Grapeland Chamber of Commerce Banquet a Success

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday, Jan. 27 and honored those who had helped to make Grapeland a better community over the past year.

The event started with a catered dinner from El Toro featuring beef and chicken fajitas along with sides of rice and beans. For dessert, attendees were treated to a scrumptious slice of cheesecake. Members of the Grapeland FFA were on hand to serve the dinner and did a wonderful job.

After dinner, the awards portion of the banquet began.

Chamber President Amber Loew informed those in attendance about the various raffle items available and then provided the invocation. Following the prayer, the Chamber President yielded the floor to Grapeland Mayor Mitchell Woody.

The mayor kicked off the awards by presenting the Senior of the Year Award to GHS senior Jaycee Graham.

“I would just like to thank (GHS Principal) Mrs. (Katie) Doughty for making things fun and for letting me come to her office anytime. If there are any Grapeland seniors here, just enjoy it because it goes by really fast,” she said.

The next award was the Good Neighbor Award.

“This award showcases the heart and soul of Grapeland and surrounding cities. We are dedicated to see these awards don’t go unnoticed. The Good Neighbor Award goes to Tom and Vickie Gates,” the mayor said.

“The next Good Neighbor Award,” Woody continued, “goes to a very special woman. She is more than a mere elected official. She embodies heart, mind and soul and serves as an inspiration as well as a role model. She cares about her community and embodies the phrase public service. No matter where you see her, she carries with her a smile and a warm heart. You can find her visiting local churches as well as supporting various local community projects and businesses. We would like to present our next Good Neighbor Award to none other than (County Attorney) Daphne L. Session.”

The next award was for the Church of the Year and Program of the Year which went to First Baptist Church of Grapeland, which hosted the event. FBC has always been a rock upon which the community could depend on since its inception in 1891. The award was accepted by another Grapeland icon, Mr. Ben Childress.

Following up on the Church of the Year Award, the mayor presented the Pastor of the Year Award to Rev. Broderick Hill of Rising Star Baptist Church.

As the banquet continued, Grapeland Police Officer Aaron Hatton was presented with the Serviceman of the Year Award. The Business of the Year Award was presented to Salmon Lake Park. The Chamber of Commerce Members of the Year Awards were presented to Nikki Steinsbo and Brandon Bridges for their tireless efforts in promoting the city of Grapeland.

A very special award followed as State Rep. Trent Ashby was honored.

“Trent, we would like to thank you,” Steinsbo said, “because you always make a way. There are elected officials who come out for nothing more than to solicit votes, but you come out to support us in many ways. I don’t think there is a time we have held any of our meager gatherings here in Grapeland that you didn’t show up to support us. I appreciate it and you’ve got my vote.”

Once the state representative received his Choice Award, Steinsbo continued at the dais.

“You make a living but what it is that you get, but you make a life by what you give. Right now, I want to thank and honor a very special lady to the Grapeland community. This lady has served the less fortunate in many ways. This lady walks like a boss. She talks like a boss. She has been known to take action when necessary and ruled certain situations with an iron fist. What stands out most, however, is that she loves her neighbor. This lady retired in 2021 with 45 years of service to the City of Grapeland. She retired at 90-years-young and I’m going to ask everyone in the room to stand and let’s give a round of applause to the beautiful Mrs. Wanda Nichols,” Steinsbo said.

As the award presentations started to wind down, Woody returned to the podium to present the Humanitarian Award.

“According to the definition, a humanitarian is one who seeks to promote human welfare. This is a caring person who often may participate in charity work to show they may care about you and others. This person will more than likely say they are undeserving of this award. We, however, believe otherwise. This last and final award will be presented a little differently. We have a few members of the Vulcraft team that will come up to share a few words. I would like to call up Jerome Simpson, Tommy Taylor and Justin Wells to the podium,” the mayor said.

Josh Wall

The three men extolled the virtues of their former boss, Josh Wall, and talked about his leadership in his role as the GM of Vulcraft. Emotions started to spill over as they talked about his qualities as a boss, a man and as a friend.

Rep. Ashby returned to the stage to present Wall with the award and presented him with a Certificate of Recognition from the Texas State House of Representatives and a flag that was flown over the Texas Capital on Jan. 26.

“This is a surprise,” Wall said. “The only thing that comes to mind is thank you. Thank you for some of the best years of my life. Thank you for being a home for me and my family. Thank you for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me as we bring unity in the community. I love and miss you.”

Wall has recently taken a position in the North Texas area as Vice President and General Manager for Nucor’s Insulated Panel Group.

The last awards of the night were presented to Mitchell and Bobbi Jo Woody for their service to the community and for their efforts to make Grapeland a better place to live.

Once the awards were presented, door prizes were awarded, raffle tickets were drawn and the winners were presented with their prizes. 

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].  

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