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On Saturday, February 3rd The Osceola Chamber celebrated our 99th Annual Meeting at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. It was a beautiful evening to gather with Chamber members and community partners and watch the gavel officially pass from 2023 Chairman of the Board Allison Beeman of Cemex to 2024 Chairman Carlos Velez, Vice President of the Osceola Magic. Under the leadership of Chairman Beeman, The Osceola Chamber undertook a significant board restructuring initiative designed to better incorporate best practices of non-profit management and maintain the Chamber’s status as an “Accredited with Five Stars” Chamber. Other structural changes were implemented on the advice of volunteer committees comprised of active Chamber board members.
Prior to the evening’s formal program, guests gathered in an adjoining ballroom for a cocktail reception that included opportunities for souvenir photos with Daisy and Donald Duck, caricature drawings, and a signature “Havana Mojito” cocktail. In the hotel foyer, attendees posed for photos with a classic Havana backdrop and struck a pose at the 360 Photo Booth. Both photographic experiences were brought to us by RTW Photography and sponsored by HCA Florida Healthcare. At a special event cigar bar, attendees were able to take home a cigar, hand-rolled on-site and sponsored by ABC Paving and Sealcoating.
The theme of the evening was “Habana Nights,” and the ballroom was themed accordingly. Centerpieces assembled by Kissimmee Florist featured feathery pampas that evoked the Havana countryside and light up balloons to represent the vibrant Havana nightlife. Attendees were encouraged to come dressed to the theme. Chairman Velez and Chamber President/CEO John Newstreet reflected the theme in their laid-back guayabera shirts.
Representing the evening’s host, Elizabeth Watkins, Government Relations Manager at Walt Disney World Resort, welcomed everyone to Walt Disney World alongside Minnie Mouse. Shen then shared some of the exciting things we can expect as the Walt Disney Company celebrates 100 years.
Chair Beeman shared some of the accomplishments of the Chamber’s Area Councils throughout 2023 and highlighted other accolades given in the past year, including the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today Awards. Over dinner, attendees were entertained with a salsa performance by Salsa Heat sponsored by the Osceola Magic.
The Chamber handed out awards to members of the Chamber community throughout the night, and the first of these was the 2nd annual Chairman’s Award. For only the second time, this award was presented by the outgoing Chairman to an individual they believe has gone “above and beyond” in service to the Chamber, especially throughout the past year. The recipient of this award is the outgoing Chairman’s choice, and the 2023 winner, chosen by Chair Beeman, was Mary Cooper, longtime Chamber board member. Throughout a successful career at Quaker Oats, a second career as Realtor, and then through retirement, Mary has been dedicated to the Chamber and recently served as Chair of The Chamber Foundation.
For the first time since 2018, a new inductee was added to the Osceola Chamber Hall of Fame. In 2023, the Osceola community lost a dynamic leader, Guillermo “Bill” Hansen, editor of El Osceola Star Newspaper – the first bilingual newspaper in Osceola County. This year the Hall of Fame Award was sponsored by Kissimmee Utility Authority, and Guillermo’s widow Yolanda and children, Yanin and Bryan, were present to accept the award on his behalf.
The Linda Goodwin-Nichols Service Award is named after Linda Goodwin-Nichols, two-time Chairman of The Osceola Chamber Board of Directors, and a stalwart of Osceola’s Business Community for 50 years. Throughout her career, Linda has epitomized community involvement and giving back selflessly, and this award honors an individual who will carry on her legacy. This year’s finalists for the Linda Goodwin-Nichols Service Award were Wilda Belilse with Osceola County; Tammy Douglass, CEO of Help Now of Osceola; and Jolene Sheive, owner or Legacy Realty of Central Florida. Sponsored by HCA Florida Healthcare, the award went to Tammy Douglass, whose organization offers programs that have touched over 10,000 of Osceola County’s residents as part of her work to end domestic violence and elder abuse in the county.
To recognize the importance of the Chamber’s core values of “Embracing Heritage,” “Creating Opportunity,” “Building Unity,” and “Membership Value,” and our partners who promote them, in January of 2018, Chairman Tim Finkenbinder announced the creation of an award to emphasize these values – particularly “Building Unity.” The very first Unity Award was presented to Guillermo Hansen and this year the award was renamed in his honor. Finalists for the award this year were Bethzaida Garcia, Public Education Coordinator with Osceola County Fire & EMS; Rachel McIntee, Communications & Development Manager for Osceola County Property Appraiser Katrina Scarborough; and Danny Ruiz Manrique, founder of Total Industrial Supplies. Presented with support from AdventHealth, the Unity Award went to Rachel McIntee, who drew on her personal relationship with Bill Hansen and their mutual love for connecting people as she thanked the Chamber and selection committee for the award.
After taking a moment to honor present past-chairmen, Chairman Velez thanked Chair Beeman and presented her with a crystal gavel. He closed out the night by introducing the Chamber’s 2024 Executive Committee, Area Council Chairmen, and Area of Focus leadership. He then invited the crowd out onto the dance floor for a salsa lesson sponsored by C3 Wellness Spa and the following after party, sponsored by Orlando Health.
The Chamber’s 99th Annual Meeting was sponsored by Walt Disney World Resort, Kissimmee Utility Authority, AdventHealth, HCA Florida Healthcare, C3 Wellness Spa, Tompkins Family Foundation, Osceola Magic, Overstreet Law, and more.
Check out some more images in the gallery below, and we hope to see you for our 100th Annual Meeting in 2025!!