By Dan Pool, Editor
In Feb. 2014, the Progress ran an article “Attend the Sharptop Arts Association meeting … “because YOU are the missing piece;” it had a sub-head “don’t let Jasper become a cultural bypass.”
While we are not exactly a cultural bypass, the missing piece didn’t show up and the arts association with the nice center on D. B. Carroll Street was dead and doornail by 2016.
Gone with it were the shows, concerts, competitions, classes, gallery which sold local artwork, plus a social center for downtown. If you have enjoyed one of the popular ArtWalks in downtown, imagine what we lost when Sharptop closed its doors?
I am currently the secretary for the Pickens Historical Society and our group, like many local non-profits are in the same boat: Stretched thin on volunteers, relying on the same people to do it all and unable to take on new projects. From talking to other non-profits we are seeing that even though more people come out to events, fewer people will join or volunteer – particularly those more recently arrived here. Maybe they feel we aren’t welcoming or don’t have any place for them in established local groups – neither of which is true — as long as they don’t immediately start insisting we do things the way they want it done.
It is possible we could lose other non-profits who fall by the wayside like Sharptop. Among groups/events that shouldn’t be taken for granted and would leave Jasper a lesser-place if they vanished: ArtWalk, which is super popular and growing put on by the Pickens Arts & Cultural Alliance (PACA); The Lions Club and their town tradition of an annual July 4th parade and fireworks; the Optimists with their STAR student recognitions, road race, golf tournaments; Downtown Live hosted by the downtown development authority; Not to mention the dozens of events our churches put on – everything from movie nights to fun days in the park; and let’s not forget the parent/volunteer coaches at the recreation department and other sports leagues.
There is the Tater Patch Players theatre group and Sassafras Literary Exchange keeping the arts alive regularly.
And we have really big events run solely because people are volunteering – the chamber of commerce couldn’t put on the Marble Festival with only their paid staff, nor could all the Jeepers ever be accommodated without a massive volunteer base. If you are an occasional walker or bike rider at the Talking know that the trails are clear of thorny blackberry briars because of a small handful of people’s work.
Even the Community Thrift Store, which financially supports many non-profits with their proceeds, only functions because of a pool of dedicated volunteers.
It would be great if more people joined any of the local groups (and there are others we didn’t have space to include). More could be accomplished.
Sense of community aside there is another reason to get involved – it’s fun to meet new people and get together.
With the historical society, our board meetings usually end with a beer at Pendley Creek Brewery. This is social networking at its finest. Whether it’s running a concession stand at the Tater Patch Theater or preparing bag lunches for trail volunteers at JeepFest, you may be working but it’s also hanging out at its finest.
Research over the past few years has found lack of social connections is more detrimental to a person’s mental and physical health than smoking or poor diet. It’s easy to see how stewing by yourself leads to depression, but surprisingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it also ramps up a number of health ailments.
Getting involved benefits you and your community.
A few of the many local groups to consider:
• Pickens Historical Society – Facebook or pickenshistoricalgmail.com
•Tater Patch Players – firstname.lastname@example.org or attend an upcoming show.
• Sassafras Literary Exchange – Call president William Young at 770-655-5471.
• Jasper Optimist Club – Meets at 61 Main, noon on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. Contact email@example.com with any questions.
• Lions Club – The Jasper Lions Club meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month in Walker Hall at the First Baptist Church of Jasper. For more information, call 706.253.LION (5466) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Community Thrift Store – See ad on page 3A.