ROSE awards ceremonies honor hospitality workers: Eleven employees commended for top-level service

April 2, 2007

After the passing of the restaurant's general manager, "Mama" stepped into the grief-filled void, providing leadership while consoling the staff.

During a charity silent auction, Camerone auctioned off herself as an inhome chef for an evening. She ended up generating the most proceeds, enough to make a dream come true for a child during the Make-a-Wish Telethon.

Pamela Evans, customer service agent, American Airlines

Evans is a customer service agent for American Airlines and her territory often can be among the most hostile in the hospitality universe-the airport. Evans has repeatedly demonstrated that she has the knack of easing the burdens of travel-so much so that she has received more than 50 commendations related to her work, whether as a reservationist or as a counter or gate agent.

Evans also is active at the Julian Center and is an honors student at IUPUI, where she is working toward her bachelor's degree in tourism.

Eric Gaston, guest ambassador, Omni Severin Hotel

Eric Gaston began his career in service while still a teenager, working in Reno, Nev., as a change clerk, waiter and concierge for many big-name entertainers, including Bob Hope, Tina Turner, Tony Orlando, Bill Cosby and James Brown.

He has been employed for the last three years by the Omni Severin, where guests say he goes beyond the call of duty.

When a performance troupe stayed at the hotel, for example, Gaston arranged for a hair stylist and manicurist to come to the hotel. He had clothes cleaned and pressed at a nearby department store. Not long ago, a hotel guest inadvertently discarded some valuables. Gaston took it upon himself to search through trash cans, retrieve the items, have them cleaned and returned to the guest.

Benny Grider, maintenance and housekeeping, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Grider is a life-long Indianapolis resident and graduate of George Washington High School. He has worked in the hospitality industry for 19 years, the last 11 at the Eiteljorg Museum.

His primary duty is the maintenance and housekeeping of one of Indianapolis' most popular attractions, but Eiteljorg officials say he goes way beyond his job duties.

"He is the role model I refer to in management meetings when we discuss the ideal staff attitude we hope to create, the perfect blend of work ethic, teamwork and support for the broader cause," Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said about Grider.

Alfredo Gurrola, waiter and captain,

Eleven individuals received ROSE Awards at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association's 16th annual event in mid-March.

The Rose-for Recognition Of Service Excellence-honors employees who positively influence a visitors' experience in Indianapolis, whether through one-on-one contact or behind the scenes actions.

In addition to the 11 ROSE winners, the event saluted another 80 hospitality honorees at the Indiana Convention Center. More than 700 of attendees joined Mayor Bart Peterson in congratulating the men and women.

The awards are sponsored by the Indianapolis Power & Light Co.

Supervisors nominated honorees based on their courteous attitude, knowledge of the workplace and the city, ability to meet and exceed customer expectations and problem solving skills. Nominees have one-on-one contact with convention delegates, tourists, business travelers and meeting planners, or are behind-the-scenes people in the hospitality industry.

A panel of community leaders served as judges to select ROSE Award recipients for lifetime achievement and for exceptional service during 2006.

As one of Indianapolis' top industries, tourism contributes an estimated $3.25 billion to the Marion County economy annually and supports more than 63,000 full time equivalent jobs, according to ICVA.

ROSE Award recipients:

Valentin Arreola, preventative maintenance engineer, Indianapolis Marriott East Hotel and Conference Center

Arreola put his life on line when an 85-year-old woman, on her way to attend a convention in the hotel, lost control of her car and landed in a canal, where her car began to sink. He jumped into the water, swam to the car, unfastened the woman's seat belt and then pulled her to safety ashore, where he waited with her until paramedics arrived. Arreola has worked in the hospitality industry for seven years, including the last five at the Marriott East.

Pamela Ault, usher, Pacers Sports & Entertainment

Ault has worked as an usher since Conseco Fieldhouse opened its doors in 1999 and is stationed by the main entrance.

When she has a night off, arriving spectators often inquire about her absence. Ault was praised for recognizing and engaging repeat visitors and making first-time guests feel welcome. She exchanges hugs and high fives, and sometimes hands out mint candies. On one occasion, she searched until she found a lost wedding ring which she happily re-united with a crying bride.

Patty Camerone, manager, Ruth's Chris Steak House

Camerone has worked in the restaurant industry for 30 years, the last 10 at Ruth's Chris Steak House. To those who frequent Chanteclair, Holiday Inn Select Airport

Alfredo Gurrola of Chanteclair restaurant at the Holiday Inn Select Airport left his family, his friends and his job to come to Indianapolis from Mexico in 1969. He found work as a busser at Chanteclair, one of Indianapolis' finest restaurants, which then was in its infancy. Within two years, he was promoted to waiter, and was elevated to captain in 1977.

Chanteclair officials say longevity. It is all based on warmth, friendliness and customer service. He doesn't just wait on his customers, he engages them in a manner that makes them feel welcome, special, they say and is the establishment's most requested waiter.

Nula Harmon, volunteer/financial services manager, Indiana Sports Corp.

Since 1984, Harmon has volunteered for every event the Indiana Sports Corp. has organized or presented, including the Pan Am Games, Final Fours, Big Ten Basketball Tournaments, World Police and Fire Games, the Solheim Cup, etc. Former ISC President Dale Neuburger wrote, "Nula was always the patient, considerate and knowledgeable person who was able to make athletes, coaches, technical officials and spectators feel at ease and get their bearings in a new, unexplored city."

Bob Homan, customer greeter, National Car Rental

Homan has spent 25 years in the hospitality service industry, the last 17 with National Car Rental.

He operates on the front line of the hospitality industry, making sure people in a hurry have a favorable impression of the city. National Car Rental officials say its not unusual for Homan to use his personal car to shuttle guests.

He makes sure cars are warmed up and defrosted in the winter cold and cooled off in the summer heat. If it's raining, he'll greet customers with an umbrella as they get off the shuttle.

Clarence "Chip" Hoosier, driver, Yellow Cab

Tragically, last August, this 25-year employee of Yellow Cab had his life taken in a senseless act of violence.

Whether the ride was five minutes or 30, Hoosier was known for making a human connection with each customer. It was a familiar sight to see his taxicab loaded with food and donations for the St. Bridget's food pantry or deliveries to help those less fortunate.

Ann Thomas, customer service representative, IndyGo

IndyGo officials say Thomas has been all about listening and caring during her 29 years at IndyGo.

She once gave the shoes off her feet to a customer who arrived at her IndyGo service center with none.

Once, when an elderly woman came into Thomas' office looking for a bus route and mentioned she didn't have any food, Thomas took her to a fast-food restaurant and bought her lunch.

Another customer mentioned his grandmother was dying. Thomas provided him a free bus pass. A few days later, the grandmother died, and Thomas found him a suit and shoes.

She also designed a Braille flash-card system to help visually impaired riders signal the driver of their particular stop.
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