Chatham Chamber of Commerce annual award recipients

Posted 11/26/20

Every year, the Chatham Chamber of Commerce recognizes a selection of Chatham businesses and professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the community and excelled in their respective …

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Chatham Chamber of Commerce annual award recipients

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Every year, the Chatham Chamber of Commerce recognizes a selection of Chatham businesses and professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the community and excelled in their respective fields. Few years have been as challenging for business as 2020, as exemplified by the virtual ceremony held during the Chamber’s annual meeting last Wednesday. But several community members have distinguished themselves nonetheless.

Here are this year’s Chatham Chamber of Commerce annual awards recipients.

Donaldson Funeral Home & Crematory, Small Business of the Year

Lyle Donaldson first discovered his passion for funeral service arrangement after seeing its value first hand.

“After experiencing the loss of his grandmother, he found himself working a summer job for two years at Hall-Wynne funeral home,” said award presenter James Jernigan of SunTrust now Truist. “… His desire to help families in their greatest time of need led him to pursue a career as a funeral home director.”

After graduating from a funeral service licensee program, Donaldson purchased Pittsboro’s Hall-Wynne in 2015 when he was 26, making him a seventh-generation business owner in Chatham County.

The business has grown 40% in the five years under Donaldson’s leadership and has recently added an on-site crematory, the first and only in Chatham County.

“We have been very fortunate,” Donaldson said. “Our business has grown drastically … Thank you to my parents and all of my staff. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Mark Reif, Distinguished Person of the Year

Mark Reif, the human resources communications manager for Mountaire Farms, “is the driving force behind many of the community outreaches of Mountaire in Siler City and the local area,” said award presenter Tony Cash of Fidelity Bank.

Reif has managed the company’s contributions to such programs as the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office’s Shop with a Deputy, Chatham Literacy, Holiday Meals for Community Members, Benefits for Family Members Due to Serious Illnesses and Scholarships for Youth.

“Mark Reif is a compassionate, intelligent and professional business leader,” Cash said.

Besides the work he does for Mountaire, Reif has distinguished himself in the community as president of the Siler City Rotary club and as a member of the Chatham County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed especially being here in Chatham County,” Reif said, “It is an absolutely wonderful community, wonderful place to be. People are extremely friendly and its very easy to conduct your business.”

Eric Williams, Young Professional of the Year

Immediately after receiving his own award, Reif presented the next to Eric Williams, 27, of Edward Jones.

“(He) is a true leader,” Reif said. “He looks out for his clients and looks for avenues that will help them maximize their income. And I’ve been told that if you want to verify that, just ask any of his clients.”

Williams, a Pittsboro native, recently opened his own branch of Edward Jones Investments in his hometown after completing Edward Jones’ financial adviser career development program in St. Louis. The office opened in 2018, and one year later received accredited asset management designations.

“He’s trustworthy, professional, reliable, transparent and he has excellent communication skills,” Reif said. “… He is a role model for other young professionals.”

In his free time — of which he has little, Reif pointed out — Williams volunteers for Chatham Literacy, and works as president of Pittsboro’s Rotary club.

Williams thanked the chamber for recognizing him, his parents for molding him, and added, “very importantly, I want to thank my clients. It’s been a tough year, I think, for everyone. It’s been an interesting year for the markets — lot of job changes, a lot of life changes, and we’ve had some difficult conversations this year. I just really appreciate you putting trust in a young professional.”

Jazmin Mendoza Sosa, Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award

The Citizenship and Service Award is bestowed upon “someone who has made a noteworthy contribution to the community above and beyond the norm,” said Indira Everett, a Duke Energy representative and the Chamber board chairperson. “It is a tribute to an individual who makes a difference in their community by using their time, talents and compassion, to positively impact the lives of others.”

Communities In Schools Chatham County Student Support Specialist Jazmin Mendoza Sosa embodied those qualifications in 2020, working to keep underprivileged students on track for success amid unprecedented circumstances.

“(She is) the epitome of service and commitment in her workplace and in the community,” Everett said. “People are amazed at her compassion, commitment, honesty, energy and the love she gives all her students and others.”

Besides her individualized support for students, Mendoza Sosa advocates for underrepresented demographics in the school system, “eliminating barriers for diverse populations and utilizing culturally relevant resources while ensuring equity is embedded in all areas of the district’s culture,” Everett said.

Earlier in 2020, Mendoza Sosa earned the Chatham County outstanding volunteer award for similar work with Chatham County 4-H.

“This is a team effort,” Mendoza Sosa said. “I wouldn’t be here without the support of the families I work with, the time and support they give. (I’m thankful) also for my family being patient. I think working all the time or volunteering often means sacrificing some family time, so I want to thank them.”

Kevin O’Dell, Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award

Chatham Chamber of Commerce ambassadors promote member commitment and retention by working to promote strong relationships and encouraging meaningful and beneficial participation in Chamber events and programs.

Kevin O’Dell joined the program in June 2019 and quickly distinguished himself. The native New Yorker moved to N.C. in 1989 to work with the DOT. Now, he works as a senior project manager for Summit Design and Engineering Services and has embraced the North Carolina way.

“In time,” Chamber President Cindy Poindexter said, “he finally became a North Carolinian and learned to comfortably say, ‘y’all.’”

Most of O’Dell’s brief term as an ambassador has involved navigating the coronavirus pandemic. But he has contributed to the Chamber’s ongoing success nonetheless.

“Thank you, Kevin, for your commitment in the communities we serve, enabling our employees and clients to succeed together,” Poindexter said. “And in behalf of the chamber, we thank you for being part of the ambassador team, for always putting your best foot forward, for representing the Chamber well, and for helping us serve our chamber member businesses.”

Beth McCullough, Board Leadership Award

This was the first year the Chamber gave out an award to recognize a Chamber board member who performed above and beyond.

The decision was easy to make, said Everett, the board’s chairperson. When anyone on the board needed help, Beth McCullough, board member and director of secondary programs and communications at Chatham Charter, was eager and ready to step up.

“Her leadership is simply invaluable,” Everett said, citing the award which reads: “Leadership — one person can make all the difference.”

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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