The loss of two friends and the sacrifices of veterans were the thoughts lingering in Mayor Ronnie Marks’ mind the week after Veterans Day.
Instead of dwelling on the melancholy, he savored the response of the com- munity much like he savors his morning coffee.
“We are coming off a week of Veterans Day celebrations, and those can be sad when you think of the ones who are no longer with us,” Ronnie said. “We also had the funerals of two close friends who were well known and loved in our community, Johnny Black and Mignon Bowers.”
Johnny was a longtime coach in Limestone County and was a past member of both the Limestone County Commission and Athens City Council. Mignon was a retired city clerk and former Athens City council- woman who worked on various boards in the com- munity.
“This time of year and these recent losses have reminded me that it is so good to see a community that cares so much about others,” Ronnie said.
The tagline for the City of Athens is Classic. Southern. Character.
The caring character aspect of our city is seen year round but is highlighted during the holiday stretch of Veterans Day, Thanks- giving and Christmas. The Athens Veterans Day Parade had over 100 entries, and the Veterans Day pro- grams at Athens State University and the VFW were well attended.
As Thanksgiving nears, citizens have started work on the community-wide Thanksgiving Day lunch and Christmas collections are being made for Toys for Tots, children under Limestone County DHR care, Stuff-A- Truck food drive for LCCI.
“On a recent Sun-?day, at Friendship United Methodist, we worked on 1,500 packages for the Full Tummy Project that ensures students have enough to eat over the weekends when they are out of school,” Ronnie said. “There is an outpouring of love from this community.”
Athenians don’t stop with giving money or items. Many offer the gift of time to provide seasonal activities such as Christmas Open House, the Reliance Bank Christmas Parade and Sippin’ Cider.
“People support these events, which is as important as helping plan the events,” Ronnie said. “Just recently on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, there was a packed crowd at an Elvis tribute concert done jointly by the Athens Community Chorus and Decatur Civic Chorus.”
Ronnie said all cities are not blessed with dedicated volunteers who strive to meet the com- munity’s needs whether the need is hungry, pro- viding Christmas, honoring veterans or providing family-friendly events.
“Can you imagine not having the Christmas parade in Athens?” Ronnie asked. “We can draw 10,000 people for this one event. People have their favorite parking spots and start parking early. It’s a tradition, but it’s a tradition that takes hard work to organize.”
Ronnie will serve as grand marshal for this year’s parade, which will be Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. The theme is, “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas.” Ronnie said seeing children get excited about the holidays and seeing citizens having a giving spirit are what make it look like the beginning of Christmas for him.
“We are lucky to live in a community like this where citizens get involved,” he said.
As the holidays wind down and citizens start to think about those New Year’s resolutions, Ronnie said he will be prioritizing resolutions for the city.
One of those resolutions will be joining each council member for district meetings in late spring 2015.
“The council members have expressed an interest in doing district meetings, and I think it would be an ideal time to discuss roads, sidewalks, other infrastructure needs, abandoned buildings and issues citizens have on their minds,” Ronnie said.
As city leaders work to ad- dress growth and needs in 2015, one constant will follow its citizens into the new year: its philanthropic attitude.
“We’ve always been a caring community,” Ronnie said.
Which is why Athens is Classic. Southern. Character.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner