The AmeriCorps VISTA for the city of Jasper is not a native of Walker County, although her roots run deep here.
Jenny Sayles is the granddaughter of Joe McCluney, a former executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County and current officer of the Walker County Farmers Market.
A native of Nevada, Sayles moved to Jasper last year after graduating from college and doing some traveling.
“I’ve always wanted to live in the South, and I thought now would be a good time to spend with my grandfather,” Sayles said.
Shortly after she arrived, McCluney introduced her to several local movers and shakers, one of whom suggested she consider becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Last fall, the Jasper City Council voted to pay for a VISTA who would promote local businesses, particularly in the downtown area. Sayles applied through AmeriCorps and was approved for the position.
Sayles, a history lover, spent her first few weeks researching stories about Jasper’s heyday. She has now turned that information into two scripts for walking tours of the downtown area.
Sayles is also working closely with retail recruiter Don Goetz to plan a series of events to be held in downtown Jasper this year.
The schedule kicked off last weekend with a yard sale. Future events will celebrate a variety of ethnic groups, music, kids, antiques and classic cars.
“For the most part, we’re going to have an event every Saturday so the community will know to come downtown even if they forget exactly what that week’s event is. The goal is to get traffic back downtown,” Sayles said.
Sayles’ VISTA service ends in October, the same time that the schedule of events winds down for winter.
Her hope is that they will be so embraced by the community that they will be continued in 2014.
Although Sayles has only lived in Jasper a short time, she sees exciting possibilities for the city’s future.
“Like with any city, you take away what you want. Some people can see only the negatives and miss all of the good,” she said.