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Banker chosen as Woman of the Year
Jackson County Woman of the Year recipient Dee Lavender, who serves as the vice president of Hometown Community Bank in Braselton, goes to shake hands Wednesday with Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President Shane Short at the 2009 Women in Business luncheon. - photo by Claire Miller
JEFFERSON — As the vice president of Hometown Community Bank in Braselton, Dee Lavender has navigated her way through a predominantly male field and has worked to help other women do the same.

On Wednesday, Lavender was chosen the 2009 Woman of the Year by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

“During her tenure as a banker, she has trained and supervised a number of women to help them succeed in their careers so that they can reach their full potential. Dee has a history of helping women in business, and was one of the founders of the Women in Business group here in Jackson County through the chamber,” said Chamber President Shane Short said.

The award is given to a woman who either works for or owns a business located in Jackson County, and who is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

“To say that I’m shocked is an understatement,” Lavender said upon receiving the honor Wednesday afternoon at a luncheon in the Jackson Electric Membership Corporation auditorium. “Thank you so very much. I’m humbled.”

Lavender is involved in several community groups including the Braselton Business Association, the Hoschton Business Alliance, Jackson County Habitat for Humanity and the Celebrate the Holidays in Braselton committee. She is a member of Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson and is involved in several Chamber of Commerce groups, including the Taste of Jackson committee and the membership drive team.

Other women nominated for the award included Brasleton Antique Mall owner Robbie Bettis; Rebecca Boles from Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates; Sandra Fite from the Certified Literate Community Program in Jackson County; Dr. Emily Howell, owner of Howell Orthodontics; diAna Huckins, human resources director for Buhler Quality Yarns Corporation; and Lisa Stephens, director of the Lindsay’s Legacy Mentoring Program and a marketing representative for Chick-fil-A.

“As you can tell by all the other women nominated, they are an awesome, awesome group, and you can tell that through all the effort they put in through all the various organizations that they’re involved with,” Lavender said. “I think we are all winners, otherwise we wouldn’t be nominated, and I think there are a lot of women here in this audience that also should be up here as well.”

The luncheon’s keynote speaker, Courtney Gale, could be placed in this category as well. Gale serves as a police officer in Athens and was stabbed at the Kroger on Baxter Street in 2007. She suffered 10 stab wounds and a substantial loss of blood, which caused five or six mini strokes, kidney failure, compartment syndrome and other injuries.

Gale said she doesn’t remember much of the event, but was thankful for the emergency room nurse who happened to be grocery shopping at the time, who came to the rescue with a number of other strangers shopping that day.

“It throws your world upside down,” she said of the attack. “But my goal off the bat was to go back to being a police officer.”

Gale spoke about the attack and her subsequent recovery, focusing on the three C’s that are an integral part of her life: challenge, courage and character.

“Everyone in life if going to face a challenge ... this is my challenge. The courage is getting through not understanding what happened,” she said.