Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society

This article was intended to describe an event on the Hiwassee River sponsored by the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association (TCWPA), with the assistance of the Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society. Before the day was over, it was clear that the story was not the event, but the incredible Historical Society and what they have accomplished in a very short time.

The Hiwassee River Heritage Center, located on Highway 11 in Charleston, has only been in existence three years. On August 26th, a groundbreaking took place for an addition that will more than double its size. The acquisition, renovation and upcoming expansion of the Center is an amazing story of what a small group of people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Calhoun and Charleston are small towns that have had a huge significance in American history. Between 1819 and 1838, Calhoun on the north side of the Hiwassee River was located in the United States of America. Charleston on the south side of the Hiwassee was the Ocoee District of the Cherokee Nation. It was in Charleston that a Federal Indian Agency was located that became Fort Cass in preparation for military operations to remove 9,000 Cherokees in the tragic Trail of Tears in 1838. During the Civil War, the area was very strategic for both sides because of the Hiwassee River. In the 1860s, the bridge across the river was burned and rebuilt three times. John Goins, a Charleston native, visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and in researching his home place, found an abundance of references to Fort Cass and names familiar to him, many of which are buried in the cemeteries of both towns. He couldn’t believe how significant his hometown was to the Trail of Tears and the history of the Cherokees. People of Calhoun and Charleston had a similar reaction and realized that the story must be told.

In 2008, a small group of people began to meet monthly, alternating between Calhoun City Hall and the Charleston Municipal Building, to form the Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society. The group quickly grew to 50 people, and the need for a meeting place as well as a place to share the region’s history with the public was realized. In June of 2011, a vacant bank building was available on Highway 11. Historical society officers signed papers to hold it until the end of the year to give them time to raise $134,000 to purchase the building. This feat was accomplished in just six months by individual donations and some large donations by area industries. Once the building was purchased, they raised an additional $56,000 in renovation funds.

Volunteers ripped out teller windows, bulletproof glass and old carpet. Much of the needed material was donated, and local businesses gave discounts on remaining material purchases. Harold Haddock, a spry 80-year-old at the time, did all of the carpentry work. Ellis and Sherry Neidich, local stone masons, donated the stones and labor to turn the old night depository into a fireplace. The bank vault is now home to thousands of pages of information and old photographs. Carroll Van West, director for the Center for Historic Preservation and now state historian, was so excited about the project that he also donated the expertise/services of his staff members. Native McMinn Countian Jamie Woodcock visited and documented historic sites in the area, and Amy Kostine, another graduate student, did the research and design for the beautiful panels of interpretive history now located in the center, which were also donated by the Center for Historic Preservation in Murfreesboro.

Once the Heritage Center renovation was complete, facilities manager Darlene Goins invited National Park Service representatives to see what had been accomplished.

They were impressed, and the result was Certification by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, making the Center a certified interpretive site of “Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.” The importance of this certification is that the Heritage Center is now included in NPS promotional materials and is on their website at www.NPS.gov/.

Incredibly, the Historical Society has raised through donations and grants another $300,000 to more than double the size of the Center by adding an exhibit room and classroom. The day-to-day operations of the center are funded by the annual International Cowpea Festival held in Charleston Park the second Saturday in September each year and The City of Charleston, which also uses the building for meetings and pays the electric bill. At the same time as the building addition, Phase One of a National Historic Interpretive Trail will begin, which will ultimately connect the Heritage Center to the banks of the Hiwassee River. It will feature monuments depicting “Voices from the Past,” from both sides of the stories. “We want to increase the number of people who visit, especially school groups,” says Darlene Goins. “Those were sad times, and we want to memorialize the people who lived through them and preserve and share their history.”

For information, contact (423) 665-3373 or visit www.cchhistoricalsociety.org.

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Shultz Farm Shares Their Best Apple Recipes

It’s Fall, and that means the apples are ripe and ready at Shultz Farm. Shultz Farm is well known not only for the variety of apples available, but for the delicious baked goods made out of apples. Cecilia Shultz was kind enough to share her favorite apple recipes.
Maw Shultz’s Apple Pie (Grandmother of Wade Shultz)

3 cups peeled and cut apples

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup sugar

Combine orange juice, margarine and sugar. Bring mixture to boil, cook until apples are tender. Take off heat and add an additional 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour. Place in unbaked double crust pie (top and bottom).Vent the top with knife slits. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until brown.
Apple Bread

3 eggs

2 cups of sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated apples

3 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. ground cinnamon

Beat eggs until light and foamy. Add sugar, oil, apples and vanilla. Mix lightly, but well. Combine the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the egg-apple mixture. Blend. Pour into two greased loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches. Bake in preheated oven for one hour at 350 degrees. Cool on rack.

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AACA Announces Big Time/Small Town & Black Box Performance Seasons

Athens Area Council for the Arts introduces an all-star lineup for its 37th performance season. The three concerts in the 2016-2017 Big Time/Small Town Performance Season are at Athens City Middle School Auditorium, 200 Keith Lane, Athens, Tennessee. The Black Box Concert Series takes place at the Sue E. Trotter Black Box Theater at The Arts Center, 320 North White St., in downtown Athens, Tennessee. All show times are 7:30 pm. All Big Time/Small Town Performances are sponsored by BB&T, Citizens National Bank, Crescent Sock Company-The Sock Shop and Madison Avenue Compounding

Pharmacy. The Black Box Concert Series is sponsored by Financial Guidance Partners, Mayfield Dairy and Tennessee Wesleyan University. All AACA programs are supported by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The Big Time/Small Town Performance Season began Thursday, September 8, 2016, with an encore performance by the Annie Moses Band. The ensemble of six instrumentalists and vocalists presented their new show, “The Art of the Love Song,” after an overwhelming response to their performance last season. The Band’s innovative sound has delighted audiences in record-breaking numbers of airings on PBS and on stages as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry. Award-winning composer, Bill Wolaver, weaves musical styles together into cinematic arrangements while the virtuosic siblings bring Juilliard-honed chops to Nashville-styled music-making. “The Art of the Love Song” is old-school elegance in the mold of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. The band keeps a classical aesthetic in these archetypal love songs, while flavoring them with retro strings and gypsy-jazz violin. The ultra-creative members of the band plucked repertoire from the Great American Songbook of the ‘40s and ‘50s, then borrowed from such soulful folk/rock songsmiths of the ‘60s and ‘70s as Don McLean, Paul Williams and John Lennon. “The Art of the Love Song” is a tribute to the most treasured love songs of the last century.

AACA celebrates Black History Month with Masters of Soul continuing the season on Friday, February 3, 2017. In the early ‘60’s some of the most iconic names in the history of popular music were discovered in the Motor City of Detroit, MI, better known simply as MOTOWN & SOUL. Masters of Soul celebrates these artists, their music and their style. The show features stylishly costumed, fully choreographed tributes to both men’s and women’s groups backed by a live band. The artists perform hits by the Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Four Tops, Diana Ross & The Supremes, the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores and many more. The audience will take the ultimate stroll down memory lane as they re-live (or discover for the first time) the incredible harmonies and smooth moves made famous by many of the greatest recording acts of all time.

The performance season closes with Tiempo Libre on Friday, April 7, 2017. Three-time Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean music group Tiempo Libre is one of the hottest Latin bands today. Equally at home in concert halls, jazz clubs, festival stages and dance venues, Tiempo Libre is celebrated for its sophisticated tropical music featuring an irresistible, exhilarating mix of jazz harmonies, contemporary sonorities and seductive Latin rhythms. Throughout the past 14 years, the band has appeared around the globe and has been featured on television shows including “The Tonight Show,” “Live from Lincoln Center” and “Dancing with the Stars” as well as many entertainment programs on Univision and Telemundo. Since the group’s formation in Miami in 2001, its members have been on a mission to share their Afro-Caribbean heritage with as wide an audience as possible, reinterpreting and reinvigorating music born from the meeting of their musical origins with their new American experience.

Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Amanda Shires performs on Friday, October 14, 2016 as part of her national tour supporting her new album “My Piece of Land.” Shires began her career as a teenager playing fiddle with the Texas Playboys. Since then, she’s toured and recorded with John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope and most recently, her husband, Jason Isbell. Along the way, she’s made four solo albums, each serving to document a particular period in her life. “My Piece of Land” represents an artistic milestone for Shires, which was inspired by a series of milestones and realizations in her personal life. Shires contemplates love, fear, stability, self-esteem and even anxiety, which she beautifully articulates through her thoughtful lyrics and emotive vocals.

The series continues Friday, November 11, 2016, with Canadian folk trio Good Lovelies. Audiences all over North America are falling in love with the funny, upbeat Good Lovelies. Winners of the 2010 Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) and a nominee in 2012 for Roots Album of the Year, as well as being awarded Vocal Group of the Year in 2011 at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, Good Lovelies are making waves across Canada, the United States and now in the UK and Australia. Since joining forces in 2006 and quitting day jobs in 2008, their tireless rain or shine outlook and undeniable mutual respect have helped the trio weather years of constant touring. Lighthearted songwriting and irresistibly buoyant dispositions have made them the darlings of the summer festival circuit and brought them through countless theatres, folk clubs and house concerts. The aptly named Good Lovelies are Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough and Sue Passmore, all of them best friends. Part folk-roots, part Western Swing, the Toronto-based trio relies on unerring three-part vocal harmonies, clever songs and, on stage, funny repartee drawn from a seemingly endless succession of comedic adventures on the road.

The Black Box Concert Series closes Friday, January 20, with Joshua Carswell. A winner of the American Traditions Competition in

Savannah, GA, one of the nation’s most prestigious vocal contests, and a graduate of Elon University, Carswell is a singer’s singer. Disney soundtracks, crooner legends like Tony Bennett and pop innovators like Billy Joel and the Carpenters, as well as the Great American Songbook shaped his artistic sensibilities early on. Carswell’s performances include a diverse collection of Duke Ellington jazz, Hank Williams classics, pop originals and European influenced standards. For the Athens show, Carswell will be backed by some of Nashville’s most in-demand musicians.

Individual tickets are on sale for the Big Time/Small Town Performance Season online at athensartscouncil.org, by phone at 423-745-8781 and at The Arts Center, 320 North White Street, Athens, Tennessee 37303. Individual tickets are $20 for adults ($25 at door) and $10 for students and may be purchased by phone, online, at The Arts Center or at the door, pending availability.

Concert-goers for the Black Box Concert Series save more than 15% when purchasing a Black Box Concert Series ticket package.

Each package includes the three remaining concerts and is $150 for family, $75 for a couple and $37.50 for an individual. Individual tickest are $15 for adults and $10 for students and may be purchased by phone, online, at The Arts Center or at the door, pending availability .

For more information about these and other programs of Athens Area Council for the Arts, go to athensartscouncil.org, call 423-745-8781 or stop by The Arts Center at 320 North White Street in Athens, TN. All AACA programs and performances receive support from The Tennessee Arts Commission.

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Sedum is truly an Autumn Joy

I’m still waiting for the autumn rains. We have had some cooler nights, but the lack of rain has me depressed. I have stopped walking through the yard since every plant needs a drink of water. I do have a few plants that still look okay: Cosmos, Golden Rod and Sedum.

Sedum should be on everyone’s list that needs a tough and drought tolerant perennial. Sedums, also called Stonecrops, have fleshy leaves that are oval and somewhat flattened. This family has only a handful of plants tall enough for use as a bed or border plant. The majority of these succulents are low-growing ground covers that are perfect for rock gardens. The reason that this plant survived this dry summer is that succulents are members of the cactus family, and as the name implies, it has thick, fleshy tissue for storing water. This is a tried and true perennial, so your mother, grandmother or garden center will be able to show you this hardy plant.

The best-known sedum for borders is ‘Autumn Joy,’ a hybrid also sold as ‘Herbsfreude.’ This plant gives us three seasons of interest in the garden. In summer, the gray-green foliage produces a two-foot tall and two-foot wide clump. Late summer, it will produce a broccoli-like cluster of flower buds that open in the fall. The flowers start out as pale green buds, open to dark pink and gradually age to bronze. I leave mine holding their red-brown, eight-inch-wide heads until early spring. They dry perfectly in place so that you can enjoy their color all winter, even peeking through the snow. Then in the early spring, I cut the flowers and foliage back to the ground.

The best time to plant tall sedum is in the spring. Space the clumps about two feet apart; you can plant them closer if you want them to fill in quickly. I had a single clump of ‘Autumn Joy’ given to me. After it became established, I continued dividing it until I now have an entire bank that welcomes fall each year. Sedum likes full sun and well-drained soil. They can also make it in dry, poor, soil but cannot adapt to a wet spot. The wet ground tends to rot the crown or the roots. A dark, shady spot will also kill this plant.

Sedums are ideal for the low maintenance landscape. Once established, their water needs are minimal. They don’t require an annual feeding or staking. Pests or disease do not trouble them. A little mulch will help with the weeds, but it isn’t necessary for sedum to thrive. Dig and divide the clumps if they outgrow their space, but otherwise they don’t need regular division. Propagation is easily achieved either by division or cuttings. Divide the clumps in the spring or fall, or take cuttings anytime that the plants are not in flower. They will root easily in a 50-50 mix of perlite and vermiculite (Potting soil available at local stores).

You can combine late blooming sedum with other fall blooming perennials such as asters, coneflower and ornamental grasses. All of these plants are basically undemanding and are ideal for a low-maintenance landscape.

As I stated earlier, sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is carefree except for the one that grew in my late mothers’ yard. She had a large clump beside the front porch of my childhood home. Disease and insects were not a problem, but children and dogs were. The location must have been cool, because she forever had to run a dog out after it had dug a bed and broken part of the stems off. This plant does break easily. Another problem she encountered was that we liked to jump off the end of the porch across the top of the sedum plants. Unfortunately, some of us were poor jumpers, and she lost parts of the sedum to a child’s butt. The last peril that the sedum faced was that grandpa showed us how to make a frog tongue from the leaves. You break off a leaf, bruise it carefully with your fingers without breaking the top membrane, then you can stick your tongue inside and blow, and you have created a frog tongue. If you penetrated the membrane, you had to start over, which used up even more of her leaves. When childhood friends came to visit, they had to be instructed in this frog-tongue art. Even with these extra adversities, Mom’s Autumn Joy sedum continues to perform today.

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An Interview With Linda Caldwell

Linda Caldwell, Tennessee Overhill and Appalachian History are synonymous in the minds of most people from our region. I was very excited to have the opportunity to interview someone with so much knowledge of the place I have considered home for over 30 years. My first big surprise was that Linda isn’t “from here,” either!

Linda Caldwell was born and raised in Narrows, Virginia, so named because it is located where the New River (one of the oldest rivers in the world) cuts through the rugged Allegheny Mountains in western Virginia. Her husband, Jim, was raised on a farm on the banks of the New River, and the two were high school sweethearts. They eloped in 1960 during Jim’s homecoming at Emory & Henry College. Jim joined the Air Force soon after, and the ensuing years were adventurous and challenging.

The Caldwells were first stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1961 and 1962. It was a time of civil unrest, marches and protests and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Says Linda, “A very interesting time to be there.” One upside was Jim’s time playing semi-pro football for the Montgomery Confederates. Next stop, Anchorage, Alaska, in 1963. Linda was a stay-at-home mom until Jim got hurt ice skating and was unable to work his second job for a few months. Linda’s first job as a married woman was taking Jim’s place delivering bundles of the Anchorage Daily News to paper carriers to deliver. Her toddler daughters, Ann and Paige, rode with her. Linda will always remember Alaska! They were there during the great Alaskan earthquake. It was followed by a month of severe aftershocks, so Linda and the girls returned home to Narrows before Jim’s tour of duty was finished. It was quite the trip. They rode with a retiring Air Force man over 1,200 miles of dirt road on the Alaska Highway then across the US for a total of eight days. He took them as far as the Chattanooga Choo Choo Depot, where they boarded a train for home. Jim stayed in Alaska until 1965.

Fast forward to 1969, Etowah, Tennessee. Jim was recruited by Beaunit, an industry that made yarn for carpets, to set up a new manufacturing process. The plan was to be here five years and then move to the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, which was the place to be in the 1970s for a career in research and development.

When the realtor showed them the home they are still in, Linda didn’t like it. Jim said not to worry, though, because they’d only be here five years…that was 46 years ago! Just so you know, they stayed here by choice, although Jim didn’t stay at Beaunit and instead went to work for the railroad. Not long after moving to Etowah, Wes was born, and Linda was again a stay-at-home mom until Wes went to kindergarten.

I wondered how one goes from a stay-at-home mom to practically creating Tennessee Overhill, a huge undertaking that has successfully driven tourism to this region of Tennessee. Right place, right time? Hand of God? The hard work and dedication of a particularly savvy people person? How about all three.

Linda worked for a few years as an insurance agent and enjoyed it. Thank heavens when the part-time position for Director of the Etowah Arts Commission opened up, she took it. The EAC did a great job of promoting Etowah and the arts, eventually outgrowing its space. They moved to the upstairs of the L&N Depot rent-free on the condition they continue to provide public art programs. In the late 1980s, the state library & archives asked EAC to hold a “copy day” for people in the area with historic photographs. Says Linda, “We expected just a few folks, but dozens lined up with the line extending outside and down the sidewalk.” EAC realized at that point that something must be done about Etowah’s history. Linda turned to Humanities Tennessee for grant money to fund the project. The year-long community effort resulted in a book and an exhibit in the Depot. What happened during this effort was that they got really interested in their neighboring communities, such as Englewood and Ducktown that were also working on exhibits. The idea of combining tourism with history was born. Right place, right time. The other contributing factor to Tennessee Overhill’s success at this point was that Linda became aware of the fact that Heritage Tourism Initiative was looking for four pilot projects in four different states. The only thing was that the application and all its requirements were due in two weeks’ time. The Etowah Arts Commission applied for the three counties to be one of the pilot areas and created Tennessee Overhill as a temporary branch of EAC, providing its first funding and creating an advisory council with members from McMinn, Monroe and Polk Counties.

Linda got on the phone and in the blink of an eye had people on board in three counties and got it done…and, they were selected. This meant $60,000 to $70,000 per year worth of free training. In turn, she had to maintain an office, phone and person and had to pay for it. Three County Mayors pledged financial support, and Etowah provided free rent. Tennessee Overhill became a separate entity from EAC and was in business!

The goal of the three-year pilot project was to demonstrate that it was possible to marry preservation, arts and business to develop sustainable tourism, not only for the economic impact for the region, but as a catalyst for preservation of the region’s enormous environmental assets and unique history. They are forever grateful to the Heritage Tourism Initiative for the opportunity to provide workshops on several important aspects of the huge undertaking and to have been able to learn together with people from three counties.

Linda is proud of the partnership that came together and the open-minded, creative and supportive people that have served on their board. She would be remiss in not mentioning how important the USDA Forest Service, the National Endowment for the Arts, Humanities Tennessee, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, SouthEast Tennessee Development District and the Tennessee Arts Commission have been to the success of Tennessee Overhill. They started out with a budget of $21,000. When Linda retired in 2013, their budget was $300,000, and the Overhill owned 47 miles of railroad that is home to annual train excursions.

Linda retired to pursue the arts she enjoys, such as painting and printmaking. However, much of the time her easel, paints and brushes sit idle in the glassed-in porch Jim remodeled for her studio. Too many organizations know of her ability to find and successfully apply for grants. There will be time for painting later. Maybe.

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Charleston | Calhoun | Hiwassee Historical Society

This article was intended to describe an event on the Hiwassee River sponsored by the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association (TCWPA), with the assistance of the Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society. Before the day was over, it was clear that the story was not the event, but the incredible Historical Society and what they have accomplished in a very short time. The Hiwassee River Heritage Center, located on Highway 11 in Charleston, has only been in existence three years. On August 26th, a groundbreaking took place for an addition that will more than double its size. The acquisition, renovation and upcoming expansion of the Center is an amazing story of what a small group of people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.Calhoun and Charleston are small towns that have had a huge significance in American history. Between 1819 and 1838, Calhoun on the north side of the Hiwassee River was located in the United States of America. Charleston on the south side of the Hiwassee was the Ocoee District of the Cherokee Nation. It was in Charleston that a Federal Indian Agency was located that became Fort Cass in preparation for military operations to remove 9,000 Cherokees in the tragic Trail of Tears in 1838. During the Civil War, the area was very strategic for both sides because of the Hiwassee River. In the 1860s, the bridge across the river was burned and rebuilt three times. John Goins, a Charleston native, visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and in researching his home place, found an abundance of references to Fort Cass and names familiar to him, many of which are buried in the cemeteries of both towns. He couldn’t believe how significant his hometown was to the Trail of Tears and the history of the Cherokees. People of Calhoun and Charleston had a similar reaction and realized that the story must be told.In 2008, a small group of people began to meet monthly, alternating between Calhoun City Hall and the Charleston Municipal Building, to form the Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society. The group quickly grew to 50 people, and the need for a meeting place as well as a place to share the region’s history with the public was realized. In June of 2011, a vacant bank building was available on Highway 11. Historical society officers signed papers to hold it until the end of the year to give them time to raise $134,000 to purchase the building. This feat was accomplished in just six months by individual donations and some large donations by area industries. Once the building was purchased, they raised an additional $56,000 in renovation funds.Volunteers ripped out teller windows, bulletproof glass and old carpet. Much of the needed material was donated, and local businesses gave discounts on remaining material purchases. Harold Haddock, a spry 80-year-old at the time, did all of the carpentry work. Ellis and Sherry Neidich, local stone masons, donated the stones and labor to turn the old night depository into a fireplace. The bank vault is now home to thousands of pages of information and old photographs. Carroll Van West, director for the Center for Historic Preservation and now state historian, was so excited about the project that he also donated the expertise/services of his staff members. Native McMinn Countian Jamie Woodcock visited and documented historic sites in the area, and Amy Kostine, another graduate student, did the research and design for the beautiful panels of interpretive history now located in the center, which were also donated by the Center for Historic Preservation in Murfreesboro. Once the Heritage Center renovation was complete, facilities manager Darlene Goins invited National Park Service representatives to see what had been accomplished.They were impressed, and the result was Certification by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, making the Center a certified interpretive site of “Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.”  The importance of this certification is that the Heritage Center is now included in NPS promotional materials and is on their website at www.NPS.gov/.Incredibly, the Historical Society has raised through donations and grants another $300,000 to more than double the size of the Center by adding an exhibit room and classroom. The day-to-day operations of the center are funded by the annual International Cowpea Festival held in Charleston Park the second Saturday in September each year and The City of Charleston, which also uses the building for meetings and pays the electric bill. At the same time as the building addition, Phase One of a National Historic Interpretive Trail will begin, which will ultimately connect the Heritage Center to the banks of the Hiwassee River.  It will feature monuments depicting “Voices from the Past,” from both sides of the stories.  “We want to increase the number of people who visit, especially school groups,” says Darlene Goins. “Those were sad times, and we want to memorialize the people who lived through them and preserve and share their history.”

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If your child can read this sentence, United Way may have helped.

Education has long been one of the three key components of the United Way of McMinn & Meigs Counties’ vision along with promoting good health and stability in the family. With those three things, everyone has the opportunity to attain a good quality of life.

Among the many educational initiatives United Way has funded in McMinn and Meigs counties are:

• Let’s Read 20 – a new community initiative developed in partnership with the McMinn County Education Foundation, United Way of McMinn & Meigs Counties, Athens City Schools, Etowah City Schools and McMinn County Schools to inspire and encourage families to read together for 20 minutes a day. Approximately 70 percent of the children in the McMinn County area are classified as economically disadvantaged by state standards, and their families have limited resources for providing print-rich environments in their homes. Researcher Susan Neumann has documented that students living in poverty virtually live in “book deserts” where their families have few, if any, options for purchasing low-cost books. While several retail locations in McMinn County sell books, the low-cost options are very limited. Neumann’s report questions, “How do you become literate when there are no available resources?” Let’s Read 20, which will kick off in October, aspires to collaborate with other community partners to educate our families on the importance of reading, to provide books and materials for their homes and to increase the overall literacy of our residents.

• Athens-McMinn Family YMCA Summer Learning Loss Prevention – With more than 60 percent of local children meeting poverty guidelines – well above the national average – that means many children are in danger of falling two to three grade levels behind by middle school. The Athens-McMinn Family YMCA’s Summer Learning Loss Prevention program works to boost reading skills both after school and during the summer months while also providing a safe environment for at-risk children.

• McMinn County Education Foundation – a group of local volunteers who administer and raise funds for such programs as the McMinn County Imagination Library, which provides free books each month to all children, regardless of family income, from birth to age five; grants for teachers to purchase needed classroom supplies; youth recognition programs such as the Youth Leadership Awards for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students; Eighth Grade Career Day; Ready To Read, a cooperative effort with United Way to provide books to all local first- and second-grade students at the end of each school year; Newspapers In Education through The Daily Post-Athenian to provide newspapers as supplemental textbooks in local classrooms; and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Camp Scholarships for area students. For adult learners, MCEF aids in funding two days of classroom time for River Valley Adult Education through the help of United Way and also provides scholarships to allow students to take the high school equivalency exam.

• Boy Scouts – With 18 units in McMinn County (including six Boy Scout troops, seven Cub Scout packs and one each of Venture Crew, Explorer Post and Sea Scout Ship), the Boy Scouts of America mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. Through the new STEM Scout program (which boasts two labs in McMinn County at North City and Westside schools in Athens), the program introduced both boys and girls to various aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an after-school enrichment program.

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