Marilyn Sneed was recognized as the community leader of the year at Thursday night’s Alma Area Chamber of Commerce awards dinner at the Alma High School cafeteria.

Crabtree RV was honored as the business of the year and Debbie Walls was named the Main Street volunteer of the year, a new award presented at the 2018 Love Your Chamber banquet.

Sneed, a certified health coach, works hard to improve the quality of life in Alma, said Bryan Huff, chamber executive director.

“As the director of the Alma Farmers Market, she gives local farmers and crafters a place to sell their goods,” Huff said. “In turn, this gives the residents of Alma a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables so they can live a healthier lifestyle.”

Sneed, who works at Coleman Pharmacy of Alma, also gives nutrition classes at the library and at Fitness Warehouse.

“Her passions of fresh, healthy foods and a healthier community culminated with the creation of her own small business, Better Day Farms,” Huff said. “Recently, Marilyn has begun working with the Crawford County Genealogical Society to help them digitize some of their photographs and books so that future generations will be able to easily access the history of our community.”

Crabtree RV opened in 1950 on Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith. The business moved to Alma in 2003 and has become a leader in the region for RV sales, service and rental, employing 40 people.

“For the last two years they have hosted the Fort Smith Area RV, Boat and Outdoor Show at their dealership behind Cracker Barrel in Alma,” Huff said. “This show brings people from all over western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma to Alma to see the new models for the year. This past year 30 families found the one that was right for them, and pulled it home with them.”

Last fall, Crabtree RV hosted a Halloween carnival which allowed more than 2,500 people to have a safe time trick or treating with their families, Huff said.

“Crabtree RV is always looking to improve and grow their community events, and bring new people to visit Alma to do business,” he said.

Huff said the Main Street volunteer of the year award was created to recognize individuals who work to make Alma’s Main Street District better.

“We hope this award will recognize those who are actively involved in improving the Main Street area, and be an incentive to get more people involved,” he said.

Huff said Walls is one of the top advocates for a better Main Street, not only because she runs a business with her son, but because she loves the history and nostalgia of Fayetteville Avenue in Alma.

“She is always busy passing out flyers for events and helps bring together other Main Street merchants for meetings to discuss ways to improve Downtown Alma,” he said.

Walls and her son, Robby Walls, operate Petals and Stems at 709 Fayetteville Ave.

Outgoing board member Debbie Fort was recognized for her service to the board and Terry Carson and Rebecca Gann were introduced as new board members. Both will serve three-year terms.

Huff introduced Caitlin Conner, who has been working with her husband, Erik, and Huff to form an ambassador program for the Alma Area chamber.

“The program will be a great way to gain networking skills and help the chamber with events,” Conner said. “Chamber ambassadors will be great representatives of their companies and give individuals the opportunity get out into the community for the promotion of area businesses.”

Conner said a luncheon meeting will be scheduled in a couple of week to launch the program.

Becky Newton reported an Alma Kick Start meeting will be from 1 to 3 p.m. March 5 at the Alma Community Center to list the initial draft of goals for the program.

“The community has really come together for Kick Start,” Newton said. “We want people to enjoy the town we love so much. We also want to make our kids want to stay here with us. We need to keep the momentum going and move forward by showcasing Alma.”

Huff said 2017 was a wonderful year for the chamber to strengthen its relationship with the city.

He said the chamber plans to host an economic development conference for Crawford County on April 24.

“We will have four or five speakers who will share ideas on how to make the area better,” he said.

Huff said the area needs to be prepared for the predicted growth.

“We need to provide a quality workforce by keeping our talented kids here,” he said. “We must be on the front line of that battle.”

Wrapping up the evening was guest speaker Chuck Dovish, producer and host of “Exploring Arkansas” on the Arkansas Education Television Network.

Dovish complimented Alma on its walking trail around the city lake and pointed out many other attractions in the area as well as the state.

“I have always loved the South,” Dovish said. “Life in the South is the way it should be.”