MSHA Board of Directors chairman Clem Wilkes (left), Dennis Vonderfecht, Janet Ayers and Jim Ayers. Contributed photo.
KINGSPORT, Tenn. — At a recent event to honor retiring MSHA CEO Dennis Vonderfecht, the biggest award of the evening went to the area’s cancer patients — a $1 million donation to Mountain States Foundation’s radiation oncology campaign, given in Vonderfecht’s name by Unicoi County philanthropists Jim and Janet Ayers.
“Jim and I are pleased to announce that we will make a $1 million contribution in your honor and in recognition of your retirement and your legacy, and for what you’ve done for Mountain States and the new cancer center,” Janet Ayers said to Vonderfecht during the celebration, which took place at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center Jan. 9.
The Mountain States Foundation is in the midst of a major capital campaign to fund the new radiation oncology center at Johnson City Medical Center. The new center will provide state-of-the-art cancer-fighting technology as well as improved efficiency that will make scheduling and appointments more convenient for patients. To complete the project, the Mountain States Foundation needed to raise a total of $7 million.
“I want to thank Jim and Janet Ayers for this great gift,” Vonderfecht said. “We were about $3.5 million short in the Foundation’s capital campaign, and with this gift we’re closing the gap.”
Pat Holtsclaw, president of the Mountain States Foundation, expressed her deep gratitude for the Ayers’ donation and for the generosity of other local residents that will make the completed radiation oncology center a reality for the patients who need it most.
“The generosity of the Ayers will make a significant difference for years to come for cancer patients. Now with $2.5 million to go, we still need community support on this,” Holtsclaw said.
Jim Ayers is the sole shareholder of FirstBank, the largest independently owned bank in Tennessee. He created The Ayers Foundation in 1999 whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the people of Tennessee with a special emphasis on Decatur, Henderson, Perry and Unicoi counties. Their Foundation believes this is best accomplished by providing grants for scholarships, counselors, programs and related projects for educational enhancement, innovative health care and organizations dedicated to the preservation of our natural resources and wildlife habitats for hunting and fishing.
Jim and Janet Ayers met while they were both working in the nursing home business. They married in 2006, and Janet is president of The Ayers Foundation. The Foundation has provided more than $50 million in grants since it began in 1999.
The Ayers have a strong connection to their home counties and a desire to give back to the communities in which they live and work. One of the core values of their foundation is that it will empower outside organizations through providing grant monies that further support and strengthen the quality of life of people living in Tennessee.