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Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce honors five with Spirit of Independence campaign

Due to the continuation of the public health climate, the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) chose to forgo their typical annual meeting and gala last month. Traditionally, the event is the largest social gathering in the community and serves as an opportunity for BACC to review the previous year’s progress and accomplishments and award outstanding businesses and individuals.

“With an abundance of caution around public health concerns for spread of COVID-19, we didn’t see an opportunity for a safe adaptation allowing us to host the event,” said Crystal Johnson, BACC president/CEO. “However, we couldn’t let an unprecedented 2020 pass by without highlighting some of the incredible people that stepped up.”

The chamber has launched the “Spirit of Independence” campaign, presented by First Community Bank, and in partnership with White River Health System and Sonic Drive-In.

“The Spirit of Independence campaign is highlighting local residents that, in 2020, rallied around our small businesses, clinics, non-profits, and schools that make up the fabric of our community. These individuals have truly exemplified the ‘can-do’ spirit of Independence County,” said Jamie Rayford, campaign creator and BACC COO.

The chamber and campaign sponsors spent last month honoring individuals with surprise visits recognizing them in front of peers and co-workers. The top five honorees included Rhonda Fowler, Food Services Director at Southside Schools, Michelle Puckett, Batesville Preschool Director, Johnathan Abbott, City of Batesville Landscaping Supervisor, Gary Paxson, White River Health System CEO, and Tricia Cargill Zelasko, Manager of Carlee’s Hallmark.

Johnathan Abbott, White River Wonderland/City of Batesville Landscape Supervisor

Rhonda Fowler, Food Services Director at Southside Schools

Gary Paxson, White River Health System

Michelle Puckett, Batesville Pre-School Director

Tricia Cargill Zelasko, Carlee’s Hallmark

To read their stories and view the full list of honorees, visit


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