Theme of the 44th annual Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce Appreciation Banquet was "Everyday Heroes," but the recent start of construction of the Interstate 40 interchange with Arkansas Highway 89 was the biggest part of most the evening. Chamber members also honored the Citizens, Educator and Organization of the Year for 2012, awarded the annual Chamber – Future Business Leaders of America scholarship.
Promotions committee chairman Bill Ryker acted as Master of Ceremony, the Lonoke High School Army JROTC colorguard posted the flags as the National Anthem was sung.
Derek Walker gave the invocation.
The Chamber recognized Chris and Karen James as the 2012 Citizens of the Year; Alice Bridges as the 2012 Educator of the Year; and the Chamber Interchange Committee as the Organization of the year.
Keynote speaker Julie Mayberry spoke of people in her life who are her Everday heroes – her daughter, her father-in-law and others.
Lt. Col. Michael Donaghy, 19th Airlift Wing director of staff, was also a speaker.
Mayberry, a former broadcaster at KATV, is now a television spokesperson for a number of businesses. She is the founder of I CAN! Dance, a dance company for, but not limited to, children ages 4-17 with Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and autism.
Mayberry said the "I CAN!" is based on the Bible verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." The class has its beginnings in an agreement she made with daughter Katie, who is confined to a wheelchair due to Spina Bifida.
Thinking she could put her daughter off, Mayberry had told Katie that when she turned three years old, she could take dance lessons. "Be careful what you tell your kids," Mayberry warned. "They will remember."
Incoming president Leanna Rich dubbed her term as Everyday Heroes. Rich said many who know her, might associate more strongly with the Lonoke Lions Club, but it was because of the Lions Club that she became involved with the Chamber of Commerce.
She quickly learned that, "If you want to know what is going on in the community, you need to start attending those Chamber meetings."
"It did not take me long to realize that not only does the Chamber know about the community, it is part of the community," Rich said.
She pledged to continue the Chamber’s tradition of being a place of community service and development.
During the program, Ryker interjected with notes about landmark events in the effort to build a new I-40 interchange, leading up to the award of the construction contract in January to the Redstone Construction Group of Little Rock. Construction is estimated to be complete in late 2014, weather permitting.
In 1969, the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce was begun as part of the effort to bring Remington Arms to the area — 44 years later the partnership remains strong and growing, Ryker said.
Outgoing Chamber president Jo Liatsos spoke about her term, recalling that she had chosen the theme of "Highway 89 Bridge to the Future." "Our future is here," she said, referring to the start of construction of the new interchange.
"But this just one of the things the Chamber has been involved in over the past year," Liatsos said.