Board Spotlight: Donna Douglas

The Heritage Foundation commemorated nearly a half-century of preservation work and several outstanding historic restoration projects at our 47th Annual Meeting & Preservation Awards in May 2014.

The annual meeting also revealed the new slate of Heritage Foundation executive committee and board members. To thank those individuals who have committed to serve this organization and its mission, we’re helping you to get know them a little bit better in our new “Board Spotlight” series.

First up, Donna Douglas–a new member with plenty of energy for preservation work.

Donna Douglas on site at the Old, Old Jail
Donna Douglas on site at the Old, Old Jail

Name: Donna Douglas

Hometown: Milford, Michigan

Where do you work? I’m the Director of Human Resources at Jackson National Life Insurance

How long have you lived in Williamson County? 3.5 years

What is your favorite aspect of Franklin/Williamson County? It’s a big city with small town feel. I grew up on a farm, so I love the comfort of a rural environment and enjoy the conveniences the surrounding area offers me and my family.

In your opinion, what makes Franklin/Williamson County unique? The level of commitment towards economic development, preservation of historical sites/landmarks and community/charitable giving stand out.

Describe the people of this community in one phrase, word or sentence: The people of Franklin/Williamson County care about their community.

How did you learn about the Heritage Foundation’s work? Through Jackson’s involvement with the Heritage Foundation and the Franklin Theatre.

Why did you decide to devote your time to the Heritage Foundation? My love of historical preservation and community giving.

Do you currently serve on any other board and/or volunteer with any other organizations? I currently serve on the Franklin Theatre Board. I’m involved with many non-profit organizations that focus on children and the elderly (KaBoom Playground Build, Second Harvest Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House).

Do you have a favorite quote/saying? Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.  – Maya Angelou

Thank you for serving, Donna! To learn more about our board, go here.

CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke Appearing at the Franklin Theatre March 7

ChadCNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke, elected by CNN viewers for cleaning 7 million tons of trash out of the Mississippi River, is kicking off Keep Tennessee Beautiful month with a public event at the Franklin Theatre March 7. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will be among those participating in the morning event on Franklin’s Main Street.

The public is invited to the breakfast event from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Franklin Theatre for $10 per person.  Tickets are on sale now at for the March 7 event. His appearance is sponsored by Keep Tennessee Beautiful and the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and supported by several additional community groups interested in making the Harpeth River more of a community asset.

“Chad is proof that one person can make a difference. His passion and dedication have motivated countless others, including myself, to get involved. TDOT was proud to join him for the massive clean-up effort on the Mississippi River,” said John Schroer, honorary chairman of the event, former Mayor of Franklin and Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “He is truly a hero, and we thank him for helping us bring positive change to communities across Tennessee.”

Keep Tennessee Beautiful is the primary sponsor of Pregracke’s appearance. March is “Keep Tennessee Beautiful” month and this event will help kick it off, according to KTNB Executive Director Missy Marshall.

“Keep Tennessee Beautiful is looking forward to bringing this international hero to the Franklin Theatre,” Marshall said. “His success can be applied to every other waterway in Tennessee, and we invite anyone interested to come to this presentation and be motivated to join the cause.”

Pregracke received the CNN honor for generating more than 700 clean-up days along the Mississippi River through his nonprofit organization known as Living Lands and Waters. He’s organized more than 70,000 volunteers to pick up 7 million tons of trash, 90% of which has been recycled.

In December 2013, he was nominated and awarded Hero of the Year by CNN viewers over a five-week voting process, but immediately took some of his $250,000 in winnings and dispersed $10,000 each to the other nine finalists for the award. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said that had never happened in the history of the Hero of the Year Award.

Tickets to the event include a light breakfast with doors opening at 7 a.m., and the program is expected to last from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Waste Management is underwriting the complementary breakfast served in the theater lobby and several local organizations, including Franklin Tomorrow, Keep Williamson Beautiful and the Harpeth River Watershed Association, will be in the lobby with information about their efforts and opportunities to get involved.

To purchase tickets to the event, go to

Heritage Foundation Plots Objectives For Year; Reflects On 2013

Old Jail by Ben Johnson copy (1).jpgLast month, Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County board and staff members gathered to reflect on the year’s progress and to establish goals for 2014.

The workshop, held at Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant in Maury County, yielded a list of objectives for the organization that will shape the Foundation’s work in the coming year—one of which includes a renewed focus on a Harpeth Riverwalk installation in Historic Downtown Franklin. The group used their time in Columbia to study that city’s new downtown riverwalk, meeting with the city engineer who has spearheaded the project’s construction since 2010.

“This was a really valuable and very productive retreat, one where we were able to celebrate accomplishments and set goals for the new year,” said Mary Pearce, the Heritage Foundation’s executive director. “Facilitating an expanded riverwalk program and building a strong partnership with likeminded organizations is a top aim, and it’s something that’s been discussed in Franklin for years. We plan to lead a renewed focus on it in 2014.”

Pearce says that the Foundation has already had informal conversations with the Harpeth River Watershed Association and Franklin Tomorrow.

The Heritage Foundation—often in conjunction with its division, the Downtown Franklin Association—produces several festivals each year that support the organization’s mission. Pearce says the executive committee routinely evaluates all special events to confirm that each is truly mission-based and generating sustainable revenue.

Based on year-over-year trends, the board also discussed setting up a stronger volunteer leadership and committee system to assist staff in producing the award-winning festivals.

“We’ve continued to grow so much, and for that we are thankful. Between the Franklin Theatre, and our special events and festivals, the Foundation entertained almost a million people in 2012,” Pearce said. “We are always working to inspire the most amazing signature events possible.”

In early 2014, the Foundation will begin building teams for festival and fundraisers. Individuals interested in serving on those teams should email or call its office at 615-591-8500.

Perhaps the most significant project for the new year was set in motion this summer: finding a permanent home for the non-profit. With the help of FirstBank and the City of Franklin, the Foundation completed the purchase of Franklin’s ca. 1941 Art Deco-style “Old, Old Jail” building on Bridge Street—saving another endangered iconic building in Williamson County. The Foundation expects to invest approximately $1.7 million restoring the building to serve as their headquarters, and as a public resource for those interested in historic preservation.

The “Big House For Historic Preservation” will also feature a vast archive of old photographs collected by Historian Rick Warwick, who has helped countless people learn more about their family and property histories over the years. Pearce says the Foundation helps home and building owners with everything from National Register of Historic Places nominations and the Heritage Classroom program to becoming a part of Franklin’s Main Street program.

The accomplishment follows the transformative Franklin Theatre project and is an indicator of the organization’s strength and commitment to its mission.

“Over the course of 45 years, with the support of the community and the hard work of a dedicated staff and countless volunteers, the Heritage Foundation has helped drive a renaissance in Franklin,” said Cyril Stewart, Heritage Foundation board president. “What used to be a best-kept secret with empty stores and tremendous potential has now become a nationally celebrated destination for heritage tourism, and one of the best places to live in the country. The Foundation is proud of its past, present and future leadership role in Franklin’s progress.

“As we approach our first 50 years of service, our challenge now is to envision what challenges, opportunities and accomplishments the next 50 years will see.”

Since 1968, the not-for-profit Heritage Foundation’s mission has been to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.