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A.G. Gaston Conference Announces 2018 Award Recipients

By Bob Dickerson
Special to the Times

The A. G. Gaston Conference has announced recipients of its People’s Choice Community Service Awards to be presented during the Empowerment Luncheon, on Wednesday, February 21.

Yolanda Sullivan, CEO of YWCA Central Alabama will receive the A. G. Gaston Award.  Prior to her appointment as chief executive officer, Sullivan volunteered with the YWCA for 20 years, serving as president of both the Junior Board and the Board of Directors.

She took the helm of the YWCA in 2013 after her 30-year career at Vulcan Materials, where she was Corporate Human Resources Director and worked in finance. At the YWCA, Sullivan leads an organization that is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity.

Sullivan serves on the board of The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, is incoming secretary of the Rotary Club of Birmingham and is a member of The Women’s Network, Zonta International and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. She has served in the past on the boards of United Way of Central Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art, St. Vincent’s Health System and The Bell Center.

Sullivan is a recognized leader and a graduate of Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, Momentum, and Project Corporate Leadership. Sullivan was named one of three “Women to Watch” by the Birmingham Business Journal and was one of Positive Maturity’s Top 50 Over 50. She was also selected as one of the 2016 Women Who Shape the State by AL.com.

The committee who selected Sullivan felt she has made contribution in a quiet, reserved and elegant manner. Throughout her career and service, she, like A.G. Gaston, has found needs in our community and filled them.

Community Service Award

The Community Service award recipients are a dynamic duo that decided during their football days at Samford University to establish a legacy of philanthropy and civic leadership for Birmingham and Alabama.

Isaac Cooper and Devyn S. Keith were nominated by fellow young professionals and community leaders for exemplary character and integrity. Cooper and Keith are shining examples of servant leadership, inspiring other young African-Americans to pursue their dreams no matter the obstacle.

Though he grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, most of Cooper’s family lives in Jamaica and London.  His trek to Birmingham began when recruited by Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan at Samford University. Isaac received a full athletic scholarship to Samford as a defensive back. He graduated in 2012 then moved into financial services. Cooper founded iMC Financial Consulting with the intention of leaving a legacy not only for his family but also for the families of the clients he serves.

Keith is a Huntsville native. After a stellar career as an accomplished student-athlete at Sparkman High School, Devyn, enrolled at Samford, starred as a football player while concentrating on his studies in Human Development and Family Science. While in college, he started a nonprofit called Brothers of 1 Voice or BO1V, aimed at educating, empowering, and advocating for youth who have aged out of state support service. Additionally, he was also involved with a number of Birmingham City based programs that worked to increase public awareness, municipal accountability and civic engagement.

In November 2016, Keith became the youngest elected official in the history of Huntsville, Alabama. His outlook on increasing civic engagement, progressive policies, and positive perspectives have been a mainstay throughout his career and will remain at the forefront of his tenure as the District 1 Representative of the Huntsville City Council.

The awards will be presented during the Conference Empowerment Luncheon on Wednesday, February 21.  The conference begins on Tuesday February 20 at a luncheon featuring Andre Taylor, an influential force in this modern era of entrepreneurship who is grounded in decades of real business-building experience and Maggie Anderson, author of Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy. Wednesday’s luncheon speaker will once again be Ramon Ray, editor of Smart Hustle Magazine, who returns to the conference by popular demand. All the events will take place at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center, East Meetings Rooms.

To register for the conference, or for more information, visit www.aggastonconference.biz. Robert Dickerson is executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center.