Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s 78th annual meeting held last week


By Morgan Bryce

Hundreds of Opelika Chamber of Commerce members gathered at Opelika High School’s indoor practice facility last Wednesday afternoon for the organization’s 78th annual meeting.
During the early portion of ceremony presentations, the crowd enjoyed a meal of baked chicken and oven-baked potatoes catered by staff from The Hotel at Auburn University and dessert provided by Gigi’s Cupcakes.
Outgoing Chamber Board Chairman Brooke Kastner named each of the event’s sponsors while incoming 2019-2020 Board Chair Carlton Hunley IV introduced next year’s 20-Under-40 class.
Awards were also presented to businesses and individuals affiliated with the chamber and its efforts to better the city its serves. A notable moment took place during this portion of the event when Chamber President Pam Powers-Smith had to overcome her emotions when naming Lorna and her late husband Dr. Don Roberts as winners of the Spirit of Opelika Award.
“Don lived life to the fullest and they are a great example of a couple who showed faith, dignity and service. They were invested in the community and had a strong commitment to the city of Opelika and its citizens,” Powers-Smith said.
Following is a list of the other award winners and reason behind their selection:
Keep Opelika
Beautiful’s Shirley Flora Award – J. and Ginger Stern were chosen for their work in creating two parks for the city of Opelika through the Henry J. Stern Foundation.
Opelika Main Street Member of the Year – Mama Mocha’s Bodega. Owners Sarah and Taylor Gill expanded their business from Auburn to 1st Avenue in downtown Opelika during the last two years to help oversee the transformation on that street.
Ambassador of the Year – Dianne Lowe. According to Chamber Membership Director Jill Robinson, Lowe “faithfully served” in that position for more than 15 years and was a “great mentor” for her fellow ambassadors.
Service Champion Award – Eric Canada. He has served many positions for the United Way of Lee County including campaign chair, board president and campaign division chair for Business. Canada also works as a My Jerusalem project leader, goes on biannual mission trips to Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras, disaster relief team coordinator for his church, is a member of the Opelika Kiwanis and has served as a spotter at Jordan-Hare Stadium for Auburn University P.A. Ric Smith for 10 years.
Small Business of the Year – Blake and Amber Booth of Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar. Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar has remained in a single family for 66 years, with Blake and Amber now serving at the helm. The restaurant’s reputation has spread beyond the Opelika city limits to the rest of Alabama and the Southeast garnering numerous awards for its delectable chili dogs and milkshakes.
Distinguished Service Award – Mark Slay of Piedmont Fertilizer. Slay has worked for Piedmont Fertilizer for 25 years and is the executive vice president and field consultant responsible for day-to-day operations. He also serves on the OGrows board of directors and is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church. Slay and his wife Beth have been married for nearly 35 years and have four children and two grandchildren.
Community Partner Award – EAMC’s MEND program. Created by East Alabama Medical Center shortly after the March 3 tornadoes ripped through Lee County, the program is responsible for bringing together people from local groups together with state and national groups to jumpstart the recovery process. Through the work of MEND, nearly 20 families have been placed in temporary housing, their mission is “to ensure that all affected by a tragedy and disaster are able to fully recover physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Visionary Award – OGrows. Founded by Dr. Sean and Susan Forbes, OGrows is an organization dedicated to engaging and investing in area youth to prepare them for maintaining their respective communities for generations to come. Started as a community garden, it has expanded into a training center to explore new agricultural methods. They also partner with the Opelika Learning Center to help children learn different skills and trades.
Chairman’s Award – Revel Gholston, theater director at Opelika High School. During the last 18 years, Gholston has created a high school theater program that ranks among the best in the state. His groups have staged more than 60 productions and have won the coveted state Trumbauer Competition for best theatric performance. He is a vice president for the Alabama Coalition of Theater and hosts the district Trumbauer Competition for East Alabama.
The ceremony concluded with Kastner passing the gavel to Hunley IV.


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