Four local women were honored during the ninth annual Women Impacting the Community luncheon hosted by the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to Tullahoma in the areas of business, community service, education and lifetime achievement.
The annual Women Impacting the Community Luncheon celebrates the achievements of local women in the four areas of service. This year’s event was sponsored by SmartBank; awards were sponsored by Woodard’s Diamonds & Design; and finalists and guest tickets were sponsored by Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital. This year’s luncheon was held at The Atlantic on 205 N.W. Atlantic St.
This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Monica Blake-Beasley. Blake said she was honored be a part in celebrating all the nominees who made an impact. She added that while she stood before them as a retired police officer, educator at Tullahoma High School and a distinguished doctorate, it had not always been that way. She stated on May 2, 2016 she survived a violent attack, but because she had five “deep rooted seeds” that she’s been taught throughout her life she was able to find the strength to “no only endure and to thrive but to go on and bloom in power.”
She shared five stories from her life to attendees that shaped her life: from her first time going to kindergarten, her first encountered with racism, to helping a troubled teenager as an SRO, to being able to “bloom in power” after surviving her attack and how she was able to earn her doctorate after going through several life changing trials. Each story came with its own individual lesson where Blake said she is grateful for the lessons she learned: who planted her seeds, who was watering her, where does she need to water, what needed to be tilled out and pruned from her garden, where does she need to give herself permission to bloom and learning how to fail forward.
“I could have fallen and stayed down, but my mom always told me ‘You can stay down or you can get up. If you can look up, you can get up,’” Blake said. “It’s not a story of perfection, it’s a story of endurance, and every person in this building has the ability to walk out these doors today a little more inspired, a little more empowered and a little more aware of your surroundings so you can go and make the most impact wherever you need to.”
Blake ended her speech by letting attendees know she left for them thank you cards and a pack of seeds so they can take them to plant or gift them to be planted. She asked them to take the seeds and plant them to grow and as they grow, they are to bloom in power.
“The thing about seeds is they are not intimidated or in fear of light or darkness. They simple choose both to grow.”
In April, the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) announced the 32 nominees for this year’s Women Impacting the Community. Later in the month, chamber officials revealed the 12 finalists in the four categories: Cassy Grow, Jessie Shewe and Kelly Lapcyznski for Business; Emily Raths, Joanna Reynolds and Sernobia McGee for Community Service; Charle Coffey, Dr. April Norris and Kim Uselton for Education; and Col. Beverly Lee (USAF, retired), Lynda Welty and Rosemary Golden for Lifetime Achievement.
The winner in the category of Business was Kelly Lapcyznski. Before working in local journalism, Lapcyznski spent time in local theater, and earned her bachelors in Electronic Media Management with multiple national honors at Middle Tennessee State University. She worked as a radio DJ at Fantasy 101.5 FM in Manchester while producing sound queues and radio commercials for theaters in Nashville and San Diego. Lapcynzski would return to Tullahoma as a reporter for The Tullahoma News, later becoming the Executive Editor, where she earned 14 Tennessee Press Association Awards. She joined Tullahoma Utilities Authority in 2019 where she writes, films, edits, hosts and produces news, talking and cooking programs for the TUA LightTube, as well as managing newsletters, social media and press releases.
Lapcyznski said her boss asked her earlier if she said wrote her acceptance speech and she said she laughed in response.
“In the last 30 years, my job has been really to tell your story, someone else’s story, whether it was on the radio, on stage, in print and now on television,” Lapcyznski said. “Part of that is to sit in the background and put the focus is on you guys, so thank you for the focus on me today.”
For the category of Community Service, Emily Raths was nominated for her success in four areas, according to TACC Executive Director Hope Nunley. Those areas include her being the first to step in for every chamber event, her service to helping others with their health at F.I.T Beyond Therapy, her leadership as President as the Highland Rim Kiwanis Club and her commitment to the children of the Tullahoma, including serving on the inaugural board of directors for the proposed Boys and Girls Club of Tullahoma and just coming from volunteering from the Special Olympics earlier in the day.
Raths thanked her mother for her encouragement and support, her boss Philip Hill for being “the best boss” she has ever worked with and the chamber members she gets to work with.
“What makes this room is the people around us,” Raths said. “I feel like I have so many people around me that just help lift me up and I am so grateful for that.”
In the field of education, Charle Coffey is currently the Director of Special Projects at Motlow State Community College but has served in many roles for the community college since 1983, which include including Director of Admissions, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Director of Academic Services and Director of the Education Department. Described as a “steward and advocate for higher education,” Coffey was one of the original staff members to bring the Trevecca University – Motlow State partnership to reality, advocated for the 2+2 education program between Motlow and MTSU and other agreements all over Tennessee and internationally.
When accepting her award, Coffey received a special surprise when her husband and great-granddaughter presented her flowers for her award, which she said she was flattered and humbled. She told attendees that she won the lottery in life as she’s been married to her husband for 47 years, have two children, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. She added she also won the lottery in having a professional life where she has value and fulfillment.
“I get to go to work every day, doing work that I know that’s valuable as it makes a difference in people’s lives.”
She said she could not have done her job without her colleagues, friends and family and thanked them for their confidence in her.
“Anybody who becomes successful is like a turtle on a fence post, they did not get there alone.”
The final award was the Lifetime Achievement, and the 2022 winner was Col. Beverly Lee (USAF, retired). Nunley went over the achievements and career highlights of Lee’s time in the Air Force, including being the first female cadet in the Memphis State University Air Force ROTC, an intelligence officer for the Tactical Fighter Pilots Weapons Center and other assignments at the Pentagon, Los Angeles, Florida, Boston, Japan, Germany, Hawaii, South Korea and Arnold Air Force Base. Her last assignment, Lee served as the Secretary of the Air Force, Director of Entertainment Liaison where she advised writers, producers and studio executives on military life, operations and training, assisting in the production of an Emmy nominated Super Bowl commercial and major motion pictures, television shows and special events saluting the military men and women. Lee currently serves on the board of the Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corporation, Arnold Community Council and has served with various local nonprofit organizations.
Lee thanked her husband Bill Lee, who she said since they met “on a boat” have been on many different adventures and teaches her physics whether she wants to or not. She then said her was inspired to serve in the military when her family moved to Tullahoma, as her father worked at the base, and met Neil Armstrong at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. She also thanked her mother for inspiring and for living the life lesson of “all children are our children.” She also thanked everyone in attendance for helping to make Tullahoma a great community for the military.
“We are a great American defensive community and it’s because of everyone here. Nobody believes in war, we all want to peace, but we need to have a strong military in order to that. So everyone in the city has made that happened. Without the testing that goes on at Arnold, we would not have the military we have today. So we have to thank everyone there for the work they do but we also have to thank the community that welcomes everyone, understands what the commitment is, as well as the mission. Thank you for being a great American defensive community.”
To end her speech, Lee challenged everyone to give to everyone who will be coming in over the next few years a warm welcome and give them a great quality of life, which she said everyone in the room is up for the challenge.
“My work is not done. It’s a lifetime achievement but I am ready for the next lifetime.”