Benson Chamber honors the best

Banquet returns


The Benson Area Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Barn at Broadslab to honor the best of the best for 2018.

The chamber along with several civic groups handed out 16 different awards including Citizen of the Year to the late Elaine Jackson Todd and Business Family of the Year to Colon Davis owner of BN Printing.

Citizen of the Year

Town Manager Matt Zapp acted as host for the evening and told the audience Mrs. Todd was a true jewel of the community. He said despite the fact she wasn’t from Benson originally, she had truly made it her home.

“Some people are born in Benson and others choose Benson as their home,” Mr. Zapp said. “Our recipient was someone who chose Benson or maybe in some strange way, Benson chose her. And although she was not a Benson native, in every positive way she exemplified the best of any of us who call Benson home.”

Her daughter, Rebecca, accepted the award and called her a true supporter of people and of the arts.

She credited her along with the late Evelyn Aranda as being the influences who led her to a degree in fine arts.

“She supported the arts, she supported people being who they were,” Ms. Todd said. “She supported people pursuing their passions and pursuing their dreams, the same way Evelyn Aranda supported me, such a young little kid.”

Business Family
of the Year

The Business Family of the Year award was given to Mr. Davis as a tribute to his long career printing first newspapers and later adding other items to the mix when he took over ownership of the printing company. A business he shares with his sons Greg and Anthony.

“Ink in his blood is a good way to address the patriarch of the Davis family,” Mr. Zapp said. “Coming to Benson, owning a business and raising a family was all part of God’s wonderful plan and the family is thankful for his brother, James, putting Ink in Colon’s blood.”

Large Business
of the Year

First Citizens Bank was named Large Business of the Year for its dedication and service to the people and businesses in the community of which it has become a part.

“First Citizens Bank has served the people and businesses since opening its doors in Benson 89 years ago,” Mr. Zapp said. “The bank has always stayed true to its Eastern North Carolina heritage, holding fast to the down-to-earth values and culture first cultivated and nurtured in Johnston County, where it was founded in 1898.”

Small Business Person of the Year

The owner of JP’s Pastry, Joe Parker was honored s Small Business Person of The Year, not only for his dedication to making his business a vital part of the Benson economic scene, but for his desire to see people with allergies have a way to share food with others.

“After attending a seminar in Chicago focused on food allergies and wellness, he realized there was a huge unmet need by people with Celiac disease and food allergies,” Mr. Zapp said. “Determined to improve the options for people with allergies, his mission was born: to bake products that bring people together through good food that everyone can enjoy.”

Ambassador of the Year

Darla Hamm was honored as Ambassador of the Year not only for representation of the Chamber, also for the many volunteer activities she undertakes. She has been babysitting for many years and has aided in many Benson Little Theater productions and has played Mrs. Claus.

“She is not a Benson native,” Mr. Zapp said. “But she has fit in perfectly and has adopted Benson as her hometown.”

Board of
Directors Award

The Benson Chamber Board of Directors presents the award to individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their service to the chamber.

Jaymes Elliott was named the recipient for 2018.

“Our recipient appears to be known by most everyone in Benson,” Mr. Zapp said. “He has a kind personality, a giver to his fellow man and is a sharp dresser ... . The chamber staff is very thrilled to have his service and depend on him for his artistic ideas.”

Other Awards

Other awards presented included the Outstanding Woman of the Year, Outstanding Senior Citizen and Outstanding Youth, which was sponsored by the Benson Area Women’s Organization.

Jenelle Medlin McCain was named the Woman of the Year for her dedication to many causes and many service activities. Her contributions range from fundraising to making sure the less fortunate have clothes and food on the table through her participation in Christ Community Christmas Closet and the Benson Area Ministerial Association’s Food Pantry.

She is the daughter of Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin and he said she has not only served her community with distinction, but has been a blessing to her parents.

“She is very attentive to her mother and me,” he said. “She has been a real asset to us. In fact, I could not be mayor if it wasn’t for her living nearby us and helping us.”

Larry Wayne Massengill was named Outstanding Senior Citizen for his many community contributions.

In addition to the award he received Thursday night, he was also honored in 1992 as Citizen of the Year and in 2015 as grand marshal of the Mule Days Parade.

He has also served on the Benson and Johnston County Planning boards and South Johnston Advisory Board.

The reining Miss Benson Charli Rosenberg was named Outstanding Youth for her many charitable works, many of which have taken place since she was a young girl in grade school.

“Our Young Person of The Year has been involved in community service since a very young age,” Mr. Zapp said. “She began selling homemade greeting cards and sent the money to St. Jude, started a community service club at Four Oaks Elementary and give Princess Parties to young girls with chronic illnesses.”

The American Legion Banner Post 109 presented the Firefighter of the Year and the Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Robbie Price, who has served on two different stints on the Benson Fire Department earned the award for his overall dedication to the department and protecting the life and property of Benson residents.

The award is voted upon by his fellow firefighters and was the latest accolade he has received in his service to the community. His first stint with the department began in 1985, while his second started in 2014.

Benson Police Captain Greg Percy was honored for his 20 years of service to the department and for the many assets he brings each day to the department. His other experience includes serving as a law enforcement officer for the National Park Service and serving the Chapel Hill Police Department.

He has been an active face in the community and recently earned his Advanced Law Enforcement Certification from the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission.

The Benson Junior Women’s Club presented the Art Award to Janet Denning Wilson for her many contributions to not only the town through the chamber, but through her activities with the Benson Foundation for the Arts.

The Benson Lions Club presented Beverly Barbour Allen with the Volunteer of the Year Award for her service through such organizations as the Benson Area Ministerial Association’s Clothes Closet. She is a retired teacher and spent all 30 years at Clayton Elementary School.

The American Legion Auxiliary presented the Educator of the Year Award to Tracey Johnson for her dedication and passion to the social and emotional development of students.

Public Works Director Tim Robbins was named the Benson Employee of the Year by the South Johnston Optimist Club and Dennis Eason was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Benson Kiwanis Club.

The banquet also marked the final event under the leadership of Ben Cook as chamber board chairman. He will be replaced by Mary-Michael Denning Britt.

2018 Chamber
Award Winners:

  • Ambassador of the Year — Darla Hamm
  • Board of Directors Award — Jaymes Elliott
  • Business Family of the Year — Colon Davis Family / BN Printing
  • Large Business of the Year — First Citizens Bank / award accepted by Joshua Caro
  • Small Business of the Year — Joe Parker / JP’s Pastry
  • Citizen of the Year — Elaine Todd / award accepted by Rebekah Todd

    2018 Civic Organization Award Winners:

  • Outstanding Woman — Jeanelle McCain
  • Outstanding Senior Citizen — Larry Massengill
  • Young Person of the Year — Charli Rosenberg
  • Firefighter of the Year — Robbie Price
  • Law Enforcement Officer of the Year — Greg Percy
  • Arts Award — Janet Wilson
  • Volunteer of the Year — Beverly Allen
  • Educator of the Year — Tracey Johnson
  • Public Service Employee of the Year Award — Tim Robbins
  • Humanitarian Award — Dennis Eason


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