Lewis delivers inspring message to Newton ChamberBy DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,
Two Newton residents who have made many contributions to improving the aesthetics of the city were honored at Thursday’s 65th annual Newton Chamber of Commerce Banquet at the Historic Train Depot.
The Chamber named developer Steve Dixon as the 2017 Man of the Year and named interior decorator Janet Weems as its Woman of the Year.
Weems has played a vital role in creating and decorating the park in downtown Newton in the space that used to be occupied by the old Gallaspy Building, which was torn down in 2015.
“They asked me to help with it and I did. We’re still not through with it, but it looks really pretty right now,” Weems said.
Weems is from Philadelphia originally and is the wife of former alderman and incoming mayor Murray Weems.
Dixon was born in Eupora originally but moved to California at age 11 before settling in Newton several years ago. Dixon has bought and restored several properties around Newton, including several on Main Street.
“He just loves the town and wants to make it look better,” Weems said about Dixon.
After a welcome by Chamber Director Leigh Anne Whittle and a prayer led by her husband, Doug, the crowd of more than 100 enjoyed a meal catered by Pretty Presentations Catering.
Whittle then reviewed the highlights of the Chamber and the city in the past year. She said that although this year’s Loose Caboose festival had to be rescheduled from March 25 to Easter weekend due to rain, the event still generated a profit or more than $17,000. The money will go towards projects for the city.
Among this year’s other highlights was a $5,000 grant from Mississippi Power which improved the facades of seven downtown businesses and opening of the Biewer Lumber Company Sawmill in December.
This year’s special guest Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis performed two songs and talked about the work she has done being an ambassador for Batson’s Children’s Hospital in Jackson and her own platform “Mentoring Matters.” Lewis said her platform was inspired by her experiences in grade school where she had a condition that resulted in her having an underdeveloped jawbone and cheekbone as a child which resulted in her being bullied and teased by her classmates. Lewis said that her former principal Pamela Fern gave her encouragement and helped her discover her leadership potential.
“I started on focusing on loving people and putting the focus back on them and that started a chain reaction. Because giving to someone and making them feel like they have value, that they’re special, that they’re important, can change their life. It truly changed mine.”
The event closed with the announcement of the silent auction winners and the grand door prize winner.