Top six awards

The winners of the six major awards handed out during the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s Changing of the Gavel banquet are: back row, from left, Melanie Head, Chamber Member of the Year; James Creekmore (Johnson & Creekmore, PLLC), Small Business of the Year; Jennifer Park, Bay Blazer of the Year; front row, from left, Nancy Bolting, Business Builder of the Year; Sharron Loflin, Citizen of the Year; and Jeff Coleman (Rockport Rotary Club), Nonprofit of the Year.

The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce (RFCC) hosted its annual Changing of the Gavel Banquet Tuesday, June 14 before a packed house at the Fulton Convention Center.

The event was highlighted by awards presented to deserving members of the community, as well as an “off-script” tribute to RFCC President/CEO Diane Probst who is retiring Aug. 1 after 32 years of service.

Outgoing Chairman of the Board Donna Townsend gave the gavel to Incoming Chairman Courtney Sanchez, who will lead the organization in 2022-23.

Townsend, speaking from the heart, said, “We have seen a whole lot in this journey (this past year). Every day has been something new, but we figured out how to figure it out.

“We’re all in this together.”

She added the biggest lesson she learned during her tenure was to listen.

“I’m going to continue doing things. I’m going to stand behind her (Sanchez, during her year as chairman),” she said.

Sanchez’s theme for 2022-23 is “Bridge to the Future”.

“By definition a bridge is a structure built over something so people can cross,” said Sanchez. “Or, a bridge is the place on a ship where the ship is steered. When looking for a theme for my year, I just couldn’t find something more fitting.

“There are a lot of changes going on in our community with new fresh leadership coming on board. I feel it is important to embrace change. We need to step up where needed in the coming year. If you see an area that interests you, then it is time for you to get involved. Step up to the bridge and let’s walk together across it.”

She closed her remarks saying, “An organization is as strong as the people who make it. Come with me and let’s cross over this bridge to the future. Our future is what we make it.”

Awards

Sharron Loflin received the Citizen of the Year award.

The nominees included Loflin, Sharon Miller, Robert Mitchell, Phil Salemi, Jatin Bhakta, Cisco Willison, and Josh Nguyen.

Loflin was born and raised in Aransas County, and became a member of the Fulton Volunteer Department (FVFD) in 1987. She has worked with the Oysterfest organization since its first year 43 years ago. Law enforcement has always been a part of her life, as well, serving as a communications dispatcher, secretary to the DPS, and Aransas County Reserve Deputy Sheriff. Loflin volunteers for numerous organizations, and helped those in charge in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and during the COVID pandemic. She also directed the care of people at the FVFD during the freeze.

Her public service and volunteer work across multiple agencies and causes speaks volumes about her dedication to this community, and most importantly, helping her fellow man.

The Chamber Member of the Year Award was presented to Melanie Head.

The nominees included Head, Teresa Ott, Pat Lizcano, Robert Mitchell, Jennifer Park, Brad Schultz, DDS, Margaret Vera, and Lee Ann Wright.

Head is a leader in everything she does. She is co-chairman of Lemonade Day, helping it become a great success in three years. She took charge of the Lunch & Learn monthly session, and is instrumental in making the Windshield Bus Tour successful each year. She has helped raise thousands of dollars for good causes. She is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs be successful, and is a member of the Aransas County Women’s Lion’s Club.

The Nonprofit of the Year award went to the Rockport Rotary Club for its work on the Taste of Rockport-Fulton, founding of the Rockport Film Festival, its Student of the Month program, and efforts to help eradicate polio around the world.

The nominees included the Rockport Rotary Club, Castaways (2016 winner), Camp Aranzazu, Children’s Coalition of Aransas County, Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport Cultural Arts District, and Aransas County Women’s Lions Club.

There were three Chamber-related awards presented, as well.

Jennifer Park earned the Bay Blazer of the Year. The Bay Blazers are the promotional arm of the RFCC, holding numerous ribbon cuttings, and other business-related activities.

Business Builder of the Year was presented to Nancy Bolting.

Small Business of the Year was given to Johnson & Creekmore, PLLC.

Since Hurricane Harvey, individuals who have made an impact in the community have also been recognized. This year the name of the award was changed to Heartbeat of the Community awards.

Recipients included Tim Sparks, Veronica (Ronnie) Medina, George Riekers, Melodee Fields, Zella Hunt, Dr. Nichole Soto, Brennan Nguyen, Logan Burton, Kim Chapman, Debbie Parker, Josh Nguyen, Augie Garcia, Debbie Thompson, Monica Clark, and Linda Koenig.

Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills paid tribute to Probst and her dedication to her job and community reading a Diane Probst Day proclamation. Mills, Rockport Mayor Tim Jayroe, and Fulton Mayor Kelli Cole signed it.

As the proclamation was read, Probst was surprised as her children and grandchildren joined her on the stage.

Past RFCC chairmen gave her a charm bracelet adorned with charms signifying important milestones in her career, as well as charms representing her personal traits.

Past-chair Karen Mella, presenting the gift along with Past-chair Betty Hattman, said, “We represent 32 past chairmen, and we recognize your devotion to not only the Chamber, but the community.

“Your impact will effect a lifetime.”

Her staff then presented her with a pair of beautiful earrings.

At the end of a power point presentation, filled with pictures representing Probst’s 32-year career, she received a standing ovation.

Other recognitions

Outgoing members of the board of directors, as well as members of the board for 2022-23 were recognized, as well.

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