Charlotte Rae Nicely, known to her many friends in Lehigh Acres as "Rae" received the prize of her life Saturday night when she was named the recipient of the Heart of Lehigh Award. The presentation has been made for a few years to someone in Lehigh who has made the most change in making Lehigh a better place to live.
The audience of more than 200 Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce members stood and applauded in Nicely's honor. She is the executive director of Lehigh Community Services on Plaza Drive.
In the presentation of the award by Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, he noted that when she took the agency over, she revamped and reorganized it and thanks to applying for grants, was able to turn the agency into one that today helps thousands of needy people in Lehigh.
County Commissioner Frank Mann, presented the Heart of Lehigh Award to Rae Nicely, director of Lehigh Community Services. The Heart of Lehigh Award is the high recognition to someone by the chamber each year.
Nicely was surprised when her name was called out during the awards ceremony at the chamber's banquet held at Pelican Preserve on Veneto Drive, just off Treeline Blvd., outside of Lehigh.
"You surprised me," she said with a big smile on her face, as she was called forward to accept the award from Mann, who spoke eloquently about her work directing the social services program.
While the Heart of Lehigh Award, the highest award each year that the chamber can bestow, several other awards were handed out to deserving individuals. Also, State Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, administered the oath of office to the new 2014 chamber board and directors.
The Awards Gala 2014 was billed as the night where the "stars of our community are shining the brightest."
First off, several teachers in Lehigh schools were honored for their outstanding efforts in their profession. They were chosen by a chamber committee for recognition. The teachers included: Jill Castellano, East Lee County High; Tonisha Anthony, G. Weaver Hipps Elementary; Stefanie Kravetz, Harns Marsh Elementary; Dana Berry, Harns Marshal Middle; Carol Anderson, Lehigh Acres Middle; Judy Facko, Lehigh Elementary; Candice Portis, Mirror Lakes Elementary; Sandy Wheeler, Sunshine Elementary; Kelly Mains, Tortuga Preserve Elementary; Susan Toth, Varsity Lakes Middle; and Monika Waller, Lehigh Senior High schools.
Chamber President and CEO Inke Baker participated in the presentation of all of the awards during the evening. She also offered the welcome and introduction at the beginning of the awards gala program.
Other awards presented were:
Employee of the Year, Justin Newbury of East Side Print, Fax and Shipping; Member of the Year, Dr. Alaa El-Gendy of Florida Lung & Sleep Associates; Chamber Volunteer of the Year, Jack Lynch; Firefighter of the Year, Brooke Ricciardi of the Lehigh Fire and Rescue District; and Law Enforcement of the Year, David Brown Jr., East Zone (Lehigh) Sheriff's Office. Stepping in to accept Brown's award was Sgt. Walt Ryan because Brown was unable to attend because it was his wedding day.
New chairman of the board Al DeLeon addressed the group about plans for the upcoming year by the chamber board and directors.
Entertainment was provided by comedian Dave Celestian who brought laughter to the group.
The new executive board members, who were sworn into office by Rep. Caldwell are Chairman of the Board, Al DeLeon; Vice Chairman, Cheryl McConahy; Secretary, Dr. Monique Wensch; Treasurer, Fred Elliott. Cindy Dodd is the past president.
Directors included Mike Burgers, David Deetscreek, Dr. Alaa El-Gendy, Fred Elliott, James Fait, Vickie Hay, Joanie Jeanette, Mike Nevin, Joe Pearson, and Nate Stout.
Diane Lashua was chairwoman of the committee that planned the 2014 Awards Gala.