Representatives from the city and county government come together in front of City Hall for a check presentation from Operation Pocket Change through Mountain Electric Cooperative. The grant total is $10,000 .(L-R): GM Joe Thacker, Flo Bellamy, Sandra Fortune, County Mayor Mike Taylor,Nancy Wills, Alderman Dustin Shearin, City Mayor Jerry Jordan, Robert Wilson. Photo by Tamas Mondovics.
By Meg Dickens
As many people know, the Johnson County/Mountain City Community Center has been under financial strain since one of its major supporting grants, the $50,000 Lottery for Education: Afterschool Programs (LEAPs) grant, no longer exists. This Thanksgiving season, community organizations stepped up to help bridge the funding gap and help local children thrive.
Three separate organizations have funds earmarked for the Community Center. Two of the three have already presented checks to Director Flo Bellamy in the past week. Elizabethton Federal Savings Bank contacted The Tomahawk to share the news of its donation “in response to the article about the loss of funding.” Other donations came from a Mountain Electric Cooperative Operation Pocket Change (OPC) grant and a new 501C3 nonprofit organization, Hometown Service Coalition.
Elizabethton Federal presented a $5,000 check to Bellamy on Tuesday, November 17, and OPC presented a $10,000 check two days later. The Hometown Service Coalition is currently working on fundraising to match donated funds but has two specific donations earmarked for the Johnson County/Mountain City Community Center, $5,000 from an anonymous donor and $2,000 from the Watauga Watershed Alliance. Those amounts add up to approximately $22,000.
“This community has always been supportive,” Bellamy stated. “All funds and everything we receive is to help the kids.”
All donations go directly into the Center’s supplies, including items like food and cleaning supplies. None of this capital will go towards paying staff, but employees are paramount to safety and success. Bellamy recently reached out for more “boots on the ground” to help take care of the children, explaining that they could not afford to have an employee have a sick day in the current state. Currently, the center has four employees: Bellamy, two 30-hour part-time employees, and a 20-hour part-time employee.
“I appreciate the support of the community,” said City Mayor and Operation Pocket Change representative Jerry Jordan. “This is a wonderful thing for the town to support them this way, but it has to care for the salaries.” He continued, “The county could do more.”
Reportedly, Bellamy has reached out to the county for additional funding in the recent past but to no avail. The Town of Mountain City and Johnson County government started out providing equal funding for the Center many years ago. The city has increased its support from the original $25,000 to $100,000, but the county has stayed stagnant at $25,000.
For more information on the Johnson County/Mountain City Community Center and how to contribute, call (423) 727-2942. Find out more online on Facebook @jcmccommunitycenter.