Archie's Acceptance Speech

I'm so excited.  I just can't hide it.  I'm about to lose control and I think I may say something I'll regret, such as "You like The Hat Ladies!  You really like the Hat Ladies!"

So I'll take a deep breath and do what I do best...Find something to hang my hat on!  (At this point, I pull my speech out of my hat...and put my hat back on)!

I left my hometown of Chicago with a love of hats, a passion for bringing people together, and a desire to be anonymous.

Oh well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Never could I imagine I would someday stand before you and pull the Community Catalyst Award OUT of a hat....  Of course, I like to call it the Hatalyst Award...

But just like the Academy Award winners, I did not do it at the drop of a hat. It took eleven years and nearly 1,000 Ladies of ALL ages who loved hats of ALL colors tossing THEIR hats in this ring and wanting to make a difference.  They took a chance on a Lady they didn't know and an Organization they didn't quite understand.  For that matter, neither did I.

With a hat on our head and a smile on our face, we created the motto---When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good.  We became what Judy Watts, then Fashion Editor of The Post and Courier, described as "one of the most active groups in town, lending their enthusiastic support to other causes." 

Imagine a sea of hats standing on this stage with me.

Next I want to thank the entire City of Charleston.  YES, the entire City of Charleston.  We always knew we were the best City in the world.  And we knew why:  Charleston brings out the BEST in US.  It MAKES us want to GIVE BACK. Whether it comes from its foundation in plough mud or the answer is blowing in the wind off the Ocean, there is an atmosphere that enables us to be... who we were destined to be.

I LOVED the Windy City and had a productive life in the 48 years I lived there.  But I have flourished and evolved in The HOLY City...a city that points with pride to the fact WE have the largest and best Day of Caring in the nation.

Imagine the entire City of Charleston standing on this stage with me.

I cannot minimize the role this gracious City played in welcoming and appreciating The Hat Ladies.  But I cannot ignore the role my HEREDITY played.  As I share these two examples, please realize I did not KNOW about them until years AFTER starting The Hat Ladies:

My paternal Great Grandfather settled in Collinsville, Oklahoma when it was still Indian Territory.  I traced my roots to that little town three years ago.  A search of the archives of the newspaper revealed that HATS were the item most featured in his dry goods store.  I even OWN some that are similar to the ones in his ads.

Imagine my Great Grandfather standing on this stage with me.

Next my Mother told me my Grandmother loved and wore hats so much she was known in Chicago AS The Hat Lady!  She would head to Marshall Fields, her 3 children in tow, and go straight to the hat department...even though she could barely afford them...the children OR the hats... It is no coincidence that today would have been my Grandmother's 122nd birthday.

Imagine her standing on this stage with me.

Finally I would not be here at all... in Charleston OR on this stage...if it weren't for my husband, John. Like so many, we drove in from Atlanta as tourists in 1994.  Walking its historic streets, we realized what a great place it would be to live!  John said, "Why not DO IT once my work with the Olympics ends. One funny aside...we were so enamored with the peninsula, we didn't even realize the extent to which we'd get the Ocean and the marsh, in the package.  There's more to that story...see me afterwards...

But The HAT LADIES would not be here if John had not loved hats on my head.  He encouraged me to see where SIMPLY WEARING THEM might lead. He's always there to help... especially to take pictures at our events.  After all, next to hearing the words, "I love your hat," we love to hear "Can I take your picture."

The Hat Ladies call him a trooper...even bought him a genuine trooper hat.  I call him the wind beneath my wings. 

Imagine him standing cold over THERE in the shadow.

Just as he stood on the sidelines and watched his gymnasts take state titles and win Olympic gold, so has he been content to be in the shadows and let the light shine on MY face.

Tonight my hat is off to him, Charleston Magazine, Coastal Community Foundation, and all of you. The Hat Ladies thank you, my ancestors thank you, and I thank you.  (And yes, I took my hat off, once again)

The Community Catalyst Award