The Record-Herald announced its 2015 Citizen of the Year at the annual Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon held at the Mahan Building Wednesday afternoon.
The recipient of this annual award was Chiquita Nash, free store and volunteer coordinator for The Well at Sunnyside. The award was presented to Nash as a surprise during the luncheon.
“When I think of the attributes of a strong woman in our society, I think of a positive attitude, kindness, the ability to overcome obstacles, strong-mindedness, soft-hearted, filled with integrity, goal-oriented, driven and focused,” Ryan Carter, editor of the Record-Herald, said during the luncheon. “Our 2015 Citizen of the Year embodies all of these qualities.”
Nash grew up much of her childhood life with her mother, Beverly Qualls, and her four brothers, Michael, Steven, Anthony D’Wayne and Robbie. She was the middle child and only daughter in the house. She graduated from Washington High School in 1982 and after working at Calmar for 25 years, graduated with an associates degree in applied business from Southern State.
In 2009, The Well at Sunnyside opened and with it came the offer of help for many community residents. It was then that Nash offered her time as a volunteer at the front desk. After a few years, a paid position within the organization became open and Nash quickly jumped at the opportunity to grow her career within The Well.
Spearheading many campaigns and donating many of her own dollars, Nash has been successful in bringing many services to the community. The Loads of Love laundry program and Free Store now serve more people than ever and children during the summer can enjoy a free meal and a safe atmosphere with the Summer Cafe Lunch program. She has also helped in fixing The Well and expanding refrigeration to offset the climbing amount of families being assisted. Among other amazing services, such as the Backpack and School Supply program and free tax return filing, Nash has helped save many families time, hassle and money.
The actions of Nash speak to her amazing character, but it does not paint the whole picture. Beloved by many, this family woman (with her husband of nearly 21 years, Tony, and three children, MiCayla, Michael and MicKenna) is always at the front of someone’s mind when that person has even the slightest need.
Also during the luncheon, the Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Robin Beekman passed the gavel on to the new board chair, John Hedges, owner of Flagway in Fayette County. This process is a formal way of introducing a new board chair to the rest of the chamber members. The luncheon also included other honorees; the 2015 Women in Business honorees. Members of this prestigious group of women include:
Robin Beekman, owner and operator of Robin’s Nest Flowers and Gifts; Vanessa Blevins, owner of Vanessa L. Blevins CPA; Lyn Brackens, owner of Trends Downtown on Court; Jennifer Duncan, owner of Jenn Duncan Agency; Amy Harper, owner and operator of Photography by Amy; Shannon Jacobs, owner of Practical Wellness, Llc; Megan Hitt, owner of North Shore Primitives; Melaney McCabe, owner of Melaney McCabe Allstate Insurance Agency; Kim Oesterle, owner of Court House Collision Center Llc; Kelly Pettit, owner of Serene Spaces Massage and Day Spa; Shirley Pettit, owner of Pettit Enterprises, Inc.; Janet L. Sollars, owner of Sollars Farm; Vicki Staffan, owner of Roller Haven Fun Center; Gamma White, owner of Sunshine Laundry and Dry Cleaners; Jill West and Joan Stone, co-owners of Two Scoops of Sugar; and Ellie Zint, owner and operator of Integrated Marketing Communications.
“With the guest speaker, it just seemed like a good fit to highlight and honor the women who help to provide over 150 jobs and plenty of stimulation to the economy,” president of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Whitney Gentry, said. “Between them they have over 238 years of business experience. I think the whole event went very well with over 180 people in attendance. I really appreciate all of the board members and their work to put this event together. I would also like to thank our sponsors for continued support and Robin Beekman, who has provided us with great leadership for the chamber.”
The guest speaker was Donatos CEO Jane Grote Abell. Abell’s roots trace back to the first Donatos store on Thurman Avenue on Columbus’ south side, and she and her family remain committed to the area. The Grote family contributed $1.5 million to help a city plan to revive the South Parsons Corridor. Abell has been an advocate of the project since its inception in 2012, founded the Reeb Avenue Center — a social services center housing Boys and Girls Club, the South Side Learning and Development Center, and job training services.
Abell has received a number of awards and recognitions — most recently, in 2014, she was named to the YWCA Columbus Academy of Women of Achievement, one of only 237 women honored since 1986. Columbus CEO Magazine named Abell CEO of the Year, and Franchise Update Magazine listed her as one of the Top 24 Women in Franchising.