Sumter Chamber holds 97th annual dinner meeting

Published 1:30 pm Monday, March 27, 2017

AMERICUS —  The Sumter County Chamber of Commerce held its 97th Annual Meeting Thursday at South Georgia Technical College.
Following a welcome by  Brandi Lunneborg, CEO of Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, the presenting sponsor of the event, Qaijuan Willis led the invocation, followed by the National Anthem sung by Heather Grinolds.
Following dinner, Jay Roberts, chairman of the Chamber board, took the podium.
“Last year the Chamber worked to restructure our organization to better serve the businesses of Sumter County so that we could deliver the services needed to help our community thrive and grow, and to provide the value back to our members who invest in our organization and our community,” he told the large crowd. “Through much hard work and countless volunteer hours, we have completed our Program of Work, focusing on six key areas:  Business Development and Agribusiness, Education, Governmental Affairs, Leadership Development, Membership, and of course, Special Events. Please let me take a moment to thank everyone who invested so much of their time, energy and efforts in making this reorganization a success!”
Roberts thanked South Georgia Technical College for hosting this year’s Annual Awards Dinner. He also thanked the following: Presenting Sponsor: Phoebe Sumter Medical Center,,Reception Sponsor: Imerys Refractory Minerals, Keynote Speaker Sponsor: The Staffing People, Dessert Sponsor: Clinic Drug Store, and Gold Sponsors: Citizens Bank of Americus, City of Americus, Georgia Southwestern State University, Golden Gourmet, LLC, Magnolia Manor, Middle Flint Council on Aging. Innovative Senior Solutions. South Georgia Technical College, and Sumter EMC. He also recognized the board and platinum trustees.
Rhett Simmons, board vice chairman, came forward for the presentation of the 2016 Awards.
A new recognition was added this year — the Community Partner Award, went to Thurston Clary and Donnie McCrary and Sumter Broadcasting Inc.
The 2016 Small Business of the Year award was given to Elena Carne’ and Tepuy Activewear.
The Sparky Reeves Sumter Trustee Award was presented to  Malcolm Argo.
Simmons said, “This year’s award winner, is an individual who is one of the many ‘faces’ of our community and a Trustee of Sumter County in his own right. His vibrant stories match his personality, and a conversation cannot be had with this individual that he does not exude enthusiasm and love for his community — sharing it with all who encounter him.
“Storytelling is not the only aspect in which tonight’s honoree shares his colorful flare for Sumter County. With a talent and imagination for the inventive, this individual began his career as a Navy man, utilizing his natural gifts as a news writer in service to our country, becoming the editor of the Admiral’s Fleet Magazine. Upon his return to civilian life, he soon found his true passion in design and creative expression of another kind.  Through floral design, tonight’s Trustee found a way to give back, to inspire, to heal and soothe, and to provide joy in moments of happiness and celebration.  Owner of a decades-long tradition in Sumter County, Argo Flowers, the 2016 Sumter Trustee integrated his way into the fabric of all of our lives — and continues to do so today. In fact, tonight’s Annual Awards event bears the imprint of his continued influence and ongoing service to our community, even “in retirement.”  A consistent presence throughout the community, he carries a quick smile, easy joke to lighten your mood, if needed, and always ready to provide helpful information no matter the question asked …  A brand ambassador for all things Sumter County, before that was even a term, our second Sumter Trustee represents the best in all of us — a true Southern gentleman, a kind spirit to all walks of life, and a colorful flare we all wish we could emulate.”
The final award was presented by Ted McMillan, chairman of One Sumter Economic Development Foundation.
“I am honored tonight to be able to present the first annual One Sumter Visionary Impact Award,” he said. “Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, once said,
‘Good Business Leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.’ I believe that is a fitting description of tonight’s honoree.
“This individual’s relentless drive demonstrates the values of One Sumter … Since his tenure in our community, he has made positive impacts by creating a true vision for a sustainable future. He continues to demonstrate passion for Americus and Sumter County by actively engaging in the business community and making sure the interests of Sumter County are well-represented throughout the region and at the state. His leadership has already helped shape a new vision and direction for the future growth of downtown Americus, heralded attention to the vibrant and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that inherently makes Americus and Sumter County unique, and has built the foundations upon which One Sumter itself has created the structure and outreach efforts by which we operate …” The award was presented to Charles Patterson, interim president, Georgia Southwestern State University.
Kenny Phillips with The Staffing People introduced the keynote speaker, Jackie Cushman of Atlanta, a nationally known syndicated author and daughter of former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.
Cushman’s positive message outlined the five principles she learned from her parents and grandparents, practical wisdom that has led to her many successes in life: dream big, work hard, learn every day, enjoy life, and be true to yourself.