Ferguson named new M.L. King Center director

Sharon “Sissy” Ferguson has been named new director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. Her first day was April 14.

A reception will be held in her honor from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the M.L.King Jr. Community Center at 209 East Franklin St. The Alcoa native said she was excited but a little overwhelmed by the new job. “I have really good ideas in my head, and I’d like to think I could get them implemented, but this is a huge adjustment,” she said. “Thus far, I am enjoying it. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Ferguson said she grew up in Alcoa in the Old Field area. She left in the early 1970s to begin an airline career as a flight attendant that spanned 30 years, first with Piedmont and then U.S. Airways.

“It was a good ride,” she said. “I was young and saw the world and worked and just got a chance to get out of the box, and for that, I’m grateful,” she said. “It’s an education in itself traveling and meeting new people and seeing new countries.”

Ferguson has two children. Taryn is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Son Matthew is 20 and working at Ruby Tuesday. Her parents are Pete and Dorothy Valentine. Pete Valentine died a month ago and was survived by his wife.

After retiring from U.S. Airways, Ferguson took a job as a travel agent and worked part time as an assistant to the late Anthony Dunnings, the last director at the center who died Feb. 5. “When I first heard of the position, I was really, really torn because of Anthony’s passing. I was really trying to do my part as an assistant to hold everything down,” she said.

Ferguson said her vision for the next year at the center is for the community to realize Parks and Rec are the anchor. “We need to pull in structured programs here and not be so isolated,” she said. “My main goal is to get some structures programmed that enable and encourage this community. This is a community center. That is what I would like it to be - a melting pot.

The new director said summer reading programs will begin to start soon, and she hopes to have other types classes such a dance program, a garden club, a Spanish class as well as a cooking class and sewing. Ferguson said she also would like to see a computer class for older resident unfamiliar or intimidated by the computers.

“Of course there are always going to be sports. We have a basketball summer league that we are having signups for. Our main problem is the volunteers,” she said. “I’d really like to work on that. I would like to work on program where people offer their expertise and time. We don’t have a large staff here. Volunteers are vital”.

Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Rec executive director Joe Huff said Ferguson sounded like a natural fit for the job after working as the assistant for a year.

“She’s done a great job, and we’re excited to have her with what she brings to the community. We’re looking forward to the new things she will be bringing to the center.”

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