Thanks partners, volunteers, and the community, the fourth annual Fall Festival at Mountain T.O.P. was a huge success, again.
The final counts are in. Organizers say 452 people attended, $197 dollars were donated, and 376 canned goods were collected at the entry gate. While numbers are important, they do not tell the entire story.
“An overwhelming sense of community is felt by all who participate in the Mountain T.O.P. Fall Festival! I am grateful to be a part of such a great event and the opportunity to share healthy strategies with children and their families,” says Tonya Garner, health educator for Grundy County and the facilitator of the Grundy County Health Council.
One of the new additions to the festival this year was the South Cumberland Community Fund’s Make A Difference Day contest showcase. Local young people participating in the contest were invited to make a display about their project and exhibit during the festival. This gave them the opportunity to answer questions and tell more about ways they were planning on making a difference in their communities.
Sara Brown, mother and volunteer with Discover Together, says, “That festival was truly amazing. I loved seeing so many people helping others out and giving back to the community and seeing the faces of the people that were receiving. This was my first experience at Mountain T.O.P. and it won’t be the last!”
Four years ago, Mountain T.O.P. was contacted by Soles4Souls to do a local shoe distribution. Over the last few years, the event has grown to include 18 local community partners who use the event to connect with young people and offer information to parents about programs. Extra support came from churches located outside the area – as close as Chattanooga, and as far away as Kent, Ohio.
Last year Mountain T.O.P. started charging an entrance fee. “It’s not in our nature to do things for free,” says Julie Keel, Mountain T.O.P.’s Associate Executive Director. “Some people are stunned when we say this. It is a simple, but important concept that has worked for over 40 years. We are a partnership ministry, not a charity; and we wholeheartedly believe everyone has an asset to give. Our experience with taking things for free over and over again erodes our sense of worth and tears down community. We aren’t just in partnership with people who come in from outside of our area to give, we are first and foremost in partnership with each other. Even with something as simple as the Fall Festival, it is important honor our partnership philosophy. It’s what builds community, dignity and a sense of empowerment.”
“I saw a young person the day after the event proudly wearing her shoes and coat to church,” says Keel, “and it wasn’t very cold. She was just proud – not just proud of her new things, but also very proud that she could give back to her community at the same time.”
The Fall Festival success was due to Mountain T.O.P.’s community and church partners. There were 100 volunteers, including 63 community members. In total, the group distributed 340 pairs of shoes, 362 coats, 298 hats, 503 pairs of socks, 128 pairs of gloves, 46 scarves, 1,038 books, and 454 hot dog lunches.
The event would not have taken place without the following organizations who had booths or contributed their talents on the day of the festival: South Cumberland Community Fund, Grundy County Health Council, SAA Ranch, Family Resource Center, Discover Together, Head Start, South Cumberland VISTA Project, Grundy County Rotary Club, HATS, TenderCare, East Cobb UMC – Marietta, GA, Cumberland Heights Seventh Day Adventist Church, Morton Memorial UMC, and Tracy City FUMC. The event was also supported by these donors: Soles4Souls, Beersheba Springs Public Library – Beersheba Springs, Kent UMC – Kent, OH, St. Luke’s Presbyterian – Dunwoody, GA, St. Paul’s UCC – Elgin, IL, Harrisburg Baptist – Tupelo, MS, St Thomas Episcopal Church – Terrace Park, OH, Grace Works – Chattanooga, Providence UMC – Antioch, Smyrna UMC – Smyrna, Sysco Nashville, Elaine’s Florist, and Son’s of the Confederate Veterans.