Panther Foundation offers way to give back

Lenoir City High School recently added a new weight training facility in the upper deck of the gymnasium complete with squat and bench racks, dumbbells, leg press, medicine balls and synthetic turf.

A new organization was recently formed to increase involvement by Lenoir City High School alumni.

Established in May, the Lenoir City Panther Foundation is already getting traction in the community.

“It kind of was birthed out of a desire to bring back the alumni spirit and involvement and passions to maybe engage a whole array of generational people,” Jimmy Matlock, foundation board chairman, said. “Anybody who’s alumni can kind of call themselves part of that school. You see other schools around us who have done many things to support the school after they’ve gone, whether they’re buying something tangible for the facilities or they’re building a part or they’re building some kind of naming of an area.

“What we want to do is say to people who have kind of gotten distant, ‘Come on back. Help us to continue the traditions of going through the school’ — not just the athletic programs,” he added. “We get sometimes too much about athletics. I love those, but we’re going to be doing things with this foundation that will help raise money.”

The most recent project was an athletic training facility in the LCHS gymnasium.

Matthew Coleman, who is also a member of the Lenoir City Board of Education, said the foundation hasn’t determined the next focus.

Hopes are to soon secure nonprofit status, which will offer tax incentives for donors.

“We really want to generate some community pride and ... we wanted to be able to allow people to get the tax incentive of donating to a nonprofit so that’s kind of why we created a corporation and filed for a nonprofit status,” Coleman said. “Part of the initial goal was to help fund the alumni training center, which we’re working through that. The other is identifying other things, other needs in the community that we can raise money for and help support. It could be anything from help supporting a firefighter, police officer or creating a scholarship or helping fund a weight room or really anything.”

At least for now, Matlock wants the focus on the school system.

The foundation helped organize a tailgate fundraiser Aug. 20 at the LCHS stadium to kick off the high school football season. Matlock said that project went “really, really well” and may soon return.

“That got attention,” Matlock said. “We bought billboards, we bought some spaces, we bought some space in (the News-Herald) ... we got attention through social media. And what we said to people, ‘Yes, we are going to have to have money, but it’s really about come out to support the school, whether it’s an engagement with the interact club, engagement with the band, with the sports teams.’ Everybody today’s kind of living in their own little shell. Some of it’s because of COVID, we get it, some however it’s not. Some of it’s just saying, ‘Hey, I’m me and my three and that’s it.’ What we want to do is try to develop a place that we can fund some special projects.

“It’s not going to be done by the school board, not going to be done by the alumni association or the hall of fame,” he added. “These are all good things, but ours is going to be about engaging people, plus tangibly putting some money behind it.”

There have been talks of a possible golf tournament fundraiser and a dinner.

“We would love to do something maybe late fall and maybe geared a little more toward the adults,” Amber Scott, foundation board member, said. “(The tailgate) was geared more toward children with the idea bringing out families. Of course, we want to keep it child-friendly, but maybe something — a car show or something like that — that could maybe attract more adults to the area and just raise awareness of what we’re doing and make people want to support the cause.”

For more information on the organization and how to donate, visit https://lcpantherfoundation.org/ or Lenoir City Panther Foundation on Facebook.

“Our hope is because people are going to care — and you can look around, the community of Greenback is very much passionate about their school and their community,” Matlock said. “The community of Loudon, the community of Maryville, the community of Farragut — around us are people already doing (something). Ours isn’t going to be different. We think ours in some ways is going to be better, but yeah some of them are doing a great job at other areas. We’re kind of taking some ideas from the best. ... Ours is going to be primarily focused toward alumni of the school.”