At the annual banquet dinner hosted by Marion County Chamber of Commerce on August 17, South Pittsburg Area Revitalization Quest (SPARQ) was presented the Community Impact Award.
Amy Pilgrim, Product Marketing Manager for Lodge Manufacturing, originally nominated the South Pittsburg Area Revitalization Quest (SPARQ) for the Marion County Chamber Business of the Year award. The Chamber of Commerce made the decision that the Community Impact Award best fit the unique organization.
Pilgrim’s letter to the chamber was read to the audience, supporting the decision to select SPARQ. Referenced in the nomination were the multitude of community programs and activism campaigns SPARQ conducts. Established in 2019, SPARQ has consistently brought fresh opportunities, growth, and positive transformations to the South Pittsburg area. In 2023, the organization experienced its most successful year to date. The year began with a notable achievement as SPARQ received the Tennessee Riverline Community Partner of the Year award.
The TN RiverLine website explains the awards as follows: “The Tennessee RiverLine’s awards program recognizes communities, individuals, and organizations who best demonstrate leadership through their commitment to the transformational vision for North America’s next great regional trail system, and who embrace its guiding principles through innovative Tennessee RiverTowns programming.”
The 2023 program awards recognize partners who have significantly contributed to the continuous development of the Tennessee RiverTowns program. Their combined efforts in 2022 showcased the program’s potential as a collaborative framework to fulfill the mission of the TN RiverLine. Their mission encompasses economic development, public health enhancement, resource stewardship, and equitable access benefits for future generations.
Pilgrim further described SPARQ’s efforts and the impact they’ve had in the community. The Community Partner of the Year award recognizes leaders that consistently exhibit enthusiasm for the initiative and upholds its guiding principles across various comprehensive endeavors.
In 2022, the second annual Pitt to Port Paddle drew the participation of more than 100 individuals, emerging as a highly anticipated and significant community-led event to look forward to for years to come. This community-driven passion serves as a foundational cornerstone upon which community leaders, organizations, and residents are collaboratively forging a transformative vision aimed at facilitating improved and equitable access to river spaces and experiences.
Pilgrim also spoke about the Connect South Pittsburg project spearheaded by SPARQ. It is a transformation of the area with the establishment of a 16.5-acre riverfront park on public land, alongside a 5.5-mile network of interconnected bicycle and pedestrian trails. This initiative not only promotes active and healthy lifestyles but also accelerates economic development.
SPARQ continues to contribute to the Arts in the Burg initiative. This program provides a platform for local artists to showcase and sell their creations. Additionally they foster emerging talents through a growing array of class programs. Community members have gained opportunities to explore diverse artistic mediums, including charcoal drawing, cookie and cake decorating, wreath designing techniques, paint nights, music lessons, and more.
Resiliently handling unforeseen circumstances, SPARQ has rescheduled their fashion show for August 26, showcasing local boutiques, talents, and models in an unprecedented event for the region. Through their unwavering dedication and multifaceted initiatives, SPARQ exemplifies the vision of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, making them a highly deserving contender for this esteemed award.
Accepting the award on behalf of SPARQ were Megan (one of the artists), Beth Dugger, Walker Henley, Tejha Ross-Mitchell and Carey Garland.
Garland spoke about their initiatives over the last few years working diligently and tirelessly to bring multidimensional initiatives to the community. The team was overjoyed to accept the Community Impact Award and expressed their excitement for their future endeavors.