Some of Tullahoma’s finest women were recognized Tuesday afternoon by their peers at the fifth annual Women Impacting the Community Luncheon, sponsored by the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce, SmartBank and Woodard’s Diamond and Designs.
The annual event, which recognizes the important work of Tullahoma-area women, saw four winners celebrated in the areas of Business, Community Service, Education and Lifetime Achievement at the April 9 awards luncheon held at Lakewood Golf & Country Club.
Hope Sartain, the executive director of the chamber, said hosting the event every year is “easy” to do, thanks to the number of “amazing women” the community has.
She even said the award committee had a more difficult time this year deciding on the winners, as there were so many deserving names nominated this year.
“It was a very hard decision to make for the committee because there were so many incredible women who have contributed so much to this community,” Sartain said.
The 2019 winner for business was Beth Welsh, who works at SmartBank.
According to her nominator and friend, Susan Haley, Welsh is the type of person who treats every single person she encounters with kindness.
“It doesn’t matter their station in life – if they have $5 in the bank or $500,000, it doesn’t matter,” Haley said. “She treats them all the same. She makes every single person feel important.”
Welsh’s customers aren’t just customers – they become like members of her own family, Haley said.
“She builds relationships,” Haley said. “She remembers names and details about people’s lives. She knows their children, their pets – she is their go-to person.”
While SmartBank had experienced some challenges in the form of a name change from Southern Community Bank, Haley said Welsh was “our cornerstone.”
“She got us through some challenging times,” Hayley said. “She worked tirelessly to make sure that every person was taken care of and that everything was a little bit smoother for everyone. She is the heart and soul of our bank.”
Consistent volunteerism and a willingness to help those in need led to Catherine Murray, of McMurr’s print shop, winning this year’s community service award.
Introduced by Sartain, Murray’s constant presence in various community forums made her a perfect candidate for the award.
Though Murray is not a Tullahoma native, she has spent her time since coming to the community making it better, Sartain said.
“She’s used her personal talents and her business to better this community,” she said.
Sartain highlighted Murray’s dedication to the Frogs of Jack T. Farrar Elementary School as the school’s Creating Educational Opportunities (CEO) partner, as well as her annual musical tribute to Michael Jackson, “HIStory Told By Her,” which serves as a fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Coffee County.
Murray serves on the board of both the South Jackson Civic Association and the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition, according to Sartain, and also helps Alzheimer’s Tennessee.
“I can truly say that everything that Cat is involved in is done with this sole purpose: to benefit the community of Tullahoma and its citizens,” Sartain said. “All of her talents and abilities are given selflessly for the greater good of Tullahoma.”
Murray was at a loss for words when accepting her award, though she said everything she does for the community is because she enjoys it.
“I enjoy everything that I do in this community, and I appreciate you guys for appreciating me,” she said.
This year’s education winner was Charlotte Duncan, who taught kindergarten with Tullahoma City Schools for over 40 years.
Dwight Cox, the Elk River Director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), spoke on behalf of Duncan’s nomination, highlighting her dedication to the children of Tullahoma, calling her “extremely deserving” of the nod.
“She has been a blessing to me, personally,” Cox said.
Cox said Duncan was willing to serve on the board of FCA when asked, even though she had already retired from teaching.
Duncan was truly “a servant leader,” Cox said.
“This lady is extremely willing and able to serve at the drop of a hat,” he said.
Duncan was shocked to learn she had won, saying she was “truly honored.”
“I have worked with some fabulous teachers,” she said. “Tullahoma is truly blessed to have teachers who don’t think of it as a job, but a calling.”
“Thank you so much,” she said to the crowd.
For her many years with the legal system making judicial decisions in the county, the Hon. Vanessa A. Jackson was recognized as this year’s lifetime achievement award winner.
The first-ever lifetime achievement winner, Fran Marcum, spoke about Jackson, highlighting Jackson’s numerous achievements over her life and career.
“Today’s honoree has performed exemplary service over her lifetime,” Marcum began.
Jackson dedicated her life to serving her community, her family and God, Marcum said, holding herself “to the highest standard.”
“This woman is a glass ceiling breaker,” Marcum said, highlighting Jackson’s accomplishments in school as one of the few women in her law class at the University of Tennessee.
Jackson was the first woman elected to be a judge in the 14th judicial district in the state, according to Marcum, and was a founding director of First Vision Bank.
“This woman demonstrates leadership and commitment to her community every day,” Marcum said, and Jackson also takes the time outside her busy judicial schedule to mentor women in her community.
Jackson thanked Marcum for the kind words, telling the audience that the number of women in law school has grown since she matriculated. Some law classes are now more than 50 percent women, she said.
Jackson recalled that she was the only female attorney in town once upon a time, but she learned much about the town over the years.
“Not only is [Tullahoma] friendly,” she said. “It’s progressive [and] it’s encouraging.”
If she’s made an impact on the community, Jackson said, it wasn’t of her own doing. Rather, it was a community effort.
“If we make an impact on the community, it’s not because we did it ourselves,” she said. “It’s because we’re surrounded by great people who help us do that. I’m not sure what kind of impact I’ve had, but you’ve sure had an impact on me, and I thank you sincerely for this award.”
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.