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Hard work pays off: Chamber holds annual Outrageously Good Customer Service Awards

WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Outrageously Good Customer Service Awards and breakfast at the newly built Wilkes Community College Campus on Oct. 19.

Sponsored by SkyLine/SkyBest, the awards recognize individuals and businesses who have continued to provide outstanding customer service. Anyone who had witnessed their good-doings were to nominate the individuals and businesses via email to the Chamber.

Presenters and speakers included Executive Director of the Ashe Chamber Kitty Honeycutt, Public Relations Administrator at SkyLine Karen Powell, Member Services Committee chair Rita Schaefer, Cooperative Extension Director Travis Birdsell and Director of Human Resources at Wilkes Community College Becky Greer.

Greer said she was more than happy to open the doors of the new WCC building for the event.

“This the community room and I always like to stress that this is your building,” said Greer. “I look across and see all of the faces in here that made all of this possible.”

Birdsell opened with an introduction for the event, saying Ashe County is no stranger to customer and community service.

“That experience that can take you from being a casual consumer to a loyal brand ambassador is an experience that would impact individuals enough to take time out of their lives to fill out a nomination,” said Birdsell. “An exceptional customer experience isn’t so much about product or service, but what we offer and how we make them feel. Outrageously good customer service is also the reason we have seen a continuous rise in visitor spending over the past decade. As visitors and customers, the reason to why they keep coming back is always that we are so inviting and we make people feel at home.”

Honeycutt then stepped up to the podium to express her gratitude and joy towards the county as it has overcome the obstacles that the past year has presented. She said she was excited to have an in-person gathering after being virtual in the year of 2020.

She thanked WCC and long-time sponsor SkyLine/SkyBest.

Powell then presented what SkyLine is all about and how their customer service has allowed them to grow for 70 years. Over the years, SkyLine has been able to remove copper from a number of communities and then install fiber optic broadband instead.

“We continue to over-promise and over-deliver for the customers we care so much about,” Powell said.

This year, the Chamber began with recognizing drive-thru windows for overcoming the challenges presented in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate the service they provide our local community and our visitors,” said Honeycutt. “We want to recognize the efforts of our food providers so that everybody remembers how special you are and how you have risen to a huge challenge. They do such a tremendous job at feeding us and making us look good to all of our locals and visitors.”

The nomination for the drive-thrus included a tremendous thank you to the workers who pursued through the hard times. Since the pandemic began, more people have been finding themselves heading to the drive-thru. The employees have provided efficient and friendly service. In spite of the new protocols and staffing shortages, drive-thrus have continued to overcome these obstacles and give customers the service they deserve.

Drive thrus that were recognized included McDonald’s, Burger King, Smoky Mountain Barbecue, Village Inn Pizza, Bojangles, Hardee’s, Wendy’s and KFC/Taco Bell.

Each drive-thru received a sign to place in front of their business that read “Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Appreciates,” followed by the business’ name.

Next, individual winners were recognized, including Amber Moodie-Dyer of Amorem Hospice, Sandy Grubb of LifeStore Bank and Insurance, Julie Wyatt of Village Florist, Brad Scott of Ashe Appliance Service, Amanda Calloway of Ashe Memorial Hospital, Melissa Miller of Village Florist, Elizabeth Jordan of The Vintage Farmhouse General Store, April Colvard of The Ashe County Chamber and Visitor Center and Angela Brooks of The County of Ashe.

Moodie-Dyer’s nomination description provided insight of how she goes beyond the call of duty. She genuinely cares for her patients and their families while offering compassion in making difficult decisions. The nominator said she goes above and beyond of what is expected of her and will always offer a helping hand when it is needed.

Grubb’s nomination stated that she is always professionally courteous while trying to help and assist, even in undesirable situations. She is quick to respond and always friendly, maintaining the above and beyond complex of working in a bank. Grubb has been at LifeStore for a number of years, often finding praise from those she helps.

Wyatt has been with Village Florist for years, always providing the best service for those in need, giving them a spark of hope when in tough times. Her nomination letter described her as hardworking and always being on top of her game. She has continued to help those in need, sometimes staying up all night to finish her projects. Her gifts has been described as easing the pain of broken hearts. She breaks the solitude and loneliness that the pandemic has set upon the county. Wyatt gives colorful sparks of light for any occasion.

Scott was then recognized through a heartfelt nomination for his work at Ashe Appliance Service. He has been known to be on time, extremely pleasant to work with. He knows his business when it comes to repairing appliances. Anyone he works with has expressed their excitement in referring him to their peers. They will quickly learn that he values every customer, no matter how big or small their requests are.

Calloway was unable to attend the ceremony, but was recognized through a warming nomination. When her customers have questions, she captures details of any concern they may have. She does not diminish the importance of anyone or need. Calloway has recently been hired at Ashe Memorial Hospital, but she has shown the community that she has the temperament, listening skills and interest necessary for exemplary work in her role. CEO Brian Yates accepted her award on her behalf.

Miller, also with Village Florist, was described in her nomination letter as always managing to fill orders with kindness and compassion. She impresses her customers and is filled with thoughtfulness in all of her deliveries.

Jordan, who has been with the Vintage Farmhouse early on after opening, was described as always going out her way to provide for her colleagues and customers. She continues to wear a smile, no matter how hard times may get. She helps carry coffee and merchandise to help customers in their needs.

Colvard, who is a current employee at the Ashe Chamber of Commerce, was recognized for her outstanding customer service and thoughtfulness. She has been described as having a very special gift to make everyone who comes in or calls feel at home and welcome. She regularly treats everyone she encounters with warm consideration and caring compassion. She is the perfect example of what makes Ashe County s special. Honeycutt said, on behalf of the Chamber, that she is very proud to present this award to her colleague.

Last, but not least, was Brooks, who was also recognized in previous years. Her letter described her as being patiently helpful and always welcoming customers with warmth and consideration. She follows up on all of her requests and has been said to make government issues smooth and easy. Brooks makes a trip to make all of her tasks stress-free.

Next, the Chamber recognized departments within Ashe Memorial Hospital. Departments that received awards were the Department of Surgical Services, the Department of Nursing, the Department of Respiratory Therapy and the Emergency Department.

The letter of nomination stated that Ashe Memorial Hospital has been heroes for so many in the community’s time of need. They show compassion and kindness for each person under their care. When the community sees the work Ashe Memorial provides, they know that when they walk through the doors that they are blessed and thankful to be welcomed into their wonderful facility. This year has been a trying time and Ashe Memorial provided outstanding service for those in need.

Lastly, the business award went to Sweet & Savory, which has continued providing good eats throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Their service has always been impeccable. Every single staff member treats their customers like family, offering warm and personal service to anyone who enters. The food as been described as being wonderful and made with love. Customers are met with a positive outlook and encouraging words.

The ceremony ended with a final round of applause from the audience as they expressed their gratitude and pride to all of the winners. Bob Washburn then said a blessing over the take-out breakfast and each audience member was gifted with a goody bag from SkyLine/SkyBest.

Local hiker tackles Mountains to Sea Trail to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation

GLENDALE SPRINGS — Beginning shortly after Thanksgiving, a local hiker will take to North Carolina’s famed Mountains to Sea Trial. His goal — to help raise $247,500 for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation in honor of his late daughter.

Over the course of the last decade, Ashe County resident Jeff Simpson has raised around $22,000 hiking for the different organizations, which assisted his family throughout his daughter Rebecca’s battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.

This fall, Simpson will hit the trail once again in hopes of raising money and awareness for Make-A-Wish North Carolina, a nonprofit that helped fulfill one of Rebecca’s wishes before her passing in 2007 at age 17.

“Her wish was to go to New York City in the winter time and watch it snow, go to the 14 S Jefferson Ave. Center and see the live nativity scene, go to the American Girl store and she wanted to go see ‘Phantom of the Opera,’” Simpson said. “Make-A-Wish made an unbelievable trip happen. We got picked up by a limo at our house, driven to the airport, picked up by a limo at the airport in New York City, we got to stay in Times Square, it was an awesome trip. It was magical.”

A seasoned hiker, Simpson has also raised money on behalf of The Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, UNC Children’s Hospital, St. Baldrick’s Foundation and CureSearch while tramping along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Acknowledging that his goal for this year’s fundraising hike is a high one, Simpson pointed out that the amount of money he hopes to raise has a special meaning.

“My goal is pretty ambitious. My daughter, had she lived, would be 33 years old this year and the average wish cost $7,500,” Simpson said. “So, I multiplied 7,500 by 33 and got 247,500.”

Simpson will begin the first leg of his 1,175 mile journey along the Mountain to Sea Trail on Nov. 29, heading westward from the trail’s eastern terminus at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Simpson noted that he hopes to meet with with the families of Make-A-Wish children along the way, as well as spread awareness about the foundation with other people on the trail.

“This is not about me, this is about the kids that are sick in the hospital who are hoping to go on their wish next month, or in the next year,” Simpson said. “If you’ve ever been to the hospital and watched these kids and their families, it’s pretty amazing.”

Those wishing to contribute to Simpson’s cause can make a donation online at site.wish.org/goto/jeffsimpson Donations can also be made via check to: Make-A-Wish NC, 217 East Tremont Ave, Suite 400, Charlotte, NC 28203 (For Simpson Bucket List Hike.)

More information about Make-A-Wish Central and North Carolina can be found at secure2.wish.org/site/TR?fr_id=4001&pg=entry.

Third Day Market holds the first annual Pumpkin Princess Pageant

JEFFERSON — On Saturday, Oct. 9, Third Day Market in Jefferson hosted its first fundraising Pumpkin Princess Pageant for the community.

All contestants entered the competition through a $25 registration and were required to wear fall themed fashion, pumpkin themed clothing and anything related to pumpkins. They were encouraged to think outside of the box and express their creativity as they modeled across the stage. Title winners received a crown, sash and gift basket.

Categories included:

  • (ages 0-2) Tiny Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 3-5) Mini Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 6-8) Little Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 9-11) Junior Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 12-14) Teen Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 15-19) Miss Pumpkin Princess
  • (ages 20+) Pumpkin Queen

Contestants aged 3 to 19 answered interview questions on stage and contestants 20 and up were asked to give the audience and judges their favorite piece of advice.

The pageant raised a total of$4,178.19. All proceeds for the fundraiser were given to the Ashe Food Pantry, LLC.

Winners for the pageant are as follows:

  • Tiny Miss Pumpkin Princess — Lena Kay Roten
  • Mini Miss Pumpkin Princess — Chloe Burns
  • Little Miss Pumpkin Princess- Aria Howell
  • Junior Miss Pumpkin Princess — Sophie Burns
  • Miss Pumpkin Princess — Gracie Phipps
  • Pumpkin Queen — Jillian Miller
  • Best Dressed — Bailey Stone
  • People’s Choice — Keira Gardner

Manager Heather Abbott said she looks forward to future fundraisers and events.

“The pageant went extremely well for our first year,” said Abbott. “Thirty-two girls were a part of the pageant and there were bouncy houses and food trucks for people to enjoy as well. We are looking forward to having it next year and more years to come.”

Third Day Market is located at 599 NC-16, Jefferson, NC 28640. They also have an annex store in downtown West Jefferson located at 14 S Jefferson Ave.

Amanda Halsey receives Exceptional Children Teacher of Excellence Award

ASHE COUNTY — On Wednesday, Oct. 13 officials from Ashe County Public Schools surprised teacher Amanda Halsey of Crumpler with news that she had received the 2021 Exceptional Children Teacher of Excellence Award.

The criteria for the award is set by the North Carolina Department of Public Education’s Exceptional Children Division.

Halsey, an itinerant teacher, serves Ashe County children ages 3-5 in local child care centers and Pre-K programs, as well as kindergarten to 12th grade students who are learning from home.

“I feel very honor to have received it. I feel I just do the work that God called me to do,” said Halsey regarding the award. “I don’t feel like I necessarily do anything extra special, so I was just very honored and shocked to receive it.”

Though only serving in her itinerant position for the past two years, Halsey has been working in education for most of her adult life, having started in a childcare program right out of high school. Since that time, Halsey has gone on to attend school, as well as teach in a NC Pre-K room. She has served a total of 15 years in the education field.

In honor of her achievement, Halsey was presented with flowers by Ashe County Schools Human Resources Director Roy Putman and Exceptional Children Program Specialist Tonya Blevins.

Halsey will represent Ashe County at a state level during the 70th North Carolina Exceptional Children’s conference in Greensboro this November.