The Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority (PARA) has announced the three individuals who have been chosen as Grand Marshals for the 45th Annual West Alabama Christmas Parade, which will be held on Monday, Dec. 6.

This year's parade theme is "Super Heroes Celebrate Christmas."

The 2021 Grand Marshals are Pam Parker, Nancie Blewitt, and Jheovanny Gomez. To be nominated as a Grand Marshal, individuals must have "significant community contributions, lifetime achievements with a lasting community impact [and] career accomplishments."

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PARA says that each individual who has chosen to be a grand marshal this year "is set apart by their own unique path, [and that] all three are a testament to the strength of service to the community, and their impact across Tuscaloosa County is undeniable."

DR. PAM PARKER

Dr. Pam Parker is the former Vice President of Advancement at the University of Alabama and the founder of Philanthropic Partners, LLC. Parker has a bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree from the University of Alabama.

PARA says that Parker "has dedicated her life to helping others receive the same educational opportunities afforded to her."

Parker has held leadership roles in several local nonprofits and civic groups such as the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, the United Way of West Alabama, the Community Foundation of West Alabama and Christ Episcopal Church.

Parker is also served as the interim president of the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama in 2017. She is also a member of Leadership Alabama, Junior League of Tuscaloosa, the University Club, Counseling Ministry Professionals and served on the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Commission. She has also spent time as an advisor to student groups such as the Other Club and The XXXI.

Recently Parker has been working in a collaborative effort with the University of Alabama Honors College, Rotary Club, and the Tuscaloosa City and County Schools to found Reading Allies.

Reading Allies is "an innovative reading initiative to improve literacy among elementary school students in Tuscaloosa and Alabama."

Parker has also been awarded many prestigious honors in the last 20 years, including the Association of Fundraising Professional's Willliam Roth Fundraising Executive Award in 2006, "the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for excellent character and service to humanity" in 2015, the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Alabama in 2018. The award is given to an alumnus who exhibits extraordinary service to their communities and the University of Alabama. She also won the Alice Williams Community Impact Award in 2020. In addition, she was named the 2019 Citizen of the Year by the Tuscaloosa Civitan Club and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

NANCIE BLEWITT

The next Grand Marshal is Nancie Blewitt, a New York City native and 47-year resident of Tuscaloosa. She has spent 40 years working as a swim coach and instructor.

"It is widely known around the community that anyone who learned to swim in Tuscaloosa almost certainly attended classes taught by Blewitt, and some of her former students have even rejoined her program as assistants," PARA said. "Her lessons and swim training, offered every summer for children to improve their swim skills and endurance, have expanded into beginner and intermediate lessons being offered in the fall and spring due to high demand. Blewitt also instructs pre-team and swim team participants, and many of her student-athletes return each year, progressing through the levels. In addition, the community summer competitive swim league has remained in existence as a testament to Blewitt's passion and dedication."

Blewitt also advocates for organizations to become swim team sponsors and organizes summer meets, including "the Tuscaloosa City-County Swim Championships and annual swim-a-thon benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters."

Blewitt has also coached for a local nonprofit called Crimson Tide Aquatics (CTA). In addition, she spent 35 years working with the year-round competitive club swim team prior to her retirement in 2018. Blewitt has also volunteered for the Red Cross as a Swim instructor.

Blewitt also founded the Saint Mark United Methodist Church Food Pantry, and the organization has been serving the Tuscaloosa area for 30 years.

Blewitt was also honored in 2016 when the Bowers Park Pool was named the Nancie Blewitt Swim Complex.

JHEOVANNY GOMEZ

The third and final Grand Marshal is Jheovanny Gomez, a South American native who moved to Tuscaloosa in May 1999 to study English at the University of Alabama's English Language Institute (ELI). Gomez opened the first Jalapeños Mexican Grill in Tuscaloosa in 2001. He is now the manager and co-owner of two locations in Tuscaloosa and Northport.

As a small business owner, Gomez has endured hardships along the way, but he continues to spend time giving back to his community. He provides food for many fundraising events free of charge and also hosts a monthly lunch for first responders. During the pandemic, Gomez implemented curbside take-out into his business model as a creative way to continue serving customers.

"Gomez has served in leadership positions within various organizations," PARA said. "[This includes] the Diverse Business Council of West Alabama, the Druid City Business League, and the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama. Presently, Gomez serves on the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation Board, the United Way of West Alabama Board, the BB&T Bank Advisory Board, the University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies Board of Visitors, the Shelton State Community College Foundation Board, the Hospice of West Alabama Board, the PARA Foundation Board, the Eagles' Wings of Tuscaloosa Board, the Department of Human Resources of Tuscaloosa County Board, the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority, and the Northport Redevelopment Authority. Gomez is also the current Vice President of Membership and Investor Relations for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and a member of the Commerce and Information Advisory Committee for Holt High School."

Gov. Kay Ivey appointed Gomez to the Small Business Commission for the State of Alabama, and he served from 2015 to 2017.

Gomez has won many notable awards, "including the 2014 Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Member of the Year, Alabama Retailer of the Year Golden Award (2016), the Minority Business Council Trailblazer Award (2017), SCORE's Small Business Champions Award (2018), and the West Alabama Young Leadership Award (2019)." This year he was inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame (2021).

Those who would like to register for the parade should visit PARA's website.

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