News publisher and editor John Alred presented Hester with a plaque and expressed his appreciation for the work she has done in the community.
Hester was on the steering committee of the Jacksonville Outreach Center when it was organized in 1994. She has served as chairperson since 2005.
Mayor Johnny Smith expressed his gratitude.
“It’s certainly appropriate that The Jacksonville News has chosen Mary Agnes Hester as their Citizen of the Year,” he said. “Mary Agnes has volunteered many years at the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center. In her work at JCOC, Mary Agnes has touched the lives of many families who were having some difficulties in their lives.”
Chalcy Evans, former JCOC volunteer, who is Hester’s longtime friend, said Hester was JCOC’s first secretary and has served as coordinator since its inception. Evans said that Hester is a major reason the center has been so successful.
“She has helped the center avoid problems and has enabled it to look forward and take advantage of all the resources we have as well as coordinating those resources to make sure we can help all those who are in need of assistance,” said Evans.
Evans said that, in the beginning, the center received a grant. Eventually though, someone from the center had to be responsible for writing the grants. Hester stepped up to the plate and did that.
“We laughed and teased her about being our grant writer,” said Evans. “She wrote our grants. Others helped, but she actually put everything together. It was things like that that helped make the center move. No matter what, she’s always there and always put the center first. Because of her commitment as an administrator, we’ve become independent.”
Another friend and former JCOC volunteer Kenneith Calvert, said Hester’s management skills and big heart have made a tremendous difference in the lives of many in the community in their time of need.
Betty Newsome and Hester have been friends since 1997.
“I’ve never known a lady that shows an epitome of class more than Mary Agnes,” said Newsome. “She’s a classy lady at all times. She never argues or condemns. She’s always a proper lady, very sweet and very pleasant. I’ve enjoyed being her friend all these years.”
Friend Virginia MacRae who attends First Presbyterian Church with Hester, said that as an elder in their church, Hester reaches out to everyone.”
“She’s concerned about everyone in the church as well as the community,” said MacRae.
Sharon Ward said that she and her family are Hester’s family by affection. The Hesters and Wards have known each other since the Wards moved to Alabama in 1973.
“Our families just latched on to each other because we didn’t have any blood relatives in Alabama,” said Ward. “We became attached to each other. When our children were born, they grew up thinking Mary Agnes and Glenn were their grandparents.”
Ward said she can’t think of anyone who is more deserving of this recognition.
“Mary Agnes, along with many others at JCOC, have donated so much time and thought,” said Ward. “It’s a labor of love for her. It’s living out her faith.”
Hester and her husband, Glenn “Dick”, have been married 64 years. They have three sons. Glenn Jr., lives in Orlando. Thomas and Jeff live in Birmingham. They have seven grandchildren and one grandchild.
While Hester’s husband served in the Army, she was a stay-a-home mom. Even then, when her children were small, she found ways to volunteer.
When the JCOC was organized, it was supported by 10 churches. Each church had a representative on the steering committee, and Hester was the representative for her church, First Presbyterian, where she is an elder.
In an interview, before she knew she was being named Citizen of the Year, Hester said those who work with JCOC receive the greatest blessing of all by being allowed to be a part of it.
“We can’t even think about giving it up,” she said. “Once you start, you don’t ever want to leave. I enjoy the feeling that maybe I’m making a difference in someone’s life that maybe has not been as fortunate as I have always been, and it means a lot to me to be able to do that.”
Hester she especially enjoys children and being able to help them.
“I think everyone in the community needs to realize what a difference they make by supporting us,” she said. “We couldn’t do a thing without all the wonderful support we receive from our community.”
Contact Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org.