From staff reports
The 58th annual Winston County Chamber of Commerce banquet featured Governor Phil Bryant and First Lady Deborah Bryant and a host of Winston County dignitaries to honor those who have helped make Winston County a better place to live in 2014.
“This has been a year of neighbor helping neighbor, family helping family, and friend helping friend,” said Kyle Curran, outgoing Chamber of Commerce president. “We are going to take time to honor.. the exact spirit of Winston Strong.”
The first award presented was a special award to recognize a helping hand when Winston County needed it most. Kay Ward introduced the Spirit of WinstonStrong award winner.
“The first person we saw volunteering and helping at First United Methodist Shelter was our friend Deborah Bryant,” said Kay Ward.
First Lady Deborah Bryant received the award not only for her tireless volunteer efforts the night of the tornado but all the weeks and months after with her volunteering and help according to Kay Ward.
“She has been back many times to help and became a symbol of hope,” said Ward.
Deborah Bryant after receiving a standing ovation thanked everyone for the award but noted she did what anyone would have done in that situation. She noted she was glad she could help in some small way.
Gov. Bryant outlined his wife’s endeavors to help in Winston County and the importance of rising up and making things better.
“We as Mississippians know how to rise and overcome,” said Bryant. “One day, they will talk about Winston Plywood and Veneer as the largest plywood plant in North America, they will say we have a state-of-art medical center. We not only endure but we prevail.”
With the theme of WinstonStrong, Kathy Sinclair presented the Woman of the Year award to one of the driving forces behind WinstonStrong: Margaret Childs “Mellie” Jordan. Jordan who had moved back to Louisville only a month before the EF-4 tornado went above and beyond to help those affected by the storm. “She worked tirelessly the night of the tornado and weeks following the storm,” said Sinclair. “Her efforts to help people and work with WinstonStrong were noticed by UMCOR who hired Mellie to lead their efforts with WinstonStrong and others.”
Mellie oversaw over 200 cases and helped coordinate rebuilds and disaster services.
“She always cared for all those who needed help,” said Sinclair.
Joseph McCain of the Winston County Journal awarded the Winston County’s Man of the Year award which went to three deserving individuals.
Johnny Haynes and Gene Ammons were awarded the Man of the Year award for their involvement in the Abundant Life Outreach Ministry. Both serve tirelessly to this ministry that has raised thousands of dollars for the youth groups, Relay for Life, and Grace Christian School, and to many other individuals in need.
Bro. Mike Dowd also received the Winston County Man of the Year. Dowd who is the executive director of WinstonStrong has played a key and vital role in helping Winston County after the April 28, 2014 F-4 tornado ravaged the county. He has been a driving force to help get new homes built and has also helped guide victims of the storm both spiritually and physically. Dowd is the pastor of three churches (Pleasant Hill, Center Ridge, and Rural Hill) and is involved in a long list of civic organizations such as the Lions Club and Winston County Chamber of Commerce.
Kline Shepherd received the Life Time Achievement Award. Sen. Ward presented the award noting that Shepherd fits the mold of those who have received the award.
“He is the driving force behind so many projects and is know for his efforts and getting things done,” said Ward.
Will and Sarah Hill of the Refugee WLSM 107 recognized the Retailer of the Year. Vowell’s Market Place received the award for their betterment of Winston County and its economy.
“The Vowell’s are consistently improving their stores. They believe in reinvesting in their hometown,” said Will Hill.
One store only employs 50 people and the family owns three stores in Winston County. E.L. Vowell accepted the award.
Louisville Municipal School District Superintendent Ken McMullan awarded the 2015 District teacher of the year award to Julie McKenzie.
“She is an outstanding teacher,” said McMullan. “Her love for teaching and the students is best described by the students and students’ parents.”
McMullan then read comments of high praise from both parents and students.
Mike Skipper awarded the forestry award to David Humphries. Humphries who is a retired Mississippi Highway Patrol manages and owns 340 acres of timberland along with his sister.
“He is very active in his forestry management,” said Skipper.
Skipper also awarded Farmer of the year. Skipper noted that while Dr. Spiva Gene Richardson is not a farmer yet he has given 52 years of his life and service to the livestock producers of Winston County. He is a dedicated veterinarian who has helped countless farmers. Richardson recognized his wife for her years of help.
Tracy and William McCully awarded the Community Service Award with Spring Woods of Wood’s Grocery accepting the award. McCully outlined Wood’s Grocery’s role and helping establish and maintaining a community feeling for area so close to the storm’s damage.
Winston County Economic Development Director Gerald Mills awarded the Industry of the year with the greatest number of employee increases. Taylor Machine Works received the award with Robert Taylor accepting on behalf of the company.
Winston County Economic Development Director Gerald Mills awarded the Industry of the year with the largest percentage increase in employees. The awarded went to Polo Custom Products.
Following the awards, Dr. Dick Baldwin President and General manager of Winston Plywood and Veneer presented a check for $20,000 to Mayor Will Hill for WinstonStrong. The funds were from the selling the scrap pile of storm-damaged items. Baldwin added that Winston Plywood was in full rebuilding with the first steel pillar placed.
“The plywood plant is here. The first structural steel went up today,” said Baldwin.
“There is so much hope with plywood plant,” said Mayor Will Hill.
Kyle Curran also presented Mike Dowd with the title of 2015 Chamber/Main Street President and Curran received a gavel for his year of service in 2014 as Chamber president.
The Winston County Chamber and Winston County Economic Development Partnership are focused on promoting businesses and Winston County.