Husband and wife singing stars Vince Gill and Amy Grant have been recognized by Nashville's Tennessean newspaper as Tennesseans of the Year for 2011. The couple were chosen by the newspaper's editorial board for their collective years of work on behalf of various charities across the state, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the American Red Cross and the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee.

In making the decision, the editorial board noted, "Amy Grant and Vince Gill not only make a meaningful impact on the global stage through their music, but their philanthropy also helps people throughout Tennessee."

Earlier this year, one of Nashville's largest charity umbrella groups, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, gave the couple its 18th annual Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award in an awards ceremony at a Nashville hotel-hosted banquet.

"At the beginning, Vince walked out and he was already crying after going through the well-wishers in the lobby," says foundation president Ellen Lehman.

An emotional video presentation during that event was followed by the gift of a quilt to the couple representing the 60 nonprofits and organizations they have supported.

"I loved everybody in that whole room. That's how I felt. It made me so glad to have lived in the same town for all of my life," Amy recalls. "I knew we were not in New York or Chicago, because it was a whole room of people visiting, telling old stories, not in a rush."

"I'm proud to be a part of that [philanthropic] community." says Vince. "I'm proud that there's a whole side of Nashville that doesn't have anything to do with music at all that likes us. Nashville, it's my hometown. It has a giving personality, and for a lot of people, [serving others] is a way of life."

It's a way of life that began for the Oklahoma native at the start of his music career in the early '80s, when he first received invitations to play and to host fund-raisers.

"I think the very first thing I did was host a little golf tournament for Mercy Homes because somebody asked me. 'Really? You want me to host this? OK!'" the singer says. 'If somebody thinks you can help, that's such a great feeling."

The couple's involvement in charity events this year included co-headlining a fund-raiser show for the historic Franklin Theatre in downtown Franklin, south of Nashville; hosting (Vince) and performing (Amy) at the Jammin' to Beat the Blues fund-raiser show for the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee and hosting the eighth annual Vince Gill and Amy Grant Golf Classic in Aspen, Colo., to benefit Challenge Aspen, which provides recreation and cultural outings for people with disabilities.

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