GALLERY: Andalusia Chamber celebrates ‘Champions’ at annual banquet

Published 3:30 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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The Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated a memorable year and recognized its “Champions in Business” during the organization’s annual banquet Thursday night.

In one of its highest-attended banquets, the chamber presented awards to local businesses and individuals for their commitment to Andalusia and Covington County.

AACC Executive Director Laura Wells expressed to the audience her appreciation to the chamber board and all members for a successful year.

“It has truly been a monumental year here at the chamber working with the board and our membership to support our existing events and programs, as well as implementing new strategies and ideas to further enhance the businesses in Andalusia. We started off 2022 with big dreams and I am so proud of all we were able to accomplish,” Wells said.

The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Draftstone Properties for its efforts that have led to the renovation of historic downtown properties and supporting chamber events, such as July Jamz, the Chamber Golf Classic, and others.

The Medium-Sized Business of the Year Award was presented to the staff of Harper Electric Construction Company. Harper was recognized for its commitment to various children and school programs, as well as its advocacy for veterans, including hosting a Wounded Warrior hunting event each year.

The 2022 Large Business of the Year is CCB Community Bank. Through CCB’s donation, the chamber was able to bring Lee Greenwood to perform a free concert during July Jamz. CCB is also a sponsor for other events, including the Chamber Golf Classic and Christmas in Candyland.

The Business of the Year: Community Service Award was presented to Andalusia Health. The local hospital contributed over $16 million through donations and uncompensated/charity care in 2021. Andalusia Health also sponsored the Miracle League’s lodging at the Alabama State Games, held community education events during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and held Christmas gift programs for both youth and the elderly. The hospital has served as a corporate sponsor for Christmas in Candyland the two years and is active in all chamber programs and events.

This year’s Distinguished Service Award was presented to Tony Meeks, owner of Allstar Athletics. Meeks is heavily involved in youth sports programs and volunteers with the Andalusia Diamond Club and with the high school football program.

Outgoing Chamber Board President William Alverson presented the Chamber President’s Award to Roger Powell, a longtime advocate for the arts in Andalusia and Covington County. In 2021, Powell founded ReAct, a community theatre program, and is a supporter of Alabama Youth Services, Andalusia Ballet, and Lower Alabama Arts Coalition. He is also active in the Covington County Program of Leadership and the City of Andalusia Ambassador Program.

Also presented were the chamber’s Awards in Education. The Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Brianna Rudolph, a physical education teacher at Andalusia Elementary School. Rudolph was honored for her “unyielding passion to never stop learning” and a commitment to improving the lives of her students.

The recipient of the Student of the Year Award was Kayley Peebles, a senior at Red Level School. Peebles holds a 4.0-grade point average and is among the top of her graduating class. She was selected to Alabama Girls State and the Covington County Youth Leadership Program. She is also involved in Peer Helpers, student council, the National Beta Club, and the Fellowship of Christian Students. She also volunteers for Meredith’s Miracles, the Full Tummy Project, and more.

Changes to the members of the chamber’s board of director for 2023 were also announced with outgoing members being recognized. The 2022 chamber board president, William Alverson, passed the gavel to the 2023 president, Mellisa King.

Serving as the event’s guest speaker was Andalusia native and Insight Global CEO Bert Bean who spoke about developing workplace culture and how the Andalusia community helped prepare him for his career and adult life.

“In many ways this town built me,” Bean said. “I learned a lot of amazing things here.” He went on to provide examples of lessons learned from teachers and employers during his teen-aged years, as well as recent ‘validation’ in earning the trust of one of his hometown businesses, CDG Engineering, who is now among Insight Global’s clients.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by Dwayne “Swoop” Simpson, a former college basketball player who also played with the Harlem Rockets and Harlem Globetrotters. He joined the Harlem Wizards in 2007. Simpson engaged the audience with basketball tricks, including using volunteers from the crowd in his performance.

Others participating in the program were Phillip McClung who performed the National Anthem and the invocation was provided by Dr. Ken Jackson.

AACC Director of Membership Services Maggie Holmes provided the welcoming remarks and awards presentations.