George is proud of his neighborhood: you’ll often find him with his custom Parkwood hat while attending community meetings and picking up litter. George channeled his positive energy for public service into increasing tree canopy through his role as a Neighborhood Planting Captain, and shared some of his experiences and long-time Nashville history in our Q&A. In our experience, every corner of Nashville includes community members who are interested in making their neighborhood a better place to live – through trees. We were honored to work with George in Parkwood.
Q: What is your history in Tennessee and your neighborhood?
I’m originally from East Tennessee, and I left when I graduated from high school and on a college scholarship for Tennessee State University. From TSU, I went on to Trevecca Nazarene University where I worked or Aladdin Industries. And in the meantime I was called to the ministry and I got both of my trainings from Trevecca.
I worked for Aladdin for almost 47 years before I retired. I also pastor at a church in Murfreesboro for about 12 years, and then I retired and moved back to Nashville to assist at Hills Baptist Primitive Baptist as an associate.
After I retired from a secular job, I decided to come home and rest for awhile but that didn’t last! Maybe 3 months before I became interested in becoming a school crossing guard and volunteering at a local school. I began as a crossing guard and interacted with the children. I loved talking with the children every morning and interacting with them when they came to school at KIPP Collegiate. I got to know their names and I’ve been doing this now for 9 years, so I’ve watched them grow up.
I began attending our neighborhood association — I found the time, after I retired! — I began to look around and ask, “Why wasn’t this getting done?” and I found out that they weren’t getting things done because of the lack of energy. I came in and I tried to use my energy, and spark up and encourage and greet people and get to do things. Next thing I know I wound up being president of the neighborhood association! That was at the end of 2019.
Almost as soon as I became president, I formed a list of long- and short-term projects for the neighborhood. The pandemic slowed things down, but in the meantime Councilmember Jennifer Gamble nominated me to the Beautification Commissioner for this district. But I’ve been grabbing people and making them help pick up litter with me for a long time.
As for my family, my wife Dorothy and I have been married 51 years and we have 4 full-grown children, and all are involved in some kind of service or helping people. All of them are back in town now. I have lots of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Myself, I grew up with a big family. We weren’t affluent, I’ll put it that way, so we had to conserve. Even though we didn’t have that much, my mom taught us how to give. There were times when she would cook and we’d think it was for us, but she would give it away to other families. I just grew up that way. Any time our neighbors were doing anything, and I mean anything, and we’d go as a family and ask, “Can we help?”. It’s ingrained in my spirit to give and to help people. Whenever I go and help somebody, I say, “Don’t mention it” and I mean it – leave it alone. Really, don’t mention it. If you need help again, I’m there for you, but really, don’t mention it! My ministry is to help where I can.
Q: What do you love about the Parkwood neighborhood? What would you want people to know about this area?
We’ve been here for 46 years now. In general I do know a lot of folks and people here are just friendly. Sooner or later, people come around. This is really a nice neighborhood. A lot of these people have lived here for 20, 30 years and they know each other and speak to each other when they’re out of their walks. It’s kind of like the country, visiting each other on front porches.
I grew up at a time of segregation and I do regret that experience, because there’s a lot of good in everybody. You miss out on things, friendships and conversations, if you don’t allow yourself to get to know people. You meet them where they are. You can build trust and that becomes friendship. It’s been great to do what I can and I really do give it all back to the Lord because I’ve really learned that people are people, and we’re really all alike at the end. It’s definitely like that in our neighborhood of Parkwood.
Q: What did you learn about your neighborhood in your role as a Neighborhood Planting Captain?
I learned that if you take the time to get to know people, they’ll tell you about their lives and as a neighborhood association we’ll try to give advice. If a person is having a problem, since I’ve been in the association, we try to reach out to that family whatever it is.
As a neighborhood association, we have a monthly clean-up day and sometimes I’ll just go up and mow and pick up litter even if I’m doing it alone. People see that. And I began to look at now when people are walking, they are picking up litter as they go! They have trash bags with them! It went that same way with the tree sign-ups. I posted a sign in my yard, and I talked about it during our neighborhood association meetings. Then things rolled on from there.
Q: What do you love about trees and planting?
I just can’t imagine Parkwood without the trees. Trees make Parkwood what it is! If all the trees were gone, Parkwood would be barren and hot and dry and not welcoming. Before those trees were on Doverside Drive, that area was not very inviting, and now with those trees there, it feels like you’re on your way home. [George Acklin helped get a street tree project going for Doverside Drive for 70+ trees, thanks to his initiative.] I like the shade of course in summertime. In our yard, we have a huge magnolia and it’s one of my favorites, and I sit under it and watch the world go by. It makes our houses look valued and valuable. And whether you want to believe it or not, it’s good exercise to get out there and get things cleaned up in the fall! It sounds like work, but if all the neighbors are out doing it at the same time, it’s enjoyable. I am interested in making where I live very inviting and pretty and very home-like. It gives you a peace.
Q: What would you say to inspire others to become Neighborhood Planting Captains, or to plant trees in their yard?
It’s very rewarding. It’s a way to help your neighbors with something they need and that they can take pride in. When a tree is in the ground and it starts to grow, people have pride in that. And I love that because I helped them get it there.
Secondly, I got to know people. They would call me and I’d talk to them and we’d get it figured out. After you get to know them, you wonder what else you can do to help them. That’s what happened with me as a planting captain. It was another way for me to help people. You don’t have to know people to help them, but once you do, you start to know them and form good, binding and long-lasting relationships that you couldn’t have formed otherwise. They have been so grateful to get something that they’ve been wanting but haven’t been able to do. People were astounded that they could get a free tree. All you gotta do is dig the hole and then take care of it! You can’t imagine the gratitude they had towards me and all I was doing was introducing them to how to get it.