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Chamber honors award winners

At Thursday’s Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, Joe Freeman wasn’t doing any pickin’.

But he sure was grinnin’.

Freeman, known in many circles as an entertainer as the leader of the Joe Freeman Band, was one five recipients of Chamber awards, but it wasn’t solely for his musical talents.

He was recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year and joined Carol Allen (George Patterson Award for Person of the Year), The Ironton Tribune (Business of the Year) and Operation TLC and Ironton In Bloom (Project Impact Award) as the honorees.

Freeman said there are a few tactics he has incorporated into his business practices, including the willingness to give.

“Once you start to give, God becomes your partner,” Freeman said. “And when God becomes your partner, it’s hard to fail.”

Freeman is the owner of various health care-related businesses. He employs more than 300 in four southern Ohio counties and achieved more than $8 million in combined sales in 2007.

Freeman, and the other award winners, received several certificates from elected officials or their representatives. Jason Stephens represented the Lawrence County Commission and the Ohio Senate (Sen. John A. Carey and Sen. Tom Niehaus), Phil Roberts represented U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, Bill Dingus represented Gov. Ted Strickland and Rich Blankenship represented the city of Ironton and the Ohio House of Representatives (Todd Book and Clyde Evans).

Allen was recognized for his longtime service in education and community projects. She was recognized twice Thursday because she is Co-Chairman of Ironton In Bloom.

In 1986 Allen became the director of the Academy of Excellence at Ohio University Southern and a year later was named Community Education Director. In 1994 she was honored as an Ohio University Outstanding Administrator.

“I want to thank everyone for the recognition,” Allen said, “and I hope you will join me (in community service) for as long as I can walk down the street.”

When Publisher Mike Caldwell was receiving the various certificates for The Ironton Tribune, Roberts drews laughs from the crowd when he quipped, “It’s kind of odd for a bunch of politicians to be honoring a newspaper.”

The Tribune has been recognized as a first-place winner for General Excellence by the Associated Press Society of Ohio four of the past five years. The newspaper’s contributions to community projects were also recognized.

“I am not here representing Mike Caldwell,” Caldwell said. “I am here representing the entire Tribune team and family. We are deeply humbled to receive this award.”

Operation TLC and Ironton In Bloom were recognized for their beautification efforts.

Operation TLC (Tidy-up Lawrence County) was founded in 2005 and works to create litter awareness. Working primarily in the Chesapeake and Proctorville areas, Operation TLC has worked to receive various grants for beautification and its volunteers plant flowers in the spring and fall at various locations.

“We are deeply humbled and honored to receive this prestigious award. We are grateful to the Chamber for recognizing us,” said member Billie Smith. “We didn’t do it for the recognition, but it is really nice.”

Ironton In Bloom was recognized nationally at the National Conference of America In Bloom. It was awarded the National Floral Display Criteria Award and a competition that included similar-sized communities across the United States.

The group raised about $54,000, which led to more than 150 planters and hanging baskets throughout the city. The three entrances to the city were also a focus of the group. IIB also sponsored the “Yard of the Month” program, which led to residents beautifying their properties.

“We’ve pulled a tremendous group of people together,” Co-Chairman Randy Lilly said. “We had a lot of people step forward for us and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Thursday’s event also included the swearing in of the Chamber Board of Directiors, which includes: Tyler Walters, Stephanie Burcham, Joe Jenkins, Doug Korstanje, Sandy Carroll, Larry Anderson, Doug Cade, Michael Caldwell, Steve Dodgion, Ron Eastham, Ted Edwards, John Galloway, Sandra Blackburn, Mark Compston, Robert Dalton and Ralph Kline.

Walters was sworn in by Judge Charles Cooper, who also swore in incoming Chamber president Tyler Walters.

“I want to be able to make the Chamber more valuable to its members and increase membership,” Walters said. “Exciting things are happening here in Lawrence County and I am thrilled to be working with you during these exciting times.”

Outgoing president Mark Compston was congratulated by Walters, and others, for his service in the past year.

“I want to again thank all the award recipients for all they’ve done,” Compston said. “Without everyone doing the work we are recognizing tonight, this community wouldn’t be as good as it is.”