West Metro Chamber honors best in volunteerism and local business

Gus Manos, owner of Zesto, accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Rachel Ham.

Gus Manos, owner of Zesto, accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award at the West Metro Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. Photo by Rachel Ham.

The West Metro Chamber of Commerce saved the best for last Tuesday at the 2013 Annual Awards Dinner. As evidenced by the extended standing ovation, everyone present was in agreement that this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner was more than deserving of the accolade.

“Not only is he known for his chicken but also for being a kind person who is always there to help people,” said Joe Pinner, the evening’s emcee and WIS personality.

Indeed, Zesto owner Gus Manos has been aiding – and feeding – others in West Columbia and beyond for decades. The recipient of Tuesday’s highest honor first stepped foot on American soil from Greece at the age of 12. Reflecting on his life for a moment as he stood next to his family, Manos was overwhelmed as he recalled seeing the Statue of Liberty those many years ago.

“I’m a product of the American dream,” he said. “I’m proud to be here.”

Manos moved to Columbia to stay with his uncle shortly after arriving in the States. Since then, he worked his way up and now owns one of West Metro’s most popular eateries. The hustle and bustle hasn’t stopped Manos from keeping the place local, friendly and of the best quality.

“If you’ve eaten at Zesto, you’ve probably been called by your first name,” Pinner agreed.

Aside from helping serve the 2,500 or more people that come through Zesto each day, Manos is active on Springdale Town Council. He joined 38 years ago and is presently mayor pro tempore.

Manos, however, wasn’t the only admirable person recognized Tuesday.

The Citizen of the Year Award went to Theresa Sims-Libby of Pineview Florist. She was honored for her volunteering spirit and for making a difference in the life of one senior citizen in particular. As Pinner shared with the crowd, Sims-Libby didn’t think twice about checking on the older woman one day while dropping off flowers at a nursing home. Seeing that the woman was alone and later learning she rarely had visitors, Sims-Libby jumped at the chance to adopt her as her grandmother. As a result, she set the example for others to follow.

Also exemplifying a giving nature was Suzanne Riley-Whyte, owner of Matrx Coaching. She was named the Volunteer of the Year for her efforts as a chamber ambassador and coordinating the monthly Lunch and Learn events. Through her leadership, the West Metro Chamber Baldies team raised $12,000 for St. Baldrick’s and childhood cancer research. The total helped the West Metro area reach new overall high in fundraising.

Going above and beyond the duties of representing the chamber and welcoming new businesses, Sandi Owen, sales manager at Embassy Suites of Columbia-Greystone, won the Ambassador of the Year Award. Pinner described her as the “prime example of what an ambassador should be”. Owen was also just added to the West Metro Chamber board of directors.

Britt Sims picked up the Business of the Year Award for Chick-fil-A of West Columbia while Mooneyhan’s Auto Service earned Small Business of the Year accolades.

The West Metro Chamber also recognized a student and teacher of the year from Lexington Two and Lexington Four school districts.

For Lexington Two, Brookland-Cayce High School senior Brooke Lucas took home Student of the Year honors and Carla Adams from Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology won Teacher of the Year.

Swansea High School senior Jessica Rhodes was the Student of the Year winner for Lexington Four. Also from Swansea High, Beth Tuten picked up Teacher of the Year honors.

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