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Chamber looks back at 2017 accolades, sees promise in 2018

Posted on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Eric Vanzant received Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year award at the Chamber’s annual Christmas banquet Tuesday. Vanzant is pictured in the middle holding the plaque he received as he celebrates with family and friends. Judy Taylor, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce executive director, left, (lower photo) hands out the Ambassador of the Year Award to Yvonne Stewart. See a video of the event on this website.

—Staff Photos by Seth Byrd



Seth Byrd


The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce decked Sewanee’s Craven Hall Tuesday evening with Christmas cheer and nutcrackers.

The prestigious hall on the University of the South campus was the stage for the organization’s 69th Annual Christmas Membership and Awards Banquet.

The event drew Chamber members, business owners and their immediate family members for a night of celebration, highlighting the past year’s accomplishments in Franklin County and a look toward a bright 2018, building on 2017’s strong points.

Judy Taylor, Chamber executive director, also introduced ambassadors, former presidents and other members who have made the Chamber the influential and key entity it has become in attracting industries and promoting the county’s business climate.

However, it was an extremely special celebration for one local man who thought he was at Cravens Hall to witness his son receiving an award.

Instead, Campora Family Resource Center Director Eric Vanzant found out he was the winner of the highly coveted Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award for his work with Campora, a local organization that has been around since 1993 offering services for families and youths in need.

A couple of programs that have been successful have been a parenting class that Vanzant teaches and a backpack program that provides youths with food that will sustain them for the weekend.

Vanzant had 41 recommendations for the award, which, without further explanation, explains why it’s no surprise that he received the award, according to sitting Past-President Troy Martin of  FirstBank who introduced the honoree.

Vanzant expressed how overwhelming it was to receive the award and said he believes many others in the county could have been the recipient.

“It really is humbling to know people recognize what you’re doing,” he said. “But I don’t do it for the people. I do what I do for God’s glory and to be obedient to his call for my life.

“I want God to be glorified in all that I do.”

Vanzant was not the only winner as the Chamber gave out several other awards during the night.

Winning Ambassador of the year was Yvonne Stewart who works at Winchester City Hall.  Ambassador Best Spirit Award went to Debra West and Kaleah Keen.

The banquet was not all about awards. The Chamber also conducted business that included changes to the executive committee with a new vice-president stepping up to the plate — Doug Pearson, National Aerospace Solutions deputy general manager.

Gerardo Leon, Decherd’s Infiniti Powertrain plant director, will continue as Chamber president in 2018 and looks to build off the progress made in the last year.

The Board of Directors welcomed some new faces with Mike Bowden, Daryl Doney, Brian Sullivan, Cliff Wilson, Holly Cortner, Penny Morris and Sandra Thomas joining the board.

The board also recognized outgoing members Rob Followell, Dave Loschinskey, Steve Moran, Stephanie Ogle and Pam Peck.