GULF BREEZE — The Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce hosted their Annual Awards Gala on Jan. 14 at Skopelos at New World.

Chamber members received recognition for their achievements, and outgoing Chairman of the Board and “Breezer” Jamie Walker with DigiPro Media was honored with a Gulf Breeze theme. Chamber President and CEO Kristen Loera and NewsRadio 1620 morning host Andrew McKay emceed the event with a humorous take on living in Gulf Breeze.

Award winners in all categories — nominated by their peers and voted on by the 2016 board of directors — are:

Ambassador of the Year: Jeremy Carver, Edward Jones Investments. “Jeremy Carver truly embodies what is means to be an Ambassador,” the chamber stated in a media release. “He made an effort to attend every Chamber Connect in 2016 to welcome our new chamber members and was a familiar face at all networking events. He reached Platinum status as an Ambassador quickly and is a master at connecting people.”

Emerging Business of the Year: ProHealth Medical Care – Gulf Breeze. This walk-in clinic is designed to meet the need for affordable health care. “Even through years of the business struggling, the owners never stopped improving and striving for success,” the chamber stated. “With resilience and a strong culture of camaraderie, the staff took ownership and planned to make 2016 a year for the books! They did it successfully and they did it together. Through their active participation in the Gulf Breeze Chamber and community events, the community saw them emerge and started referring to them as their neighborhood walk-in clinic.”

Nonprofit of the Year: St. Ann Catholic Church. The church, established in 1948, encompasses two campuses in both Santa Rosa and Escambia counties and is home to a faith-based pre-school. “This well-known icon in the community of Gulf Breeze has a staff of about 60 people, all of which are encouraged to be active in the community, as well as civic affairs,” the chamber stated. “It is home to over 1,000 families and offers a community food bank for those in need, in addition to providing food for the weekend food program, which feeds needy children in South Santa Rosa County.

“As a member of the Interfaith Disaster Relief team, this organization has always been instrumental in providing help to those in need after natural disasters. In fact, they recently provided donations of food, clothes and cash to the victims of the local tornado disasters. The staff members serve on various boards at Pensacola State College, Gulf Breeze Hospital, and the South Santa Rosa Utility System, and they actively support Interfaith Ministries. They are also active in Gulf Breeze Chamber committees, PTA and many other civic groups. All who represent this organization are encouraged not only to participate in the community but are also guided and supported as leaders.”

Business of the Year: Chick-fil-A Gulf Breeze. Chick-fil-A Gulf Breeze owners John and Anne Marie Stopper met while working for the company in Cordova Mall in 1985. After graduating from the University of West Florida they were married and started their long-standing career with the chain and in 2012, they received the opportunity to open the local store here in Gulf Breeze. “Working together, with their five children, they are committed to their mission to have a positive influence on all who they come in contact with and offer programs that help to enrich their local community such as Family Nights, Daddy/Daughter Date Night, Coffee House Nights, Blood Drives and Military Appreciation events,” the chamber stated.

The Nancy Keyes Spirit Award: Tom Naile, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, a father of three and husband to Doris for 53 years. After losing a son, Tom established a scholarship fund in his son's name to assist area youths with college tuition. He has for several years been the chair of Santa Rosa Utilities, serves as administrator for St. Ann’s Catholic Church and recently was elected to the Gulf Breeze City Council. He is a long-term active member of the Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce, serving as a board member and as chairman of several committees including Government Affairs and the Education Committee.

“For many years, Tom has coordinated a lunch for our educators during the annual Teacher Appreciation Week,” the chamber stated. “He accomplishes this by working with the Gulf Breeze Optimist, the Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Rosa School System. His recruiting efforts are largely responsible for the success of the Optimist Club, through which over $50,000 is raised annually. These funds are distributed to our youth through development programs in our local schools and through local charities.

“He has been involved in ministry for over 30 years through his affiliation with St. Ann’s and has effected positive change in our community through his efforts to help both civic and charitable organizations. His passion for the Gulf Breeze community is masked by his humility and dry wit. People like Tom make Gulf Breeze a great place to live. His commitment to our community over a long period of time is deserving of recognition.”