By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Annual award recipients presented by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce were announced Tuesday.
Named as Small Business Person(s) of the Year are Marshall and Sandi Newell of Newell Furniture and The General Store, based in Woodlawn. Larry Smith was named Citizen of the Year, Matt Flanigan is the Young Professional of the Year and Bill Beck was named recipient of the President's Award.
"It used to be Endicott (Lyle) Interiors and I worked for him 21 years," said Marshall Newell. "He was like a second dad to me. I kind of learned the business from him, we hung around, and ended up buying it."
The Newells have owned the business since 1999 after working for the Endicotts and another family. Between them, the couple has over 50 years of experience in the furniture business.
"There are a lot of furniture stores so we try to make it as entertaining as possible," said Sandi Newell. "We do a lot of visual displays so women can get good ideas and enjoy coming. We've built onto the General Store four times because as sales people we listen and they mention things they would like to have. We try to make the store like a 'wow' experience. We've coined the phrase, 'a feel good store' because that's what everybody calls us."
The Newells are heavily involved in civic and social organizations. They pride themselves on running a business with integrity, respect and honesty, information states.
"Sandi and Marshall put their heart into their business. I have known them professionally for years and they always to quality work," stated James Richard, owner of Furniture Mattress Outlet.
Smith, a former construction tradesman, was instrumental in the renovation of Lifeboat Alliance Family Shelter. He is a CASA advocate, Senior Saint and has served on the Habitat for Humanity Board, as well as Jefferson County Comprehensive Services.
"I'm very surprised and very honored," said Smith. "Volunteers are needed for everything but we're blessed here in that when something does start there's a mile of people behind me that didn't get any recognition and very deserving of this."
Smith said volunteering his time at the homeless shelter was a learning experience.
"When this came along, I thought this would be something I could put my skills to work. The need for the project actually grew with the project. My involvement was simply to manage it. By the time the project was completed, I got educated and I could see the real need and the plight of homelessness. I hope it continues be important to the community and region," he added.
Flanigan is an attorney for Black, Hedin, Ballard, McDonald PC. His expertise is in oil and gas leases and the estate and corporate field.
"I'm very thankful for the award and happy to represent the very fine young professionals in our community," he said.
Flanigan has served on boards for CASA, United Way, Mt. Vernon Township High School, Jefferson County Bar Association, Baptist Children's Home, and Rend Lake College Foundation. He is a founding member of I Love Orphans, a non-profit organization that built and maintains and orphanage in Uganda.
Flanigan is the second recipient of the Young Professional of the Year, following the inaugural recipient Bria Ashby, who said of Flanigan's selection, "I am certain anyone who knows Matt, either professionally or personally, would agree he is most deserving of this award. I'm honored to call him a colleague and friend."
Beck was the owner, president and CEO of Beck Bus Transportation for 37 years. He has served on many board and councils, among them, Director and Chairman of the Carl L. Schweinfurth Foundation, Mt. Vernon City Schools District 80 Foundation, Mt. Vernon Township High School Board of Education, and Mt. Vernon Police and Fire Commission.
"I am very honored for the award, to be following Lawrence Beal and Ron Kruep. I enjoy giving back to the community. It's part of my upbringing," said Beck. "I have the time to do it. If I can help the community in some way, I really enjoy doing that."
"We chose to honor Bill for his longstanding support of the business community and the city of Mt. Vernon. He is actively involved with many local and state groups — putting in a tremendous amount of time making sure to represent each entity properly. He is also a major supporter of the arts and education in Mt. Vernon. He encompasses what we look for when choosing the winner of this award," stated Kay Zibby-Damron, vice president of the Past Presidents Council.
The awards will formally be presented at the annual Chamber dinner on Friday night, April 4 at the Holiday Inn.