Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Forest Park retiree Lenora Montgomery pays tribute during a performance of the national anthem. Montgomery is one of the charter associates who spent more than 19 years with the Morrow Sam’s Club.
Lenora Montgomery started working for Sam’s Club when it opened in Morrow in 1987 and was on hand Friday, when the store celebrated 25 years in business.
Montgomery retired in August 2006 after nearly 20 years but was determined to be a part of the festivities.
“I still shop in here and when they told me about the party, I put it on my calendar and came out,” she said. “I think it’s really an accomplishment and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Lots of folks agreed with Montgomery. Customers joined associates and local officials in the celebration Friday morning. Darrell Arnold, Sam’s Club Region 25 market manager, shared Montgomery’s sentiments.
“We like to make a big deal of being in business for 25 years,” he said. “We’ve been here in the community, providing jobs and creating a network of partnerships. That’s what sets us apart from the next retailer.”
One of those partnerships involves Volunteering Always Pays, a program that pairs associates with organizations that have a particular need. Two years ago, associates volunteered with New Dimensions Academy. Founder and CEO Dr. Belinda Robbins said the students benefitted from the time they spent with Sam’s Club associates.
“They were incredible,” she said. “They helped in the learning process and had such a good attitude. They came out and taught our summer camp kids about starting their own businesses, how a business really works. That was two years ago and the kids still talk about it.”
Robbins said the kids took that knowledge and created their own businesses to get first-hand experience.
“They started C&D — chips and drinks — and did well,” she said. “They did a pizza business that didn’t do so well but they learned that sometimes businesses fail. They created a snow cone-ice cream stand that did very well. And they all started with information they got from Sam’s Club.”
The students made enough to help pay for a trip to Washington, D.C., said Robbins.
Robbins was one of a handful of speakers to share stories Friday morning about how Sam’s Club associates have impacted the local community. Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day and Morrow Mayor J.B. Burke also spoke.
“This is a quarter-century, 25 years,” said Day. “I salute you on a great job. A club is only as good as each one of you. Keep up the good work, we’re proud of you.”
Other dignitaries included Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter; Stephanie Thomas, representing Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon; CC Wings owner Chris Carlyle; former store manager Derrick Jordan and store manager Tonya Barr. Clayton County Commissioner Gail Hambrick attended but did not speak.
Jordan told the crowd that he didn’t expect much from the store when he came on board in 2004.
“I didn’t think I’d make it to 2005,” he said. “The store was losing $1 million a year, it wasn’t profitable. But two years after I started here, we started making headway. In the third year, we started making a profit. None of that would have been possible without the people. If people are not put first, it is absolutely impossible to be successful.”
Jordan is now manager at Sam’s Club in Macon.
Four associates were also recognized for spending 25 years with the store. Pamela Clyde-Blackshear, Deloris Frederick, Frances Mingo and Betty Sawyer got trophies and plaques for their dedication. Members of the Jonesboro High School marching band, under the direction of LeBarron McWhorter, performed several times inside the store after practicing in the parking lot.