Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cornhole Tournament!

Cornhole Tournament - V.O. Dobbins Community
Sept 14, 2014

301 Louis Street Kingsport, TN

$20.00 fee Game & Food

Men only but women can come with mate for $30.00
Women come out and cheer your man on!!

Hot Dog, Hamburgers & BBQ

Start time 3 P-M Sunday
1st & 2nd place cash prizes

For more info contact Jimmy @ 423-343-3181 or Carew Cuts @ 423-765-9800

Come one come all!
Let the fun begin!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Lost in Riverview" - Traffic Jam Has Visitors Looking for a Bypass

On the warm late summer morning of Saturday, September 6th, Levi Abernathy was northbound on Wilcox Boulevard in Kingsport. He was headed to the Stone Drive area.

As he crossed the Holston River at Eastman, he saw that the road was blocked ahead at the Industry Drive stop light.

"It was kinda like, a surprise stop," he says. "I saw the cop standing outside his car there, and he was like 'you gotta get off this road."

As Abernathy turned left onto Industry Drive, he did not see a lot of traffic down Wilcox, so, figuring he could just bypass whatever was ahead, Abernathy took the first right he came to, hoping to go around whatever was on Wilcox and get back to the Sullivan Street intersection.

The first road he came to and turned right on, was Wheatley Street. "Everybody else was turning onto Wheatley, so I just followed them."

"It seemed like the best option."

At that moment, Abernathy became "lost in Riverview." The event he wanted to bypass was the annual Eastman Road Race that started and ended at Wilcox and MLK/Lincoln Street.

And he wasn't the only one lost that Saturday.

"Look there," Riverview resident Jack Pierce pointing to a blue car driving by on Louis Street. "That car has never been to Riverview before. I don't recognize the car or the driver. It's never been here before. I've seen dozens of cars coming through here this morning, and none of the people live here. (The) V.O. Dobbins (Complex) is closed today.. nothing going on except the Eastman run. People not wanting to go to the race are getting trapped in Riverview."

We found a Kingsport city police car with flashing lights blocking off MLK at Wheatley, forcing cars hoping to get around the blocked Wilcox Drive, to turn around and go back to the only way out of Riverview at that point.

They all had to come back through and exit the neighborhood at the same place they came into it....

....and that was right back to Wheatley and Industry, where others 'following the leader' were also coming into the neighborhood.  They also met traffic going TO the road race coming in on Wheatley to park in Eastman's parking lot.

"I know they're mad and frustrated," Pierce says. "You watch them come in, and then they're mad and flying back out. This is Saturday, the kids are out of school. What if they were out here playing in the street? One of them might get hurt. What if there was an emergency here in Riverview? What if somebody needed the life-saving crew? Industry's the only way out and it's crowded with cars."

That sentiment was echoed by Jeannie Hodges, who sat on her porch and counted the number of strange cars in the neighborhood.

"So far, I've counted about 300 cars, running up and down Louis Street, and also going on down Dunbar," she said. "Pretty soon, here they come right back out, when they can't get out on MLK."

"I'd been sorta laughing at 'em, but then you feel sorry for 'em," Hodges said. "I know how I would feel if I was stuck driving around in a strange place. They don't want to be here, but they're stuck and the only way out is the way you came in, that's now bogged down in traffic."

"They don't know what we know," she says. "Riverview only has two ways in and out, and one of those is blocked."

"There 'ya go."

"The first we heard about the traffic problem was you telling us about it, Calvin," says Kingsport Traffic Engineering manager Tim Elsea. "Some people were probably thinking well, 'just follow the leader' coming north on Wilcox and coming down Industry Drive. If everybody was turning onto Wheatley, they probably thought that was the detour route. Instead, they got caught in the circle of traffic."

Would more 'detour' signs have helped? Everybody the Douglass website reporter talked to, responded with a resounding 'yes.' "Maybe even a 'no through traffic' sign would help," says Hodges. Abernathy says the only signs he saw, was one 'detour' sign on Wilcox pointing which way to go. "There was no sign at Industry and Wheatley at all," he noted.

"Signage would be an option to curb the confusion in the future," says Elsea, "as long as people read and follow them. Sometimes people don't pay attention to any signs that are out there. It might be best to put more detour signs for the Wilcox through-traffic out there, and 'event parking' signs for the folks who wanted to park in the Eastman lot. You don't want to close Dunbar, Louis and Carver with 'no through-traffic' signs, because folks who actually need to get into the neighborhood, might misunderstand what the signs really mean."

Elsea promised to look into the situation.

"It is definitely something that we'll sit down and look at," he says. "We'll look at this race and other events to make sure that the folks in Riverview don't get boxed in, because it can be an inconvenience."

By the time Levi Abernathy came through, more than 400 vehicles, both private and business, had been counted coming into, and going right back out of, Riverview. As he was headed back the way he came, he paused to ponder.

"400 cars? Through this neighborhood? You gotta be kidding me," he said. "This is preventable with three or four more signs. Keep the one 'detour' sign at Wilcox/Industry, that leads right down to another one at Industry/Wheatley, and still more signs further down Industry. That way, folks like me wanted to get around everything can go on down Industry to Netherland Inn and come in the back way."

"Don't get me wrong," he says. "I've been to Riverview before. My wife comes over quite a bit to the Splash Pad, but I never get past there. This is a beautiful area than I've heard about in the past."

"If  I visit, I don't want it to be the result of a detour."

"Nobody ever talks to us whenever they plan these things," lamented Jack Pierce.

"I don't know of a funeral that would have this many cars up and down the street like this," noted Jeannie Hodges.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Grandparents Day!

National Grandparents' Day has been recognized in the United States since 1978, and in Kingsport, it is always celebrated on the first Sunday in September.

Kingsport's New Vision Youth always bring the grandparents of the community together on the Saturday just before the big day, to treat them to lunch, fun and games.

"The Grandparents Day celebration started at the old Riverview Boys and Girls Club," says New Vision Youth director Johnnie Mae Swagerty. "At the time, the club was located in the Riverview Apartments. We commemorate our grandparents, because our history comes from them. They are our past and the legacies they pass on to us are our future."

"We should always look up to our grandparents."

At this year's event, the oldest and youngest grandparents and birthday grandparent were recognized. Winners were Mrs. Gladys Gambrell, Mrs. Barbara Bristol, Mrs. Shelia Leeper, Mrs. Delois Delaney, Mrs. Bytha Kilgore, Mrs. Louetta Hall, and Mrs. Mary Gamble.

Delores Delaney made the spaghetti, and members of the New Vision Youth served the seniors present.

Door prizes were also given out to the seniors in attendance.

Kingsport's Grandparents' Day was sponsored by New Vision Youth, in partnership with the South Central Kingsport Community Development Corporation, and Kingsport Parks and Recreation.

After the slide show of the celebration below, please go on for the special event that highlighted this year's occasion: The New Vision Youth Ice Bucket Challenge!

New Vision Youth Ice Bucket Challenge: A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!

The New Vision Youth took time out from celebrating their ancestors on National Grandparents Day, September 7th, to help raise money to fight a disease that everybody's talking about.

It's Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Lou Gehring's Disease.


Ice bucket challenges have cropped up all over the place, where folks raise money for ALS research and programs by getting buckets of ice water dumped on their heads.

The New Vision event was Saturday, September 6th.

"Angel Pruett challenged me to do the Ice Bucket Challenge," says New Vision Youth director Johnnie Mae Swagerty. "I called Calvin Sneed with the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, and between us, we started calling folks, getting them to commit to raise money, and also to get ice water dumped on their heads. We thought it would be good to do it at our Grandparents Day celebration, because it might be entertaining to the seniors attending."

Entertaining it was, indeed. Participants included Chassie Smiley, V.O. Dobbins program coordinator with Kingsport Parks and Recreation... Bytha Kilgore and Edna Potts with the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority... Shiloh Baptist Church pastor Kenneth Calvert... DB football players Rhashad Hunter and Tyrik Hale... DB student and New Vision Youth member Tahjioyn Coward... Calvin Sneed... Pastor Geraldine Swagerty with the Kingsport Community Kitchen, and Jeff Fleming, Kingsport's new city manager.

As with everybody else, it was Fleming's first ice bucket challenge.

"I knew a couple of people who struggled with ALS on a daily basis," Jeff says. "I have never really understood what they went through with the disease, until the awareness was raised through these ice bucket challenges. I'm convinced that anything we can do to help raise funds and also raise the knowledge about this hideous disease is worth the time and the money."

"As far as the ice water," he noted, "it's a pretty warm day, so I'm not dreaded that part at all."

ALS, also known as Lou Gehring's Disease, robs people of the ability to move, feed themselves.. even speak. Tragically, it leaves the person's mind intact. They think.. they know.. they remember.

They just cannot express themselves.

During this same time last year, the ALS Association had raised on $2.8 million dollars for research and program services. This year, through no advance preparation of its own, the association is astonished to have over $110 million dollars in its coffers. And it's all because of one little stunt.

The Ice Bucket Challenge.

The New Vision Youth event netted more than $200 dollars for ALS research and programs.

"I must admit, I didn't know too much about ice bucket challenges," admits Jane Luethke, the East Tennessee program coordinator for the ALS Association. "I thought 'oh, ice bucket challenge.. that's kinda novel.. it might make a difference.' Boy, was I wrong! That's what's so amazing to us who deal with ALS support programs every day.. the association didn't really do anything to get the Ice Bucket Challenges and the flow of so much money started."

"In fact.. most of us are still in shock."

Luetke says it has been thrilling to see the challenges that went viral through social media all across the country and the world.

"Our national chapter has been graciously overwhelmed by the financial support," she says. "To see the faces of patients after we tell them how much money has been raised, and to be able to tell them that ordinary strangers have been donating money to find a cure has really lifted their spirits more than folks will ever know."

"As the awareness grows, people will hopefully continue to understand how devastating this disease is."

"A cure for this disease will put me out of a job," Lueutke said, as she watched bucket after bucket of ice water hit unsuspecting challenge participants.

"And that would be a good thing."

83-year old Pastor Swagerty called the challenge the Lord's Work in action among His people.

"The whole thing makes me happy to see all the people coming out and joining in, to do a good work," she said. "When you see people giving of themselves like that, you know God's into it. People need to think about helping one another. We'd all be a whole lot better because we'd know the Lord would have His Plan upon us, when we try to help one another."

Jeff Fleming summed up the afternoon for everybody.

"It was good fun for a great cause, even though the cold water kinda took my breath away," he said. "Just seeing all these people out here doing something really positive, just gives you a good feeling."

"I was happy just to be a part of it."


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lincoln Street Repaving Project to Affect Traffic in Riverview


by Matthew Lane

KINGSPORT — The summer of paving is not quite over yet.

Michael Thompson, assistant public works director, said the repaving of Lincoln Street from the John B. Dennis Highway to Sullivan Street has begun.

The $1.1 million project will include milling, paving, some curb replacement and handicap ramp upgrades — some of the ramps are not up to current standards. Thompson said there will also be some spot repairs along the stretch of road.

"It's pretty much a straightforward paving job," Thompson said.

The number of travel lanes will stay the same on the 1.7 mile stretch of road and the caution light at the railroad crossing will remain. No bikes lanes will be added and no road diet imposed.

"Nothing new. Just replacing what was there," Thompson said.

The project is funded 80 percent by federal money and 20 percent by local match from Kingsport. Summers-Taylor Inc. is performing the work.

Thompson said the contract for the project is for 60 days, ending Nov. 7, with most of the major work taking place between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"They're planning on doing some up front work, like signs and the curb and handicapped ramp work during the day, but are planning on doing the major work, the milling and paving, at night when there's less traffic," Thompson said.

But there is one thing the city would like the public to understand about the Lincoln Street paving project.

It is not going all the way to Wilcox Drive.

"We're going to stop where the Sullivan Street extension comes out, because (the Tennessee Department of Transportation's) project is going to pave the rest of that," Thompson said. "We didn't want to waste the taxpayers money by paving it and then having to tear it up and redo it."

TDOT plans to reconfigure the intersection of Lincoln Street and Sullivan Street in connection to Eastman Chemical Co.'s "Project Inspire" reinvestment plan. Essentially, the intersection will open up a new entrance to Eastman's new corporate business center currently under construction.

Thompson said the repaving of this section of Lincoln Street will be one of the last parts of the intersection redesign and as such will not be repaved until next year.

The Lincoln Street project was originally planned for repaving two years ago (along with a section of Cooks Valley Road), but due to higher than expected bids, the work was stymied. The Cooks Valley work was then pulled out and done earlier this year.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Kingsport's City Manager: "Retirement is Only the Beginning"

For Kingsport's former city manager, retirement day is the first day of the rest of his life.

"It was OK for about the first five days," says John Campbell. "I still have a lot of work to do to finish sorting out things. Most all of the unfinished business, is either finished or just about finished. I don't think you can ever really put everything away.. there'll always be an interest, and sometimes, it's difficult to completely walk away."

"But I did."

Your Douglass-Riverview website caught up with former Kingsport city manager John Campbell, at the recent Fourth of July parade. Although he talked to us like he was still on the job, he admits he'll probably do that for a while.

He does say the city of Kingsport is in very good hands.

"We've got some outstanding young people," he says. "I really feel strongly that our core leadership is sthe strongest in the area for the next 15 to 20 years. All they need is some core members to help 'em out."


Campbell, a native of Kingsport, served as city manager from 2008 until last month. Before that, he was city manager of Johnson City for 17 years, a job from which he also retired. He was twice named Tennessee City Manager of the year in 1992 and 1999. His retirement from the Model City's second-highest post, surprised several on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen when he announced his leaving.

"I have always believed in leaving a community better than you found it," he says, "and the best way to do that is to surround yourself with good people.. people who are either more qualified than usual for their positions, or people who show tremendous potential in the positions they are in. In Johnson City when I was there, I think it was the staff we built there. Most of those people are still there, although most are ready to retire, like me. I also feel strongly about the staff that we have here in Kingsport. When you're at this size of a city, the city manager is more or less, a liason between the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the staff. Your inter-leadership role with the staff is important.. you really gotta have great staff underneath the position.'

"The guys here have been great colaborators, and we're very fortunate to have them."


Ask any city official their number one accomplishment. Usually, they'll name several.

Campbell cites one huge goal that was achieved, without a lot of residents being able to see it physically.

"Improvements to the waste water treatment plant," he says.. "that was really big thing. Things that are ready to go on schedule with the water intake at the water plant. We've also put in a lot of sewer lines.. for some people, that was a big thing, because it's key to protecting the environment."

He also cites one accomplishment during his term, that residents can see.

"Certainly, there were a lot of building projects, especially the HOPE VI homes, the V.O. Dobbins renovations, the hospital improvements," he remembers, "but probably the one thing that impacts the entire city is the academic village. Knowing that where Kingsport was, when I was going to college back in the late 60's, I remember well the effort put out to try and bring a university here to Kingsport, and then the University Center was created. We were still the largest city in Tennessee and the second largest city in the South that did not have a four-year educational institution. Being able to be here at the time it got started, and being able to help show how more could be done with less money was a big accomplishment."

"Now, you see 2500 college students downtown, going to four or five college extentions... that's impressive."


Campbell says the only advice he can offer his successor and the staff he has, is to keep thinking forward.

"They are very well trained in their jobs," he says. "I think they just need to continually try and get better and look for ways to be more efficient. They should always look towards the future.. try to be forward-thinking. I think the worst thing a city could do is really get bogged down on not moving forward. There are lots of ways to get things done in a creative, financial way, that can still be done well without spending a lot of money. Things can be done not at the risk that some people think is there."

"Creativity is the key. Think beyond the box of limited price tags."

The former city manager also has advice for residents of Kingsport, too.. many of them, he says, have not been afraid to express opinions about the direction the city is going in.

"Try and be as knowledgeable as you can about your government," Campbell says. "It's frustrating at times to see how many citizens don't really understand the type of government that we have, and how it operates.. the framework of it. I remember my civics class in 8th grade.. you spend four days on local government and then several weeks on state and federal government. Turns out, local government is where it's at.. that's what affects you every day. Just try and be more knowledgeable and if you have questions, don't hesitate to call the staff down at city hall. Part of their job is answering questions.. that's what they're expected to do. I never minded being questioned about things at social events, at lunch, the gas station. Ask questions."

"It's better for people to know something, than have them think something differently because they didn't ask about it."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Can you Meet at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex Saturday (August 30th) Morning?

Anybody out there, can meet me tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 11 AM, August 30th at the Louis Street side of the V.O. Dobbins Complex for just a few minutes?

The building has a new feature for the Kingsport community that we're anxious to show off. It will make you proud, and I'm doing a news story on it.

It is guaranteed to make us the envy of other people in Kingsport, and in particular, other alumni groups around East Tennessee. DB doesn't even have anything like this.

We'll tour just a few areas and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thanks for your participation!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Douglass Alumni Scholarships: Generations of Continuing Education


"Don't forget where your help came from, and in turn, don't forget where you came from."

That was the message for graduating African-American high school seniors more than 30 years ago from the Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport, and it's the same message the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association still has for black seniors furthering their education.

Although the alumni association for upper East Tennessee's largest black high school changed its name two years ago, its focus to provide scholarships to the school's descendants has not changed. "We have always thought that trying to help black seniors heading off to college, would give them an incentive to make something out of themselves," says Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni president Douglas Releford, "and in turn, they would come back in some way and help the community that helped them."

Back in 1982, members of the Douglass High School Alumni Association in Kingsport first wanted to recognize graduating African-American high school seniors, whose descendants attended Kingsport's African-American high school.

"To be recognized by your own people inspires you to do more," says Byron Williams. According to a plaque recently discovered at Dobyns-Bennett, Williams was the first honoree of the V.O. Dobbins Scholastic Memorial Award. At that time, financial scholarships were not fiscally possible, but recognition of academic achievement among black students going to college was absolutely necessary.

Williamson still remembers the day of the awards ceremony at his DB graduation 32 years ago.

"I had no idea I was getting a scholastic award," he says. "When they called my name, I went up on stage in from of all those people. They said I was being honored with the V.O. Dobbins Scholastic Memorial Award, and I was very suprised. I knew about Mr. Dobbins and Douglass High School.. my mother Mabel and my aunt Jesse Dennis both went to Douglass, and I remember they telling me how he used to grow vegetables in his garden in the summer so the students there would have something hot to eat in the winter. My folks always told me about the good education that they got, so the fact that I received an honor with Mr. Dobbins' name on it meant a lot."

"It made a powerful impression on me."

After that first one, recipients of the V.O. Dobbins Scholastic Award were Angela Maxwell in 1983, Delbert Davis in 1986, Rhonda Kincaid in 1987, Shana Wright in 1988, Deeya Dobbins in '89, and Chad Machen in 1990. The award faded away after that year, and the plaque disappeared into the historical archives of Dobyns-Bennett, never to be awarded again.

Eleven years later, Douglass alumni who had been holding reunions every other year since the early 70's, begun to realize the importance of financial support for young African-American descendants of the school. In 2001, the alumni group began providing $500 dollar scholarships to black seniors who met the criteria set forth by an appointed scholarship committee of the alumni association.

"A lot of places won't give out a scholarship unless the graduating senior has a 4.0 grade point average," Releford says. "That's great, but not everybody has a 4.0 GPA.. some have GPA's of 2.8, 3.4., maybe even 3.8. We wanted to reward those seniors who were still going to college, but not necessarily in the top 10% of their class."

"The kids in the lower 90% who were still going to college, deserved a shot at financial help, too. It was our way of saying 'we love you just the way you are. If you try hard, we will reward you for giving it your best shot."

"So far, no one has disappointed us," he says. "It's been very rewarding to see the results."


Scholarship availability was always open to Douglass School descendants, but requirements to receive awards tightened up a bit over the years.

"Two years ago, our alumni board decided to help more of our school descendants and give out more money," Releford says. "We did that by requiring, not only that the recipient be a descendant of a Douglass graduate, but also that the descendant be a member in good standing of the alumni association. That year, 2012, we gave out a total of five scholarships, the most we've every given in a year, and we have averaged at least three every year since then."


To qualify, scholarship applicants have to write a short essay on why they think the financial aid is important to their particular education needs, what course of study they plan to engage in, how they plan to make an impact on society, and also provide a high school transcript. Applicants also have to provide an acceptance letter from the college or university they have chosen. On approval, the Douglass scholarship will then be deposited in the student's name in the financial aid office of the school.

Financial scholarships began in 2001, and were given at Douglass alumni reunions.  The first college-bound students to receive Douglass alumni financial aid were Tia Lanauze and Michelle Hankins. In 2005, Kristopher Leeper was awarded the scholarship, and Terrance Maxwell, Blake Leeper and Courtney Wolfe were the recipients in 2007.

Previously, scholarships were considered and presented to recipients during the Douglass Alumni reunions every 2 years. Upon a rules change in 2010, even more college-bound Douglass descendants benefited from the financial help.

"Our board decided to award scholarships every single year, instead of every other year," says Releford. "Some of our alumni correctly pointed out that students graduate every year, not just every 2 years. They felt that everybody should have a chance. By changing to every year, there is no way that we would miss the opportunity to reward a student with help to continue their higher education."


Since the change, Jessica Williams and Darius Davis received Douglass scholarships in 2010. At right, Briasha Russell, Chris Sensabaugh and Brenton Leeper were the recipients in 2011. The next year 2012 saw the largest number of scholarships in alumni history: Sierra Evans, Todd Gilmore, Courtney Alexander, Kelsie Dulaney and Justin Long were the honorees. Last year, Devanun Swafford, Hunter Muller, Cyndee Morrisette and Jessica Cherry were the winners.


For 2014, the recipients of Douglass scholarships are Evan Wilmer, Akeyia Arnett and Dontae Johnson.  One of the scholarship awards is in memory of local educators Wilbur and Della Hendricks.. 

"Often, our winners are already in school when the scholarship names are announced," says Releford. "When they are not present to accept the honor, friends, family, even grandmothers proudly accept in their absence. Those friends and family members remember the Douglass tradition of recognizing educational talent and are just as proud of getting the scholarships as the people who get the award."

Releford says today, the scholarships are funded through dues from Douglass alumni. Periodically, the group holds golf tournaments, the proceeds from which, go directly into the scholarship fund.

Only a few months ago, the long-lost V.O. Dobbins Scholastic Memorial Award plaque was found and presented to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association by Dobyns-Bennett High School. The alumni group's board then decided to combine the Scholastic Memorial award and the Douglass alumni scholarships, creating a new V.O. Dobbins, Sr. - Sons and Daughters of Douglass Scholarship Memorial Award.

"This award IS the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association," says Releford. "It is our hopes, dreams, education and community, all wrapped up into a financial package. We do other programs in the community and partner with several organizations in Kingsport, but our main purpose is scholarships for our school descendants. It is our heart and soul that we honor the education that we as alumni received from a school that meant a lot to us. The newly combined scholarship award honors the teachers who gave their heart and soul to make sure we were prepared for life. That's the V.O. Dobbins Sr. part. We cannot give our descendants an education, but we can help them financially, when they chose to get one. That's the alumni association part."


The new focus continues the legacy of the Douglass School of Kingsport through its many descendants, including Byron Williamson. He went on to ETSU, earning a degree in computer science.

"It's a good feeling to know that the community encourages you to go to college," he says. "The feeling that you have done something further than the generation before you, but that generation fully supports you financially and spiritually. If you achieve, give back to the community.. if it's time, give that back.. if it's money or expertise, give those back."

"Always give back to the next generation coming along, simply because the previous generation gave to you."