Honor system egg stand hatches in community

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

In tall, black letters on the side of a small shed on Highland Church Road, a cooler offers cartons of farm fresh eggs ready to be sold — on the honor system.

The concept is simple; pick up a carton of eggs or two, and drop the money in the tiny wooden box for hen owner and farm operator Tony Hester, and his farm-working kids, to collect later in the day. For Hester, the egg stand started as a way to earn a few dollars from owning a piece of land and turned into a full-on, roadside operation.

“I was having a talk with a buddy of mine who made the offhand comment that he thought if you owned land, it ought to be able to help pay for itself,” Hester said. “That got me thinking what kind of agricultural endeavor could we pursue over there on Highland Church Road that could help pay for the land. That led eventually to plusing up our chicken flock.”

Now it’s not just Hester’s project; his high school-aged son and daughter clean, collect and package each egg from the flock of 450 chickens on the Hester property. But by now, they have it down to a science.

“We have spent a great deal of effort trying to do egg-laying smarter not harder,” Hester explained, laughing. “My son and daughter built those nest boxes. I set up the foundation, but I told them how to do it and they built 96 nest boxes on a single Saturday.

“The chickens lay the eggs, the eggs roll down that padded carpet into the collection gutter and that’s when the kids do a sanitizing dip and rinse and place them in a drying rack. They can do 25 to 30 dozen eggs in the same amount of time it used to take them to do about 12 dozen eggs last year.”

As for sanitation, that’s something the Hester family takes into consideration before setting up shop at the bottom of their driveway.

“We’re awfully tempted to not even do the sanitizing dip but we do that because it keeps momma happy (laughs). But they do come out very, very clean,” Hester said. “In Europe, if you want to get Grade-A eggs, you cannot wash them and you cannot refrigerate them. That way the consumer knows they are getting very clean, well-taken-care-of eggs as well as very fresh by not being refrigerated.

“Granted, FDA has different standards in the U.S., but we like to think that if we were in Europe, we’d have Grade-A European eggs.”

One might worry about the integrity of any old customer lacking the good will to pay their due, but Hester said the stand has been well-respected with little to no problems.

“It is on the honor system, but we’ve been very fortunate that a vast majority of the people do indeed leave money,” he said. “It does work very well, but it does help that we’re on a busy road and it’s highly visible.”

The stand’s not just been a side-job for the Hester kids who get to make a little money in the process; it’s also been a spectacle for passers by — and the farming family — on Highland Church Road.

“It is a lot of fun to be sitting up on the porch at the house talking to my wife or chatting on the phone with a friend and I’ll see a couple of cars pull in and get eggs in the course of the phone conversation. It’s just a lot of fun. Not typically (do they watch), but it is very fun to see that unfold.”

The stand even has a Facebook page called “Hester’s Happy Hens honor system egg stand”. And out in the community, it’s been a fun topic of conversation and somewhat of a landmark.

“We don’t know most of our customers,” Hester said. “On so many occasions in the course of conversation, the egg stand comes up. And they’ll say, ‘man we’ve been buying your eggs for two years! They’re fantastic!’It’s so fun to meet people who have been coming to our place in the past couple of years and we’ve never met them. It’s very Mayberry. It’s very gratifying.

“The stand’s only been there about three years, but it’s become a local landmark for friends—they use the egg stand to give directions to their house,” Hester said. “They’ll say, ‘if you go down Highland Church Road you’ll pass an egg stand and on we’re the next right-hand turn and the fourth house down.’ You know you’ve arrived when you become a land mark.”

But it’s not just about the eggs for Hester; he wanted to instill an appreciation for hard work and the value of a dollar in his children.

Now that the egg stand helps to pay for things such as his daughter’s phone, the stand has worked just as he hoped it would.

“Her friends said, ‘Do you pay for your phone?’ And she said, ‘No, I paid for it.’ And her friends said, ‘You must get a big allowance then.’ She said, “No. I don’t get an allowance.’ ‘Well how do you pay for your phone?’ She said, ‘I sell a lot of eggs,’” Hester said, laughing.

“She was very proud to be able to come back and tell me that story. It has just given them a big boost of confidence. I hear from all their teachers that my kids have such tremendous work ethic. And that’s very pleasing to a father.”

Jonesborough plans Aug. 21 Eclipse Party

From STAFF REPORTS

In celebration of the “Great American Solar Eclipse,” the Town of Jonesborough will be hosting an Eclipse Block Party and Celestial Festival on Monday, Aug. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m.

ETSU’s Rico Ignace will be at the Jonesborough event.

The event will be filled with everything celestial-themed from food, crafts and live music. Educational talks provided by Rico Ignace, astrophysicist professor at ETSU, will be held in the theatre at the International Storytelling Center. There will be a live feed of the eclipse crossing over America provided by NASA streaming in the lobby of the Storytelling Center.

The town is ready to get their glasses on to watch the solar eclipse.

Adding to the fun, the Heritage Alliance and the McKinney Center will be leading eclipse-themed crafts in Jimmy Neil Smith Park along with celestial face painting.

Enjoy a special setlist from the Ozone Rangers who will be playing live on the plaza of the Storytelling Center from 12:30 to  2 p.m. Then, join Dr. Rico on the Plaza as the eclipse coverage reaches its maximum and have an opportunity to view the sun through his telescope and UV filter.

Several merchants and restaurants will offer eclipse specials and fun treats. Artists will also be dotted along Main Street selling celestial-themed crafts and more.

There will be an extremely limited number of viewing glasses available the day of. In addition, there will be limited Jonesborough Solar Eclipse souvenirs to commemorate the once in a lifetime event.

For more information call the Jonesborough Visitor Center at 423-753-1010 or visit the event website www.celestialfestival.com.

Two church-related road names could see change

By MARINA WATERS

It takes 19 minutes to get from Brethern Church Road to Brethren Church Drive in Washington County but it only takes the difference of one word to spark confusion between the two—which might soon lead to a name change for one of these roads.

Brethern Chruch Road in Gray meets Shadden Road and Pleasant Valley Road.

Though the topic was just in the preliminary stages when discussed at the Washington County Commission’s Public Works meeting at the Highway Department in Jonesborough on Aug. 3, Washington County 911 Department’s Lesley Music said a change could be coming — and will probably include more than just a simple, one-word switch.

“It keeps coming back to us,” Music said. “We need to change one or the other, totally.”

Brethren Church Drive sets between Greenwood Drive and Old Embreeville Road.

Brethern Church Road is located between Shadden Road and Pleasant Valley Road in Gray. Meanwhile, Brethren Church Drive is located between Old Embreeville Road and Greenwood Drive in Jonesborough.

When it comes to a possible change for the roads, it’s not just white letters on a green metal road sign that will be affected. At the meeting, Commissioner Bryan Davenport considered the residents on both of those roads and what it would mean for them.

“If you’re changing the name, it doesn’t matter how small the change is,” Davenport said. “You have to notify everyone that sends you a bill or anything.”

If changed, 58 addresses would be effected on Brethern Church Road in Gray while 43 would be effected on Brethren Church Drive in Jonesborough. Both roads are also home to similarly named churches; Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren was built around 1898 in Gray while Pleasant View Church of the Brethren was built in 1878 in Jonesborough.

Pleasant View Chrch of the Brethren still sets on Brethren Church Drive in Jonesborough as it has for over 100 years.

Numerous roads throughout the county are named after people, but in this case, Music suggested that might not be the best route for the sake of those who might not be fond of the individual so honored.

It was also suggested that the name of one of the churches’ founders be used for one of the road names. A process to rename either of the roads has not been started, but it was also mentioned that a community meeting like what was conducted with the naming of Austin Springs could take place.

Dance teacher works to make world better place

Kevin Glasper

CONTRIBUTED

“The first song that spoke to me was ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson. I knew Michael Jackson, his songs were the first ones I was dancing to, but that song had a message. I may not have fully known it at the time it came out, I was young, but I knew how I felt about it. It made me want to go after it. Once I knew the words, it made me want to stop dancing just like him, and start dancing just like me.”

Kevin Glasper is a local dancer with a national reputation. While dance festivals take him across the country to California, his love for this region keeps him rooted here, where he teaches movement and dance, and is hired regularly as a choreographer. His repertoire includes jazz, ballet and hip hop, and it is his hip hop moves that he has built his reputation on.

“I bring hip hop with me where ever I go. What I mean by that, is that hip hop is about more than just the moves There’s five parts to it, part of it is the moves, it is also the history, the DJing, the MCing, and the graffiti art.”

He points to one of his tattoos. “My tattoos are art that I have drawn — that is the graffiti. Everywhere I go, I share the history, and learn more. And I’m always dancing.”

Glasper’s life is built around dance, which started when he was a child. He counts as his early mentors the Steppers for Christ in his church.

City Youth Ballet, and especially Susan Pace White and Tom Blessing, helped develop his classical skills and techniques. He also recounts Eva Taylor, who was over Johnson City Recyclables and Urban Art Throw Down, which helped connect him to the Umoja Festival and Little Chicago.

“I studied hard with all of those groups. I practiced, I listened, I learned. Because dance wasn’t just something fun for me to do. It’s who I am. You can go to school to be anything or learn something else, but if you don’t have a passion, you can grow tired of it. Dance is something I want to keep learning, not just movement, but history, and turn it into a lifelong pursuit.”

Part of this lifelong pursuit is the dance group Universally Complicated Freestylers, which he co-founded with Mark Flowers in 2009.

He takes his work as a dancer seriously. More than a hobby, he says, dance can bring people together, that it is a universal language.

“People can speak to each other without saying a word. Dancing to music, whether you feel like you know how to dance or not, you are moving because the music makes you feel something. Slow, fast, salsa, jazz, funk, classical, lyrical, it makes you move some way. My joy is helping people connect those moves to their own spirit.”

He said he didn’t always know he would become a teacher of dance and movement. But the more he became skilled in his craft, the more he wanted to share it with others.

“So many times, a kid is told they are doing something wrong, doing it the wrong way. Dance is so free. Once you learn the basics, you can take it, and make it your own, and express yourself freely, and it isn’t wrong. It’s empowering.”

Glasper also points out there is much more to learning dance than just the moves. There are life skills being taught that will help them grow and mature.

In dance and choreography, there is a process of active listening, always big in communication. There is listening and repeating back.

He immediately knows if his students are listening when they repeat back the moves he teachers — or not.

Critical thinking skills are combined with learning basic movement. Students learn a pattern, take it, then think about how to make it better and make it their own. Behavioral skills are in play, as students discover when it is the best time to add or take away a movement, the right time to ask questions, and when to defer to another dancer.

“This is what I want to teach. Give them the basics, and then foster their growth as individuals.”

He references the song again.

“As I got older, I began to understand what the song said, not just how it made me feel. It was that message of wanting to make the world a better place by being the person I am. Behind the dancing man is a man who cares about the world and the people in it, and the next smile, the next advancement you can make.”

He then laughs his unmistakable laugh that fills the room.

“We all have a chance to make the world a better place. Or not. And we each have a special skill to do that. I believe mine is dance. And that’s what I am doing every time I teach it.”

Kevin Glasper returns this fall to the McKinney Center in Jonesborough to teach hip hop levels one and two.

For information about the hip hop class or other classes at the McKinney Center, contact McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons at theresah@jonesboroughtn.org or by calling (423) 753-0562.

To see all classes, download the online catalog at this link: http://www.jonesboroughtn.org/images/MBM_Fall_2017_071017R.pdf.

Robo camp builds education

David Crockett student Austyn Shelton readies the next robot at the robo camp.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Historic Jonesborough Visitor’s Center had a few extra guests Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14, as the FIRST Robotics Team held a “Robo Camp” for middle school students — a camp designed to give would-be scientists a chance to build robots with the help of David Crockett High School’s robotics students.

But Crockett’s drafting teacher, Guy McAmis said he wasn’t just hoping to see his students assist future Crockett Pioneers at this year’s camp; he was hoping it would pull in students from all across Washington County.

“The reason we’re doing it at the Visitor’s Center is the robotics team is made up of Daniel Boone and also David Crockett High School kids. So we wanted to include both sides of the county,” McAmis said. “I had one that was from the other side of the county. I’m trying to work on that. I want those students over here with us. That’s the reason we’re here instead of doing it at Crockett. That way it’s a neutral place.”

The camp not only serves as an educational event for students in the summertime, but it also serves as a fundraiser for the FIRST Robotics team. Each spot in the camp costs $15 which includes a lunch for both days of the camp and goes towards the robotics team’s fund.

“We want to make this at least an annual thing. We want to use it as a fundraiser,” McAmis explained. “We’re just feeling our way through to see how we want to improve and do it during the school year itself.

“We got to looking at our budget from last year and these kids raised a little over $25,000 to do two events. We’re trying to do these things as fundraisers. (Robo Camp) is successful on a small scale, but we would like to make it a bigger scale.”

The kids worked as a team, building robots out of Legos to compete against the other robo teams in a competition at the end of Thursday and Friday’s sessions. But the middle schoolers aren’t the only ones learning something here; McAmis specifically wanted to involve his high school students in the camp as a learning tool for them as well.

“This is my philosophy; if they teach, they learn. As they’re teaching these kids to program these robots and put them together, they’re learning themselves,” McAmis said. “They’ve got to deal with different personalities to be able to do this. I’ve got a couple in here that are a little on the rambunctious side. And then I’ve got some that their parents wanted them to have something to do. We’ve just had a good time. And they’ve had a good time.”

Apart from learning more about robotics, McAmis is also hoping the camp will spark an interest in some of these middle schoolers. And if these middle schoolers become interested in robotics, they can also join their middle school’s robotics team.

“We want to get these middle schoolers involved early,” he said. “I know there’s one lady whose daughter is here. She said the one daughter’s into sports and the other one’s not. She likes to program things. She’s been here two days and she’s very enthusiastic.

“If I can just get one or two kids who are on fire for this—this is not for everyone, I know that—but if I can get just a couple that really enjoy this, it makes it all worth wild.”

Sweets down the street: New shop hits downtown

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Yearning for a sweet treat? If pralines, cookie dough, or truffles are your thing, Downtown Sweet is the shop for you. Opened only three months ago on the Jonesborough square, Downtown Sweet offers a variety of treats to satisfy your sweet tooth, but they consider pralines their specialty.

“Lots of people have left saying, ‘These are better than in Savannah!’ or ‘These are better than in New Orleans!’” Davy Funderburk, owner of the sweet shop, said.

Funderburk and his wife, Laura, both natives of Louisiana, opened Downtown Sweet together after moving to East Tennessee almost a year ago.

“We moved here without any promise of a job, with no real connections… but the Lord has provided what we needed as we go,” Funderburk said. “It’s a beautiful town and people are very friendly.”

The Funderburks began by selling their treats online and wholesaling to shops in Jonesborough after the move, then got the opportunity to open their own shop when Earth & Sky Confections left the Jonesborough square. The Funderburks set up Downtown Sweet at Earth & Sky’s former location.

Downtown Sweet has a different feel and “flavor” from their predecessor’s sweet shop, however, Funderburk said.

“Earth & Sky that was here before had phenomenal chocolates that were very artistically done, and we decided to go with a more casual, rustic, hand-rolled approach, so that’s kind of the flavor (of the shop), and that’s our flavor too,” Funderburk said. “We’re those kind of people. Everything’s very high quality, but kind of informal.”

The Funderburks have many plans for the shop’s future. Currently, Downtown Sweet offers six varieties of truffles, all made with fine Belgian chocolate, but they are working to expand that to nine varieties, and they hope to include vegan and dairy-free options. For the time being, only their milk and dark chocolates are Fair Trade, but a search is underway for a source for Fair Trade white chocolate. They are also working on adding pricing and packaging for those who would like to use their truffles as wedding and party favors.

In addition to truffles and pralines, Downtown Sweet offers handmade ice cream sandwiches, a cool treat for a hot summer day, and a unique snack: edible chocolate chip cookie dough, which is eaten with a spoon right out of a cup. The cookie dough is egg-free and made with pre-cooked flour, and it has been so popular they are considering adding more flavors. 

The shop is very much family-oriented, Funderburk said, not only because it is family-owned but also because of the sweets produced behind the counter. Downtown Sweet’s praline recipe comes from Laura Funderburk’s grandfather, and the tea cakes, another shop favorite, are a recipe from Laura Funderburk’s mother.

“The tea cakes are a very simple cookie, but we have people who come in just for those,” Funderburk said.

The cookies are lightly sweet with an icing that holds a hint of almond.

“Even the chocolate chip cookies, my dad and I used to make those,” Funderburk said. “I’ve just tweaked the recipe a little bit.”

The Funderburk children are even involved in the family business. They help out around the shop, assisting with cleaning, baking, and displays. 14-year-old Isaac Funderburk assists in managing the store.

“He helps me a lot,” Funderburk said. “He helps me keep the shelves stocked and things looking nice. Whenever we make something, he packages it and keeps the displays full. My second oldest helps with some of the cookies… and then number three, he waters the flowers and opens the door for people.”

Funderburk said it is helpful to have a store that is a nice place for the entire family.

“I have five children. My three older boys come with me pretty much every morning… it’s just nice to have a safe place where they can kind of be in and out of the shop.”

The Jonesborough square is a wonderful place to be, Funderburk said.

“I think the biggest perk has been being a part of downtown and meeting people,” Funderburk said, adding that it is especially fun during festivals and other busy times. “It makes you feel like you’re a part of something. It’s fun to be a part of the fabric of the community.”

Funderburk said he enjoys talking to everyone who comes into the shop, and he’s had a great time getting to know the surrounding merchants, all of whom have given Downtown Sweet a warm welcome.

“We like being a part of people’s lives,” Funderburk said. “That sounds lofty, but it’s true.”

Downtown Sweet is located at 137 East Main St. and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Downtown Sweet Facebook or Instagram page or www.downtownsweet.com.

Model Ts bring ‘Poor Boys’ to town

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

A parade filled with America’s oldest car, the Model T Ford, rolled through Tennessee’s oldest town on June 22 as part of the fifth annual Poor Boy Tour in honor of the classic automobile.

The group of around 50 Model Ts travelled throughout the Appalachians and made a stop in Jonesborough — but not just for townspeople to take a gander at their vintage cars —the trip also served as a way to sightsee and visit towns the classic car enthusiasts stopped at along the way.

“(Jonesborough) made it a point to make sure we all had a good time,” Tour Chairman Brent Terry said. “And we did. I want to tell everyone that these people from all over got a very good experience coming to town. It shows that the town wants tourism. And that’s kind of a neat thing.”

The tour was comprised of folks from 13 different states in all sorts of Model T Fords. Some had brightly colored flames painted on the sides. Others were more traditional, solid black. Only a few of the different sorts of Model Ts had some difficulties and just one didn’t make it through the tour—which Terry felt was quite a feat for such an old automobile.

“Almost all of them completed the tour. So one wasn’t better than the other one. It’s just one clanked and made noises and smoked a little bit more than the other ones. But they all ended up making it there,” Terry said. “It’s pretty remarkable that you can have a 100-year-old vehicle be able to do that.”

Terry, who also owns and operates B. Terry Vintage Automotive in Elizabethon, said the Poor Boy Tour reflects the history of the Model T — a car that had the longest production of any automobile model in history until the Volkswagen Beetle topped it in 1972.

And those 15 million Model Ts provided an opportunity for the average Joe to buy his or her first car—all thanks to a man named Henry Ford.

“Back in the day, the Ford automobile typically was more for the common man. It was the first affordable car,” Terry explained .”The Model T came out in 1909 so if you look at cars that came out before the teens, typically it was your doctors and your more affluent people that owned automobiles. And so Henry Ford appealed to the working class individual.”

Like the cars that rode through many Appalachian towns, passengers and drivers on the Poor Boy Tour also came from different states, different walks of life and were in cars of different years and styles.

But they all came together to create a trip made up of experiences more so than material items.

“(The tour) allows somebody to attend frugally if they want to. We’ve all been broke college students,” Terry said laughing. “So there’s times you splurged in college and there are times when we did it the poor boy way. That’s kind of the joke behind this thing.

“There’s an education that comes with that too. While at the time it was a bummer we didn’t have the money to go out (in those college days), in retrospect, we made it through it. So we’re okay.”

Above all else, the self-guided tour that operated on nearly nothing but backroads was designed as an easy going trip that’s all about sightseeing and interaction with others.

“I joke about it, but we typically drive for 45 minutes and eat ice cream for 15,” Terry said. “We basically stop every 45 minutes and fellowship either looking at something like a llama farm or to walk the streets of Jonesborough—just enjoying ourselves and enjoy it with other people.”

Church garden continues its message of hope

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

“Have you ever eaten a purple tomato or used pea-sized tomatoes on a salad?  If not, a talk with Rev. Daniel Shrader, pastor of the West Hills Baptist Church in Jonesborough, may convince you that you have been missing some culinary delights.

In addition, Shrader will offer you and your family a plot in the church’s “Garden of Hope.”  Based upon a concept known as Square Foot Gardening, church members and volunteers have fashioned 90 raised beds into a community garden. “If you give a plant enough water, sunlight, and nutrients, you don’t need many square feet to raise a garden.  SFG requires less water and fertilizer, and there are fewer weeds to pull. We’re basically adapting modern greenhouse growing techniques into the home garden.”

Concrete blocks surround the plots that have a weed mat on the bottom.  The tract is filled with grow mix, the equivalent of potting soil. Eventually all the 16 square-foot plots will have a trellis. 

Shrader said inspiration for the garden came from a community assessment put together under the direction of Adam Dickson, President of the Jonesborough Community Chest, plus the minister’s experience in Denton, Texas where a large church has developed 300 garden plots for their community.

As explained in a church brochure, “The Garden of Hope is a place where friends come together to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables.  Each gardener has their own assigned square-foot-gardening beds that they plant, tend, and harvest.  The produce is theirs to keep or share as they deem fit.”

A minister at West Hills for two years, Shrader asked his congregation, “How do we become a blessing to our community.  What does the community need that we can meet the need?”

He said “The church has a beautiful piece of property in a great location across from Persimmon Ridge Park.”  West Hills sits on six acres of land that was acquired 56-years ago, long before the construction of the Jonesborough town park that includes Wetlands, ball fields, a basketball court and an 18-hole disc golf course.

No gardening experience is required to obtain a plot. The pastor, who admits he has a “green thumb,” teaches garden basics and square-foot-gardening to those who obtain garden plots. There are currently over three dozen varieties of tomatoes growing in the garden. When told by a church widow who saw a purple tomato, that “tomatoes should be red,” Shrader replied “Just try this tomato.”  She ate one and was amazed how delicious purple tomatoes taste.  The pea-size tomatoes are like “candy” when eaten right after picking, the minister said.  “They also are mouth-watering when sprinkled over a salad.”   

Shrader assures would-be gardeners that “Our experts will be there to help you each step of the way throughout the season, ensuring that you have an amazing harvest.”

The church has future development plans. The main entrance to the garden is through a beautiful pergola, which will soon have benches and swings for sitting and chatting. A water catchment system will soon be constructed. It will collect rainwater from the church roof into a small pond, which will supply drip irrigation for all the beds.

“With a drip irrigation system, you get almost 100 percent water usage,” Shrader said. “This will help us combat any drought conditions that arise like the hot weather that took place last year.” The church currently has enough raised beds for about 30 families and individuals to garden. Currently, seven families have plots at the church.

“It is not too late to start a garden this year,” Shrader said.  When asked what it costs to garden at the church, Shrader said, “Nothing!  The Garden of Hope is a community ministry financially supported by West Hills Baptist Church.”

Gardeners are asked to be present and participate in three events over the course of the harvest season.  A Spring Planting Festival was held in May.  This August a Harvest Celebration will take place, followed by a Clean-Up Day in November.  The church will provide refreshments at these harvest season events at which friends and families are invited to attend. 

Traveling down Persimmon Ridge Road you will notice a large collection of sunflowers and native wildflowers in front of West Hills Baptist Church.  Shrader said “These provide a scenic view along the road where the Lost State Scenic Walkway passes.” Another benefit is that “Sunflowers attract bees.”  Also in front of the church is a “widow’s garden” containing all the features of the garden plots behind the church.

To advertise The Garden of Hope, Shrader has had a booth at the Farmers Market in Jonesborough.  He tells people that they can plant whatever vegetables and flowers they want in their plots.

Initial development of the land came from funds raised by the church and donations.  The donor list included General Shale, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply, Idell Construction, and Millercrest Stables.

Baptist churches in the area that assisted with volunteers included University Parkway Baptist, The Village in Bristol, Telford Baptist Church, and First Baptist in Greeneville. Rev.

Shrader also received assistance from Outside the Camp Ministry, Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas and from the Baptist Campus Ministry at East Tennessee State University.

The church will host a Garden Camp on August 1-4. Registration is open to children ages 6-13. Kids will learn hands on about sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, seed starting, and more.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/gardenofhopewh. Rev. Shrader can be contacted at 252-916-6813.

Gregor retires after nine years

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

They say dog is man’s best friend, but K-9 Gregor has been more than just a friend to handler Sgt. Mike McPeak. He was also his K-9 partner at the Jonesborough Police Department for eight years, a partnership that ended on May 25 when K-9 Gregor was retired due to health reasons.

“It’s heartbreaking,” McPeak said, watching Gregor explore the lawn of the Jonesborough Police Department. The dog’s back legs wobbled as he walked, but with eyes and ears alert, he forged energetically along, sniffing and searching the ground. “What’s so disheartening about it is he’s so ready to work. He’s so ready to play. He wants to go, go, go.”

Gregor suffers from degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease in dogs that affects the spinal cord, causing a loss in coordination and weakness in the hind limbs.

“I started noticing a little bit of a change back in December,” McPeak said. “When I was off-duty I would always walk him in the mornings and evenings. One of the trails we walked on, part of it was paved. I noticed (a scraping noise) every six or seven steps. It was his rear right leg.”

As the disease progressed, Gregor had trouble carrying out his duties with the police department, and after several trips to veterinarians and attempted treatments, McPeak said, it became clear that Gregor would not be able to continue in his role as K-9. In fact, it became clear that the 10-year-old Czech Shephard would need extra care as his condition worsened.

But that knowledge didn’t keep McPeak, who has been with the Jonesborough Police Department for 14 years, from adopting Gregor after his retirement from K-9 police work. McPeak gladly took on Gregor’s care.

“He’s very much a part of my family. I haven’t been away from him…” McPeak paused. “It’s been less than a day for over eight years.”

The pair have spent countless hours training and working together and have a strong bond, McPeak said.

“We are required as K-9 handlers to get no less than 16 hours of training per month, and I’ve always gotten anywhere from 25 to 35 hours with (Gregor.) And that’s on-duty. I do a lot off-duty, too.”

Gregor has been a K-9 officer for nine years and has been certified in Narcotics, Tracking and Article and Building Search. K-9s must be certified annually.

Gregor has also had a highly successful career.

“He’s had close to 150 drug-related arrests,” McPeak said.

He’s been utilized not only by the Jonesborough Police Department, but by other agencies and departments as well, including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the VA, and the FBI.

In addition to his law enforcement work, Gregor has spent a lot of time working with the public, including visits to schools, scout groups, church groups, and participation in festivals and events.

“There’s probably been over a thousand hands on him,” McPeak said. “I’ve done probably close to 100 demos with him.”

He’s great with children, McPeak added.

“I have a 3-year-old and he calls him ‘big brother’,” he said. “He sleeps under my child’s bed. (Gregor) is as friendly as can be.”

Since the disease Gregor suffers from is degenerative, his condition is expected to deteriorate over time.

“It just gradually gets worse,” McPeak said. However, McPeak and his family plan to give Gregor the best retirement possible.

“He’ll get more special treats now,” McPeak said. “Now I take him basically everywhere I go when I’m off work. My wife’s family has a farm and we take him there and let him just play and be a dog.”

McPeak said Gregor has free run of the house, gets the best food and drink, and will be vacationing with the family soon.

“We’re going to try to go to the beach in the next month or so and we’ll definitely be taking him with us.”

Gregor’s health issues came as a surprise, McPeak said, but the shepherd’s life after the police force will be more laid-back, and the former K-9 officer will spend his retirement with his partner, handler, and friend of eight years — and that is what’s important.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McPeak said.

Gregor’s retirement leaves the Jonesborough Police Department with only one K-9 officer, and due to budget issues, McPeak said, it is currently unclear whether Gregor will be replaced. He hopes, however, to work with another K-9 in the future.

Boone continues to honor memory of Kaylee Rabun

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Signs donning inspirational messages like, “Keep on living” and “Boone Strong” are plastered throughout Daniel Boone High School.  And now, the student who inspired a group of young girls, an entire school, the community and even other volleyball teams throughout the state will be remembered in the common area at Boone. There, a picture of the junior volleyball player, Kaylee Rabun, who lost her life in September following a car crash, will be on display in memory of the student.

Principal Tim Campbell said the school wanted to display Rabun’s picture so she could be with her graduating class, the class of 2018, throughout the upcoming school year. On the morning of Wednesday, May 24, just three days after the 2017 senior class walked across the stage at graduation, the picture was ready to set watch over the volleyball team as they came together during the small gathering to honor Rabun.

But for the girls who lost their friend and teammate in the middle of their season, it was bitter sweet remembering the girl they described as “outgoing” and “always smiling”.

“Losing her halfway through the season wasn’t easy by any means,” Boone senior volleyball player Sara Humphrey said. “That’s a difficult situation just for anybody and how we had to go through half a season without her is just something that we never would have expected; no one would expect. We’d never not had her in a game. She had never been hurt, anything. She always played her heart out. She put her whole heart into that game. And that’s all we could have asked for.”

Not only did remembering Rabun bring back memories of time spent with their teammate, but it also brought back the Lady Trailblazer’s first game after losing the junior setter when they defeated Dobyns-Bennett in a five-match game.

“We all second guessed playing that D-B game. We all did. It’s like the Unicoi game that Monday (after Kaylee died.) We didn’t play that game and we all sat and talked about if we should play the D-B game. We all knew it was going to be hard, but she’d want us to. I’d say she’d probably be mad at us if we didn’t play it,” Humphrey said, laughing at the thought. “We all knew we had to do it.”

The team made the decision to take on Dobyns-Bennett, but they wouldn’t do so without honoring their fallen teammate; Rabun’s name was announced along with her teammates’ as the game began. The team also played the first three points with five players on the court—the sixth being Rabun.

“That’s a feeling that’s just indescribable. It just is,” Humphrey said. “Yeah, we played with five players, but at the end of the day, we all know she was there playing with us. We all knew she was holding our hand when we called names and stuff. We all knew she was there, not the way we wanted her to be there, but we all knew she was there.”

Once the Lady Trailblazers clinched the win, a sea of purple (Rabun’s favorite color) flooded the court shouting Rabun’s number in celebration of the win and the junior’s memory.

“I have been to a lot of games in my life,” Boone Volleyball Coach Chelsea Spivey said. “That is the biggest game of my entire life. And as a coach, it is indescribable to explain how much support we had from the community. Especially after we won when everyone rushed the floor and everyone was yelling, ‘Three! Three! Three! Three!” It just makes my blood rush now just thinking about how much support we’ve had from the community, from our administration, from the school.

“There were people that have never been to a volleyball game and came to that game just to support. Kaylee had a big impact.”

In remembering that game and the team’s season that landed them second in the Big 7 Conference and on to regionals, the group also thought back on how Rabun’s death effected each of them and motivated them to do better—for Rabun and for one another.

“I think the reason we started playing changed was we used to play like, ‘Hey we want to win, we want to be first in the conference.’ We played for ourselves. But after that happened, we started playing for a whole new reason,” senior volleyball player Mackenzie Carrier said. “We started playing for her. We started playing for our coach. We started playing for each other. We started playing for everybody because that’s the way we overcame what we were going through—we just played it on that court and we just did it that way.”

That lesson lasted them throughout the season, but it will also last them a lifetime; in addition to the motivation to “play their hearts out”, now the girls also see the true value in life and loving one another.

“Don’t take life for granted. And don’t take people for granted,” Humphrey said, thinking on what she learned from losing Rabun. “At the end of the day, you can be mad at somebody all you want, but you never know when it’s their last day.”

As for Spivey, the experience has forever changed her perspective on coaching.

“Injuries are nothing. Whenever people say they’re hurt, they’re out for the season. Some people are done forever. So in that perspective for me as a coach, an injury, that’s okay, you’re going to overcome an injury,” Spivey said. “But faced with this, it’s life changing as a coach. And I’m sure as players. You never know whenever you’re going to have to face this.”

Spivey also thought back on the impact Rabun had on the team, the community and even other teams after her passing. Through her and her team’s experience in losing a teammate and friend, she’s still hoping the experience shows other squads the value of a team that’s actually more like family.

“They are strong girls, especially through everything they’ve been through this season. They came out so strong,” Spivey said. “I could not ask for a better team to have to go through all of this with. They definitely showed that we could come together as a family and I hope that we can show other teams that your team is a family. Even when times are tough, you’ve got to come closer.”

Not only did Spivey want to honor Rabun with a team get-together and picture now on display in the Boone lunch area, but she also wanted to give an overdue thank you to the community.

“Everywhere I go, I just see ‘Boone Strong’ shirts. And every time I see a Boone Strong shirt in the purple and gray writing, I just want to be like, ‘Thank you for your support.’”

“I realize that I’m not able to tell the community thank you, but I feel like through you all (the media), I can say thank you. I can say thank you for all the gifts, I can thank Science Hill for buying us jerseys to play D-B that night, I can thank D-B and everybody for buying ribbons, buying shirts just to try to show us their support through that stuff. So I would like to say thank you to everyone that supported us.”

From time to time, a purple “Boone Strong” shirt can still be spotted in a crowd and if you drive through the Boone parking lot, a light purple parking spot with “KR” in large white writing still sets among the other student spots.

Now, the photo of Rabun will memorialize the healing and growth a team, school and community experienced in just one year. But for some, it brings peace of mind just knowing their friend is still there.

“It’s like Kaylee, before this, she was here,” senior volleyball player Kaitlyn Harville said. “But now, she’s really here. You can see her still.”

Yarn Exchange honors veterans through memories brought to life

From STAFF REPORTS

“Vietnam wasn’t no fun place.”

“The Battle of the Bulge—yes. I was there. I…I don’t talk about that.”

“They said Korea wasn’t no war. Well, who was shooting at us, then?”

“Iraq. Yeah. I was there. So was my best friend. He’s gone now.”

“Can’t nobody tell you what war is like unless you were there. Can’t nobody understand the things you done, unless you know what it’s like. But nobody knows what it’s like who wasn’t there, so you keep it inside.”

“Yeah, I lost somebody. We all lost somebody.”

The Yarn Exchange Live Radio Show will present stories of hardship, loss, remembrance and triumph on May 22 in their program commemorating local veterans. This scripted production will bring to life scenes drawn from the real-life stories of area veterans from World War II to the present. These stories, collected as part of Jonesborough’s Community Story Initiative, provide a deeply personal look into the individual lives of these soldiers- what they remember, what they experienced overseas, and the changing landscape of the home front upon their return.

This episode of the Yarn Exchange’s monthly radio show series, entitled, “My War”, provides insight into the soldier’s point of view as their experiences are presented by a cast of thirty actors. “My War” explores the duty and honor shared by these brothers in arms, and also sheds light on the sometimes difficult transition back into civilian life. It also examines the questions asked by veterans, as they attempt to re-enter a world they left behind- a world that sometimes does not accept or understand them upon their return. The program also shares in the personal triumphs and victories of these veterans, celebrating their courage on the battlefield, and their determination to contribute to making the world they live in a stronger and safer place.

Joining the cast this month will be the Jonesborough Novelty Band, which will play a series of patriotic melodies and lead the audience in some sing-alongs.

Immediately following the program, attending veterans and audience members will be served cake and punch in the lobby.

Tickets for this event are $5 and can be purchased at the Visitors Center, by calling 423-753-1010 or online at https://townofjonesborough.thundertix.com/events. The program begins at 7p.m. at the International Storytelling Center in downtown Jonesborough. For more information contact program director Jules Corriere at 423-794-6320.

Boone Street Market eyes future growth

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Boone Street Market may be getting bigger.

After two successful years as Jonesborough downtown fresh and local food source, representatives of Jonesborough Locally Grown, the non-profit umbrella organization that oversees the market, has asked the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday night to put their stamp of approval on an expansion.

“Boone Street Market has been a success, but it is not 100 percent self-sufficient yet,” said Jonesborough Locally Grown’s executive director Karen Childress, as she explained to the board the need for the expansion.

While fundraisers and other revenue generators have continued to help cover the cost of the market’s operation, she said, the market’s overall plan has always been for sales revenue to completely provide for expenses.

“We think the potential is there if we can carry more products,” Childress said. “It’s a volume game.”

Through the expansion, the market would be able to add more cooler and display space, as well as increase seating capacity for any type of food service. Childress and other Locally Grown representatives have already worked with C.W. Parker of Ken Ross Architects to develop a conceptual schematic and ensure that storm drains and sewer connections are accounted for.

As for funding the expansion, Childress said they had already approached the Tennessee Department of Agriculture who has agreed to assist with the cost of the expansion.

“They have indicated an interest so we are moving forward,” Childress said.

At this early stage, cost estimates for the project range from $59,542 to $76,242 depending on the type of design selected. The Department of Agriculture has indicated a possible contribution of $50,000. Childress said they would work to raise the other money through fundraisers and other activities.

Though no promise of funding by the Town was included in Monday night’s request, as owners of the building the Town still needed to sign off on the project, which it did unanimously, 3 to 0, with Alderman David Sell not in attendance for the May 8 meeting.

“I am more than in favor of expanding the market’s footprint,” Alderman Chuck Vest said, adding that he also wanted to ensure that the final plan would be viewed by the board and must fit with the character of downtown. “If we do something, let’s do it right.”

Alderman Terry Countermine also expressed his support of the project, as well as his confidence in the market being able to raise the necessary funds,

“I think there are people who believe in you,” Countermine said.

Childress voiced her appreciation for the town’s support.“What we are doing is unique to the nation, just so you know how special we are,” she said with a smile. “We’ve really done a lot together.”

The market is located at 101 Boone St., Jonesborough.

Home project starts for local veteran

DSC_0171levels

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

“Someone asked me the other day what it’s going to feel like being in a house without obstacles. I tried to make something up, but the truth is I have no idea what it’s going to feel like because I’ve not had that since I’ve been hurt,” Hall said. “The thing is though, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out without the donors and Homes For Our Troops and the sponsors and you guys supporting everything. I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”

Once Acre Cafe to host fundraiser for kids

8x10-1 (2)

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The nonprofit that has been dedicated to serving food and supporting the community for over four years are continuing their efforts to feed the region with a dinner from the cafe and show from fiddler Carson Peters and Iron Mountain at the cafe in Johnson City to benefit the organization’s Kids Eat Free program that aids hungry children during the summer months and now, beyond.

“The event is focused on raising money for the Kids Eat Free program because it costs us money to feed 3,700 kids. And we anticipate that that’s number’s going to grow in 2017,” One Acre Executive Director Jan Orchard said. “So we got in touch with Carson Peter’s mom. You know, the connection is that Carson Peters himself is a child, so we said to his mom, ‘Would he be willing to donate his services to help with our Kids Eat Free program?’ And he and the band wanted to get behind this to help fund the Kids Eat Free program.”

Peters is an East Tennessee fiddler who’s played old-time, bluegrass and gospel music all over the country at places like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and even the Tonight Show with Jay Leno alongside his band, Iron Mountain. And on May 4, at the cafe at 603 W. Walnut St., ticket holders will be treated to a show and a three-course meal at the cafe.

The Kids Eat Free program started in 2015, but the mission of the cafe is one that has been the center of the organization since its official start when they started up the cafe got its start in 2013.

“I don’t think that you’re as able to achieve things in life if you’re hungry. It’s sort of the essence of who we are,” Orchard said. “If you don’t eat in a day, how eager are you to go out and find a new job or find a new place to live or deal with problems in your life. It tends to make you not want to move forward because our bodies need food.”

The Kids Eat Free program is an extension of the cafe’s initiatives that consist of their four main concepts: serve healthy food, buy local whenever you can to support your own community, practice portion control and maintain the work and exchange program. Now the non-profit is also ready to not only feed the community, but support interaction within the community as well.

“Our focus is the Johnson City community and building a sense of community and hoping that it will catch on in other communities—that we need to get to know the people in our community and what their concerns are,” Orchard said. “We have these things called community tables. And a lot of people are older and are maybe depressed, they’ll wander into the cafe because they’ve heard about it and sit down at one of these community tables and before you know it, people are sitting down with them and talking to them. And all of a sudden, they have a sense of validation as a person.”

Orchard also said the cafe is hoping to aid other communities in the region and help with the geographical issue keeping many from receiving a meal.

“One of the issues about hunger and food insecurity is food distribution because Tennessee is a large state and people live out in remote areas,” Orchard said. “So to be able to get food to remote areas is a process in itself. We have it in our 2017-2018 strategy to look into the possibility of food-distribution stations maybe at a firehouse where we say we’re going to deliver x-amount of meals so that people that are hungry can get at least to that firehouse in a more remote area.”

From providing food for all age groups from the elderly to college-age and even to youngsters in grade school, Orchard said One Acre is trying to aid the world’s hunger issue and is hosting the May 4 event to aid them in doing just that.

“It’s just being creative and trying to figure out where the need is and satisfy the need,” Orchard said. “But of course to do that, we need funding. And we need help from the community.”

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 6. Tickets are $50 and available at the cafe or online at OneAcreCafe.org.

Those who cannot attend but wish to contribute may make donations to One Acre Cafe earmarked for Kids Eat Free at the the website or by mail to One Acre Cafe, P.O. Box 3411, Johnson City, TN 37602.

Home project starts for local veteran

DSC_0171levels

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”

Lorax coming to Washington County schools

XDr Seuss lorax bookBy MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” reads the children’s book “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss.

The story, about a Dr. Seuss character who seems to be the only one concerned about the cutting down of the Truffula Trees, has projected the importance of protecting the environment for over 40 years. And now 582 copies will go home with all second grade students in the Washington County School System as part of Project Lorax.

Project Lorax’s mission is to encourage young readers, to celebrate Earth Day (on April 22) and to highlight the importance of environmental stewardship. The organization originally served the the Johnson City School System and now reaches to Washington County’s elementary Schools as well as Happy Valley Elementary in the Carter County School District. And to distribute the books, a storyteller will read the story at each school along with the Lorax himself.

Not only does the story provide a message about the environment, but this project could also be helpful in sparking an interest in reading in the county’s second graders. Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said the district’s goal of lifting the third grade reading proficiency level from 55 percent to 75 percent is also on her radar in working with similar projects.

“(Increasing reading rates,) that’s definitely in our minds,” Halliburton said. “I think the more books you get into the homes of families that maybe can’t afford a huge library of children’s books, the better. Any organization that wants to donate books to our schools, we will take them.”

In improving the reading rate, projects such as Project Lorax can lend a helping hand, but the director also said the community could donate in a similar way—if only they take a second look at the books their children have outgrown.

“I remember when my children grew out of their primary storybooks, there were a few I held onto just for memory’s sake, but for the most part, what I did was I boxed them up and I took them down the street to my local elementary school, which happened to be the school that I was serving in as principal,” Halliburton said, laughing. “But what I think happens many times is that our community doesn’t think about the schools.

“So don’t box up these books and take them to the Goodwill. That’s great, but take them to a school, and we can divvy them out for free for our boys and girls or we can use them for our classroom library sets for teachers.”

To view the Project Lorax distribution schedule and to volunteer go to http://www.projectlorax.org/events. To contribute to the project visit https://secure.campaigncontributions.net/51830/Contribute-to-Project-Lorax.

Lessons from boot camp; local merchants lay groundwork for year of amazing growth

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough’s downtown merchants have survived boot camp.  And right now, they’re working hard to share all that they have learned.

“I look at things differently now,” said Corner Cup owner Debbie Kruse, who was one of the seven downtown store owners who recently returned from Destination Business Boot Camp, a two and a half day, intensive business-promotion training offered by nationally known consultant Jon Schallert at his base in Longmont, Colorado. “I think (everything we learned) can totally promote Jonesborough as a destination. Any business that really applies some of the things that we learned can only promote their business in a more favorable way.”

The idea to have Jonesborough merchants attend such a training got its start nearly five years ago, according to Main Street Director Melinda Copp, when Jonesborough was first dipping its toe into the water as a Main Street destination.

“Before we became designated as a Main Street community, we got invited to a community summit in Greeneville,” Copp explained. “Jon Schallert was one of the speakers there. He spoke for two hours. And after he got done, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’”

Copp knew right then that Jonesborough needed this type of information to help its businesses grow into everything they could be.

A USDA rural development grant of $10,000 last spring suddenly brought her hope into the realm of possibility. The town researched several possible avenues to meet the criteria of the merchant consultant training grant, but none quite measured up to Schallert’s program.

But that program also had its own challenges.

“You have to go to him,” Copp explained. “He does not come to you.” And the grant would only pay consulting fees, not any travel expenses.

By tapping into Main Street Program reserves earmarked for such expenses, and through some help from the Jonesborough Merchants and Service Association, participating merchants would be offered $500 to offset their travel expenses.

The only thing left was to put out the word and see who responded.

“We sent out an email to all the downtown merchants,” Copp said. “Seven replied.”

Kruse was one of the first.

“I had no experience in marketing a new business,” said Kruse, whose business has been open just about a year. “I think what it did immediately for me is that everything he was saying, I was able to apply it to my situation. And I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ ”

Other merchants who attended included Zac Jenkins with Main Street Cafe; Blake Yarbrough with the Eureka Inn; Janet Browning with Hands Around the World; Amber Hopson at Type A Design; Jeff Gurley with the Lollipop Shop; and Stephen Callahan at Tennessee Distillery.

“We went out there with a hope and a dream,” Copp said with a smile. “It started at 8 a.m. sharp every day. And we did breaks every hour and a half. After the first break, almost all of (the merchants) came to me and said, ‘He is awesome!’

“They have also all come back really motivated and really full of ideas.”

And ready to share.

As part of the Community Reinvention package they signed up for, Copp and fellow boot-camp survivors have been meeting with other downtown shops owners and managers to talk about what they have learned.

“There is so much to cover we’re really trying to pick out the meat,” Copp recently explained to a group of interested merchants at a meeting last Thursday.

And on April 11, area merchants will get the chance to hear the ideas from Schallert himself, as he comes to Jonesborough to check on their progress and present a seminar with more ideas on making Jonesborough businesses into consumer destinations.

“I think everybody was excited to hear what we brought back,” Kruse said. And now she can’t wait to see what happens to her Corner Cup, and those fellow businesses around her.

Gubernatorial candidate talks state goals in Jonesborough

DSC_0125

Randy Boyd

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd made his way through Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse on Monday, April 10. But he wasn’t just there to tour the downtown landmark after visiting a Washington County Republican Women’s lunch—he was also there to visit community members and speak on his latest goals as he runs for Governor of Tennessee.

The gubernatorial candidate, who was also a Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development Commissioner, has worked on education initiatives such as the Tennessee Promise that offers free tuition for Tennessee high school graduates for two years at any community or technical college in the state. Boyd was also part of the Drive to 55, the state initiative of getting 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. But for the Knoxville native, the work in bettering Tennessee education is just starting.

“We need to continue the Drive to 55. When I started it, we were at 32 percent, today we’re at 39 percent,” Boyd said. “We still have a long ways left to go, so as governor, that’s going to be my top priority to make sure that people get the skills they need to be able to meet the jobs of the future and the jobs of today.”

Those jobs are a part of Boyd’s three-pronged set of goals he is aiming to enact.

“If anybody really understands economic development, they realize educational attainment is workforce development which is economic development,” Boyd explained. “You can’t desegregate the three. So you’ve got to be able to invest in education. If you’re going to have the workforce you need, it’s going to attract the businesses you’ll want to have.”

Boyd is also wanting to get Tennessee in the top spot in the southeast for high-quality jobs. Tennessee is currently at No. 4. He is also focusing on reducing business taxes and rules and regulations for small businesses.

“I am a businessman and not a politician. I think one thing that will be different is I’m not going to define myself as being a great talker. I want to define myself as being a great listener. I’m going to work really hard to listen to the people across the state,” Boyd said. “In business you actually have very quantifiable, countable goals. I don’t believe in vague generalities. We’re gonna actually have very specific things we’re gonna get accomplished. We want to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.”

The state, which hit it’s all-time-high annual rate of deaths due to a drug overdose at 1,415 in 2015, is facing an opioid battle. Boyd sees this problem as a foundation which needs to be repaired before other goals can be met.

“Before we can be successful in any of those three objectives, we have to make sure we have a healthy population,” Boyd said. “One of the biggest threats today is the opioid epidemic. And in upper East Tennessee, it’s particularly acute. And we’ve got to find dramatic and urgent solutions to this crisis, Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to be successful in education or jobs or anything else we try to do.”

In gauging the needs of the state, the East Tennessee candidate said he’s looking at all areas of the Volunteer State.

“I think the things that are important for the entire state are also important for East Tennessee. When I look across East Tennessee, there are many places  that there’s not a good technical college closely. If you live in Johnson County, there’s not a technical college there. So we can tell them that it’s free, but we don’t give them a school to go to. So we’ve got to start making physical access as well as financial access possible.”

It’s these neighbors that Boyd is also wanting to aid; he was a part of TNECD’s initiative to provide grants to assist in improving economic indicators in Tennessee’s distressed counties. Now, he’s looking to continue that state-wide work.

“We’ve got to provide an opportunity for everyone. We’ve got too many of our counties that are struggling,” Boyd said. “Many of our counties are in what’s called the distressed category. Many of those are neighbors of Washington County. Johnson County, Hancock County, Cocke County are all distressed counties. Some of our others are on the bubble. So we’ve got to really double-down to make sure that our neighbors are doing well too.”

Commissioner wants to keep up the hard work

XRJohnsonheadshot

Richard Johnson

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Four candidates vying for the vacant Washington County Commission seat sat in the Jonesborough Justice Center during the commission’s meeting and night of election on Feb. 27. That’s when retired chancellor Richard Johnson won a title he knew held a lot of meaning.

“We had a lot of good candidates,” Johnson said. “I’m very fortunate under all circumstances of the competition to be here. And it says something for the seat that we had four people competing for it. So this seat must have some sort of special meaning.”

But it wasn’t just the position that caught the former judge and lawyer’s eye; Johnson was looking at the big picture and the direction in which the county’s governing body is headed.

“I see some great things happening in the county. We have, I think, one of the best commissions we’ve ever had, people who are genuinely interested and will dive deep into the subject, whatever it may be,” Johnson explained. “That was another reason I decided to run. I like the people. Plus I wanted to be a part of something that was enduring—that was big and enduring.”

Johnson was on the bench as a chancellor for the first district for over 20 years. He also served two terms on the Board of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association and was the president of the local Washington County Bar Association. He’s worked with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and the Johnson City Jaycees, but one of the accolades he said he is most proud of is writing the instructions for the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

“I think what my legal background has provided me is I think like a lawyer,” Johnson explained. “I can think analytically. And also, not as a lawyer but as a judge, I had the opportunity to come in contact with all kinds of different kinds of people. I think that has helped me a lot. I haven’t been within a segment or one group. My experience is more spread out over the population. Working with people. Trying to resolve differences.”

And now the newest Washington County Commissioner is ready to roll up his sleeves and involve himself with everything from committee work to studying up on the latest issues, including the water projects that are soon to break ground in the county.

“I was also astounded to find that we had very few water lines in the county. Obviously one runs to the industrial park and also into the commercial parks of Jonesborough, but out in the county, if we lay a line, we buy the water either from Kingsport or from Johnson City,” Johnson said. “I think providing water to those who want it and need it, that should be done. The only problem we have is, we have to have kind of a neighborhood. We can’t run a line 10 miles for one house. We have to have so many houses per mile for it to work. Right now we have three water projects going on. And we have the number of houses required.”

Education is also at the forefront for Johnson.

“The county has a lot going for it, particularly with education,” Johnson said. “I’ve found that our students in the county are doing exceptionally well on the ACT and we have many students who are ready for the advanced classes like what a magnet school would offer. The facilities part as well as the teaching part of education, I’m interested in. The better our students are prepared, if they stay here, the better off everybody will be and the better they will be.”

Johnson’s understands a school system’s effect on a student’s success; after two high school teachers suggested he look into becoming a lawyer following a debate Johnson particpated in—he saw the extent to which good, quality teachers can inspire and motivate students.

“This is kind of unbelievable. In the 9th grade I took a class on civics. The teacher’s name was Beatrice Haygood—I’ll never forget her. And Mrs. Haygood asked me to stay after class. And she said, ‘Richard you did a real good job. You ought to be a lawyer. And I want you to think about that.’ And I did.

“Those two teachers stayed after me through high school and even followed me in college to see if I was pursuing law. Of course I heard from both of them when I was in law school…So two public school teachers got my head turned in that direction and encouraged me and told me I could do it.”

A key tie-in to his interest in education is creating jobs and an area that will hold steady job opportunities for students coming out of the school.

“It’s my understanding that the student population, not only in Washington County but in Johnson City, is declining. Why? There’s an out migration of people that leave here when they get their education and go somewhere else. I just talked to a young lady who is getting ready to graduate from ETSU to be a CPA. I said, ‘Great, what firm are you going with in Johnson City?” And she said, ‘Oh I’m going to Nashville.’”

“So I think as we grow and as time goes along, we will have more to offer young people in the way of more jobs—more well-paying jobs. Which will make them want to stay here.”

There was a time that a young Johnson considered leaving the area, much like today’s graduates. After graduating from East Tennessee State University (where he studied economics and history) as well as law school at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, he considered becoming a labor lawyer and headed to Atlanta to interview with the National Labor Board.

“It took me an hour and a half to get out of Atlanta. And all the way home I thought about, ‘Do I want to be in a traffic jam the rest of my life?’ Labor lawyers have to go to big cities. And I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the county out of the boy. So I came back home and decided to forget all the labor law. I didn’t want to be in a traffic jam the rest of my life.”

After coming back to Washington County, becoming a lawyer and later a judge in the state of Tennessee, Johnson is ready for his new role to better his community and home—and it’s a role he doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility,” Johnson said. “You want to leave it better than you found it. And I’m confident this commission, not just me, will leave it better than we found it.”

Commission votes against IMPROVE Act

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

A resolution to increase gasoline and diesel taxes and to cut down the food tax failed at the Washington County Commission’s March 27 meeting in a 15 to 10 vote.

The IMPROVE act—which stands for Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy—is supported by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The commission’s vote on the act is non-binding as the state is yet to hold a final vote on the bill that was created in interest of adding funds to Tennessee’s highways.

The resolution originally stated the gas tax would increase by 7 cents and diesel fuel by 12.  The state’s website also says the IMPROVE Act cuts the sales tax on groceries another .50 percent ($55 million) to 4.5 percent and would bring in $278 million in new dollars to fund 962 transportation projects across all 95 counties.

The state’s website includes other tax cuts too; it says the IMPROVE Act cuts business taxes for manufacturers as well as the Hall income tax (a tax on personal income). The act also places an annual $100 fee on electric vehicles and increases charges on vehicles using alternative fuels.

Commissioner Lee Chase proposed an amendment that included removing the figures from the resolution to allow possible changes in these tax numbers; the act has already switched to a 6-cent increase on gas tax and a 10-cent increase on diesel fuel tax.

“I think it is our obligation to support the highway system that this state and county is responsible for,” Chase said. “Obviously the resolution is not binding. I think most of you are perhaps aware that they (Tennessee Representatives) have publicly stated their position.”

The act has passed through the House’s Local Government Committee and must pass through two finance committees before seeing the full house for a final vote. For this reason, Commissioner Gary McAllister questioned if voting on the act was part of the the commission’s role.

“We’ve sent resolutions up to the state. We sat here for hours one night and debated whether or not we should send it to the state,” McAllister said. “I voted no then (on another resolution) because I didn’t think it was our role to do that.”

“I really don’t know if this is our role to send this forward to the state.”

Commissioner Lynn Hodge said he felt the commission’s vote could have an effect on the way in which the region’s state representatives might vote on the bill.

“If I were a representative in Nashville for this end of the state and I had an opportunity to hear from the people back home or this body or from the different county commissions throughout upper East Tennessee on an issue as hot as this one is, I think I would entertain that information,” Hodge said. “We don’t know how they’re going to vote but I think they would like to know how we stand.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Paul Stanton said he didn’t have a feel for how his constituents felt about the act while Commissioner Steve Light said he had already heard from many who were opposed to the act.

Dan Eldridge said that because the act didn’t effect Basic Education Funding, it would not have an effect on school system funding.