The annual Durant Area Chamber of Commerce banquet was held Friday evening to recognize local businesses and community leaders.
Guests enjoyed dinner and performances by the Durant High School Jazz Band and Show Choir before awards were given to those who stood out in the community during the past year.
Chamber Executive Director Janet Reed announced that this year, there would be awards special awards given that have not been given before and may not be given again.
These awards included the Chamber Engagement Award and Spirit Award. All awards were announced by outgoing chamber president Darrell Mendez and incoming president Jim Dunegan.
The Engagement Award went to Shelburne Heating and Air for Jeff Shelburne’s involvement in the networking activities set up by the chamber of commerce.
The Spirit Award was given to the Durant Round Up Club for the activities and energy the club brings to the area.
This year’s Volunteer of the Year Award went to Billy Marr. As Mendez announced this award, he explained Marr’s character to guests.
“Every time I see him, he is getting his hands dirty,” said Mendez.
Mendez said that Marr never shies away from hard work and when he sees something he can help with he helps.
The Small Business of the Year Award was given to Whataburger. Mendez said this restaurant joined the chamber and became involved even before completing renovations and moving into their location.
“It’s an honor to award the Small Business Award to a not-so-small company,” said Mendez. He said that Whataburger has been in business since 1950, but is new to Durant.
The winner of the Large Business of the Year Award went to a business that has been in the area for more than 10 years and recently had a change of name.
Alorica, who employs approximately 500 people in the area, won this title. The number of employees is only one reason Alorica won Large Business of the year.
The company’s involvement with projects and volunteer work also contributed to this selection.
The Durant Independent School District also received recognition at Friday’s banquet, receiving the Community Partnership Award Service Award.
The Durant ISD was given this honor for the dedication to the students who are the future of Durant.
“We are just blessed,” said Durant Superintendent Jason Simeroth.
Simeroth also thanked all those who recently helped to pass a school bond for the district. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees were Leon Sherrer, Rev. Ross Kirven and Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle.
Sherrer is the owner of Sherrer’s diner which has been a part of the community since its opening in 1948, and Sherrer serves on several committees. He is also the most senior member of the Durant City Council.
Known as the community pastor, Rev. Kirven was said to be no stranger to anybody in attendance.
Even after retirement Kirven continued to minster and he also gave the invocation at the beginning of Friday’s banquet.
Chief Pyle was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his efforts not only in the Durant area but in every area of America that the Choctaw Nation reaches.
“No one deserve this more than you do for leadership in this area,” said Dunegan.
Chief Pyle and the Choctaw Nation have also been recently recognized for local job creation and community progress.
Dunegan brought the evening to a close by thanking Mendez for the work he has done as Chamber president and for volunteering to head up chamber committees even after his presidency.