Grapeland Chamber of Commerce Holds “Evening with Heroes” Annual Banquet

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce (GCOC) held its annual banquet with the theme “Evening of Heroes” Thursday, Jan. 26 at the First Methodist Church in Grapeland. State representative Trent Ashby was among the dignitaries to come and enjoy dinner, awards and fellowship at the event. 

GCOC President Amber Loew was on hand with her volunteers and students from the Grapeland FFA who helped welcome guests and serve dinner which included chicken, brisket and all the fixings. The dinner was provided by new Grapeland business Marketplace on Main. 

The Messenger recently interviewed GCOC President Loew who explained the theme for this year, “Evening of Heroes” was meant not only to honor veterans and law enforcement, but the everyday heroes who volunteer their time and energy to help the community. The awards given at the banquet this year were designed to show just what heroes we have in this community. 

Mayor Mitchell Woody introduced the newest members to the chamber: Asa Butler, Julie Martin, Jacquelyn Robertson and Dianne Holister. 

Ashby then gave a keynote address, stressing the importance of several issues important to the local community including property taxes and immigration. You can find a full summary of Ashby’s comments in this edition. 

Ashby was given an award by Woody for his keeping to his roots and supporting our communities saying. 

“Leadership, integrity and dedication,” Woody said. “Not only was it a campaign, but he (Ashby) represents it in real life. Each and every time we have called Trent, he was willing to come. He has fostered an open-door relationship with his constituents and we thank him and are beyond proud to have him as our state representative.”

Grapeland Mayor Mitchell Woody gives Rep. Trent Ashby an award thanking him for his support of the community

Both Wood and Ashby presented the next awards, all following the theme of “Evening of Heroes.”

Tommy Byrd, a Purple Heart recipient, was presented with the Military Hero Award for “his selfless acts serving his country and his great sacrifice.”

The Grapeland Noon Lions Club was presented with the award for Service Organization of the Year with Woody noting the local Lions Club “could be found safely parking thousand of cars at the Peanut Festival and then turning around the next morning feeding a host of people at a company picnic. They are great brothers and sisters in this community and people know when they see the Lions Club embroidery to expect a great deal of pride and a warm smile.”

Tom and Vicki Gates were selected as Service Man and Woman of the Year due to their selfless concern for the needs and wishes of others. 

“They have devoted their time monthly to food drivers and food pantries, sponsored Christmas decorations in the park and Mr. Gates plays Santa in the park. They have donated money for scholarships and students in our area. No award we could give them would thank them enough, however, this award tonight is all we can do to honor these two.”

The Grapeland Volunteer Fire Department was recognized as Volunteer Organization of the Year as a testament to their sacrifice in giving up their time and energy for something regarded as important or worthy. 

“This is merely a small amount of what these men and women do time and again. They put the city of Grapeland and our safety as their number one priority,” Woody said as he presented the award. 

“With the hearts of small-town people, when we see a need for something, we figure out how to go about getting it done,” Woody said as he presented the award for New Business of the Year to Market Street Laundromat and their efforts to support the community. 

The winner of Educator of the Year came as no surprise as Mayor Woody himself noted, “A man of many names: ‘Coach Jackson,’ ‘Chief,’ ‘Superintendent Jackson,’ ‘Pastor Jackson’ – he answers to them all.” 

Grapeland Superintendent Don Jackson, who recently announced his retirement at the end of this school year, was hailed as a “father figure both educationally and spiritually. He has shaped the true meaning of ‘Sandie Pride Never Dies.’”

The chamber then gave a special thanks to chamber member Whitney Walker. A drawing was held which included premium firearms, a birthday party at Salmon Lake Park, Grapeland school swag and other gifts which were won by those who participated in the event.

The gathering was concluded by the event’s location host Pastor Wade Harmon, who led the group in prayer. As the attendees took to-go plates and said their goodbyes and wandered out into the chilly January night, it was a happy, proud group that came to participate in the banquet in Grapeland, home of heroes. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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