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Jason Burden, pastor at the First Baptist Church in Nederland, opened the doors of the church as shelter for the community fleeing after the TPC Chemical Plant explosion in November. (File photo)

FAITH & FAMILY — Pastor Jason Burden named Citizen of the Year

NEDERLAND — Jason Burden is a local staple in Mid-County.

As a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Nederland, he has opened his doors, arms and heart to those riddled by tragedy.

From hurricanes and chemical plant explosions to church sermons on Sunday mornings, Burden has always set out to be a helping hand in the community.

It’s these qualities and efforts that landed him as the Nederland Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.

Diana LaBorde, president of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce, said the selection process happens over the course of several board meetings.

“We have the board nominate people, and the criteria is pretty loose,” she said. “It’s someone who goes above and beyond what their job calling is and exhibits great care for the community. Someone who shows up when needed. Mostly, it’s just someone who exhibits an extreme care for the community, and those people always stand out.”

LaBorde said while Burden was one among many talented citizens, his relief efforts in Harvey and again in Imelda made him outshine the others.

“After Harvey, (Burden) opened up his facilities and housed all the people that came through,” she said. “He let people stay at the church for months and months. He was physically doing work and when Imelda came, he did the same thing.

“He has also been a great partner to the chamber. We call on him often to be a volunteer. He is a great person and he stood out in our cache of people who all deserved the award. These people are about the community, and for the community.”

Burden, who was told about the award at a fundraising event in October, said the gesture completely took him by surprise.

“I’m honored and humbled,” he said. “I was blown away. I didn’t expect it and I’m thrilled to be recognized.”

Southeast Texas suffered many catastrophic events in 2019 with the most notable being major flooding from Hurricane Imelda and the aftermath of the TPC Chemical Plant explosion. First Baptist Nederland opened as a shelter in both instances.

“Being associated with First Baptist Nederland, I was able to open up our church to the community for Imelda and then again after the plant explosion,” Burden said. “I was involved in disaster relief efforts after Imelda. The disasters we had allowed me to engage with the community in very meaningful ways.”

Burden is also a volunteer for Texas Baptist Men, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, part of the Golden Triangle Network and huge supporter of the Nederland middle school and high school bands.

“As a pastor, I just like to be out in the community meeting people wherever they are,” he said. “If that means meeting people in the hospital or out on the street, I get to be with people during the significant moment in their lives.

“I engage in the life of Nederland, Texas, whether it’s being in the sports teams playing football or basketball with the kids or going to dance recitals. This is all a part of the flow of traffic in Nederland. That’s where the people are and that’s where you’ll find me.”

Burden will be presented as the 2019 Citizen of the Year and Master of Ceremonies at the Nederland Chamber’s 79th Annual Installation Banquet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16. New Chairwoman of the Board Dee Lane will also be honored, along with the Nederland Small Business of the Year and Service Organization of the Year.

The event is at Benton’s, 330 Twin City Hwy., in Port Neches. Tables are $15 per person or $350 for a table of eight. Spaces are available until Monday; if interested, RSVP at (409) 722-0279 or email presudebt@nederlandtx.com.

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