CARTHAGE, Mo. — A Carthage pastor was surprised with a prestigious honor.

“Kinda brings a tear to my eye,” said Dustin Ledford, 2022 Carthage Citizen of the Year.

Dustin Ledford is the “2022 Carthage Chamber Richard M. Webster Citizen of the Year.”

“Probably midway through the introduction, I started recognizing some of the events that we were a part of,” said Ledford.

The announcement was made during a monthly event at his church that he helped create, called the “4th Thursday Senior Lunch & Laugh.”

“Caught me completely off guard. My goal is simply to serve people, to love people. But, it’s really special to know that the citizens of Carthage recognize this. It’s my prayer, as I shared inside, that each one would know that it’s not one person, but it’s all working together,” he said.

Ledford has lived in Carthage for the past 17 years and pastors the Carthage Nazarene Church. One of the reasons he was chosen was his plan of coming up with a way to feed local teachers through the pandemic

“We would fix lasagna, he would help with that. Then 63 families would be blessed with dinner that evening,” said Susan Wendleton, Past Carthage Citizen of the Year Recipient.

Those who know him best say he works to fill all kinds of the needs in the community.

“He will sometimes say, ‘Let’s feed the Sheriff’s Department, let’s reach out to law enforcement.’ The night of the Joplin tornado, he was gathering up wheelchairs, and then had thousands of people that actually stayed in our building while they came to work and build some houses in Joplin after the tornado,” added Wendleton.

“We decided the best service we could do was ‘Motel 6.’ We kept the lights on for everyone. Literally for the next 18 months, we housed 5,000 volunteers here at the church. We installed 60 beds. We had a place for a guys dorm and a ladies dorm,” said Ledford.

“He goes above and beyond the call of duty for everything. He’s all in, and he’s amazing, not only for the church, but for the community,” said Julie Reams, Carthage Chamber of Commerce President.

The yearly award recognizes one person who has made an overall impact and difference in the community

“We normally give that out at our Chamber banquet, but due to COVID restrictions, we weren’t able to have that banquet this year. And, we couldn’t think of a better person or a better type of event to hand this out to Dustin,” said Julie Reams, Carthage Chamber of Commerce President.

The community makes nominations, and past recipients choose the winner each year.

“He is a team player in the community that shares not just the vision, but he works in the trenches with everybody else,” said Wendleton.

“It’s part of being a neighbor. Just being a good neighbor to one another,” said Ledford.