Several outstanding Washington County community members were recognized on Sunday during a ceremony for a new award.

(from left) Mike Tolopka, Patsy Brending, Tammy
Jaster, Jeffery McDonald, Lacy Eckert, Savannah
Gutierrez, Carl Prihoda, Kandice Lester, Susie Elliot
(courtesy PlanNorth)

About 30 people gathered at 30 North in downtown Brenham to honor the first-ever group of Copper Star recipients and the winner of the Copper Star Award.  Sponsored by PlanNorth Architectural Company, the distinction is focused on acknowledging some of the unsung heroes of the local community.

Recipients of the Copper Star include Mike Tolopka, Tammy Jaster, Savannah Gutierrez, Carl Prihoda, Lacy Eckert, Susie Elliot, Jeffery McDonald, Patsy Brending, and Kandice Lester.  One recipient chose to remain anonymous.

The winner of the Copper Star Award was Susie Elliot, who is a bus driver for Brenham ISD, a member of Souls Chapel AME Church and part of the Sisters in Ministry organization. 

Susie Elliot (right) shakes the hand of PlanNorth
Principal Architect Katie Burch as she is recognized
on Sunday as the winner of the 2024 Copper Star
(courtesy PlanNorth)

Each Copper Star recipient received a hand-crafted stainless steel dog tag with a copper star design, completed by Scott Sommerlatte Originals.  Elliot was also given the opportunity to make a $500 donation underwritten by PlanNorth to a local nonprofit or charity of her choosing. 

PlanNorth Principal Architect Katie Burch said, “There are very few avenues to shine the light on those who lead by example, exhibit high levels of work ethic and integrity, and lift their teams up by their actions and words over time.  The heart of this effort is to find those people through an open community nomination process and make sure that they know how much their contributions matter.  These are the people who make Washington County what it is.”

Those who submitted nominations were asked to provide references, a short essay and quote which embodied their nominee.  Nominations were open to those who live in Washington County.

Plans are for the Copper Star Awards to continue as an annual event.

What’s your Reaction?


  1. Great job…there are so many individuals who, without any desire for recognition, spend hours and hours, days and days helping others. I’ve said forever if we spent more time reporting all these amazing efforts and less time reporting all the negative aspects of life , I think we’d all be happier. Thanks!!!

  2. I want to say congratulations to all of the winners of this great recognition. But most of all congratulations to Mr. Jeffrey McDonald and Ms. Kandice Lester. Congratulations

  3. Thank you, PlanNorth Architects, for sponsoring and recognizing these community members. This is an amazing opportunity for some Washington county residents to be recognized for their contributions to our community. I do recognize several of the recipients. All are very deserving.
    Thank you.
    Congratulations to your business for this wonderful event.

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