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The Mattoon Chamber of Commerce held one of our biggest events on Feb. 3. We had nearly 250 guests at our Annual Dinner. We awarded the Mattoon Citizen of the Year and a newly created award, the Mattoon Small Business of the Year.

The Chamber has had the honor of presenting the Citizen of the Year Award for the past 60 years. We received an overwhelming number of nominations for this year's recipient, Angela McQueen. Angela is the Mattoon High School teacher who subdued the shooting suspect at the High School on September 20, 2017. Former Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson said, "Lives were saved by the quick response of the high school teacher;" he further stated, "If the teacher had not responded as quickly as she had, I think the situation would have been a lot different." During the award presentation Scott Eggleston asked all those in the audience who were immediately affected by the shooting incident or knew people who were affected by the shooting to please stand. Virtually all 250 attendees were standing.

In her acceptance speech Angela thanked her family, friends and co-workers for their support. She also stated, "God put me in the right place at the right time with the skills to prevent a tragedy." It was a very moving presentation and Angela received a standing ovation from the entire audience.

The Chamber and the Board of Directors decided that we should begin recognizing small businesses which are the life blood of our community. We developed the Mattoon Small Business of the Year Award. The criteria for being nominated for the award include any small business with less than 100 employees that have their home office located in Mattoon, IL. The award is intended to recognize and celebrate the great business achievements and community involvement of a local small business. The small business to be recognized should also have been a benefit to the community or to society in general.

We received nearly a dozen nominations from many worthy organizations for the Small Business of the Year. Don Sol Mexican Grill was submitted by Donna Kastl and was voted by the nominating committee as this year's recipient. Don Sol has been in business in Mattoon for over 10 years. Donna touched on many of the community support efforts of Don Sol and its owners Amanda and Rene Perdomo. They participate in One Stop Community Christmas and collect toys and socks throughout the year to donate for the event. They sponsor runners and a radio-a-thon for the St. Jude's Organization. They donate proceeds from their sales for the evening to many events including Cops for Kids, Operation Sleigh Ride and Piensa Rosa which supports the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center. They contribute to local sports teams with fundraisers, participate in the booster club and even feed sports team members. On her days off from her busy work schedule running the restaurant, Amanda volunteers at the school breakfast program and helps out in classrooms. It was our pleasure to award such a worthy organization and its owners.

Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

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