By Carol Mowdy Bond
Business-owner Ben Martin received the Yukon Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year award on Jan. 31 during the Yukon Chamber Gala & Awards Banquet at the Palace Event Center, 2310 N. Banner Road.
A video presentation about Martin served as the official announcement of his honor. Martin garnered six nominations, which was more than any of the award recipients.
Martin caught the volunteer bug while trying to make money.
“It started really with Hurricane Michael that hit Panama City, Bay County, Florida,” Martin said. “I went with a vets’ group and stayed over a month.”
Among the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S., Hurricane Michael came ashore in October 2018 as a Category 5 hurricane. The storm devastated Bay County’s Tyndall Air Force Base, and of the 180,000 Bay County, Fla., residents, 22,000 were left homeless.
People emerged after the storm passed, saying their communities looked like an atomic bomb went off. Panama City was hard hit.
“I volunteered as a climber and did other things. I planned to go help where I could, and make a few bucks,” Martin said. “We did removals for people who couldn’t afford it. For example, people couldn’t even get in the front doors of their homes, and we removed debris so they could.
“That experience lit a fire under me to volunteer. Volunteering is awesome.”
Martin and others went town to town, cleaning up properties, and fixing storm-damaged trees. He used his own funds as a volunteer.
Martin, who joined the Yukon Chamber about a year ago, co-owns R&B Turf&Tree with his wife Robin.
Besides running a business, he does a lot of free tree work and property clean-up for elderly veterans. And he recently cleaned up the properties of both Manna Pantry and Compassionate Hands.
When a struggling, single mother of two needed a car, Martin proactively and discreetly collected funds from several community members, and together they purchased a car for her.
He also took up donations for the family of a 7-Eleven employee who was shot and killed.
Born and raised in Mustang, Martin attended Mustang Public Schools for K through 12. He graduated in 1997, and he served in the US Navy for four years. He and Robin have been married 12 years, and they have three sons.
“I just think it’s important to help each other out,” Martin said. “Not to volunteer where other people can see you or look for credit. I try to do one good thing a day, like give someone a few bucks, or help someone with a flat tire, anything. Anytime I can, I volunteer.”