Community members honored at annual chamber gala
Photos by Rachel Howard
Special to the Enquirer
The Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce held its 45th Annual Meeting and Awards Gala May 6. More than 250 people were in attendance at the derby-themed celebration held at The Tabernacle Farm in Hartselle.
“We have so much to be thankful for these days,” said Missy Evans, Executive Director of the HACC. “And tonight, we celebrate our successes over the past year and look forward to a bright future.”
In a special homage to Mother’s Day weekend, most of this year’s award recipients were introduced by their children.
Dr. Thomas Guyton Humanitarian Award
Nancy Groover, member of the Hartselle First United Methodist Church for more than 60 years, received the Dr. Thomas Guyton Humanitarian Award from her daughter, Kim Peck, retired teacher with Hartselle City Schools.
“She has always found a place to serve – from singing in the choir, through outreach ministries [including] Faith House and Shepherd’s Table and as a gifted Sunday School teacher for more than 40 years,” Peck said, who detailed Groover’s service to her community.
John J. Sparkman Citizenship Award
Jeff Johnson, Director of Development for the City of Hartselle, received the John J. Sparkman Citizenship Award from People’s Bank of Alabama Mortgage Specialist Heath Kirby, his stepson.
“This year’s recipient has given nearly 30 years of selfless devotion to the advancement of our city, working countless hours on improvement projects, economic development and special events for the city,” Kirby said. “He never treated his position as just a job, but a calling to serve – willing to jump into action at a moment’s notice, day or night.”
E.R. Roberts Business Award
Janan Downs, former owner of Zoey’s Downtown on Main Street, received the E.R. Roberts Business Award from her son, Trenton Downs.
“[Mom] decided to open a shop in downtown Hartselle in 2011–we were deep in a recession and there were more empty than occupied buildings along Main Street,” Trenton Downs said. “Two weeks after opening, North Alabama was hit by the 2011 tornado outbreak. She hung on through faith and eventually, people started to shop. Giving up was never an option. Through hard work and perseverance, she made the shop a success…She always had a way of making her customers feel special and welcome in her store.”
Tommy Ed Roberts Civic Award
Cleo Stubbs, with the Hartselle Morgan County Community Task Force, received the Tommy Ed Roberts Civic Award from his daughter, Tourischeva Stubbs, athletic business manager with Alabama A&M University in Huntsville.
“This year’s recipient is from Bainbridge, Ga., and is an army veteran,” Tourischeva Stubbs said. “He was in the first group of black coal scientists in the state of Alabama, as well as the first project coal survey leader. He moved to Hartselle in 1990 as an employee of the USDA, later leaving the public sector and started his own environmental coal science and wetlands consulting firm, where he worked closely with local regulatory agencies across North Alabama. He has worked with the Hartselle Veterans Day Parade since its inception 12 years ago, and has helped coordinate and develop programs for veterans with PTSD.”
Stubbs founded the nonprofit Wetland Environmental Learning Project, to help teach children in Morgan County about the environment. He also was one of the founders of the Morgan County Community Task Force and Tutoring Center in 1997. Stubbs’ granddaughter, Andalee Kristana Robinson, accepted the award on his behalf.
English-Walker Ambassador of the Year Award
Laura Watson, a longtime employee of Hartselle Utilities, and Co-Hospitality Chair of the Chamber Ambassador Program, received the English-Walker Ambassador of the Year Award from Jennifer Williams, Chamber Ambassador past-president and 2021 Award Recipient.
This award is named after Bettye English and Faye Walker, two longtime chamber ambassadors and community volunteers who tirelessly served the Hartselle community for many years. The Ambassador of the Year Award is given to the Ambassador voted by his or her peers to be the best of the best.
“We can always depend on this ambassador to attend chamber events—from countless ribbon cuttings to helping set up for tonight’s event,” Williams said. “She stepped in to help sort hundreds of shirts for last year’s Serve Day when they came in at the last minute. She is proof you don’t need to be loud to be recognized and appreciated.”
After the awards, the gavel was officially passed from Brad Sheats, Pastor of Life Church, to Stewart Smallwood, President of Cerrowire, who will serve the next year as HACC Chairman of the Board.
“We all know about the challenges this past year – staffing shortages, supply-chain issues – but we could make a laundry list of how we are a blessed community,” Sheats said. “Hartselle and the surrounding areas, we are experiencing growth in every area. The chamber has a role to play in our growth. We have more members than we’ve ever had, more programs and initiatives than we’ve ever embraced; more opportunities, more activities and we thank Missy Evans and the chamber staff and celebrate the great job they have been doing.”
“I am so excited to see an increase in participation in all our events as we come out of the pandemic,” Smallwood added. “We are so well-positioned here in Hartselle and I’m excited to see how far we can go.”