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Teresa Odum named as Long County Citizen of the Year
Long County Probate Judge/Magistrate Judge Teresa Odum accepting award as 2023 Long County Citizen of the Year from Brandi Castaño, Long County Chamber Assistant Secretary.
Long County Probate Judge/Magistrate Judge Teresa Odum accepting award as 2023 Long County Citizen of the Year from Brandi Castaño, Long County Chamber Assistant Secretary.

Teresa Odum, Long County Probate Judge and Magistrate Judge, was named as the 2023 Long County Citizen of the Year; she was honored with the presentation of a plaque at the Tuesday, January 30, 2024, First Annual Long County Chamber of Commerce Gala.  Another elite honor was bestowed on Gold Star Plumbing of Ludowici as Business of the Year, with owners Codie and Lynette Futch accepting the award.

Teresa Odum was lauded for her community service and in her professionalism as the Probate Judge and Magistrate Judge. She was commended for her involvement in other areas of the community as well.

Codie and Lynette Futch not only operate a local business that serves several counties; they continuously give back to the community of Long County in various ways, such as their involvement in the Long County Chamber of Commerce, with Lynette serving as Corresponding Secretary and one of the organizers of the January 30 gala event. She also serves on the Long County Recreation Department Events Committee board.

The evening began with a welcome by Chrissy Davis, chairperson, and entertainment was provided by Robert and Neal Thornton, known as the Dakota Duo.

Amy Swindell, Work Based Learning and Junior Chamber Board Director, introduced the Junior Chamber members who had been selected to serve on the board this school year, with 14 selected of the 30 who had applied to be on the Junior Board for the Long County Chamber of Commerce.  These students are as follows:  Akirah Vaughan, Chantelle Tucker, Marissa Stamos, Trent Rutherford , Leila Rosas, Helli Patel, Jennifer Knight, Clarice Haggray, Paislee Edmonson, Nina Dunwoody, Mary Diggs, Audrey Buttler, and Jabreiah Brown. Five of these Junior Chamber members will receive a $500 scholarship at the end of the year, based on points earned in community service. Marissa Stamos was chosen as the STAR Student for 2024 and will receive $1,000.

Brandi Castaño, Chamber Assistant Secretary, introduced Jacob Gardner, the guest speaker, and whose business, Genesis Wrestling Club, served as the title sponsor of the gala.

Gardner,  who is an entrepreneur, gave inspiring comments to the crowd of almost 200 in attendance. While working at a hospital; operating a bounce house rental business, GraceLand Bounce; and operating a dumpster business, Gardner made an abrupt life change to invest in the wrestling club, which was motivated by his own daughter's interest.

"After accepting Christ and marrying my wife, this was the best decision I have ever made in my life," he said, adding that the venture has felt "so right" and has added joy to his family.

He commented that he had gone through the stages of survival first, then striving to be successful, to now reaching significance in what he does.

The stage of reaching "significance" is about others, about service to others, and this goes beyond success as it reaches into the depths of life about who you are at the end and not what you have accumulated materially. Gardner closed with the thoughts that he hoped to continue serve others and to be a shining light for children in his business and other endeavors.

The drawing for the 50/50 raffle, in a "Last Man Standing" format, was chaired by Brandi Castaño, with Long County Commissioner Gerald Blocker as the winner. Junior Chamber members sold the 52 tickets at the door for $20 each, and all were sold before the starting time of 6 p.m. for the gala.

Long County Commission Chairman Robert Parker conducted the live auction, cajoling the bidders in a friendly fashion;  a Carnival Cruise Essential Basket with a $1000 gift card brought the highest bid of $1700, with this item donated by Fowler Services.  Overall, with the dinner ticket sales, sponsorships, the 50/50 raffle, and the live auction, over $17,670 was raised for this scholarship event.

Special gratitude was extended to Altamaha Federal Credit Union, with an office in Ludowici, for their sponsorship of the catered dinner. CEO Cheryl Spires was in attendance as well as several others representing the credit union.

Thanks were also extended to First Baptist Ludowici for the use of their facilities to host the gala and to RTS Sublimationblanks (Tamara's Tidbits) as the auction sponsor.

Holden Osburn, Chamber Vice Chairman, closed with a farewell and gratitude to all those who attended and purchased tickets.