The Melissa Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet is a well-attended affair bringing together equal parts of the fabric of the community. At one table sits an entire company’s staff, while at another is the mayor and city staff while at yet another are residents and supporters of what the Chamber does for the community.

Those equal parts all make for an interesting evening at the banquet, since 2015 held at the beautiful Mitas Hill Vineyard facility on the southeast edge of the city. This year’s event had the regular attractions: Mayor Reed Greer delivering his State of the City address to a captive audience, informing the crowd that Melissa is indeed on the rise with a large increase in housing permits as proof and reporting that the population is now estimated at more than 9,000 people, having effectively doubled in just five years.

Then there is the food, of which few had any complaint, and the always-popular game of Heads or Tails, which plays pretty much like it sounds. Chamber Director Bill Jones was the Master of Ceremonies on the night, while Board Chairman Jason Jupiterwala gave an update on the health of the Chamber and the business community (hint: It was a good prognosis). In addition, there were door prizes and plenty of good conversation to be had.

But the awards are the big draw for the evening. Employee of the Year Awards are handed out by local employers (this year it was Steve Rodriguez of MedPro Pharmacy and Erin Mynatt from the City of Melissa doing the honors) to their respective employees before the Business of the Year and the Citizen of the Year are named. This year, Steel Fab was honored as the Business of the Year in Melissa.

The most heartwarming moment of the evening came as last year’s Citizen of the Year, Dick Hayden, came to the front to introduce this year’s Citizen of the Year. There was a worthy pool of candidates, including local Scout leaders Scott Hall and Bill Farmer.

“Our 2016 Citizen of the year is a living monument to all that is great about living in Melissa,” said Hayden. “When we hear the expression, ‘We are Melissa,’ we know that in this, this year’s Citizen is Melissa’s true spirit.”

Hayden went on to describe the honoree’s history, telling of how she came to the city as a new bride from Mineral Wells, where she married her husband in 1941. “Sometime, ask her about her quick courtship that lasted 66 years,” quipped Hayden.

Hayden then described how she worked picking cotton, was with Duke & Ayers during World War II, worked at the Melissa Post Office and even later on in her working life went door-to-door reading meters for the North Texas Water District in Melissa. The honoree’s history even includes working as an election judge and, along with her husband, helping to start the Melissa Area Chamber of Commerce years earlier. She was part of the founding of the Melissa Garden Club, inaugurated the Pioneer Club, and in 1993 she and several literary lovers founded the Melissa Public Library and served on the board for nearly 20 years. The North Texas Public Library System even recognized her work by naming her its Volunteer of the Year. She has also been recognized as one of the longest-participating members of the First Melissa Church and helped to create the Christmas food basket program in the 1970s. She still helps put those baskets together as part of the Angel Tree program every holiday season.

“This person has had a large impact on our community. She is affectionately called ‘Miss Melissa’ by her family. There are few activities she has not blessed,” added Hayden.

“Wherever you go and whatever you do on our great town, our Citizen of the year has touched the place and the people of Melissa.”

And with that, Hayden introduced the Citizen of the Year — Helen Browning to a loud, lasting round of applause and a standing ovation.