A Big Club in a Small Town
By Larry Robertson
It was 1986 and this momentous year began with the Challenger disaster. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster struck fear in the hearts of millions worldwide. Haley’s Comet was returning, and the Iran Contra scandal was reported in the news. Our country was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and our nation observed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the very first time.
High on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee a small lakeside golfing community called Lake Tansi Village was struggling for growth and improvements. Roads were mostly gravel and residential dwellings numbered approximately six hundred. Two residents emerged from the community and resolved that Lake Tansi needed a community service club. Dick Phelps and “Fitz” Fitzgerald were members of the Crossville Exchange Club and they believed a club in our community could come together to promote a spirit of community and provide aid for the Exchange Club national project: the prevention of child abuse. The charter meeting was held on December 4, 1986 and local resident John Story was recruited as President. State Senator Ms. Anna Belle O’Brien was an early member and ambassador for the club. The newly appointed Lake Tansi General Manager, Ken Deadmon, was also recruited as a charter member. Mr. Deadmon recalls how the club began as an “organization of purpose and resolve.” A mere sixteen months after forming, the Lake Tansi Exchange Club helped establish and provide financial support for the new Holland J. Stephens Center in Livingston, Tennessee. The center serves five counties on the Cumberland Plateau, providing crisis intervention for incidents of domestic violence/family violence/child abuse. The center also provides family preservation/permanency planning, parent education, parent support groups, and other special services.
Today, Lake Tansi is one of the most affordable community resorts in the country. With approximately 1,800 homes, an exceptional 18 hole championship golf course, and a beautiful 550 acre private lake, Lake Tansi is regarded as “heaven on earth” to many. Most roads are now paved and residents feel safe with the support of an excellent security force.
The Lake Tansi Exchange Club has been a major contributor to the success and growth of Lake Tansi. In years past the Property Owners Association was unable, at times, to provide adequate financial support for some services. When the Lake Tansi Security Department desperately needed another patrol car and funding was unavailable, the Exchange Club came together and raised adequate funds to purchase a patrol car and equip it for service. The Exchange Club also provided bullet proof armored vests for officers, video cameras for patrol cars, and defibrillators for emergency responders.
The Exchange Club helped establish the Neighborhood Watch program in Lake Tansi, provides free telephone books and maps to all residents, and provides college and professional scholarships to well deserving students within the community. The club donated a “Freedom Shrine” which displays replicas of our nation’s Declaration of Independence and other historic documents for students at Brown Elementary School.
The club has adopted the highway through our community and pledged to help keep our roads free of trash. Orange vested club volunteers are regularly seen picking up trash along Dunbar Road.
When the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program came to Cumberland County, the Exchange Clubs of Crossville and Lake Tansi rallied to support the program. Every dollar donated is matched by the state to help support the program. Every enrolled child, under five years of age, receives a free book each month. Nation-wide, the program currently mails out over 335,000 free books monthly. Children across the country are being read to on a regular basis as a result of this wonderful program.
Members regularly volunteer as mentors and tutors at local schools. Some members also serve as board members on other community service organizations.
During the war in Iraq, our 278th National Guard soldiers used phone cards, provided by the Exchange Club, to call loved ones at home. When the soldiers returned home from war, a bus was chartered by the Exchange Club to expedite their return and provide a true hero’s welcome. The club contributed to a fund to support military families in need of assistance. A Veterans Memorial in Lake Tansi is maintained each year by the Exchange Club.
Over the past fifteen years the Lake Tansi Exchange Club has donated over $604,787 for the prevention of child abuse, community support, scholarships and dozens of youth programs. (A list of supported programs follows this article.)
Several members of the Lake Tansi Exchange Club were asked, “What has our club done that you are most proud of?” Without exception or hesitation, members said they were most proud of our support of community and our youth. Charter member Gene Broughton believes the Exchange Club helped provide a cohesive community of people, working together successfully to make Lake Tansi the wonderful place it has become. The Lake Tansi Exchange Club continues to flourish and grow. Now over 70 members strong, this service club of dedicated men and women are working together to make our communities better places to live through programs of service in Americanism, Community Service, Youth Activities, and its national project, the Prevention of Child Abuse.
Programs Supported by the Lake Tansi Exchange Club include:
• Holland J. Stephens Center
• Avalon Center
• Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program
• House of Hope
• Freedom Shrine
• Teens Against Drugs
• Kids on the Rise
• Salvation Army
• United Fund
• Fellowship of Christian Athletes
• Angel Flight
• Upper Cumberland Teen Ranch
• Give a Kid a Flag
• American Heart Association
• Brown Elementary School Library
• Department of Children’s Services
• Veterans and National Guard
• Lake Tansi Veterans Memorial
• Crossville Fire Department
• Adopt a Highway
• Bread of Life
• Lake Tansi Property Owners Association