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February 2020
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Staff Editorials

Not just billionaires pay-it-forward

Billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith made national news for his gift to Morehouse College students at their recent commencement ceremony. Smith told the 396 graduates he planned to pay off their student debts. According to The New York Times, the average college senior owes $29,000 so his gift will make a tremendous impact to those students and their families. 

The Morehouse graduating class was spared decades of monthly payments (approximately $40 million dollars worth). But more than money, Smith, in his address, told the class it would “allow them to more quickly go toward with what they are passionate about.” 

This, he said, is where “you can make your greatest contribution to the world.”

Smith said he wanted students to understand that part of receiving his gift is they think about taking care of the people behind them when they are able. 


And while Smith’s level of paying it forward is out of reach for most of us, we can all take that same sentiment and make an impact on others in  meaningful ways.  Whether volunteering our time, mentoring a person, donating to a cause we’re passionate about, or committing random acts of kindness, the ways we can contribute to those around us are truly endless.

Generosity is human nature. Most of us, at some point, either paid it forward to someone else or benefited from the random kindness of a stranger. Whether we paid for someone’s cup of coffee behind us in line at McDonalds, donated blood, or just listened to someone who needed to talk, in that moment we reminded ourselves and others that the world is actually filled with selfless, generous, and kind people.   

It’s a nice feeling - and one small act can turn your day around while helping someone else have a better day. And paying it forward encourages the recipient to be kinder and more compassionate to others as well.

Consider the story of the woman who decided to perform 48 acts of kindness within 48 hours in honor of her 48th birthday. Most of the beneficiaries were strangers. She left voice mails of poetry. She sent a book to a recent divorcee. A teenager who had just lost his job received an iTunes gift card. 

In all, she spent $150 of birthday gift money during her pay-it-forward project - and gained an invaluable present for herself in the process. 

The woman, according to the Forbes article she was featured in, said she realized how much unconditional love she could feel for people she didn’t know.

“It changed my whole outlook on life. I realized that I don’t ever need to feel lonely or unloved - I don’t think I’ll ever be the same.” 

Paying it forward creates a sense of connectedness and positivity. When we feel connected to each other, we are kinder, more patient and more supportive. We take better care of our communities and even think more collectively as opposed to individualistically. 

And while the Robert Smiths of the world get the media attention, know that we all have the ability to help others one cup of coffee at a time.

So while we hope someone shows up at next week’s PHS graduation and offers to pay for every graduate’s college, we also wish for the not-so-grand, everyday acts of kindness that help people in smaller ways every single day. 

For in the words of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”


Helping God’s creatures -- for a while


By Christie Pool

Staff writer

Hunter and Gunter left last Thursday. Miracle followed the next day. Emotionally, it was a rough couple of days for me.

For a month my family and I had fostered Hunter and Gunter, two brothers aptly named “The Twins" by rescue volunteers. The inseparable duo, all puppy energy and fun at around nine months old, were some sort of cattle dog type with maybe some Redbone hound mixed in. Whatever exact bloodline, they were 50 pounds of cuteness and raw energy. After the two wound up pitifully at the county animal shelter, a group of volunteers led by Kelly Ingram and Julie Raming worked diligently to find them homes.


Kelly, a master networker among rescue groups all around the United States, secured their "ticket to freedom" with a group in Massachusetts. Yes, Massachusetts. Hunter and Gunter may have Patriots or Red Sox collars around their necks right now. 

The only catch in their big move up north was the group there wouldn't accept them unless they were out of the shelter and in a foster home for at least two weeks. Enter me (and, to no small extent, my family). It was a wonderful experience, especially if you overlook their chewing through the door of the new kennel the first night there. 

The twins wound up taking to their new home, excited for their daily walks in the neighborhood and they got along well with our other dogs. 

Just as those two were settling in, the volunteer group sent out a request: Could anyone foster a 22-pound shepherd-mix pup that had been hit by a car? Sure, I said. I don't see what one more could hurt. 

Miracle, as she came to be known, had suffered a broken leg and multiple breaks and fractures in both sides of her pelvis. When county animal control officers found her, she was in terrible shape, with severe road rash and maggots covering the back side of her body. 

Pitiful doesn't even begin to describe it. We wondered if she would even survive.

Despite all the pain she had to have been in, even with the prescription medicines, Miracle was as sweet as they come. Had it not been for a pop-up thunderstorm that sent her right through my screened porch in terror, she was a wonderful, but time-consuming, guest. Those first few nights she got up as often as an infant and was a lot of work, initially not being able to stand when she needed to go.  But it was incredibly fulfilling to take care of one of God's animals -- especially one who seemed so grateful.

And then they left. In just two days, all three pups were off to other rescue groups. For the twins, they left a week later than expected after their initial transport van broke down.

This setback left my husband skeptical if the whole network of dog rescuers was for real - but it is and  master-networker Kelly scrambled and got another transport in place. Local volunteers Suzanne and Ray Champitto stepped up and drove the twins quite a distance Thursday to meet a new transport north. 

And I drove Miracle to Tennessee Friday to meet her new foster mom who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, and works with the Florida rescue group, “Aussie and Me.” Our local volunteers were thrilled to have Miracle accepted into this group as they would get her to an orthopaedic surgeon to look at the extensive damage in her hips and pelvis. When I heard from the new foster mom Tuesday morning she said, “Man, her x-rays are scary. I have no clue how she moves around at all.”

Thanks to a fundraising push on the Be-Paws We Care facebook page, Miracle's initial vet bills were paid but anyone who would like to donate for her extended  care and recovery would be nothing short of angels.

(Donate at Entegra Bank to the Be-Paws We Care account or Go to their website…


It's hard to care for an animal - or three - for a few weeks or a month only to see them go. There was more than one tear shed on the days Hunter, Gunter, and Miracle left. But the feeling you get by helping shelter dogs find a home is truly amazing. To the folks who work at the shelter and care for the animals every day, kudos to you all. To the volunteers who coordinate Doggy Day Out to take dogs from the shelter out to the park for walks, a very special thank you. 

Thank you on behalf of the animals. To donate, send donations to Be-Paws We care, Inc., 361 Oakland Dr. Talking Rock, GA 30175.  To volunteer or foster, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Convict camp should be on Historic Register

Two weeks ago we published a story about a local Facebook page that has captivated the community. “Photos of Pickens County Georgia” is a forum where people can share old photos of Pickens’ past. The page highlights how important history is to us collectively, and how our cultural history shapes our identity as a community.

While the photos being shared on this page are invaluable, preservation efforts should go beyond just taking pictures when there’s an opportunity to keep significant pieces of our physical history intact. The recent, palpable sadness caused by the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral shows that some buildings carry more historical weight than others and, if the community recognizes that early enough, they can keep these important structures around for future generations to enjoy. 

The “old convict camp” on Camp Road is architecturally one of the most unique in the county, with its all-marble façade and barred windows, and is culturally significant as a facility that housed chain gangs after it was built in 1938 - but the convict camp is notably absent from the list of Pickens County properties that appear on the National Register of Historic Places, and that needs to change. 

(Places on the list are: Georgia Marble Company and Tate Historic District; Pickens County Courthouse; Pickens County Jail; Tate Gymnasium; Tate House; and private residences the Cagle House and the Griffeth-Pendley House. These listings were added between the years of 1974 and 2008). 

There is plenty of confusion surrounding The National Register of Historic Places and what a designation does and doesn’t do.  Contrary to popular belief, a designation does not place restrictions on the use of private property, nor mean a building can never be torn down, nor require it be repaired, restored, or maintained. Property owners’ rights do not change under this designation. 

But if a designation doesn’t mean the building will be preserved what’s the point? 

Briefly defined, being on the National Register of Historic Places is an honorary title and an official list of properties that are considered worthy of preservation because they are significant in the areas of history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The program, overseen by the National Parks Services, aims to “coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.”

Benefits of a property being on the list include: helping project planners and developers (public or private) know which buildings are most valuable to the community; education by way of thorough, publicly-accessible documentation about why the property is historically important (this information must be provided during the nomination/application process); the opportunity for property owners to qualify for the Federal Historic Tax Incentives Program that helps recoup rehabilitation costs; and it strengthens arguments about preservation efforts. Property owners can also put up a plaque at the property that shows it has been added to the list (but they don’t have to). 

There are also studies that have found areas that have historically preserved properties see a positive economic impact in property values and tourism. 

We need individuals and community leaders to make it a priority to be preservation minded and take steps to preserve our historical places, or risk seeing them dissappear. We remember the public outcry over the old log cabin at the corner of Cove Road and Grandview Road. The cabin, thought to be built sometime in the 19th century, was torn down and replaced by a Dollar General despite last-ditch efforts to save it. Had someone at some point in the past taken initiative to document the history of the building and get it on the list the outcome could have been different. 

While a designation on the National Register of Historic Places doesn’t guarantee an historic building won’t be torn down or changed, it’s a step in the right direction and one that should be taken for the old convict camp. 









On freedom of speech, media access

By Dan Pool, Editor

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With Facebook booting seven well-known firebrands, issues like freedom of speech and freedom of the press have taken a higher profile in the national discourse this week.

Facebook’s decision to ban accounts like Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos put on a national stage the thorny, open-to-debate decisions that editors of newspapers have been dealing with all the way back to Benjamin Franklin with his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729: how to handle the contributions of people who have extreme opinions. Here are a couple of musings from this humble community editor.

At the Progress and with most other newspaper people I know (and I suspect with behemoths like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube), the first mission which occupies most of your energy is simply getting your product out to readers. For a workflow the last thing you need is to get into a prolonged debate over a couple of sentences in someone’s letter or opinion piece. I strongly suspect reading the accounts of Facebook’s decision that for the past year or so they were hoping the situation would just go away and they could get back to making billions and expanding their product ever-deeper into people’s lives.

At the Progress when election time rolls around our chief aim, contrary to what many feel about media bias, is to make sure we get the candidates’ names spelled correctly, the date of the election correct and that we don’t mix up quotes. Frankly, that takes most of a community newspaper’s time when politics gets heated. 

A couple of points I’d like to clarify that are often fired like inaccurate Scud missiles regard freedom of speech and freedom of the press, both found in the First Amendment but not always understood.

Both are freedoms OF, neither are freedoms TO. Freedom of speech is exactly what the phrase says, you are free to say whatever you want. You can go tell everyone you want. You can hand out hundreds of flyers. You can create a website. You can yell it from the courthouse lawn. However, it doesn’t mean a newspaper has to print it, nor does it mean a social media company has to allow it on their servers. There is no freedom to the press. I have had several angry people over the years claim we were violating their freedom of speech because we wouldn’t publish something. I had one person become indignant that we wouldn’t run her extremely long story in its entirety – as though there is a constitutional right in America to have anything you write printed.

The chief at Twitter summarized the confusion over this and social media by musing in a podcast that they are somewhere between “a public square” where conversations happen unfiltered and a service with user agreements. In the end, they do have the right to kick someone off their company’s service – just like a bar can kick out an unruly drunk.

As a sidenote, freedom of the press means that newspapers can operate without harassment by government intervention. It has no bearing at all on someone having their letter to the editor printed.

That being said, it’s rare, very rare that the Progress declines to run something and never because we simply disagree with it. I have had numerous people over the years claim their writings would be too hot for us to print, to which the reply is “try us.” Think about it this way, print something that creates a lot of controversy, stirs people up and sells a lot of newspapers. I can’t imagine any editor not chomping at the bit for that.

Our general philosophy is to be as inclusive as possible of all views in this community and at the same time reject letters that contain blatant inaccuracies in fact – regardless of opinion.

We are committed to seeing all views expressed, even those we may find distasteful, and at the same time recognize our place as a community newspaper and our content should be fit to print. Not an easy path to navigate but nothing that hasn’t been challenging newspapers for 300 years.


Make students who take vapes to school pay for new technology

The local schools have indicated that if they get certain state grants, they will likely buy a very cool, high-tech piece of technology that can determine whether a student’s vape is filled with a legal nicotine product (basically a chemical cigarette) or a synthetic marijuana product (an illegal drug).

This TacticID is considered a needed $50,000 purchase by sheriff and school officials. During this school year, 70 vaping offenses have occurred on campuses and quite a few students have suffered seizures and been transported to the emergency room due to vaping.

Rampant vaping continues despite the schools’ and district attorney’s efforts to show the consequences of vaping synthetic drugs. A more effective anti-vape message should have come from the students spreading a video of a PHS student having what was called a vape-related seizure in the school cafeteria. It was ugly, watching the student flop around then go comatose. If any kid saw it and still said, “you know what, I’ll take a puff or two on the same stuff,” they deserve what is coming to them.

Since education and public warnings didn’t solve the problem, the schools/ law enforcement are going to fight the vaping scourge, which one detective predicted will eventually prove fatal to a teenager, with technology.

Expensive technology paid for by the hard working taxpayers of Georgia.

Medical people want the new technology to better treat vape seizures. Law enforcement wants the TacticID to make stronger charges against kids with synthetic, illegal drugs in the vapes. Both uses only apply to the vape or other drug users -- though the machine can also identify many other substances. If we are going to buy this wonder-gadget, we suggest letting the vapers and their parents pay for it.

The schools could track every time a vape substance is checked on campus and send the vape owner’s family a bill. Perhaps start with something like $50 to the student and his family for any vape check. Any time the results come back positive on an illegal substance, the bill rises to $200 (plus the standard criminal charges). And, any time the device is used to help treat a kid taken to the emergency room due to a vaping seizure, it’s a $500 charge.

The schools already charge for items like caps and gowns, yearbooks and to play sports. So, this wouldn’t be that different: if you want to be on the tennis team it’s a certain price and if the school SRO’s have to test your vape, it’s a set price.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a new tax or forcing anyone to pay anything. Kids who choose to bring vapes to school are subject to pay and if you don’t want to incur a bill, leave the vape at home. It’s a student’s decision and a good lesson in consequences.

While the public service messages on the hazards of vaping didn’t work, even the lazy parents would be a little more  attentive to what their kids are doing if they start getting bills for vape checks. Charging the kids for the use of the taxpayer-funded device to reimburse the rest of us is about fairness and responsibility. It’s not fair for the average citizen to fund the reckless behavior of teens. For the kids, it’s about you (or your parents) being forced to take responsibility for your actions, a great example of making vaping a teachable moment as educators say.