The Centre on Main was bursting at the seams on Thursday evening as community leaders, politicians and employees from a variety of local businesses attended the Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner.
The Chamber takes this opportunity each year to recognize seven of the top local leaders from a wide range of fields for their contributions to the community.
“We have a wonderful display of talent and diversity in our community and such a strong sense of community pride.” Said Chamber President Erin Embry, who expressed her enthusiasm for being “part of such an exciting event.”
“I’m so proud of our awards recipients,” Embry said.
Stephen Meredith, CEO of TWin Lakes Regional Medical Center, had the honor of presenting the first award of the night - this year’s Education Award, which went to Dr. Thelma White, President of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.
White was awarded for her efforts in bringing the future Walter T. Kelly Campus, a branch of ECTC to Grayson County. The school is expected to open it’s doors to students next year.
“We all have our duty to our communities,” White said in her acceptance speech, “and we all have been put on this earth to make things better.”
White told the group of her enthusiasm for the project, adding that she “can’t wait for the campus to open.”
The project will, for the first time, offer local college courses to Grayson Countians, thereby making a higher education more easily attainable for local residents.
The next award, which is known as the Spark Plug, was presented by Plastikon Operations Manager John Yates, who recognized the efforts and achievement of the two men responsible for bringing Grayson County the TWin Lakes National Fidler Championship this summer and their ongoing plans for future events.
City Councilman Steven Elder and former Leitchfield resident Ed Carnes were pleased to accept the award.
“This community can do anything that it wants to when the county and city get together and people get behind it,” Elder said.
Carnes expressed his excitement about next year’s event, adding that they hope to make it even “bigger and better” than the 2012 festival.
Another ECTC employee, and Chamber member Alfreda Weedman, presented the Community Service award to a group very dear to her heart - the Master Gardeners.
Weedman thanked the dedicated group for “spreading happiness through our county since 2004” with projects such as Wilkey Elementary’s vegetable garden, an herb garden at the Jack Thomas House, and landscaping across the county from the old judicial building to the Rough River visitor’s center.
Martha Higgs, the group’s president, accepted teh award and explained that the group has a “goal to enrich the community.”
Higgs continued on to say “We hope to touch each and every resident of this great county we call home.”
The 2012 Leadership award was presented by Becky Buckner, with Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, to MTD’s General Manager Derek Clemons.
Clemons, a graduate of Leadership Grayson County and Leadership Kentucky, told the crowd his secret to being a successful leader, saying “you can’t do it without a great team, and we truly have a great team at MTD.”
Chamber Vice President Wes Basham was fortunate enough to present the evening’s Small Business Award to a locally-owned restaurant that he called “a gem in Grayson County.”
The award went to Kay’s Cafe and Catering, with owner Kay Gibson accepting, along with her family and employees.
Basham praised Kay’s for its “country cooking and small-town atmosphere.”
Gibson told the crowd, with comedic flair, how difficult it can be at times to run a business, but also how rewarding.
“I have the best staff.” Gibson beamed, “I would be nothing without them.”
Chamber President Erin Embry presented this year’s annual President’s Award to a man she said “has truly touched many lives, and our community wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”
She praised the award’s recipient, Mayor WIlliam “Turkey” Thomason for being the “backbone of Leitchfield.”
Thomason, who is also a local business owner, was visibly moved by the recognition, and reiterated to the group, “I really love my community.”
The final award of the night, the Twin Lakes Award, went to a local company which not only employs 187 area residents, but also contributes to a variety of community events such as Relay for Life.
Leggit and Platt, whose local plant is one of 140 manufacturing facilities in 18 countries, has stood the test of time and economic hardship, according to Robert McKinzie, Vice President of Operations Services, who represented the company.
McKinzie went onto say that the award is “a great honor” and that it would not be possible without dedicated employees.
“It’s a story of persistence,” he explained, “It’s a story of determination.”
Embry championed the efforts of not only this year’s award winners, but Grayson County’s community as a whole, saying “I think the businesses, organizations and individuals in Grayson County are deserving of the recognition they receive through the Chamber.”
At the conclusion of the awards, nationally-recognized comedian and television personality Tom Mabe provided entertainment for the group. The Bullit County native, who has become wildly popular, spoke briefly about being a business-owner himself and thanked the group for giving him the opportunity to perform for a great crowd in his home state.