The Gonzales Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture celebrated Texas Independence Day with a red, white and blue Lone Star-spangled awards banquet at the JB Wells Expo Center on Thursday, March 2.
Attendees enjoyed Texas swing music, Texas barbecue and a live and silent auction for Texas-themed items in addition to feting the Lifetime Achievement and Community Service Award winners.
During remarks, outgoing Chamber President Carolyn Morrow spoke about the challenges faced by the Chamber from when she first started on the board in 2020, when COVID-19 caused shutdowns and event cancellations.
“It's a nonprofit and your goal is to raise money to provide services and support. How do you do that in a year where you where you can't leave your house? Right?” Morrow asked. “It's pretty challenging but we got through it.
“We got through a lot of overcoming obstacles and then 2022 was a great year. Looking over the past 12 months, we just really want to thank you guys for everything that you've done to keep coming to events like this.”
She praised new Chamber executive director Melissa Henderson and new tourism coordinator Alise Mullins, whose position is funded through a partnership between the Chamber and the city of Gonzales, which Morrow called “a win for you guys in our community because it's strategically the right thing to do.”
“We've got a great staff, we've got great board members, new incoming board members with fresh ideas, and we're very, very excited, so we're going to continue to promote business and advocate for you as members for the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce,” Morrow said.
Morrow closed her remarks by speaking about Gonzales’ role as the starting point of the Texas Revolution.
“This is where we stood our ground and we said we are not going to give up easily. We said ‘Come and take it,’” Morrow said. “I believe that same spirit, that entrepreneurial spirit, that spirit of fortitude and passion, exists in all of you. It's in our hospitals. It's in our school districts. It's in every small business that's trying to succeed. And so I say that together, we will support you as your Chamber, but we together can be a fabulous community. Let's do it together. Let's come and take it!”
Incoming President Wayne Baker told the audience that “without ya’ll’s participation and being here, none of this is possible.” Baker said one goal this year is to continue working on improvements to the Chamber building at 304 Saint Louis after the organization moved there in 2022.
“I don't know if you've been by there, but it's a lot bigger than what we had before (in the old Gonzales County Jail),” Baker said. “I’d like to thank (former executive director) Daisy (Scheske Freeman) for all her hard work that she put into getting us in that building, as well as (former executive director) Brad (Cox).”
Like Morrow, Baker believes tourism “is a goal for the Chamber to benefit everybody in this room.”
“We want to get as many people to Gonzales as we can, and staying in our hotels, coming to our events. We look forward to working with Main Street and just kind of get everybody working together to make Gonzales as good a place to be as possible. And I think working together we can do that,” Baker said.
Retiring board members honored include Morrow, Cindy Maldonado, Eddie Escobar and Suzanne Zaitz, while new incoming directors Sherri Schellenberg, Trey Lester, Noel Reese, Lawren Kridler and Jeff Natho were recognized. Other board members include Doug Durham, Naomi Brown, Sherry Hill, Brie Irons, Rafe Jackson, Manny Patel, Donna Trammell, Lisa Goss and Robert Butler.