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Chamber Winners Announced

Published Wednesday, March 6, 2019
by Jonna Turner

Award Winners: Photographer Jim Compton, Weavetec Inc Founder Harold Dean Pennington Sr, Gaffney High Student Tatum Goins, Philanthropist Yolanda Adams-Wray, Engineer Willie Camp Jr, Publisher Cody Sossamon, and The Big E

Chamber Announces 2019 Award Winners

Gaffney - The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the 2019 annual award winners for Business of the Year, Duke Energy’s Public Service, Spartanburg Community College’s Youth of the Year, Hall of Success, and Hall of Fame. These awards identify individuals, companies, and/or organizations that contribute to the momentum of the local economy and will be presented at the Chamber's annual awards dinner, with this year’s theme “Where We’ll Go,”  Thursday, March 28, 2019 at Broad River Electric Cooperative Auditorium in Gaffney.

“The quality and quantity of nominations are always impressive. It is encouraging to know throughout our County we have so many dedicated individuals and deserving businesses,” said Jonna Turner, Executive Director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce,  “We congratulate the 2019 Award winners for their outstanding contributions to the local business community. They exemplify the strength and momentum of this economy. Through a demonstration of commitment, service, business accomplishments, and longtime leadership and innovation, these people are making a powerful impact on our county!”

Retired United States Air Force Chief Master Sergeant and Best Selling Author Lefford Fate will be the keynote speaker for the annual awards banquet. Tickets are available for $50 for Chamber members and $65 for nonmembers. Contact the Chamber office at 864-489-5721 or by email

Congratulations to the organization and individuals named the 2019 Award recipients:

Spartanburg Community College’s Youth of the Year

Tatum Goins

Gaffney High senior Tatum Goins is an excellent student with a grade point average of 4.57. A member of the varsity track team and senior Leader in JROTC, Goins is also active in the Beta Club and Kitty Hawk Air Society. In addition, he earned his Eagle Scout Badge this past year. Carrying an intense college-oriented academic load, these achievements, along with his outstanding potential earned Goins selection to South Carolina Boys’ State.  As a four-year AFJROTC cadet, Goins has demonstrated superb leadership qualities, initiative, and motivation time after time as Flight Commander, Drill Team Commander, and Operations Squadron Commander.  Between his school work and extracurriculars, Goins still finds time to volunteer with his church and the community.

Business of the Year

The Big E Gaffney

From a struggling bowling alley and movie concept to a complete entertainment and events center, father son duo Rick and Kyle Hackel made their mark in Cherokee County in October 2013 with The Big E. They invested $4 million into a series of dramatic renovations and additions to the facility, making it a complete family friendly environment. Today, Kyle, and his wife, Jessica own and operate The Big E, now, having served over one million customers. The Big E continues to be successful here in Cherokee County and serves as a staple of this community.  

Hackel also serves on the KNOW(2) board as well as the Boys and Girls Club Board in Gaffney.

Duke Energy Citizenship and Public Service

Mrs. Yolanda Adams Wray

Yolanda Adams-Wray has followed a philosophy of community responsibility by devoting her time to many years of volunteer work since retiring from the Navy in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer. She tutors children in math, volunteers as a basketball coach, and helps with senior citizens. Her passion, though, is children, seeing children involved in something and not “spending time on the streets”. Adams-Wray, founded Sisters and Brothers Committed to the Community in 2009, and transitioned it into a nonprofit to what we know today as the Academic Technology and Wellness Academy (ATWA). ATWA is an afterschool and summer camp program committed to providing impactful programs for children and teens in Cherokee County. She assists students in homework and tutoring, while also providing programs such as dance, robotics, basketball and choir. The nonprofit organization also hosts monthly events to give back to senior citizens and veterans in the community.

In addition to ATWA, Adams-Wray has served on the Gaffney Little Theatre Board of Directors and currently serves on the TEAM CFA Board. She’s also a professor of Mathematics with Spartanburg Community College.

Her dedication to education, philanthropy, and community service in Cherokee County continues to make a lasting impact in the lives of Cherokee County residents.

Hall of Success (2)

NEW: A meeting of community, education, and government leaders concerned about the perception of local education has led to the creation of the “Cherokee County Hall of Success.” The purpose of this endeavor is twofold: 1) to show that a quality education is attainable in Cherokee County; and 2) to inspire current Blacksburg and Gaffney students. These award recipients graduated in a year ending with a nine and were chosen by students from each high school.

Mr. Cody Sossamon and Mr. Willie Camp Jr.

Mr. Cody Sossamon

Cody Sossamon graduated from Gaffney High School in 1969 and from the University of South Carolina with an English Degree in 1973. A resident of Gaffney, he is currently the fourth generation Publisher of the Gaffney Ledger. Sossamon has been an asset to many community boards and committees which have advanced the growth of Cherokee County. He recognizes having an education from Gaffney High School has attributed to his success.

Mr. Willie Camp Jr.

A 1979 graduate of Blacksburg High School, Willie Camp Jr., attended South Carolina State University where he earned a BS degree in Computer Science.  In addition, he earned two masters degrees from the University of Maryland in Business Administration and Science Information Technology. Camp Jr. is currently a systems engineering manager at Engility Corporation where he leads a team of engineers and researchers in developing and modeling support for the Global Nuclear Defense Architecture. He states the wisdom imparted to him by his teachers, coaches, and administrative staff is part of who he is today.

Hall of Fame (2)

Mr. Harold Dean Pennington Sr. and the late Jim Compton

Mr. Harold Dean Pennington Sr.

Harold Pennington Sr, a Blacksburg native, has been in the textile industry since graduating from Clemson University in 1965. In 1987, he cofounded Weavetec Inc, a commission weaving operation out of Blacksburg. Today he operates three locations in Blacksburg and a fourth in Wytheville, Va.

In addition, Pennington Sr. cofounded Benchmark Investments in 2010, an industrial real estate company that owns numerous properties throughout Cherokee County. Through this company, he has sought and encouraged business growth in Cherokee County.

Pennington Sr. is an active member of the community having served on the board of directors for the First National Bank of the Carolinas in both Blacksburg and Gaffney, encouraged the opening of Blacksburg’s museum: The Other Side of the River Gallery, and is a faithfully dedicated member to first Baptist Church in Blacksburg.

Mr. Jim Compton

The former owner/operator of Smith Studios and former president of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce,  Jim Compton was instrumental to the growth of Cherokee County. He helped establish the Peach Festival of Gaffney in 1978 and was also instrumental in bringing The Timken Company to Gaffney. An Elk Club member, Compton gave his time and efforts to help make Cherokee County a better place. Compton passed away January of 2019 at the age of 86.

About the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce
The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is the area’s leading membership-driven business organization committed to promoting economic prosperity by leading economic development, driving improvements in public education, influencing public policy, and catalyzing and advocating for regional partnerships.. The Chamber works to ensure Gaffney and Blacksburg  will be economically prosperous  – and the most desirable place to live and work. The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization comprised of businesses, which represent all facets of the Cherokee County business community. For more information, please contact the Chamber at 864-489-5721 or by visiting