Giving over all writing duties to Mike today. He insisted because of the respect and love he holds for the Walker Area Community Foundation.
All good things in a community only exist because of the goodness of the community at large, and individually. Twenty-five years ago, John Oliver and the founding board members had the foresight to see an organization that would be used as a community builder, and that is precisely why the Walker Area Community Foundation exists.
In addition, Jasper Main Street, our downtown revitalization organization and Tallulah, my canine partner in crime, are both inextricably tied to WACF. And while they fund and advise many more organizations besides Jasper Main Street, I can most accurately speak to what they have done for Downtown Jasper.
It all started in 2014 when I retired after teaching for 26 years at Corner Theatre Academy. I was the ripe old age of 49 and knew I would start a second career but assumed it would be theatre-related, and as time has proven, downtown revitalization is closely aligned with theatre.
Debbie Young Sanders of Young Jewelers called me and asked me if I wanted to promote downtown events. At the time, I told her that I wasn’t interested.
A few months later, she began talking about downtown revitalization and sent me to visit Kay Moore, Downtown Gadsden’s Main Street director. Having grown up in Norwood, a community adjacent to Downtown Birmingham, going to school at St. Paul’s Parochial School in Downtown Birmingham, and having my mother who worked across the street at The Birmingham News, and where I shopped at Pizitz and Loveman’s and so many other places, I knew that I had downtown in my blood. After the concept for Downtown Jasper changed from promoting events to downtown revitalization, I forged full steam ahead with countless community volunteers, and we never looked back.
Soon after I met Mary Helmer, President of Main Street Alabama, several times in Downtown Jasper where she offered her wisdom and wit to a retired high school theatre director. It took several months of preparation to apply to Main Street Alabama for what is called Designation.
One of the requirements was to have funding in place for this new unnamed organization. You guessed it! WACF provided the seed money that began with a conversation between Dustin Beaty, JMS’s immediate past-president and Cristy Moody, Director of Operations of WACF.
Since then, we have been working for total downtown revitalization with the continued support of the WACF. While Jasper Main Street now garners great support from the City of Jasper, other grantors, and volunteers, it was WACF that brought Jasper Main Street into existence, and I am personally thankful for them and JMS’s current volunteer nine-member board of directors: Jenny Brown Short; Renae Mitchell Wilson; Holly Trawick; Lisa Killingsworth; Kathy Chambless; Josh Gates; Terrell Martin; Gina Scruggs; and Oliver L. Wright.
To this very day, WACF supports downtown revitalization financially; however, this is not a foundation that only writes a check. It’s a foundation that is made up of employees, board members, and volunteers that are just a text message away.
I give to WACF, not because they support Jasper Main Street, but because of these words from John Oliver: “You can give your money to all kinds of places and they’ll write you a nice letter and thank you and maybe even put your picture in the paper. But my thinking is that you should give it in the town where you live, where you can see the needs and then you can walk down the street and look around and say, ‘I helped make this happen.’”
Happy 25th Anniversary, Walker Area Community Foundation! Help them celebrate by watching their video at http://www.wacf.org/.
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