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Chamber honors three at luncheon

By Staff | Oct 6, 2011

Bob Bowers, left, and Joe Whalen

Two Lehigh Acres businessmen and a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy were honored by the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce for outstanding work each in his field of endeavor. The recognition luncheon, held Sept. 27, also had as its guest speaker State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

It was also the last luncheon to be hosted by Joe Whalen, the president and CEO of the Chamber, who is leaving to form his own business, Whalen Consulting Inc. Although a search is underway, his replacement has not been named yet.

Whalen laughed and said he had joined the Chamber of Commerce since he had formed his own business. He also laughed and said he would be glad to be service to Sen. Benacquisto when and if she seeks reelection.

Robert Bowers, owner and president of both Robert Bowers Accounting and Robert Bowers Christian Accounting and Seminars Inc. in Lehigh, was named the Chamber’s Member of the month.

Whalen, who presented Bowers with an award, said one of his most recent major achievements was being named the Speaker of the Year by the Florida Society of Accounts Associations. He was also cited for his continuous support of Chamber activities.

Ahmed El-Gendy, and Joe Whalen

Bowers, well-known businessman of Lehigh, has been providing professional financial services throughout Southwest Florida since 1985. He has been conducting “church accounting and tax seminars since 2002.

Ahmed El-Gendy, the technical director at Florida Lung & Sleep Associates in Lehigh was named the Chamber’s Employee of the Month. Following in his father’s footsteps since Dr. Alaa El-Gendy was honored recently by the chamber for his commitment to the community, the younger El-Gendy is a graduate of the Chamber’s Leadership Lehigh program, class of 2008. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Rotary Club of Lehigh Acres and is a very active participant in the Lehigh Acres Community Council.

“Given his number of commitments, Ahmed El-Gendy is one of the most recognized faces in our community of 86,784 residents,” Whalen said as he presented El-Gendy with an award. The Chamber recognized him for his self-sacrifice and dedication to the community His father said Ahmed’s commitment to the family business was one of the primary reasons for the success of the family business.

Sgt. Kevin Karlson, a Lee county Sheriff’s deputy was honored as the Officer of the Month by the chamber. Whalen said that recently on Sept. 17, Karlsen was off duty near the Sweetbay supermarket in North Fort Myers when he noticed a man behaving strangely. The man was shouting, waiving and making obscene gestures t vehicles driving by the store. When a deputy arrived, he shouted verbal commands to the individual who immediately and very aggressively charged the deputy, Whalen said.

The deputy took the man to the ground with the suspect continuing to resist and fight. Karlsen ran to the deputy’s aid and helped gain control of the suspect so the deputy could use his Taser to stop the man’s aggressive behavior, Whalen said.

Joe Whalen, Chamber president

Once the man was put in the rear of a patrol car, emergency medical aid was summoned to examine the man.

While waiting the man’s wallet was recovered and crack cocaine was found inside. Off-duty encounters, even with on duty personnel present, are very dangerous and can be deadly for law enforcement officers, Whalen said. Individuals who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol can become violent in the blink of an eye, he said.

Karlsen’s selfless actions and his caring and concern for his fellow man and his fellow officers are highly commendable, Whalen said.

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who represents most of Lehigh Acres in a sprawling senatorial district that stretches from Fort Myers and Lehigh to the east coast, spoke briefly about the upcoming session. She predicted the passage of the new state budget without raising taxes and said there may even be a small surplus.

“Recovery is coming,” she told the audience as she spoke about the ailing economy in the state.

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto

She also said she was interested in Space Florida, which is working to create a new future for the U.S. space program.

Chamber banquets are held on the last Tuesday of each month at the Majestic Golf club on Homestead Rd. Members of the public are always invited to a Chamber luncheon. To RSVP for the October 25 luncheon, call the Chamber at 369-3322.

Sgt. Kevin Karlsen