Community service and quality of life were key themes at Thursday’s annual Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce Gala.

Those recognized during the night’s activities have certainly gone the extra mile on behalf of their community.

Cullman County’s economic growth and quality of life have grown for many years because of tireless commitment by many individuals to making the area a great place to work and live. The future continues to look bright because of the energy these individuals are giving each day.

And joining many of the seasoned leaders are a new generation of professionals who are rolling up their sleeves to bring new ideas for the future of the area.

The prestigious Emma Marie Eddleman Citizenship Award was presented to Robin Cummings, who has served as CEO of Peoples Bank for 36 years, leading the bank in its growth from a handful of employees to 270 in seven counties.

But during his career, he also put energy into serving on boards and charitable organizations to bring assistance and hope for residents throughout Cullman County.

Sammie Danford, who served as director of United Way of Cullman County and headed the county economic development team, also has given many years of her career to serving the community. She was awarded the Lucille Galin Public Service Award.

Jacqueline Schendel was also named Ambassador of the Year for her consistent career of promoting the community.

Goat Island Brewing was named Small Business of the Year as it continues to expand its reach from Cullman, winning numerous awards for its popular beer brewing.

Cullman has long been defined by a strong will to succeed, to not be satisfied with the status quo where quality of life and business are concerned.

Recent years have also brought more organization and cooperation to efforts that occur through the Chamber of Commerce, economic development teams, education and the business community.

The transformation to a regional business and recreation destination has put Cullman on the map, making it a place with a lot to offer while maintaining many of its down-home roots. The future can always be uncertain where the economy is concerned, but the planning and determination that continues to emerge locally is securing a foundation of lasting value.

Newly installed Chamber of Commerce Chair T.J. Franey recognized the early leaders of the area for setting a standard that lives on today.

“Let us stay focused on what’s best for our community as a whole,” Franey said. “We have been blessed with unique gifts and talents, and may we each use them to work through the challenges that may come our way while focusing on progress and prosperity for the future.”

Those are good words to remember. Challenges have a way of bringing people together and building valuable bonds and success.

We congratulate those who give so much of their time to ensuring that opportunities continue throughout Cullman County.

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