Carol started with Indy Parks and Eagle Creek Park in 1980. At that time, admission to the park was $1.50 and over 500,000 visitors frequented the 5,400 acres. Today, Eagle Creek Park sees over one million visitors annually and Carol has been the consistent friendly face at the front gate for 37 years. She has been that friendly face through four Indianapolis mayors, ten Indy Parks directors and nine Eagle Creek Park managers. Not only is she the first impression and friendly face park visitors see, but Carol welcomes all. She has great stories of all the critters that have made their way into the gatehouse with her – the occasional hummingbird or chickadee, squirrels, chipmunks, or mice. She's kept her smile in 100-degree temperatures and frigid blizzard conditions. She's at work early, and never misses a day. Her smile and commitment never falter. When she's not at work, she's taking care of her sister who is suffering from health problems. But, even the crew at the nursing home facility where her sister lives mentions just how much she truly cares.
It's important to know that Joey's nomination form came pouring in with testimonials from diners all over the country who were fortunate enough to have experienced the "Joey charm." Everyone sang her praises, confirmed that she was the reason their night and experience at the restaurant was spectacular, and why they'll keep coming back again and again. In one story, a father and young daughter were visiting Indy and found themselves in Joey's section for dinner. The father informed Joey that the year prior, he dined at the exact same table, with Joey as his server. The only difference was that a year ago, his wife was dining with them. She had since passed from an illness and the father and daughter were reliving their experience in Indy to help keep her memory alive. It was evident that Joey was so impactful in one of the last memories that family had together. Joey leaves lasting impressions on so many people she encounters. Joey wears a bracelet that reminds her of everything a close friend has overcome in their life and the reason Joey has committed to volunteering with NeuroHope, an organization that helps with spinal cord injury rehabilitation. One night, a guest in Joey's section inquired about the bracelet. The guest was so moved by her passion for the organization, she was presented with a personal check for $1000 to donate to NeuroHope. It's evident there is passion and commitment in every move of Joey Ball and that is most apparent when you watch her with her guests at the restaurant or her dedication towards her personal training. Joey, we appreciate your charismatic service to Indy's hospitality community. As a lifelong Indy resident living on the near east side, Joey has been working at the downtown Harry & Izzy's for the past five years.
Damon's not only a rock star himself, but he greets the rock stars and star athletes that arrive at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The top VIPs that come through our city – many for the first time – are greeted by Damon. And every time those doors open, he's always on cue with a "Welcome to Bankers Life Fieldhouse" and a 100-watt smile to go along with it. One familiar face that comes through those doors is Paul George – and when you ask PG about his friend Damon, he says "There's no better person and no better representative of our building and city than Damon." Damon is the guy from the commercial for George's NBA2K17 video game! Damon's job is not all glam, though. Many days require him to put out fire after fire, from helping bandage a staff member who cut his head, to finding a misplaced phone, answering the nonstop incoming phone calls, managing shipments, working as a loading dock valet and still being there to greet everyone who comes in and out. For the past five years, he's been the Fieldhouse's problem solver and someone, it's quite obvious, you want on your team. When asked what it is that he likes most about his hospitality career, Damon said, "People. I just like the people. Wherever I am, I try to meet and greet and be the warmest face you can see. That's just my personality. I can get mad, but that's really not me. I've had people tell me I'm one of the most pleasant people they've met and I really want to be that guy...the one that after I've departed someone says, 'that's the happiest guy I've ever known.'" Damon is that guy. A guy that is one of the most pleasant people many have ever met. A guy that is often putting in 14-16 hour work days, especially on game days. It's not uncommon to find Damon is the first one in and the last one out, making this lifelong Hoosier one dedicated soul.
Many people don't realize how much of a role our police department plays in the hospitality community. They are ambassadors for our city and Kimberly leads the charge in making our downtown a safe and friendly environment, especially on weekends like we're witnessing this month with the NFL Combine just in the city, NCAA regionals, and the big St. Patrick's Day bash downtown. When thousands of visitors and residents descend on downtown Indy, you can count on Kim. Her nominator shared a story about an elderly man she came across during the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. The man looked disoriented and anxious and Kimberly knew something wasn't quite right so she befriended him and quickly realized he was separated from his family. She stayed with the man until she could figure out what hotel his family was staying at – and when she did, she personally drove him back to the hotel to find his whole family there waiting for him. It's Kimberly's compassion, keen observation and caring nature that benefits our visitors every day. In addition, Kimberly volunteers with our city's at-risk youth, Wheeler Mission, Catholic Youth Organization, and more. It's apparent how much she cares about her community – both Franklin Township, the community in which she lives and the Downtown District, the community in which she serves. A vocation of selfless service, compassion and doing good for others must be the Evans household mantra, as her husband serves as an Indy firefighter. Every day police officers like Kimberly see the darkest aspects of our city streets, yet bring so much light to the visitors and residents they protect and serve.
John exemplifies what it means to go above and beyond. He functions as reservations, front desk, concierge, housekeeper, bell man, maintenance and groundsman. A daily example of supreme service is John's initiative to call every guest prior to their arrival, let them know he's looking forward to their check-in, and ask if there's anything he can proactively do to help with their stay. On one occasion The Nestle Inn had a guest who was in the city doing genealogy work for her family. She didn't know anyone in Indy and while here became very ill. John assisted her in getting an appointment and then he, himself, took her the doctor. Another guest was having car trouble. John followed the guest far north to where she would need to get her car fixed. And when the car was fixed, John drove all the way back to the Inn with the guest following him to ensure she made it back to Indy safely. This past Valentine's Day John was charged with overseeing the sold-out chocolate cooking class taking place at the Inn. Simultaneously, a couple asked for assistance in getting a taxi to their downtown dinner reservation. After three attempts and all taxis reporting that they were too booked to get to the Inn in time, John decided to take matters into his own hands. So, what did John do? Pulled his car right around and he, himself, drove the couple to their Valentine's dinner destination. His response to any request is, "We will make it happen." The Inn is a special place to John personally – not only as the spot where he and his husband got married – but as a spot you ensure each guest feels is a special place for them, too. This downtown dweller keeps busy with his husband John, his love for gardening and five dogs, seventeen chickens and three cats. And if you add all of those animals up, it comes out to one year shy of the 26 years that John has been a part of Indy's hospitality community.
Darren wakes up at his home in Brownsburg, kisses his kids goodbye, commutes downtown to prep The Westin's breakfast buffet, then heads over to the Omni to work valet, then he comes BACK to the Westin to help service and clean the hospitality suite. He has done this for the last 13 years and that's a long day! If you spend any time in the State Room at the Westin, you quickly learn a few things about Darren. His outgoing attitude is contagious – even that early in the morning. Darren has memorized what type of coffee every return guest takes. And, he's one heck of a sports fan. One guest that travels all over the country for business said Indianapolis is one of her favorite places to travel because you do not receive the level of service that Darren provides anywhere else. Because of Darren, Indy visitors are happy and they're coming back again and again.
Lucy has been serving breakfast to Omni Severin guests for the past 26 years. It's estimated that Lucy has served over 65,000 Omni patrons to date. Now I know some of her guest favorites go by the name of Michael Jackson or Aretha Franklin, but even those less famous guests who have the fortune of being served by Lucy are treated like royalty. Like royalty or like you're dining in your grandma's kitchen, as one loyal guest put it. They said Lucy is someone you feel like you've known and loved for years. She's as sweet as they come and we know she gets good practice being grandma with her four grandkids.
Kelly has been working at Scotty's on the northside for two years now, and her employer elaborates on how Scotty's hasn't been the same since she started with the team. Every day that Kelly is on the schedule, you know it's going to be a happy day. Her energy and positive outlook are contagious, not only with fellow employees, but the guests that come in for lunch. And many of them are repeat diners who are coming in to catch a ray of Kelly's sunshine. In fact, one day a table of guests came in who admittedly were having a bad day after an unpleasant morning sales meeting. It's as if Kelly was meant to be in that day because she picked up on their frowns, sat right down at the table and insisted on high fives from everyone. The guests wrote the restaurant that day thanking Kelly for her spirit and ability to completely turn their day around. They noted that they'll back for more high fives.
Bluebeard is one of Indy's restaurants that has quickly skyrocketed to stardom with nods from James Beard, Bon Appetit Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, and more. The same could be said for their neighboring restaurant, Milktooth. Want to know what their common denominator is? It's Jess. When Jess isn't hosting one of her famous vintage sales with Nine Lives Vintage or making potted peculiarities that are dotted in windows all over downtown, she's busy serving hungry diners who have traveled far to finally taste what so many foodies across the country have been raving about both at Milktooth and Bluebeard. Her employers at Bluebeard have so many great stories about her, and they all identify Jess' kind spirit and love for her city. Jess anticipates every single need of each guest and is quick to move, from getting the door and grabbing a highchair for the mom struggling with a car seat to bringing a guest a small pack of Kleenex when they have the sniffles. Her service reaches beyond her profession, but also into her personal life. When a coworker reports some upsetting health news, she's the first to text him to see what she can do for him. She decorated a coworker's desk with photos of their baby, knowing a return from maternity leave may be difficult. And on one busy night, she secretly ordered patty melts for the entire kitchen staff, knowing they had not had a chance to eat. Jess always puts someone's needs above her own. For example, a husband and wife who were regulars at the restaurant quickly become known because the husband couldn't hear very well so the wife always had to communicate for him. They quickly became part of Bluebeard's family and Jess was always the perfect server for these loyal guests. Unfortunately the husband passed away shortly after Bluebeard's third anniversary. The wife eventually built up enough happiness to dine at the restaurant again. And there was Jess – so eloquently addressing the trial their loyal guest was facing. Jess made her feel welcome and delicately accommodated her needs. You see, it has been said that Bluebeard is family and it is Jess that extends that feeling of comfort not only to the employees, but to their guests. And you know she's good when Andrew Luck texts her when he plans to swing by the restaurant. Jess is a hospitality queen and one of Indy's biggest ambassadors, especially for her new neighborhood in Garfield Park.
Tillara works the night shift at Alamo and National rental car kiosks at the airport. She's always standing outside in the heat or cold with a smiling face, welcoming weary travelers off the plane – even if that last plane has been delayed and she has to stay well past 3 am. Every night Tillara assists anywhere from 100-500 visitors. And in the two years she's been there, her employers confirm she has never had a bad night. She'll have a customer's car warmed up or cooled down before they drive off, ensure they have directions and a laundry list of suggestions on cool things to see and do while in the city. In the car rental business, you can never predict how many cars you'll end up needing in one night. And when things don't go as planned – such as being ten cars short at midnight for the last ten customers, Tillara is always the friendly face that maintains calm and lets the customers know she will cab them to their destination and deliver the car first thing in the morning. Her ability to diffuse any situation, is quite impressive. For example, one night many customers arrived at the kiosk at 1 am to find they were out of rental cars. Tillara took quick action to round-up the group with their end destination addresses and map out a route for her to personally drive each of them to where they needed to go. At 3 am she turned off her car engine and finally called it a night with all customers safely to their destinations. And, she had already put in a nine-hour shift prior to that. When her day is done, sometimes much later than she anticipates, she goes home to the Greenwood area. And she's still smiling.
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