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Lee Chamber honors late war hero

Awards of recognition were given Thursday at the Lee County Annual Banquet. From left to right: Larry Walden, Lifetime Achievement; Frank Griffin, Partner in Education; Bob Reardon, Ambassador of the Year; April Reardon, Ambassador of the Year; Kevin Dowling, Man of the Year; Patsy Shirley, Woman of the Year; Robert Hamil (for McClesky Mills), Agriculture Partner of the Year; John Bell, (Matrix Department), Business of the Year; Linda Cannon (for Lee County Retired Educators), Non-profit of the Year.

Awards of recognition were given Thursday at the Lee County Annual Banquet. From left to right: Larry Walden, Lifetime Achievement; Frank Griffin, Partner in Education; Bob Reardon, Ambassador of the Year; April Reardon, Ambassador of the Year; Kevin Dowling, Man of the Year; Patsy Shirley, Woman of the Year; Robert Hamil (for McClesky Mills), Agriculture Partner of the Year; John Bell, (Matrix Department), Business of the Year; Linda Cannon (for Lee County Retired Educators), Non-profit of the Year.

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Lee County Chamber of Commerce honors the late Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton and handed out several awards at its 24th Annual Banquet Thursday.

The affair was hosted in the county new Oakland Library and Event Center. Chamber officials discussed accomplishments of the past year and plans for the future at the banquet.

A special tribute was paid to Sutton, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year, by newly-elected Lee County Commissioner Greg Frich.

Fritch, who served in the Marines, spoke of the dedication, both physical and mental, required of U.S. Marines. Members of Sutton's family attended the ceremony.

"Let's be clear on this point," Frich said, "Being a Marine means you've chosen a lifelong pursuit of a purpose far greater than yourself. On May 26 this year, Steve's unit was ambushed by enemy forces. His unit corpsman was hit and Steve ran to his brother's aid. He gave his life for his friend. Why did he do this? Why would anyone? The answer is simple. It was love."

The Chamber acknowledged the success of hometown celebrities, including musicians Luke Bryan and Phillip Phillips and Major League baseball star Buster Posey. County music vocalist Faith Jackson provided music for the banquet.

State Rep. Ed Rynders, a Republican representing District 152 in the Georgia House of Representatives, was a guest speaker at the event. Although Rynders said he initiated the proposal to secure $2 million for Oakland library construction, he paid tribute Democratic Georgia Sen. George Hooks for his work in getting the proposal passed.

An annual report was given to the Chamber members by Lisa Davis, director marketing membership and events.

New board of directors for the Lee Chamber announced at the meeting were Jud Savelle of Bishop Clean Care, Chairman; Matthew Inman of EMC Engineering, vice chair; Leila Jones of First State Bank, Treasurer; Vince Falcione of Procter & Gamble, existing industry chair; Jason Rooks, immediate past chair and Greg Crowder, Authority Authority Chairman.

The Lee Chamber Man of the Year award was given to Kevin Dowling, principal at Lee County High and a Georgia Principal of the Year winner.

Woman of the Year recognition was received by Patsy Shirley in part for her leadership of Back Pack Blessings, a local effort to assure that needy kids go home from school with food and snacks to take them through the weekends.

John Bell received the Business of the Year award for Matrix Department, specialist in large format printing and creative designs. According to Sevelle, who presented the awards, Matrix Department offers a wide variety of products from trade show displays, banners, printed metals and plastics, and vehicle wraps.

The Non Profit of the Year award was given to the Lee County Retired Educators. According to Savelle, the organization has awarded scholarships to Lee County High School seniors, including two $1,000 scholarships this year.

The Partner in Agriculture award was presented to McClesky Mills of Smithville and received by Robert Hamlin. Chartered in Americus in 1929, McClesky Mills is a peanut buying and shelling plant that produces sized, raw-shelled peanuts for shipments within the U.S. and to export markets. The plant employs 70 people, Savelle said.

The Partner in Education award went to Frank Griffin for his role in improving education in Lee County and area.

The Lifetime Achievement award was received by Larry Walden for his years of work with First United Methodist in downtown Albany, The Bridge, and his role in establishing Fish Camp, a recreation and retreat facility for youth.

"This individual has freely given his money, provided transportation, located affordable housing, given jobs and always gone above and beyond to help someone in need," Savelle said.

For dedicated service to the Lee County Chamber of Commerce, Bob and April Reardon received the Ambassador of the Year award.