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Two decades of community service ends

Remaining members of the Levi Retirees Ettie Reece, Ruby Lewis, Bill Adams, Bobbie Phillippi, Carolyn Guinn, Cloyce Eller, Ruth Dowell, Carolyn Reece, Bernice Reece (president), Billie Ruth Tester, Jo Burchett, and Mae Matheson gather for a photo taken recently in Mountain City. Due to age and health problems, the club has come to the decision to end its long time service on behalf of the community. Photo submitted.

By Tamas Mondovics

“It is with regret, Levi Retiree’s Club announces our official retirement due to age and health problems in our club and families. During the past 20 years as a group, we have enjoyed serving our community by helping numerous organizations and other special events. In addition, we have been able to provide four scholarships per year to graduating seniors. We could not have done this without the love and support of Johnson County and surrounding areas. We sincerely hope the community will continue to support whoever takes our place.”

And with that, one of the community’s most appreciated, supported, and beloved group brings its longtime service to a close.

“The Levi Retirees have sacrificed their time and numerous talents to make a great difference in our community over the years,” said Johnson County Bank CSR Temple Reece.

Reece acknowledged that the group had helped many organizations that she personally been involved with, like United Way, The Art Center, and many others.

“The one thing that touches me most is all the years they did our dinner and Christmas party for the Sheriff’s Department,’ she said. The twelve years that Mike was Sheriff; they cooked, decorated, served, played with Santa and all the kids, and treated us all very special. I have so many good memories. Their legacy will carry on long after they decide to “actually retire.” I could never thank them enough.”

Reece’s words echoed through club member Mae Matheson’s recollection of the Club’s history, mentioning that over the two decades, the non-profit organization has raised more than $250,000 to support a large variety of charities. Such included senior scholarships, the Lion Club, winter heating assistance, various children’s camps, and the Johnson County Cancer Center, to name a few.

The organization began with a group of 25 dedicated residents who retired from the Levi Strauss & Co., factory in Mountain City, which was one of several that closed its doors, forcing more than 4,000 workers at that time to stay home in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

At the same time, Levi Strauss also announced that it would close four of its European factories as well, citing a drop in the size of Europe’s youth population and a shift in consumer taste from denim to non-denim clothing effectively trimming an anticipated $200 million in costs.

The news prompted the opportunity to apply a famous quote by Alexander Graham Bell, “When one door closes, another opens.” In his quote, Bell added, “we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

And that is the trap that the Levi Retirees made sure not to fall into, making good use of their time, generous spirit, and love for their community.

“When the factory closed down, we decided to turn a bad decision into something positive,” Matheson said. “We feel very good about what we have been able to accomplish over the years. We are like a family.”

Matheson added, while all the remaining members of the club agree that the outcome leaves a major void in the heart of the community, she hopes the club’s example of community service will “inspire many others to carry on.”
Thank you, Levi Retirees.