Dr. Joe B. Minter (left) accepts the 2007 Hopkins County Citizen of the Year plaque from Coy Johnson, last year's recipient of the award. Minter's years of public service and continuing efforts to help others in the community led to his recognition.

Citizne of the Year 'a tireless champion'

Dr. Joe Minter honored with award at annual Chamber banquet; multiple Downtown Business Alliance members also earn recognition

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Feb. 8, 2008 - With a nod to the past, the present and the future, Coy Johnson accepted the award for 2006 Citizen of the Year at Thursday night's Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce 81st Annual Membership Banquet.

The presentation to Johnson capped off an evening of recognition for 10 individuals and organizations for their service to the community.

"I don't know what to say, and a lawyer shouldn't ever be in that position," quipped Johnson.

2005 Citizen of the Year Dawn Sheffield listed Johnson's extensive list of accomplishments: director emeritus of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, member of the American Association for Justice, past president of the East Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, past president of the Hopkins County Bar Association and Northeast Texas Bar Association.

He is also past president of the Sulphur Springs/Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation, a leader of the Democratic Party at the state and local level, and a member of First United Methodist Church, where he has chaired many committees and is currently chairman of the board of trustees.

But it was his work over the past four years to make the Sulphur Springs Boys and Girls Club a success that really stood out in Thursday's presentation.

Sheffield said Johnson has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many community projects, especially those involving children, and done so not wanting any recognition. He has been the driving force behind the establishment and success of the Boys and Girls Club, acting as "a super fund raiser, and adviser and a counselor."

He is also responsible for much of the refurbishing and maintenance of the club's home on Houston Street.

"He not only works himself, he has a wonderful knack for talking his friends, family and associates into helping out, as well," Sheffield said. "He is never too busy to help the club when needed."

After accepting the award, Johnson turned his attention to being an advocate for the Boys and Girls Club, specifically thanking his wife, Patsy, the 2001 Citizen of the Year, for getting him interested in the project.

"She got me involved in Boys and Girls Club about four years ago, and there's something about that club that's catching," he said.

He urged all in attendance to visit the Boys and Girls Club facility on Houston Street and see the happiness the club brings to 130 children every day, or to stop at one of the other club facilities, such as the H.W. Gray's Building in Pacific Park, for a similarly uplifting experience.

"We could not do this without all of you who have volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club," he added. "This is something you can all be proud of."

Earlier in the evening Beta Sigma Phi presented the Woman of the Year award to Ursula Campbell, who was praised for her volunteer work with the Terrific Tuesdays and Young at Heart programs at First United Methodist Church.

"She also knows how to put a smile on the faces of the members of her church who are in nursing homes or are shut-ins," presenter Pam Hollingsworth said. "It is during these times that she represents what we at Beta Sigma Phi hold so dear, the giving of oneself for others."

Campbell may have been the most humble of all the evening's award recipients. After taking the plaque, she moved to the microphone and simply said, "Thank you so much. I don't deserve this."

On the way back to her table, however, Carolyn Stewart, who received the 2004 award, stopped her for a hug.

"Yes, you do," Stewart told her.

Hopkins County Professional Ag Workers Association President Charles McDaniel presented the Agriculturist of the Year to Harry Leon Lewis, who has worked some 63 years on dairy farms by himself and with his family

Lewis runs not only the first certified organic dairy in Hopkins County, but is also the first African American organic certified dairy producer in Texas.

"There is an old African proverb that says, 'It takes a village to raise a child,'" said Lewis. "I want to thank Texas, Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs for raising Harry Lewis!"

He also spread the credit for bringing organic dairy farming to the county.

"I didn't bring it -- WE brought it," he said.

One of the most poignant moments came when Austin Elementary School Principal Juan Harrison announced Jill Shelby was the recipient of the Educator of the Year honor. Shelby, his "technology guru" at the school, exhibits the traits all educators strive for, Harrison said.

He told of how Shelby and her husband, Chris, took special interest in a foster child in second grade at the school. When the child moved away, "they fought through the legal system and adopted the child," Harrison said. Next year, the couple is leaving the country to help people in Rwanda.

"That's not a pleasant place," Harrison said.

Shelby was gracious and humble.

"I work for a great school," she said. "We're really sad that we're leaving."

Pilot Club President Tina Phillips presented the Caregiver Award to Lynn Ward, wife of Tom Ward, has been her husband's primary caregiver since he was diagnosed more than four years ago with Multiple System Atrophy, a debilitating a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.

"Her husband is now totally dependent on her and professional caregivers that help while she is teaching at Sulphur Springs Middle School," Phillips said. "She has trained for and performed medical and caregiving procedures that most of us would never attempt, yet she performs the procedures every day without complaint.

Typical of a recipient of such an award, Ward offered prayers for those families in the audience who are battling debilitating diseases.

"So many of you have touched our lives," Ward said. "I thank you, and Tom thanks you."

Community Pride Awards, sponsored by the 1994 Adult Leadership Class, were presented by District Judge Robert Newsom to Hopkins County Historical Society for their Heritage Park and Museum programs, and the Hopkins County Military Coalition for service to veterans.

The historical society's volunteers have saved and restored important structures and artifacts from the county's past, such as a church built in 1895, the oldest log cabin school in the county, the oldest brick house in Sulphur Springs, and more recently a 1929 fire truck. An estimated 20,000 people visit the park and museum every year, many of them school children who learn living lessons about the county's history.

The military coalition, formed in 1998, helps veterans and their families and has provided military honor guards at funerals for 368 veterans and presented hundreds of flags to veterans' families, provided color guards throughout the community, and have done it all through donations and money out of their own pockets.

"Many of these men in the coalition were wounded in war and still carry the scars of service to our country on their bodies and in their hearts," Newsom said. "Tonight, we honor these heroes of Hopkins County."

Small Business of the Year was presented to Community Bank, which was noted for its extensive involvement in community projects since its inception in 2003.

"We've got a great group of employees, officers and directors that have made this possible," said David Brewer, Community Bank president. "It's been a pleasure to have had a small part in putting together this group."

Industry of the Year went to M. Hanna Construction, which started in 1984 and has grown to more than 150 employees and has a long history of contributing to community projects, including but not limited to large contributions to Hopkins County United Way.

"My company's success is probably owed in a lot of ways to a lot of people here," said Matthew Hanna. "No company can succeed without good people in the organization. That's something we strive to achieve -- good people that stay involved in the community."

Paris Junior College was the recipient of one of the biggest honors of the night, the Vision Award, given to those who first see an area of potential need or opportunity in the community

Sulphur Springs Mayor Freddie Taylor praised PJC for its commitment to higher education for Hopkins County citizens.

The current PJC-Sulphur Springs Center campus opened in 1996 with just over 200 students, but enrollment has grown to as high as almost 800 over the past 10 years.

But even before the present campus opened, PJC had been in Sulphur Springs since the 1980s providing technical and workforce training, including GED prep courses and testing, dual credit courses for high school students, degree programs, vocational and technical training, and workforce training for local industries.

Today, the campus is staffed with about 50 full and part-time faculty, as well as office and support staff to help students complete associate's degrees in arts and sciences.

PJC President Dr. Pamela Anglin announced in August that 46 acres had been purchased on State Highway 19 to build a new campus in Sulphur Springs to replace the existing facility and meet the needs of a growing student population and curriculum.

SHW Group of Dallas, project architects, were performing geo-technical testing on the site this week, and land surveys are underway. The architects are also in the process of designing the first building, expected to be ready for use in 2009.

"Our goal is to make higher education affordable and accessible for all the young people of Hopkins County," Anglin said, bringing a rousing round of applause from the hundreds in attendance.

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