The Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce celebrated their 70th year on Thursday, June 22 in front of a sold-out crowd of businesses and community members. The venue for this year’s meeting was the Eastern Shore Yacht and Country Club.
During the evening’s opening welcome, Executive Director, Robert Sabbatini thanked the Board of Directors for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. “The Board of Directors leadership and guidance has been invaluable to the ESVA Chamber of Commerce” remarked Sabbatini. Ursula Deitch took the lead of swearing in new Board members- Frank “Jay” Abella, Jeannette Edwards, Nick Chuquin, and Jon Tari. Sandra Johnson presented outgoing Board members- Butch Williamson, Rhonda Marsh, and Ursula Deitch for their unwavering support during their tenure. Chairman of the ESVA Chamber of Commerce, Ace Seybolt, stated that “the ESVA Chamber of Commerce continued to have great success throughout the last year, and was always willing to be a voice for the businesses of the Eastern Shore.” The crowd acknowledged with long applause.
Dr. James Shaeffer, President of Eastern Shore Community College, was presented the 2023 Chairman’s Award by Ace Seybolt. Seybolt stated, “Dr. Shaeffer was a driving force behind the reboot for the Eastern Shore of Virginia Community College.” Upon receiving the award, Dr. Shaeffer commented that the “success of the Community College rested with its faculty, staff, and students.” It is clear the Community College is in good hands with Dr. Jim Shaeffer at the helm.
Butch Williamson received the coveted Distinguished Service award for his tireless service to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Seybolt commented that “Williamson’s knowledge of business and organization has played such an integral role in the success of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce and A&N Electric.” Williamson will continue to play a role in the Chamber’s annual event, ChamberFest, and will look to return to the board after a year.
Kathy Kellam was presented the 2023 Citizen of the Year Award by Dana Floyd. Floyd stated, “Kathy is a selfless individual that knows when to give just the right amount of tough love yet is able to see when someone needs a bit of encouragement, advice, or a laugh!” Kellam has dedicated countless hours to the ESO Arts program, and she has even donated many costumes and handmade headpieces. She is also heavily involved with Broadwater Academy and puts her special touch on the Gala and school events.
Elizabeth Dodd Russell of Eastern Shore Custom Carts and Elkington Events received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. “Elizabeth is a true entrepreneur, and she and her staff pride themselves with exceptional customer service,” stated Jennifer Annis upon presenting the award. She is a devoted supporter of the ESVA Chamber of Commerce and is always willing to lend a hand or golf cart to any event they may have! She also coaches volleyball and basketball at Broadwater Academy, serves on the Northampton Historic Preservation Society, Cape Charles Main Street, the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore, and an active member at Christ Episcopal Church in Eastville.
Janice Phillips, Harris Phillips, and Warren Phillips of Jaxon’s and Jaxon’s Hardware were presented with the Small Business Person of the Year Award. Presenting the award was Charlie and Nancy Russell. Russell stated “Jaxon’s and Jaxon’s Hardware are multi-generational, locally owned businesses in Parksley, Virginia with the Phillips family operating them since the mid-1950s.” Jaxon’s and Jaxon’s Hardware are landmarks on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with visitors coming from all over the country to visit the stores and sign the guest book! Their tireless hours to give back to the community has been noted with partnering with dozens of local civic groups, church groups, little leagues, boy and girl scouts, and numerous organizational bake sales. The Phillips family represent the perfect example of the American tradition and story of a locally owned and operated small business.
Senator Lynnwood Lewis was awarded the Chamber’s Lifetime Membership Award which is given to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in professional and community leadership. Presenting the award was Robert Sabbatini. This elite honor has only been given to five other individuals on the Eastern Shore- the Honorable Robert S. Bloxom, Sr., William L. Holland, Van Kesteren Farms, Inc., George McMath, H.B. Rew, Jr. Sabbatini stated “Senator Lewis’ emphasis on character, leadership, rhetoric, and civility, which he surely learned at his alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College, have served him well!” Senator Lewis made is clear from the start that he would work every day to represent the people and resources of Virginia’s 6th District. His work included strong investments in public education, closing the healthcare gap through Medicaid Expansion, solutions to coastal erosion and flooding, Broadband expansion, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay. These are just a few of the feathers in his cap. The rest is Eastern Shore legend and history.