Jim Waldorff receives the Pioneer Award from Johanna Plummer
CALHOUN COUNTY, FL – The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce hosted their 74th Annual Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce Banquet Thursday, March 30 at the W.T. Neal Civic Center.
The evening began with a patio reception sponsored in part by Btown Liquors which featured the Sip Society mobile beverage service.
Doors to the ballroom opened at 6:15 p.m., and guests found their way to their tables with centerpieces of various plants grown at Oglesby Plants International in Altha.
Chamber Executive Director Kristy Terry welcomed the crowd, and noted how much the Chamber had grown post-Hurricane Michael and COVID, which was evident in the packed room of more than 250 guests.
After a delicious dinner prepared by the BHS culinary program, Chamber Board Chair Johanna Plummer began the awards presentations of the evening. Board service awards were presented to Shelly Burns, Sonya Edenfield, Thomas Flowers, and Chelsea Ranew who rotated off the board this year. New board members Laurinda Faircloth with Merle Norman Salon, Spa & Boutique, Chris Patel with Btown Liquors, Rob Sims with the Calhoun County Airport, and Clint Hill with Waldorff ACE Hardware were recognized as new board members.
Calhoun County Superintendent of Schools Darryl Taylor recognized Teacher of the Year Lindsay Beam and School-Related Employee of the Year Bella Stewart.
Beam was named Teacher of the Year, while Mamie Belle Stewart, Food Service Support Manager with the Special Programs Office, was named the School-Related Employee of the Year.
Beam began her Calhoun County teaching career as a first grade classroom teacher at BES in 2010. She moved to the 5th grade in 2012 and taught reading, language arts and social studies. In 2015 Beam moved to Blountstown Middle School as a 6th grade math teacher and also added 8th grade pre-algebra. When Blountstown High School and Blountstown Middle School consolidated in 2019, Beam continued to teach 6th and 8th grades.
Mamie Belle Stewart has been with the Special Programs Office for 10 years where she holds several job responsibilities. She assists schools with food and supply orders and provides training on the general operations of the school foodservice program.
Each year, the Chamber does an “all call” for nominations of those who have contributed to our community. Entries are then reviewed and selected by a committee.
Calhoun Liberty Credit Union Chief Operating Officer (COO) Terri Waldron presented the Heroes Award to Ladona Kelley.
“I’d bet money this person has sometimes wondered if she was making a difference, and tonight we want to make sure she knows she has,” Waldron said.
Ladona Kelley is the Student Family Support Liaison for the Calhoun County School System. Ladona is known far and wide for her advocacy and commitment to our most vulnerable families. She offers kindness, hope, and comfort. She helped implement and maintain the Blessings in a Backpack food program, and two years ago, she implemented the Heiken program to help eligible students achieve academic and social success by making it possible for kids to get eye screenings and glasses. Last September over a four-day period, they administered over 350 eye exams in the Calhoun County School District, resulting in 184 students getting the glasses they needed.
The Cracker Jack Award was presented to Innovative Charities of Northwest Florida by Dustin Malphurs with Rivertown Community Church.
They devote their energy to advocating for and helping the hungry, needy and under-privileged. They work primarily in the area of food, household goods, general benevolence, homelessness, disaster relief and recovery. They distribute, on average, more than 75,000 pounds of product monthly, supplementing the food needs of over 40,000 people a year.
Their fearless leader, Robert Arnold, is known across the region for being a can-do guy. He is an advocate for our rural counties, rural programs, and rural needs across the board. After Hurricane Michael, Robert saw a dramatic increase in clients from Calhoun County. He began doing food drops in Clarksville, and quickly realized the need was so great, that they needed to establish a long-term presence. They secured a building, and now give food out every Thursday in Calhoun County. At the height of COVID, they were seeing clients who had never gone to a food pantry before, or had never asked for any assistance at all before. The services that they provided to our county’s workforce who were struggling through uncertain times helped keep families afloat.
“We realize that organizations like Innovative Charities are key components to communities, and tonight we say thank you to Innovative Charities for helping those who need a hand up,” said Malphurs.
Blountstown Fire Chief Ben Hall presented the Rock Star Award to Randal and Mary Martina. The Martinas own and operate Fiddler’s Steamhouse & Oyster Bar, Blountstown Beer Company, and Martina’s Marine & Outdoor.
When we first got a taste of Fiddler’s in 2019, it didn’t take long to start hearing people from counties away saying they’d ridden over to Blountstown to eat there. They quickly outgrew their original space, and moved to downtown Blountstown. What to do with the smaller space? How about open Calhoun County’s first craft brewery? While beer may not be your thing, any engineer would be impressed with the level of innovation and common sense used to create their one-of-a-kind brewing system. Right out of the gate, they won awards for their unique brews. And that’s no surprise with names like Mason’s Sandbar, Honey Hole, Stump Juice, and Swamp Girl. Rising food costs, supply shortages, and workforce issues are an ongoing challenge, but they push through.
“Today, they employ 33 people – that’s 33 families that are impacted directly by their commitment to get up and pour into us every day,” said Hall.
Board Chair Johanna Plummer presented the final two awards of the night.
“For some, it may be easy to be “out of sight, out of mind,” but not for one Calhoun County-native who continues to give back to those she feels gave so much to her,” Plummer said of Volunteer of the Year honoree Jami Daniels Joe.
Though she lives in Nashville, Calhoun County is never far from her heart. She devotes countless hours to promoting our area through social media, and coordinating local projects and events. She grew up in Kinard, and has always been active there, but she’s also spearheaded projects in Blountstown, and then founded the Calhoun County Community Foundation to take on projects across the county.
She has a great team, but there’s no question that she is a driving force when it comes to getting things done. Jami is a tireless advocate for the community, and was thanked for all the time on the road, late nights, and early mornings devoted to Calhoun County.
The last award of the evening went to a business that has been a constant in Calhoun County for 83 years. In 1940, George Waldorff, Sr. and Gerald O’Bryan formed a partnership to open a general store in Altha. Then, it was called “O’Bryan & Waldorff”, and sold groceries, hardware, clothing, and had a meat market. In 1943, their building was moved across the street and construction began on a new two-story block building.
The downstairs included three separate stores – grocery store, clothing store, and a hardware store. When construction was completed, the two men split the ownership, and O’Bryan ran the grocery store, and Waldorff took over the hardware. After some time, they phased out the clothing section, and the post office located in the building, where it stayed for fifteen years.
The second floor of the building was a large, open space, and became a much-used venue for things such as FFA banquets, school proms, and dances that featured the Harry Shepherd Orchestra from Chattahoochee. The hardware was then known as “George Waldorff & Sons,” and was run by George Sr., George Jr., Maxie, and Larry. Over the years, the business grew, and expanded to fill the entire building.
George Jr. and Larry pursued other occupations, George Sr. retired in 1965, and Maxie continued to run the hardware. In the 1970s, they expanded again, and took over the old Altha Theater building next door, which is where they are today. From that point on, the store was locally referred to as “Maxie’s.”
Mr. Maxie officially retired in 2001, leaving his sons Jim and Scott to operate the business. They continue to run the store, recently upgraded their lumber yard, and have welcomed a son-in-law to the team.
The final order of business of the evening was a farewell to long-time Executive Director Kristy Terry who has served the Chamber for the past 15 years. Plummer and other board members shared heart-felt appreciation to their friend and colleague, and wished her well.
Terry has accepted a position with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare (TMH) as a rural marketing strategist. She will work with TMH’s rural hospital affiliates, which include Calhoun Liberty Hospital.
Photos available at https://www.facebook.com/CalhounChamber.
*Photos may be used with credit given to Carolina Waldroff Photography.