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Chamber highlights accomplishments, passes gavel
Outgoing Chamber Chairman Lorraine Harrison passes the gavel to 2012 Chairman Thua Barlay - photo by Darrell Everidge

The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce highlighted accomplishments, awarded individuals and organizations that have contributed to the community, and passed the gavel for leadership during Tuesday's annual meeting at the Georgia International Horse Park.

Lorraine Harrison, the outgoing chairman of 2012, highlighted accomplishments of the past year. Those included launching the Shop the Rock campaign to give back to the local economy by shopping locally, purchasing the Chamber's new headquarters on Green Street, which they hope to move into at the end of the second quarter.

Harrison passed the gavel to 2013 Chairman Thua Barlay, the managing attorney in the Barlay Law Group. 

"As we go through the next few years, volunteer organizations such as ours will be faced with ever growing challenges," said Barlay.

Barlay said there were four priorities he challenged the Chamber board members to take up. One was developing a plan for the new Chamber building and headquarters. Another was to "enhance the membership experience" by tracking the reasons a new member joins and to ensure they become engaged. Other priorities were to utilize marketing and social media, video and online media. 

The most important priority was "Enhancing Our Community," he said.  "Bringing together community stakeholders will allow our community to stay vibrant and united," said Barlay.

The A.R. Gus Barksdale Lifetime Achievement Award was given to recently retired Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation, who sat on the bench for a quarter century. The award, presented by the award namesake's son Wales Barksdale, has been given annually since 1987 to an individual or organization that demonstrated compassion and leadership that Gus Barksdale demonstrated in his life. Wales Barksdale said, in describing Judge Nation, "He has tempered justice with mercy where mercy was appropriate," and given severity where it was called for.

The Betty Straw-Brown Community Spirit Award was presented by past Chamber Chairman Betty Straw-Brown to Dr. Fred Hedrick, of Hedrick and Dodson Family Dentistry. Hedrick was out due to surgery and the award was accepted on his behalf by office manager Darlene Hotchkiss. Hedrick was recognized for his contributions and support of many community organizations including the Rockdale Education Foundation, Rockdale Cares, Rockdale Emergency Relief, Kim Atkins Foundation, Conyers Main Street, United Way, Rainbow Community Center, Barksdale Boys and Girls Club, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Rockdale Retired Educators, Rockdale Historical Society. His practice was the founding dental clinic for the Mercy Heart Clinic for indigent patients. "He is an example to all of us," said Straw-Brown.

The James P. Culpepper Volunteer of the Year award winner was Diane Adoma, presented by Brandi Wells. "This lady came on the boat and almost instantly picked up an oar and began rowing," said Wells. "This lady doesn't enter a room - she floods it.... She and her committee have worked wonders with the Shop the Rock program... She leads our ambassadors program and is at every ribbon cutting... She seems to be everywhere."

The Education Partner of the Year award was presented to the Rockdale Rotary Club by Debora Armstrong, CEO of Rockdale Medical Center which won the award last year. Club president Ashley Roessler accepted the award for the club. This organization donated $500 in books to school media centers, read to students, repainted flag poles and volunteered in many ways.