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Irvine Organizations, Individuals Presented with Annual Business Awards at Celebrate Irvine

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

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The Greater Irvine Chamber formally recognized organizations and individuals in Irvine for community service, volunteerism, and the best traditions of good corporate citizenship during the organization’s Celebrate Irvine luncheon, hosted in partnership with the City of Irvine.

“The work of organizations throughout Irvine are a vital component of the Irvine Master Plan. Set forth more than half a century ago, the Master Plan ensures economic prosperity in our region,” said Bryan Starr, President and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber. “We are proud to recognize a few of the many organizations and individuals who are achieving excellence while making significant contributions to the community.”

Awards were given in five categories:

  • Business of the Year – Sullivan Solar Power. Sullivan Solar Power is one of the largest solar power companies in the state with over 8,500 installations including projects for University of California, Irvine, the Port of Long Beach, Camp Pendleton, the United States Navy, the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, and numerous municipal and commercial sites. The company has been recognized for their rapid growth by Inc. Magazine, Ernst & Young, and Forbes.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year – Uplift Transport. Founder Gregory Krueger is an army medic veteran who was inspired to provide quality medical transportation to patients in need. Within 10 months of opening its doors, the company acquired two local medical transport businesses and has quadrupled its projected numbers. Uplift Transport serves many surrounding hospitals and rehab centers.
  • Nonprofit of the Year –Families Forward. Families Forward started with five rented apartments in 1984 and now serves all of Orange County, helping families in need achieve and maintain self-sufficiency after facing homelessness and financial hardships. More than 2,000 volunteers help support their programs, which include a housing program, on site pantry, counseling, career coaching, financial, and life skills.  Last year alone the organization provided services to 11,500 children and adults.
  • Business Philanthropist of the Year – Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo has made it a priority to better its own community here in Orange County. Team members at this business receive 16 hours annually to volunteer at nonprofits of their choice and more than 17,000 volunteer hours have been contributed. The organization’s Orange County team members have also donated more than $750 thousand dollars during their annual community support campaign. This business has a particular mission in Irvine to support causes and local nonprofits such as homelessness with Families Forward, domestic violence with Human Options, Steam Education with Irvine Public Schools Foundation, Financial Health with UC Irvine, and Community diversity with the Korean Cultural Festival. 
  • Young Professional of the YearCourtney Nakagawa,  Morton’s The Steakhouse. Well-known in the Orange County business community, Nakagawa in 2017 was named Sales Manager of the Year at Morton’s The Steakhouse. Within the past year, she has supported the Cystic Fibrosis auction, United Way, and Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She is a member of the Orange County Wedding professionals group, Meeting Professionals International. Her peers recognize her as the go-to for Chamber and community involvement. She has served in leadership roles on numerous Chamber committees.
  • Spirit of Hospitality Award – Abraham Vera, Hilton Irvine. Serving in the hospitality industry for 22 years, Abraham Vera is viewed by his peers as someone who goes above and beyond to provide innovative ways to give each guest the best experience. He is known within Hilton as a team player and problem solver. Last year under his leadership, the hotel received a 94 percent service score ranking the hotel 13th across all U.S. locations.

In addition to the award presentation, guests received a special message from Irvine Mayor Christina Shea, as well as a city update from Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Kuo during the program.

Starr provided an update on the Chamber’s work to advance economic development, as well as a look back as the Chamber celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“Over the past four decades, the Chamber has been dedicated to advancing the economic vitality of greater Irvine,” Starr said. “The Chamber continues to be a steward of the Irvine Master Plan. This is why we celebrate Irvine today.”


More than 400 attendees were at the sold out June 28 event at Hotel Irvine.

View event photos here.

Full list of nominees here.

City of Hope Orange County was the Presenting Sponsor for Celebrate Irvine 2019.

For more information on how to be considered for the Greater Irvine Chamber’s business awards, contact Kaitlynn Irvine.

Category: Chamber News, Events, Business Achievement Awards, Member News, Partner News

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