Mineola educator and historian Jim Phillips and city Main Street director Doris Newman were named Mineola Man and Woman of the Year at the Mineola Chamber of Commerce’s annual community awards banquet on March 7.
Before a packed banquet room at the Mineola Civic Center, Newman was announced by Cle Walton of the Mineola Lions Club. Phillips was introduced by Greg Hollen of the Rotary Club.
Newman and Phillips were among five major award winners recognized.
Walton described Newman as a well-known, homegrown product who’s been active in a number of community organizations and endeavors, her contributions sometimes overlooked.
“This nominee volunteers in numerous activities that are not mentioned, for she works quietly behind the scenes not taking any credit for helping the city grow,” said Walton, noting that Newman worked at the Mineola Monitor (later the Wood County Monitor) for 30 years. “This person is passionate and it’s obvious that she loves her city.”
Walton recited words penned by Newman as part of her city job application: “I believe the livelihood of our city is not a one-stop, short-term goal. It cannot be viewed as a situation of once arrived at we can kick back and leave our town’s health on autopilot. It is an ongoing, evolving situation in which issues must be addressed, challenges should be met and projects carried through. We must continue to nourish and foster efforts of the volunteer boards that aid the historical preservation and promotion of our town.”
Upon receiving the award, Newman stated: “I love Mineola, and there are a multitude of people out there who have made this town what it is. Mineola is a wonderful place because of each and every one of you.”
In introducing Phillips, a member of Mineola High School’s Class of 1980, Hollen noted that he oversees high school yearbook, advises the middle school’s Junior Historians and teaches seventh-grade history as well as journalism. Phillips has taught in Mineola for 30 years.
Hollen called him “instrumental in instilling the love of history and pride in our community.”
Phillips, who also chairs the Mineola Landmark Commission, “seeks to ensure that our residents learn and love all of our local history, especially focusing on the underserved communities. He helped launch the Iron Horse Square project this year,” said Hollen.
In accepting the award, Phillips remarked: “It’s very nice and I love Mineola. Mineola is a special place because of the people that have grown up here and the people who have moved here. … Thank you so much. Mineola is a wonderful community.”
Karen Ellerbe of the Pilot Club described Humanitarian of the Year winner Michelle Epps as someone who adds “a lot of enthusiasm and positivity to our community.” Although Epps and her husband have lived in Mineola only four years, “they have made a huge impact on this community,” Ellerbe said.
Epps, director of the Children’s Ministry at First United Methodist Church, was the driving force behind October’s Pumpkin Patch on North Pacific Street, a fundraising event never attempted before in Mineola. “The Mineola area came to enjoy the fun and success of this endeavor,” Ellerbe stated.
The Kiwanis Club’s Teacher of the Year award went to Mineola math teacher Monica Brannon.
“She pushes her student to depths of knowledge they didn’t even know they could achieve. Somehow she reaches through all the distractions in their lives and pulls out the best part of each of them,” said Pam Thurman, president of the Kiwanis Club.
Brannon’s husband, Chris, is the school band director and each of the couple’s four children has attended Mineola schools. She described Mineola as “great place to raise a family, and we thank you for everything.”
Retired barber Jimmy Rushing was named the Wayne Collins Entrepreneur of the Year for his lifetime achievement as a businessman in Mineola. Rushing opened a barbershop on Broad Street in 1961.
“During his time as a businessman, he was involved in many causes. As a member of the Jaycees, he was instrumental in starting the Mineola Rodeo,” said outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Vic Savelli.
“His business received a Texas Treasure award from the Texas Historical Commission, and when he retired he decided to donate his barbering fixtures to the Mineola Historical Museum. In August, the museum opened its exhibit.”
Savelli noted that Rushing stayed in business in Mineola for 57 years.
“That’s truly remarkable.”