Each year, the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce reserves a special night to recognize one local business and an area individual with special awards.
This year’s Business of the Year Award went to America Knits, a sewing factory located on Empire Expressway, while Charles Schwabe, longtime philanthropist to Swainsboro, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
America Knits and Schwabe accepted their awards at the 67th Annual Swainsboro-Emanuel County Commerce’s Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet this past Thursday night at the Swainsboro Golf & Country Club.
A social hour began at 6:30 p.m., and the meeting and awards presentation started at 7.
Zac Frye, past chair of the chamber, presented the Business of the Year Award to America Knits, delivering a brief history of the company’s journey to putting down roots in Swainsboro. Frye went on to herald America Knits for its commitment to quality and, most importantly, its significant contributions in providing aid related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steve Hawkins, president of the company, came forward and accepted the trophy humbly. He expressed on behalf of America Knits the business’s pleasure in providing jobs for local people, and he outlined the company’s long-term vision to expand into a stand-alone brand.
Bobby Reeves then came forward and introduced the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, describing this year’s recipient as a man with a proven track record of his selflessness. A dear friend to Schwabe, Reeves detailed the former mayor’s involvement in the community and his most noteworthy achievements over the years.
Upon revelation of the recipient’s name (saved by Reeves as the closing of his speech), Schwabe received a standing ovation from the crowd as he made his way to the forefront of the room to accept the award.
He provided brief comments, stressing how special a community Emanuel really is. He also urged everyone in the crowd to continue working for the good of the town and its people. He closed by thanking all he has worked with in various capacities over the years, specially nodding to the support of his family.
In other chamber banquet news:
• The 2022 STAR recipients were recognized. These included Landon Goodman and Kendall Hadden from Emanuel County Institute as well as Savannah Reynolds and Cindy Riner from Swainsboro High School. None of those individuals could attend due to the state Beta convention; thus, the naming of the countywide STAR representatives will occur at a later date.
• Special guests were acknowledged, including three individuals from Chick-fil-A Vidalia (details included on the front page), elected officials, and John and Connie Riddle, publishers of the Emanuel County Living magazine (details included on page 4).
Rounds from Millen catered the event. Southern Traditions Floral & Gifts handled the craftsmanship of all decor, and Mill Creek Foundation and Cadle Law Firm helped make the program possible.