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Belhaven chamber honors O’Neal, Farm Boys Front Porch

The Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 60th anniversary and honored two area business owners and the Town of Belhaven at its annual awards banquet April 19.

About 80 people attended the event held at the John A. Wilkinson Community Center.

Neal O’Neal with O’Neal’s Drug Store received the Citizen of the Year award for his quick actions after Hurricane Irene to keep his business open, said Lloyd Ballance, chamber executive director.

“His roof blew off and the rain poured in, but Neal got his business open shortly after the hurricane so he could serve his customers and keep their prescriptions up to date,” Balance said, adding that O’Neal had received town-wide support for the award.

“He’s a very deserving person, a pillar in our community,” said chamber President Greg Satterthwaite.

Farm Boys Front Porch received the Small Business of the Year award for expanding its business at a time when many others were pulling back. “They took a leap of faith during the recession and opened another part of their business. They provided more jobs. It’s the only place in Beaufort County open on the weekends past midnight,” Satterthwaite said.

“It started as a hamburger joint, but they expanded their business and opened up in the evening to serve regular dinners outside” even in these trying times Ballance said.

The chamber usually honors a young person as its Junior Citizen of the Year, but it received no nominations this year. Instead, the chamber gave a special award to the Town of Belhaven, Ballance said.

“We gave the Town of Belhaven an award for being so supportive of the chamber. They stepped up in 2010 to give us financial assistance and still do today. That’s what keeps us afloat,” said Ballance.

The chamber’s finances have been pumped up as well because of a surge in membership from about 70 members to 142 members during the past few years, Balance said. He credits the increase to strong membership drive and a placement of a billboard promoting Belhaven on U.S. Highway 264 two years ago. The billboard is supported by donations from Belhaven residents, he said.

According to Balance and Satterthwaite, this year’s banquet was an especially successful event. “People told me it was one of the best banquets the chamber has put on,” said Satterthwaite. “People had a good time. They really enjoyed themselves. The board and the executive director really did a great job.”

“The food was excellent. The entertainment was excellent. People were dancing. Everyone had a good time,” said Ballance.

Dick Feyre entertained banquet-goers by singing Elvis Presley songs. Keyzer Catering catered the event.