SHEPHERDSVILLE - Each December, the Bullitt County Masonic lodges come together to honor one of their own and a member of the community.
Those honored are selected due to their dedication and giving to their organization and to the community.
For 2010, Rodney Burress was surprised that the Mason of the Year had not been honored previously. And he couldn't say enough good things about the winner of the Citizen of the Year.
Mason of the Year
If you needed someone to be the life of the party, look no further than James W. Ryan.
Burress said the Mason of the Year was born into the heritage of the organization with both his father and grandfather serving as Masons.
"He likes to have fun," Burress said of Ryan.
A long-time member of both the Bullitt Lodge and the McNeil Lodge in Lebanon Junction, Ryan is known for his humor but he is also known for his hard work.
"Bill does the work," said Burress.
The characteristics of a Mason are found in Ryan - caring, compassion and a friend to all - said Burress.
The only surprise that Ryan hadn't garnered the Mason of the Year previously, said Burress.
Ryan said he was honored to be part of the Masonic organization and to have so many friends who would come out on a Friday night to honor him.
For over 30 years, Ryan said he has enjoyed being a Mason, sharing the friendships and working to help those in the community.
"I was surprised because I thought there are a lot of other deserving Masons," said Ryan. "A lot of people deserve this more than me."
Ryan earned recognition from state Rep. Linda Belcher and Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts.
Belcher remembered Ryan as a cute little kid who grew up to be a wonderful role model.
Roberts remembered Billy as a great neighbor.
Citizen of the Year
Burress didn't have to do a lot of research on the recipient but he had to make sure he didn't get anything wrong.
And, for the first time in his many years of presiding over the ceremony, Burress would have the opportunity to go home with this winner.
Lauren Burress has taught school with a passion for the past 26 years. Her stops have included Mount Washington Middle, Mount Washington Elementary and Eastside Middle, where she is currently a seventh-grade math instructor.
While passionate about her students, Burress said his wife also has a deep desire to help others in the community.
From working with the American Red Cross to host blood drives to volunteering to help local families in their times of need, Burress said Lauren has a genuine desire to help.
"Lauren is one of those people who like to work in the background," said the circuit judge. "Lauren goes the extra mile. Lauren doesn't do anything half-way."
And she's not a person who can easily be swayed when she is on a mission. He said that comes in part from her success in state debate competitions while at Bullitt Central High.
The nationally-certified teacher is someone who gets a project started and you don't have to worry about it getting done, said Burress.
"Lauren has worked tirelessly for the community," said her husband.
Besides being honored by the Bullitt Masonic Lodges, Burress was also given certificates of recognition from Roberts and Belcher.
Belcher remembers Lauren as a fifth-grade student at Brooks Elementary.
The new teacher recalled that Lauren was a very outspoken and active student who liked to dance.
Burress was also a teacher at Mount Washington Elementary when Belcher was principal.
"If you wanted something done, Lauren Burress was the person," said Belcher.
The mother of three said she was honored to be recognized by the group.
"I feel so honored to be in this room with so many people who have been recognized," said Burress. "When I believe something needs to be done...I try to give it my best."
She loves teaching and she loves working with students.
"I just hope I can make a difference," said Burress.