Bob Friedman received the 2015 Director’s Award. He is a former SPI Chamber Board member, serves on the SPI Economic Development Corporation and previously served on the SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additionally he has volunteered in many other capacities. Bob has supported all major events and activities of our Chamber, from LKT and Gala, to our annual Teacher Appreciation Party. We think of our recipient today as a man of few words, who carries a big stick, and gets results. We are grateful for all of his contributions.
Cristin Howard received the 2015 Ambassador’s Award. Her great energy and determination has led her to be a chamber volunteer for many years, and in various capacities. She served previously as a director, and is currently an Islander. Her work on South Padre Island has spanned many years, and is an extraordinary promoter of everything South Padre Island has to offer. Cristin is also a Rotarian and a Texas Master Naturalist. She is admired for her leadership abilities and two years of service as the South Padre Island Birding Center Manager, which has made such a significant difference at the Center. Cristin is also fondly thought of as the afterhours parking lot manager at the Birding Center raising around $18,000 this past year.
To be considered for this award you must be a Chamber member in good standing; by word and action promote the benefits of Chamber of Commerce membership throughout our business community; possess a positive and energetic attitude; be a proponent for business growth and development; be successful in identifying and recruiting new Chamber members and assist in member retention and efforts, and frequently attend Chamber meetings and events.
Jody Hughes received the 2015 Kukui Award. A very active volunteer, Jody has served as a Gala Planning Volunteer and as an ambassador on the Islanders Committee. She attends mixers and ribbon cuttings, quarterly luncheons and other chamber functions on a regular basis.
The saying “if you want something done, just ask a busy person” epitomizes Jody. In addition to Chamber volunteer work she has served on the SPI Parks Committee, and helped with El Paseo Arts Foundation.
Established in 2004, the Kukui Award is presented to an individual who leads by example and has provided support which has contributed to the success of the Chamber and our Business Community. The Kukui, the state tree of Hawaii, produces a candlenut and as the legend describes it the Kukui nut was used as a light source providing a “guiding light” to successfully and safely lead travelers to their destinations.
Community Partner Award
Hilton Garden Inn Beach Resort received the 2015 Community Partner Award. This award is presented to a Chamber member business, that by their actions make significant contributions to support the mission of our Chamber, our program of work and our community.
Hilton Garden Inn
The Hilton Garden Inn management, has time and again, not only provided valuable assistance to our Chamber, but also to many other community organizations, with meeting space, donations, room nights and much other support.
Some of the notable Chamber events held with the generous support of the Hilton Garden Inn during the past year were the SpaceX Welcome Reception, lunch with U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Travel Coalition Summit with U.S. Representative Filemon Vela, and breakfast with UT-RGV Medial School Dean Dr. Francisco Fernandez.
The SPI Chamber of Commerce greatly appreciates the community minded management style of the Hilton Garden Inn and the Patel Family.
Each year nominations are received from chambers of commerce and cities across the Rio Grande Valley for recognition in the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame at State Farm Arena, sponsored by the City of Hidalgo in conjunction with BorderFest. Nominees are considered for induction based on their life achievements and significant civic contributions. The SPI Chamber's nominee and inductee for 2015 was JoAnn Evans.
RGV Walk of Fame
Evans began visiting South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley in 1991, and made the Island her full-time home in 2001. Evans brought with her an extensive background as a talented educator in the fields of speech and drama. Her career was highlighted with many awards and outstanding recognitions.
Evans is a founding member of the El Paseo Arts Foundation which, in 2015, celebrates their 10th anniversary of bringing quality arts, theater and music to the lower Valley. She was the individual responsible for writing the initial proposal for funding of this important non-profit cultural arts organization. And served as Vice-Chair, Event Coordinator and Publicity Chair for the first five years of operations; establishing a solid foundation for continued and successful growth. She continues to serve as the Event Coordinator and Publicity Chair.
El Paseo’s past 10 years have produced 70 cultural events which included cooperative working relationships with many regional partners such as University of Texas at Brownsville, Valley Symphony, Museums of Port Isabel, Camille Playhouse in Brownsville, Laguna Madre Art League, the Laguna Madre Humane Society and the RGV Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.
Branching out from her El Paseo work, Evans helped to establish a local Community Theater Group and directs the theatrical productions. The theater has provided an outlet for local aspiring actors and actresses and exceptional performance art for area audiences.
Evans also was the driving force behind the establishment of the South Padre Island Historical Preservation Committee and Museum Foundation. This was the first time anyone had taken the initiative to formally gather, present and preserve the history of South Padre Island in a lasting and meaningful manner.
In 2006 Evans was elected as a member of the South Padre Island Board of Alderman and later City Council, and served until 2014. Additionally, she was named Mayor Pro-Tem by her peers, serving five years. During her years as City Councilman, Evans lead the way in establishing the Keep SPI Beautiful Committee with the mission to protect, preserve and enhance the Island’s natural environment. Evans also help to form the South Padre Island Parks and Recreation Committee that is charged with park development, and community events that contribute to the quality of life on South Padre Island.
Equally important is the time and effort Evans put into securing funds for the re-nourishment of our local beaches, to protect the Island and to maintain high quality beaches for the State of Texas, the Valley and visitors to South Padre Island. To secure those funds, Evans spent many hours testifying in front of House and Senate Committees in Austin and visiting federal legislators in Washington, D.C. To further promote awareness of the importance of our national beaches, Evans helped to bring the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s International Conference to South Padre Island in 2013. Hosting approximately 350 people from the U.S. and other countries, Evans served as the event’s Co-Chairman.
Evans has been an active member of our South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce since 2004. As a chamber member Evans has been a dedicated volunteer serving many years on our chamber’s annual Gala and Scholarship Fundraising Event. In 2011, Evans was recognized by the SPI Chamber with the Directors’ Award for her outstanding representation of the chamber, volunteer commitment and service to the community. Evans also served as a member of the South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation from 2012-2014.
JoAnn Evans gives freely of her time, her knowledge, her talents, and her heart. Through her community involvement she truly has impacted many people through important quality of life improvements. For someone who is supposed to be retired her accomplishments are amazing and appreciated.
Others nominated and inducted in the RGV Walk of Fame are Troy Giles (2005), Richard Franke, Sr. (2006), Robert N. Pinkerton, Jr. (2007), Jake Falgout (2008), Darrell Mangham (2009), Dan Stanton (2010), David Friedman (2011), Lynne Tate (2012), Bill Donahue (2013), and Gary Meschi (2014).