by Madison Fisler Lewis
Aug. 13, 2014. Last night, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 65th annual meeting, sponsored by Piedmont Federal Savings Bank, to celebrate the winners of several chamber awards. At the meeting, guests enjoyed a Cowboy Barbecue Buffet and live music courtesy of Melissa Reeves.
Before the official beginning of the award ceremony, a special recognition was made to what the town is calling the Chamber Champion.
Jay Erwin was saluted for his overcoming attitude, strong faith and community minded efforts after a tragic accident that, though he did not lose his life, he remains paralyzed from the chest down.
“Jay spend 100 days at Shepherd Center in Atlanta in grueling rehab and returned to Boone and his family right before Christmas,” said Dan Meyer, director of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
“He and his family are dealing with their new reality in a number of positive ways. Jay returned to work, now back full-time at Blue Ridge Energies, and he has started a Facebook Faith page now with over 700 members, a new Run, Roll, Walk club and a spinal cord injury support group all to encourage people to keep the faith and to always strive to never give up and stay strong.”
The next award presented was the Community Recognition Award, sponsored by the Boone Golf Club. This award is the Chamber’s oldest award, going back to 1979 when it was designated to honor Wade Brown. This prestigious award was given to Dwight Simmons.
The Community Recognition Award recognizes a significant contribution through community involvement. Dwight Simmons worked to create jobs with the High Country Workforce Development Board; volunteered on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and Operation Christmas Child; is considered a mainstay at build sites with Watauga Habitat for Humanity; is a strong supporter of Eagle Scout Projects, helping 11 scouts with all materials for their Eagle Scout Leadership Projects through Boy Scouts of America; donated materials for Boone United Methodist Church and more.
The next award presented was the Alfred Adams Award for Economic Development. The Alfred Adams Economic Development Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have worked for the orderly growth and development of Boone and Watauga County. Mr. Adams was a true community banker where business was done with a handshake and where your word was your bond. This year’s Alfred Adams Award for Economic Development, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, goes to Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock.
“His nomination describes him as one who is always willing to go above and beyond the requirements of the job. He demonstrates great leadership and has been an outstanding ambassador of the High Country,” Meyer said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Peacock, Appalachian became a destination of choice for high-achieving, intellectually curious students wanting to be engaged in a community. At the same time, ASU is by far the largest provider of high quality jobs. During his tenure there was a significant growth in the Walker College of Business and the establishment of the College of Health Sciences. He also established the ACCESS scholarship program that allows NC’s low-income students to earn a degree debt free. Enrollment grew from 14,653 to 17,589 during his ten year administration.”
The Ben Suttle Special Services Award for Volunteerism was awarded to Sonnie Sweet for his work with the Kiwanis Club, American Red Cross, Blood Sweat and Gears and more.
The winner of the Sue Wilmoth Award for the Advancement of tourism goes to Blood Sweat and Gears. The Sue Wilmoth Award for the Advancement of Tourism is named for former Chamber director Sue W. Wilmoth. Sue’s unique success in tourism promotion was her ability to capitalize on the region’s natural resources while balancing progress with preservation. Sue consistently focused on initiatives that improved the quality of life for residents and visitors.
“It began in the 90s, just another idea to raise funds for a local scholarship fund – only had 100 participants – you just rode up, signed up and rode off,” Meyer said. “The participation rate doubled and tripled annually. Today, the event caps at 1,250 participants that fills up in just 15 minutes of preregistration. You guessed it, Blood Sweat & Gears. Its purpose remains the same – support of many worthy local nonprofits, fire and rescue organizations and many others. This year, they added Ride2Recovery, a nonprofit that raises money for a cycling program for wounded veterans to help them overcome obstacles they now face in light of severe injuries sustained in war.”
The winner of the everGREEN award for Leadership and Sustainability, sponsored by the Mast Store, was the Middle Fork Greenway Association.
“In 1999, a few people came up with an audacious concept,” said Meyer. “What if there were a continuous 6.5 mile pathway from Blowing Rock to Boone? And what if, in as many reaches as possible, it ran next to and preserved the natural beauty of the bubbling Middle Fork of the New River, that also runs from Blowing Rock to Boone?”
The Middle Fork Greenway Association was started in 2000, and over the past 15 years, the association has conducted studies, accepted land grants and easements and the Greenway.
“For the ears of tireless and fruitful effort and with special recognition to two of its most staunch promoters, Leo Mast, who we lost two years ago, and Ann Burgess, who is here with us tonight, it gives us great pleasure to award this year’s Mast Store everGREEN Award for Leadership and Sustainability to the Middle Fork Greenway Association.”
After the last of the awards were given, Meyer called up all of the members of the board of directors to officially install the board of directors and officers for the Chamber of Commerce. Outgoing chair Jason Triplett did the honors. The 2014-15 Board Chair was announced as Susan Jones after a recognition of the staff, Barbara Armstrong, Wysteria White and Dan Meyer.
Following the official ceremonies, the drawings for the raffle prizes took place. This year, there was more than $7,000 in prizes, and a portion of the proceeds from the raffle went to the Watauga Hunger & Health Coalition. Elizabeth Young, the director of the Watauga Hunger & Health Coalition accepted a check for $1,000 to advance their goals and initiatives and meet local needs.
Photos by Ken Ketchie