Whitesburg KY

Giving thanks

To the Editor:

I was not able to stay at the park at Jenkins during the Jenkins Homecoming festival ceremony long enough to thank some special people. I am grateful for the opportunity to do that now.

My husband, John, and I appreciate so much Ronnie Compton and his beautiful convertible; Peggy Bentley at the library; Eileen and Ked Sanders; Police Chief Jim Stevens; and all of the Festival Committee members. The work and kindness of all these friends made the day go so smoothly.

We wouldn’t have hoped for a better day in spite of my health-related problems. Just seeing our friends and the amazing Jenkins School Apartments made the trip so special, and the lifetime achievement award was a rare honor.

There are many supporters who helped with the Old School Project who have been recognized, but some worked quietly and almost anonymously. I would like to mention a few of those. Very early in the effort to keep the building standing, Aleese Jones of Headstart spoke up for us. County Judge/Executive Carroll Smith drove up from Whitesburg and personally brought a copy of Consolidation Coal Company’s original building plans. Betty Hunsaker shared her knowledge of finance and legal matters; without her work, the committee could not have been a valid group. During the last years of the project, Jim Polly was an effective, assertive chairperson and kept the processes moving even when things seemed impossible.

Several other caring people helped through their support of the Old School in their programs. Throughout the renovation William Farley and The Mountain Eagle, Tina Whitaker and the News-Press, and Rick Hall with TV presentations kept the area informed on the needs and progress. All three mayors of Jenkins from 1992 until today have been influential. Mayor Shubert and Randy Tackett spoke for the project before Gov. Paul Patton helped to secure the first grant. Mayor Dixon, a member of the Old School Committee, pushed our agenda, arranged cleanup days and attended years of court meetings. Mayor Kincer studied the building as a possible computer center early in the process. Then, two years ago both Mayor Kincer and Judge Jim Ward became acquainted with the quality work done by AU Associates of Lexington. They were very instrumental in securing them for the project, and it has turned out better than our wildest dreams.

From the first plans to the ribbon cutting, Magistrate Wayne Fleming was a staunch advocate and advisor. He was always available by phone, even at night. A special thank you has to go to Representative Leslie Combs. She drove to Jenkins on a day of accumulating snow to tour the ice-cold building, and she saw the beauty of it. Mrs. Combs constantly recommended important people to call and successful renovations to go see. Through the years she has continued to support the Old School Project. Her Legislative phone “hotline” was a frequent communication source.

I’ll have to admit that once during a presidential election campaign in which it seemed there were no qualified candidates, I called The Eagle’s “Speak Your Piece.” I suggested that Leslie Combs would make a better president than any of those running, because she actually cares for people. I still think that.

I have to think there was some heavenly input when AU Associates chose Heidi Weiderman, Johan Graham, and Misty Collins to do the jobs they have done for the apartments. They all worked over and above the essentials to ensure that the renovation was superior and that the community values were permanently and beautifully kept.

Every year we toured the old building, and the people I have mentioned promised to make sure the building was saved, even if I couldn’t. I want to thank each one of them for their encouragement and physical help during those days. I hope they can all go back now and see the difference.

I began teaching at Jenkins in 1994 and my last year was 2005-06, but I still get to see many of my ex-students and their little ones on Facebook. What a joy.

There are sons, daughters, and friends literally all over the world that call Jenkins “home.” May the Lord bless our sweet memories of its past and give us wisdom to help in the future.

Elizabethton, Tenn.

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