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Chamber awards given

Friday, April 7, 2006

(Photo)
Alan Keenan receives a standing ovation as he walks to the stage to accept his award as "Citizen of the Year."
SIKESTON - The Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce was "Going for the Gold" Thursday evening as it honored the people, the organizations and the businesses which make Southeast Missouri a winner.

Approximately 370 people attended the 56th Annual Awards Banquet to watch as the honors, all kept secret until the announcements, were presented.

Selected as the "Citizen of the Year" was Alan Keenan. Individual honors also went to Linda Lowes, who was named the "SACC Member of the Year;" Vernon Griffith, "Community Volunteer of the Year;" Joe Sebourn, "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year;" and Melissa Eakins, "Educator of the Year." The Jaycees picked Rob Clay as their "Distinguished Service Award" recipient while the "Lifetime Achievement Award" was presented to Arthur Bruce.

The YMCA was awarded honors as "Civic Group of the Year." The "Business of the Year" went to Steward Steel with the First State Bank and Trust selected as "Small Business of the Year."

In presenting the award to Keenan, the 2005 winner of the award Chester Kordahl, noted Keenan's service in youth sports programs, involvement with the Jaycees and the Rotary Club as well as time volunteered for several boards of directors including Missouri Delta Medical Center. Also Keenan served on the Sikeston City Council and as mayor and was involved with the development of the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center.

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Jeff Partridge shows the award he received on behalf of the YMCA of Southeast Missouri.
In addition to his community service, Keenan, and his father started Alan Wire Co., which employs more than 120 people, and continues to expand in the community.

"When you hear his name, you think service," said Steve McPheeters about this year's "Lifetime Achievement Award," recipient.

Arthur Bruce's efforts on behalf of Sikeston include serving as the town's chief of police when his duties ranged heading off a KKK riot to overseeing security for President Harry Truman and watching over the Rodeo entertainers. His love of sports was noted by McPheeters, who added Bruce served as a coach and assisted in the construction of ball fields and the Sikeston Sports Complex. Also he is a member and former officer of the American Legion.

Ken Williams presented the SACC "Member of the Year" award to Linda Lowes and praised her ability to multi-task which enabled her to be a dependable volunteer as well as managing her duties with the city of Sikeston.

"Our winner is able to help with just about anything from paperwork or hang decorations, basically willing to help with whatever needs to be done," Williams said.

Vernon Griffith, the "Volunteer of the Year Award" recipient, was praised by Mike McReynolds for providing "the community with a helping hand through volunteer work." Griffith's efforts have benefited a range of organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Lions Club and the First United Methodist Church along with the Veterans of Foreign War Post when his troops have distributed flags on the graves of U.S. military service veterans.

A teacher at the Sikeston Kindergarten for the past 28 years, Melissa Eakins, the "Educator of the Year," accepted her award from Beth Butcher. Eakins was cited for utilizing the latest techniques and technology as she educated young children. "Her love of teaching and professional demeanor have inspired her peers and students," Butcher said.

Joe Sebourn is "a truly great policeman who has served the citizens of Sikeston for the last three and half decades," said presenter Buddy Cooper about this year's "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year." Hired by Police Chief Arthur Bruce, Sebourn rose through the ranks to become a captain in the department and even more importantly, according to Cooper, became a mentor for officers, including many of the leaders in today's Department of Public Safety.

Highlighting a list of accomplishments which included serving as chairman of the Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo and selection as an "Outstanding Young Missourian," presenter Mike Conway said Rob Clay as the 2006 "Sikeston Distinguished Service Award" winner set an example for others in the organization for his efforts on behalf of his community and its many projects.

Accepting the "Business of the Year" honors was Chris Steward on behalf of Steward Steel.

Beginning as supplier to the construction industry in 1950, today Steward Steel manufactures customized products to meet the needs of shopping malls, manufacturing plants, warehouses and others. The company, begun by Fred Steward Sr. and now operated by his sons, Larry and Fred Steward Jr., has three divisions with 100 employees today.

"They remain dedicated to providing quality fabrication and have a commitment to customer service and satisfaction," said Dan Armour in announcing the award.

Mike Marshall, community bank president, was given the "Small Business Award" on behalf of First State Bank and Trust Co. Corey McNew, who presented the award, explained that since opening in Sikeston in 1995, the bank has constructed a permanent facility on Main Street and grown to include 31 employees. Pointing out the employees are active not only in the SACC but also the community, he added, "Today they proudly serve the needs of Sikeston's residents with a wide array of both commercial and consumer products as well as insurance services."

As the winner of the "Civic Group of the Year" honor, the YMCA of Southeast Missouri was praised by Blair Moran for its "programs and services that teach new skills, build self-esteem, aid individuals in reaching their full potential, provide safety nets for single-parent families, introduce people to a healthier lifestyle and enhance the quality of life in the community." He noted in 2005 some 4,000 people participated in programs offered by the local YMCA.

Jeff Partridge, executive director, accepted the award on behalf of the group.