Bastrop News

The Bastrop Chamber of Commerce annual award banquet

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“A Night You’ll Remember” was the theme for this year’s Bastrop Chamber of Commerce Annual Award Banquet held on Valentine’s night, Feb. 14 at the Bastrop Convention Center. Over 300 people enjoyed a romantic evening as the convention center was beautifully decorated to enhance the theme.

The Bastrop Community Orchestra wowed the crowd. - Photo by Terry Hagerty

The Bastrop Community Orchestra wowed the crowd. – Photo by Terry Hagerty

It was also an evening of reward for some as the Chamber awarded individuals and businesses for all they do to give back to the community they love, Bastrop. Newly appointed President and CEO of the Bastrop Chamber Becki Womble explained how proud she was to be the new leader and how hard she will work to keep the chamber strong while promising to have a resourceful place for members to use to help their businesses grow and to network with others.
Johnny Sanders, newly appointed chairman of the board was introduced then informed every one of his goals for 2015.

Dan Hepker, owner of Bastrop Copier, was the emcee for the evening. He introduced the business awards for the year, announcing, “The Business of the Year is The Roadhouse,” owned by Amy and Chris Bruder. This award is given to a business that has been in operations for more than 5 years with exceptional growth through job creation, expansion of facilities or increased revenue, and exemplary service. We all know that the Roadhouse has accomplished these traits over the years. They opened 11 years ago and have become one of Bastrop’s very own destinations for travelers from all over the state and local diner’s favorite place to work. Texas Monthly named them as having one of the Top 50 Hamburgers in the state and also been voted Best Hamburger in the annual Best of Bastrop county contest every year since they opened. On average, the Roadhouse in Bastrop serves 200 burgers per day during the week and over 500 burgers each day on the weekend, all from a kitchen the size of your bathroom. Recently, the Roadhouse opened a new location in Paige, a beautiful 4800 square foot restaurant on 10 acres, offering the same great food, service and now live music on the weekends. The Bruders appreciate their success and believe in giving back to the community and donate to just about every charitable organization in the area.

Chris and Amy Bruder with their award for "Business of the Year" accompanied by Becki Womble and Drusilla Rodgers.

Chris and Amy Bruder with their award for “Business of the Year” accompanied by Becki Womble and Drusilla Rodgers.

This year’s Emerging Business of the Year was given to Piney Creek Chophouse & Old Town Bar & Grill. This is a great story. Angela and Kevin Plunkett had only lived in Bastrop for a few months but really enjoyed entertaining out of town guests. Their favorite spot at the time was the Brewhouse located on the Colorado River. They were so upset to find out it had closed and no new business had planned on opening. Kevin was excited to tell his wife of a sports bar in downtown Bastrop that was pretty good, even though she didn’t like sports. It was St. Patrick’s Day and went to grab a few beers so she could check the place out. When they got there she noticed someone she recognized from the Brewhouse and went to say hello, she came back very disturbed. She just heard the sports bar was closing too. They were afraid that the little downtown which was a big part of loving this town, was about to dry up.

Angela Plunkett with the award for "Emerging Business of the Year."

Angela Plunkett with the award for “Emerging Business of the Year.”

It was then they also learned the steakhouse next door was also part of it and would close as well. A few days later they went and tried the steakhouse, couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and heard even worse news; the two businesses were closing sooner than they thought. Kevin asked the waitress if she could have the owner’s phone number and when he got home he called one of his best friends, Patrick who had been managing restaurants in Dallas for 25 years. Patrick came down his next day; they knew they had to work fast because they were convinced it would be best not to be closed for one day. They met with the current owners who now told them they were closing over a month sooner than thought, they now had one week day to come up with a decision and a weekend to make it happen. Between Kevin and Patrick they each took a project along with talking to various people in town and no one told them not to do it, so they called the owner Friday afternoon and told him they wanted to make it happen. The rest of the story is now part of history. Kevin Plunkett and his family and Patrick Gannon and his family were meant to be in Bastrop. None of the employees lost a day of work and now Bastrop has two fine establishments who offer quality food and excellent service.

The Non-Profit of the Year is The Bastrop County Board of Realtors – The Non-Profit of the Year Award is given to an organization which has provided outstanding service to the Bastrop Community, demonstrated sound management practices and fiscal responsibility, or made a significant contribution to youth, civic or community programs.

Theresa Skidmore and Sherry Schena are representing the Bastrop Board of Realtors with the award for "Non-Profit of the Year."

Theresa Skidmore and Sherry Schena are representing the Bastrop Board of Realtors with the award for “Non-Profit of the Year.”

The Bastrop County Board of Realtors’ mission statement states they are an association of real estate professionals that work, love and volunteer in the community of Bastrop County. They dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence in the industry. For the past 10 plus years, the Bastrop County Board of Realtors has given $10,000 in scholarships to students who pursue additional education in college and tech schools. They support Bastrop Animal Shelter, Bastrop Food Pantry, “WE Believe in BISD”, Smithville Gingerbread Man, Wounded Warriors Project, Smithville Veterans Memorial, Colorado River Clean-up, Bastrop Community Outreach, Family Crisis Center, Elgin Livestock Show, contributions to Smithville, Elgin & McDade ISD, and the Bastrop Historic Homes Tour.

The individual awards were announced by last years or past recipients.

Johnny Sanders, last year’s Man of the Year gave this year’s award to Steve Venzon. Steve along with his wife, Kathy are always there helping the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. As parishioners of Ascension Catholic Church they are active in just about every ministry in the church: Confirmation Retreats, Eucharistic Minister, Youth Group fundraising, and Nursing Home Ministry. In addition, Steve always plays important volunteer roles in church festivals and maintenance projects. However, Steve’s true passion lies in feeding the hungry – whether it’s a KC or youth group fundraiser or soup kitchen line, he’s always there tirelessly working without pay or want of recognition. He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere. Steve is an Energizer Bunny in our community. In addition to supporting just about everything at Ascension Catholic Church, he cooks on Wednesdays at the Open Door Soup Kitchen, helps distribute food at the Food Pantry and assists with the sandwich ministry at Primera Baptist Church. He has consistently supported many non-profits including Bastrop Little League, Project Graduation, the Knights of Columbus, the Homeless Mission initiative and the Pregnancy Resource Center, just to name a few. From his former business, the All-Star Convenience Store, he gave away tons of ice over the years to local non-profits.

Steve Venson with his award for "Man of the Year." Pictured with Drusilla Rodgers and Johnny Sanders.

Steve Venson with his award for “Man of the Year.” Pictured with Drusilla Rodgers and Johnny Sanders.

Christine Files, last year’s Citizen of the Year announced this year’s Woman of the Year and gave the award to Debbie Aucoin Schaeffer Moore. She’s as Cajun as they come, just ask her to say a few words. She packed up everything she owned and moved to Bastrop from Baton Rouge in 2004 to be closer to her son, who was living in Austin but building some homes in the Tahitian Subdivision. One month later, her son was transferred back to California. Debbie decided to make the best of it, introduced herself to several people and soon realized that if you’re going to get established and comfortable in Bastrop and meet some really neat people along the way, you’ve got to get involved in the community. And that she did, she’s been involved in just about everything there is to get involved in. Debbie was one of the founding members of the Bastrop Downtown Business Alliance starting in 2005, not too long after she was elected to their Steering Committee, she volunteered for every one of DBA’s events and chaired the annual Veteran’s Weekend Classic Car Show for 3 years, which is DBA’s largest event each year. She was also selected to serve on the original Bastrop Main Street Advisory board; she’s the former secretary and now serves as the chairperson of the Economic Restructuring committee. She’s also been extremely involved in the Bastrop Film Commission since it started in 2010 and is now the Film Commissioner and the liaison to the Bastrop Chamber. The commission works very closely with film and commercial production companies in helping them find the right locations, looking for local participants, or whatever they might need to make their experience here a positive one.

Debbie Moore was honored as Woman of the Year. - Photo by Terry Hagerty

Debbie Moore was honored as Woman of the Year. – Photo by Terry Hagerty

Wait there’s so much more. Debbie Moore has also been involved and volunteered every year for the Bastrop Chamber Patriotic Festival. She has worked on the Bastrop Complex Fire evacuation centers coordination. She’s also very involved in her church at Ascension Catholic church as a Eucharistic Minister. She visits nursing homes and coordinates ministers to bring the Eucharist to Silver Pines Nursing Home, as well as bringing communion to homebound members of the parish as well as volunteering at the parish fair as a money counter and volunteered for a few others including Bastrop County Historical Society fundraiser. She has been the Historic Homes Tour docent for three years as well as a Charter Review Commission member. In addition to all of this wonderful work, she has also been a part of the ColoVista Property Owners Association Golf Tournaments, Keep Bastrop County Beautiful Green Expo, Planning and Zoning Commission member, she has worked with evacuees at the Red Cross in Austin after Hurricane Katrina, YMCA Burning Pines run, Community Garden prep, and has been a Bastrop Ambassador for Hyatt Regency functions downtown. You’re probably asking yourself when does she find time to do anything else, well she does find time to go visit her children and grandchildren in California every year. She’s a proud mother and grandmother and they are all very proud of her.

This year there were three Points of Light Awards given, which are given to honor an individual whose impact through the years will be recognized and regarded with pride throughout the area as a role model. These outstanding citizens are chosen for representing the qualities each of us admire and respect among our friends, neighbors and associates.
This year’s recipients are Terri Costlow and Rosie Lopez who started the charitable, non-profit organizations, Comfort Café and Serenity Star Recovery Resource Center, Ann Tankersley, the original volunteer for the Bastrop Visitor’s Center and Rick Gullikson, the unsung hero of so many organizations that he gave his time and talents to in this technical world.

Terri Costlow and Robin Lopez with one of three "Point of Light Awards."

Terri Costlow and Robin Lopez with one of three “Point of Light Awards.”

Terri Costlow and Rosie Lopez followed their star and faith in God. They sold their worldly possessions to help others, to build a safe place for the suffering, a place to feed the hungry, and a home to heal for the spiritually sick, the traumatized, and the addicted. They fed the volunteers who fought the fires when our community had burned in 2011. They’ve never asked for anything in return, but relied on the generosity of others who shared this vision of healing for our community. They started their charitable, non-profit organizations, Comfort Cafe and SerenityStar Recovery Resource Center in 2009. Since then they have touched the lives of thousands of individuals and families. They have left an indelible mark of hope, healing, and integrity upon our community.

Today, the building continues. SerenityStar and Comfort Cafe sponsors a Women’s Transformational Living Program, a Men’s Transformational Living Program, and a Family Transformational Living Program in addition to running the First Street Wellness Center in Smithville and the SerenityStar Ranch in Smithville. They even operate a rescue center for dogs called Serenity Paws and are training them as service dogs! Even pets can be rehabilitated and returned as productive members of society! No one who is willing to change has ever been turned away from SerenityStar. No one! It is a charitable organization and a donation-only operation. Their motto is simple; “Trust God” and He will bring the people and the funds to continue His work.

Ann Tankersley was on the original volunteer team for the Bastrop “Old Town” Visitors Center, attending orientation in June 2006. For the next six years, Ann became a steadfast, supremely dependable volunteer every Friday afternoon. She greeted visitors, answered questions and made every visitor feel welcome and at home. She didn’t miss a single Friday in six years. Although retired from weekly volunteering, Ann is the first person Cindye Wolford, Visitor’s Center director, calls when another volunteer can’t make it. She even filled in for a volunteer when she was recovering from eye surgery. Ann is also very involved with the Bastrop Main Street Program as a member of the Organization Committee and has been since Bastrop became a Main Street City in 2007. Now she volunteers for the Main Street Program Volunteer Center, answering calls and assisting those inquiring about volunteer opportunities.

Rick Gullikson was sent from Workforce Solution in November 2012 to the Visitor’s Center to network in order to obtain employment in the downtown area. It was a very busy time as, not only was the director in the process of packing to move to the museum’s new location, she was nearing a deadline to complete the city’s new tourism website. In addition, she was struggling to keep the city’s mobile app updated. . At that time, no one really had an idea of Rick’s capabilities. When he arrived, he was assigned the laborious task of updating the center’s visitor log.
Rick offered to sit in on a very short tutorial session for the website, then in a matter of days finished it – just in time for Formula One. With the website marked off the list, he tackled the city’s app. Rick has kept the app updated ever since, winning us high praise from the city and its many users.

Rick Gullikson, one of three award winners for the “Point of Light.”

Rick Gullikson, one of three award winners for the “Point of Light.”

And we haven’t begun to tell you how Rick’s great attitude, hard work and professionalism have made him very popular with other organizations including the Bastrop Main Street Program and the Downtown Business Alliance. He is a leader and at times, he’s a peacemaker. The Downtown Business Alliance found Rick to be an unbelievable volunteer and untold number of hours volunteering. He served a co-chair of Yesterfest in 2013 and 2014 and Chaired the 2014 Halloween event, which was a great success. He now will serve on the Steering Committee for DBA for the next two years. Rick played hero to the Friends of the Bastrop Public Library when he spent the better part of a day setting up their computer system and carrying boxes of books to their storeroom.

While he now has a full time job at the Chamber, he still does and is the one that we go to for questions on websites, forms and procedures. In short, Rick has already not only impressed, but has captured the hearts of every person downtown that has come to know him. He is one of Bastrop’s best.

Although not given out every year, an Award of Distinction, is an award given by the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce for a shared vision, imagination, initiative and passion for Bastrop and its future. It’s about the teamwork and collective energies of a group with a common purpose – to make Bastrop a Better Place. This year the chamber thought it was fitting and right to award the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team with this honor. There is no doubt that this team of volunteers is owed our deepest gratitude for all they did to help rebuild Bastrop county after the devastating 2011 Complex Fires. They were organized shortly after the fires to assist low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals and families with recovery from the 2011 wildfires and other disasters. They were able to rebuild a total of 138 homes destroyed by the 2011 wildfires and built a playground in the Circle D Subdivision. They also assisted 1400 property owners with clean up on their properties and raised over $4,000,000 for recovery efforts.

Chris Files and Janice Butler represent the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team in accepting the "Award of Distinction."

Chris Files and Janice Butler represent the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team in accepting the “Award of Distinction.”

A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Dr. Neil Gurwitz for all his contributions to our community for many, many years.

The night ended with dancing and music provided by Jeff Brister and the Bastrop Main Street American Swing Band.

Bids are made during silent auction. - Photo by Terry Hagerty

Bids are made during silent auction. – Photo by Terry Hagerty

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