BRANDON — For years Janine Nickerson has been a familiar face at the Greater Brandon of Commerce's annual banquets. She is, after all, a longtime member who's served on several committees and helped out with membership drives.
True to form, she turned out for this year's event on Jan. 27 at the Regent and took a seat at a table among a few fellow chamber members, some who came with their spouses, and others, like her, who came stag.
While Nickerson's husband Steve is a sociable guy, he prefers smaller gatherings to one's like the chamber dinner, which this year filled the entire ballroom with attendees.
But, within moments in walked Steve Nickerson with their daughter Christine Robbins, who'd told her mom two weeks earlier she'd planned a dinner date with her dad that night.
Robbins wasted no time in telling her mother their reason for being there.
She said her boss, Melissa Snively — a State Farm Insurance franchise owner, Hillsborough County School board member, and Brandon chamber member — called at the last minute asking her to record Snively singing the National Anthem at the semi-formal event with the soon-to-open TGH Brandon Healthplex as presenting sponsor.
Unknown to her mother, that was a cover story.
Toward the end of the evening's program, which included remarks from outgoing chamber Chairman Cami Gibertini and incoming Chairman Tad Denham, Janine Nickerson was named the organization's 2016 Key Citizen.
Paul Senory, last year's award recipient, made the announcement, rattling off a litany of organizations and causes Nickerson has taken part in, as well as her business accomplishments, since she moved from Pennsylvania to Brandon in 1976.
Senory presented Nickerson with a framed collage of photos that Robbins had secretly printed from her mom's computer.
Nickerson has been involved with the chamber's education and small business committees and helped out with fundraisers and events at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa as well as for Bloomingdale High School's Crimson Doll auxiliary when her children were students there.
The mother of two also is a charter member of the Brandon branch of the All Children's Hospital Guild and a longtime active member of the all-volunteer Community Roundtable, an organization that brings the heads of the area's nonprofit groups together. She served eight years as vice president and now is president.
Nickerson established the roundtable's annual Community Service Forum, where students can connect with local nonprofit organizations to earn community service hours. She also plans and hosts the roundtable's yearly Community Affairs Dinner, its annual fundraising golf tournament, and the Brandon Honorary Mayor's race. What's more, she co-chairs Brandon's Fourth of July Parade.
From 1995 through 2008, Nickerson was owner/publisher of the Brandon-Valrico Journal — a newspaper that showcased student achievements and a business that earned her the chamber's 1999 Small Business of the Year award.
"Obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off of the goal," she said as she took to the stage to accept the recognition.
Nickerson later said she is humbled to receive the honor, pointing to the many dedicated volunteers throughout the greater Brandon community who also have won it.
"People say I've done something special, but I've done what I'm supposed to do," she said. "Others before me have also stepped forward to do what had to be done."
Robbins, still marveling at how she kept the award secret from her mom, her dad and her husband — who isn't good, she admitted, at keeping tight-lipped about these sorts of things — called it a thrilling moment when she heard her mother's name announced.
"I could see mom welling up and I told her what she's always told me — breathe out of your mouth," Robbins said. "I'm really proud of her and I'm so happy she got this award."
Anne Nymark, who also has played a key role in charitable organizations over the course of many years, received the chamber's 2016 Community Leader award.
In addition, chamber Chairman Denham recognized Brandon area businesses owners who've been chamber members for more than 50 years. They include Bill's Prescription Center, Brandon Insurance Agency, Brandon Sports & Aquatic Center, Curry Law Group, Dykes-Johnson Architecture, Frontier Communications, Hunt Family Dental Care, Kentucky Fried Chicken – Phil Mook Enterprises, Mac's Mini Storage, Stowers Funeral Home, Sunshine Bank, Tampa Electric Company and Tom Miller Insurance – State Farm.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]