By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine resident Linda Dickens fell victim to the old 'bait-and-switch' during the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce's annual fall membership banquet Saturday.
Apparently, event officials on Saturday failed to correct Dickens's belief that Ahnise Summers was the recipient of the Citizen of the Year award. Banquet organizers even went so far as to change up the annual awards presentation ceremony Saturday night to further perpetuate her mis-assumption — and it worked, right up to the moment Dickens was named this year's Citizen of the Year during the Chamber's annual membership banquet, held Saturday in Palestine.
“I am in utter disbelief,” Dickens exclaimed as she accepted her award from last year's winner Jean Mollard. “I don't even know what to say — I'm speechless!”
To which banquet emcee Mike Thomason quipped, “Speechless? I haven't seen her speechless in a while!”
Dickens joked to the crowd, who gave her standing ovations as she made her way both to and from the stage, “Did everyone know but me? I am so honored. I am in shock. Thank you. And thank you all for coming.”
Mollard shared some of reasons Dickens received this year's honor.
“The bad thing is I have to give this up,” Mollard said with a laugh, “but I'm at least getting the great pleasure to pass it on to such a deserving person.”
Dickens was born in Palestine and has acted as a leader within the community for nearly 30 years. “She's involved in so much, I couldn't even list them all,” Mollard continued. “Things like Blankets & Bears, CASA, the YMCA, the Booster Club, the Chamber, the Downtown Merchant's Association — she supports many, many worthwhile causes and is instrumental in marketing those causes. Many of us know what it is to have our arms pleasantly twisted, with nothing but a smile and her 'oh-of-course-you-can-help-and-you-will' attitude.
“She's always positive and always has a smile.”
Dickens is married, has three children and is an avid runner and bicyclist. Dickens and her husband, Charles, own Charles E. Dickens Fine Jewelry & Gifts, located in downtown Palestine.
Immediately following the Citizen's award, which they presented first to help continue the ruse for Dickens, Ahnise Summers was awarded, in absentia, the Chamber's Volunteer of the Award. Last year's award-winner Candis Wells presented the award and explained while Summers wasn't able to attend the banquet for personal scheduling conflicts, she did record a short missive concerning the award.
“I'm so pleased to be the recipient of this award,” Summers' recording stated. “Thank you, thank you. Forgive me for not being there. I am truly honored. Again, thank you, thank you.”
The Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to District Judge Bascom Bentley, who was in attendance but, thanks to a health issue, had no speaking voice.
“I can't talk tonight, so y'all are lucky,” he croaked with a laugh. “Palestine's my Mayberry. There are so many more deserving people than I, right in this room. I am truly honored. Thank you.”
For more on Bentley's life and times as a judge in Anderson and Cherokee counties, see the upcoming fall issue of the Palestine Herald-Press's NFocus magazine, hitting newsstands Nov. 21.
The Business of the Year award went to Ben E. Keith Beverages.
“I am humbled and shocked by this, I really am,” company General Manager Andrew Gregory said as he accepted the award. “I'm accepting this on behalf of all our employees. They're the ones that make things happen.”
Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Davi Killion Ingram. Rookie Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Delilah Malone.
The banquet's theme this year was Perfect Pairings, which teamed a local restaurant's signature appetizer with a special crew beer offered through Ben E. Keith.
“This is the first time I've attended (the banquet),” new Chamber member Kathryn Young said. “It's been a lot of fun — I loved the food. Someone really put a lot of thought into the pairings. They were really balanced and worked well.”
Dinner was provided by the Palestine Regional Medical Center's nutrition services. Corporate sponsors of the banquet include PRMC, Palestine Herald Press, Ben E. Keith Beverages and KYYK-KNET. Entertainment was provided by Oncor Electric Distribution and State Farm-Brett Weisenbum. Mystery Box sponsors were Goolsby Insurance, Jammin JS and Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative.