Mount Olive recognizes residents at banquet
By Renee Carey
Published in News on February 1, 2008 1:45 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- When Kenny Talton found out he would have to miss his mother's birthday to attend the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce and Mount Olive Jaycees awards banquet, he was a little sad.
But duty called, the mayor pro-tem said, and he told Arlene Talton he would make it up to her later.
He was surprised, but not shocked, when he did not hear from his siblings about his mother's birthday plans, but figured he would catch up later.
And he only hesitated a little when his wife, Carrie, told him with innocent eyes to relax Thursday night, that there was no surprise coming.
So when the award was announced for Distinguished Service by the Mount Olive Jaycees 2006 recipient Chris Currie, Talton was honored, surprised and humbled, he said.
"Most of you who know me know that I can get fairly emotional really quickly when something means something to me," Talton told the audience of more than 200 people, which included his mother. "And this award means a lot to me."
The award was just one of several passed out at Mount Olive College Thursday as part of the annual recognition ceremony, which also included a look back at a year that was filled with challenges, outgoing chamber of commerce chairman Stephanie Kornegay said.
But, she added, the hard work in 2007 not only helped strengthen the town, but also poised it for a bright future -- a manifestation of the theme for the evening, "Celebrating Mount Olive's Past, Present and Future."
* Outstanding Young Public Servant -- Jonathan Miller, a 37-year-old from Mount Olive, served in the United States Air Force for more than three years after graduating from Southern Wayne High School in 1989. After completing his service, he came back home and began working for C.B. Price Construction before founding his own company, Miller Construction. A captain in the town's Fire Department, Miller joined the force in 1999 and is well known for putting his life on the line for the sake of his neighbors. Last year, he and other members of the force were awarded a Letter of Commendation from the Town Board for attempting to save the victims of a crash off N.C. 55. But Miller need not be in uniform to lend a helping hand, his neighbors insist. In fact, in 2004, he donated some of his company's time to help a local resident whose home had become dangerous to live in.
* Outstanding Young Farmer -- John Daniel Ivey, a 27-year-old from Mount Olive, has always wanted to be a farmer. So it came as no surprise to his friends and peers when his name was announced as this year's award winner. A row-cropper and livestock farmer, the honor was based, partly, on his ability to practice conservation of soil and water. Ivey is a member of several organizations and is currently the director of the Duplin County Agribusiness Council.
* Boss of the Year -- Debbie Jones, a 58-year-old from Calypso, is the customer service and consumer affairs manager for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. and makes it a point to inspire her employees to interact with customers, consumers and company staff for the betterment of the business. Friends say that "for a company that prides itself on its customer service, Debbie is the one who delivers." Her love for the company extends back to her days as a baby, teething on Mt. Olive Pickles while her mother, a 17-year employee, worked.
* Outstanding Young Educator -- Joyce Bayles, a 38-year-old from Mount Olive, has been teaching in Wayne County for more than a decade, leading social studies classes at Greenwood Middle School, Eastern Wayne High School and Princeton School. She said she believes that positive attitudes are contagious and that students with low self-esteem will not believe in themselves unless their teachers do.
* Outstanding Senior Citizen -- Dr. Robert Shackelford, an 82-year-old Mount Olive resident, has spent a lifetime serving his country and fellow man. He came to Mount Olive in 1949 after graduating from the Bownman Gray School of Medicine and joined the United States Army. He served for two years and was involved in the Korean conflict, earning a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service. He is a charter member of the Mount Olive Jaycees and received the Distinguished Service Award from the group a half-century ago, and was also instrumental in the formation of the Mount Olive Family Medical Center. He has been a professor at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bowman Gray and East Carolina University and was named the North Carolina Academy Family Physician of the Year in 1993.
* Outstanding Teenager -- Andrew Moore, an 18-year-old Southern Wayne High School student from Mount Olive, has a 4.O GPA despite a course load that includes four Advanced Placement classes. He has been described by teachers and peers as a "well-rounded young man" with the "desire to learn." He has been a member of the Southern Wayne golf team throughout his high school career and was named both team captain and MVP. Andrew also interns with the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce.
She cited improvements to the town's Web site and chamber operations as well as a partnership with the town leadership that resulted in infrastructure development that paved the way for growth that is keeping the town on the move.
And "on the move" is what she wants to see as a continuing description of the town's future, Mrs. Kornegay added.
Making that happen will require continued efforts not only to attract new business, but to support those that are already there, she said.
She also challenged the town's next generation to consider becoming community leaders.
As Mrs. Kornegay accepted her past chairman's honors, she passed the baton on to the 2008 chairman, Ernie Taylor, who promised to continue to work with his board of directors and chamber staff to pursue even more opportunity for the town in the future.
Past achievement and hope for the future were the themes for the event, which included the chamber's recognition of Lillian B. Langley Award winners, Linda Outlaw and Preston Jones, who was honored posthumously for his contributions to Mount Olive.
The service theme continued as the Jaycees passed out their 2007 awards for Outstanding Teenager, Andy Moore; Outstanding Farmer, John Daniel Ivey; Outstanding Senior Citizen, Dr. Robert Shackelford; Outstanding Young Educator, Joy Blanton Bayles; Outstanding Public Servant, Jonathan Miller; and Outstanding Boss of the Year, Debbie Jones of Mount Olive Pickle Co.
For Moore, a 18-year-old Southern Wayne High School student, the award was an acknowledgment of the beginnings of a life of service -- and a chance to admire others who have already made their mark.
"It's an honor to win," he said. "I know a lot of other people who deserve it and just being in their company is a real honor. I didn't expect this."
For teacher honoree, Mrs. Bayles, being singled out for work she loves is just icing on the cake.
"I feel honored to be nominated, and touched," she said, choking back tears. "I knew I had been nominated, but am surprised to win. I love the kids and love to teach."
All those who were nominated and those who were honored have one thing in common, Talton said as he accepted his award -- a dedication to service.
"Service to humanity is the best work of life," he said. "I don't think there is anything that makes me happier than serving others in my community and abroad. It is truly addictive."
Talton thanked his family, especially his mother and his brother and sister, for helping him become the man he is -- and for being a part of his family's tradition of giving back.
He also acknowledged the father he lost at a very young age, but whose own legacy of service to community still inspires and guides him.
Talton challenged all those present to join him and the other award winners to be a part of Mount Olive's future.
"I encourage everyone here not to stand back," he said. "It is time to take action. Do something good for your community, your family and yourself."
-- Lifestyle Editor Becky Barclay contributed to this report.
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