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Niswonger grant helps fund North band's flood recovery

March 19th, 2014 10:30 pm by Rick Wagner

Niswonger grant helps fund North band's flood recovery

Sullivan North band members practice Tuesday at the school. David Grace photo.

KINGSPORT — Thanks to the generosity of the Niswonger Foundation, Sullivan North High School has $5,000 to help offset an estimated $30,000 in flood damage.

The Greeneville-based Niswonger Foundation is working to address both curricular technology needs and co-curricular band needs at North, according to a news release from the foundation.

Disaster struck the North band program when water from a fire sprinkler head malfunction did nearly $30,000 in damage to musical instruments, supplies and equipment last November.

Students, staff members and parents worked in standing water to salvage as much as possible.

However, hopes that insurance would help with the rest of the recovery were dashed when band officials learned that the county had a $50,000 deductible — not $10,000 as they originally thought. Maintenance supervisor Joe Davenport said the deductible, through the county's risk management program, has been $50,000 for at least five years.

The North band has been in the process of rebuilding. In the past two years, the program has more than doubled in size, band director Sherry Gillum said, from 22 to 50.

"The band program is an avenue whereby students who are not involved in sports or other school-funded activities have the opportunity to experience something they are passionate about," said Gillum, also director of choirs. "The opportunity to perform in an energetic environment makes an intense impression on young people."

Gillium said she sent the foundation a Jan. 7 letter about the program's plight along with an article about the flooding from the Kingsport Times-News.

Sam Brashears, a Niswonger Scholar and 2013 graduate of North, on March 11 presented a check from the Niswonger Foundation to Principal Brent Palmer and Gillum.

The $5,000 check will be used to jump-start the efforts to rebuild the music program. Brashears is a freshman pre-medical student at Wake Forest University. Members of the North band joined for the March 11 presentation as Brashears shared what it had meant to him to be part of the band program.

"It is our hope that our Foundation's contribution will raise community awareness to this need, and that other organizations and businesses will join us in equipping the Sullivan North band program even better than before this disaster," Niswonger Foundation Executive Vice President Nancy Dishner, Ph.D., said during the presentation.

Dishner also shared with the band members about the vision of Scott Niswonger, the foundation's president and Founder.

"His motto of learn, earn and return should be a reminder to all of us that we have a responsibility to serve our community," Dishner said. She encouraged the band members to look for opportunities to be of service.

While visiting the school, Niswonger Foundation representatives also observed the foundation's latest technology purchases for North.

More than $42,000 in technology to support distance learning, including a mobile technology unit, has been provided through the foundation's i3 grant program.

"It is remarkable to see the amount of support that has been provided to our school by the Niswonger Foundation," Palmer said.

The foundation was established in 2001 by Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger. Its mission is "to create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects."

The foundation's primary programs are the Scholarship and Leadership Program, and the School Partnership Program. For additional information, go to

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