Honoring “selfless individual(s) who give their time to make our community a better place to live” will be the focus of the 2018 Alma Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon, said Marilyn Sneed, interim director of the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce.

The luncheon is open to the public, and it is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church, 211 N. Mountain Grove Road in Alma.

“Elected officials and nominated volunteers (are) invited (to come) as our guests,” Sneed said. Last year, teachers were the honored guests, she said. Police officers and first responders were honored in 2016.

While all volunteers will be honored, five volunteers will receive special recognition, Sneed said. “Four will receive distinction honors, and one (will be awarded) the (very first annual) Dr. Jean Medlock award,” Sneed said.

The late Dr. Jean Medlock practiced optometry in Alma for 49 1/2 years, according to Medlock's obituary, which was shared by Sneed. Medlock opened her practice in downtown Van Buren in 1968.

The award named for Medlock will “honor her and the contribution she was to the community,” Sneed said.

Professionally, Medlock was twice named Arkansas optometrist of the year — in 1989 and again in 1996 — according to her obituary. In 2010, she was awarded the Lifetime Excellence award from the Arkansas Optometric Association. Medlock died in October 2017.

The Good Samaritan Clinic, Crawford County Parks Board and Alma Friends of the Library were listed as some of the many organizations that were recipients of Medlock’s volunteerism, according to her obituary. Medlock also served on the Stepping Stone School Board since the school opened in 1972, Sneed said.

Recipients of the Dr. Jean Medlock award will be “selfless individual(s)” who volunteer. This year's five special honorees will not be revealed before the luncheon, she said.

The third annual Alma Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon “is a community idea that originated with Mardell McClurkin,” said Keith Greene, current mayor of Alma. “It was an idea she floated, and it’s worked out very well. It’s good for the city and to mark progress.”

McClurkin and her late husband, Herschel, were honored in early 2017 with the Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club’s book of golden deeds award, according to a 2017 news release. The pair were recognized as local volunteers who continuously donate “time, talent and energy” to help honor good deeds and community contributions.

“The importance of volunteerism and the value it brings to our community” also will be the topic shared by keynote speaker, Dr. Mike McSpadden, assistant superintendent for the Alma School District, Sneed said.

Just under 200 volunteers are anticipated to be in attendance, Sneed said. They will be acknowledged from the stage.

The luncheon will open with an invocation by a local pastor, Sneed said. The presentation of colors by the Alma Junior ROTC will follow; and a student will then sing the national anthem. The entrée for lunch will be chicken, and ice cream will be served for dessert, she said. Greene will welcome guests to the event.

The grand finale to the luncheon will be the presentation of the Dr. Jean Medlock award, Sneed said. Sneed and Ed Thicksten, chairman for the event, will present the awards at the conclusion of the luncheon.

Tickets for the event are $10 each and can be purchased at the door or through the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce website, AlmaChamber.com/purchases, Sneed said.

Sponsorships are also available, and they help offset the cost to make it possible for the individuals being honored to attend the event free of charge, she said. About 200 people are being honored at the luncheon. To be a sponsor for the event, contact the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce at (479) 632-4127 or Marilyn@AlmaChamber.com.

Lots of people volunteer in Alma, Sneed said. “The Community Outreach Center is 100 percent volunteer run,” she said. They “have no paid staff.” There are a lot of people who volunteer at the library and in the school district also, she said. The 1st Choice Pregnancy Medical Center is another place people in Alma volunteer.

Sneed has been recognized as a volunteer in the community as well. She, along with two others, Becky Newton and Tina Griffin, started the Kick Start Alma program, Greene said.

The program, according to the city’s website, CityOfAlma.org, provides the community with a vision and goals, as well as a long-term strategic plan.

“We make it our mission” to promote the area so people will want to come to Alma, Griffin said. The program was designed to kick-start awareness of the community. They also strive to make the community aware of the activities and festivities offered in an effort to get people involved, she said. They have worked to involve all areas of the community to both grow the community as well as to promote involvement among current residents of the area.