to receive the award and we’re very supportive of the Chamber and we love being part of it,” LCEC’s Trish Lassiter said. “We just celebrated our 75th anniversary and have been a part of Cape Coral since this place was nothing but barren land.”
“We are thankful and honored to work alongside such an amazing staff and volunteers and we love being part of the community,” Michelle Whitlock of Siesta Pebble said, who also won an award from the CCCIA in December. “Service is everything. It’s not just about you and your business.”
County Commissioner John Manning had the honor to swear in the new board of directors, in a tongue-in-cheek ceremony which saw board member Chris Spiro “walk out” upon learning Ed Ramos would be his new boss, before returning to receive the oath.
The new directors are Ramos, Brett Bisbe, chair-elect, Lassiter, treasurer, Carrasquillo, past-chairman, along with directors Barb Adams, Beverly Black, Ed Bolter, Dana Brunett, Connar, Tony Constantino, Diane Everhart, Joseph Francioni, Cynthia Gallagher, Sandra Greiner, Tom Hansen, Tim Hauck, Scott Kashman, Laura Koehn, Cheryl Komnick, Michelle Lewis, Katharyn Owen, Spiro, Whitlock, and Zachary Zeis.
Carrasquillo then passed the gavel to Ramos, who in turn gave her a footstool in recognition of her height before speaking about the Chamber and its successes.
“We love the community we live in. We want to give back and make Cape Coral a better place, and as business leaders we have a social responsibility to do what we can for this community,” Ramos said. “It’s you who have paved the way and positioned Cape Coral to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Ramos said the state of the Chamber is as good as it’s been in years, with 711 members. That’s still shy of the nearly 1,000 it had almost a decade ago, but still better than it was during the recession.
“We’re looking to a great 2015. We have pulled out of the downturn the same as many of the other businesses on the Cape,” Ramos said.