At The Bryant 42nd Annual Winter Banquet, we named the Woman of the Year, Man of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Large Business of the Year and Organization of the Year.
Winners were:
Woman of the Year – Tonya Horton
Man of the Year – Rodney Plack
Small Business of the – Year Carlton Billingsley
Large Business of the Year – Landers Auto Sales of Saline County
Organization of the Year – The Parent Center at Bryant Schools
Their stories were told last evening at the Winter Banquet.
However, the nominees have great stories to tell too. So, for the next few days I will blog excerpts from what was written on these great people.
The first I will share is a double nomination for Pat Baker and Laura Hackney
Here is what was written:
I can’t nominate just one woman for Woman of the Year as these two women are equally deserving on the project they worked on this year.
Pat Baker and Laura Hackney are cookie and milk, ying and yang, day and night, sun and moon…you get the idea they are essential to each other in this effort.
First you have to understand the project. Then you can understand the women and why they deserve women of the year.
The project is the Rotary Club of Arkansas Kid’s Closet. For years, the Bryant Rotary has been clothing and outfitting the children of the area. These are kids who are pulled out of meth houses, who left the domicile due to abuse and had to get out when they could taking very little, kids whose homes burned down or just kids from families who can’t provide.
This past year the closet served 500 kids.
This is a fully volunteer effort supported by all the Rotary and notably one physical therapist in town who always does his Christmas in July Potluck with admission being shoes or jeans donations to the closet.
Another arm of support is offered by the wonderful congregation of Friends and Christ Lutheran Church who gave land and helped put up the building for the closet.  Then, if not enough, they also help with an annual fish fry or smoked pork butt fundraiser to help raise money to buy cloths, coats, shoes, jeans, backpacks, socks or whatever is needed for the closet.
Mold. The donated closet space was not heated or cooled nor was there any fan or dehumidifier and during our muggy 2014 summertime, mold took over. The closet is not opened as often in the summer for needy kids. And mold got a foothold.  The Rotary Club members battled the mold, but it was winning.
Pat Baker and Laura Hackney took charge of this distasteful job and threw out a number of items, thoroughly cleaned some and took the reins on reorganizing and restocking the closet.
Mrs. Baker investigated and coordinated fund raisers to bring in money to purchase new jeans, shoes, backpacks, sock, shirts, etc.  She arranged for the club members to work concessions at a Rodeo.
Mrs. Baker also took her time to be the contact for families needing help from the closet. She was the one called away from her full time job at Baker’s Fine Jewelry to go to the closet and help children find what they needed.
Laura Hackney became her organizational wizard. Between them they determined that jeans were taking too much space on hangers and shoes were taking too much room on shelves and flooring. Mrs. Baker found a trailer to be donated for the site for shoe storage and, with help from other club members, found an electrician to run wiring for electrical to the trailer. Then she found someone to volunteer to build shelves for the shoes.
Shoes were moved out of the closet. Shoes were placed in size order.  Shelves were labeled with the shoe sizes due to Laura’s organizational knack. Jeans were rolled and banded and tagged with a size and placed on shelves in size order. Shoes were placed in size order.
Pat and Laura were taking a lot of time in the closet – time each could have spent on their businesses. Since the discovery of the mold in August, they have each been in the closet at least once a week and probably more like every day on some weeks.
They have done more than solve a mold problem and spent time organizing.  They have re-energized the club’s service to children in the community with their effort, leadership and enthusiasm.
Club members hear from Mrs. Baker about the families helped and they hear her exclaim over every new and stylish coat, shirt, dress or item someone donates.  They hear her say things like “Oh, here’s a pretty Christmas dress in just the right size that the mother who was in here last week wanting one for her daughter. I will call her,”  because Mrs. Baker does not just serve the family and forget them. She keeps their phone numbers and thinks about what they need.
The reasons these two ladies should receive the award
They took on a nasty job nobody else wantedThey did it with enthusiasmThey did it wellThey showed that two can lead an effort togetherThey take full ownership of the effort
Pat Baker owns a Jewelry Store.  A young lady came in to her store asking if they would buy her grandfather’ gold pocket watch.  Pat told the lady she could not buy the watch as she was uncertain of any market for resale and asked the lady why she would want to sell a pocket watch that had been a family heirloom.   The lady responded that she needed money for cloths for her children to start school. Pat directed her to the Rotary Closet.  The lady was able to outfit the children and not sell the heirloom watch.