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Chamber gives annual awards

By Michael Butler

The Tallassee Chamber of Commerce presented its annual awards on March 3 at Restoration 49, a fitting venue for the program. The business was named the Business of the Year.

Rev. Chris Whittington presented Dylan and Haley Daniel with the award.

The Daniels with Dustin Funderburk

"I remember the day when Dylan asked if I would join him in looking at an old building in the downtown area," Whittington said. "I knew exactly the building that he was talking about. Like other structures in the downtown area, I knew that it would need a lot of work. What many people don't know is that Dylan and Haley had been praying over this city and that building for many months.

"As I stood in what is now Restoration 49 that day, but then just an abandoned, dilapidated building, my wife and I prayed with the Daniels that God would speak. After the prayer I knew that Dylan and Haley were standing at the starting line of a long race ahead of them."

The Daniels opened the former Sizemore Building and turned it into a coffee shop. The first year has been quite successful.

"Now Restoration 49 is a modern day watering well. They serve the best coffee and pastries I've ever had, but more than that they have created an atmosphere of hope and connections. When I walk into that building now, I see people connecting with others. I hear laughter, conversations of what God can do next in this small little town. Restoration 49 is not just a business. It's who they are."

Henderson and Bell

The Frances Wagnon Volunteer of the Year Award was given to L.D. Bell. Cheryl Henderson introduced Bell, a lifelong Tallassee resident.

"He is president of a non-profit organization called Star Seeds that mentors youth in the community," Henderson stated. "The organization runs an after-school program located in downtown Tallassee."

Bell is the ISS coordinator at Southside Middle School and coaches recreation league tee ball and basketball. He has coached both in the Tallassee and Reeltown Youth Football Leagues. He is currently the head JV basketball coach at Tallassee High School and an assistant for varsity basketball, football and JV baseball teams.

"This individual loves the youth, his city and as LD would say, 'That's just what I do.'"

Bell is a former President's Award winner. That award went to Amanda Glasscock.

Bird and Glasscock

"(Her) contributions are so numerous, It's sometimes easy to take them for granted," presenter Michael Bird said. "When she was growing up in this community, she became very good at dancing and baton twirling. It was her passion. She was trained by Miss Vicki Baker to be an assistant at her studio. Later on, she was a part of some of the most successful majorette squads we ever had."

"She was also a part of the very first show choirs at Tallassee created by Mr. Jerry Cunningham. Amanda was chosen to be a choreographer, and her leadership skills were evident even then. She was present at the founding of Gold Edition, the South's original all-male show choir and has been our choreographer for 20 years."

Glasscock also currently serves as the sponsor and instructor for Huntingdon College's majorettes, color guard and dance squad.

"Everywhere you look, everywhere good things are happening, chances are Amanda is a part of it somehow. She's a role model for young people - a beautiful person in every way. Our community is a better place because she is here."

The Lifetime Award was handed out to James Bush. Longtime friend and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jerry Cunningham presented the award.

Cunningham and James Bush

"I thought I should be the one to present," Cunningham said. "James Bush has been like a father. He's also my best friend. I wouldn't know what to do without James Bush in my life. A lot of the influences I've had, are due to James."

Bush served as an educator and music minister for 50 years. He has is a former board president with the Chamber. He has been a member of the McCraney-Cottle Arts Council, Civitan, Lions and Rotary Clubs.

"We salute one of the most iconic and recongized names in Tallassee, James Bush. He's spent the majority of his life in this community. He's given of himself in so many ways for so many years."

Cunningham and Bush worked together at Tallassee football games with Cunningham as the PA announcer and Bush as his spotter. The two have performed numerous musical duets in public.

Cunningham and Carrie Haggans

"He was our go-to guy for the national anthem. A puppett artist, today he is still a favorite among the children as a balloon artist. And who can forget his taking care of Carl Wayne Mullins. James Bush has taught me what it means to give. He never says no when it comes to our community. He is the definition of what it means to be a true community volunteer."

Cunningham presented the Making A Difference Award to Ivy Creek Health Care.

"This annual award goes to business in recognition of exceptional service," he said. "They've done so much in this community."

Cunningham read an excerpt from Heidi Smith, who nominated the business for the award.

"'Ivy Creek is a business that I would describe as true survivors. This clinic has survived through the worst of Covid. They're excellent in what they do and do their best to attend to the need of each patient.'"

Emfinger and Russell

The individual recipient of the Making A Difference Award was Dr. Melvin Russell. Chamber President Melinda Emfinger spoke about Russell, who has had his practice in Tallassee since 1969.

"I first met Dr. Russell at Community Hospital in East Tallassee. To those of us who grew up in Tallassee, that was the old hospital across the river," Emfinger said. "Dr. Russell delivered me on Oct. 17, 1970 and I have been his patient ever since.

"When talking with Dr. Russell I asked for his thoughts on his career and he said, 'I've just always worked. I've worked my whole life.' And that he has. For 53 years, he has served the people of Tallassee. Many doctors have come and gone, but one thing has remained the same at Community Medical Arts Center over these many years - and that is Dr. Melvin Russell tirelessly serving his patients and community."