Community center project to honor late resident

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

When it comes to remembering a late friend, Jessica Bitner couldn’t find a better way.
Growing up in Carter County, Range Elementary holds special place in the heart of Bitner.
Looking back at her time in school, seeing the doors close years ago proved to be a bitter pill for the native, but now sights are set for the future.
With the former school now up for sale, Bitner is hoping to raise enough funds to see the facility developed into a community center to honor the memory of Brittney Eggers, who passed away in 2015 from ovarian cancer.
Following a standout high school career at Happy Valley, Bitner, a trauma radiology technologist, attended college at Carson-Newman and Milligan College, double-majoring with a degree in Business focused on Computer Information Science.
But the decision to go back to school to receive a degree in Health Science, concentrating in Radiography, saw Bitner’s life go through some changes, including the life-changing experience of meeting Eggers.
“I was 23 years old, struggling with low self-confidence, social anxiety, and battling an eating disorder that plagued me since I was 13,” Bitner said. “I was barely able to hold a conservation and often would stay quietly in the background instead of speaking up.”
While studying in the program, a chance encounter with Eggers saw a change for both individuals.
“From day one of meeting this inspirational woman, she accepted me as a friend and she pushed me to keep going, even when I did not believe I could,” Bitner said. “Words cannot express the impact she has had on my life. She encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and find my voice when I felt like whispering. In face of adversity, she smiled and most important, forgave.”
Bitner and Eggers both graduated in 2013 and they both stayed in contact as friends until Eggers’ courageous battle with cancer concluded two years later.
Once the property came up for sale, the stars started to align.
“I believe that all children should have the opportuntiy to pursue their dreams and all individuals should be able to live in dignity,” Bitner said. “This is why I have high hopes to purchase a location to create a community center in our rural area of Turkeytown that will serve those locally and in neighboring counties.”
Bitner hopes to see the building be used for countless opportunities, including a community garden, day care center, tutoring, active cafeteria, veteran serves and resources for the elderly.
And the goal wouldn’t be completed without a perfect way to honor the love of music for Eggers.
“I would like to see at the community center a music program dedicated in memory of Brittney,” Bitner said. “She loved children and being part of the Betsy Band at Elizabethton High School. I want to ensure her inspiration lives on. I love my community and I love the people in it, which is why I want to see every person is given the opportunity to succeed.”
Bitner provided an update on the project during July’s Carter County Community Advisory Board meeting and stated fundraising efforts are underway now to purchase the property.
A GoFundMe page has been set up online, along with a specialized P.O. Box for people to mail donations. Individuals can visit or mail donations to Carter County Restoration Project, P.O. Box 474, Elizabethton, TN 37644.
The asking price for the property is $199,000. Bitner added that she appreciates the outpouring support and volunteers assisting the project.
“This is no small task, but the benefits this project can give back to the community pushes me forward,” she said. “If we do not raise enough to purchase the building, all funds will go to help area organizations whose missions are to enrich the lives of others, such as the Elizabethton IDEAS Group, Journee, CAB, T-MAC, Carter County Proud and others.”

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