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American Legion Post 5 honors Art Helf with Leon Gilbert Memorial Award


Harris Gilbert; Hoyte Robinson, National Alternate Delegate to the National Commander; Art Helf, honoree; Gary R. Drennon, State Commander for Tennessee, American Legion; and E.M. Ghianni, immediate Past Commander Post 5.

The American Legion Post 5 of Nashville selected and honored Art Helf, chairman of the Tennessee Commerce Bancorp, with the Leon Gilbert Memorial Award.

“The Leon Gilbert Memorial Award is a very prestigious honor, which was first presented in 1982 to recognize a person who is a community leader and involved in civic groups, especially with young adults and children,” explained EM Ghianni, immediate Past Commander for American Legion Post 5 of Nashville.

“The honoree does not have to be a veteran; nor does the honoree have to be a member of Post 5. What the person needs to be is an outstanding community leader who is committed to adding quality of life to others and especially to our military forces and veterans,” said Ghianni. “Art Helf exemplifies the qualities of the awards namesake, Leon Gilbert, one of our Post 5 members who was committed to bettering the lives of others.”

Leon Gilbert’s nephew, Harris Gilbert, assisted in presenting the award to Helf.

Helf has served as president of the Franklin Rotary at Breakfast, where he was recognized for outstanding support of community activities. He provided the environment that resulted in the establishment of READING ROCKS, a remedial reading effort directed to students who require intervention at the middle-school level. Helf coordinated a joint program involving Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and several civic groups to support soldiers and families on the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry Brigade, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and support for wives called Very Important Charity Event (VICE) for the past several years.

He coordinated support from the community banks in the Franklin area to provide transportation to the entire 1st Battalion (and their families) from Fort Campbell to Williamson County, where the community hosted a Welcome Home Parade and picnic for more than 2,000 persons in November 2006.  He was instrumental in coordinating support for the Fisher House, a Fort Campbell based effort supporting wounded servicemen and women upon their return to the United States.

Helf served as chairman and board member of the Brentwood/Cool Springs Chamber of Commerce, where he co-chaired their signature fundraiser GALA event during 2003/4. He subsequently served as founding chairman of the Greater Cool Springs Chamber of Commerce and board of directors. Helf was a member of the board of directors of the Franklin YMCA and provides personal and professional support to the Franklin Boys and Girls Club, Bridges of Williamson County, the African-American Heritage Society, Brightstone, Youth Encouragement Services and the Boy Scouts of American.

He co-chaired the 2007 Star Spangled Heritage Ball at the Carnton Mansion which recognized the patriotism and service of men and women. Helf coordinated, with the Cool Springs Campus of Belmont University, an effort to provide targeted evening education services to businessmen and women in the Cool Springs area.

The American Legion Post 5 joins a long list of organizations that have honored Helf. In 2006 he received the first annual “Friend of 4-H” award for his continued support for a wide range of 4H programs. Helf has been recognized as one of the 25 Most Influential People in Williamson County by the Nashville Business Journal and Williamson Works. He was recognized as on of Williamson County’s Top 25 in 2004 and again in 2006 by the Nashville Business Journal, Williamson Works and First Tennessee Bank.

Professionally he serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tennessee Commerce Bancorp, Inc. and Tennessee Commerce Bank, located in Cool Springs (Franklin), Tennessee. A founding member of the bank, which opened in January 2000, Tennessee Commerce Bank focuses on small and mid-sized businesses. The bank has grown at a compounded rate over 40 percent a year since inception and posted $1 billion in assets during May, 2008, which is unusual considering it has been accomplished without the benefit of branches or acquisitions. Tennessee Commerce Bank was named the best bank in Tennessee for entrepreneurs who need business loans of less than $100,000, according to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) study on small-business lending activities, Small Business and Micro Business Lending in the United States for Data Years 2003-2004. Helf serves as a member of the Legislative Committee of the Tennessee Bankers Association.

American Legion Post 5 of Nashville was chartered July 24, 1919. Post 5 does not have a Post Home but has regular meetings and has an Office in the War Memorial Building. Post 5 is an active Post with more than 1,000 members; the third largest Post in Tennessee. Visit for more information.

Posted on: 6/12/2008


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