Local News Articles

City Crime News

December 21, 2011
Dwayne Page
Randy Caplinger

In his latest city crime report, Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger reports that 23 year old Ashley LeAnn Spivey is charged with driving under the influence and two counts of simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance. Her bond is $5,000 and she will be in court on January 12.

According to Chief Caplinger, an officer was called to check out a possible drunk driver on South Mountain Street on Monday, December 12. The officer spotted the vehicle and followed it to Jackson Street. After observing it travel onto the wrong side of the street, he signaled for the driver of the vehicle to pull over. The automobile continued onto Andrew Street where it finally stopped. The officer made contact with the driver, Spivey. He reported that her speech was slow and that she appeared to have had difficulty keeping her eyes open. Spivey submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. She allegedly claimed that she had earlier taken some zoloft, xanax, and soma. Spivey gave consent for the officer to search the vehicle and he found a purse in the back seat containing an unlabeled pill bottle. Inside the bottle were seven whole pills and two half pills believed to be xanax and three pills thought to be soma.

25 year old Marius Madus Schweizer is charged with domestic violence. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court on January 19.

According to Chief Caplinger, an officer was called to 558 East Main Street to investigate a possible domestic incident involving a weapon. The man who lived at the residence said that Schweizer had been staying there with him and his daughter but that he had been asked to leave. Schweizer initially left the home but later returned threatening to harm the man and his dogs. He also allegedly pushed the man's daughter, who was in the driveway. After arriving at the scene, the officer conducted a search and found Schweizer in a shed on the property, hiding under some empty bags. The complainants told police that Schweizer had a knife on him when he made the threats, but no knife was found on him upon his arrest. Schweizer was unsteady on his feet and he had an alcohol odor about his person.

39 year old Willard Darrell Brown is cited for theft of property in a shoplifting incident at Potter's Home Center on November 22. When confronted, Brown allegedly admitted to taking items from the store. The theft was also captured on store video surveillance. He will be in court on January 12.

39 year old Robert Matthew Hale is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on January 5.

Chief Caplinger reports that an officer was dispatched to a residence on Restview Avenue on Thursday, December 15. Upon arrival, he spoke to a woman who said that she and Hale had been arguing and that he had allegedly pushed her down while she was holding her four month old child. When she tried to get up, Hale allegedly bit her finger.

42 year old Victor Glen Gingerich is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence, simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $4,000 and he will be in court on January 12.

While investigating a traffic accident on East Broad Street Thursday, December 15 an officer observed a black Firebird approach, which was not involved in the mishap. After stopping, the driver of the car revved up the engine, making excessive noise. The officer made contact with the driver, Gingerich, and asked him to get out of the car. Gingerich submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and his speech was slurred. He also became belligerent. Upon being taken into custody, Gingerich told the officer that he had a bomb in his car. The officer checked but nothing was found other than a rolled up cigarette containing what was believed to be marijuana along and a glass pipe with some white residue on it.

28 year old Jennifer C. Bogle is cited for theft of property in a shoplifting incident at the Dollar General Store on Friday, December 16. An employee saw Bogle allegedly putting items from the store in her purse. When confronted, Bogle allegedly produced the items from the purse. She will be in court on January 5.

32 year old Michael Todd Jones is charged with simple possession of a schedule II and IV controlled substance. His bond is $5,500 and he will be in court on January 12.

Chief Caplinger said that an officer was called to check out a possible drunk driver on South Congress Boulevard on Friday, December 16. The officer spotted the vehicle at Jewel's Market and made contact with the driver, Jones. He consented to a search of his person and vehicle and the officer found eleven whole pills and four half pills believed to be xanax and three pills thought to be oxycodone. After being taken to the police department, a further search of Jones' person yielded more xanax pills in his shoe.

29 year old Cassandra Nicole Estes is charged with filing a false report. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court on January 12.

Chief Caplinger said an officer was called to Evans Manor apartments on Friday, December 16 on a complaint of domestic violence. There he met with Estes who said that she was alone and that there had been no argument between her and anyone. Upon entering the apartment, the officer detected an odor of marijuana and while speaking with Estes, he asked for and received consent to search. The officer spotted a compact container that held a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.. Upon a further search, the officer found a man hiding in a cabinet under the kitchen sink. The man, 41 year old Mark Anthony Hopkins, told the officer that he had a pipe on him that he used to smoke some marijuana. He was charged simple possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on January 12.

25 year old Lasierra Nicole Lopez is charged with driving under the influence and cited for speeding, driving on a suspended license, violation of the implied consent law, and simple possession. She will be in court on January 12.

Chief Caplinger said that on Sunday, December 18 an officer spotted an vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on West Broad Street, going 73 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour speed zone. The officer pulled over the vehicle and made contact with the driver, Lopez. She had slurred speech and there was an odor of alcohol on her person and in the vehicle. She submitted to and performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. A computer check revealed that her license were suspended. An inventory of her vehicle revealed a small bag of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.

Aldermen Act to Move City Elections from June to August

December 20, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

In an effort to get more people to the polls and to save the city money, the Smithville Municipal Election may be moved from June to August starting this year and from now on. The city election would still be held annually but it would run in conjunction with the county general election every two years.

During Monday night's meeting of the board of Mayor and Aldermen, the council voted 4 to 1 to have an ordinance drawn up making the change. Passage is required on two separate readings in January during special meetings before the measure can take effect. A public hearing is also required prior to second reading passage.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson informed the aldermen that its time for the city to notify the election commission calling for the city election, which is currently scheduled for the third Tuesday in June to elect a mayor and two aldermen. He said if the election is moved, it would coincide with the County General Election on the first Thursday in August. It would also mean that the terms of the incumbent mayor and two aldermen up for re-election would be extended by up to sixty days (just for this year). "I've talked with an MTAS representative and a lot of cities are doing this. We can have our election in conjunction with the August election. It saves a lot of money. I believe our last city election was eight to nine thousand dollars. That's what it cost us. But in conjunction with an August election it would probably cost twenty five percent of that. It would mean extending the term for whoever comes up this year about sixty days until the August election. We can change our election date to August by ordinance. That does not have to be a charter change. I believe you would see a greater voter turnout and it would save the city several thousand dollars. We will have to have two public (special) meetings in January to do this," said Mayor Hendrixson.

Alderman Steve White, who voted against the proposal, said that while he favors saving the city money and encouraging a larger voter turnout, he is concerned with the legality of making these changes by ordinance, when the city charter calls for the city election to be held in June. White said he preferred waiting until other changes are made in the city charter before making this one. "With the way the charter reads, you would have to be extending somebody's term and I don't think we can change that without the charter being changed. As the charter reads, our election has to be in June. If we move it to August then that's after our term is out," said White.

Mayor Hendrixson replied "But our terms will be extended. Myself, yours (Steve White), and Mr. (Cecil) Burger's term will be extended by approximately sixty days until the August Election this year. You can't extend terms by more than two years but you can extend terms by up to two years," said Mayor Hendrixson.

Alderman White continued "My thinking is that if we're getting some more changes ready for the charter, I think we might ought to go ahead and have the election in June this time and then if we decide we want to do that (change election date) go ahead and change the charter that way if we want to change the terms we can do all that as the next elections come up,"said White.

Alderman Gayla Hendrix said it only makes sense for the city to make this move now if it will mean more voter participation. "It seems to make sense. It saves money and I would like to see a larger turnout. Despite our best efforts, its very difficult to get people out for just a city election. They will come out to a general election," said Hendrix

Alderman Shawn Jacobs said he also supports the change

Mayor Hendrixson added that he favors changing the terms of office of the mayor and aldermen from two years to four years, but that would require a change in the charter. Any action on that measure would require passage by the aldermen and approval by the state legislature. "There's something else we may want to look at and that's a charter change to extend the terms of office to four years instead of two. That's something we can look at after the first of the year. Any charter change has to go to the legislature," said Mayor Hendrixson.

The aldermen have not yet taken up that issue.

County's Beer Regulations To Remain Unchanged

December 20, 2011
Dwayne Page
Jewel Redmon addressing County Commission
Minister Bernard Houk Addressing County Commission

The county's beer regulations will remain unchanged.

On a vote of seven to seven, the county commission Monday night failed to adopt a motion to reduce the minimum distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 400 feet between stores seeking to sell beer and places of public gathering such as churches and schools.

The 2,000 foot distance regulation is the maximum allowed under state law and it has not been changed since the county adopted it in October 1939. The county has the authority to make the minimum distance something less than 2,000 feet but it cannot be greater than 2,000 feet.

Fourth district commissioner David McDowell made a motion to rescind the minimum 2,000 foot rule and change it to 400 feet, which is the same as the City of Smithville's regulation. Third district member Bradley Hendrix seconded the motion. But the measure failed to muster the eight votes needed for passage.

Commissioners joining McDowell and Hendrix in voting for the proposed change were Jack Barton from the second district, Wayne Cantrell from the fourth district, Jerry Adcock from the fifth district, and Jimmy Poss and Larry Summers both from the seventh district.

Commissioners voting against making the change were Mason Carter and Elmer Ellis, Jr. from the first district, Bobby Joines from the second district, Jerry Scott from the third district, John Green from the fifth district, and Jeff Barnes and Marshall Ferrell from the sixth district.

County Mayor Mike Foster could have voted to break the tie but he chose not to do so saying he did not want to take one side over the other. ‘I feel like its divisive. I'm not afraid to vote and I don't care to vote but I just think its divisive. I think if its this opinionated with seven for and seven against, we have got to work together and if I side with either side then I'm alienating somebody. We've got a good relationship and we work well together and I don't want to jeopardize that,' said Foster.

While he voted in favor of making the change, Adcock said he really didn't like the idea that on-premises beer permits could be issued to businesses as close as 400 feet to schools and churches."I don't object to packaged sales at 400 feet but I do with on-premises usage," said Adcock.

Ferrell said many of his constituents in the sixth district opposed the change. "The people I've had calling me in my district do not want this to happen. They don't want it changed," he said. Ferrell added that he would have prefered this issue be put before the voters in a public referendum.

Before the vote, Bernard Houk, pastor of the Smithville First Free Will Baptist Church spoke out against the proposed change. "I'd like to see it 10,000 (feet). I'm a pastor and I go counsel with people all the time where their husband got drunk, whipped them and left them and all that so I don't see any good in it. I think when you move it from 2,000 feet to anything else, then in a year or two it'll be ‘why don't we reduce that down to somewhere else'? We could always use the argument that the city's is 400 feet. But you can even get around that. Our church is closer than that (400 feet) under that grandfather thing (clause). A grandpa deal got us beer right in our front door at the First Free Will Baptist Church. I don't think its right," said Houk.

Jewel Redmon, owner of Jewel's Market & Pizza on the Cookeville Highway, addressed the commission advocating for the change, especially since it would potentially benefit him. Under the current rules, Redmon cannot obtain a permit to sell beer because his store is within 2,000 feet of the new First Assembly of God on the Cookeville Highway. "Beer is a legal product. No one asks anyone to come in and buy it. Its there. You can go to Kroger, Walmart, or to any big store (and find it) These convenience stores have it to sell as a commodity. Right across the street from my place (Village Market in city limits) they can buy it. My place should have been grandfathered in. It's a whole lot better looking place than it was before. You've got to have the product that people want in order to stay in business. We're not asking nobody to come in and buy it. We're not pushing it. It's a legal product and I'm just asking to be able to sell it," said Redmon.

Redmon added he may be able to sell alcoholic beverages at the store anyway under a state law that authorizes liquor by the drink under the Premiere Resort Act. "That store will qualify for liquor by the drink and beer through the state. It costs us $10,000 a year. So I can get them through the state. I'm not in the business to run a beer joint. I just want a clean, decent convenience market and have a product there that people want," said Redmon.

As WJLE first reported in October, Premier Resort Status can be granted by the state to allow the sale of liquor in specific locations regardless of local restrictions.

Business owners, under certain conditions, can qualify to apply for a liquor license with passage of an amendment by the state legislature making them eligible to sell liquor by the drink under the state's "Premier Tourist Resort Act". Once businesses have that authority from the state, they may apply for a liquor license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. If approved, the license is renewable annually.

The DeKalb County Beer Board, which grants local beer licenses, has no authority over the issuance of liquor licenses by the state.

DeKalb County businesses who currently sell liquor by the drink are the Inn at Evins Mill, the Blue Water Grille at Hurricane Marina, the Fish Lipz restaurant at Pates Ford Marina, and the Company Store near Cove Hollow.

Others who have the authority to apply are Maggie's Landing on Highway 70 at Snow Hill and the restaurant at Sligo Marina.

IRS Seeks to Return $2.1 Million in Undelivered Checks to Tennessee Taxpayers

December 19, 2011

In an annual reminder to taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service announced today that it is looking to return $2.1 million in undelivered tax refund checks to 1,779 Tennessee filers. The refund checks could not be delivered because of mailing address errors. The checks average $1,182.

Nationwide, there are more than 99,000 undelivered refund checks worth about $153 million. The checks average $1,547.

Taxpayers who believe their refund check may have been returned to the IRS as undelivered, should use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on IRS.gov. The tool will provide the status of their refund and, in some cases, instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.

Taxpayers checking on a refund over the phone will receive instructions on how to update their addresses. Taxpayers can access a telephone version of “Where’s My Refund?” by calling 1-800-829-1954.

While only a small percentage of checks mailed out by the IRS are returned as undelivered, taxpayers can put an end to lost, stolen or undelivered checks by choosing direct deposit when they file either paper or electronic returns. Last year, more than 78.4 million taxpayers chose to receive their refund through direct deposit. Taxpayers can receive refunds directly into their bank account, split a tax refund into two or three financial accounts or even buy a savings bond.

The IRS also recommends that taxpayers file their tax returns electronically, because e-file eliminates the risk of lost paper returns. E-file also reduces errors on tax returns and speeds up refunds. Nearly 8 out of 10 taxpayers chose e-file last year. E-file combined with direct deposit is the best option for taxpayers to avoid refund problems; it’s easy, fast and safe.

The public should be aware that the IRS does not contact taxpayers by e-mail to alert them of pending refunds and does not ask for personal or financial information through email. Such messages are common phishing scams. The agency urges taxpayers receiving such messages not to release any personal information, reply, open any attachments or click on any links to avoid malicious code that can infect their computers. The best way for an individual to verify if she or he has a pending refund is going directly to IRS.gov and using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool.

Candidates Announced for March Presidential Primary

December 17, 2011
Dwayne Page

The names of nine Republicans and one Democrat will be on the ballot in Tennessee's March 6 Presidential Preference Primary elections.

The Republican candidates are: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Charles "Buddy" Roemer, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

The lone Democrat is President Barack Obama.

Voters will have to declare in which primary they intend to vote.

The DeKalb County Democratic Primary will be held in conjunction with the Presidential Preference Primary elections on March 6 to select nominees for Assessor of Property and Constable.

The candidates for Assessor of Property are Incumbent Timothy Fud Banks and challengers Scott Cantrell and Jonathan Bryan Keith. The winner will face Republican Mason Carter in the August County General Election.

Candidates for constable are:

First district: None
Second district: None
Third District: Wayne Vanderpool
Fourth District: Paul Cantrell
Fifth District: Mark Milam
Sixth District: Richard Bullard and Carl Lee Webb
Seventh District: Johnny King

County Beer Regulations Scheduled for Discussion Monday Night

December 16, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night may discuss whether to change the county's existing regulations forbidding the storage and sale of beer within 2,000 feet of schools, churches and other places of public gathering. Some believe that this minimum distance requirement is too restrictive

During an All-Committees meeting of the commission Thursday night, a majority of the commissioners present voted to place the issue on the regular meeting agenda Monday night for possible discussion.

Some commissioners have said they would be willing to support a measure to change the 2,000 foot rule, reducing it down to some lesser minimim distance requirement. Others are adamantly opposed to making any change.

While the county has the authority to change the distance requirement, it apparently cannot alter the manner in which the distance is to be measured. In the county, the distance must be measured from "nearest point" to nearest point".

County Attorney Hilton Conger addressed that issue during a recent county beer board meeting. "Under regulations established by the county commission in October 1939, no business can be licensed to sell beer if it is within 2,000 feet of a school, church, or other place of public gathering. That's been the rule here in the county ever since (1939). The county can change that and make it less than 2,000 feet but DeKalb County has never chosen to do that," said Conger.

As for how the distance is to be measured, Conger said the state supreme court ruled more than fifty years ago in a Sullivan County case that the distance is to be measured in a direct line from building to building. "That was settled by the supreme court in the case of Jones versus the Sullivan County Beer Board. That was decided in 1956. The court said that the measurement is to be made in a direct line, the nearest point to the nearest point. From the building to the building," said Conger.

The agenda for Monday night's meeting also includes a discussion on the progress of the shopping center renovation as a county office complex; action on budget amendments, a review of expenses and revenues, an update on courthouse (office usage), a review of issues addressed during Thursday night's all-committees meeting, approval of notaries, and any other business properly presented. WJLE plans LIVE coverage of the meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse.

WJLE to Feature Program on New Voter Photo ID Law

December 15, 2011
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

WJLE is providing an opportunity for you to learn more about the new law requiring voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls beginning with the March 6 DeKalb County Democratic Primary and the Tennessee Presidential Preference Primaries. The new law takes effect January 1, 2012.

State Senator Mae Beavers, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, DeKalb County Election Commission Chairperson Walteen Parker, and DeKalb County Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley will be appearing on WJLE Wednesday morning, December 21 at 8:05 a.m. to explain provisions of the new law. Parker and Stanley will also be discussing local redistricting based on the 2010 Census. LISTEN LIVE ON WJLE AM 1480/FM 101.7 or LIVE STREAMING AT WWW.WJLE.COM.

If you have a question you would like answered, please fax your question in advance of the program at 615-597-6025 or email at wjle@dtccom.net

The major points of the law include:

•A voter is required to produce a federal or state government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. Some examples of a valid photo ID, even if expired, are a Tennessee driver license, U.S. passport, Department of Safety photo ID card, state or federal employee photo identification card, or a U.S. military photo ID. Student college IDs will not be accepted for voting purposes.

Free photo IDs may be obtained from any Department of Safety driver license testing station. Registered voters must sign an affidavit stating that the photo ID is for voting purposes, that they are a registered voter, and that they do not have any other valid government-issued photo ID. The Department of Safety will not issue a free photo ID if the person already has a valid government-issued photo ID

•Voters who are unable to produce a valid photo ID will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot, at the polls. Voters casting a provisional ballot will have until two (2) business days after Election Day to return to the election commission office to show a valid photo ID.

•Voters with a religious objection to being photographed, or voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee - for example, the voter cannot pay for a birth certificate for proof of citizenship - may sign an oath affirming to the information and will be allowed to vote on the machines.

•Voters who vote absentee by mail, voters who are hospitalized, and voters who live in licensed nursing homes or assisted living centers and vote at the facilities are not required to show photo IDs. Registered voters over the age of 65 may request an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

"The goal of the radio program is to educate the public and prepare voters for the upcoming 2012 elections," Dennis Stanley, administrator of elections said. "We want voters to have plenty of time to obtain a valid photo ID if they do not already possess one. We encourage everyone to listen to the radio program Wednesday morning," said Stanley.

Alexandria F&AM Lodge #175 Installs Masonic Officers

December 15, 2011
Alexandria F&AM Lodge #175  Installs Masonic Officers

The Alexandria F&AM Lodge #175 installed their 2012 Masonic Officers Tuesday night, December 13

Brothers pictured left to right are:

Wayne Huddleston, Senior Deacon; Bob Huddleston, Junior Deacon; Mason Carter, Worshipful Master; Anthony Keith Dies, Senior Warden; Charles Morgret, Junior Warden; Jewell Huddleston, Secretary.

(Photo by Wayne Storey-Tiler)

School Board Seeks FEMA Grant to build Safe Rooms at DeKalb West

December 14, 2011
Dwayne Page
David Brown of KBJM Architects, Inc

The DeKalb County Board of Education has taken the first step in seeking FEMA grant funds which, if approved, would be used to help construct "safe rooms" in a classroom building project at DeKalb West School.

Millions of dollars are available to eligible applicants under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for building safe rooms to withstand winds in the event of a tornado. In this case, not only would the new safe rooms provide a place for students and school staff to take shelter in the event of a tornado, it would also ease overcrowding at the school by providing more classroom space.

During a special called meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Education voted to pay KBJM Architects, Inc. of Mount Juliet a total of $7,500 to prepare a design for the project and to pay Lashlee-Rich, Inc. of Humbolt $7,500 to prepare cost estimates and for the grant writing.

David Brown, architect of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects, Inc. (KBJM), and Greer Lashlee of Lashlee-Rich, Inc. addressed the school board Tuesday night. Under this FEMA grant program, Brown said the school system could apply for up to three million dollars for this project with the federal government paying 75% of the cost, if approved. The state would pay 12.5% leaving the local share at 12.5%. "This grant is paying for the construction, the structure, the mechanical, electrical. It is paying a large chunk of it. We've got to take it from where our normal design stops and meet these (FEMA) guidelines but the premium that you're going to pay is smaller than the grant you're going to get. The way it works is this. We (KBJM) do the design, Then Greer (Lashlee) of Lashlee-Rich, Inc. will come up with detailed estimates and it'll be broken down by materials, labor, soft costs, and we'll have to use the guidelines that the application dictates and then we'll come up with an amount that you need. That amount can be up to three million dollars. Lets say we have a classroom addition and in your particular case it ends up being two million dollars that we can justify for this program being this addition at DeKalb West. Out of that two million dollars, the federal government will pay for 75%. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency will kick in another 12.5% which just leaves 12.5% locally. So for every one million dollars worth of construction, its $125-thousand dollars locally. That's the best thing out there," said Brown.

Brown said once the plans have been prepared he will meet with the school board again in January. "I've been to DeKalb West several times. I've looked at the facility and the needs but the first thing we must have is a design. What are we going to have there. We've talked about classrooms, a secure vestibule and entrance to that school and obviously the kitchen needs work as well but the initial thing we need to have is a design so that I can give it to Greer so he can look at that area and come up with those (cost) estimates. We have to do what is called a benefit cost analysis and the benefit cost ratio has to be high enough for them (FEMA) to want to help you with this. But the school projects by default always hit that mark. So we need to do a design. I'd like to come back in January to give you a more detailed breakdown of what we're proposing, what we think it will cost, and how much of a grant we need to ask for, and what the local share of that grant would be. If it still looks good in January, we can press on with our grant writer and submit this. I can tell you that the folks at the state are wanting to give this money away," said Brown.

The deadline for submitting the grant application is March 1st.

Brown advised against filing an application for more than one project at this time, but added that grant applications for other local schools could be submitted later if funds are still available.

School Back Pack Program Helps Feed Needy Children During Holidays

December 13, 2011
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Sprague
Dee Anna Reynolds
Foods for Back Pack Program

The DeKalb County School System is helping to ensure that needy children have plenty to eat during the holidays while they are at home.

Through the"BackPack" program, children receive food they can take home for the holidays. This year, through the efforts of School Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague, several children will also get a four to five pound cooked ham, donated by Prichards Foods and packs of peanut butter lunchables and fruit cups donated by Larry's Discount Grocery, according to Dee Anna Reynolds, School Health Coordinator. "We've added something extra to our Back Pack program for the Christmas program and we have Mr. Jimmy Sprague to thank for that. He has stepped up to the plate, volunteered, and opened the door for a lot of our kids to have a better Christmas. This year we are going to be delivering hams starting on Monday, December 19 to homes for our needy children and we're very excited about that. These are cooked hams so those babies (children) can go in there and eat and we won't have to worry about them being able to fix the food. The kids that go home with the back pack (foods), they'll go home on the bus on Thursday, December 15 with those (back pack foods). The hams that we're delivering won't necessarily all be for the same kids. There may be some overlap but we'll also have some extra food that we'll be able to take with those hams to those families. The food that we send home with the kids, when we purchase that food and receive that donated food, we try to make sure that its food that a child as young as pre-k or kindergarten can go home, open, and feed themselves. This time, they're going home with a fruit cup, a lunchable, oatmeal, animal crackers, Ramen noodles, bagged peanuts, slim jims, boxed cereal, fruit snacks, and of course the cooked hams that we'll deliver on Monday, and this year we'll put some blow pops in there to give them a little extra treat. It's a good bag. It's a bag that's large enough that the kindergarten students can carry it. Its not too heavy. They can make it last them a good week. We try to make sure that the food is healthy because that's probably the only food that some of those kids are going to eat. But it is healthy food for the most part," said Reynolds.

Sprague said he is thankful to the vendors for donating the hams and other foods. "I got with some vendors and friends of mine who wanted to donate but they didn't want to donate for any recognition. They're like me. Its all about the kids. The vendor that donated the hams this year is Prichards Foods in Alexandria. We've received fifty five hams for our under privileged children. That means a lot not only to the children but the parents, knowing that the children will have something to eat, especially over the school break during Christmas. A lot of parents work and the children are at home and there's nothing really for them to cook or eat so this (donation of hams) will coincide with the Back Pack program to give them something good to eat. I also want to thank Larry's Discount Grocery for helping us with a donation to the Back Pack program. I really appreciate all that they've done," said Sprague.

Reynolds said the children served through the Back Pack Program have been identified through referrals by teachers and faculty staff. "We went with teacher/faculty staff referrals and that's what we've kind of continued with. That seems to work better. We've been able to feed the children better and provide them with better food. That has given us the opportunity to save a little more money and feed the kids better. We also have another partnership through a company called Well Child, Incorporated. They come into our school, set up on-site and do well child exams for our children. Through a partnership with them, we've also been able to receive the funds to buy additional food. So along with those hams and the food that's been donated the kids will go home with a really good goodie bag of food," said Reynolds.

The Back Pack program was started in DeKalb County a couple of years ago, according to Reynolds. "We've tried a different approach every year. We started out the first year just feeding the kids during Christmas break and spring break. The second year we added fall break, Christmas break, and spring break. Last year we added Thanksgiving. This year we weren't able to get the ball rolling for fall break but we will feed the kids during this Christmas break and we have plans to feed them during spring break. With the work that Mr. Jimmy (Sprague) has done it has opened a door for us to be able to feed those kids. We're actually looking for some more partners who might be interested in helping us maybe by picking up a school. Just help us pick up a school and kind of take that school under their wing and feed those kids, volunteer to pack food, donate the food, we are open to anything anybody wants to help us with," said Reynolds.

The BackPack Program concept was developed at the Arkansas Rice Depot, after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to her with stomachaches and dizziness. The local food bank there began to provide the school children with groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home.

In addition to providing nutritious food to school children in need, some BackPack Programs provide extra food for younger siblings at home and others operate during the summer months when children are out of school and have limited access to free or reduced-priced meals.

The BackPack Program became a pilot program in 1995. The National Council of Feeding America approved the BackPack Program as an official national program of the Network in July 2006.

More than 140 Feeding America members operated more than 3,600 BackPack Programs and served more than 190,000 children in FY2009.


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Phone: 615 597-4265
FAX: 615 597-6025
Email: wjle@dtccom.net
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