Chamber recognizes four
Every day businesses or individuals take extraordinary actions that support their employees, customers, or fellow citizens. The Aiken Chamber takes great pride in recognizing four super stars annually. The 2016 recipients of the Aiken Chamber Small and Large Business of the Year and Man and Woman of the Year were presented at the Chamber’s 99th Annual Dinner held January 27. The following companies and individuals were honored at the event.
Aiken Pest Control, Inc. received the Aiken Chamber Small Business of the Year Award. Owned by Charles and Marie Heath, the company was established in 1967 in the back of the “Rapid Shop” on Wire Road. It then expanded to the Heath’s home in Couchton, and then to an office next to the home. In 1996 the company established its current location at 2739 Wagener Road. Three additions and a separate training facility have been added over the last 20 years.
The company services homes and businesses throughout the entire Central Savannah River Area and employs approximately 70 team members. Two of the Heath’s sons, Scott and Craig, joined the family owned business in the mid 90’s after graduating college. Interestingly, the first employee of the company, Ronnie Golding, the Heath’s nephew, was hired in 1968 and is still working part time today.
Aiken Pest Control is a QualityPro Approved company. The QualityPro designation is considered the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval of the pest control industry. Less than 2% of pest control companies have earned the title of QualityPro. QualityPro companies go above and beyond the industry standards.
The company has grown methodically and impressively since its modest beginning. This growth has enabled the family and their business to give back to the community where their dream started. Their support and involvement includes but it not limited time and/or financial support to: Aiken Board of Realtors, Aiken Home Builders Association, Aiken Chapter of the American Red Cross, Hitchcock Rehabilitation, Habitat for Humanity, Hitchcock Woods Foundation, Lions Club, Children’s Place, local school booster clubs, and the Chamber’s Aiken Young Professionals.
The Heath family has established an outstanding reputation for their business and some of their customers have been with them for over 40 years. The company was built on the premise of providing superior service to its customers in a manner that would earn their trust. Aiken Pest Control has been successfully fulfilling their mission for 50 years.
Chick-fil-a of Aiken was awarded the Chamber 2016 Large Business of the Year honor. While Chick-fil-a is a national brand, the Aiken location is operated and entrusted to Tom Johnson. Johnson works diligently to uphold the high moral integrity set forth by the Cathy family and required by all of its operators.
Johnson has been the local franchisee since the 1980’s. However, some days it is difficult to tell that Johnson is actually the boss. You will find him sweeping floors, taking orders or even carrying out the trash with a smile. His interaction with customers and with employees is an asset to the community and sets an example for others to follow. Most of the employees are young students forming future work habits. Johnson’s influence on these young people has an impact on our community.
In addition to providing a positive work experience for employees and a positive dining experience for guests, Chick-fil-a made a sizeable investment in the community by completing an extensive remodeling of the facility this past year. Few businesses could close for a month and reopen with many of the same employees and even more customers.
Since its beginning, Johnson and the company have quietly given generously to the community. “Spirit Nights” where a percentage of sales are donated to non-profit organizations, schools, churches, sports teams and other community organizations are held almost every week. Food donations are made to blood drives, nonprofit groups and other worthy causes.
Local businesses are often surprised when Chick-fil-a cookies or coupons are dropped off at their businesses to express appreciation for their support.
Chick-fil-a Aiken represents the Aiken community well. They have exceptionally-trained, friendly employees that make the fast food experience enjoyable.
Chick-fil-a Aiken’s nominator said, “I believe the public flocks to Chick-fil-a not just because of the food, but because of the polite way they are treated while there. You never leave feeling like you ate at a fast food restaurant. You leave feeling like you ate with friends.”
Peggy Ford is the 2016 Aiken Chamber Woman of the Year. Ford has been the passion and drive of Children’s Place, Inc. for 27 years. She serves as the organization’s executive director but more importantly as its heart.
Ford is a champion for children in the Aiken community and a uniting force among charitable organizations. Her determination, compassion and vision have transformed Children’s Place into a “happy place” where high risk becomes high hope and the lives of children and families are changed every day.
The organization has the lowest administration-to-program service expense ratio of any nonprofit, donation-based United Way Agency. Ford has successfully led the organization through the leanest of years and developed programs to make families stronger so they can build stronger children. Against all the odds that nonprofits face, she keeps Children’s Place afloat.
One of Ford’s nominators said, “Peggy is always looking to the future – she always has a next and no obstacle will get in the way of her changing the lives of one of Aiken’s children.”
Ford never claims to be the success of the organization and is quick to credit its team of employees, board leadership and volunteers with the praise. These same individuals maintain that they are simply following Ford’s lead and her commitment provides the needed fuel for carrying out the organization’s mission.
Although one might think Ford spends all her time at Children’s Place, she also believes in giving back to her community and the world. She has served as the president of the Aiken Rotary Club, is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and serves in other leadership positions within the organization. Ford embodies the Rotary motto “Service Above Self”. In addition to Rotary, Ford served as a founder of the Child Advocacy Center in Aiken which brings together agencies and fosters collaboration in one location to best serve abused children and facilitate their recovery. Ford also mentors and educates the community about the effects of childhood trauma and indicators of child abuse.
Ford is certainly improving the Aiken community by improving the lives of its children and all those she serves.
Robert S. “Skipper” Perry, Jr. received the 2016 Aiken Chamber Man of the Year Award. Perry is an Aiken native and a man of unquestionable leadership, accomplishment and service.
Perry served on Aiken City Council from 1971 until 1999 when he ran for and was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives serving the residents of South Carolina’s District 8. He retired from political service in 2007, but certainly did not retire from serving others.
Perry truly loves his hometown. His thumbprint is on many organizations that make Aiken truly special. His service is not singularly focused and spans across many areas.
Perry is a chartering member of the Aiken Sertoma Club and also the TriDevelopment Center of Aiken County. He is a passionate supporter of the numerous art organizations in the community, the Aiken Historical Foundation, Aiken County United Way, Boy of Scouts of America and many others.
One nominator said, “Skipper has made a deliberate decision to lead where so many others follow.”
Stories of Perry quietly serving others abound - from baking gingerbread men for neighborhood children to being a mentor to a new business owner. His service knows no limits.
Perry is the recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the Governor of South Carolina.
Perry’s professional history primarily takes place on Park Avenue where today you will find him greeting everyone from atop his Segway. He began working at his father’s Esso Gas and Service Station on Park Avenue as a young man. After a brief stint in Navy, he returned to Aiken and worked at George Funeral Home. While attending college, he worked at the liquor store on Park Avenue – a store he would one day own. After college he headed the marketing department at Farmers and Merchants Bank on the corner of Laurens and Park Avenue. The iconic rotating time and temperature sign that stood on the corner there was Perry’s brainchild.
Perry is one of Aiken’s number one ambassadors. He has never met a stranger and will go above and beyond for anyone. His kindness and selflessness are traits to be emulated.