A local Realtor, a longtime law enforcement resident, an entrepreneur, seven educators and an athletic
director were among those honored at the 27th annual Keene Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet
Oct. 28 at the Keene Community Center. The event that recognizes local businesses and educators was
attended by 300 people who enjoyed a meal prepared by Southwestern Adventist University food service
director Chef Sualua Tupolo and a non-stop routine of laughter presented by Christian guitarist and
comedian Kevin Williams.
Keene Realtor and community volunteer Samantha Gillin was honored as Citizen of the Year.
Other honorees included:
• Community Improvement Award: Cody Weiss and Blake and Jerry Fanning
• Community Service Award: Donnie Beeson
• Pioneer Award: Don Beeson
• Young Entrepreneur Award: Carlos Linares and Victor Prieto
• Phillip Sparks Helping Hands Award: Jason Hamilton and John McFarlin
• Educator of the Year Awards were also presented, accompanied by a $100 honorarium for each educator.
The Citizen of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has been a model citizen and given dedicated
and extensive service to individuals, organizations and the community on a continued basis. Gillin has been
involved in real estate for 30 years and started a real estate sales business in Keene in 2005. She has served
on the Keene Chamber of Commerce board of directors and as president of the Type A board. She donated
protective vests and two AEDs to the Keene Police Dept., donated recliner chairs and an ice machine to the
Fire Rescue Dept., and many times has paid the water bill or rent for someone in need. She finds homes for
abandoned dogs and during the early days of COVID assembled bags of hand sanitizer, personal care items
and pet food for Meals-on-Wheels recipients. She regularly attends City Council meetings, is very supportive
of the fire and police department, always financially supports community events, and continually attemps to
find ways to improve life in Keene.
The Community Improvement Award honors businesses for contributing to the beautification of the city
through new buildings and/or well-manicured grounds and landscaping, thus presenting a positive image
and improving the quality of life in Keene. Weiss was honored for developing Bristol Oaks In Keene, a
residential community of 109 homes, while the father and son duo of Blake and Jerry Fanning were
recognized for developing The Canyons, a residential community of 300 plus homes next to Keene High School.
The Community Service Award is given to an individual and/or organization who has given extensive and
continued service to the community. Donnie Beeson was recognized for serving as a volunteer general
contractor for the construction of a new pavilion at the city park. He also volunteered to install the lights
at the park’s ballfields, served as commissioner of the youth sports program, serves on the Type B Business
Development Corporation board and is currently president of the Keene ISD school board.
The Educator of the Year Award honors one who demonstrates excellence in the classroom and goes the
extra mile by being involved in the lives of students outside the classroom. This award is selected by campus
educators and administrators. One educator from the each of the three public schools and one from the each
of the four private schools are honored each year. The award is accompanied by a cash honorarium of $100.
The honorees were:
Keene High School — Amy Smith
Keene Junior High School — Caroline Rodriguez
Keene Elementary School — Tapley Shoup
Keene Adventist Elementary School — Caroline Shockey
Keene Adventist Junior High School — Ryan Weaver
Chisholm Trail Academy is Johnathan Coker
Southwestern Adventist University is Buster Swoopes
The Pioneer Award recognizes an individual or organization whose long-ago contributions and influence
helped make Keene what it is today. The award was presented to Don Beeson, who moved to Keene in 1969
to attend college and began working part-time for the police department. After serving in the Army for two
years, he returned to Keene and started the ambulance service and served four years as police chief. He served
25 years as police chief at the University of Texas Health Science Center, then interim police chief in Keene.
After that, he was elected to two four-year terms as county commissioner. He currently serves on the Type B board
The Young Entrepreneur Award is presented to a young business person who has made a commitment to Keene.
Carlos Linares and Victor Prieto were recognized for opening Belenty’s Love Mexican Vegan Restaurant.
Phillip Sparks Helping Hands Award, honors an individual who provides continued assistance without seeking
compensation or recognition.
Two individuals were honored this year. Keene High School athletic director John McFarlin was recognized for
starting Charge It Forward, a program that uses athletes to provide service in the Keene community by cleaning
up property, mowing lawns, raking leaves and performing small repairs.
Jason Hamilton was recognized for volunteering to landscape at the new pavilion and the “Welcome to Keene”
granite sign on Hwy. 67. He serves as the Type B board of directors and is always lending a hand at community events.