The Stars Come Out

Chamber's annual awards dinners honors leaders of area business community

By John F. Stanton
Published on April 11, 2013, 7:48am | Comments

It is time once again for the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to honor those stars who have made a notable impact on LGBT business. Being held April 19 at the luxurious Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, a galaxy of stars from the LGBT business world will gather to be recognized for their contributions to the LGBT community.

Many well-dressed members of the LGBT community will certainly recognize this year's Business Excellence Award winner. David Franco, founder of Universal Gear, a five-store retail chain that also includes e-commerce retailing, recently expanded into three additional major markets: New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

''To me, this award is about recognizing the entire team at Universal Gear,'' said Franco. ''Without their loyalty, talent and passion for what they do, we would not be where we are today.''

A familiar face in Washington's transgender community is this year's winner for Community Advocacy, Amanda Simpson, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the United States Army. As the first openly transgender woman to be appointed to a position in the federal government, Simpson is a role model for those in the LGBT community seeking to live authentic lives in their workplace.

As a breast cancer survivor, Christine Delucchi, owner of Delucchi Plus and Blue Bug Digital, both strategic-communications firms, felt that she should direct her considerable talents toward making the biggest impact. For her work with various LGBT organizations and women's health, Delucchi has been awarded the 2013 award for Business Leadership.

''I'm happiest when I am in a position to give and support causes I believe in as I have been so fortunate in my life to have health, happiness, love and a successful career,'' she said.

This year's winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur Award is John Caldwell of the accounting firm of Malvin, Riggins & Co. P.C. After establishing the company's D.C. office in August 2011, Caldwell became an enthusiastic member of The Chamber, embracing not only the LGBT community, but its friends and allies.

''The Chamber has been highly supportive of our efforts to reach out to our prospects in the market,'' Caldwell said. He has been an active LGBT supporter in the D.C. suburbs, including his sponsorship of the launch of the Virginia chapter of The Chamber last year.

Every chamber of commerce relies on its volunteers to help keep things running smoothly. The Volunteer of the Year for 2013 is Ashley Smith, who works as director of guest services at the Sheraton Pentagon City.

''As soon as I arrived in Washington several years ago I found The Chamber, which helped me reach outside of my comfort zone and contribute to those organizations in the community that needed the support.'' Smith said.

Smith has been an avid supporter of the HRC Federal Club, and previously co-chaired that organization's annual dinner.

The local LGBT community counts numerous corporations as allies. This year, the award for Outstanding Corporate Partner went to KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm. Through the efforts of its Pride@KPMG group, the firm has dedicated a significant portion of its resources to working with The Chamber.

''Our Washington metro area office is one of Pride@KPMG's most active chapters,'' said Anita Whitehead, the chapter's local leader. ''We offer awareness-building and career-development training, mentoring and networking programs, and opportunities to connect and build career-enriching relationships both within and beyond KPMG.''

Put April 19 on your calendar to come out and salute these stars of the LGBT business community.

The 2013 Annual Awards Dinner takes place Friday, April 19, at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW. Tickets start at $210, available online at

John F. Stanton, a CAGLCC member, is the president of SRP & Associates Inc., a strategic marketing and public relations firm in Northern Virginia.

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