Paige Mengel ’88 and Nikki Niswonger were recognized for their community service and leadership Tuesday as recipients of 2014 Woman of Courage of Greene County Awards.
The awards, sponsored by the Tusculum College Center for Civic Advancement, were presented during a luncheon ceremony. The Woman of Courage Award, now in its 10th year, is presented to a woman who has displayed the virtue of courage throughout her life and made a significant contribution to the local community. Nominations for the award are submitted by community members and honorees must be residents of Greene County. Honorees must have also made a noteworthy contribution to the community in the areas of arts, education and/or social justice and exemplify the qualities of a courageous woman in the 21st century.
Rachel Edens, director of the college’s Center for Civic Advancement, said that after reading the nominations for this year’s awards, it was an honor for the Center to be able to recognize the recipients for their service to others.
Paige Mengel is an active member of the Exchange Club and serves on the boards of the United Way of Greene County and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Northeast Tennessee. She was a member of the Leadership Greene County Class of 2005. A 1988 graduate of Tusculum College, she has served on the Tusculum College Alumni Executive Board for 20 years. She has been honored at her alma mater with the Alumni Association’s Frontier Award.
A certified public accountant, she worked for a private firm until she decided to seek a change professionally so she could be able to contribute more to the community. She then became comptroller at the Greeneville Water Commission and is currently the controller at Greeneville Light and Power System.
As a member of the Exchange Club, Mengel has been an officer on both the local and district level, as well as serving on its national task force. She is currently a director on the Tennessee District Board and has served as Tennessee district president. Mengel has also served two terms as local club president. She currently chairs the Book of Golden Deeds Committee, and is active on the Americanism committee.
During her time in the Exchange Club, she has been responsible for organizing three major projects as well as smaller regular duties such as preparing the weekly bulletin and the Youth of the Month certificates. She was the organizer of the Healing Field Project in 2007, which brought attention to the issue of child abuse, and also organized the “Loads of Love” project that provided laundry services to the tornado victims in Camp Creek and Horse Creek. She recently chaired the “Flags for the Fallen” project that recognized soldiers in Greene County who had been killed in action.
Mengel is also supportive of the arts and has been active in the Theatre-at-Tusculum program, both on-stage and behind the scenes. She has volunteered countless hours in building and painting sets as well as appearing in productions. She has a leading role in the upcoming Theatre-at-Tusculum production of “Twelve Angry Men.”
Nikki Niswonger became deeply involved in her children’s education while living in Ohio and gained a deeper understanding of the importance of parental involvement in schools. She brought her love of community and belief that all children should have a quality education to her new home in East Tennessee when she moved to Greeneville. Among her first experiences in the community were serving as a substitute teacher in the Greeneville School System and as an active member of the Greeneville Schools In Action (G.S.I.A.) parent organization. She served as president and secretary of the Tusculum View G.S.I.A., president and vice president of the Greeneville Middle School G.S.I.A. and president of the systemwide G.S.I.A. Council.
Niswonger also created a “Birthday Book Club” at Tusculum View, providing an opportunity for the school’s library to attain new books. In the “Wonder of Words” program, she served as a mentor for at-risk children in kindergarten through third grade to help improve their basic math and reading skills. Niswonger served as chairperson of the “Success by Six” Task Force, which secured a grant to provide reading enhancement to preschoolers. A founding member of the Greeneville City Schools Foundation, she has also served as its trustee. In addition, she has served as a board member for Community of Promise.
An active member of Youth Builders, Inc., whose mission is to promote the welfare of young people in the community, she has served as president, secretary, school-assistance co-chair and fundraising co-chair. In addition, she served for eight years on the United Way’s Allocation Committee, as an Arts United advisory board member and a membership drive committee member for Community Concerts. She has served six years on the planning committee for the Parenting Fair, and is a board member for Frontier Health, serving on both the finance and policy committees. She is a founding member of the East Tennessee Women’s Fund.
Her love of the community’s history is evident in her efforts as president and board member of the Greene County Heritage Trust, as a board member of the Nathanael Greene Museum and her service as co-chair for the annual Historic Homes Tour.
She has served as a board member of the Niswonger Foundation since its inception. She serves on the Niswonger Scholars Selection Committee and also serves as a member of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center board of directors.
Dr. Taimi Olsen, director of the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and challenged those in attendance to reflect on their own community service. She recalled her time as a faculty member and academic leader at Tusculum College and the community service projects she and her students enjoyed, working with such diverse groups as Rural Resources, Habitat for Humanity and Greene County Skills.