Nelson wins Diva Night contest at Community Options fundraiser

Community Options’ first Diva Night was held at Del Monaco Winery Friday, Oct. 23 as local businessmen came together to donate their time and showmanship by showing themselves in dresses, glitter and talent.

Diva Night is a fundraising event held to benefit the Cookeville branch of Community Options, a non-profit organization that focuses on those with intellectual development disabilities.

“Community Options helps those with developmental disabilities within their homes, providing support 24/7,” said Jeanette Preece, associate executive director of Cookeville’s Community Options. “We help them get out and involved within the community and at their job sites. We help them obtain jobs and work with them throughout employment.”

Tickets were $50 a person, or $500 for table sponsors, and included a three-course meal with wine offered for purchase. Doors opened at 6:30 p.m., and the event started at 7 p.m. It was an adults-only evening; because the event took place in a winery, tickets were only available for those ages 21 and up.

“All the proceeds will be used to provide additional supplies and experiences for these individuals,” said Preece. “We were hoping to make anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 this year. Our main goal was $6,000 and I believe we’ve achieved that.”

Preece spoke of support she has received from Tennessee Tech over the years, in particular with members of Tech who work with Community Options through the Community Options Business Advisory Council, or COBAC.

“We’re a huge supporter of Tech and have received a lot of help from the Tech community,” said Preece. “We have three COBAC board members that work at Tennessee Tech: Amy Callender, Martha Howard and Seth King.”

Amy Callender is an instructor in the curriculum and instruction department within the College of Education, focusing in special education for students with moderate to severe disabilities. She is co-chairwoman of COBAC and works as a full-time instructor at Tennessee Tech.

“Balancing the responsibilities of teaching, completing my dissertation as I finish my Ph.D., and service commitments can be a juggling act. Most of the time, I manage to keep all the balls in the air, but once in a while one plummets to the ground,” said Callender. “This would never be the goal. There are many wonderful organizations in which to provide additional support.”

Callender said the best part about working with Diva Night has been the response of the community.

“How many businessmen do you know that dress up like women and strut their stuff for a good cause? It is the nature of a great cause that entices such unpredictable generosity of others,” said Callender.

One of the “divas” who participated in Diva Night was Putnam County Trustee Freddie Nelson.

“I’m really excited to see our Putnam County Trustee, Freddie Nelson. He’s done this four times before and has been supportive in getting the word out about Diva Night,” said Preece. “He has provided a previous photo of himself dressed up and put it on Facebook to catch attention and awareness.”

Sheila Scruggs of Lite Rock 95.9, along with her husband, Tim Scruggs, were hosts for the event. This was Sheila Scruggs’ first time being emcee for Diva Night, but she has also been involved with other Community Options events such as Cupid’s Chase, a 5K race that takes place at Tennessee Tech every February to raise funds.

“I interviewed some of the performers before the event and asked what songs were going to be performed but they wouldn’t tell me; the songs were unknown,” said Scruggs. “The performers were very secretive about what they were going to perform before the night. They didn’t want others stealing their ideas and choice of song. There comes a time where all the men, well, ‘women’ go around to each table and acquire even more donations.”

The winner of Diva Night was chosen by which “diva” had the highest amount of tickets sold and donations received.

After counting the money made by the “divas,” the winner was announced as Freddie Nelson, or “Freidalicous.”