Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Presents Distinguished Citizen of the Year, Chair and President’s Awards at 2014 Annual Meeting

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Retiring Chamber Board Members thanked for years of service and incoming Board members officially elected for volunteer leadership service in 2015.

The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) honored a lifelong philanthropist, a woman who believes in the future of young entrepreneurs and a team of innovative web developers at its Annual Meeting Monday, Dec. 8 at the Newport News Marriott in City Center.

The annual event also recognized the achievements of the VPCC, its volunteer leadership and the Peninsula business community.

“The initiatives, programs, and events through which the Chamber has strengthened the environment for business on the Peninsula, have been as diverse as they have been numerous,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, President/CEO of VersAbility Resources and the 2014 Chair of the Board of Directors for the VPCC. “The Chamber is committed not only to enhancing the landscape of the communities where we work, live, and play today, but also to shaping what that landscape will look like tomorrow.”

Kenneth M. Krakaur of Sentara was named the 2014 Distinguished Citizen. Kathy Johnson, the Executive Director of Alternatives, Inc./AmeriCorps/VISTA, earned the annual Chair’s Award from Grzelkowski and Mike Kuhns, President and CEO of VPCC, presented the President’s Award to four students from the Newport News ECPI Extern Team – Eleanor Humphrey, Kristopher Todd, Marques Mitchell and Rachel Lewis.

Krakaur was heralded as a lifelong philanthropist and business leader. He joined Sentara Healthcare in 1998 through the merger of Tidewater Health Care, Inc., where he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and later President of Sentara on the Virginia Peninsula from 1999 to 2011. Today Krakaur serves as the President of Sentara’s Third Core Division and also maintains responsibility for risk finance.

He has lived, and continues to live, a life of service, where he serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank and remains involved in the Hampton Arts Foundation, Patient First Corporation, Bay Primex, Insurance Company, LTD, and NUScriptRX. He served on the Board of Directors for Young Audiences of Virginia, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of Greater Peninsula NOW and will join the Board of VersAbility Resources in 2015.

“There’s nothing like being involved in an organization where the mission of that company tugs at your heart and the people are super dedicated,” Krakaur said during the event’s keynote address. “If you’re not involved, get involved and if you are involved, stay involved. When all is said and done, how we are going to be judged and how our community is going to be judged, is not how we treat each other, but it’s how we treat those people who are less fortunate.”

Krakaur encouraged employers and VPCC members to also give their employees the opportunity, time and financial support to give back to their communities.

Johnson earned the Chair’s Award for her extraordinary leadership and demonstration of the value of collaborative leadership, specifically in 2014 between the VPCC and Alternatives, Inc.

Alternatives, Inc. is a nationally recognized youth development nonprofit designed to support young people as they grow into creative, compassionate and responsible adults.

“Collaboration takes many forms, and this is an example of the leadership of a nonprofit supporting local businesses,” Grezelkowski said. “Kathy is honored with the Chair’s Award for her leadership, creativity and ability to deliver service. She is a role model for others pursuing collaborative adventures, and she exemplifies the Chamber’s mantra in seeking uncommon solutions for common challenges.”

The ECPI students who collectively earned this year’s President’s Award from Kuhns spent upwards of 1,000 hours building a new VPCC web site. They developed specialized coding for the Chamber’s needs and created instructional videos and guides for the “nontechnical” VPCC staff to maintain the new site once launched in January 2015.

“I learned more from the externs of ECPI than they could have ever learned from me,” Kuhns said. “I witnessed a group of emerging web designers who came together to successfully complete a project.”

During the Annual Meeting, nominees for the VPCC’s 2015 Board of Directors were also elected, including Dan Chenoweth of PBMares, Debra Flores of Sentara, Rick Gallaer of Pomoco Group, Jay Joseph of Harvey Lindsay, Darlene Stephenson of Bon Secours, and Jim Wetzel of the Virginia Peninsula Association of Realtors.

Chenoweth was also elected Treasurer and Rob Shuford, Jr. of Old Point National Bank received the gavel from Grezelkowski and will serve the next two years as the VPCC’s Chair of the Board of Directors.

Retiring VPCC Board Members were also thanked, including Laura Barnes of Verizon, Paul Darden of Darden Publishing, Patricia Gilmore of Bank of America U.S. Trust, Patricia Robertson of Bon Secours and Dr. Rodney Smith of Hampton University.

In 2015, VPCC leadership said the community should look forward to continued efforts to build leadership and entrepreneurial programs across the Peninsula, further developing youth leadership opportunities and striving to foster an environment that connects business with opportunity.

“We will continue to find,” Kuhns said, “uncommon solutions to common challenges.”

ABOUT THE VIRGINIA PENINSULA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:

The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) serves the Cities of Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; and James City County and York County.

VPCC is a business association that "Connects Business with Opportunity" through Facilitation, Advocacy, Communication and Education.

In addition to helping lead the business community on public policy impacting the Virginia Peninsula workforce, the VPCC hosts a series of programs, including the annual State of the City events for Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; the Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum; Military Day, Job Fair and Recognition Luncheon; Young Entrepreneurs Academy; Pink Bag Lunches; and Business Connections, in addition to numerous business roundtables.

The VPCC is located at 21 Enterprise Parkway, Suite 100 in Hampton. For more information, call 757.262.2000 or email info(at)vpcc(dot)org.

Connect to the VPCC online at http://www.vapeninsulachamber.com and via LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

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Stephanie Heinatz
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