04 Mar Greenbrier chamber honors recipients of 2018 awards
by Sonja J. Keith
The Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet Friday, honoring three community members for their service and recognizing local businesses for their contributions.
Kim Tyler was recognized as the 2018 Citizen of the Year and Verna Higgins as the Volunteer of the Year. Mary Andrea Xiaojing “Andie” Finley was honored as the Student of the Year.
The theme for the banquet, held at Greenbrier Junior High School, was “Home Sweet Home.”
“Kim and Verna both represent what Greenbrier stands for so well. They are hardworking, genuine people,” said chamber board president Audreya Cole Brown. “Both have also served the Chamber in various capacities throughout the years, so I was pleased to see the nominating committee had selected them and not at all surprised our members chose them for our Citizen and Volunteer of the Year.
“The banquet is one of my favorite events every year. It’s great to have people who represent so many facets of our community gathered together to honor our award winners.”
Winners of the chamber’s business awards:
- New Business of the Year – The Castle at Harmon Ranch
- Small Business of the Year – Graham Brothers Electric, Inc.
- Non-profit of the Year – The CALL of Faulkner and Conway counties
- Business of the Year – Greenbrier Nursing and Rehab
In addition, outgoing chamber board member Spencer Hawks was recognized for his service. Mayor Sammy Joe Hartwick also recognized two city employees, Dustin Chapman and Shellie O’Quinn, for their hard work with the Mayor’s XM Award.
Former Razorback and Little Rock radio personality David Bazzel was the guest speaker.
Tyler and Higgins also unveiled a poster-size reproduction of the Greenbrier City Directory, which featured their photo on the cover. 501 Advertising and Publishing works with the chamber to produce the annual publication.
Kim’s nomination cited her service as chairman of the Greenbrier Natural Resources Advisory Board, president of the Faulkner County Home Builders and a board member for the Conway Noon Lions Club.
“Wherever Kim is, she represents Greenbrier,” it stated. “You can find Kim reading to area preschoolers at the Faulkner County Library Greenbrier Branch or providing vision screening to students through various area agencies. Kim does what she can to promote area growth and retention, making Greenbrier a great place live.”
Faith, family and community are important to Kim.
“I am grateful and overwhelmed that the place I call home — the place that has had the biggest impact on me — would give me the seal of approval,” said Kim, a 50-year resident of Greenbrier.
Kim credits her parents, Bill and Cathy Tyler, with having a big influence on her life. “My parents have always lived by example. Their influence and support laid a solid foundation for my life structure.” Her family also includes her brother, Tim, and his wife, Robin; and a sister, Sarah Lewis, and her husband, Cody. While she does not have any children, “my nieces and nephews are my ‘Great Kids’ – Wes Tyler, Ethan Tyler, Megan Weckwerth; Mallory, Kimberly, Tyler and Timber Lewis; and Kaden Fielder.
A 1986 graduate of Greenbrier High School, Kim has two degrees from the University of Central Arkansas: a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s degree in educational leadership. “My background is public school educator and administrator, federal grant administration, staff development, project administrator, land developer, land surveying and residential contractor.”
Active in the community, Kim is serving her second year as president of the Faulkner County Home Builders Association. She is also a member of the Conway Noon Lions Club, where she has served as a board member, past president and certified vision screener. A graduate of the Faulkner County Leadership Institute, Kim is also involved in the Arkansas Flood Plain Management Association, Faulkner County Cattlemen’s Association, Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greenbrier Natural Resources Advisory Committee, where she serves as chairman.
Faith is also important to Kim. She is a member of Antioch Baptist Church, member, where she has served as Route 434 (third/fourth grade program) teacher, staff and costume coordinator for Bethlehem Revisited and a member of the Hospitality Committee. She is also a pianist and serves as an instrumentalist for funerals, weddings and community functions.
Kim cites I Peter 4:10 NIV as her inspiration for community service: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
“Investing in others while creating and maintaining relationships is vital to growth,” said Kim. “My desire is to be a stepping stone, rather than stumbling block. I am thankful for my community and giving back by using my God-given abilities is not only a requirement, it’s a pleasure.”
When Kim considers her “Home Sweet Home,” she sees a bright future for her community. “For a half of century, I have experienced contentment in Greenbrier. The overall quality of life registers high in our community. More and more are seeking the comfort Greenbrier offers,” she said. “This is evident by the numerous new construction projects, remodels and revitalizations taking place on the main corridor, Highway 65. I believe with proper planning and continued guidance, the printing of Greenbrier address labels will remain steady.”
Verna’s service to the community through her photography was listed in her nomination. “Whether it’s serving on a board or capturing the moment behind the lens, Verna Higgins is highly visible in the community,” stated her nomination. “She has served on numerous committees focusing on both the community and county, including Matthews Park. With a camera in tow, she documents events and shares her photos promoting Greenbrier and the Faulkner County area.”
Moving to Greenbrier more than 25 years ago was the best thing for Verna and her family, which includes her husband of 36 years; two sons: Mitchell and Matthew, who is married to Danielle (Clark); and a special grandson, Maddox.
Born in Little Rock and growing up in rural Pulaski County, Verna graduated in 1979 from McClellan High School. She completed a course with the Nanny Academy and was certified as a child care specialist in 1991. She worked at the home office for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for 10 years, at a home daycare for three years and as the secretary at Immanuel Baptist Church for five years. She was a substitute teacher for the Greenbrier School District for about 10 years and worked about a year at the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce.
“I grew up with acreage, a garden and cows. When our son, Matthew, was 5, we moved to Greenbrier, searching for him a good education, some acreage and a place to call home. Greenbrier has truly turned out to be the best decision we made for our family and I can say we have a great life.
“Seeing new restaurants moving in and more school construction, and many new faces must mean others are finding their ‘Home Sweet Home’ here, too. Our home and heart is in Greenbrier and the future can only get better.”
Verna recognizes the importance of community service and has fun working and giving of her time. She has been involved through the years with numerous organizations and activities, including Greenbrier schools, Panther and city league baseball teams, the Greenbrier Event Center (Brierfest), the Chamber (banquets, Christmas tree and parade) and the Greenbrier Lions Club. She has also done fundraising for political campaigns and is a member of the Greenbrier Natural Resources Advisory Board.
“Community service is vital to the success of our many non-profits and provides opportunities to those who, like me, enjoy helping others. There are so many avenues to which people can serve in the community and I recommend becoming involved.”
Faith is also important. She has helped with a variety of activities, including Vacation Bible School and Easter events. She is a member of the Baptist Missionary Association Publications Committee and a volunteer photographer for her church and the Baptist Trumpet.
Verna is humbled to be recognized for her service to the Greenbrier community. “My very first thought was why me? There are so many other people worthy of this honor than me. My second thought was I need to find out who nominated me and tell them, ‘Thank You.’”
Verna also enjoys photography and capturing images for the City of Greenbrier.
“I love spending time with my husband traveling around Arkansas, whether we’re in a car or on our motorcycle, photographing God’s nature and interesting sights. Photography is my hobby that thrills my soul,” said Verna. “I also enjoy being a Nana for my 3-year-old grandson, Maddox. He is the smartest most entertaining boy around and I’m proud to have him in my life. God has truly blessed my family here in Greenbrier.”
Andrea Xiaojing “Andie” Finley is a senior at Greenbrier High School and is active in many clubs and organizations, including Beta Club, Book Club and Mathletes. She maintains a 4.25 GPA while an active member of the volleyball team. She especially enjoys the camaraderie among her teammates as well as the competitive aspect of playing school and competitive volleyball.
Andie ranks third in a class of 245. She has accumulated multiple hours of college credit through the concurrent credit program.
“Andie is a sweet young lady with a big heart,” read her nomination.
Andie said her favorite class is also her most challenging – calculus.
After high school graduation, Andie plans to attend Florida College in Temple Terrace and major in medicinal chemistry. She said the school is where her parents, Julie and Alan Finley, met and were her siblings have gone to school. She said family is “pretty important” because “they are the people I talk to the most and I’m around.”
Andie said she is most inspired by her mother. The two have similar interests, including baking and sewing.
Andie would like to teach at a university or do pharmaceutical research. She said she has been influenced by her dad’s work at Conway Regional Health System with her career choice.
“It’s a really big honor,” she said of being selected for the award.