Ceremony honors community leaders

Published 11:02 am Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce laid out the red carpet and honored area celebrities and award recipients during the annual chamber award ceremony and holiday celebration Saturday.

A red carpet stretched the length of the Firemen’s Arena lobby to the main dining area. A photo booth sponsored by Letterpress Communications, with goofy costumes to boot, made for memorable photo taking.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

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An open bar and foods galore were provided by Jimmy McDilda of MCD Construction with the open bar and Johnny Ellington with Fuqua Catering.

Luck Stone was the lead sponsor, with Letterpress and approximately 40 other organizations also sponsoring the event.

Several businesses competed during the table decoration contest. One19 restaurant won first, with Helton House winning second and Hotel Weyanoke winning third.

Music and dancing until midnight was provided by the band En’Novation.

While also celebrating area businesses and award recipients, the Chamber also commemorated its 70th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1948.

“The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce is thriving and growing, and we look forward to seeing what the next 70 years brings to the table,” the Chamber cited in a statement. “We know there will always be cause for celebration as we continue to showcase Chamber businesses and work hard for our community.”

Awards received included Business of the Year, New Business of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Member of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award and Looking Our Best.

While the Citizen of the Year, Member of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards were publically announced earlier in December, Business of the Year, New Business of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year and Looking Our Best were surprises.


The Business of the Year award went to a florist shop that, in September, will see its 50th year of operation.

Rochette’s Florist at 100 S. Virginia St. received the award.

Sydney Allen said he and owner Rochette Allen, better known as Rochie, accepted the award.

Sydney read the statement Rochie, who is also his mother, gave during the award ceremony.

“I never thought, in September of 1969, when I was given the keys to the shop as owner, that I would be receiving this award,” Rochie said. “It’s such a great honor to be recognized by the chamber of commerce in this way.”

“We both received the award, but she’s the one who deserves the acknowledgment because she has been in business and has been working every day for nearly 50 years,” Sydney said.

Rochie is at the helm of her minority-owned business for nearly 50 years and still works every day at age 82. By the time the shop reaches its 50th year, Rochie will be 83, Sydney said.

A third-generation florist, Sydney has been involved with Rochette’s Florist all of his life. He swept the floors of the shop as a child, and now has worked as a manager since the 1990s.

“I’m very proud of her and looking forward to another 50 years of business,” Sydney said.

The Southside Family YMCA at 580 Commerce Road won the Nonprofit of the Year award.

“It wasn’t an award for us, it was an award for them,” Stephen Blewett with the Southside Family YMCA said, referencing the members of the community who supported the YMCA. “For believing in what we do, believing in our cause, believing in us, and the people in the community being able to do that truly made a difference.”

Blewett said 33 percent of the Southside Family YMCA’s membership is based on financial assistance. More than 50 percent of its before and after school care is based on financial assistance.

The YMCA offered free swim lessons to second-graders in Cumberland and Nottoway in 2018. Starting Jan. 15, the YMCA will give more than 165 second-grade students in Prince Edward County free swim lessons.

Blewett said that he would be teaching the class.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Blewett said.

“Community means everything to us,” Blewett said. “It’s finding people like those at the Chamber event that believe in us, and believe in our cause, believe in what we’re about, and we want to grow from that. We want to make it more. We want to do more, want to be more.”

One19 at 119 N. Main St., which opened in the spring, received the New Business of the Year award.

Owner Bill McKay, in a statement, thanked the Chamber and Farmville residents for nominating One19. He also thanked his “tastefully off-center” team for the hard work.

“I accept this award on behalf of my wife, Maureen Walls-McKay and my father, Charlie McKay. They believed in me at times when it was hard to believe in myself,” McKay said.

High Bridge Lofts, the renovated former tobacco plant that now houses apartments for Longwood students on West Third Street received the Looking Our Best award.

Michelle Donnelly project manager with Walk2Campus Properties and High Bridge Lofts, said she was surprised but excited given the competition.

“It means a lot to us, and we’re really thankful to the community for choosing us,” Donnelly said. “We just want to continue to do things that are good for the Farmville community and Longwood University.”


Toby Towler with Luck Stone earned the Member of the Year award. Towler, was credited for playing a lead role in putting on the New Year’s Eve Eve celebration, annual Chamber Golf Tour and the new Farmville Youth Leadership conference, which was held at Hampden-Sydney College in March.

“The Farmville Chamber is excellent to be part of, and a great benefit to our community,” Towler said in a statement.

When Kerby Moore was told that he was awarded Citizen of the Year from the Chamber, he said his first reaction was shock.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m very seldom at a loss for words,” Moore said.

While Moore himself was surprised, many who see his growing list of community activities may not be.

He has been involved with the annual Marine Corps celebrations held at Charley’s Waterfront Cafe, the Farmville Rotary Club, and the Toys for Tots drive hosted by the three Edward Jones Investments locations in town. People donated toys at collection sites at Merk’s Place, Longwood, Third Street Brewing Company and various fire departments and rescue squads.

Edward Jones Investments was also the national presenting sponsor for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event held at Longwood University in October. Several Edward Jones representatives from Farmville were there, including Moore.

Before that, Moore had been on the area Meals on Wheels service board and donned the red coat and white beard to play Santa Claus for Christmases at area events.

The volume of services Moore participates is overwhelming in addition to his career. Moore doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s very enjoyable to me,” Moore said. “I enjoy doing things and helping people, being of service. I like sitting at home and watching TV as much as the next person, but I’d rather be out and about, doing something and having fun while doing it, and working with other good people and feeling that I’m helping to make the community a little bit of a better place.”

Activities such as ringing the Salvation Army bell in front of Walmart comes with risks, such as being in the middle of nasty weather.

For Moore, the benefit of helping those in need outweigh those setbacks.

“It’s very uplifting,” Moore said. “It’s good for the heart, and it’s good for the soul.”

Moore said he holds to the belief that if someone is feeling badly, they can feel better by helping someone else.

“To me it’s paying it forward,” Moore said. “If I sponsor a kid’s basketball team or something, or a soccer team, it’s because somebody sponsored it for me when I was a kid. It’s my turn to help pay it forward.”

Moore said that no one is an island, that he has co-workers, family members and friends who hold down the fort during the times when he is involved with community programs.

Pat Payne, after receiving the Lifetime Achievement award, described the ceremony this way.

“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments when you feel everything kind of coming together, and you think ‘wow, it’s been worth it.”

The Chamber also presented a check for $500 to go toward the Heart of Virginia Free Clinic.

The Heart of Virginia Free Clinic, which started accepting patients in 2012, offers medicine, health services, dental care and eye care to those who don’t have health insurance, who Payne said often fall through the cracks of state or federal health assistance plans.

Payne said the clinic recently passed its $1 million milestone of the cost of medication it has distributed to patients. This medication, Payne said, was not bought by the clinic, but donated by pharmaceutical companies.

Payne said the clinic relies on donations from area organizations and from grants, as it does not receive federal or state funding. The Heart of Virginia Free Clinic is one of 57 free clinics in Virginia.

The Heart of Virginia Free Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in 11 counties, its reach spanning about 50 miles. Prince Edward County donates $6,000 annually, but Payne said it’s not only Prince Edward residents who visit or who are encouraged to visit or support the clinic.

The Farmville Chamber of Commerce donated $500 to the clinic.

Payne first encountered free clinics in college by volunteering in one. She was struck, realizing that Farmville needed a clinic like this.

The process to create a clinic of her own took 20 years, but Payne said everything came together at the right time.

She worked at a home health agency. She realized that while the nurses aides that she supervised spent their entire lives caring for others the low wages, lack of health insurance and long hours prevented the same nurse aides from being able to see a doctor themselves, to be cared for.

“That really bothered me,” Payne said. This realization compelled her to discuss the idea of a clinic with some friends. That Sunday, she listened to a sermon from a pastor who encouraged the parishioners to take action when they saw a problem and had a solution. Thus, the clinic formed.

Jordan Miles, member of the Heart of Virginia Clinic board of directors, said Payne was the ideal leader for the clinic.

“She fits the bill when it comes to a compassionate, humble, quiet leader who always does the right thing. She’s the founder of the clinic and has set the bar for volunteers, health care professionals and those who want to do good in the context of health care in free clinics in the commonwealth and in our communities. We’re so, so proud and humbled to have her in this community. She is highly loved and respected, and her impact will transcend generations of those who turned to her in their darkest hour regarding their health,” Miles said.

Payne said she hopes the award ultimately allows the word to spread about the clinic, and the desperate need for health care for those without health insurance, who cannot afford dental check ups, medication for chronic conditions, whose only option is to visit emergency rooms, where the underlying health issues that can be treated by doctors are not addressed.

Payne said the clinic has received grants from Centra and Susan G. Komen among others, but said it’s the community, individuals, churches and civic organizations, that pay the light bill and the rent. “Me? I’m just the one who’s lucky enough to be the bell ringer. I’m just a squeaky wheel,” Payne said.

“I’m blessed that the Chamber of Commerce gave me a lifetime achievement award,” Payne said. “That’s really a big thing to me. I’m 66, I’m getting old now, and it’s nice to have your community say ‘Pat, you’ve done a good job.’”