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Brunswick County Chamber honors citizens, businesses

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By Sarah Wilson, Reporter

SUPPLY—The Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce honored its members for their hard work in a challenging economic year at its annual meeting Tuesday night at 101 Stone Chimney Place.

Business leaders and local elected officials gathered for the dinner, awards ceremony and to witness the “passing of the gavel.” The chamber’s 2009 president Bobby Davis handed the ceremonial gavel to 2010 president Ron Watts.

“It’s been my honor and my pleasure to serve as president,” Davis said. “It’s probably one of the most economically challenging times we’ve ever known. … With all things considered, we still feel like 2009 has been a very successful year for the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.”

Davis touted the success of the N.C. Oyster Festival, the Brunswick Islands Home and Garden Show and the Brunswick Stew Cook-off as well as the chamber’s updated Web site.

He also talked about the importance of creating partnerships with other local agencies to improve the quality of life in Brunswick County.

During his speech, Watts also talked about the challenges brought by the difficult economy and noted, “We can go into survival mode—just try and get through it. … Or we can work hard to make things happen.”

Watts said it’s important for members businesses to stay connected and help each other whenever possible and to think positively.

“As the economy improves, people are still going to want to move here,” he said.

During the awards portion of the meeting, outgoing chamber member Shirley Johnson received the Chairman’s Award for going “above and beyond the call of duty.”

Johnson was honored for her many years of service as vice-chair of the events committee, during which time she organized numerous N.C. Oyster Festivals as well as numerous other chamber functions.

Chamber president Cathy Altman presented the Business of the Year Award to The Purple Onion/Art Catering for their commitment to the community. The company provides lunches for chamber meetings, and its owners, Andrew and Terry Bland, are active in chamber events.

Shallotte attorney Jim MacCallum was named the 2009 Citizen of the Year for his work promoting Brunswick County and serving the community.

“I’m a lucky guy,” he said. “Public service is a privilege for me.”

MacCallum is seeking election to the Brunswick County Clerk of Court office in the upcoming primary election.

The chamber’s own information specialist/office manager Debbie O’Brien received the award for Employee of the Year for her 14 years of service to the organization.

Upon receiving the honor, O’Brien said she usually had something to say, but the honor left her speechless.

George Jacobs of Coastal Printing received the chamber’s Ambassador of the Year award for his work promoting local businesses and representing the chamber at business functions.

ATMC was named the Chamber Member of the Year, while Shallotte attorney Amanda Kirby of the chamber’s board of directors received the Volunteer of the Year award.

The final award of the evening was a new one this year: the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, given to someone who worked hard to make his/her vision of creating a business a reality.

This year’s winner was the owner of Lockwood Folly Marketplace, Lindsay Hewett, who renovated her great-grandparents’ general store in Supply into a unique local foods and gift shop.

Altman read a tribute to Hewett before announcing her name:

“She was born and raised near the banks of the Lockwood Folly River. She has roots buried deep in the rich soil of Brunswick County. With her unmistakable southern drawl, she speaks well to the importance of supporting local farmers and artisans while providing naturally raised food products and specialty gift items to our community.

“Whether she is celebrating her own farming heritage at a family pig picking or seeking new vendors for the marketplace, her excitement is contagious. The chamber’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Spirit Award winner is Lindsay Hewett.”

“I applaud Lindsay for having a vision and going out an making that vision a reality,” Altman said.

Following the awards presentation, guest speaker U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre talked about the importance of chambers of commerce in getting the community’s message out to their state and federal representatives.

“Ask, ‘What are the ways we can get involved? … What can we do to make a difference?  Chambers are in the position to do that.”

He talked about his past work as a chamber representative and how they can improve education, legislation and other aspects of public life by their involvement.

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