In a first for the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, Monday night’s 2017 Star Gala saw the selection of two Citizens of the Year along with honors for several members of the business community.
Republic Services’ Gene Keenon, 2016 Citizen of the Year, took pains to hide the identity of the pair as long as possible, ultimately turning the spotlight to sisters Julie Beck and Carrie Jackson.
For the two downtown retailers, “begin a good citizen requires one to give back to the community,” Keenon praised, and they go far beyond the norm, “giving back and giving back and giving back.”
In addition to the annual Citizen of the Year award, the chamber gala included three honors for local businesses, according to size, as well as the 2017 Chamber Ambassador of the Year award and recognition of the year’s Women in Business honorees (see page 3).
Beck and Jackson are both leaders and workers, Keenon said, putting in countless volunteer hours between a variety of local projects.
“It’s been an honor to be a citizen of Kilgore,” Beck told the crowd. “I look out at all of you, and I feel there are so many who are more worthy, but we appreciate the honor: Kilgore has done so much for us and for our family and for our business.”
The sisters first arrived in Kilgore from Oklahoma, moving here when their grandparents – Charlie and Billie Shirtzer – established PakSher. Beck was 4 years-old, Jackson less than a year-old. The Shirtzers also owned the Coin Investor in Longview for seven years, selling it while the sisters were in school; both worked several years in the shop, regardless.
In 1991, Beck and her late-husband, Eric, bought the Coin Investor; her father, Charles Jackson, runs the second store in Kilgore. In 2005, the sisters were among the first vendors in The Shops in 205 and, in 2008, they partnered with Jean and Owen Therneau to open J&Co. then became sole owners when the Therneaus retired.
“Sisters Julie Beck and Carrie Jackson have poured their seemingly endless energy into Kilgore events and organizations,” Keenon said. For example, Jackson is president of the Main Street Advisory Board and Beck is an active volunteer. “They are leaders and workers at Main Street events including all those downtown events during the holiday season, Oktoberfest, the month-long activities in July – with support from city hall, they really made Kilgore the Most Patriotic Town in Texas.
In addition to organizing and preparing a monthly BINGO dinner benefiting the Kilgore Boys & Girls Club plus spearheading last year’s purse auction for the youth outreach, “They put countless hours into organizing the deployment dinner for our National Guard troops who left here a couple of months ago.”
The Boys & Girls Club is close to the heart, Beck said, praising the group’s board members for setting a high bar.
“If we even came close to meeting it, I’m very pleased,” she added. “On the deployment dinner … Thank you. Every time I made a call, and I made well over 100, no one said ‘No,’ all they said was, ‘How can we help you, how can we support our troops?’
“I am very proud to be from this town, I am proud of the support that you have shown us.”