2022 Ambassador of the Year

RONDA STUBBS has served as a Chamber Ambassador for over 8 years.  During this time, she has always been more than willing to step up to the plate and help wherever needed.  She is respected by her fellow ambassadors, others, and seems to have never met a stranger. Most know Ronda by her welcoming voice, friendly smile, and willingness to be of service.  She is a role model to many. Her loyalty and sincerity are to be admired, as is her professionalism and compassion for others.

Ronda handles ambassador assignments with pleasure and devotion and always asks, “What else can I help you with.”  She always amazes you.  Her personality is infectious and draws you in. We feel very fortunate to have Ronda Stubbs on our team as an ambassador.  Without a doubt, I know that her fellow ambassadors feel the same.

Ronda is well thought of in Chatham County through her community service and role as the Director of Admissions & Marketing for Cambridge Hills Assisted Living and The Nook at Cambridge Hills.

Ronda lives in Bynum and is the very proud mother of one son, Ethan Stubbs.  If you don’t find Ronda in Chatham, you will most likely find her at her beach house in Harker’s Island.  Ronda enjoys time with family and friends, scrapbooking, cross-stitching, yard work, reading, and probing into family history.

2022 Distinguished Businessperson of the Year

AMANDA NEWTON is a true asset to Chatham & Lee County communities. She is innovative and motivated to making progress both personally and professionally.  She exemplifies strong leadership skills, is an exceptional leader, and all-around wonderful person.  She often promotes local small businesses through social media and by word of mouth.  Clients referred to her are always pleased! She goes above & beyond to help clients and other businesses. People think of her as a role model and respect her for her honesty and character.  She is positive, encouraging to others, reliable and professional. Many times, she puts the needs of others before herself.

Amanda has made significant contributions to communities by way of sponsorships and other methods.  She has been very active in local areas.  She shows enthusiasm in being involved and lights up the room with her contagious energy. Amanda  has volunteered to help with Meals on Wheels, Chatham Chamber of Commerce events, took lunch to crews working to help victims of Hurricane Ian, participated in the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Special Olympics event, and serves as a Volunteer Firefighter in Lee County. She has opened her family farm up to host several community events such as Bartenders BBQ and the Brews & Boos event for which all proceeds went to Lending Paws a Hand.  Amanda is the proud mother of her daughter, Hayden, and is married to Jacob Newton.

2022 Citizenship & Service Award

MARIE HOPPER is a Chatham County native who is deeply committed to supporting her community and giving a voice to the underserved.  She doesn’t just want to do good work; she wants to leave everything she touches in a better state than when she started.

Marie is truly invested in serving the people who need their voices heard most – children. She has long served as a parenting coordinator and Guardian ad Litem, volunteering to advocate for abused and neglected children in court. She spreads awareness of the value of this work by presenting on Parenting Coordination training. In addition, she is heavily involved in Chatham County Schools, giving countless hours to provide input on the district’s strategic plan.  She serves on the George Moses Horton Middle School PTSA’s Board of Directors. In each capacity, she not only lends her time to execute and do the work, but she also lends her working knowledge of how to best advocate for children, addressing and honoring issues of inclusion and diversity, in all of her work.  She demonstrates how to lead organizations in a sustainable way, educating and uplifting her fellow board members along the way.

Marie began her legal career in Chatham with Legal Aid of NC, helping hardworking farmers and protecting victims of domestic violence. In 2011, she deepened her commitment to her hometown both professionally and personally by founding her law practice, Hopper Cummings. Marie works closely with her neighbors to help them navigate estate planning, and matters of divorce and the impacts on children, processing family law matters, ensuring the protection of Chatham consumers, and helping people overcome debt through bankruptcy.  She handles all clients with great care, sensitivity, and compassion.  Marie’s peers honored her with a “Save the House” award in 2008 for her extensive work preserving clients’ homeownership interests.

Marie is a member of the North Carolina State Bar, 18th Judicial District Bar, Chatham County Bar Association and serves as the Board President for the Center for Cooperative Parenting.

2022 Young Professional of the Year

CONNOLLY WALKER is the epitome of a young professional. In business, she carries herself with an exceptional level of poise, maturity, and wisdom that veterans in her line of work strive to reach. She is knowledgeable in her business field and delivers on her obligations with speed and a smile.  Her line of work in itself should be stressful, but she handles it with grace. She piles on even more community and charitable engagement on top of it. She is an exemplary young professional and has gained the respect of industry colleagues, peers amongst her demographic, and anyone who is fortunate enough to encounter her.

Connolly is an amazing leader in the Rotary Club of Pittsboro, chairing multiple committees and currently serving as the president-elect. In August, she received the Big Impact Award for her unwavering passion for Rotary and ensuring that the club is represented not only in the Chatham community but also throughout Rotary’s District 7690.  She wears a multitude of hats for the Rotary Club, from booking weekly speakers to leading coordination of the Pittsboro Street Fair logistics to ensuring the club shows up in the best light possible, internally, and externally.

Connolly serves on the Membership & Marketing committee for the Chatham Chamber of Commerce.  She assists with coordination of Women Focused events and is an active Chamber Ambassador.  She is also very involved with The Chamber For a Better Chapel Hill – Carrboro, the Junior League, and other projects.  She is phenomenal Insurance agent who makes herself available to all her clients.

2022 Small Business of the Year

VAN2 AUTO SALES has continued to grow over the past 10 – 12 years, moving from one location to another and adding more services such as auto inspections, repairs, and service.  He went from working the business on his own to growing it to the point that he had to hire 3 family members, his wife, daughter, and son, making the business a “true family business.”  He draws customers from all over North Carolina and has sold automobiles to out-of-staters.  Customers who have done business with this Automotive Sales and Repair business not only rave about the business and the service they receive, but they also call the owner and his family their friends.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Dimas Benitez are hardworking individuals that started out working at the lowest paying jobs.  They met in Florida and worked in the orange and tomato fields and later moved to North Carolina to start a family.  They both worked as line workers at a Poultry Plant.  Ms. Benitez went on to work as a teller at a bank and Dimas was promoted to supervisor.  He later worked as a truck driver, having to stay away from his family for long periods of time.  After this, he worked for an auto dealership and realized he had a knack for selling vehicles. He convinced his wife that they needed to open their own automobile dealership.  From there, they scraped up money and saved until they were finally able to open Van 2 Auto Sales.  Someone once said they were like the symbol of progress and living the American dream.

Dimas Benitez, owner of Van 2 Auto Sales in Siler City, has an outstanding sales record.  The business is known for being trustworthy and reliable with both sales and service.  They truly care about their customers and will take the time to find a vehicle that will meet the needs of their customers. They are passionate about helping people through their business. Smiles always come with service. The statement on the Van 2 Auto sales website, “Reliable transportation from a dealer you can trust” is very true and fitting for this business.