2021 Cheatham County Citizen of the Year:  Valerie Kemp

Valerie Kemp, the 2021 Cheatham County Citizen of the Year, said she learned about caring for the community from her parents.

Valerie Kemp lives by a simple mantra passed down from her parents: You take care of your home.

Kemp, a sixth-generation Cheatham County resident who’s owned an accounting firm since 2009, said that the attitude of giving back to the community was instilled in her by her parents, Donnie and Jackie Kemp, who owned Kemp’s Foodland grocery stores in Cheatham County.

“I make money in this community, and I feel it’s my duty to give back,” said Kemp, who has been selected as the 2021 Cheatham County Citizen of the Year by the Cheatham County Exchange.

In 2021, Kemp kept busy serving Cheatham County and beyond. When significant flooding hit Waverly, Kemp used her accounting office as a donation collection center and connected volunteers to places in Humphreys County.

Kemp also used her Cheatham County Long-Term Recovery group to provide housing for people displaced by the Dec. 11 tornadoes. She started the organization during the 2010 floods to help with local disaster relief.

She has prepared tax returns for numerous non-profit organizations for free. Kemp also provided food and catered luncheons at events for groups such as Leadership Cheatham County and Youth Leadership Cheatham County.

She says her main gift is connecting those who want to help with those who need help.

“I don’t do anything. I’m just a big mouth cheerleader. I just help people find the people to meet the needs present. I’m just the one that uses the phone to get people to help. If you present opportunities to people to help, they will,” Kemp said.

Along with her sister Melinda Kemp Ruffin, she helped the Chamber of Commerce and Ashland City Parks and Recreation Department, organize the first Mistletoe Trail at Riverbluff Park. The trail consists of Christmas trees that are decorated and sponsored by businesses to be displayed in the park.

Faye Silva helps to host the Christmas Anonymous event which provides Christmas gifts for children in the county. She said Kemp has helped with the event, getting the word out to the community so that toys can be collected.

Silva said that Kemp can rally people like no one else, and that she lives the Gospel and makes others want to live the Gospel.

“She’s the spirit of Cheatham County in one person,” Silva said.

Kemp, a self-described motivator, has served as chairwoman of the board of TriStar Ashland City Medical Center, and has hosted meals for the hospital’s weekend staff during the pandemic. She’s served on the board for Cheatham County Habitat for Humanity and organized “build days” in honor of her late father.

Kemp has helped to raise funds for Cheatham Middle School, Cheatham County Central High School, Sycamore Middle School and Sycamore High School, including sponsoring the homecoming pregame meals for the two high schools.

“She’s an all-around good person with a huge heart and gives back in so many ways,” said Ashland City Councilman and Cheatham County Schools spokesperson Tim Adkins.

It’s clear from speaking with Kemp for even a short time that she loves Cheatham County. She said she loved the beauty of the county’s landscape and its proximity to Nashville.

“The main thing I really love about this community is the people here. While we may get on each other’s nerves or disagree politically, we are friends with each other. I see people here who want to make the world a better place. Most people want to go to work, come home, and enjoy life,” Kemp said.

Chris Moore has served on the board of Cheatham County Habitat for Humanity with Kemp and with One Generation Away, a ministry that distributes food in the community.

Moore said, “She truly wants to make a lasting impact in the place she calls home.”

To those who want to serve the community but don’t know where to start, Kemp said to identify what you’re passionate about, and then find the organizations that are meeting those needs.

“Your responsibility is to make the world a better place, and you can do that when you’re 5 years old or 105 years old,” Kemp said.

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