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Over 300 community leaders and members gathered at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center Tuesday evening for the 44th annual Chamber Banquet, a special event dedicated to honoring Chamber of Commerce members and their generous contributions to Clinton and Sampson County.
Following a catered dinner by Piggly Wiggly and musical entertainment provided by Stan Benton, Chamber officials presented five awards, touting the accomplishments and community efforts of individuals and businesses alike.
Lisa Turlington presented the Chamber’s highest honor — the Outstanding Chamber Member of the Year Award — to her colleague at Sampson Community College, Cliff Ireland, director of the college’s Small Business Center.
The award, she explained, goes to someone who is “involved with the Chamber and Sampson County in many aspects. This individual is someone that has a passion for the people, the community, and the well-being of Sampson County.”
Describing him as “a man that is filled with laughter, energy, and a heart for the business community,” Turlington praised Ireland for his tireless involvement in Chamber events.
“He is at almost every Chamber event and has been deemed the ‘professional photographer’ through Member of the Week, ribbon cutting celebrations, Business after Hour events, and much more,” she said. “I’m sure many of you have seen him walking around tonight with the camera.”
Turlington also touted Ireland’s contribution to the local business community, thanking him “for all of his hard work and dedication promoting economic growth and a healthy business community within Sampson County.”
A shocked Ireland made his way to the stage, and in accepting his award, noted that the honor was “quite a surprise” and offered a “big thank you” to the community which he described as “one of the most hospitable places I’ve ever been.”
A former military brat who moved to Sampson in 2006, Ireland joked about how it seemed everyone in the community was related. But, on a more serious note, he called Sampson “a wonderful place to work,” and even went to work during his acceptance speech, encouraging others to get involved in a professional development series that is to be co-sponsored by the Chamber and the college’s Small Business Center this spring.
“Just to be nominated is humbling,” he said, looking down at his award. “I really appreciate it.”
During the evening, Chamber officials also recognized various business community members with Wilbert Faircloth of Faircloth & Faircloth Attorneys being named this year’s Business Person of the Year.
A lifetime resident of Clinton and a 1960 graduate of Clinton High School, Faircloth studied law, earning his Juris Doctorate degree from Wake Forest University’s School of Law in 1967; the same year he was licensed to practice law and was sworn in as an Attorney-At-Law in Sampson County Superior Court. In 1968, he joined his father, Croon M. Faircloth’s, law firm. In addition to practicing law, Faircloth has been a past president of the Clinton Rotary Club and is still a member with 44 years under his belt. He has also served the community in numerous other capacities, including being a founding member of the Clinton Area Foundation for Education, a member of the Clinton High School Athletic Booster Club, and previously chairing the Sampson County Board of Elections and the City of Clinton Board of Elections. He has also been a lifetime member of Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher, and Sunday School treasurer.
In accepting his award, Faircloth — a member of the Chamber for 44 years where he has served as a past president and received the 1991 Outstanding Member award — took attendees back to when he was on the Chamber’s annual meeting committee, recalling how he and his fellow committee members had to travel to the North Carolina Justice Academy in Salemburg to pick up tables for the event.
He also amused attendees with a story about his decision to return to Clinton, calling it “a hard decision” due to having to fill the large shoes of his grandfather and father, adding that he also had reservations after hearing a lady say that what she remembered best about him and his twin brother was that they fought, as brothers will do, in the church parking lot between Sunday School and worship service.
He shared, however, that his return to Clinton was well worth it as he brought back to Sampson County his wife Mary Lou who he lovingly praised for having “done more for the community than me, teaching all those kids.”
Others nominated for the Business Person of the Year Award were Larry Barnes, a local agent with New York Life Insurance, and Sherry Matthews, the editor and community relations manager of The Sampson Independent.
Ginny Evans of Evans’ Catering was presented with the Entrepreneurial Success Award.
Evans, a Sampson resident since 1976, began her catering business around 1984 after serving as a cake decorating instructor at Sampson Community College and catering the Sunday buffet for Coharie Country Club. She runs her catering business from her home near Spivey’s Corner, relying primarily on good word-of-mouth to grow her business. In giving back to the community, Evans’ Catering sponsors the popular “Alive After Five” series and Sampson CenterStage events.
Used to letting her culinary creations speak for themselves, Evans kept her acceptance speech simple, describing the honor as “a wonderful award.”
“I’ve probably served food to the majority of you all here over the past 25 to 30 years,” she noted as many in the audience nodded in agreement. “I appreciate it very much.”
Others nominated for the Entrepreneurial Success Award were Railroad Street Steakhouse of Roseboro, owned by Richard Barefoot, and Tickled Pink Consignment of Clinton, owned by Lesa Moore and Sue Smith.
The Dance Shoppe and TuTu’s Too received the evening’s Small Business Excellence Award.
Since 1991, The Dance Shoppe, owned and operated by Wanda Williamson Coleman, has been a place for students, pre-school through high school, to study the technical skills of various forms of dance while developing their self-esteem, self-confidence, and leadership skills. The Dance Shoppe has been actively involved in the community, participating in the Chamber Coat Closet and the Clinton City Schools’ Socks-for-Tots Campaign, sponsoring Class Act, and offering a Dance Shoppe Scholarship for the arts and a community WOW award, to name a few.
Accepting the honor on her mother’s behalf, Elizabeth Coleman shared that “my mom will be so excited” and called the award a “celebration of the arts and the beauty the arts bring to the community.”
Others nominated for the Small Business Award were Tire’s Inc. of Clinton, owned by Michael Edwards, and Simpson & Holland Appraisal Service, owned by Telfair Simpson.
Sherri Smith, the 2014 Chamber president and the chair of the Chamber’s Ambassador Program, and Marie Daniels, 2012 Ambassador award recipient, also presented Rebecca Rooks with this year’s Garnie Edwards Ambassador of the Year honor.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.