VGCC Presents Inaugural Black Business/NPO Awards Luncheon

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Black History Month, News

In recognition of Black History Month, Vance-Granville Community College partnered with Gateway Community Development Corporation to present the inaugural Black Business & Nonprofit Organization Award Ceremony on Thursday, February 23.

The goal was to honor the rich contributions Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations have made to the quality of life within Vance, Granville, Franklin, and Warren counties—not just for the area’s Black residents but for all who call the community home. To the extent of organizers’ knowledge, this is the first time such an event has occurred in VGCC’s service area.

“It was important to recognize these Black-owned businesses,” explained Heather Joi Kenney, president/CEO of Gateway CDC and co-moderator of the award ceremony. “Shining a light on them shows them that we support them and recognize how important they are to our community.”

This Year’s Winners

Organizers recognized 12 award winners across three categories: Legacy, institutions which have been in operation at least 10 years but often much longer; Established, those in operation 5–10 years; and New Start, organizations which are less than 5 years old. (Find a list of all award recipients at this end of this story.)

Southern Charm Event Center, which hosted the award luncheon, was also one of the day’s honorees. The business just opened its doors in July 2022 but has already made a big impression in downtown Henderson.

“As a new business owner in Henderson, I was honored not only to be recognized but also in having the privilege to be amongst Black-owned businesses that have been operating in our community for years,” said Shanika Ragland, owner of Southern Charm. “The highest reward I received that day was watching everyone gather in a space that we created.”

The atmosphere was one of celebration and camaraderie as friends and neighbors reflected on the hard work behind each organization. Some honorees displayed visible emotion during their acceptance speeches. Chalis S. Henderson, executive director of Turning Point CDC, was moved to tears as she accepted the Legacy award. It was her parents’ vision that led to the creation of Turning Point and its founding church, Oasis of Hope Ministries.

“The ceremony was a beautiful reminder of the great impact Black-owned businesses and Black-led nonprofits have on our region,” Henderson observed after the event. “There was a resounding commitment to continue to serve our communities with the same strength and love that the organizations were founded on decades ago.”

Black-owned organizations still face unique obstacles to their success. State Farm Insurance agent Margier White, who received the Established award, acknowledged those challenges as she spoke at the event. Even so, she chooses to focus on the potential of the future rather than the struggles of the past.

“Receiving this award has filled me with pride, and I am grateful that my business was recognized and honored in this way,” said White. “This is one of the most significant events of my professional career.”

Coordinators and guests alike considered the award ceremony a great success. Sandra Wilkerson, president of the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce, was among the local leaders in attendance. “The Chamber of Commerce is a huge supporter of small business, so it was an honor and privilege to attend this award ceremony,” she said. “Hearing the accomplishments of these business owners and knowing the impact and contributions they have all made to our community makes us work harder to support and partner with them.”

VGCC and Entrepreneurship

Vance-Granville Community College has a longstanding history of supporting small local businesses. During the 2020-2021 academic year, VGCC President Dr. Rachel Desmarais took the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge through the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). This pledge includes specific action steps to advance entrepreneurship and create jobs across the country. The College was so successful in these initiatives that NACCE named it Entrepreneurial College of the Year in October 2022.

Dr. Jerry Edmonds, Vice President of Workforce & Community Engagement at VGCC, has been instrumental in the College’s entrepreneurial mindset. He also served as co-moderator during the recent awards luncheon. “The positive impact of the occasion was evident in the heartfelt acceptance speeches delivered by the award recipients,” he noted.

VGCC plans to incorporate the ceremony into its annual Black History Month festivities going forward, rotating its focus each year to a different part of the College’s service area. Organizers have already started brainstorming for next year’s event.


2023 Award Recipients

Legacy

Established

New Start

From left: Dr. Jerry Edmonds, Vice President of Workforce & Community Engagement at Vance-Granville Community College; Fred Fogg Jr. and Karrie O’Neal Fogg of Fred’s Towing & Transport; and Heather Joi Kenney, president and CEO of Gateway CDC.