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Chamber awards luncheon is an emotional celebration

An event postponed in December was held on a smaller scale on Wednesday. The annual Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet became a luncheon at First Baptist Church in Orange.

Usually catering to 300 plus people, there were approximately 50 on hand to witness the passing of the gavel from Chairperson Maureen McAllister to incoming Chairman Chris Kovatch. McAllister stepped in during the year to finish out the term after Ed Barr with International Paper was transferred.

The theme for the upcoming year is Unity Through Diversity.

“One Orange Unity Through Diversity,” Kovatch said. “Use our diversity as strength instead of weakness.”

He also spoke on the success of the Orange Grove Project.

“We started the project with the hope of 100 oranges, and now we are nearing 200 sold,” Kovatch said. “We have delivered 199,000 pounds of oranges.”

Each concrete orange is just over 1000 pounds. Brad Childs of Childs Hardware had to create a sling to assist in making the delivers possible.

Childs was named for the Business Community Service Award for helping assist the community in hurricane recover and service.

“We were working on the 16th Street initiative when Chris called about the oranges,” Childs said. “I told him don’t worry, I got your back. 199,000 pounds later…”

Childs said he was surprised by the award.

The annual golf tournament, a fundraising event for the chamber was renamed the GOACC Annual Tim Schossow Memorial Golf Tournament.

He passed away last year unexpectedly.

“Tim was the third staff member, but without a paycheck,” McAllister said. “He was not just a regular board member. His life was dedicated to whatever Ida said to do and he loved it. To honor him we are renaming the golf tournament.”

Ida said he would have loved it.

“He would give me a hard time about it,” County Judge John Gothia and close friend of Tim’s said. “He would tell me how he had something named after him before me. He will sorely be missed.”

The announcement was received by a standing ovation from those attending the banquet.

Christy Khoury, Chamber Ambassador and Orange County Treasurer, was presented with the Lifetime Ambassador Award. Khoury is at all the chamber events.

CASA received the Non-Profit Community Service Award. Despite COVID, the organization recruited a high number of volunteers and was willing to adapt to continue helping the 139 children in the system. The organization even helped create Adoption Day Parades for the children who joined their forever families.

“I am excited about this award,” Executive Director Codie Vasquez said. “This award goes to the volunteers who make sure the children had a voice, checked in on and represented them in court.”

Executive Director of Orange County Disaster Rebuild Michelle Tubbleville was named Citizen of the Year for her service to the community. She was so surprised by the announcement that she shook her head no when McAllister said her name.

“I love what I do, my heart is helping people,” Tubbleville said. “It means so much to me for this award. It is an honor to receive.”

This year, the chamber presented two Lifetime Achievement Awards, Dan Mohon and Dean Granger. Both passed away last year leaving behind big shoes to fill.

“Dan loved Orange and serving,” Manon Mohon, his wife, said.

“In 1988, Dad received an award and it was then I realized Dad was a big cheese around here,” Marcus Mohon, Dan’s son, said. “I just thought of him as Dad. There are four things Dad loved. He loved Jesus, Mom, Texas Tech and Orange.”

Mohon was described as a positive force not just for his contributions to the theater but to Lions Club, Lamar State College Orange Foundation, Trinity Baptist Church, and Orange Savings Bank and even serving on two city councils.

Mohon was named honoree of the Lions Club Charity Carnival in 2019.

Mohon has been a Lion for 45 years.

He has also served on the Lamar State College Orange Foundation Board of Directors for 20 plus years. During that period, he has served as treasurer and director.

He served on two different city councils. He was mayor of Orange from 1988-1992. He was appointed as Alderman for the City of Pinehurst on July 13, 2010 to fill the vacancy created upon the resignation of Alderwoman Bessie Huckaby.

He was first appointed Mayor Pro Tem by his fellow council members on May 28, 2013.  He held that honor until May 27, 2014.

He was once again appointed Mayor Pro Tem on May 17, 2016, a position that he held until his appointment as Mayor on October 8, 2019 upon the retirement of former Mayor Joseph L. “Pete” Runnels.

He was elected as Mayor in 2020 and resigned shortly after swearing into office due to his health.

Dean Granger passed away shortly after COVID Crisis began.

Granger was co-owner of Granger Chevrolet and helped spearhead Shop Orange County initiative with the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.

The mission of the Shop Orange County Campaign is to educate and create awareness regarding the importance and economic benefits of shopping locally. It was launched in 2015.

Granger also helped bring the annual 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Orange County United Way.

He opted to open Granger Chevrolet with his brother, Al, in Orange County after living in the Dallas area for 20 years.

“Dean believed in Orange and in Shop Local,” Kim Granger, his wife, said. “Honor him by shopping local.”

Each ward winner was also presented with a Certificate of Recognition from Congressman Brian Babin’s Office. Lanie Brown presented the certificates in his name.