By Michelle Bates
The 38th annual Arcadia Bienville Parish Chamber of Commerce Banquet went off without a hitch Monday, April 24.
Themed “We’re Jazzing Things Up,” the title sponsor for the event and Chamber Champion for 2023 is Bienville Lumber Company LLC, A Hunt-Tolko Partnership. As the title sponsor and Chamber Champion, Bienville Lumber will be mentioned at every chamber event throughout the year.
Small Business of the Year went to Nelson Wood Products. Nelson Wood Products engages in the sale of secondary wood products for production and packaging for sawmills, plywood plants and pallet mills. Mike Nelson, Owner of Nelson Wood Products, accepted the award for small business of the year in memory of his mother, Nelda, and father, R.J., who played a monumental role in the success of this business. He thanked everyone from his family to his employees for 37 years of service to the Castor community and beyond.
Large Business of the Year went to House of Raeford, which houses 75 percent of its employees in Bienville Parish with the plant in Arcadia and the hatchery in Gibsland. House of Raeford has been in Arcadia since 2000. The business has been prominent in its community service, where employees are involved in several community service projects throughout the year.
The 2023 Woman of the Year is Vicki Caskey. She has worked in advertising and marketing across North Louisiana and East Texas for the past 20-plus years. Most notably, she ran The Minute Magazine for 10 years, a magazine that began in Minden 25 years ago. She took a local publication reaching only Minden and grew it to reach all of the towns along the I-20 corridor from Texas to Mississippi and even into Arkansas. When the owner of the magazine decided to quit publishing The Minute at the end of 2018, Vicki continued working with several of her advertising clients on a contractual basis to help promote their businesses.
Caskey also dove into community service when she moved to Bienville Parish. She is a past member of the Arcadia Service Club and Past Executive Director of the Arcadia Bienville Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves as a member of the Arcadia Literature Club, Arcadia Bienville Chamber Board Member, committee member benefiting local animal shelters and member of the First Baptist Church of Arcadia where she serves on the Special Occasions Committee.
Along with Arcadia Mayor O’Landis Millican, Caskey helped found the Krewe of Arcadia Mardi Gras Bal. Again, this group gives back in big ways to local charity organizations. They are in their third year and growing.
Most notably in her community service, she is the president and founder of Wiggin’ Out, a 12-year-old organization serving men, women and children of North Louisiana fighting any type of cancer. This organization has served over 1,000 individuals and raised well over $100,000 in its 12 years of service. She is proud to tell you, the board of seven all volunteer their time. No one is paid to serve. All proceeds, aside for minimal basic business expenses, go right back into the community.
The 2023 Man of the Year is Victor Rogers. Rogers has served Arcadia in law enforcement for 42 years, the last several as Arcadia’s police chief. He retired in December 2022.
The Heritage Award went posthumously to H. Russell Davis, who passed away in February. Davis was an attorney who served the Bienville Parish Police Jury as its attorney and had a practice in Arcadia. He served as an assistant district attorney for Bienville, Claiborne and Jackson parishes for 15 years. He was born in Ruston in 1948 and graduated from Arcadia High School in 1966. He
graduated from law school in 1973. He has three children, Rebecca Cruse, Maryanne Smith and Dr. Richard Davis. His daughter, Maryanne Smith, accepted the award on his behalf.
The guest speaker was Rep. Mike Johnson, of the 4 th Congressional District. He talked to audience members about the state of the country, where it’s been and where it’s headed. He also praised the students who gave the invocation, led the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. Kaiden Moore, a fifth grade student, led the invocation, while Zyon Bell, a high school junior, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Katie Bogan, a 7th grader, sang the National Anthem.
Scholarship awards were presented to Makenzie Waggoner by the Chamber of Commerce for $750; I’Yonna Williams for $750, also by the Chamber of Commerce; a $1,000 scholarship to Ar’Ronlisha Bradford from the Arcadia Service Club.
The new board of directors for 2023 include: Vicki Pickett, Moe Letlow, Melanie Jordan, Kim Rigdon, Tom Martin, Deanna Curtis, Dorothy Satcher, Vicki Caskey, Emmalee Tingle, Dan Loe, Levi Hicks, Amber Chandler, Eddie Holmes and Katherine Mixon.
Outgoing board members include Brian Fletcher, Don Smith, Pam Guin, Nikki Bryant and Regina Swint.
Diamond Sponsors for this year include Willow Ridge Nursing and Rehab, Bienville Medical Center and Gibsland Bank and Trust.
Platinum Sponsors include Louisiana National Bank, Sheriff John Ballance, Timberland Services LLC, House of Raeford, Edwoard Jones and Wimberly Agency.
Gold Sponsors include Bank of Montgomery and the Town of Ringgold.
Appreciation went to The Bienville Democrat, the Bienville Parish 4-H Club (which served dinner), the Bienville Parish Police Jury, the Town of Arcadia and Fast Pak
Catering Services. Any tips left to the servers went to the 4-H club.
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