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Chamber announces Athena Award winner

Lee Henderson-Hill Lee Henderson-Hill

Lee Henderson-Hill, a nonprofit organization leader, community volunteer and mentor for hundreds of girls and young women through the Girl Scouts, was honored as this year's Athena Award winner at the Business and Professional Women's Luncheon at Kenmure Country Club on Thursday.

Nominated by Judy Stroud, Henderson-Hill  worked as a paralegal in a Hendersonville law firm before working as operations and member services manager of the Chamber of Commerce, from 2000 to 2005. She led Downtown Hendersonville Inc. from then until 2009 and is currently senior program officer for the Community Foundation of Henderson County.

"Lee always shows initiative and creativity," Stroud said. "She is not afraid to think outside the box and is adaptable to the ever-changing needs and demands of a project. If given a task, you will never hear Lee say that “it can’t be done” – she will find a way. Lee will look at all aspects of a project and encourages others to use their voice to become involved in the process. She often mentors youth and young professionals to inspire and encourage them in their professional careers. While serving as the executive director of Downtown Hendersonville, Inc., she mentored a female high school senior intern in event planning and management. She worked with the intern to increase capacity and offerings in the downtown area. After the internship, the student went on to attend Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, NC and was awarded a BS degree in Sports, Entertainment, Event-Management."

Established in 1982 in Lansing, Mich., the Athena Award recognizes individuals — usually but not always a woman — for professional excellence, serving their community and helping women attain professional goals and leadership skills. Locally, it's named for Vanessa Y. Mintz, a Chamber of Commerce member who brought the award to Hendersonville in 2008.

Other nominees were District Court Judge Athena Brooks, Dr, Janet Bull, chief medical officer of Four Seasons Compassion for Life; Laresa Griffin, director of development for Safelight; Suzanne Sherrill, a manager at the Council on Aging; Debi Smith, general manager of the Cascades Mountain Resort; Julie Thompson, vice president of economic and workforce development at Blue Ridge Community College; and Martha Lamb Whitaker, a lifelong member of the Hubert M. Smith Unit 77 American Legion Auxiliary, a founding member of a local DAR chapter and a lifelong member of the Ladies Auxiliary VFW.

"I'm saddened that my friend Vanessa's not here for this," Henderson-Hill said. "She's not here physically but everyday that we talk about Athena, every opportunity that we have to raise women up to do things in our community, that is our Vanessa. She's always with us."

Stroud said that Henderson-Hill has inspired young women and others in her professional and volunteer life.

"Lee will often remind you that there are many ways to make a difference – through your time, talent and treasures," she said. "She uses this daily in her professional life and in her leadership within the local community. When meeting Lee for the first time, she may introduce herself as “Lee Henderson-Hill from Hendersonville”. Many laugh when hearing the jingle, but it embodies all that Lee is – she even carries the badge of her community within her name. Lee is a person that stands for making a difference in her profession and local community by making the world a better place. These ideals and values are at her core.

She chairs the Youth Services Committee of Kiwanis Club of Hendersonville, where she is incoming vice president; serves as the club liaison for local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts; worked to implement programming to recognize area high schoolers in Fall and Spring sports programs and created and implemented a recognition program for Fine and Performing Arts students in area high schools. She also helps to administer the Terrific Kids program and 4-H district and state competitions within the Kiwanis Club.
She has served as a parent volunteer and Girl Scout troop leader for the past 25 years. In 2017, she trained as a Global Action Volunteer (GAV) at the Edith Macy Training Center in New York and serves as the GAV for the Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Council. In March 2018, she led a group of five girls from across Western North Carolina to the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York. In 2014, she served as a Travel Patrol Leader for girls across Western North Carolina traveling to Our Cabana, Girl Guide/Girl Scouts World Center in Mexico. In the summer of 2019, she will serve as the Travel Patrol Leader for girls traveling to Our Chalet, Girl Guide/Girl Scout World Center in Switzerland, for a Swiss Challenge Adventure.
She is a board member since 2007 of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, a past Athena award committee member and immediate past chair of the Vision Henderson County Alumni Association. She is also a community volunteer and board member for the North Carolina Apple Festival, serving as a volunteer from 1996 to 2006 and a board member from 2007 to present. She served as president of the 71st North Carolina Apple Festival last year.

She served as the funds allocation panel chair and member for the United Way of Henderson County from 2000 to 2009 and has been a Team Captain for the yearly giving campaign with three employers.

Growing up in the small community of Fontana Dam, she talks about her upbringing and influential women in her life. Two of the most important were her grandmother and her Girl Scout Leader. Lee will tell you that her grandmother, Reba, was a very strong mountain woman who always did whatever it would take, always with love and compassion.

She has won numerous awards for her Girl Scout leadership, including recently the Juliette Gordon Low Pearls award for her commitment to Girl Scouting locally and internationally. In 2014, Lee was named a “Dedicated Women of Western North Carolina” by area news professionals for her commitment to Girl Scouting and making the world a better place. She also received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor, for completing 4,000 or more hours of volunteer service with Girl Scouts.

"Lee will tell you one of her most proud accomplishments and honors is being a Wife, Mom and Grams," Stroud said. She is married to Dale Hill, who is employed by L&L Hill’s Body Shop in East Flat Rock. They have two children, Drew Hill and Brittney Lee Holder. Drew, who lives in Horse Shoe, has four children who call Lee “Grams.” Brittney, who was the 2005 NC Apple Festival Apple Ambassador, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and is assistant director of development for the Catamount Club at Western Carolina University.