A couple of very noteworthy things happened in East Ridge last week on the same day.
One, most people know about. The second, most people do not. But, I’m going to let you in on it.
The East Ridge City Council voted on first reading Thursday evening to allow the sale of beer during special events at Camp Jordan. Depending on your perspective, this is one of the best things to happen in East Ridge in a long time, or it is further evidence that the city is going to hell in a hand basket.
There was much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth during the two-hour discussion on the issue. History lessons were given about the origins of the park. Citizens spoke out against the evils of alcohol. Citizens spoke out about how serving beer at special events would help further the revitalization of our city. The city manager dug deep into the details about how it would all work. A “subject matter expert” patiently explained how beer is sold at special events in Chattanooga.
One of the things that Karen Showstak, the “subject matter expert” explained, is that similar regulations in Chattanooga require that only non-profit organizations and caterers can obtain a special permit to actually sell the beer at these gatherings. It’s my understanding that the promoter/producer of the event then would presumably have an agreement with the non-profit to split the profits.
An hour before the City Council meeting began, another noteworthy thing happened in our city. A meeting was held in the “Orange Room” of the Community Center next door to City Hall for people who wanted to volunteer for the East Ridge Needy Child Fund (NCF). The NCF plays Santa Claus for families in our city that are really down on their luck, providing gifts and in some cases necessities for the less fortunate among us.
About three dozen people showed up and listened as Mimi Lowery, the new Chairman of the organization, explained plans for this year.
It’s a special year, you see. The Needy Child Fund (NCF) is under new management. Management that is now a bonafide 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. The East Ridge Fire Department – the group that did such a wonderful job managing the NCF for many years – is out, the result of, in my opinion, politics at its worst.
Lowery and her board have come in to pick up the pieces. The challenges are formidable. The NCF must first identify truly needy families through an interview process. Volunteers must then go out and purchase items for these folks and their children. Then this bounty must be organized and sorted to be handed over to specific families.
There is no “Santa Train” this year. The train – Santa on top of a big fire truck escorted by police officers – would venture out a few days before Christmas and deliver the packages to needy families. So, the question was, how does the newly incarnated NCF get gifts to the girls and boys?
Lowery is planning on having a Christmas party at the Community Center with festive decorations. Santa will be there, of course, for the traditional photo with the kids where each of them will receive a gift. Other NCF volunteers will discreetly hand over additional gifts for the kids – and in most cases basic items like toiletries and canned goods – to the parents outside, away from the curious eyes of their kids.
The tradition of giving will continue in East Ridge, whether it be done by big-hearted firefighters or by big-hearted folks who step up when asked.
So, where does selling beer in the park and the Needy Child Fund intersect?
I’m thinking out loud here, people, so bear with me. Let’s say that “Beer in the Park” passes on second reading in the council’s December meeting and becomes the law of the land. What better way could there possibly be to bring this city together than by having the proceeds of a special event held in Camp Jordan where people can enjoy a cold beer go to our very own Needy Child Fund?