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“A true servant” : Dawson County Chamber of Commerce commends community members who lead with their hearts
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Dawson County Community Food Bank and Thrift Store Director Linda Benson humbly accepts the Jim Wallace Volunteer of the Year Award at the Chamber of Commerce’s 26th annual gala on March 4, 2023. - photo by Julia Hansen

During their annual gala, Dawson County’s Chamber of Commerce recognized local leaders who not only led by example but also led with their hearts throughout 2022.  

This story continues below.

The chamber hosted their 26th annual gala the evening of March 4, 2023, at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville. 

The Jim Wallace Volunteer of the Year Award went to Dawson Community Food Bank and Thrift Store Director Linda Benson. 

Dawson County Chamber President and CEO Mandy Power called Benson “a true servant to our community” who’s “dedicated years and years to our community making sure people have the basic needs to be taken care of.”

All the while, Power noted Benson’s humble attitude, kind demeanor and perpetual smile. 

“I really appreciate this,” Benson said, tearing up after receiving the award. “My heart’s desire is  just to make sure no one’s hungry.”

Indeed, Benson has overseen the relocation of that food bank to 671 Lumpkin Camp Ground Rd. S. Ste. 30. Her organization has served 63,800 meals per month and given out 73,000 pounds of food per month, including allocating over 40% more produce, Power said. 

Local nonprofit Alliance Together earned the Don Gordon Business Leader of the Year Award. 

Husband-and-wife team Matt and Amanda Meyers came up to accept the accolade. 

Matt Meyers shared that when they moved to the Dawson County area, his and Amanda’s first thought was “community first.”

Over the past year, Alliance Together has engaged with groups like the chamber and the Rotary Club of Dawson County to bring awareness to various issues and build a sense of relational community, Power said. 

This recognition is named after the late Don Gordon who displayed personal and professional integrity and perseverance in helping bring the outlet mall and sewer infrastructure to Dawson County about 30 years ago, Power said. 

The Chamber of Commerce renamed its Ambassador of the Year Award in memory of longtime local educator and member Cathy Holcombe, who passed away in 2022. 

Chamber Membership Director Jessica Grigsby described Holcombe’s long-term impact as almost intangible but enduring through memories of her “competitive nature, positive energy and contagious smile.”

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Chamber Membership Director Jessica Grigsby, left, smiles as Amanda Guay, far right, is given the Cathy Holcombe Ambassador of the Year Award by Holcombe’s daughter and husband, Kate and Ricky. - photo by Julia Hansen

A dear friend of Holcombe’s, Radiant Travel-Dream Vacations agent Amanda Guay was the first person to receive the renamed recognition. 

“She was such a phenomenal person, and I miss her dearly,” Guay said. 

Grigsby thanked her team of local ambassadors for their support of other area businesses and recognized them for their collective enthusiasm, motivation and passion. 

Other people and businesses received the following awards during the gala:

  • Spirit of Leadership Award: Anna Graefen

  • Outstanding New Member Award: Patterson Moore Butler LLC

  • Outstanding Tourism Partner Award: Burt’s Pumpkin Farm

  • Industry Leader of the Year Award: Sawnee EMC

  • Chairman’s Award: Sharon Hall