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Inaugural public service award set

by Lindsey Wells | March 18, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

The inaugural Excellence in Public Service Award will be presented to Dick Antoine in May to recognize him for his decades of service and contributions to the city of Hot Springs.

The award will be presented at a reception at 6 p.m. May 5 in the Family Life Center at First Church of the Nazarene, 3804 Central Ave.

The award was created by former Five Star Dinner Theater owner Tom Wilkins to honor individuals who have given so much to the community, and, in Antoine's case, have set the standard for community volunteerism in Hot Springs.

Antoine's involvement in the community dates back to the late 1980s and it is estimated he has been responsible for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hot Springs area organizations and has spent hundreds of hours serving the community.

Wilkins refers to Antoine as "a man for all seasons."

"No matter what comes along, what time of the year, he's always out there doing something for somebody in the community," he said.

Antoine hosts a weekday talk show, "Talk of the Town," on KZNG-1340 AM, where he provides updates on area happenings and interviews community leaders, members and organizations to help inform local residents of their existence and services.

"Every day he's been helping someone do something, and part of that is from his job. Not because he knows so many people; people know him," Wilkins said. "A lot of it is just how valuable he has been for the community and how he's pushed things that never would be there had he not gotten involved."

Some of the accomplishments on Antoine's long list of contributions to the community include co-creating Spa Blast, the annual Fourth of July celebration at Oaklawn Park; co-organizing the Hot Springs Farmers & Artisans Market; working with the FACES Foundation; fundraising for and serving on the committee of the Veterans Memorial of Garland County; fundraising for the Fallen Hero Memorial; emceeing Hot Springs' annual Christmas parade for over 25 years and the Hot Springs Veterans Day parade for 17 years; and serving on the board of The Salvation Army.

In addition to serving his local community, Antoine served in the U.S. Air Force from 1969-1973 during the Vietnam War.

Antoine's portrayal of characters throughout the years have become a holiday legend. He was the original World's Tallest Leprechaun for the Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, performed as Santa Claus for 30 years, was known as Neatness Man for the Hot Springs/Garland County Beautification Commission, and dons his chicken costume each year as Oktoberfest ambassador.

Awards given to Antoine over the years include The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce 2005 Man of the Year Award and the Bobby Beavers Award for Tourism in 2006.

Antoine has made huge contributions by organizing local cancer fundraisers and served as co-chair and past president for the Garland County Relay for Life.

He himself was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Antoine's cancer went into remission but returned at the beginning of this year. The return of Antoine's cancer prompted Wilkins to put the award and reception for Antoine into motion.

"I told him about the award about a year ago, and like most things like this, I sat on it for a long time. I let it marinate. Then, of course, Dick gets sick and he's in a real bad spot and that just kind of brought it back up to light that I needed to do something," Wilkins said. "He's real humble but he knows he's having a tough time, and I thought, 'Well, the purpose of this is to honor him.' It's an above and beyond the call kind of deal and I think he stands heads and shoulders above anyone I know as far as things he's done for our community, which is a long, long list."

Wilkins reiterated that the event is not being held because Antoine is ill; it is to honor Antoine's never-ending contributions to the city of Hot Springs.

Tickets to the event are $25 and include dinner, music, presentations, and speakers. All proceeds will go toward Antoine and his family. A love offering will also be taken.

"This is totally secondary, but there are some medications that Dick is taking that are not covered by his insurance and they're very expensive," Wilkins said. "We're going to try to see if we can offset some of that with some money."

Wilkins said he would like to see this event go on to be an annual event in the community.

"If this is well-attended, there's no reason why we can't take this and do it every year if there are worthy people out there to be nominated," he added.

Tables will seat up to eight people; seating is limited. Call Wilkins at 501-622-9570 or email [email protected] for tickets and sponsorship information, or if interested in being a guest speaker.

Local on 03/18/2018

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