Chamber honors Natchez’s best

Published 12:36 am Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NATCHEZ — Natchez is on its way, and the Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure everyone knows it.

The chamber’s annual dinner Monday night focused on growth, development and the future of the area and the people who are taking it there.

Among those people are the Woman of the Year, the Natchezian of the Year and the employees at the Business of the Year — awards given out annually by the chamber.

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Lynn James, owner of Kelly’s Kids, was chosen as Woman of the Year by a chamber committee. The award is given to a woman who takes an active role in leading other women in the community.

“She continually strives for the highest level of professional accomplishment,” Rene Adams said.

Adams was the Woman of the Year last year and presented the award to James, who could not be present because she was in El Salvador on business.

James employs over 35 women, Adams said, and has seven department heads, five of which are women.

Kelly’s Kids has donated thousands of pieces of clothing to children in third world countries and is active in the local community, Adams said.

Employee Meg O’Beirne accepted the award for James, and read a speech James had written. James asked that the award be changed from “Woman of the Year” to “Women of the Year” this year, because she wanted to share it with all the women of Kelly’s Kids.

“This is not about being politically correct or feminist, it’s about being grateful,” O’Beirne read. “I happily share this award with all of the women of Kelly’s Kids.”

Walter Brown, the 2006 Natchezian of the Year presented this year’s award to Kay Ketchings, director of marketing and public relations at Natchez Regional Medical Center.

“She is always willing to help and be an indian rather than a chief,” Brown said. “Her employer stressed that she always goes beyond the call of duty.”

Through her work in the medical community Ketchings has promoted healthy living, but is also active in several civic groups in town. Through Junior Auxiliary, she started the 5K Run for Kids to raise money for needy children in the area.

She has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since 1987 and has been active in Leadership Natchez, the Natchez Trace Kiwanis Club and First Baptist Church, among other things.

Ketchings said she was honored to follow in the footsteps of someone like Brown.

“I love Natchez, it’s that simple,” she said. “I graduated from college, worked away for a year and was so homesick I came home.

“I’m blown away.”

And outgoing chamber board Chairman Pat Biglane presented the Business of the Year award to Callon Petroleum. The company has been a part of Natchez for 50 years, since two Callon brothers decided to make a living at home, Biglane said.

Now it has 86 employees and is one of only seven companies in Mississippi on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company has contributed time and money to countless community projects.

“Most of our work carries us traveling,” Fred Callon said as he accepted the award. “We always love coming home.”

Biglane also passed the gavel to the chamber’s new board chairman, Cliff Merritt.