Photo:  2019 Athena Award winner Sandra Hoke, second from left, poses with Orange County’s past winners of the award that recognizes women leaders. From back row, left to right, they are Jane Whitfield, Hoke, Vivian DeJohn, Becky Rutledge, Beverly Perry, Pauline Hargrove, Nancy Vincent, Gisela Houseman, Theresa Beauchamp, Pam Honeycutt. Front, Cecil Broom, Katherine Frey, Marcelle Adams, Betty Harmon.

 

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

She’s known around town as one of the Trashy Women, or one of the Garden Ladies. But mostly, Sandra Hoke is known as a woman who cares about Orange.

Stephen Lee, President and CEO of First Financial Bank of Southeast Texas, presents the 2019 Athena Award to Sandra Hoke at the Orange Train Depot Thursday, Sept. 5.

 “I know our community is so incredibly better off for having Sandra be a part of it,” Stephen Lee, President and CEO of First Financial Bank of Southeast Texas, said.

 “And I’m so very happy to recognize Sandra Hoke as our 2019 Athena Leadership Award winner.”

 Hoke, a teacher for two dozen years, mostly at Orange schools, was the 27th winner of the award presented annually to individuals who excel in professionalism, give back to their community and help raise up other leaders, especially women.

 

The award ceremony was held Thursday, Sept. 5 at the Orange Train Museum. First Financial Bank and Capital Title sponsored the event.

“It was very gratifying and humbling to me,” Hoke said a few days after the ceremony. I just do the things that I enjoy doing. And I have a passion for some of them.

“I guess they used that to choose me, but I don’t think I deserve any recognition for what I do. I do it because I want to, not for recognition.”

She and Deborah Bednar have taken on the “Trashy Women” nickname in their fight against litter as the leaders of Keep Orange County Beautiful.

This is in addition to Hoke joining Claire Smith as the “Garden Ladies” in 2016 when they founded Field of Plenty for Orange Christian Services.

The garden has produced more than 11,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to help those in the community who face food insecurity.

Hoke is also a Master Gardener who has led the local program in president in 2012 and 2015. She has started a Master Gardener program at Circle K Daycare.

She is a member of the First United Methodist Church and a volunteer at Shangri La Botanical Gardens, where her husband, Michael, had been the first executive director before his death in 2016.

“All my volunteering is all because of Michael,” she said. “When he died, I decided I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself. I had to stay busy.

“So, I said ‘Yes’ to everything. But I love it. I love everything I do. I do what I like, and I love digging in the dirt.”

Fourteen former Athena Leadership Award winners were on hand for Hoke’s recognition.

They were Pam Honeycutt (1993), Gisela Houseman (1994), Marcelle Adams (1996), Jane Whitfield (1999), Mary McKenna (2002), Vivian Kelly DeJohn (2003), Pauline Hargrove (2004), Betty Harmon (2006), Katherine Frey (2008), Theresa Beauchamp (2009), Cecil Broom (2010), Nancy Vincent (2011), Beverly Perry (2013) and Becky Rutledge (2018).

“She could have easily turned the mantel of responsibility over to others and said, ‘It’s your turn now,’” Lee said. “But that’s certainly not in her nature.

“Sandra is dedicated to the beautification of our community, protecting our environment and educating our youth about protecting our environment.”