By THOMAS GAETANO
The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Awards Dinner on Mar. 16 at the Appalachian Christian Camp’s Cross Center.
Executive Director Amanda Delp said this was a new venue for the event, and one they took to making their own — with the room set as an oceanic atmosphere, including blue lights, fountains, and fog machine.
Community and business leaders within Unicoi and surrounding counties were in attendance.
Representatives from CHIPs (Change is Possible Family Violence Shelter) and CASA of NE Tennessee spoke about their programs prior to the beginning of the program.
According to CHIPs representatives, they are a domestic violence advocacy program that provides counseling and support for victims throughout Greene, Carter, and Unicoi County.
The organization operates a 24-hour crisis hotline; funding for the organization comes through a non-profit thrift store located at 219 S. Main Avenue.
Representatives from CASA of NE Tennessee explained that they are court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected minors in Washington, Greene, and Unicoi County.
Attendees said they were pleased with the new choice of venue.
“I think it’s great; a very nice, professional presentation,” said former director and current board member Wendy Rice-Hensley.
Terry Wise, owner of Erwin Outdoor Supply and Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, added that the new venue was beautiful. “It looks great,” he said. “Very sharp.”
The presentation of the awards recognizing outstanding community contributions throughout 2022 was preceded by opening remarks from Delp and Nuclear Fuel Services President Ron Dailey. NFS was the title event sponsor for the program.
Awards were presented in 10 categories.
Kristen Allen was presented the award for Educator of the Year. According to Allen, she will graduate from a master’s program in May and begin a new career as a school counselor at Temple Hill Elementary after being an educator for 17 years.
“I prayed really hard about where God was leading me in my life,” Allen said. “The direction I feel like I was being led in was to go back to school to be a school counselor.”
Terry Wise, owner of Erwin Outdoor Supply and Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, accepted the Hospitality and Tourism Business of the Year Award on behalf of Erwin Outdoor Supply while Blue Ridge Paddling was presented the New Business of the Year award with owners and brothers Mason and Brannon Schmidt accepting.
Mason Schmidt said, “We’re so thankful and honored to win the new business of the year award.” Schmidt said he was grateful to the community and that it is “just the beginning for us.”
Awards were also presented for Non-profit of the Year to CASA of NE Tennessee and for Distinguished Service to the Community to Gary Amos.
According to presenter Carolyn McAmis, “CASA has served over 630 children in Unicoi County and logged over 11,000 volunteer hours.”
Cathy Huskins presented the award to Amos and said, “He works daily within the community to ensure that charitable and civic organizations’ needs are met, as well as the needs of the people they served.
“Not only does (Amos) serve our community with selfless dedication, but he served our country in the United States Army, carrying out one tour of duty in Vietnam.”
“It was a total surprise. It is an honor to have been chosen for this,” Amos said after the dinner concluded.
Other award recipients included Small Business of the Year, given to Draft Horse Electric;
Large Business of the Year, presented to Jones and Church Farms;
Emergency Services Provider of the Year, given to the Erwin Police Department;
Healthcare Business of the Year Award, to Reflection Aesthetics and IV Bar;
Professional Services of the Year, given to Unicoi County Farm Bureau.
The final award was the President’s Award presented by chamber president Tracy Huff. The award, she said, goes to “an individual or organization that the President feels makes a significant and positive impact on Unicoi County and the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce.”
This year the award was given to Delp and current Tourism Director Cathy Huskins.
“Year after year, they give 100 percent to every aspect of their job,” Huff said. She referenced their leadership during the pandemic, and their willingness to furlough their own employment with the chamber while still volunteering to support community businesses.
The dinner was catered by Fatz Catering Company.