It wasn't an April Fool's joke; they really weren't expected.
By dedicating the evening to the members of the 1140th Engineer Battalion now serving in Iraq, it was the Chamber and the community's way to let them know they are still very much a part of the community.
Each person attending the banquet received a copper Sabona band engraved with the words: "Remember the 1140th" and the first presentation of the evening went to the Charlie Company Family Readiness Group made up of the families left behind by the deployed soldiers.
Also accepting a special award from Steve McPheeters, emcee for the banquet which drew a record crowd, was Bill Ferrell. Ferrell, who is retiring at the end of this year, was honored for his 28 years in law enforcement as Scott County sheriff.
Presenter Carolyn Harris, the 2003 honoree, praised Cowan for his service not only to youth but the community as a whole. Cowan was cited for bringing music to a variety of events from local sporting events to Chamber functions.
A teacher at the Fifth Grade Center, Bonny Harris goes beyond what is expected of an educator, Harris said. In addition to praising her work in the classroom, her nominator noted she tutors students after school, serves as a supervisor for students teachers, represents the school on the Community Teachers Executive Committee, is active in her church and always willing to assist others.
The Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to recognize an individual in the Chamber who gives their time and energy to help the Chamber and community grow. Larry Braden, said presenter Tom Austin, is just that type of individual.
Since moving to Sikeston in 1997, Braden has served on numerous Chamber committees such as the Communitywide Cleanup and Redneck Barbecue. He is active in other community organizations such as the Kiwanis Club, United Methodist Men and the Interagency Council along with assisting with the Sikeston Depot and serving on the Sikeston Library Board.
Accepting the honor of 2004 law Enforcement officer of the year from Capt. Brenda Schiwitz was Sgt. David M. Markham, a 27-year-veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The zone commander in Sikeston for 13 years, Markham supervises the enforcement activity in Mississippi, New Madrid and Scott counties with five other officers. Also a member of the Navy Reserves, Markham was called to active duty from Sept. 26, 2001, to June 8, 2002, serving in Bahrain.
The list of honors and services for Jeff Miles, the Jaycee of the Year, was long and impressive. In making the presentation, John Rowland explained the Sikeston native leads by example. A certified public accountant in Sikeston, Miles was praised for using his business skills to assist his clients, public entities and local charities.
"Throughout Jeff's entire life, he has accepted his role as leader. He believes he can make a difference in his community and he does," concluded Rowland.
The honor of Civic Group of the Year was presented to the Sikeston Jaycees with Chad Crow and Corey McNew accepting the award from Geniece Kinder.
The group was praised for their efforts to make "the Sikeston area a better place to live" with Kinder pointing out over the past five years the Jaycees have donated almost $200,000 to various community projects. The Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo draws some 40,000 people over four days to the community bringing additional revenue to local businesses, she added.
"The members of this organization give a lot of their time putting on the group's special events and supporting community projects. We are very fortunate to have such an organization in our community," said Kinder.
This year's Small Business of the Year award was presented to Susie Kennedy, owner of Susie's Bake Shop and Restaurant. Since opening in Sikeston in 1987 and moving to its current location in 1988 in downtown Sikeston, Gary Noisworthy described the business as helping to improve the appearance of the area. The business has continually grown, expanding its menu and services over the years to better serve customers' needs.
The 2004 Business of the Year award recipient was Cott Beverages USA with the award accepted by plant manager Louis Wright from Tom Ritchey.
The company, which started in Sikeston in 1994, employs 120 people and has earned corporate awards for their quality, line performance, customer service and safety. In 2000 they were named the Wal-Mart supplier of the year and in the fourth quarter of 2003 was again honored by Wal-Mart. "Our award winner has proven that the Sikeston area has the workforce to put out a good product at a competitive price," said Ritchey.
Described as a pillar in the Sikeston community who gives freely of his time and talents to improve the community today and for future generations, Scott Matthews was honored as the Citizen of the Year. His long list of community activities and accomplishments included service on the Board of Municipal Utilities and the Missouri Delta Medical Center's Board of Directors, volunteering with the Jaycees and as a youth baseball/soccer coach, work as a residential real estate developer as well as being instrumental in jobs and growth to the community through his efforts to bring Lowe's to Sikeston.
"Scott's enthusiasm, his can-do attitude and burning commitment to improving our community, the city of Sikeston, goes unmatched," said McPheeters, who presented the award. "His accomplishments and desire to improve the community of Sikeston makes each of us strive to become better citizens."