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Chamber fetes Lehigh’s stars at gala

January 22, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce held its annual gala Saturday at the Plantation Golf & Country Club in Fort Myers.

The business organization installed its new officers and feted the best teachers, law enforcement, firefighter and Chamber associate and member, as well as the extra special Heart of Lehigh Acres.

Katy Hoover, chairperson of the event, said this 28th annual Gala was possible because of those people who earn the awards.

Article Photos

Alana Smith, teacher at Lehigh Middle School, receives her Teacher of the Year Award from Lee County School Board member Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan.


"Our community comes together, and it's pride. We're proud of our educators, our firefighters. It's the community at work," Hoover said.

Those who were installed to the board of directors by State Rep. Spencer Roach will preside over an all-new and rebranded Chamber of Commerce of East Lee County, which is set to happen in the coming months.

Michael Welch, chairman of the board to the Chamber, said when he took over last year, it was determined that if things didn't improve this year, the chamber would close.

With some help from the board and associates, they were able to stabilize while things improved in the east Lee County community and especially along State Road 82, where the biggest growth is expected, and with the future technical college coming to Lehigh Acres.

A new logo was introduced, showing an artistic variation of the Route 82/Daniels Parkway intersection, where lots of the growth is set to occur.

"We have recognized that economic development has no legal or territorial boundaries. East Lee County is the future and State Road 82 is the biggest game changer in Lee County that will happen in our lifetime," Welch said.

As far as the awards, one teacher from each of Lehigh's 11 schools was selected as a teacher of the year. They were:

- G. Weaver Hipps: Daisy Aceves

- Harns Marsh: Maria Lisa

- Lehigh Elementary: Brittany Winschell

- Mirror Lakes: Adrienne McArthur

- Sunshine: Bonnie Bondurant

- Tortuga Preserve: Drew Coffman

- Veterans Park Academy for the Arts: Iris Naranjo

- Lehigh Acres Middle: Alana Smith

- Varsity Lakes Middle: Michele Shaw

- East Lee High School: Kristin Stevens-Hendrick

- Lehigh Senior High School: Jessica McElroy

Alana Smith said she teaches all students and works wherever they need her.

"After 12 years of teaching, I am thrilled, completely shocked and so amazed that people are giving me compliments and it feels so good to make s difference," Smith said.

The Chamber also recognized first responders and Chamber members. They were:

- Law Enforcement Officer: Joshua Roedding

- Firefighter: Byrne Gribbin

- Employee Performance: Jeffrey Copping

- Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District: Chad Hacke

- Chamber Associate: Marolyn Waline

- Chamber Member: Fred Elliott

- Heart of Lehigh Acres: Al DeLeon

Al DeLeon said he was honored to win an award that is given to people who go the extra mile for the Chamber, and also proud to have been a Lehigh Acres resident.

"People always diss Lehigh, but I'm very proud to be a part of it. People who say things about Lehigh Acres really don't know anything about it," DeLeon said. "There is so much going on here, I'm not going anywhere."

Roedding said he has never received an honor like this before, though he doesn't do this for the awards.

"It's amazing to be recognized for something that's just a part of my job. I don't see why, but I'm excited about it," Roedding said, who works the road patrol. "You don't do it for the recognition. When I got the call, I was shocked."



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