Two Orangeburg County individuals were recognized Thursday night for their role in the betterment of Orangeburg County and the community they call home.

Tara Lovelace McCutchen and Kenneth Middleton were honored by the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet for their efforts in improving the county.

McCutchen received the Chairman’s Award for outstanding support and service to the chamber and Middleton received the Spirit Award for outstanding leadership to make the county a better place to live.

Both received a standing ovation for their accomplishments and contributions. They did not know they were receiving the award.

McCutchen says though her recognition was kept a secret, she found out when her high school was mentioned. The recognition came as a surprise.

"I think it is wonderful," she said."I love helping the chamber. I think it is a wonderful thing to give out to the community."

Middleton described his award as a "we" honor.

"I think it is a recognition for all that we do together as a community," he said. "I think I am just a part of huge movement of folks. I am accepting this on behalf of everybody that has done any work in making Orangeburg County a better place to live, work and play."

Middleton said he has lived, raised a family and invested in Orangeburg County.

"It has given me a good life and all of us owe back to those who are coming beside us, those who have paved the way and those who come after us," Middleton said.

Born in Columbia, McCutchen graduated from Dreher High School in 1996.

She received a B.S. in marketing and management in 2001 from the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business.

McCutchen has worked at Orangeburg-based Zeus Industrial Products her entire career, starting off as an inside sales manager before becoming a medical division manager. She currently serves as the company's global market manager for structural heart.

McCutchen has served on the chamber's Special Events Planning Committee, which orchestrates the annual Business Expo and Golf Tournament, The Taste and Treasurer's Committee and the Women’s Ambassadors group. She has assisted with the Orangeburg Festival of Roses, even offering free room and board to one of the main musical headliners.

She has co-hosted the annual RMC hospital gala and served as a mentor in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5. She has also assisted with the Orangeburg Preparatory School gala.

She is married to Chad McCutchen and they have two children, Charlie and Naomi.

Middleton has spent the past 39 years in real estate and serves as the president and chief executive officer of Middleton Companies, which includes real estate brokerage, property management and insurance sales. He is also owner of Middleton and Associates on Middleton Street.

Educated in Orangeburg schools, Middleton attended Furman University and obtained a B.S. degree in business administration.

Middleton is chairman of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, the county’s economic development arm, as well as the coordinator of The One Orangeburg County Initiative, a grassroots effort aimed at making the county a better place to live, work and play.

Middleton has been involved in a number of other community organizations, including as chairman of the Claflin University Business Advisory Board and Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 Technology Center Advisory Board, and as a member of the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Partnership for Economic Development.

He has been a member of the chamber since 1977.

Middleton is the son of the late Earl M. Middleton, a noted civil rights leader, state lawmaker and successful businessman, and the late Bernice B. Middleton, who served as a librarian at South Carolina State University for more than 35 years.

Middleton attends Trinity United Methodist Church in Orangeburg, where he is chairman of the church council and member of the men's choir.

Middleton and his wife, Cynthia, are the parents of a son, Jarae, and a daughter, Ashley.

The winner of the Austin Cunningham Award (“The Austin”), which is normally presented at the banquet, will be announced at a separate Community of Character event.

The award is sponsored by the Orangeburg County Community of Character and is named after the late Orangeburg businessman and community advocate.

Scholarships

Five Orangeburg County high school seniors were each awarded $1,000 scholarships.

Three scholarships were given by the 2017 Leadership Orangeburg County class and two were given by the chamber.

The three given by the LOC are the Greg Carson/Jesse Eargle Memorial Scholarships.

Students receiving this scholarship are Corban Wolfe, Edisto High School; Shamaya Felder, Bethune-Bowman High School, and Sukanya Bratcher, Lake Marion High School.

Carson died in May 2013. He was the former co-chair of Leadership Orangeburg County.

Eargle served in a number of capacities, including being the past president of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Orangeburg, board member for the Regional Medical Center Foundation, Rotary Club member and Sunday school teacher.

Eargle died in August 2016.

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce R.H. Jennings Scholarship Awards were given to Angela Plemmons from Holly Hill Academy and Quincey Lee from Lake Marion High School and Technology Center.

The scholarship has been renamed after Jennings in honor of the four generations of Jenningses having served the chamber as members of its board of directors.

The 20 2017 graduates of Leadership Orangeburg County were also introduced and received their certificates. The class donated to the Orangeburg County Council on Aging and the program "Into the Mouths of Babes," an Orangeburg County non-profit organization that provides food to poverty-stricken school-aged children during weekends.

Each organization received $1,000 through funds raised from a kick-ball tournament.

The chamber also recognized LOC co-chair Kelley Wannamaker for her service. Wannamaker is stepping down as co-chair and will be replaced with retired RMC Vice President Brenda Williams.

The chamber also recognized outgoing officers and board members, and the newly elected board members were also introduced.

Orangeburg Consolidated School District 4 Superintendent Dr. Tim Newman is the chamber's 2018 chairman; Allied Air Human Resources Manager Dave Tussey is the chairman-elect; Dr. Walt Tobin is the immediate past-chair and GrandSouth Bank Market Executive and Senior Vice President Michael Delaney is treasurer.

The dinner was catered by Buck Ridge Plantation. The presenting sponsor for the banquet was Zeus Inc.; Bimbo Bakeries was the silver sponsor; Covenant Media, the beverage sponsor; Russ Hewitt Agency State Farm, the education sponsor; and Garden Gate Florist, the decor sponsor.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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