Organized to honor the people, businesses and agencies who have contributed to the county's success, the awards banquet will be an annual event held at the Harlan County Country Club.
"Most chambers across the state host an awards program," said Karen Phillips, who serves as chair of the chamber's awards and events committee. "It's a good way to bestow much deserved honor and recognition to those who have greatly contributed to our county. Every single nomination was deserving of the award, and it was a difficult task to select finalists and winners from this outstanding group of nominees."
The awards banquet will take place on Nov. 8. Phillips said the event will begin with a social hour, followed by a dinner, then the awards ceremony. After the ceremony, a dessert buffet will be made available in recognition of the honorees.
Despite a short nomination period and minimal advertising, Phillips said 48 nominations for 30 individuals were received from the general public for five categories. From the submitted names, three nominees were narrowed down in each category, and chamber members took a vote on each.
"This is a really exciting event," said Harlan County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gladys Hoskins. "We have many deserving people to be honored in this county, and this will be the start of many more years of recognizing them. These people have just made Harlan County a better place to live."
The first annual Harlan County Chamber awards are:
Educator of the Year will be awarded to Cumberland Elementary School team teachers Tammy Brashears and Shelia Hall. Together, they developed one of the best science and environmental studies programs in the state. Their highly acclaimed projects, including an outdoor classroom, have become models for other schools.
Health Care Provider of the Year will be awarded to Dr. Sanford Weiler Sr. and Holly Johnson. The two tied for the honor during the voting process. After many years of providing compassionate medical care to the citizens of Harlan County, Weiler continues his efforts for improved health care during his retirement. He is known for his passionate belief in the future of Harlan County. Johnson was recognized for her outstanding professional service at Kentucky Physical Therapy Clinic and for her volunteer work with student athletes and the elderly.
Public Service Provider of the Year will be awarded to the Harlan County Community Action Agency. The agency works toward the alleviation of poverty and provides many programs to assist low-income citizens.
Business of the Year will be awarded to The Shirt Shack. This category was limited to chamber business members who have significant improvements or increased production during the year. The Shirt Shack has expanded its space and purchased equipment for a major increase in production.
Harlan Countian of the Year will be awarded to Mike Howard of Wallins. Howard, who is also widely known as the county's Santa Claus, initiated and continues to organize a Christmas toy drive for the area's disadvantaged children during the Christmas season. He also takes treats to nursing home residents each week and ministers to jail inmates.
At the awards banquet, the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce will also recognize businesses that have continuously operated for 25, 50, 75, and 100 years. Businesses in operation for over 75 yeas will receive special awards.
Additional information about the awards banquet may be fund on the chamber's website at www.harlancountychamber.com. For ticket information, contact Phillips at 573-4156.