Paul Anderson Memorial Park Foundation
The Paul Anderson Memorial Park Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation comprised of volunteers from the community. Donations are greatly appreciated to fund our on-going operations of the Park.
Roger Sheppard- President
Cynthia Sanders- Vice President
Gary Bellamy- Treasurer
Bill Shaw, Honorary Board Member
About our Student Founders
The concept of a park honoring Paul Anderson came not from the leaders in our community, but from some of Toccoa’s possible future leaders – fourth grade SEARCH students from the Stephens County School System.
In the spring of 1999, a group of fourth grade students from the Stephens County 1998-1999 SEARCH class (Seeking Educational Achievement and Reaching Creative Horizons gifted program) took it upon themselves to research the life of a famous Toccoa native they had heard about. After concluding their research, the students were inspired to become civic activists, seeking to establish a public memorial to recognize the achievements of Paul Anderson, arguably one of Toccoa’s most famous citizens.
On April 26th, 1999, Mrs. Cynthia Sanders’ fourth grade SEARCH class made a presentation to the Toccoa City Commission to propose consideration of naming a city park in honor of Mr. Anderson. SEARCH students Cameron Chaffin, Robert Gambrell, Rebecca Howell, Andrew Ivester, Kase Jameson, Whitney McLaughlin, Chasity Means, Benji Stegner, Allyson Twilley and Dani Wisotzki presented their proposal:
The SEARCH student presentation to the City Commission was followed by a public presentation at the site of the proposed park on May 20, 1999. All of the information and design ideas from this SEARCH class were presented to the City Commission in the fall of 1999. At the September 9, 1999 City Commission meeting, the City Commissioners agreed that the triangular park on Tugalo Street be named in honor of Paul Anderson. A sign was posted in the park shortly thereafter declaring that the park was now “The Future Site of the Paul Anderson Memorial Park.”
The City Commission requested that a summary proposal be drafted, outlining in more specific detail, plans for developing the park. The Commission made it clear that the development of the Paul Anderson Park would be almost entirely funded through private donations. The commissioners further stated that they would possibly consider allocating some funding for the project once they had received a well documented plan for developing the park.
Adult volunteers in the community gathered together the student-lead research and worked with design and engineering firms to present a proposal to the City Commission. The first proposal was submitted to the Commission on January 24, 2000. The City Commission allocated $8,500 of the City’s budget to go towards the development of the proposed plans. In the spring of 2000, the Paul Anderson Memorial Park Foundation was established to assist the students in the organizational and fundraising efforts that would be required to “make their vision of a world class park to honor Paul Anderson a reality.”
“We are here to request the naming of a city park after Toccoa’s favorite native-born son – Mr. Paul Anderson – better known to all of us as “the World’s Strongest Man.” Who is Paul Anderson, the weightlifter? Paul was the 1956 Super Heavy Weight Olympic Gold Medalist, holder of 18 American records, holder of nine World records, and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having “lifted the greatest weight ever raised by a human in his 1957 back lift of 6,270 pounds.” We, the 1998-99 SEARCH class are asking that the City Commissioners consider the following:
That the park at the triangular section of Tugalo Street - where Tugalo Street turns into Big A Road – be named the “Paul Anderson Park.” Although we are aware of others that have greatly contributed to our community, Mr. Anderson is in a class of his own – world class!
Therefore, we ask that he be exclusively honored with this park. We request that you develop the park into a first-class park; with brick sidewalks, benches, special lighting, trees, flowers and shrubs, and name it after “the strongest man in the world,” one of our very own. Naming this park after this outstanding Christian athlete is most appropriate because Mr. Anderson not only put Toccoa on the Georgia map and the United States map, but also the map of the whole wide world.
Is this not the type of man that we, as children, need to remember? Is not Paul Anderson a man that served God wholeheartedly until he drew his last breath, a role model that we can follow in a time where good role models for youth are so hard to find? Mr. Anderson has been called a “legend who will last forever.” But will he, if a visible sign of our honoring him such as this park is not created to jog our memory from time to time? We need such a park in his honor so that we do not just remember his athletic accomplishments and physical strength, but more importantly, his even greater inner strength that came from deep faith and belief in God.”