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Geri Bell — Floorwalker
Southport Antique Mall
Geri epitomizes impeccable customer care, but not because it’s her job, it’s in her DNA. She has customers who are so passionate about her service that they schedule their visits around her hours. That level of care goes two ways, if a regular customer hasn’t been in the store for awhile, she calls to check on them. With elegance and grace, she has become the person customers often share their personal joys and concerns with. She takes the time to ensure that standards of etiquette often ignored in today’s hectic world are observed, such as mailing get well soon and thank you cards or sending flowers to honor lost loved ones. Among the several letters we received praising her for her work, was a letter from her daughter. “It doesn’t matter where we go, she always runs into people she knows. She has made an impression on countless people and they light up when they see her. But she lights up too. I have learned so much from her through the years as her daughter, but I’ve also learned from her as her employee. I am honored to look to her for counsel as I move throughout my own career in sales and marketing.” She is the perfect role model and a great person to follow in her footsteps. And those sure are a lot of footsteps to follow because she has been the compassionate floorwalker for Southport Antique Mall for fifteen years.
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Sandy Hursh — Concierge
Indianapolis Marriott Downtown
Sandy’s most endearing quality is her willingness to assist in whatever way necessary. She isn’t bound by her formal job requirements or by the time clock. She’ll jump in to assist the team without being asked. In fact, she recently expressed learning the basics of this hotel’s property management system so that she would be able to check guests in, if the need arose. While this is far and above what is expected in her role, it is just one example of her flexibility. Or another example is when she volunteered to stand in for an evening concierge lounge attendant who left. Sandy rose to the occasion even through the physical strain of the job and the fact that working thru the evening required her to be away from her family. She was instrumental in carrying this downtown hotel thru a few rough months. Another story goes back to a couple of months ago when the hotel was hosting a small group of rooms for patients at Riley’s Children’s Hospitality and their families. The night was intended to be an enjoyable break from staying in the hospital, highlighted by a stay at the hotel and a Pacers game. Sandy discovered that one of the guests was celebrating a birthday, and rather than send a simple card or cupcake to the room, she decided to make their night even more memorable. She arranged dinner reservations at a local steak house and worked with their dining room manager to make sure the table was well taken care of with personalized birthday menus and a special dessert, compliments of the restaurant. Not to mention, it was a bitter cold night, so she arranged for the dining room manager to personally drive the family back to the hotel after dinner. The guests raved about the service and almost broke down in tears. Sandy has spent 20-plus years in the industry and ten years as Concierge at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.
Aline Swanson — Interpreter
The International Center
For the past eight years, Aline has served as the face of Indianapolis to our international visitors and future residents. Last year there were approximately 140 international employees from 32 countries brought to Indy to live and work for the next 6 to 36 months. Imagine being one of these Indy newbies. After long flights across oceans and continents, these people arrive to the Indianapolis Airport, descend the escalators down into baggage – exhausted, maybe a little disoriented and certainly anxious about the unknown. They’re strangers in a strange land. Until they meet Aline. She is the irresistible smile at the bottom of those escalators. And as a fairly new American citizen herself, she’s got the Hoosier warm welcome nailed. Aline is responsible for welcoming these families and ensuring they understand the when’s and where’s and how’s – business appointments, social security, banking, housing, car, groceries, schools, medical facilities and most importantly how to navigate and love Indianapolis. Her employer goes on to say she’s an advocate for a global Indianapolis that goes above and beyond by building bridges for mutual understanding. She is a marvel of experienced cross- cultural communication, connection and understanding. She understands this is an exciting time to be a part of our city and knows that attracting and keeping the best talent from around the world is how we will continue our city’s growth. With Aline Swanson’s help, no one is a stranger in a strange land for long - you’re at home in Indianapolis. Aline has become an integral part of The International Center’s multinational staff. She’s fluent in Portuguese, English and Spanish.
Sue Payne — Jill of All Trades
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
For Sue, it’s hard to pin down her exact role at this Indianapolis attraction. She has done it all. Accounting Department. Milkshake Maker. Front Desk Assistant. Inventory. Costumed Character. Textile Teacher. How did she manage all of these different jobs? It be the fact that she has worked at this Indy establishment for 46 years! Sue started at Conner Prairie when she was 16. She recalls the first time she stepped on the grounds of the interactive history park at age 12. While her and her parents roamed the grounds she saw men working trades and women growing gardens. She smelled baked goods made from scratch in the kitchen, heard sounds of nature and grasped the knowledge of how much it took to build a barn. She was drawn to what life was like for settlers in Indiana’s early days. And she knew she had to come back there. That she did and 46 years later Sue has every corner of Conner Prairie covered with her knowledge, skills and job history. We can thank her for her work in developing today’s 1836 Prairietown, one of the park’s main attractions or her work with Hearthside Suppers and Follow the North Star. Today she spends much of her time working with Conner Prairie’s textile experiences, sharing with visitors how to make their own textiles and showing how things that people wore were made in early Indiana times. Because of her self-starter personality and passion for lifelong learning, she is an inspiration to her fellow colleagues. She’s a believer in keeping tradition alive, which is important given today’s technological advancements and easy access to manufactured goods. Her CEO goes on to say, “She is tremendously knowledgeable of Conner Prairie inside and out and her commitment to providing unmatched customer service has been evident in each and every role she has played.” 360,000 people visit Conner Prairie annually. Over 46 years, that’s 16.5 million visitors that have had the pleasure of benefiting from Sue Payne’s dedication. Impressive!
Michael Hawkins — Barista
Starbucks, Renaissance Hotel
Michael is described as anything but ordinary and a legend to his regular guests at this northside hotel. He arrives to work every morning at 5:30 a.m. – always on time and always smiling. One of his regular customers, Mr. Bane, has been coming to the hotel every morning since Michael has started working there to get a cup of coffee for his wife. Mr. Bane has said that the hotel isn’t the same when Michael isn’t there and that he’s a ray of sunshine. In the last five years, Mr. Bane has suffered a few medical setbacks and now uses a walker. Michael knows exactly what Mr. Bane needs and he’s ready for him every morning and helps him out in inclement weather. The hotel’s GM also says that, “he is an exemplary associate. He’s friendly, knowledgeable and problem solving. He seeks out customer feedback as he goes about filling coffee orders and upsells pastries at the same time. He is awesome to watch in motion.” Last summer the hotel experienced some turnover in their restaurant. Michael was the glue that held everyone together. He worked every position, sometimes it seemed, as the same time. He made coffee, served tables, ran room service orders, answered phones, and above all....SMILED. And when the restaurant’s service scores spiked over quarter 2 and quarter 3, we can directly attribute that towards Michael Hawkins, who has served as the Renaissance Hotel’s Starbucks Barista for the past five years.
Mary Elizabeth Langan — Hostess
Beth’s nomination form came with a lengthy list of extraordinary examples of Hoosier Hospitality. One goes like this. This new couple was having their first night out of the house after having their first child. Beth realized that the couple, as first time parents, were stressed because they forgot to bring a bottle for their baby. Beth didn’t waste any time – she jumped in the car and ran to the local grocery store and purchased a bottle so that the couples’ evening would not be interrupted. Beth understands the personal touch of customer service. From remembering a person’s name, favorite table, the way they like their meal prepared and even guests’ anniversaries or birthdays. There was one special occasion in particular where she went far beyond the expectations of a hostess, in fact, she became the hairdresser. This restaurant was hosting a wedding reception and the hairdresser didn’t show, so she jumped right in and did the Brides hair and the wedding went on as planned. She has taken convention guests from the restaurant to their downtown hotel after they missed the bus, she’s delivered carry-out dinners to customers who are house-bound, and she’s gone to the hospital to check on regular customers who fell ill. She carries "magic pennies" around with her to pass out to rambunctious children for them to throw in the fountain at the restaurant, keeping them entertained so that their parents may enjoy their dinner. Beth has worked as a hostess for Hollyhock Hill for 24 years.
Kristy Ewald — Reservations Manager
Hampton Inn Downtown
Kristy knows no stranger. She spends most of her time at a hotel working behind the computer or on the phone, and somehow never lets the physical obstacle keep her from making guests feel like they are friends. Her clients have even stated that even though she’s thousands of miles away from them, they can honestly feel her smiling. Clients go on to say that she never needs reminded that a deadline is near because she beats every deadline. They know that she hates to say that she is not able to do something like add rooms to a block if the hotel is sold out, but she does it in such a way that she probably feels worse than you do about not being able to provide what was requested. A client from Do It Best says, “She makes me feel as though I’m the only client that she has. She responds to my requests quicker than anyone in the industry.” She has scraped all of the ice and snow off guests’ cars. Her willingness to jump in and help is always appreciated. Another exceptional act of service was when she had two international guests interested in visiting Edinburgh outlets. They didn’t have a rental car and were nervous to take a taxi, so Kristy drove the guests south in her own car and waited for them while they shopped. She has developed incredible relationships with guests that keep them coming back to the hotel year after year. She watched one of the guests transition from a single guy to a married family man with twins. She put together baby books and blankets for the new parents. Another story involves a very memorable guest, Larry the Can Man. He has collected over 10 million pop tabs for Riley Children’s Hospital, therefore Kristy took it upon herself to start collecting pop tabs for him and encourages the staff to do the same. It was his birthday during his last visit. His representative had to cancel his birthday dinner, therefore she volunteered to take him to Hard Rock to celebrate with a steak dinner and an ice cream sundae! He was almost in tears over how much it meant to him. Kristy has worked for the downtown Hampton Inn of Schahet Hotels for eight years and has been in the industry for 15 years.
Tasha Page — Bartender
Harry & Izzy’s
Tasha has been described as the perfect mix of professionalism and fun. She’s been ranked as the top bartender by all managers, always participates in the city’s Beautification Day, and serves on the Leadership Advisory Committee for the company in a volunteer role. And, she’ll sing a little birthday jingle to you while delivering your dessert. Her focus is providing a memorable dining experience for everyone involved. For example, she recently delivered a meal to a regular guest in the bar acknowledging that his mini filets are done. One could easily tell these weren’t mini filets at all. She knew that the regular guest didn’t like meat on the bone, but loved the flavor of the filet. So, it’s known that this stellar bartender always takes the time to cut the meat off the bone for him without him even asking. Another example: two customers who dine at the restaurant quite frequently could be considered ‘very particular.’ One day, they requested to sit in a dining room that was not open or staffed. Of course, Tasha volunteered to wait on them, knowing they could be tough customers. What happened next was almost magical. She turned the so called difficult guests into loyal customers who now always request her service. Since then, their custom orders have never been forgotten. Tasha has been bartending at the downtown Harry & Izzy’s for almost two and a half years.
Sergeant Randy Dodd — Officer
Bike and Walking Patrol Team
Sergeant Dodd serves in a unique role, however a role that is so vital to the vibrancy, safety and cleanliness of downtown Indianapolis. It’s a role that directly impacts the 26 million visitors to the city. He is someone who helps deter crime and acts as a downtown ambassador by providing assistance to visitors, and he’s one of the best at it – going above and beyond the call of duty to take care of our cherished city. During a recent high level sporting event in Indy, he was asked by a visiting security detail if he could assist a VIP guest who wanted to experience downtown. Sergeant Dodd accepted wholeheartedly. The guest turned out to be actor Michael Douglas. Randy proceeded to give Mr. Douglas a personal tour, walking the streets downtown and bragging about all of our great assets, landmarks and attractions. Mr. Douglas was beyond grateful for his insight and expertise, and because of Randy, we know Michael Douglas will continue to sing Indy’s praises. This is an ambassador who has an “owner’s mentality.” Recently he’s taken notice to several buildings in downtown Indy that don’t meet downtown’s standards of cleanliness and repair. Randy has taken it upon himself to help improve these areas. After noticing a dilapidated building on South and Delaware Streets, Randy researched the property and found the building’s owner. He met with the owner and explained that the building was far below par. Since that meeting the owner has rehabilitated the gutters and building and has cleaned up the property. In a similar situation, he found another wayward property that was not being maintained, and after more research, found that the owner lived in Miami. He contacted the owner via phone and explained the situation. Now, this property is above-average for downtown standards. And on South Illinois Street there always seemed to be trash and broken bottles in front of one building. What did Randy do? Researched the owner, called him and suggested planting a flower bed in the space where the trash collected to deter people from polluting. The owner has since then invested in planting flower beds and has turned this downtown space into a pleasant establishment rather than an eyesore. One nominator said, “He takes ownership and pride in Downtown beyond anything I’ve ever seen before.” And, I think much of what Randy has been doing in rehabilitating these buildings are above his call of duty. But it’s mostly a behind-the-scenes job, making it often a thankless job. The Bike and Walking Patrol is a program of Downtown Indy which supports Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. This program is staffed by off-duty officers in addition to their full-time role with IMPD. We salute Sergeant Randy Dodd for his 26 years as a law enforcement officer here in Indianapolis and his two years serving as a Bike and Walking Patrol Officer.
Solanika Gleason — Hostess
120 St. Elmo Steak House
‘Above and beyond’, energetic attitudes, always smiling, problem solvers, all seem to be the constant in tonight’s award winners, and Solanika is no exception. She’s someone who interacts with or makes reservations for over five hundred guests per night while simultaneously processing hundreds of online orders, yet everyone she interacts with she makes them feel like they are her top priority. She is so positive and accommodating that this restaurant has guests requesting to only speak with her. Going “above and beyond” to exceed customer expectations is truly the status quo for her. Here’s an example. She took a dinner reservation with a very special request. The guest was going to be coming into dinner that night to celebrate his wife’s 80th birthday. He wanted to make it extra special for her, so he wrote her a song, but the guest wanted someone on the restaurant’s staff to sing her the song after dinner. Without hesitation, our recipient offered to spend the next few hours memorizing and practicing the song, so as soon as the couple finished their dinner that night, she stepped up to the table, dedicated the song to the woman and serenaded her. The wife was so overcome with joy, she began to cry and thank her husband and Solanika profusely. It was truly a beautiful moment they would all cherish for the rest of their lives. In hospitality, we know that you’re often presented with unique circumstances in order to deliver the highest level of customer service. But what about cat-sitting? Solanika met a traveling man that brought his cat to the restaurant. He pleaded for her to watch his cat so he could dine there. She knew she couldn’t keep the cat in the restaurant, but she checked the cat into coat check anyway, gave the man a ticket for his cat, and proceeded to take the cat up to the third floor out of the restaurant and up to the business offices while the man enjoyed his dinner. He was so grateful and thankful for her quick thinking and willingness to accommodate. In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities at the restaurant, Solanika is a single mom who loves her 4-year-old daughter. She has been taking classes at Indiana Wesleyan the past two and half years and will be getting her degree in Business Administration at the end of this coming summer. Her day is packed with work, her child, school, and then her homework after her daughter goes to bed. She truly shows amazing initiative and discipline daily while always keeping an optimistic attitude. Solanika has been working as a hostess for St. Elmo Steak House for the past decade.
Charlotte Carmichael — Volunteer
You should have seen Charlotte’s nomination packet. It wasn’t even a packet, it was a novel! So many kind words about her came flooding in in support of this volunteer. Words like... Unstoppable. Friendly. Hospitality Guru. Tireless. Hilarious. She’s someone that seems to be everywhere and always involved in something that shows off the city. The number of people she interacts with when she serves as the face of Hoosier Hospitality throughout her varied roles, must be in the tens of thousands of people. Her logged hours of volunteering are countless. She arrives early and is the last to leave. She thanks other volunteers for their help and is quick to note that she could not get along with them. What she may not realize is that we can’t get along without her. A guest to the city wanted to take a motor coach tour of the city but did not have the funds for a private car rental or step-on guide. This volunteer raised her hand to spend the day with the woman. Not only did she give the guest a 3-hour tour of Indy, she drove the guest around town in her own car. They went to lunch together and she spent the whole day promoting Indianapolis. When Indiana Landmarks was preparing to host a big event, Charlotte noticed the grounds weren’t acceptable. Before others could blink, she was climbing trees to prune them and then wrestling with big branches to pull them out of the trees and dragging them to the dumpster. She loaded remaining tree clippings onto a tarp, which she then drug away with her car. Within hours, she solely had the grounds looking impeccable. She’s 71 years old and still climbing trees! Age isn’t a factor for her, she just keeps going and going. Her Hoosier Hospitality knows no bounds. Charlotte has spent the last seven years serving as a volunteer thru Indiana Landmarks. She’s the Volunteer Enrichment Committee Chairperson, lead gardener and Gardening Committee chairperson, step-on tour docent, event greeter and usher, preservation library helper, VIP golf cart driver, development department researcher and tireless advocate for the preservation of historic places.
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