Chair City competes

Thomasville hopes to capture national title of All-America City
Jun. 12, 2013 @ 07:13 PM

They’re not a sports team, but they’re trying just as hard to bring home the gold.
“A lot is riding on us,” Mary Jane Akerman said. “We need to make sure all of us do the best job we can.”
This weekend, 30 representatives of Thomasville will head to Denver to give a presentation about why Thomasville deserves to be an All-America City. Thomasville was chosen in April as one of 20 finalists. Established in 1949 by the National Civic League, the award honors 10 communities each year for their civic achievements.
Akerman and her 29 teammates have been practicing several times a week for more than a month. She said she has high hopes for Thomasville’s chances.
“I don’t see how they can hear our story and know what we’re doing and not love it,” she said.
As part of the application process, the city had to choose three programs to highlight ways the community exhibits innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement and collaboration.
One program — the city’s giant Memorial Day celebration — is perfect for this year’s theme of honoring the military, said Doug Croft, president of the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce.
The other two programs are geared toward kids: Divine Intervention provides food and hygiene kits to homeless students, while Kids at Play enabled community members to renovate all seven playgrounds in the city, including one adapted for children with disabilities.
Croft said each program is a true community effort.
“For all three, no government took charge,” he said. “They were led by private citizens and groups, funded by private donations, and their leadership comes from the citizens.”
Akerman agreed. As one of the organizers of Kids at Play, she said the program originally was a project of her Rotary Club but has since become a true community effort.
“Foundations, individuals, companies, everybody came together. That shows how all of Thomasville works,” she said. “We identify a need and decide what we need to do next.”
Thomasville also was chosen as a finalist in 2003 but has never won the award. Croft said winning would mean a great deal for the city.
“It would mean seeing our positive message reinforced on a national stage,” he said, “and from a business standpoint, it would help implement efforts to re-brand for the next 20 years.”
Akerman, who was not on the 2003 team, said that the experience has strengthened her love for the city.
“Winning would be validation of what I’ve always known: what a great community this is,” she said.

Want to get involved in Thomasville’s quest for All-America city? Here’s how.

• See them off
Come to the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce, 941 Randolph St., at 5:45 a.m. Friday.

• Help them win the video contest:
Ten communities also are competing in a video contest. View and like Thomasville’s entry to increase its chances of winning. Links to all entries are listed at

• Watch the live stream:
Find the link at Tune in 6 p.m. Saturday to watch Thomasville’s presentation. The winner will be announced around 10 p.m. Sunday.

• Follow their social media:
Check out and

• Welcome them home:
Come to the Chamber of Commerce at 5:15 p.m. Monday. There also will be a party Thursday evening.

• The state to beat
North Carolina has historically excelled in the All-America competition, with 57 total wins since the program began in 1949. The state is second only to California.

• This year’s N.C. competitors:
Dunn, Garner and Thomasville

• Past N.C. winners include:
Dunn (1989)
Greensboro (1966, 1991)
Hickory (1967, 1986, 1987, 2007)
High Point (1962)
Mt. Airy (1994)
Winston-Salem (1959, 1964)