Laura Hassell

New Chamber President Laura Hassell

Laura Hassell, an accountant at Marcus, Robinson and Hassell CPAs, has officially taken the reins as president of the Winnsboro-Franklin Parish Chamber of Commerce.

Hassell leads the slate of officers and board members installed during the Chamber’s 69th Annual Installation Dinner held Jan. 30. Brenda Struth is vice president and Judy Long is treasurer.

Hassell grew up in the big cities but has found a home in rural Winnsboro and Franklin Parish.

And the newly-elected Chamber president has high hopes for the future in the community she has grown to love.

Hassell has been a member of the Chamber for over 20 years.

The number one goal she has set for her presidency is to grow the membership of the Chamber.

“We have these fantastic events,” Hassell, who is an accountant at Marcus, Robinson, and Hassell CPA’s, said. “But if we don’t grow our numbers it all becomes mute.”

Hassell also wants to work “hand and hand” with the local government.

“Our events must have support from the city officials, city workers and law enforcement,” she said. “We have a lot of support, and I want it to continue.”

Hassell sees the Chamber as a tool for new businesses, businesses looking for employees and people looking for careers. She also wants to incorporate social media to get the word out.

“I have grown to love Winnsboro and I want outsiders to see that Winnsboro has got it going on,” she said.

Outgoing president Zach Johnson introduced Hassell to the crowd of nearly 300.

“Man I love the Chamber,” he said. “I love the work it does. I love the possibilities it has.”

“I learned if you jump in and roll up your sleeves, you can make a difference,” he said. “We had some success and had some setbacks, but I am extremely proud of the work that has been done.”

An annual highlight of the installation event is the announcement and presentation of the Spirit Award and Business of the Year Award.

The Spirit Award is given to an individual in the Franklin Parish community who has dedicated their time and energy to improving the standard of living for those in their community.

Honored as the 2017 Spirit Award winner was Celeste Shivers. Shivers was recognized for her tireless work and dedication to the Chamber and many other community projects.

Johnson noted that Shivers has served on the Chamber board, as well as Princess Theatre and Catfish Festival boards.

“She is the engine behind many of Franklin State Bank’s community projects,” Johnson said. “She was also a huge driver behind building a home for Wayne and Veronica Houston to help accommodate Wayne’s many medical needs,” he added.

The Business of the Year Award went to Wellspring Alliance for Families.

The nonprofit organization’s programs include mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Louisiana, counseling, therapy and supervised visitation services. They also offer comprehensive residential and non-residential services for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. They offer a wide array of homeless and veteran’s programs and services and serve the region’s most vulnerable individuals and families who are homeless or chronically homeless.

Out of 3,200 individuals who were assisted last year, 230 were from Franklin Parish. The Wellspring was founded in 1931 and is one of Louisiana’s oldest non-profits.

The next event for the Chamber of Commerce will be a Mayoral Candidate Forum February 22 on the Winnsboro campus of Delta Community College with Joshua Sockley, Head of the Political Science at ULM, moderating.

See related story, Page 2A, and related photos Page 1B.

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