Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
Several individuals, businesses and organizations were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the community during a special awards banquet on Monday night.
The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards meeting on Monday at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange to honor the many people, businesses and groups which have made 2012 one of the most successful years to date.
John Gothia was recognized as the 2012 Citizen of the Year by Dr. Pauline Hargrove, superintendent of the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated Independent School District.
“Citizenship is of the utmost importance to this community,” Hargrove said of Gothia. “He is a person of honesty and integrity, which is beyond reproach.”
Gothia, obviously shocked by the selection, was obviously humbled by the announcement.
“I’ve had great parents and that’s where it starts, and I’ve tried to pass that on to my children,” Gothia said. “All of the good that I am is because of them.”
Gothia credited his friend and former Orange County Sheriff Mike White with getting him involved in the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I love being here and promoting our community and being from this part of Texas,” Gothia added. “I’m passionate about Orange, and I appreciate this award very, very much.”
The Athena Award is inspired by the Greek goddess of the same name, who was known for her courage, strength, wisdom and enlightenment.
According to the Athena International Web site, the Athena Award is presented to a woman or man who is honored for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.
The GOACC annually recognizes a person within the community who embodies those characteristics in his or her quest for professional excellence and service. Stephen Lee of Orange Savings Bank presented the 2012 Athena Award to Mary Behnke.
Behnke, who was born in Ohio, moved to Orange in 1969. She is a retired teacher, as well as a two term former member of the West Orange-Cove CISD Board of Trustees.
She has worked in various capacities with OCARC, and is also a past board member of the United Way and a member of the Lutcher Theater Service Guild. She is also credited as being instrumental in the starting of Habitat for Humanity in Orange.
Mary, escorted up to the podium by her husband, Dick, was very touched at being selected to this very selective group of individuals.
“All things that happen in Orange happen because we work together,” Behnke said. “I’m very pleased to accept this award.”
Lee Ann Fuselier, outgoing chairperson of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, presented the Chairperson of the Year Award to Dean Granger of Granger Chevrolet.
Fuselier also passed the gavel to incoming chairperson Jarren Garrett at the end of Monday’s event.
Shirley Zimmerman was recognized with the Ambassador of the Year Award for her hard work and dedication in promoting Orange and Orange County through her job and her efforts through the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. Rose Simar was recognized for her years of dedication and service to the community with the Lifetime Ambassador Award.
Christy Khoury was recognized as the incoming Ambassador Chairperson and Veda Butler was honored as the Ambassador Chairperson of 2012.
The Non-Profit Community Service Award was presented to the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation by Mary McKenna of Southeast Texas Hospice.
McKenna described the organization as “the backbone for the community of Orange” and for “having a very big hand” in getting the Bassmaster Elite Series Tour to come to Orange, Texas in 2013.
The Business Community Service Award was presented to Granger Chevrolet for its efforts in promoting Orange and its numerous activities of involvement within Orange.
Gary Stelly of KOGT radio served as master of ceremonies.