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Center honors King with ‘Day of Service’

On Jan. 19, the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Jonesborough’s McKinney Center marked the occasion by participating in the nationwide “MLK Day of Service.”  The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, which is the president’s national call to service initiative.
 McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons believes a Day of Service is a fitting tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who reminded us all, ‘Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.’” 
The McKinney Center, along with Booker T. Washington School Alumni, the Heritage Alliance and other volunteers from the community participated in a beautification project on Jan. 19. They worked together to clean up and help preserve the memorable African-American cemetery, and the former alley which led to the cemetery from East Main Street. This effort was part of an ongoing project documenting the cemetery, and the creation of an alleyway which allowed for funeral processions to access the cemetery from East Main Street.
 The alley was created when two neighbors, each with adjoining land to the cemetery, agreed to both give 5.5 feet of their property over as a right-of-way to the cemetery so carriages, and later cars, could more easily access the cemetery. They did this without receiving any kind of compensation, as “good neighbors.”
When the new cemetery opened, the cemeteries were no longer segregated, and the importance of the alley fell out of use. The land eventually began to grow over again with trees and shrubs, and remained only as a memory for some of Jonesborough’s elder residents, such as Alfred Greenlee.
 “I was little back then, and I remember we used to ride our bikes in the alley. Older folks used to meet up and talk at Mrs. Brown’s Corner,” Greenlee recalls.
 No one is quite sure exactly where Mrs. Brown’s corner is today, but new neighbor, Don Burger, knows exactly where the alley is located after some sleuthing around. When he bought his home, which used to belong to Mr. Yancey, he noticed in some of the older documents a 5.5-foot marker noted only as “the alley.”
This alley stopped appearing in documents after the 1960s, presumably when it was no longer needed. Burger has since begun work to restore his half of the old alley, making it accessible once again to residents from East Main Street.
 “I want to continue to carry on the tradition of being a good neighbor,” Burger said.
 Burger and his wife, Deborah, have cleared a lot of overgrowth that had completely taken over the old alley way.
But there is still much work to be done.
Working in cooperation with the Heritage Alliance, the McKinney Center’s Day of Service looked to help further the process of the clean-up and accessibility to the old cemetery from East Main Street.
 “It may be cold, but it’s really an ideal time to do this because the animals are hibernating and you don’t have to worry about poison ivy as much as you would during the warmer months,” McKinney Center Outreach Program Director Jules Corriere said.
 For more information about clean-up projects through the McKinney Center, contact Director Theresa Hammons at 753-0562 or [email protected]