The Valrico FishHawk Chamber of Commerce (V.F.C.C.) had a lot to celebrate at its fifth annual dinner last month. In addition to announcing small business winners in four categories, the group introduced its new president and gave a significant donation to local charity E.C.H.O. (the Emergency Care Help Organization).

“The dinner is a time to recognize our many volunteers who make the chamber great,” said outgoing President Melissa Haskins of Edwards Jones Financial. “This year was especially special because we celebrated our five year anniversary as a chamber.”

The V.F.C.C. has approximately 200 members who come together to promote local businesses and help them increase sales and awareness of their establishments.

The dinner, a ‘Roaring ‘20s’ theme, was held at River Hills Country Club in Valrico with entertainment provided by Fred Astaire Studios and acknowledged many members who help the group function including new and retiring board members, past presidents and ambassadors.

“Since we have no staff and are all volunteering our time between running our business and families, we feel it is important to recognize those who make the chamber great,” said Haskins.

For the first time this year, the group recognized four small businesses for awards in different categories. According to Haskins, the candidates had to submit an extensive application regarding their business. An independent party through the group S.C.O.R.E. then chose the winners.

In the category of Emerging Business, which was open to only businesses founded after 2014, the winner was T Marie’s Boutique. Repair Your Tech won in the small business, one to four employees, category, Fred Astaire Dance Studio won for five to nine employees and Mathnasium of Brandon brought home the prize in the 10 plus employee category. Several businesses were also honored for being charter members of the chamber.

Marie Gilmore, Osprey Observer’s Editor said, “The Valrico/FishHawk Chamber has continued to be a great organization for small businesses. Congratulations to this years business award winners.”

As outgoing president, Haskins also had the honor of choosing a group to receive a donation as the 2017 President’s Charity of Choice.

“I chose E.C.H.O. because of their strong bond in our local community,” said Haskins. “E.C.H.O. has been serving our community for more than 30 years now and they give back so much to those in need.”

The group collected $3,110 throughout the year from donations at networking events. In addition, the V.F.C.C. collected more than $1,300 in cash and 1,300 pounds of food and toiletries after Hurricane Irma which were given to E.C.H.O. to distribute to those in need.

“I feel it is important for businesses to give back because a chamber is more about community than business,” said Haskins. “If you take care of the community around you, business will come out of it.”

For more information about the V.F.C.C. and membership, visit or call 438-4123.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.