Chamber presents annual awards

pseligson@newsobserver.comFebruary 3, 2014 

At its annual banquet last week, the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce honored an accountant, a retired educator, a dentist, the president of a billboard company and a leader in the nonprofit sector.

Chamber President Rick Childrey said the awards are a way to thank people for their service to the community. “They’re important because we want to recognize people who have made a difference in our community, who have contributed and given back,” he said.

Citizen of the Year: Lee Jackson, a certified public accountant at Dees, Jackson, Jackson & Associates in Smithfield.

Jackson is a Smithfield native who has been a member of the Smithfield Jaycees, the Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Conservation Association. He also led the fundraising effort for Neuse Charter School’s new building.

When Jackson found out he was Citizen of the year, he had a mix of feelings: honor and embarrassment. “It’s just that so many people do so much,” he said. “It’s just hard to realize that you would be the one that was singled out in that regard.”

Distinguished Citizen, Smithfield: Gary Ridout, retired educator.

Ridout, a retired teacher and principal, has been a Rotarian for many years. He serves on the board of the Smithfield Rescue Mission and teaches a Sunday School class at his church, Centenary United Methodist.

Ridout couldn’t attend the awards banquet because he was on a Rotary service trip to the Dominican Republic, but he did get to Skype in.

His wife, Linda, accepted the award for him and said he was excited to receive it. “He’s worked very hard,” she said. “He has what I would call a servant’s heart, and he’s always in service to others.”

Distinguished Citizen, Selma: Dr. Dicky Parrish, a Selma dentist.

Parrish, a longtime Selma dentist, has a passion for helping children. A former Johnston County school board chairman, he has been a supporter of 4-H, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. He organizes the Backpack Buddies program at Selma Middle School.

Parrish thank his patient wife and children for supporting his community service.

“I was totally off guard, totally surprised,” he said of winning the award.

Parrish has won two awards from the chamber. He was Citizens of the Year in 1987 and Small Business Person of the Year in 2011.

“Well, I’ve been around a really long time, and they’re probably running out of people to recognize,” he said, laughing.

Athena Award: Sherry Harris, president of Reach Out Johnston County

Harris started the Chamber Women’s Business Network and Reach Out Johnston County, which connects local non-profits.

The Athena Award is a national award that recognizes women who help other women achieve their full potential.

“I was just humbled,” Harris said. “It feels great that women are being recognized and that women are supporting and encouraging each other, and others in the community are seeing the value of having women in business.”

Jimmy Creech Small Business Person of the Year: Warren Stancil, president of Interstate Outdoor Inc.

Stancil started selling billboard space when he was just 16. His company now has billboards in 45 North Carolina counties.

The Jimmy Creech award honors someone who has cultivated a successful business while also giving back to the community, Childrey said.

“I was very honored,” Stancil said.

Stancil gives billboard space to nonprofits such as the Smithfield Rescue Mission and animal shelters. “Stray animals and just homeless pets, I have a big place in my heart for them,” he said.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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