2023 Wesson Chamber award winners
The Business of the Year is Milltown Mall Antiques and Flea Market. Lee and Melissa Meredith’s flea market adventures started with Rags to Riches thrift store on Factory Street in 2010. In December of 2012, they acquired Milltown Mall Antiques and Flea Market. With the help of Gene and Diane Anding, Linda Stegall and Kristie Lay, the business has grown to house more than 65 vendors. People from all over the country have stopped by to see the historic building and shop the fifteen thousand square foot treasure trove.
The Organization of the Year is Wesson Friends of the Library (FOL). Wesson FOL was chartered in 1989 to assist the public library with cultural and community programs, spur public and private financial support for enhanced public activities and stimulate awareness and volunteer services to enable its growth. From its inception, it has had wide community support and served as a statewide leader for other Friend’s groups throughout the state. With city and county officials, law enforcement authorities, churches, banks, businesses, and civic organizations such as the Chamber, Lions Club and Historical Society, the Wesson Friends has been instrumental in financing and directing such programs and services as Summer reading for children, National library week, Founders Day book sale and Christmas with Friends. Leading FOL in 2023 are President Marilyn Britt, Vice-President Mildred Twiner, Secretary Violet Corrales and Treasurer Steven Liverman.
The Citizen of the Year is Marilyn Britt. Britt is the assistant vice president and branch manager of the Wesson Branch of Trustmark National Bank and is involved with many organizations that contribute to the betterment of our Wesson. She has worked at Trustmark for 48 years, and is a member of the Mississippi Bankers Association and a recipient of the Trustmark Presidents’ Club. Britt is a charter and current member of the Wesson Chamber of Commerce and a member of its team city committee. She served it as Vice-President and President. Britt is also a charter member and current president of Wesson Friends of the library, and served as President and member of the Board of Trustees of the Copiah Jefferson Regional Library for which the Copiah County Board of Supervisors recognized her service. She serves on the yard of the month committee for the Wesson Garden Club, which decorates the downtown Wesson area for Christmas and fall and varied projects throughout the year, and recognizes Wesson residents to encourage them to beautify their homes through planting and landscaping. Britt is a member of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and is active in Sylvarena Baptist Church where she and serves as president of the WMU group and is a member of the constitution and law and Christian care committees. She studied at Co-Lin and considers Wesson her hometown. She has two sons -- Van Britt and Hillry Britt -- and five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Britt enjoys working out at the fitness center in Brookhaven and cooking for her family every Sunday after church.
The Wesson Attendance Center Educator of the Year is Stephanie Allen. Allen graduated from Enterprise Attendance Center and attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Delta State University. She earned her bachelor's degree in Social work from the University of South Mississippi and her master's in counseling from Mississippi College. She has pursued her career for 34 years, working as a community social worker before coming to Wesson Attendance Center as a school social worker and then moving into the position of the School's Counselor. Since joining WAC, she has resided in Wesson. Her parents are Billy and Freddie Britt, and she was married to the late Kirk Allen with whom she had three sons -- Taylor, Tate, and Tanner Allen -- and one daughter -- Mary Elizabeth Fisher, who is married to Erich Fisher. She has one grandson, Kipp Fisher. Allen says she has devoted her career to “doing work for the Lord” through the many roles of a school counselor to enrich and enlighten students towards their graduation and on their journey into adulthood. She is the biggest cheerleader at any WAC sporting event, and can be found in supporting roles on and off campus that go beyond her job description. WAC’s Dr. Barbie Roberson says: "As a Professional peer, she solves problems with me and often reads my mind as we work together in school improvement. As the counselor to this mama's children, she has been excellent in guiding and supporting them. And as a friend, she is one of a kind."
The Copiah-Lincoln Community College Educator of the Year is Rachelle Hackney. Hackney is a native of Brookhaven, MS. She started a nursing career at Jones County Community College, where she became a Licensed Practical Nurse in August 1994. She went on to earn a BSN from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1998 and an MSN in Nursing Education from William Carey University in 2013. Hackney has worked at Co-Lin in the Associate Degree Nursing program since 2013. She has more than 28 years of nursing experience in various environments, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health, college campus clinics, and educational settings. Additionally, she has worked in diabetes disease management and behavioral health with the Division of Medicaid and community health populations. She has two daughters -- Michaela , who is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant for Brookhaven Health and Wellness, and Jaci Hackney, a seventh grader who enjoys playing the flute and volleyball.
The Community Spirit Award winner is the Wesson Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD). WVFD started around 1948 with a truck from Co-Lin believed to have been a 1946 water truck converted into a firetruck. It had to be pushed to crank it up. Sometime later, the town bought a rated truck for fire protection and jumpsuits for its members. There was a fire chief before Kenneth Furr, but he was a volunteer when WVFD started and served for over 50 years in the role, followed by Randle Drane, Dustin Brewer and currently Ken Carraway since 2010. Other notable volunteer were Smokey Diamond (assistant chief), who would make anything the department needed when no money was available for purchasing needed it; Captain Earl Ellison, the administrative Officer who handled paperwork and other matters; and Jack Thomas, a firefighter always around to help. They have all passed, but the fruits of their hard work and dedication can still be seen in the stature of the current WVFD. During fire prevention week in October, WVFD discussed fire safety and fire prevention with more than 400 kids at local day cares, churches, pre-schools and K-5 at Wesson attendance center. Wesson Fire Department holds a Fire Academy for Kids, where young cadets (30 to 35 of them) learn firefighter skills and fire prevention. The training required to provide safe, efficient fire service to our community is on display when members of the department are riding around town or pumping water: 92 hours of classes and skill training for Certified Volunteer Firefighter I. Another 40 hours for Certified Volunteer Firefighter II. And yet another 40 hours for First Medical Responder. Current WVFD officers are Ken Carraway, Chief; Jake Cook, Assistant Chief; Chris Wade, Captain; Samuel Carraway, Lieutenant; and Sean Braley, Lieutenant
The Best Customer Service award winner is Trustmark National Bank. Founded in 1889, Trustmark is one of the South’s strongest and most respected financial institutions, comprised of more than 2,700 professionals serving customers in locations throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Trustmark is proud to be a community-focused, values-guided organization committed to service excellence and exceeding expectations. The company serves as a diversified financial services partner offering banking, wealth management and insurance solutions through its subsidiaries, Trustmark National Bank and FBBINSURANCE. Trustmark started serving the Wesson community in September 1984, after acquiring Merchants and Planters Bank. For nearly 40 years, the company has provided Wesson and surrounding areas with a comprehensive range of personal and business products and services, as well as investing funds, expertise and time in local community programs. Trustmark’s efforts earned the company two national recognitions for 2022; being selected as one of America’s Most Trusted Companies by Newsweek and among the Best-In-State Banks by Forbes for the third consecutive year.
The Innovative Business Award winner is Steel Outdoors. Dwayne and Pam McLemore started Steel Outdoors in 2007 in their backyard, and look on their success humbly as a blessing, saying “we are blessed to be here and are still learning and growing every day.” They put Christ first in their lives, and are known for their huge hearts and passionate dedication to the community. Explaining their success, the McLemores say “we had a shared passion to start our own business and joined our interests -- the great outdoors, wildlife management and metal fabrication to create a business in which the two of us would work together evenings when we got home from our full-time jobs.” Over the last 15 years, the business has expanded into industrial metal fabrication and buildings from an original line of deer feeders. They brought the business to Wesson two years ago from their backyard into an industrial manufacturing facility located inside the town. The Positive Social Media Presence Award winner is Wolf Hollow Golf Course. Wolf Hollow sits on what was a farm here at the college. In 1968, the college closed the farm and sold its farm equipment, cattle and hogs.
In 1969, the college board approved the development of a nine-hole golf course, responding to requests from interested faculty and patrons. The course opened with the assistance of Walt Angeloff and funds raised from district businesses, industry and individuals. Through the years, it was urged to expand to 18 holes, and the college board authorized Co-Lin’s administration to explore expansion in the early 1990s and move ahead with the project. Bids for adding nine holes and bonds were advertised in January of 1995, and a $943,696 contract was negotiated and awarded to Brigance Construction Company in March of 1995 for the expansion, with work beginning in June 1995 and completed in 1996. In 2010, a new clubhouse was constructed, which houses a fully stocked pro-shop (South Mississippi Golf Shop), golf simulator, and the famous Wolf Hollow Grill. Wolf Hollow draws golfers from Jackson down to Hammond, Louisiana, who play 20,000 rounds every year. They consider it a diamond in the rough. Wolf Hollow is a recognized brand in the community and offers a great play to work, eat, and play with a variety of events, activities and golf tournaments.
The Best New Business award winners is Copiah Medical Associates (CMA). The CMA Wesson clinic office opened May 1, 2022, offering diagnostic, preventive and wellness outpatient services. Nurse Practitioner Karen Sue Boone, and office staff are there to serve the healthcare needs of Wesson on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5p.m, and on Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. CMA also has locations in Crystal Springs and Hazlehurst.