MARION, S.C. – The Greater Marion Chamber of Commerce celebrated the year with more than 140 people at its annual meeting and auction at Woodhaven Tuesday night.

Donny Gerald was named 2019 Small Business of the Year. The award is given to successful businesses highly respected in the business community and providing a high level customer service.

Gerald is an active member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce that has expanded his business ventures over the years.

Gerald has operated Donny Gerald Auto Sales for nearly 25 years in Marion and opened a new location in Mullins in 2016. He then opened one of the premier venues in the area in 2007 with Hidden Acres and recently launched The Loft at 109 in the downtown historic district. The Loft at 109 offers accommodations for those wanting to stay in Marion.

Gerald is the son of longtime former Marion Mayor the late Bobby Gerald. He was also the recipient of the Dr. Pat Worrell Award for outreach in the community and was helpful organizing a fundraiser to help disaster relief in Nichols following Hurricane Matthew. The effort raised more than 38,000 in donations.

Gerald said he missed his father but was happy to celebrate the occasion with his mother.

“I love Marion,” he said. “I like bringing good people into the community coming to visit Marion that wouldn’t normally come but they come to get married here so they do enjoy visiting.”

Gerald said the community has been good to him and his family.

Chamber President Betsy Atkinson said she was thankful for serving and enjoyed working with others before passing the gavel to Gordon McLellan.

“The Marion Chamber is an organization devoted to being an advocate for its membership,” McLellan said. “We are a group of business and professional people dedicated to work together toward greater economic and civic development.”

Scott Collins presented the Community Service Award to retired educator Patricia Atkinson. The Marion County Board of Education member for District 1 taught for more than 37 years and served on several boards and committees.

Atkinson said she moved to Marion 41 years ago and welcomed with open arms.

“You made me feel as if Marion was my birthplace and I’m always so grateful for that,” she said. “I get the feeling that we all have the same dedication that I feel in my heart. That we love to serve and we truly love the people of Marion County and there is no better place than to be out here.”

Pee Dee Federal Savings Bank will make a contribution in Atkinson’s name to a charity in recognition of the honor.

Greater Marion Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice-President Cindy B. Rogers said it was great annual meeting to start the year.

“We had very deserving recipients for awards this year,” Rogers said. “We are getting ready to start our Sundown Concert Series in April on the second Saturday of every month until September at the Main Street Commons.”

For more information on the Marion Chamber of Commerce call 843-3561.

Born in Atlantic City; raised in Mullins. Graduated from SC State University, home of the mighty Bulldogs. Editor of the Marion Star & Mullins Enterprise. Loves spending free time with his daughter. Huge sports fan.

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