“I know the staff and the board believe in me, because they teach me that I can do anything, I can be anything, I can create anything, I can dream anything, I can become anything. Anything is possible,” she said from her spot on the stage.
“Let me ask you a question, Cleveland, Tennessee. Do you believe in my classmates at the club?”
Packed-out seats and the crowd’s boisterous affirmative response assured Dillon they believed in the young members’ past, present and future.
Event chair Jenny Card thanked those in attendance for being a part of the night, and for their subsequent support of the local clubs.
“Because you have supported, we are going to be able to build bigger pathways and stronger, brighter pathways for our girls,” Card said. “And for that, I thank you.”
A drawing was held for a 14-karat yellow-gold ring “with an antique cushion cut cabochon pink tourmaline center stone” surrounded by .25 karats in diamonds designed by Epperson’s Jewelry for the event. All attendees who purchased the night’s signature drink, “Bloom Berry Bubbly,” were placed in the drawing. Both a silent and live auction were enjoyed by those in attendance.
Comedian and native Bradley Countian Karen Mills served as master of ceremonies throughout the night. She guided the program through Kira and Crystal Stander’s ballet performance, Quentin Scott’s songs, her own stand-up routine and the awards.
Four women were honored as empowered women at the banquet.
According to a voice-over, an empowered woman embodies certain virtues and characteristics, which include:
- being a community-oriented female who gives frequently without expectation of recognition;
- she is active in her community, often taking leadership roles;
- sometimes, although not always, an empowered woman overcomes life obstacles (through, for example, triumphing over childhood disaster, or through succeeding in business) to become a positive role model for others;
- being a woman of strong faith;
- being courageous on the home front, meaning she always puts family first.
Jackie Johnson was named the Global Award Winner.
Her commitments include, but are not limited to, medical auxiliary, hospice, serving as chair of adult ministries Broad Street Methodist Church, Red Hats, the travel group Prime Timers, distant missions and the Over 80 Club.
She encourages the older population of Cleveland to stay engaged in the community, become lifelong learners, have new experiences and develop new friendships
Both Chloe Tatum and Ansley McCarley were named as the Junior Award winners.
Tatum has been involved in Student Government Association, Health Occupational Students of America, art club and guitar club. She has been praised for her creative writing and her public speaking skills. She was elected from “a number of applicants” to participate in Cleveland High’s clinical internship program for the health, science, career and technical education center.
“Her dream is to become a doctor and work with Doctors Without Borders, an organization that works to provide medical aid in international crisis,” a voice-over explained. “Chloe’s passion and drive for the medical field comes from being her suffering father’s caretaker alongside her mother.”
Continued the recording, “Chloe is a dreamer, an artist, an overcomer, a reader and a giver of her time, joy and smile.”
McCarley is a self-proclaimed perfectionist who has spent her high school career attempting to make a difference in the community.
She has served in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cleveland High’s student government, Anchor Club and organized a number of events including a Veterans’ Day program, a blood drive and a Christmas party at a local elementary school.
“Her leadership positions became an avenue to create hope and give back to those who had so much taken from them,” the voice-over informed attendees of the banquet.
Beverly Johnson was named The Empowering Woman of the Year.
She was described as humble and meek, an aid to the weak.
“She grew into a woman empowered to survive and make a difference for others in need. She grew to have a strong faith in God with a giving heart,” the voice-over said. “This woman has overcome her own circumstances and decided to give back to the life that was taken from her as a child.
“How many of us can truly say that about ourselves?”
Johnson has been an advocate of the Boys & Girls Clubs for “many, many” years. She has also participated in Rotary Club, the United Way, Junior Auxiliary, Civitan Club, Habitat for Humanity, Community Concert and Museum Center at Five Points. She has also been involved as PTO past president at Stuart Elementary, in artwork for Chair-ries Jubilee, supporting Friends of the Library and more.
“She wins the heart of every person she comes in contact with,” the voice-over said. “She has dedicated her life to serving others with sincere, unconditional love.”
The concept of what it means to be an empowered woman was expanded on by guest speaker Tina Wesson.
She shared about her time on the hit reality TV show “Survivor” before jumping into an explanation of empowerment.
According to a definition Wesson found, empowerment means to make someone stronger or more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.
“I, myself, am not sure I have that type of ability. Can I really make someone else stronger? I just don’t know,” Wesson said. “But, I ... could set an example, or I might ... encourage someone to make a better decision or an empowering decision.”
Instead of trying to give a soul-stirring, empowering speech, Wesson said she would rather talk about what it feels like to be empowered.
She said one usually runs into two types of folks.
Either a person allows life’s circumstances to hold them back, or they are blind to roadblocks and move through the obstacles placed in their path.
According to Wesson, overcoming obstacles plants the seed of empowerment in each life.
“It isn’t the situation that dictates your success. It is what is inside of you,” she said. “When you begin to see time and time again that you can overcome these situations and hardships, you begin to feel there isn’t anything you can’t do or accomplish.”
A strength of self is built through facing hardships.
“Your resume of life should be absolutely littered full of attempts, not necessarily successes, but attempts of things. It will build something stronger and stronger within yourself the more attempts you have in your life,” Wesson said. “Secondly, if you could really grasp hold of the concept of how much power really lies within you, there would be no stopping what you do. Do you realize very few things in life just happen?”
She said she has a gnawing hunger to make the right decisions today.
“I want to ask all of you, are you kind enough? Are you brave enough? Are you honest enough? Are you a good enough husband, a good enough wife, a good enough son, a good enough daughter? A good enough employee?” she continued to ask. “All the desire, the drive, and the commitment to empowerment matters nothing, if you are not first and foremost a good human.”