Chamber presents annual awards

Submitted PhotoChamber President Christie Moore presents Commercial Cleaning Industries’ Carl Copeland with the A.L. Girardin Award.

VALDOSTA – The pandemic could not stop the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce from continuing the long-held tradition of honoring business and community leaders during its annual awards ceremony.

The annual awards celebration sponsored by First Commerce Credit Union was held at Rainwater Conference Center. To ensure the safety of participants, the event was held in a hybrid format with individuals attending socially distanced in person and virtually through a live stream from Event Point, chamber officials said in a statement.

The first award of the evening was new and will only be presented one time. Georgia Power teamed with the chamber to create the Industry Innovation Award recognizing businesses who pivoted to find success in the midst of the pandemic.

Event Point, Jessie’s Restaurant and Catering and Kona Ice of Lowndes were named finalists and applauded for their admirable success and commitment to client safety.

Georgia Power’s Joe Brownlee announced Event Point as the winner. Chris Shelton, project manager, accepted the award.

“It feels great to have this recognition but mostly to know that we have been able to continue to serve people during these unprecedented times,” Shelton said.

Anthony Lentini, district sales coordinator for Aflac, was presented with the 2021 Ambassador of the Year awarded by Beth Kirk with BPC Plasma.

The Ambassador of the Year Award is presented to the person who exemplifies exceptional volunteer support for chamber members and donates countless hours to assist with chamber initiatives, chamber representatives said.

“The Chamber Ambassadors have a heart for service, and I am so grateful to be a part of a group that truly cares for the community,” Lentini said.

Runners-up for Ambassador of the Year included Dr. Elaine Lewis with UNO-United as One and Deanna Smith with The Investment Centre at CBC Bank.

The next award presentation involved the entire chamber membership. The Members’ Choice Award is earned by a business that showcases exemplary customer service and is voted on by their fellow members, chamber officials said.

After more than 100 nominations and nearly 1,000 votes, Platinum Roofing was named the honoree and was presented with the award by Miller Hardware’s Johnathan Miller.

Zack Marcus, COO of Platinum Roofing, accepted the award. 

“We strive to give our customers the best experience,” he said. “A house is someone’s greatest investment and it all starts with a roof.”

Renasant Bank and Watson's Pool and Patio's Inc. received an "impressive number of votes, making them runners up," chamber officials said.

Rachel Thrasher with Valdosta Main Street was announced as the 2021 Most Valuable Employee by Teamtemps Personnel Staffing’s Sean Panizzi. In addition to the award, Thrasher received a $1,500 check courtesy of Teamtemps.

Most Valuable Employee candidates are nominated by local employers who believe their employee illustrates remarkable work ethic, job knowledge and an overall tremendous workplace effort. Main Street Director Ellen Hill said she felt this perfectly described Thrasher.

“It is always nice to be recognized for the hard work you put in each day,” Thrasher said. “I am forever grateful for my boss, Ellen Hill, for not only nominating me but for allowing me the creative freedom it takes to do this job well.”

Finalists are selected after an extensive interview process, which included Senovia Bryant and Latrell Williams, both with CJB Industries.

Brownlee (Georgia Power) entered the stage again to present the Young Professional of the Year Award which recognizes a young professional who positively impacts his or her employment and community place through civic engagement.

Dr. Jamie Foster-Hill, special education teacher at Pine Grove Middle School, was named the winner.

“I have dedicated a lot of my life to being involved in the community and it feels amazing to know that it has been rewarded,” she stated.

Runners-up for the 2021 Young Professional of the Year included Nick Perry with Ella's Top Corral, Robin Salisbury with Langdale Place and Taylor Strickland with The Haven, Battered Women's Shelter.

Next up, T3 Outdoors was presented with the 2021 Small Business of the Year Award by Heath Dawson from First Commerce Credit Union.

The Small Business of the Year Award recognizes an innovative business with 35 or fewer employees demonstrating growth and stability in the business community.

Jud Tanner, T3 Outdoors owner, said he was proud to accept the award.

“I am incredibly grateful for my team who works hard six days a week. Them along with our customers make it possible to do what we do,” he said.

Runners-up for the 2021 Small Business of the Year included Danny's Music and FilmStory.

Greater Valdosta United Way was presented with the 2021 Nonprofit of the Year award by Clinton and Jeana Beeland of CJB Industries. In addition to the award, the United Way received a $1,500 check courtesy of CJB.

The Nonprofit of the Year Award highlights chamber members who have shown excellence in serving the organization's mission and the community.

Michael Smith, United Way chief executive officer, said he was flattered to receive the award.

“It is an honor to help so many nonprofits in our area,” he said. “Our goal is to help people grow in South Georgia and we look forward to helping people live united.”

Runners-up for the 2021 Nonprofit of the Year Award included Second Harvest of South Georgia and The Salvation Army.

Sunset Farm Foods was presented with 2021 The BIG Thinker awarded by Daryn Russell, board chairman for the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.

The BIG Thinker is awarded to self-made, visionary and successful entrepreneurs who give back to their community.

Sunset Farm Foods is a fourth-generation, family-owned business that has withstood the test of time for 103 years.

Tom Carroll took the stage to accept the honor.

“We are so grateful to join the great list of other companies who have received this award in the past,” he said. Carroll said he was proud to also introduce his staff.

New Chamber President Christie Moore was the last presenter to take the stage. Before presenting the A.L. Girardin Award, the only award selected by the chamber staff, she took a few minutes to introduce herself and reiterate the chamber’s commitment to its members and the community.

“We recognize that one size does not fit all and that you all need something different from your chamber and we are excited to work together to help provide creative solutions and opportunities to ensure a prosperous future for our community,” Moore said.

Moore presented the final award of the night to Commercial Cleaning Industries.

“Commercial Cleaning Industries continually goes above and beyond ensuring the chamber and the businesses they serve are operating in a clean environment," she said. "A special thanks to Commercial Cleaning Industries for taking additional steps to ensure the chamber building, and many others, were safe, especially during the time of a pandemic.”

Carl Copeland, owner of Commercial Cleaning Industries, joined Moore on stage to accept the award.

“When we started the business, it was a whole different ball game than what it is today,” he said. “With COVID, we feel more needed now than ever and we are happy to be of service.”

The evening concluded with remarks from the Chamber’s 2021 Board Chairman Daryn Russell of CBC Bank. His remarks focused on the chamber’s commitment to continually improving the value the organization offers its members and community.

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