On October 3, the crowd waited with anticipation at the LaBelle Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet to see who would be named as the citizen of the year. All eyes were on Mali Gardner as she proceeded to read her nomination letter to the audience, and announced that the 2016 Citizen of the Year is Mr. Carey Soud.
Carey has been married to his wife, Julie, for over 36 years. Together they have three children and four grandchildren: Kristin (Matt) with twins Connor and Michael; Matt (Reva) with Mackenzie and Dallas; and the youngest son, Jason.
In 2004, Carey joined the staff at the First Bank of Clewiston where he continues to work as the President and CEO. He is a member of the Caloosa Baptist Church where he teaches Adult Bible Study on Sunday mornings. On Tuesday nights, Carey does prison ministry bible studies in Moore Haven. He is a valued member of the LaBelle Rotary Club, and served as the moderator for the Club’s Political Forum this past August. He serves on various boards and committees including the Board of Gulf Citrus, Florida SouthWestern State College Foundation Board, the Florida Bankers Association Government Relations Committee and BancServ Committee. Carey also volunteers many hours to various events on behalf of the First Bank family.
After providing a snapshot of who Carey Soud is along with many of his accomplishments and services, Gardner went on to discuss the main reason behind her nomination. She stated that “it has to do with his servant leadership in commitment to faith, family and community – not only those he might run into in Hendry County but to those who he serves behind prison walls that are forgotten by many”.
Every week, Carey studies the Bible and dedicates his time to “help prisoners have hope even in the midst of incarceration”. Gardner mentioned that “she does not know anyone else but Carey who lays aside his time to serve those who no gain can come from”.
When Gardner finished reading her letter, she asked Carey to come forward and accept his award. Carey stood and humbly made his way to the podium while his family and friends cheered him on. Judging from the volume of the crowd it was obvious that Carey Soud was a very deserving recipient of this award. He stated that he was “surprised and certainly not expecting this”. Carey went on to tell the audience that “one of my greatest joys in life is prison ministry”.
Nearly three years ago, Carey was sitting in church one night and was asked to “pray for Brother Seth to have some help.” He’s been ministering to prisoners in need ever since. He noted that “two thirds of these prisoners are men who have truly lost their way due to drug and alcohol abuse,” and “it’s a privilege to open the word of God and to teach them.” Carey also appreciates having the opportunity to act as a father to a lot of these men since so many of them have had no father in their lives.
Carey ended the night by saying that “he was blessed in this life to have the world’s best dad.” He looked across the audience, gave a smile and thanked everyone for the honor of being named LaBelle’s 2016 Citizen of the Year.