The usual awards handed out at a Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting were postponed, thanks to spikes in COVID-19 numbers that had Chamber leaders deciding it was safer to wait before getting together to announce winners of such honors as Business of the Year.
In the meantime, CEO Kathryn Johnson, 2021 Board of Directors Chairman Jon Seagraves and 2021 Chairwoman Paige Glazer met with membership online to talk about the year just past.
Among the 2020 highlights:
• Spent a lot of time online: Johnson began providing almost daily updates through email and online when the pandemic began in March.
• Grew despite the pandemic: Johnson said the Chamber grew its membership in 2020, from 412 members to 427.
• Changed the annual Grits and Government from an in-person breakfast at the Richmond Hill City Center to a twice-weekly online meetup with leaders at the local, state and federal level, among the lineup were U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1; state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, and state Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah. Officials from Georgia DOT and state economic development leaders also participated, Johnson said.
• The Chamber did cancel the group’s biggest fundraiser, the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival, in July, several months ahead of its November date.
“We were asked why we did it so early,” Johnson said. “Our thought process was we wanted to make sure our vendors are OK, because they start ordering for the festival months ahead of time. Canceling in July made sure they didn’t spend thousands of dollars and then we have to cancel on them.”
Johnson said the chamber is still hoping the 2021 GOSF will be a go. “We’ll keep you posted on that.”
Another casualty of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the Taste of Richmond Hill. Chamber leaders are hopeful they can bring that back.
• Provided $2,500 scholarships to Garrett Stigall who is at UGA, and Chae Yun Yoo at Georgia Tech. Both graduated in 2020 from Richmond Hill High School.
• Held an online sheriff candidate’s forum and a record breaking golf tournament at the Richmond Hill Golf Club. Sponsored by Great Oak Bank, it was a “record breaking golf tourney,” Johnson said, noting 26 teams signed up and 63 sponsors participated.
• Held the Chamber’s first clay shooting tournament at 17 South Rod & Gun Club, drawing 31 teams and 41 sponsors.
The success of the fundraisers in a difficult time “was a testament to member support for us and the businesses in our community,” Johnson said.
Seagraves, Coastal Division president at Great Oaks Bank, thanked the Chamber membership “for sticking with us though a very tough year,” and said he was proud of being a member for eight years and “I’m particularly proud of what we have accomplished for our membership this year in the face of adversity. We have a great team and a fantastic board of directors, all of whom have very diverse backgrounds and talents, and all are willing to roll up their sleeves at a moment’s notice to get the job done.”
He also thanked the RHBCCC staff, which in addition to Johnson includes Tura Sandt.
“It’s been my honor to serve as chairman and am confident I’m leaving the chamber in good hands, not only with our staff but with Paige,” Seagraves said. Glazer, publisher of Richmond Hill Reflections magazine, said she was impressed with the Richmond Hill community.
“Not everyone has what we have, and that is the best feeling, but we can’t do it without entrepreneurs and excited people who want to make this town better and do it all together,” she said. “So remember to shop local, keep our money here. Every tax dollar, let’s keep it and do our best to support what we have here at home.”
The Chamber also unveiled its new logo and held a raffle for a weapon donated by Daniel Defense. Shelly Barrett won.