Henderson County News: Chamber honors individuals and businesses


Chamber honors individuals and businesses

Jeff Miller, shown with his wife, Tamara, received the G. Ray Cantrell Award. [PHOTO BY PAULA ROBERTS]
Jeff Miller, shown with his wife, Tamara, received the G. Ray Cantrell Award. [PHOTO BY PAULA ROBERTS]

The Henderson County Chamber of Commerce honored individuals and businesses for their contributions to the community through charity, education and economic development on Thursday night. The Lightning has full coverage.

G. Ray Cantrell Award

G. Ray Cantrell, the Chamber’s top honored, was awarded to Jeff Miller.

Cantrell served as the head of what is now the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce for 40 years — from 1958 until 1998. The award is presented annually to a person for a lifetime of service to the Chamber of Commerce and to the community.

A native of Hendersonville, Miller is a graduate of Hendersonville High School and Appalachian State University. Until August of last year, he operated the dry-cleaning business that his family had owned since 1915. He and his wife, Tamera, have a son, Beck Miller, a graduate of Wake Forest University.

While serving two terms on the Hendersonville City Council Miller:

  • Worked with BRCC, Wingate University, Pardee UNC Healthcare and Henderson County to develop and build the Health Sciences Building, home to the Pardee UNC Comprehensive Cancer Center, Wingate University Pharmacy and Physician Assistant programs and the BRCC Health Sciences Department.
  • Worked in partnership with the Henderson County Economic Development Partnership, Henderson County and property owners to form Garrison Industrial Park.
  • Worked with the Hendersonville City Council members to finally get enough support for the new parking deck in downtown.
  • Worked with City Manager John Connet to implement a new Customer Service focused culture at the city of Hendersonville changing the perception of the city from anti-business to one that is business-friendly.

Son of a Navy veteran of World War II, Miller is also the nephew of a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who lost his life in 1944 during a bombing run in Czechoslovakia. Co-founder of Honor Air and founder of  Blue Ridge Honor Flight, he served as president of the Honor Flight Network and on its national Board of Directors. A nationwide program since 2005, HonorAir has taken more than 250,000 military veterans to experience the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.

In additions, Miller is:

  • Past president and founding member of the Henderson County Heritage Museum.
    • Former vice chair of the Pardee UNC Health Board
    • Past president of the Henderson County YMCA
    • Past president of the Boys & Girls Club

Miller has also received:

  • The U.S. Army Chief of Staff Salute, presented by US Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley.
    • Presidential Citizens Medal, Presented by President Bush in the Oval Office
    • The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Presented by Governor Pat McCrory
    • The Duke Energy Citizenship & Service Award
    • The IFI Meritorious Service Diamond Achievement Award
    • The Carolina Freedom Foundation Award for Patriotism
    • The Gold Good Citizens Award from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
    • The First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award
    • Rotary Paul Harris Fellow recognition.

Duke Energy Citizenship Award

Presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the people of Henderson County, the Duke Energy Citizenship Award this year went to Dr. David Ellis.

Ellis recipient this year played a key role in 2020 and 2021 as our community faced the unimaginable problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As chief of staff at Pardee UNC Healthcare, he guide the response of Pardee and many health care partners. Under his leadership, Pardee was among the first in WNC to stand up a mobile testing site, in March of 2020, and the first to begin administering vaccines in December of 2020. Ellis served as a trusted expert to local media outlets – conducting bi-weekly interviews and making himself available at pivotal points. This included more than 150 media stories – providing accurate and up-to-date local information. And, under his guidance, Pardee was the first Western North Carolina health system to administer monoclonal antibody infusions, administering the treatment to more than 1,650 individuals.

During his leadership Pardee also received an “A” Hospital Safety grade from Leapfrog — for protecting patients from errors, injuries, accidents and infection — and was recognized by Healthgrades as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” every year since 2019.

First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award

Each year First Citizens Bank, in partnership with The Chamber, presents the Amazing Customer Service Award to a local business that has achieved outstanding success in providing their customers with excellent service.

This year’s winner, Horizon Heating & Air, started in 2010 and has been recognized for phenomenal growth, community service and leadership. In the nearly 1,000 reviews on its website, customers describes the company as professional, prompt & considerate, honest & genuine, knowledgeable and good communicators.

Customer service at Horizon is intentional, rather than haphazard. Team members are taught the skills needed in customer service and encouraged to work with clients to find solutions that meet their needs. Developing this positive culture created a workforce at this company that regularly goes above and beyond to assist the customer.

Small Business Leader Award

The Small Business Leader of the Year Award, given to a company that has served Henderson County for more than three years, has grown to employ workers in our community, and has given back to the community through non-profit avenues. The Chamber and the Van Winkle Law firm recognize quarterly recipients and choose an annual recipient from these four. The 2022 quarterly recipients were:

  • Q1: Hannah Flanagan’s Pub
  • Q2: IMOCO, Inc.
  • Q3: Alessi Insurance Services
  • Q4: Carolina Specialties Construction

The 2022 Small Business Leader of the Year was IMOCO has sponsored the Broyhill Child’s Home each Christmas to give kids in need a special holiday. They have made annual contributions to local schools by donating yearbooks, project graduations, literacy luncheons, and teacher appreciation events and completed and donated the work provided for the Henderson County Fire Marshal/BRCC Fire Fighter Training Center. Last year IMOCO worked with their local plants to organize supplies for the Haywood County flood victims. It has also sponsored the First Contact Addiction Ministries events, Oasis Shrine Circus Fund, Hendersonville Rescue Mission, God Speed Ministries, BRCC Educational Foundation, the Chamber’s Annual Industrial Pig Pickin’ and Gutter Ball Classic.

2022 Camp Industry Leadership Award

The Henderson County economy does well because of many factors that make it balanced. While manufacturing, retirement, tourism and agriculture are the best known economic drivers, there are many others that add to our community’s vitality. One of the biggest is the youth summer camp industry. In Henderson County, the more than 20 youth summer camps have a combined economic impact of more than $120 million per year.

Pardee/UNC Healthcare joined the Chamber in recognizing individuals in the Youth Summer Camp Industry who help make our community healthy and our children strong. This year’s winners, Kim and Ben Haynes, own Camp Ton-A-Wandah.

Their story started in the 1930s when Donnie Ballinger Haynes purchased 500 acres of land that included an old fish camp called Lake Falls. Soon after the purchase, a summer camp was born. Donnie successfully opened and operated the camp with assistance from her son Baxter Haynes until 1956 when she retired as the director – turning operations over to Baxter and his two key staff members – Goofus and Doodle. Evidently Goofus and Doodle has more acumen than their names suggest – because they, along with Baxter Haynes, ran the camp successfully until the late 1960s when Morgan and Meg Haynes stepped in to manage the camp, before they passed it on to Captain Billy and Miss Judy in 1989 while still involved today as owners. For nearly 100 years the Haynes Family has operated the camp on Little River Road in Flat Rock.

The Hayneses were founding members of Camplify, continue to be a partner in the Chamber’s “Camp Field Day” event and since 1994 have been the host site and partner of Camp Merry Times, a camp for kids 4-17 years old who are fighting cancer and are also involved with assisting non-profits community groups such as Project Dignity, First Baptist Church, local law enforcement, the Chamber and more.

Ambassador of the Year


The Chamber and Four Seasons Foundation recognize and honor the Ambassadors of the Chamber who go above and beyond in their service and dedication to the Chamber by serving as volunteers and extensions of the Chamber in the community.

The 2022 Quarterly Recipients were:

  • Q1 – Annamarie Jakubielski
  • Q2 – Cindy Novak
  • Q3 – Roger Ward
  • Q4 – Cheyenne Mathews

The 2022 Ambassador of the Year was Cindy Novak. She has shown her dedication to the business community and the Henderson County Chamber by consistently showing up to support fellow member businesses at Business After Hours, AM Power hours and other Chamber ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking events.

Nonprofit of the Year

Four years ago, the Chamber began presenting a Non-Profit of the Year Award based on impact on the community, ability to partner with other groups and efficiency and management of the non-profit itself. The 2022 winner, Children & Family Resource Center, was formed in 1998 as a result of a Children’s Initiative of the Community Foundation of Henderson County to address the barriers that were preventing families from accessing local services. In 2021 the center:

  • Served 1,135 children directly through programming
  • Connected 350 parents/caregivers to resources and participated in support groups and classes
  • Granted eight scholarships to single parents for the pursuit of higher education
  • Served 1,243 children in licensed child care centers
  • Distributed $5,000 worth of books celebrating diversity to local early childhood classrooms.


Education Champion Award

The Education Champion is chosen each year by the Workforce & Education Committee of the Chamber to recognize individuals or organizations that have had a meaningful and significant impact through advocacy, leadership and direct action. This year’s winner was Vanessa Gilliam, owner and director of Nessa’s Young’uns Natural Play Center.

Gilliam, who holds a master’s in education, has been an early childhood educator for decades. Her goals are to continue providing quality childcare services to all children and their families in the community with a pledge to show love and compassion to children while meeting their individual needs and supporting each child’s culture, ethnicity and family structure. She is currently partnering with the education department at Blue Ridge Community College to assist present and future early childhood educators in the community to become professionals in our field as well.

Environmental Sustainability Award

Presented since 2006, the Environmental Sustainability Award recognizes businesses that are taking strong steps to improve the environment while at the same time benefitting their business. The winner this year was Mast General Store. Among the store’s initiatives are incentives for employees to carpool, bike or walk to work; leaving a smaller carbon footprint by taking care of their company cars and fleets, making them last longer, instead of buying new; recycling all materials that can be recycled from their merchandise; encouraging employees to use compost bins that are in each employee break room area, where employees can then use for their own gardens at home; using only high energy efficiency LED light bulbs.




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