Chamber’s Diamond Awards recognize 21 nominees, 3 winners

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

The Shelby County Chamber held its annual Diamond Awards program on Thursday, Nov. 19, to highlight several of the county’s most selfless and hard-working residents and organizations.

This year’s awards recognized 21 nominees and honored three winners in the categories of Citizen of the Year, Public Servant of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year.

Nominees were evaluated by an independent panel of judges on the following criteria:

  • How the organization or individual has made a positive difference in Shelby County or a specific municipality.
  • Significant accomplishments achieved by the organization or individual.
  • How the organization or individual improved Shelby County or a specific municipality.

The 21 nominees included Bruce Andrews, CASA of Shelby County, Faye Lacagnina, God Did It Ministries, Grace Klein Community, Gretchen DiFante, JaneAnn Mueller, King’s Home, Matthew Powers, Michael Wooley, NAMI Shelby, Pat Lozito, Ricky Ruston, SavALife Shelby, Second Shift, Shelby County Arts Council, Shelby County Schools Education Foundation, Stephanie Douglas, Tony Picklesimer, Traci Fox and Two by Two Rescue.

From that list, Lacagnina won the Citizen of the Year award, Gretchen DiFante won the Public Servant of the Year award and NAMI Shelby won the Nonprofit of the Year award.

Lacagnina is a volunteer at Shelby Baptist Medical Center and several nursing homes throughout the county and contacts all 1,100 Retired Senior Volunteer Program members on their birthdays to send them a card. She is also currently sharing face masks constructed by Shelby County quilters and seamstresses.

She helps throughout the year with senior care, veteran care, donation collections and is an active member at Pelham First Baptist.

“Thank you, Faye, for your many generous efforts throughout Shelby County and beyond,” said President and CEO of The Shelby County Chamber Kirk Mancer when presenting Lacagnina with the award.

DiFante has been the Pelham City Manager for several years now and has helped elevate the expectations for local government in Shelby County, which was a reason she won the award according to Mancer’s speech announcing her.

“No longer is ‘good enough’ an acceptable standard for government,” Mancer said. “Her demand for excellence and accountability sets her apart. She is always ready to do whatever possible to ensure Pelham is the best run city possible.”

DiFante has helped recruit a number of new professional hires in Pelham, helped form a Women in Government chapter and made budget improvements to meet GFOA guidelines.

“Thank you, Gretchen, for your continued leadership in Pelham,” Mancer said.

NAMI Shelby, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has been an important organization in Shelby County since 2009.

They help provide support, education and advocacy for individuals with mental illnesses, their families and others whose lives have been affected by mental illness disorders.

“Since COVID-19 has greatly limited the ability for people to meet in person, now more than ever NAMI realizes the importance of staying connected,” Mancer said. “To help combat the feelings of isolation, NAMI Shelby has been conducting support meetings every two weeks, educational meetings and family-to-family meetings via ZOOM.

“Thank you NAMI Shelby for your continued efforts during this unique time,” Mancer said.

Each nominee has a unique impact on Shelby County and will continue to do their part in making the county a great place to live.