As she began to introduce this year’s John Adam Treutlen Award winner Thursday night, Brooke Graham decided to swap her black jacket for a green one.
Her green jacket was donned in honor of 4-H, and Graham thought it was fitting as the Effingham Chamber of Commerce’s highest honor went to Beth Epling, the former longtime county extension agent and current education coordinator for the New Ebenezer Retreat Center.
“This is the greatest honor I have ever received,” Epling said, “other than marrying my husband.”
Beth and Jerry Epling have been married for 41 years. She was the Effingham County Fair Parade grand marshal in 2008, having served on the fair committee for 36 years.
A graduate of the University of Georgia in family and consumer sciences with an education degree. She worked with the UGA Extension Service in Effingham County for 23 1/2 years and four years in Griffin.
Under her direction, Effingham had one of the top 4-H programs in the state for 15 years and she also was named as the Outstanding Georgia 4-H Youth Extension Agent, given the William Booth Award.
Marian Hodge of Teach Right! was honored with the Small Business of the Year Award, and Barbara Oglesby of The HeritageBank of the South was named the Chamber Ambassador of the Year.
Graham also took over the reins of the Chamber from Randy Shearouse, the superintendent of the Effingham County School System whose tenure as Chamber chairman ended. She said she wanted to make supporting local businesses a priority and said the Chamber will continue such initiatives as the small business summit and seminars.
“The Chamber has been on the front lines through these tough economic times, and we will remain there to help our members weather the storm,” she said. “We will continue to bring ideas and networking opportunities to the table.”
New Chamber events such as Oktoberfest and A Taste of Effingham have brought exposure to local businesses, given citizens new experiences and brought in business to the county, she added.
“The Chamber is an inclusive organization,” Graham said. “I hope everyone will remember that only together can we make a difference in your business and your marketplace.”