WAXAHACHIE — In light of 9-11 and Patriots Day, Woodmen Life Fraternal Chapter 46 and the Waxahachie Men’s Downtown Bible Class hosted local first responders in a complimentary dinner last Thursday, Sept. 14.

“We want this to be meaningful to the people who serve us because they’re there every day putting their lives on the line,” began Stuart Stephenson, Woodmen Life area manager. “These men and women leave their families, run out, and protect us.”

“So every year around Patriots’ Day we want to honor our hometown heroes because they have the same sense of bravery, the same sense of pride, and the same sense of service with those who served at 9/11,” he acknowledged. “We just want to make the community aware of them and make sure they know that we’re not forgetting them.”

Though this year’s location changed from Water Street to the Crape Myrtle ballroom of the Waxahachie Civic Center, so did the size of those in attendance.

“This is something we’ve been doing the past few years,” Stephenson explained. "Since we did it in our building, it was on a smaller scale and we could only invite the police department or the fire department separately, but this year we wanted to get everybody together and do something really nice for them.”

Established in 1890, Woodmen Life has been a constant community companion, stretching its members' across 1,000 fraternal chapters found throughout the country and serving the communities they reside in.

With mouthwatering barbeque provided by Waxahachie’s HEB, police officers, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), and firefighters set the room abuzz with conversation and full plates.

“It’s always nice when businesses want to do that,” noted Wade Goolsby, Police Chief of the Waxahachie Police Department, about the dinner and program provided.

“And after some of the things that were said it makes you humble, and think ‘I don’t deserve to be here, and there are other people that deserve these kinds of accolades,’ but it was a great event and very nice of them to host us,” he added.

As the evening ceremony welcomed the different departments, Chris Beckendorff, Woodmen’s community outreach manager of North East Texas, recognized the local chapter with the first "2017 Fraternal Project of the Year" award for its $4,000 United States flag program and community service.

“Within each chapter, the mission of them is to make the community that they serve a better place in many different ways,” Beckendorff affirmed.

“Each year we like to honor an individual, and now a chapter for the first time, that has exemplified what fraternalism is all about and Chapter 46 has done just that,” he awarded Paul O’Rear, President of Chapter 46, on behalf of the recognition.

Among the testimonials and heartfelt speeches, Goolsby recognized Elizabeth Glidewell, a Waxahachie Police Detective, with an award for her outstanding work with cases involving children of physical and sexual abuse.

“I was glad to be able to honor Elizabeth with the ‘Officer of the year’ award for her work,” Goolsby supported. “She investigates tough cases, and I constantly get positive feedback from the District Attorney’s Office and her coworkers about the amount of effort she puts into it, and she’s so well-respected from her peers.”

“Not only was she chosen to be ‘Officer of the Year’ in our department but she was also picked as a ‘Co-Team Member of the Year’ by the Multidisciplinary Team that works on child abuse cases. And that’s a group effort with agencies all in the county in terms of all the police agencies, District Attorney’s Office, the Child Advocacy Center, Child Protective Services - so this was another great opportunity to recognize her work,” he included.

As the night ended with genuine appreciation from all departments and organizations represented, Stephenson is confident the ceremony will continue its tradition, growing in numbers as the year's progress.

“Waxahachie has always been good about taking care of their own, so it’s just a natural thing for us to do this,” Stephenson articulated.

“We want to do this on a yearly basis and continue growing bigger for a time of remembrance and to say 'Thank you,' to our hometown heroes,” he finished.

To connect with the Woodmen Life, visit woodmenlife.org or call (972)-345-8546.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450