Citizen of the Year was presented to Rev. Huey Jones, Educator of the Year was Cara Hume, Merle Cross was Unsung Hero and the Upshur County Shares Food Pantry was the Top Hand. Mel Small, diector of the Food Pantry, was also Humanitarian of the Year.
Rev. Jones was introduced as “chosen, not because of the 22 years he proudly served our country in the U.S. Navy, nor for the numerous awards and recognitions of Outstanding Service he received while serving, nor because he has earned seven certifications from colleges and universities.
“Although all of that and much more qualifies him to be our Citizen of the Year, he has been awarded this long- overdue honor because of his dedication and service to the citizens of Gilmer and the surrounding areas since 1975.”
Rev. Jones was lauded as “A wonderful family man, husband, father of four and grandfather of five”who has faithfully served as a Pastor & community leader.
As a self-employed business man, he is often called on to assist with utility bills, rent, groceries and transportation. He is well-known for unselfishly doing everything in his power to help others out of pure kindness, generosity, compassion and love, without regard to race or social position, never asking for anything in return.
On many nights, he is called on to leave his warm bed to assist someone is distress. He visits the sick in the hospitals and nursing homes to bring prayer, comfort and inspiration.
He is extremely active in many community organizations and promotes fairness and doing what is right in every situation. He can even be seen feeding hungry, stray animals in his community. Through it all, he maintains a consistently pleasant attitude, showing God’s love through his life.
Ms. Hume has received many other honors during her educational career.
After graduating Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas with a degree in English and Journalism, this educator earned her Texas Teaching Certificate from UT Tyler in 2008. She began and continues her career at Gilmer High School, teaching English Language Arts and Pre-AP English II.
She has been recognized as the Gilmer High School Teacher of the Year, as well as the Secondary Teacher of the Year for Gilmer ISD for 2013-2014.
This creative educator developed her love for teaching as a young child, when she would teach her Strawberry Shortcake dolls their numbers and letters using strategies she had learned from her teachers as they taught her. Even then, she knew her purpose in life was to teach.
In 10th grade, she was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that weakened her muscles, making speaking very difficult.
She could see her dreams of teaching slipping away. but her confidence was renewed her senior year when she gave art lessons to a 7-year-old boy. He didn’t even mention her voice, and could understand and accept her as she was. That was when she really decided that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.
When she began teaching at Gilmer High School, she determined to love every child who walked through her door. She didn’t realize what a challenging, yet rewarding experience that would be!
She is now the sponsor for a group of girls called Worth the Wait who give her hope for the upcoming generation and for our world.
Mrs. Cross was praised as a hero who works behind the scenes and does not expect or want praise or recognition for her heroism. She is regarded as a hero to many.
Quietly and without fanfare, she distinguishes herself in service toward others and broadcasts her countless good deeds. She always prefers anonymity, rather than recognition.
A dedicated Christian, Mrs. Cross gives liberally of her time, her influence, and her resources to further those causes that exalt her Lord and demonstrate her faith.
She generously supports wholesome civic endeavors, and works tirelessly to support and improve her community.
She makes herself available time and again to help individuals who are in need.
Over the years, Mrs. Cross has touched many lives through her gracious advice, mentorship, support and friendship. She sincerely believes that all the moments she gathers in her lifetime in which she shares with others are the ones most cherished.
Words are inadequate to describe her, but certain adjectives are obvious: charming, active, vivacious, illustrious, faithful, Godlike, religious, affable, genuine and hospitable.
The history of the Food Pantry is intertwined withthe Gilmer Area Ministerial Fellowship.
In 2007, a group of ministers from several churches, East Texas Medical Center, and other benevolent organizations in Upshur County began the Ministerial Fellowship.
The purpose of the organization was to partner to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the residents of Upshur County. One of the first recognized needs was the need for food.
Several of the churches were helping in this area, but it was believed that they could do more together than they could ever do separately.
A 501c3 organization was formed under the name “Upshur County Shares.” This ministry would immediately begin meeting the needs of residents with food donated by churches, businesses and individuals, and food purchased from East Texas Food Bank in Tyler with cash donations from all of them.
Upshur County Shares Food Pantry has continued to grow and meet the needs of more and more residents. It experienced its biggest year in 2012, as it was able to give away 313,760 pounds of food which supplied meals for 6,301 families, representing 16,912 people.
The Upshur County Shares Food Pantry touches and impacts the lives of each of us here in Upshur County and is the recipient of tonight’s Top Hand Award. Director Mel Small, who was also Humanitarian of the Year, accepted the award.
Small was cited for his “tireless work” in the Food Pantry.
Under his leader, the Pantry has gone from serving fewer than 50 families monthly to more than 500 during last August, with new clients added weekly.
His experience in the grocery industry has helped him to make maximum utilization of the pantry’s resources.
Small constantly monitors food items available from the East Texas Food Bank, to offer clients a wide variety of foods.
Every donated dollar is used very effectively.
He opens the pantry on its services days of Monday and Wednesay mornings, and Small can often be found at the pantry during off-hours putting together emergency boxes of good. He often personally delivers the boxes.
He often greet clients at the pantry and indicates his personal knowledge of their situations.
“To Mel, our clients are names, not numbers,” several of the volunteers at the pantry said.
Well-known regional humorist J.B. Smith, former long-time sheriff of Smith County, provided the evening’s entertainment for the crowd.