The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce delivers sweet memories at awards banquet [photos]

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Ten fantastic candids vividly document the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet conducted at the Family Life Center of the Nashville United Methodist Church in Nashville, Georgia. Seen above, Joan and Bill Drawdy happily mug for the camera after the conclusion of the banquet on January 28, 2014. Bill is a longtime agent with Blanton & Griffin Insurance Agency. Photography by Wenda Gaile Bailey /

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual awards banquet on Tuesday evening at Nashville United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center in Nashville, Georgia. While all 200 tickets were sold out, inclement weather spearheaded by the chilly remnants of a polar vortex along the eastern seaboard significantly reduced the crowd size.

A satisfactory dinner topped off with ham, baked potato, green bean casserole, and a choice of either red velvet or chocolate cake left patrons eagerly anticipating the arrival of LaDonna Gatlin, best known as the youngest sibling of country troubadour Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.

An in-demand motivational speaker, author, and singer, Gatlin was in town to perform and discuss her hardscrabble upbringing in West Texas along with some humorous anecdotes about becoming a grandmother in a premier adult active community.

After overcoming consternation regarding whether she could catch her Atlanta flight back home to Texas, she agreed to a wide-ranging interview, recalling her early years spent touring with her brothers, brazenly attending the World’s Fair and performing to a packed crowd, why she left her brothers on the cusp of worldwide fame, whether she might consider reuniting with them, and the day she met Elvis Presley. Click to read the entire scoop along with a mini review of Gatlin’s Nashville engagement.

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce Chairman Paul Hamilton, a distinguished lawyer who was chomping at the bit to leave town for an extended skiing vacation, and hard-working Executive Director Crissy Staley [2007–2017] presided over the remainder of the awards-studded evening.

Industry of the Year (Dupont Pine Products), Agribusiness of the Year (AgGeorgia Farm Credit), Business of the Year (Ray’s Millpond), Entrepreneur of the Year (Little Duck Farms), and the Community Service Award (VFW Post 5978) were then presented in a timely fashion. The winners of the annual awards are voted on by the entire Chamber of Commerce membership. A press release obtained from Staley details each recognition below along with a 10-image slideshow taken by noted photographer Wenda Gaile Bailey which vividly preserves the banquet awards ceremony.

Industry of the Year: Dupont Pine Products

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Industry of the Year was awarded to Dupont Pine Products. The business purchased the Hubert Moore Lumber Company in Alapaha one year ago. Since that purchase, the plant has grown from 35 employees to 85 employees and two shifts. Dupont is the second largest private employer in Berrien County. It produces boards and timbers in a variety of sizes. They also supply decking boards and cross arms. Dupont Pine Products has expanded with another dry kiln to their Alapaha facility. Since becoming a part of the Berrien County community, Dupont has also teamed up with several local organizations including the FFA and the Alapaha Station Celebration.

Agri-Business of the Year: AgGeorgia Farm Credit

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business of the Year is AgGeorgia Farm Credit. Agriculture is both Berrien County and the state’s number one industry. AgGeorgia Farm Credit was established in 1916 and is a borrower-owned lending company chartered to serve the needs of agriculture producers. Farmers and ranchers, like any other business, need access to capital, and AgGeorgia has been that dependable source in the county. In 2013 AgGeorgia launched its Farm Credit Express program which provided equipment financing options at participating local dealerships. AgGeorgia gives back to the local community by supporting youth livestock shows, school sports programs, sponsors extension meetings and the local FFA Chapter’s Presidents Award.

Business of the Year: Ray’s Millpond

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year is Ray’s Millpond which celebrated 50 years in business in 2013. In 1963 the business could only hold 30 people — now they can comfortably seat 245 with six separate dining rooms. Located in Ray City, the restaurant remains a quintessential Berrien County dining tradition. Ray’s Millpond has 35 employees and is still family owned and operated. It is a favorite of Moody Air Force Base and draws visitors from across South Georgia and beyond. Ray’s Millpond uses catfish from Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and cooks them in cholesterol free oil. Ray’s Millpond has supported numerous local charities and sports teams throughout its impressive history.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Little Duck Farms

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year is Little Duck Farms. The company has expanded their local footprint from a small on-farm retail store to a stand-alone gift shop located in the Register pecan building just outside of Ray City. Owned and operated by Jeff and Alan Dorsey, Little Duck specializes in shelled and in-shell pecans from single pound bags to truck loads. It also offers gift baskets filled with Georgia-grown products. When Little Duck Farms launched its website in 2009, they received 11 online orders. Four scant years later, they received well over 500. In addition to pecans, Little Duck Farms also offers grass-fed meats. Their farm is Animal Welfare Approved and American Grass Fed Approved. The business reduced costs by shelling nuts themselves instead of having the process done out of county. Jeff was mentioned in the latest edition of Georgia Pecan Magazine by entomologist Bill Goff as having one of the few orchards in the state free of disease.

Community Service Award: VFW Post 5978

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award was presented to the Berrien County VFW Post 5978. Comprised of 497 members, they have been awarded the honor of All American post for the last three consecutive years. The VFW supports Berrien County in a variety of ways. Their Saturday night dances bring hundreds of people to the community on a weekly basis. The VFW also sponsors several local scholarship opportunities including the Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen programs. The VFW provides transportation free of charge for local veterans to the VA hospital in Lake City, Fla. Members of Post 5978 regularly support local sports teams and events. For further information, visit the chamber’s official Facebook.

© Jeremy Roberts, 2014, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email:

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