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During its annual banquet on March 3, the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce presented several awards.

Most recipients were selected by local citizens, while three “Lifetime Achievement” award winners were selected by the chamber board.

Chamber executive director Angie Quinlan said this was the first time such awards have been doled out at the banquet, and they will now be an annual feature at the event.

“We thought we needed to start acknowledging people in the community who are working to make Houston a better place – whether they’re chamber members or not,” Quinlan said, “and I would like for area residents to know a little bit about why each recipient got an award.

“But one thing they all share is that when I think of all of them, I think of that Tim McGraw song, ‘Humble and Kind,’ because that describes every one of them.”

•Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Gerald St. John.

Beverly St. John accepted a “Lifetime Achievement” award presented to her late husband, Gerald St. John.

“I mean, what didn’t this man do for Houston?” Quinlan said. “He did so much for emergency management, the fire department and other things, and of course, he had his chiropractic business in Houston since the early 1980s. He really cared about his patients, he loved kids and wanted to see them succeed, and he always pushed for the better of the community.

“When I think of Gerald, I think of a Godly man who was always doing something for the community. With him, it was always God, family and Houston.”

•Lifetime Achievement: Edgar Rust (former owner of Rust Utility).

Edgar Rust received a “Lifetime Achievement” award.

“He was in business for over 60 years,” Quinlan said, “and he worked until he was almost 90. To work day in and day out six days a week in the same business for that long is absolutely amazing; it baffles my mind.

“But what also stands out to me is the way he took care of his wife, Margie, when she was ill. It’s just so hard to find that kind of commitment in a marriage these days.”

•Lifetime Achievement – Linda Gibson.

Linda Gibson received a “Lifetime Achievement” award.

“She worked for the Houston Herald for 44 years,” Quinlan said. “I remember when I was in school and you would see her out taking pictures. But now, of course, she’s the community choir’s secretary, but she’s also really the one who makes all the phone calls and makes sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be. And she’s the one who keeps the Houston Visitors Center going – I like to say she’s the glue that holds it together – and she helps me be calm, and when I have meltdown days she comes in and prays with me.

“Someone else said she’s the glue that holds the community choir together. I really think she’s sort of a jack of all trades.”

•Excellence in Agriculture: Darren and Renee Ice.

Darren and Renee Ice received the “Excellence in Agriculture” award.

“Darren’s family has been in farming for generations and their two daughters are involved in FFA and farming,” Quinlan said. “Darren and Renee definitely understand that agriculture and farming are important, and I think a lot of people don’t – even around here. And it’s not an 8-to-5 job; it can often be 24/7 job.

Darren Ice is chairman of the Texas County Fair Board, and is also a member of the Houston Board of Education and drives a school bus. Renee Ice is fair board secretary and teaches at Raymondville.

“The Ices’ involvement in the fair and everything they do for young people there to help them learn to raise and show animals is amazing,” Quinlan said. “Even if the kids don’t grow up to be farmers, they develop important foundations and learn a lot about responsibility.

“Darren and Renee are very hard workers, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the first version of this award than them.”

•Public Service: David Kidwell (Corporal, Houston Police Department).

David Kidwell received the “Public Service” award.

Kidwell started as a reserve officer with the HPD in January 1986. He was made a part time patrolman in 1988 and went full time in 1993.

He has served as a firearms, taser and pepper spray instructor for the department and has spent most of his career working the overnight or midnight shift.

HPD Chief Tim Ceplina submitted the following to Quinlan:

“While most officers tend to dislike this shift, Dave excelled at it. His attention to detail and duty has been exemplary, and he has always been productive, effective and efficient during his shift.

“Most business owners in our community have either received a late night call or arrived at their business in the morning to find a security check card from him. Dave has a keen sense of duty, often working while sick so there would be coverage for the city.

“He has been a great friend and helped train several of the newer officers in the department. He has been a valuable asset to the city and its residents.”

“I whole-heartedly agree with all of that,” Quinlan said. “This town is very lucky to have had someone like Dave on its police force.”

•Good Neighbor: Vera Gladden.

Vera Gladden received the “Good Neighbor” award.

“I don’t think people realize how much she does behind the scenes,” Quinlan said. “But she has been an important part of many community projects, like the Melba Theatre, the Lone Star Annex and Farmers Market, and lots more.

“Vera loves Houston and wants to see it thrive, and she will help anybody who’s trying to do right by the town. She’s the epitome of a good neighbor.”

•Volunteer: Pat Miller (“Share Your Christmas” coordinator for 37 years).

Pat Miller received the “Outstanding Volunteer” award.

“Share Your Christmas began as a Division of Family Services program,” Quinlan said, “but they cut the funding after the first few years. Mom knew there was a need and just took the program over and has been doing it ever since for free.

“My family’s Christmases have almost never been normal. I’ve brought my children and grandchildren up in Share Your Christmas, and my brothers have done the same thing.

“Even when mom worked at the courthouse, she tried to give it up, but nobody would take it over so she would schedule her two-week vacation so she could do Share Your Christmas. I’ve been proud of my mom for a long time for the job she does with it.”

•Woman in Business: Jennifer Crowl (owner of Blissful Nirvana Massage).

“She started in business straight out of massage school 2012 in a small room in back of a local salon business,” Quinlan said. “Now she’s moved twice and has a great location across from the post office and two additional therapists. I can’t think of a better ‘pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps’ story.”

•Outstanding Non-Profit: Pregnancy Resource Center of South-Central Missouri (and executive director Debra Stockard).

The Pregnancy Resource Center of South-Central Missouri and executive director Debra Stockard received the “Outstanding Non-Profit” award.

“It’s a great asset the community really needed,” Quinlan said. “I think when you have young girls who are pregnant and they’re scared and they don’t know what to do and they don’t want to tell their parents, they can go there and get the support they need. A lot of them don’t have that support at home, and that might be why they got pregnant in the first place.

“But Debra has a very calming presence and I can’t think of a better person to do that job. At the moment they have 153 clients from Houston and 17 others from surrounding communities. And Debra said they’ve had five abortion-minded women who all chose life.

“They also conduct a program with local students called, ‘I Am Enough.’

“What they’re doing there is incredible.”

•Outstanding Business: The Health Food Store (owned by Kathy Richardson).

The Health Food Store and owner Kathy Richardson received the “Outstanding Business” award.

“I think Kathy was nominated because she provides a service that’s been needed here for a long time,” Quinlan said. “Now people don’t have to drive to Springfield or Mountain Grove to get certain things they want or need. She had a dream, and she built it.

“She always gives credit to several women who helped her get the store going, and her husband, Joe, has been very supportive, and I think it should be noted that it wouldn’t have been possible without such a supportive husband. But he knew she had had the dream for a long time, and he believed enough in her dream to back her in it.

“You don’t find that a lot these days.”

The photos accompanying this article were taken at the recent Houston Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. The event had a theme of “Saturday Night Fever/Disco,” so Quinlan was dressed for the occasion when she presented the awards.

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