Last night we gathered at Nora May Hall to celebrate the wins in Winter Haven, the Citizen of the Year Banker's Cup Awards, Small & Large Business of the Year and much more. We also passed the gavel from current Chamber Board Chairman Robert Loftin, to incoming Chairwoman Jennifer Fasking. We had a wonderful evening celebrating together, in-person, with great food from The Catering Co. of Central Florida, a cocktail reception provided by Citizens Bank a wonderful program and networking.
Banker's Cup Citizens of the Year Awards
The 2021 Bankers Cup Citizens of the Year Awards were given to Earnestine Davis and Hap Hazelwood.
Mrs. Earnestine Davis was recognized for work over 6 decades in civil rights and advocacy to ensure all citizens are treated fairly and equally. She also runs the food distribution program of the Concern Citizens of Winter Haven. She is also involved with programs and organizations like the NAACP, Concerned Citizens of Winter Haven & Polk County, Polk Voters League, Neighborhood Search Centers and more. She has been an irreplaceable asset to the City of Winter Haven and the Florence Villa community. Her friends and family describe her to be a trailblazer for Winter Haven, someone who has created monumental change and is relentless in her pursuit to make Winter Haven the best place to live.
Hap Hazelwood was recognized for his positivity, always stepping up to lead and being a man of impact in all capacities of his service. Hap retired from Six/Ten, but continues to share his financial wisdom with non-profits and anyone who needs it. He has given his time and talents to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Winter Haven Chamber, Leadership Winter Haven, TriCounty Human Services, Meals on Wheels, Angels Ministry, Relay for Life, American Caner Society, Heart for Winter Haven, Endeavor Serves and many others. Hap's colleges, friends and family describe him as genuine, humble, a servant leader and someone who is laser focused on helping others. What he gives to these organizations is an overflow of how he truly lives. Because of his influence, the non-profits of Winter Haven and Polk County can continue making a difference in their communities.
Check out the videos below to hear about all the amazing things these two leaders have done in our community!
30 Years of Volunteerism
Following the Banker's Cup Awards, dinner provided by The Catering Co. of Central Florida and our official Annual Meeting, we were able to recognize 30 years of volunteerism through our Annual Chamber Golf Tournament. Alex Santiago, Chamber Ambassador and 30 year veteran of the Golf Committee, joined us to share a few words about the amazing impact the Golf Tournament has made through it's fundraising efforts. We were able to recognize and thank the numerous volunteers that we have had on that committee over the last 30 years. We are excited for another 30 years to come!
Winter Haven Chamber Ambassadors
Just like the Golf Tournament, it takes numerous volunteers to help the chamber be successful. We recognized a true extension of the chamber staff and some of our biggest cheerleaders – our presidential ambassadors.
We currently have 15 Ambassadors that continue to give a great deal of their personal time for the good of the Chamber. Even when events were canceled or moved to a virtual platform, our Ambassadors still managed to:
• Dedicate over 160 hours to virtual and in-person networking showcases and 300 hours to ribbon cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies
• Recruited 25 new members
• Visited or call over 600 current members and
• Worked with over 100 new members to help build their networks.
Alex Santiago and Lynn Polston were recognized for their 2nd year with a Presidental status. Amy Thompson and Kim Edwards were recognized for their 3rd year earning Presidential status. Dawn VanMeter earned her 4th year with the Presidential Status. And last but not least, Brian Reeves, Christa Morgan and Nan Webster were recognized for their 5th year earning Presidential status. We are so thankful for all of their hard work!
Small & Large Business of the Year
The 2021 Small Business of the Year is Dewdney's Plaza. The 2021 Large Business of the Year is CertiPay.
Dewdney's Plaza, owned by Terry Dewdney and Cheryl Wright, is a retail space focused on giving young and new entrepreneurs a space to begin and grow their businesses. At its ribbon cutting in fall 2020, not only was every space leased, but each space was occupied by a female entrepreneur. Terry and Cheryl’s leap of faith into entrepreneurship will leave a lasting legacy on the First Street corridor and that is one of the many reasons they were recognized with the Small Business of the Year Award.
CertiPay has invested so much into the Winter Haven community, especially in revitalizing a previously dormant corner of downtown which is now seeing an onslaught of public and private investment. But this isn't the main reason they have been recognized with this award. CertiPay had incredible responsiveness to the business community during the pandemic by analyzing and interpreting many of the new rules and relief programs governing business and not only produced numerous educational videos for their clients, but they also co-hosted numerous webinars with our Chamber to ensure the entire business community, clients or not, understood how to capitalize on opportunities.
With great excitement, we also announced that CertiPay will be partnering with the Winter Haven Chamber Foundation to award the CertiPay - Kim Harris Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation will help us process applications to award up to $5,000 in academic scholarships to Winter Haven area students.
Chairs Reflection & Passing of the Gavel
Robert Loftin gave his final reflection as Chair of the Chamber Board reminding us of how far we have come since September 2020. He emphasized the amazing support that we received from the community and our members that made it possible for us to come through this last year in a strong financial position as well as a growing membership base. Not many Chambers across the country can say that.
"We have also become wel-known across the state because of our communication and advocacy efforts throughout the pandemic. A big part of our Chamber’s success is the extraordinary President & CEO of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Katie Worthington Decker. She has become the “GO-TO” resource when a reporter is working on a story and wants to know what is going on in the Winter Haven area.
Even as we’ve focused on recovery, something else has been happening as well. Our business community has continued to grow. Numerous new businesses have openeed their doors, which is both important and exciting. But perhaps what has been even more meaningful through this turbulent time is seeing our existing members invest in expansion within our community." - Robert Loftin.
After Robert passed the gavel to Jennifer, she was able to share her excitiment for the year to come and her gratefulness towards Robert as he helped the Chamber navigate a challenging time.
"What an exciting time in Winter Haven’s history to be taking the reigns as Chair of this dynamic organization. It is even more exciting that 2022 is also the 100th Anniversary of my company, State Farm, and the 60th anniversary that State Farm, has been a member of the Winter Haven Chamber. I look forward to working with the Chamber board of directors and staff to develop goals and implementation strategies to drive our current strategic objectives to success.
I want to once again thank each of our event sponsors for their continued support of Winter Haven and your Chamber of Commerce and to each of you for coming together tonight to celebrate. I look forward to the year ahead." - Jennifer Fasking.