D orange

Charlotte Woman of the Year | Velva Woollen, 1998


Charlotte Woman of the Year LogoEach year the Charlotte Woman of the Year organization awards a local woman who exemplifies philanthropy, advocacy and community.

Charlotte Woman of the Year began in 1955 and is one of the area’s most prestigious awards, honoring “exceptional service and exemplary leadership to the Charlotte Mecklenburg community.” Award recipients are nominated by community organizations and voted on by previous award recipients in categories of civic contributions, scope and impact of leadership in the community, and history of service and leadership.

In 1999, the awards ceremony included an “educational lecture in conjunction with Levine Museum of the New South’s ‘A Woman’s Place,’” held each March for Woman’s History Month.

In honor of the upcoming Charlotte Woman of the Year Award/A Woman’s Place on March 22, we are taking a look back and speaking with previous award recipients. These exceptional women have supported a spectrum of causes including healthcare, entertainment, business, and education. 

Meet 2004 Woman of the Year, Velva Woollen

What does arts and culture mean to you and what should it mean to the Charlotte community?  

Arts and Culture are the heart and spirit of a community.  I first became interested in the arts in Charlotte with the effort to save the old First Baptist Church building uptown, which turned out to house Spirit Square, a center for the arts for all the people.  The arts encompass a broad spectrum of our lives, important to the education of the “whole person” in order to help find their own creativity and happiness in life.  My second major cultural interest was helping in the creation of Discovery Place, built to help children add to their discovery of   science.

As an advocate for housing and family self-sufficiency, what programs do you support and why?   

I became interested in housing for the part it played in helping generational poverty people become self sufficient, and to reach their God-given potential when I was elected to City Council (1983-1990).  I believe everyone should have access to safe and sanitary housing, and because I consider public housing a privilege and not a right, I worked on tying in the concept of self-sufficiency in Charlotte housing, and visited Washington on several occasions when the Clinton Administration was developing a new Welfare-to-Work program for welfare program participants.  I am supportive of the Housing Trust Fund, the Charlotte Housing Authority and the Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.  These organizations working together with Habitat, can provide a positive pathway to upward mobility for folks that need a helping hand.

Velva Woollen Charlotte Woman of the Year 2004How does history play a role in your advocacy? 

We know that change and progress in our own lives and in our community can be seen by comparing the present with historical background.  Looking at the past, we find we can improve by introspection.  Our country’s and our community’s history is a valuable treasure.  With the passage of time, important events provide us lessons and experiences that shape who we are and what we do.  It is said it only takes one or two generations to forget our past, and that is why we must preserve our present and record the lessons we have learned for those that follow.

What empowers you? 

Every morning when my feet hit the floor, I am thankful for good health, education and family support to accept responsibility for helping those less fortunate around me.  The words, “To those to whom much is given, much is expected” guide me.

What does it mean to be the recipient of the 1998 Charlotte Woman of the Year award? 

To be honored or selected by one’s peers for works done as a volunteer for the sole purpose of “giving back to the community,” and attempting to make life a little better for all, is the highest of honors.  I was humbled then, and continue to work for the well being of all every day.  


This year's Charlotte Women of the Year are Jill Dinwiddie and Susan Patterson. A Woman's Place explores the evolving role of women in the New South and honors women's civic leadership and service in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. This year's program "Civic Activism Now" features a panel discussion moderated by Vi Lyles, 2003 Woman of the Year and Charltote City Council Member. Panelists Janet Cowell, North Carolina State Treasurer, Janeen Bryant, Regional Director, Leadership for Educational Equity and amalia deloney, Senior Program Officer, Media Democracy Fund; will examine the evolution of civict activism including new tactics, technologies and current movements that are making an impact on our socity today. 

A Woman's Place & the Charlotte Woman of the Year Award takes place Tuesday, March 22, 7 pm at Wells Fargo Playhouse, 300 E. Seventh Street, Charlotte, NC. Tickets are free, reservations are required. To reserve your tickets visit by Tuesday, March 15.