By Christie Pool
As I looked back over our papers from this past year, perusing front page headlines and compiling our top stories of 2015, I also noticed the stories on the inside pages. There, apart from breaking news, are the stories of our community; the stories that show how we treat each other. In those pages, I was reminded just how much good there is here.
Each week, the front page of the Progress is filled with an assortment of news: events that can be crime related or that tell us what our government agencies are up to. These “hard” news stories make up an essential part of our weekly coverage. But the rest of our paper is filled with the amazing things members of our little community are doing to better those around us. Whether building a Habitat house or packing lunches for kids who might otherwise go hungry in the summer, the people of Pickens County put their hearts into this place.
So, while our “Top Stories” may have grabbed a spot on the front page, here’s a list of just a few of those “inside” news pieces that speak volumes about who we are. We here at the Progress couldn’t be more proud of our community and are happy each week to let people know all that is being done here.
Feb. 26 - Holiday Market & Expo awards grants to non-profits. With 80 vendors and more than a thousand attendees, the 2014 expo generated $3,000 in profit that the organization returned to our community in the form of grants to six local non-profit organizations. Monetary donations went to: Appalachian Children’s Emergency Shelter (ACES), Partners of Pickens Pets, Weekend Snack Program, Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia, Youth Leadership Pickens and Pickens Ferst Foundation.
March 12 - Piedmont Mountainside builds a Learning Garden for West End Boys & Girls Club. The hospital, in partnership with the Pickens County UGA Extension and Master Gardeners, built a garden with four raised beds and six tomato cages. The Live Better program was developed to create healthier communities through sustainable health-related education. Local businesses like Hinton Milling and the Jasper Home Depot donated supplies for the project.
March 26 - Good Samaritan opens new building. The building was completed on time and under budget thanks to an army of volunteers. The 4,750-square-foot Dr. Joseph A. Wilber Building opened to patients March 16, 2015. Good Sam is a not-for-profit, community health center that provides health services to community members regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. The center has treated over 9,000 patients and has over 300 volunteers.
April 9 - Community donates 250 books for children. To celebrate Rotary International’s 110th birthday, the club started the ‘Rotary Reads Literacy Project,’ collecting infant through teen books. Citizens donated over 250 books that went to groups like Prevent Child Abuse Pickens, Head Start, ACES and the Boys and Girls Club of North Georgia.
The following week we ran a story about the local Rotary club donating 384 dictionaries to every third grade student in the county.
April 30 - Pickens Community to observe National Day of Prayer May 7th. The Pickens Ministerial Association led prayer services on the steps of the courthouse in observance of the National Day of Prayer. Heads bowed at noon as pastors and members of churches from around the community offered up prayers on behalf of our families, nation, our state, county and cities.
May 7 - Heads shaved to fight childhood cancer. Mount Zion Baptist Church raised over $5,500 for childhood cancer research by shaving 26 heads and cutting one ponytail at their second annual St. Balderick’s Foundation event.
May 21 - Hungry children to be fed this summer. With 2,000 children on the free and reduced school lunch rolls in Pickens County, the area is vastly underserved during the summer when children are hungry. To help remedy this problem, MUST Ministries coordinated an effort to feed the children for the 3rd summer in a row, providing summer lunches of sandwiches and healthy snacks and distributing them. The Weekend Snack Program packed and delivered over 13,000 snack bags for student for the 2014-15 school year.
June 4 - Boy Scouts serve up flapjacks to benefit disabled women. The Progress and E.W. Hightower Lodge #679 sponsored a pancake benefit sale at Fatz Cafe to benefit Ginny Reynolds, a Nelson resident whose home was flooded in late April. Reynolds is a disabled woman who relies on the support of a wheelchair to get around. Local Boy Scouts took orders and served the pancakes.
July 9 - Habitat gears up for construction at New Hope Acres. 99 Hope Street was the first house in Habitat’s subdivision and the 16th Habitat house in Pickens County. Habitat plans to build seven houses on lots in the Philadelphia Road neighborhood.
Sept. 17 - Piedmont Auxiliary donates $5,000 to Friends of Mountainside. The money went towards funding for an advanced vascular diagnostic that precisely shows the flow of blood through arteries.
Oct. 22 - 50 Pickens families will be served this year from successful Prevent Child Abuse Long Table. The proceeds from the event, a fine dining evening at the Pickens airport, allowed Prevent Child Abuse Pickens to offer services to 50 families in the coming year.
Nov. 26 - JeepFest provides $134K to non-profits this year. Groups such as the Georgia Sheriff Youth Homes, The Joy House, Pickens Special Olympics, Pickens Drug Court (to provide Christmas presents for children of people in the program), Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post, Jasper Elementary PTO (playground project), the Weekend Snack Program, N. Ga. Pregnancy Center, Boys & Girls Club of Pickens County, 4-H SAFE team, the Appalachian Children’s Emergency Shelter and St. Jude’s Hospital all got a boost from the two-day celebration of all things off road.
Dec. 11 - JMS club donates 1,202 canned items to food pantry. Middle school students collected this food to help those less fortunate. And CARES, as always with their volunteer force, sees that it the food gets to where it is needed.
Two weeks ago, 36 members of the U.S. House signed a resolution to make a public stand against the “War on Christmas.” The resolution, which is not a law only an official statement of opinion, reads as follows:
By Dan Pool
I notice driving around that people never wave any more on the roads. At least not with the gusto that people used to.
Just a decade ago down south people waved at cars, particularly if you came across them in a yard, walking, mowing grass or generally out-of-doors. You could count on anyone outside throwing up a friendly hand gesture if a car went by them in a yard on any off-the-beaten-path route.
The same was true of backroads driving: if you meet anyone on a dirt roads in Pickens County you definitely waved and might even stop and talk -- custom demanded it.
When I was a student at UGA back in the 1980s, I amazed one of my fraternity brothers from New Jersey by exchanging waves with an elderly man on a porch when we drove by on an Athens street. The “exchange student” from Jersey first asked if I knew that guy and then why I had waved. I told him that I’d never seen him before in my life but it’s just what we did in the rural South. Apparently they didn’t do that in northern metro areas.
I also recall one former candidate for sole commissioner who I refused to even consider voting for as he would never wave when you met him on the road. He wasn’t from here and probably had no idea that if you are running for office, you better lift a hand when you pass people of the county you seek to govern.
Maybe Pickens has grown too big for us to wave all the time and with so many cars on the road it would tire your elbow out. (Of course, everyone might just be too busy texting and may not have a free hand to lift.)
Besides the sheer number of waves a cruise down formerly rural routes like Jerusalem Church Road would require today, I also believe that we don’t greet each other on the road because we don’t feel like we know anyone we are meeting.
When the wave was commonplace, it would not have been true to say that everybody literally knew everybody on our roads. But chances were that a decade ago even if you didn’t know the person’s name, you probably had some connection to them – mutual friends, friend of relatives, relative of friends. One way or the other, you were most likely connected to anyone you met on the roads or saw in the yards you passed.
Now the county has reached a size that people figure they probably don’t know anyone they are meeting and don’t recognize the person mowing grass. It’s a new age of imagined anonymity.
But there are still those who wave. Some people in certain cars, Jeeps for example, continue the tradition. People with vintage cars are also apt to throw up a hand in congenial hello. You’re cruising the streets on your way to work or are on to yet another errand and you see another car of the same make and model - the driver waves to you and you return the wave. Everyone’s day just got a little better because of it. It’s the small things in life. And a tradition that should continue.
But let’s keep in mind we are still small town America - with our time-honored code of community, of safety and civic pride. Friendliness still matters. And a wave is just one way of expressing it.
While the exact numbers are in dispute, there have been no shortage of high profile public shootings this year. The fact that shootings have occurred at schools, holiday parties and a church has rattled Americans. If we are not safe at these places then where are we safe?
Following the latest shooting in Sand Bernardino, social media was filled with calls for Americans to arm themselves as an answer. Some went so far as to urge all Americans as their duty to carry firearms, implying those who aren’t packing are somehow less than true patriots.
While you’d better believe we rather have a gun handy than not if an Islamic terrorist is coming our way, this urge to arm everyone overlooks one very basic fact that gun proponents often ignore – just because we have a right to carry guns, it doesn’t mean we’re all equally capable. The lunatics, hot-heads, drug-abusers, hardcore alcoholics, the overly-nervous and just plain dumb are among the people whom we’d rather not see carrying weapons in crowded spots.
We may all envision ourselves as John Wayne riding a horse and shooting lever action rifles in each hand, picking off bad guys.
But for every John Wayne, there are probably many more Barney Fifes. Recall the comedic side-kick, played by Don Knotts, on the Andy Griffith show. Fans of the show may have noted that the fictional Mayberry Sheriff was an early implementer of gun control; he only allowed Barney to carry one bullet and he had to put it in his pocket. Most of the time when the jumpy deputy got it out comedy ensued.
Now imagine all the Barneys out there in crowded Walmarts, sports stadiums or bars and armed with a handgun holding nine rounds. Nothing comedic is likely to really happen.
The military and police train extensively and continue to train all the time on shooting protocols. Hunters are required to pass a safety test that includes firearm handling, while the general gun owner has no training requirement at all in Georgia.
The belief that an average citizen, who may not have shot a gun more than a couple of times with no supervision, would be able to confront a nut intent on killing everyone before being sent to meet Allah is not a high percentage bet.
Even for the target shooters, there is no practice for shooting in a public square when a crowd is panicked with some hiding, some jumping out windows and some plain freaking out and somebody somewhere is shooting, but you also have to make sure you are not gunning down another armed citizen or first responder rather than the lunatic/terrorist.
Finally for anyone entertaining thoughts that reacting in this situation might be similar to playing Call of Duty on your Xbox, recall that none of these real situations ended with the crowd subduing the gunmen. Though lives could have been saved if two or three people had overpowered a shooter or someone jumped him from behind, it hasn’t happened. In several instances, like the Charleston church shooting, the perpetrator looked a like a geeky teen who wouldn’t be that hard to take down. And certainly the Columbine High School shooters from many years ago were no physical threats.
The only case where it appears that physical force came into play was when two American servicemen (trained to handle themselves in combat) stopped an incident on a train in Europe.
Even at a concert for a “death metal” band, which would seem to attract a lot of aggressive young men, the gunmen were able to shoot and re-load without being tackled.
We may all want to see ourselves as the hero who shoots the bad guy, but encouraging untrained civilians to carry guns everywhere is a recipe for disaster. The calls are reminiscent of Deputy Fife’s begging Sheriff Andy to let him get his bullet out of his pocket.
• It seems that after the lights were re-arranged on the downtown trees, and perchance people got more in the Christmas mood, opinions on the new streetscape have greatly improved. Judging by online comments, the arborvitae trees and a handful of hollies now lining our Main Street have been judged to look a little better than the initial reaction indicated – at least at night.
What has been good to see is that even if the trees still are not meeting some expectations, the hard work of the city crews has been recognized. Good job to those who have gotten the trees and lights ready for the holiday season.
If you are still unsure, come see for yourself at the annual Christmas celebration this Saturday evening.
• Speaking of coming to town, it’s time for us to urge you to support our local businesses and Progress advertisers. As we point out every year, the people stocking shelves, and running the cash registers are the same ones who live next door, attend your church and whom you mingle with at parents’ night at the schools. Let’s see that our Christmas spending stays here, rather than filtering back to some giant online corporation that surely isn’t going to write a check when you are asking for donations for your kids’ sport uniforms.
• Speaking of sports uniforms, the reaction to the University of Georgia’s separation with Bulldog coach Mark Richt has been interesting. Many of the Dawg faithful were mightily disappointed with another good but not good enough year, yet when the coach stepped down, apparently with some encouragement, you’d have thought the Bulldog Nation was shocked to hear there were problems.
Much of the wailing and moaning over his departure was how could they do it to such an upstanding Christian role-model? And it’s true that Richt, by all accounts, is someone you want influencing young people. But, in this situation, he wasn’t at a community center program and, Georgia fans aren’t going to be satisfied until we compete with our neighboring SEC schools, especially one to the immediate west. Year after year, other SEC schools are in the hunt for a national championship, while the Dawgs are resigned to some consolation bowl.
No hard feelings against Richt, but some times you have to shake things up.
• And speaking of football, it stinks to high heaven of hypocrisy for any state that has a legal lottery to target fantasy football sites, like FanDuel and DraftKings, over any moral objection to gambling.
Georgia and any other state that tolerates, endorses and abides convenience store gambling has surrendered the high ground to criticize other types of gambling. No one should offer any criticism of online gambling if they are connected to a state government that sells scratch off tickets to those who can least afford them and to many who lack the financial understanding to realize spending hard-earned money on instant “games” is not considered good resource allocation. Studies show that convenience stores in the poorest areas see the most lottery/scratch off ticket business.
If they want to stop online gambling, states need to shut down their lotteries at the same time.
•And finally, speaking of crime. We encourage you to take a realistic view of dangers in the holiday season. You should be relieved to know that the chance of someone mugging you or an armed residential robbery in Pickens County are mighty slim. But, at the same time, there are always homes burglarized during the holidays, typically during daylight hours when no one is home.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your neighbors is y being observant and making a 911 call if something, like a car parked somewhere odd, seems suspicious. Law enforcement officials regularly stress they had rather people call and it turn out to be nothing than to see someone’s Christmas gifts cleaned out because no one reported that strange person at their neighbor’s door.