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Citizen Awards celebrate unsung community leaders

20131018 Citizen-Awards-Composite featureFor more than 30 years, Progress Times has honored community members who helped build Mission and serve residents through the annual Citizen Awards.

Tuesday night at the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce banquet held at Mario’s Banquet and Conference Center four more residents joined the illustrious group. Heather Broughton Marks was honored as the 2013 Woman of the Year, Richard Hernandez was named Man of the Year, Beatriz Tijerina was presented as the First Lady of Mission and Ben Olivarez was honored as Mr. Mission.

The awards, kept secret until the presentation, were presented by Jim Brunson, Progress Times publisher, who at times became choked up with emotion while giving the heartfelt biographies of this year’s honorees.

Woman of the Year

Marks is a native of Mission and a Texas A&M University graduate. She’s an active member of the Mission Rotary Club and a past graduate and board member of Leadership Mission.

“She’s weathered adversity at a young age and come out on top to be a light to others, not because she won the fight, but because she endured well,” Brunson said. “It’s a hometown story of determination and success to find purpose in service to others.”

In 2006, at the age of 25, Marks was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It’s what led to Marks’ service as the Valley coordinator for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for Cancer 180, a newly formed cancer support group for young adult survivors of cancer.

She’s also a member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and a volunteer and board member for Friends of Hope, supporting the Vannie Cook Center for Children. Marks now is the community manager in development for the American Cancer Society.

“One of her nomination letters said, ‘It is nice to see someone her age … care so much about her community, her church, and her dedication to groups helping to cure cancer,’” Brunson said. “This busy wife and mother does not know the meaning of slow, and the world around her is blessed for it.”

Man of the Year

Hernandez chairs the Mission Redevelopment Authority and the Tax Increment Redevelopment District. He also served as a member of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, helping recruit Royal Technologies, which now is constructing a 360,000 building that will be the largest in Mission. Once complete, the facility is expected to contribute more than $20 million to the city’s tax rolls.

“He has a gentle heart and a mind that looks for the best alternatives for decisions that will affect the success of an individual or organization,” Brunson said. “Integrity and dignity are among his strongest qualities.”

Other projects Hernandez has had a hand in include the Conway Streetscape Project, a $2.5 million renovation of Mission’s downtown, and a $30 million initiative to realign Inspiration Road with an overpass expansion at Expressway 83.

Hernandez also has served on the Shary Municipal Golf Course board, overseeing the renovation of the clubhouse and installation of the sprinkler system. And as chair of the Boys and Girls Club board, Hernandez helped form a thriving organization.

“His church activity is obviously important in his life as well,” Brunson said. “The Diocese of Brownsville selected him as a designated trustee for La Merced Homes and El Rosario Homes, a housing program for low-income families which has 99 homes in Mission neighborhoods and 99 in Mercedes.”

First Lady

When Tijerina’s husband’s job brought them to the Valley 17 years ago, she immediately jumped into community service, helping at her children’s schools. She soon established a local chapter of Catholic Kids NET, designed to help children establish positive foundations and emphasize leadership potential.

Established 16 years ago, Brunson said the organization has impacted 150 children each year and more than 2,000 total in the Mission and McAllen areas.

“All of her service has been without pay, without recognition or fanfare—until tonight. She shies away from the limelight and probably would have refused this honor if she had known about it before this moment,” Brunson said. “Her life is a testament to the selfless principle of the Savior’s admonition, ‘Verily I say until you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’”

Tijerina also founded in 2001 the local chapter of Club Faro and Club Giro, a program offering a positive environment for teens; and a local chapter of Regnum Christi, organizing men and women into weekly Bible studies and performing community service projects.

She’s also a cyclist, using her hobby to raise money for a variety of causes, including multiple sclerosis research, the food bank and the Livestrong Challenge.

Mr. Mission

Olivarez graduated from Mission High School in 1961 and he attended Texas A&M University. He and his brother now run the oldest continuously run business on Conway Avenue: Barrera’s Supply Co.

Brunson said Olivarez’s ancestors date back to the 1700s in South Texas.

“Those historical roots created a passion for the historical preservation of Mission and support of the Mission Historical Museum,” Brunson said. “Not only has he donated a number of items of historical value to the museum’s displays, he has volunteered in a number of positions with the museum, including serving as president of the board.”

Olivarez has been involved with the Mission Downtown Merchants Association and served on the Civil Service Commission and the Mission Economic Development Authority.

He served in the Vietnam and became a leader in the Santa Gertrudis industry through a family ranching operation established in 1898.

“Mission is rich in history, but most especially it is rich in the quality of its people. This year’s Mr. Mission epitomizes the entire spectrum—the past, present and the future of what we call legacy,” Brunson said. “Legacies are not born, they are made and ennobled one day at a time by making right choices with clear vision.

“This year’s Mr. Mission has created a legacy of honoring the past and setting a standard for the future.”

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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