Jumbo the Magic Clown, of Riverview, was honored as a Simply The Best Community member.

By Gwen Rollings

At the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Banquet on January 31, held at the South Shore Falls Clubhouse in Apollo Beach, simply the best stories were told about, well, simply the best people.

Each year, at most Chambers of Commerce Annual Dinners and Banquets around the country, the Simply the Best award is presented to a well-known business that has contributed to many charities or participated in other philanthropic events in the community. The SouthShore Chamber decided to mix things up this year.

As Melanie Davis, executive director, explained, “This year, we wanted to tell the stories of 13 individuals who typically ‘fly below the radar’ and do not seek nor may not get much recognition for all they do. Their great stories do not go unnoticed by us in the SouthShore Chamber, and we feel that everyone else should know how much they contribute to the well-being of others in our community.”

Those honored were Captain Lori Deaton with Ladyfish Charters and Hooked on Hope; Harriet Garbleman and Gail Roszel with Harriet’s Flowers; Marie Gilmore, editor of The Osprey Observer; Gary Kaukonen, retired owner/broker of Keller Williams; Lois Kindle with The Observer News; Kelly Kowall of My Warrior’s Place; Olga Perez, Lennard High School’s migrant advocate; Kelly Reedy, SouthShore Community Champion; Philip Rivera, Lennard High School’s migrant resource teacher; Fred and Polly Rothenbush, retired artist and school teacher, Georgia Vahue of The Firehouse Cultural Center; East Bay High School student Duncan Vasquez; and Jumbo the Clown.

After the executive director’s comments, a member of the board of directors, Carrie Elwell, began sharing about each honoree:

*The woman who began a nonprofit to raise funds for uninsured and underinsured breast cancer patients across the Tampa Bay and has raised over $420,000 to date.

*The third-generation Ruskin business owners who went from grandmother to mother to daughter.

*A realtor who won too many prestigious awards in his career to mention and still established a culture of giving, so his sales agents donated part of their commissions to local charities.

*A Gold Star mom who created a special place for warriors in her son’s honor and many more stories, and that’s what makes them Simply the Best!

To learn more about the SouthShore Chamber, visit www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org or call 645-1366.