By Penny LeLeux
For the Record 

Citizen, Business and Ambassador of the Year honored at BCCC banquet


Last updated 1/30/2024 at 7:39pm

Penny LeLeux 

Mark Bunch, pastor of St. Paul Methodist Church was named Citizen of the Year Monday at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce Banquet. Pictured left to right: Senator Robert Nichols, Mark Bunch and Wanda McGraw.

Bridge City Community Center was busting at the seams Monday night with a capacity crowd at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. It was the biggest crowd they've ever had in attendance.

"We've never had this many tables before," said Mandy Lyda, executive director of the chamber. "I had to turn a lot of people away." She remarked they may have outgrown the venue.

Kirk Ellender, emcee for the evening recognized all the businesses that bought tables for the evening. "These are businesses that are giving not only their time but all of their efforts to make this evening a success as well," he said.

Citizen and Business of the Year are announced by the chamber ahead of time, but the Ambassador of the Year is kept secret to be revealed that night. From the look on her face, Lucy Fields was taken completely by surprise when her name was announced for the honor.

Senator Robert Nichols was on hand to present the awards to Fields and the other honorees.

Mark Bunch, pastor of St. Paul Methodist Church was named Citizen of the Year, while Business of the Year went to Countryland Properties, a land development company owned by Stephan Gault.

Bunch has pastored at St. Paul Methodist Church since 2013. He participates in many community organizations including Bridge City-Orangefield Ministerial Alliance, Boy Scouts, Rotary Club, Band Booster and he umpires for Little League Baseball.

"Each of you are part of my life and it's a joy to serve in this community and to be a part of what God is doing in our midst," Bunch said. "I'm thankful for this honor to be recognized for that and to continue to be a part of what God does here in our life, our community. We've been blessed with a great community, great schools, great people, thank you."

Gault thanked his wife and daughter for allowing him to chase his dream. He also acknowledged Elaine Hearn for "paving the way in real estate." He is grateful for what Bridge City has offered for his business. "I love what it stands for and the things that operate this town."

Gault's original home office was in Mauriceville. He opened an office in Bridge City in 2018 and another one in Buna. After the pandemic forced many to work remotely from home, Gault decided in 2023 to merge the other offices with Bridge City as the only physical location.

Also honored were three businesses reaching the 50-year mark in Bridge City: Elaine Hearn Realty, Bill Nickum State Farm Insurance and David Olsen, DDS.

Nickum said, "Living here is easy, it's the staying alive that is hard." He did not elaborate on that statement as the audience laughed and he stepped down.

Fields said when she requested a 250-word synopsis from Olsen, he replied that he only needed 10. "It's been great and we'd do it all over again."

Penny LeLeux 

Lucy Fields was named Ambassador of the Year Monday, at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce Banquet. Pictured left to right: Senator Robert Nichols, Lucy Fields and Maureen McAllister.

The chamber presented the year in review, including a slide show presentation. In 2023 they held 11 ribbon cuttings and 12 coffees. They gave four $1,000 scholarships, with money raised from their annual Christmas tree auction to two Orangefield students and two Bridge City students. Applications are open for the new year. National Night Out had 48 booths participating and there were over 65 entries in the Christmas parade, making for an impressive collection of toys presented to BC/OF Ministerial Alliance. Their two Designer Purse Bingo events raised $40,000.

Wanda McGraw passed the gavel to Brandy Slaughter.

Milano's Italian Grill provided lasagna and chicken alfredo with salad and rolls for the meal, with a variety of cheesecakes for dessert.

Red's liquor provided the alcohol.

There was an extensive silent auction that ran the gamut of sports collectables and memorabilia, trips, jewelry and more.

Small succulents in tiny clay pots decorated the tables as favors for the attendees. They each had a tag with the Chamber logo and tagline: Growing Stronger Together.


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