The 95th Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce Dinner offered attendees a night of dining and music as well as spotlighted a few shining stars in the community on Friday night.
Betty Ryberg was named Woman of the Year, and Lionel “Smitty” Smith was awarded Man of the Year.
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center received the honor of the Small Business of the Year, and Shaw AREVA MOX Services was announced as the Large Business of the Year.
The night was filled with smiles, laughs and even a few tears.
Ryberg, who was described as energetic, enthusiastic and someone with an infectious smile by the Chamber, was greeted by her grandchildren when she came up to receive her award, which made her eyes start to mist.
She excitedly hugged Chamber members who were presenting the award and thanked everyone profusely. The organizer of one of the area's biggest events, “Dancing with the Aiken Stars,” was overwhelmed by the award.
“One of the biggest supporters I had was Greg (her husband),” Ryberg said. “I'd ask him, 'Is this crazy? Is this idea crazy?” and he'd say, “If you love it, everyone else will love it.”
Lionel “Smitty” Smith
Smith, described as a modest man and a class act with a big heart, was quite humble when he received his award.
The man who opened Lionel Smith Ltd. was also greeted by his triplet granddaughters who all gave him a big hug.
He said he was absolutely surprised that he was named Man of the Year and jokingly said there wasn't much left to say following Ryberg's award presentation.
Too Much Sylvia, which performed throughout the night, played ZZ Top's “Sharp Dressed Man” in honor Smith for his years of offering fashionable men's clothing in his downtown store.
Large business of the year
Shaw AREVA MOX Services, which has been in this community for more than a decade and has approximately 2,300 employees, received the honor of Large Business of the Year for its generosity in the community through donating to various nonprofit organizations as well as having a significant impact on the local economy.
Small business of the year
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center was named Small Business of the Year because it has offered a variety of quality services to the Aiken community for more than 25 years. Known for its “Heels on Wheels” female-friendly car maintenance program, the business has had the ability to find ways to address the needs of its customers.
Arthur Buzz Rich, the 2012 Chair of the Chamber, was also given an award for his years of dedication and service to the organization.
Several Chamber representatives spoke before the awards were announced.
Stephen Wilson, 2013 Chamber chair, said many steps are being taken to address the future of Aiken.
One of those steps was to create a Blue Ribbon Panel that is looking at other communities to see if there are any themes in their success that are missing in Aiken. Those findings are scheduled to be released in August.
Rich praised the Chamber for such accomplishments as influencing amendments in the proposed Open Space Element that the City of Aiken has been working on and for the establishment of the Aiken Young Professionals group.
Rich said that there were two types of people in Aiken – those who were smart enough to move here on their own and those who are here by chance. He's one of those who moved to Aiken with his parents when he was 4 and said he was wise to stay.
He has been impressed by a community always trying to improve itself and encourage more people to get involved in any way they can.
Playing on Chamber President and CEO J. David Jameson's locally-famous quote, Rich said, “If you're smart enough to live in Aiken, you're smart enough.”
More about 2012 Chamber winners
2012 Small Business Award
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center
Wayne's Automotive and Towing Center provides a variety of automotive repairs and roadside assistance services. It's a business that's been growing for more than 25 years meaning more employees and services.
It is known as being a “Certified Female Friendly” automotive business in South Carolina.
The Chamber cited several reasons why the business has been so successful, including a well-trained and certified workforce and the recognition of the importance of a well-informed public as they work hard to educate people on how they can take steps to ensure longevity in their vehicles.
Wayne's also gives back to the community by being involved in the local events and programs through sponsorship.
2012 Large Business Award
Shaw AREVA MOX Services
Established in 1999, this business is a collaboration of Shaw and AREVA, which is designing and constructing the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS.
This $4.8 billion facility will assist the National Nuclear Security Administration's program to dispose surplus weapons-grade plutonium, according to Shaw's website. The facility is expected to be complete by 2016.
The company has sponsored and provided teams to raise more than $80,000 for the annual CSRA Heart Walk over the past six years. It also has raised more than $140,000 for Children's Place during Celebrity Waiter Night and collected more than 23,000 pounds of food for the Golden Harvest Food Bank over the past two years.
The company also pledged $100,000 to Aiken Technical Collect to build a new facility to train nuclear technicians.
2012 Woman of the Year
Organizer of one of the biggest events of the year, “Dancing with the Aiken Stars,” Betty Ryberg is well known in this community. The event has raised thousands of dollars for such organizations as the Aiken Symphony Guild, the Child Advocacy Center and Community Medical Clinic of Aiken County in the last three years since it was first held.
The show became such a hit and grew in attendance that it was moved from St. Angela's Hall to the USC Aiken Convocation Center in 2012.
The wife of former Sen. Greg Ryberg, she has been active in the community over the years serving the Aiken County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Council, the State Board of Disabilities and the State Youth Council, just to name a few.
Ryberg is known as a “master planner, organizer extraordinaire,” and an advocate of helping those in need.
2012 Man of the Year
Lionel Smith (Smitty)
Lionel “Smitty” Smith opened his downtown Aiken store, Lionel Smith Ltd., in 1976, selling fine men's clothing. It has become is a staple for Steeplechase attire.
A family man, he also has been involved in the community a variety of ways. He has served on the Council of Aging board, Aiken Community Hospital board, Aiken Chamber board, Sunrise Rotary as president, United Way Campaign, the Aiken 20/20 Vision for the Future Campaign, USCA Giving Campaign and more.
He's described as a businessman who is all about friendly customer service, caring and attracting residents from Augusta to downtown Aiken with his unique merchandise.