An entire organization -- Beaufort's Lions Club -- has been honored as Main Street Beaufort, USA's volunteer of the year, a first for the award presented by the downtown business organization.
The Lions were among seven honorees announced at Main Street Beaufort's annual meeting at the Dolphin Room at the Best Western Hotel. The event included comments by keynote speaker and local historian Larry Rowland.
The 45-member Lions Club has organized parades through downtown Beaufort for decades -- beginning with the 58-year-old Water Festival parade, when the event was still primarily a regatta.
But its service work goes beyond that, according to club president Bob Griffith.
Club volunteers screened the eyesight of more than 2,200 children and have distributed more than 2,000 pairs of eyeglasses, 15 hearing aids and 35 cellphones to residents in need.
Also at Thursday's meeting, Lundy Baker of Park Beaufort and the Lollipop Shop and Gene Green of The Chocolate Tree were elected to the Main Street Beaufort board of directors. Charlie Williams of the Craftseller will be the new president and Mary Ann Thomas of the Cuthbert House Inn will be the vice president. Resident Donna Starkey and Beverly Lloyd of Robinson Grant and Co. will remain secretary and treasurer, respectively.
Main Street Beaufort board president Chip Dinkins said about 20 new businesses have opened in the downtown district since July 2012, and only about five closed. He said about 50 jobs were created.
Economic development, along with branding for both Main Street Beaufort and the downtown in general, will be focus areas for next year, executive director LaNelle Fabian said.
Future success in the downtown is up the merchants and residents who commit to bringing improvements, Williams said.
"It will be because a lot of people got together and worked hard to make it work out," he said. Keynote speaker Larry Rowland also gave an indepth presentation on the Great Fire of 1907, including how it started, the aftermath and the rebuilding of downtown Beaufort.