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SouthShore chamber gives annual awards, receives Hillsborough kudos

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The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce went New Orleans-style for its 2{+n}{+d} Annual Membership & Awards Banquet.

Almost 250 members and guests – many masked or in costume – turned out for the Mardi Gras-themed gala, which took place at Del Webb Southshore Falls.

"The evening was everything we imagined and more," said Melanie Morrison, the chamber's executive director. "Our committee worked extremely hard on every detail of the event and it showed.

"The feedback we received was so positive," Morrison continued. "And everyone had a really good time. The energy in the room was so vibrant – a true reflection of our entire organization."

Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan presented the chamber with a special commendation from the commission recognizing the SouthShore chamber's "leadership and commitment to creating a flourishing environment that ensures the success of (its) community, businesses and residences ..."

The inscription noted the 2011 merging of the Apollo Beach Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1985 as an all-volunteer organization, and the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1928 as the first chamber in southern Hillsborough

"Today as the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, you advance the quality of life, promote economic development and enhance the natural character of the South Shore area."

Such recognition was meaningful to Morrison.

"It's reaffirms that we're doing our job in the community and shows the positive relationships that can be built when businesses partner with local government."

The awards portion of the event included five businesses or individuals:

  • C1 Bank in Apollo Beach won the Small Business of the Year Award.
  • Kids R Kids SouthShore took Large Business of the Year.
  • The annual E.G. Simmons Community Service Award went to the South Shore Anglers.
  • Team Gagliardi of Keller Williams Realty South Shore received the Volunteer of the Year award.
  • Gary Schumacher, who died Dec. 26, was named Ambassador of the Year. Schumacher's wife, Helen, tearfully accepted the award, expressing how much her husband loved the chamber.

The feelings were mutual. Schumacher, a longtime chamber member, board member and ambassador, was beloved by the business community.

"Gary always wanted to volunteer and be involved with whatever the chamber was doing," said Ron Simpson, incoming chamber president. "At every event he was always right up front, smiling and selling 50/50 tickets.

"He never had a bad word to say about anyone," Simpson continued. "His only fault was his loyalty to the Ohio State Buckeyes."

Morrison announced that the award given him will henceforth be called the Gary Schumacher Ambassador of the Year Award.

"Gary was our most proud member," said Morrison. "Whenever he had the opportunity, he was happy to talk to anyone about the chamber, whether they wanted to hear it or not. His enthusiastic support is what being an ambassador is all about."

Lindsey Hicks of Victoria's 5th Avenue Salon received the key to SouthShore as its first honorary mayor from Ruskin honorary mayor Mary Ann Wilhelm.

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