By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine community leader Ahnise Summers was the recipient of one of three awards given to East Texans recognized for their philanthropic contributions to the region during a National Philanthropy Day® celebration luncheon in Tyler Tuesday.
Summers was presented with the Spark Award during the event, sponsored for the fifth year by the East Texas Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
Summers was named “a stalwart supporter of community service and philanthropy” for her participation and leadership in three major initiatives — The University of Texas at Tyler Palestine Campus Expansion, the Harvey Women’s Club capital campaign and the recent formation of The Action Fund in Palestine.
The Anderson County philanthropist was applauded as being, “the spark of enthusiasm and support behind the formation of The Action Fund, and a living example of its purpose to teach and encourage philanthropy.”
Also during the event, Peaches and Louis Owen of Tyler received the Outstanding Philanthropist Award and a Special Award was presented posthumously in memory of James H. Reynolds of Tyler.
The Owens, well known for their involvement in Tyler area charitable causes, celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in October 2010 with a record-breaking gift of $18 million to establish the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital at Tyler’s Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. It now serves Northeast Texas as the only hospital in the region dedicated to heart care.
Reynolds, a partner in Reynolds and Kay Contractors, received recognition for his charitable gifts.
Reynolds was inspired by another donor to “leave a legacy” through his estate. His planned gifts will now continue to support four charitable organizations that were important in his life: East Texas Medical Center Foundation, First Baptist Church of Tyler, The University of Texas at Tyler and The University of Texas at Austin.
The luncheon was attended by a capacity crowd of area residents, donors, civic and business leaders, previous volunteer and charitable award recipients and fundraising professionals. AFP East Texas Chapter President Rita Fryer, who called charitable giving a way to “keep our hearts strong and our souls connected,” thanked the many sponsors of the event, including the presenting sponsor, The University of Texas at Tyler.
Patrick D. Willis, chairman of National Philanthropy Day®, and emcee, also announced that the event had reached its fundraising goal to assist the AFP in efforts to strengthen nonprofits throughout greater East Texas.
Several Palestine business leaders who work with Summers through the Texas Area Fund Foundation were pleased to see Summers recognized for her service.
“Ahnise is an extraordinarily gracious lady filled with a wonderful sense of community and tremendous leadership skills,” said Jackson Hanks, who is on the executive committee of The Action Fund. “Ahnise leads by example. Before she asks anyone to do something, she has already done it herself. Ahnise works tirelessly behind the scenes avoiding recognition, much less the limelight, both of which are well deserved.”
According to Hanks, The Action Fund is a giving circle — a group of philanthropic individuals dedicated to building a better community and a brighter future for Palestine and its children.
“Ahnise gets up and makes a difference in the world every day — what a gifted treasure we have,” Hanks said.
The Action Fund executive committee members David Barnard and Linda Dickens also agreed.
“She has been like a stealth participant in charitable activities. I'm so glad she was recognized for all of her outstanding contributions to the community,” Barnard told the Herald-Press. “It is well deserved. She is very active with The University of Texas at Tyler, Harvey Woman's Club, The Action Fund and in her church.”
Dickens added, “What an honor to have someone from Palestine, Texas among all of these people from all over East Texas to be honored. She's wonderful and does an excellent job. It's been a great pleasure to work with her. You know things are going to get done if she's head of the fund-raiser you are working on.”