Laughery honored by Chamber


Chamber Past Chairman Marty Nealey presents the 2018 Distinguished Citizen Award to Helen Laughery on Monday at NCC.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A longtime businesswoman and transplant who is recognized in the Twin Counties for her years of philanthropy in the community received a huge standing ovation from the more than 400 people in attendance at the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s 114th annual meeting Monday at Nash Community College’s Brown Auditorium for being the recipient of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s most prestigious honor.

Helen Laughery was presented with the 2018 Distinguished Citizen Award. Chamber officials said the annual award is given to a community servant who has demonstrated noteworthy commitment and contributions to the enhancement of the area’s quality of life, promoted and advanced the welfare of all residents and advanced the well-being of the community through exhibiting unselfish skills and influence of leadership.

A short video tribute in honor of Laughery was shown at the event. An emotional Laughery was overwhelmed when making her speech in front of the crowd.

“This is a thrill of a lifetime, and it’s the biggest honor you can receive,” Laughery said.

Local businessman Tom Betts described Laughery as loyal, adventuresome, energetic and patriotic. Laughery and her late husband Jack Laughery, who was the former CEO and chairman of the Hardee’s restaurant chain, moved to Rocky Mount from Missouri in the 1970s.

Helen Laughery has been an active person in the Twin Counties since her arrival. Laughery’s community activism includes working with Mayo Boddie to help create the Veteran’s Memorial at Jack Laughery Park in downtown Rocky Mount in 2007.

In 2008, Helen Laughery started the Jack Laughery Ride for Knowledge to raise funds for the Helen and Jack Laughery honorary scholarship fund at Nash Community College. The following year, Laughery brought the Fun Run for Charities to Rocky Mount that has led to more than $2.1 million being given to help more than 90 nonprofits in the area. Laughery’s fundraising efforts also helped in the opening of the Belmont House at N.C. Wesleyan College, which recently became a bed and breakfast inn on the college campus.

“Helen is the person you want on your team or as your leader when you want to get most anything done and done successfully,” Betts said.

Also at the meeting, Duke Energy North Carolina President David Fountain, who is also the chairman of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, was the guest speaker at the annual meeting. Fountain highlighted the impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which he said will bring a much-needed supply of natural gas to Eastern North Carolina, create thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity.

During the closing of the meeting, Marty Nealey, vice president of operations and plant manager at Pfizer, passed the gavel of chairman of the Chamber to Dewey Clark, president of N.C. Wesleyan College.

“2018 is going to be one of the best years in the history of our city,” Clark said. “We have everything in place to make that happen. “In 200 years, we have come full circle. This place of Rocky Mount was very mentioned of as a place where the Tar River was used as a logistic hub. Since then, we have gone through tobacco, textiles, Hardee’s, banking, the great flood and the Great Recession. All that is behind us, with the Downtown Event Center, Rocky Mount Mills, CSX, Triangle Tire, Pfizer, Cummins, the college and everything else that is going on. We have a very exciting year ahead of us.”

The Chamber handed out the Ambassador of the Year award to Debra Holmes of Rose Hill Conference Center, Volunteer of the Year award to Ken Hunter of the city of Rocky Mount and President’s Award to Dr. Monique Brown.