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It was a Kentucky Derby theme for a Citrus County evening as the chamber of commerce presented its annual Pillar Awards.
The Friday night gala was flavored by fancy hats and other derby inspired attire as individuals and organization were honored for their service to the chamber and the community.
“We get out of it what we put into it, said Rhonda Lestinsky, setting the tone for evening. She received the Ambassador Service Recognition Award, presented by Lillian Smith.
“So many people have done so much,” said chamber chairman Rob Wardlow, who presented the Lifetime Director Recognition Award to a surprised Kevin Cunningham.
Jennifer Duca was the sixth annual winner of the Jean Grant Business Women’s Alliance Award presented by Dorothy Pernu.
Lisa Nash was presented with the Ambassador of the year award by Dan Pushee, who noted the award really recognizes ambassadors and their employers who make the time commitment possible.
Judge Mark Yerman was named Outstanding Leadership Citrus Graduate. He completed the program with the class of 1995.
Heather Cogar cited the importance of networking as she received the Mandy Warren Richard Rising Award, presented by Janice Warren.
Barbara Mills, accompanied by several members of the military, received the Rick Quinn Distinguished Citizen Award presented by Gerry Mulligan.
Gailen Spinka and Comfort Keepers were presented with the J.L. Hassel Award by Todd Workman. “If the company gets involved in the community, the community will pay the company back,” said Spinka.
Sam Himmel presented Abitare’ Salon and Day Spa with the Walt Connors Small Business Award.
“This county is better off for having them here,” said Wardlow, presenting the Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award to FDS Disposal Inc.
The John T, Barnes Outstanding Community Organization Award went to the Citrus County Historical Society. It was presented by Tobey Phillips.
Jim Fowler presented the Shawn Harrison Outstanding Youth Service Award to Liam Cash, a graduate of Seven Rivers Christian School. He is currently a freshman at Florida State University.
The Dr. O.J. Humphries Award, presented by John Murphy, went to Bonnie Rybak.
Brian and Shane Fitzpatrick presented Charles E. Davis with the Charles B. Fitzpatrick Heritage Award.
“He’s a community pillar in every sense of the word,” said Brian Fitzpatrick. “You’ve made an impact on the people of Citrus County.”
“You can’t be heard alone, you have to have a voice,” said Davis, emphasizing the importance of belonging to the chamber.
Andy Smith, Citrus County Parks and Rec; Bill Hudson, Land Title; Brannen Bank, Floral City Branch; Brad Bautista, Citrus County Chronicle; and Citrus 95.3/The Fox Classic Hits 96.7, were recognized as Chamber Champions.
Murphy was honored for his year as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chamber.
Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.