The Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Meeting for 2021 at Hempstead Hall last night with an air of renewed hope and vigor. Chamber members and presenters celebrated the positive impact of the community’s tenacity and courage during the pandemic and focused on moving forward with the theme of “A Whole New World.”
The night began with prayer and an uplifting performance by Kidron Pagels which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance presented by Hope High School Air Force Junior ROTC and the national anthem performed by Bitsy Carter. Executive Director Beckie Moore and Chamber of Commerce Board President Christy Burns set the tone with words of gratitude for the community’s resilience during the previous year and prompted the citizens to face forward with optimism and hope. The Williams Sisters then presented attendees with an inspirational performance as a community-wide thank you.
Recognition and awards were presented throughout the evening beginning with United Way Board President Janet Choate recognizing the top donors of 2020: New Millenium, Hope Water & Light, Swepco, and Rainbow of Challenges. The 2021 Awards for Citizen, Educator, Business, and Nonprofit of the year were presented by last year’s honorees. Cherry Stewart presented Citizens of the Year to Steve and Celia Montgomery. Mandy Townsend presented Educator of the Year to Travell Green. Jacob Jones from Farmers Bank & Trust presented Business of the Year to Pafford Medical Services. Judy Watson from Rainbow of Challenges presented Nonprofit of the Year to The CALL of Hempstead County. A common theme emerged with every speaker throughout the evening: inspiration and resiliency. Presenters, honorees, and guests all shared an admiration and appreciation for the devotion seen throughout the community during the previous year.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Jake Bequette. Bequette, a former Arkansas Razorback and New England Patriots football player, is the founder of the Arkansas Fund, a nonprofit organization created to raise money for small businesses in Arkansas struggling in the wake of the pandemic. With “By Arkansans. For Arkansans.” as its slogan, the Arkansas Fund seeks to provide immediate relief to businesses in need to avoid closings and layoffs. Bequette shared a similar message about his love of Arkansas and its small communities who band together and triumph for the greater good.
As the evening began to wind down, UAHT Foundation Director and Chamber Board Member Anna Powell announced the headliner for the upcoming Watermelon Festival. Phil Vasser will perform at Fair Park Saturday night during the festival. Also, a live auction was held which included autographed footballs and a 3D painting of Jake Bequette. The last performance of the night was a powerful medley performed by Arnetta Bradley, from Hebrews 11:1, and the Williams Family. Arnetta’s powerful vocals combined with the Williams’ sweet harmony was the perfect end to a night celebrating hope and optimism.
Beckie Moore and Christy Burns were thrilled with the night’s turnout. Beckie stated, “The Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was filled with moments of inspiration, encouragement, celebration and hope! It is always a blessing when the community comes together to recognize & honor outstanding individuals and businesses. All who received awards are well-deserving community-minded folks who continually make a difference in Hope & Hempstead County. What a pleasure it was to have Jake Bequette as our keynote speaker. He was an outstanding chamber speaker due in large part to his phenomenal work through The Arkansas Fund. The chamber appreciates all who joined us in person and via livestream for one, memorable evening!” Christy shared the sentiment with, “I would like to thank every individual, business, and organization who held a part in making the 2021 Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting a success. I am so grateful that we were able to hold this year’s meeting at Hempstead Hall and be in each other’s company after such a tough and trying year. Congratulations to each well-deserving award recipient. Together we can achieve anything, especially if we “Face Forward” with high HOPES of “A Whole New World.”
The Chamber members, honorees, and guests exhibited feelings of much-deserved pride in this community. Hope and Hempstead County turned a difficult year into a shining moment by banding together and weathering the storm with dedication, confidence, and faith. This strong community now enthusiastically looks to a future with tremendous hope and prosperity on the horizon.