'A Tireless Volunteer'
Bobby McDonald named Citizen of the Year; Carolyn Stewart receives Woman of the Year honor
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Verdon and Jerry Graves, 2003 Citizens of the Year, presented Bobby McDonald (right) with the 2004 Citizen of the Year award Thursday night during the 79th Annual Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center arena.
Staff photo by Angela Pitts

Feb. 18, 2005 -- Hopkins County's Citizen of the Year honor for 2004 highlighted the 79th Annual Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet Thursday night.

Verdon and Jerry Graves, who were recognized as Citizens of the Year last year, were called upon to present this year's award to Bobby McDonald.

There were two categories of qualifications for selection of the recipient of the award, and Verdon and Jerry Graves said Bobby McDonald fit neatly into both categories.

"The criteria used to select the Hopkins County Citizen of the Year is very precise: Does an individual serve this community with passion and selflessness? Some past recipients of the award were honored for years of service to Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs. Others were chosen for their tireless community service performed in one given year. The 2005 Citizen of the Year fits neatly into both categories."

A lifetime resident of the county, McDonald is active in FFA, 4-H and Young Farmers, and for years has played a vital role in the annual Dairy Festival. He is also a member of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce and Hopkins County Tourism Board.

"Those accomplishments alone would garner the attention of the Citizen of the Year selection committee," Jerry Graves said. "But his work in 2004 certainly set him apart."

Called a "tireless volunteer," Bobby served as chairman of the Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee, and over the course of a year led the planning, organizing and implementation of the county's 150th birthday celebration.

"He spent countless hours ensuring the Sesquicentennial Celebration would be an event that our citizens would not only be proud of - but one they would want to be a part of," Verdon Graves said. "And, under his leadership, it was a huge success."

McDonald is an author with several books to his credit, a columnist, champion of the agriculture industry, and was described as a "vital member of this community."

The Citizen of the Year award is sponsored annually by Echo Publishing Company.

Craig Roberts, outgoing chairman of the board of Chamber directors, took time to make a special presentation in recognition of the years of total dedication to the community by Guy Felton, who died last year.

"Many of you have heard the expression 'Give until it hurts,'" Roberts said. "Well, Guy Felton gave until it made him happy. He was happy to serve the community and did until the day he passed."

Guy Felton served the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Club, Kiwanis Club and his church for many years and did not show his age.

"I can remember toting tables at the stew contest, and he was right beside me," Roberts said. "I was a third his age, but he would stop and ask me how I was doing and if I needed help."

The award in memory of Guy was presented to his wife, Helen Felton.

Carolyn Stewart was named as recipient of the Woman of the Year Award, presented annually by Beta Sigma Phi.

In making the presentation, Jimmie McIntire said the 2004 Woman of the Year played a very active role in the community.

"She has served on the Child Welfare Board and the CASA board," McIntire said. "She has served and helped with the Empty Stocking Program, the Hi-King Klub, Junior Waverly. She is still active in the Sulphur Springs Symphony League."

Stewart was also recognized as being the driving force for resounding successes of the Cattle Baron's Ball, working to raise more money per capita than any other Cattle Baron's Ball in counties of a size comparable to Hopkins County.

"She unselfishly gives of herself to any project that will benefit Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County," McIntire concluded.

Shirley Baxter was honored as being the Caregiver of the Year, sponsored each year by Pilot Club.

Baxter was recognized for providing total care around the clock for her husband, as well as enabling him to visit with friends on a weekly basis.

Along with caring for her husband, Baxter still finds time to be active outside her home with the same compassion and dedication.

Community Pride awards were presented to Terrific Tuesdays and Hopkins County Community Action Network by 8th Judicial District Judge Robert Newsom,

Terrific Tuesdays provides respite care in a home-style environment for seniors who suffer memory loss due to the effects of Alzheimer's Disease and other afflictions with trained professional and compassionate volunteers.

The award was presented to Chris Beech, who coordinates the Terrific Tuesdays program.

A second Community Pride Award was presented to Dawn Sheffield for her work with Hopkins County Community Action Network.

"In Sept., 2001, this organization opened its doors at 525 Church Street with a mission to serve the community by encouraging and supporting self-sufficiency among Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County residents in need and by promoting and improving community support systems," Judge Newsom said. "Such a coordinated effort did not exist before then and was sorely needed to keep those in need from bounding from one agency to another, to distinguish those who really needed help from those who didn't, and to help provide a 'hand up' rather than a handout."

Representing the Professional Ag Workers of Hopkins County, Gary Spraggins presented the Agriculturist of the Year Award for 2005 to Lone Star Farm.

The fourth-generation Hopkins County dairy exemplifies the very heart and soul of the family farm, Spraggins said in presenting the award to Wayne Bearden, David and Pat Rabun, Ann and Rynn Caudle, Amy and Michael Bowen, and 5-year-old Hanna Caudle.

"Wayne and the late Junior Bearden started milking in a Grade B barn in February of 1949. I have been told that Junior said 'It was just an old shed,'" Spraggins said. "In 1951 they milked with Ed Bearden Jr.'s dad in his Grade A barn."

In 2004, Lone Star Farm moved into a brand new dairy barn.

Judy Gillem, representing the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, presented the Educator of the Year Award to Mary Robinson, saying those who made the nomination said that she had "the sunniest and most positive outlook of anyone."

In her position as campus technology coordinator, Mary Robinson works to ensure that students are working in an environment that offers an "optimum educational" opportunity using the most up-to-date equipment available.

Recognition was also given to the large business of the year and the small business of the year.

Joe Wallace, plant manager of 2004 recipient Morningstar Foods, described City National Bank, the Large Business of the Year Award winner, as the city's oldest surviving business and one of the oldest of its kind in the state.

"In 1889, this business was established and became a fixture of the city's public square where it continues its presence today," Wallace said.

City National Bank now employs 120 people and serves not only Sulphur Springs, but surrounding communities of Hawkins, Winnsboro, Quitman, Yantis and Como.

"The true level of their commitment to the community is not only illustrated through their financial support of these charities, but the endless hours its employees donate as directors, board members and volunteers," Wallace said. "This fundamental belief in the local community is further exhibited by the fact that over 15 percent of its employees have been with the company for over 25 continuous years."

City National Bank was recognized in 1996 with the Best of Community Banking Award for Marketing, presented by the Independent Bankers Association of Texas for their "Kid's Savings Program" which allows and encourages children at local schools to save money and become financially responsible.

Small Business of the Year honors were presented to Paula Rorie, owner of Flowerland Florist. The award was presented by Gena Watson Prickette, who is Rorie's niece.

"Very often small businesses are family businesses whether or not you are related to the people you work with -- everyone treats each other like family," Prickette said. "I know firsthand what is like to be treated like family at this business, because this year's winner is a member of my family."

Rorie purchased Flowerland Florist in 1982 and is the longest continual owner of a floral company in Sulphur Springs.

"I am sure there are countless people who have come to Flowerland for help when they were volunteering for a worthy cause or found themselves chairing an event," Prickett said. "However, we will never know most of them because Paula [Rorie] helps so many behind the scenes, quietly and anonymously, never seeking recognition."

Featured entertainment for the annual meeting was a slide show illustrating life in Hopkins County during 2004. Photos for the presentation were produced by Bobby McDonald.

Keith Shurtleff, incoming chairman of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerc board of directors, served as master of ceremonies for the 79th Annual Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet.

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