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Kevin "Mookie" Harris — Facilitator
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Kevin "Mookie" Harris is said to be an attraction within the attraction. And at this popular Indianapolis tourist destination, where people come to see impressive things, they end up being just as impressed by their interactions with him. From putting little ones at ease to helping calm a stressful situation to making visits fun and informative, Mookie is said to have “a magical gift.” Barely a day goes by when someone doesn’t take note of his manner. It begins with knowledge, it continues with engagement and enthusiasm and it concludes with an overwhelmingly positive visitor experience. Especially when those visitors are children. Said his nominator, “he meets children at their level, both figuratively and literally,” and that he brings an “above and beyond” attitude to his work each and every day. Offered a parent, “We were here yesterday to see the exhibit, but we came back today because our 5-year-old wanted to see Mookie.” Mookie has been with the Children’s Museum for four years but has been involved in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, thus qualifying for a lifetime achievement award.
Jill Newhouse — Purchasing Coordinator
Hyatt Regency Indianapolis
Over the history of the ROSE Awards, there have been those occasions when recipients are honored for more than serving others. It also can be about how they serve their community. This is one of those occasions. Yes, Jill Newhouse has served others. Literally. For 15 years, she was a server is this downtown hotel’s signature restaurant. But she wanted to do more in the hotel business, so she moved into the accounts payable department, then on again to purchasing coordinator. But where she has truly made her mark, and positively impacted the community, is as a leader of the hotel’s Green Team. First, she established a plastic, glass and aluminum recycling program for the hotel. She became a volunteer for a green initiative called Growing Places Indy, working in its urban garden. She helped the Salvation Army in gathering donations for its annual Toy Shop program. Most importantly, she created a partnership with her hotel and the Salvation Army’s Indiana Division that has resulted in the donation of all those partially used shampoo bottles to area shelters. All of her efforts have combined to make both her hotel, and Indianapolis, a better place. With 23 years in the hospitality industry, all at the Hyatt, Jill earns a lifetime achievement ROSE Award. The Hyatt Regency Indianapolis also named Jill its 2010 Associate of the Year.
David Reid — Banquet Captain
Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station
Everyone in the hospitality industry know the trap you can fall into. And that would be the mindset that it’s just “another” banquet. Or it’s just “another” wedding. Or it’s just “another” guest. Through 30 years of service excellence, however, David Reid has never fallen into that funk. As banquet captain at a downtown hotel, he treats every event as a special, one-of-kind occasion. It’s more than the events, of course. It’s the people attending those events. Once, while serving a banquet, he encountered a woman who was a vegetarian but hadn’t made her dietary needs known. Immediately, David went to the chef and had him prepare a vegan-friendly meal. He then kept in touch with the woman throughout her stay, letting her know he was more than a server. He was her friend. When checking out, the woman was moved to tears in describing her experience. She said, “I think this is what you people call Hoosier Hospitality.” No, she was not just another guest at just another event. And the thanks goes to David Reid. David has been with the Crowne Plaza for four years, but has more than 30 years of service in the hospitality industry, thus qualifying for a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sunil Deo — Cook
Hilton Indianapolis Hotel and Suites
During the 20 years of the ROSE Awards, it is safe to say that few, if any, have traveled such an arduous and inspiring road to become a ROSE Award recipient as Sunil Deo. Just a few years ago, Deo was jobless, homeless and battling addiction. But, step by step and day by day, he picked himself up and placed himself in a position where he could be honored here tonight. The journey began at a place called Progressive House. As part of his residency, he began preparing exotic dishes for the more 100 residents and guests. That, in turn, led to our recipient volunteering at Second Helpings, where he could give back while serving others. It was at Second Helpings that he took a 10-week culinary course which led to a job at a restaurant event planner and, finally, to work as a cook in a downtown hotel. And there he has flourished, pleasing his employer and patrons with both his ability to cook, but also with his with easy-going manner, his determination to please and his will to make a better life for him and his family. Yet he continues to give back. At Second Helpings, he plays a major role in fundraising events, including offering his services to create a dinner for eight as a silent auction item. He speaks on behalf of the organization as well. Says one of his nominators, “No one comes away from meeting him with feeling energized by his commitment to Indianapolis and the hospitality industry; he is a true ambassador of our wonderful city.” Said another nominator, “Sunil’s is a story of hope, determination and success based on the one thing he could control … his attitude.”
Brian Eckstein — Guest Services Manager
Indianapolis Airport Authority
An airport can be a busy place. So filled with hustle and bustle, in fact, that those in need might be overlooked. But one of the things Brian Eckstein does best is to take notice of the unnoticed. And then, if the situation calls for it, to help. So it was that a few months ago, he came upon a woman, wheelchair bound, accompanied by a small dog and two bags. When asked if she needed assistance, all she would say is that she was waiting for a ride. Brian took it further, however. He brought the woman food and engaged her in conversation. He learned that the woman had flown to Indianapolis from Florida at the invitation of a friend, but the friend had not materialized and would not return calls. She had been abandoned. She was scared, alone, embarrassed and had very little money. Knowing the woman could not return to Florida by bus because of her physical challenges, he finally arranged for an airline to provide her -- and her dog -- a flight home. Whether it’s a frightened, abandoned woman like this, or the amputee who was missing his prosthetic limb, or elderly passengers confused about where to meet family members, or foreign arrivals who speak little or no English, our ROSE Award recipient is there to offer service and help. If there is a compelling need, he is compelled to act. Brian has been with the Airport Authority for six years.
Ashley Herring — Special Events Coordinator
Rock Bottom Brewery
When not working at this downtown brew pub, Ashley Herring is studying Events Management at IUPUI. But instead of studying events management, perhaps she ought to be writing the textbook. Turns out that this special events coordinator is special, indeed. In three years at her current place of employment, she has made her mark with her smile, sense of humor, upbeat attitude and “count-me-in” approach to volunteerism, whether it be Gleaners Food Bank or painting faces at an inner-city school. Most meaningfully, she combined her positive outlook with her event management skills as a way to deal with the tragic loss of her father to pancreatic cancer. In an eight-month span, she organized two fundraisers and a walk in downtown Indianapolis that drew over 300 attendees, 50 volunteers and generated more than $50,000 for the research and prevention of pancreatic cancer. Ashley has been with Rock Bottom since 2008 but has been working in the hospitality industry since she was 15 years old.
Keith Mays — Cook
Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel
Working in the “back of the house” doesn’t mean you can’t have an up-front impact. So it is for Keith Mays. He bears the title of cook, but he is so much more than that. He is a creator. An artist. Not just someone who simply works from the printed menu. For example, there was the hotel guest from the south who came down for breakfast and discovered, to his dismay, that the Southern specialty of grits was not on the menu. When this information was relayed to our cook, he emerged from the kitchen, engaged the guest and asked him how he liked his grits prepared. At breakfast the following morning, our cook served up shrimp and bacon grits to the guest, who, needless to say, was absolutely delighted. Then there was the hotel guest who let it be known that she was on a strict calorie count. Again, our cook came out of the kitchen, inquired of the guest’s nutritional needs, and delivered a meal that was both satisfying but also met the guest’s requirements. An employee of this hotel since the day it opened, Keith has never missed a shift, arriving at 5 a.m., often staying late and sometimes working on his day off to cover for others.
Soraya Mendez — Administrative Sales Assistant/Transient Business Coordinator
The Westin Indianapolis
In the highly competitive hotel business, it is the little things that can make a big difference. That is epitomized by Soraya Mendez. By going out of her way to merely engage some customers standing in line at the hotel’s coffee shop, she ended up with a booking for 50 room nights. During the recent ice storm, when the hotel offered a discounted snow rate, she worked late into the evening with a client to book rooms, set up billing, coordinate shuttle plans and deliver bags filled with water, granola bars and other goodies to the client‘s guests. And instead of going home, she stayed all night at the hotel so she could personally attend to the guests the next morning. The result was 82 reservations and the promise for future business from the very pleased client. Each day, she scans the arrivals list at the hotel so she can send personalized amenities to frequent or key guests. By doing all the little things, our recipient makes her hotel a home away from home for its guests. Her goal is simple: to make sure those guests feel better when they leave than when they arrived. Soraya has worked for the Westin Indianapolis since 1996 and has been a concierge, front desk manager and service express manager, among other duties. In 2008, she was honored as the Westin Indianapolis’s Associate of the Year.
Eric Mueller — Assistant Server/Food Runner
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Eric once had to be on the fast track with a carryout order from his downtown restaurant to a mother in a nearby condo. What was the hurry? Well, that mother happened to be Marco Andretti’s, and while hungry she was otherwise glued to the television -- where her son was racing in the Indianapolis 500. Tending quickly to the nutritional needs of a racing mother was no big deal for our ROSE recipient. It was all in a day’s work that doesn’t seem like work because he enjoys it so much. And if duty calls for our recipient to run out to find a newspaper for a customer in need of something to read, or escort diners back to their hotels under an umbrella on a rainy night, or fill in at the last minute if a fellow employee falls ill, well, whatever it takes to please. Eric has been with Ruth's Chris for ten years and was named the restaurant's employee of the year for 2010.
Maureen Surak — Volunteer/Tour Guide
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
During 17 years and thousands of hours of volunteer service as a guide at this downtown Indianapolis attraction, Maureen has left her mark with both visitors and staff alike with her boundless energy, keen sense of humor and willingness to take on any task that brings benefit to all. As both a guide and a trainer of guides, she both serves and mentors. She leads, and leads by example. Visitors praise her enthusiasm and her ability to help them see what, at first, they might not envision. One example was a group of students gazing upon a painting of a buffalo on the prairie. She asked the students, “what do you see.” They answered, “an animal and grass. “What I see,” she responded, “is food, clothing and shelter.” Maureen’s thirst for increased knowledge is unquenchable. The last phrase she wants to utter is, “I don’t know” but even if that were the case, her next sentence would be, “I’ll find out.” She has missed only three volunteer shifts in 17 years. Not long ago, after a ski trip, she sent in an email. “I lost the battle with the mountain,” she wrote. “I am on crutches for the next six weeks, so tours are out … but the carts are in.” And in short order, she returned to duty, broken leg and all.
DaJuan White — Server
The Capital Grille
DaJuan White personifies service. That means serving his restaurant’s customers so well that they request him upon return visits. That means serving his fellow employees as a trainer, role model and embodiment of excellence. That means serving his community through outreach efforts. Here’s an example of his determination to go above and beyond. After an illness cut short a couple’s anniversary dinner and forced them to return to their hotel, our ROSE recipient followed up the next day and learned that the wife, who had been ill, had fully recovered. While the couple was away from the room, our ROSE recipient arranged for them to be greeted upon their return by a steak dinner, their favorite wine, roses and a special dessert. Now that’s going the extra mile. Likewise in the area of community service, our recipient has taken the lead in various initiatives, including a toy drive for Riley Hospital, the Midwest Food Bank and charity walks for breast cancer and diabetes.
Blake Wolpert — Master Coach Operator
The Free Enterprise System
Blake Wolpert’s nomination came with not one or two or three letters of recommendation. It came with 10. And we get the feeling there could have been more. He was heralded as a comedian. He was noted as a poet. He was characterized as a character. Someone referred to him as an angel. Another said he was an instant friend. College kids called him a father figure. You get the idea. The essence of what Wolpert does is that he drives a bus. But he’s more than a driver. He’s an entertainer, a guide, a chaperone, a helper. Someone else observed that because of Wolpert’s friendly manner and keen sense of humor, they looked more forward to the bus ride than they did the destination. He is so in demand that tour organizers ask for him well in advance and they generally ask for him by nickname. That nickname is, “The Blakester.î When he isn’t driving on tours, Wolpert is active in community, church and service organizations. He’s been known to customize poems for tour groups and even has done some rap under the name “Ice B.”
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