Chamber honors community leaders

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The S.T.A.R. Awards were crafted by local business leaders in Fall 2016, aimed at celebrating Success, Traditions, Achievements and Relationships.

The Kilgore Chamber of Commerce added five new honorees to its list of recipients during Monday’s 2017 Star Gala in Kilgore College’s Devall Student Center ballroom.

It’s the most important part of the gala and of the year, outgoing chamber board chairman Reece Nichols said, “recognizing outstanding people and businesses who help make the chamber and Kilgore who we are today.”

In addition to the chamber’s traditional Citizen of the Year award (see page 1), Monday night’s recipients included Skeeter Boats Inc. as 2017 Industry of the Year, nominated alongside runners-up Energy Weldfab and Freedom Communication Technologies.

Brookshire’s General Manager Joe Stephens accepted the Large Business of the Year award on the company’s behalf, thanking the chamber’s members for their support of the store.

“I’ve been in Kilgore for three years now, and it’s really been a blessing and a big boon for me to have this opportunity,” he said. With a Grand re-Opening following a remodeling of the store, “We’re going to continue our road and have a bigger footprint in the City of Kilgore and continue supporting different activities we have here … We’re very proud of this award.”

Runners-up for the accolade included the Back Porch and Republic Services.

The annual Small Business of the Year Award drew Downtown D’Lites restaurateurs Debbie and Alan VanDoren to the stage, with J. deGraffenried Dental as runner-up.

“I have a bottom line for all life, and it goes for business as well,” Debbie VanDoren said. “Love God, love people … It works for life: if you’re rich or if you’re poor, if you’re single or if you’re married, if things are going really well or if they’re going really lousy in life, there’s two things you can always do. You can always love God and you can always love the people that He brings into your life.

“It works for life on a personal basis and it also works for a business, and that’s what counts.”

Republic Services’ James Murphy, 2017-2018 chamber board chairman, presented the 2017 Ambassador of the Year to Allstate agent Melissa Azzam.

“Each year we recognize the chamber’s most important business networking team – our A-Team,” Murphy said the chamber ambassadors. He challenged each business to connect an employee to the group. “Our Ambassadors are the public relations arm of the Chamber – greeting our member investors at events, contacting members throughout the year to enhance our contact touches with our investors, hosting ribbon cuttings and grand openings and promoting the Kilgore Chamber at many community events and to new businesses.”

Azzam thanked the chamber members for their hospitality and support.

“I’m still new to Kilgore,” she said. “I just thank you for being so welcoming to me.”

Nichols also spotlighted the chamber’s Women in Business honorees from April’s Black Gold, Texas Tea event. Realtor Jessica Holmes received the Rising Star Award, realtor Charlotte Mobbs earned the Shining Star Award and Kilgore Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Amanda Nobles was honored with the Lifetime Star Achiever Award.

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