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Five receive Women of Excellence Awards

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Winners (l-r) of the 6th annual Women of Excellence Awards Angela Cole, Lauren Hill-Spruill, Jennifer Purcell, Angela Wills and Kim Parrish are shown at The Pines of Elizabeth City, Wednesday, June 7, 2016.

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William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A day after Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first U.S. woman nominated for president by a major political party, a quintet of Elizabeth City women made a little history of their own.

Angela Cole, Kim Parrish, Jennifer Purcell, Lauren Hill-Spruill and Angela Wills were all named winners of the 2016 Women of Excellence Awards during a luncheon held at The Pines of Elizabeth City. 

An estimated 125 civic, business and local government officials attended the annual event, co-sponsored by independent Shaklee distributor Gwen Bell and Toyota of Elizabeth City, to celebrate women who make major contributions to the local community. 

Command Master Chief Alexandra Muhly at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City was keynote speaker for the luncheon. During her remarks, Muhly said Elizabeth City is a community made stronger because of the unwavering dedication and tireless work of women like the five award winners. 

Cole, assistant to Elizabeth City City Manager Rich Olson since 2014, was nominated by her boss for her Women of Excellence Award. Besides her work for the city, Cole holds a volunteer leadership position in the SOULS feeding ministry which provides hot meals to the city’s hungry.

Cole, who moved to Elizabeth City in 2005, credited her husband for welcoming her to his hometown.

“And 11 years later, you all have welcomed me into your hearts,” she said. “So, this has been a great experience.”

“Every day I get up – and I want to make this town a better place,” Cole added.

Sue Thomson, a volunteer for the Northeastern N.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, nominated Parrish for her award. Thomson called Parrish “a very excellent woman” who, for the past seven years, has devoted long hours as the volunteer president of the SPCA.

Thomson said Parrish is always “on the front line” at the SPCA, whether it be cleaning cages, feeding animals or finding them new homes. Parrish also played the lead role in raising the funding for the SPCA’s new animal shelter that opened last month, she said.

Parrish thanked the community for its support helping make the new shelter a reality.

“It takes a lot more than just one person to realize a dream,” she said. “It takes a community of people to support that dream and to help further it – and we were all able to do it.”

Purcell was nominated by her husband, Firehouse Subs co-owner Chris Purcell, for her award. Chris Purcell, chairman of the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, noted his wife quit her career in management with Home Depot to stay at home with their son when he was beginning kindergarten.

Jennifer Purcell thanked her husband for letting her be “the risk taker” in the family’s business. She thanked the community and the restaurant’s employees and also credited her mother, who is also active in the community, for raising her to do the same.

“I love trying to help people when they need it,” she said.

Hill-Spruill’s mother, real estate broker Cyn Owens, nominated her for her award. Besides her work for Piedmont Natural Gas, Hill-Spruill is the first woman president of the Homebuilders Association of Northeastern North Carolina. She is also treasurer of the Albemarle Area United Way and was the Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year for 2015.

Hill-Spruill thanked the nominating committee that had selected her and the four others for the award from the 18 nominees, noting that “all of us are very deserving of this award.”

“So, I know you guys had a hard decision,” she said.

River City GED instructor Pat Hollingsworth nominated Wills for her award. Hollingsworth noted Wills had held a state job for 18 years, and then gave it up to “take a leap of faith” and join River City CDC to help the community’s less-fortunate citizens.

Hollingsworth noted that despite Wills’ own personal challenges — her husband suffered a life-threatening illness and her family’s home caught fire — she continues to help the YouthBuild program transform the lives of young people.

Wills called River City CDC President Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, who was in attendance, her mentor and praised the rest of the River City employees in attendance. To the audience, she said, “I am truly honored and I am truly blessed.”

Toyota of Elizabeth City Manager Fil Catania noted that each of this year’s Women of Excellence award winners will receive an original, limited-edition artwork by Holocaust survivor Betty Haar-Salvo to remind them of her inspirational story.

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