Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

'I believe we need to be a stepping stone, and not a stumbling block'

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For the second year in a row there was a special celebration of Wilson County's women at a luncheon to honor not only their skills and talents, but to pay homage to their intellect, strength, support and collective sisterhood.

The celebration took place late Wednesday morning at the Chop House on the Green at Lebanon Golf and Country Club and was sponsored by The Wilson Post, along with Tennova. It was the second annual Women of Wilson luncheon, a special tribute to all the Wilson women who were featured the past year in a weekly column penned by Wilson Post Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett.

Each week she picks a local woman and explores their lives and professions.

"It sounds cliché to say we are generating girl power," Garrett said just before the ceremony. "But that is exactly what we are doing!"

"It's so nice to meet so many of the ladies I've read about each week," said Ellen Gould, who with her husband Dave have owned Main Street Media of Tennessee for three years now. "We are so pleased to welcome all of you." The Wilson Post is one of eight community newspapers they own, along with other enterprises.

"The reason why you are here is to celebrate what you've accomplished," Gould told the roomful of ladies who represent a myriad of local businesses.

Gould briefly described their three-year successful newspaper business she said has bucked the trend of late. She said Main Street has found a "unique niche" and they know how important local news is to the community.

"You can read about world news and national sports everywhere," she noted. "We love to celebrate the communities we operate in. With Women of Wilson we love to share stories of women who make a positive impact."

Gould said their company embraces the Internet because it allows them to break the news. She their internet numbers have doubled.

"It's been pretty robust," she said. "Every Wednesday we not only run our stories in the newspaper, but we run stories online everyday."

Before the guest speaker was introduced, Garrett thanked all the women for "letting me tell your stories." She said when she had her son J.R. in 2014 it "opened" her eyes" to the awesome job women do in all their different roles.

"In the last two years we've highlighted over 100 women," she said. "I get nominations over email, on the street and even at Walmart. This day is about you."

Keynote speaker Diane C. Turnham, who grew up in Mt. Juliet, graduated from Mt. Juliet High School and played basketball at Lipscomb and MTSU, addressed how the women present were in a position to "change lives." Turnham is the Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women's Administrator at Middle Tennessee State University.

"We all have great people in our past, ones we know made a huge impact on our lives," she said.

She said she was going to teach elementary school, but God had a different plan and she ended up coaching and now is a senior administrator at MTSU. Along the way, she said she learned what makes women so special.

"As we go forward we have a responsibility as great women," she said passionately. "We need to share ourselves during the good and the difficult times. I say 'God help me be a stepping stone, and not a stumbling block.'"

While at Mt. Juliet High, she said Larry Joe Inman, who was the girls basketball coach at the time and now was recently elected to serve on the Wilson County School Board, impressed her life. She said she was "so skinny and afraid of my own shadow."

"He turned me into a very strong woman," she said.

After playing basketball at Vol State and Austin Peay University, she joined the MTSU coaching staff under Inman, who had since been named the womens basketball coach in Murfreesboro.

Thirty-five years ago Turnham was MTSU's first full-time assistant basketball coach, and, unwittingly at first, the first volleyball coach. Though she knew nothing about volleyball, Turnham said she "worked as hard as she could at the job, and learned a lot along the way."

"As woman, we just get things done, don't we?" she asked the appreciative audience. "We stumble through and success is not always about wins and losses."

Turnham told a couple anecdotes of players and students she helped mentor through the years in her role.

"That's what we do as women," she said. "We change lives and we are making a difference one day at a time. Never ever stop. You make a difference everyday. We are Women of Wilson, and we are powerful!"

"I feel happy to be a part of such a wonderful group of women," Woman of Wilson Lori Seay said. "I know a lot of these women, and they inspire me."

All the esteemed guests were treated to lunch and each were given a ballot to vote on who that thought should be named this year's Woman of the Year. It was a tie this year with Director of Wilson County Schools Dr. Donna Wright and CASA Executive Director Cathey Sweeney garnering an equal amount of votes from their esteemed fellow colleagues. Both appeared shocked and humbled, with Sweeney nearly speechless, but managed to say, "Is this a joke?" and Wright so surprised she at first just uttered, "I'm stunned." Both expressed they were in a room of women they admired immensely and were grateful to be in such company.

After receiving a resounding applaud as this year's Women of Wilson duo, Sweeney said she was overwhelmed.

"I'm here in a room full of the most amazing women I've ever met," she said tearfully. "I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. I thank all of you so much."

Wright said her philosophy was to pay it forward, noting that's what the keynote speaker's message was.

"I thank God everyday for being in Wilson County and doing what I'm doing."

All the honorees and their guests received a special gift bag.

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