“Here comes Carrell Ann! Somebody open the door for her!” I hollered up to the front desk. From my office window, I could see board member Carrell Ann Simmons wrangling yet another beautiful, bowed basket from the backseat of her car. Her face was beaming as she situated the prize among the many others she had been collecting for the last couple of weeks. “Wait ‘till you see this one!” she exclaimed.

The tables in the Denton Chamber of Commerce meeting room were laden with all manner of fun items as final preparations were underway for the annual Chamber banquet last Thursday night. Carrell Ann was volunteer-extraordinaire, point person for pulling together the silent auction, a vital component of the event that raises funds for the Chamber’s annual operations and programming.

In all my life, I’ve never seen anyone having so much fun negotiating with businesses for items, running around town picking them up and figuring out how best to display them. Carrell Ann was grinning from ear to ear.

Just a few hours later at the banquet, a surprise standing ovation from more than 400 Chamber members followed Carrell Ann to the podium, where she received the prestigious Volunteer of the Year award.

Carrell Ann Simmons deftly decorates a raffle item prior to the Denton Chamber of Commerce banquet last week. (Photo courtesy of the Denton CVB)

Carrell Ann recently retired from a long career in Denton’s banking industry. She’s one of those people everyone wants on their team, and she’s always been there for our community far beyond delivering excellence in her profession. She’s currently on the Chamber board, and it’s not the first time she’s served with us. Over the years and beyond the Chamber, she’s volunteered with United Way, Go Red for Women, the Denton Main Street Association, the Holiday Lighting Festival, and the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest, just to name a few.

Judging by the Chamber fundraiser’s glamorous presentation and outcome, retirement hasn’t slowed her down one bit.

What in a person is powerful enough to motivate volunteerism at such an incredible level? I wanted to know, and who better to ask than Carrell Ann?

“Denton is my home. It’s given me a lot,” Carrell Ann said. “I love this town, living and working here. And, I believe if you’ve got a place you love to live, you have to give back to it. I try to do my part to make everyone’s life as good as I feel like mine is.”

The truest testimony of altruism that perhaps I’ve ever heard.

I think it really is as simple as Carrell Ann stated. You know the old saying, “You get out of something what you put into it?” Some people go beyond just showing up to the party and actually help make the party happen. These are the Carrell Anns, the volunteers who go behind the scenes, dig in deep, immerse themselves, have a birds-eye-view fabulous experience, make a difference and love every minute of it.

“I want Denton to continue to be fun, thriving, with a great quality of life,” Carrell Ann went on. That’s why engaging with some of Denton’s festivals has always been as important to her as the work she’s invested with various non-profit groups around town. To her, these events add merry aspects to our quality of life that people from all over come to Denton to enjoy because they are special, unique and not the norm in most cities. “We have such good people here, people that care. When you see other places where that’s not the case, you can really see the difference,” she said.

Top Hands at the 2016 Denton Arts & Jazz Festival share a moment of camaraderie on the sidelines. (Photo courtesy of the Denton Festival Foundation)

Take the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest for instance. Carrell Ann started out many years ago helping with the finance office during the festival weekend. The volunteer heart in her longed for more human interaction, so 12 years ago, she moved into working with Top Hands, eventually heading the nearly 500-person volunteer force required to staff and facilitate the massive event. She recruited, managed and filled positions herself when Top Hands ran short.

That happens, you know. Festival and event coordinators across the city agree that it is a rare thing indeed to have too many volunteers. The fact is that the reverse is almost always true. Every one of them covets more volunteers.

In the spring, our independent spirit is evident outdoors.  We book our Saturdays for outdoor shopping at Denton Community Market. We look forward to the Redbud Festival, Thin Line Festival, Twilight Tunes on the courthouse lawn, Arts & Jazz Fest and Cinco de Mayo. Every single one of these eagerly-awaited events depends on volunteers, and there are more than enough positions to fill for every would-be volunteer to plug in.

“Everyone should experience volunteering at some point in their lives so they can feel what it’s like to help something succeed,” Carrell Ann said, on her way out the door to gather yet more banquet stuff.

Thank you, Carrell Ann. I couldn’t have said it any better.

See our events calendar at discoverdenton.com for festival websites, contacts and volunteer opportunities.