Home >> News >> Top Stories >> Citizens receive awards at Gilchrist Chamber Banquet

Citizens receive awards at Gilchrist Chamber Banquet

The Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce held their Annual Banquet on Tuesday, April 13, at Seven Hills Farm. The Annual event is held to honor citizens who have made a significant contributions to the citizens of the county, businesses and civic groups are also honored at this banquet.
After a enjoyable meal catered by BubbaQue’s BBQ Restaurant in Trenton the awards presentation began with a few door prizes scattered between awards.
The Non-Profit Organization of the year was the Gilchrist County School Board. The award was presented by Patrick Wnek the Executive Director of NEFEC (North East Florida Educational Consortium). Mr. Wnek spoke of the school district and their many accomplishments. Gilchrist has been in the top five when it came to School Grades 12 times, in the top two five times and number one in the state three times in the last 15 years. Wnek said, “You have one of the best school districts in the state of Florida.” After receiving the award Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Surrency said, “We are very blessed, our schools are part of our community and the community is part of our schools.
School Board Member, Christie McElroy praised the teachers and staff saying they work many long hours to get the job done. School Board Member, Susan Owens said, we are fortunate to live in a area where faith and family are still very important.
Shannon Smith of Smith Asset Management Company presented the Citizen of the Year Award. Smith said, this award goes to individuals with longtime commitment, dedication, and service to the citizens of this county.
Bryant Frye, longtime SVL, Gilchrist League coach and high school girls basketball coach, received the award this year.
Smith said, Frye was born and raised in Gilchrist County, graduated from Trenton High, served in the Marine Corps. He has worked tirelessly in the Gilchrist County youth sports programs for over 15 years, including running the football program for 15 years and coaching SVL football for 10 years. He was instrumental in training many of the players that were on the THS 2013 and 2015 State Title teams. He has coached THS girls basketball for 7 years and won the district for six straight years. He has won three regional championships and he coached the 2019 State Championship THS girls basketball team. Frye was named the 2019 FCA 1A Coach of the Year.
After years of many, many hours of volunteering to help the youth of Gilchrist County, Bryant Frye took home this much deserved award.
The business of the year award was presented by Denise Hudson a longtime Chamber Director and past President. Hudson said, the nominee has been in the floral industry for over 20 years. Starting her career back in high school while participating in the Coop program at Trenton High. This year’s Business of the Year award went to Laura Teague who is the owner of Forever Flowers and Gifts in Trenton. Forever Flowers has been at their current location for the past 16 years. Through the years, Forever Flowers has sponsored youth 4-H and FFA events, school events such as career day and has become an important part of the county’s business community.
The last award of the evening the J. Min Ayers Lifetime Achievement Award went to Joanna Buckles, who has been the Administrator at Ayers Health and Rehabilitation Center in Trenton since 1989. All total, Buckles has been helping the people of Gilchrist County at Ayers for nearly 40 years.
Karen Jones, Chamber Director who presented the award said, “Ms. Jo has helped with antique car shows, attends every funeral, been Lt. Governor of Rotary, and has sat on the Haven Hospice Board.” Jones said, “She has worked in Gilchrist for 40 years and is what the J. Min Ayers award represents. Which is the dedication of one’s life to a worthy cause or making an impact on society.” Jones said, “We are very fortunate to have this person decide to call Gilchrist County home and she truly is one reason we say ‘It is great to live in Gilchrist’.”
Buckles began her career at Ayers as the Dietary Manager and them became a Registered Licensed Dietitian. In 1988, she met the eligibility requirements to start the State of Florida Administrator in train program and completed her internship in the program.
In 1989, she became the Administrator at Medic Ayers now known as Ayers Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Through the years Buckles has helped many local families when their loved one needed rehab or became a resident at Ayers.
Also, during the evening the new directors for the upcoming two years were announced. Karen Jones, Zane Salyers, Charlotte Pedersen, Stoney Smith, Terri Ezell, Leah Myrick and Sandi Anders will serve as new directors.
The banquet theme this year was “A Community of Friends Stitched Together.”
After a wonderful evening of awards, good food, and fellowship the Gilchrist County Chamber Banquet came to a close.