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Signalink’s Lessmann honored as Philanthropic Businessperson of the Year; Rankin as Madison Visionary of the Year

MADISON – Hosted by the local nonprofit, Madison Visionary Partners, the second annual Madison Visionary Awards honored several individuals recognized for their contributions to the community.  

Alice Lessmann, chief executive officer of Signalink, was honored as Philanthropic Businessperson of the Year for her work leading the company’s commitment to social responsibility as highlighted by its dedicated efforts in the realms of education and veteran support.

“We have the best community who just wants to give back,” said Lessman. “And I’m very excited for our Madison city students for volunteering, they are doing so much!”

In addition to Philanthropic Businessperson of the Year, Thursday’s event at the SportsMed Club at Toyota Field recognized Andrew Crocker as Youth Volunteer of the Year, Sandy Weisner as Community Volunteer of the Year and John Rankin as Madison Visionary of the Year.  

Last year’s Madison Visionary of the Year honoree, Debbie Overcash, introduced Rankin as “the man who knows Madison best.”  

“If you have ever noticed a cemetery in the city or learned anything about local history, you have likely encountered our nominee,” said Overcash. “He has spent the last 30 years finding, exploring, and improving cemeteries in Madison County and North Alabama.”

A member of the Madison Station Historical Preservation Society, Rankin has written books about Madison’s history, and spent hours interviewing past Madison residents. 

“I really can’t believe it,” said Rankin. “I’ve only done what I needed to do.”  

Rankin also referenced the MVP slogan, “Love Where You Live.”

“I want to tell you for sure I love where I live,” he said. “Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve loved doing.”

MVP Executive Director Melanie Thornton said the Madison Visionary of the Year award is the community’s highest community honor. 

“The Madison Visionary of the Year is bestowed upon an individual who lives or works in the City of Madison and has demonstrated exceptional leadership, vision, and drive,” she said.

Thornton also made a several announcements, including a pledge of $150,000 for the Madison Community Center from Starfish Holdings. Thornton thanked Steve and Alice Lessmann, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Scott and Amy Edwards, Bob and Phylis Baron, and the Alpha Foundation for their contributions to the center that will “create a space for all members of our community.”

In addition to the Community Center update, Thornton said public art is coming to Madison. 

“We’ve also been hard at work collaborating with the city to bring to life the Madison Mural Trail,” she said. “And today, I am overjoyed to announce that work will begin next week on  not one, but two murals.”

The murals will be outside Honest Coffee at the Avenue and on the side of 14 Main Street in downtown Madison. 

“These will easily become two of the most photographed places in Madison, driving even more people to our downtown area and local businesses,” said Thornton.  

With an eye to the future, Thornton said MVP is partnering with the Community Foundation to launch the Madison Now, Madison Forever Fund – the foundation’s first geographic fund and an endowment for the city of Madison. 

“The Madison Now, Madison Forever fund is a Now and Later fund, meaning that 50% of all donations would support current year grant-making to make an immediate impact on the city of Madison,” said Thornton. “The remaining 50% of donations would be added to the Madison Forever endowment to serve as a permanent source of funding to address future community needs in the city of Madison.”

At the event, MVP awarded grants totaling $10,000 to five area organizations.  

“One of the many ways that MVP decided it could make a  big difference within Madison is through our micro-grant program designed for nonprofits and other eligible organizations who want to bring quality-of-life enhancing projects to the people of Madison,” said MVP Board Member Stephenie Walker.

The groups include the Madison City Community Orchestra to support its free community concert series in Madison, Madison City Schools to provide continued funding for the Paws for a Purpose, the Huntsville-Madison County Library Foundation to support a sensory story time for for all types of listeners, and the Huntsville Hospital Foundation to provide funding for more than 90 fidget blankets for Alzheimer’s patients at the Madison Hospital as part of their Forget Me Not program.

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