GMC chairman receives award from Chamber

DULUTH - Wayne Sikes, who with his wife, Beth, dedicated 30 years of his life to educating children, was named Citizen of the Year on Friday by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce. The event marked the Chamber's 60th anniversary.

Sikes serves on the board of the Gwinnett Medical Center. In 1970, the Sikes opened a child care center in Snellville, which grew to a chain of 10 schools, 24 kindergartens and a summer camp.

Sikes earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. He served on the boards of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and First Bank of the South, as well as being formerly honored as Small Business Person of the Year and earning the Distinguished Service Award by the Georgia Hospital Association.

"I've lived a fortunate life," Sikes said. "I hope to have a heart program and the kind of hospital Gwinnett County deserves."

2008 chairman looks forward

In 2007, the Gwinnett Chamber was honored as one of the top three chambers of commerce in the nation by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. Thomas Martin, 2007 chairman, attributes that success to a strong staff, an energetic volunteer group and to Partnership Gwinnett, created in 2006.

"It shows all that you can achieve when the public and private sector work together," Martin said.

Bill McCargo, 2008 chairman, said the nation is starting to recognize the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce for its leadership role.

The Economic Development Department has expanded from two people to nine, making it the second largest in the state, he said. In the next 12 months, the chamber will focus on water, technology, health care issues, traffic and detailing education to fit the future work force needs.

To create opportunities to unite the energies of Gwinnett's diverse cultural and international sectors is one of the chamber's key issues, he said.

"One half of those I appointed are women," McCargo said.

Other awards given Friday

Ambassador of the Year - Laurie McClain, an accountant who served as Gwinnett Chamber Volunteer Ambassador for four years.

Public Service Awards:

· Miguel Candelaria, president and CEO M-A&O Construction, who was instrumental in the Chamber's Hispanic business recruitment programs.

· Sheriff Butch Conway for his dedication to animals and charities. He offered a $10,000 reward of his own money to anyone who turns in dog fighters in Gwinnett County. In 2007, Conway rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle from Alaska to Key West, Fla. to raise money for Special Olympics athletes.

· Karen Hill, for her work with charities that benefit children.

· Herman Pennamon Jr., Georgia Power's community relations manager.

· Clyde and Sandra Strickland, who recently gave $1 million to the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation to help expand cardiovascular services in the county.

· Richard Chandler, partner with Chandler, Britt, Jay and Beck law firm in Buford, who helped acquire land for the F. Wayne Hill Water Resource Center.

· Dr. William Russell, owner of Russell Landscape Group, who gave hours of his auctioneering skills to raise more than $10 million for charities and community programs.

Legacy Award - The late Bobby J. Sikes, car dealer and former mayor of Lawrenceville. His influence helped revitalize Lawrenceville and create the city's parks.

D. Scott Hudgens Humanitarian Award - Annandale of Suwanee, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1969 where developmentally disabled people can learn skills and grow to their highest potential.