By: Lynne Hart
As I write this article, the temperatures outside are dropping. I’m ready to go home and snuggle up under a warm blanket with my dog, Annie, and a cup of hot chocolate. How about you?

Before we get too comfortable in our warm homes, let’s take a few minutes to think about what we can do to make the winter months more comfortable for local wildlife.

Land development is pushing wildlife out of areas they once called home, leaving them to search for food, water, and shelter outside of their normal habitat. I have always felt a strong tie to the natural world, and agree with Peter Coyote’s statement, “Habitat for wildlife is continually shrinking – I can at least provide a way station.”

You will find some ideas below on how to provide a “way station” for local wildlife right in your own back yard.

FOOD
• Fill your feeders with seeds that will provide high energy, such as black oil sunflower seeds. See the recipe included in this article for birdseed ornaments you can hang outdoors. Then enjoy watching the birds dine on your creations!
• Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and other birds love suet. It provides the fats needed to help keep the birds warm. Be careful not to leave them out too long when the weather is above freezing as they can spoil.
• If you prefer to go natural, consider hanging dried sunflower heads for the birds to pick out the seeds. Hang strings of popcorn and cranberries where the animals and birds can reach them.
• Prepare for next winter by planting shrubs that produce berries, nuts, and seeds. The animals and birds will thank you for the healthy winter meals.

WATER

• Provide a birdbath or two. Place one on the ground for animals that can’t climb.
• Heat your birdbath if you are able. A warm bath is always nice!
• If you have the inclination, build a pond! Even a small one in your flower garden will be a welcomed addition.
• Keep your birdbaths and ponds clean.

SHELTER
Providing shelter doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive!
• Create a brush pile. Find a corner of your yard and pile leaves as the base. Add sticks and twigs and other brush. Small animals will find safety and warmth.
• Covering your flower garden with leaves provides shelter to small animals and insects.
• Add birdhouses, hollow logs, old drain tiles, rock piles and other creative shelters to your yard.
• Create a warm hideaway by cutting a hole in the side of a Styrofoam cooler. Add some straw (not hay or blankets) to add some warmth and tape the lid closed to prevent air leaks. Tuck the cooler in a protected area.
• Consider waiting until spring to trim your flowers and prune your hedges. The extra coverage will offer protection to small animals.

I find my greatest peace when I connect with nature, and I have a huge love for animals. How true are the words of Cecil Frances Alexander: “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
By: Lynne Hart
Executive Coordinator – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful

By: Tim Lambert
The Alabama High School Athletic Association released their classifications and sports alignments for the next two school years. The only change to our Limestone County schools in classification was to Elkmont, who will be moving up to Class 4A. Region and area changes were more widespread, however. A new wrinkle was also introduced – the Competitive Balance factor affecting private schools. A listing of these changes can be found on the AHSAA website at www.ahsaa.com/Home/2018-20-Classification-and-Alignments.

Several local athletes have signed scholarships or letters of intent: James Clemens has had nine to make their decisions known: Samantha Burns (Montevallo, cross country/track), Zack Toth (Montevallo, baseball), Katie Sharp (UAH, volleyball), Eve Mallard (UAH, softball), Adrian Grant (UAH, basketball), Jordan McMeans (Wallace State, softball), Tommy Crider (Belmont, baseball), Laken Lansdell (UNA, baseball) and Genesis Taylor (Wallace State, volleyball). Athens High’s Alexis Woods signed to play basketball with UAH and Athens Bible School’s Kenneth Adams will go to Wallace State to play baseball.

Former Limestone County athletes have also been honored recently–Paxton Schrimsher, an Athens High alumnus (now a sophomore at Southern Miss) and Reed Blankenship, a 2017 graduate of West Limestone (now at Middle Tennessee State), were both honorable-mention defense on the 2017 Conference USA football team. Blankenship was also named to the all-freshman team. Tanner grad Oman Smothers, now at Lakeland University, was tapped as the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Athens High and James Clemens sent swimmers and divers to the Class 6A-7A state meet at Auburn. Top finishers included Athens’ Kobie Melton, who won the girls’ 200-yard freestyle and set a state record in the 100-yard backstroke. Connor Hill had a fourth-place finish in the boys’ 100-yard breaststroke. James Clemens’ Alec Benzek was fourth in the boys’ 1-meter diving, Eric Messer finished fourth in the boys’ 100-yard butterfly, Caleb Williams came in fifth in the boys’ 200-yard intermediate medley, the Lady Jets’ 200-yard medley relay team placed fourth while the boys were fifth. The girls’ 200-yard freestyle relay team also posted a fourth place. The James Clemens girls came in fifth as a team, while the boys finished up in eighth place. The Athens girls and boys were 13th and 17th respectively.

Basketball results by school (as of this writing):

The Ardmore boys’ only victories so far have come over Clements and Cornersville. The Lady Tigers have also split with Clements and St. John Paul II and posted wins against West Limestone, Lindsay Lane, Decatur Heritage and Huntland.

Athens Bible School’s varsity boys have two wins to their credit (St. Bernard and Shoals Christian); the young Lady Trojans are still in search of their first win.

Athens High School has posted winning varsity records so far — the Golden Eagles have defeated Decatur, Cullman, East Limestone and Austin. The Athens girls have split with Hartselle and posted additional victories over Midfield, Colbert County, Cullman, East Limestone and Decatur. The Lady Golden Eagles were also ranked #8 in Class 6A in the latest poll.

The Clements boys have notched wins against Danville, Fayetteville, West Morgan, Ardmore and Wilson; the Lady Colts thus far have gone 1-1 with Ardmore and defeated West Limestone and Brooks.

East Limestone’s boys are even on the season with five wins (Elkmont, Ardmore, West Limestone, Tanner and Clements) while the Lady Indians have seven (Elkmont, Bob Jones, Randolph, Ardmore, West Limestone, Tanner and Clements).

The Elkmont boys defeated Lexington, ABS and East Lawrence; the Lady Red Devils have come out on top against Lindsay Lane (twice) and ABS.

Both James Clemens teams were in the top 10 in the latest Class 7A rankings: the boys were ninth and the girls were at the fifth spot. The Lady Jets started the season at #6, the first time they had ever made an appearance in the poll. So far, the boys have claimed victories over Fairview, Arab, Laverne (TN), Decatur and Grissom. The girls have topped Fairview, Muscle Shoals, Columbia, Madison County and Bob Jones.

Lindsay Lane’s boys were ranked third in the Class 1A poll behind an undefeated record. The Lady Lions have victories over Paint Rock and ABS.

The Tanner boys have defeated Ardmore, Hatton and Elkmont while the third-ranked (2A) Lady Rattlers have beaten Red Bay, Ardmore, West Limestone, Hatton and Elkmont.

The #10 (4A) West Limestone boys have wins over Ardmore, Clements, Hatton, West Point, Tanner, Priceville and Lauderdale County; the Lady Wildcats are another team looking for their first victory.
By: Tim Lambert
Tune in for the PlayAction Sports Update, three times each weekday on 1080 AM WKAC. Visit us online at www.pasnetwork.net!
email: playactionsports@hotmail.com

By Cayce Lee
Social Media Specialist

Elkmont, Alabama, is a small community in Limestone County, between Athens and the Tennessee State line. It is probably best known for the Richard Martin Rails-to-Trails, goat cheese makers Belle Chevre and Humble Heart Farms, and antique and specialty shops. Elkmont’s rural roots and agricultural traditions lend to its year-round draw. Elkmont’s population of approximately 253 triples on the first Saturday in December each year as the promise of marching bands, floats and the “Man in Red” appearance flourish before the annual Christmas Parade.

Elkmont’s small police department had a community-wide response to help with the increased population and traffic that moved into the community for the big day. As main roads were closed to traffic for the parade, the Elkmont Fire Department; Ardmore Volunteer Fire Departments; and officers from the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Athens Police Department volunteered their time to keep the community and visitors safe and direct traffic.

The temporary population boom – and economic boon to downtown businesses — results from the parade hosted by the Elkmont Lions Club, which was planned by 7 members of the very active community civic club for the 2017 event. This year’s parade theme was “Christmas on the Farm,” paying homage to the contributions of farmers and agriculture to the community and the world. This year’s parade stretched from end to end with 46 entries including Elkmont High School’s Marching Red Devil Band and cheerleaders, 4-H Club, Girl Scouts, and even participation from the Limestone County Revenue Commission.

Fortunately for this year’s parade, the week of sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures continued for its December 2nd 1:00 P.M. kickoff leading to happy, large crowds for the day. The parade started at Elkmont High School and wound through the heart of Downtown Elkmont, Alabama, ending at the Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center on AL-127, giving folks from near and far plenty of opportunities to line the route and enjoy the season’s greetings from each float, tractor, car and in-between entrants.

To highlight this year’s “Christmas on the Farm” theme, tractors rolled out for the parade, as well, and a special division for “Best Antique Tractor” was added to the yearly category of Best Float. The Elkmont Lions Club invited Teresa Todd, Rita Jordan, and Barbara Evans to judge the floats, and Tim Toone from Owens and Mike Gooch to judge the tractors for this year’s event.

This year’s awards are as follows:
Best Antique Tractor: 1st Place– Tommy Elmore’s 1936 BR John Deere and Wagon; 2nd Place – Larry Appleton’s 1957 601 Ford, and 3rd Place – Rusty Beddingfield’s 1956 Allis Chalmers WD45.
Float Awards: Grand Prize – The Limestone County Revenue Commission, 1st Place – New Bethel Baptist Church, 2nd Place Girl Scout Troop 1133/1134, 3rd Place – Limestone County 4-H


Photo Courtesy of Susan Plyant of Elkmont Lions Club
By: Cayce Lee
Social Media Specialist

By: D. A. Slinkard
Ready or not, here it comes! 2018 is upon you even if you are not ready to flip that calendar into a new year. I was recently looking back and could not believe how quickly the year had flown by with many things that I wanted to accomplish in 2017 just being left undone. Does this sound like you? We are in the same boat, but the difference is that I am not making the same mistakes in 2018.

If you look at the road we had in 2017, it really was a beautiful journey we had together. We have spoken about attitude, we have spoken about persistence beating resistance, and to be honest we have hit on just about every kind of subject there is when it comes to a positive mental attitude. If you want success to happen it is there for the taking, but you must be willing to grab it.

My final article for 2017 is going to be about goal setting for 2018, and I want you to think long and hard about what it is you want to accomplish in the next year. You really need to put some thought behind this because 2017 is proof that time waits around for no one. If you are not living the life that you feel destined to live, now is the time to change. If your life is not going the way you want, now is the time to change.

What a wonderful time of the year it is as we put the final wrappings on 2017, and whether it was a good year or a bad year, it makes no difference, the question is what did you learn from the previous 12 months? If you didn’t learn anything, then what a shame because that’s a prime example of someone just wasting their time away. Stop doing it. You have one life to live. One shot to be all that you can be. What are you going to do with it?

Before you can know what you are going to do in the future, you need to know where you were in the past. What went well for you in 2017? What were some of the year’s highs for you? What could have gone better for you? More importantly, what did you learn about 2017 that will keep you from making the same mistakes in 2018? Life is all about learning and when you learn, you grow, but when you stop learning that is when you stop growing. We need to keep growing because we are not finished with what we have started.

I am curious; what is the one thing you would do if you knew you could not fail in 2018? Open your own business? Write your first book? Pop the question? Go ahead and take the time to think about what your one thing is and then decide to act. You must act upon that decision. The success we have written about in 2017, the success you want in 2018, it all hinges upon the thought process you just had about that one decision.

I am going to tell you that whatever is on your mind about this decision, you need to take the time to just go do it. There is no better time than now to act upon that which your heart desires. You cannot get the year 2017 back, but you can make sure that you make up for it in 2018. I know I have my ideas in place, I know what I want to achieve and you better darn well believe that I will not be leaving loose ends in 2018 like I did in 2017.

We are going to need to be aggressive when it comes to what we want to accomplish. We are going to need a plan, and the plan needs to be deliberate. Everything we do in 2018 needs to be with an intent and with a purpose to make sure we achieve the success we missed out on in 2017. There is no looking back, no time to clean up spilled milk; there is only time for us to look ahead and know that we will be successful because mentally we will be so much stronger in ‘18 than in ‘17. No holding back.
By: D. A. Slinkard

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie came into the office dressed for the interview he was due to film for the promotional spot on our area’s sport fishing areas to be produced later this year by Fishing University. It has been amazing to see how quickly he has bounced back from his surgery, and he was focused on all the heartwarming things going on in Athens to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.”

The Mayor asked me, “Have you ever heard John Malone and the Athens High School Choir?” I nodded enthusiastically in the affirmative, and he was so excited that the choir was going to be singing at Athens State University. The Christmas Parade had been the previous Thursday, as had been the lighting of the tree as well as the new Courthouse lights. Brian Patterson, who is our Limestone County Revenue Commissioner, put together a float called “Alice In A Winter Wonderland.” It was so stunning that it won the best float award in both the Athens as well as Ardmore parades. The Lincoln-Bridgeforth Christmas event started by the late Jimmy Gill was due to be a great success, too, and Holly Hollman goes into more detail in her column on page………

Mayor Ronnie called Holly in to the office to tell us about what’s going on with the kids in the Mayor’s Youth Commission. They were in the middle of a project where they were split into two groups: one went to High Cotton Arts to paint on canvasses, and the rest went to the water treatment plant to learn about how a municipal water facility is run. But don’t worry, once they come back from Christmas break, the groups will switch. By the way, the stats are in: Athens has the 5th purest water in the entire state of Alabama!

The Youth Commission is an idea whose time has indeed come, and other cities in Alabama are looking to Athens to help them start their own group. The League of Municipalities Leadership Institute had just been held at Ross Bridge in Birmingham. Montevallo and Alabaster were present and are on board with their own Commissions, and Decatur has become very interested in starting one as well. Sippin’ Cider had been successful, and part of the reason was that there were six kids from our Commission helping to serve.

Our bi-centennial celebration preparations are moving along, and Councilman Frank Travis is heading up Poke Sallet, which will be a stage production that tells the story of our wonderful town. The County’s birthday is in February of 2018, and the City’s is in November.

Athens Fire Chief Brian Thornton came in to talk about the annual Shopping With A Firefighter event. Every year for the past 19 years, school counselors have given the Fire Department the names of families who could use a boost at Christmas time. They are then paired with a Firefighter who goes with them to shop. It is not at all uncommon for kids to want to use their “treat money” to buy groceries for their family or something special for a parent or sibling, and the event is greatly loved by all who participate.

Mayor Ronnie closed our time with the happy reminder that we ended up with a million dollars more in revenue than expenses, and promised that we would go into more detail next time we get together. Then, even though he was a bit hoarse, he broke into his own rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year,” and Holly and I said, “Give it up, Mr. Mayor,” which he has apparently been told before. He came back with, “We about to bust into a great new year!” Then we prayed, and it was time for the last time in 2017 for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Holly Hollman
The community worked together to ensure children in Athens enjoyed the Christmas season.

About 85 children received presents and more than 20 won bicycles at the annual Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee Tree Lighting and Gift Giveaway.

Each year, the committee works with the Boys and Girls Club and families in the area to help Santa provide a gift to each child who attends. In addition, there are random drawings for bicycles. The community ensured this year’s event was one of the largest to date, said Councilman Frank Travis.

East Limestone Band with assistance from Chick-fil-A, Edward Jones, Village Pizza at East Limestone, and Village Vet filled its trailer, the one recently stolen in Birmingham and recovered. East Limestone Band Director Jennifer “Miss Sam” Janzen said the students wanted to give back to the community this season as a thank you for those who helped share news about the stolen trailer, which led to the recovery of the trailer which was filled with band instruments.

The donations meant that no child left the event without a gift.

“This event is one of my favorites because you see what can happen in a community when people work together to bring smiles to children’s faces,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said.

The mayor’s office assisted in event planning, and Athens Fire and Rescue assisted with collecting and wrapping presents. The Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission and Lowe’s employees joined firefighters and committee members to help wrap the donated gifts.

Among the donors were Athens State University’s Young Alumni Advisory Council, which donated $500, and employees at Limestone County DHR who shopped for gifts to donate.

Santa arrived via firetruck and danced on picnic tables, and Kingdom United sang carols. The Youth Commission, Athens Fire and Rescue, and Mayor’s Office helped the park committee give out snacks and distribute gifts. A wonderful time was had by all.
By: Holly Hollman

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Rishi Sharma is barely 20 years old, and since graduating from high school, he has made it his “ten year plan” to interview every remaining WWII veteran possible and capture their story before they pass. Approximately 500 members of the Greatest Generation die every day, and while they have been famous for not talking much about their battlefield experiences, now that they are facing their own mortality they are ready to talk. And Rishi is ready to listen and record.

Rishi is a second generation American, the son of immigrants from India. The fire in his belly with regard to WWII vets was lit when he was a junior in high school, and although he was already quite interested in their stories, it was having the chance to interview Lyle Bouck, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge that got him started on his quest to interview at least one vet per day.

Rishi’s parents are not exactly thrilled. He has put off going to college, building a career, as well as pursuing any dating relationship, and this was not what they had in mind for their son when they came to the States. Rishi’s peers don’t get it, either. Many of them don’t even know what WWII was about, where it was fought, or who the major players were. “Kids my age have absolutely no idea what it was like for these men,” he says. “They are more concerned about what the Kardashians are wearing.”

But the vets get it, and here they are, face to face with a pony-tailed kid who says of their legacy, “What good is what they had to go through if we don’t learn from it?” Sharma seriously doubts that there will ever be another Greatest Generation, due to the fact that they went from having to be tough during the Great Depression straight into having to be tougher on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima. It was also a time of clear-sighted morality and commitment. “It was good versus evil,” he said, and he believes that without apology.

Rishi enters the warriors’ presence with a Canon camera, a tri-pod, and respect. He donates the DVD of the interview to each vet as a gift, and some interviews have ended up in museums. He searches out vets’ locations all over the country and most often finds them in senior care facilities. While many times I am not a big fan of crowd-source funding, this is something I can get behind, and I hope Athens Now will consider backing him in his quest of preserving one of the greatest stories ever told.

The success of Rishi’s business plan, the amount raised to date, and the media attention he has received has made his parents slightly more supportive of his unusual passion. As of this month, Rishi has raised more than $130,000 for his project, the majority of which is used to fund his ability to quickly get to the vets, eat, shower, sleep, and move on. He started out by riding his bike to talk to local vets, borrowed his parents’ car for a road trip, and now is criss-crossing the country, knowing he can’t get to everyone but determined to try.

“I am doing this until the last one passes away,” Sharma says. “Each interview helps me get closer to understanding what combat was like in the worst war the world has ever seen. You talk to them and take that load off,” he says. “They no longer need to worry about the war. They can die in peace.” If you wish to give an unusual gift this holiday, consider going to gofundme.com/ww2heroes to help Rishi honor our aged brave ones. The clock is ticking.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When Ted Cruz was in Huntsville campaigning in the sweltering heat of August of 2015, he announced to the crowd that was packed in the room to listen to him speak that the first thing he would do on the first day of his presidency would be “to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The crowd stomped and cheered. When I had my ten seconds with the guy for a photo op, I quipped, “And, you will have Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) over for lunch!” “Great idea!” he said, laughing as the camera clicked. Our mutual and momentary humorous reference was to the fact that when a different POTUS was in the Oval Office, Bibi was essentially made to wait in the lunchroom while the President finished his dinner. No state dinner, not even an invitation to the Residence for a quick bite or a pepperoni-free slice. It was embarrassing, especially if you live in a region which is as legendary for its hospitality as is the South.

That same POTUS had said in 2008 that any agreement with the Palestinians “must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Interestingly, when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich briefly ran for the Presidency in 2011, he promised the same thing as Senator Cruz, as did then-rival Presidential candidate U.S Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. She said during a televised debate, “Of moving the embassy, I already have secured a donor who said they will personally pay for the ambassador’s home to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” She then told the audience, “Like you, my commitment is unequivocal and unchanging. We stand with Israel.”

I walked into the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful office on December 6th, the day President Donald Trump announced that he had hauled off and done what had been promised way back in 1995; he had called for us to keep our word, and move the embassy. By “word,” I mean that on October 23rd of that year, the 104th U.S. Senate voted 93-5, and the House voted 374-37 to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. However, no one in the Oval Office had done anything to make that happen, and as weird as this may sound, no US Embassy on the planet has ever been located anywhere than the capital of a sovereign nation, except in Israel.

Happy tears as the result of Lynne Hart’s enthusiastic “breaking news” greeted my cheeks, and I could only imagine what the response was in Israel. While the mainstream news warned that this would only serve to cause the region to blow up…again, the truth of the matter is that with the exception of a few flag burners, the response in Israel was one of gratitude, not so much to President Trump, but to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

From the Wailing Wall clear back up to the hillside terraces that start at the street, thousands of people crammed the area. They were not dancing, and trust me, Israelis know how to dance. They were praying, and I am sure they were celebratory prayers. Yet, the question remains: Why is this such a big deal? Because every country should have the right to determine the location of its own capital, and we were simply acknowledging that. It is not the business of “the international community,” and hopefully the US will be followed by other allies in respecting Israel’s rights as a democratic state and our strongest ally. Even people who hate Israel acknowledge that Jerusalem has always been seen as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and anyone with common sense knows that if you attack a country, as happened 50 years ago in the Six Day War, and you lose, you forfeit anything you thought you had claim to. These are the universal rules of war, end of story.

This December, when light is such an important part of the celebration season of Jews and Christians, when the impossible is recorded, remembered, acknowledged and feted, let us remember that even the promise of upholding an American law and keeping our collective word is an act of courage, and true courage will always chase the worst darkness.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Two years ago, Athens Now did an article about a friendly and fascinating hearing center located in the Hobbs Plaza on Hwy 72 called One Love Hearing Concepts. Since that time, due to a great deal of hard work and outstanding customer care, there are now six locations in North Alabama. The hearing industry is highly competitive, and Zeke Creasy, the owner of One Love, is no stranger to competition. In fact, he thrives on it because he knows it just makes him better.

Zeke graduated from East Limestone High School, and was a “determined” point guard all throughout middle school. For a while, he was a member of the ELHS basketball team. He went on to graduate from Auburn in Hotel and Restaurant Management, and additionally in Business Management. He also completed his course requirements at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School, and built up a highly successful catering business. All of those skills were successfully parlayed into a business that has not only grown quickly, but has built a reputation of “treating you like family.” Zeke told me, “I know that sounds kind of corny, but that really is how we all feel. We love our clients.” I can speak from experience that the staff thoroughly enjoys working at One Love. Even the Auburn grad and the Alabama fan work in peace together!

One of the things that makes One Love work so well is that Starkey, their parent company and supplier, sets the tone when it comes to employee support, as well as serving their clients. “I have a single mom who works at one of the other locations who did not tell me until she had been working for me for three months that she was hearing impaired,” Zeke said. Starkey sent her some state of the art hearing aids at no charge, and she is able to connect with clients as a “fellow traveler.” She can say from experience that she has never heard better, and it has been life-changing for her.

Speaking of “state-of-the-art,” hearing aids have even improved so much in the last two years that it almost seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. “We now have hearing aids that can read your emails to you while you are driving down the road,” Zeke said. There are also hearing aids that are connected to a GPS service that will locate them for you if you misplace them. “In probably no more than five years, there will be hearing aids that will function faster than your brain, and turn the directional microphone toward the sound before your brain does. They exist now, but they are still being perfected,” Zeke said. Hearing aids are now able to distinguish between noise and voices, and adjust how they process sound to the hearer.

While all this high-tech stuff is genuinely interesting, the lion’s share of One Love’s clients are elderly; many are on fixed incomes; and they are wanting something perhaps less fancy. It is apparent that Zeke’s heart toward seniors is that of a warrior, and he is unashamedly protective of those who walk through his doors. “It’s true that there are a number of big box stores and pharmacies who are offering less expensive merchandise, but their customers get just that, merchandise. At One Love you get us, we are on this journey with you, and you are our family. We do not sell hearing aids, we sell better hearing,” he said.

The concept of “journey” even shows up on the Athens staff’s business cards, which describe the various team members as “Patient Hearing Journey Specialist” on the top line, and then their specific duty description below that, such as Executive Manager of Operations, or Executive Personal Assistant. On a more whimsical and nearly humorous note, the newest millennial member of the crew is described as “Humble Hearing Angel, Sales Assistant and Social Media Guru Specialist.” The affectionate camaraderie amongst the staff is passed on to the client, and if the time ever comes when I need help with my hearing, this is where I am coming! “If you need to improve your hearing, we will find a way to make that happen,” Zeke said. One Love has in-house financing, and one woman on a fixed income designates her $40 monthly payment as her “hearing budget.”

In 2017, Johns Hopkins University released a study which proved that hearing loss has a number of negative side effects one would not immediately conclude are related. Here is some of what they found: those with untreated haring loss have significantly higher incidence of depression, have a shorter lifespan, have a 30-40% faster decline in cognitive abilities, are up to 5 times more likely to develop dementia, and a 3 times greater risk of falling. What I learned from Zeke is that hearing and balance are intimately linked, and there are even examples of commercial fishermen greatly diminishing their vertigo symptoms when they wear their hearing aids.

In a word, if you hear better, you are going to live better. And if you want help on your hearing journey, call One Love Hearing Concepts in Athens today for your no-obligation appointment and hearing test. They will be with you all the way.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
This past March, Sandee Kranz opened what is referred to as a “Paul Mitchell Focus Salon” near Lowe’s on Hwy 72 E in Athens. It is called The SK Salon, and there is just something special about the place and its team. For starters, in the few short months since they have been open, they have been able to give $1,000 to the Noah Crowe Foundation, which is dedicated to the memory of a little guy whose battle with cancer brought our whole town together. That is not the only non-profit that SK supports, and what makes any salon which carries Paul Mitchell products a “focus salon,” is their commitment to philanthropy.

By way of background, Sandee moved here from Tennessee with her family and graduated from Athens High in 1991. She married, had three kids, moved to Huntsville, worked, and got laid off, as well as divorced. She then decided to go to the Paul Mitchell training center, graduated, and worked at Bangs. Later she worked at the Stile Salon in Huntsville and fell in love with how involved they were with the community. Sandee knew that no matter where she worked, that same generous heart was going to have to be a part of any salon’s culture where she had a chair and clients.

While Sandee was very happy at Stile, there was that restless hunger which afflicts true entrepreneurs to bring the same kind of “vibe” to Athens. With the blessing of Emma Stiles Bunyard, Stile’s owner, she began to look for a place of her own. “We looked everywhere,” said Sandee, “but I just knew that it had to be right on Hwy 72.” It was her mom who found the place, which is the location of the former Millar Chiropractic Clinic, and the moment Sandee went inside, she knew she was “home.”

Here is some of what Sandee says about The SK Salon experience: “We excel at brilliant blondes, beautiful brunettes and make redheads more feisty. We truly listen to the needs you have with your hair and deliver the best results.” She went on to tell me more of the Paul Mitchell philosophy, as well as her personal goals for the salon, how it serves the clients, and the wide variety of opportunities available to support all kinds of worthy causes. In addition to the Noah Crowe Foundation, The SK Salon features other non-profits for two months at a time. Re-centered.org, which is a restoration ministry for women, has been one. Another is Matt and Jana Pettus’ goal of raising money for adoptions. There is a jewelry line for sale, and $2 of each sale goes to the Full Tummy Project; Sandee’s dad makes wooden boot shuckers with 100% of the profits going to the Full Tummy Project as well. Sandee and her family fellowship at Friendship United Methodist Church, and the salon also raises funds for Esperanza, Rising Nicaragua, and other missions.

By way of history, Paul Mitchell was wildly successful as a hairdresser in London in the ‘60s, having been trained by the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Mitchell became burned out with the whole London scene, and spent some time as a recluse in Hawaii, where he essentially re-invented himself. He then joined forces with another “John Paul” whose last name was DeJoria, and they developed a line around their signature Hawaiian ginger plant Awapuhi shampoo. They also had a requirement that if someone was going to have the “Paul Mitchell Focus Salon” distinction, then demonstrable altruism was going to be part and parcel of that salon’s modus operandi. While Mr. Mitchell died of cancer in 1989, his vision has not, and “The Paul Mitchell System” continues to thrive.

Sandee has her own vision for the salon as well. “We want you to feel loved. We want you to feel welcomed, and we want this to be your getaway place. Another way of putting it is that we want this to be your sanctuary,” she said. The SK Salon is full service for both men and women, people whose style is everything from conservative to “edgy.” The word is getting around, their client base is building rapidly, and if you are wanting to get ready for that special holiday party or event, you would be wise to make your appointment for a “full pampering” today. Christmas is in ten days, and if you are “stuck” trying to find a gift for that person on your list that has everything, Sandee would be happy to “fill the bill” for you with a gift certificate. Call today, and see what she and her team can do to help you or someone you love feel completely beautiful.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner