Over 400 people gathered at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa on Saturday for the Hilton Head Island- Bluffton Chamber of Commerce’s annual ball, where Emmett McCracken of Bluffton was honored with the Alice Glenn Doughtie good citizenship award.
The event was themed “up, up and away” and sponsored by the Savannah/ Hilton Head International Airport.
“This really is our most special event of the year,” Hannah Horne, the vice president of public policy and programs for the chamber, said.
A panel of community leaders from Hilton Head and Bluffton voted for McCracken and the recipients of all the evening’s awards, according to Charlie Clark, who coordinated the event.
McCracken is the great-great grandson of Bluffton’s first mayor, George Sewell Guilford.
“He embodies all that is good and noble,” according to his introduction by chamber CEO and president Bill Miles and board chairman Chris McCorkendale. “The Lowcountry is by far a better place for his having been a part of it.”
McCracken graduated from West Point and served in the Army for 30 years before retiring as a colonel.
He was elected mayor of Bluffton and served on Beaufort County Council for 6 years.
His “roots run deep” and his “impact is part of the very fabric of the town and its people he so dearly loves,” Miles and McCorkendale said.
McCracken called the award a “tremendous honor,” and said after living out of state, “it was a very easy decision to come back home” to Bluffton.
He is a land developer and creator of the Stock Farm neighborhood in Bluffton.
Here are the night’s other big winners:
Organization of the year award
The David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation was recognized as the organization of the year.
The foundation began in 2003 to honor David Carmines, who succumbed to cancer at 24. The Carmines family owns and operates Hudson’s Seafood on the Docks.
Last year, the foundation’s seafood festival was named one of the “top 20 events in the Southeast.”
“He signed every email with ‘keep the faith’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Carmines’ brother, Andrew, said as he accepted the award.
Sue West educator of the year award
Anne Poole was honored with one of the most prestigious teaching awards in Beaufort County — the Sue West educator of the year award.
Poole has been teaching for 33 years, and works with students at Hilton Head Christian Academy.
She was an integral part of the school’s academic resource center, and her colleagues said she has “earned the love and respect of her students,” according to her introduction.
Poole said she was “honored” to join the ranks of those who have won the education award, and said she hopes to serve Sue West’s memory in her work at Hilton Head Christian Academy.
Zonta woman of the year award
The winner of this year’s award is Debi Malool, who was chosen by the Zonta Club for her work as a full-time hospice nurse at Hospice Care of the Lowcountry.
The Zonta woman of the year award is presented to a woman who has shown leadership and commitment to her chosen profession, according to Malool’s introduction.
Malool has made 17 mission trips around the world to serve as a nurse.
Those close to Malool said she “inspires others to be a better version of themselves.”
When she accepted the award, Malool became emotional as she was given a bouquet of yellow roses. She thanked Miles and McCorkendale.
Bluffton regional business council award
Anna Pepper Hewett and Emily Burden of Gigi’s Boutique in Bluffton were recognized for this award, which is given to a Bluffton business that represents the “growth and vitality” of the area.
The Bluffton Regional Business Council called Hewett and Burden’s journey a “true Bluffton success story” when choosing them for the award.
The pair founded Gigi’s Boutique in 2009 and named the business after their grandmother.
“We are so proud of our Bluffton community,” Hewett and Burden said, and added they are happy to raise their families in the town where they grew up.