FLORENCE — Five women will be honored next month during a luncheon where one of them will be named Shoals Woman of the Year.
The honor and luncheon, sponsored by The TimesDaily, recognizes women who impact the Shoals in positive ways through their activism, volunteerism, occupation — or a combination of all three.
The luncheon is scheduled for noon to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center.
The luncheon is usually a sellout that features a guest speaker, video introductions of the five finalists, and entertainment by popular singer Karen Gruber, who regularly serenades audiences at Swampers Bar and Grille at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence.
This year’s guest speaker is Sandra Killen Burroughs, who is the Alabama Music Hall of Fame director and mayor of the Lauderdale town of Lexington.
Tickets to the luncheon, where the Shoals Woman of the Year recipient will be announced, are $35 each, or a table of eight for $260. Tickets may be purchased at the TimesDaily office, 219 W. Tennessee St., Florence, or by calling TimesDaily Event Coordinator Cecilia Brumley at 256-740-5802.
The five finalists chosen this year from among 21 nominations received from community residents are Hester Cope, Penny Freeman, Laquita Logan, Deborah Bell Paseur and Ginger Willingham.
• Hester Cope — Many will remember Cope as the first director of Florence’s Mainstreet Program. She is credited with being the driving force behind revitalizing the downtown district from blocks of empty buildings to a thriving district with restaurants, retail shops and improved consumer traffic.
She is one of the founders of First Fridays, which continues to bring pedestrians downtown. She volunteers and serves with Shoals Community Clinic, advocating for its Well Woman Project and Community Garden. She also volunteers with the downtown soup kitchen through First Presbyterian Church and is an environmental protection advocate.
• Penny Freeman — Mostly known by the Shoals community as a Sheffield City Council member, Freeman also is involved in efforts to enhance and support the lives of young people. She helped developed Girl Scout, Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops in Sheffield, and rallied young people in Sheffield become involved in the city’s junior city council program. The junior council, which completes a citywide project, has partnered with the Children’s Policy Council in support of their anti-bully campaign.
Freeman hosts a Back to School Bash for young people, where they can get school supplies and play games to mark the end of summer and preparation for returning to school. She also has written and secured grants that help fund a food bank program in southeast Sheffield, where it is routine to feed more than 600 community residents who are in need of food.
• Laquita B. Logan — Logan has become a generous business benefactor in Sheffield, where she has opened numerous retail stores, including Zoey Belle’s, the downtown hardware store and the Christian bookstore. But she also shares her generosity with the people she comes in contact with, offering employment when she can and volunteering and supporting nonprofit organizations that include Shoals Save A Life, the Colbert County Sports Hall of Fame, and Samaritan’s Purse, among other charities.
• Deborah Bell Paseur — Shoals residents know “Judge Paseur” as a four-term district judge, the first woman to be elected to that seat in Lauderdale County.
But she didn’t just influence and help others from the judge’s bench. Paseur-Greene is a founding member of several nonprofit organizations and successful judicial programs in the Shoals including Safeplace, which provides not only shelter for those escaping domestic abuse, but offers programs to help domestic violence offenders stop the abuse at the source.
She also is a founding member of Big Brother/Big Sisters of the Shoals, the Lauderdale County Community Corrections Authority, and the Lauderdale County Drug Court Team, which has given second chances to countless offenders who have been able to come off addiction and not re-offend.
• Ginger Willingham — She co-established the Josh Willingham Foundation to serve the youth of the Shoals area, and would prefer to stay behind the scenes of her nonprofit work, which, through an arm of the foundation she founded called Isaiah’s Call, feeds local children and families who are “pantry poor.”
Volunteers pack bags of food for more than 200 children in local schools with enough food to feed families for the weekend . The food chain extends to other nonprofits that much keep their pantry full, including Safeplace and a local homeless shelter. Meals are delivered to families during Thanksgiving not just for that one day, but for several days beyond Thanksgiving.