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Community commitment: Needhams win R.O. Arnold Award for service

COVINGTON - Ed and Nonie Needham received the R.O. Arnold Award at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting, held Tuesday night at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.

Considered to be the most prestigious honor a Newton County resident can receive, the award recognizes a lifetime of community involvement and achievement.

The Needhams were nominated by Bill Loeble, chief operating officer of Beaver Manufacturing, which was started in Mansfield by the couple in 1971.

"This couple has richly shared the success of their company with the community," Loeble said. "Since early on, their passion for community service has manifested itself through the arts and education."

In their efforts to improve education for local children, the Needhams were responsible for the construction of 100 picture lap books that were distributed throughout Newton County schools; have been a partner in education at Mansfield Elementary School, established the Sophomore Excellence Leadership Forum, and have made donations to Smart Technology at Georgia Perimeter College and the Police Academy at DeKalb Technical College.

They also donated land for Beaver Park in Mansfield and for a new county fire station.

The couple is active members of First United Methodist Church.

"Although keeping a low profile, this couple has worked tirelessly over these 40 years for the betterment of the quality of life in all (of) Newton County," Loeble said.

The Needhams moved to Covington in 1969 and opened Beaver Manufacturing, which supplies industrial fibers, two years later. The company today is a global leader in its product line and provides more than 130 jobs to the community.

"We have only done what has meant so much to us," Nonie Needham said during her acceptance speech. "It has given us so much pleasure, we feel a little guilty that we would receive an award for doing it."

In other news, Ozburn Electrical Contractors Inc. won the Dick James Small Business of the Year Award.

In business since 1984 and based in Covington for the past decade, Ozburn does electrical service work for homes, businesses and industries and new construction work for commercial and industrial facilities.

The company, owned by Terry and Patricia Ozburn, was named one of the top 10 in customer service in the nation by the Nexstar Trade Association in 2003.

Terry Ozburn said the award really goes to the 20-plus employees who carry out his mission of quality customer service.

"We're very customer service-oriented. We train a lot on customer service. My wife and I own the business, but we didn't win that award. Our company won that award. Our staff and our field guys won that award," he said.

Also, Andrea Hammond received the Spirit of Excellence Award for her volunteer efforts with the chamber.

"I was very, very surprised. I really think there are so many people there who do more than I do," Hammond said. "I used to work at the chamber, so I know what goes into preparing for a meeting or a concert or a casino night or a golf tournament because I've walked in their shoes. Community organizations and nonprofits can't do it by themselves - they've got to have people willing to help stand up and do it."

Hammond is on the chamber's Ambassador and Special Events committees.

She has been active in the chamber for 10 years and previously served as director of chamber services.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.