Four women were recognized by the Tullahoma Area Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to the community in the areas of business, education, community service and lifetime achievement.
The annual Women Impacting the Community Luncheon celebrated the achievements of local women in their respective fields Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Lakewood Golf & Country Club after two postponements due to COVID-19.
The keynote speaker for the 2020 luncheon was Susan Binkley, the founder and executive director of Blue Monarch, a residential recovery home for women and children located in Coffee County.
Binkley shared her journey to starting the shelter and how it operates today. According to Binkley, her mission was a calling from God to help women in dire situations regain their strength and stability. Eventually, she said, the focus of the shelter has shifted to also include her residents’ relationship with their children.
Now, more than a decade and a half after starting her journey, Blue Monarch and Binkley have helped both women and their children recover from addiction. Three “powerful” components have been added since she founded Blue Monarch, she said. They are the child’s recovery as well as the mother; hands-on coaching for each mother to teach her what unconditional love looks like; and building back up the bond between mother and child.
Following Binkley’s address, TACC Executive Director Hope Sartain took the mic to recognize all the nominees and award the winners.
This year’s Business winner was Florence Hull, the owner of Clayton’s. Cited for her extraordinary leadership of her family’s business, Hull thanked the chamber for the honor and the recognition of her life’s work.
She said she was honored to be selected but even more honored to be surrounded by so many other successful business women, including her coworkers. She joked that without them to mind Clayton’s while she was away, she likely would not have made it to the award ceremony.
Gloria Damron took home the 2020 Community Service award. Damron was recognized for her work with the Come to the Table Ministry, which allows anyone in need in the community to receive a free, hot meal at Damron’s Restaurant each Tuesday evening.
Damron thanked the chamber for the award but said her win was really a win for more than herself, as the Come to the Table efforts are a “community effort” rather than a sole venture.
“It’s a great community effort; not just me,” she said of the ministry.
In Education, Tullahoma Day Care Center’s Emma Coleman took home the award. She said the experience was “so different” for her but was “truly thankful” for the nomination and the award.
“The children of Tullahoma Day Care Center are my purpose,” she said. “Through these many years, I’ve realized not only was it my purpose, but … the children are my family. The parents are like my children. It has just been an honor and pleasure to even have been a part of the organization for this many years.”
This year’s Lifetime Achievement award winner was Sande Hayes, who was nominated by her husband, R.J. Sartain.
R.J. chronicled their life together, through countless moves due to R.J.’s military career, her dedicated service to numerous civic clubs and organizations, including the Sunrise Rotary and the chamber, as well as her community arts work at South Jackson Civic Center.
“There is no better wife or friend,” he said of his bride. “I love you.”
Hayes was honored and struck nearly speechless, saying she “did not expect it at all.”
“I don’t really know what to say,” she said after receiving her award.
She thanked her fellow nominees for their contributions to the community, as well everyone who was nominated or contributed to the awards.
“Thank you all, again,” she said.