Last spring, the Willis Smith Construction boardroom at its Lakewood Ranch office became somewhat of a "war room of materials," according to Peggy Kronus, the firm's community business development manager.
Kronus and some of her fellow employees were part of an effort to make masks to donate to first responders, nursing homes and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The effort, combined with help from Goodwill, was to help the nonprofit Lakewood Ranch PPE Group keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We cut 2,500 pounds of material," Kronus said with a laugh. "I cut 900 patterns. I choose never to cut masks again."
Unless it's needed.
Kronus, who is the chair of the Sisterhood for Good fundraising committee and who is at the forefront of many of Willis Smith's charitable efforts, was named the Community Champion-individual award winner at Wednesday's Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's annual Sandies Awards.
The event, scaled back from previous years and molded into a virtual program, gave out five awards in all.
Besides having Kronus take one of the awards, Willis Smith Construction was named the Community Champion-company award winner.
Alex Gault, of the Otto Group at Hightower Advisors, took the Rising Star Award. The Circus Arts Conservatory earned the Bull by the Horns-company under 25 employees award. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County won the Bull by the Horns-company 25-plus employees award.
The Community Champion awards go to an individual and a company that show strong support of the community and the Alliance.
Kronus was thrilled Willis Smith earned the company award after she was named the individual winner because she said she couldn't do any of it without the support of her company.
Willis Smith Vice President David Otterness said the company's employees are encouraged to find something they are passionate about that helps the community. He said Willis Smith, which has just over 70 employees, then does what it can to support those efforts.
Dom DiMaio, the president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, summed it up by saying, "Willis Smith always is there."
DiMaio noted the event usually draws more than 300 Alliance members together for the Sandies, but that was not possible in this pandemic year. He said it was important, though, to make some changes so the event could continue to recognized extraordinary efforts and commitments.
“Today represents our 10th annual Sandies Awards!” DiMaio said in a release. “Despite a health crisis distraction, LWRBA was able to honor our members who went above and beyond in 2020 for the Alliance and our community. These individuals and companies are examples of how we all should overcome our hurdles. We congratulate them, and thank them at the same time, for they are our most cherished community assets. We will always believe that the vibrance of a business community transfers to a positive economic future for all of its residents and businesses.”
Gault said the pandemic has shown the power of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.
"The great thing about businesses is that we adapt," he said. "I think this showed what the power of connection can do in our community."