Columbia chamber honors four with awards at annual dinner

Members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce gathered Tuesday for their Annual Membership Dinner and Awards Banquet, taking time not only to reflect on the Chamber’s accomplishments but also to commend four individuals who have been involved in the community.

“These individuals are perfect examples of what our business community consists of,” Chamber President Matt McCormick said. “They are role models who don’t just challenge themselves to be better each day but inspire others to perform at their best. They are one of many reasons why our business community is thriving.”

Steven Smith was recognized as the Outstanding Citizen of the Year for his work as president and CEO of Job Point, a nonprofit that assists clients by providing them with technical and vocational training, along with fostering talents such as communication and interpersonal skills.

Job Point’s YouthBuild program offers income-eligible youth, especially those living within Columbia’s inner city without a high school diploma, with adult education and literacy classes, high-school equivalency test preparation and construction training.

The organization’s reentry services offer employment readiness workshops and referrals to other human services agencies.

Job Point staff also serve as a conduit between their students and potential employers by linking them with prospective hiring managers and potential job opportunities — and they serve those who often face substantial obstacles in finding work.

“There are a lot of people from drug court, jail or prison,” Smith said of Job Point’s clients. “There are a lot of people who have dependency issues. There are people who have disabilities.

If you can think of all the disadvantages that somebody might have, we serve people who have that.”

His children and spouse attended the event to demonstrate their support, and they offered  a glimpse into Smith’s life and passion for his work.

“He is always busy doing something,” said Smith’s daughter, Andrea. “When we were growing up, he was always off to another meeting, or off to another ribbon cutting or off to another something. But he was home with us and made us feel very important as well.”

Michele Batye, president of Dave Griggs’ Flooring America, received the Women’s Network Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman award.

“This honor means the world to me,” Batye said.

Keegan Thompson, intern architect at Simon Oswald Architecture, took home the Emerging Professional of the Year award.

“Without the support, certainly of all the businesses, emerging professionals would not be able to carry out the mission of service,” Thompson said.

Robert Aulgur, a retired municipal judge, was named George & Nadine Trial Ambassador of the Year.

“I thank each and every one of you for helping me along the way,” Aulgur said.

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