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Debbie McKee-Fowler, right, her husband Randy Fowler, second from left, and his sister DeAnn Fowler, talk with Ben Wygal, left, at the 2015 Tennessee Women of Distinction event Friday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

When Betty Jolly signed up for the local Alpha Beta ESA sorority chapter in 1951, women had been spending their volunteer time knitting for the servicemen.

Jolly, an 86-year-old Hixson resident, laughs as she recalls how women's volunteer roles have changed and how her own volunteer work has expanded in the last 60 years to include raising money for elderly residents at Orange Grove Center to get an apartment makeover, overseeing all of the ticket sales in Tennessee for the St. Jude Dream Home and leading the initiative's recruitment efforts for volunteers.

As one of the 13 women honored at Friday's Women of Distinction banquet, which is a benefit for the American Lung Association, Jolly said she wants to remember those who fostered her love of volunteer service and to encourage young women to find ways to better their community at a young age.

"It was really a pleasant surprise [to be nominated]," she said. "The main thing is that I was afforded the opportunity to get started in service to others through ESA. It just started gradually over the years."

For the last 30 years, this award has been given to women in Chattanooga who were leaders, volunteers, philanthropists and role models in the community and continues to inspire the community, said Cindy Sexton, a WRCB-TV anchorwoman and the banquet emcee.

Yet the award has changed in the last 30 years. The Woman of Distinction award began in 1985 when Loveman's, a Tennessee-based department store chain, started to recognize women in Chattanooga for their style, Sexton said, initially calling the award, Chattanooga's Best Dressed Women. Former Times Publisher Ruth Holmberg and local philanthropist, Elizabeth Lupton Davenport were among the earliest women to be awarded the honor.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick Smith at jsmith@ timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

This story has been changed to reflect the correct name of Betty's Jolly's sorority.

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