Tourism Leadership Council’s 22nd Annual Tourism Awards held
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah’s Tourism Leadership Council hosted its 22nd Annual Tourism Awards and Scholarship Dinner Thursday night.
The best of the best in the tourism community were honored during the black-tie gala. 20 awards were given to those who have gone above and beyond to make the tourism community a better place. The event also honored five area students who have received scholarships to further their studies in the tourism and hospitality field.
Savannah’s Tourism Leadership Council shared a list of the awards given out and a little about the winners:
- Service Leader Award: The Service Leader Award is given to a managerial level employee who exhibits phenomenal service not only to guests, but also to their colleagues through their leadership abilities. This year’s winner is Mary Mills, Director of Operations at Live Oak Restaurant Group. Mary is the epitome of what it means to be a selfless leader and hard worker. She inspires her colleagues to give it their all, and all of them are thankful to have her. Mary received dozens of nominations from her employees and coworkers.
- Service Star Award: The Service Star Award is presented to a tourism and hospitality industry employee who consistently demonstrates exemplary job performance and goes above and beyond the call of duty as he or she serves guests. This year’s winner is Betty Jean Green of the Azalea Inn & Villas. Ms. Green displays a relentless effort to keep the property in tip-top shape, and guests appreciate her genuine and sincere care and attentiveness during their stay.
- Best Housekeeper Award: The Best Housekeeper Award was presented to Samantha Futch of The DeSoto. Mrs. Futch treats every day at The DeSoto as if it was her first, and she is dedicated to helping make The DeSoto one of the best hotels in Savannah. She treats everyone she encounters with a gentle and sweet kindness.
- Best Tour Guide Award: The Best Tour Guide Award was presented to Ruben Alegria of Old Town Trolley. This previous Tour Conductor of The Year winner cares so much for his passengers’ experience that he created a soundtrack to accompany his tour. Ruben constantly receives glowing reviews from his passengers.
- Best Valet / Bellman Award: The Best Valet / Bellman Award was presented to Damion Green of The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. Damion’s obvious devotion to assisting guests as best as he can is what led to The Westin awarding him Associate of the Month, as well as promoting him to Lead Bellman.
- Best Support Staff Award: The Best Support Staff Award was presented to Viola Spatcher of the Hyatt Regency. Working as a Greeter, Viola takes outstanding care of her guests, and treats all of her colleagues just as amazing as those who stay at the hotel.
- Best Front Desk Employee Award: The Best Front Desk Employee Award was presented to Jazmyn Wrighton of The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. Jazmyn’s work ethic is what shines the most. She consistently comes in early, stays late, and is willing to work longer shifts, when needed. She excels at jumping into different roles when necessary and performing above the highest expectations.
- Best Server Award: The Best Server Award was presented to Wayne Gainey of The Marshall House. Mr. Gainey has been a fixture of Savannah hospitality for over fifteen years. He is described as gracious, welcoming, attentive, and caring. As Breakfast Supervisor, Mr. Gainey’s friendly and warm demeanor delights guests in the morning during breakfast.
- Heart of Service Award: The Heart of Service Award is given to commemorate an amazing story received during the nomination process. This year’s Heart of Service Award recipient is Naomi Deloach of the Savannah Convention Center. Mrs. Deloach was placed in a critical situation, and immediately jumped into action. Because of her willingness to give herself to help another in desperate need, she was able to save a human being’s life. Mrs. Deloach successfully resuscitated someone who was almost lost. She exemplified a caring spirit, selflessness, courage, and commitment to duty. The Heart of Service Award winner kept a heart beating.
- I AM TOURISM Award: The “I Am Tourism” Award recognizes someone who embodies the personality and spirit of tourism: integrity, commitment, selfless service, hard work, and kindness. This year’s award was given to Representative Carl Gilliard, who was recently appointed to Georgia’s Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Commission.
- Community Champion Award: Every year, the TLC honors the legacy of former mayor John P. Rousakis through the aptly named John P. Rousakis Community Champion Award. This year, the award was presented to Ms. Vaughnette Goode-Walker, Owner and Operator of Footprints of Savannah Walking Tour.
- Visionary Award: The Herb & Franklin Traub Visionary Award honors the legacy of the late owners of The Pirates’ House by recognizing someone who has made significant strides toward improving the community. This year, TLC chose Mr. Greg Kelly, Executive Director of the Savannah Airport Commission.
- Member of the Year: The TLC boasts thousands of members working within more than 300 local businesses. Each year, an exceptional member is honored for their contributions to the organization through the Member of the Year Award. This year’s winner is Gail Lusk, Marketing Manager and Head Hostess at the Crystal Beer Parlor. Gail has been unbelievably reliable and helpful to the TLC. The TLC has always been able to depend on Gail, as she has never said “no” when we have asked for her assistance. The TLC is only as strong as its members, and without the efforts and contributions of members like Gail the TLC would not be able to function as it does.
- Board of Directors Award: The Board of Directors Award was given to Susan Broker, who serves as Director for the City of Savannah’s Office of Special Events, Film & Tourism. This award is not given annually. This recognition is only awarded on behalf of the leadership of the organization when an individual deserving of recognition is called to attention.
- Lifetime Achievement Award: The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Mark Spadoni. This is truly a special honor, as this is only the third time in the TLC’s history that this award has been given out.
- Scholarship Recipients:
- Elizabeth Duncan attends Georgia Southern University and studies Hospitality Management. She grew a fondness for hospitality when she participated in a Culinary Arts Program in high school. Elizabeth has volunteered at the Savannah Food & Wine Festival, where she realized she wanted to break into event planning. Her goal is to one day open a bakery.
- Jackson Gomes attends the University of South Carolina Beaufort, where he studies Hospitality Management. Jackson is an international student, hailing from Kolkata, India. Due to the strong traditional custom of his native home of honoring the guest above everything, Jackson knew at an early age that he had a passion for hospitality.
- Nia Knight attends Woodville Tompkins High school and is dual enrolled at Savannah Technical College. She also works as an intern at a local hotel. Nia attributes her ability to make strong bonds with people to her mother’s insistence that she become involved in several activities when she was young, including the Girl Scouts, of which she is a long-standing member.
- Camryn Lopusnak is a part of the University of Georgia’s inaugural Hospitality and Food Industry Management class. The major was not available when Camryn began her studies at UGA, but she bravely changed majors so she could follow her true passion. Camryn credits her mom for finding the courage to switch majors.
- Tyler McGill-Simon, is an Army veteran who attends Savannah Technical college, majoring in Culinary Arts. Tyler says that the kitchen is her unit and her mission is to feed you something amazing. She brings an extra level of care to her cooking, refusing to ever take a single prepared meal for granted because she understands how important a nourishing meal can be to someone in need.
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