Chamber Hosts 80th Annual Awards Banquet

Photo by Kristy Tallman – Lagea Mull left, awards Gina Riley right, the Distinguished Service award at the 80th Annual COC Awards Banquet held Saturday evening.

The Chamber of Commerce (COC) hosted their 80th Annual Awards Banquet on Saturday evening, handing out Chamber Awards in a star-studded diamond and decades themed dinner at the Boys and Girls club.

Lagea Mull, Executive Director of the COC hosted the event with the help of emcee Don Knight, pastor of Sweet Home LifePoint, who always brings an ounce or more of humor to the podium. Mull believes the event was a great success as tables were filled with attendees, the food was hot and not as costly as some of the other chamber events which were transpiring in other towns. She was pleased everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Angila Tack Food Service catered the event in grand style with a dazzling array of dishes meant to satisfy all tastes while Richard Hillsman Construction provided the bar. There was a photobooth sponsored by Krake Home Sales and awards were sponsored by Loan Depot and Jolene Mullenix.

The room was abuzz as the Chamber awards began to be announced by Knight and presented by Mull.

This year’s Curb Appeal award was presented to Lilies and Lovelies for enhancing the physical and social appeal of Sweet Home with vibrant colors and welcoming signs among many other things.

Knight said, “Tonight we acknowledge a business that has transformed a piece of our town into a visual testament to beauty and community pride, with vibrant colors, welcoming signs and a renovation that speaks volumes for our collective identity.”

The Junior First Citizen, which is given to recipients 40 and under who have served the community for five or more years, was given to Tomas and Amber Rosa who Knight said, “Their dedication to our youth and our community sets them apart. From the field to the classrooms, to our community gatherings and beyond, their combined efforts that enrich lives and shape the future of Sweet Home.”

He continued, “They embody the spirit of the Junior Citizen award not just through their individual efforts but in their combined efforts to uplift Sweet Home.”

The First Citizen’s Award, which is given to a citizen who has shown consistent dedication to various areas of the community, went to Travis Miner this year. Miner, Knight said, quietly and profoundly impacted lives around him.

Knight cited Miner’s coaching and teaching efforts, ensuring safety and extending help to those in need. He further said Miner’s dedication went above and beyond the call of duty.

“This year’s First Citizen award is bestowed upon someone who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to our community,’’ Knight said, “both in their professional role and their countless personal endeavors.”

The Organization of the Year was awarded to the Elks Lodge for their significant impact on the community through services and community involvement.

“Tonight we celebrate an organization that has served as a pillar of support services and unity in our community,” said Knight while he recognized the 70 years the Elks Lodge has been present in the community. “This group has profoundly impacted Sweet Home, their benevolence and volunteerism has enriched our community.”

Knight continued, “Through events that mark the milestones of our lives to the unwavering commitment, to supporting youth, patriotism and those less fortunate.”

The COC named the Sweet Home Medical Center as their Business of the Year for their commitment to healthcare and wellness which was demonstrated through their state-of-the-art facility and generous contributions to nonprofits.

For Distinguished Service, an award that is given to those 55 and over, the chamber named Gina Riley for her dedication to community service.

“Tonight we honor an individual whose life has been a testament to unwavering commitment to their love for Sweet Home,” said Knight. “This individual embodies the essence of community service contributing not just her time but her heart, improving the lives of those around them.”

Mayor Susan Coleman also bestowed awards at the event and tangled words with Knight when he stepped up ahead of her but she conceded, “It was really fun last week to emcee the Gala with Donald, he’s a character, and I appreciate his commitment to this community.”

Coleman said choosing the award recipients was difficult and wanted the audience to know how much she appreciated the efforts of all the nominees.

She said, “Even beyond the spotlight of recognition, there are many unsung heroes in this room tonight that will not receive an award. It doesn’t mean you haven’t done great things and that your impact hasn’t been felt.”

Angela Clay for her work with the city and her volunteerism. She was also named for her humanitarian efforts and the support she provides to others. She was instrumental in the restoration of Sankey Park. Also named by the Mayor for the Merit Award was Milt Moran for his impact on the community.

“We honor the remarkable contributions of Milt Moran,” said Coleman, “whose selfless dedication during times of crisis, such as the Wiley Creek fire, epitomizes the very essence of community resilience. His swift action and unwavering leadership were instrumental in safeguarding our community and ensuring the safety of our residents. He is well deserving of the Merit award.”

The Mona Waibel Hero Awards were presented by Bob and Dawn Dalton. These awards are considered the President’s club award and are based on volunteerism.

Dalton said, “They’re what I call the heartbeat of our community when I think about volunteerism. They are the pulse that gives life to our community.”

Recipients of the award were Ashley Stewart, Travis Miner, Matthew Betchel and Sophia Sullens. And Stewart was named for her humanitarian efforts among her fellow neighbors. The Daltons spoke of how she has volunteered at the Jamboree for 11 years, served on the beautification board for five years and can be seen planting flowers through downtown.

Of Betchel they spoke of his enlistment in the National Guard, his work as an Emergency Medical Technician and now how he works for the city. Betchel also volunteers three days a week at the food pantry and helps serve the community meals and ‘sunshine’. Betchel worked with Clinton Gregg, who were instrumental in starting the Earth Day Clean-up which they hope will become a yearly event.

Sullens is one of the youngest recipients of the Mona Waibel Hero awards; she is just 10 years old. Sophia was recognized for her work with her church and she was named a Virtue Ambassador for her acts of service at Hawthorne Elementary School. Sophia has volunteered at the Jamboree for years and she is also a three sport athlete participating in soccer, swimming and track. During Christmas she also helped fill 50 gift boxes of food for needy families.