Robert Agrusa celebrated his first year as the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce’s President by inviting over 200 of his closest friends to a barbecue and blues concert held at the Apopka Community Center last week.

Oh, and he handed out a few awards as well.

Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce President Robert Agrusa

The First Annual BBQ and Blues Business Awards is one of Agrusa’s inaugural events since taking office. It’s a more casual approach to a formal black tie and tuxedo event held in the past. Business owners, elected officials, leaders in the community and chamber members enjoyed a concert by Baby Blues and the No Attitude Band, and a barbecue feast catered by three of Apopka’s finest – Bubbalous, Sonny’s, and Porkie’s Barbecue restaurants.

And without further ado, the awards go to…

Marco’s Pizza wins Rising Star Award

On February 12th, the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed one of its new members with a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony. Since then Edwin and Yesenia Baron, the owners of Marco’s Pizza in Apopka, have not only built a successful company, but they have continuously given back to the community including to schools, police, charities and the businesses in the Apopka area.

Cory Miller named Ambassador of the Year

Cody Miller was named Ambassador of the Year

Apopka Area Chamber Ambassadors dedicate countless hours promoting the chamber, attending ribbon cuttings, volunteering at events, and quite honestly being our eyes, ears, and arms of the chamber during the rebuilding effort over the past year. That being said, the Chamber acknowledged Cory Miller of Planet Home Lending as the Ambassador of the Year.

Commissioner Doug Bankson, Leanne Fleischer share Burnie Roberts Award

This award is named after Burnie Roberts who was the first woman elected as the president of the chamber back in 1974 and was later presented with a lifetime membership award in 1984. Burnie was an amazing example of putting her community before herself and her legacy included a relentless dedication to improving our businesses and our community.

This year, there were two people who have selflessly led by example with limitless energy and spirit – Commissioner Doug Banks, and Leanne Fleischer.

Leanne Fleischer

Along with his pastoral ministry, Commissioner Bankson is a pilot, certified scuba diver, author, and an accomplished songwriter having received an addy award for singing on the radio. Commissioner Bankson has also been heavily involved in our local community, having served as the President of the Apopka Ministerial Alliance, the past chairman of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce as well as multiple boards and planning committees. He also serves on the Apopka City Council and has been a consistent champion for the business community.

Commissioner Doug Bankson 

Leanne is currently the office manager at the UCF Apopka Business Incubator. With her bright and shiny smile, Leanne has committed herself over the past year to promote each of the businesses in the Apopka area, including those at the Incubator and so many others. She does all of this while devoting so many hours volunteering to a myriad of organizations, who give back to those who are in need. Plus, she has a servant’s heart and we are thankful for her support of this Chamber and our community! 

Christine Horvay claims the Alice Alfano Torchbearer Award

The Alice Alfano Torchbearer Award is presented to a woman in business each year that exemplifies outstanding leadership characteristics and who is working to cultivate our next generations of women business leaders. And no one better exemplifies this than Christine Horvay.

Christine is the Division Manager of Florida for FirstCard Merchant Services.  She has held this position since 2009.

Christine Horvay

She was nominated by the Orlando Business Journal in 2012 in their Women to Watch in Business. She received the 2012 Rotarian of the Year Award and the 2013 Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year award.

She is currently the Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club of Apopka for the 2018/2019 year.  Christine has served as the liaison between the Rotary Club of Apopka and the Interact Club.  Interact is a club that Rotary sponsors where 12 – 18-year-old kids learn to become the future leaders in their communities and schools.

Steve White voted 2018 Businessman of the Year 

Steve White

Steve White, the owner of Porkie’s Barbecue, has been in his field of work for over 45 years, and especially here in Apopka for the past 15 years. He has traveled all over the South to study and research the best possible business plan, and as a result, was named “Best in Central Florida” because of his amazing product.

Plus, this businessman gives so much back to the Apopka community, whether it’s donating to the local schools and teams, supporting local fundraising, or hosting radio shows and bikers, you’d never know he’s not a native Apopkan.

Natalie Arrowsmith collects 2018 Businesswoman of the Year

Natalie Arrowsmith is the recipient of the Businesswoman of the Year Award, which represents someone who has excelled in community citizenship, service and growth over the past year. Natalie was born and raised in Apopka. As a fourth-generation Floridian, she is deeply tied to the community and knows it like the back of her hand.

Natalie Arrowsmith (pictured right).

As an active member of the real estate community, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Orlando Regional Realtors Association, the Florida Realtors Association and most recently as the state treasurer for the Women’s Council of Realtors. In addition, she proudly serves on the Chamber Board of Directors and has been a key leader in the business community.

Furthermore, as the owner of her company, formerly known as Arrowsmith Realty, she recently opened up a brand-new office in the heart of downtown and has successfully rebranded to NextHome Arrowsmith Realty.

Florida Hospital Apopka wins Chamber Member of the Year Award 

For the past 40 years, Florida Hospital Apopka has been the destination of choice for thousands of residents and visitors seeking leading-edge healthcare close to home. Now, the brand-new Florida Hospital Apopka reaffirms their commitment to enhancing the best quality healthcare and wellness of the people in our community for the next 40 years and beyond.

Additionally, over the past year, Florida Hospital has generously given to many of the charities within our community, led hurricane relief after Irma and Maria, and most recently donated a building from its former location, in order to house the UCF Apopka Business Incubator that was forced to relocate due to road improvements that are necessary for the future success of our community.

We are eternally grateful for our presenting sponsor and we’d like to congratulate our 2018 chamber member of the year Florida Hospital!

Chamber recognizes 2018 Leadership Apopka Graduates

The Chamber also announced the 13-member graduating class of Leadership Apopka, which is a nine-month class that teaches its students to be local champions and regional thinkers.

The 2018 Leadership Apopka Class of 2018 is:

  • Nadia Anderson, Prestige Realty Consultants, Inc.
  • Michelle Aguila, Orlando Health
  • Melissa Byrd, Candidate for Orange County School Board
  • John Burke, Boy Scouts of America, Central Florida Council
  • Loretta Forlaw, HealthSpeaks
  • Edward Herman, AMIKids Orlando
  • Juan B. Lugo, Duke Energy
  • Colleen Monday, Florida Hospital
  • Fabian Rocamora, FastSigns
  • Patrick Roth, Florida Hospital
  • Marie Smith, CenturyLink
  • Misty Taylor, Bryant Miller Olive P.A.
  • Roger Williams, Old School Media Group, LLC    

Editor’s Note: The Apopka Police Officer and Firefighter of the Year were also announced at this event. To read about those two awards, go here for police, and here for fire. And check out the Chamber’s new website, here.


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