norfolk waterside marriott

YWCA Honors Local Women of Distinction

March 28th, 2013 at 9:14 pm by under Personalities, Uncategorized

When you hear us report on fires we often say the Red Cross is helping the victims with food and a place to stay. You don’t often hear about how the YWCA helps women and families with a place to stay and counseling follow domestic violence, sexual assault or another crisis.


The YWCA of  South Hampton Roads held it annual Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon on March 28, 2013.  I was honored to serve as emcee and even more honored to have been recognized as one of the award recipients last year.


The organization has a new leader, Ruth Jones, who took over in June of 2012.  She told the packed crowd at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott about the history of the local YWCA. Founded in 1911, it has grown to upheld its mission of “eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all”.


She also shared these stats:

During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, YWCA Hampton Roads provided:

  • 2, 472 sexual assault victims with mental health counseling and support;
  • 14,178 nights of emergency shelter and 11,085 nights of transitional housing to victims of domestic violence;
  • 7,056 meals to 319 children participating in our before and after-school childcare programs.

Some people simply don’t know about the services and leadership opportunities provided by the “YW” for women and racial and ethnic minorities.

The Women of Distinction Award goes to women who have made significant contributions to the community through professional activities and volunteer efforts.


Here’s the list of the 2013 recipients.

  • Elena Montello (Arts)
  • Priscilla Trinder Roady (Business)
  • Sandra Parker (Communications)
  • Bonnie Sutton (Education)
  • Jane Short (Finance)
  • Clarissa McAdoo (Government)
  • Mary Jane Hall (Law)
  • Dr. Michelle Clayton (Medicine)
  • Kathy Nelson (Military)
  • Debra Dandridge (Nonprofit)
  • Inger Pincus Friedman (Science and Technology)
  • Denise Britt and Janice Dildy (Volunteerism)

The organization can always use financial and volunteer support. You never know just how many lives you can change by helping out.


Rest in Peace, Uncle Pete!

February 6th, 2012 at 11:35 pm by under News, Personalities, Uncategorized

Today, we said goodbye to Peter Decker, Jr., Norfolk’s biggest cheerleader. He lost his four year battle with cancer on February 3. There’s no way to list all of the wonderful things he did during his 76 years on earth.

Chillin' with Uncle Pete at an ODU football game

Those of us who knew him well- and even those who just knew him in passing- affectionately called him Uncle Pete.Uncle Pete and his family have been friends with my family for years- way back when my mom was a television hostess on WTAR-TV. When I moved back to the area 11 years ago, I ran into  Uncle Pete at various community service events, sporting events,  his law office, the coffee shop or various restaurants. I always got a kiss on both cheeks and a big hug and an “Love ya, kid!”. This is a blog from my last event I did with Uncle Pete, the Champions of Hospitality Rally in May, 2011 honoring downtown Norfolk service employees.  Last year’s event actually honored Uncle Pete.

Champions of Hospitality Rally, May 2011

We had these neat fans with his picture on them and we cheered and waved for him!   I last saw Uncle Pete during the holidays. I took my mom out to dinner in downtown Norfolk. He and his wife Bess and another couple were walking down Granby Street. I ran out to flag them down. He came in, gave us hugs and kisses, chatted, then tried to pay our bill (it was too late, I had already paid).

Mayor Paul Fraim speaking at Uncle Pete's Memorial Service

That’s the type of guy he was. Genuinely concerned… always positive… always a symbol of love and light. That’s why thousands crammed into the Norfolk Waterside Marriott to share their stories about Uncle Pete, listen to tributes and watch pictures of his life flash across the big screens. One of the most touching moments- when his son Paul sang a few lines from Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” to his mom, Bess, Pete’s wife of nearly 50 years. (That was his dad’s request)

Uncle Pete's memorial service at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott

Uncle Pete was a perfect example of what we should all try to be:  peaceful, loving, accepting- even with those who make peace, love, and acceptance difficult.  Uncle Pete will be missed by many, but his spirit and legacy will live on through many!

NSU's band playing outside Uncle Pete's memorial service


Give thanks to hospitality workers!

May 12th, 2010 at 7:06 pm by under Personalities, Uncategorized

This week is National Travel and Tourism Week and those who work in the industry in Norfolk took time to celebrate today.   The Convention and Visitors Bureau and Tourism Research Foundation sponsored the Champions of Hospitality Rally at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center.   I was honored to serve as a judge once again this year along with my colleagues Bruce Rader, Tom Schaad, Eric Harryman and  Stephanie Harris and ODU Football Coach, Bobby Wilder.

“Uncle Pete” Decker served as emcee and kept us all in stitches.

We got all kinds of bribes as soon as we sat at the judges table.  Most of them would add many inches and pounds to our bodies so we shared some of the baked goods with the audience.  Others were great mementos with the city of Norfolk.

We judged the Spirit Awards and it was tough.  So many Norfolk hotels, restaurants and attractions have enthusiastic employees, it was hard to pick just one.  But in the end, the Norfolk Waterside Marriott and The Virginia Arts Festival took top honors.   Several other individual awards were given out.  Check out the list here:

2010 Norfolk National Tourism Rally Winners


Patricia Brady – Seay with the VA Arts Festival (Group Sales Assistant)
Employed with organization: 3 years
Their organization and clerical skills keep group sales organized and allows our Group Sales Director to spend her time selling tickets and developing new clients. This person is always courteous and patient with group leaders and works especially well with our senior groups.

Feleece Williams with the Hilton Norfolk Airport (Sales Administrator)
Employed with organization: 3 years
This person exemplifies exceptional hospitality towards all of our guests and potential clients. Their bright smile and positive attitude makes everyone they come into contact with feel welcome and cared for.


Frank Yancey with the Crowne Plaza Hotel (Banquet Captain)
Employed with organization: 6 months
He is an outstanding Banquet Captain with his ability to evaluate the situation and take charge to solve whatever problem may arise. He is capable of making each planner feel his or her event is top priority.


Rob Asbury with Todd Jurich Bistro (Bartender)
Employed with organization: 4 years
This person makes everyone feel welcome. I believe most of the heavy bar business at this organization  is due to the bartender’s amazing personality, talent and dedications. They are extremely personable and balances conversation with patrons while providing excellent service.


George Avent with the Norfolk Waterside Marriott (Bellman)
Employed with organization: 8 years

This person is a priceless ambassador to Norfolk. They treat all guests at the property as if they were family. When a guest asks a question and this person does not know the answer to it, they take the time to seek out the information for them. This person also makes it a priority to keep updated on downtown happenings. This person was also nominated twice in 2009.


Robert Mills of the Hilton Norfolk Airport (Concierge)
Employed with organization: 2 years

This person was voted for employee of the month after only 3 months. World travelers write letters stating they have never been treated with such elegance and excellence.  This person is the main reason they come back. They know most of the guests that visit the Concierge lounge on a first name basis. The truest professional hospitality person you will ever meet.


Hazel Harvie of the Norfolk Botanical Garden (Facilities Supervisor)
Employed with organization: 2.5 years

This person is the glue that holds the custodial staff together. The job is challenging in the summer and spring months when visitation to the attraction peaks. This person always finds a way to motivate the staff.


Natalie Lassiter with HRT  (NET Driver)
Employed with organization: HRT Since 1988. Driver for 2 years.

This person has much needed people skills to deal with the public and is very dependable, truth worthy and friendly person. They always goes the extra mile to assist passengers on where to get off.

Front Desk:

Yolette Friend with Navy Gateway Inns & Suites (Front Desk Leader)
Employed with organization: 2 Years
This person really stood out from the rest of the weekend of the snow storm. They came prepared to stay at the facility to work the entire weekend being a single parent to one teenage daughter. During the weekend this person ensured that the guests that could not depart were extended and provided great assistance and a wealth of information.


Nichele Stone with 456 Fish (Hostess)
Employed with organization: 2 years
This person is very knowledgeable and assists our guests and staff in many ways. She is a quick study and has improved the way we do things at the restaurant.


Miriam Guieb with the Residence Inn Marriott Airport (Housekeeping Supervisor)
Employed with organization: 6 years
This person walks in the door each morning with a smile on their face. I am proud of their accomplishments and growth as a supervisor.


Ronnie Church with the Residence Inn Downtown
Employed with organization: 1 year
This person was the go to man during the opening of the property. They worked around the clock and always kept their co-workers laughing.


Shirleen Minter with D’egg (Cook)
Employed with organization: 3 years
This person comes to work everyday with a smile on their face. Their energy is contagious. She is the mom and grandma every kitchen needs.


Officer Rick James with the City of Norfolk Police Department
Employed with organization: 25 years
His customer service is unmatched. He is everything a police officer should be.

Parking Attendant:

Shandra Miller with Central Parking Division (Cashier)
Employed with organization: 1 year
We have received several phone calls of compliment on this persons unique ability to make customers smile. “I treat every customer like it is an honor to serve them”.

Public Service Ambassador:

John Kintsche with the Downtown Norfolk Council (PSA)
Employed with organization: 1 Year
This person goes out of their way to assist visitors, residents and downtown workers and always displays a smile and a positive note for everyone.


Sabrina Lucky with Nauticus (Receptionist)
Employed with Organization:
5 years  – nominated in 2009
This person always answers the phone with a smile and treats the guests with utmost respect. This person is ready and willing to help any and all visitors to Nauticus with a passion that shows.


Tamikka Doman with Rowena’s (Warehouse Manager)
Employed with Organization:
10 years
This person is the 3rd generation of their family to work at their organization. This person always shows the guests respect and superior customer service.

Room Service & **Hospitality Associate of the Year

Sam Caban with the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel (Room Service Server)
Employed with Organization:
27 years 
This person is caring and hard working in their position. This person always has a good attitude and is willing to pitch in to assist when needed. They have a strong work ethic and produces steady results.


Spencer Briggs with the Big Easy Bar & Grill (Valet)
Employed with Organization: 1 year

This person is a true team player. They are constantly searching for ways to improve customer service.


Bob Webb with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum
Employed with Organization: May 2005

This former Walt Disney employee has donated more than 5,550 years with an average of 1,100 years. One of most charming docents, this person entertains and educates our guests with thrilling stories about the Navy’s history here in Hampton Roads. This year we are proud to announce that this person is receiving the President of the US Volunteer Lifetime Service Award.


Veola Nesbith with the Courtyard by Marriott
Employed with Organization: 5 Years
This person has provided great service at breakfast for over 5 years. This person is recognized on a regular basis on our guest comment cards and guest services.

Other Winners

  • Norfolk Botanical Garden Ambassadors of the Year: Eagles
  • Virginia Zoo Ambassador of the Year: Kangaroo Mob
  • Ambassador of the Year: F.R.E.D.

Chances are, you’ve had a wonderful experience with them and that’s why they are named the best!

With all of the cheering in room, I can’t forget to mention the presence of  many of my favorite mascots- including Riptide from the Norfolk Tides, Big Blue from Old Dominion University, the Spartan from Norfolk State University, Hat Trick from the Norfolk Admirals, Rigby the Rhino from the Virginia Zoo and a new one, CoolJack, a snowman who is Norfolk’s “Holidays in the City” mascot.  They’re all so cute and cuddly!!

And last but not least, the Booker T. Washington marching band and cheerleaders rocked the house. They sure have some good moves!

When you visit a restaurant, hotel or tourist attraction, make sure you say thanks to the workers who put in the extra effort to make your experience a good one!

Can’t wait to help out with the event again next year.  This always gets me energized and sends me to work with a great attitude and a smile on my face!