Bobbi's at Parkside, Community Credit Union, L3Harris finalists for Business of the Year

The finalists for the FLORIDA TODAY Volunteer Recognition Awards Business of the Year honors range from a giant multinational technology company with more than 47,000 employees to a boutique with a staff of four.

But the three finalist have one thing in common: Their leaders and staff all care about the Space Coast community and helping its residents.

Finalists for Business of the Year are:

  • Bobbi's at Parkside

  • Community Credit Union of Florida

  • L3Harris Technologies Inc.

Bobbi's at Parkside

Bobbi Whitmore, owner of the Bobbi's at Parkside boutique in Cocoa Village, credits her parents with teaching her the importance of giving and service to the community.

"I have always felt it was the right thing to do," said Whitmore, who opened her business in 2010, after working as a flight attendant for 39 years for Northwest Airlines and later Delta Air Lines. Even the ribbon-cutting event for her shop was a benefit for a breast cancer organization.

Her business recently was a sponsor of Bluegrass in Brevard, an event benefiting the historic Lawndale House Museum in Rockledge. She and her team also supported the Boots & Bandits event in Titusville, a benefit for the Women's Center.

Bobbi Whitmore's shop Bobbi's at Parkside in Cocoa Village is a finalist for FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards' Business of the Year.
Bobbi Whitmore's shop Bobbi's at Parkside in Cocoa Village is a finalist for FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards' Business of the Year.

Whitmore donated silent auction items for a number of organizations, including the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Friends of Sally's House, Historic Cocoa Village Main Street Association and Space Coast Habitat for Humanity. Often, the items are pearl jewelry that she crafted after learning the art in Asia, during her time as a flight attendant, when many of her flights were to Beijing or Shanghai.

She also is a supporter of the weVenture Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech, as well as A Life Recaptured, Bras for a Cause, The Children's Hunger Project, Crosswinds Youth Services, Dancing with Brevard, Genesis House, Health First, the Humane Society, Links of Love, the Marine Resources Council, Network for Good, the Red Cross, Serene Harbor and Trades of Hope.

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During her trips to Asia as a flight attendant, Whitmore started buying pearls and other jewelry for friends. So many people wanted the jewelry, she decided to open a small shop in Cocoa Village.

The small shop led to a bigger one and a bigger one until she landed in her current location at 4 Harrison St., where she sells women's fashions, accessories and Asian pearls. She has three employees other than herself.

"We believe we have a duty and obligation to give back to the community," Whitmore said. "We are a group pf women supporting other women — and men — in our area."

And Whitmore encourages others to do the same.

"Step up and make a donation," Whitmore said. "It doesn't take a whole lot. At the end of the day, it's doable."

Community Credit Union of Florida

Community Credit Union's mission is to "always improve the financial well-being of our members and make a positive difference on the community."

As part of that approach, all of CCU's employees make a commitment to do community service. Employees choose where they want to volunteer.

Sharon Barry, the Rockledge-based credit union's vice president of marketing, said CCU employees have contributed more than 1,500 hours of community service so far this year.

Community Credit Union is a finalist for Business of the Year in FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards.
Community Credit Union is a finalist for Business of the Year in FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards.

Barry said CCU encourages volunteering "because it is part of our mission and central to the credit union mantra of 'people helping people.' "

"CCU has made a big difference in in the lives of our members by helping them solve financial problems," Barry said. "We provide positive guidance and programs, such as Second Chance Checking and loans for those with financial challenges."

CCU also is a strong contributor of Brevard Public Schools.

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"We were founded by teachers in Brevard County, and have remained committed to help students learn more about financial and life matters, as well as supporting teachers," Barry said. "We provide a Hero Mortgage Loan Program that has helped teachers finance a home with favorable terms. Team members go into classrooms and teach students. We have developed a program to help schools with the new Financial Literacy mandates."

“Making a positive difference in our community is more than just a part of the mission statement. It is what we do every day in every interaction," CCU President and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Cappelli said. "Whether it is providing counseling to a member who is struggling financially or teaching students as part of Junior Achievement or helping to raise money for United Way or having our team members participate in beach cleanup, it improves the community we live and work in and helps build trust.”

CCU Chief Experience Officer Daniel Kelley said the credit union also launched the 321 Liftoff series this year, "giving students in high school and college the opportunity to learn about money, careers and building a business from their peers in a live, interview-style forum. Hosts included social media influencers, an NFL football player, a 'Shark Tank' contestant, credit union employees and business owners. It was a different way for students to interact with financial and life matters, while ensuring that the advice provided came with perspective.”

Among the organizations and events CCU has supported this year are ABC Awards, American Heart Walk, Brevard Family Partnership, Brevard Humane Society Molly Mutt, Brevard Public Schools, The Children's Hunger Project, Community Care and Share Program, Crosswinds Youth Center, Duck Adoptions, Eastern Florida State College, Future Fest, Heart of Hero Awards Gala, Indiafest, Keep Brevard Beautiful Beach Cleanup, Lead Brevard, Meals on Wheels, Neighbor Up, Rotary, Walk on Water Ministries and weVenture.

From its founding as Brevard County Teacher's Credit Union in 1953 in Titusville by a group of 10 teachers, CCU now has 151 employees and seven branches in Brevard County, with another branch scheduled to open next year in west Viera.

The member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative was formed to encourage savings by promoting a stronger return on its members' savings than they could find elsewhere. The credit union then used those savings to make loans to other members at competitively lower interest rates.

It now serves residents of Brevard, Indian River, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Volusia counties.

"We want to contribute to where we live and where we work," Barry said. "Part of our mission for every single employee is to make a positive difference in our community. That's who we are."

L3Harris Technologies Inc.

Melbourne-based L3Harris, a Fortune 500 company and Brevard County's third-largest employer, also does community involvement in a big way.

"L3Harris' community impact is huge," said James Carlson, vice president for community impact for the United Way of Brevard, who nominated the company for the Business of the Year Award. "The millions of dollars donated to the Brevard community, combined with the volunteer hours of its employees, leaves no sector of Brevard's human services continuum untouched by L3Harris."

L3 Harris is a finalist for the Business of the Year award as part of FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards.
L3 Harris is a finalist for the Business of the Year award as part of FLORIDA TODAY's Volunteer Recognition Awards.

In 2021, L3Harris employees donated more than 31,000 volunteer hours within Brevard County. That figure was more than 23,000 for the first nine months of 2022.

"We always say we have a culture of community," said Erica Lemp, L3Harris' director of community affairs. "We want our employees to be invested in the community. Community involvement is a great way to have a more engaged workforce."

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Lemp said it also helps in the recruitment and retention of employees because it helps give staff "a sense of belonging for the place where they work."

Lemp said the company has several "strategic giving pillars" it focuses on. They include:

  • Science, technology, engineering and math or STEM educational programs, as exemplified by the company's sponsorship of 49 robotics teams nationwide, including seven in Brevard County.

  • Support of active-duty military, veterans, first responders and their families.

  • Community causes employees are passionate about.

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

L3Harris is a global aerospace and defense technology company, providing advanced defense and commercial technologies across space, air, land, sea and cyber domains. L3Harris has more than $17 billion in annual revenue and about 47,000 employees worldwide, with customers in more than 100 countries. More than 7,300 of the company's employees are based in Brevard.

L3Harris employees donated more than $1.5 million to the United Way in 2021.

The company and its employees also made significant contributions to the Brevard Schools Foundation, the Brevard Zoo, Candlelighters of Brevard, Club Esteem, The Dock, Junior Achievement, the King Center for the Performing Art, Space Coast Discovery and weVenture, among other organizations.

L3Harris resource groups hosted more than 200 volunteer events last year that assisted and provided additional funding for local not-for-profit organizations.

Company executives also are members of the boards of the Brevard Zoo, Club Esteem, Junior Achievement, the United Way and other organizations, which Carlson said helps to "guide these agencies to better serve the citizens of Brevard."

L3Harris has a mini-grant program for employee-led volunteer projects. In 2021, the mini-grants totaled about $650,000 nationwide, including about $126,000 in Brevard County.

Lemp said L3Harris also provides dollar-for-dollar gift matches for qualified employee contributions, up to $5,000 per employee per year. Through that program, the company donated $600,000 nationwide in 2021.

The winner of this year's FLORIDA TODAY Volunteer Recognition Awards' Business of the Year will be announced an invitation-only event in December.

The 2019 Business of the Year winner was Palm Shores-based BRPH Cos., an architectural, engineering and construction company that was honored for making volunteerism part of its corporate culture.

Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at dberman@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @bydaveberman.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Business of Year finalists: Bobbi's, Community Credit Union, L3Harris