GALLERY: Opp Chamber honors difference makers at Hall of Fame Banquet

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, June 15, 2024

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The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce recognized individuals and a local business with awards at its annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday, June 13.

The event took place at the First Baptist Church of Opp’s Fellowship Center and was catered by Whippoorwill Cottage Catering.

“We have gathered to celebrate the achievements of individuals who have made significant contributions to our community and beyond. The Opp Hall of Fame stands as a testament to the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of those who have gone above and beyond their respective fields. Your stories of triumph and perseverance serve as a beacon of hope and motivation for future generations. As we honor the achievements of our inductees and award recipients, we also celebrate the support systems who have helped along the way,” said Opp Chamber President Chance McCurley.

Opp Hall of Fame 2024 Inductees
James Edward McCurley and Carrel D. Wyatt were inducted into the city’s Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame recipients were first awarded in 1978 to nine individuals and have been awarded annually with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic.

James Edward McCurley
McCurley was born in Opp in 1944 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a posthumous recipient. He and his wife Diann became active members of the Opp community and joined the Opp Country Club and First Baptist Church. He partnered with Crossover Recovery Ministry in 2005 and volunteered many hours there until his death in February 2015.

His daughter Dixie McCurley accepted the award on his behalf.

“My daddy loved two things deeply: his family and Opp, Alabama. Leaving a legacy is about stories. We are here on Earth to tell stories and tonight, we are here to celebrate the legacy of James McCurley with this award. His mission in life was to change the world with education. I came home in his later years, and he was tanned from getting in the garden with his electric wheelchair. To see his smiling face when I came home, you could not break his spirit. He was an ambassador for education and advocate of learning for all of his children and yours,” Dixie McCurley said.

Carrel D. Wyatt
Wyatt was inducted into the Hall of Fame by his daughter Dr. Katie Wyatt Fuller.

Wyatt graduated from John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville in 1966. He returned home to Opp and served as the mortician manager at Rainer Funeral Home from 1966 until 1997. He and his wife Mary, along with partners George and Neva Pierce, co-founded Wyatt-Pierce and opened Wyatt Funeral Home in 1998. With over 57 years in the funeral business, Wyatt consistently gave back to his community. He is a charter member and former vice-president of the Opp Kiwanis Club and a supporter of Opp City Schools. He was also awarded his 50-year pin at Opp Masonic Lodge 605.

“Thank you to the chamber for all the hard work you do for Opp and Covington County. Thank you also to my staff, my children, and my wife for everything you do,” Wyatt said.

Dr. Jason Cain Memorial Award
The Dr. Jason Cain Memorial Award 2024 recipient was Ashley Kelley.

A 2023 Opp High School alumna, Kelley began her studies at LBW as a dual enrollment student and is currently pursuing a degree in Salon and Spa Management from the LBW MacArthur campus in Opp with plans to graduate in December 2024. She is an LBW Ambassador and is involved in student organizations. She attends Babbie Baptist Church where she serves as the director for Vacation Bible School. After graduation, she plans to work locally as a cosmetologist in Opp.

“I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I could not have done this without Him and am so blessed and grateful to receive this award,” Kelley said.

2023 Covington County Program of Leadership
Lee Davis, Ashley Hataway, Johnny Lacey, Sarah McClung, Malori Mitchell, Kristen Peavy, Destiny Rowell, Morgan Smith, Kyle Sparks, Chad Sutton, and Anna Worley were recognized for completing the 2023 Covington County Program of Leadership.

“Living in a small community, many business leaders understand the importance of developing leadership in the community. This was a very good class and we appreciate those who sponsored the participants. We are taking a year to revamp the program and look forward to starting another class with invitations to go out at the end of the year,” Jay Mikel said.

Spirit of Opportunity Award
The Spirit of Opportunity Award 2024 recipient was Ben Cooper.

A 2009 Opp High School alumnus, Ben has served as a board member with the Opp Chamber of Commerce Board for six years, including a term as president. He chairs the Farm City Committee and contributes to the Opp Zoning and Planning Board. He is a member of Shriners International and Opp Rotary Club and serves as the sales and finance manager at J.R.’s Lawnmower Shop in Opp. He is married to Breanna Cooper and they have a son, Elliot Cooper.

“I would like to thank God for allowing me to be here tonight and am humbled to receive this award. The recognition is not just a testament to any individual achievement but a reflection of the spirit and the strength of our beloved community. Our community strength lies in our ability to come together, support one another, and dream big. We may be small, but our aspirations and hearts are boundless, harnessing the power of community support and pride to create a better future for all,” Cooper said.

Business of the Year Award
First awarded in 2012, the Business of the Year Award 2024 recipient was Grit + Grind Coffee.

Located on 108 West Covington Avenue, Grit + Grind Coffee emerged as a beacon of excellence and serves premium specialty coffee, while creating unforgettable customer experiences. Grit + Grind is owned and operated by Eric and Destiny Rowell with 10 locations nationwide. They are the parents of a 15-year-old son, Brayden.

“This award is an absolute honor. Being an entrepreneur or business owner is not for the faint of heart. There are so many of us who get out to grit and grind every single day. This award is not just for us but everyone we have had conversations with and who have played small and big parts of our future. With where we are going in the future, I’m so glad to be able to take Opp alongside us,” Destiny Rowell said.

One of Opp’s Own Award
The One of Opp’s Own Award was established in 1994. The 2024 recipient was Dr. Brock Kelley.

A 2005 Opp High School alumnus, Kelley currently serves as the president of LBW Community College. He recently founded the Alabama RISE Program at LBW, which focuses on training individuals with disabilities for the workforce. He earned his doctorate in Adult Education from Auburn University in 2018. He was previously the principal of Charles Henderson High School in Troy and the system-wide behavior specialist for Enterprise City Schools.

Kelley was a member of the LBW Saints baseball team and extended his playing career at Troy University, where he completed a bachelor’s in Collaborative K-6 and a master’s in Collaborative 6-12. He is married to his wife, Sarah Ann Kelley, and they are the parents of three children: Mack, 7; John Luke, 6; and Madelyn, 3.

“This is truly an honor and I am humbled,” Kelley said. “When I started thinking about how I got to this point, it has been a whirlwind since I graduated from Opp. This town taught me pride and gave me the foundation, resources, and ability needed to create a network. It gave me an opportunity to come back home four years ago at the age of 33 to lead your community’s college as the youngest college president in the nation. I’m thankful for this town and the love you have always shown my family and me on the way to get here.”

Banquet sponsors were All In Credit Union, CCB Community Bank, The JReed Agency, Southeast Gas, PowerSouth, RCA Trucking, Body Conscious Salon and Spa, and Blissful Healthcare. LBW Community College was the corporate sponsor for the event.

The Opp and Covington County Area Chamber of Commerce is located at 104 West Covington Avenue in Opp. For more information email or call 334-493-3070.