A bank, funeral home, health club and retail boutique won top honors Oct. 16 at the Zachary Chamber of Commerce’s membership awards banquet.
Around 300 people attended the event, one of the chamber’s annual fundraisers, where awards were given for small, medium, large and new business of the year; businessperson and volunteer of the year; and hall of distinction. Also awarded was the Rotary’s Zachary Citizen of the Year award.
The Zachary Chamber is a membership-based, volunteer-led organization with more than 280 members and a staff of two. As of Oct. 1, 21 new members have joined the Zachary Chamber, which is responsible for advocating for the business community, hosting workshops, lunch and learn sessions, and promoting Zachary members through ribbon-cuttings, marketing and media.
Master of ceremonies was radio personality Charles Hanagriff.
Semifinalists were voted upon by chamber members with initial nominations coming from the chamber member businesses, associates, friends or family members.
Attendees dined on a catered meal while a chamber update was provided by Kate MacArthur, economic development director.
“Zachary is poised to be the next big thing,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur’s job includes recruiting companies interested in relocation, providing information and assistance to companies preparing to expand to the Zachary area, and working with a wide array of partners to help existing Zachary-area businesses overcome challenges that prevent them from growing, thriving and maintaining operations, she said.
For most businesses, economic development translates to new jobs and new capital investments that strengthen the flow of dollars into the local economy, she said.
“It can also mean new customers for a business,” MacArthur said.
She added that in the last two years, Zachary has welcomed 15 industrial projects and 16 retail projects.
Following MacArthur’s update, school Superintendent Scott Devillier commented on the recent Zachary Connected campaign involving the Zachary Community School District, city of Zachary and Chamber of Commerce.
Zachary Connected, a community-wide kindness initiative, was inspired by the late Rachel Scott, a 17-year-old who was the first victim to die in the Columbine school shootings in 1999. Scott’s kindness and compassion, as well as her life and diary entries, prompted her family to start Rachel’s Challenge, a nonprofit dedicated to creating safe, connected school environments where learning and teaching are maximized.
“The Zachary Connected movement builds on the foundation of Rachel’s Challenge and the kindness and compassion she showed for others,” Devillier said. Rachel’s Challenge also is about inspiring people to replace acts of violence, bullying and negativity with acts of respect, kindness and compassion, for which Scott was known.
The keynote address for the evening was given by Christel Slaughter, of SSA Consultants, a Baton Rouge-based management consulting and organizational development firm. Slaughter previously taught in the LSU Flores MBA program and has been on three dean selection panels at LSU.
Following Slaughter’s address, the induction of the 2015 Chamber Board of Directors was performed by Zachary city prosecutor Trae Welch, who swore in board members Mark Anderson, recent past president Brent Bradley, Jack Burk, Patrick Campbell, Danette Castello, Ben Cavin, Scott Devillier, Mark Marionneaux (2015 president), Scott Roger, Jason St. Romain, Ryan Talbot and Keith Wahoske.
The evening concluded with awards given to the following people and/or businesses for their contributions and/or memorable business achievements during 2014:
Small Business of the Year went to Fitness Design for Women, a self-described neighborhood gym specializing in women’s wellness. Owner Laura O’Brien opened Fitness Design in 2003 and launched programs such as Fit to Serve, the LIFE program and a city-wide health challenge for Zachary officials.
Mid-sized Business of the Year was awarded to Charlet Funeral Home. Third generation members of the Charlet family operate Charlet Funeral Home, Inc., which began in Clinton in 1947 with a Zachary location opening in 1963.
Charlet Funeral Home donates to and supports various organizations, groups and events in East Feliciana and East Baton Rouge parishes, specifically in the Clinton and Zachary communities, chamber officials said.
Large Business of the Year went to the Bank of Zachary, which is owned by nearly 300 individual shareholders who live in and around the Zachary area. The bank first opened for business in July 1904. Five of the bank’s current officers have served as chamber presidents.
New Business of the Year was awarded to Honey’s Love. Owner Lacey Lobell opened her unique boutique in June, selling a variety of merchandise that offers local vendors a place to market their creations.
About 25 vendors, mostly from Zachary and some from Central, have spaces at Honey’s Love.
Business Person of the Year was awarded to John Dry of Dry’s Healthmart Pharmacy. After nearly 20 years as a local Zachary pharmacist, Dry fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening an independent pharmacy in November 2008.
Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Jill McGraw, a wife, mother, businesswoman and chamber ambassador. McGraw volunteers for many events on behalf of the chamber as well as through the Rotary Club of Zachary, of which she is a member.
She was recently named Chamber Ambassador of the Quarter. McGraw works as a sales executive for Inspired Media and is half owner of Holly Hill Sisters, a vendor at Honey’s Love.
Hall of Distinction Awards were presented to Betty Tucker, Zachary archivist and local historian, and to the families of the late Dr. Hubert Owen Jr. and the late David D. Horton.
Tucker is the official archivist for the city of Zachary and headed the Zachary Historical Association for many years. Her involvement in historical activities as well as re-enactments at Port Hudson and the Plains have been a valuable asset to the preservation of the history of Zachary, Port Hudson and the Plains.
Louise S. Horton, wife of the late David D. Horton, who died in August, accepted her late husband’s award. David Horton was an educator of schools in Zachary and the first black Zachary city councilman. He was a former president of the Zachary Community Federal Credit Union and a deacon and treasurer at Union Baptist Church.
Liz C. Owen, wife of the late Dr. Hubert Clayton Owen Jr. who died in June, accepted the award on his behalf along with sons Hubie Owen and Paul Owen, his wife Debbie, and their daughters Elizabeth and Catherine Owen.
Hubert Owen served as chief of medical staff in 1973 and 1976 at Lane Memorial where he was a radiologist from 1969 until his retirement in 1991. He also served at Field Memorial Hospital in Centreville, Mississippi; West Feliciana Hospital in St. Francisville; and Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge.
Rotary president Ryan Talbot presented the Rotary Club’s Zachary Citizen of the Year award to Roma Prejean, 66, a volunteer for the Zachary Food Pantry for the past 11 years. Her work helping families and those in need in Zachary has been unparalleled, Talbot said.
The Rotary Club of Zachary has been designating the honor for the past 29 years and the honor is not limited to Rotarians.
“This award has a long list of recipients, and the decision is never an easy one,” said Talbot.
Prejean, a native of Church Point, is a 36-year resident of Zachary. She and her husband Harold enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling and volunteering in the community on behalf of the Zachary Food Pantry.
“I don’t understand why all this fuss is being made over me, but I am humbled and extremely grateful for this award, which I accept on behalf of all the volunteers at the Zachary Food Pantry,” Prejean said. “I’ll try not to let ya’ll down.”