Keene Chamber of Commerce  
James Winegardner and Keene Church staff team named Citizen of the Year
October 27, 2019

A local pastor, a longtime postal worker, a fire chief and a police chief were among those honored at the 26th annual Keene Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet Oct. 24 at the Keene Community Center.

The event that recognizes local businesses and educators was attended by 296 people who enjoyed a meal prepared by Southwestern Adventist University food service director Chef Sualua Tupolo and a non-stop routine of laughter presented by Christian comedian Dr. Dennis Swanberg.

Keene Adventist Church Senior Pastor James Winegardner and the administrative staff team at the Keene Church were honored at Citizen of the Year.

Other honorees included: 

• Community Improvement Award: Keene Adventist Elementary School

• Community Service Award: Keene Police Chief Emmitt Jackson and Keene Fire Chief Dan Warner

• Educator of the Year Awards:

• Pioneer Award: June Hollis

• Young Entrepreneur Award: Matt Gillin

• Phillip Sparks Helping Hands Award: Judy Miles

The Citizen of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has been a model citizen and given dedicated and extensive service to individuals, organizations and the community on a continued basis.

The 3,000-member Keene Adventist Church operates the Keene Community Food Bank, Kids Eat Free backpack program with Keene ISD, a clothing outlet for needy families, a senior exercise class, a program that provides transportation anywhere within 10 miles of Keene for those who need to be transported to a doctors visit or grocery store, family campouts, countless Bible studies, water giveaways in needy areas, all organized by volunteers and attended by hundreds who have a new positive, can-do, outlook.

The Community Improvement Award honors businesses for contributing to the beautification of the city through new buildings and/or well-manicured grounds and landscaping, thus presenting a positive image and improving the quality of life in Keene.

KAES was honored for transforming itself from a 1980s rundown to a beautiful and up-to-date campus with actual grass on the front lawn, new exterior paint job, and a complete overhaul of the interiors of two buildings, with a new much-needed gymnasium on the way.

KAES Principal Todd Coulter accepted the award.

The Community Service Award is given to an individual and/or organization who has given extensive and continued service to the community.

Jackson and Warner were recognized for being actively involved in myriad community activities while leading organizations of first responders that keep residents safe. 

The Educator of the Year Award honors one who demonstrates excellence in the classroom and goes the extra mile by being involved in the lives of students outside the classroom. This award is selected by campus educators and administrators. One educator from the each of the four public schools and one from the each of the four private schools are honored each year. 

The award is accompanied by a cash honorarium of $100 and tonight these honorariums. The awards, presented for the public schools by Keene ISD Supt. Ricky Stephens, for KAES by Principal Todd Coulter, for Chisholm Trail Academy by Principal Tommy Simons and for SWAU by Vice President for Spiritual Development Russ Laughlin were:

Keene ISD Alternative School — Wallace Sullivan

Keene High School — Tommy Kennedy

Keene Junior High School — Caitlyn Fellers

Keene Elementary School — Mari Maldonado 

Keene Adventist Elementary School — Josh Samaniego

Keene Adventist Junior High School — Cheryl Blackburn

Chisholm Trail Academy is Debera Hall

Southwestern Adventist University is Jared Wood

The Pioneer Award recognizes an individual or organization whose long-ago contributions and influence helped make Keene what it is today.

The award was presented to June Hollis, who moved to Keene in 1956 and served 37 years with the Keene Post Office, serving five postmasters and training all of them, to the extent that Keene residents considered her the postmaster. During this time she was also appointed to the City Council to fulfill an unexpected opening.

The Young Entrepreneur Award is presented to a young business person who has made a commitment to Keene.

This year’s honoree,Matt Gillin, grew up in Keene and graduated from Chisholm Trail Academy and then from Hill College Fire Training Academy, joining the fire department in Keene, where he became chief in 2008. 

Medical challenges caused him to resign in 2017 but he accepted a business challenge when he purchased Zimmerman’s Paint & Supply, a company that had been in business in Cleburne since 1913, and relocated it to Keene in what was unproductive space next to Hoops Automotive, thus putting a new business on the tax rolls and providing a new service.

Phillip Sparks Helping Hands Award, honors an individual who provides continued assistance without seeking compensation or recognition.

This year’s honoree, Judy Miles, joined the Southwestern Adventist University family in July of 1979 and formally retired in 2014 after 35 years of teaching in the Business and Computer Science Departments; however, her love for the University and its students keeps her teaching in the classroom to this day.    

Understanding the financial struggles of students living off campus, she launched a student food bank two years ago, volunteering her time and energy to keeping University students well-fed.

In the photos below, courtesy of Jessica Pounds and the Cleburne Times Review, from top to bottom, are:

• Fire Chief Dan Warner and Police Chief Emmitt Jackson with the Community Service Award

• Pioneer Award recipient June Hollis receives the award from Bugger Putnam

• Kevin Sellers, left, presents the Young Entrepreneur Award to Matt Gillin

• James Winegardner received the Citizen of the Year Award from past honoree Gwen Beeson

Contact Us
Keene Chamber of Commerce
110 S. Old Betsy Road
Keene, Texas 76059
(817) 556-2995
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