New park facilities, a walking path, and a community garden for the county prison are among the projects being funded by the 2015 grants awarded by the South Cumberland Community Fund.
“Since 2012, one of our core missions has been to cultivate resources by supporting nonprofit organizations across the Plateau. We are thrilled with this newest series of projects which create opportunities for our youth, build new community spaces, and expand local support services for our communities,” said Margaret Woods, board president of the Community Fund.
The recipients were honored on Sunday, August 2, at Otey Parish Church in SewaneeThe 2015 grant recipients are:
The City of Coalmont, thanks to a group of volunteers led by Jeff Sholey working in partnership with county government and the South Cumberland Community Fund, now enjoys a public park on the shore of Big Creek Lake. The park was built in 2013 on county-owned land that had not been developed or maintained for recreational uses. The subsequent popularity of the park for families in the area has led to plans to add a 4000-foot gravel-walking trail. This grant of $10,000 will support the construction of the trail, which is expected to increase community access to safe areas for healthy exercise.
The City of Palmer is blessed with a town center where a public park, a museum of mining, the seat of government, and the public school are all in close proximity. The park has multiple features, including ball fields and a walking trail, but it lacks a basic and essential element, namely a restroom. In cooperation with the Conservation Committee of Grundy County and with the support of this $10,000 grant, the community of Palmer will construct an ADA accessible restroom to serve the park patrons, especially families for whom such facilities are expected and necessary for extended use of the park.
The Grundy County Sheriff’s office, with the assistance of a $9,500 grant, will construct a greenhouse and raised garden beds. Inmates, jail administrators, youth probationers, and the community will maintain the garden and greenhouse, and food grown there will feed the inmates and be shared with the community. Taking care of the mini-farm will be a daily chore for inmates, who will receive training from community partners in planting and storing food. This new facility will provide a source of pride, a productive learning experience tied to family security and employment opportunities, and a positive connection that will build community support for inmates when they are released.
The Grundy County Historical Society library and research center holds approximately 1,600 books, photographs albums, and newsletters, as well as thousands of loose historical documents that date as far back as the 1840s, including volumes of records pertaining to the coal, iron/steel, and railroad industries of the region. This grant of $7,406.05 will enable the Historical Society to purchase library software to identify, organize, and improve public access to its holdings. In addition, the grant will support the temporary employment of a professional librarian to implement the project and train voluntary staff in managing the Society’s records and special collections in the future.
North Elementary School, operating under the auspices of the Grundy County Board of Education, is working to make its gymnasium a more effective venue for multi-media presentations, programs, assemblies, and sporting events. Lacking an auditorium, the gymnasium is the only setting for an extraordinary variety of school-related and community presentations. The configuration of the gym with side seating makes it difficult for the audience to see and hear many such programs. With this grant of $10,000, the school will purchase two automated projection screens, two wireless projectors, and the hardware to operate them. In addition, new microphones and speakers will be purchased to upgrade the school’s PA system.
Palmer Elementary School, one of seven public elementary schools in Grundy County, was built in 1927. It is one of only two schools with both a gymnasium and an auditorium. This grant of $1,600 will enable the school to replace its 15-year-old PA system with blue-tooth and wireless technology to serve both venues. The school has over 75 events (sports, spelling bees, Christmas plays, etc.) during the year, not counting daily assemblies. The completion of the two thousand dollar project will be enabled by additional investments by the town and the school, plus local business and individual contributors.
Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park is a one-year old organization formed to create a major public recreation area for people of all ages with special emphasis on children with special needs in Grundy and surrounding counties. The park will be constructed on 14 acres of land leased from the County and located across Highway 108 from the high school. MOMPOP is an extraordinary and ambitious project for our region. It will be built in phases. This grant of $10,000 will be applied to the $51,900 cost of Phase I, which will include parking and roadway access, restrooms and a concession stand, an amphitheater, and paved pathways to make the entire area ADA compliant.
Mountain Heritage Preservation Society was established to educate the community, especially its children, about the unique cultural heritage they inherit from growing up on the Cumberland Plateau. The hope is that people will be strengthened by an understanding of and loyalty to that heritage. The Preservation Society is best known for the annual Mountaineers Day Festival, but the organization is broadly committed to advancing the welfare of our mountain communities. This grant of $10,000 will enable the Society to partner with the local baseball/softball organization in the construction of batting cages at the current ballfield in Tracy City. That organization has renewed energy and stability from growth over the last four years, and seeks further upgrades and expansion of the facilities in coming years.
Mountain T.O.P. is a forty-year old interdenominational ministry dedicated to addressing issues of poverty in our rural Cumberland region. The organization has drawn upon a culture of faith-based social commitment to recruit individuals, families, and church groups to work on projects that meet social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. The projects are usually organized around repair of homes and the operation of day camps for children and youth on the Plateau. The Adventure Guild in Chattanooga has assisted Mountain T.O.P.in the construction and operation of two challenge courses (a low and a high ropes course) on the Altamont campus. TAG has now gifted the courses to Mountain T.O.P., and with this grant of $8,009, the organization will purchase equipment and training for its staff members for the ongoing operation of the program. It is expected that the new arrangement will be more economically efficient and enable Mountain T.O.P. to recruit additional retreat groups that are attracted to the area’s exceptional wilderness hiking and camping resources.
The Sewanee Children’s Center is a preschool operated by a parents’ cooperative to provide early learning experiences in a full-day program to children age two to five. The Center also provides afterschool care for preschoolers and children through eight years of age. Under the leadership of new director Harriet Runkle, the SCC has planned a school/community garden to serve as an outdoor classroom to teach students gardening skills, healthy eating habits, life cycles of plants and animals, and good stewardship of natural resources. Produce will be shared with the Community Action Center and used for special events at Otey Parish. This grant of $9,587 will enable the construction of the 40’ by 60’ garden, including a deer-proof fence, the need for which requires no explanation to anyone who lives in our area.
Sewanee Community Chest, organized by the long-standing Sewanee Civic Association, has raised a million dollars in the last decade to support local organizations serving the public good. During its storied history, the SCA has advanced the welfare of the unincorporated community of Sewanee and the region around it through initiatives as diverse as building the public elementary school, completing a state highway to the Marion County line, and raising money for a black community center. The Parks Committee of SCA has proposed to restore Elliott Park on the campus of the University at a cost of $70,000. The park, open to the public, will have a rich assortment of features to promote physical adventures by children. The Community Chest will raise the funds as a special project; this grant of $10,000 will be applied to the overall cost of the park.
Earlier this year, the Board of the Community Fund became aware of a plan to create a plateau-wide children’s choir to perform traditional Appalachian folk and gospel songs at the annual Trails and Trilliums spring festival produced by the Friends of South Cumberland State Park. This project seemed a perfect fit for the Paul S. McConnell Music Grant of $3,500, awarded to the Community Fund to support music programs in our region. The Board reached out to the Friends group to offer support for the choir project. The presentation, by 130 children in grades 4-8 from five elementary schools, was the highlight of the Trails and Trilliums event. The hope is that the choir will become an annual program.