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  • Lorrie Ross


Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Volunteers, businesses, honored by chamber

(Reprinted from Clay County Progress, April 28, 2022)

Clay County native Fannie Watson received the Volunteer of the Year award, which was voted on by the general public. After retiring from DSS several years ago. Watson has continued helping DSS through programs such as Hearts for Kids, but she also volunteers for the Clay County Food Pantry, Hinton Center, United Methodist Women, among others.

"Nature Celebration" was the theme of the night when Clay County Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet on Friday, April 22, Earth Day. Several dozen people arrived at Hinton Rural Life Center's Moore Hall for dinner and awards. "We celebrate hard work and dedication to businesses, organizations and volunteers who are the very fabric that make rural communities thrive", the welcome message on the program read. "Yet none of this could be without the respect for the environment that we so love and enjoy."

After initial welcomes, Chamber president Chris Morhardt reminded event guests the chamber was celebrating Earth Day while recognizing board members and other volunteers who help make the chamber’s projects possible. “Clay County Chamber of Commerce has one full time staff member, Chamber Director Laura Kleiss Hoeft,” he said. “The projects could not happen without the volunteers.” Then he introduced Callie Moore, Executive Director of Mountain True. Moore shared how Hiwassee River Watershed merged with Mountain True a few years ago, but all of the water conservation efforts and other environmental work still continues as before. She explained how 52 volunteers check water

quality in streams, lakes and rivers, throughout the region every month. Swim beaches

in north Georgia and western North Carolina are checked weekly during the summer.

She said the success of improving the water quality in Lake Chatuge is primarily

due to Towns County government’s commitment to the water improvement plan.

Awards and recognitions were announced while guests enjoyed dinner, along with a

cash bar by Eagle Fork Winery and Hayesville Brewing. Nominations were open to be

made by the entire membership and the full membership voted.

Nominees for Rookie Business of the Year had to be a new business in 2021, which brought a previously unavailable service to Clay County. Big Bear Veterinary Clinic and Dr. Kayla Lawlor won this award.

Clay County Business of the Year had to be an established business, which provides

job growth and professional development for its staff. George’s Paint and Hardware

received that award.

Organization of the year had to be a nonprofit with 501c3 status. The organization

had to be in existence for at least three years and work for the betterment of Clay

County. Two nonprofits tied as the winner of this award. They were Hinton Rural Life

Center and Peacock Performing Arts Center.

The volunteer of the year was voted on by the citizenry at large or general public.

Each nominee was named and a list of attributes was shared for all of the work each does in

Clay County. Fannie Watson was named Volunteer of the Year for her work with Hearts

for Kids, the Clay County Food Pantry, Hinton Center, United Methodist Women

and more.

Two former board members were recognized for their service to the chamber and

overall community. Keith Christensen and Roxanne Dunnigan both said they

enjoyed their time on the chamber board. They also thanked the community for

supporting their businesses — Christensen as a realtor with Mountain Streams and Dunnigan

for her family owned business of Tri County Office Supply, which is celebrating 25 years in Clay County.

Any local business, nonprofit or individual resident of Clay County or the surrounding

area is welcome to join Clay County Chamber of Commerce. Visit: www. or call (828) 389-3704.

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