Distributing Kindness: Decatur man’s commitment to community earns him the Caddell-Grisham Award
By Catherine Godbey | Living 50 Plus
In 1985 or 1986 — Wade Weaver can no longer remember which year it was for certain — he took a meeting with Trudy Grisham, who was then the president of the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation.
In his small office in the Church Street warehouse he rented while starting Decatur’s Valley Budweiser distributorship, Weaver listened as Grisham pitched the hospital’s capital campaign and asked for a donation.
“There I was, less than a year into starting the business. I had bought two trucks, borrowed another and hired 11 people and Trudy asked me for $10,000 a year for five years for a total of $50,000. I thought she was crazy,” Weaver said. “But her presentation was such that I knew one day, when I could, I would do something.”
And he did.
As general manager of Valley Budweiser, the 65-year-old Weaver has sponsored all 20 of the foundation’s golf tournaments and all 10 of the foundation’s dragon boat races.
“You want to do whatever you can to fund the hospital, but it makes it easy when they are putting on events like dragon boat,” Weaver said. “Not only is your business visible at a great event, you are also doing something to help the hospital.”
At Christmastime, Weaver makes tributes to the foundation’s Lights of Love program in honor of family and friends.
“I don’t do Christmas cards, so Lights of Love is like my Christmas cards,” Weaver said.
For his commitment to the hospital and the community, the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation will honor Weaver with the Caddell-Grisham Award.
“I think it’s fantastic that we are honoring Wade this year. He has been a great friend to the hospital and a champion for our community for decades. He doesn’t ask for — or probably even want — recognition, but he certainly deserves it,” Noel Lovelace said.
Weaver shied away from the praise.
“I feel like they should have canceled the award before they got to me,” Weaver said with a laugh. “Truly, I was surprised, very surprised. It’s very special because of the people who have received it before me. They are pillars of the community. To just be mentioned with them is quite an honor.”
Weaver’s journey to being named along with the city’s pillars started in college.
A product of Birmingham, Weaver attended the University of Alabama in Birmingham where he studied business and marketing.
“Truthfully, the money is why I chose business and marketing. I wanted a job where I would be comfortable,” Weaver said.
After graduation, Weaver worked at Birmingham Budweiser. When the Dobbs family, out of Memphis, bought six distributorships in New Mexico, Weaver’s immediate boss asked him to help run the businesses in the Southwest.
Weaver stayed in New Mexico for 2½ years until November 1984 when, by 306 votes, Decatur voted to allow alcohol sales. In 1985, he returned to Alabama to start Valley Budweiser.
“I fell in love with Decatur. I couldn’t think of a better place to live. When I was younger, I probably thought a big city was the place to be. I lived in Albuquerque and Birmingham, but Decatur felt like home. It is amazing how welcoming and friendly the people are,” Weaver said.
Soon after moving to Decatur, Weaver became entrenched in the community.
He became a member of the Rotary Club of Decatur and currently serves as the public policy chairman for the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and on the boards for Decatur Morgan County Tourism, Morgan County Economic Development, the Business Council of Alabama and Tennessee Valley Outreach, which helps the homeless and hungry by providing temporary living accommodations and food.
“The Tennessee Valley Outreach is dear to my heart. I’ve been on that board for longer than I can remember. That’s kind of my key charity,” Weaver said. “It’s a great organization. They help people that want to be helped. They don’t just feed and house them, they minister to them. They try to help them get a job and a home if they can live on their own.”
Along with the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation, Weaver and Valley Budweiser have financially contributed to, helped sponsor or donated to the Decatur Jaycees, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, 3rd Fridays in downtown Decatur, the Volunteer Center of Morgan County, tourism events, the Lions Club, St. Ann’s Catholic Church and many other organizations.
“If there has been an event in Decatur, there’s a good chance we’ve been part of it. Giving back is just part of the business I am in. In beer distribution there are programs that rate distributorships with ambassadors of excellence awards. A big portion of that is they want to see how you are committed to your community,” Weaver said. “When we give, it feels like we are doing something good for the community. We know the organizations, the people running them and the people benefiting from them.”
For inspiration, Weaver has looked to the Shabel family, who own Pepsi Cola Bottling Decatur.
“If you want to see someone who is doing it right, look at the Shabel family and Pepsi. They are committed to this community. When I first got to Decatur, I decided I wanted to be that guy like the Shabel family. I wanted to have the same impact on the community the Shabel family had. To do that would be a big accomplishment,” Weaver said.