Richard Gray Sr. was given the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's highest honor, the Lifetime of Leadership award, and the company he founded earned an award for excellence in free enterprise Friday at the Dataw Island clubhouse.
"We are here for Beaufort and the citizens of Beaufort, and charity is number one in our hearts," said Gray, a Port Royal native and founder of Grayco Hardware, in accepting the Lifetime of Leadership award.
The award was one of a dozen announced during the chamber's annual meeting and awards ceremony.
Gray's career began at the filling station he started in about 1956 with a $5,000 loan from his father. He expanded into auto parts, then hardware.
His generosity is well-known in Beaufort and the Lowcountry, chamber officials said.
His family created the Richard Gray Family Foundation in about 2004 to make larger and more frequent gifts to charities and nonprofit organizations, he said in 2008.
Such gifts include $50,000 to LowCounty Habitat for Humanity to build a house at Prince and Hamar streets in Beaufort, and 77 acres to the town of Hardeeville to build the Richard Gray Sports Complex.
Other organizations that have benefited include Beaufort Memorial Hospital, the Child Abuse Prevention Association, Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse, the Wardle Family YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club of Beaufort and the Fripp Island Community Center building fund.
The chamber on Friday also provided an update on activities from the past year and those planned for the future.
Among the projects and events mentioned was the city's purchase of the Beaufort Commerce Park and the announcement of its new tenant, EcoDual; the General Assembly's passage of the South Carolina film incentives bill; creation of the chamber's Military Enhancement Committee; and St. Helena Island native Candice Glover's "American Idol" victory.
Incoming board chairman Stephen Murray encouraged members to give back to the community.
"Our success as an organization and as a community depends on your participation," Murray said, before alluding to the twins he and his wife, Melissa, are expecting later this summer. "And I admit that my request serves my own self interest because I want my unborn daughters to be able to live here and create a life success and prosperity, if that's what they choose."
Other awards and winners: