The community awards announcements may have been virtual again this year, but the Chamber of Commerce and other award selection committees certainly recognized the most deserving people. This year’s line up of our county’s finest includes some of the most dedicated, selfless and compassionate citizens I know.

There really is no place like home when you can boast of such fine folks. I’m glad they’re my friends and neighbors.

Citizen of the Year Brenda Sutton and I chatted at a recent Rotary Club meeting where she gave a presentation on the Food Pantry’s unprecedented growth during the pandemic. Many would have been overwhelmed by the growing demand and the logistics of planning such a large scale food distribution operation as Farmers to Families.

But, not Brenda.

She was tired  — I could see it in her eyes  — but her excitement and passion for the ministry she now oversees fueled her to work harder and dream bigger. When she should have been putting her feet up, Brenda was instead searching for a larger building with more storage capacity to accommodate the Food Pantry’s growth.

Sutton wasn’t the only hard worker honored last week. In fact, hard work seemed to be the theme for this year’s honorees.

The Cochran family and Farmers & Builders were recognized for their hard work serving the community last year during the height of the lock down. The longtime, family-owned hardware store navigated uncharted territory in trying to protect their employees, customers and meet the growing demand for their goods when folks began shopping locally more frequently during the pandemic. They remained the “helpful place” even while presented with perhaps the most challenging times of their business ownership.

Nurse Manager Candi Lee, Matt Carter and the Industrial Development Authority, Senior Center Director Lynn Platt and the Allen Brothers Hay Farm also worked harder and put in longer hours than ever before, but they found ways to adapt and meet our community’s needs through the pandemic. They adapted to the changing times quickly, without complaint and found creative ways to get their jobs done. They all deserve a vacation!

And, how about them Bears! It’s no secret they worked harder than ever last year. A pandemic couldn’t keep Head Coach Ryan Herring or his team down.

Herring figured out how to keep his team working out and conditioning even when they couldn’t gather at the weight room for gym time. His innovative coaching techniques not only kept the Bears on track to win a state championship, but put them ahead of many of their rivals in terms of strength. They were in tip-top shape when they took the field last season. Thank you, coach!

Wasn’t there something else? Who am I forgetting about?

That’s right! The Chamber announced a brand new award category last week  — The Unsung Hero Award.

Longtime Chamber of Commerce Director and faithful Pierce County advocate Angela Manders is well deserving of that recognition. Manders works mostly behind the scenes, but she’s a consistent supporter of our business community. Manders also put in long hours last year as she searched, and found, ways to help business owners innovate when they couldn’t operate as normal during the weeks of lock down. She fights hard for Pierce County.

I was raised to give honor where honor is due so join me in giving all of this year’s winners an atta-boy (or girl) next time you see them.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.