Local News Articles

First Ever "Young Miss" Title Goes to Carlee Elizabeth West

April 6, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Young Miss Carlee Elizabeth West
Alexis Rigsby,Allyson Roxanne Fuller,Carlee Elizabeth West, Annabella Eleni Dakas, Kyleigh Breanne Hill
Kyleigh Breanne Hill, Alexis Rigsby, Katherine Dell Gassaway
Miss Sweetheart Jasmen Chapman

The first ever Young Miss is Carlee Elizabeth West, the eight year old daughter of D.J. and Megan Stewart of Smithville.

The Young Miss, a new Spring Blossom Pageant started by the Smithville Women's Club, was held Saturday at DCHS.

Fourteen girls, ages seven to nine, competed for the crown.

First Runner-up in the pageant was Annabella Eleni Dakas, the seven year old daughter of John and Mandy Dakas of Smithville.

Second Runner-up: Allyson Roxanne Fuller, the eight year old daughter of Anthony and Amanda Fuller of Smithville.

Third Runner-up: Kyleigh Breanne Hill, the nine year old daughter of Colleen Clary and Kyle Hill of Smithville. She was also named Miss Personality.

Fourth Runner-up: Alexis Rigsby, the eight year old daughter of April Hall and Caleb Rigsby of Smithville. She was also named Runway Queen, an award presented by Runway Rentals.

Miss Photogenic: Katherine Dell Gassaway, the nine year old daughter of Julianna Gassaway and Kelly Gassaway of Smithville.

Jasmen Chapman was named Miss Sweetheart. She is the seven year old daughter of Jamie and Debbie Chapman of Dowelltown.

Others in the top ten were Kenlee Renae Taylor, the eight year old daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor of Smithville; Savanna Hope Murphy, the seven year old daughter of Brian and Stephanie Leist of Smithville; Ansley Faith Cantrell, the seven year old daughter of Tony and Amee Cantrell of Smithville; Katherine Dell Gassaway, the nine year old daughter of Julianna Gassaway and Kelly Gassaway of Smithville; and Elizabeth Gaines, the eight year old daughter of Beverly Anderson of Smithville.

The remaining contestants were Jazmine Wagner, the eight year old daughter of Tim and Wendy Wagner; Cienna Annise Cole, the seven year old daughter of Chaundra Jones and grandmother Cheryl Jones of Smithville; and Katherine Ann Vickers, the seven year old daughter of Jonathan and Crystal Vickers of Smithville.

TOP PHOTO: Carlee Elizabeth West
SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP:Alexis Rigsby,Allyson Roxanne Fuller,Carlee Elizabeth West, Annabella Eleni Dakas, Kyleigh Breanne Hill
THIRD PHOTO FROM TOP: Kyleigh Breanne Hill, Alexis Rigsby, Katherine Dell Gassaway
BOTTOM PHOTO: Miss Sweetheart Jasmen Chapman

McMinn Captures Little Miss Crown

April 6, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Little Miss Averie Nicole McMinn
Leah Beth Trapp,Lilliana  Grace Vickers,Averie Nicole McMinn,Kaylee Brooke Kent,Brooklyn Kate Fuson
Kaydence Shontae Johnson, Deanna Agee,Brooklyn Kate Fuson

The winner of the Little Miss Pageant Saturday was Averie Nicole McMinn, six year old daughter of Nathan and Amanda McMinn of Dowelltown.

Fifteen girls, ages four to six, were in the pageant held at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

McMinn succeeds last year's Little Miss Annabella Eleni Dakas, the seven year old daughter of Amanda and John Dakas of Smithville.

Runners-up in the pageant are as follows:

First runner-up: Kaylee Brooke Kent, the five year old daughter of Kevin and Beth Kent of Dowelltown.

Second runner-up: Lilliana Grace Vickers, the six year old daughter of Brandi Norton of Smithville.

Third runner-up: Brooklyn Kate Fuson, the four year old daughter of Billy and Sarah Fuson of Smithville. She was also named Runway Queen, an award presented by Runway Rentals.

Fourth runner-up: Leah Beth Trapp, the five year old daughter of Jeremy and Jenny Trapp of Smithville.

Little Miss Personality: Deanna Agee, the five year old daughter of David and Dama Agee of Smithville

Little Miss Photogenic: Kaydence Shontae Johnson, the four year old daughter of Jeremy Ashburn and Trista Johnson of Smithville

Rounding out the top ten were Annali Garcia, the four year old daughter of Cardelly and Hector Garcia of Smithville; Kaydence Shontae Johnson, the four year old daughter of Jeremy Ashburn and Trista Johnson of Smithville; Lillie Grace Young, the four year old daughter of Michael and Crystal Young of Smithville ;Deanna Agee, the five year old daughter of David and Dama Agee of Smithville; and Brianna Nicole Carr, the five year old daughter of Sherry Hattaway of Smithville.

Other participants were Amalee McPherson, the six year old daughter of Johnna Maynard and Melinda and Dewayne Davis of Smithville; Zayleigh Washer, the five year old daughter of Rachel and Larry Bain of Smithville; Kaylyn Isabelle Prichard, the four year old daughter of Andy and Chrissy Prichard of Liberty; Lilly Grace Anderson, the four year old daughter of Caitlin Anderson of Smithville and the late PFC Billy Anderson; and Jakayta Odom, the six year old daughter of Rebecca Waggoner of Smithville.

TOP PHOTO: Little Miss Averie Nicole McMinn
CENTER PHOTO: Leah Beth Trapp, Lilliana Grace Vickers, Averie Nicole McMinn, Kaylee Brooke Kent, Brooklyn Kate Fuson
BOTTOM PHOTO: Kaydence Shontae Johnson, Deanna Agee, Brooklyn Kate Fuson

Sullivan Wins Little Mister Contest

April 6, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Devan Kage Dannels, Skyler Chase Sullivan, Jaxsen Theryn Speaks
Skyler Chase Sullivan

The winner of this year's Little Mister pageant is Skyler Chase Sullivan, the six year old son of Charity Sullivan of Smithville and the late Jamie Sullivan.

The contest, featuring three boys, was held Saturday at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

Sullivan succeeds last year's Little Mister Jacob Marlin Stewart, the five year old son of Megan and D.J. Stewart of Smithville.

In addition to being named Little Mister, Sullivan also received the Mister Photogenic honor.

Jaxsen Theryn Speaks was first runner-up in the pageant. He is the four year old son of Justin and Donna Speaks of Smithville. Speaks was also named Mister Personality.

Second runner-up was Devan Kage Dannels, the six year old son of Brian and Christy Dannels of Smithville.

Judges Maddux and Burns Honored by Tennessee General Assembly

April 5, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Judge John Maddux
Judge Leon Burns, Jr.

The Tennessee General Assembly has paid tribute to two long time judges in the 13th Judicial District who will be retiring from the bench this year.

The terms of Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns, Jr and Circuit Court Judge John Maddux, both of Cookeville will expire August 31.

Resolutions honoring both Democratic judges, sponsored by State Senator Charlotte Burks, have been adopted by the State House and Senate and have been sent to the Governor for his signature.

Judge Maddux has served the district for thirty years. Judge Burns has been on the bench for thirty eight years.

Both resolutions were adopted by the Senate 31-0 and by the House 93-0 with one member present but not voting.

The resolution honoring Judge Maddux is as follows:

"A RESOLUTION to recognize the Honorable John Maddux on the occasion of his retirement as Circuit Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District of Tennessee.

WHEREAS, it is appropriate that the members of this legislative body should honor those jurists who have evidenced devotion to the law and our judicial system throughout their years on the bench; and

WHEREAS, Judge John Maddux is one such noteworthy jurist who served the Thirteenth Judicial District and the good people of Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, and White Counties with distinction since his election as circuit court judge in 1984; and

WHEREAS, throughout his exemplary thirty-year tenure on the bench, Judge Maddux distinguished himself as a public-spirited citizen of the highest order and as an exceptional asset to his community; and

WHEREAS, Judge John Maddux obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tennessee College of Law and attended undergraduate school at Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; and

WHEREAS, prior to his illustrious career on the bench, Judge Maddux practiced both civil and criminal law in state and federal courts in Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, seeking to serve his community, John Maddux was elected Circuit Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District in 1984 and won re-election without opposition in 1990, 1998, and 2006; and

WHEREAS, respected by his peers and colleagues for his keen insight and commitment to public service, Judge Maddux is a past president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee Trial Judges Association; and

WHEREAS, a member of the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction-Civil Committee for twenty-eight years, Judge John Maddux served on a two-person subcommittee of the body to draft the initial comparative fault jury instructions, which were later modified and adopted by the full committee; and

WHEREAS, Judge Maddux also served as chairman of the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction Clarity Sub-Committee, which rewrote the entire pattern jury instruction book so that civil jury instructions would be more easily understood by jurors, attorneys, and judges; and

WHEREAS, respectfully declining a nomination for a Federal District Court Judgeship, Judge John Maddux sat, by special designation, on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Supreme Court Special Workers Compensation Panel; and

WHEREAS, Tennessee’s delegate to the National Conference of the Judiciary on Bioethical Issues, Judge John Maddux currently serves as chairman of the Judicial Conference’s Long Range Planning Committee and served as a member of the Legislative Committee and the Judicial Education Committee; and

WHEREAS, in 2010, Judge Maddux was elected as the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Judicial Conference Foundation, Inc., whose mission is the offering of need-based scholarships to students at each of the colleges of law in Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, a fellow of the American Bar Association, Judge John Maddux presided in approximately 600 judicial settlement conferences, taught a course on business law at Tennessee Technological University, made presentations on comparative fault to the Judiciary Committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and served as an instructor on jury trials at the Tennessee Judicial Conference’s Judicial Academy for new judges; and

WHEREAS, deeply involved in his community, Judge John Maddux contributes his time and energies to the Adopt-A-School Program in Putnam County with the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, which provides speakers, programs, and monetary contributions to the schools; and

WHEREAS, since the first adoption of a school on October 19, 1989, Judge Maddux presided over all ninety-two of the adoption ceremonies by more than 200 participating groups, as every Putnam County school has been adopted by more than one business, church, or civic organization; and

WHEREAS, for thirty-five years, Judge John Maddux helped shape the youth of Tennessee as the State Chairman of Tennessee American Legion Boys State and shared his knowledge of government as the author of Tennessee Government, a copy of which is given to each Boys State delegate to study and be tested on during the week of Boys State; and

WHEREAS, during his tenure as State Chairman, Tennessee’s American Legion Boys State won national acclaim as the top ranked Boys State program in the nation, while approximately 20,000 young men have attended the annual week-long event in Cookeville; and

WHEREAS, no stranger to honors and accolades, Judge John Maddux was the 2011 recipient of the Justice Frank F. Drowota III Award for Outstanding Judicial Service from the Tennessee Bar Association, which recognized his extraordinary devotion and dedication to the improvement of the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice; and

WHEREAS, Judge Maddux exemplifies the allegiance to equality and justice under the law that is characteristic of a true Tennessean; and

WHEREAS, throughout his estimable career, he has demonstrated the utmost professionalism, ability, and integrity, winning the unbridled respect and admiration of his fellow members of the bench and bar, the parties appearing before his court, and the citizens of the State of Tennessee; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING, that we extend to Judge John Maddux our heartfelt wishes for a happy and fulfilling retirement from his voluminous duties as Circuit Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District of Tennessee, applaud his years of dedicated public service and wise counsel, and wish him every continued success in all his future endeavors."

The resolution honoring Judge Burns is as follows:

"A RESOLUTION to honor and commend Judge Leon Burns on the occasion of his retirement.

WHEREAS, it is appropriate that the members of this legislative body should honor those jurists who have served justice with objectivity and acumen throughout their outstanding careers; and

WHEREAS, one such exemplary jurist is the Honorable Leon Burns, Criminal Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District; Judge Burns announced his retirement effective September 1, 2014, as he will not seek re-election to the bench; and

WHEREAS, Judge Burns began serving as a judge in April 1975 when he was appointed on an interim basis to fill the position of a judge who was experiencing health problems; and

WHEREAS, in 1978, Judge Burns was elected to serve the remainder of that unexpired term and has since been re-elected several times, always unopposed; this speaks volumes about the high regard in which he is held in the Thirteenth Judicial District; and

WHEREAS, a leader among his peers, Judge Burns is past president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference, served as the trial judge representative on the Tennessee Sentencing Commission, and served on the Tennessee Commission for Criminal Justice and the Tennessee Supreme Court Advisory Commission of Rules and Criminal Procedure; and

WHEREAS, he shared his wisdom and legal expertise as an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Tennessee Technological University; and

WHEREAS, Judge Burns gives back to his community as a member of the Jaycees, Lions, and Rotary clubs of Cookeville; and

WHEREAS, throughout his estimable career, Judge Leon Burns demonstrated the utmost professionalism, ability, and integrity, winning the unbridled respect and admiration of members of the bench and the bar alike; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING, that we honor, commend and congratulate Judge Leon Burns on his exemplary 38-year tenure as Criminal Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District, applaud his commitment to justice, and extend our best wishes for his every future success and happiness."

Girl Scout Troop 1146 Visits Washington, DC during Spring Break.

April 4, 2014
Girl Scout Troop 1146 Visits Washington, DC during Spring Break.

Local Girl Scout Troop 1146 recently took a 4-day spring break trip to Washington, DC. While in DC the girls became experts in public transportation by joining the locals in riding the Metro subway system each day into downtown.

Day one in DC the troop visited Ford's Theatre and museum, The Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum with a walk down the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and a photo op. in front of the White House. Day 2 was a tour of the Capitol, Library of Congress and the National Zoo. Day 3 the Troop woke up to a surprise snow fall and visited the National Archives where they saw the original U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Day 3 also brought a snowy walk to see Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial and a somber visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Day 4 highlight was a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery to watch the very moving changing of the Guard and a rare surprise spotting of a ceremonial rider-less horse complete with the solders boots turned backwards in the stirrups, returning from a funeral of a fallen hero. The day rounded out with a visit to the Smithsonian's American History Museum and Freer Art Gallery and a quick Metro bus ride to Georgetown to get cupcakes from the popular Georgetown Cupcakes, which is featured on the TLC program DC Cupcakes.

Members of Troop 1146 attending were Chloe Cantrell, Neely Evans, Sahara LaFever, Hailey Rowland, Maggie Turner and Emily Wallace. Leaders accompanying the troop were Brad and Ronica Evans.

Community Improvement Award Presented to DeKalb Middle School

April 4, 2014
Community Improvement Award Presented to DeKalb Middle School

The Chamber presented a well-deserved Community Improvement Award to the DeKalb Middle School, 1132 West Broad St., Smithville for their numerous interior and exterior improvements including a new red roofing system with a 30-year warranty, ceramic tile replacing most of the carpet, new motivational banners, and the school's water and electric systems have been upgraded to be more energy efficient. The bathroom floors are currently being replaced with a poured epoxy product. These improvements will serve our students for many years to come.

Pictured l-r:
Chamber President Julia Cantrell, Chamber Board Member Charlotte Parsley, Detective Brandon Donnell, DMS Principal Randy Jennings, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, DMS Assistant Principal Amanda Dakas, Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Chamber Board Vice-President Jeff Crips, Chamber Board Member Dwayne Cornelius, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams

Weaver, Beavers, and Pody to be Challenged for Re-election

April 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mae Beavers
Clark Boyd
Terri Lynn Weaver
Sarah Marie Smith
Mark Pody
Candace Reed

All three of DeKalb County's representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly will face a challenge for re-election this year.

Clark Boyd of Lebanon will try to unseat State Senator Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet in the August 7th Tennessee Republican Primary in the 17th District. The winner will be unopposed in November.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster will be unopposed in the August Tennessee Republican Primary in the 40th District but she will face Sarah Marie Smith of Carthage in the November Tennessee General Election. Smith is unopposed in the August Tennessee Democratic Primary.

Smith challenged Representative Weaver in the November General Election two years ago.

Meanwhile, Candace Reed of Lebanon will be looking to defeat Republican State Representative Mark Pody of Lebanon in the November General Election in the 46th District. Neither Reed nor Representative Pody face a primary challenge in August.

Other candidates in the August Tennessee Primaries:

Republican State Executive Committeeman-District 17: Albert McCall of Lebanon and Dwayne Craighead of Celina.

Republican State Executive Committeewoman-District 17: Jennifer Winfree of DeKalb County, Yvonne G. Hunter of Wilson County, and Pat Fields of Wilson County.

Democratic State Executive Committee Woman-District 17: Rachel Givens of Wilson County

Democratic State Executive Committee Man-District 17: Aubrey Givens of Wilson County and Bob Black

U.S. House of Representatives (6th District):
Republicans: Diane Black of Gallatin and Jerry Lowery of Sparta

Democrat: Amos Scott Powers of Doyle

Independent: Mike Winton of Manchester

The following is a list of individuals who turned in their qualifying petitions to the state by the April 3, 2014 noon deadline for the offices of Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives. Election officials are processing the petitions on the state level to determine whether the petitions have the required number of valid signatures and whether other qualifying criteria have been met.

Governor:
Republicans: Bill Haslam of Knoxville, Donald Ray McFolin of Nashville, Mark Coonrippy Brown of Gallatin, and Basil Marceaux, Sr. of Soddy Daisy.

Democrats: Charles V. "Charlie" Brown of Oakdale, Kennedy Spellman Johnson of Murfreesboro, Ron Noonan of Sparta, and William H. "John" McKamey of Piney Flats.

Constitution: Shaun Crowell of Spring Hill

Green: Isa Infante of Knoxville

Independents: J.D. Ellis of Savannah, John Jay Hooker of Nashville, Jondavid Balunek of Hendersonville, and Steven Damon Coburn of Cookeville

Libertarian: Daniel T. Lewis of Nashville

U.S. Senator:
Republicans: Lamar Alexander of Walland, John D. King of Knoxville, Joe Carr of Lascassas, George Shea Flinn of Memphis, Fred R. Anderson of Maryville, Floyd Conover of Gallatin, Erin Kent Magee of Knoxville, Christian Agnew of Mt. Juliet, and Brenda S. Lenard of Sweetwater.

Democrats: Gary Gene Davis of Nashville, Gordon Ball of Knoxville, Larry Crim of Antioch, and Terry Adams of Knoxville.

Independents: Bartholomew J. Phillips of Nashville, C. Salekin of Murfreesboro, Danny Page of Greenbrier, Dea Jones of Memphis, Edmund L. Gauthier of Dover, Eric Schechter of Nashville, Harrison Kelly of Bartlett, Joe B. Wilmoth of Baxter, Joshua James of Murfreesboro, and Rick Tyler of Ocoee.

Tea: Tom Emerson, Jr. of Atoka

August Ballot to Feature Four Contested School Board Races

April 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Four of the five school board races in August will be contested.

Noon today (Thursday) was the qualifying deadline.

In the first district, Matthew Boss and Danny Parkerson will be looking to succeed incumbent school board member John David Foutch who is not seeking re-election.

Second district voters will choose between incumbent school board member Charles Robinson and challenger Jerry Wayne Johnson.

Third district incumbent school board member Kenny Rhody will face opposition from Jonathan Willoughby and Jim Beshearse.

Fourth district incumbent school board member Billy Miller is unopposed.

In the seventh district, Incumbent school board member Johnny Lattimore will be challenged for re-election by Emitt Shaun Tubbs and Brandon Cox.

The terms of each member is four years.

The election is August 7th

Smithville Mayor Race to be Contested

April 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Poss
Wallace Caldwell
Jason Murphy
Gayla Hendrix

The Smithville Mayor race will be contested in August.

Incumbent Mayor Jimmy W. Poss will face opposition from Wallace Caldwell.

Although a newcomer to the political scene, Caldwell is a lifelong resident of Smithville and attends the Bright Hill United Methodist Church. He is married to the former Carolyn Sue Luna. They have two daughters, Kitty Thomas and Tiffany Caldwell and four grandchildren.

Caldwell is former operations manager for the former owners of Omega Apparel, Brian Roberge and Richard Chase; a former second shift supervisor for Kingston Timer; and a former shift supervisor for Moog Automotive.

He currently serves as member and Chairman of the Smithville Planning Commission.

Poss was first elected mayor almost two years ago. He is also a seventh district member of the county commission. He and his wife Joyce have a son and daughter, Tony Poss and Tonya Hattaway and six grandchildren.

Prior to becoming mayor, Poss operated his own lawn care service. He previously worked for eighteen years at Star Manufacturing.

Meanwhile Jason Murphy and Gayla Hendrix will be unopposed for the two alderman positions up for election this year.

Hendrix is a local attorney and former school teacher and business owner. She and her husband Farron have three children, Alli, Lee, and Abi. Hendrix previously served as alderman from 2011 to 2013.

Murphy is seeking his second term as alderman. He is owner and operator of Optimus Pest Solutions. He and his wife Tamera have two children, Nixon and Addison.

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held on Thursday, August 7th. Those elected mayor and alderman will each serve a four year term.

Dowelltown voters will elect three aldermen during that town's city election on August 7th. The incumbent aldermen up for re-election will be unopposed, Brad Driver, Keith Farler, and Ronald Griffith.

Habitat Information Meeting Set for Tonight

April 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is seeking low income families in substandard housing who would like to realize the dream of homeownership.

Area residents are invited to get information about this program and to learn how to apply during a meeting tonight (Thursday, April 3) at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center, which is located across from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Applications must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 30.

Habitat is accepting applications from those wishing to become the sixth partner family in DeKalb County. "We're having this meeting with the hope of choosing a family," said Marie Blair, member of the Habitat Family Selection Committee.

The purpose of Habitat is to build homes and then sell them to eligible families at no interest and for no profit. Habitat is looking for families who could not otherwise afford a home.

For families to qualify, they must meet basic qualifications, need for housing, ability to pay, and a willingness to partner. Families must have been residents of DeKalb County for a least one year prior to April 2014 and they must be a United States citizen or have permanent resident alien status.

"They may be living in overcrowded housing. It may be that they are spending more on their rent and utilities, more than 30% of their income. They may not have a house. They may be staying with others. They may be living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. That's how we determine need," said Blair.

"The second qualification is ability to pay. Some people have the mistaken idea that it's a free house. It's not a free house. It's interest free. But when we actually sell the house to the person they are expected to pay the amount of the cost of the house without any interest, which if you've ever made a mortgage payment or a payment on anything you know that is a huge savings," said Blair.

For a family of four, the maximum allowable annual income is $26,510 which is 55% of the median income for families in DeKalb County. If you are age 60 or have a special needs household member, the maximum allowable annual income level for a family of four is $28,920. The income levels vary according to family size.

Partner families making payments now on their homes are helping to subsidize the next home to be built. "All of the families who are making payments now, and we have four families who are already living in houses, pay that money back to Habitat through their payments each month and that builds the fund so that we're able to build another house. We're not self sustaining yet because we don't have enough houses but we're told that when we have ten houses, that will be enough so that we won't have to be so concerned about fundraising every time we get ready to build a house," according to Blair.

Eligible families must be willing to do volunteer work and learn basic home repair and maintenance practices and budgeting. "To be a partner family with Habitat you have to earn "sweat equity". It's hours that you work. You can work on someone else's house. You can do community service projects. Whatever your skill level is you can earn "sweat equity" by doing that job. The partner families must perform a certain number of "sweat equity" hours. I believe the total is 500 hours over the entire time before they move into their house. But they actually must have 100 hours before ground is broken. That's why we want to give them the opportunity to work on the next house to be built this year," said Blair.

"We also expect all of our partner families to attend an education course. We have a committee called "Family Support" that works on budgeting issues and home maintenance. If you rent a house and something goes wrong you call your landlord. If it's your house there is no landlord to call. You have to know the things you can do and the things you might need to seek professional help for. We want our families to learn how to do that before they jump into home ownership without realizing all the responsibilities that go with it," Blair continued.

Habitat will conduct screens and criminal background checks on applicants. "Once a family passes all the milestones, we screen them for income. We will verify employment and other income and have a credit check completed to determine if they are truly in need or can afford a house? One of the last things we do before approving a partner family, we have a group who makes a visit to the home there they live now but that is not to do a white gloves test. It's announced and planned with the family when it's convenient for them. We're really looking at what are their housing needs. Our Family Selection Committee will then make a recommendation to our board of directors. The board is the group that ultimately approves the family, Blair concluded.

If you can't attend tonight's meeting or need more information call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number.

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