Sledd receives Community Builder Award
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Jewell Yarborough, Deborah Shelton, Edgar Rhode, Charles Baggett, Tim Molnes, and Joe Lombardi. These are just a few names of Covites who have received the Community Builder Award from Mt. Hiram Lodge No. 595 AF & AM in Copperas Cove.
On Tuesday night, the name of Wendy Sledd was added to the ranks of those non-Masons in the local community who have distinguished themselves through their contributions to the community.
The lodge held a ceremony, officiated by James Powell, chair of the Community Builder Award committee for this year.
“This award can be given out only once per year, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily award one every year,” said Chuck Downard, who handles public relations for the lodge.
Powell welcomed those who attended the ceremony, with the lodge’s meeting room having few empty seats remaining. Sledd was accompanied by her husband, Col. Keith Sledd, and Rabbit Fest pageant royalty, both past and present, were there to see Sledd receive the award.
Powell talked about the establishment of the Community Builder Award, first adopted by the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1991.
“(The award is) presented to individuals, who although they have not been initiated into masonry, have followed the precepts, ideals and standards that have been established for masonic behavior.”
Powell also shared about Sledd’s background and her family. Sledd was raised by her grandparents, with her grandfather having fled his home country of Czechoslovakia prior to it being invaded by Hitler.
“This is the stock that Wendy came from, her family…her grandfather and grandmother shaped and molded her life. She was blessed by God to have this influence.”
He spoke of how she excelled both academically and professionally, putting herself through college using pageant and academic scholarships. He also traced the Sledds’ journey to Fort Hood and eventually to the Copperas Cove area—their 16th move in 30 years of marriage—and where Wendy and Keith have set down roots to live upon Keith’s retirement.
Powell also spoke about Sledd’s contribution to the Copperas Cove community by way of resurrecting the Rabbit Fest pageant in the spring of 2014, with the winners having logged more than 5,000 hours of volunteer service annually since the pageant’s new beginning. The pageant became the largest festival pageant and was also named one of the top three events in 2015 by the Texas Festival and Events Association.
Powell cited the values that the pageant brings to those who make appearances, that of learning the value of community service, the importance of public speaking, and speaking well, along with the importance of learning to write properly, having good manners.
“All this builds self-esteem,” Powell said. “It makes a difference in young people’s lives and our community.”
Sledd became the public information officer for the Copperas Cove Independent School District in 2014 and is now the district’s director of communications. She spends her weekends making sure the royalty attend their volunteer events and also sets up all appearances.
While here at Fort Hood, she has served on the United Way Central Texas board, the Greater Fort Hood Lemonade Day board, and has more recently completed a term on the CASA board, for court-appointed advocates for abused children.
Sledd was visibly moved as she spoke about seeing pageant winners from 2014 through the present attending Tuesday evening, acknowledging them as well as business sponsors in attendance.
“We have decided to retire in the Copperas Cove area because this community believed in me. As we have built the pageant, I didn’t do it by myself,” Sledd said.
She especially thanked individuals like Marc Payne, whom she said came to her, saying he built the original Rabbit Fest pageant float years ago. Payne volunteered to help build the current float the royalty uses when they participate in parades throughout Central Texas.
After the ceremony, cake and ice cream was served, with Sledd asking the royalty to help her cut the cake.
Dawn Hale is the grandmother of Junior Miss Rabbit Fest for 2016, Kaydence Weary, and talked about the growth she’s seen in her granddaughter over the past year.
“(Kaydence) loves Wendy. She’s always asking, ‘When are we doing the next sleepover at Wendy’s?’” Hale, whose husband, John also drives the truck that pulls the float in parades. “She’s like another grandmother—a ‘glam-mother’ to her. She’s really helped her with her speaking, feeling more confident, learning how to write speeches and thank-you notes. It’s been very rewarding.”
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