2018 E-Award Winner and Nominees

On Monday, October 15, 2018, Guest Services had the pleasure of honoring this year’s E-Award winner and nominees. This is always a very special occasion, as it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge exemplary levels of performance by our team members. Our E-Award winner this year was Joel Cabezas, and his fellow nominees were Johanna Kearns, Jennifer Miller, and Angie Thurston.

Since its conception in 1982, the CEO selected the nominees and winner; however, about four years ago, President/COO Jeff Marquis started stewarding the program.

“It is an honor to pick everybody because I genuinely know all of the candidates,” says Jeff. “It’s not hard to pick a winner, but it is very difficult to pick three people who aren’t the winner. All nominees are very qualified, and people don’t tend to get re-nominated. Everyone is very gracious and being one of the four nominees is a huge honor.”

The process of selecting an E-Award winner is very particular and has multiple steps. First, nomination forms are sent out to the vice presidents of the company. The vice presidents confer with their managers about whom they believe should be nominated and then usually nominate 1-2 team members – about nine in total. Next, those people are submitted to the E-Award Committee in Human Resources and Marketing. The nine candidates are narrowed down to four official nominees along with a suggested winner. However, the winner is ultimately decided by the President/COO. The top four nominees are awarded $2,500 and a certificate, and the winner receives $7,500 with an engraved plaque.

Nominations should possess demonstrated excellence in all of the following areas: customer and client service, leadership, creativity, exemplary initiative, peer relations, financial performance, and sustained superior performance.

“Past winners demonstrated being able to successfully operate in a very challenging work environment while keeping a smile on their face, ensuring customers are happy, and treating their employees well,” Jeff says. “I know how hard certain jobs can be, and a perfect performance in the face of adversity generally yields the best chance to win.”

Jeff continues about why he chose Joel as this year’s winner, “Joel is an amazing manager who has a very demanding job. What struck out to me most about Joel is that I saw him everywhere! Whenever someone needed volunteers to help out with a Christmas party, he was there; when Bear Mountain needed help in New York with Oktoberfest, Joel’s lending a hand. On top of that, he runs a site that delivers very high quality food and very strong expense management, as well as the happiest team members and clients. There’s not much else you can possibly ask from our top performing team members.”

When Joel found out about this nomination, he was more than surprised.

“I would never expect to hear the stories of the other nominees and then be chosen as the winner. I am who I am; I have always gone the extra mile because I care about what I do and I want to be the best I can,” says Joel.

When Joel was announced the winner, he was grateful to be recognized for achieving such a high standard within the company, and he wants to help others to experience it too.

“I want to give my knowledge to others, so they can potentially earn this recognition as well,” says Joel. “Once individual units improve to their best, the company, as a whole, will be even better than it already is.”

Jeff emphasizes that Guest Services is a company that wants its team members to be recognized for their hard work and this award shows that this mindset is a true characteristic of our company.

“Everyone at Guest Services truly thinks of each other as family. It is our duty to recognize all of the employees, especially the ones who are going the extra mile. The E-Award is our way of delivering them a sincere, and very special, thank you.”

Since the beginning over 30 years ago, we also want to recognize and celebrate the previous E-Award winners: Harriet E. Palmer, Laura M. Murphy, Barbara S. Smerick, Stephen I. Skol, Mary L. Calton, Jan Van Hoesen, Willie Rodriguez, James L. Fisher, Mauro Borjas, Elizabeth Rogers, Lawrence M. Rhodes, Taufiq Anwar, Judith Aist-Dvorak, Joan S. Roberson, Katherine A. DeGroot, Charles R. Bennett, Susan M. Pourian, Alisha R. Lang-Lum, Nadya Uygun, Jennifer L. Robbins, Larry E. Anderson, Danielle M. Verderosa, William R. Mullinix, Lisa A. Philip, J. Troy Cardwell, Paulette Lassiter, Michael Szyjka, Joel C. Mangulabnan, Addis Worku, Clyde Tisdale, Heather Snowden, and Joel Cabezas.

Again, we want to congratulate the other nominees for this year’s E-Award. Please take a look at what Mr. Gabrys had to say about the winner and nominees.

 Joel Cabezas started in the foodservice industry in April of 1995, where he began as a dishwasher a year after graduating high school.  That’s when his respect for food and food service workers began.  He started to move up in the food service field and in 2003 became the assistant food and catering director at NIH main campus building 45. In 2005, he was promoted to food service director at NIH main campus in building 31 and in 2010 he became part of the Guest Services family as assistant manager at the DIA. Currently, Joel is the General Manager at NIH-Fisher Lane.  Joel says “My family and I enjoy spending time together. We spend as much quality time as possible either at home, vacation or church.”

Johanna Kearns’ career in food and beverage started at McDonald’s when she was 16 years old.  After working dozens of bars/restaurants and managing live music over the years, she wandered around the museums on the National Mall one day and stumbled upon the National Gallery of Art.  She thought “Gee I bet it would be nice to work in one of these cafes.  I wonder who does that.”  Google led her to Guest Services, Inc. where she was offered the position of General Manager at Indigo Landing Restaurant and then moved to the Pavilion Cafe 2 years ago.  Since then she has become a Star Path Mentor, EmPulse team member, trusted liaison for the National Gallery of Art Client and Guest Services, and successful leader for the Jazz in the Garden events.  She also volunteers with the Anacostia Watershed Society and Casey Trees and tries to sneak in and contribute ideas for environmental efforts at other GSI units whenever anyone will let her.

Jennifer Miller was hired as the Front Office Manager of the Doubletree Suites-Naples in 2003. She was a key part of the team that has won many Connie and other Hilton awards over the years.  She became the Revenue Manager for the Doubletree and eventually for all Guest Services’ Lodging units. Jennifer became the General Manager of Paradise Palms in Orlando while continuing in her capacity as Revenue Manager.  As the Hospitality Division continued to grow, Jennifer became the full-time Revenue Manager. She manages the daily rate and promotion programs and provides guidance and support to all lodging teams.  Jennifer was also the architect of the new Central Reservations Office in Naples. She hired the team, implemented the processes and strategies, and managed the on-site installation of the new, cloud-based property management systems at each hotel, saving the company thousands in annual costs and improving efficiency.

Angie Thurston demonstrates outstanding qualities: friendliness, professionalism, hard-working, customer service oriented, effective managerial skills, technically sound, and supportive, just to name a few.  Angie’s leadership and achievements during her tenure have been remarkable.  Angie is the IT point person for new contract openings, has lead efforts to roll out the new wireless tablet system called “Best Ring” at many of our special event sites, and is the project lead on time-keeping systems that we have across our company.  From a compliance perspective, Angie has ensured that Guest Services as a company is in sync with all of the ever-changing rules with credit cards, as well as training many of her staff to support these efforts.  From a qualitative standpoint, Angie truly cares.  From dressing up as the Santa Clause to putting 110% into everything she does.