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An evening of celebrating the county was held Thursday night as the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce held Jasper on the Move and its 59th awards banquet at Delta Plantation in Hardeeville. The chamber presented eight awards to individuals and businesses. The Earl Williams Band performed.
Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton won the prestigious Sergeant Jasper Award. Newton, a Ridgeland native, is a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general. He flew 269 combat missions in south Vietnam and 79 missions over north Vietnam. Newton, who has more than 4,000 flying hours, commanded 13 bases and more than 43,000 active duty members. Newton’s military service was from 1966 to 2000.
“His commitment to this great country, the freedoms none of us take for granted and his love for his home, Jasper County, will always be acknowledged by each of us,” said Marty Sauls, president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Newton, a founding member of the Polaris Tech Charter School Committee, said he was surprised by the recognition.
“It’s always been my real honor to say, ‘I’m from a little town in South Carolina, by the name of Ridgeland,’ ” Newton said. “Being able to accept this award in the honor of Sergeant Jasper is absolutely awesome.”
The Employee of the Year honor was awarded to Ronnie Malphrus, who is retiring after 30 years working for Jasper County. Malphrus, the county’s Director of Administrative Services, was recognized for his “principle, integrity and a deep Christian faith.”Malphrus’ tenure has helped the county to repeatedly be awarded the Government Finance Officers Association’s Certificate of Achievement for Financial Reporting. Malphrus was lauded for making people around him better: “He leads, he teaches, he loves.”
“Over the years it’s been a great pleasure working for the county and serving the citizens and working with a great bunch of people,” Malphrus said.
Diane Echols was named Business Person of the Year. Echols, a county native, was recognized for being honest and hardworking. She has worked at Handy Dan’s for more than 30 years and also serves on the advisory board for the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage. She was lauded for “selflessly” handling any issues, no matter the time or day.
The New Business of the Year award was presented to Simply Carolina Kitchen & Bath, owned and operated by Kevin and Deanne Owens, who are lifelong Ridgeland residents.
The business began in 2013 and expanded in 2016 and 2017. It has been a vital part of several fundraising and community outreach events, including collecting toys for MUSC Children’s hospital at Christmas, providing coffee and water to travelers during Hurricane Irma evacuation, and sponsoring local youth for church mission trips. After Hurricane Matthew, they distributed items for hurricane victims and partnered with LowCountry Community Church to host a cookout, providing free meals to first responders and anyone who needed a hot meal.
“Our family has been in business in Ridgeland through Owens Supply Company dating back to 1973 and my dad has left a legacy for us that we feel like we are carrying on,” Kevin Owens said. “We look forward to being able to continuing to serve.”
Jawanda McNair was named the Business Education Partner of the Year. McNair, along with business partner Gregg Wright, established Wright Directions Family Services in 2011. The agency provides accessible therapy, counseling and skill building services to assist children and families with being more successful in the local school system, communities, and home locations. McNair is also co-chair of the Jasper County Human Service Alliance, which aims to provide a central location for community members to acquire information and share resources.
McNair was praised for her passion for agency collaborations and business consultations.
“What we do everyday is a passion,” McNair said. “I truly believe in what I do. I’m proud to be here and happy to be of service.”
Dr. Claude Tolbert Jr. was named the Healthcare Professional of the Year. Tolbert is board certified in Obstetrics & Gynecology and has been caring for the women in Jasper and Beaufort counties for more than 16 years. He’s been at Riverside Women’s Care since 2016.
Tolbert was praised for championing “efforts to focus on high-quality obstetrics care specifically around obstetrical hemorrhage” and “is a huge driver of enhanced patient care for the OB/GYN patients.”
“What I do is truly my passion,” Tolbert said.
The Zenie Ingram Community Service of the Year award was presented to Bluffton-Jasper Volunteers in Medicine, which began serving the greater Bluffton and Jasper communities in 2011. It is an all-volunteer medical staff. There are clinics in Bluffton and Ridgeland, with Ridgeland’s opening in 2016. Patients can see a gynecologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, dermatologist, optometrist, mental health providers and primary care physicians. All money for its operating budget is received through fundraisers, donations and grants.
Board member Martin Sauls said donations are truly appreciated.
“When you give to Volunteers in Medicine, all the money goes for patient care,” Sauls said. “If you have given, thank you so much. We appreciate your support.”
The Growth & Development of the Year honor was awarded to Michael Czymbor, Hardeeville’s city manager. Czymbor was recognized for leading “an extraordinary effort” to bring major developments to Jasper County, including Latitude Margaritaville, East Argent, Waste Management and Parker’s.
Czymbor was recognized for his pursuit of grant funding for the Hardeeville Commerce Park which brought water, sewer and fiber optic lines that made this park ready for development. Czymbor, who has 22 years of experience in government management and joined the city in August 2015, was hailed for bringing a “can-do spirit” to department heads and seeking innovative solutions.
“We have a great team in Hardeeville,” Czymbor said. “We are all in it together. What’s good for Hardeeville is good for Jasper County, good for the Lowcountry. The sky’s the limit.”