Do to a misidentification in a previous issue of Accent, "Hometown Heroes: Cindy Kelley" is re-running in today's Accent.
I always call Cindy Kelley “Coach” when I see her, even though neither I nor my kids were ever her students. That nickname just seems to fit, not only because of her coaching but her teaching and mentoring as well. At 65-years-old she gave the Greeneville City School system over 40 years of dedicated service and continues to serve the community as a volunteer with Greeneville-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.
Cindy’s early life set the foundation for her teaching, coaching, and eventual volunteer service. Even though she was not the tallest member on the school teams, Cindy’s life was about volleyball, tennis, and track. However, when she was in the eighth grade, Cindy’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor that changed Cindy’s life. She was not only a student-athlete but a caregiver as well.
The treatment for the tumor left her mother requiring around the clock care that Cindy would help with after school and on the weekends. During the summers she would help take her mother down to her swimming pool for physical therapy. The pool however was more than just exercise as her mother. She had a great love of the water before her surgery. It was also a way to provide her mother a change of scenery and relaxation from the house.
During her middle school years Cindy’s PE teacher, Marjorie Davenport, mentored her and provided a place to stay during her mother’s extended hospital stay. Cindy credits Margorie as the major reason why she went into physical education, which she studied at East Tennessee State University and Tusculum College, earning a master’s degree.
After college Cindy was hired by the Greeneville City School system and offered a coaching position by Fred Sorrells, an opportunity she remains thankful for to this day. As she points out, “He took a chance on me given I was only four years older than the students I would be teaching!”
Cindy went on to coach volleyball for 30 years, tennis and softball for 15 years, and was the girl’s assistant basketball coach for five years. She took on the role of assistant athletic director while earning many honors during her career including Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year, TSSAA Woman Coach of the Year, District Teacher of the Year three times and, Greeneville High School Teacher of the Year five times.
It was the combination of providing care for her mother and being a coach and athletic director that drove Cindy to gain the knowledge and certifications for basic emergency care. Cindy gained first aid and CPR training to take care of injuries and emergencies during practices and games.
She went on to become a certified first aid and CPR instructor, teaching thousands of sophomore students, fellow teachers, local nursing home staff, members of the Evergreen Ministry and emergency management volunteers. She feels these skills are important for the students to have in their summer jobs and sports as well as for her fellow teachers and coaches for school activities.
Our paths first crossed several years ago when I was the Volunteer Coordinator for the Greeneville -Greene County Emergency Management Agency. Cindy and I met at the recruiting booth the EMA volunteers had set up at the county fair. We were more than happy to sign her up with her training background, and enthusiasm.
Cindy is someone you could always count on when asking for volunteers for activities such as working the fair, weather shelters for those who need a break from the heat or the cold and manning the command center during the Camp Creek tornados. In recognition of her service and commitment Cindy was awarded the 2017 EMA Volunteer of the Year.
Her work with EMA provided expanded opportunities to serve others which she is now doing as the current Volunteer Coordinator. She works hard to show appreciation for all the volunteers, saying, “These people are willing to step up to the plate to help someone and everyone when they need it.”
It is harder for training and group activities because of the current COVID-19 conditions. But when they do work together, she tries hard to make sure each volunteer feels important for the work they do and are part of the family.
Family is a recurring subject with Cindy as she referred to her coworkers as her school family, and talks about her church family at the Asbury United Methodist Church and her volunteer family at Emergency Management.
She is especially thankful for her “wonderful” sister and brother-in-law Sally and David Andrew, niece Becky Erwin, nephew Bob Andrew, great-niece Kylie Erwin, and great-nephew Kolby Andrew. Cindy pointed out their support helped her through many parts of her career and service.
As I mentioned earlier, my standard greeting for Cindy is “Coach,” her standard reply is “You got me into this!” By that she means her work with Emergency Management. I like our exchanges because we do not get to see each other often but when we do, we always have fun. I have always respected Cindy and her work as I could see the impact she has on the students and parents when they would stop by to talk with her. I have a greater appreciation having learned how she got there.
Cindy is an emergency responder, but not one running lights and sirens. She is a humble professional who is there when you need her and greatly appreciated by those around her.
Ever the teacher, mentor, and coach, she leads by example.