2020 is the 13th year of an annual award highlighting people and businesses who exemplify the best of all the positive aspects of life in East Nashville. There is one winner in each of two categories. The first is for a business or business owner that in 2020 portrayed the best of what East Nashville has to offer. The second award is for a private citizen who best symbolizes what being a good East Nashville neighbor means.
Only one person from each category can be named East Nashvillian of the Year, but all of these people and businesses deserve our respect and thanks for their commitment to our neighborhood. Please be sure to offer congratulations to any of these individuals you may see in the near future, they deserve it!
Ronald Gooch Jr.
Ronald Gooch, is best known in East Nashville for his work at the Margaret Maddox Family YMCA as an advocate for community outreach and volunteerism. Please see an excerpt from his nomination/s;
"Gooch has shown himself as a pillar in East Nashville especially this year from volunteering countless days to help the community with tornado relief, to sharing wisdom and breaking barriers concerning racial reconciliation at Lockeland Church, to delivering Thanksgiving meals to those in East Nashville community that were affected by the tornado or COVID.", "After the March tornado, he was everywhere, helping as many people as possible, with his genuine smile and hugs. He delivered items to affected families, donated food, organized a donation drop-off, and helped clean up destruction in our neighborhood. "...he helped organize the Thanksgiving Full Belly 5K race to raise money for hungry families. He also volunteered with Lockeland Table to give out Thanksgiving meals to families in need. Gooch is a leader, a humanitarian, and an inspiration. East Nashville is lucky to have him."
Ingrid Campbell is president of the McFerrin Park Neighborhood Association and in this role exemplifies what East Nashville stands for. Below is an excerpt of her nomination/s;
"... she has been delivering food (courtesy of Audrey Restaurant) to our neighbors or to the fire fighters on the corner of Meridian and Cleveland.", "... Ingrid has learned how to work with Sean Parker and Metro to get things done for the neighborhood like stop signs, street lights, zoning resolutions, etc. With the help of Sean, she initiated alley clean up in both Cleveland Park and McFerrin Park.", "Over a year or so ago, Ingrid noticed a flat indentation on the grounds of the McFerrin Park Community Center. After doing some research, she found out that there was a swimming pool in that spot. She also found out that a decision was made in the 1960s to fill the pool with cement to block African-Americans from integrating it. She is hoping to convince Metro to restore the pool."
Jim Polk is known for his work at East End United Methodist which has been a prime example of how to operate a community organization. The nomination excerpt below exemplifies his work:
"..after BOTH his home & the church that was at the center of his life (East End Methodist) were destroyed. Jim knew that my partner & I were also homeless due to the tornado damaging our house. Within weeks of the tornado, Jim's calling me to ask if he can bring me a donation from fundraising coordinated by another church.", "...Jim gave myself and 2 of my Holly street neighbors cash donations. And then a month later, while his life was still very much in shambles, Jim got back in touch with me AGAIN, asking if we and our neighbors could use more cash. This time Jim brought cash to us and 4 of our Holly St neighbors.", "Jim is a quiet, humble person, and would be happier to go unnoticed.", "...he's been a fixture in the East End, Lockland springs, 5 points area of Nashville for decades and is very beloved by many."
Sharon Billingsley Green
Sharon is a long time EN resident, real estate agent and president of the board of directors at East C.A.N. During this year's tornado recovery efforts, Sharon played an essential role as an organizer at the base of operations at the Holly Street Fire Hall. Sharon was highly visible with her distinctive yellow jacket and helped coordinate Metro staff, volunteers, and residents to get meals distributed in particular. Sharon worked as a tireless volunteer and central point of contact at this base until we had to dismantle it due to COVID restrictions. Sharon has continued to work with and advocate for tornado survivors throughout the year. Please read an excerpt from her nomination/s below;
"...she was out every day around the Holly fire station. She was there as early as I got there and as late as I left. She was running around pointing, calling people, directing others.", "once at home at night she was posted looking for generators, and other needs for the next day."
Pete is the CEO of a non-profit called Musicians On Call, which brings live music to patients and caregivers in hospitals all across the country. He also is a corporal with Nashville's Office of Emergency Management and in that role, he not only responds to natural disasters and major events, but is one of Nashville's 8 Rescue Divers, and is on Nashville's swift water (flood) rescue team. See below excerpt of his nomination/s:
"When the pandemic hit, Pete and his team quickly moved to use technology to do virtual programs allowing musicians to play live virtual concerts every day to patients and caregivers.", "His work got him recognized by the Nashville Business Journal as Nashvilles Most Admired Non Profit CEO for the 3rd year, got Musicians On Call recognized by the NonProfit Times as the best small non profit to work for in America, and Musicians On Call was also recognized by Zoom for their virtual music performances as the Top 15 Most Innovative Uses of Zoom in the world!", "When the tornado struck our community he worked 18 hour days coordinating volunteers, delivering supplies, helping remove debris, cutting trees, and most importantly providing information to people without internet or electricity. After a number of residents reported looting, Pete would patrol the neighborhood after dark..."
Madison is a Nashville based photographer who's COVID-19 photo series "High Risk Humans" has inspired empathy for those most at risk. You can see the full work at www.highriskhumans.com. Below is an excerpt from her nomination/s:
"Madison Thorn turned her own personal story as someone who is "high risk" for COVID, and the isolation and sadness that went along with it, into a photo series called "High Risk Humans." She has been taking pro bono photos for other people who are high risk, lending a listening ear and connecting with them over an interview and long range (telephoto lens! germ free!) photo shoot. Not only is she raising awareness about people who are "high risk" to combat the horrific and insensitive "sacrifice the weak" narrative and encourage others to take COVID precautions more seriously, but she has also created a magical community of empathy and support in the process. Making people who felt like the outcasts of the pandemic and making them feel like they're not alone."
Colleen is the academic dean at Explore! Community School and is well known for her extraordinary tornado recovery efforts. See below excerpts from her nomination/s;
"Colleen was the person responsible for organizing the 10th and Fatherland volunteer post following the tornado.", "By March 5, she had distributed 3,000 meals and 400 hygiene bags. She also grew quickly to support and help operate 6 satellite volunteer locations in North Nashville and three in East. By March 9, she had mobilized 4,800 volunteers and given out 10,000 meals", "Sadly, she may have given too many hugs during the weeks following the tornado. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after. She had 28 continuous days of fever, and spent 38 days in her bedroom", "During that time, her beloved students moved from in-person learning to remote, and as an academic dean.", "She has continued to support teachers and students learning remotely and in person through this complicated and difficult year that is 2020. Like so many of her fellow teachers, she's now doing the most important job in the world from a computer screen."
District 7's beautification coordinator for years, Anthony is responsible for all of the efforts on Riverside Drive and has been instrumental in several neighborhood clean-up initiatives. Below is an expert from his nomination/s;
"Tony Viglietti has served as the District 7 commissioner of beautification and the environment for many years and also serves as the chair of the commission. His non-profit, Friends of Riverside Drive, is responsible for maintaining the iris beds and the long line of cherry trees down the memorial boulevard, which is dedicated to the veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. You'll often see him out in the median on Riverside Drive - weeding, planting, watering, or pruning. In addition to his beautification efforts, Tony is active in a myriad of community groups, including neighborhood organizations, neighborhood watch groups, and more. There is no limit to his involvement and dedication to the community!"
Dr. Katrina Adams Green
Dr. Katrina Green is an East Nashville resident and works as an ER doctor at Skyline Medical Center. She has been outspoken during the battle against COVID-19 in the hopes to save Nashvillians lives. See the below excerpt from her nomination/s:
"...Katrina was actively involved in public debates and protests regarding gun safety, providing her particular perspective as a doctor who regularly treats the victims of gun violence in her ER. She gave the opening remarks and participated in discussion at a gun violence round table summit hosted by Safe Tennessee Project at the State Capitol.", "Dr. Green has continued her important work in the ER, but also reached out to friends and community members to ensure that PPE and disinfectants remained available to medical professionals during supply shortages. When the tornado hit our community, she volunteered for tornado cleanup, donation sorting, and distribution...", "..., she has directly engaged with public health by lobbying Governor Bill Lee to implement a mask mandate, a measure intended to protect the health of Tennesseans. She started a petition that has since garnered almost 7000 signatures, participated in a public Zoom call with Protect My Care in which she challenged Governor Lee to witness the effects of COVID-19."
Jim Gregory is chair of Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, which is "...a fully volunteer organization with no paid staff, fighting to save and beef up Nashville's tree canopy." See his excerpts from his nomination/s below;
"Jim has spearheaded the planting of at least hundreds, possibly thousands of trees in East Nashville since the tornado. He sourced free trees for Lockeland Springs Park which was flattened by the tornado and coordinated the delivery and planting of large young trees with volunteers (and much of his own sweat). He's inspired our neighborhood to pitch in - we all had a socially-distant masked tree planting event over 3 days in LSP, where we planted over 100 trees in that first weekend. Jim keeps stopping by with truckloads of more trees that he plants himself.", "He's planted a grove of special young trees at Bass Park right next to the fire station, helped organize the Shelby Avenue tree planting, and delivered many folks their own free trees for their yards after the tornado."
Business or Business Owner Nominees
Sarah Nelson and Joey Plunket, owners of Duke's
Duke's is a neighborhood bar located in Five Points owned by local musicians Joey Plunket and Sarah Nelson. Please read an excerpt from their nomination/s below;
"Pre pandemic, they fed the neighborhood for free on holidays when many are alone, they constantly spotlight other local businesses, they were active in helping get out the vote, they have collected donations for hospitalized children, the Nashville food project, the free store at Drkmttr, and children's Christmas charities, among many other things. There are no other business owners who live the spirit of East Nashville better than they do."
Dan and Ellen Einstein, owners of Sweet 16 Bakery
Sweet 16th Bakery is a neighborhood favorite since 2004. Ellen and Dan operate their business as if it's their responsibility to share the kindness of East Nashville. Please see an excerpt of their nomination/s below;
"Ellen and Dan embody generosity and what it means to be a pillar of the community. During the tornado, they again jumped in to take care of neighbors with their delicious food and needed resources. They know everyone's name, and your dog's name, and ask after that out-of-town relative you brought in with you that one time--it's incredible to experience how sincerely they care. Not to mention, they haven't raised prices when they easily could--and they won't accept your tips (if you insist, they donate these to charity). I am one of many thoroughly grateful neighbors in awe of their kindness, consistency and care."
Katie Shaw, owner of Red Arrow Gallery
Katie Shaw is the owner of the East Nashville based art gallery Red Arrow Gallery. The art community has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Red Arrow Gallery functions as a de-facto community center. In addition to hosting artist-in-residence and instructional events, the gallery has become a comfortable drop-in spot for community members. Katie Shaw has persevered during these hard times while giving a voice to the community she represents. See an excerpt below of her nomination/s:
"Katie Shaw runs the Red Arrow Gallery. That space has given voice to spectacular minority artists from the neighborhood & far away. The exhibit that is taking place on the first weekend of December, 2020 is a great example of her vision to bring great art to East Nashville..."
Margot McCormack, owner of Margot Café
Margot and Heather McCormack are the owners of Margot Café and Bar and one of the originators of the East Nashville food scene. They are East Nashville small business pioneers and have been community advocates for many years. Post-tornado they coordinated a community meal that they served out of the restaurant to help lift the spirits of citizens and local business owners. See an excerpt from her nomination/s below;
"Margo and Heather have been in the forefront of supporting the community and service staff employees, first after the tornado that so devastated 5 Points and other parts of East Nashville then with the major impact COVID has had on so many East Nashvillians and businesses. They were one of the first people to hold a fund raiser after the tornado...", "...the night following the tornado when she and the Woodland Wine teams pulled together a community evening that was a collective moment of joy in a year that hasn't seen many. Not only that, but she managed to keep all of her employees safe and working, one way or another, even when they closed Marche and moved it in to the Margot building. Whether fundraising for charity, giving the community a focal point, or making Nashville stand out nationally with her cuisine, Margot is a worthy East Nashvillian of the year 2020."
Dave Puncochar, owner of Good Wood Nashville
Dave Puncochar is the founder and CEO of Good Wood and president of the Dickerson Road Merchants Association. Dave has worked with local business owners and metro departments to elevate the profile of the Dickerson Road corridor and to connect them with local community groups and organizations. In addition to assisting in the resurgence of the Dickerson Pike corridor, Dave was able to raise a considerable amount of money for local small business owners. Below is an excerpt of his nomination/s below;
"Good Wood's tornado response for our community was amazing. Dave Puncochar's (Good Wood's owner) own house was almost completely demolished but he used his business to support OTHER businesses with the Nashville Strong sign campaign, which donated $30,000 to small businesses in our community. Bravo to Dave and Good Wood Nashville!"
John Mark Jackson and Blake Taylor, owners of Cumberland Cooling
John Mark Jackson and Blake Taylor are the owner of the East Nashville based HVAC company, Cumberland Cooling. They are renowned by East Nashvillians for their friendly demeanor and customer service. See below for an excerpt of their nomination/s;
"Post tornado I witness John Mark volunteering his time on Holly with a chainsaw cutting up limbs and assisting in recovery efforts. I subsequently saw him in the days after doing the same. Post tornado they donated part of the proceeds of every new HVAC installed to tornado recovery. Post-covid they worked with VUMC to collect any N95 masks. They drove around and picked up any N95 masks from residents and delivered them to Vanderbilt during the shortage. I even saw Blake play Happy Birthday on a saxophone in a neighbors front yard because the child was quarantined."