(Oct. 5, 2018) It was a night to remember as individuals were recognized during the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony on Sept. 26 at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel on 101st in Ocean City.
The event included a cocktail hour, dinner and music. Prior to the award speeches, elected officials including Sen. Jim Mathias and Del. Mary Beth Carozza took the podium to highlight the importance of events such as this.
“Tonight is always one of the most uplifting nights of the year, because we are celebrating our greatest asset: our people,” Carozza said.
Awards were presented for 2018 in the following categories: Volunteer of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Non-Profit of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Business Person of the Year, and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
• Volunteer of the Year: Jamie and Ali Jacobs, of OC Painting Experience by TC Studios:
Volunteerism is crucial from the start for the Jacobs’, as they accepted their award, sponsored by Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.
“Since Jamie and I first met, we had a shared passion for serving others and volunteering, and we always held serving as the center of our relationship,” Ali said.
She added she felt a calling to assist the community in any way she could, as the Eastern Shore became her home.
“As partners of this community, we all have an obligation to do our parts and use our gifts to contribute to the greater good,” Ali said.
Jamie stressed the importance of success through personal happiness, even if it is not by following the traditional path.
“Society tells us to gain certain things in life like college degrees, mortgages and white picket fences,” Jamie said. “All of which are important, but in the end, without staying true to our hearts, living out our passions and sharing those passions with others, all those things mean nothing.”
• Young Professional of the Year: Joe Wilson, of Condominium Realty LTD:
Wilson said he is grateful to be an Ocean City resident as he accepted his award, sponsored by the Harrison Group Resort Hotels and Restaurants.
“Ocean City is a town that truly looks out for members of its village, and I can attest to that more than most people,” Wilson said.
Wilson said his community was there for him when he was 22 years old. He added he “went through a rough time,” but with the assistance from others, he is now on a variety of boards within the chamber.
“It’s the least I can do to give back to a community that’s done so much for me,” he said.
• Non-Profit of the Year: United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore:
Pam Gregory, the interim president/CEO of United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore took the podium to accept the award, sponsored by The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, LLC.
Gregory, who has been with United Way for eight years, highlighted the 74 years of work by the organization serving the Eastern Shore.
Gregory emphasized the strength of the organization during its management transition, stating its “not skipping a beat.” She then took a moment to thank members of her own staff during the speech.
“This is not about any one individual, it’s so about the team,” she said.
Gregory also congratulated her fellow honorees, and “look(s) forward to 74 more years doing the same thing.”
• Citizen of the Year: Michelle Fager, of Fager’s Island:
For Fager, accepting the 2018 Citizen of the Year award, sponsored by Atlantic General Hospital, was personal.
Fager highlighted how the John H. “Jack” Burbage Jr. Regional Cancer Care Center in Berlin works to find methods, such as “telemedicine capabilities” to fight the disease. She added the illness could be stressful for all involved.
“Cancer is an incredibly difficult disease. Not just for the patient, but for the family,” Fager said. “I know because I lost the mother that raised me to breast cancer when I was just 15.”
Fager said the center’s accessibility is a “blessing beyond compare for local families.”
She shared her involvement with projects in the community, and said she was lucky to have the time and resources to put in the work. She also praised others working to make the area a better place.
“When it comes right down to it, it’s not how big the project is that you work on, it’s the multiple effect of a small good deed,” Fager said.
• Business Person of the Year: Kimmerly Messick - Furnish Inc. (former owner of Donaway Furniture):
It was a real rags to riches story for Messick.
“Most of you know me as the furniture queen … what most of you do not know is I grew up living in an attic, and I made up my mind I was never going to be poor,” she said.
Messick, the former owner of Donaway Furniture, accepted the award sponsored by D3 Corp.
Messick said she worked to support herself through college. After graduating, she made business relationships that would eventually help her open her own store.
“My dad was my main supporter, and when I called him up and told him about my meeting that night, he showed up with a check for $10,000 and said ‘go for it,’” Messick said.
Messick was able to increase the value of her business with the help of developers. She was then afforded the opportunity to give back to the community.
She also emphasized the need to form long lasting relationships in life.
“Also, great women in my life, and great friends, which help you along the way,” Messick said.
Messick sold her stores in July. She stressed the importance of quality role models and mentors, as well as the need in today’s Ocean City.
“You have to bring young people up now to take the place of what we’re doing,” Messick said. “That’s our future. We need to encourage the young.”
• Lifetime Achievement Award: Buddy Jenkins, Jolly Roger Amusement, Parks/Bay Shore Development Corporation:
Jenkins’ journey to the podium was met with applause and a standing ovation. Jenkins said Ocean City is a unique place.
“It still holds a pioneering instinct that’s been passed down generation after generation and transmitted to new business expansion,” Jenkins said.
Throughout the many obstacles the area has endured, Jenkins said Ocean City has the ability to persevere and come out on the other side. He’s “thankful to be a part of this pioneering instinct.”
Jenkins dedicated the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Deeley Insurance Group, to his family, friends and employees.
Jenkins shared successes from various business ventures involving education, food and livestock. He attributed his good fortune to a strong foundation from his parents and early life.
“I do not view my achievements as any more than what I was expected to do,” Jenkins said.
He also highlighted his work with those suffering from addictions, after losing his own daughter. He started the Jodie Jenkins Foundation, which aims to provide activities and programs to “keep that person that’s looking for help on an even recovery all the time.”
Jenkins then tried his hand at revitalization through purchasing land in Ocean City and Berlin.
“If people see you doing something, taking a risk, taking a chance, all of a sudden people start taking a risk, taking a chance,” he said. “The attitude doesn’t change.”
Jenkins stressed the need for tradition when embarking on renovation projects in the area and wanted to preserve the area to “make it better for the future of the young people coming here.”
But all in all, Jenkins learned to hold onto one quality: his innocence.
“One of the other things I’ve had good fortune to do … is never grow up,” he said.