Chamber presents 2010 awards

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By April Wright, Reporter

A trucking company that employs more than 200 in the Twin Counties was named Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year on Saturday, during the chamber's annual awards banquet.

Hill's Coal & Trucking began in the early 1960s in Fries, hauling coal and fertilizer, said Raquel Lyons, the chamber's executive board attorney, before presenting the trophy to co-owner James Hill.

James and Gus Hill are the original founders of the business.

The company hauls coal and fertilizer locally, as well as throughout the United States. It has a focus on the coal industry, but recently expanded by acquiring mines in Virginia and Kentucky.

Receiving the Agriculture Award, Banks Farm Inc. has been a family-run farm for many years and was incorporated in 1975 by Larry Banks and his brother Charlie Ray.

“It's absolutely amazing that the people in this area know more about genetics than PhDs at any university in the dairy industry,” said Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe, presenter of the award, who has experience in agriculture.

“There are people here who are specialists in plant science... We call them growers, and if you ask one of them if they are one of these professionals, they would say, 'No, I'm just a Carroll County farmer.'”

Larrowe said he would put the area farms, including Banks Farm Inc., “in any category in the world as far as their agriculture capabilities.”

Banks Farm Inc. in Carroll County grows more than 100 acres of cabbage each year, has added beef cattle, and in 2000, the farm began growing more than 60 acres of pumpkins — equal to 75 tractor-trailer loads — to become a leading pumpkin grower.

Ron Passmore, past president of the chamber and co-chair of organization's Smoke on the Mountain state barbecue contest, presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Ronny Edwards, who helps put on the annual event each year.

Galax Detective J.B. Greer has held around a 90 percent clearance rate on his cases for the past several years, Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said, as he presented him the Galax Police Officer of the Year Award.

“If I want something done, I'll give it to J.B. and ask him to solve it,” said Clark, noting the nuisance crimes that happened last year in the city. Greer cleared about 14 burglary cases.

Named Grayson Deputy of the Year, Grayson Chief Deputy Mike Hash began his career in 1984, starting out as a dispatcher and working his way up, said Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan.

He is a graduate of the Virginia Forensic Science Academy, and last year, Hash worked several drug cases and seized more than $30,000 in drug money.

Carol Morris received the chamber's Community Service Award because she “doesn't know how to say no,” said Brenda Stamey, the chamber's chair of public forum.

She got the garden started at the gazebo on North Main Street in Galax and was a crucial element to seeing through the renovations of the Rex Theater, where she stained seats, helped obtain new flooring, swept floors, worked the ticket booth during events and raised funds for the renovation.

Morris worked on the 50th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway celebration and is now helping on the 75th anniversary.

She served six years on the board of the Arts Council of the Twin Counties.

“She loves Galax, her friends and the community,” said Stamey. “She strives to make Galax the best place possible.”

Jonathan McGrady, past chamber president, presented the Carroll Teacher of the Year Award to Joy Ogle, who won the People's Choice award for Teacher of the Year in Carroll County this year.

“She is respected by her peers and is loved by the kids,” said McGrady.

B.J. Carroll received the Galax Teacher of the Year Award, with a trophy presented by Ray Kohl, member of the chamber and chair of Galax School Board.

With more than 29 years of teaching experience, in the last 26 years Carroll has taught English and theatre arts and has coached forensics at Galax High School. She has also taught gifted students at Appalachian Summer Regional Governor's School for the last 20 years.

Fourteen of her students this year made perfect scores on their English Standards of Learning tests.

Her work as forensic coach has lead to wins in district, regional and state championships, and as the drama teacher, GHS students have won 20 Mountain Empire District titles and 11 Region C titles, have made it to 18 state finals and have won six state championships.

In 2008, Carroll was named Drama Coach of the Year by the Virginia Association of Speech, Drama and Debate. Last year, she was named Virginia's Outstanding Speech, Theatre and Debate Educator of the Year by the National Federation of High Schools.

This year, she was named as Region II Outstanding Speech, Theatre and Debate Educator of the Year by the National Federation of High Schools. Region II is comprised of eight states in the Southeast.

Carroll has worked professionally with drama programs in Arkansas, North Carolina and Virginia and has worked with costumes at the North Carolina Dance Theatre.

She has been involved with the Galax Theatre Guild for more than 15 productions.

Carroll and her students also were volunteers helping renovate the Rex Theater.

“As she completes her third decade of teaching,” said Kohl, “she continues to promote the importance of creativity, originality, collaboration and complexity of thought in teaching.”

Grayson's Teacher of the Year Award winner, Connie Morris, began teaching biology and physical science in Grayson County in 1985. For the past few years, she has been a librarian at Grayson County High School. She also teaches three college-credit courses.

“She takes care of everything, from computers to overhead projectors to the students,” said presenter Janet Mullins, a fellow teacher with Grayson County schools. “She is one of the greatest teachers God ever created.”

Rick Wolfe, awarded Wytheville Community College's Teacher of the Year Award, has taught the computer course to 90 percent of the school's students.

Wolfe has taught more than 17 years full-time at WCC. He retired in December 2009 but remains at WCC as an adjunct professor.

“He teaches one-on-one and is always willing to help students reach their goals,” said presenter Dr. Stacy Thomas of WCC, the chamber's chair of leadership development.

Thomas was then recognized by Dr. Ron Proffitt of WCC for his work with the college.

Thomas, Proffitt said, has held numerous positions at the college, beginning as a transfer counselor and now as dean of workforce and occupational programs.

“He has a talent to organize activities and has been instrumental in the success of WCC and programs at the Crossroads Institute,” said Proffitt.

Keith Andrews, the chamber's president-elect, recognized Kenneth Belton, president of the chamber, for his work in that position for the past three years.

“He has done a great job and has been a great president,” said Andrews.

David Hankley of Project Lifesaver honored Stew Frazier for his work with the program.

Project Lifesaver is a non-profit organization committed to helping families quickly find loved ones who wander off because of Alzheimer's, Down syndrome, autism or other conditions. Project Lifesaver trains agencies how to search for individuals by using search and rescue techniques and equipment.

When a local mother with an autistic son formed a local chapter in 2006, said Hankley, $9,000 was needed for the tracking equipment, and $350 was needed to supply the client with tracking equipment.

Frazier, who showed a special interest in autism awareness and was owner of Bogeys restaurant in Galax, began sponsoring a “beach blast” golf tournament at the restaurant— an event that allowed Carroll Search & Rescue, Baywood Search & Rescue and Galax Volunteer Fire Department to obtain the equipment and purchase devices for some clients.

Since then, it has become an event that locals look forward to each year, said Hankley.

“Even though Bogeys was a victim of the downturn in the economy, Stew is committed to being involved in the event,” said Hankley.

The chamber's board of directors also gave thanks to Judy Brannock, executive director of the chamber.

Other board members include Marty Hall, chamber legislative liaison, past president and chair of the Poor Man's Dinner; Kevin Weatherman, internal affairs/treasurer; Chris Morton, economic development; Leesa Morris, past president; J.L. Thompkins; Bill Webb; Anna Catron; Cindy Rudy; James Wagoner; Ann Hodges; Ruth Hall, chamber insurance agent; Dawn Davis Cox; Marion Alderman; Don Foster; Renea A. Mitchell; Margo Crouse; Angelique Phipps and Tom Barr.