The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce presented its President’s Award to Drs. Ron and Cindy Prestage, capping off its 104th Annual Awards Gala at the Robert Mills Courthouse on Friday. The Prestages are owners of Prestage Farms, which operates in seven states with 1,900 employees, including 170 in South Carolina.
“The President’s Award is the highest honor given by our organization,” Chamber Executive Director Liz Horton said. “It is given annually to an individual or individuals who have contributed significantly to Kershaw County for an extended period of time, or have made significant contributions to the betterment of the community and a long-term commitment to improving Kershaw County and making it a better place for all our citizens and visitors. Members are asked to nominate individuals for the award and the (chamber) president decides who will receive it based upon advice from the executive committee.”
Chamber President John Thomas presented the award, sponsored by KershawHealth represented by Board Chair Karen Eckford.
“This year’s President’s Award recipients are celebrating their 31st year of doing business in Kershaw County,” Thomas said. “As you look through the personal biographies of this couple, you will see a history of community service here in Kershaw County. It takes a lot of time to volunteer or to serve on a variety of boards and commissions.”
Thomas said Dr. Cindy Prestage has served as a youth group advisor and elder at Bethesda Presbyterian Church, volunteers as a veterinarian at the Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter and volunteers at Food for the Soul.
Dr. Ron Prestage, he said, has served on the Black River Road Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees since 2000, serves on the Applied Technology Education Campus’ Ag Advisory Committee and as a Young Farmer Advisor since 2011.
“Ron also voluntarily serves as the manager of the Kershaw County Airport, which has saved the county and taxpayers approximately $250,000 over the past five years. And most recently they donated $50,000 to the building fund for the Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter,” Thomas said.
The chamber also handed out this year’s William F. Nettles Award to Gina Marthers, a customer service representative and loan assistant at Heritage Community Bank in Camden. The award is given in memory of long-time businessman and chamber supporter William F. Nettles Jr. The award, sponsored by Walmart and presented by the store’s assistant manager, Jim Bradshaw, is given annually to a non-board chamber member who has done the most to further the chamber’s programs.
This year’s event included a “luau” style party after the business portion. In her opening remarks, Horton said the chamber works hard to create a professional and welcoming atmosphere, and takes pride in maintaining the historic Robert Mills Courthouse.
“Of course, continual improvements to our facility and the operation of your Chamber and Visitors’ Center would not be possible without the continued support of our chamber members, county and city councils and our many other business partners, and we thank you,” she said.
Ike Byrd of AT&T, a presenting sponsor, took the podium and said although his company is worldwide, they also focus on the specific communities they serve.
“I’m pleased to join in honoring those who are making a lasting difference in Kershaw County,” Byrd said. “At AT&T we’re a local company. We have 2,400 employees here in South Carolina who live, work and serve customers, families and friends in their local communities around the state.”
Rick Jiran of Duke Energy, another presenting sponsor, said his company’s merger with Progress Energy has been good for South Carolina customers.
“We now find ourselves being the largest utility in the U.S., with more than 700,000 customers in South Carolina,” he said. “I hope you’ve felt our presence. I hope you’ve seen it in economic development and I hope you’ve seen it on Lake Wateree and what we’re doing on the environmental side and you will continue to see it in the safe, reliable and economical power we will continue to deliver.”
Horton recognized the chamber board of directors, then gave special thanks to those who are leaving the board.
“Every year at about this time, it can be a sad time for some of us, although for some of our board members it is a happy time. Those are the directors who are completing their terms and will be rotating off the board at the end of June,” Horton said. “This year we have eight directors rotating off the board and they are Chip Galloway, Cheryl Kelly, Rick Jiran, Kirk Mays, Townley Redfearn, Lauren Reeder, Kevin Rhodes and Joe Upchurch.”
Thomas and President-elect Spencer Graham presented plaques to the outgoing board members. Graham will take the presidency in July.
Horton then announced the recipients of the chamber’s Community Pride Awards, explaining that the awards were given out in a different way this year. Previously, all awards were presented at the annual event, but that has changed and now the awards are given throughout the year as they are earned. She said Community Pride Awards are designed to recognize businesses that have done extensive exterior remodeling, new construction or landscaping that improved the appearance of the community.
So far this year, the chamber presented 13 Community Pride Awards, sponsored by Cantey, Tiller, Pierce & Green. The recipients, many of whom attended Friday’s celebration, were Advance Auto Parts of Lugoff, Chick-fil-A, Dark Water Distillery, Family Dollar, Heritage Chevrolet Buick GMC, Kershaw County Professional Tax Service, Kimbrell’s Furniture, Lugoff Flowers & Interior Gardens, Rush’s, St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church, The Law Office of Yulee E. Harrelson, Wateree Family Dentistry and Wooten & Wooten.
Other award winners included two earning the Business Partner of the Year Award. The award goes each year to a business that supports the Kershaw County School District with contributions of money or time.
Accuride, a manufacturer of wheels for large trucks and trailers, is this year’s first recipient, nominated by Lugoff-Elgin Middle School Principal Karen Bullard. She said the company helped the school’s wrestling team by having some of the boys work at the company’s “family day” event, which resulted in Accuride making a $250 donation to the wrestling program. The company also allowed school officials to tour its facility to learn about the training needed to be employed there. Central Carolina Technical College sponsored Accuride’s award.
Lugoff Flowers & Interior Gardens, nominated by Wateree Elementary School Assistant Principal Lindsay Christofaro, received the second business partner award. Christafaro said the business donates two plants each month to the school’s faculty and staff as part of the Golden Apple Award. It also provides gift certificates and corsages for special events like the school’s annual Daddy-Daughter Dance. Cheryl Poulton accepted the award, sponsored by Powers Funeral Home.
Business of the Year Awards went to three recipients, based on size. Horton said they are selected by an independent judging panel from out of state and are based on the criteria of showing commitment to the community and overcoming obstacles, being in business in Kershaw County for three or more years and being members in good standing of the chamber for at least two years.
The award for a business with 25 or fewer employees went to The UPS Store, owned and operated by Gene and Sue Hornsby since 2002. The award was sponsored by First Citizens Bank and was presented by Beth Morgan, vice president and retail sales manager for the bank.
The award for a mid-size business with between 26 and 50 employees went to Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC). The award was sponsored by AllSouth Federal Credit Union and was presented by Tara Williams, AllSouth business development manager, who lauded CCTC’s role in preparing Kershaw County residents to enter the workforce with employable skills or to continue their educations at four-year colleges or universities.
“Central Carolina brought higher education accessibility to Kershaw County by establishing two campuses within the county. The college has also started the Kershaw County Scholars Program for qualifying high school students which offers free tuition at the college beginning in the fall of 2015,” Williams said. “The college has also expanded its service to health science students by offering hands-on simulation labs for their nursing programs. This was a significant factor in being awarded a grant of $3.4 million to train entry-level healthcare workers to fill employment needs in Kershaw and surrounding counties.”
CCTC President Dr. Tim Hardee accepted the award.
The award for large business of the year with 51 or more employees went to Camden Military Academy (CMA). Mid Carolina Credit Union sponsored the, presented by CEO Scott Conley. Conley said the academy and its cadets contribute greatly to the local economy and the cadets serve at numerous community events including the Special Olympics, which are held at CMA, area parades, veterans events and more. The academy also hosts camps during the summer months, making the dorms, gym, dining and recreation facilities available. The cadets also collect food for the Food for the Soul food bank, accounting for one-third of that charity’s inventory.
“Camden Military Academy, as a school and individually the leaders of the school, is a major contributor to Kershaw County. They take pride in their community and their return on investment to the community is well documented,” Conley said. “On a daily basis they uphold the strictest principles as they participate and communicate across the entire county.”
CMA Headmaster Col. Eric Boland and Board of Trustees Chairman Cam Walters accepted the award.
After presenting the President’s Award to the Prestages, Thomas spoke of his tenure as chamber president.
“One thing that helps us here in Kershaw County is the people. I think the people are different and we’re very special here in Kershaw County,” he said. “Kershaw County is the undiscovered county. There’s so much quality of life here and such a special place.”
Thomas thanked the chamber board and staff for their assistance and dedication.
“They made it so easy -- pathetically easy. It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I recommend it to anybody.”
Graham then commented on his upcoming turn as president.
“Two years ago, I was on the board, but I never thought I’d have this opportunity. It’s been a great two years and I’ve seen a lot of changes,” Graham said. “The former presidents, Chip and John, have just cleared a path for future economic development here. One of the things I’m most excited about as I look out here is the synergy we have created with our relationships and what that means for the future of Kershaw County.”
Horton read a list of community members who had passed away during the past year, that included Charles Wills “Red” DuBose, Leonard Price, Bill Sailors, Bennett Buckelew, Judith F. Theil, Ellen S. Davis, Dr. Pete McKoy, Jessica L. Hinson, Reid Buckley and Lois Rhame West.Horton said memorial bricks were engraved and placed in the walkway at the Robert Mills Courthouse “as a reminder of the legacy they leave behind.” After adjourning from the business meeting, participants moved to the south lawn to enjoy food from Aberdeen Catery and music by Second Nature.