Local woman receives Southwest Tennessee Development District employee of the year

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A Crockett County native was awarded during the Southwest Tennessee Development District (SWTDD) annual meeting and awards dinner on Monday, September 30.

With more than 200 people in attendance at the new 731 Social Event Center on Vann Drive in Jackson celebrating “West Tennessee Traditions of Excellence”, electing new officers to the executive board of directors and presenting recognition award to people and organizations in the region who are keeping the tradition of excellence, Keita Cole was one of two SWTDD Employees of the Year.

The awards presented were for those who work cooperatively with SWTDD’s two distinct departments, the Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities (AAAD) AND Economic and Community Development (ECD). Recipients were honored for the impact that they are making in their communities and in the region.

The SWTDD employee of the year award is voted on by staff and recognizes an individual who successfully performs the duties of his or her job and also goes above and beyond to serve the constituents in SWTTDD’s communities. Because of a tie in voting, two employees were recognized, Cole from Crockett County and Nicole Guinn from Chester County.

SWTDD said, “Keita is a person who has not only impacted the lives of older adults in the Southwest Tennessee region but has also touched the lives of older adults across the entire state of Tennessee. Hired in early 2017, Keita was hired to administer the then newly formed MyRide Senior Volunteer Transportation Program in Madison County.

“Keita Successfully marketed, promoted and built the program from the ground up and in the process created a replicable model that utilized best practices to provide a hands-on approach to senior transportation.”

In 2018, Keita was promoted to Grant Manager to administer the new Statewide Senior Volunteer Transportation Network Grant received that was awarded to SWTDD from the Chancery Court of Davidson County. Since then, Keita has traveled the state to build MyRide programs in various cities and counties developing eleven new programs with 19 scheduled to begin with the next two years.

“Southwest Tennessee Development District is an organization that relies heavily on our city and county governments, volunteers and partners to carry out the organization’s mission,” said Joe W. Barker, SWTDD executive director. “Our annual banquet and awards program provides us with an opportunity to publicly recognize those who are working to improve the economic climate and quality of life in the southwest Tennessee region. Although only a few received actual awards tonight, there are many others who work hard every day in this region, and we look forward to recognizing their contributions in the years to come.”

Cole was shocked to learn she was chosen by her co-workers. She said, “To say I was shocked is an understatement. I am humbled and honored to receive this award, it is even more special because it is voted on by my amazing co-workers. I cannot do this alone. I am grateful for everyone who has supported me and helped me along this journey. I am honored to serve the older adults in Southwest TN and across the state with the MyRide Volunteer Transportation program. Thank you for everything! To be able to take a volunteer transportation program that was just an idea two years ago and see it grow and expand like it has and know I had a part of it is amazing. To hear the stories from the older adults we serve and to see how much this program has changed their lives is amazing and makes me realize how blessed I am to be able to help so many people.”

Although Cole is proud of the award she received, her work is not done. There will be an event on October 17 at Northside United Methodist Church Gym in Jackson from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone looking for volunteer opportunities. The Jackson Police Department Narcotics will also be doing a drug take-back at the event where people can dispose of their unused medications. Anyone wanting to attend the event must RSVP by October 11 by calling 731-668-6451.

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