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ISC recognizes behind-the-scenes gifts of dynamic duo


Staff Writer

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Sisters Barbara Hopson and Delores Markland have definitely made their presence known around the Town of Jonesborough.

For more than 20 years, both ladies brought their own touch to the International Storytelling Center and Jimmy Neil Smith Park.

“Barbara (and her late sister Delores) are like the story behind the story,” said International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah. “Often quietly working behind the scenes, making the setting of our park, gardens, plaza and facilities an experience that’s perfect for all to enjoy.”

Hopson began working at the center in November of 1998, while Markland began in June of 1999.

Sadly, Markland passed away in March of 2020.

“As Manchester Bidwell founder Bill Strickland once said, ‘If you make beautiful spaces, then beautiful things will happen.’ I am sincerely grateful for the beautiful areas that these sisters have created and all the beautiful things that happen in these spaces,” Sirah said.

Not only did these sisters leave a gift for those that visit the ISC spaces, they also liked to leave gifts around the Center for the other staff.

“Barbara will leave gifts for us; like oranges, candy and muffins in the kitchen,” said Sandy Reaves, director of finance and operations with ISC. “She will even leave birthday gifts.”

The Jimmy Neil Park is three acres, and the sisters maintained the entire landscape. Friends and colleagues say the sisters treated the park like their home away from home.

When Markland passed, Hopson continued her work at the park and the center.

“No job is too big or too small for Barbara to pay attention to, and she always does it with a smile on her face,” said Krystal Hawkins, program administrator for ISC. “She will often do things for us before we even ask her to; she just sees that it would help someone and does it before we even know it’s a problem.”

“Hopson makes her own schedule and does it all by herself. It’s her baby. She has wonderful work ethic, and we couldn’t ask for a more caring employee,” Reaves said. “Everyone knows her. She takes pride in what she does.”

Sometimes the staff will come into work at the Center and smell bleach and cleaning spray and know Barbara was there.

“Not only does she take care of the grounds and the buildings year-round, but she also oversees a sizeable maintenance crew during our annual Festival each October,” Hawkins said. “She is the hardest working person on our staff and definitely the most valuable. We couldn’t function without her.”

Hopson does little things that many wouldn’t even think to do to help others.

“She will call about sales at Kroger and clip coupons for the center,” Reaves said. “She really is selfless and goes above and beyond.”

International Storytelling Center staff say that after more than 20 years taking care of the park and premises, Markland could educate you on every plant that lives on the property.

“(The beautiful spaces) are all thanks to the diligent sense of care brought to keeping our facilities beautiful for all of us that consider Jonesborough a beautiful place to work, visit or call home,” Sirah said.