FOLEY - The 76th Annual South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Gala went Grecian as the night celebrated chamber members and volunteers with a silent auction, a live auction, a catered dinner provided by Cosmo’s, and the much-anticipated award ceremony. The live auction, which was performed by Sheriff Hoss Mack, and silent auction raise money that goes back into Foley and Elberta schools through the South Baldwin Chamber Foundation.
For 2019, the Diplomat of the Year Award went to Ashley Avery, who since joining the Diplomat Program has attended almost every networking event, ribbon cutting, and volunteered at many community events. Chamber Diplomats serve as ambassadors for the Chamber, through welcoming new members to running registration tables at Business After Hours.
The 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award went to Sarah Kuzma, who has been volunteering and serving organizations close to her heart for many years. Chamber volunteers help with various events throughout the year, such as the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival and Business After Hours.
The Small Business of the Year Award for 2019 went to Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, with owners David Worthington and Eric Bigelow accepting the award. Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast has been welcoming people to the community for over 20 years, and “advocating for and promoting our area to their guests while showing them true Southern hospitality.” Both Worthington and Bigelow serve on several local and state boards.
The 2019 Chairman of the Board, Michelle Hodges, gave a quick overview on all the things the Chamber accomplished during the previous year, citing collaboration to be a key factor in recent happenings. The Gateway Initiative became a regional collaboration in 2019, being recognized nationally and becoming a model throughout Alabama. The apprenticeship program took off, and SAWDC recognized hospitality and tourism as the fifth industry segment.
“Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Hodges said. “You have to show up, you have to participate, you have to engage, and we can’t do it alone. This past year so many in the community and across different organizations came together and the success that we’re able to celebrate today is because of the collaboration of so many.”
Hodges passed the gavel to the 2020 Chairman of the Board Charlene Haber, owner of Wolf Bay Restaurants. Haber is on the board for the Gateway Initiative and has been supporting the apprenticeship program from its inception.
Though her parents joined the Chamber in 1973, Haber states she never understood what the Chamber represented until after a fire destroyed the original Wolf Bay location over ten years ago. The restaurant was rebuilt in a new location, and Haber’s marketing director told her she needed to get out in her community and engage; to get something in return, she first had to give.
“This year as Chairwoman, I look forward to continuing to make great strides alongside an outstanding board, Donna [Watts] and her team, and all the chamber and business members,” Haber said. “I am encouraged by the spirit of collaboration and the momentum of the Gateway Initiative as we strive to meet the needs of our fast growing and vibrant business community. I look forward to continuing the deliverable and inclusive effort to improve our workforce so we can truly have a better Baldwin. Together we can make a difference.”
For more information on the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, check out their website at www.southbaldwinchamber.com.