Top citizens honored in Poplarville

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 14, 2015

CITIZENS OF YEAR: From left, Brenda and Byron Wells were named Poplarville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Citizens of the Year for 2015. Cassandra Blackwell (right) presented the “Dynamic Duo” their plaque.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

CITIZENS OF YEAR: From left, Brenda and Byron Wells were named Poplarville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Citizens of the Year for 2015. Cassandra Blackwell (right) presented the “Dynamic Duo” their plaque.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Friday, the Poplarville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual awards luncheon and honored local first responders and exemplary citizens who devote their time and talents to Poplarville’s growth.
This year’s theme was “Pop Art –– Visual, Imagination, Skill and Talent.” The walls of Scooter’s Restaurant were adorned with pieces of artwork from many of the area’s talented artists.
“It takes imagination to see what you’re going to paint, it takes talent and skill in order to produce these pieces of art and it’s a very visual thing,” Chamber President Maggie Smith said. “And I’m going to tie that in today with our city. We have to have a visual plan in order to grow and imagination to see it and what we want it to be. Then we also use the skill to bring everyone’s talent to the board in order for our city to grow. It takes everyone in this room. We want to have a healthy economy and a healthy city and activities for our children.”
The number of chamber members has grown from 149 last year to 171 this year, Smith said.
Tish Williams, Executive Director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and the Hancock Community Development Foundation, spoke at the event about her experience promoting the social, civic and economic wellbeing of Hancock County after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
“When I first became the chamber director, my mother told me she had the perfect slogan for me,” Williams said. ‘“I am the chamber, we are the chamber, you are the chamber.’ Next thing you know, she was making flyers and bumper stickers.”
Williams told those gathered they have something very important; each other and the power of the human spirit and people helping people achieve goals.
After Hurricane Katrina, the chamber’s focus shifted to the arts and Williams said she believed that’s what helped the area’s recovery. With the creation of a national marketplace for Hancock County artists, Williams and the chamber put the area back on the map.
“I’m so proud of what we were able to do,” Williams said through tears. “The storm was ruthless, but it was probably one of the most important things that’s happened to our community because it brought us together to work for a common goal and that is to rebuild the place we call home. As a result of Katrina, we were able to do things we would never have been able to do before because we had the opportunity to attract grants into our community to make promotional publications. Look for those opportunities where you can get funding you need to be able to put the marketing tools in place. Because you have to have a place you can send people to find out about why Poplarville is such a great place to live, raise a family and eventually retire. There’s opportunities out there and you just have to go looking for them and don’t wait for somebody else to do it for you. One person can make a difference, if you believe in what it is you want to put your energy into.”
After Williams’ speech, the chamber recognized the fireman and policeman of the year.
Poplarville Fire Chief Jonathan Head said this year’s recipient holds the highest level of Mississippi volunteer firefighter certification, has served three years with the fire department and in 2013, was promoted to Fire Department Chaplain. This year’s Firefighter of the Year is Donald D’Antonio.
Poplarville Police Chief Charlie Fazende said this year’s honoree has been a patrolman for the city of Poplarville for 10 years. He’s also involved in youth sports activities and mentors young hunters and fishermen. In July, this officer was instrumental in the successful arrest of the suspects who burglarized Little River Outdoors, a local firearm business. The Policeman of the Year is Damon Carr.
Chamber vice-president Brenda Wells spoke of the many attributes of this year’s volunteer of the year, Ginger Holston.
Holston is an active member of community organizations and performs many acts of community service in her capacity as member of the Poplarville Woman’s Club and Poplarville Garden Club, Wells said.
“She can been seen weeding flower beds, planting flowers and watering the flowers at the chamber office and the Memorial Garden behind,” Wells said. “She also volunteers with Reading Across America and was an elementary teacher and librarian in the Poplarville and Hattiesburg school districts.”
For the second time in the chamber’s history, two people were named Citizen of the Year, Poplarville Aldermen Byron Wells and his wife, Brenda.
Chamber board member Cassandra Blackwell spoke of the couple’s involvement in community organizations.
Bryon Wells is a past chamber president and active member of the Poplarville Historical Preservation Society, Blackwell said. He has been an office holder in groups including, Excel By 5, Poplarville Rotary Club, Poplarville Lions Club and PRCC Wildcat Booster Club. He is also a former Mississippi Jaycee Governor and Pearl River County supervisor.
Brenda Wells is a strong promoter of the chamber’s Lunch and Learn series and works with Back Pack Buddies, and a member of the Woman’s Club of Poplarville, Blackwell said. She has been a business owner in Poplarville for 20 years and is employed with Pearl River Community College.
For more information about the upcoming events visit the chamber’s website at and through Facebook at Poplarville Chamber.

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