Chamber hosts annual dinner

Jan. 25—OXFORD — Business people and elected and community leaders filled the hall at the Oxford Civic Center Wednesday for the 44th annual meeting of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. More than 350 witnessed honors being bestowed on local residents and optimistic remarks made about business in Alabama.

Citizen of the Year

Acting on behalf of Anniston Star Chairman and Publisher Josephine Ayers, newspaper staff writer Sherry Kughn presented the Citizen of the Year Award to The Right Place co-founder and executive director Lori Floyd.

"Over the past ten years, this woman has helped hundreds of homeless people find the assistance they need to do three things: obtain an income, get transportation and find a home," said Kughn, who had previously interviewed Floyd for an article about the award.

Kughn also told the audience how Floyd had recently founded The Safe Place Drop-in Center, where the homeless can go each day to relax and "do things we all take for granted."

"I am very humbled I was chosen for this," Floyd said in accepting the honor. "It's a passion that I have and it takes all of us in this room to make it happen. It's not something I've done on my own."

"We are one person at a time," she continued. "Everybody that needs a house is homeless. That is really our mission and if you want to be a part of it, we would love to have you help us."

Passing the gavel

Jacksonville State University President Dr. Don Killingsworth, serving for the last time in his capacity as Chamber board chairman, spoke of the year's successes and the importance of the Chamber to the community.

"2022 was a successful year," Killingsworth said. "As chairman, you get to see all of the organization's moving parts and accomplishments. It makes me proud to have led a team of more than 1,200 members."

He said the Chamber continues to "grow and engage" and said it had maintained an 87 percent retention rate among its members.

"Your Chamber offers a wide range of diversified programs to assist and recognize small businesses including the first PITCH competition which awarded a $5,000 grant to a small business," Killingsworth said. "Most importantly, we established the Young Professional program with a vision to provide young professionals with the opportunity to connect, develop professionally and work together to better the Calhoun County area."

"But, we still have work to do," Killingsworth said before presenting the Chairman's gavel to Corey McWhorter of Regions Bank.

McWhorter thanked Killingsworth for his "vision and leadership"

"You have set the bar high for 2023," McWhorter said.

In his first remarks as chairman, McWhorter said he wanted the Chamber to "continue to build a regional focus for us to compete with the Huntsvilles and Birminghams."

"We must continue to collaborate among ourselves and as a region we will continue to focus on bringing together industry, academia, government, nonprofit and tourism stakeholders," McWhorter said. "We are already working with our area Chamber partners along with economic and community development partners."

"Our key objective for 2023 will be to continue to promote communications and development relationships; clarify regional strengths, challenges and opportunities; identify shared interests, complementary resources and partnership opportunities," McWhorter said. "Together, we will fulfill our mission to promote and sustain the economic growth of the Calhoun County region — resulting in a community that is a dynamic place to live, work and play."

Special awards were also given to four Chamber members.

Dr. Tim Lindblom received the Leadership Calhoun County Ray Crow Award.

Terry Smiley was the recipient of the Brenda Dozier Hollis Chairman's Award.

Greg Waldran was presented the Tourism Champion Award.

Kayla Peeples was given the Ambassador of the Year Award.

Staff Writer Brian Graves: 256-236-1551.