MARCO ISLAND — With Christmas almost upon us, and the upcoming tourist season right behind, the membership of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce took an evening to mingle, celebrate, and bestow awards for those who exemplify the spirit of giving.
Dave Rice was honored as 2012 Citizen of the Year, Bill Filbin won for 2012 Volunteer of the Year, and Tarik Ayasun was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, at the Chamber's 35th Anniversary Celebration & Christmas Gala at Bistro Soleil on Sunday evening. A capacity crowd of 184 filled the dining room, after pre-dinner cocktails and schmoozing on the patio.
Before dinner, MIACC Executive Director Sandi Riedemann brought up sponsor Scott Campbell, CEO of Physicians Regional Healthcare System, who took the opportunity to announce his organization has leased over 8,000 square feet of space in the Shops of Marco for a new island health clinic. Then current MIACC President Kevin Donlan was joined by the chamber's very first president, Marv Needles, to toast the chamber's 35 years in special anniversary champagne flutes, with the champagne provided by host Bistro Soleil.
Of the 35 MIACC presidents from the organization's founding to date, 22 were on hand for the occasion, identifiable by the boutonnieres provided for their lapels by the chamber's Katie O'Hara. As the past presidents were introduced, one voice called out with the opinion it would be easier to ask those who were not past presidents to stand. All 22 of the former chief executives then trooped back out to the patio for a group photo.
Dinner was chef Denis Meurgue's take on Beef Wellington, followed by light and dark chocolate mousse, each with a pastry wafer inscribed "35" inserted. "Chef Laura" Owen of CJ's on the Bay was delighted to have a night out sampling someone else's cooking. She was effusive in her praise for her colleague's efforts.
After dinner, with seasonal and easy listening tunes provided by Wendy Renee & Co., and a special presentation to Condee Cooling and Electric, it was time for the big three awards.
The Lifetime Achievement Award, up first, was presented by past recipients Pat Neale, Dick Shanahan, Craig Woodward, Tom Wagor, and Bill Morris. Morris, who won the award last year, read the introduction, although he made a point that he had a ghostwriter, in the person of Monte Lazarus. The identities of the winners were unknown, but mentioning the honoree was born in Istanbul took away a lot of the suspense.
Tarik Ayasun was the winner, with a long string of leadership roles in community involvement, including the island's Code Enforcement Board, Charter Middle School, where he has served as board president for 15 years despite never having children at the school, serving as chamber president, coaching youth soccer teams, and winning the Collier EDC Entrepreneur Award in 2011. Ayasun professed himself "speechless, for one of the few times in my life."
T.J. Boone, manager of the Marco Eagle, presented the award for 2012 Marco Island Volunteer of the Year. He ran through a litany of good deeds, personal as well as organizational, of the recipient, from his service as Protocol Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, to placing flags along Collier Blvd. for Memorial Day and selling "poppies for vets." In addition, he helped out St. Matthews House, the Special Olympics, served as president of the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors, and put together a group of volunteers to help spruce up the home of a 95-year-old Marco veteran.
The winner was Bill Filbin, who said he had an idea something was up when his brother showed up in a sportcoat and tie, and people kept asking him, "You're sure you're coming Sunday?"
The evening's final award, the 2012 Marco Island Citizen of the Year, was presented by Daily News Publisher and President Dave Neill. After bringing up numerous previous honorees to be recognized and greet their new fellow, he listed some of the recipient's accomplishments, including leadership roles with Christmas Island Style, the YMCA, the Marco Island Center for the Arts, Sports Fest, and the Big Flag Committee.
It's a fair bet that, well before the name was announced, virtually everyone in the room knew the person coming up to accept the award would be Dave Rice.
After the awards presentations, the serious dancing queens, including Paula Robinson, Bonnie Woodward, and Dianna Dohm took to the floor with their escorts, and Marco Island's business leaders readied themselves for the new year.