Think of it this way: The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is not losing one of its standout leaders. Rather, all those who care about her are instead gaining access to a beachhouse in one of New Jersey’s most acclaimed oceanfront communities.
That was the sentiment on June 8 as the Chamber celebrated the work ethic and sense of fun that exemplify local attorney Barbara Nicastro, who for many years co-chaired the “Opportunity Works” campaign of the local business organization.
Nicastro is moving – not retiring, she notes, just moving – to her family’s longtime New Jersey ocean cottage in Avalon. Though a world away from Northern Virginia, it’s still just three hours by car.
Familiar themes came up again and again at the June 8 event, as speakers lined up to praise Nicastro.
“Barbara is family. The kind of family that really matters,” Chamber president and CEO Kate Bates said at the celebration, held at William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike. “She’s made an amazing impact. So many memories.”
“Such an inspiration,” added longtime friend and Chamber colleague John Murphy of Washington Workplace. (Full disclosure: Murphy deserves credit for the “gaining a beachhouse” line referenced above.)
The “Opportunity Works” concept was born when Rich Doud (predecessor to Bates) led the Chamber. It combines a membership drive and fund-raising campaign in a single, high-octane springtime sprint with motivation like a trip to the Caribbean for top producers.
For years, Nicastro joined fellow Chamber leader Joe Prentice in leading the annual effort, which over time far surpassed original expectations and cemented the Chamber’s financial underpinnings.
“We all know how awesome she is, we know her dedication,” a visibly moved Prentice said as he held aloft a martini (a potent potable not entirely unknown on Nicastro’s lips) and toasted her efforts.
“Arlington’s loss is going to be Avalon’s gain,” said Prentice.
Donna Hamaker, a local Realtor who got to know Nicastro through their children’s soccer games and later served on the Chamber board with her, said the gung-ho spirit of the Philadelphia native helped keep the “fun” in fund-raising.
Hamaker praised “Barbara’s zingers and the enthusiasm she brings to everything.”
Why did Nicastro agree to continue helping lead the effort, year after year? She had her reasons.
“It was a labor of love,” Nicastro told the Sun Gazette. “A situation where I got to do really valuable things, having the most fun. Joe and I spent a lot of time [every year] thinking and plotting and planning.”
Why leave Arlington at this juncture?
“It was time to start the next chapter,” Nicastro said. “I’ve been here 40 years – the same house.”
The beach property in Avalon – located in a mellow area of Cape May County, N.J. and described on one Website as “picturesque shore town with exquisite homes, beautiful beaches and an amazing atmosphere” – has been in Nicastro’s family for four generations.
While not ready to retire, she will be altering her work schedule, spending “the rest of my life with my toes curled in the sand, in flip-flops and tank-tops,” she said.