Knoxville’s former poet laureate, Rhea Carmon, wowed the audience with her dynamic message of empowerment.
The YWCA of Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley recently honored seven local women who best exemplify the Y’s core mission: empowering women, eliminating racism and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
In a festive gathering at The Mill & Mine event center one block north of Knoxville’s Old City, the finalists and their supporters gathered in a joyous mood to nosh and raise a glass to the contestants and the YWCA. The winners were selected by a panel of judges who live outside of Knoxville.
A highlight of the evening was a poetry reading by Rhea Carmon, Knoxville’s former poet laureate.
The YWCA serves women and their families year-round. Founded in 1899, YWCA offers transitional housing and supportive services to women who would otherwise be homeless; advocacy, outreach, support groups, counseling and prevention services for victims of domestic violence; youth and family development services; and after-school programming.
From left, Nancy Elliott, Lady-Tiara Wilson, Kryshonna Wilson, Femeika Elliott and Kimberly Pettigrew during the social hour prior to the program. Femeika Elliott would go on to win in the Race and Social Justice category.
Susan Edwards, left, and Karen Mann. Edwards is president of the YWCA’s board of directors and Mann is president-elect.
From left, Erin Gill and D.L. and Courtney Bergmeier, who would take the prize in the Arts and Culture category later in the evening.
The Mill & Mine offers great outdoor space for pre-event socializing.
Claudia Caballero, left, and Jeannie Dulaney.
Loved Claudia’s boots!
Kimberly Lauth, left, and her mother, Myra Dotson-Diggs. Lauth was a finalist in the Racial and Social Justice category.
Morgan Vance, left, and Elisha Jewell.
From left, Paula Voss, Barbara Johnson, Cindy Moffett, Beth Ford and Kathleen Parsons.
Maria McHale, left, and Lisa Skinner.
Kathy Hamilton and Alan Carmichael.
From left, Sarah Egner with her mother, Julia Bentley, and Lori Calvert.
Carolyn Jensen, left, and Susan Long.
Shaun Fulco and Charley Sexton.
The food was fabulous, if a little unorthodox in its serving. There was a table of appetizers.
And a table of sandwiches. Clockwise from top, Cuban style sliders, fried chicken sliders and pimento cheese biscuits.
Inside, I ran into Elba Marshall, left, and Tiffany Martin.
Loved the centerpieces.
It was a good crowd.
Lauren Miller, left, with her mother, Lynn Christ, center, and sister, Ryann Christ. Miller was a finalist in the Business and Industry category. She’s the CEO of MoxCar Marketing + Communications.
Chloe Akers, center, was a finalist in the Community Enhancement category, and Beth Foster, left, was a finalist in the Education category. At right is Malcolm Foster.
WATE anchor Tearsa Smith was master of ceremonies. She introduced poet Rhea Carmon, pictured at the top of this post.
Stephanie Burrage is the new CEO of the YWCA Knoxville & the Tennessee Valley. She made a few remarks about what the evening was all about.
Courtney Bergmeier was the first winner, taking home the Arts and Culture award. She’s the executive director of the Bijou Theatre. Other finalists were Shanna Browning of First Century Bank and Hannah Houser of HH Creative, LLC.
Jan Brown, vice president of culture, inclusion and performance at the Tennessee Valley Authority, took the prize in the Business and Industry category. Other finalists were Lauren Miller of MoxCar Marketing + Communications and Eugenia Almeida of A New Hue.
Dr. Kathryn Ellis, executive director of the Knoxville Family Justice Center, won in the Community Enhancement category. Other finalists were Chloe Akers of The Liminal Plan and Enkeshi El-Amin of The Bottom.
Christi Kirk took home the statue in the Education category. She’s Project GRAD family and community manager with Knox Education Foundation. Other finalists were Jamea Beach of United Way of Greater Knoxville and Elizabeth Foster of the University of Tennessee’s Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations.
Stephanie Burrage presents the award in the Emerging Leader category to Allison Comer, executive director of Muse Knoxville. Other finalists were Angela Bartlett of the CAC Office on Aging and Shante Southwood of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Femeika Elliott, the owner and founder of Meik Meals & Rooted East Knoxville, won in the Racial and Social Justice category. Other finalists were Denise Dean of East Tennessee Freedom Schools and Kim Lauth of Positively Living & Choice Health Network.
Dr. Mandy Halford, senior vice president, chief medical officer, and chief medical informatics officer of Covenant Health, won in the Science, Tech and Health category. Other finalists were Jennifer Niedziela of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Abby Enns of Tennessee Valley Authority.
All in all, an inspirational night. Congrats, everybody!