OKOLONA – The volunteers, churches and civic organizations that work every day to make Okolona a better place for all were honored at the Okolona Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.
The 80th annual banquet saw the National Guard Armory packed March 27 and attendees enjoyed a meal, entertainment and an evening of celebration.
Keynote speaker Steve Tybor, of Eight Days of Hope, challenged the group to listen to God’s call to help others and then respond with faith and a little hard work. Tybor told the story of how Eight Days of Hope was formed and how it has grown.
“I moved here in 1999 and my father and I went to the Gulf Coast after Katrina to help because were felt called to do it,” said Tybor. “At last count we have we have helped over 14,000 people, using 422,000-man hours, raised $18.2 million and built 1,482 homes.
“That’s God at work,” said Tybor. “Eight Days of Hope is good but not that good. God is good.”
Eight Days of Hope is a disaster recovery organization that seeks to share the love of Jesus Christ by helping disaster victims rebuild their homes. They, and First Baptist Church Okolona, played a key role in the rebuilding of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church that was demolished in the April 2011 tornado.
Awards to be bestowed Thursday night were:
• Educator of the Year – Sonja Hopson, Moria Deans and Kristi Steel of Okolona School District.
• Community Service Award – Chickasaw County Circuit Court Judge John Gregory.
• Community Service Award – John Standfield of Okolona Dollars for Scholars
• Main Street Award – Tanya Frank of Honeybee
• Industry of the Year – Henry Cardboard
• Golden Heart Award (organization) – Hot Springs Hotties
• Golden Heart Award (individuals) – Hazel Ellis
• Philanthropist of the Year – Nellie Adams.
• Citizen of the Year – Alderman Mary Gates.
“This is always a great night to gather and recognize those who do so much for our community,” said Perry Grubbs, Executive Director of the Okolona Chamber of Commerce. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of any good organization and any good community. Okolona is fortunate to have a lot of good people who gladly give their time and money to worthy causes in this community.”
The Okolona Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors was also recognized at Thursday’s Banquet. They are: President Nancy Sullivan, First Vice President Sumeka Thomas, Second Vice President Annie Gates, Treasurer Martha Gordon, Past President William Bailey and directors Murry Blankenship, Jimmy Bryan, Harolyn Flynt, Jay Mann, Lorene Moore, Steve Schultz, Danny Smith and Scott Sullivan. Ex-officio members of the board are Okolona Mayor Louise Cole, Chamber Executive Perry Grubbs and Main Street Director Tanya Franks.
The Okolona Chamber of Commerce is made up of 11 major sponsors and over 100 businesses, individuals and organizations.
Group II provided the entertainment with the Pledge of Allegiance given by Watsie Jenkins and the National Anthem sung by Cade Jones. William Bailey offered the invocation and Chamber President Nancy Sullivan provided the welcome.
The meal was catered by Charlie Williams.