Jean Mollard A driving force for beauty, culture, and redevelopment Through her unyielding efforts in business and art, Mary Jean Mollard has been a driving force in downtown redevelopment and the beautifica- tion of Palestine. In searching the country for a quintessential downtown, Mollard and her late-husband, Norman, fell in love with Palestine and purchased the Redlands building. As they worked to restore this historical diamond-in-the-rough, Mollard also ran her mail order business, Artifacts. Mollard’s purchase and renovation of the buildings in Old Town Hollow led to it becoming a premier entertainment, business, and art center. For- merly home to Mary Jean’s, Old Sweet Pea, and a few other businesses, it now includes the thriving Pint & Barrel and OxBow Bakery. Mollard continues to renovate the Redlands. She also owns the build- ing next door, and renovating it is her next restoration and development project. Looking for another way to bring culture and beauty to the community, Mollard organized like-minded friends and formed the Palestine Tomor- row Fund. One of their most important projects is the rotating ArtTracks Sculpture Exhibit – now in its sixth year – and the Railroad Sculpture Park. “My biggest wish for Palestine is for everyone to take pride in their properties and keep them clean and presentable,” Mollard said. Mollard serves on numerous boards and organizations, including the Palestine Rotary and Tomorrow Fund. Jeffery Atkinson Fund-raising for literacy Jeff Atkinson believes getting as many people involved as possible is the key to making things happen. So far, it’s a formula that’s never failed him. When word spread about Mayor Steve Presley’s proposed Operation Read — a plan to improve literacy by putting new books into the homes of Palestine’s youngest students – Atkinson, 56, jumped right in. His M.O. was to get leaders involved from more than a dozen commu- nity organizations in Palestine. An agent for Farm Bureau Insurance, and Vice President of the Pales- tine Kiwanis, Atkinson recruited a board of directors that put together a bonanza book giveaway for pre-K through third-grade students. They aimed to promote reading at home, thereby narrowing the literacy gaps between poor children and their more advantaged peers. A pancake fundraiser in August raised more than $20,000 to purchase books given away at a pep rally at the Palestine Mall. “The kids were all reading their books on the bus on the way back to school,” Atkinson said with a smile. “That’s the best indicator of success.” Atkinson’s penchant for crediting others notwithstanding, Operation Read could not have succeeded without his persistent fund-raising. He also solicited donations from several local businesses of food and sup- plies for the pancake supper. The father of three boys, Atkinson remains committed to Operation Read: “We’ve already set aside seed money for next year,” he said.