ALTAVISTA — The Altavista Area Chamber of Commerce presented its 2020 Southern Charm annual gala Jan. 25 at Virginia Technical Institute, giving out awards for the area’s top small and big business, charitable group and educators. Chamber President Lauren Odessa acted as emcee of the event and also the awards presenter.

Top small, big businesses honored

In presenting the program, Odessa saluted the role businesses play. “Each and every year, businesses thrive and prosper -- they bring jobs and help build community,” she said.

Odessa then recognized two Altavista-area businesses with awards – one going to a smaller business and one going to a larger one. Hailey’s Appliance Owner Mitch Hailey accepted the Small Business Award and Lee Merryman of Rustburg-founded transportation dealer Sonny Merryman Inc., a supplier of buses, accepted the Big Business Award.

Charitable group recognized

The chamber also annually honors an Altavista-area charitable organization with its Cornerstone Award. “With every building there is a piece to it that is one of the most important parts of the foundation and that is what is called the cornerstone,” Odessa said as she began her presentation of the award. “The Cornerstone Award wraps a whole lot into one award. It recognizes true business foundation break-throughs.” 

She then revealed that Claire Parker Foundation was the recipient of the award, which was accepted by Connie and Jordan Parker. The Altavista-based charitable organization delivers care boxes to families battling pediatric cancer.

Chamber recognizes education

Odessa presented awards to Altavista-area educators. Four teachers, honored earlier with 2019 Teacher of the Year awards, also received 

special chamber awards during the Jan. 25 gala. The teacher honorees, in alphabetical order, include:

• Altavista Middle and High schools’ Jennie Howell.

• Faith Christian Academy’s Cindy Irby.

• Altavista Elementary School’s Dana Taylor.

• Hurt Elementary School’s Lindsey Wyatt.

Odessa also presented two Innovation to Education grant awards – one to Altavista Elementary School for a color printer and one to Hurt Elementary School for its Junior Beta Club. She said the grant to AES will help benefit the students there by creating more engaging visuals that will be used for various classes and tests. Principal Beth Simpson accepted the award on behalf of the school. 

Odessa said the grant to HES will help it prepare “the beginning to little leaders of the world.” HES Junior Beta Club rep Lori Goad accepted the award.

President looks ahead

Odessa concluded the gala program by recognizing both outgoing and incoming chamber board members. “New beginnings are upon us -- it’s 2020 y’all,” Odessa said just before introducing some of the members. “We have so many new and fun things coming up for 2020.”

(For the full story and a big photo package, be sure to pick up a copy of the Feb. 5 print edition of The Altavista Journal. It’s available NOW on newsstands throughout Altavista, Campbell County and northern Pittsylvania County!)