Director and Founder of I AM The Voice of The Voiceless, Vivian Shipe, left, sits and chats with new community room director for Five points, James Thompson. Photo by Gail Carter

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — Almost nine months to the day it shut down – on January 3rd, – the community room at the Residence at Five Points reopened under the direction of Mr. James Thompson. It had been a long journey to get him to the helm of the senior living space that houses seniors up to the age of 94. Seniors that had been isolated from society due to covid- 19 but longing to rejoin the rest of the world that was opening back up.

The outcry from the residents and the public in support of the reopening began in October and continued until the end of the year. The community did what it could to help lighten the lonely holiday periods of Thanksgiving and Christmas, by holding dinners with music and gifts outside the locked-up community room.

The world was reopening, and the belief was the seniors had suffered alone long enough.  The community rallied behind the call from the nonprofit organization – I AM The Voice of the Voiceless to get the room open again. From all over city and county came letters, emails, media reports, phone calls, forums, and meetings. The tsunami of care for the elder’s mental well-being built to a crescendo – until the community voice was heard. 

Reopening the community room and having a new director was the key to freedom from loneliness and being able to be around other human beings both inside and outside the residence. After an internal search yielded no results, KCDC turned its search light outside its own boundaries and struck gold in the process.

James Thompson was hired for the position as Community Activities Director for the Five Points Residence. Thompson has spent 25 years in Washington DC as activities director where he was over eight centers during his years of service there. He and his wife had recently moved back to Knoxville in August. Thompson was born in Knoxville and proudly speaks of his formative years in the Lonsdale community.

Director Thompson has hit the ground running: creating a full month of activities, setting up Chat and Chews for the morning hours, bingo games with prizes, and even has plans for a senior exercise program to keep the seniors moving.  He recently held a Black History Month program with residents’ participation. Responding to a call from I AM The Voice of the Voiceless Director, Vivian Shipe, the community is holding an activities supply drive the month of March to fill the shelves of the community room with books, puzzles, crafts and incentives. Thompson also has plans to use the resources and services available through KCDC and CAC Office on Aging to bring in nutritionist and speakers to educate the seniors on health and other issues.

The room is operational, and no more commodities are left outside the door. A request for new computers and internet system upgrades is in the works, Bible studies have resumed, and the residents will even have their first neighborhood association meeting on March 9th, the first since the last director retired and the center was closed down back in May of 2021. 

A good start indeed.