Carlene Malone moved to Fountain City from New York in the 1970s. She raised two kids here, represented the community on Knoxville City Council and has spent her life as one of Fountain City’s most vocal cheerleaders.
And almost as long as Malone has lived in Fountain City, she’s been active in Fountain City Town Hall, a community advocacy group formed in 1972 with one mission: to keep Fountain City strong. The group’s most public effort is Honor Fountain City Day, held each year on Memorial Day in Fountain City Park. But the work doesn’t stop with the festival. Fountain City Town Hall members actively promote projects and initiatives that will benefit Fountain City, attending city council, MPC meetings and much more.
The group put out a call for new members at its last meeting, and Malone said involvement in Fountain City Town Hall can be rewarding.
“One of the lovely things about this is that it brings together people who may never meet otherwise,” she said. “We have a diversity of age, background and interest. It brings out the best in every one of us. It’s also very satisfying. You can say, ‘I did something today that makes my community better.'”
The tangible results of Fountain City Town Hall’s work are things you probably take for granted. For example, the group advocated to get sidewalks along Essary Road to Central High School and worked with the city of Knoxville to iron out traffic problems and install bus shelters. They had input on the new Holbrook Drive bridge to make sure the replacement was aesthetically pleasing.
On the fun side of things, the Town Hall has a train for kids to ride at festivals, a callback to the old “Dummy Line” that ran to Fountain City in the old days.
“We think the heart of our community and its institutions are important.”
And Malone said all you have to do is look around Fountain City to see that someone’s been doing something right.
“Look at the success this community has had,” she said. “Look at the nature of the businesses the community is able to attract, the nature of the services, and I think you would have to describe our community as certainly being attractive and thriving. We should be proud of that.
“Other parts of the city have grand mansions, but Fountain City has remained good, strong, affordable housing, and a lot of times it has been the most vulnerable housing. I look at our neighborhoods and think there are cities that would kill for them. We should celebrate these things.”
Current efforts within Fountain City Town Hall include involvement in the Recode Knoxville initiative and Fountain City Feet, plus looking into whether short-term rentals like Air B&B should be regulated. Greenway links are important, as is generally improving the walkability of Fountain City. The Town Hall recently supported a greenway link to get from Adair Park to Old Broadway.
But whatever comes of these issues, Malone and Fountain City Town Hall will keep welcoming new members and celebrating what’s best about the community.
“The neighbors and the people I have met, there’s a community culture that is so typical of Fountain City,” she said. “Their kindness and gentleness are unmatched.”
Fountain City Town Hall’s next public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Jacksboro Pike.