One of the county's most prestigious awards was given to two of the county's longest serving citizens. Jerry and Lee Aldridge were the announced as the co-recipients of the 2010 R.O. Arnold Award, which was presented to them at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Thursday night.
The award is given for lifetime community involvement and over the 45 years they've been in the community, the Aldridge's service became so well known that the couple was nominated for the award by four different people - Betty Bellairs, Wendell Crowe and Ed and Nonie Needham.
"How do you describe a lifetime of giving when the givers are legends in their own time?" Nonie asked the assembled crowd. "Together they touched more lives in a positive way than we can even imagine. They were loved educators, loved parents of three and loved grandparents of five. They were leaders, leaders in their church and leaders in the scouts. And they were friends, probably with everyone in this room. They help make Newton County the wonderful place we can call home."
After the meeting, Lee said she couldn't put into words what the award meant to her.
"This is probably the first time in my life I was actually speechless," she said joking. "It's an unbelievable feeling."
Lee was a long-time high school teacher in the Newton County School System and Jerry is a a long-time scout master. The couple mentored many children over the course of their careers.
Two other major awards were handed out. Jeremy Shearer, Owner of Beyond Exterminating, was honored with the Dick James Small Business Award, and Chris and Teri Haler of Current Events Productions were given the Chamber's Spirit of Excellence Award, for their support to the chamber.
2009 Chamber Chairman Joe Stier handed over the leadership gavel to 2010 Chair Jerry Mays. In his outgoing speech, Stier recapped some of the year's biggest successes, including drawing over 12,000 tourists, bringing in 61 new chamber members and starting the Buy Local campaign.
Mays thanked Stier for his leadership and said he hoped to continue to lead the chamber to prosperity in 2010. He said the top priority this year was to hire a chamber president.
"We feel this is a great opportunity for the right person to come in here. We're currently reviewing resumes and meeting with people at the state level," Mays said. "We understand this is an important hire, and we want to find someone quickly, but our goal is to find the right person."
Outgoing and incoming members of the board of directors were also honored.
See Sunday's edition of The Covington News for the full story as well as images from the Chamber's 2010 Annual Meeting.