Annual Chamber of Commerce banquet highlights locals


The Monticello/Drew County Chamber of Commerce held it’s annual awards banquet Tuesday night at the Gibson Center on the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus.

Keith Wallis and Sandy Funderburg took home the Man and Woman of the Year awards, along with Ralph Wells receiving a lifetime achievement award.

Educators from the local schools were honored with Dr. Suzanna Guizar of UAM, Cindy Hilburn of Monticello Schools and Savanna Singleton of Drew Central Schools taking home this year’s Educator of the Year award.

Patrick’s Spee-D-Lube and Auto Wash won Small Business of the Year; Dale Newman Management Company won Large Business of the Year and Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Family Services won Non-Profit of the Year.

The 2023 Drew County Man of the Year is a true friend to all and a man with a servants heart for others. He is described as someone who has dedicated himself to providing fundraising events to benefit people facing some of life’s most difficult situations. Having a heart for service and a will to step up to serve, this individual has cooked and sold hundreds of BBQ plates to raise funds to help support families and individuals in Southeast Arkansas. 

His efforts have benefitted worthy organizations such as Drew Co. Relay for Life; Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home; Arkansas Baptist Home, Monticello Rotary Club; Drew Co. Log-A-Load, Monticello Junior Auxiliary; American Cancer Society; Special Olympics, Seark Miracle League and more. He also offers free meals to active military members and veterans at the Wallis BBQ and Blues Shack.

Wallis was born in Monticello, graduated from Drew Central High School and UAM with a degree in Ag Business. He is a member of Lacey Methodist Church and a dedicated advocate for area families and organizations in need. 

Sandy Funderburg is a life long resident of Drew County. Long time educator, Funderburg was the teacher who would ask for the children who needed extra help, in school or otherwise. When she retired, she took that same willingness to be caring to the community. 

Currently, she serves as a member of the local chapter of DAR, with her most recent goal being to place a wreath on the graves of all veterans in Oakland Cemetery. 

She is also a member of Master Gardeners. She is known to be all over town bringing beauty and color to the community. 

She is a former member of PEO, a group that actively works to bring scholarships to young women. She is an active member of First United Methodist Church where she holds many hats. 

In 2015, an opportunity arose for David and Marilyn Patrick to purchase the Spee-D-Lube from Billy Ralph Hunter. Both having stable jobs, they dismissed the idea on more than one occasion. After a few months of business analysis, much prayer and lots of legal work, in April of 2016, they were the new owners. David resigned his job and started to work full time at the Lube. With a manufacturing management and mechanical background, David quickly saw areas where the business had the opportunity to grow and provide additional services. Over the next three years with his leadership, the business would grow to service over 12,000 cars a year, providing a fast, friendly, reliable, family atmosphere for the people of Drew County and surrounding areas.

In 2018, Marilyn saw a need for an automated tunnel car wash in the area. It was not that she and David needed to take on anything new, but more so, they wanted the area citizens to have access to the same services that were available in large cities. Again, with prayer being their guide, they began to put a plan together by traveling to tunnel car washes and looking for what they thought was the best equipment, providing the best wash. They also knew they wanted employees to prep the cars before they entered the tunnel in order to provide the best possible wash. After 10 months of construction and countless hours of work, on April 19, 2019, their vision became reality. 

Today, Patrick’s Auto Wash provides over 30,000 washes a year, exceeding all expectations, priding itself in giving its customers the very best wash for the money and again maintaining a fast, friendly, reliable, family atmosphere.

Dale Newman Management Company purchased Save-a-Lot Foods in 2002 and became an Independent Licensee with the Save-a-Lot Corporation out of St. Louis, Mo.

Soon after purchasing, they began to add more items and hired a butcher that enabled them to cut fresh meat on a daily basis and now operate a full meat department with a small deli that was added six years ago.

Currently, Save-a-Lot has 35 employees; 12 full-time and 23 part-time of which seven are UAM college students. “Having the University of Arkansas at Monticello in our community is a real asset and enables them to hire young, energetic students that want to work and need the employment. Save-a-Lot supports local and school events through donations,” Newman said.

Dale said he was very fortunate to have a great staff led by his dedicated manager of 18 years, Doug Harris. They enjoy seeing and interacting with customers and have many out-of-town shoppers, some who drive up to 50 miles to shop at Save-a-Lot. They feel it is a blessing to have a local business in Monticello and Drew County, which is one of the best small-town communities anywhere.

Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Family Services is currently celebrating 100 years as a residential home for children and youth. Beginning as a day nursery in 1910, Monticello and Drew County have consistently played a major role at Vera Lloyd, with many residents coming from this community. As Vera Lloyd has grown and changed through the years, Monticello residents and businesses continue to support the campus and mission to heal, prepare and empower children, youth and families in need.

Many exciting activities and programs began, or continued, in 2022. Vera Lloyd hosted a Food Truck Friday in the early fall and helped encourage community members to spend time on the Vera Lloyd campus. An estimated 600 members of the community enjoyed food and fellowship on the grounds of Vera Lloyd. The Campus Work Program staff made up of residential youth helped direct traffic, guide parking, and work with vendors for set up, removal, and cleanup after the event.

In addition to our much-needed work with children, youth, and families in need, Vera Lloyd employs around 40 staff members from the Monticello area. We have a total direct economic impact on Monticello and Drew County of more than two million dollars annually. Vera Lloyd also utilizes more than 50 local vendors on a regular basis for supplies, materials, and services.

With COVID restrictions decreasing in 2022, Vera Lloyd’s Youth Council partnered with a local care facility and spent time with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, making gift bags and learning the optimal ways to support and encourage individuals with memory loss. Another tie to the larger community was forged in 2022 when the campus-based Laurence E. Schmidt Family Resource Center expanded its therapy offerings beyond residents to the entire community.

November 2022 saw the full-fledged return of Vera Lloyd’s annual Turkey Trot to campus, with UAM students volunteering, Campus Work Program participants assisting, Vera Lloyd staff members working, and community members from throughout Southeast Arkansas running or walking in the event. The kids loved dressing up in turkey hats and competed to see who could be the most helpful before, during, and after the event.

As the state care system changes, Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Family Services has adapted to meet the increasingly therapy-based needs of its young residents. In 2022, 93 youth came to campus in need of a safe, nurturing home, whether they needed therapeutic treatment or simply a place to call home when their family experienced unfavorable transitions. The Emergency Shelter reopened in the fall, and all those spaces were quickly filled with youth in need of a short-term place to live and regroup before moving to a more permanent home. Another 237 children and their foster or adoptive parents were impacted through the Resource Parent Training program. This program provides training and support for foster and adoptive families in southeast Arkansas.

Community members on Vera Lloyd’s board and advisory committees represent Monticello and Drew County, keeping Vera Lloyd connected to the place this nonprofit has called home for more than 100 years. We appreciate your consideration as 2022 nonprofit of the year, and thank Monticello and Drew County for welcoming our residents into this community.

Ralph and Francis Wells were present to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The couple will celebrate 65 years of marriage in July and upon accepting the award, Ralph told the crowd that was his secret to getting ahead in life.

Wells has been involved with countless projects to make Monticello a better place over the years. Most recently, he purchased the dilapidated lot on Main Street and had it converted to a parking lot for the downtown area that patrons can utilize at no charge.

Savanna Singleton received the Drew Central Educator of the Year award, presented by Superintendent Kim Barnes.

Singleton is described as the “go-to” person during any type of crisis. She currently serves as the elementary school counselor but has served middle and high school students during times of short staffing. She is married to Art Singleton, local attorney and the couple has one son.

Cindy Hilburn was the recipient of the Monticello School Educator of the Year award. 

Hilburn has a long, note worthy career in education. Superintendent Sandra Lanehart stated that Hilburn is known to work all hours of the day and night to provide the best level of instruction for her students.

She began as an elementary teacher and then a reading coach. She now serves as the MES principal and director of the ABC preschool program.

Dr. Suzanna Guizar is an exercise science instructor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. 

Chancellor Dr. Peggy Doss said Guizar serves not only the students on the UAM campus but serves on many faculty committees as well. She attends numerous athletic events at the college to support her students and always provides a warm environment to encourage and instruct. In 2020, Guizar was the recipient of UAM’s highest honor, the Hornaday Outstanding Faculty award.

Mayor Jason Akers closed the evening with encouraging words and challenged every one to utilize everyday to make Monticello a better place to live and work.