Leadership Texarkana Lunch with Leaders 2021

Leadership Texarkana celebrated local excellence in community leadership at their annual Lunch with Leaders at Texarkana, TX Convention Center on April 20th, with the awarding of the organization’s Leader of The Year Award, as well as honoring community leaders through Leadership Texarkana’s annual Wilbur Awards. The luncheon was sponsored by Texarkana Emergency Center and Hospital. 

Leadership Texarkana Executive Director Ruth Ellen Whitt spoke to the motivation of the organization’s annual awards program, quoting Albert Schweitzer who said “Example is not the main thing, it is the only thing.” As an organization committed to growing a community of leaders who help lead the way for community excellence, Leadership Texarkana lifts up exemplary leaders in our community as models for us all, showing what is possible if we choose to serve one another by investing time and effort in our community.”

The Leader of the Year Award is the highest award given by Leadership Texarkana annually, to honor outstanding alumni of the Leadership Texarkana program; it is given in memory of Idalee Raffaelli Hawkins who set a lasting and inspirational example for her willingness to serve our community.

This year’s Leader of the Year was presented to Cory J. Floyd. Cory exemplifies the impact an individual can have on his community. Cory is an attorney and partner with Norton Wood Floyd, L.L.P. where he focuses on commercial litigation, corporate transactional work and probate matters. Cory and his family are members of St. James Episcopal Church, where he has served as a Senior Warden and Vestry Member and currently serves as a board member for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas – Executive Council. As a dedicated community leader, Cory has served as a board member for Harvest Texarkana, Texarkana Young Lawyers Association (where he also served as President), Committee Member for the State Bar of Texas Grievance Council, Former Board Member for the Wadley Foundation, Chamber of Commerce board member and previous Chairman of the Board, I-69 Commission Board member, and NETRMA (Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority) – Council Member…to name a few.

Leadership Texarkana’s Wilbur Awards have been given annually since 1992, in memory of community servant and historian Wilbur Smith. Celebrating the power of one to positively impact our community, the Wilbur Awards are given in three categories, honoring adults, youth, and organizations to individuals and groups whose demonstrate exemplary leadership in the community and a commitment to working together for community excellence.

Wilbur Award for Organization – For the Sake of One
Wilbur Award for Adult – Elizabeth Patterson
Wilbur Youth Awards – Fazeka Barnes and Delia Tuttlebee

Also honored for exemplary community leadership: Wilbur Adult Honorees Theresa Cowling, Brandy Eldridge, Cloris Hopkins, Francine Francis and Russell Sparks.

The 2021 Wilbur Award for service by an organization was presented to the ‘For the Sake of One,’ a nonprofit ministry that serves foster, adoptive and kinship families, as well as overworked caseworkers and foster children in Miller, Little River, Bowie and Cass Counties. For the Sake of One maintains a resource room with essential items for families with open CPS cases. They provide mentorship for biological parents, offer support groups and parents’ night out for foster families and recruits new fostering families as the need grows in our area. They also provide school supplies and Christmas gifts for all kinship and foster placements in the four counties they serve.

This year’s adult recipient of the Wilbur Award is Liz Patterson. Liz Patterson, Assistant Vice President for Student Success at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Ms. Patterson is a constant and consistent voice for students to ensure they have the best opportunities to be successful socially and academically. Liz is responsible for many departments on campus and as a Texarkana native, is focused on telling “our story” and encouraging others to stay here and participate in making Texarkana better for all.

This year’s Wilbur Awards for Youth Leadership were presented to two outstanding young women of our community: Fazeka Barnes and Delia Tuttlebee.

Fazeka Barnes  -  A senior at Texas High School, she is the Vice President of the student body and an avid athlete as a state finalist for swim team and Regional finalist for Cross country and track. Fazeka has over 1000 documented volunteer hours during her high school career, while building her internet company, Fazeka Wear. Fazeka is obviously a hard worker and has a “let’s do it attitude!” Fazeka Barnes is a great mentor to students by encouraging them to take leadership roles.

Delia Tuttlebee  - A senior at Pleasant Grove High School, Delia is Class President and the award winning co-editor of the newspaper. She is also a leader in athletics as both the soccer and cross country team captain. Ms. Tuttlebee has fasted 30 hours each year to raise money and awareness for global hunger and raised $2,500 for World Vision, among many other volunteer hours during her busy high school years. Delia Tuttlebee, uses her platform with the school paper to bring awareness to local and global issues and uses her leadership skills to encourage her classmates to serve as well.

Continuing the Wilbur tradition set from the beginning of the awards twenty-nine years prior, Leadership Texarkana honored and celebrated all of the individuals and organizations which were nominated as they are all exemplary models of community leadership that are worth following.  Wilbur honorees for outstanding community leadership included:

Theresa Cowling, Principal of Arkansas Middle School, Ms. Cowling has served children in the Texarkana Arkansas School District for nearly twenty years. Throughout her career, Theresa has won several awards and worked tirelessly as a collaborative leader with a laser focus on student success. She has implemented several new, successful programs, handles all challenges with a smile and is never too busy to help a student or staff member.

Brandy Eldridge, Executive Director for CASA Texarkana. Brandy has a servant heart and believes in educating our community. Her current focus is education regarding child abuse prevention as she leads the dedicated staff at CASA. She is an unselfish leader who creatively made sure their doors were open to children and families during the COVID-19 shutdown in a safe manner while serving nearly 1,000 in 2020.

Cloris Hopkins, Director of Health Services at Opportunities, Inc. Ms. Hopkins has been instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic in testing residents and staff, and also educating and administering vaccines. During times of staff and nursing shortages this past year, Cloris worked endless hours and shifts to care for residents, even attempting to drive and walk across the interstate to administer medication for elderly, disabled patients in the recent winter storm.

Russell Sparks, President of Hightech Signs. Mr. Sparks is selfless in giving his time and resources to help the community and individuals in need. Russell guides his employees with strong leadership and compassion. He encourages and embraces challenges with innovative thinking and is an all-around rising star serving many different organizations.

Francine Francis, Director of Marketing and Communications for CHRISTUS St. Michael Health Systems. Ms. Francis has been a leader with CHRISTUS for 38 years and her wisdom in the midst of this health care pandemic has proven invaluable to the entire community. Francine has selflessly volunteered her time every weekend recently to make the Vaccine Hub a success and she is invested in providing others the opportunities to receive a quality education in our area.   

Leadership Texarkana is committed to fostering community excellence by providing a leadership voice of possibility and responsibility, and by developing citizens who are willing and able to make a difference of significance as community leaders. It is committed to engaging and equipping citizens throughout our community as leaders working together for community excellence, pride and progress. For more about Leadership Texarkana, visit leadershiptexarkana.com.


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