About the Chamber
Mission Statement and Story of the Chamber
To promote the business interests of businesses run by persons with disabilities
and/or their direct caregivers (“Disability Businesses”) and to place businesses
run by persons with disabilities on a level playing field with businesses run by
For all Disability Businesses to be successful and for such businesses that are
run by persons with disabilities to be treated by consumers in the same manner as
businesses run by persons with no disabilities.
- Improve the Chamber membership’s geographic representation throughout Florida and
the rest of the Southeast.
- Establish strategic alliances with organizations that can help find members.
- Grow Chamber membership.
- Understand the needs of Disability Businesses.
- Focus on the recruitment of members.
- Membership retention based on value delivered to members.
- Offer health insurance and other member benefits.
- Market Disability Businesses to each other.
- Educate members through newsletters, blogs, and webinars.
- Offer resources to start businesses, including advertising opportunities and available
- Place Disability Businesses run by persons with disabilities on a level playing
field with businesses run by others.
- Convince businesses and other consumers that businesses run by persons with disabilities
can provide goods and services equal quality to businesses run by others.
- Establish a nationwide network of organizations with similar missions to the Chamber’s
mission to provide power in numbers.
- Convince the Federal government to include businesses run by persons with disabilities
as disadvantaged business enterprises.
- Work to improve the Ticket-to-Work program and other similar programs.
- Staff the Chamber with the proper paid employees and volunteer employees to satisfy
the other provisions of the strategic plan.
- Locate persons who have expertise and a passion to help this organization achieve
- Obtain grants to pay for the employment of qualified individuals who are disabled.
- Offer incentives to persons who obtain funds.
- Prepare an appropriate employment manual.
- Obtain funds sufficient to satisfy the other provisions of the strategic plan.
- Obtain funds from government and non-profits
- Continue to sign-up sponsors.
- Continue to sign-up paying members.
- Perform services for funds
- Seek feedback from members and implement appropriate ideas.
The Chamber provides or will provide the following benefits:
- Promotion of Disability Businesses for internal sales among Chamber Members and
for sales to the general public. To increase membership and sales to the general
public, the Chamber is implementing a grass roots campaign and a public
- Promotion of Support Organizations by listing these organizations on this website
and promoting the list.
- Provision of media for Members to exchange expertise and ideas with one another.
- Provision of resources for Disability Businesses to form and grow. These resources
will include advice through newsletters and blogs on various areas, including law
(e.g., corporate law, tax law, and labor law matters), finance, management, and
marketing. The resources will also include information with respect to disabilities.
In addition, the Chamber will offer a network of expert organizations that can help
Members, both with respect to business issues (e.g., formation of a Disability Business)
and disability issues.
Management and Board of Directors
The Chamber plans to hire a staff, including an Executive Director.
Currently, the Chamber is operated by its Board of Directors, led by its Chairman,
Peter Schoemann. All directors are volunteers who receive no compensation for their
Chairman: Peter Schoemann, Esq.
Peter Schoemann has strong ties to the disability
community. Mr. Schoemann has four children (two daughters and two sons), of which
both sons have autism along with kidney disease that will eventually result in complete
kidney failure and the need for kidney transplantation. Mr. Schoemann currently
serves as Vice-Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Finance Committee for the Advocacy Center
for Persons with Disabilities, Inc. This Florida instrumentality is devoted to the
protection and advocacy of all persons with disabilities in the state of Florida. In addition , Mr. Schoemann serves as a director of the Center
for Independent Living in Central Florida.
In addition to his ties to the disability community, Mr. Schoemann has an extensive
business background. He received a B.S. and a Masters degree in Accounting, a Juris
Doctor, and an LLM in Taxation, all from the University of Florida. Mr. Schoemann
became a Florida CPA in 1994 and a member of the Florida Bar in 1995. Upon completing
his education, Mr. Schoemann served as an attorney advisor for the Honorable Carolyn
P. Chiechi of the United States Tax Court in Washington, D.C. Since then, he has
worked as a corporate and tax attorney, focusing on such areas as business formation,
mergers and acquisitions, tax-exempt organizations, and public finance. In addition,
Mr. Schoemann is the Manager and creator of a family publishing business. Recently,
Mr. Schoemann was named to the top forty under forty by the Orlando Business Journal.
Remaining Directors (in alphabetical order):
- Christine Eckstein, Esq., is the mother of four wonderful children,
Kate’ age 11, David age 10, Kenny age 8, and Ava Maria age 3 and the wife of
Peter Schoemann. She was born and raised in Sanford, FL along with her three brothers
and sister. Christine’s life in the disability community began New Year’s
Eve 1987, when her family learned that her sister would need to go on kidney dialysis
and have a kidney transplant. Over the course of the following year, her whole family
was tested for kidney disease. It was then, as a freshman at the University of Florida,
that she learned her kidneys were in complete failure and that her brother’s
and father’s kidneys were beginning to fail. Christine had to begin dialysis
immediately to save her life. She spent 31 long months on dialysis until she received
a kidney transplant in July of 1991. During this hard time, Christine remained a
full time student at UF and earned a B.A. in Political Science. She then went on
to UF’s law school and graduated with honors. After law school, Christine
worked briefly in a Legal Services office in Clearwater, FL handling primarily Social
Security and public benefits issues for indigent families.
It was around this time that she became concerned about the development of her oldest
son David. After consulting with many physicians and pediatric developmental specialists,
David was diagnosed with autism. Shortly thereafter, Christine’s second son
Kenny was diagnosed with autism as well. In addition, both of Christine’s
sons have inherited her kidney disease and will eventually need kidney transplants.
It is clear to Christine now that she became a lawyer so that her children could
have their own attorney. Christine’s children are her world and she spends
each and every day of her life participating in meaningful activities to help them
reach their individual potential. Currently, Christine is a member of the Florida
Bar, the Women’s Club of Sanford, the Optimist Club of Sanford, the Seminole
County Chamber of Commerce, a religious education teacher for children with autism
at Annunciation Catholic Church, a dividend school volunteer for Bentley Elementary
School, a volunteer for Mid-America Transplant Services, and an officer of Builder’s
Stone Publishing, LLC.
- Erika Harding
Corey Hinds has been working within Florida’s
job training and employment programs for over 10 years. He is the Employment Manager
and the Client Assistance Program Director at the Advocacy Center for Persons with
Disabilities. He is responsible for the general operations of the Employment Section
of the fourth largest federal/state protection and advocacy program for people with
disabilities. Corey has led the Center’s efforts in developing partnerships
with employers, rehabilitation programs, and community organizations to increase
job opportunities, economic development, small business opportunities and policy
development to expand employment services for individuals with disabilities.
Through Corey’s leadership, the Center’s Employment Program has assisted
individuals who have received higher education degrees for careers in the healthcare
profession, hospitality industry, customer service, banking and other high wage
jobs in high growth industries. Corey serves on the Governor’s statewide Florida
Rehabilitation Council and the Broward Business Leadership Network to promote the
hiring and recruitment of workers with disabilities. He received his undergraduate
degree from Florida State University and his master degree in Public Administration
from Central Michigan University, Washington, D.C. field Office at the Pentagon.
McClelland, Esq., is a lawyer in Tampa, Florida, who has a deep
personal interest in assisting the disability community. He has a six year old
child with autism and a brother with bi-polar disorder. He has assisted various
organizations devoted to assisting individuals with disabilities by providing pro
bono legal service and by assisting in fundraising events. In his professional life,
Mr. McClelland is a Partner at the Tampa office of Phelps Dunbar LLP and is a Board
Certified labor and employment lawyer. His practice focuses on representing businesses
of all sizes -- from small businesses to Fortune 50 corporations -- in almost all
aspects of labor and employment law, including preparing employment and severance
agreements, preparing and/or reviewing employee handbooks and company policies,
providing advice regarding compliance with federal, state, and local employment
laws, and representing companies and their employees in litigation matters.
As part of his legal practice, Mr. McClelland has handled numerous government investigations
and court cases involving claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Mr. McClelland earned a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from the
Florida State University; he earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University
of Florida College of Law.
- Sue Mohr
Shannin, Esq., is a Board Certified Appellate Attorney, who
is pleased to bring his skills to the board of the Chamber. Nick is a graduate of
Rice University and graduated with honors from the University of Florida College
of Law. Prior to entering law school, he used his sociology background as a social
worker with the Human Services Council. Since graduation, Nick has built a successful
practice as an appellate specialist and mediator and is a partner with the trial
law firm of Page Eichenblatt Bernbaum
and Bennett in Orlando.
Throughout Nick’s legal career, he has maintained his heavy participation
in non-profit endeavors serving as a representative for over 50 children as a pro-bono
Guardian Ad Litem appointed through the Legal Aid Society. Nick has received the
Award of Merit from that organization and is presently president-elect for that
organization, having just completed his term as president of the West Orange Habitat
The West Orange Habitat for Humanity is involved in a wonderful project to benefit
disabled veterans. For more information, see
- Pier Westra was born and
raised in Lakeland, Florida before attending boarding school in Tennessee and graduating
from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida with a degree in Sociology. Following
his undergraduate work, Pier spent more than 22 years helping those in need, beginning
as a claims adjuster handling day to day automobile, home and commercial losses,
as well as traveling to areas that were impacted by significant claims events. Ultimately
he was responsible for managing multi-state claims operations for various insurance
companies, including the corporate responses to some of the Nations worst natural
disasters, including the Oakland Hills Fires, Hurricane Andrew, the Northridge Earthquake
and finally the four hurricanes of 2004. His ability to martial resources, engage
the community and motivate groups to act will be of specific value to the Chamber
Pier and his wife adopted a daughter, who was diagnosed within the Autistic Spectrum
at the age of four. While working to obtain assistance for his daughter, he became
acquainted with the obstacles that face those with disabilities. This experience
has given him a desire to assist others in navigating these obstacles. Pier and
his wife Vicky (who also serves on the Board) have long had the desire to give back
to the community. As such, in 2007 in conjunction with the formation of their company,
Javámo Coffees, they launched the Javámo Art for Autism Foundation,
a charitable organization dedicated to serve children who have been diagnosed with
this autism and their families. This desire to serve those with disabilities, in
conjunction with his personal and professional experiences, brings a unique and
holistic approach to Mr. Westra’s role on the Board of Directors for the Chamber.
- Vicky Westra is the
President of Javámo Coffees, Inc., a Disability Business Member. In this
role, she co-manages the business with her husband, Pier (who is also a member of
the Board of the Chamber). Prior to starting Javámo Coffees, Vicky worked
at Tampa Electric Company (TECO) for 24 years in various roles. Her last role at
TECO was Director of Customer Services and Marketing. Vicky has a B.S. in Business
Marketing from The University of Tampa. She has served on various boards, including
The Hispanic Services Council, United Way for TECO Energy Campaign, and the High
Heel Hike to benefit Easter Seals. She has also served in support of various organizations
within the community.
Vicky and her husband have one child, Gabrielle. Gabrielle was diagnosed within
the Autistic Spectrum when she was four years old. Through their company, Vicky
and Pier have started the non-profit organization the Javámo Art for Autism
Foundation to serve children who have been diagnosed with this disorder and their
Aren’t there organizations that help disabled persons form businesses?
Two such organizations are Griffin-Hammis Associates (a Chamber member) and The Abilities Fund which helps provide assistance to the Chamber.
Won’t it be difficult to organize a national network of disability businesses?
Yes, it will be, but the Chamber is needed. Various regions and groups use
Chambers of Commerce to network and obtain resources. The Chamber plans to provide
that for disabled persons in the southeast and to coordinate with Chambers of other
regions. We are using both grass roots efforts and a public relations campaign to raise
awareness of the Chamber’s existence and of the benefits provided by the Chamber.
Is the Chamber a 501(c)(3) organization for which donations are deductible?
No, The Chamber is a 501(c) (6). Accordingly, donations are not deductible as charitable contributions. Membership fees, sponsorships, and other payments to the Chamber may be deductible as a business expenses. However, please check with your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of such payments.
How does the Chamber fund its operations?
At this time, most of the Chamber’s operations are funded thru in-kind contributions. The Chambers also funds its operations through Support Organization Memberships, advertising and sponsorships. In addition, the Chamber is actively seeking grants. If you are interested in supporting the Chamber, please contact us.
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