By Diana Matthews
The Chamber of Commerce and Tourism awarded Sue Hawks an honorary lifetime membership and Rick Edwards received the Sol B. Mann Community Spirit Award Monday night.
The festivities began with the mini business expo at 5:30. Tables had been decorated by sponsor businesses/organizations to promote their products and services. More than 200 people attended the banquet, held at Northwood Assembly.
John Elliot of Duke Energy, which sponsors the honorary lifetime achievement award, said Hawks has provided a lifetime of service through the chamber and as head of the Southeastern Community College Foundation.
“Our honoree’s resume of giving to this community is too extensive to highlight sufficiently from the podium tonight as her achievements stretch far and wide.”
Sue Hawks was a longtime recruiter for Southeastern Community College and retired dean of the college’s foundation.
Elliott praised Hawks’ successful fundraising that had turned SCC into one of the best-endowed community colleges in North Carolina. He called her “a compassionate community leader” who had touched many lives with her “unbridled enthusiasm for education.”
Hawks expressed thanks for the honor and commented on the important part that volunteers play not only in education but in all of the many aspects of community life. “Volunteers are priceless,” she said. “Without volunteers, we couldn’t do a lot of things that need to be done.” She thanked the audience for the ways in which many of them were already serving.
Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann presented the Sol B. Mann Community Spirit Award to retired businessman Rick Edwards, citing his generosity, energy and “out-of-the-box ideas.” Edwards recently retired from leading the Columbus Jobs Foundation, the county’s volunteer arm of economic development.
Edwards thanked members of Mann and Steinberg families for the honor and recalled the example set by Mayor Mann’s late father.
“Sol Mann was a hard, hard, hard worker,” Edwards said. ‘If you went into his store asking for money for a cause, almost any cause, he would write you a check.” Edwards said he was proud and grateful to receive the award bearing Mann’s name, and to join the ranks of the 16 admirable individuals who had received the award previously.
Earlier in the evening, members checked out the displays as they circulated and exchanged business cards. At 6 p.m., dinner began with a presentation of colors by the Whiteville High School JROTC.
One of the chamber’s newest member organizations, Southeastern Oratorio Society, sang two brief pieces, directed by Leslie “Gus” Cothern, before an invocation and blessing by Sheriff Lewis Hatcher.
A common theme among the speakers was the importance of service. Board member Matt McLean told how, when he arrived in Columbus County, service through the chamber and through his children’s sports teams had allowed him to become part of the community.
Chairman Joan Ward thanked the committee members who had worked to make the banquet possible. Serving on a committee, she said, is often a challenging and thankless job yet is necessary to allow an organization like the chamber to thrive.
Ward recognized outgoing board members Terri Edmund, Amber Bellamy, Stephanie Miller and J.E. Thompson. She welcomed incoming board members Gary Faircloth, Jamille Gore, Shawn Maynor, Ethan Scott and Brenda Troy.
Ward, who will remain chairman a second year, concluded the meeting with a challenge to members to find individual avenues of service suiting their passions, then find ways to collaborate with others to make the community stronger. “Service means something different to you than it means to me,” she said. For some it would mean distributing food while for others it could mean assisting at an animal shelter or coaching a sports team.
Quoting Mother Theresa, Ward said, “You can do things I cannot. And I can do things you cannot. But together we can do great things.”