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Loris Chamber Awards Banquet recognizes residents for achievements

The Loris Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet on Thursday, Jan. 24, honoring and acknowledging residents of Loris for their contributions to the community.

The banquet began with a social hour and dinner from 6 to 7 p.m. with Banana Jack Murphy as emcee welcoming everyone to the banquet.  He introduced and welcomed the local politicians in attendance, Senator Greg Hembree, Loris City Councilmen Mike Suggs and Todd Harrelson and House of Representatives Kevin Hardee.  “Thank you for your service day in and day out,” said Murphy, “thanks for all you do to represent us at the various levels for the city, county and obviously at the state level as well.”  Murphy then offers the prayer as the guests prepared to eat.

Gage Connor received The Outstanding Youth Award, an individual who contributes to the community in the form of leadership and volunteer work.  Kevin Gause, coach and friend, said, “It’s truly an honor as youth hold a special place in my heart.” He continued, “Whether he’s on the football field, baseball field or at a wrestling match, he’s a leader.”  Connor humbly accepted the award by saying a short statement of “I appreciate it everybody.”

The Community Service Award was presented by Joan Smith to co-founders of Capture Inc., Terry and Phillip McClean.  This award is given to the individual who contributes to the community in the form of leadership, volunteer work or financial support.  Smith said, “I’ve been doing volunteer work since I was 10 years old and I have just recently started with another group who has been in our area since 2001.”  She continued, “They educate, they feed, they clothe, they take care of the sick, they take care of their own, it makes no difference what your bank account is or what possessions you have everyone is treated the same.”  McClean said, “I’m shocked, we are the new owners at the old Loris Elementary School.”  They currently serve 140 children every day, she said. “We provide the children with a safe place to stay while their parents are at work.”  They serve the community a dinner once a month feeding 300 to 500 people.  She said, “Stop by and visit us, we welcome volunteers, advocates and mentors.”  She ended with, “We just want to say thank you so much.”

Murphy said, “It’s time to salute another great individual for The Public Safety Award. This is an individual employed in the pubic safety profession who contributes to the community in a positive and effective way.”  Presenting the award Cameron Dozier spoke of Lt. William Caines who has been with the Loris Fire Department since 1988.  “He’s worked on brush fires going into harm’s way as the fires approach,” said Dozier.  Caines is on call with the fire department as well as running a full-time business.  Dozier said, “Recently during the hurricanes and flooding he volunteered manning the fire station answering numerous calls.”  He said with Caines you will get the very best friend, businessman, father, cousin and devoted firefighter.  Caines said, “I just received a 30 years of service plaque and appreciate it.  Thank ya’ll.”

The Roberts Brooks Entrepreneur Award presented by Jason Porter recognizes a business that has been established more than one year and less than five years showing stability and steady growth.  He spoke of a man who runs his business with genuine love and understanding of the Loris community.  Porter said, “He’s constantly looking for more ways to make our city even more wonderful, and I have no doubt he will.”  He stated he needs no introduction; he’s been in our faces for sometime on television, radio and in the newspapers.  Porter, a barber, said, “He’s a man with a great haircut and good personality, most important to me, he’s a man of God, I’m proud to call him my friend, and I present Jack Murphy with this award.  Murphy said, “This is a real surprise, I had no idea.”  I wanted to win this one because I knew Bob Brooks and his family, I worked with him in 1994 or 1995,” he continued. “Meet my wife, Barb, thank you for all you do at home to keep the lights on and keep our son well fed, she has set a good example.”  He spoke of his family in generations of entrepreneurs.  Murphy said, “Thank you so much.”

The Merchant of the Year Award is given to an individual who contributes to the growth of the community.  Presenting the award, Todd Harrelson said, “It’s an honor to present this award to a Christian man, a man of integrity and someone you can truly trust, I’m talking about Charlie Todd.”  As he received the award Todd stated that he is honored and humbled.  “This is a special award and there are many more merchants in this town who deserve it more than I do,” he said. “My dad is the one who started the business and he deserves all the credit.” He thanked his wife and kids, his family and extended family who supports and helps him, all the employees who are the ones who run the company.  He said, “They are the ones who keep the business going, I really appreciate their hard work every day.”  He stated that he appreciated the award and thanked God and Jesus Christ for keeping them afloat.  Todd’s Car Parts has expanded their business, purchasing the Graham Brothers building and continuing with the tradition of home and gardening supplies.

The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Brandon Harrelson by Samantha Norris. “This person may be new to the city of Loris but not to the people of Loris,” said Norris., “He enlisted into the United States Air Force for nine years; he was the weapons load crew team chief, in laymen’s terms and according to him, he mainly loaded bombs and the stuff that goes boom.”  He also studied mechanical engineering, married, started a family and moved back to his hometown of Loris.  He stepped into the leadership role at the Public Works Department. He and the whole city employees have cleaned and maintained and made the city look great. He has assisted with the Bog-Off Festival and other events in Loris and is a member of Live Oak Baptist Church.  He likes to hunt and fish and is a farmer/gardener of three acres of land which he provides fresh produce to his neighbors. Norris said, “We would like to thank you for your service to our country, to our community and please help me welcome this year’s Citizen of the Year, Brandon Harrelson.”  He said, “I wasn’t expecting this, thank you, I’m incredibly humble; I do what I do because I love Loris and I have a great team that surrounds me, the city administrator, the clerk, public works, our staff, council.”  He continued, “I’ve said it before. I have the best job in the world. I get to play in the dirt and ditches, so thank you, there are a lot of good things coming to Loris, so sit tight and watch it happen, thank you.”

Murphy introduced House of Representatives Kevin Hardee to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to a citizen who has made a significant impact to the Loris area and surrounding communities.  Hardee said, “I’ve known this guy 30 years, I don’t know what he’s achieved because I don’t ever remember him having a job.”  The guests burst in laughter.  He said, “I served with him for eight years on county council and he is a great friend,” he continued. “He was my football coach in 8th grade and could run faster backwards than I could forward.  My good friend Paul Prince you need to come on up please.”  Prince accepted the award with a smile and said, “I looked around to see who was going to win this award, but as I did I realized I am about the oldest one in here.”  He said he loves Loris and the people, mentioning his wife who helped him make Loris into what it is today. Thank ya’ll very much.”

For the first time the Loris Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors created a new award, the Diamond Award, which is given to an individual who is dedicated to the community and has gone out of their way to help others and is a huge asset to the Loris Chamber of Commerce.  Presenting this award were John Harrelson and Tisha Helms.  Harrelson stated, “It is an honor to present the first ever Diamond Chamber Award, you all will immediately recognize who she is, therefore we ask that she come up here.”  He requested Jennifer Causey to escort Joyce Graham to the podium.  Harrelson presented a history of Graham’s education and employment.  Graham had returned to the Loris area in 2000 where she began working for the Loris Tabor Tribune selling advertising. It wasn’t long after that she began writing articles and a weekly column.  In 2007 she published a magazine, Money Matters, distributed in Horry and Columbus Counties.  She met Orvin and married in 2009 ending the publication and traveled with her husband, enjoying life as professional tourists.”  He said, “Joyce was a mainstay in our community with her camera and pen returning to the newspaper.”  Helms provided Graham’s personal history, raising $1,000,000 a year while working for United Way, she started a program for employees to adopt families at Christmas, she initiated to adopt a resident program for local skilled nursing facilities to provide them with gifts for birthdays and holidays when they had no family.  Graham had served on the Loris Chamber Board of Directors and as Chairman of the Bog-Off.  She has initiated a fish fry to purchase bulletproof vests for the police department, including the dog, Dixie.  She has been involved in many community projects and the list continues.  The unseen contributions Graham has made through the years helping others.  Graham supports Grayson Technical Training Center with scholarship funds for students to learn a trade.  Helms said, “She does this because she has a kind and loving heart.”  She quoted Graham saying, “The Bible says never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.”  In other words, charity should not be done for recognition.  Helms said, “Thank you for your generosity and thank you for what you have done for Loris.” Graham asked if she gets a diamond.  “I don’t know what to say.”  She stated that she is blessed more than anyone in the room, blessed with a wonderful husband and family.”  I thank you for enriching my life and giving me an opportunity to enrich yours, God bless you all, thank you.”

Jennifer Causey presented A Special Recognition award to the City of Loris employees who have worked so hard this year, “Brandon Harrelson, Damon Kempski, Kenya Wright, Todd Harrelson and Michael Suggs, you guys are so instrumental to us for doing our job effectively and more efficiently, and I thank you for that.”  She said, “This award goes to the City of Loris and I am so honored to present this award for their service during Hurricane Florence and the subsequent flooding it brought.”  She stated she has seen the devastation in Fair Bluff, Nichols and Chadbourn, the towns devastated and struggling by flooding, not knowing if they are going to be able to rebuild.  She said she sees Loris employees working together and restoring our city back to where it was before the storms.  She read the words on the plaque, “For the City of Loris for their heroic actions during Hurricane Florence and the subsequent flooding that followed”.  Kempski accepted the award for the city. He said, “I humbly accept this award on behalf of the (city) administration and all the city employees, every individual selflessly sacrificed to ensure the safety and security of this city.” He continued, “Sometimes at the cost of their own property, every single person contributed and it was a team effort. I couldn’t be more proud.  On behalf of them I say thank you very much.”

Pictures were taken of the presenters and recipients of the awards as well as congratulations and hugs given as the awards presentations ended.

Jamison Lewis spoke about the time he served as president of the chamber. He introduced himself. “I had the privilege of serving and was nominated to work with the chamber, it was a pleasure and an honor. For those of you who don’t know me, I worked for Samantha. She kind of tells us all what to do.”  He said he had a good time serving and appreciates all that the chamber does for the city.  He thanked everyone for attending the banquet and the recipients of the awards who are very deserving.

Causey introduced the 2019 Loris Chamber of Commerce officers as Jennifer Boyd Causey, president, Stephanie Wilhdlem as vice president and Samantha Norris as executive director.  The Board of Directors is Chandler Abrams, Kimberly Brunson, Rome Prince and Stacy Cannon.  She thanked everyone for coming.

Special thanks to the sponsors for the banquet who are the Loris Chamber of Commerce, McLeod Loris Seacoast, HTC, Loris Rehab and Nursing Center, Senator Greg Hembree, Tyler Financial Services, Marketing Premium Foods and Southeastern Timberland, Inc.  The Backstreet Café provided a nice meal for guests and The Grind provided the desserts.

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