Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 28, 2014

Bateman named Chamber’s ‘Outstanding Citizen’

Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Visibly moved after being named the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen, Jacksonville native Billy Bateman accepted the honor on behalf of the city and the people who rallied around projects he helped spearhead.

“It was not me, it's this town – (it has) come alive like I've never seen before,” Bateman said during  Monday's 89th annual Chamber luncheon at The Legacy.

He was introduced by 2012 recipient Nathan Jones, who told the audience, “I'm going to do it a little bit differently this year – those of you who know me know that sometimes I like to do limericks, so we're going to do a riddle, limerick-style.”

Jones described several projects Bateman – a 1975 JHS graduate – has been involved with during the past two years, including fundraisers benefitting the Crisis Center of Cherokee and Anderson Counties and local veterans, along with food and Christmas projects through the Worship Under the Bridge ministries and this past summer's fan drive benefitting those in need.

However, it was a relief effort he coordinated this past May for the victims of Moore, Okla, where an EF5 tornado cut a swath through the community, killing 25 and injuring 377 people, that first identified Bateman as a community activist.

Recalling the event, Bateman – owner and manager of Bateman Construction – described how he and his family “were sitting on the couch, watching” news reports about the devastation.

“I guess the Lord was working on me, something come over me and I said, 'There's something I can do.' I didn't know what, and it was 9 o'clock at night,” he said.

He called a friend at Carey Lake Ranch, where he was working, and arranged use of trailers to haul items to displaced Moore residents. Tapping into his social network on Facebook, he broadcast information about a trailer being set up at the local Walmart the next morning.

Early the next morning, he recalled, a local resident “come pushing out (of the store with) two or three buggies full of water and diapers and food and all kinds of stuff.

“At 6:30 in the morning! It was amazing,” he said, adding that others wholeheartedly threw in their support for the project.

“It was like the gates opened opened up. I didn't know if we'd get anybody, it was crazy. It had come alive,” he said. “Long story short, Jacksonville, everyone filled the trailers. It wasn't me, it wasn't Donnie (Hammock, executive director of the Crisis Center) – it was the city of Jacksonville who sent five trailers to Oklahoma.”

“This isn't about me,” he added; “I appreciate the thought and everything (but) all of y'all made this happen.”

Also recognized at the luncheon were Robin “Boogie” Butt, the 2013 Division Chairman of the Year and the 2013 Chairman's Award, bestowed upon Gwartney Enterprises, founded by Austin Gwartney.

Special recognition was given to Brett Brewer, the outgoing Chamber board chairman, by 2014 board chairman Kris Sturrock.

Sturrock reminded Chamber members they are “our community's cheerleaders.”

“I challenge you as employers to train your employees to be Jacksonville's leaders of tomorrow by sending at least one of your employees as a volunteer to serve on a chamber committee. Encourage them to get involved,” she said, adding, “come on Jacksonville,  in 2014 let's get involved, where it matters.”

Bateman echoed her comments.

“Probably everybody in here donates time, money or hours or whatever, thinking that's enough. It's never enough. There's always another battle, there's another (person) homeless, another victim that we help – it never ends,” he said, adding, “Don't stop there – every organization needs help … I need you to not to just open your your hearts up, but to do it wide, do it big. Support this town.”