PILOT MOUNTAIN — With secrecy rivaling any awards telecast, Pilot Mountain Civic Club presented its highest honor, Citizen of the Year, to Deanna Suits Chilton, on Tuesday at a lunch meeting at Aunt Bea’s Restaurant here.
“I was so shocked,” said Chilton.
Wayne Smith, last year’s Citizen of the Year, had previously called Chilton’s husband to invite him to the lunch meeting where the award was to be be presented. Even that did not alert Chilton to the honor about to be bestowed on her.
“I had no idea,” said Chilton. “I thought it was because it’s Christmas.”
“I’ve only been here seven years,” said Chilton. “This award usually goes to folks who have been around 20 or 30 years. It is an honor.”
The Citizen of the Year award presentation is customarily made by the previous year’s recipient. Last year’s recipient, Smith, called on his daughter, Elaine Smith Eurey, to speak for him, to the delight of club members who commented that Smith has never allowed anyone speak in his stead before.
Eurey spoke of the many benefits the town has reaped due to Chilton’s tireless efforts, and said “the success of Mayfest 2017 was largely due to her organizational skills, tireless phone hours and tact.”
Chilton, a native of Chesterfield, South Carolina, was educated at Surry Community College and High Point University, and has 24 years’ experience as a financial advisor, at RBC Capital Markets, Wachovia Securities and Edward Jones.
When Chilton arrived in Pilot Mountain seven years ago to take over the local Edward Jones office, she joined a number of clubs. In addition to the Civic Club, she joined Pilot Mountain Ruritans, Shoals Ruritans, the Women’s Club “and maybe a few others. I was gone every night of the week,” she laughed.
Since then, the other organizations have fallen by the wayside, and she has remained with Civic Club.
“They run a streamlined organization,” said Chilton. “People who run businesses don’t have time to sit on committees all year long.”
“If there are needs in the community, we come together and address them,” she said of Civic Club.
The organization’s primary source of funds, Mayfest, held over three days Mother’s Day weekend, was chaired this year by Chilton. She was chair in 2016 also, but after her husband suffered a near-death accident on Easter Monday of that year, she said she had to step back.
“But this year, it was full-blown. From February to Mother’s Day, it really does consume your life. But there’s a lot of help.”
Chilton singled out Carolyn Boyles, Wayne Smith and Rick Smith as being particularly involved, then added, “Everyone in that room did something, (referring to the club meeting at Aunt Bea’s).
Mayfest revenues are used to fund Pilot Outreach, Salvation Army, Beauty and Beast program (a self-esteem program for fifth graders), two scholarships, the civic center, Young Life, Shepherd’s House, YVEDDI Meals on Wheels and roundabout upkeep. In addition, Civic Club funds the backpack program for three elementary schools, Pilot Mountain, Westfield and Shoals, for one month each year.
When the subject of chairing Mayfest again in 2018 came up, Chilton was not ready to commit. “That’s still up in the air. The festival is always Mother’s Day weekend, and if you chair it, you have to be there all weekend.”
Chilton said her children live out of state, “and when my kids come home for Mother’s Day, Mama’s not there.”
“I’ll help next year, but I can’t promise I’ll chair it.”