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Holmes Chamber of Commerce celebrates annual awards banquet

Holmes County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the movers and shakers in the business community at its annual awards banquet.

The country club at Dogwood Lakes Golf Course was bustling Thursday night with Chamber members enjoying fellowship and delicious food provided by Catering by Lisa.

The Chamber Board collects nominations and votes each year for Business of the Year. This year, the Chamber expanded their categories to include other awards to celebrate growth, service and achievements among its members.

Chamber Vice President Amanda Eldridge announced the winners and spoke about the accomplishments of each one.

“Tonight we will recognize Entrepreneur of the Year, Business Leader of the Year, Small Business of the Year and Large Business of the year,” Eldrige said. “Those nominated for these awards make not only a significant economic impact on Holmes County but also demonstrate their commitment to serving our community and our Chamber.”

The first winner announced was Entrepreneur of the Year.

“While this individual is not new to retail, this year she has truly burst through the gate fueled by a passion for community and place-making. This person has poured their blood sweat and tears into creating a vision for offering a modern spin on the old-fashioned general store,” Eldridge said. “Emily Locke, owner of Pepper Town Market, opened her doors last spring to customers, vendors, as well as the community revitalization group, Waukesha Way, to make special gatherings like Food Truck Fridays a reality in our town.”

Next up, was the Business Leader of the Year.

“Since taking the reins in 2019, Joe Rone, Executive Director of the Holmes County Development Commission has exhibited incredible leadership not only by bringing new businesses into our community,” Eldrige said. “In 2022, he took the shell of an abandoned school and created a thriving business center with exciting new jobs, beautiful spaces for growing businesses to expand, and even a community event space for meetings, reunions, weddings and holiday celebrations. It has been a transformation, in addition to all the other ways he adds so much value to our county’s economy.”

Rone was unable to attend the banquet. His wife, Lee Rone, accepted the award on his behalf.

The Small Business of the Year award was next.

Eldridge said the chosen business had combined innovation and growth with a dedication to serving the community.

“In 2022, Ruth Forster transformed her business, Make it Sew, into a vision of classroom-style learning and creativity. Her customers have an incredible space to not only create beautiful projects but cultivate friendships,” Eldridge said. “Ruth shares her space and creations to enhance our community with 4-H students and the Holmes County Historical Society. We are so fortunate to have her in our business community.”

Eldridge and Chamber President Lesley Hatfield next presented the Large Business of the Year, an entity Eldridge said has transformed the healthcare landscape of the entire county.

“Doctors Memorial Hospital is a team of 100-plus health professionals committed to the health, safety and well-being of our community. While this team led an aggressive and innovative approach to battling COVID throughout the pandemic, they also maintained their focus on advancing very important initiatives such as their rural health clinic, their robotic surgery offerings, the short-term rehab program and the medical weight loss program,” Eldridge said. “DMH has accomplished much in 2022, improving the lives of so many and making Holmes County known for quality healthcare.”

Other awards for service and community impact were awarded to Brandon and Heather Shelby, Michelle Stout, Jalynn Ingle and Charlie Dykes.

The annual event serves as one of the Chamber’s largest fundraisers. For more information on the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and a directory of its members, visit www.chamberholmescountyflorida.com.

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