Dade Chamber of Commerce Honors Top Citizens. Sort Of.

April 22, 2016

     The Dade County Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet and fundraiser on April 9, at which point it named, as it does every year, Dade's top contributors to the common good amid much oratory, merrymaking and fanfare.

    But activities did not, apparently, stretch to photography this year, because the Chamber had no portraits of the top contributors to the common good to share with The Dade Planet. Luckily, this ain't The Planet's first rodeo. Here are some shots from our files, plus one contributed from another gala that took place the same night across the nation. 

     The C of C's Citizen of the Year is Dade County Public Library manager Marshana Sharp, posing here with her husband, Tim, at a ceremony in Denver in which Dade's was honored as one of the top three small-town libraries in America. She had to miss the Dade do in favor of the one in Colorado.

     Ms. Sharp took over leadership of the library in 2011 just after its temporary housing was splatted by the April 27 tornadoes, resulting in the destruction of library computers and damage to library books and reference materials; during the remodeling of the permanent building, which was complicated by a legal battle with a nonperforming contractor; and just before the Dade County Board of Education pulled the financial rug out from under the library when it abruptly zeroed out its share of funding the next summer.

     The Board of Ed never fully restored its funding, library staff was laid off and library hours were cut to three days a week. In the face of all this, Dade Public carved out a place for itself at the heart of the community and, BTW, earned the aforementioned prestigious Library Journal award, which carries a stipend of $10,000 which the library can sorely use. Sounds like somebody's doing kind of a good job, huh?









Verenice Hawkins (left) and Eloise Gass (right) 

were co-recipients of the Dade Chamber's  annual Bill O'Neal Award along with, posthumously, Rose Moore (not pictured).  

     Ms. Hawkins was for many years the county's public health nurse and often brags about how many generations of local families she has immunized. "These are my people," she once said of Dade denizens.  

      After retiring, she campaigned stubbornly and, eventually, successfully to implement a requirement that Georgia high school students be instructed in CPR (cardiopumonary resuscitation), a lifesaving technique which had not been invented when she did her her nurse's training.

     Ms. Hawkins still volunteers in the Dade County school system, helping elementary school students with their reading.

     As for Trenton Tree City President Eloise Gass, who has not seen the diminutive but determined gardener hard at work, nose to ground and butt to sky, in one of the municipal flowerbeds?

     Ms. Gass is a past master at that vital skill of the civic-minded, Getting People To Do Things, and is often able to talk the city fire department to water Tree City gardens during drought conditions. But she is also a pragmatist well-versed in the equally vital skill of Doing It Yourself, and has become locally famous for her gravity-defying scrambles down steep creek banks to fill water buckets for her beds when all else fails.

     As all gardeners know, horticulture is not just a matter of patting dirt reassuringly around little flowers but can also entail feats of strength and ruthlessness. The Planet has observed Ms. Gass doing battle with and vanquishing deep-rooted shrubberies and can attest that, as Mr. Shakespeare phrased it, though she be but little, she is fierce. Woe be to the weed, or the campaign sign, that sprouts in one of Tree City's gardens. Senator, you are warned. 

     Superintendent Jan Harris, PhD, newly named to head the county school system, was the Dade Chamber of Commerce's featured speaker at this year's banquet. The C of C named American Legion Post 106 Nonprofit of the Year; Megan Baugh, English teacher at Dade High, and Jamie Fahrney, principal at Davis Elementary, Educators of the Year; Ingle's Market Corporation of the Year; and Forshee's Chevron Small Business of the Year. 

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