Mel West has been named Cheraw’s 2012 Citizen of the Year by members of the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce. West was honored last Thursday during the Chamber’s annual banquet at the Cheraw Community Center.
“All of us have benefited in some way from the unselfish giving of this very valuable member of our community,” said Phil Powell, executive director for the chamber. “She gives meaning to the concept of paying it forward.”
According to Powell, West “recognized early on during this economic downturn that there are people in our community who do not get enough to eat, so she worked with her Sunday School Class to establish a community soup kitchen.” She currently coordinates the efforts of other volunteers with the Cheraw Community Soup Kitchen, which has been in operation for four years.
Having witnessed members of the community lose their jobs during recent years, Powell said West simply could not “sit back and watch” as families faced the loss of jobs and health insurance. “She was one of the primary leaders in establishing the Mercy in Me Free Medial Clinic, which provides the uninsured in Chesterfield County with free quality medical care.”
West also was instrumental in bringing the first All That Jazz Criterium Bike Race in 2010, said Powell. She continues to be an active member of Cheraw First Baptist Church and participates in many community events such as the cancer walk.
West was quick to credit God for her success and thanked those attending the banquet for joining her in her efforts to make Cheraw a better place for all of us to live.
Two other members of the community, Nang Nguyen and Wilber Motley, also were recognized for their contributions to the community.
Nang Nguyen was named Business Person of the Year. Nguyen, who own FATZ Restaurant on Highway 9 in Cheraw, was described by chamber member John Long, as the type of person “who gives to the community without fanfare.”
Born May 20, 1958, in Vietnam, Nguyen grew up in the middle of the Vietnam war. In the fall of 1975 he came to America and took a job as a dishwasher in Hartford, Conn. It was there he learned to speak English through a volunteer program of a small Episcopal Church. That knowledge enabled him to enroll in school and he eventually graduated from the University of Connecticut.
Nguyen gave a huge grin as he accepted his award and said, “Sorry. Speak no English!”
At the age of 82, Wilber Motley was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. As a graduate of South Carolina State University with a degree in Education and Industrial Arts, Motley served as band director of Cheraw High School for many years. His friendship with international musical legend Dizzy Gillespie took him to New York City some years ago, said chamber member Buddy Brooks. “But fortunately for us, about 30 days in New York City was enough for him. It was our gain that he came back home.”
Motley is a member of the popular local band, the Red Toppers, and has served the community through the South Carolina Elections Commission, the Cheraw Arts Commission, Coulter Academy, Pee Dee Union Baptist Church, and the Boy Scouts.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.