Despite odds, gala goes off without a hitch

By Paige Nash

Despite the storm that came through Minden last Friday where lightning struck the Greater Minden Chamber office taking out their computer system causing them to lose their seating charts, speeches and other important documents, the 81st Greater Minden Chamber Gala appeared to carry on effortlessly.  

The gala took place Tuesday evening, March 28, at the Minden Civic Center. The Presenting Sponsor and 2022 Chamber Champion for this year’s gala was Home Federal Bank.  

HFB President Jim Barlow said, “This is a culmination of many hours of hard work, and it really shows. Being the Chamber Champion has meant a lot to us this last year. The gala is very important. This is a time where Minden can showcase its businesses, so it is very important to me and very important to Home Federal Bank and that is one reason why we wanted to be the presenting sponsor for this event tonight.” 

Past Chairman for the Greater Minden Chamber, Logan McConathy, said a few words before the evening’s award ceremony kicked off. “The one thing I have learned is that you are really only as good as the people that you surround yourself with,” he said. “I was very fortunate, especially during some turbulent times in 2022 that I was surrounded by not only a good executive board, but a good team. We overcame that turbulence. Obviously, we are very fortunate that we got Stephanie back, so we are very thankful to have her. As many of you know she was a great value to us in the past and most definitely has been since she came back.” 

Dynamic duo, Tracy Campbell and Jake Chapman, served as emcees for the night. 

The first award to be presented was for Small Business of the Year, which went to Meriwether Wealth and Planning.   

Next up was Business of the Year, which went to Ace Hardware. Even though Ace Hardware of Minden is a part of the world’s largest hardware retail chain stores, they are known for their continuous support, contributions and donations to the local community.  

Business Person of the Year was awarded to Dr. Naomi Coyle for her many years of dedicated involvement and service in the education field. Emcee Chapman said, “Dr. Coyle would say that investing in education is one of the most important things we can do not only for our children but for our community.”  

The Community Partner of the Year honor is awarded to a local, civic or non-profit organization that dedicates their time and efforts to benefiting the community. SEEDS Women’s Center and Geaux Fresh were nominated for this award, but it went to the Minden Junior Service League. JSL hosted the biggest event of the year last year- “Girl’s Night Out.” This event was a momentous success, bringing in thousands of dollars that will be awarded to graduating seniors in the area.  

Jared Mourad honored his father, Kip Mourad, for his 50 years of service to the Minden Fire Department. Mourad was met with a standing ovation as he collected his Hometown Hero Award.  

The Spirit of Hospitality Award was a new one this year and who else better to present the award other than the Executive Director of the Webster Parish Convention and Tourism Commission Serena Gray. Gray spoke on the many recent achievements of her colleague, Sara McDaniel, who received this award.  

Former City of Minden council member, Pam Bloxom, presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Philip McInnis. “Thank you to everyone who has done so much for me in Minden over the years,” said McInnis. “One thing I would just like to say is that I have tried to do my part here in Minden, not be the biggest star or biggest leader, I have just tried to do my part. I think this room is filled with people who are also just trying to do their part to help. I am proud to have done my part and I am proud of all of the other people in this room who are doing their part.” 

The Young Women’s Service Club Woman of the Year award was presented by Daughters of the American Revolution member, Cheryl Gotto, to Cindy Madden for her extensive contributions to Minden over the years.  

Wrapping up the award ceremony, the Minden Lions Club Man of the Year award was presented by Ty Pendergrass, who spoke of the multitude of leadership roles this year’s 2023 recipient has served in over his lifetime. This award went to former Minden Mayor Tommy Davis.

Both Man and Woman of the Year awards are chosen by committees led by community members.

Greater Minden Chamber President Stephanie Barnette was pleased with the outcome of the event and the turnout of so many community leaders and supporters.

“It was an amazing evening getting to celebrate some of our best businesses, organizations and leaders in our community,” said Barnette. “The Greater Minden area is blessed with so many great people who strive each day to make this community a great place to live, work and play. Our gala committee worked hard for months planning an evening that everyone could enjoy, and I think we achieved that. We could not have pulled this off without all of our amazing sponsors, especially our presenting sponsor – Home Federal Bank, and everyone who worked behind the scenes to make it a memorable evening. We are already brainstorming for next year.”

Dinner was catered and provided by Hugh Wood Catering and Louisiana Seafood, desserts were made by Geaux Fresh and beverages provided by Mike’s Hometown Spirits.