Nearly 500 people gathered to see the greatest stars in Valdosta take the stage at the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s Annual Awards Dinner sponsored by First Commerce Credit Union.
The opening award made history as it was the first time there was a first-place tie for the Ambassador of the Year Award.
Scott and Lisa Register, better known as “Team Register” of Comfort Keepers took the win, as announced by the award’s sponsor, Biotest Plasma Center.
The Chamber Ambassadors are an iconic group sporting green blazers as a sign of prosperity in the business community. This award recognizes the Ambassador who volunteered the most hours in 2019.
Both individuals volunteered 94 hours in the year, which is a huge sacrifice for an employee, especially a business owner, but “it is absolutely worth it,” according to Scott Register.
“The Chamber is a huge part of our success and we hope to encourage other businesses to participate in all the Chamber offers,” Lisa Register added.
Wild Adventures Theme Park, sponsor of the Members’ Choice Award, served as a stellar example to the nominees.
“Nobody knows customer service like Wild Adventures,” shared Molly Deese, the award’s presenter.
This award is determined solely by Chamber members and recognizes a business who offers exemplary customer service.
With over 1,100 votes, Wilson Eye Center earned the title placing first out of 108 nominees.
“Customer service is our top priority,” said Heather Gaskins, Wilson Eye Center’s Operations Director. “It just means taking care of people using the old-fashioned approach and being hands on.”
The Most Valuable Employee Award sponsored by Teamtemps Personnel Staffing Inc. was highly anticipated as it offers a check to the deserving winner. Local employers were invited to nominate their top employee who shows initiative and dedication in the workplace the be in the running for this award.
Nominees and their employers went through a series of interviews before a group of finalists were selected.
Natisha Pizzaro of Comfort Keepers humbly accepted the award.
“I am truly shocked,” Pizarro expressed. “I don’t see it as work, it’s what you are supposed to do.”
Kristi Hill of The Valdosta Daily Times won the Young Professional of the Year Award Sponsored by Georgia Power Company. To qualify for this award, one must be an asset to their business, show promise for their future and be between the ages of 21 and 40.
“This award means the world. I’ve only been with this company for five years, so to go from a new hire to being nominated for young professional, in five years, is so humbling and exciting,” Hill shared.
Winnersville Elite Cheer & Dance won the title of Small Business of the Year, sponsored by Renasant Bank.
The sponsor awards 12 winners, one per month, throughout the year who are then put in the running for the annual award. All 12 considerations have 20 employees or less and are active in the community.
Desiree Hagan, Program Director, accepted the award.
“It’s so overwhelming,” Hagan said. “It means everything to know that what we do to be a positive part of children’s lives is recognized by our community.”
SAFT America Inc. named The Children’s Advocacy Center of Lowndes County, Inc. the first-ever Nonprofit of the Year.
The Chamber and SAFT felt a need to highlight nonprofit Chamber members who have shown excellence in serving their organization’s mission.
“It’s just amazing to think that the community recognizes and support us year after year, and really it’s all about the kids and so knowing that they’ve supported the kids for so many years is just amazing,” expressed Ashley Lindsay, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Lowndes County, Inc.
Looking at more businesses with a large impact, Miller Hardware announced this year’s BIG Thinker Award. Miller and his company won the award in 2019.
The Chamber presents the BIG Thinker Award to self-made visionary and successful entrepreneurs who give back to their community.
Barnes Drug Store, a community staple since 1909, earned the title.
“I think that my great grandfather would have been surprised yet proud that we are still moving forward, four generations later, all with his same name,” said Charlie Barnes IV of Barnes Drug Store. “The idea is to make a difference, a real difference in the community and the customers we serve, and you want to be doing things different, you want to be doing things new to make a bigger impact.”
Myrna Ballard, Chamber President, and the rest of the Chamber Staff closed the night by recognizing the winner of the prestigious A.L. Girardin Award.
This is the only award chosen by the Chamber staff.
The A.L. Girardin Award is presented to a member who has made extraordinary contributions to the Chamber and the local business community. It dates to 1975.
This year’s award was given to the Chamber Ambassadors.
This deserving group serves as the Chamber’s cheerleaders, always willing to welcome new businesses and celebrate the old. They can be spotted in their green blazers at ribbon cuttings, leading business ceremonies, ground breakings and more.
Amongst the 38 individuals, they volunteered over 1,000 of their time in 2019.
The staff selected Jerry Kozuch, the longest standing Ambassador, to accept the award on behalf of the entire program.
Kozuch has represented her business, South Georgia Vein Centers and the Chamber for 14 years.
“I was honored to accept this award on behalf of the Ambassadors. This group is made up of some of the best people I have ever met and we are proud to represent our Chamber in the business community,” said Kozuch.
Each ambassador was awarded a unique, gold pin that they will sport on their blazers.
The moral was high as Chamber members cheered on one another as they were recognized for their achievements and dedication.