Tannersville, Va. – Sept. 11 will be remembered for a positive reason in this small community on the Tazewell-Smyth County border.
As the country remembered the atrocities of Sept. 2001, 20 years later, Tannersville completed its walking trail. That was the date of this year’s Chicken Barbecue fund raiser sponsored by the Tannersville Department.
Each year, the Tannersville VFD hosts the annual fundraiser as a primary means of buying equipment and necessities. It had also been decided that the fundraiser day (always the Saturday after Labor Day) would be the day the community celebrated the official opening of its walking trail, an effort that took years in the making to raise the funds needed to pave the trail.
Just like the recovery of the United States was all about community, supporting each other, and being selfless, that’s what Tannersville is all about, too. The effort started many years ago. Anne and Tom Dumper recall the dream that many had in the community at that time. Tom applied for and got a grant. Then, somehow, the grant went to the county administrator’s office and the ball was dropped, and the little community thought its dream of having a trail was over.
In 2002, native Don Hilt brought his bride Tammy to Tannersville.
She became active in the Tannersville Community Association and from time to time, she heard mention of the walking trail that “almost was.” With the encouragement of fellow member, Carol Morand, she was determined that this was one dream that would not die. She rolled up her sleeves and began leading others to work towards that dream.
Finally, the group got a little money from donations from local businesses and was hopeful of having a trail built. The Kinder family, primarily Sam, the late Hop, and the late Ronnie, and Don and Ralph Hilt spearheaded digging out a basic trail.
Next, several community members, such as the late George “Short” Taylor, donated loads of gravel to fill in the trail. Tannersville finally had a very basic walking trail.
September 11 is a day that changed the United States forever when the country was attacked by foreign forces on its own home soil. Americans recoiled in horror from the atrocities that were committed that day. Across the nation, countless little communities watched the events unfold and wondered how the U.S. would ever recover. Yet, unbelievably, the recovery started almost immediately as America’s communities, both large and small, rose up in support of those who had fallen, especially perhaps the heroic firefighters who selflessly gave their lives to save others.
Just like the recovery of the United States was all about community, supporting each other, and
They quickly found out that gravel is very difficult to walk on, and there’s no way to easily push a stroller or a wheelchair on it. Their next project was to pave the trail, an expensive process that brought on over 10 years of fundraising. At one point, even Tammy was about to give up, and she prayed that God would give her a sign if the project was to continue. Enter Valerie Holmes MacDowell.
Valerie’s parents, Kay and Fred Holmes had been very active in the community. Freddie Joe, a Burke's Gardens native and retired construction contractor, was one of the original workers who helped fix the building up when the community received it from the county. When Fred passed, Kay (who suffered from peripheral artery disease) longed for a place where she and others could safely walk for health reasons. Kay died in 2015 long before the completion of the trail. When she passed, a memorial service was held for her at the community center, and Valerie learned the TCA was raising money to pave the walking trail. She immediately made a generous donation in her parents’ honor, especially since it was something they would have enjoyed.Tammy took that as her sign and began selling cookbooks and having other fundraisers. However, every time she got estimates for paving, the fund was still thousands of dollars short. The men in the association had always told her that concrete would be too expensive, but one day she decided to check the cost and compare it to asphalt estimates. She asked her neighbor Mike Davis if he knew anyone who laid sidewalks. He told her that he did. When he found out what she wanted and that it was for the community, he gave her the best price possible.
Tammy was heartbroken when she realized they were still $4,000 short even at the good price Davis gave her. Then, inspiration struck! She remembered several years earlier asking Tazewell Board of Supervisors’ member Mike Hymes if he could help them out. He could not then, but he promised if they ever got close to their goal, he would help. Now was the time to ask, and he was able to give them $4,000!
“I like to help the people of Tannersville because they hardly ever ask for county money,” Hymes says. “Instead, they work for things they want. When they do ask, I know it’s important. I knew how long they had been working for this trail, and I wanted to help them in any way I could.”
Hymes’ wife Cecelia was very impressed by the finished trail, and the benches around it donated by community members in memory or honor of loved ones. She lived in Tannersville for a while growing up and visited her Martin grandparents there often. She even attended school in the community building when it was a school.
Hymes says it is important for small communities to keep community spirit and identity alive. Valerie MacDowell would agree. She and her husband watched the progression of the fund and rewarded the group for reaching milestones.
“I love how this small community works together for things,” she says. “They also have a Facebook page and emails to keep everybody informed about deaths and births and community events. Jim French, who grew up here, researches old news articles and sends them out to let us see what the community was like many years ago. I really enjoy those articles.”