The Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce passed out monthly awards to an officer of the month working out of the Lehigh Bravo Station, a volunteer of the month, and an employee of the month and a member of the month. The monthly luncheon held on the last Tuesday of the month, Nov. 27, was held at the Bistro Rudy restaurant on Taylor Lane in Lehigh.
The Officer of the Month award is sponsored by the Lehigh Towne Center. This most recent award went to Deputy James Erskin for his quick work and action that ended with the arrest in two cases involving residential break-ins in this case, just four days apart.
Capt. John Haberman, the new chief at Lehigh's Bravo Substation told a large gathering at the chamber luncheon that most law enforcement officers spend their entire career waiting for an "in progress" crime to be dispatched to them in hope they are capable of catching the bad guys.
Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy James Erskin, left, is congratulated by Capt. John Haberman, right, and Lt. Tim Short.
"It gives deputies a great since of pride to see a case through from beginning to end. Here in Lehigh Acres, alarm calls are considered in progress calls and treated as such every day and Deputy Erskin has had the opportunity to experience an in progress on two different occasions and he has capitalized on both of them by catching the bad guys in both situations," Haberman said.
The first was on Oct. 22 when Erskin was sent to a site on Dawhert Ave. in reference to an occupied burglary in progress. When he arrived, contact was made with the person who had called to complain along with her friend. They said they were sleeping when there was a knock at the front door. The 911 caller said they saw a man standing out front, dressed in dark clothes and wearing a hat. Her friend did not see the suspect, but did see a suspicious vehicle parked in the driveway.
"As the woman heard the front door being pried open, they ran out of the back door to a neighbor's house and called 911 for help. As Deputy Erskin responded to the area, he saw the suspect vehicle and conducted a traffic stop on it. The vehicle was occupied by three males who were detained and the complainant positively identified the suspects. Detectives also discovered the suspects had attempted to get inside the house by throwing a brick through the front window. The three suspects were arrested and charged with attempted burglary.
Four days later, Erskin was sent to an alarm call on 2nd St. SW and when he arrived on scene, he saw the homeowner running from the front door. She told Erskin that when she arrived home, she found the bedroom window in her son's room had been broken and several electronic items had been taken. Evidence of the crime was left behind in the room and Erskin quickly started establishing a perimeter securing the neighborhood.
Haberman said one of the perimeter positions saw two suspects in the area running between houses with their backpacks. Both were apprehended and a K-9 track was conducted and tracked from the victim's home to the suspect's location.
"The stolen electronics were found in the suspect's backpack and both males were arrested for burglary and the victim's items were returned," Haberman said.
He told chamber members that Deputy Erskin "is a fine example of the dedicated and determined law enforcement officers who serve the people of Lehigh Acres every day."
Haberman added that around 12 burglars were taken to jail in October, which solved many burglary cases and giving closure to many local residents.
The Deputy of the Month Award was presented by Inke Baker, the chamber's executive assistant.
She also presented an award to Sue Thompson and recognized her as the Volunteer of the Month.
Thompson has been volunteering for several years and loves Lehigh and likes to tell new arrivals about the community.
"Her knowledge is profound and very beneficial to the Welcome Center operation at the chamber in the Lehigh Town Center on the corner of Alabama and Homestead roads.
"Her positive attitude is contagious and everyone who works with her gets 'infected' because of her positive attitude," Baker said.
Both Sue Thompson and her husband are also regulars at the Chamber's Business After Hours events and Baker said she is very reliable in all that she does and is very much appreciated and loved by the chamber staff.
Cely Gonzalez, of Rossman Realty Property Management LLC, was honored as the Employee of the Month. She has been with the property management firm since 2004 and has been instrumental in her company's growth in Lehigh. She lives in Lehigh and is dedicated to the growth and positive outlook for the area," Baker said.
"Cely goes above and beyond her job description of property manager when servicing both owners and tenants. Cely has been a part of the Lehigh Spring Festival and has met with law enforcement to help decrease vandalism and promote Lehigh as a safe and enjoyable place to live.
"She is quite knowledgeable about the area and all that it has to offer. This is beneficial when speaking with out-of-state investors who are asking about whether to purchase homes in Lehigh," Baker said.
Ruth Ann Anglickis, an executive with Landex Resorts International Inc., in Lehigh was honored as the Member of the Month.
Baker noted that Anglickis supports all of the chamber's events during the year and is also one of the award's sponsors.
"Beside her financial support to the Chamber, Ruth is also an advocate for the community. Her support for the 'Lehigh Lake' project is outstanding and her dedication is an example to others. With pride, the chamber is proud to recognize Landex Resorts International as its Member of the Month," Baker said.
Each month, the chamber has a guest speaker. This month's speaker was Joanie Jeannette, the CEO of Lehigh Regional Medical Center.
Jeannette, who has held the top position at LRMC for two years, pointed out the benefits of the hospital in Lehigh. It is owned by Health Management Association in Naples. The firm owns several hospitals in the southeast U.S.
She noted the economic impact the hospital provides the community 380 employees, more than $22 million in employee wages and benefits in 2011; LRMC provided $39.7 million in uncompensated care the same year and LRMC paid in excess of $600,000 in taxes last year. The hospital is owned by a private corporation and is not a public hospital.
Jeannette noted that the hospital has been recognized as a Top Performer on key quality issues. She said LRMC gives back to the community in many ways. For instance, it raised $9,800 in fundraising last year and gave to several organizations in Lehigh. The hospital also donated $146,000 in sponsorships last year to such places as the Lehigh Acres Senior Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lehigh High School athletic program, the Spring Festival, of which it is the major sponsor, and the American Cancer Society in Lehigh Acres' Relay for Life.
Jeannette noted the care provided at LRMC and asked the audience to "help us tell our story that we are a great provider to the community."
She noted the perception of the hospital has not been that great over the years under different management firms.
"Help us tell our story at LRMC. There have been major changes over the past few years at our hospital and we are proud to let the people of Lehigh know about them," she said.
David Lindsay, the executive director of the East County Water Control District, asked a question from the audience about rumors he said he had heard that the hospital may be closing down.
"Not that I know," Jeannette said.
"You would think they would tell me if that were true, but they haven't done that," she laughed.
Nathan Stout, a chamber member and also a member of the hospital's board of directors, introduced Jeannette to the audience.
After her presentation, Stout noted that Obamacare will most likely help the hospital, which like all hospitals, often faces financial issues.
"With the new Obamacare program, everyone will be required to have insurance and that will be a benefit to the hospital because more patients will use the hospital and have insurance coverage to pay their bills," he said.