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Rotary Club honors governor, INK director at banquet
Deal, Hooper named Man and Woman of the Year for community contributions
Rotary Club of Gainesville Woman of the Year Sheri Hooper chats with Austin Edmondson at the Chattahoochee Country Club during Monday evening’s annual awards dinner. Hooper is the executive director of the nonprofit Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Inc.

The Gainesville Rotary Club honored two residents Monday for their contributions to the community and the state a the club's annual banquet.

The Rotary Club named Gov. Nathan Deal its Man of the Year. Sheri Hooper, executive director of Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, was Woman of the Year.

"I would have to say in all honestly that you really didn't have to give me this award tonight," Deal said.

Deal's many years of service to the Gainesville Rotary Club and the Gainesville Jaycees, in addition to his many years of representing the citizens of Georgia, in the House of Representatives, the state Senate and as governor earned his place as man of the year.

"Nathan Deal has worked for his community all his life. As an attorney, the District Attorney and Juvenile Court Judge, in the Georgia Legislature, as our Congressman and now as Governor of the State of Georgia," Kit Dunlap wrote in a letter nominating Deal. "No question, he is very deserving."

When Deal stepped up to the microphone to accept his award, he praised the Gainesville community for its giving spirit.

"Thank you so much for this opportunity and this honor. Sandra and I couldn't have found a better place to live and to work and raise our family than right here in Hall County," Deal said.

The Rev. Bill Coates, minister at The First Baptist Church, introduced Hooper and presented her with the The Gainesville Rotary Club Woman of the Year Award.

Coates praised Hooper for fulfilling her dream of opening an interactive museum for children.

"This woman thinks big and moves fast," Coates said.

For the last 10 years, INK has been a place for children to learn through playing. The museum serves more than 50,000 children a year.

Hooper doesn't take a salary from INK and oversees the day-to-day management.

"Sherri has managed to take a dream and turn it into a state-of-the-art children's museum for our community. Because of her hard work ... INK is now a destination point for thousands of families in the Southeast seeking a wholesome environment in which to enrich their children's lives," Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Community Service Center in Gainesville, wrote in a letter nominating Hooper.

Hooper teased Coates, saying he was very sneaky. She said she had no idea she was going to be given the award.

"Thank you so much. It is an honor to live in this community and to be able to ask and receive for something that I love so much, our children. I believe they are our future and we need to love, hold them and teach them everything we possibly can," Hooper said.