Just running a business is a big responsibility, but that didn’t stop Kami Banks from working double duty for, and ultimately winning, the 2014 Lighthouse Award from the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce last week.
One year ago, Banks (of Banks Wines & Spirits) was sworn in as the Chamber board president. That was expected. What the Quiet Resorts didn’t expect was the sudden resignation of the Chamber executive director just prior to the new board term.
Banks then agreed to fill that roll, too, doubly leading the Chamber for four months, until staffer Kristie Maravalli was announced as successor.
Banks was praised for handling the situation with “class, dignity and grace,” despite the obvious rush of running a business and holding two Chamber positions.
“She truly could take off her business-owner hat at the door and lead the Chamber with … integrity,” Maravalli said.
Open to public voting for the first time, the annual Chamber awards were announced at the Oct. 16 Member Celebration & Awards Ceremony, held at The Den at Bear Trap Dunes.
Although “shocked” to win, Banks said she ultimately feels “so blessed to be here.” She took home a small glass replica lighthouse, handcrafted by Bellinger’s Jewelers.
While Banks briefly left the state for college, the native Delawarean wasn’t long gone when she realized the lure of her home state.
“I’m born and raised in Delaware,” she said. “I graduated high school and said I wanted to get far away as possible. I quickly realized my freshman year … I wanted to be here.”
Today, she sees the future of the Chamber, full of old and new faces.
“New businesses are opening and see the value of a Chamber,” Banks said, sharing major issues with Chamber input, such as the construction schedule for Route 26, which was adjusted with business feedback.
With Banks’ name on the table, the Lighthouse Award vote was unanimous, new Chamber board President Anne Powell of ResortQuest Real Estate said.
Active in the Chamber for more than 10 years, Banks has also served on the Millville Town Council and Atlantic ImmediCare board, in addition to winning a Coastal Style magazine Best Of award and Friend of the Bays business award.
That doesn’t even touch on the large family business, which frequently partners with nonprofits and businesses for fundraisers and other events.
“I can’t tell you the awe and respect I have for you, Kami,” Powell said. “You wore two hats and gave of yourself professionally.”
Banks also won the Member of the Year award, for demonstrating the most dedication through her involvement in the Chamber throughout the year.
“It’s exciting to see a lot of repeat names here. It means these people are doing a lot,” Todd Hickman said.
“I think the best thing we can do is give back to our community,” Banks said. “So, thank you.”
Banks thanked Maravalli for her service since January, in “taking the reins [and] steadying the ship.”
Banks has repeatedly praised the Chamber staff and last week thanked its business members, saying, “We do not have to search far for volunteers” for various events. She called on members to be selfless, challenging “each of you to take on a project for which you are passionate.”
Everyone is contributing something greater, said Powell.
“Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s what the Chamber is to me — together we are more,” Powell said. “We serve more than just the businesses. We serve everyone.”
Slate of award winners named
Lise O’Connell of Send Out Cards was honored last week for her work as a Chamber ambassador — a position in which members recruit new members, welcomes them and helps ensure members get the most out of their memberships. As the winner of the Arlene Hauck Ambassador of the Year Award, O’Connell’s nominations called her a “super go-to person,” “full of ideas,” “who goes above and beyond with an amazing attitude.”
Coastal Point newspaper was named Best in Business for providing high-quality customer service, above and beyond industry standards.
Kristina Isom of Mind, Body & Sole was named New Member of the Year, for joining the Chamber and immediately diving into Chamber networking, programs and events.
“These people made some noise in the quiet resort,” said board member Andrew Stump.
Judy Layman of High Tide News earned the Inspiring Business Award, presented to an individual who actively encourages and perpetuates business innovation, freely shares ideas and opinions regarding business issues and is a catalyst for the future of business.
The Community Spirit Award went to Jackie Inman of Bethany Beach Books, for demonstrating an exemplary commitment to the community, above and beyond business contributions throughout the year.
The 2014-2015 Board was sworn in, including the executive committee of Powell, President-Elect Richard Mais of McCabe’s Gourmet Market, Vice-President Ron Derr of PKS & Company P.A., Secretary Terri Mahoney of WMDT-TV and Treasurer Cory Walsh of Calvin B. Taylor Bank.
Thanks to the annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival, the Chamber also presented a $3,000-plus donation to its charitable arm, the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation.