Roy Exum: Tennessee’s Covert ‘9 Nanas’

Saturday, September 7, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There is a secret, clandestine group in west Tennessee that has been operating undercover for the past 35 years. They call themselves the “Nine Nanas” and in today’s world where there is achingly little, their resolute and only mission is … happiness and hope. That’s right, no one knows who they are but every morning at 4 a.m. the women meet at an undisclosed restaurant and make the most delicious pound cakes you ever tasted, heavy on the butter.

And then under cover of darkness, they leave their baskets at a house whose window fan tells them whoever lives inside can’t afford air-conditioning, at the home of a recently divorcee they learned of in Sunday School, or at the apartment of an older widow. Pretty clever, huh? But the part you need to focus on is “35 years.”  As a wise man once noted, “Happiness is like jam, you can't spread even a little without getting some on yourself.”

The whole thing started when nine women got tired of meeting to play bridge. Four were sisters, one was a “sister-in-love”  and the other four were “friends by love.” They came up with the idea that they would tell their husbands they were meeting early each day to do all the laundry in a collective fashion. “Eighteen hands can wash and iron faster than two” and then each would have the rest of the day to work, tend house, watch the children, etc.

Inside, as “Nana Mary Ellen” recently told Huffington Post, “One of us starts sifting flour and another washes the eggs. Someone else makes sure the pans are ready” and for three hours they make-and-bake instead of shuffling cards back when they were Broads-for-Bridge. Today the women, ages 54 to 72,go about helping others on an even-grander scale because, about five years ago, one of their husbands wondered about the high mileage on her care and, worse, saw where she had been takes money from their saving account. “I called all the sisters and said, “Ya’ll need to get over here right away.”

Confronted with a highlighted bank statement and a weekly mileage log, Nana Mary Ellen had to squeal. So other eight Nanas came with their husbands and confessed to 30 years of “finding a need a filling it.” Each husband realized his wife and her friends were angels and they wanted to help. Now they assist with drive-by deliveries. They soon told their immediate children, who really got revved up, and started on online delivery where MaMaw Ruth’s pound cakes could be purchased with the every penny going to charity. (Happiness-Happens.com)

According to the Huffington Post article, not long ago the Nine Nanas donated $5,000 of pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. Get this, so far they have contributed over $900,000 in Happiness-Happens. “Not everyone is as lucky as we were to have a Mammaw or papaw to take care of them, to fix all those things that are wrong. So this is our way of giving back,” explained Nana Mary Ellen. “We want people to know that someone out there cares enough to do something. We want to make sure that happiness happens.”

In each basket is a stunning pound cake (look on the website for the different flavors), a small jar of sweet curd and a note that simply reads, “Somebody loves you!” With the FedEx driver coming every day and repeat mail-orders spiking demand to over 100 cakes every morning, the Nanas still take care of their Germantown neighborhood. Sometimes they pick random names from the phone book and now their latest trick is to spy a person at the grocery store who can obviously afford very little.

Each Nana is “authorized” to commandeer that lucky person’s cart, helping to pick out whatever items they learn in on-the-spot conversation the person needs, and pay for the whole buggy at the check-out. They say anybody can do it; it’s easy to spot somebody who is having a tough time with groceries and agonizing whether to buy the bread or the milk this trip. That’s where the angel steps in, and don’t forget the washing powder, the toothpaste or whatever else the stunned victim says they can’t afford.

The Nanas have been known to go to the electric company, very anonymously paying a power bill in full for a single mother with children. They hear about a family with three children who come to school without coats and immediately three winter coats … in just the right sizes … are found on that porch after a drive-by the night before, strangely accompanied by a basket with a pound cake in it and a note that reads, “Somebody loves you!”

To this day nobody knows for certain who the “Nine Nanas” are but that’s the way it is with secret, clandestine groups. Like Mammaw Ruth explained, “We’ve been at this for over 34 years but, with what seems to be a bumper crop of sadness, it looks like we’ll be doing this for a long time.”

God bless Tennessee’s “Nine Nanas.”

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: Stay Strong And Fight!

At 5 o’clock on the morning of January 1 st , 2012, an anonymous writer who identified himself only by the initials C.R.W. wrote his New Year’s Resolution. Six years ago we were not yet numbed by the extraordinary massacres of Americans we have witnessed as Sandy Hook, Orlando, and Las Vegas. Things have changed. Make a promise to yourself to not just stand there. Last year – ... (click for more)

Promoting Unready Students Does Them A Great Disservice - And Response

Mr. Exum  I think you make some very good points. Participation trophies don't make you a college pick. It is a great disservice to students to pass them on to the next poor teacher who now has twice the work to make the central office look good. This only teaches the students that you don't have a responsibility to better your own life.   Whitewashed rat droppings ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Under Winter Weather Advisory With Snow On The Way; Most Schools To Close

Chattanooga is under a Winter Weather Advisory for Tuesday with snow expected. Hamilton County Schools will be closed Tuesday "due to the significant threat of snow in the area during the school day." All school age childcare will also be closed. All central office staff should report at the normal time. UTC, Chattanooga State, and Chattanooga College will ... (click for more)

Man Who Led Police On Wild Chase On Jan. 12 Is Apprehended At Ooltewah

A man who led police on a wild chase on Jan. 12 has been apprehended in Ooltewah. Kenny Lynn McCulloch, 30, of 8347 Wild Fig Lane, Ooltewah, faces a slew of charges. In the Jan. 12 incident, a deputy saw a blue older-model Dodge pickup truck avoid the intersection of Bonny Oaks Drive and Lee Highway by going through the Mapco parking lot. The deputy got behind the vehicle, ... (click for more)

Quarterback Dormady Will Transfer From Tennessee

Quinten Dormady, who was Tennessee’s starting quarterback until a shoulder injury sidelined him six games into the 2017 season, met with new Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt on Saturday to discuss the signal caller’s options. On Monday, Dormady, a junior quarterback from Boerne, Texas, announced that he would transfer from Tennessee. Dormady’s statement: “I would like to ... (click for more)

Balogun Powers Heights Past Mercer County In Music City Classic

ESPN’s second-ranked Hamilton Heights’ girls defeated No. 12 Mercer County, 51-37, Monday on the final day of the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tennessee. The Lady Hawks (17-2) had two players – Elizabeth Balogun and Treasure Hunt – combine for 35 points, almost outscoring the entire Lady Titans squad. Balogun had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Hunt finished with 15 points. ... (click for more)