Area women honored for community contributions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

VIDALIA — Psychologist Beverly Smallwood summed it up best when she described the 80 Caring Women honored by Natchez Community Hospital Tuesday.

They are women who live lives of connection, choose to see only the best in people and are courageous in the pursuit, Smallwood said.

“Courage is knowing you’re outnumbered, being scared to death and saddling up anyway, and you saddled up anyway,’” said Smallwood, who delivered the keynote speech at the third annual Caring Women luncheon at the Vidalia Convention Center.

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“This room has a spirit of caring in it because you brought it with you and you’ve had it working in that community. Every nominee is a winner, and the winning doesn’t get any better than the respect and honor of the person who nominated you.”

Natchez Community’s Caring Women are nominated in five categories — leadership, perseverance, mentor, defender and promise.

The leadership category honoree was Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Director Debbie Hudson.

“(Hudson) inspires others to give of themselves,” said luncheon emcee Sue Stedman. “She knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.”

The perseverance category honoree was Renee Ballard. A cancer survivor, Ballard continues to the fight the disease with poise and determination.

“(Ballard) bears her burden with a joyous heart, optimism and no complaints,” Stedman said.

The mentor category honoree was United Methodist Women Vice President Barbara Ann Mingee, who is a mentor at Frazier Primary School in Natchez. Mingee also served as Girls Scouts chairman, and volunteers at St. Andrew’s Thrift Store and Natchez Community Hospital.

The defender category honoree was longtime special education teacher Tommie Jones, who has worked for the Natchez-Adams School District for 30 years.

As the Area 7 Special Olympics director, Jones’ patience, understanding and compassion for special needs children and adults did not go unnoticed by her nominators.

“She is a true defender for the special children in our community,” Stedman said.

The promise category honoree was Adams County Christian School senior Rachel Holloway. Holloway is president of the National Honor Society and captain of the varsity girls basketball team.

Holloway attends First Baptist Church in Natchez, and does housecleaning and house painting work for the elderly in her spare time.

Natchez Community CEO Donny Rentfro said in his closing remarks the Miss-Lou is fortunate to have so many compassionate women in its midst.

“We are very blessed to have them work and live among us,” Rentfro said. “These 80 women represent the best of our community.”