No, it’s not a law firm or a limited liability corporation but two residents and friends of the Bloomingdale community who’ve given nearly 80 years of combined volunteer work for athletics to their local high school.
Since Sullivan North High School opened in the fall of 1980, longtime friends Janice Clark and Wayne Long have volunteered to help the Golden Raiders football team most every home game. That’s 38 years apiece, or a total of 76 years, worth of work in concessions by both, and in patching up uniforms by her, just to name a few activities.
However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Their impact is much deeper than that and goes beyond football and even athletics into band and throughout the school. Most everywhere you go at North, you will find the work of Clark and Long, They put together the displays of student athletes in the halls, and in 1984, she added the band to her sewing expertise and has her own sewing room at the school.
They not only do preparation work for concessions at all the high school athletic events, but they also started doing them for the middle school games when North Middle School was created and co-located with the high school.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski was a teacher and coach at North when it opened and said the two were dependable and energetic volunteers. She said they are by far the longest-serving booster volunteers at North and likely throughout the county and region.
Athletic boosters President Marcy Vance, who’s been on the job a few months, said she was staggered to learn the history of Clark and Long at North, saying both are in the school frequently, with Clark literally there throughout many school days like an employee. Clark also is a substitute teacher at the school. The athletic boosters operate the home concessions, the band boosters the visitor’s concessions. She’s a member of both. Clark said she’s not a charter member of the athletic boosters group but that Long is.
“Whatever needs to be done,” Long said when asked what he does at North.
“I help sell and buy (concessions) and fix equipment,” Long said. “I quit a time or two, but I came back.”
A native of Hawkins County and a graduate of Surgoinsville High School, Clark said he married a Bloomingdale resident who graduated from Ketron.
“My daughter graduated here in 1984 and I stayed,” Long said.
Clark also graduated from Ketron and is the de facto seamstress for the school. She has done sewing on football, cheerleading, baseball and band uniforms; made band flags, banners and color guard uniforms; and done sewing for the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or JROTC. She started out with athletics sewing and in 1984 added the band to her workload. She also made the “N” letters on the basketball goal base in the gym.
A room behind the band room has her sewing machine and other equipment, as well as containers full of uniform buttons, thread and uniform parts and pieces.
She had a daughter in band and two sons who played football. In a nutshell, they left “but I didn’t,” Clark said. “I stayed. It was too quiet (at home).”
Of substitute teaching, she said, “I haven’t done a whole lot of that this year. I haven’t had time.” However, she and her family have time to do an outdoor Christmas display at their house near the intersection of Bloomingdale Pike and Johh B. Dennis Highway.
THE PAST AND FUTURE
The two have seen the school, which started out at about 1,500 students, dwindle to the point of becoming a high school/middle school campus with about 500 high schoolers and 300 middle schoolers. As part of a consolidated schools effort that goes from four to two county high schools, the county school system sold North to Kingsport City Schools. After it closes as a county facility it will be renovated and reopened as the city’s new Sevier Middle.
“I’m going to stay as long as the school’s here if they let me,” Long said. That’s the same plan Clark has.
If original school system plans work out, that would make the 2019-20 school year their last — and North’s last since the new West Ridge High School is set to open in the fall of 2020. However, West Ridge, a combination of North, South and all or at least part of Central, could be set back a year because of weather delays to construction and uncertainty about road improvements to the new school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81.
In that case, Clark and Long would end their volunteer service to North with an even 40 years each or 80 years total. They said that’s not bad for a “Bloomingdale girl” and a transplant from Surgoinsville.
“We’ll just close it down,” Clark said.
“It’s going to keep on going,” she said of their work in the meantime. “Football players are going to make holes in their pants.”
And folks at home football games and other sporting events will still be hungry for concessions ordered by Long.