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Montgomery’s named citizens of year

By Staff, 05/25/21 10:53 AM

HOPE – Steve and Celila Montgomery were named Citizens of the Year at the annual meeting of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Monday night at Hempstead Hall.

In making the presentation, the Montgomery’s  were called: community minded, giving, helpful, leaders, motivators, servant-leaders, promoters of the community with a giving spirit.

Steve thanked the Chamber and community for the honor, saying when they came to Hope in 1991, Cherry’s was one of the first places they went. He continued, saying the award should go to everyone and he’s proud of the people of Hope and how they battled the pandemic. “The future is bright. We have a lot going for us.”

Travell Green, fourth grade teacher at Clinton Primary School, was tabbed Educator of the Year. He was described as: hard working, positive, caring, an natural teacher who puts students and their needs first, innovative and created the Gentlemen’s Club at CPS to help the boys learn to dress for success and carry themselves accordingly.

Pafford Medical Services was named Business of the Year. It was described as: knowing what it means to be of service to others, being compassionate, leading by doing, community minded, seeing everyone as family and treating them accordingly and family owned for more than 50 years.

Jamie Pafford said they couldn’t be more grateful for the honor and look forward to the next generation at Pafford.

The nonprofit award went to The Call of Hempstead County, an organization that finds foster homes for children in need. Representatives said they were grateful to be so recognized for the work they’re doing because they speak for children who can’t speak for themselves.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s awards were done virtually. Because of this, Chamber Director Becky Moore has them come out on stage to be formally recognized. Last year’s winners were: Cherry Stewart – Citizen of the Year; Mandy Townsend – Educator of the Year; Jacob Jones with Farmers Bank and Trust – Business of the Year; and Judy Watson with the Rainbow of Challenges as the Nonprofit of the Year.

Christy Burns and Moore welcomed those who attended, talking about what a challenge 2020 was and how the community worked to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

Janet Choate, president of the United Way board, thanked everyone for their contributions, also acknowledging the challenges the organization faced in 2020, saying the community didn’t stop giving. Choate recognize those businesses that donated to the UW.

Bobby Hart, superintendent of the Hope School District, announced the formation of a scholarship created by the McLarty family of Little Rock in honor of their friend Steve Marlar, who played football at Hope High School. Hart said the $1,000 annual scholarship will be awarded to students who are athletically and academically gifted.

Jake Bequette was the featured speaker. Bequette played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks and spent three years with the New England Patriots in the NFL, before joining the Army and completing Ranger school and becoming a member of the 101st Airborne division.

However, Bequette was on hand to talk about the Arkansas Fund, a program he launched in February to help small businesses negatively affected by the pandemic. Since February, he said, the organization has raised more than $125,000 to help small businesses and has given grants to businesses in more than 35 towns in the state, including Hope. In fact, one of the first grants went to Tailgaters during the blizzard.

He talked about how Hope held a special place for Razorback players as every year the community sends a truckload of ice cold watermelons to Fayetteville for the team. He told the audience the players always looked forward to this because “there’s nothing like ice cold watermelon after two-a-day practices in the summer heat.”

Bequette said he got the idea for the Arkansas Fund toward the end of his military career when he realized small businesses were hurting because of the pandemic and their stories may not be heard.

He told stories of how his grandfather came to Arkansas from Missouri and played for the Hogs, saying he was glad his grandfather made the decision, calling him a “tough guy with a big heart”. His father also played for the Razorbacks under Lou Holtz and an uncle played for the Hogs under Ken Hatfield. “My dream was to follow in my family’s footsteps,” he said, but there was a problem, he wasn’t highly recruited. When Houston Nutt called to offer him a scholarship, he accepted immediately. However, Nutt left and was replaced by Rick Petino and Bequette was afraid of being cut so the new coach could bring in players he wanted. To keep his spot on the roster, Bequette looked at this as an opportunity and worked his way into the starting lineup. He was drafted in the third round by the Patriots, saying he learned a lot about leadership from Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, telling the story of how during the first team meeting Brady was front row center, furiously taking notes of what Belichick was saying.

Bequette said leadership doesn’t come from the top down, but from the bottom up because those at the bottom have to buy into what’s being asked of them. He said leaders need to surround themselves with good people who won’t quit, who keep going, keep driving and don’t give up.

At the end of the evening, it was announced that Phil Vassar will be the headliner for the 2021 Hope Watermelon Festival Concert.