It is a “community effort” in creating a healthier, happier and safer Monroe County.
No one knows this more than the Monroe County Health Council Prevention & Wellness Coalition, which held its 2019 Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, May 15 at Donna’s Old Town Cafe in Madisonville. The luncheon honored community volunteers and partnering agencies of the organization.
“We’re so grateful that all of you have committed to our mission,” said Heather Rhymes, the interim executive director for the Health Council. “We have a long list of partnering agencies and volunteers. It is truly a community effort and we couldn’t do it without you. Together, we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Following a prayer by Mayor Mitch Ingram and lunch prepared by Donna’s Old Town Cafe, Rhymes presented the following 13 awards, which were selected through nominations for the previous year (2018):
Lifetime Member of the Year: Teresa Harrill
Rhymes said only two people qualified for this award—Dr. Barbara Levin and Harrill. Both have been involved with the Health Council since its inception.
“Teresa has been involved since 1989,” said Rhyme. “She has more than 30 years of commitment to the Health Council and our mission.”
Harrill admitted that she has been “very protective” over the Health Council over the years.
“I’m so proud of how far we have come over the years,” said Harrill. “My vision in the beginning was that we needed programming in the community and that is exactly what has happened… not because of me, but all the wonderful people who are now involved to make it happen.”
“Seeing what it was… it was so small,” Harrill continued. “It makes me want to cry of happiness when I think of how far it has come, and how many programs are going on and how many people are involved now. This is a good indication of how it’s supposed to work. Everyone working together.”
Board Member of the Year: Jennifer Davis
Davis has been serving as a member of the Health Council for eight years and is fulfilling her third and final year of eligibility as chairperson of the board.
“She has offered consistent professional leadership to the Board of Directors and staff of the Health Council,” said Rhymes.
Davis has attended Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club trips, represented the council at trainings and meetings across the state and has prioritized the long-term sustainability of the Health Council’s programming throughout her years of involvement, Rhymes added.
In addition, Davis has been with the Sweetwater City School System for 11 years, currently serving as the district health coordinator.
Prevention Coalition Volunteer of the Year: Tammie George
“If you don’t know Tammie, you should,” said Rhymes while presenting the award.
George has been the chairperson of the Wellness & Prevention Coalition for the last two years, but has been involved with the organization for eight years. Over the past two years, she has been one of the main individuals involved in getting the Celebrate Recovery program started in both Sweetwater and Madisonville and keeping it going.
“She’s missed less than 10 Celebrate Recovery meetings in two years,” said Rhymes. “She is always there.”
Outstanding Youth Award: Hannah Morris
Morris has served as the president of the SADD Club for a year, but has been involved since middle school. She has attended a multitude of trainings and events with the county club, as well as being actively involved in the Tellico Plains club(s).
“SADD club has impacted me in many ways, some I am sure I have yet to discover. One of the biggest things that SADD club has done to me is expose me to real world problems and solutions,” said Morris. “It has boosted my drive to not only help and grow myself, but the things around me as well. It makes the idea of making a difference a task that is doable instead of an impossible mission. I am beyond grateful for SADD. It has given me family that is irreplaceable, friendships that will last a lifetime and a happier view towards the world around me.”
Unsung Hero Award: Sweetwater Hospital Association
“We really appreciate our partnership with Sweetwater Hospital,” said Rhymes, noting that over the last year the hospital donated more than 100 meals, provided meeting space and supplied donations for events, among other things.
The Health Council’s started at Sweetwater Hospital as a Community Health Access Committee in the 1980s, before it was decided that every county in Tennessee needed a Health Council and it evolved into the organization it is today. Currently, the Health Council is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Casey Camp accepted the award on behalf of Sweetwater Hospital.
Celebrate Recovery Volunteer of the Year: Phil Roy with Sweetwater First Baptist Church
“This name kept popping up when we were talking Celebrate Recovery,” said Rhymes. “He is always there. Always on call. Always willing to help however is needed.”
Rhymes said Roy is very active at the Celebrate Recovery program in Sweetwater, which is held on Monday nights at First Baptist Church.
“The church had prayed for a long time to be able to help those struggling with addiction,” said Rhymes. “They felt like Celebrate Recovery was an answer to their prayers, but they were an answer to ours.”
Responsible Business Award: Aztex in Sweetwater (The Local Market)
The Health Council partners with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to have compliance checks done at local businesses and gas stations.
“They will send in an undercover person and see if the business will sell alcohol to minors,” explained Rhymes. “If we can make sure it’s not being sold to minors, we are ultimately reducing access to alcohol for youth and creating additional barriers that will lessens the likelihood of underage consumption.”
Only one business was 100 percent compliant in 2018.
That business was Aztex in Sweetwater (The Local Market).
“Not only were they compliant in 2018, but when we kept looking back, there were 100 percent compliant in 2017, in 2016 and in 2015,” said Rhymes. “It’s rare to be 100 percent compliant for one year, more-less for three.”
Honorable Officer of the Year: James “Jim” Wall and Dalton Rinehart
The Drug Free Community (DFC) grant is coming to an end this year, Rhymes explained, as the Health Council has been awarded the grant for 10 years and is no longer eligible. Throughout the years, the council has partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to install permanent drug boxes, do compliance checks at area businesses and more.
This year, the Health Council recognized two officers—Wall and Rinehart—for their efforts in the DFC program.
“Our youth are better off because of the heart and drive of these individuals,” said Rhymes.
Honorable Volunteer of the Year: Joe Tolson
Rhymes said while many of the awards were based on nominations, the Honorable Volunteer of the Year award was based on involvement and hours.
“Joe Tolson is very involved in our community in so many ways,” she said. “He sacrificed his involvement in all other areas to dedicate himself to our agency 100 percent last year. He’s a great cheerleader and we all love Joe. He’s such a special person and an asset to Monroe County.”
Appreciation Award: Donna’s Old Town Cafe
“Not only does Donna’s provide us space, but they work with us in our budget and make donations,” said Rhymes. “Every Monday night, they provide food to serve 70 to 80 people at our Celebrate Recovery meeting. There’s been no request for a tax donation receipt, ever. They just do it as an amazing act of kindness.”
Melissa Graves accepted the award on behalf of the restaurant.
Appreciation Award: Madisonville Church of God
Madisonville Church of God partners with the Health Council to hold Celebrate Recovery meetings at the church on Tuesday nights in Madisonville.
“They’ve been so instrumental in getting Celebrate Recovery started here and keeping it going and growing,” said Rhymes.
Pastor Josh Benson accepted the award on behalf of the church.
Appreciation Award: The Monroe County Buzz
Rhymes thanked the Buzz for being kind to their organization over the years.
“Tulli (Cole) shows up at every meeting and is such a blessing to us,” she said.
The Buzz was unable to attend the luncheon.
Appreciation Award: The Advocate & Democrat
Rhymes said the in-kind donations (instead of giving money, giving the goods and services themselves) that The Advocate & Democrat provides are “countless.”
“Just last year, we had 500,000 hits from just The Advocate & Democrat alone,” she said.
Advertising Manager Sharon Livingston and Staff Writer Jessica Kent accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper.