Two people who could almost be considered “professional” volunteers received top honors at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum Thursday night.
Howard Stewart and Gloria McDonald, who have loaned their services to a variety of community causes over the years, were named Man and Woman of the Year by the chamber.
Stewart was hailed as a “tireless, enthusiastic, positive-thinking guy who has the energy and ability to follow throw with any task he undertakes — and that is a lot” by presenter Marc Marchesseault, the previous year's honoree.
Stewart retired after a 30-year career at Big Spring Independent School District. After two years, however, he became “bored,” Marchesseault said, and went back to work full time with the GEO Group.
But it is his volunteer work within the community which received the most attention Thursday — among the many activities Stewart is active in includes Relay for Life, the regional council for the American Cancer Society, Comanche Trail Triathlon and the Festival of Lights Christmas display at the city park.
“What an honor!” Stewart exclaimed after receiving the award. “But … I didn't do this by myself. There have been a lot of people looking out for me over the years … This has been a great life. Thank you.”
Like Stewart, McDonald also is active in several community activities, including Relay for Life, Dora Roberts Rehab Center, American Heart Association and United Way.
“She walks the walk and talks the talk,” said presenter Sherry Hodnett, the previous year's female honoree.
“This award doesn't belong to just me,” McDonald said. “It belongs to many, many people … I consider this Big Spring's greatest honor, and I thank you for it.”
Another special award was handed out to Brint Ryan, the Big Spring native who spearheaded the renovation of the Settles Hotel, which recently reopened after being shuttered for more than 30 years.
Kris Ryan, who accepted the award on behalf of his brother, thanked several local residents and organizations for their help in bringing the seven-year project to fruition, including former Mayor Russ McEwen, the local Economic Development Corporation and other agencies.
“A lot of people thought this would never happen,” Ryan said. “And without any of these pieces to the puzzle falling into place, this would not have happened.”
The other highlight of Thursday's banquet as the “passing of the gavel” from outgoing Chamber President Jan Foresyth to her successor, Jim Clements.
Clements sounded a note of enthusiasm for Howard County's future as he took the reins of the chamber.
“It is a dream of mine to give back to the county which has given me and my family so much,” he said. “Howard County is on the verge of making a move … We have new businesses popping up all over town, new homes and new families … I believe we are in the right place, at the right time, with the right people to get the job done.”