ATC Debuts Jim & Helen Fout GATA Community Building

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon


   The Greater Ashland Tennis Association (GATA) has been avidly working on cleaning and repairing a portion of a building that sits on the property of the Ashland Tennis Center (ATC). This past Saturday, they had an official opening of the building, now known as the Jim & Helen Fout GATA Community Building.

   Sadly, Jim Fout has already passed, but Helen Fout was in attendance, as well as their Daughter Carol Fout-Zitnani.

   Longtime manager, Jerry Groce, first made an introduction about the ATC and what a great community asset it is, explaining that a lot of people in the Ashland community think that the ATC is a private club, but they actually survive only on court fees and donations.

   Groce recognized several contributors during the event, starting with Jim and Helen Fout. He said that he had known the Fouts for about 35 years. Helen Fout reminded him that “you were still in school.”

   Groce said that “since 1985, their support and volunteer efforts are truly appreciated.” Jim Fout served on the Ashland Tennis Commission from 1985 until his passing in 2012, and he was Chairman for roughly half of that time. Jim and Helen would even cut the grass at the tennis center themselves. Groce said that he made Helen mad when he came back as manager and started cutting the grass. He said that he felt that she had paid her dues, but Helen said, “I thought it was because I was too old.”

   Groce also recognized that Jim Fout also co-founded River Cities Harvest. Helen Fout explained that the first truckload of food that came to River Cities Harvest was actually brought to the tennis center first. The newly renovated building is where she and a few others sorted all of the food in that first delivery.

   Groce told Helen that “it’s only fitting that we recognize you and Jim. I just wish that Jim was here to hear it because he was a good man.”

   Groce also recognized the Greater Ashland Tennis Association. He said that “this group gets things done,”  and are hard workers. GATA is responsible for the renovation of the community building. They’ve also cut grass, dug ditches, painted and done some landscaping around the tennis center. “Anything that you ask them to do, they just get down and do it,” he said. There has been a “great effort on their part” and that this year alone, the GATA members have “volunteered at least 5,000 hours.”

   Helen Fout said, “I wish that they would have been here when I was here because, wow, are they workers!” Groce particularly wanted to recognize the GATA board members, Chairman Janice Watson, Jennifer Phelps, Linda Laney, and Helen Johnson.

   The new community building has been a huge asset that they were able to utilize during the Braidy Tennis Classic. GATA members managed to get a new bathroom put in this spring after the other one had been finished a couple of years ago. They also got it painted and decorated in tennis décor. They were able to repurpose several older tennis rackets into one-of-a-kind art pieces throughout the rooms.

   The building has now been renamed, and Saturday was the official dedication of the Jim & Helen Fout GATA Community Building. Chainsaw artist Travis Williams created the signs that are going to hang on either end of the building. Groce said that “this is a big day for me. I’m glad to be able to do this for you, Helen, and for the GATA ladies because they are very important.”

   He also took the opportunity to mention that the GATA ladies have started a new fundraiser called “Raise the Roof.” He said that GATA has made so many nice additions and improvements to this building, but “this roof leaks horribly.” So he said that “I am putting my hand out once again” for help to get the roof done.

   Helen Fout spoke for a moment and said that she “appreciates every one of you here” and that she wished Jim had been there to enjoy it. She said that “he loved every moment that he put in down here, and so did I.” Groce then presented her with a vase of flowers.

   Chairman Janice Watson said that she wanted to give credit to the GATA group. She said that the volunteers have “taken pride in this building.” She also said that she hopes that the ATC can become more of a community asset for the city of Ashland and “not just for tennis people” because she hopes that the new building can be used more for “many occasions and not just for playing tennis.”