Alderman Rupa Blackwell

Alderman Rupa Blackwell

November ushers in cooler weather, beautiful fall colors and my favorite time of the year with the holiday seasons upon us.

First comes Diwali where we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and let positivity flow into the new year. At Thanksgiving in my house, we give thanks for all with which we have been blessed, make a giant dinner and spend time eating a delicious meal with people we love. And then at Christmas, we celebrate hope and peace, and my home is filled with my excited children and our plethora of family traditions.

It is a beautiful time of year, but the thing that makes the season absolutely magical is the way Tullahoma comes together as a community- to celebrate and to show each other love and gratitude.

Now with Thanksgiving being my absolute favorite holiday, it’s fitting that my holiday season was kicked off with the dedication of the Naniva and Tennyson Holmes Memorial Courts at Jefferson Street Park. At this dedication, I gave thanks to our entire community for making that day possible and in doing so told the story of how this project came to be.

What I realized is that the story of these basketball courts is one of advocacy, resiliency, philanthropy, and (most importantly) community, and so I wanted to give thanks again.

Tullahoma’s greatest asset has always been its people. The journey to completing the basketball courts and dedicating them to honor the incredible lives of Naniva and Tennyson Holmes would not have been possible without each and everyone of you. It is you- our community- that made this possible.

This journey began with a community member, Royce Massengill, bringing the need to revitalize these courts to our attention. With his concern and my ideas, our city administrator, Jennifer Moody and our then Parks and Recreation director, Kurt Glick, were able to help put into motion a plan. A plan that was driven by our community.

There were over 40 individuals, companies, churches and organizations who committed to this project through funding or in-kind donations. Thank you to each and every one of you who gave to this project. This would not have been possible without your support.

Our city staff worked hard to turn these donations into the beautiful product we now have. JP Kraft and Lyle Russell took charge of the project management after Kurt’s retirement, and the parks and recreation and public works staff put many hours of hard work into this. As I watched this process unfold, I saw that they were all invested in the success of this park (and in the success of our community as a whole). Words cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for them.

But it wasn’t just the staff and donors who embraced this. The entire community has. Neighbors of the park shared their hopes and dreams for these courts. Adults who grew up playing on these courts championed the project. Whenever I went to check out the work, people would stop me to ask about it as they dropped by to see the progress. Friends called me regularly to see what was happening and to give feedback on the updates. A group even formed to continue to advocate for this park- the Friends of Jefferson Street Park.

And it all fell into place when we were able to dedicate the courts to two community members who truly embodied the spirit of our Tullahoma. While working on the resolution to dedicate these courts in memory of Naniva and Tennyson Holmes, I learned that the Holmes’s lives showed that true community is created through a giving spirit, which they embodied. This insight into them has taught me so much about the person that I want to be: someone who gives without question, someone who champions their community, someone who truly listens to a person and will then take what they learned from that person and advocate for them.

So during this time of thanksgiving, I’m thankful for each and every one of you. You all gave to this project in so many different ways, and our community came together to achieve this goal. Thank you for all you did to help complete this project. It’s you, our community that made this possible. When I tell my family what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, I will tell the about each of you.