By Jean Clark
Neighbors Together is a self-help organization established in 2001 as a collaboration of members and volunteers from the local Pleasant Hill community. Their goal is to meet the emergency needs of residents of areas in western Cumberland and eastern White counties in direct proximity to Pleasant Hill. Their board has hit the jackpot in the selection of Sarah Derrick as the new director. She brings a wealth of experience with nonprofit organizations to her new job.
Although born in Ohio, she and her family came to Cumberland County when she was a child. After graduating from Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN, with a BS in organization management, she served as services coordinator for Battered Women (Avalon), administrative assistant for the Crossville Housing Authority and executive director of Creative Compassions. While at Creative Compassions, Derrick was involved in their collaboration with Neighbors Together to rehab homes and build new ones for those who were not able to get traditional loans.
Derrick has been thrust into the thick of the holiday activities that Neighbors Together supports to enable people in need to have the best Christmas possible. Last week, Santa’s workshop drew families to the popular event filled with crafts, games, sweets and best of all an opportunity to have a free photo taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus as they whispered their Christmas wish list to them. Each child received a gift as well as a goodie bag and the opportunity to win an additional raffle gift. A cakewalk sent many home with a homemade cakes
A new addition to the crafts this year was jewelry making by former Neighbors Together Director Trish Parks. Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, Santa and his elves go door-to-door to visit children and families in their homes bringing fruit baskets and stockings full of goodies. Santa and Mrs. Claus often visit the “elders” in Fletcher House and Wharton Homes in Pleasant Hill as well. Karen Martin spearheads these holiday projects participated in by the board members and friends of the organization.
The Food Pantry provides those in need with an emergency three-day supply of food once-a-month. The food boxes are distributed each week through the work of volunteers. Items include non-perishables such as canned fruits and vegetables, cereal and soups as well as fresh milk, bread and eggs. The B4Books program monitors early cognitive, emotional and language development of infants. A parent trainer distributes toy kits, meeting with the parents to instruct on how the items in each kit can be used to nurture their child’s development. If delays are identified, referrals are made to appropriate community services. The May Cravath Wharton Association provides funds for outreach into the surrounding areas. Through the Neighbors Together Office requests for assistance with utilities such as gas, water, and electricity are verified.
Easter baskets and other holiday meals are provided when needed. A special program called Neighbors Helping Neighbors provides a supply of household items, clothing or bedding for emergency situations. The main goal of Neighbors Together is to build community. Another important aspect of their services is to provide support to those in need by linking them to available community resources in the county or state.
Funding comes from various sources — churches, businesses, organizations, and private individuals. Grants were received from the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation and Middle Tennessee Natural Gas. Often people do not have money to give, but of far greater value is their time through volunteering. Contact the Neighbors Together office by calling 277-5088 or by email: email@example.com. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 355, Pleasant Hill, TN 38578.