The Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce hosted its 69th Annual Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet on Thursday, January 25, at the Nordson Center at the SEC Conference Complex.
Cason DeVane, Chairman of the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors called the meeting to order. Board member, Wade Johnson, gave the invocation and a dinner catered by Heather Belle’s Catering was served.
Following the meal, a building dedication was held for the SEC Chamber of Commerce Conference Complex. Chamber CEO Ken Warnock related the origin of an idea and the developments that followed. During a Chamber strategic planning session in 2006, a meeting or conference facility was identified as a need for our community. From that inception, reality has now materialized 18 years later. Built in1938 this building was first, the home to Scott's Groceteria. It has been three different grocery stores, a gym and aerobics studio, a country buffet, Movies-To-Go and almost became a Mexican restaurant 2019. The chamber approached, then, Mayor Charles Schwabe with a plan to convert the vacant property into a conference and meeting facility. The City transferred the property to the Chamber in August of 2021. Demolition began in January of 2022. The project survived two tornados, COVID pricing and COVID's delays in materials and several other challenges along the two-year renovation and construction process. A 6,000 sq. ft. banquet room, which will now be known as the Nordson Center in recognition of the Nordson Foundation's generous $150,000 donation, allowed the completion of the project to be expedited significantly. A more intimate meeting room, which will now be known as the Mill Creek Meeting Room for their generous donation of $75,000, a catering kitchen, storage space and new restrooms is also housed in the building. Video capabilities will soon be added as funding becomes available.
The complex is owned, managed, and operated by the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce. The following entities contributed financially or with in-kind contributions to the project: Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce, Nordson Foundation, Emanuel County Development Authority, The Luck Flanders Gambrell Family, Pine Tree Festival Foundation, Mill Creek Foundation, Emanuel County Commissioners, Former Mayor Charles Schwabe and the City of Swainsboro for the property transfer, Pineland Telephone Coop Foundation, RayRob Concrete and Emanuel County Schools.
Following the dedication of the building Chairman DeVane recognized Special guests: Swainsboro City Councilman Julian Sconyers, Swainsboro City Councilman Johnny Ray Stafford, Swainsboro City Councilman Gregory Quarterman, Emanuel County Commissioner Jim Sherrod, Emanuel County Commissioner Timmy Oliver, Emanuel County Commissioner Ricky Thompson, Emanuel County Board of Education Member Del Brown, Emanuel County Board of Education Member Tanya Lane, Clerk of Court – Superior Kristin Hall, Sheriff Jeffrey Brewer, Mayor of Twin City Matt Donaldson, Twin City Councilman Jessie Brown and Twin City City Councilman Buck Brown.
Board members were also recognized - Cason DeVane, Chairman; Lisa Bertoch, Chair-Elect; Vicki Anderson, Secretary-Treasurer; Larry Calhoun, Past-Chair; Wade Johnson; Damien Scott; Neil Shah; Milton Gray; Kristin Hall; Anson Walden; Russ Yeomans; Jessica Peebles; Richard McNeely and Scotty Hattaway.
Members of the Development Authority were recognized. They include Will Donaldson, Butch Frye, Wade Johnson, Jim Mercer, Cason DeVane, Tim Garrett and Kenny Griffin.
Star Student and teacher awards were sponsored by Jerry Cadle and the Cadle Law Firm and were presented by Chamber CEO Ken Warnock. The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) Program is in its 66th year and is administered, sponsored, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). To obtain the 2024 STAR nomination, high school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 per cent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.
The recognition of the Star Students and Teachers from around our county has been a highlight of the Chamber of Commerce annual banquet for many years and honors the vital role of our entire education community and the effort and dedication of the Star Students and Teachers from our area schools. From this exceptional group, the award for the 2024 Star Student and Teacher went to Ricardo Jose-Lara and Mrs. Salena Reynolds of Swainsboro High School.
A complete review of the Star Student and Teacher representatives from the Emanuel County Schools can be found at the conclusion of this article.
Business of the Year went to Wincore Windows and Doors. Wincore was founded in 2006 by a group of 12 investors with decades of experience in the design, manufacture, and sale of vinyl window products. These investors believed they would “win” in the marketplace with this “core” group of people, thus the name Wincore was born. The Company established its headquarters in Parkersburg, West Virginia and produced its first window in July 2007. Over the next several years, and despite the worst economic recession in several decades, Wincore continued to expand and grow its operation, shipping vinyl windows and patio doors to customers east of the Rocky Mountains. In 2010, Wincore expanded its product offering to include fiberglass entry door systems.
As part of this decision the Company leased additional manufacturing space at its
headquarters, bringing its total facility size to approximately 167,000 square feet. In 2017, Wincore began to ship products to the west coast, expanding its footprint to include the entire continental United States. Due to significant and continued growth, particularly in the southeast region, and an inability to expand its headquarters in West Virginia, Wincore made the decision in 2018 to open a second manufacturing location in Swainsboro, Georgia. Wincore worked with the Emanuel County Development Authority to find a building suitable for its needs and settled on the old Husqvarna facility. The Company leased a 75,000 square foot building and began producing windows in
May 2019. In 2021, due to continued growth, the Company leased an additional 100,000 square feet of space adjacent and connected to its existing Georgia facility bringing its total local investment more than $10 million dollars. Two additional vinyl lines and a second glass line were added. All core vinyl window products are capable of being manufactured in the Swainsboro facility. The Swainsboro location currently employees 216 people. Wincore continues to grow and is expecting to surpass $200 million in gross sales in 2024. Of its 12 original founders, 6 remain actively employed with the company helping it continue to grow and succeed. Wincore manufactures vinyl windows for both new construction and repair/remodel projects, though the vast majority of its sales are for repair/remodel projects. Windows can be ordered in a variety of styles, including single hung, double hung, picture window, slider, and casement. Customers can also order vinyl patio doors that are purchased from an outside vendor and assembled in-house, as well as garden windows, bay/bow windows and geometrics. In addition, customers can order a variety of color options for both the interior and exterior of their windows and doors. Wincore also manufactures fiberglass entry door systems that can be made in a number of styles and with a variety of options. These include single doors and double doors with side lites, transoms, decorative glass options, and several different color options for both the interior and the exterior of the door. Wincore’s products are sold to a variety of customers, including distributors, dealers, specialty installers, and contractors. The Company believes that the service it provides is what sets Wincore apart from its competitors.
The Person of the Year award was presented to Butch Frye. Some 25 years ago, Butch Frye moved his wife, Melonie and their two sons to Swainsboro to assume the role of Emanuel County School Superintendent. According to his sons, who spoke in honor of their father and presented him with the award, the recipient had a knack of putting the right people together to get the job done and had the ability to always bring out the best in everyone whether at work, at church, or busy in community activities. During the presentation, along with some good-natured ribbing, Zac, Peyton, and their father all had an opportunity to display their love for this area, for their wide circle of family and friends and especially for each other. Mr. Frye’s many contributions and achievements are known both locally and throughout the State and have had immeasurable impact in the field of education as a teacher, administrator, advisor, and later as consultant to many, many school systems. In accepting the honor, Frye made it clear his highest honor was that of husband and father. He concluded by expressing his humility and gratitude for being named recipient of the award, but more so for the people, experiences, associations and opportunities that have been part of his life in this community for the past 25 years.
On that note, the celebration of 69 years of Chamber of Commerce activity, involvement, dedication and guidance for Emanuel County and her citizens came to an end. The commitment and the work, however, never stops and we look forward to the leadership and service that this organization and its members will continue to provide.
STAR Students and Teachers
Black, Campbell named STAR student and teacher at DEA
by METTER ADVITISER
David Emanuel Academy senior Josie Grace Black has been named STAR Student and has selected Donna Campbell as her STAR Teacher.
Josie is the daughter of Joshua and Jessica Black of Swainsboro and has been attending DEA for five years. She is active in varsity cheerleading, Beta Club and WINGS and is a dual enrollment student.
During her time at DEA, Josie has received a number of accolades. She was named Most Spirited in varsity cheerleading for 2021-22 and 2023 and received the AAA Award in cheerleading in 2021-22. She had the Highest Academic Average in 10th Grade and is a member of the SAT 1100 Point Club. She was named Most Improved in cheer in 2020-21 and has received the American Citizenship Award, the President’s Award and Kindness Award. An Honor Roll student, she is also a class secretary.
Josie is also busy outside of school. She attends and is an active member in the youth group of Hillcrest Baptist Church, “where I get to worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” she said. She is also on the Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, painting and playing the piano.
After graduation, she plans to attend Southeastern Technical College for a career in nursing and then further her education at Georgia Southern University.
Josie selected Donna Campbell as her STAR Teacher for a number of reasons.
“I have learned so much in the five years she has taught me,” Josie said. “She teaches math in a way that is very effective while giving the classroom a lighthearted atmosphere. She truly cares about her students and will do everything she can to help them succeed.
“Mrs. Campbell always is willing to go out of her way to offer extra help before and after school to anyone who needs it. She doesn’t only teach us math but also life lessons that I’ll always value. I’ve enjoyed my time as a student under her so much and will always greatly appreciate having her in my life.”
A math teacher at DEA for six years, Campbell has been in education since 1986, teaching in Tattnall County one year and Emanuel County for 29 years. She also taught part-time at East Georgia State College for 10 years. She teaches 8th-grade pre-algebra, Honors Algebra I, Honors Geometry, geometry and pre-calculus. This is her second year being selected as STAR Teacher.
She has lived in Georgia for the past 50 years. She and her husband have two married sons and four grandchildren. She attends Hebron Primitive Baptist Church and is a member and past president of the Beta Beta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Honor Society for Women Educators and a member of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, quilting, cross stitching, baking, reading, crocheting and traveling.
“Teaching chose me at an early age,” she said “I remember playing school at home as a young child; I always helped any classmate ‘figure out’ problems or whatever topic they needed extra help in. I guess that is why I encourage my students to ‘help’ each other, which could be re-explaining a topic in his or her own words or supervising the other student to work out a problem.”
Campbell said her favorite part of teaching is, “Watching my students understand the concepts that I have taught them and then returning to tell me where they finally used some concept in their life because, as students, they could not understand why they needed to learn so many ‘things’ -- all those bright-eyed smiling faces when the concept finally clicked!”
Of her selection as STAR Teacher, Campbell said it feels “incredible! Josie Grace is the kind of student who makes teaching easy! She asks questions when she needs clarification. Josie Grace practiced her skills until she was satisfied with her results, which always ended in an ‘A.’ She would ask for problems to work as practice for quizzes or tests.
“Josie Grace is a highly-motivated young lady. She accepted my challenge of always do your best. I am so proud of her efforts in learning mathematics. Josie Grace has a facial expression that allows me to know that what I stated or asked needed clarification. She is the type of student that will ask questions in class when needed. She has become an independent learner, which is what a teacher wants for all his/her students to become.”
Jose-Lara, Reynolds named STAR student and teacher at SHS
Ricardo Jose-Lara is a 17-year-old senior at Swainsboro High School. He is the only child of Anbertha Lara-Ortiz and Ricardo Jose-Monjaraz. Ricardo plans to attend college and after college graduation, hopes to be able to support his parents. In August, Richard plans to attend Georgia Southern University to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
Ricardo has achieved Honor Roll every semester since 9th grade. He has also received multiple Highest Average awards for multiple subjects, each year of high school. Of those, he is most proud of attaining the highest average in Honors American Literature and Advanced Placement US History. Additionally, in his AP US History he was able to achieve college credit by passing AP exam with a 4.0. Last year, Ricardo was recognized as a UGA Certificate of Merit recipient. “I have chosen Selena Reynolds as my STAR teacher as she helped me in my application to college which I would have otherwise been clueless about. She is also the teacher I feel the most comfortable talking with.” stated Jose-Lara.
Selena Reynolds is a social studies teacher at Swainsboro High School. A graduate of Metter High School, Mrs. Reynolds attended Brewton-Parker College and earned her bachelor’s degree in history education in 1996. After teaching her first year at Portal High School, Mrs. Reynolds came to Swainsboro High School in 1997. She later earned her master’s and educational specialist degrees in secondary social science education from Georgia Southern University. Throughout her career, she has been named a National Board Certified Teacher, earned gifted endorsement, and received certification to teach AP U.S. History. She was named Swainsboro High School’s and Emanuel County’s Teacher of the Year for the 2006-2007 school term, and she was selected as STAR Teacher for Swainsboro High School and Emanuel County in 2021. She currently serves as the instructional coach for Swainsboro High School. Mrs. Reynolds is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international society for women educators.
Being a classroom teacher allowed Mrs. Reynolds to have the opportunity to interact directly with students and develop important relationships while sharing her passion for history. Having the opportunity to teach Ricardo Jose-Lara and be selected as his STAR Teacher is certainly one of the highlights of Mrs. Reynolds’ career. She was not surprised to learn that Ricardo was named STAR Student, but that did not diminish her enthusiasm for his great accomplishment. He has such intellectual promise, and Mrs. Reynolds is confident that he will go on to achieve great things at Georgia Southern University. Although Ricardo can appear to be quite reserved at first, he has much creative talent, and his quick wit make him a joy to have in the classroom. He is just as talented in reading and comprehending complex texts and writing powerful essays as he is at solving complex math problems. Ricardo thrives on challenge and puts forth his best effort with each and every task. He always remains humble; yet he consistently strives to do better. He is certainly a “STAR” for Swainsboro High School.
Sasser, Holmes named STAR student and teacher at ECI
Will Sasser, son of Ron Sasser and Jessica Sumner, is a senior at Emanuel County Institute.
Will has many outstanding academic accomplishments during his high school career. He was awarded highest average honors in Honors Chemistry. Will is president of ECI’s Technology Student Association where he, along with his teammates, was awarded State Champion in the On-Demand Video competition. He has served as vice president and Public Relations Chairman for Future Business Leaders of America. Will has participated in many FBLA region and state competitions earning awards for Business Achievement Awards Capstone Completion and Sales Presentation.
He is a member of Senior Beta Club, One-Act Play, 21st Century Leaders, Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board, and ECI’s Student Council. He was voted Most Intelligent by his senior classmates. Will has also received the University of Georgia’s Certificate of Merit.
Will has been enrolled in dual enrollment since his sophomore year in high school. While at East Georgia State College, he received an invitation to join the Phi Theta Kappa chapter of the National Honor Society and the Bobcat L.E.A.D. Society.
Will plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a degree in Architecture. He was afforded the opportunity of an internship with James W. Buckley & Associates. This hands-on opportunity granted Will the ability to work directly on the current updates that are now underway at ECI. He has learned many valuable skills that have benefited him greatly and cemented his choice in a future career.
Will has chosen Mrs. Dorene Holmes as his STAR teacher. When thinking about Miss Dorene, Will says, “I couldn’t have done it without her.” Whether it’s to help with a misunderstood math concept or lending an ear for a teenage problem, Miss Dorene is always there. Will went on to say that, “Not only is she an excellent teacher, but she has that amazing ability to turn a student’s bad day into a good one.” He will never forget the impact that she has had on his high school career.
Mrs. Dorene Farnum-Holmes is a mathematics teacher at Emanuel County Institute. Mrs. Holmes is a 1990 graduate of Pennsylvania State University earning a degree in Health Policies and Administration. She is married to Mr. William Holmes and has three children, Hally, PJ, and LJ Farnum.
Mrs. Holmes began her teaching career as a substitute for Emanuel County Schools. She was then hired as a paraprofessional and served in this capacity for several years. An opening presented itself and she was offered a job as a part-time math teacher. With this opportunity, Mrs. Holmes completed the Georgia TAPP program to earn her teaching credentials. Since then she has gone on to teach Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, SAT Prep, College Readiness, and Pre-Calculus.
Mrs. Holmes was selected as ECI’s Teacher of the Year for the 2016-2017 school year. She was also previously chosen as STAR teacher in 2018 by Tiernan Johnson.
Mrs. Holmes cannot think of any other student who has personified the role of STAR student as Will Sasser has. In her opinion, Will Sasser is a motivated and determined student. He is one who sets a goal and will not stop working until it is accomplished. Mrs. Holmes says, “Will is an exceptional student who will thrive with any given opportunity.”