By ALLEN RAU
Many folks across the region watched the recent government shutdown crawl on and on, wondering when the rift would heal enough to at least restart the services left in the dark.
Nancy Kavanaugh wondered if there was a way she and her “associates” could help any locally employed government employees working through the shutdown for no pay.
“We came up on this government shutdown and I kept thinking, ‘There have to be people in this area who are affected, who are working without pay.’ And then it came to me — the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration workers (at the Tri-Cities airport) might be in that category.”
Her group, the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, raised over $1,100 to help the airport workers who manned their posts throughout the shutdown.
Kavanaugh, who founded the group of mysterious Jonesborough residents known as the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, has been the driving force for the group’s charitable efforts in the time since its founding last October, as well as the ringleader.
After numerous phone calls, the “Wild Women” ringleader said she eventually tracked down a Department of Homeland Security manager that could help.
“She told me they had 35 TSA employees and 22 FAA employees. Then she told me all the limitations on giving any kind of gift to government employees. One was that a gift could not be more than $20 and they could only accept it once a year.
“It was pretty unpleasant that all we could do was give them each $20. So I thought ‘Well, that’s better than nothing. (The manager) recommended that we buy gift cards from Walmart, Ingles or Food City because all three of those places have gas stations.”
Kavanaugh said she began to call her “close associates” in the group for donations and that while the amounts were different, everyone was willing to help.
“So I raised money to buy 57 or 58 gift cards for these employees. And people were very generous and happy to help. I never got anything negative from people.
“I see it as Jonesborough is a great town, and a great community of people, generous people who want to help other people…It wasn’t about me, it’s how people with small amounts of money can put money together and make a big impact.”
The origin of the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” began when Kavanaugh, who is a board member for the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, was at home ironing linen napkins and thinking about an upcoming JRT performance.
“This idea flew past me that there was a play that was going to be produced here called “The Wild Women of Winedale”. And it was a world premiere and they were going to present it here for the first time. And I had this idea, well what about “The Wild Women of Jonesborough” being sponsors of this show? And it went from there.”
According to Kavanaugh, she made phone call after phone call asking who would help sponsor the show, finally ending with around $4,000.
“We would not reveal who we were. So we had an ad in the playbill that ran for the shows and just said, “Wild Women of Jonesborough” So that’s how the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” came to be.”
Kavanaugh and some members of the “Wild Women” met recently to chat about their charitable work so far and possible future ideas.
Requesting anonymity, the members said that some of them did not know the other members, but everyone was friends with Kavanaugh, and they were all fans of the JRT.
“The significance of it is what one woman can do who has a lot of credibility, because Nancy (Kavanaugh) has so much credibility and does so much good. And we trusted her judgment. We knew if she said there was a need, we’d be part of it.
“The JRT is a very reputable organization, we all support it, we all attend, so Nancy and the idea to support the play was natural,” one member said.
Kavanaugh, who said she envisions the group eventually having collective leadership, added that she believes the future is exciting because the blueprint has yet to be drawn up.
“That’s the beauty of this. No one did this for publicity. No one wanted their name in the paper. It is below the radar, people who have similar values and interests,” another “Wild Woman” added, “The group is below the radar, non-faith based, and non-political. Involved women who want to help.”