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"It takes all of us working together to make our community great," began last year's recipient Brenda Stirl while making the award presentation, "and I truly am proud to be a part of it."
Before making the announcement, Mrs. Stirl thanked the selection committee, the Chamber and those that submitted the nominations before making the presentation of the 2011 Outstanding Female Citizen, Leah Andrews.
"This award is presented to someone who has made great contributions to the community, church, job and home...and I think [Leah Andrews] has done just that."
A Texas native, Mrs. Andrews met her future husband as a kindergartner, but the attraction was anything but existent. However, the old adage of "opposites attract" came into play as the "goodie, goodie, perfect" girl and the "class clown" boy began dating each other as high school juniors.
She continued her education at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, but eventually transferred to Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Abilene to be closer to her eventual husband. She graduated ACU in 1989, began working with Condley and Co., LLP and married her high school sweetheart all in the same year.
When Mrs. Andrews' husband completed college and sought out work in Abilene, Condley and Co. "begged" and made sure he would be hired by the Abilene business he applied for, just so the couple would remain in Abilene in an effort not to lose Mrs. Andrews.
The couple made Sweetwater their home in 2001, but within a couple of years Mrs. Andrews had concerns about raising children in the town because some things that were going on needed to be changed. As a result of advice given-- "if you don't like something, do something about it", she took the steps toward making Sweetwater a better place to live and raise a family through school, church and community efforts, all while taking care of things on the home-front.
Her involvement in the town includes active membership at the 4th and Elm Church of Christ and currently serving as the Treasurer of the Cornerstone Christian School.
She is also a member of Rotary Club, a 2010 graduate of Leadership Sweetwater and continues to volunteer in Future Sweetwater for high-school sophomores.
Mrs. Andrews also serves on the Sweetwater Independent School District (SISD) Health Advisory Council and has served on the SISD Campus Improvement Council and as Treasurer in the East Ridge PTO. In the ten years she has been in the community, she has volunteered her time and service in various other areas as well.
However, one of the most well-known accomplishments of Mrs. Andrews was established in 2009, with the help of her daughter. Noticing that several students would come to school each Monday showing signs of severe hunger--that many of the students who were on the free meal plan during the week ate very little or nothing on the weekend, her daughter came to her mother and wanted to know how they could help.
After some research, the mother-daughter duo co-founded the local initiative named "Sweetwater Backpack Buddies". And because the program is funded solely by donations and run by volunteers, Mrs. Andrews even had to overcome a personal fear of public speaking. Now, she promotes the cause for various civic clubs, churches and programs.
The efforts of "Backpack Buddies" continue today, with the money donated used to purchase food and toiletries for the students in need. Each Friday, around 65 children identified by school personnel as "chronically hungry" are helped through this wonderful program because of a concerned young girl and her conscientious mother, Mrs. Andrews.
Mrs. Andrews has been married to her husband Kirby for 22 years and they have four children: Mason (15), Alaina (13), Carson (10) and Kaden (8). On October 3, she will begin her new job as the Vice President of Financial Services at TSTC West Texas.