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Chamber banquet hosted Thursday

By By BRIAN BLACKLEY
Publisher
The 56th Annual Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet is Thursday night, Jan. 10, and tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 7, is the last day to make reservations for the event.
Featuring Dr. Charles Petty, a nationally recognized speaker who has entertained thousands of people with his message over the years, is the featured speaker for the event that begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Atmore Lions Community Center.
According to incoming Chamber of Commerce President Alan Bell, Petty is a speaker people don't want to miss.
"This is a wonderful speaker," said Bell, who has seen footage of Petty. "He's very funny, but you learn a lot in the process. You learn some important truths about the right way to live and the right way to be a good community person. I think that's an important message for us here in Atmore at this time."
Despite the national speaker and the hard work that has gone into the event, ticket sales are still slightly below normal.
"We are at 150 in total ticket sales, but we can sell 250," Bell said. "We want to get a good push in sales Monday."
According to Bell, part of the reason for slow sales is that the event is being held earlier than usual this year. In the past, the banquet has been held in late January and Bell said it hasn't hit people that it will be held this week.
"Most people are still thinking this is a later event," he said. "We need them to understand that the banquet is Thursday. We don't want people to call in on the 14th to make reservations only to realize that it's too late because the banquet was held on the 10th."
Petty will be the keynote speaker for the event, and some area residents who think he's a perfect fit for Atmore have heard his message.
According to Jim Justice at Greenlawn Pharmacy, Petty's observations and stories leave people with something to think about.
"Charles Petty offers a terrific message about life and how to live it in an entertaining and enjoyable format," Justice said. I think anyone who hears him speak will come away a better person for having done it."
Bob Jones with Atmore's United Bank agrees wholeheartedly.
"Charles Petty's message is meaningful and thought-provoking told through stories that are entertaining and humorous," Jones said. "It's an extremely motivational message told in a down-home style that makes good points that we all need to be reminded of. I can think of nobody better for our community to hear."
Petty's comments will be part of the event that will include the message of incoming Chamber President Bell, who says he plans to make getting various community-oriented groups together to work toward a common goal.
"That's what I want my year as president of the Chamber to be geared toward doing," Bell said. "This is an important part of what I plan to talk about Thursday night. I want to see us dedicated to working together as a community."
Bell also knows that the situation the community faces now with job losses announced at local industries makes his role that much more challenging, but it's something he's ready to face.
"With all the adversity we have, we have more opportunity to shine," Bell said. "We have a lot to do, but I think we have shown through our strong community support in the wake of things like the September 11 tragedy that we're up to the task."
The banquet will be set around a patriotic theme that Bell says symbolizes Americans working together.
"We have seen America come together with a renewed emphasis on their patriotism and I think this is important as we look back to the last year," Bell said. "We're planning to have a setting that reflects this theme."
Other important things about the event, Bell said, include the fact that this is the only time that the Chamber gets all of its membership together and this is where the Chamber presents the annual Citizen of the Year Award.
"This is the one time in the year when we seek to get all Chamber members to participate in something together," Bell said. "It's a time when a lot of people have the opportunity to see friends they haven't seen for a long time since last year at the same event. It's one of the projects the Chamber sponsors that gives us the change to give something back to our members."
The Citizen of the Year will also be presented, and Bell noted that this is an important highlight of the event.
"As far as I am concerned, this is the best thing a person get," Bell said. "The Citizen of the Year Award is a wonderful way to recognize one of our own who gave back to our community. It's the ultimate compliment you can give someone."
Tomorrow is the final day to reserve seats for the event and Chamber director Emilie Mims is encouraging people to move quickly because the last few seats are likely to go fast.
Tickets are $20 for Chamber members and $25 for non-members. Call 368-3305 to reserve tickets by the end of the day tomorrow.
Banquet