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Honoring excellence in the community Chamber celebrates 60 years

By SHEILA NELSON

Special to The SWT

“May we have the hindsight to know where we have been; the foresight to know where we are going; and the insight to know how best to continue to serve our businesses and community well for at least another 60 years!” said Webb Donald, Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce president in recognition of the Chamber’s 60th anniversary. Thursday night as the Chamber celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Community members, civic leaders and government officials gathered at Bull & Bones at the River in Fairlawn Thursday night for the Chamber’s annual meeting and awards banquet.

Attendees were welcomed by Chamber Executive Director  Peggy White  who presented 2012 Chamber President Webb Donald of State Farm Insurance as master of ceremonies for the evening.  The invocation was offered by R. David Warburton, local attorney and a past president

of the Chamber.

The awards presentation followed the introduction of various local officials, Chamber past presidents, and the 2012 Executive Committee and Board of Directors.   The awards presentation is always a very exciting part of the evening since only the four finalists in each category are announced prior to the banquet and the winner is announced at the time the award is presented.

J.R. Schrader, Editor, presented The Southwest Times Civic Honors Award to Debbi Harrell, Director of the local Daily Bread.  She directs a number of volunteers who prepare and serve a hot lunch five days per week to anyone who stops by.  Well over a 1,000 meals a week are normally

served, providing a good meal to many who might not otherwise have one.  The award not only recognizes a much-needed service in the community, but the individuals who continually provide a labor of love and serve the community faithfully without recognition.

Jim Loux of Allegheny Brokerage presented a special Legacy Award.

“The person being honored this evening wanted the people of Southwest Virginia and 

neighboring areas to be able to experience the wider world,” said Loux who conferred the award  posthumously to Carroll Stone of Sunshine Tours.

Loux said while Stone was working in the dining hall at Virginia Tech he was asked by people to put together special trips and tours for large functions such as the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. In time, he started his own business. The tour’s first stop was to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn.

Stone, a Carroll County native, bought his first bus in 1989 and opened an office in Dublin 10 years later. Today, Sunshine Tours owns and operates 14 buses, three vans and hosts 180 trips a year.

Loux said Stone always encouraged his employees to provide exceptional customer service, to get along and to keep the business going. It was his philosophy that, ‘If you do it from the heart, you don’t need recognition.’” he said.   

Loux explained that upon his death, he left shares of the business to his employees that he felt would do just that.  The award was accepted by Linda Taylor, who has been with Sunshine Tours since 1989.

 

Eddie Hale of Martin’s Pharmacy, last year’s winner, presented the Small Business of the Year Award to Hayden Electric.

 

“Small business is the backbone of our community and is vital to the economy.  Because they provide goods and services in a market economy, small business persons have direct, personal knowledge of the needs of the consumer,” said Hale. 

 

President and Manager Jon Woolwine received the award on behalf of the compnay.  Hayden Electric is one of the oldest businesses in Pulaski County, having been incorporated in 1960.  This small business successfully competes with the big box stores and their satisfied customers continue to return to them year after year because of their integrity, quality, and professionalism.

 

“This business operates by the principle that value is created by happy, loyal, satisfied and productive associates, which are developed from high quality leadership, teamwork, support and policies that allow employees to work together,” said Keith Holt, presenter of The Business Excellence Award, manager of last year’s winner, New River Valley Airport.

 

This year the award was given to Fatz Café in Dublin.  In addition to providing excellent food and customer service,  Fatz is perhaps best known for giving back and strengthening the community through Short Stacks for Big Change, a pancake breakfast program.  This year they hosted 15 of these events,  raising approximately $9,600 i for diverse local school and non-profit programs. The award was accepted by manager Tracy Nester.

 

Patrick Collignon, senior vice president of Volvo Group Trucks Operations Americas and last year’s Corporate Business Executive of the Year, presented the 2012 Business Executive of the Year Awards.

 

Jeff Back, sales director of Virginia Eagle in Pulaski, was the first honoree in this category.  He has worked for his current employer and its predecessor, Eden’s Distributing, for 29 years.  He has literally performed every job in the facility at some point in time.

 

Having seen his current location go from a local operation to one having  a state-wide affiliation, he leads his 52 employees by example.  Jeff is a familiar face and is involved in most of the major events that take place in Pulaski County, having always promoted his hometown of Pulaski as one of the best places to live, work, and play. “As a matter of fact his number is on speed dial at the Chamber office,” said Collignon.  

The other winner of the Business Executive of the Year Award, also presented by Collignon, was Ken Bowling, a principle and part owner of H.T. Bowling Inc.

Known throughout the region for his honesty and fine work ethic, Ken is a true community partner and regularly contributes to many community and philanthropic causes.

His company works on such vital projects as highway, street, and bridge construction throughout the region, and he does a lot of good work for which he does not receive recognition or acclaim.  This winner was especially surprised and pleased when five members of his family, including his 93-year-old mother, Ola Bowling, showed up to see him receive the award.

The final part of the program was the passing of the gavel from 2012 President Webb Donald to 2013 President Robert Hiss.

Donald made comments about his year as president and was presented with a Past President’s plaque.  President Webb Donald led the Chamber through a year that was difficult and challenging in many ways, yet maintained his and the Chamber’s integrity and high standards even when the pressure was great to compromise.  His calm yet strong leadership was wonderful, and he leaves a legacy of high standards for others to strive toward.

Hiss presented  the 2013 Executive Committee and Board of Directors some of his ideas for 2013.  Special acknowledgements were extended to Jim Elliott and his staff at Bull & Bones at the River for a fantastic meal and excellent service;  Chamber Volunteer Kathy Byrd, Event Photographer Hope White, and Chamber staff Peggy White, Sheila Nelson, and Rhonda Hudson for an excellent event.

The Chamber gives a special thanks to its sponsors of the event:  Diamond Sponsor BAE; Platinum Sponsor Cumulus Broadcasting; Palladium Sponsor SunTrust Bank; Gold Sponsors Allegheny Brokerage, Appalachian Power Company, Atmos Energy, Blue Ridge Copier, County of Pulaski, First Bank, Food City, James Hardie, LewisGale Hospital-Pulaski, Member One, Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care, Ruritan National, State Farm Insurance – Webb Donald, and Dublin Walmart;  and Silver Sponsors Radford Shopping Plaza and Sign Systems.

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