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Greenville#039;s best honored at summer supper

Hard work, motivation and caring are the words that describe the recipients of area awards presented at the Greenville Main Street Summer Supper held Thursday.

Among the awards presented was the John D. Murphy Citizen of the Year Award, presented to Allen Stephenson, who was born and raised in Greenville and throughout his life has held many titles. "I was educated in the public schools here before going onto Auburn University. I think the greatest thing about Greenville is people care about each other and really get involved," he said.

One of those caring people is Stephenson himself, whose goal is to make Greenville a better place to live. "We didn't need some computer company to tell us that this is the best small town in America; we already knew that," Stephenson said. "There are so many other people such as Jeddo Bell, who was also nominated, that were so deserving of this award."

Stephenson's recognition as Citizen of the Year was a direct result of his involvement in community activities in "the best small town in America." Some of these include membership in the Alabama District and Circuit Court Clerks Association, where he serves as chairman of the resolutions committee and serves as a member of the education committee; interim pastor of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Georgiana; president of the Butler County United Fund; past president and board member of theGreenville Kiwanis Club; one of the founding board members of the Greenville Arts Council; current and one of the founding members of the Miss Camellia Scholarship Program; past president of the Butler County Heart Fund, a division of the American Heart Association; a long-time board member of Greenville Athletic Club; and announcer, along with Mike Morris, of Greenville High School football. In addition, Stephenson was instrumental in helping pass the school tax renewal, which failed in November, but passed by an 85 percent margin on May 11. He also is a partner of Russell Stephenson Creative Photography, along with MacDonald Russell.

Stephenson is married to Gina Bearden of Wetumpka, Ala., and the couple have three children, Brian, Lauren and Beth. "God has blessed me with the most wonderful wife and family, and that is what motivates me to do all these things," said Stephenson.

A second award, the Greenville Main Street Volunteer Award, was presented to Tom Braxton for, "collecting memorabilia and historical data on Greenville" and for sharing that knowledge with all who ask.

As a member of Main Street, Braxton has gained a reputation for his knowledge of Greenville and its history.

"Tom has such a willing spirit and is always ready to pitch in. His knowledge and history of the area is such an asset to the club," said Nancy Idland, program director of Greenville Main Street.

In addition to serving as the Harvest Festival chairman and serving on the promotions committee of Greenville Main Street, Braxton's involvement in the community has lead him down several other paths, such as being a member of the Miss Camellia Scholarship Program, a member of the Greenville Arts Council, a member of the Ritz Advisory Board and a member of the Historic Landmark Foundation of Butler County.

"Through some of these, I also do tours of the city for family reunions, class reunions, campers at Sherling Lake and other small groups that visit the area."

But, Braxton feels like he cannot take all the credit. "This award is due to the one that makes me get up in the morning. She's the one that inspires me. She's the wind beneath my wings

my mom," he stated.

Along with Stephenson and Braxton, another hard-working Greenville resident was also honored. Mrs. Roberta Gamble was presented with the Great Greenville Main Street Award.

For 20 years, Gamble has been working on the restoration of the Ritz Theater. "I've virtually been the spearhead of renovating the Ritz Theater. Other people have come and gone, but I stuck with it," said Gamble.

As chair of the Ritz Theater Advisory Board, Gamble has worked long and hard on keeping the Ritz Theater beautiful. "If you live long enough and have tunnel vision, you'll win awards," she said.

Along with serving on the advisory board, Gamble also serves as program director and production chair of the Greenville Arts Council and is a member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Gamble is also editor of the book "Southern Dogs and their People," which was published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. "The book is filled with pictures that were taken by P.S. (Priscilla) Davis along with quotes of southern writers which I edited," said Gamble.

Gamble and her husband, former Circuit Judge Arthur E. Gamble Jr.,

live in the house that the former judge was born in. The couple has one daughter, Rev. Eugenia Gamble, who serves as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala.

When asked to describe the one aspect of Greenville that she loves the most, she answered simply, "The people, absolutely not

one other thing. The warmth of the people and their willingness to work with you."

This was the second year Greenville Main Street held the Summer Supper. "The volunteers of Main Street are just really wonderful. When we were rained out at the Martin House, all the volunteers moved tables and undressed and redressed the tables at the Methodist Church. The volunteers also brought flowers from their gardens as the centerpieces for the tables. The whole event was really a volunteer effort," said Idland.

The Harvest Festival is the next event for Main Street and its volunteers and will be held in October.