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Chamber members enjoy Hee Haw Hoedown Banquet

There was a full house at Seven Hills Farms on Tuesday, February 11 for the annual Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce banquet.
Everyone enjoyed the fun antics of Master of Ceremonies Michael McElroy. McElroy and his wife Christie performed a portion of the old Hee Haw show, “Where Oh Where Are You Tonight” which the crowd enjoyed.
The top award of the evening went to Patricia Knight, who was awarded the J. Min Ayers Lifetime Achievement Award. A longtime friend of J. Min Ayers, Clif Bradley presented the award. Bradley spoke of Knight’s love of this community, referencing Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Bradley said, “Our recipient is never afraid to take action. Never one to sit on the side line while others do the heavy lifting. If you want it done, give her the job and get out of the way.”
Knight has worked as a volunteer  for many years with the Salvation Army, Education Foundation of Gilchrist County, Woman’s Club, Chamber of Commerce, Eastern  Star and Meridian Behavioral Service. She even served as the first female President of the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County. Bradley said, “When I say service, I do not mean just attending, I mean working. Sleeves rolled up and in the game.”
Bradley asked those close to Knight to give him a one word description of her, selfless, dependable, perseverance, generous, devoted, and passionate.
Knight was very pleased to win the award and thanked the Chamber and those gathered for the honor.
Judge Sheree Lancaster presented the Citizen of the Year award to a local couple. Judge Lancaster said that Don and Margo Alexander moved to Gilchrist County in 1996 to retire, but instead they became full time volunteers.  They instituted a monthly fund raiser – raising over 100K dollars with half of the proceeds going to the Spring Ridge Fire Department.   From 2006-2012 they donated half of the proceeds to the Children’s Miracle Network, helping children from all over being seen at Shands, and for the past seven years donated half of the proceeds to the Gainesville Fisher House Foundation, which provides a “home away from home” for families of veterans and military service members receiving care at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville. On June 1, 2019, the last pancake breakfast was held at the Spring Ridge Volunteer Fire Department as the Alexanders really retired this time.
They also raised money for the Spring Ridge Volunteer Fire Department by cooking at the State of Florida Agency for Property Auction Surplus in Starke, Florida, cooking Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the auction for 8-10 years. Don and Margo also cooked and sold meals to raise money for folks in Gilchrist County who needed medical care and could not afford it.
Margo had knee replacement recently so the couple were unable to attend the banquet.
Stephanie Douglas, the Chamber Executive Director, presented the Business of the Year award to Duron and Lisa Williamson. The Williamsons started Duron Williamson’s Tree Service in 1998 in Bell. Through the hard work of Williamson’s crew and their many loyal customers, they established an  office  at 1469 North Main Street in Bell back in 2018.
Douglas spoke of the good service provided by Duron Williamson’s Tree Service and what an asset the business has been for Gilchrist County citizens.
ForVets, Inc., was chosen as the Non-Profit Organization of the Year. Debbie Destin made the presentation to the officers of ForVets. ForVets is the organization that is building Camp Valor on the 636 acres of Otter Springs. Camp Valor will provide much needed programs that empower and support returning wounded veterans and their families as they transition back into civilian life. Camp Valor’s four core fundamentals are rehabilitation, education, enterprise and recreation. The four fundamentals are designed to rekindle hope, foster independence, renew a sense of purpose, and lay a foundation of strength and community for veterans and their families. Because of this great program to help the returning wounded veterans, ForVets was chosen as the 2020 Non-Profit Organization of the Year.
At the end of the program Lyndsay Ayers was given  a plaque for her years of service as a director for the past three years, and is the current Vice President and  she also served as the President in the past. The new Chamber of Commerce board members are Michelle Rose who joins the board for her second term, Rose is the Bell Town Manager. Madison Redd, who is the Communications Specialist at Central Florida Electric Coop. joins the Chamber of Commerce as a new Chamber Director this year. 

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