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Category: Hearts of the People

Laura Carrillo


Laura Carrillo has a very unique and special connection to Donelson.  Her family has helped care for Donelson’s crown jewel historic site – Two Rivers Mansion, for over 50 years and her dedication has helped make the Two Rivers Mansion, the 1802 House and 14-acre property the success it is today.  Laura’s grandfather, Z.L. Milton, purchased a lot on Pennington Bend Road in 1959 to build a retirement home after working for years at Nashville Street Car and Rail.  Laura’s parents married and moved into the home with Laura’s grandparents.  After acquiring a few more contiguous properties, the family still lives there after four generations.

Laura recalls, “My grandfather started me on this journey when I was 5 years old. Mary Louise Bransford McGavock passed away in November of 1965. In January of 1966 her estate auction was held in a downtown Nashville warehouse with 8 inches of snow on the ground. All of the contents from inside the Mansion were sold and the remaining 445 acres were bought by the new Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County. After the sale took place someone broke in the Mansion stealing carpets, drapes all the chandeliers and back banister. Metro Police quickly recovered the stolen items. Now some security had to be put in place to protect the Mansion. My Grandfather got word that they were looking for someone to move into the Mansion and care for it.  Not that my Grandparents wanted to live in a Mansion, but there was 445 acres to raise Black Angus cattle on. They moved from Pennington Bend to the McGavock Mansion (as it was known back then) in the winter of 1967 and stayed until 1972.  So many fond memories with Grandparents and family were spent there. I wanted them to stay forever.”

Laura is able to combine a close personal connection to the Mansion and its history and a professional one as she has worked for Metro Parks for over 25 years.  She further recalls, “Growing up down the street, attending both Two Rivers Middle and McGavock High, I would see the Mansion almost every day.  A friend was getting married back in 1990 and I tagged along on the site visit.  I just wanted to see the inside again and walk down memory lane for a moment.  By accident I heard of a job opening there and the company I was working for was going out of business.  I applied for the job and two weeks later they handed me the keys to the Donelson Castle!!  Another journey had started and the plan was just to be there for a short time, which was 25 year ago this past March. “

Laura says she was born in the wrong century.  As a lover of antiques, especially from the mid to late 1880’s, it’s a passion that she shares with husband, Joe.   When they were dating, they’d spend all day in small towns going through all the antique shops and flea markets.  Laura’s Mother-in-law had been an antique dealer and owned a shop.  Laura and Joe plan their vacations around antiquing and touring historical homes.  They even have his and hers antique booths to see who does better each month.  They’ve both brought that passion to the Two Rivers Mansion with the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion’s “Two Hearts Antiques & Crafts Show, which this year will be Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 from 10am-4pm and Sunday, February 19 from 12pm – 4pm.  The Mansion is full of vendors both downstairs and upstairs, so it’s a great opportunity to see the mansion as well.  Members are free.  $5/adults and $2/kids.  There’s a Coffee Shoppe as well. 

As to the future of the Mansion, the future is bright.  One of the latest successes of the Friends of Two Rivers Mansion is completing the process to research and design a Two Rivers Master Plan, which was recently finalized was presented to the Metro Parks Board on January 3, 2017.  It will help guide the preservation and advancement of the property.  One exciting element is the recommendation to rebuild the carriage house that would become an event center.   The building would be designed to hold 200 – 300 people and could be used for all types of events.   The inside of the Mansion and 1802 house would become house museums.  Tours are only available now on a limited basis, but hopefully more will be available in the future.  Laura’s personal and professional passions are on full display as she greets guests in her 1850’s costume and shares the whole McGavock story.

Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Laura Carrillo, Metro Council District 15, Two Rivers Mansion

Naomi Regensburg


When it comes to a neighbor here in Donelson that has a true heart for the community that grows bigger with each new Spring season, Naomi Regensburg sets the bar.  Much of Donelson’s ongoing beautification efforts can be attributed to Naomi’s leadership and involvement.  There are many elements to creating a more vibrant, welcoming and strong community for both business to invest and good neighbors to move to.  As we all know, our central business community along Lebanon Pike has a lack of green space and beautification with a great deal of pavement and wires.  Naomi’s efforts contribute a great deal to improving that situation and it continues to make a big difference.

Naomi found a passion for landscaping as a teenager.  She grew up on a big farm and she helped her father landscape their home.  That passion continued to she and husband Ron’s home in Donelson when they moved here in 1965.  In 1994, former 15th District Council Member Roy Dale asked Naomi to serve as the 15th District Beautification Commissioner, where she served until 2001.  In 2009, Donelson Hills neighbor Virginia Clark encouraged Naomi to get involved in a new group of neighbors from around the community to form Friends of the Library, dedicated to beautifying our Donelson branch library on Lebanon Pike.  Since implementing that effort, our library has transformed into a true landscaped showpiece.

Also in 2009, thanks to efforts of Virginia Clark, former 15th District Council Member Phil Claiborne and other neighbors, The Donelson Gateway Project was formed as a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to beautification Donelson’s physical and figurative “gateways” into the community.  Naomi has been one of the most consistent and dedicated members of the Board of Directors of the group.  In 2010, Councilman Claiborne asked Naomi to return to her role as 15th District Beautification Commissioner where I am very proud to have her continue serving in that capacity today.

When asked about her experience as a district Beautification Commissioner, Naomi says involvement in The Great American Clean-Up and litter pick-up in the community.  Visit our local website here to learn more about litter prevention and being involved in this effort.  Naomi says one important trait needed to be successful in serving as a Beautification Commissioner is to be able to organize volunteers and coordinate and leverage strengths of others to make a strong impact in those efforts.  Donelson is certainly very fortunate to have Naomi serve in this role and continue to keep Donelson clean and beautiful.

Naomi’s professional career included working for 30-years in the Mortgage Servicing Department for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.  In addition to serving on the Board of The Friends of the Library and as Vice President of the Board of The Donelson Gateway Project, Naomi also serves on the Board of Hip Donelson and has been instrumental in the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Watch.  Naomi and Ron have been married almost 54-years.  They have three daughters and a grandson.  All three daughters graduated from Holy Rosary Academy and Father Ryan High School.

15th District Beautification Commissioner, Donelson Beautification, Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Metro Council District 15, The Donelson Gateway Project

Frank Trew


I first met Frank Trew at a meeting for The Donelson Gateway Project at the McDonald’s on McGavock Pike when we needed help with our website.  As I learned quickly after becoming good friends with Frank shortly thereafter, his skillset is widespread and he uses each one together to successfully serve his community in extraordinary ways.

Frank’s parents met as students at Lipscomb University.  Their first home was in the Maplecrest neighborhood and then picked the land in what became Lincoya Hills to build and design their home where several of their friends from Lipscomb had married and were moving to.  Frank recalls that many of them are still his friends and neighbors to this day.  Frank grew up in the home where he lives today with his husband Michael.  Frank went to nursery school at Lincoya Hills Baptist Church and kindergarten at Donelson Church of Christ.  His kindergarten teachers still attend Donelson Church of Christ and Frank sees them often.  He went on to Stanford Elementary School (now Stanford Montessori) and then Goodpasture Christian School thereafter.  Frank went on to graduate from the University of Tennessee Nashville Health Sciences and became a Paramedic, where he worked for Cheatham County for years.

In 1984, Frank and friend Ed Suey started Medi-Call Ambulance Service on Donelson Pike, where he served as Executive Director.  In that role, Frank expanded the company and his information technology skills by creating methodologies to bill insurance companies.  That led to Frank to found his own company in 1999, DataPlus, which helps physicians nationwide with analyzing their data.

Service to others is a natural part of who Frank is.  “I started out as a volunteer at Donelson Hospital in the Emergency Room when I was 17 years old,” Frank recalls. “I volunteered full time.  It was what really solidified my desire to get into emergency medicine.  I was allowed in the patient areas and moved up very quickly to patient care.  I remember those days extra fondly.”  After obtaining his Paramedic license, he became very active with the Davidson County Rescue Squad, an over 75-year old all-volunteer organization that provides search and rescue services in Nashville.  Frank also volunteered as a Paramedic at Hermitage Landing (now known as Nashville Shores).

When neighbors learned about a possible development next door, they gathered to discuss it.  That potential development didn’t go through, but the result of that meeting was to form a neighborhood association so that future issues of possible developments, Codes and other issues that impact neighborhoods in a collective way.  Their Neighborhood Watch formed as well and Lincoya Hills became a neighborhood that others looked up to for how neighbors came together for the greater good of all.  Frank later served for a time as President of the Lincoya Hills Neighborhood Association and remains a strong leader and advocate for his neighborhood.  Like all good neighborhood leaders, Frank brought his professional and personal skillset to work on behalf of Lincoya Hills.

Unbeknownst to each other at that time (and quite ironically with where we both are now), Frank and I didn’t think much of Facebook in the beginning.  Around the same time Andrew Bradley completed his service as President of Bluefields Neighborhood Association and founded Hip Donelson, I was reaching out to neighborhood leaders like he and Frank, both of whom I looked up to as neighborhoods from which I wanted Donelson Hills to emulate and learn.  I started to work with Andrew and learn about the benefits of the communication network that Facebook provides and how Hip Donelson was capitalizing on that.  After I joined Andrew in leading the growth of the page, I began to add neighborhood and community leaders to keep it growing.  Frank had the same realization that I had and soon after, he, Andrew and I began to meet regularly for lunch to talk more in-depth about Hip Donelson, what it was accomplishing and what the future could hold.  The three of us laugh when we recall how we thought it best to not have a large administrative effort or deal with money and keep it organic.  However, thanks to Frank’s leadership, Hip Donelson has been able to build an increasingly stronger organic network at the same time creating a bona fide non-profit organization that serves the community with success like no other.

Hip Donelson can point to great organically led successes, be it Hip D Lost & Found Pets or Donelson Neighborhood Watch Network.  The Hip Donelson Community Farmer’s Market is one success that is recognized all over the State of Tennessee.  It began as a conversation on Hip Donelson about what amenities neighbors wanted to see in Donelson.  Two big topics were the Farmer’s Market and a Community Garden.  The first meeting Hip Donelson led to work on both of these topics was held at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church on Fairway Drive.  We split into two teams with Frank leading the effort to create a Farmer’s Market and Lincoya Hills neighbor Jan King leading the effort that created the Donelson Community Gardens down near Heartland Towers.

As another great example of how Frank utilized all his various skillsets in the effort to create a Farmer’s Market for the community, no one in the original group that met had ever worked in a Farmer’s Market, but Frank was able to coalesce the passions and skills of those involved in the early days to create the foundation for what has become one of the most successful markets in Middle Tennessee.  More than 200,000 visitors attended since the Hip Donelson Community Farmer’s Market and vendors have sold more than $1 million in produce and products since its beginning in 2012.  In addition, Hip Donelson was the first market to partner with Piedmont Natural Gas in offering double-SNAP benefits to provide healthy food for at-risk school kids and families in need.

Frank went on to become a founding member of the Tennessee State Farmer’s Market Association and was recently elected the President of the organization.  They have a vision of creating a fully covered market area so the weather does not as directly interfere with market operations.  The 2016 season begins Friday, May 6, 2016, so stay tuned for another great year for our community’s Farmers Market.

Originally created as a 501c6 non-profit organization, Frank and the board worked hard to transition the organization to a 501c3 non-profit, which means individual donations are tax-deductible, giving more neighbors the opportunity to support the organization in its effort to give back to the community’s schools and non-profit organizations.  Hip Donelson recently had their annual day-long visioning meeting and the question Frank asked the board is to envision where the organization will be in 2018 and if money were no object, what that vision entails.  The board adopted a vision of working towards having its own building with an indoor Farmer’s market, meeting rooms, offices, event space and an area for the Hip D Lost & Found Pets program for medical care and boarding.  It is an incredible testament to the leadership of Frank and the Board of Directors at Hip Donelson that the organization has come so far and it truly sets the bar in Nashville for what putting service to others before self can do for community.

Frank serves in many other ways as well.  He was appointed by Mayor Karl Dean to the Metro Human Relations Commission and now serves as the Chairman.  In addition, he brings his time and talents as a neighborhood leader to the broader Donelson-Hermitage-Old Hickory area as the member of the board of directors of the Neighborhoods Resource Center representing the area covered by the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Hermitage Precinct.

Hip Donelson Farmers Market, Jeff Syracuse, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Metro Council District 15

Annie Martin


On a beautiful Fall afternoon of Sunday, October 4, 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to be present for the dedication ceremony of a stone bench dedication at Two Rivers Mansion by the Two Rivers High School Class of 1965 on their 50th Anniversary.  I was also beginning to put together my questions for my next Hearts of the People blog featuring Mrs. Annie Martin.  “Ms. Annie” as most folks call her, is 92 and has seen more in Donelson than most.  It struck me that Ms. Annie probably had great memories and stories of Two Rivers Mansion and this event would be a great time to do my interview before the event and invite her to come with me as it probably would trigger more memories.  I arrived at Ms. Annie’s house about an hour before the bench dedication to interview her.  As it turns out, Ms. Annie told me her son graduated in 1965 from Two Rivers High School rival Donelson High School.  It did indeed trigger some great memories.  She remembers Mrs. McGavock twice a year inviting kids in the neighborhood to come to her front porch and she would serve them fresh baked cookies.

Annie’s parents married in 1898.  She recalled her days growing up in Gallatin in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Her dad worked for the Corps of Engineers and was also a lock master at Lock Two at the end of Pennington Bend.  (Just recently, Lock Two was one of the properties that received a historic overlay as proposed by Mayor Dean’s administration).  Her mom was a teacher and Annie remembered stories of her Mom recalling riding their horse and buggy every day to the school where she taught, going through the Toll Gate, which was near one of the Donelson Gateway Project sites at the intersection of Stewart’s Ferry Pike and Lebanon Pike.  Today that site has a small toll gate acknowledging that site’s history.  Annie also remembered stories of her Mom recalling riding by McGavock Pike while it was still an unpaved road.  Mrs. McGavock would refer to it as “her road”.

Annie married Robert Martin, an Air Force Veteran and graduate from Boston University.  They lived in Boston about five years and recalled stories of living near Harvard University and walking through Harvard Square every morning.  They returned to Nashville and Robert began working for Clements Paper Company, where he retired after 32 years.  Annie worked for (what’s become) BellSouth and was there 30 years.  She chuckled when she mentioned that she’s been retired for longer than she worked there, now 39 years.

The Martin’s lived in East Nashville for two years and moved out to Donelson in 1952.  Ms. Annie remembers the first three digits to her first phone number – 28R.  The “R” was because Donelson was considered rural back then.  She also remembers getting involved with her neighbors to secure a petition to help bring Third National Bank to Donelson.  She helped secure over 300 signatures and the Donelson branch was then built.  That effort actually led to Willie McDonald moving from downtown Nashville to the new Donelson branch.

That morning before I went to see Ms. Annie, I had just dropped off Joey on a Fall trip to the Smoky Mountains with Scout Troop 777.  I had a good chuckle when she recalled vivid memories of her and Robert being very involved in their son’s Scout Troop 260 that met at Donelson Heights United Methodist on Fairway Drive.  Both her husband and son both earned their Eagle Scout rank.  She remembered going with them on a Smoky Mountain trip and helping to motivate the boys hiking all the way up to Mount Le Conte.  Once she helped get the Troop up the mountain, she then turned around and hiked back by herself, scaring bears out of her way while travelling down the mountain.

Ms. Annie continues to volunteer at FiftyForward Donelson Station and Telephone Pioneers of America, which gives back in many community service hours and charitable efforts.  When I arrived at her house, she showed me two big bags of toys that they were starting to collect to help provide a good Christmas for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have one.

Anyone who knows Ms Annie knows the feisty tenacity and energy that greets you when you see her that always puts a smile on your face.  She’ll quip that she’s “older than sin”.  When Annie got in my car to head over to the Two Rivers Mansion for the bench dedication, she was as independent as ever and didn’t want me opening the door for her.  Once we got to the mansion, she immediately recognized folks and they knew her son (even though they went to rival high schools).  We enjoyed a beautiful early Fall afternoon together and it was wonderful to hear the personal recollections of Donelson’s history and how the community has changed over the years.  Ms. Annie is a blessing and a treasure to the community and she shows no sign of slowing down.

Annie Martin, Growing up in Gallatin in 1920s, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Living Near Harvard University, Nashville, Riding by McGavock Pike while it was still an unpaved road

Marylee Locey


A native of Illinois who has also spent some years on the west coast, Marylee Locey has lived in Nashville for over seven years and in that time has set the bar in this community with the love and support she has shown both her neighbors and the “furkids” of our families alike. Most have known Marylee from her tireless devotion to the Hip Donelson Lost & Found Pets group, but she has supported and volunteered with many animal shelters and rescue organizations ever since she was a child. Marylee remembers always having multiple animals in her life. Her first dog, Fritzie, was a retired K-9 shepherd who Marylee describes as her first sibling and remembers they “conquered the world together. He was my protector, my confidant and my partner in crime. He never left my side.” Advocacy for animals has always been part of Marylee’s life and some of her earliest memories are of bringing rescued animals home. She grew up in rural Illinois and remembers always bringing home a friend to fix up and care for. As a teenager wanting to make an even bigger impact in the lives of animals, Marylee saved up enough money to take a trip to Utah to see the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no kill sanctuary in the world. A major aspect of animal advocacy that Marylee learned is that the best way to reduce euthanasia rates at local shelters is to support spay and neutering. She has volunteered for several low cost spay/neuter clinics while attending college. Local Middle Tennessee spay/neuter clinics that Marylee has worked with and encourages everyone to check out are Pet Community Center, Nashville Humane Association’s ROVER and Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance.

Not long after Marylee and family moved to Donelson, Hip Donelson was formed and she became involved in the early days of the community organization’s growth. When someone would post about a lost pet, she would jump in her car and help search. Marylee’s natural ability to connect with pets led to an astonishing success rate in returning pets to their home and the word quickly spread. As the page grew, so did the number of lost pets being reported on the original Hip Donelson page. Marylee approached the Board of Directors about creating a Hip Donelson Lost & Found Pets page and volunteered to manage and lead this initiative. That attracted a number of other animal advocates and Marylee’s leadership has created a team to manage the page and the many administrative and logistical tasks associated with finding and returning a lost pet home or finding a new home. The community came together around this effort that includes a strong partnership with Dr. Doug King and his staff at Elm Hill Veterinary Clinic and also Pampered Pets, a local place for grooming and boarding.  There is a bank account set up to care for medical care of pets who don’t have a home until they find foster homes and hopefully a forever-home.  To support these efforts and donate to this account, visit the Hip Donelson Lost & Found Pets website.

Marylee was acknowledged for these efforts with a “Caught Being Hip” award and joined the board of directors of Hip Donelson as Secretary. The Hip D Lost & Found Pets group continues their efforts with educating individuals on the importance of keeping collars and tags with current information on their animals. Having identification on the animal drastically increases the chance that every day citizens will stop and help. It also speeds up the reunion process. The group also encourages everyone to microchip their animals in case a collar comes off. The group has two microchip scanners that they utilize on each animal found. Microchips are a small chip placed under the skin by a veterinarian which contain a unique ID. The microchip company manages information online and the group can contact them to retrieve owner information.

Not only has Marylee set the bar for community service on behalf of the four-legged members of our families, she has led by example of great compassion and dedication for all our neighbors, which began at a young age. At 12-years old, Marylee watched her biological father pass away and the X-ray technologist that took his chest x-ray was so kind to her during the ordeal that it inspired a passion that led to a successful career in medical imaging, where she serves patients and makes a big difference in their lives at difficult times.

Around the time Marylee moved to Donelson Hills, she quickly got involved in the neighborhood and was part of the inaugural board for the Donelson Hills Neighborhood Association. Her energy and dedication were a big part of creating a strong foundation. Furthermore, her efforts with Hip Donelson participating in the Metro Police Christmas Charities led to an inaugural award created in her honor, the Hip Donelson Marylee Locey Humanitarian Award. For over 50 years on Christmas Eve morning, Metro Police and volunteers from around Davidson County distribute toys and food to families in need. (This program was started by Donelson neighbor and former MNPD Chief Joe Casey.) I was proud to participate this past year along with a number of volunteers, including Marylee and her family. When they delivered the baskets to the family, they noticed they had no furniture. For the remainder of the day on Christmas Eve, Marylee and family bought and secured donated furniture to bring to this family.

Thank you, Marylee Locey for all that you do! She and her husband Jason have three kids, three dogs and three cats and Donelson is a better community because of their family.

Hip Donelson Lost & Found Pets, inaugural board for the Donelson Hills Neighborhood Association, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Marylee Locey, Marylee’s natural ability to connect with pets, Nashville

Jack Kirby


Jack Kirby is a true unsung hero in Donelson and beyond.  I had the pleasure of getting to Jack through Hip Donelson and our natural love of music and supporting artists bonded a great friendship.  When I began to learn about Jack’s incredible history of being on the production staff of Hee Haw, filling in for musicians at the Grand Ole Opry and everything he did as part of a number of different teams making those shows big successes, my admiration and respect for Jack went even deeper.

Jack was born and raised in Defeated, TN and graduated from Carthage High School.  Inspired by an uncle who was with the State Highway Patrol, Jack joined in 1958.  Jack was a dedicated State Trooper, once being recognized and awarded for his investigative efforts that led to an arrest and conviction of man charged with second-degree murder.  He also joined the Army and served 18-months in Vietnam in the medical corps.  On July 4, 1963, Governor Frank Clement signed an executive order creating the water safety program and Jack was among the first officers to be part of this new group.  With a combination educational and enforcement mission, they also served as a rescue unit and promoted safe boating and water safety.  There were only 3 boats statewide and they were on call 24-7. The patrol boat was equipped with marine, THP, and Coast Guard radios.  Recently, Jack learned that the Tennessee State Museum is adding a feature that will acknowledge the Water Safety Division that Jack was assigned to.  Below is a picture of Jack on one of those first boats in 1963.

Jack Kirby on THP Boat

Jack was always involved in music from an early age, winning a senior music medal from Carthage High School for his guitar playing.  He moved to Donelson around 1970.  Jack met Sam Luvello in the mid-1970’s and they quickly became good friends.  A few years later Sam added Jack to his production team for Hee Haw and they worked together for many years on the show until its run was over in 1992.  Jack assisted with a great many details on ensuring Hee Haw was a success each and every night.  Jack gave me a copy of “Life in the Kornfield” by Sam Lovullo and Marc Elliot, a book about Sam’s 25-years at Hee Haw.  One passage (Page 180) recalls when they were trying to book Patty Loveless for the show, Sam sent Jack over to talk to Patty after her Opry show and work with her and her manager to book her on Hee Haw.  I have memories as a small kid in Buffalo, NY watching Hee Haw with my grandfather and it’s just incredible to me to sit and chat with someone like Jack who was so instrumental in helping the show be a success.

Merle Travis, Reggie Alley, Jack Kirby and Joe Carroll backstage at the Opry rehearsing for a performance – October 1982

Pictured Above: Merle Travis, Reggie Alley, Jack Kirby and Joe Carroll backstage at the Opry rehearsing for a performance – October 1982.

Jack continues to help artists and was involved in the production of numerous other shows, including the American Federation of Musicians Local 257’s Big 100 concert celebrating a century of musicians in Nashville.

Jack is a humble and caring neighbor.  He’s never sought attention or credit, but gives of his time, energies and talents that is such a big part of the true heart of Donelson as a community.

(Profile picture is Grandpa Jones, Sam Lovullo and Jack Kirby)

1963 Boat & Water Safety Introduced, Jack Kirby is a True Unsung Hero in Donelson and beyond, Jack Kirby was a dedicated Tennessee State Trooper, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Nashville, Sam Luvello added Jack to his production team for Hee Haw

Russ King


Russ King grew up in Donelson and graduated from McGavock High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Arts in Religion from Lipscomb University. He’s currently working towards a Masters Degree in Conflict Management.  Russ has good memories of going to kindergarten at Donelson Church of Christ, playing football at the YMCA, hanging out at Opryland in middle school, and cruising Shoney’s near Donelson Plaza in his high school years. Russ recalls getting his first pair of glasses, first speeding ticket, first kiss, and getting married all in Donelson. “It’s where I learned the blessing of good friends, the value of good neighbors, hard work, respect and faith,” Russ recalls about growing up in the community. “Many things have changed through the years, but these values are still taught and lived right here in 37214.  I am thankful to have grown up here and excited about our future.”

Russ and Donna have been married for over 35 years with three kids and a beautiful foster daughter in Guatemala, who came into their lives through an organization to help children with medical needs. Russ, Donna and DCC have also impacted the kids at McGavock Elementary in a big way by being a PENCIL Partner, offering weekly tutoring, meals for teachers, PTA support, free weekly ESL classes for adults, providing backpacks with school supplies, and a free community dinner once a month. DCC was the first church to be awarded the Outstanding PENCIL Partner Award, presented by Mayor Karl Dean. Their Help Center is open every Tuesday and assists 50 families weekly with free food, clothing and furniture. DCC completed an expansion in 2012 and includes a free quarterly dental clinic. They are also involved in Room at the Inn, providing lodging and food for 24 homeless men one night each week in November through March.

When Donelson Church of Christ created a Minister of Community Outreach position in 2011, Russ and Donna had an opportunity to come back home to Donelson. “Nothing is Louder than Love” is a theme at the church and the congregation has done great things to put that into action. Russ is a fellow graduate of Leadership Donelson-Hermitage Class of 2013 and we bonded a friendship that grew when he joined the board of directors for the Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce and became the Division Director for Community Development. Russ enriched my personal experience on the board and especially while President, we had the opportunity to work together to enhance the Chamber’s Program of Work to reach out to the faith community and Donelson-Hermitage Ministerial Association to put together an annual Faith Leader’s Forum sponsored by Donelson Church of Christ. To prepare for the event, Russ cataloged the over 50 faith communities in the Donelson-Hermitage-Old Hickory area and created an incredibly successful luncheon, where members of over 30 different faith communities attended, accompanied by non-profits and Metro agencies, that resulted in a comprehensive list of ways our faith community gives back, from supporting the blind, care for Lyme disease, clothing for the needy, clothes and formula for newborns, financial assistance with rent or utilities, alcoholics anonymous, Alzheimer’s support, amputee support, grief and loss support, tutoring, career counseling, pregnancy crisis support, and a list for needy families to show where a different food bank is open every day of the week.

Our faith communities serve Donelson in so many incredible ways and as one of its leaders, Russ has brought energy, humility, a joyous sense of humor and an inspiring spirit that brings smiles to everyone.

A Great Donelson Neighbor, Donelson Church Of Christ, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, McGavock High School Graduate, Nashville, Russ King Of Donelson

Stephanie Pruitt


Stephanie Pruitt never learned that you have to choose only one path.  The native Nashvillian is a poet, community catalyst, and creative strategist who earned an undergraduate degree in Marketing from MTSU and her MFA in creative writing from Vanderbilt.  She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, Sedberry Prize and Essence Magazine named her one of their “40 Favorite Poets.”  Stephanie has taught arts education and creative writing at Vanderbilt University, Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, and as a visiting artist in over one hundred k-12 and community settings.  

The ARTrepreneur is founder of Poems & Pancakes and partners with businesses and special events, providing poetry vending machines as a marketing and communication tool.  The Cave Canem Fellow has been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Stephanie has advanced the local creative community through work with the Nashville Arts Coalition, NashvilleNext Arts & Culture Team, Poetry In Motion, and numerous arts commission grant review panels.  She serves on the Board of Directors for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville.  The 2014 Nashville Emerging Leader Award Finalist operates Mind Your Creative Business Consulting where she equips businesses with arts-rich strategies & artists with business-rich strategies.  She is the author of I AM: A Poetic Journey Towards Self Definition, Life on Lay-a-Way, and has a spoken word CD, Choice Words. Stephanie’s poetry has been described as “high art with a hearty dose of biscuit sopping goodness.”  She was also editor of the historically inspired collection of poems by local high school students: Regarding Rule 99.  Her community service includes volunteering at Magdalene House as a creative writing teacher for the last 10 years.

Family is her greatest work of art.  Stephanie has a teen aged, musician daughter and two furry, tail wagging kiddos.  She co-chairs her home life and big bucket list with her husband, Al Gaines. Stephanie has lived in Donelson the majority of her life and recalls weekly stops at the Donelson Library and Two Rivers Park with her family as a kid while attending Pennington Elementary School.

Learn more about Stephanie at Donelson and all of Nashville are very fortunate to have such a wonderfully creative person like Stephanie as a neighbor.

Founder of Poems & Pancakes, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Nashville, Native Nashvillian Poet Community Catalyst, Recipient of Academy of American Poets Prize, Stephanie Pruitt

Jenny White


Jenny White and her husband Kent have been residents of Lincoya Hills for over 17 years.  She is a graduate of Belmont University and originally from Evansville, IN.  Jenny is active in the Donelson community as the President of the Lincoya Hills Neighborhood Association and Community Chair for the Donelson-Hermitage Relay for Life.  Jenny and Kent enjoy biking on the Greenway, adventure dining with friends and just about anything that takes place in New York City.

When a life altering diagnosis came her way in October 2010, Jenny found her passion in creating awareness and advocating for lung cancer.  When she found no support for lung cancer, Jenny partnered with Lung Cancer Alliance to bring the first ever national chapter for lung cancer advocacy to Tennessee.  Jenny also volunteers with the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.  She recently trained for a marathon and her story was featured as part of St. Thomas Health’s “Nothing Shall Be Impossible” initiative highlighting inspiring stories from those who beat cancer.  You may recall seeing Jenny on bulletin boards and on the side of MTA buses across the city advertising this initiative and proudly wearing her “Dear Cancer, You Lose!” shirt.  Check out the full story at:

Jenny is an inspiration to many and Donelson is lucky to have her as a neighbor.

Dear Cancer You Lose!, Jeff Syracuse, Metro Council District 15, Jenny White Cancer Survivor, Nashville, Nothing Shall Be Impossible, Tennessee Cancer Coalition