By Bill Robinson
Gary Abney, a Realtor, former banker and past Eastern Kentucky University regents chair, received the Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s top award Tuesday night.
Abney was presented the Wallace G. Maffett Award for lifelong community service and leadership.
Maffett served as Richmond mayor in the 1970s and was known for his public service.
In addition to serving on his alma mater’s board of regents for 14 years, Abney also has served several other community organizations “with distinction,” according to his award citation.
These include the chamber of commerce, Madison County United Way, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority board, Pops at the Park, Richmond Utilities Board and Richmond Industrial Development Corporation Board.
Business of the Year
The Business of the Year Award went to Chick-fil-A restaurant in Richmond Centre.
Operator Heather Redick, her husband Neil, and their crew of 60 plus team members “have led the way in community donations and influence” the award citation stated.
The restaurant achieved Chick-fil-A’s highest sales award in 2011 and consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all Chick-fil-A restaurants for customer service scores, the citation added.
The local Chick-fil-A has partnered with the Richmond Fire Department, Salvation Army, Light of Christ Ministries and other non-profit organizations in the community in charitable activities. It also partners with Madison Central High School to employ co-op and at risk students to give them a positive work environment.
Small Business of the Year
Cars of Kentucky took home the Small Business of the Year Award.
Owners Gordon and Mike Rice established the dealership on Big Hill Avenue in 1985, seeking to provide exceptional service and fair prices on every car, the citation stated. The business also is known for its philanthropy, having recently donated a vehicle after hearing the story of a young mother in need.
The dealership also supports other local businesses by having all its service and repair work done locally.
Minority Business of the Year
Jillian’s Specialty Gifts & Fine Wines, owned by Jill Taylor, was named Minority Business of the year. In 2011, she moved the business she began at home to Richmond Centre.
The boutique offers a large selection of wines, bubble necklaces, scarves and gifts as well as EKU and UK accessories, according to the award citation. The business also is a friend to local organizations, helping with and donating items to events such as the PACA Ball, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Heart Chase and Pops at the Park.
Educator of the Year
Lena Kay Wilson, who has served Madison County Schools since 1995 as a discipline aid, student technology coordinator, migrant summer school teacher, elementary teacher and reading recovery specialist, was named B. Michael Caudill Educator of the Year.
She works at Mayfield Elementary school, facilitating a one-on-one tutoring interventions program for students in kindergarten through third-grade. She also spends much of her time working with mentoring groups and providing support to teachers that will aid in individual student achievement, her citations stated.
Brenda Evans, who with her husband has operated a 100-acre farm in northern Madison County since 1993, received the Agriculture Award.
For 10 years, she sold fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets and through community supported agriculture, her citation stated. Since then, she has devoted her time to educating the public about local foods and mentoring new and emerging farmers. In 2011, she started a group called “Eat Local, Grow Local,” which meets once a month at the Madison County Cooperative Extension Office to teach people how to grow their own food, support local growers, cook seasonally and preserve their own food.
Two organizations received Bernease Walters Beautification Awards.
They included First Christian Church on West Main Street, which in October dedicated a new 14,000 addition, and Grand Campus Community at Yorick Place at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road.
Community Service Awards
David Benge, a banker who has served the chamber and other community organizations, including the Chemical Destruction Citizens Advisory Board and Hospice Care Plus Board, received a Community Service Award.
The Richmond Area Arts Council and its executive director, Deborah Kidd, received a Community Service Award. The organization provides arts opportunities for all residents of Madison County, regardless of age, as well as an avenue wherein amateur artists and musicians can participate or showcase their skills.
The Business Babes Society, established in 2008 by Joyce Green, Linda West, Cindy Teague-Kelly and Kim Woosley to promote women-owned businesses, received a Community Service Award. It has developed a college scholarship that will be awarded to a local high school senior next year.
Bison DiBlasi and Art Attack Tattoos also received a Community Service Award. Throughout 2013, they have offered several sponsorships and community oriented projects for the general public to become active with charitable events, according to the citation.
Chamber Dedication Award
The chamber’s Howard and Neal Colyer Dedication Award went to Scott Johnson. “He is involved in every aspect of the community, constantly working to improve the quality of life in Richmond,” according to his citation. “This recipient can be found at most community events, and chances are he helped plan that event.”
Chamber Ambassador Award
The chamber’s Doris Manno Ambassador Award went to Heather Arvin, a Richmond Register media consultant and Avon advanced unit leader and independent representative.
110 Percent Award
The chamber’s 110 Percent Award went to Monica Kidwell, co-chair of the organization’s Economic Development Committee. She played a key role in Madison County achieving Work Ready status, according to her citation.
Work Ready Awards
Three other individuals were recognized for helping the county achieve Work Ready status, a main objective of the chamber for the past year and a half. They were: Tonita Goodwin, executive director of the Richmond Industrial Development Corp.; Keeley Gadd, who heads the Madison County campus of National College; and Vickie Moberly of Eastern Kentucky University and formerly with Madison County Schools.