She was just a little tired after months and weeks and the final days of planning, but Darlene Goins was still all smiles.
Goins has played an instrumental role in bringing recognition to the small town of Charleston, but the International Cowpea Festival and Cook-off is just one of many highlights of her life.
Born and raised in Bradley County and a native of Charleston, Goins said she enjoys working to bring recognition to the community.
“We all came up with the idea to hold a festival which involved cooking. Jack Sanders told us about the cowpea,” Goins said.
Goins works part time for Charleston First Baptist Church but is a member at Charleston United Methodist.
“Odd, isn’t it?” she said.
Her family is close-knit, and most were at the festival Saturday helping out.
Goins volunteers in the community on several projects. She has been a Scouting leader along with her husband, Eddie Goins, and is a sports enthusiast. She also directs music at her church and is director of the Charleston Community Choir.
The veteran volunteer hopes to keep working to improve the Cowpea Festival and the growth of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center.
In 2008, the Charleston Historical Society was formed. The name was later changed to include Calhoun and the Hiwassee area, resulting in the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society.
The group of interested historians went from near zero to 100 in a very short time.
Help from the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau was instrumental in the formation of the Historical Society, as well as the Heritage Center and the festival.
“I missed the first meeting of the Historical Society, but attended the second one and have been there ever since,” Goins said. “I love this little town. I have been here all of my life, and there are four generations who have and are attending Charleston Elementary School.”
Her three children and her four grandchildren have attended the community school where Goins played basketball.
“I want to help preserve the history of Charleston and pass it on to the younger generation,” she said.
She is the staffing coordinator for the Chamber and the Heritage Center, and can be found most days volunteering as a member of the welcoming committee to visitors of the center.
Goins still plays basketball and volleyball as an active member of the Senior Olympics.
When she isn’t doing volunteer work for Charleston, she volunteers to help with her family’s needs, picking most of the grands up from school each day. Of course now, they are also involved in sports, so that takes up a little time as well.
The Goins’ are also advocates for pet rescue.
“Since all of our family live close by, we have quite a few dogs and cats. I have several grand-dogs,” she said laughingly.
After Saturday’s festival, maybe she can slow down just a little now and start planning for next year’s event.
“The festival has been fabulous this year, and we believe we doubled in attendance, and vendors are already asking about 2014,” she said.
Goins estimated more than 4,000 people visited the festival this past weekend.
So, whether it’s been volunteering with her children during their school years or now with her grandchildren, Goins plans to stay busy and watch them grow and watch the fruits of her love regarding her “little city” be harvested by those who visit.
Watch out, city of Charleston. Goins is looking to the future.