The Marcella Center – Big Things Going On In Little Place

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There is still a place where people help each other out in an uncomplicated fashion.

The Marcella Center for the Arts and Education is located at 117 Washington Road in Sweetwater. To get there, turn off Oakland Road onto North Point Road.

Actually, it just about becomes complicated to hear what all goes on at the center.

Director (and former teacher) Patricia King said things like ballet, voice, theatre, clogging, and tap dancing were first offered when the center was opened in March 2007.  Two months earlier, it had received its official 501 non-profit status. The building had since 1960 been the site of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, started by educators Virdell and Marcella Latham. It is of course for Marcella – a local teacher for 38 years – that the center is named.

“The church had been closed four or five years,” Ms. King said, when she  approached the Presbytery with her ideas on what to do with the building. The church approved, and have since donated the building to the center and have given support in a number of ways.

A sign on one of the  walls in the seven or so rooms, mentions how the center offers women’s exercise classes (including zumba), computer classes for beginners (there are 10 computers), and monthly senior bingo. GED tutoring also takes place.

The variety of people taking advantage of the center is rivaled by the different individuals who help out. Cleve Rice is president; Mark Strange, secretary; Janice Inman, treasurer and interim president; Dorothy Upton, community liaison.

Ester Brown is a Spanish instructor whom the center hopes to better utilize. Ms. Inman teaches computer classes while Ms. King teaches GED and piano classes. Gabby McConkey teaches women’s fitness. Rutha Gibson is grant writer, Denise Willis is accountant, and Bobby Burleson is hotographer.

Other activities offered and highlighted in the center’s brochure are art (as can be assumed by the fine drawings on the walls); Bible study; children’s arts and crafts; children’s movie night; field trips; performances by area artists; preparing young men for success; planned parenthood instruction.

As Ms. Willis noted, the overall funding has its  share of variety. Grants are constantly being applied for. The city has helped out this year, like it has previously, Ms. King  said. Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, Monroe Area Council for the Arts, Fred’s Pharmacy (formerly Archer’s), and Athens Federal Community Bank have contributed to the center, and Ms. King cited the work of Ivan Worrell in supporting the center.  Residents of Tellico Village donated computers, Ms. Inman mentioned.

The overall budget comes to roughly $22,000 annually, Ms. King said. But it is all paying off, with people coming from Knoxville, Athens, Decatur, and Philadelphia to participate in activities.

The center is also used for birthday parties, family reunions, funerals,  meetings, recitals, weddings, and a variety of workshops. The rooms include an office, kitchen, storage area, and of course  gathering rooms.

“The trick is having somebody over these things,” Ms. King said. The center is ultimately a testimonial to the variety of talent and willingness to be found in the local area.

A library is planned for the center, Ms. Inman said, and more recently a community garden has become busy on the property. “We have okra and tomatoes galore,” Ms. Willis said.

The center is open basically from Monday through Saturday, although it can be and is used often on Sundays.

People can become Friends of the Center by donating time and funding. To phone the center, call (423) 337-0075. Or email them at marcellacenterfo@bellsouth.net.

Most likely, the Marcella Center will be around for a while. It is learning to keep up with the liveliness of the local area which comes from the variety of talents as well as the goals sought.

As Ms. King said, “However we can accommodate people, that’s what we do.”

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