Amid the laughter and celebratory spirit at last week’s annual Chamber of Commerce awards dinner, there were also some heavy hearts in the audience that let go of tears when the Citizen of the Year for 2012 was announced.
Unlike in the past when the Citizen of the Year accepts the award on his or her own, this year, the winner’s wife and his mother received the award which honored the late Michael Smith, who died unexpectedly in August at the age of 31.
“He gave and gave, expecting nothing in return,” said chamber member Lisa Sacca who presented the award.
Smith, who was born with one hand, worked as the owner of Zaxby’s. He simultaneously managed to help out nearly every local charity, including Relay for Life, the Clayton Rotary Club, YMCA of Johnston County, Serve the Need, Clayton Area Ministries and the American Legion, among others. He was a fund raiser for almost every school and church in Johnston County and supported the local police and fire departments.
Wiping away tears, Smith’s wife, Kelly Stamps Smith, acceptd the award on Monday and thanked the community for all of their support. Smith’s mother thanked the audience for welcoming her “birdy.”
Business owners, elected officials, and family members of each, attended the awards ceremony held at the Clayton Center.
The Clayton Steakhouse was named the Small Business of the Year. Mayor Jody McLeod presented the award to owner Michael Grannis, a town council member, who also owns Morning Glory Inn with his wife. “Mr. Grannis came here to improve his and his wife’s quality of life,” said McLeod. “Little did he know he’d be improving the quality of life for many people in Clayton.” The Clayton Steakhouse opened six years ago and is located at 307 East Main Street. Along with serving grilled steaks, sandwiches, and burgers, the restaurant also donates meals to local schools, and hosts veterans for service events.
Martha Stovall, who owns Club Z! In-Home Tutoring, was named Chairman Ambassador of the Year. It is the duty of chamber ambassadors to spearhead the networking efforts of the Chamber. Ambassadors attend all of the ribbon cuttings, social hours, and reach out to local businesses to recruit members.
Don Craig was named volunteer of the year. Craig serves as the Clayton Chamber of Commerce Education Committee chairman. When presenting the award, Chamber president Jim Godfrey acknowledged the oustanding schools in the area, and the hard work that goes into ensuring that there are excellent schools.
“This is the first Chamber of Commerce I’ve been on where I haven’t received constant calls about how bad the schools are,” said Godfrey.
Tom Ricks, who has spearheaded Stop Hunger Now in Clayton, and is involved with missions at Horne Memorial United Methodist Church received the Rotary Community Service Award. Last year, Ricks helped raise more than $54,000, to pay for bagging 217,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, an international food-aid organization.
Caroline Mitchell, who runs the cheerleading program of the Civitan Club received the Civitan Award. The Mosaic Community Garden received the Community Enhancement Award. Joyce Blackley was named Outstanding Member of the Women in Networking organization. Town Manager Steve Biggs’ daughter Emery Biggs, the youngest recipient of an award at the event, at 12 years old, received the Junior Volunteer award. Volunteers were also recognized for their work with the Harvest Festival, and serving on the Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Commerce announced two new high-tech tools it will be launching this week. First, all chamber members will have access to an iPhone app called “My Chamber.” The app allows users to market their business, and also find other chamber businesses, both in Clayton, and in cities across the country where the app is used.
Second, the chamber is starting to film a video series highlighting a “Business of the Week.” For the videos, any businesses that are members of the Chamber can pay $150 to have a video made that gives a short summary of their business. It is intended to give exposure to businesses around town by showing the video on a big-screen at the Chamber of Commerce building, and on its website, and Facebook page. Businesses can also use the video on their own business website.