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Spreading Thanksgiving blessings

While Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all of one’s blessings and provisions that have been bestowed upon families and our nation, there are folks who play a crucial role in helping to provide necessities to those less fortunate in their communities.

Church of the Firstborn is providing for many in Hartsville.

For years, Church of the Firstborn has opened its building every other Saturday to feed the less fortunate of the community through the backpack program, and now, in partnership with country singer Tracy Lawrence’s Mission Possible (a non-profit organization that provides Thanksgiving meals to feed the hungry of Middle Tennessee), it has opened up once again to distribute turkeys and other Thanksgiving dinner items to those needing assistance with a Thanksgiving meal.

“Each family will receive a turkey, beans, a second vegetable, and mashed potatoes or dressing,” said Trousdale County Schools Supervisor of Coordinated Health and Nutrition Kathy Atwood. “So, they will receive several side items to go with their turkey.”

The Church of the Firstborn initially began its outreach to the community 11 years ago when the church decided to get involved with feeding its neighbors.

“As a church, we wanted to get more involved in the community,” said Church of the Firstborn member Johnny Rowland. “I work in Robertson County and got involved with the backpack program there. So, I started thinking, ‘I wonder if there’s a backpack program in Trousdale County?’ That’s when I contacted Second Harvest (Food Bank) of Middle Tennessee. They put me in contact with Kathy Atwood, and it was a godsend. We wanted to get more involved in the community, and on the other hand, Kathy was wanting a backpack program in Trousdale County. It all worked out. Everybody in the church was 100% behind it.

“Since 2011, on Thanksgiving, we have been doing a turkey giveaway through the backpack program. This is the first year that Mission Possible has done the turkey giveaway.”

But to ensure the success of such a large undertaking, the church needed dedicated volunteers, and that’s when it decided to reached out to other churches.

“We started packing bags (of food) after the church in 2011,” said Rowland. “We invited some of the other churches to come in and get involved. It just sort of grew and grew from there.”

Thankfully, several churches, Sunday school classes, and civic organizations in the area responded to the call.

“Enon Chapel is a small church, but what they do to help is so consistent,” said Atwood. “Their faithfulness has blown us away. It’s a great group of people, and they’ve been a blessing.”

Rowland added, “I remember (the Whosoever Will men’s Bible class) was instrumental in helping to keep us funded for a while, because they heard about the need and donated money, and that was huge.”

And for those involved, sometimes, it takes a village to make things happen.

“The community has been absolutely vital,” said Rowland. “But everything has totally worked out. The community has reached out, and it helped the church get involved in the community. So, it’s been a blessing on all ends.”

As a result of their dedication, volunteers from the community distributed approximately 100 turkeys and side items to area residents who were in need of Thanksgiving meals.

Healthcare solutions for rural communities

Fast Pace Health recently announced that it will soon be opening a new walk-in urgent care clinic in Hartsville that will provide services to Trousdale County residents and the surrounding area.

The clinic, located at 160 McMurry Boulevard West, will be open daily and offer extended hours on both weekdays and weekends.

Since its inception, Fast Pace Health has been providing urgent care services to rural areas, as access to convenient healthcare can be limited in small communities.

“If you look at how the company started, you will see that we started in rural areas in Tennessee,” said Fast Pace Health Marketing Project Coordinator Nancy Stockwell. “We brought urgent care to these (places). And now, we are in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.”

Fastpace Health CEO Greg Steil added, “Our mission, to improve the health of those we serve, remains true, and we aim to bring that commitment of providing a comfortable, stress-free, and professional health care experience to Hartsville. Our staff of experienced clinicians will provide comprehensive health services that meet the needs of the community.”

Services provided by the Hartsville Fast Pace Health urgent care clinic will include an on-site lab, COVID-19 testing, virtual telehealth for common ailments, medication prescriptions, prescription refills, and X-rays.

“Patients need immediate solutions,” said Steil. “The clinic will offer treatment for a wide range of illnesses with walk-in urgent, primary, and preventative healthcare services. We also offer scheduled services for behavioral, telehealth, and occupational healthcare needs.”

Currently, the two nearest Fast Pace Health clinics to Hartsville are located in Lafayette and Lebanon. But with the opening of the new clinic, Hartsville will be one of more than 200 communities across the region that will serviced by a Fast Pace Health urgent care clinic. And although an opening date has not yet been set for the Hartsville location, the company said that it anticipates that the clinic will be opened very soon.

The 'perfect fit'

With a proud smile, Trousdale County High School Principal Casey Kuhn sought approval from the Trousdale County School Board at its meeting last Thursday on the nomination of TCHS junior Dalton Malmin as the student representative to the Tennessee State Board of Education in Nashville.

The school board unanimously agreed to submit Malmin’s name to the state board of education as the district’s official nominee.

The Tennessee State Board of Education is made up of 11 members, consisting of one member from each of the nine state congressional districts, an executive director from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and a student representative ... a position that is currently vacant.

“That will be huge (if Malmin is chosen),” said Kuhn. “He will have the chance to sit in committees. He’ll have the chance to ask questions, and he’s going to have the chance to vote on the state board. So, this is a huge opportunity for this young man.”

Trousdale County School Board Chairman John Kerr added, “This is such a great honor. It’s just such an honor to have a student from our district to be able to do this.”

Malmin is an honor student with an interest in business leadership. He has successfully competed in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competitive events and is involved in other activities as well.

“I would say that I’m pretty involved,” said Malmin. “I’m involved with FBLA. I’m on the A-team (the team that shows appreciation to those working in the school system). I’m on the student council, and I manage the basketball team.

“In FBLA, I placed first in the region, second in the state, and third in the nation for the economics category in their competitive events.”

However, as Malmin and school officials take the next steps in the nomination process, it remains a wait-and-see process.

“To my knowledge, it (the student representative position) is a one-year term,” said Malmin. “And (if elected), I’m not sure when that would actually begin.”

Kuhn added, “We do not know when the final decision will be made. But this is a perfect fit for this young man, and (would be) a huge stepping stone for his future.”

Bridging the gap

Since 2017, Tennessee public high school students have been required to take the American College Testing (ACT) exam as a standard graduation requirement. In an effort to help prepare students for the test, Trousdale County High School Principal Casey Kuhn is encouraging students to take advantage of the various ACT prep platforms available to them.

Since 2017, Tennessee public high-school students have been required to take the American College Testing (ACT) exam in 11th grade in order to graduate with a standard high school diploma.

The requirement by the Tennessee Department of Education has sparked efforts by high schools throughout the state to prepare students for the exam through classes and various study platforms.

“Juniors take an ACT prep class that is associated with their English 3 or Algebra 2 class,” said Trousdale County High School Principal Casey Kuhn. “That helps them prepare.”

Although students are required to cover ACT prep material in their English and math classes, other options are also available to help them prepare for the exam.

“We have a new platform called PAPER,” said Kuhn. “It’s a relatively new platform. It has a lot of ACT practice options for students to get ready for the full ACT test. It has a really cool program where students can upload an essay, and the program will grade it ... but it doesn’t just grade it and give them a score. It explains why a comma goes here or a period goes there. It gives them explanations.”

However, according to Kuhn, there are also other good study tools for students preparing to take the ACT.

“I’m a big proponent of (web site), because there are tons of practice tests on there that are smaller,” said Kuhn. “Just like the PAPER platform, they will explain (to the student) why the answer is right or wrong. It just helps reinforce learning for the students.”

In addition to being a graduation requirement for Tennessee students, schools are also keeping track of the cumulative ACT scores for their schools.

“We (TCHS) got our ACT results,” said Kuhn. “Our average is up to an 18.55, which is an improvement of almost a solid point from the previous years.”

In an effort to help raise the scores of seniors who did not perform well on the ACT in their junior year, Kuhn and other school administrators are encouraging them to get assistance with ACT preparation and to retake the exam.

“We are recruiting bubble kids (students who are close to, but not quite, performing well on the test) to get them over 21 (on the ACT),” said Kuhn. “Myself, Miss (graduation coach Shelley) Crook, and Dr. (assistant principal Cecilia) Stricker are meeting with those seniors to see if they would be interested in taking the ACT again.”

ACT, Inc. allows students to take the exam up to 12 times to improve scores. Although there is no magic number as to how many times students should take the test, many colleges recommend taking it two or three times.

Steven and Terry Denson started Middle Tennessee Paranormal in 2019. Since that time, they’ve traveled the country investigating the supernatural in places, such as the Horridge House and Train Depot.