We received 78 nominations for 2016 Statesville's Most Deserving Woman. While we received many moving submissions that pulled at our heart strings, we could only select one woman to be recognized. Our panel of judges spent an afternoon reviewing all of the entries one by one and finally narrowed it down to one person.
We received many nominations for fine, upstanding citizens of our great community. Our project strives to recognize someone who goes above and beyond their daily duties. It's no small thing to have found one's calling in life and to excel at that job. It's wonderful to take care of aging and ill parents. It's heart-wrenching to battle cancer and all the other difficult things that life throws at us.
What I, and the panel of judges, use as our measure in voting, is a story that speaks of someone who impacts our community in positive ways - in ways that are more than what their job description says, more than being a good mother, child, and friend.
This year, we felt that Samantha embodied all of this. Her nomination began in telling us that she'd been battling a brain tumor which had thankfully been diagnosed as benign. As a result of the tumor, she suffered from dizziness, migraines, and more. She pushes through and still cares for her one year old daughter while working full time as her husband travels for work.
We all certainly empathized with this, but it alone did not meet our desire to find someone who reaches out to others. What the nominator continued to write made the difference. She describes how her friend has become a mentor of sorts to a youngster in our community, how she's gone out of her way to take a coworker back and forth to work when needed. She described how, instead of selling furniture or other household items they no longer use, she will seek out families in need rather than selling it. She spoke of all the different things she does at work that help her associates and that are beyond her job description.
The final paragraph of the submission states:
There is nothing this lady wouldn't do for anyone in her community. She doesn't even have to know a person to help them. If she sees a need she does whatever she can to fill it even if it isn't convenient for her or she doesn't have much to spare. If anyone is deserving of some time off and pampering it is her.
It was all of the ways that she is a positive influence to many, all while fighting her own struggles, while working full time, while her husband works out of town, that made the difference for us. After a tie-breaking vote, it was determined that Samantha Black was Statesville's Most Deserving Woman of 2016.
Immediately after making our decision, we called the nominator, which is a friend of Samantha's. From there, we began furiously making plans for our big day. Jessica, Samantha's friend, was integral in pulling everything off. She worked closely with Samantha's husband, who luckily was scheduled home this weekend! There was quite a bit of story telling and white lies told to keep it all a secret, but alas, April 30 dawned with Samantha having no idea she'd been nominated OR that she'd won!
We arrived at her house with Jessica and the Sheri Allison team comprised of Sheri, Ivy who was our daily photographer, Bobby who recorded video all day, Bridget who has been a fantastic help in planning, and Donna Donaldson, who was last year's Statesville's Most Deerving Woman.
Samantha was expecting Jessica so they could go to breakfast, but she was NOT expecting us! Donna read Jessica's nomination and Bridget pinned a beautiful corsage from Downtown Blossoms. Jessica presented her with a lovely bouquet from Johnson Greenhouses, and after a few photos and a few more tears, Jessica and Samantha enjoyed a ride in a gorgeous town car from K-Towne Limo.
Our first stop of the day was to Beth and Company where Samantha enjoyed a manicure and pedicure.
After a relaxing morning getting her nails done, we all went next door to Sweet Thing Bakery & Cafe where the owner, Preston, greeted Samantha and invited her to get some treats. Samantha's husband and baby, Hailey, came in and surprised her.
After enjoying some delicious pastries and drinks, we went to Salice Boutique where the girls there greeted our winner, and we let her know she had a $100 shopping spree to enjoy! She selected a few pretty blouses and off we went to our next surprise!
Once we finished at Salice, we walked across the street to the Sheri Allison Photography studio. We stopped for a few photos downstairs, and then Samantha was greeted by some coworkers and friends upstairs! We had all of her gifts and certificates on display and we had lunch, which was catered by Kirk's Catering and Carryout (and it was delicious!)
Once Sam's makeover was complete, we went back across the street to Wine Maestro. Liz, the owner, greeted us and led us to a cozy sitting area that they have in the shop. We had sweets from TZ Kreations and some lovely bubbly refreshment. Brandon and Hailey joined us again after Brandon had taken the baby for a little nap.
Our next stop was for a family session at the Gregory Homestead, which is maintained by Iredell Museums, who graciously granted us permission to access the property for the session. After the session, we just had to stop by the Prince mural and then we headed over to 220 Cafe. We met back up with Jessica and her husband and we all enjoyed a wonderful dinner accompanied by live music which was all contributed by Kelli, the owner of 220. It just so happens that the day after Samantha's big day is her husband's birthday, so we had to surprise him with a little cake after dinner.
At the close of our evening, it was pouring rain and we bid Brandon and Samantha good night by sending them to their final surprise of the day which was a night at the Kerr House Bed and Breakfast. Ashden Campbell had created a delicious dessert tray, which we had waiting for them at the Kerr House.
The fun didn't end there! We arrived at the Kerr House Sunday morning with The Pink Boutique's owner Kelly, who treated Samantha to a $200 shopping spree!
Following her shopping excursion, Samantha and Brandon enjoyed a lovely breakfast prepared by the owners of B&B.
All in all, it was incredible experience for all of us, and I certainly hope it was for Samantha. She was given a total of $10,745 in gifts and services!!! Many, many thanks to each and every person who helped to make this happen. I certainly could not have done it alone.
Full List of Participating Vendors and Prizes: