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A lot of business groups hold meetings, expos, conventions and conferences at the JW Marriott resort hotel on Marco Island. Most of them enjoy the beach in their down time, maybe get out on the links, but otherwise don’t devote much attention to the local community.

The “Connect” conference, held over the past week and weekend at the hotel, marks the exception. Two security equipment manufacturers joined together to co-host the event, and during the days of meetings, presentations and dinners, took time out to honor and to benefit the local community.

At the Connect general session on Saturday, over 700 attendees joined together to pay tribute to Marco Island first responders and city staffers for their efforts in keeping the island safe and helping put it back on its feet during and after Hurricane Irma. They even brought famed newscaster Larry King – via video – wearing his trademark suspenders, to offer plaudits to the local officials and workers.

“Last September, Hurricane Irma ripped through Marco Island. The police and fire departments worked seamlessly to prepare for the storm. The JW Marriott provided hotel rooms and meals for them so they could be safe and well-rested for their shifts.” Despite a mandatory evacuation, some 3,000 residents remained on the island.

City crews worked to clear debris, and fire and police responded to over 3,000 calls for assistance.

“Due to these efforts, there were no reported fatalities to residents during the storm, and no injuries to safety personnel,” noted King. The Marriott raised over $120,000 for the Harry Chapin Food Bank to assist in ongoing needs.

Accepting the honors on behalf of their departments, Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino and Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy, resplendent in their dress uniforms, stood in front of the attendees and thanked them. Murphy noted that, in a broad sense, the first responders and the conference attendees are in the same business – keeping people safe.

“Your jobs saved lives, and will continue to save lives,” said Murphy. “By installing life safety systems, there’s no telling how many people you have protected from the threats of crime and fire.”

Honoring the local staffers who worked to ensure the safety of Marco Islanders, and helped get the community back on its feet, dovetailed with the jobs of the security equipment dealers that Residio Technologies and Honeywell Building Technologies, the conference sponsors, were hosting. The two companies manufacture a wide range of security equipment for keeping homes and businesses protected.

“I receive this award on behalf of everyone in our community,” said Schettino. “It’s a testament to a community effort – everyone working together. That’s how life works.”

Along with the two chiefs, the city’s Utilities Director Jeff Poteet and Raul Perez, Chief Building Official, stood on the dais to be honored. Representing the JW Marriott hotel was Laurie Valant, Director of Event Management.

“These products connect us all and make us more efficient,” said Poteet. “If we had had smart water meters after the storm, we would have known where the water breaks were. That’s a lot easier than digging through the mud, as his workers had to do to find thousands of breaks in the system and get water pressure back to residential and business customers.

In addition to honoring the first responders and staffers, attendees at the conference participated in a session on Thursday, packing over 500 basic needs and hygiene kits, to be donated to the American Red Cross to support local homeless veterans. In addition to assembling the kits, the dealers took the time to write personal handwritten notes to the vets, thanking them for their service.

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