Community Chest Spotlight: Sewanee Community Center

The 2021-22 Sewanee Community Chest Fund Drive is underway. Sponsored by the Sewanee Civic Association, the Sewanee Community Chest raises money yearly for local charitable organizations serving the area. This year’s goal of $102,291 will help 20 organizations that have requested basic needs funding for quality of life, community aid, children’s programs, and those who are beyond Sewanee but still serve our entire community.

This week we shine the spotlight on the Sewanee Community Center.

The purpose of the Sewanee Community Center is to improve the quality of life in Sewanee by providing a space for community-initiated programs and projects. The Center is truly a space that unites the community. Everyone from college students to senior citizens to young children of all ages use the space. A sample of the programs include the South Cumberland Farmer’s Market, yoga, tai chi, gymnastics, dance classes, Scout meetings, meditation workshops, chair exercise and dog obedience training. The Sewanee Community Center supports small business enterprises through the local online farmer’s market in addition to those who teach classes for income. Approximately 800 individuals are using the Center for various purposes each month.

The Sewanee Community Center will receive $4,000 from the Sewanee Community Chest for general operating support in the quality-of-life funding area. This grant will be used for the general operating costs of keeping the Center open including utilities, insurance, maintenance, mowing and manager’s salary.

Since 1908, the goal of the Sewanee Community Chest has been to help citizens by funding the community. With Community Chest donations, local organizations provide for basic needs such as books, food, animal care, housing, scholarships, recreational spaces, elder care, children’s educational needs and more. The Sewanee Community Chest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and donations are tax-deductible. Send your donation to Sewanee Community Chest, P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375. Go to <>; for more information or to donate online.

FC Library is Fine Free

An historic moment occurred at Franklin County Library on Jan. 12, as the Library went Fine Free by a unanimous vote from the Trustees.

Overdue and/or lost items may be returned via the new bookdrop or at the circulation desk as you enter the library.

There is also a new bookdrop and Little Free Library.

The outdoor bookdrop replaced one that had been donated some years ago by the Mount Juliet Library. It was a little worse for wear after being crashed into three times. The Franklin County Library Foundation met the need for a new bookdrop in the fall of 2021. It has two bins: one for media and the other for books.

The Little Free Library was donated by Blue Oak Projects in 2020. Due to installation challenges that we have now overcome, it stands tall and proud and greets visitors. For those not familiar with a little free library, it operates on the premise of take one, leave one. It is a free, shared service. Anyone may borrow without time limit and may also leave items for others to borrow.

The Library is open and accessible with normal hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Masks are encouraged inside the Library. Curbside pickup is also available. Call (931) 967-3706 to make an appointment for pick up.

Virtual Book Club Announced

The Franklin County NAACP is hosting a virtual Book Club to commemorate MLK and Black History Month. The zoom meeting will be held Tuesday evenings 6:30-7:30 p.m. Jan.25, Feb. 1, 15 and 22. (Note: No meeting on Feb 8.)

The selected book for reading and discussion is “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, and can be purchased at the Sewanee Bookstore or on Amazon.

Oluo is a noted and influential African American writer and speaker. This New York Times bestseller offers a hard-hitting, user-friendly examination of race and racism in America and is an excellent starting point to promote cross-cultural dialogue.

We hope you will join us for this exciting opportunity. If possible, please read the Introduction and Chapter 1-4 for the first meeting. Please contact <> for the Zoom link to be provided.

GC Food Bank Meeting and Election of Directors

Grundy County Food Bank will hold its annual meeting and election of directors on at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Parish House of Christ Church Episcopal, 530 10th St., Tracy City. There are two openings on the board of directors. Interested parties, particularly those with any board experience, are urged to attend and self-nominate. Face masks will be available and attendees are requested to wear one. Please direct any questions to <>.

Call for SCA Board Nominations

The Sewanee Civic Association invites nominations for open positions on the 2022-23 Board of Directors. Experience working in fundraising and for nonprofits is a plus, but any adult who resides in the area and shares concerns of the community is welcome. Specifically, the board position of treasurer will be open in April.

Nominations are due by Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. The slate will be presented at the Feb. 22 membership meeting. Voting will occur at the annual membership meeting on April 26. For more information, email at

The American Spiritual Ensemble to Perform Feb. 1

The School of Theology will inaugurate Black History Month by hosting a performance by The American Spiritual Ensemble at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 1, in All Saints’ Chapel. The Sewanee community is invited to attend free of charge. Please note: Masks are required.

The American Spiritual Ensemble was founded by Everett McCorvey in 1995. The mission of the American Spiritual Ensemble is to keep the American Negro Spiritual alive. Its members have sung in theaters and opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall in the United States and in Italy, Germany, Britain, Scotland, Spain, China, and Japan. The repertoire of the American Spiritual Ensemble ranges from opera to spirituals to Broadway. The members of the American Spiritual Ensemble are soloists in their own right and have thrilled audiences around the world with their dynamic renditions of classic spirituals, jazz, and Broadway numbers highlighting the Black experience.

Community Council Special Election

The Sewanee Community Council will be conducting a special election to fill a Council Representative position for District 4, the boundaries of which are Tennessee Avenue, University Avenue, Texas Avenue, and down Alto Road/Roarks Cove Road to the edge of the Domain. The term will run until December 2022.

To be a candidate, residents must reside in or on a boundary of District 4, be a registered voter in Sewanee, and turn in a petition with the signatures of 10 resident voters in District 4 to the Provost’s Office by noon on Thursday, Feb. 3. Petitions are available at the Office of Leases and Community Relations (Blue House). If there is more than one eligible candidate, District 4 resident voters will be able to vote from Monday, Feb. 7 to Friday, Feb. 25 during business hours at the Office of Leases and Community Relations (Blue House).

More information about the Sewanee Community Council and a map of the districts can be found at: <;.

Free at-home COVID-19 Tests

Every home in the U.S. can order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests will be completely free—there are no shipping costs and you don’t need to enter a credit card number. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.

The government has tests available for every residential address in the U.S. Order your tests now so you have them when you need them.

Go to <>;.

Lodge Cast Iron to Unveil All-New Museum Destination in 2022

Museum to Offer a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lodge Heritage & How Cast Iron is Made that Celebrates the Culture of Cast Iron & Food

At the culmination of its 125th anniversary year, Lodge Cast Iron announced today the forthcoming opening of the Lodge Cast Iron Museum in 2022, offering visitors from across America a destination to immerse themselves in the history and behind-the-scenes making of some of the most beloved cast iron products, cast iron cooking and the robust culture that surrounds it.

Based in South Pittsburg, Lodge’s hometown since 1896, the museum will offer a series of interactive experiences that takes visitors through three exhibitions: How It’s Made, a recreation of the foundry experience; The Lodge History & Legacy, highlighting the ingenuity that’s kept Lodge thriving generation after generation; and Cast Iron Culture, spotlighting the diverse uses of cast iron from the campfire to the kitchen. As part of Cast Iron in Culture, there will be a special focus on Southern food and cooks thanks to Lodge’s partnership with the Southern Foodways Alliance. Visitors will also be able to view an 18 foot cast iron skillet—deemed the world’s largest—as well as rare cast iron collections and stories about the people behind them. Following the experience, visitors can stop by the Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store to shop from the largest selection of cast iron cookware.

“Over the past year, we’ve celebrated 125 years of Lodge Cast Iron, and as we look ahead to 2022 and the next 125 years, we’re thrilled to be bringing the Lodge Cast Iron Museum to South Pittsburg,” said Mike Otterman, CEO and President of Lodge Cast Iron. “Covering everything from the history of cast iron to how it’s used today, the museum is an exciting opportunity to celebrate our community and share Lodge with the world through this unmatched experience.”

Since 1896, Lodge has manufactured heirloom-quality cast iron cookware at its foundries in South Pittsburg. Whether baking bread, grilling vegetables, or searing steak, Lodge’s long-lasting products are an indispensable part of daily life and work alongside you to try, learn, laugh, taste, and create memorable moments. The Lodge Cast Iron Museum, opening in late Summer 2022, will bring this legacy to life.

Events Canceled

The MLK Day celebration scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 17, has been canceled. Another date for the celebration will be announced soon.
The Performing Arts Series Concert scheduled for today at 4 p.m. featuring Kinnara has been canceled. It may be rescheduled at a later date.

Franklin County Schools: Addressing Teacher Retention

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Responding to input received at the December workshop on teacher retention, at the Jan. 10 meeting the Franklin County School Board voted to provide term life insurance with a $20,000 benefit to all full-time school system employees. The board also recognized teacher of the year awardees.

Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster presented two life insurance options: a policy paying a $10,000 benefit costing the school system $14,710 annually and a policy with $20,000 benefit costing $28,565 annually. Foster pointed out Franklin County Schools currently provided long-term disability insurance for noncertified employees, at a cost of $48,495 annually, but no one had ever used the benefit. County Finance Director Andrea Smith said the county formerly offered long-term disability to county employees but dropped the policy in favor of offering term life with a $10,000 benefit. Only two employees had received long-term disability benefits, Smith explained.

Offering term life insurance “could be life changing for families,” board member Sara Liechty said.

Board Vice Chair Lance Williams suggested dropping the long-term disability policy and providing term life with a $10,000 benefit, possibly revisiting the benefit amount in the future. The board decided, instead, to provide employees with the $20,000 benefit. Board member Sarah Marhevsky noted the $48,000 savings from dropping the long-term disability insurance would more than pay the premium for the $20,000 benefit.

Following up on another issue raised at the teacher retention workshop, Director of Schools Stanley Bean said the committees formed to address teacher dissatisfaction would likely report to the board in March. The teacher retention workshop reflected a need to address five issues: support, apathy, and morale; getting students up to reading level; social and mental health; pay; and community perception. The committees were charged with investigating why there was a problem, how to make improvements, and how to measure the success of changes made. “They may go in a different direction than we’re even thinking about,” Bean observed.

Bean announced the teachers selected by their schools as teacher of the year. The awardees will be the county’s nominees for recognition at the state level. Liechty suggested the recognized teachers receive a monetary gift, noting some school systems gave teacher of the year awardees $1,000 or more. The board will take up the suggestion at a February 7 workshop. The following educators were selected as “Teacher of the Year:” Beverly Smith (Broadview); Deborah Harris (Clark Memorial); Tammy Condra (Cowan); Sue Heaton (Decherd); Dana Knight (North Lake); Janelle Sullivan (Rock Creek); Donna Barnes (Sewanee); Paula Watts (North Middle); Jessica Allen (South Middle); Brittney Butner (Franklin County High School); Leslie Jones, Brook Davis, Karen Mathews (Huntland Elementary, Middle, and High School).

Reporting on federal Elementary and Secondary School Extended Relief (ESSER) funding, Bean said the school system was required to seek public input on the ESSER 3 Plan every six months. Going forward, Bean will include the invitation to offer input on the board meeting agenda and asked to be advised in advance of discussion topics so he could provide information if needed. Liechty requested additional information on plans for spending funds designated for teacher retention.

The board will meet at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 7, for a workshop on School District Goals and the Code of Conduct. The regular February board meeting will follow the workshop.

Monteagle Planning: Mother-In-Law Suites, Agritourism, ‘Forever Wild’ Wish

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 4 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission investigated strategies for accommodating mother-in-law suites in single-family residences, an agritourism project, and Cooley Rift residents’ intention to purchase adjoining property to preserve the land in a “forever wild” state.

Building inspector Earl Geary introduced a question from a property owner wanting to build a residence with a mother-in-law suite on property zoned R-3. The property owner proposed connecting the mother-in-law suite to the primary dwelling by a breezeway. Geary noted Monteagle allowed single-family residences on R-3 property, but to meet the qualification of a single-family dwelling, separate living quarters must not have separate entrances.

“That would make a duplex out of a single-family residence,” Geary said.

Planning Commission Chair Iva Michelle Russell acknowledged “The dignity of separate domicile … [as] an important part of the culture.”

The planning commission will revisit the question at a workshop on R-3 and R-4 zoning prior to the Feb. 1 meeting.

Matt Sparacio, owner of an approximate 150-acre tract, presented an overview of his plan for an agritourism complex at a site between the Country Mart and Dollar General. Sparacio’s plan calls for raising pigs, goats, cattle and chickens, and selling the meat raised. The venue would offer hiking, educational and holiday theme tours, a petting zoo and include a large event building with restrooms and play areas featuring a “pretend” farmers market and veterinary clinic. Town planner Annya Shalun said Monteagle commercial zoning allowed agriculture uses. With agricultural uses in mind, Geary approved a pole barn, but Sparacio wanted to add restrooms and other amenities not consistent with agricultural use.

Rather than amending rules governing agricultural uses, Shalun recommended the town consider an Agricultural Overlay District, a solution adopted by other municipalities.

“It sounds almost too liberal to me,” said Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman, expressing concern neighboring property owners might object to livestock being raised.

Shalun stressed the “flexibility” of the Agricultural Overlay District model. “You can tailor it to exactly what you want.”

Shalun will provide the commission with examples of Agricultural Overlay Districts in other communities as a possible strategy for Sparacio to move forward.

Mike Henning addressed the commission on behalf of a coalition of 38 Cooley’s Rift residents who want to purchase a 350-acre tract of land adjoining Cooley’s Rift, offered for sale by the developers for hunting and timbering. Henning said the group had money in escrow to purchase the property and intended to attach restrictive covenants to the tract “to protect it and leave it forever wild.” Problems arose, Shalun explained, because regulations required an access easement built to construction standards, which was not possible on the bluff tract. Subdividing the tract with the impacted adjacent landowners assuming ownership allowed access, except for one landlocked parcel. For the sale to proceed, the planning commission needed to approve the subdivided plat, Shalun said.

The prospective buyers will work with Shalun to resolve the landlocked issue. The planning commission will hold a special called meeting at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 21, to approve the subdivided plat so the sale can move forward on the contracted Jan. 30 closing date. Henning expressed concern if the sale did not go forward, a timber company could purchase the land.

Resident Dean Lay spoke in support of keeping property highly visible from the interstate in a natural state and suggested the commission consider regulations to curtail timber harvest on highly visible bluff tracts within its regional zoning authority.

Kinnara to Make Sewanee Debut, Jan. 17

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

The University will welcome renowned choral ensemble Kinnara next week for its Sewanee debut as a part of the Performing Arts Series on campus.

Kinnara, one of the nation’s premier professional chamber choirs, is directed by J.D. Burnett, who also serves as associate director of choral activities at the University of Georgia. This concert will take place on at 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 17, in All Saints’ Chapel, and is free and open to the public.

Kinnara will perform a multi-movement work called “Southern Dissonance: Portraits for a New South,” which draws on texts from famous Georgian Civil Rights activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Alice Walker, John Lewis, Jimmy Carter and Stacey Abrams. The concert, which Kinnara commissioned from American composer Heather Gilligan, will open with a piece by Langston Hughes.

The ensemble consists of Chelsea Helm, soprano; Wanda Yang Temko, alto; Cory Klose, tenor; Steven Berlanga, bass; and Caleb Herron, percussion. Gilligan said it is the aim of this work to comment and invite further discussion on the social issues facing the current and new America.

“This work is about progress and persistence, about standing firm…it weaves together themes that are as relevant now as they were then. The song cycle begins and ends with the question of a dream deferred, offering a musical setting of the 1951 poem by Langston Hughes. It visits a reworking of the civil rights song, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” words that were sung on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1965 during the March from Selma to Montgomery,” Gilligan said. “Passages from [activists] explore issues of voter rights and the idea of standing one’s ground. Lewis asks, ‘How long can we be patient?’ and King reminds us that freedom is ‘in our hands’ as we march toward justice. In the end, we return to the question, what happens to a dream deferred? And we hope that, with each struggle, with each fight, when we stand our ground, when we make measured progress while refusing to retreat, maybe we’ll come closer to realizing that dream.”

Kerry Ginger, assistant professor of music at the University, performed with the ensemble in 2019 for their Rachmaninoff Vespers concert series and again for a recording project this October. She said that it is particularly special to have an ensemble like Kinnara representing the South in the world of choral music.

“‘Southern Dissonance’ in particular is such a powerful work because it illuminates and enhances mighty voices from the civil rights struggle in our neighboring state. I think “Southern Dissonance” is important at this moment because the issues of voting rights, racial justice, and fair, equitable democratic institutions are being urgently and hotly contested in American society,” Ginger said. “The writers and speakers in the piece remind us that freedom is incremental and hard-won, that disillusionment and distrust always loom, and that there is hope for change where there is a will to dismantle violence and hatred.”

Reverend Peter Gray, University chaplain, echoed Ginger’s sentiments, saying that Kinnara’s performance of “Southern Dissonance” will be a poignant way of honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“One of the University’s values is courage. [And we know that] our heroes – the people we love to tell stories about at Sewanee – were the courageous among us. As we celebrate Dr. King this year, my hope is that this performance will inspire each of us to be courageous as we strive for justice, equity and sustainability in Sewanee and in the broader society,” Gray said.

Sewanee’s Kinnara performance will be one of four world-premiere performances of Gilligan’s work and will be premiered alongside David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize winning composition, “the little match girl passion,” based on the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen story.

Masks are required for all who attend per the University’s masking mandate. Kinnara will also be giving masterclasses with University students during the day of their concert.

Winter Convocation, Jan. 14

The University of the South’s Winter Convocation will be held at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 14. Two honorary degrees will be presented, and approximately 75 new members will be inducted into the Order of the Gown during the service.

Retired Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr. and poet Nikki Giovanni will be awarded honorary degrees; Bolden will give the convocation address. Please note that masks are required at indoor University events.

General Charles Bolden had a distinguished 34-year career with the Marine Corps, including 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he flew combat missions during the Vietnam War, served as a test pilot, commanded space shuttle missions, and served as commanding general of Marine expeditionary forces in Kuwait and at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (California), before becoming NASA administrator in 2009. Only the second astronaut to hold the position of NASA administrator, he oversaw the transition from the space shuttle system to a new era focused on the International Space Station and aeronautics technology. Following his time at NASA, he served as a U.S. Department of State science envoy for space from 2018-2019.

Nikki Giovanni is one of this country’s most widely read poets and is renowned worldwide. As a student at Fisk University, she reinstituted the school’s chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), edited the literary magazine, and graduated magna cum laude. She self-published her first poetry book in 1968, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s her lectures, poetry readings, and frequent appearances on the Black entertainment show SOUL!!, along with her extensive lecture tours, made her one of the most recognizable poets of the Black Arts Movement. She began teaching at Virginia Tech in 1987 and has been named a University Distinguished Professor. Since she has been at Virginia Tech, she has published two collections of essays, several illustrated children’s books, and 10 volumes of poetry for adults.

The Convocation will be livestreamed for those unable to attend. at <;.

Annual MLK Day Celebration

Sewanee’s annual MLK Day Celebration will be at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 17, in Cravens Hall. The public is invitied to commemorate the life, legacy, and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Vice-Chancellor pro tem Nancy Berner will have opening remarks. The university’s Chief Diversity Officer, Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, and several student leaders will share uplifting messages reflective of this year’s national theme, “It Starts with Me: Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community.” There will also be song selections from a number of the university choirs and a special performance by the Sewanee Step team.

Food will be provided by the University to best adhere to safety the precautions of COVID-19. There will not be a potluck this year.

All attendees are asked to wear masks and take the necessary measures to remain safe in the event that they are feeling unwell.

The program is sponsored by the Division of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the School of Theology, and the Black Student Union.

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