2019 Neighbor of the Year

Kay Burney (LEFT) received the 2019 Best Neighbor of the Year award, presented by Rev. Lynn Willhite (RIGHT), founder of WE CARE Palestine, at Thursday’s banquet. John Burney was not able to attend.

In an age when good relationships are getting rarer, WE CARE Palestine is expanding the art of neighboring by honoring and celebrating the town’s best.

Good neighboring is alive in Palestine, as evidenced by the 200 residents attending the WE CARE banquet Thursday at the Ben E. Keith Community Center, including the 10 people who nominated their neighbors for the award.

Kay and John Burney of Palestine won the 2019 Best Neighbor of the Year award. The couple was nominated by Sherrill Poff, who said the Burneys did a neighbor’s yard work when he was diagnosed with cancer, and continued after his death.

The Burneys, both 65, are 44-year residents of Palestine’s Gardner Addition. Both are retired – John from the railroad and Kay from food services at Palestine Independent School District.

A Good Neighbor Award also honored 11 other members of the community: Mary Margaret Armstrong, Rosana Arthus, Linda Jean Brown, Ashley Camacho, Sergio and Mary Castillo, Rev. Roy Duncan, Brenda Jorgensen, Kay Kuser, Bobby Lasiter, and Andrea Nicholson.

“Good neighbor nominees are people who build intentional relationships with people on their streets,” said Rev. Lynn Willhite, founder of WE CARE Palestine.

Rosemary MIller of Palestine nominated neighbor Kay Kuser.

“She’s such a caring, loving person,” Miller said. “I’m a widow, and she brings dinners to me and cake for my birthday.”  

WE CARE’s biggest goal is to build a friendship house in Palestine, Willhite said, but anyone can become part of the WE CARE Action Team by committing to one act of kindness in the community.

Guest speaker Robert Hall of Dallas, author of “This Land of Strangers,” stressed the importance of relationships and caring to humanity. Hall is co-founder and CEO of an international relationship management firm.

“Personal relationships, neighbor to neighbor, will help all of us,” Hall said.

Willhite started WE CARE Palestine in 2016 to strengthen relationships across the city and encourage residents to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. The organization now has more than 200 members.