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Chambers honors individuals, businesses
Banquet used to showcase local eateries
Clay Sikes accepts the 2013 Business Leader of the Year award during the chambers annual awards banquet Friday. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce spotlighted community leaders and volunteers, along with local businesses, during the chamber’s annual awards banquet and Taste of Liberty on Friday inside the former Blockbuster building in Hinesville.
The chamber formed an independent nominating committee to review applications and select the award winners, explained Leah Poole, CEO for the chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Individuals and businesses that exemplified “the highest standards of ethics and practice” were named the 2013 civic and business leaders of the year, as were businesses of the year in three size categories, according to chamber officials.
Winners included:  Robert Clay Sikes, Business Leader of the Year; Jennifer Buehler, Civic Leader of the Year; Ashley Kukula Cuevas, Business of the Year – Self Employed; C.A. Sittle Inc., Business of the Year – 2-15 employees; The Coastal Courier, Business of the Year – 16-35 employees; and Waltrich Plastics, Business of the Year – more than 35 employees.
The chamber also thanked outgoing board members for their service and inducted the 2014 chamber board.
Former chamber board Chairwoman Susan McCorkle “passed the torch” to incoming chamber board Chairman Daniel Clark.
Clark said the chamber’s mission was to make living and working in Liberty County better for its residents.
“What’s good for business is good for the community,” he said.
Outgoing board members Barbara Finster, Terrie Sellers and Kevin Thomas also were awarded plaques of appreciation.
A number of eateries, caterers and bakeries participated in the Taste of Liberty judging.
Lena Mae’s Catering, based in Midway, was voted overall winner and won the main-course division.
Lena Mae’s Chef Efrim DeHart said he can cater a romantic evening for two up to a large event for 500 guests. DeHart served swai fish in an olive-oil-and-white-wine cream sauce. The chef said swai is similar to tilapia.
“It’s one of my special creations,” he said.
Baldino’s won the health-conscious category for its lettuce wraps, and Jeff’s Candy Kitchen & Bake Shoppe took best dessert.
Other Taste of Liberty participants included Ardyss K Bell/Rottweiler Vending, Southern Sweets Café & Bakery, Club Stewart and McDonald’s.
The event’s informal theme, “denim and diamonds,” along with music for dancing, guaranteed attendees a “fun and lively” evening and ensured good attendance, according to Poole.

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