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Chamber of Commerce presents annual awards

Chamber of Commerce presents annual awards
News Editor
MARTIN — A humble Betty Baker stepped on stage to loud applause Tuesday night and said she couldn’t accept the award on her behalf.
Honored as the Weakley Countian of the Year at the annual Chamber of Commerce President’s Banquet, Baker said she would accept only on behalf of We Care, the ministry she directs.
The social service ministry provides emergency assistance to Weakley County families, including a food bank, Good Samaritan clothing, a furniture and Christmas store, literacy programs and direct aid for assistance with utility bills, rent and prescription medication.
“I’m just the face,” she told the hundreds in attendance at the University of Tennessee at Martin’s ballroom. “That’s why I can’t accept the award for me. I can only accept on behalf of We Care.”
Baker’s award was one of several handed out throughout the evening. E.T. Reavis & Son was honored as the business of the year, and Carlie Vowell received the Youth Leadership Award.
“I’ve been blessed tremendously to be placed by God in the ministry,” Baker said. “It’s a calling. He placed me there. Weakley County is a great place to live. We are the largest ministry in West Tennessee. We want to be a ministry that our community is proud of, a ministry that reaches not only physical needs but spiritual needs.”
In the last year alone, We Care assisted more than 4,700 families with more than $500,000 of assistance.
“We Care can’t do that on its own,” Baker said in praising the community for its contributions.
“Probably more than any of you in here, I know how this economic situation has affected families in our community,” she said. “I’ve seen grown men who have never had to ask for help and have always met the needs of their families come in and ask for help.”
She said she has seen the county’s elderly population struggle with food costs and seen many forced to choose between food and much needed medicine. She said her heart especially goes out to the county’s single moms struggling to make a living and provide for their children in current economic climate.
“Our community has had a hit,” Baker said. “But I also see the flip side. We have a community that cares. We have a community of people who know they have been blessed, and because you have been blessed, you want to give.”

Business of the Year
“Thank you so much,” Thomas Loyd Reavis said as he and his sisters accepted the award for Weakley County Business of the Year. “It’s a total surprise. I appreciate it.”
Martha Reavis Killebrew and Carol Reavis Moore joined their brother on the stage to receive the honor.
The dry goods store, located in Dresden, was started by Elbert Thomas Reavis and has been continuously operated by the same family for more than 100 years.
The store is currently a partnership between Thomas Loyd Reavis (managing partner), Killebrew and Moore. After the death of their mother, Dorothy Hall Reavis, the family business began to feel the impact of Walmart, other regional mega stores and the internet.
Situated at a crossroads in 1999, E.T. Reavis & Son created a website ( The business created a niche and the store has rebounded and excelled.
“One thing I’ve learned is that people all over the country, in all 50 states, are interested in the same thing as we all here are,” Tom Reavis said. “And that’s taking care of their families and living life to the fullest and enjoying themselves. We’re all the same basically, though we may have different accents sometimes.”

Youth Leadership Award
Vowell said she was “very, very honored and humbled” to receive the Youth Leadership Award.
Vowell has been involved in a slew of local, state and regional activities.
She served as chairperson for the 2013 Weakley County Youth Leadership class, has completed more than 250 hours of documented volunteer hours in the last two years, has been ranked No. 1 in her school class the last five years and founded “Pinky Promise Against Bullying,” an organization that brings awareness and prevention methods to bullying.
“I want to thank my family for always being there for me and supporting me,” Vowell said. “I couldn’t do this without God and my wonderful church family. I’m very thankful.”

Leadership graduates
Leadership Weakley County graduates recognized were Kayla Allen, Jackie Siler Bell, Karen Winschel, Danelle Fabanich, Jerod Howell, Josh Pirtle, Jason Sullivan, Elizabeth Pritchett and Brad Thompson.
For their class project, the group created a website for the Weakley County Backpack Program.
“The Weakley County Backpack Program is a great asset to our community,” said Pritchett, the class’ co-chairperson. “They do a lot of good. We didn’t realize how much they did until we got involved in our leadership class. We were really excited to pick this as our project.”
The website can be viewed at
“We are very proud for them to have this asset,” said Thompson, a class co-chairman, who added the program is “a real jewel” for the county.
In addition to the website, the class also took the lead in setting up a mobile collection pantry for the program.
“I’m proud to say that on July 13 we will have a mobile pantry set up here in Weakley County at Greenfield High School,” Thompson said.
The graduates also presented a $2,500 donation for the backpack program.

Youth leadership graduates
Youth leadership graduates included Kendal Alexander, Mason Borneman, Aleya Brent, Alexis Cashion, Keaton Collins, Jacob Gatewood, Gian Garma, Carrie Hatchell, Marissa Higgins, Jake Horn, Abby Huffstetler, Natalie Hurst, Hannah Lokey, Jessica Morris, Claire Oliver, Kaitlyn Sanders, Spencer Stewart, Vowell, McKay Warren and Chelsea Willis.

Changing of the guard
Outgoing chamber president Richard Milam of Sharon praised the chamber’s executive director, Barbara Virgin, and administrative assistant, Marguriet Frazier, for their leadership.
“The chamber would not be what it is tonight without those two – I can assure you,” he said.
Milam said he’s “had a fantastic time” as the chamber’s president.
“I got to work with you all,” he said, “the best people in Weakley County, and I truly want to thank y’all so much for supporting me like you have. I love Weakley County and I push ‘shop Weakley County first’ in all that you do.”
Incoming president Ron Arnold of Gleason said he was excited to get started as president, adding, “We will make this an even better place to live and work.”

Closing remarks
Jake Bynum served as master of ceremonies for the night.
Bynum, a business development officer at First State Bank in Dresden, is involved in a variety of community programs and is a past president of the chamber.
He ended the evening with a challenge for the business professionals in the room.
“I know that all of you all are energized, but let’s leave this room energized,” he said. “We’ve got several options: we’re either going forward or we’re going back; we’re either going up or we’re going downwards. Keep in mind that we will never be perfectionized, but we can be energized or fossilized. So let’s get energetic about Weakley County.”
Published in The WCP 4.25.13

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