WHITESBORO — The Whitesboro Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 71st annual awards banquet on Friday. The western-themed evening took place at Whitesboro Middle School. Over 100 people put on their boots and belt buckles and came out to eat barbecue, hear live country music, and honor the work of local businesses, citizens and organizations.

WHITESBORO — The Whitesboro Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 71st annual awards banquet on Friday. The western-themed evening took place at Whitesboro Middle School. Over 100 people put on their boots and belt buckles and came out to eat barbecue, hear live country music, and honor the work of local businesses, citizens and organizations.


The Chamber presented nine awards this year: Business of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Citizen of the Year, the Community Service Award, the Community Leadership Award, the Heritage Award, the Special Service Award, the Rising Star Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.


The recipients of the Rising Star and Special Service Awards were both selected by the Chamber’s outgoing Chairman of the Board Jeff Butts. Presented to the top new member of the Chamber, the Rising Star Award was given to Chris Dobbs of Dobbs Air Conditioning and Heating.


The Special Service Award was given to Eva Johnson, for her long history of service to the Chamber. Johnson frequently volunteers her time to make decorations and centerpieces for Chamber events.


Rather than a single individual, Citizen of the Year was given to an organization, the Whitesboro History Club. The History Club, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, is an active force in the community, Chamber leaders said. Its activities include lobbying for the recognition of local historic sites, hosting local art shows and awarding scholarships.


"It was totally unexpected and very exciting," said History Club President Mary Nan Story, who accepted the award.


American Bank took home the Business of the Year Award for 2013. The bank’s Senior Vice President Keith Muldrew was on hand to accept the honor. The award was given in honor of the bank’s commitment to the Whitesboro community, particularly its support of the annual Whitesboro Peanut Festival.


The Community Leadership Award, presented by the Mayor’s Office, recognizes service to the Whitesboro Area. This year, Mayor W.D. Welch chose to honor Mike Haynie of Texas Farm Bureau Insurance.


Jimmy Ferguson, winner of Humanitarian of the Year, is best known for his local portrayals of Santa and his work with the Volunteer Fire Department. "He just does so much for every organization," said Chamber president Barbara Bailey.


The Community Service Award went to the Whitesboro Ministerial Alliance. This coalition of local churches has been serving the underprivileged for decades. In 2013, the alliance’s Christmas food basket program helped feed over 130 needy families.


The Heritage Award, honoring a commitment to preserving the history of Whitesboro, was given to two couples: Rod and Alicia Parker and John and Ann Paty. This award recognized their work in renovating the historic church on Main Street in town.


The culmination of the evening was the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Council has only given eight of these awards in its 71-year history. This most recent one was given to Neva Pinkston in celebration of many decades of community involvement. Pinkston was instrumental in the naming of local farm supply store Dennard’s a Texas Treasure through the Texas Historical Society, helped bring three state historical markers to the area, and touched many lives as a local schoolteacher, said Chamber leaders.


"It’s the highest honor we have to give," said Bailey.


In addition to recognition from the Chamber, State Rep. Larry Phillips was in attendance to present Certificates of Appreciation to all of the evening’s honorees.