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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Little Miss Vision Pageant

"It just gets bigger and better every year, Praise the Lord."

That's the assessment of the annual Little Miss Vision Pageant, held this past Saturday, June 27th, 2009 by its director Mrs. Lillian Leeper.

The event was held in the auditorium of the Kingsport Rennaisance Center.

To see pictures from the event, click 2009 Little Miss Vision Pageant Pictures.

Contestants in this year's pageant were Ta-Tionna White, Da'Nayjah Somerville, Lexi Hughes, Que'dence Somerville, Ayona Barlow, Makyiah Goodwin, Briesha Camp, Ayleonna Camp, Xena Taylor, and Olivia Huff.

Judges for the event were Jackie Charles, Martha G. Pearson and Paula Michele Snapp. Counters were Beth Pierce and Kris Leeper.

The contestants ranged in age from 5 years old, on up to 12, and brought girls from around Kingsport who showed off their poise and presence to a packed house. A panel of 5 judges, graded the ladies on their charm, their ability to "wow" the crowd, and their power to hold their poise, as hundreds of eyes watched their every graceful move.

"Some of these girls have never been recognized for their achievements," says Mrs. Leeper. "Many girls would love to get up on stage and tell you who they are, their accomplishments, their goals and their aspirations. As we follow them, with their parents' help and the community, and God's with them, they do make it. Along the way, you've got to show them some love, some attention, and show them that they can indeed do it. As President Obama says, "Yes.. we CAN."

First, the girls came out on stage, introduced themselves, told a little about what they liked to do in their spare time, and then had the stage all to themselves, casually showing off their adventurous sides. The audience of mostly people from the Riverview and South Central Kingsport area, had their favorites, but all the girls received warm, loving encouragement from the crowd.

The girls also performed a dance skit together, which got rave reviews from the judges.

Last year, the girls spent a few hours with Mrs. Jill Ellis, who spent time teaching them the finer things of life, including grace, respect for themselves, and the proper way for young ladies to carry themselves in the world. "We were so blessed to have Mrs. Ellis help us educate the girls on poise. She just said 'we're going back to old-school with these girls.' They came in with a lot of new attitudes, but Mrs. Ellis said 'we're going to mix a lot of the old with the new, and teach these girls some self-respect. The girls picked up a lot of pointers from their old-schooling with Mrs. Ellis. They came away, very proud of themselves."

While the girls were getting ready for their various stage events, the audience was also wowed with a singing performance from Ida Machen, music director at Central Baptist Church, and musical praise dancing from the groups "For His Glory" from Kingsport, and Nevaeh from Gate City, Virginia. Also, the New Vision Youth performed a recital.

The ladies did the pageant proud with their runway performances, as they came out, dressed in elegant fashionware, and strolled along the stage, to the delight of the audience and the careful notices of the judges. The confidence they displayed during this particular outing, sent the judges adding numbers like crazy, as they tallied up points that would ultimately lead to the 2009 Little Miss Vision winner.

Every year, the pageant awards a scholarship to a deserving college-bound student, and this year's winner is Phillip Hamilton. "He is a very extraordinary man," says Mrs. Leeper. "When you read his biography sheet and see where he came from, where he stopped at and then, where he began again with God's Grace and Mercy, you just had to give him a helping hand. On his application with us for the scholarship, he noted that he had been out of town helping to build a house for a needy person. This young fellow has been up against all odds, and now he's just turned it around with the help of his church and elsewhere."

And then, came the moment of truth. The 2009 Little Miss Vision, Miss Elisabeth Brice came out, took her final walk along the runway, and continued to amaze the audience with her charm and grace.

The 2009 Little Miss Vision winner is 8 year old Miss Ayona Barlow.. she's a member of the Mt. Zion AME Church in Riverview. Second runner-up is 5 year old Miss Que'dence Somerville, and third runner-up for 2009 is 5 year old Miss Lexi Hughes. The 2009 Miss Congeniality is 8 year old Miss Makyiah Goodwin.

After Miss Barlow's name was called as the 2009 winner, she took her victory walk, and then, in a scene reminiscent of the big televised beauty pageants, she was then mobbed by the other contestants, all of them getting a hug in and words of congradulation.

"This program is all about doing what's right for these girls," says Mrs. Leeper, "doing what we are supposed to do for the girls of our community. It's what our elders did for us when we were growing up."

Special thanks were given to the night's co-hosts, Joni Hughes and Blake Leeper. The volunteers who worked throughout the year with the young ladies were Tonia Leeper, LaVonda Price, Carolyn Faulkerson, Erin Armbrister, Joni Hughes, Blossom Pierce, Victoria Price, Michelle Maxwell, Billy Leeper, Rodrick McGue, Beth Pierce, and Kris Leeper.

Sponsors included Maxwell Coach Company, Inc., Dr. Terry Hunter, Vison Hair and Nails (LaVonda Price), Van Dobbins Apartments, Kingsport Cultural Diversity Team, Richard Clark Funeral Services, Great Body Company, Leeper Concrete, A & B Fish & Works, Douglass High School Alumni Association, Mary Hamilton, Green Bank, Rita Linkous, Fit 2 T, Marquee Cinemas, Community Bank, McDonalds on Ft. Henry Drive, and Bath & Body.

"Yes indeed, the pageant does get bigger and better," says Mrs. Leeper. "We've got plans to get our girls on professional floats in Kingsport's 4th of July Parade and the Christmas Parade. We're also working on getting our organization non-profit status with the IRS, so that folks who contribute to our programs can do so freely and tax-exempt."

"I'm thinking big, because our girls deserve it."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kingsport Boys & Girls Club Opens New 'Citizens Bank'


KINGSPORT — A new bank opened in town last week. But this one doesn’t offer checking accounts, home loans or certificates of deposit.

Instead, customers will find basketballs, nail polish and art supplies at the new Citizens Bank inside the Boys & Girls Club.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week to mark the opening of the new bank — named in recognition of Citizens Bank, which contributed a grant to build the facility inside the new Boys & Girls Club.

Mayor Dennis Phillips and officials from Citizens Bank gathered for the occasion along with club officials and news media.

“The number of people who get out in the real world and don’t have any idea how to manage their finances always amazes me,” Phillips said. “It’s a real need, and it’s a need that you all are fulfilling.”

The bank is part of the Boys & Girls Club’s new facilities behind Pratt’s off Stone Drive. The complex replaced an old facility near Holston Valley Medical Center. That building was razed to make way for a new hospital entrance.

Boys & Girls Club Director Chuck Owens said the old building had a “bank” where kids could exchange earned paper bills for merchandise. But the bank was crammed inside a closet at the old facility.

He said that when the club kicked off its $3.5 million campaign to build the new facilities, organizers brainstormed on how to improve the bank and potential sponsors.

“We sat around the table and it came up — wouldn’t it be great if Citizens Bank sponsored this,” Owens said. After all, he said, “it’s about promoting good citizenship. It’s about being good citizens.”

Brad Hoover, senior vice president of Citizens Bank, said the financial institution was founded 75 years ago with the philosophy of giving back to the community.

“And we’re still trying to do that today,” Hoover said. “We hope (the club’s) Citizens Bank will be a cornerstone to the development of the young men and women here.”

Matthew Miller holds his 'Citizen Bucks' as he tries to decide what to buy at the Boys & Girls Club store. Photo by David Grace.

At the new Citizens Bank last week, children with paper bills in hand eagerly looked over the assortment of goods. The Boys & Girls Club recognizes good behavior and good deeds by rewarding kids with “Citizen Bucks.” The paper bills of various denominations can be earned for making good grades, volunteering services, acting in leadership roles, winning a contest, or being named youth of the week, month, or year. The bucks can then be traded at the bank for merchandise.

Kids not only earn bucks from what they do at the club, but also how they behave in the community.

“A couple of years ago we had a little boy who found a wallet at Christmastime with a lot of money in it. He turned it in, and we gave him bucks for that,” Owens said.

Sherry Owens, Chuck’s wife and a club volunteer, said younger children tend to want to “spend” their bucks as soon as they get them, while older kids learn they can save their bills and eventually trade them in for something of more value. She said it teaches children how to earn money, save money, and spend money.

“It teaches them something about fiscal responsibility,” Sherry Owens said.

Some items in the bank are purchased by Boys & Girls club staff, while much of it is donated from the community.

And in addition to toys, the bank carries school supplies and personal grooming items such as deodorant and toothpaste.

“Some of the kids do not have their own grooming supplies at home and they want their own grooming supplies,” Sherry Owens said.

When traveling, she and others from the club collect hotel room samples of lotion, shampoo and other essentials, and pack them into individual kits for the children.

And just before school, the bank will carry school supplies, from notebooks and pencils to binders and backpacks.

“It’s really a unique program. fIt really teaches them so much,” Sherry Owens said.

Three Dobyns-Bennett High School marketing students also got involved in the project. Jacqueline Buckles, Kendra Brooks and Kelley Combs, who just graduated last week, were never students at the Boys & Girls Club. But they knew about the facility — Jacqueline’s father, John Buckles, is past president of the club’s board. The girls became involved after the Owens spoke about the effort at DB’s DECA Club.

“They presented this opportunity and we thought it would be a good way to help them out,” Kendra said.

The three girls went to work and redesigned the old bucks into Citizen Bucks. They thought of a slogan — “Crank up the Bank” — to mark the opening of the new facility. They designed flyers and invitations for the grand opening, and wrote a press release for the event.

For their work, the girls each earned gold chords to wear at graduation. Jacqueline’s father, John, said he’s proud of all three of them.

“They’re part of an actual community project, dealing with people in the community. It’s great experience for them, and it helps an organization out, like the Boys & Girls Club,” he said. “It showed them they can make a difference in the community. We’re really proud of them.”

The Boys and Girls Club serves the community by offering an after school program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

For more information, contact the Kingsport Boys and Girls Club at (423) 230-4160.

Little Miss Vision Pictures

The Little Miss Vision Pictures are now posted. The story on the event is forthcoming in the next day or two. Click 2009 Little Miss Vision Pictures to see the photos.

Swift Reunion Pictures

For those looking for the Swift Reunion Pictures from this past weekend, they are now posted in the News of our Douglass Friends and Neighbors section.

Douglass School Reunion/Kingsport Ebony Club Reunion

Since there is so much going this weekend in Riverview and South Central Kingsport, with TWO reunions going on, we thought we would put things in order for you:


5 PM: Registration, Meadowview-Marriott, First Floor just past the Convention Center
7 PM - 1 AM: Sockhop Get-together, Meadowview-Marriott, Room TBA


10 AM - 11 AM: Douglass School Participation in the Kingsport 4th of July Parade 10 AM (participants will decorate cars at Louetta Hall's home, 917 Maple Street at 8 AM).
12 NOON - 3 PM: Field Day, Douglass School-V.O. Dobbins Ball Field, Louis Street
7 PM - 1 PM: Douglass Reunion Banquet, Meadowview Convention and Conference Center


11 AM - 1 PM: Church of your choice
3 PM - 4:30 (approx): Douglass Memorial Service, Mt. Zion Holiness Church, Dunbar Street




2 PM - 5 PM: Welcome Reception, DBHS Alumni Center, Memorial Blvd.
8 PM - 10 PM: Comedy Hour with Ebony Club Alumnus Tim Hall, Rascals Club, 125 Cumberland Street
11 PM - 2 AM: Old-School Music After Party, Rascals Club, 125 Cumberland Street


8 AM - 11 AM: Ebony Club Participation in Kingsport's 4th of July Parade
11 AM - 3 PM: Douglass School/Ebony Club Field Day, Douglass Ball Field, Louis Street
7 PM - 10 PM: Kingsport Ebony Club Banquet, DBHS Alumni Center, Memorial Blvd.


11 AM - Church of your choice
3 PM - Douglass Memorial Service, Mt. Zion Holiness Church, Dunbar Street

Ebony Club Reunion to Honor Two



When Elizabeth Dudney arrived at Dobyns-Bennett High School as a biology teacher in 1972, plans for the Ebony Club were in its infancy. The club was struggling to form bylaws and a constitution and be recognized by the school.
Dudney, who was already at the helm of two D-B clubs, agreed to sponsor the Ebony Club.
“I was one who believed it doesn’t all come out of a book. You have to do things, be involved in things. It was under me that we were officially recognized by the school,” Dudney said.

Erica Yoon — Dawnella Ellis (standing, left), her mother, Jill Ellis (seated) and Elizabeth Dudney were an integral part of leading the Ebony Club at Dobyns-Bennett High School. Dawnella Ellis and Dudney will be honored when the club holds a reunion this weekend.

From 1972 until 2005, the club flourished, first under Dudney’s leadership, and then under the guidance of Dawnella Ellis. Both women will be honored this weekend during the Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association’s 2009 Reunion Weekend.
The club was created to give the school’s African-American students a better sense of their collective history, as well as a more accurate understanding of the varied contributions of their ancestors to the American way of life. Ellis led the club from 1976 until her retirement in 2005, and the club has not existed since then. Organizers of the Reunion Weekend hope that will change soon.
“We’ve been trying through homecoming and the reunion to re-establish the club,” Ellis said. “Everybody’s trying, but we just haven’t been able to get it off the ground.”
In the club’s early years, there was nearly 100 percent participation from African-American students, Ellis said.
“This was an outlet for the African-American students, even though we had some non-African-American students who joined. It was open. The word ‘ebony’ may have just suggested that [it wasn’t open]. We were open to any Dobyns-Bennett student and some of them did [join],” Ellis said.
Dudney’s ideas for the club didn’t mesh with those of the students.
“I wanted them to help people in their community, go out and put a lady’s garden in shape for her. ... That didn’t work out too well. They wanted to have something they could call their own, that they could be proud of. Something they could go on trips with, and they did, and they loved it,” Dudney said. “That was important to them, that as a group they could go places together, see things and do things that were exciting.”
For several of those early years, Ellis’ mother Jill Ellis helped Dudney run the club.
“When we had programs, Jill was right there to help me,” Dudney said. “When Dawnella came, she stepped in as my assistant .... and then she gradually took o v e r. ”
Dawnella Ellis said her goal was to give club members enrichment opportunities.
“We had an annual fashion and talent show. That was a fund-raiser and from that fund-raiser we would have an annual trip every April/May. We visited mainly historically black colleges and universities. We went to theme parks. We did community service activities and projects. We were one of the charter members of Rascals Teen Center. We were goal-oriented. We were community-based. We participated in Black History Month, Martin Luther King Day,” she said.
The Ebony Club actually had its roots in another social club at D-B, said Jill Ellis.
“Right after we integrated the school system, the girls felt the distance between themselves — the black girls and the white girls,” she said. “They felt like if they could organize a social club ... so we sent out applications and notices that we were forming a club to better relations.”
That club had two sponsors — Jill Ellis and Brenda Hurst.
Then it came time to name the club.
“They were black and white [girls], so they wanted something to indicate they were a biracial club. The first name that came out was Salt and Pepper, but they said, ‘Ewww, no they are seasonings.’ But it indicated that was the things you needed to keep things t o g e t h e r. ”
The students began looking at Greek names, and ultimately chose the name Sigma Phi, Ellis said.
“The mothers were involved. ... We went on trips, but the main thing we did for the year was a mother/daughter tea. It was a big thing,” she said.
The school allowed the club to meet on campus on Monday nights. “It was one of the foundations, the stepping stones, toward making desegregation a little easier. It started with the girls,” she said.
The girls-only Sigma Phi lasted until around 1980, then faded away because of the popularity of the Ebony Club.
The Ebony Club’s Reunion Weekend was planned to coincide with the Douglass High School Alumni Association reunion weekend. Registration and a welcome reception will be held from 2 to 5 p.m., Friday, at the D-B Alumni Hall. Comedy Hour with comedian Tim Hall will take place beginning at 8 p.m., Friday, at Rascal’s Teen Center in downtown Kingsport. An Old-School Music After Party will be held from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday, at Rascal’s. The after-party will be open to the public.
Saturday’s events include participation in Kingsport’s Fourth of July Parade. Field Day will be held at the Douglass ball field from noon to 3 p.m., with the Ebony Club’s Alumni Banquet set for 7 p.m., Saturday, during which club members will honor Dudney and Dawnella Ellis.
Members are encouraged to attend local church services on Sunday morning.
Dawnella Ellis is excited about seeing her former students.
“I continuously call them kids, even though they’re all grown, married. I still have good contact with most of them. We’re still very good friends,” Ellis said. “This has always been a dream of mine to have a reunion.”
For more information, visitThe Kingsport Ebony Club.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ebony Club Update Pre-Reunion

I just posted a one-page overview of the 2009 Reunion Weekend. Check it out by clicking Ebony Club 2009 Reunion Weekend Overview. When you see the page, click on it to enlarge. You can also print it off here.

If you plan on attending the Ebony Club Banquet, which is being catered by Golden Corral, you will need to purchase your ticket ($15) during the July 3rd Welcome Reception (2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the DBHS Alumni Center). If you do not purchase your tickets during the reception, you will not be allowed entry to the banquet. This event is open to both members and friends (and their families) of DBHS's Ebony Club.

Please know that a good turnout by former members and friends will show Ms. Dudney and Ms. Ellis how much they are loved and appreciated. This tribute to their years of dedicated service is long overdue.

Safe travels to those individuals traveling from out of town. Throw a few prayers up for my family and me as well, as we will be traveling from the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area (five-hour drive). I look forward to getting reacquainted.

Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
DBHS Class of 1986
(919) 604-4585

Douglass High School Alumni Trustee Board Meeting 6/27/09

Minutes, June 27, 2009


Members present:

Louetta Hall, Linda Bly, Sandra Wilmer, Calvin Sneed, Thelma Watterson, Ethel Russell, Virginia Hankins, Andra Watterson, Dawnella Ellis, Lillian Leeper, Sheila Leeper, Pamela Sensabaugh, Lonnie Cox, Wallace W. Ross, Jr.

Meeting was called to order by President Douglas Releford, with prayer by Chaplin Ethel Russell.

Minutes of the last meeting was read by Recording Secretary, Thelma Watterson. Motion to accept the reading of the minutes with the necessary corrections was made by Lillian Leeper, second by Pamela Sensabaugh. Motion carried.

Ricky Hancock, the publisher of the Reunion Souvenir Book told the group he did not have all of the ads and pictures in the booklet but not to worry, it is just a matter of dressing them up a bit. He asked if there were any changes that needed to be made, just let him know. He and Calvin Sneed took pictures of the board members, to be put in the Souvenir Book.


Virginia Hankins stated that regarding Kohl’s, we have four dates to use the Kohl‘s employees. Lonnie Cox stated that we need to clean-up our adopted site at the Douglass Ball Field, and Jenny said that would be a good opportunity to use Kohl’s employees to clean up our adopted site.

Andra Watterson talked about the menu for the upcoming Reunion.

Louetta Hall said that we need to vote on the number of trays that we will need Friday. She made a motion to order two meat trays, two sandwich trays, one vegetable tray and one cheese tray. It was noted that the crackers and chips would not be bought with monies from the treasure. Motion to accept was made by Louetta Hall, second by Virginia Hankins. Motion carried.

Dawnella Ellis stated that those that will be singing in the Douglass Chorus to meet at Bethel AME Zion Church at 3:00 pm Saturday to practice.

Virginia Hankins asked if we have any vendors for Field Day. President Douglas Releford stated that we have two and they will send the money later.

Louetta Hall wants those that are going to be in the 4th of July Parade to meet at her house (917 Maple St.) at 8:00am Saturday morning and wear you Douglass T-Shirts or your golf shirt.


Election of officers for 2009 - 2011

President: Douglas Releford
Vice President: Lillian Leeper
Correspondence Secretary: Pamela Sensabaugh
Treasurer: Sandra Wilmer
Recording Secretary: Thelma Watterson
Chaplin: Louetta Hall
Sergeant-At-Arms: Andra Watterson

Permanent positions:
Webmaster, Public Relations Manager: Calvin Sneed
Food services: Van Dobbins, Jr.

Motion to accept the election of officers was made by Calvin Sneed, seconded by Andra Watterson, a show of hands showed the approval. Motion carried.

Virginia Hankins wanted to know about the decorations for the Banquet Hall. Douglas Releford stated that those that are going to decorate be at the hall at around 5:30pm.

Thelma Watterson read a letter addressed to a scholarship applicant, Sandra Wilmer made a motion that the Scholarship Committee will use that letter as the official scholarship letter, second by Virginia Hankins. Motion carried.

Wallace Ross, Jr. wanted to know if we were going to amend the by-laws. Douglas Releford stated that Virginia Hankins had made an amendment to the by-laws a couple of weeks ago.

Louetta Hall donated a couple of magnetic signs to place on the vehicles that are in the parade.

The Registration Committee for the Reunion:
Sandra Wilmer, Thelma Watterson, Andra Watterson, Virginia Hankins

Hospitality Committee for the Reunion:
Ethel Ruth Russell, Sheila Leeper, Pamela Sensabaugh, Andra Watterson, Lillian Leeper, Sandra Wilmer

Packets were then filled for our upcoming reunion the weekend of July 3-5, 2009.

Motion for adjournment was made by President Douglas Releford, second by Sheila Leeper.

Respectfully Submitted,
Thelma Watterson, Recording Secretary

Monday, June 22, 2009

Douglass Golf Tournament Cancelled


There will be no Memorial Golf Tournament for the Douglass Alumni Association Reunion this year.

The devastating announcement was made by tournament director George Smith, who informed the Douglass Alumni Board of Directors, he had not received a single golf tournament registration by today's deadline, June 22nd.

The event was scheduled for Cattails at Meadowview Saturday, July 4th at 8 AM.

"We had put the applications on the website and passed out flyers," says golf tournament director George Smith. "Today (June 22nd) was the deadline to tell Meadowview what we have, and as of now, we have no golf registrations for the Memorial Tournament at all."

"It's very disappointing," he says. "I don't know if it's the economy or lack of interest. By now, we should have had, and have always had, several players registered and ready to go, but since nobody showed interest, we had no choice but to cancel this year. Maybe in two years, we can think about having a golf tournament, but if the lack of interest is still there, I'd say we've seen the last of the memorial golf tournaments for the Douglass Reunion."

"This year, we also reached out to the Kingsport Ebony Club," says George. "With their Reunion going on and them being a part of the Douglass Alumni Association, we thought it would be good to involve them in the Memorial Golf Tournament. We sent them an application this year to sort of, bring them into the event, and we heard nothing back from them."

The Reunion Memorial Golf Tournament was also the single largest fund-raising event for the Douglass Scholarships, given out to deserving descendants of Douglass alumni.
That's why the annoucement has led to a lot of disbelief.

"I don't think most people knew the golf tournament registration fees were the source of much of our scholarship fund," says alumni president Doug Releford. "The main purpose of our Reunions has been twofold: one, to re-unite as alumni and fellowship with each other, renewing friendships and relationships. Two, we raise money for scholarships and give them to Douglass alumni descendants to continue the wonderful educaiton they have already gotten, just like we did after we left Douglass."

"That's why the loss of the golf tournament is truly heartbreaking."

George Smith has organized the past three golf tournaments.

"George graciously stepped in after original tournament organizer Bob Hord got sick," says Doug. "George has really done a good job, and has always been faithful to the Alumni Association on the tournament. I know it's a disappointment to him to have all the publicity out, and nobody respond at all."

"Last year, we had 36 golfers to tee off at Cattails at Meadowview," says George. "It was a great turnout, and everybody had a good time. The golfing stories that got passed around, just showed how well these alumni brothers got along, how well they worked together, and how much fun they had. But now, even if I held the tee times with Meadowview, there isn't enough time at this late date to get everything organized for a shotgun start."

"If some of the guys coming in for the Reunion just want to get together at Meadowview or Warrior's and play a round or two, that would be great," he says. "Just to get together as a Douglass group, would show some kind of unity. Maybe we can try the tournament at some later date. The Scholarship Fund is going to be kinda slim this year."

"The awarding of the trophies was one of the main events at Field Day," says Doug. "That's where the golfing stories of the day got spread around. The golfers came back and sort of bragged on each other. We'll miss hearing about who did what, who had the best score, who got closest to the hole, who got the best trophy."

"We'll just have to move on, I guess."

"We have had one Douglass alumnus who doesn't play golf, but donated 250 dollars directly to the Scholarship Fund, and we appreciate that more now than ever," says Doug. "I hope it was just the economy, and not something else. I guess now's the time to appeal to all Douglass Alumni members, that anything they can spare directly to the Scholarship Fund will be greatly appreciated, too. Hopefully, they can open up their hearts and the ir pocketbooks to see what they can do to help us keep our Scholarship Fund alive."

"It's not dead.. but it has been dealt a direct hit."

Meanwhile, the Douglass Reunion will go on as planned, from Friday, July 3rd to Sunday, July 5th.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Renovations About to Ramp Up

In just a few days, it will be full speed ahead for renovations at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center in Riverview.

Beginning this week and during the month of July, all the work on every part of the building designated for construction will begin. There will be simultaneous construction, work going on in all of the areas all at the same time. It took quite a bit to get to this point.

"All the demolition work is finished," says Dineen West of Cain-Rash-West Architects, designer of the massive project. "For the past few weeks, we have been hauling away unsuitable soil from the site of the 3-story tower and the adjacent area (the site of the former Douglass Auditorium, James Street, and the homes that used to sit nearby). "The foundations are now being poured, and then we'll drill the pit for the elevator shaft. It will sit in the center of what will be the tower. We're also putting in underground utilities, stormwater, water lines. The power company is moving power poles and getting the power switched over. Visitors will also notice an asphalt binder coat, to be used as a staging area for the contractor, employee vehicles, etc."

"We've entered a phase where we're trying to do a snapshot of a month or two ahead," she says. "We meet every two weeks and update where we are from there. Right now, we're seeing everything start in July, and in August we'll see where we are."

Uncovering the soil has revealed something Riverview residents have known for years.. it is unsuitable for building sustainable buildings that are designed to last a long time.

"The unsuitable soil does not meet the bearing capacity that we need for the new building," says Mrs. West. "It was sandy and will not support the steel structure, so we have to haul that soil out and bring in a clay-shell mixtue as a base. We've had an independent testing firm there overseeing the new soil that's going in, which has to be compacted. It has to reach a certain compaction level, and so they've been monitoring that for the past several weeks. The new clay-shell mixture should be able to support a 3-story building."

All plans have to start somewhere, and with the Dobbins/Douglass renovations, they begin with the 3-story tower.

"We are concentrating on the non-profit building first, where the old auditorium used to be," says Mrs. West. "Construction workers will also begin re-roofing the existing building during the summer, beginning in July. Also beginning in July, will be the renovation of the first floor where the headquarters will be for the Douglass Alumni Association, and the Carver Resource Center."

The new retention pond is a new source of consternation for local residents. It's located right off Louis Street, next door to the old Bowditch house.

"Everybody was concerned about not having enough parking," says Mrs. West, "so we tried to solve the parking issue and the soil that water doesn't go through very well. We were trying to get as many parking spaces as we could and the new city codes say, if you've got a project where you disturb more an acre of ground, you have to hold any stormwater runoff on your site for a period, before letting it run off. The Riverview community has always had an issue with stormwater runoff and ponding in the streets, and this retention pond will hold a certain amount of runoff before letting it run into the nearest stormwater drain. The resulting retention pond had to be put where it is, because you're not allowed to let storm water flow into the streets.. you have to hold it in an area, until it has time to filter into the drain system."

"We will get the first steel on site for the new tower in July, and erecting it sometime in mid-July," she says. "That is the first construction. From there, we will sort of, flow into the Douglass Alumni offices and the Resource Center around the first of July, but no exact date has been set. The building feels like that should be the sequence. After that, we will segue over into the new classroom wing construction for Headstart where the Dobbins tennis courts are, and the new gymnasium will be last."

"The Douglass Alumni offices will be an open area with most of the walls on the first floor knocked down," Mrs. West says. "In the Douglass room, we're taking out four classrooms and turning them into one big room. There will also be a seating area with tables for community and non-profit meetings, along with a kitchen area and storage. The Carver Resource Center will actually be an existing room that will be renovated, with no walls torn down."

"The men doing the foundations for the non-profit tower will finish that work at the end of June," she says. "They'll then move around to the classroom wing for Headstart on the back side of the building around the first of July. Other trades will move in after they move out. They have the new classroom construction projected to start around the first of July. The new gym will be the last new construction to begin and we're projecting that to start around the end of July."

"There'll be like three mini-jobs all going on at the same time, the non-profit tower, the Douglass/Carver improvements, the new classrooms, and the new gym all starting, then proceeding all in sequence. There will be lots of activities going on, all at once."

And then.. the fruits of so much labor will be completed. The wonderings and concerns of a neighborhood, the future of the cornerstone of one of Kingsport's first communities will be finished.

"The entire project should be finished by July 1, 2010," says Mrs. West. "One year to the day that most of the major construction begins, and weather permitting, the renovations to the building should be finished one year after it started, and the Douglass Alumni Association, and the other non-profits can move into their new homes."

Kingsport has long had a project going on, with various statutes and sculptures around town, catching the eyes and the minds of residents and visitors alike. "They will also be part of the Douglass/V.O. Dobbins Center renovations," she says. "We're looking at different medias that we haven't done before.. some will be photography, some will be oil paintings, others will be wall hangings, murals and scultures. We haven't determined exactly what will be involved, but we do have a subcommittee headed by Bonnie McDonald with the Kingsport Arts Council working on that right now. She is looking for community involvement, with residents helping to choose the various medias, murals, the photos, the scultures, the art work. If anyone knows of an artist in the community who'd like to be involved, please let us know. The artwork will have to be of good quality, so please come forward and make their contribution felt.. Also, if there are any local neighborhood tradesmen who want to contribute and get paid for it, the laying of ceramic tile, mosaics, anything will be considered."

Unfortunately, conspicuously absent from the sculpture displays, will be one of the Douglass School's most historic, memorable and mysterious items.

The historic spiral staircase was not saved by the demolition contractor, and from what we have learned, the specific saving of one of Douglass' most mystical features was not as important to the demolition crew, as it was to most Douglass alumni and Riverview residents. Turns out, the demolition crew was over-anxious to get their job done, as other items requested by the Douglass Alumni Association were also not salvaged, among them, auditorium seats.

(EDITORS NOTE: After first being told that no seats were available, then just one set was saved, this reporter went over and discovered many seats underneath debris and rubble bound for the landfill, and salvaged them. About 30 seats are now being stored in a safe area).

"Unfortunately, we were not able to save the historic spiral staircase," Mrs. West says. "The demolition people told us they had to cut that out, that it was bolted into the concrete, and in the process of making their deadline, it was destroyed. That's all they said. On the other hand, we were elated to find out that you were able to save many seats from the Douglass Auditorium and secured them for us."

"We will use the seats again around the Douglass Alumni room, along with the photographic memorabilia," says Mrs. West. "We'll try to save some of the character of the building with those items. I'm sorry the staircase did not work out, but we'll try to make it up in other ways."

Dairy Closing News Triggers Memories for Riverview's Jack Pierce, Pet Blacksmith’s Son


Tuesday’s headline about the closing of Pet Dairy got Jack Pierce thinking about his dad. “You know my dad was the first blacksmith for Pet Dairy. Anytime one of those horses threw a shoe, it was just like if your car had a flat. They’d come and get him.”

Jack was the youngest of 13 children, and when his mother died in 1932 when Jack was 3, it was left to his father, Albert Pierce, to raise the family by himself, on a part-time blacksmith’s pay. “If everything went well he worked just once a week.” The rest of his time he farmed.
Because the blacksmith’s job was part time, Jack says, “We never had any money. But we always had plenty of food.”
And plenty of love.
Jack grew up in Old Kingsport on a street with five other families. “None of us had any electricity. We used kerosene lamps. And no phones. I was pretty old when we finally got a phone.”
That meant that when one of the horses that pulled the old milk wagons threw a shoe, someone from the dairy would have to drive to the Pierce home, rouse Albert and take him down to the dairy stable downtown.
And “rouse” is the operative word. The milk men were out well before dawn delivering their bottles of milk and cream, so any shoeing would have to be done in the early light of dawn.
Occasionally when school was out, young Jack would go and watch his dad shoe a horse. “They were big foot Belgian horses, big horses, not like ordinary farm horses we got around here. I used to sometimes hand him the nails.”
That was as close as Jack got to being a blacksmith. He spent his working life at Eastman.
“Dad and the Pierce family were teamsters. They used to haul Kodak work for Eastman. My granddad and his boys, that’s what they did for a while.”
His grandfather Jerome had been born into slavery in 1844, went off to serve in the Union Army, then came back to the Bays Mountain area. “The old house where my dad was raised is still there.”
Jerome Pierce had five boys and a girl, including Jack’s dad, Albert.
Albert married Lena Fitzgerald around the turn of the century, when the only Kingsport was Old Kingsport, and together they had 13 kids, including the youngest boy, Jack.
Albert and Lena lived on the family farm for a time before moving to a street near the Netherland Inn. That’s where Jack was raised. “We were the only black family in the neighborhood but everyone got along. All the kids played together.”
Then Jack’s mother died in 1932. “Dad had to raise us and that’s what made us so close-knit.”
It worked like a typical big family at the time. “The oldest one looked out for the youngest one. Everybody helped everyb o d y. ”
During the Depression, two of Jack’s older brothers went off to work in CC Camps. CC Camps — Civilian Conservation Corps — were a Depression relief program for young unmarried males. The two boys would send money home. “That made the financial a little better. My dad would sell horses and trade horses. We lived pretty good compared to some folks.”
There was always ham and bacon and all the staples of a farm. “We grew corn and took it to the Gibson Mill and traded it for flour. And Sunday was chicken day. We’d go out in the yard and say, ‘That one looks good.’ ”
Jack always ate well at Douglass School, Kingsport’s pre-integration black school. “I would take jelly biscuits and ham sandwiches. Sometimes I would trade my baloney sandwich to another little boy for his jelly bread. I didn’t know he was getting the best of me.”
As the years passed, the Pierce children left home, one for Connecticut, another for New York, a third for Washington. Soon Jack, the baby of the family, was the only one left at home.
He stayed because his dad was getting older and needed help.
“I remember when he brought his new wife home. I moved out shortly after that because I knew he had somebody to take care of him.”

Contact Vince Staten at or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Douglass Alumni Association Trustee Board Meeting Minutes: 6/19/09

Douglass Releford, Andra Watterson, Sandra Wilmer, Thelma Watterson, Linda Bly, Ozine Bly, Lillian Leeper, Ethel Russell, Pamela Sensabaugh, Louetta Hall, Judy Phillips, Wallace W. Ross, Jr.

Meeting was called to order by President Douglas Releford.

Prayer by Chaplin Ethel Russell

Everyone was asked to look over the minutes of the last meeting. Motion to accept the minutes were made by Louetta Hall, second by Pamela Sensabaugh with the necessary corrections. Motion carried.

Old Business:

Louetta Hall talked about the tent for field day, she asked for permission from the board to carry through. She also stated that the pens are in and the cost was $195.32including shipping. Sandra Wilmer wrote Louetta a check for the balance.

The final print for the Souvenir Booklet is June 27, 2009.

Sandra Wilmer asked if all the vehicles were lined up for the 4th of July Parade. She wanted to know if time has been set aside to decorate the vehicles.

Douglas Releford asked Louetta if she could set aside a time to meet and go over the finalities.

Financial Report by Treasurer Sandra Wilmer. She stated that she deposited $1,225 that brings the total to $7,437.64. Motion to accept the financial report was made by Andra Watterson second by Pamela Sensabaugh. Motion carried.

Linda Bly gave an update on the Ad-Booklet. Ricky Hancock was unable to attend due to other obligations. She stated that she has received nineteen-full page ads, seven- ¼ page ads, eleven -½ page ads and six- 1/8 page ads. She did not have a total amount of the ads she has received.

Douglas Releford stated that Ricky Hancock needs to have a copy of the booklet June 27, 2009.

Wallace W. Ross, JR. stated that people were asking him if they could pay $60 and only come to the banquet; he was told that if they are non-alumni members they can only pay for the banquet.

Ethel Russell asked if there were any vacancies left at the convention center. Andra Watterson stated that 35 rooms were reserved and they have all been taken.

Lillian Leeper stated that there was 4 scholarship applications.
One applicant received $500 and the remaining three received $300 each. She also stated that the Scholarship Committee was in the process of setting up new guidelines.

Douglas Releford stated that George Smith hasn't received any applications for the Golf Tournament therefore, the Golf Tournament has been cancelled.

Adjournment was made by Linda Bly second by Pamela Sensabaugh.

Next meeting will be June 27, 2009 at St. Mark United Methodist Church @1:00pm.

Respectfully Submitted

Thelma Watterson, Recording Secretary

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ebony Club Update

A message to all members of The Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association

Hey, gang:

Today is Friday, June 18th. Eight (8) days before the end of the pre-registration period (slated for Friday, June 26th), and 15 days before the social event of the decade (i.e., Ebony Club Alumni Association's 2009 Reunion Weekend). If you have yet to mail in your completed registration form and full payment, I encourage you to do so now.

With this being our first year, we're going to honor Elizabeth "Coach" Dudney and Dawnella Ellis, our Ebony Club sponsors, during our Saturday, July 4th banquet. Consequently, we want to have a greater turnout for this event. Close to 50 people have already advised us of their intent to be present for the weekend festivities, but I know without a doubt that we can get our numbers closer to 100 attendees. This tribute to Ms. Dudney and Ms. Ellis is long overdue. Ms. Ellis devoted 29 years of her teaching tenure to the Ebony Club (1976-2005). Ms. Dudney played an integral role in getting the club started (1972-1976).

If you are unable to mail in your completed registration form and full payment by Friday, June 26th, you will be afforded a chance to do so during the Friday, July 3rd Welcome Reception, which will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Dobyns-Bennett High School Field House/Alumni Center. INDIVIDUALS SUBMITTING PAYMENTS AFTER 5:00 P.M. ON THAT DAY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ATTEND THE JULY 4TH BANQUET.

More information about the banquet to come.

Be blessed, and continue to be a blessing.

Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
DBHS Class of 1986
(919) 604-4585

Visit The Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association at:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ebony Club Update

A message to all members of The Kingsport Ebony Club Alumni Association

Hey, gang:

First off, I'd like to welcome our newest members to the site. I look forward to reading your contributions and catching up. I also want to encourage you to get your completed registration forms and full payments to me by Friday, June 29th. Over 40 people have already registered for the upcoming Reunion Weekend, which is now less than 19 days away.

Call me if you have questions.

Be blessed, and continue to be a blessing.

Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
DBHS Class of 1986
(919) 604-4585

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Douglass Alumni Trustee Board Meeting Minutes: 6/13/09


BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: President Doug Releford, Vice-President Andra Watterson, Treasurer Sandy Wilmer, Sergeant-at-arms Wallace Ross, Jr., Website Manager Calvin Sneed, Ozine Bly, Shelia Leeper, Van Dobbins, Jr., Pam Sensabaugh, Virginia Hankins, Judy Phillips, Lillian Leeper, James Bly.

OLD BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS: Board Sets A Reunion Expense Budget of $10,000.

NEW BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS: Alumni Association to Participate in Kohl's Employees-In-Action Program And Will Get Donation.. Board Votes to Amend By-Laws to Change Time for New Alumni Board Officer Selection..


Reading of previous meeting minutes.

Motion by Calvin Sneed to approve previous minutes, seconded by Pam Sensabaugh.. MOTION CARRIED.

Financial Report: Current Balance: $6,262.64. Since last meeting, treasurer Sandy Wilmer deposited $1,037.00 ($885.00 checks, $152.00 cash) into Douglass account. Scholarship Account: Sandy deposited $250 from alumni Samuel Floyd Perry in the name of "Calvin Sneed." Total balance $1.822.71. Wallace Ross questioned whether receipts for alumni payments can be mailed out by treasurer Sandy..Sandy said the plan is to save the postage by putting receipts in the alumni's folders when they arrive, and the receipts for ads will be mailed to the people who took them out. Wallace said he's heard from someone out of them who wants their receipts. He did not want to give their names, so Sandy is giving their receipts to Wallace and he will be responsible for getting it to them.

Motion to accept the Financial Report by Virginia Hankins, seconded by James Blye. MOTION CARRIED.


Andra Watterson reports 40 Douglass Alumni mugs left, 4 medium tee-shirts, 6 extra large, one 4-X, one 2-X, and 2 large left from previous sales.

Ozine Bly wanted to get a reading on the board's expenditures for the Reunion, weighed against what the treasurer is taking in, to see what the break-even point is. The board will owe the D-J $500.00 after the down payment of $100.00, and will owe Rick Hancock and Latech Solutions $1,200.00 after the down payment of $200.00.. The balance of paying for Meadowview facilities will not be known until the day the Reunion starts, but based on two years ago, the final payment was around $5,500.00. Renting the tent for Field Day was around $150.00. The cost of 200 ink pens will be figured in when the board hears from Louetta Hall, who was absent from the meeting, and money was paid to Van Dobbins for various items. Doug suggested a donation also to St. Mark's for the use of the Fellowship Hall for meetings. 2 years ago, the Board spent around $9608.00.

Motion by Ozine Bly to set a 2009 Reunion budget of $10,000.00, seconded by Pam Sensabaugh. MOTION CARRIED.

Wallace Ross wanted to know how many people had paid their registration and dues, and treasurer Sandy Wilmer said about 40 alumni so far.

Wallace also suggested he be given a list of vendors so he can take a proper count for Field Day. He will be provided a final list on that day..
So far, no one has registered as a vendor. The fee is $25.00.

Sandy has 2 ads to be given to Ricky.. she gave them to Calvin to send to Rick Hancock, as Linda Bly was absent from the meeting.


Virginia Hankins told the Board of a program from Kohl's Stores, that if they get 5 of their employees to donate 3 hours to a non-profit organization, the Douglass Alumni Association would receive a $500 dollar donation from the company. The Board can apply for the program as many times a year as it wants to. For example, since the Board uses St. Mark's Methodist Church occasionally for meetings, the kids could come in and clean the church, on behalf of the Alumni Association. The work could include clean-up, planting flowers, pick up trash. Each time the work is performed by the Kohl's employees, the Alumni would receive a donation of 500 dollars. Virginia says the program has been quite successful for New Vision Youth, Weed & Seed and others. She has talked with Michelle Hankins at Kohl's, to get the ball rolling for the Board. All we need is a date for the employees to work. The Board was enthusiastic about the program, perhaps an October participation.

Lillian Leeper suggested some guidelines be studied, for prospective Douglass Memorial scholarship applicants to be held to, when they send in their requests. She proposed that the Scholarship Committee meet to set down rules, and then report back to the Board what the rules would be. The Board had previously voted to allocate 500 dollars per scholarship applicant. Virginia also proposed that the Board revisit a previous suggestion that scholarships be awared in "off years"--years there is no Reunion, to be fair. She suggested the Kohl's program be directed towards awarding scholarship money in those off years.

In the absence of Souvenir Book Committee chairperson Linda Bly from the meeting, Doug asked committee member Shelia Leeper how the book was coming along. Shelia said Linda told her that she was picking out pictures. James Bly said she was emailing things to Rick Hancock to be in the book using his computer because hers was not working.

Wallace suggested that in the future, the Douglass Alumni Association have a computer in its new office in the renovated V.O. Dobbins Community Center, to speed things along. He was told that matter had already been discussed and decided last year.

Doug asked the Board about the possibility of having a general Business Meeting of the Board on Saturday, July 4th for the selection of new officers. Virginia reminded board members of previous processes, where the new officers were earlier elected among themselves, and then, just presented during the Business Meeting.

Motion by Virginia Hankins to amend the Alumni Association by-laws (Article 5, Section 2) to allow the election of new officers by the existing board members prior to the Reunion within the Body of the Board itself, and then present the new officers to the Alumni at the Memorial Service on Sunday, seconded by Pam Sensabaugh. MOTION CARRIED, Wallace Ross abstained.

The Nomination Committee for new officers will be Judy Phillips, Andra Watterson, Pam Sensabaugh and Van Dobbins, Jr. Their report will be presented at the June 27th meeting.

Calvin reported that, after discussions for a story, he has learned that the Douglass Ball Field will be open for Field Day, despite the heavy construction work that will be going on at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center next door.

Motion by Virginia Hankins to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Shelia Leeper. MOTION CARRIED.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Camp helps kids DEFY the odds


South Central Kingsport Weed and Seed is holding its 2nd annual Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) Camp at the Sullivan Holston Baptist Retreat Center. Left, one group of campers practices for a march competition against other teams from the camp. Below, K-9 Macho, a Belgian Malinois, puts the bite on Officer David Johnson during a demonstration by the Kingsport Police Department.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Vision Youth Prom: The Chance to be a Grown-up!

The New Vision Youth of Kingsport got the chance to "strut their stuff" at the annual Youth Prom, sponsored by New Vision Youth, the Brothers of the Clinch Mountain Lodge #531, and the Daughters of Elks, #344.

To see pictures of the event, please click 2009 New Vision Youth Prom. To also access the pictures from Rev. Mills, please click Prom Pictures--Rev. Mills

The prom was held Saturday June 13, 2009 in the Banquet Room at the Elks Lodge in Riverview.

The theme this year was "Aloha--Kids With Smiling Faces," and those faces were in abundance during the event, as the kids were treated to pizza, punch, Capri-Suns and plenty of excitement.

"The prom is a huge success this year," says New Vision Director Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, because of our partners, Brothers of the Clinch Mountain Lodge, the Daughters of Elks, friends of the community and the New Vision parents."

As all proms usually feature, the kids were all dressed up in their Sunday best, with the young ladies adorned in evening dresses, prom dresses, and party dresses. Their gentlemen escorts were decked out in tuxedo's and suits. Elegance and poise, from the child's point of view, was the order of the day.

"Today, they get the chance to act as grown-up as they want to, the young men pulling the chair out for their dates, going and getting a kid's drink for them, and showing them the respect that any prom demands," says Johnnie Mae. "The young ladies on the other hand, got the chance to see that these scruffy, bundles of energy they go to school with, can actually have manners and respect for them. They all also get the chance to have fun with their friends, and even make new ones."

A special highlight was the taking of pictures by the Reverend H. Roger Mills, professional-style pictures that the kids will always have as memories of the event. "A special thanks to Rev. Mills and Douglass Website photographer Calvin Sneed for giving the kids the feeling that they are special," says Johnnie Mae.

"This is really a safe and healthy environment that we're trying to do for the kids," she says. "It's something they can come out to, and enjoy, just like the adults would. It's a 'safe haven' envionment, thanks to Stan Treece and the Brothers of the Clinch Mountain Lodge 531.. every Saturday, I try and plan a little something for the kids, and they are always here for us. I really appreciate them."

Probably, the biggest highlight of the event was the naming of the New Vision Prom King and Queen. Patty Hoard served as the judge, observing the kids having fun, and being courteous to each other, and based her decision on the attitudes and manners of the children. The 2009 New Vision Youth Queen is Miss Kaylee Wells, a five-year-old kindergartner from Johnson City, and the 2009 New Vision Youth King is 11-year-old Charles Casey. Charles goes to Jefferson School in Kingsport.

The kids also got to kick up their heels to the music from deejay B.T. and the kids proved they are excellent dancers. Many of the adults lamented on the dance skills they used to have, now long gone, that the kids now seem to have in abundance. Many of their favorite tunes kept them busy, in between eating, resting and socializing.

"This kind of program is a unifying event for the Riverview Community," says Johnnie Mae. "It gives the young ones a chance to 'kick up their heels,' who can't go to the big proms their older brothers, sisters and relatives go to, yet they get to experience the pomp and circumstance the big kids get to do. The 5 and 6 year olds have been excited about this for weeks now, and parents tell me the older youth have had their fancy wear laid out for days."

"Was that really ME?.. that doesn't look like me. Years from now, they'll look back
at these pictures and remember the good time they had. They'll see the fun they had, and know that this is a wonderful community we live in. This shows them that they can be SOMEBODY, that they ARE somebody.. that they can be whomever and whatever they want to be. It starts with character and respect, and this Prom is one of the building blocks that gets that started."