By Erika Webb
MainStreet DeLand racked up the accolades at the Annual Florida Main Street Conference in Vilano Beach in September, bringing home three Secretary of State Main Street Awards, according to a MainStreet DeLand news release.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner recognized Sandy Chavez with an honor award for Outstanding Local Florida Main Street Program Supporter. She is a longtime board member and volunteer for MainStreet DeLand as well as organizer of the craft portion of the DeLand Craft & Quilt Show.
A downtown merchant for about 20 years, Mrs. Chavez started out as co-owner of a little craft shop called Our Hearts in Country and now owns merchandise Mecca Lace and Accessories.
She attributes her retail evolution and longevity to being part of a larger entity -- MainStreet DeLand -- nearly from the start.
"I grew with it," Mrs. Chavez said of the association. "When I first opened, I wasn't even sure what MainStreet was, and I sure didn't know I'd be this active with it."
She said a past president of MainStreet approached her and her partner at Our Hearts in Country to ask them to join the board. It wasn't long before they saw the difference the organization was making downtown and beyond.
"I saw it making the town better, and growing," Mrs. Chavez said. "We thought if we put some time into MainStreet, we'll get it back with our business."
That, and then some, she discovered.
Now that the DeLand Craft & Quilt Show has come and gone, it's on to the Chili Cook-Off.
"I will be there at 7 a.m. to help set up. Whenever I can, I do it," Mrs. Chavez said of volunteering for downtown events. "We have fun. We have a blast. The people are fun to work with and we work hard. It feels good to work hard."
She's a self-described "behind-the-scenes" person, not one to bask in the limelight, or enjoy being singled out.
"I was surprised and very humbled," she said of winning the award. "It takes a whole village to do that craft show and I cannot do it by myself. All the volunteers are great and all the crafters, whether they make money or not, speak so highly of the volunteers. They come back each year because they love our volunteers."
MainStreet's new executive director Wayne Carter has been in the position three months. He knew what he wanted when he applied for the position and has not had a second thought.
"It's been great," he said.
He's very pleased with the state's recognition of the association.
"It shows all the good things the folks in DeLand are doing to make it such a great town," Mr. Carter said in a telephone interview. "All the people, the volunteers pitching in, have a great result."
He called DeLand a "model MainStreet community."
"It's a lot of different people interested in a lot of different things to make DeLand a better place," he said.
Café Da Vinci owners Dan and Melissa Reed and Mark Dam received an honor award for Florida Main Street Business of the Year.
"(It was) for their improvements to the Café Da Vinci property and the support they give the MainStreet DeLand Association through facility and staff support for events, such as the Craft Beer Festival, 'Thin Man' Watts Jazz Festival and BarCamp DeLand," the release stated.
The secretary's awards are based on recommendations of the Ad Hoc Florida Main Street Awards Committee and serve to encourage and acknowledge local Main Street Program accomplishments that advance the goals of the Florida Main Street Program, according to the release.
The City of DeLand received a merit award for Outstanding Florida Main Street Public Improvement for the West New York Avenue Streetscape -- a project that included installation of new sidewalks, landscaping, lighting and other improvements -- completed last spring.
"The project was intended to create continuity between Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue; create a linkage to business and government offices; improve accessibility for persons with disabilities and create a gateway corridor along State Road 44," the release stated.
MainStreet DeLand staff member Virginia Poczik has been a familiar cheerful figure, popping in and out of businesses distributing information, and a consistently friendly voice on the telephone at the association for two decades. The Florida Main Street program and Secretary Detzner recognized Ms. Poczik for her "20 years of service and dedication to the MainStreet DeLand Association."
The Florida Main Street Program is an integral part of the state's historic preservation program. The state program and the national model on which it is based are applicable only to communities with historic resources sufficient to create a well-defined sense of place, a tangible link with the past, according to the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources.
"The mission of DeLand MainStreet Association is to support and enhance the continuing economic development of downtown DeLand while protecting its historic heritage," the release stated.
There are 2,000 MainStreet community programs nationwide, established by a National Trust.
DeLand's is one of 40 Main Street communities in Florida, but only one of two in Volusia. Ormond Beach Main Street a non-profit volunteer-based organization was established in 1995.
The Ormond Beach MainStreet district includes Granada Boulevard from A1A on the East to Orchard Street on the West, and areas to the north and south of Granada Boulevard.