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Gilchrist Chamber presents awards at annual banquet

The 2019 Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce Banquet was so well attended that the event barn at the beautiful Seven Hills Farm was filled to capacity. Denise Hudson, the Chamber of Commerce President, and Michael McElroy were the emcees for the evening. After the welcome and the blessing of the food those attending enjoyed a wonderful meal of smoked brisket and barbecue with lots of good sides. The meal was catered by Cowboyz Catering.
After the meal and a few door prizes, County Commission Chair Todd Gray came forward to announce the business of the year. Gray said, “Tonight’s recipient was founded in 1999 and they employ 30 individuals, most of those are Gilchrist County residents.” Gray went on to announce that The Gilchrist Club is the 2019 Business of the Year. The club encompasses some 27,000 acres in Gilchrist County. This club is known to be family and community oriented. Their employees are all considered part of one big family.
The employees and manager of The Gilchrist Club, Bob Edwards, went out of their way to help out after the two deputies were killed last April. The Gilchrist Club housed and fed out of town law enforcement for several weeks at their own expense. They also sponsored fund raisers through their club membership for the Ramirez and Lindsey families after the tragedy.
Christy McElroy presented the Organization of the Year award to the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office. McElroy said “The GCSO has worked diligently to keep our students safe in a constantly changing society with uncertainties and school dangers that didn’t seem to exist 5-10 years ago.” She also reported that all Gilchrist County Schools have a School Resource Officer which make the schools a safer environment for the teacher and students.
The Guardian Program alone has taken hundreds of hours of training provided by the Sheriff’s Office for the volunteers that have taken on this task. Other programs that the GCSO provides are Crimes Against the Elderly Program, and Agriculture Watch Program.
After the unthinkable happened on April 19, when two GCSO Deputies were gunned down while eating lunch in a local restaurant, the safety of every single citizen and the safety of employees of GCSO has become the goal of the Sheriff’s Office. This organization’s professionalism was second to none in the handling of this tragedy. Gilchrist County pulled together as a family with an outpouring of support for GCSO. “Regardless of the circumstance, this organization responds with dignity and the utmost respect for this community.” McElroy said.
The Citizen of the Year was presented by Cindy Jo Ayers. “The 2019 Citizen of the Year is just an amazing person with a heart of gold” Ayers said. “She has worked tirelessly for every good cause that came by for years. She is often found elbow deep in dish water or sweeping the floor at a charity event. She is truly a behind the scenes kind of person who never wants any recognition for the work she does.” Krystal Philman Holley is the 2019 Citizen of the Year.
She has worked tirelessly volunteering to head up various events like retirement receptions, Chili Cookoffs, and awards banquets for the Sheriff’s Office.
All through the time of the funerals of the two deputies, she worked around the clock arranging for food for the staff at the sheriff’s office, giving hugs to our officers and listening to them when they just needed a friend. She worked hard to vet people who were contacting the Sheriff’s Office wanting to hold benefits for the Ramirez and Lindsey families. She attended these events to make sure the money raised was accounted for and given to the deputies’ families. This was no small task.
Just one example of her heart of gold happened just a few days after the funerals. Krystal organized a group of deputes to go to the Ramirez home and build a playground for the Ramirez children, this idea was both good for the children and the deputies. Even now she is at all the events, being a friend and sister to our officers, just as she was long before the deputies were killed.
After hurricane Michael hit west Florida Krystal was busy organizing hurricane relief supplies, which she and her team of volunteers packed and sent to the people living near Port St. Joe.
Holley is a graduate from BHS and for several years now she has been the head Softball coach there. Even though she receives a small stipend check for coaching it does not begin to cover her expenses, much less the many hours of time that she gives freely to coach the Lady Bulldogs. She not only coaches but she has held many fundraisers to improve the facilities at the field.
Cliff Bradley had everyone guessing who the recipient of the J. Min Ayers Lifetime Achievement Award would be. Bradley, the presenter, said, “The individual who nominated this year’s recipient stated, ‘Serving the community by going above and beyond,’ in their service to the community.” As it turned out there were two recipients of this year’s award. A husband and wife team, you may see one or both of them working in a concession stand, baking cakes for fundraising events, singing at a wedding or event in the area, teaching Bible study, or leading the singing at church. They always participate in the Education Foundation Walk-a-Thon and the Scholarship Showdown and the list goes on and on for the community service of Michael and Christy McElroy, the 2019 winners of the J. Min Ayers Lifetime Achievements Award.
Michael has served multiple times on the Chamber Board and as Chamber President twice, and has been active in the past in the local Rotary Club. Both serve on the Gilchrist county Republican Party Committee.
Bradley also said, “You see them supporting our community at ribbon cuttings, ball games, Christmas on Main and a myriad of other community activities.”
“Let us challenge ourselves to step up our service to Gilchrist County. Truly, this couple sets a standard few of us will ever match. “ Bradley said.
The McElroys were surprised by the award and thanked the Chamber for the honor. Christy encouraged those attending the banquet to teach their children or grandchildren to volunteer and serve their community.

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