Fountain City Lions Club elected its first woman president this week, but Kelly Long will be the first to tell you that she’d rather be known as someone who could do the job and just happened to be female.
“I’m totally proud of it, but on the flip side, I took the position and just happen to be a woman,” she said. “It wasn’t something I was looking for or anything like that. It was more like this position needs to be filled.”
Long is marketing director for Dalton Collision, and although she’s lived in Knoxville for 23 years, she’s only been in Fountain City for one year. She had been renting homes for some time when the opportunity to buy a home opened up for her. She was immediately drawn to Fountain City and purchased a classic, older home just off Cedar Lane.
“The Fountain City area always had a sense of community for me,” she said. “That was a huge reason I came to Fountain City. West Knoxville is great, but I never felt a sense of community in West Knoxville like I did in Fountain City.”
Through a friendship with Lions Club member Penny Kleinschmidt, Long joined the Lions Club to help preserve that sense of community. She saw Fountain City Park and Fountain City Lake as central to the atmosphere she treasured and wanted to help the Lions Club maintain them. She also discovered the many other projects of the Fountain City Lions Club, like vision screenings and eyeglasses for those in need.
“Finding out what it takes to keep up the park and the lake, it’s a huge responsibility. That’s what brought me in,” she said. “With that in mind, I said, ‘OK, sign me up.'”
Long has served on the Lions Club activities committee, getting involved in the Christmas tree lighting and the summer concert series in the park.
So, when it came time to elect officers for the upcoming July through June term, members asked if Long would be interested in serving.
“The current members, most of them have been there for a really, really long time, and they all have served in some capacity so many times over and over again,” Long said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve only been here for a year.’ But I feel really secure because past presidents have already come up to me and said, ‘Hey, listen, don’t worry about it. We have your back.’ That reassurance is really the only way that I could say, ‘Yeah, I can do this.'”
Long’s goal for the Lions Club while she’s in office is to continue to help the Fountain City community, doing the fundraising necessary to keep the park and lake in good shape, and that includes keeping the Concerts in the Park going. Vendors pay for space at the concerts, and while the concerts are free, concert-goers have opportunities to donate, too.
The club is also working on a fundraiser of engraved pavers for the walkway in front of the Fountain City Lions Club Building, too.
She encouraged everyone to give back to the community.
“When you give back, you end up getting so many more rewards that far surpass what you get,” she said. “Just being part of the Lions Club so far, just the support and the friends that I’ve met within the club myself, and seeing the Christmas tree lighting in the park, it warmed my heart, gave me that warm fuzzy. Come to a Lions Club meeting or donate monetarily or just come out to the park, and if you see trash, pick it up. I’ve found that the time or the effort that I give, those rewards are surpassed.”
Long thanked Dalton Collision for giving her the work flexibility to take on the role of Lions Club president.
“Honestly, I couldn’t take this role on without them giving me some of that time,” she said.