From red paper clips to the tears of Dana Boyer, the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce held its 77th annual dinner last week.
The red paper clips came from the keynote speaker and Boyer’s tears streamed after she was named the chamber’s Volunteer of the Year as the Chamber celebrated a year of change and progress.
“I am so honored,” Boyer said after being named the Volunteer of the Year and walking a gauntlet of hugs to the Centennial Building stage. “To be recognized by your fellow businesses, that is a real honor. I would not be able to do anything without them.
“Also, I would not be able to do anything without (husband) George Boyer. This is just such an honor for us.”
Boyer was recognized, specifically, for her work on two events.
When Fourth of July fireworks were threatened with cancellation due to money, Boyer undertook a private sector fundraising campaign that secured more than $6,000 for the celebratory fireworks show.
In the fall, Boyer was crucial in realizing the continuation of Ghosts on the Coast for Halloween, including a candy drive.
Boyer’s award was the last on a night during which nearly 200 attendees feasted on food from Sunset Coastal Grille, enjoyed their favorite beverage and saluted a year of forward progress.
Outgoing board president Guerry Magidson – Magidson, Dave Ashbrook, Steve Newman and Johanna White will leave the board – noted that the Chamber had added members, expanded its reach more fully to Wewahitchka and by year’s end had become a free-standing Chamber with economic development under a new organization.
Magidson said site visits by potential new businesses had increased during the past year and that the Chamber is on solid footing heading into 2013.
“I want to thank all the board members for all their work this year,” Magidson said.
The “Business of the Year” was awarded to Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend, Inc.
The charitable non-profit provides job training, education and employment to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment, said Brooke Lochore, vice president for public relations with the Tallahassee office of Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend, Inc.
The Port St. Joe Goodwill store is a success story within the organization, which covers 22 counties.
The Port St. Joe store has been Store of the Year for the organization two consecutive years.
In 2010, the store and staff realized an 18 percent increase in sales and in 2011 the increase was 21 percent.
Given the store’s success, Lochore said, the store was relocated from the 200 block of Reid Avenue to U.S. Highway 98, providing greater visibility
“This new location is larger and right on the highway,” Lochore said. “We have more visibility and we feel that has helped Goodwill continue its growth.”
In 2012, the Port St. Joe had an increase of 38 percent in sales and 10 percent increase in donors.
The move to a new location also allowed the store to hire more employees and open a full-time staffed Career Training Center providing a host of free services to anyone in the community.
Those services include job placement, job readiness training, job clubs, computer skills, GED preparation, QuickBooks training and job counseling and referral services.
The center will offer hospitality and Certified Nursing Assistance training this year.
“All these service are free thanks to the community for donating and shopping at Goodwill,” Lochore said.
On the business side of last week’s dinner, the Chamber also welcomed in new board members Zach Childs, Trish Petrie, Barbara Radcliff and Dwight Van Lierop.
The keynoted speaker was Kyle MacDonald who conquered some microphone issues to provide an overview of a project he undertook which started with one red paperclip, also the title of his book.
MacDonald posted the paper clip on a website for trade and through a series of trades – during which MacDonald jumped to a door knob, a generator, a snowmobile, a year’s free rent and a day with rocker Alice Cooper, among other items – MacDonald ultimately wound up with a house.
“If you have a dream, a plan and desire, you can do anything you want,” MacDonald said.