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updated 10:30 AM, Aug 2, 2021 America/Chicago

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Joe’s Italian Grill named ‘Do-Gooder’ of the Year

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                               JASON CHLAPEK I PCE From left, Livingston city manager Bill Wiggins, Tanya Dora and Nancy Windham of the Texas Forest Country Partnership, Ilir Gjoka of Joe’s Italian Grill, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and State Representative James White celebrate Joe’s Italian Grill receiving the 2020 “Do-Gooder” of the Year award for Polk County Tuesday morning.

Special to the Enterprise

LUFKIN - Joe’s Italian Grill of Livingston was awarded the 2020 “Do-Gooder” of the Year Award for Polk County during the 2020 Texas Forest Country Partnership (TFCP) Virtual Economic Development Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The award presentation was made on behalf of the TFCP by Robert Allen, president & CEO of the Texas Economic Development Corporation; Adriana Cruz, executive director of the Office of Economic Development & Tourism, Office of the Governor; and Bryan Daniel, chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Christi Sullivan, chair of the TFCP, noted Joe’s Italian Grill, owned by Ilir Gjoka, was established in 2009 and has 12 employees, who assist in giving back graciously to the community.

A few of Mr. Gjoka and his staff’s selfless acts include opening his grill to feed the homeless every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. In addition, free meals are provided to military veterans every year on Veteran’s Day and free meals are also provided to the Polk County Special Olympics participants.

“Mr. Gjoka also makes a special effort to take care of others during distressed times. A tornado hit Polk County in April and although he was negatively impacted, he thought of others first offering free meals to displaced families and relief aid works. Thank you for your extreme acts of appreciation and kindness; this honorable award is well deserved,” Sullivan said.

“We are proud to recognize Joe’s Italian Grill for your genuine concern for the well-being of others and for your relentless hours spent making sure more families are fed. Your commitment to those in your community and to the Texas Forest Country region during the COVID-19 Pandemic is invaluable.

“Our summit is an opportunity to explore ways to improve the economy of our region and we appreciate everyone who attended virtually to help us celebrate “Do-Gooders” who go over and beyond the call of duty to serve others and be an integral part of our future”, she continued.

In addition to recognizing the counties’ “Do-Gooder” winners, Jay Shands of Angelina County received the 2020 Silver Bucket Award. The Summit’s Keynote Address was made by Governor Greg Abbott followed by a regional and state-wide in-depth discussion with Featured Presenters Robert Allen, Adriana Cruz and Bryan Daniel. Other participants included Lonnie Hunt, executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and Economic Development District; Jennifer Harris, State Program Director of Connected Nation Texas and Wynn Rosser, President and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation presented an overview and an update on Broadband in our region. Concluding the Summit was a panel discussion with the region’s State Senator and State Representatives.

A total of 12 Do-Gooder awards were presented, one for each county in the TFCP area. Either business or individuals could be nominated for the honor.

Criteria for being nominated for the award includes:

  • Has given back to a community during the COVID-19 Crisis
  • Located in Your County.
  • If nomination is a business, must be a viable on-going business for one or more years, experiencing growth or stability over its business life.
  • Employs less than 100
  • Provides critical service or product, fills a void in the business community, or has a unique approach to delivery of goods and services.
  • May have overcome diverse or extraordinary circumstances to remain in business.
  • Business/Individual is supportive of community growth sustainability.
  • Is not a governmental agency or municipality.

The TFCP, formerly known as the Pineywoods Economic Partnership (PEP) and the Deep East Texas Development Association (DETDA), was founded in 1960 as a non-profit economic development organization.  The TFCP is a regional economic development organization that is committed to coordinating economic development-related activities in Deep East Texas and further enhancing the appeal of the 12-county area that it serves.

The Texas Forest Country Partnership is committed to enriching the economic prosperity and well-being of our region through marketing, business development, and advocacy.

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