At the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce’s Banquet Monday night, held at Hempstead Hall, five major awards were announced and many other citizens’ contributions were recognized.
In attendance at the Banquet, and introduced by Hope Chamber Board President Nathaniel Holyfield, were state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, state representative Danny Watson and Arkansas Chamber of Commerce Vice President Kenneth Hall.
Following the pledging of allegiance, the singing of the national anthem (Bitsy Carter) and the saying of a prayer (Maurice Henry, Chamber Board Member), Christy Burns, Chamber Executive Director, and Holyfield, listed some of the many sponsors who had donated at the Presenting Sponsors, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels.
Then Holyfield recognized the contributions of members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, asking them each to stand. Next, Aley Mendoza, Ambassador Coordinator introduced the Chamber Ambassadors, who gathered next to the stage for a picture.
After Rex Nelson’s speech came the award ceremony, with last year’s winners presenting the 2022 honors.
Citizen of the Year for 2022 was Jessie Henry. Previous winners Steve and Celia Montgomery introduced him with a rundown of his employment and community service achievements. He has been employed with Tex Ark Joist, SMI Joist, Tyson production and now the Hope Public School District, meanwhile serving on the Hope School Board, the Hempstead County Quorum Court, as pastor at Charity Baptist Church in Fulton, as Chaplain for the Hempstead County Jail, as volunteer for Juvenile Drug Court and as member and recruiter of members for the Brotherhood of Fulton.
In Henry’s acceptance speech he first thanked God. “If it weren’t for God on our side, we wouldn’t have the brotherhood and sisterhood to do the things that we do,” he said. He thanked his family for their support and said, “The Brotherhood of Fulton could not do the things we do in this community without people like you all, and the organizations and banks and judges that really helped us become a nonprofit organization. We couldn’t have helped people during the pandemic if it weren’t for people like you all,” he said.
Educator of the Year was awarded to Jackie Phillips Brady, a teacher and coordinator at the Hope Academy of Public Service’s EAST (Education Accelerated by Service and Technology) program. Brady, said last year’s holder of the award Travell Green, promotes ways to recognize the contributions of area veterans and has enlisted her students to help in recording veterans’ stories and committing them to CDs to be given to each veteran.
“I thank everybody in this room for supporting my classroom, supporting my kids. I thank you all so much,” Brady said while accepting her certificate.
The Business of the Year Award for 2022 went to local news website, Swark.Today. See the story based on this here.
Winning Nonprofit of the Year was the Hope chapter of the Junior Auxiliary. Julie Lively, of last year’s recipient, The Call of Hempstead County listed the charity’s services, highlighting its role in giving scholarships to area students.
Lyndsi Easterling, a member for ten years, in accepting the award praised the responsiveness of the organization to the needs of area children. She said that as a teacher, when she encountered a student whose family could not afford Christmas gifts or needed expensive treatment for headlice, “All I had to do was snap fingers and it was taken care of because these ladies work hard all year raising money.” She asked that members of the Junior Auxiliary stand up and be applauded and then did a bit of recruiting, “I hope you’ll join us, because we’re making changes in Hope and we’re making them for the better.”
The first ever Chamber of Commerce Young Leadership Recognition for 2022 went to Huck Plyler who helped start an initiative to mail care packages to those serving in the US military. “I’ve sent around 1,200 boxes now,” he said during his acceptance. “I just want to thank the Chamber. I want to thank any veterans that are here. I just want to thank God for everything He’s done for us and just thank everybody that’s helped me through this process.”
During a video presentation Hope Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christy Burns introduced the new Watermelon Festival logo, with its motto Rockin’ To the Rind.
Anna Powell, UAHT Foundation Director introduced a video that unveiled the performer for 2022 Watermelon Festival Concert as Uncle Kracker, a longtime singer and songwriter from Michigan who started out as a member of Kid Rock’s backing band.
The banquet’s closing music was “Stand By Me,” the Ben E. King song. Chamber Board Member Arnetta Bradford spoke during the instrumental break of her soaring rendition: “So as we forge ahead after tonight, I hope you will continue to stand by one another and continue to show this love not just tonight but after tonight.”