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Multiple awards presented during Chamber’s annual meeting

By Staff | Apr 27, 2016

Eric Pfeifer was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award. PHOTO PROVIDED

Many thanks were shared, as well as awards presented, during the annual meeting of the Islands of Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa last week.

Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce President Ric Base provided a financial report from last year during the meeting. He said the total income was just over $880,000, expenses were $824,000 and they put about $55,000 in reserves.

Base said although they put some good reserves in, work on the parking lot and redoing a 50-year-old building took away the reserves pretty quickly. He said it’s nice that they can put money aside and back into the property and all the member services they provide.

“We can’t do this without our great staff and volunteers,” Base said.

The Chamber’s volunteers put in more than 3,000 hours a year in providing assistance at the Welcome Center. He said in addition they are one of the few Visitor Centers in the state of Florida that has a paid staff.

The Business Person of the Year Award was presented to Bob Walsh, of RS Walsh Landscaping, Inc. PHOTO PROVIDED

“From the bottom of my heart I would like to say thank you very much to the staff and volunteers,” Base said. “We have the best staff in the world.”

He went on to say that they have one awesome Chamber of Commerce.

Ten years ago, in 2006, a search committee was formed to find a new executive director, president of the Chamber of Commerce. As a thank you for the first 10 years, Base received a framed map of Sanibel.

Donna Puma of Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream was named the chair for the 2016-2017 Board of Directors. The Chair-Elect is John Lai from The Inns of Sanibel; Treasurer is Michael Miller of San Cap CPA and Secretary is Lee Ellen Harder of BIG ARTS. The remaining board of directors includes Doug Babcock of ‘Tween Waters Inn; Mary Bondurant of Bondurant Realty Group; Chris Davidson of Island Inn; Chris Heidrick of Heidrick & Company; Ken Kouril of The Sanctuary Golf Club; Aaron Pruss of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.; Sonja Smith Suitor of Condominium Association of Sanibel, Inc.; Evelyn Stewart of Adventures in Paradise; Daniel Thompson of Suncatcher’s Dream and David Wright of Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank.

“I would like to take this time to thank Mark (Anderson) on behalf of myself, the board and the chamber for your past year of service as the chair. We appreciate your leadership, your understanding and the ability to keep the board informed on the local environmental issues and above all thank you for your friendship and guidance,” Puma said.

The Sue Rosica Gray Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Holli Martin. PHOTO PROVIDED

She provided her vision of the upcoming year to those in attendance. She said the honor of being elected as the new chair was a vision she did not see when she visited Sanibel in 1984 with her husband Tom and daughter Stephanie.

“Prior to 1984, we were newlywed daytrippers,” she said. “We fell in love with all the charm that makes our island special. From the beautiful beaches, the shelling, shopping, dining. But most importantly, the warm, kind, friendly and interesting business people who helped us formulate our opinion that we wanted to return here every year and make this experience part of our family vacation.”

They decided to purchase a time share unit that guaranteed they would have their week of Sanibel marked on the calendar every year.

Puma said this year has been particularly challenging when asking the question “Why Sanibel, why Captiva?”

“We faced heavier than normal January rainfall. Much publicized releases of Lake O and growing concerns over island traffic to name a few. But, at the end of the day we have to still ask ourselves, why should future generations support our beautiful islands with their vacation dollars,” Puma asked. “We still have abundant sunshine, beautiful beaches and opportunities to shop, dine, lodge and play here.”

The New Business of the Year Award was presented to Bleu Rendez Vous French Bistro. PHOTO PROVIDED

The warm, kind, friendly and interesting business people, she said, will influence the consumer of generations to come, as they make their vacation plans. Although it may not be realistic for the business community to think that the younger generations will mirror their grandparents’ and parents’ vacations to the islands, Puma said, they are the future of the islands.

“Whether they look at them as vacationers, or future residents requiring the sales and services of our business community,” she said.

Puma said the younger generations perceive value as multi-dimensional, which is defined by the quality of the time they spend here, the amenities that are offered and the conveniences associated with their stay.

“They clearly communicated that as consumers they expect us to earn their loyalty,” Puma said. “It is our role as business members to put our best foot forward in helping them feel good about their vacation choices to our islands.”

Awards were also given during the meeting.

Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce President Ric Base was given a gift for his 10 years of service. PHOTO PROVIDED

The first award, the Sue Rosica Gray Volunteer of the Year Award, was named after Gray, who was a board member for the chamber in the mid-1990s. She passed away June 20, 1999.

“The Sue Rosica Gray Volunteer of the Year Award was established to honor individuals who have shown a dedication to volunteering their time and effort to further the goals of the chamber,” Puma said.

The award was presented to Holli Martin. In October 2013, Martin transferred her Rotary membership to the island club and is now the vice president of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club. She is also a board member for the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, chamber ambassador, luminary volunteer coordinator and volunteer for the F.I.S.H. annual fundraiser.

The New Business of the Year Award was presented to Bleu Rendez Vous French Bistro. Chef Christian and Mari Vivet opened the bistro in May 2015 on Sanibel after moving their business across the causeway from Fort Myers. The bistro strives to provide southern hospitality with consistent fine dining French cuisine.

The Business Person of the Year was presented to Bob Walsh, of RS Walsh Landscaping, Inc.

Anderson said no other business that he is aware of had a bigger impact on the island after Hurricane Charley than RS Walsh Landscaping.

“When I first started my business, I had a pickup truck and I had $3,000. I decided to invest the $3,000 like this. I took $2,000 and got married and the other $1,000 I bought a trailer,” Walsh said. “The harder we work the luckier we get. We built everything on hard work, good service, and being able to open the garden center is a dream come true for our family and company and be totally integrated in our community.”

The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Eric Pfeifer.

Pfeifer was introduced to Sanibel in 1989 by his wife. In 2001, the family moved to Sanibel full-time when he began his career in real estate. He began giving back through youth sports, joined the City of Sanibel Parks and Recreation committee and is the president of the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club to name a few.

“It’s one of the best honors I have ever received,” Pfeifer said. “I give back because I love to give back.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.