2023 Membership Meeting & Awards Celebration Recipients Announced

September 22, 2023

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Abilene Chamber Awards Celebration. The Annual Meeting that took place the evening of Sept. 21 is the Chamber’s annual celebration for the business community to reflect on the previous year, celebrate the year to come, and to honor those who have helped shape that future.

“As staff, we often hear others describe the Chamber as ‘doing all those things most people think just happen.’ We are thrilled tonight to recognize those who make those things happen. The doers. Our volunteers. The backbone of our organization,” said Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. “The Abilene Chamber has been driven by the leadership of its investors for 115 years, and it’s their hundreds of purposeful, incremental and strategic moves that helps to move our great community forward. For those reasons and so many more, we salute these recipients.”

This year’s recipients are:

Excellence in Agriculture – Big Country Title; Redcoat of the Year – Krista Hale, Home2Suite by Hilton; Hispanic Business Council Champion – Aida Pantoja, AbiMar Foods, Inc.; Corporate Star – Star Auto Group; Leadership Abilene Alumni – Adam Lancaster, Coleman County State Bank; Military Affairs Committee – Paul Beale, Taylor Telecom; Nonprofit of the Year Award – Junior Achievement of Abilene; Mark Rogers Young Professional of the Year – Samantha Baker, First Financial Bank; Chair’s Award – Joe Mangrem, Enprotec / Hibbs & Todd, Inc. and Travis Ruiz, Nexstar Media Group.

Get to know the award winners

Excellence in Agriculture Award – Big Country Title sponsored by Taylor Telecom

Whether you are looking to purchase a home, a commercial property, or a farm or ranch in Callahan, Eastland, Stephens, Stonewall or Taylor counties, Big Country Title is there to assist. Built on a foundation of trust and professionalism, their team of experts prides itself on providing peace of mind and protection for some of your most valuable assets. Congratulations, Big Country Title!

Redcoat of the Year – Krista Hale sponsored by Fullerton & Associates – PLLC

Krista Hale is the Director of Sales at Home2 Suites by Hilton. She’s proudly served as a Chamber Redcoat since 2019 welcoming and celebrating over 200 businesses throughout the Big Country. Krista continues to be a resource to businesses and provides a warm, welcoming smile to all newcomers. Congratulations, Krista!

Hispanic Business Council Champion Award – Aida Pantoja sponsored by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Abilene

Aida Pantoja is the Human Resources Recruiter at AbiMar Foods, Inc. and is a staunch supporter in amplifying the voice of Hispanic business owners in Abilene. Aida is an active member of the Ballet Folklorico de Alvaro Munoz Academy, Abilene Southwest Rotary Club, Red Hat Ladies, Los Aficionados and many more organizations helping to be a bridge between Hispanic and non-Hispanic voices. Congratulations, Aida!

Corporate Star Award – Star Auto Group sponsored by Hendrick Health

Driven to give you the STAR treatment, owner of Star Auto Group, Mike Dunnahoo, has over 45 years of experience in the automotive industry building a true community driven dealership. Star Auto Group values the Big Country community and strives to lend a helping hand whenever possible most recently setting up a school supply drive, raffling off a new RAM truck to support the Ben Richey Boys Ranch and so much more. Congratulations, Star Auto Group!

Leadership Abilene Alumni Award – Adam Lancaster sponsored by Black Plumbing Heating & Air

Adam Lancaster is a proud Leadership Abilene 2018 graduate and is a Senior Vice President at Coleman County State Bank. After graduating from Leadership Abilene, Adam immediately got involved in helping the program and has served as Chair of the program for two years. Under Adam’s leadership, the program implemented a new process for all of Abilene’s non-profits to submit their projects for consideration for their yearly service project and has started the process of a scholarship program. Congratulations, Adam!

Military Affairs Committee Award – Paul Beale sponsored by BRIERCROFT FIRE & WATER RESTORATION

Paul Beale has served as the Outside Sales and Community Relations for Taylor Telcom since 2018. He has been an active member of the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee travelling to advocate on behalf of Dyess Air Force Base to Austin and our nation’s capital. Paul’s commitment to bridging the gap between Dyess and the Abilene community makes him an exceptional choice for this honor. Congratulations, Paul!

Nonprofit of the Year Award – Junior Achievement sponsored by First Financial Bank

Junior Achievement of Abilene helps young people discover what’s possible in their lives by connecting what they learn in school with life outside of the classroom. They provide proven lessons in financial literacy, work and career readiness and entrepreneurship inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Congratulations, Junior Achievement!

Mark Rogers Young Professional of the Year – Samantha Baker sponsored by AbiMar Foods

Samantha Baker, regional marketing director for First Financial Bank, receives this award for her dedication to the mission of AYP – attracting, retaining, and engaging the 21-40-year-old demographic in Abilene. A member of the original taskforce that helped form the program, Samantha has worked tirelessly to help plan, expand, and execute the AYP program and continues to be an advocate of AYP’s mission to new Abilenians. She has shown tremendous commitment in engaging the young professional demographic through over 10 different philanthropic areas in the community including Noah Project, Taylor County Expo Center, and Hardin-Simmons University. Congratulations, Sam!

Chair’s Award – Travis Ruiz and Joe Mangrem sponsored by The Grace Museum

This year’s Chair Award goes to two outstanding individuals who when asked to serve, answered the call serving for multi-year terms in leadership roles at the Chamber. Congratulations to Travis Ruiz, Nexstar Media Group and Joe Mangrem, Enprotec / Hibbs & Todd, Inc.

Travis Ruiz has served as the Chair of the Chamber’s Hispanic business council for over three years ensuring the program weathered COVID-19 and rebounded post-pandemic. Travis is responsible for creating the upcoming inaugural Minority Leadership Development Symposium in mid-Oct.

Joe Mangrem has served as the Chair of the young professional program for two years, contributing to the steady growth of the program post-covid. Throughout his leadership, he helped plan the largest Leadership Summit ever and helped kickstart AYP’s new initiative – InternABI.

Since 1908, the Abilene Chamber has served as a catalyst for business growth, a convener of leaders and influencers, and a champion for developing and promoting the economy and quality of life. For more information on the Chamber and the 1,200 businesses it represents, visit www.abilenechamber.com




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