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Cobb's 'Citizens of the Year' Honored

Three local residents were recognized for their outstanding dedication to their businesses and the community around them.

Three northwest Cobb County residents received “Citizen of the Year” honors for their tireless community activism and business successes at a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce at the Marietta Country Club.

of and in Acworth, Jay Cunningham of in Kennesaw, and Gwen Buller of GTC (Governors Towne Club) Gives Back in Acworth were recognized by the Acworth, Kennesaw and West Cobb business associations respectively.

Chandler, described by Acworth Business Association President Vince Bubolo as an “anchor,” draws nearly 2,000 people a week to the city's downtown business area because of his cajun restaurant and party venue. He has won many awards for his culinary expertise, including ABC News' People's Platelist contest which sought the most popular local chef in America.

Chandler is much more proud of his work towards helping Georgians in need of organ transplants. As a recipient of a donor liver himself, he has turned his business endeavors into a fundraising machine for organ donations; he recently raised $12,000 for the cause, all of which will be staying in the state. In addition, he helps people sign up to the Georgia organ donor list if they have not previously done so.

“Every second of your life counts,” said Chandler.

Cunningham, who employs 64 families in his plumbing business that reaches 100,000 homes, was described by Kennesaw Business Association President John Loud as, “a friend, a mentor and a community leader.” In addition to running his business and keeping a menagerie of animals, including the orangutan featured in his commercials, he has quietly fed patients and staff at Egleston Children's Hospital for 15 years.

To further the opportunities offered to local students, Cunningham worked in concert with his alma mater to establish a vocational education program for construction, which has evolved into the Ready for Work Program. Both Cunningham and Paul Letalien, of Archer Restoration Services Inc. in Acworth donated $50,000 to hire the two teachers that instruct students in the construction trade.

The final award was handed out by Robert Chase, president of the West Cobb Business Association.

“Her story fills the heart and should inspire everyone to take action,” he said about GTC Gives Back's Buller.

After her mother was diagnosed with, and eventually died from, breast cancer, Buller and her friends from the neighborhood decided to raise funds to donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a prominent breast cancer organization. In 2009, through various events, GTC Gives Back raised $15,000. In the last three years, Buller's group has raised over $100,000 to fight breast cancer and provide mammograms to needy women.

GTC Gives Back also runs a program called “Angel Deliveries,” which provides breast cancer patients with a dozen roses, a pink ribbon and a personalized gift, usually money to pay living expenses that may be hard for the patient to meet.

“She is a blessing to have in our community,” said Chase.

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