Unsung heroes of ice storm to be recognized by GF Chamber

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This year's Green Forest Chamber of Commerce annual banquet will recognize unsung heroes of last week's ice storm and its aftermath -- but the chamber needs help to identify those people.

The annual banquet is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, at the Green Forest High School Cafeteria.

"We've just experienced an extraordinary week in Green Forest's history," said Chamber President Rob Kerby. "Of course, our town has been through emergencies before, but I believe we as the chamber board have an opportunity this year to recognize some of our town's unsung heroes who made a big difference.

"We're hearing stories of people who went out of their way to help their neighbors, such as Cattlemen's Restaurant owners Loree and Ronnie Blackburn. Only one restaurant in Green Forest managed to stay open for the entire ordeal -- Cattlemen's. As a result, they became a center for people to gather. Many stayed for hours, playing cards and grazing on the buffets that Loree kept throwing together. She was able to do it because Ronnie scrambled to hook up a generator and haul out kerosene heaters.

"Then," said Kerby, "there's Powell's One-Stop that managed to keep gasoline available after Green Forest's other stations shut down. Without electricity, it was not easy, but One-Stop kept one gasoline pump and one diesel pump working. As a result, their large parking lot turned into an informal command center and rendezvous point for out-of-town repair crews.

"And Nestor Rivera filled his little church night after night with people who had no power, no phones and no warm food. Latin American Baptist Church members gathered hurting folks in their church van, found a generator and heaters, and turned their church into a safe haven for days."

There are lots of stories, said Chamber Vice President Kate Siebert. "Tell us yours," she urged. "Don't let one of our hometown heroes go unnoticed."

Kerby gave the following example. "Jack Wellborn and his 16-year-old son Matt were among local chainsaw owners such as college student Guy Joubert who learned that out-of-towners were gouging homeowners for tree limb clean-up. A number of our own locals began going around town offering to clear yards for $50 instead of the $300 that the out-of-towners were trying to collect.

"Those are the kind of stories we are gathering for the banquet," said Siebert, "plus behind-the-scenes of our city leaders, city workers, and the utility crews."

Anyone with a hero's tale or photos of the storm can send them by e-mail to kerbyrob@aol.com, or drop them off at the Country Rooster Antiques and Cafe on the Square in Green Forest or with Chamber Secretary and City Court Clerk Jeanne Beckwith at City Hall.

"We want to recognize those who went the extra mile," said Beckwith. "With the public's help, we will celebrate these extraordinary people who make Green Forest the special place that we call home."

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