By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
On Thursday, February 8, the Athens Boys and Girls Club is going to be celebrating its 25th annual dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Beasley Center, and you are invited. So, what’s this shindig all about? For 80 years, the Boys and Girls Club has had a helpful presence in North Alabama, beginning in Huntsville and Decatur. Planning for the Athens start-up began in 1993, so that’s when some of the founders–Glenn and Martha Blackwell and Susan Parker– consider the Club to have been conceived, and the Athens chartered Boys and Girls Club opened up in May of 1994. Glenn had been a part of the Decatur Club as a child, and he knew from firsthand experience the difference it had made in shaping him for success as an adult.

Suzanne Rainey Thompson heard Susan Parker speak, and she knew she wanted to be a part of the ground-floor effort to establish a charter. She was there at the old Athens Elementary School gym to help sign up those first 100 kids, and to this day remembers every one of them. She also was in charge of arts that first summer, a most important part of a kid’s development that is all too often ignored these days. At the time, Suzanne was just completing her degree in education from Athens State University, and this became her career instead. In order to become an officially recognized club, the national organization requires 100 members to start, and the Athens club got chartered in time to offer summertime services to kids who were out of school.

Suzanne has worn many hats during her time with the club. From 1994-1998, she was the Education Director for the Athens Club. She was Unit Director of Boys and Girls Club Athens-Limestone County from 1998-2000, and Executive Director beginning in 2000. During that time, clubs opened in Ardmore as well as Tanner, and now they are all merged with the Huntsville Clubs and have been renamed Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama (BGCNAL). Suzanne is now the vice-president of the re-organized group, and she is quick to say that she loves her new position, but sorely misses working face-to-face with the kids.

I asked Suzanne to tell me about some of the kids from the early days, and she said wistfully, “There has been great success, and some heartbreak. April Houston Collins was a young single mom as a teen, and went on to get her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, become a lawyer for HUD, married a Birmingham man who is a school principal, has four kids, and has started her own successful law firm,” she said. “Wow!” I replied.

“Then there is Marcus Stanley,” said Suzanne. “He’s deployed, he is a true artist, he is Mass Communications Specialist for the United States Navy, and his wife is one of the charter members as well,” she added. “Greg Hacker is currently serving as First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and British Malone is serving ABH3 in the U.S. Navy. I am so very grateful and thankful for their service, and it makes me very proud for their leadership and commitment.” The heartbreak, it turns out, came about in the form of a promising young man getting shot to death in a restaurant, along with some others. “It still hurts,” she told me.

Other successes have been David Williams, who is a barber here in Athens, and Stephen Harris, who is in real estate. They collaborated on producing some rap music which was sold to a label. “All in all over the years I would guess we have helped around 2500 kids,” said Suzanne. They have ranged in age from 5-18.

I asked Suzanne why I should choose the Boys and Girls Club as a place to send a child, and she replied, “We have a proven track record for helping kids, and we provide fun with a purpose. Kids learn leadership skills, the arts, sports, and we offer all kinds of hands-on learning. We have our own facility, which is important, and are a safe place for kids to be after school. We work to truly change lives, help them grow, and we have a vision for the future. Kids have needs today that weren’t the case when we first started,” she said. For this year’s fund-raising dinner, the focus is on getting a fulltime STEM lab as well as teacher-director, she said. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and that is an area where kids all across the nation need a boost.

Other financial needs include the fact that the school calendar is changing, and kids are going to need to have access to BGCNAL until August 30 when they go back for fall term. If investing in the future of our children through the Boys and Girls Club is something you want to be a part of, then please consider sponsoring a table for $325, or get individual tickets for $25 each by calling Minnie Leonard at 256-232-4298. You can also go to www.bgcnal.com for more information. Dress for the event is business casual. See you on February 8!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Michelle Williamson Limestone County Community Relations Coordinator
In 1919, the citizens of Limestone County welcomed the completion of their Limestone County Courthouse. This historic beauty located in the heart of downtown Athens quickly became the “house of our people.” In March of 1976, once again, the citizens came together to welcome the renovations to the Courthouse that included, just to name a few, the installation of the building’s first elevator, a central heating and air conditioning system, and a second courtroom. The strong and resilient symbol that the Courthouse has displayed throughout the years derives from our people who have walked the hallways inside this beautiful building.

On February 6, 2018, Limestone County will celebrate its 200th birthday. On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, the citizens of the county were presented with an early bicentennial gift that will change our future. This gift was the announcement of the $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant to be built in the county that will initially bring 4,000 new jobs to the area. “This is a multi-generational gift for our community,” stated Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough. “It comes as no surprise that a large part of the decision making came down to our people.”

As the citizens of the county celebrate the old by blowing out the candles for their Bicentennial, they will also celebrate the new opportunities that have been given to them. While agriculture has been prominent in the county for hundreds of years, the County welcomes the addition of our industrial family.

The Limestone County Commission and the Limestone County Bicentennial Committee would like to invite the public to a Bicentennial Celebration on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 5-8 p.m., at the Limestone County Event Center. This celebration will include a free concert by area musicians, historic scenes of Limestone County, special exhibits, contents of a 1993 time capsule that was discovered during the recent renovation of the Limestone County Courthouse, and much more.
By: Michelle Williamson
Limestone County Community Relations Coordinator

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It’s January of 2018, and if you are like many Americans, you have made resolutions once again to “lose weight and get in shape.” These are worthy goals, but after 30 years of working with the natural health industry and dealing with every type of disorder you can imagine, I am here to tell you that Americans are living with a serious level of toxic overload, and one of its most frustrating side effects is super-stubborn fat which seems nearly impossible to get off and keep off.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that the FDA has approved so many questionable chemicals which are allowed into our food, water and even in the air, and their interactions are causing all kinds of health issues. In my opinion, the approval and use of these chemicals is immoral, but I am here with good news that can help you to genuinely have a Happy New Year, and be victorious in your personal, longstanding “Battle of the Bulge.”

Instead of trying to change the FDA, I have dedicated my life to helping the public overcome their health issues through God-given foods and herbs that will help the human body to heal. My belief is that when you supply your body with the raw material that is necessary to detoxify and heal, it will do just that.

Because of the products and information that we have introduced to the public, people come to us from all over the U.S. and seven other countries to improve their health. The proof of our success is in the peoples’ own medical reports. Those medical reports show everything from normal blood levels in every category to thousands of clients coming off their prescribed medications and even avoiding surgeries that their doctors told them were absolutely necessary.
Our goal for you is to educate you on how to detoxify, balance, and eliminate most of the disorders that are associated with toxicity. Your body knows how to heal. Your body knows how to balance and remain healthy once the toxins are removed.

We will show you which products support your body as the chemicals, prescription drug toxicity, yeast, molds, fungus and even parasites that cause bloating, inflammation, pain, sluggishness, weight gain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, mental fog, cancer, heart disease and even diabetes are removed. As your body becomes clean from the inside out, amazing things happen. These include more energy, less pain and stiffness, clearer skin, weight loss, clarity of thought, a reduced need for prescription medications, and better medical reports.

OVERCOMING TOXIC OVERLOAD

According to experts, Americans are exposed to over 1000 toxins every day, and many of those toxins can cause:

  • Bloating: stomach swelling, gas, belching, burping.
  • Weight gain: craving starchy carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Tiredness: exhaustion, low energy, waking up tired.
  • Mood swings: hormone imbalance, low sexual desire, aggravation.
  • Mind fog: cloudy thinking, memory problems, lack of clarity.
  • Skin disorders: rashes, eczema, psoriasis, acne.
  • Digestive disorders: gas, bloating, ulcers, polyps, cancer.
  • Stress disorders: anxiety, depression, high cortisol levels, frustration.
  • Yeast overgrowth: weight gain, sugar or junk food cravings, pain, stiff joints.

TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR BODY

  • Begin with Detoxification: MSM+C, 7 Day Cleanse, pH Drops.
  • Bloating: Probiotics, Super Enzymes, pH Drops.
  • Weight gain: Slender, Apple Cider Vinegar, pH Drops.
  • Tiredness: MSM+C, Simply Energy, Test/Up for men & women.
  • Mood swings: Feminine Factors for women, Test/Up for men, Restore.
  • Mind fog: MSM+C, Test/Up for men & women, True Focus.
  • Skin disorders: MSM+C powder/capsule, MSM+C Full Body Lotion.
  • Digestive disorders: Probiotics, Super Enzymes, MPS-70.
  • Stress disorders: Slender, True Calm, Whole Body Vibration, Infrared Sunna.
  • Yeast overgrowth: Terminator, IS-3, MSM+C.

Our goal for you is to educate you on how to detoxify, balance, and eliminate most of the disorders that are associated with toxicity. Your body knows how to heal. Your body knows how to balance and remain healthy once the toxins are removed.

NEWtritional Health Care LLC has developed over 40 products of which 38 are patented and proven in their specific ability to support a healthier body. Herbs & More not only offers a great line of products, we also have one of the best massage therapists in North Alabama. LMT Jason Mitchell offers deep tissue massage, which will rid the body of toxins as well as reduce stress.

You say you can’t exercise? Discover the Whole-Body Vibration system which reduces cellulite by increasing blood flow, improving circulation, and helping to build stronger bones. For those who either don’t have time to exercise, or simply can’t because of health issues such as a knee or hip replacement, our Infrared Sauna reduces inflammation and eliminates toxins, and our Ionic Foot De-tox removes toxins from every organ in your body.

The right regimen of supplements and the devices at Herbs & More is changing peoples’ lives. Part of the detoxification is done through the use of the Whole-Body Vibration machines which help clean the lymphatic system, develop coordination, improve circulation, burn body fat and strengthen bones, ligaments, and tendons. We may also use the foot detox and Zeolites to help remove poisonous heavy metals.

No matter what type of detoxification you may need, Herbs & More can help you live a more balanced life. Our methods are always safe, the side effects are positive (a healthier body), and they do not interfere with any prescribed medication you may be using. Removing the toxins is the first step to losing weight, improving energy, reducing inflammation, and avoiding many of the disorders that are plaguing Americans today.

With over 50 years of combined knowledge in natural health, we are here to help you reach all of your health goals. Remember, the chances are great that YOU ARE NOT FAT … YOU ARE TOXIC. Let us guide you in learning more about natural health, how to safely come off some of your unnecessary prescription drugs, feel better, and live to your genetic potential. Come see us soon and let’s get 2018 started with building your health. Can’t make it to Athens? Then come see us at NHC HERB SHOP in Killen, AL, or we will ship the product to you.

Herbs & More carries most of the best known and most used supplements from all over the world, and we never charge you for the personal time or advice we provide. We also ship all over the world! Visit our website www.newtritionalhc.com. Like us on Facebook at herbs&more.athens. Roy is LIVE every Monday at 7 PM on our Facebook page. Our goal has always been to, “Make America Healthy One Person At A Time.” The only question left is, “Will you be next?”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Jennette Carden was born at home in Escambia County on April 6, 1940, and their family doc was the attending physician. Her daddy was a farmer, and her mom stayed at home. Jennette was the oldest of four girls and a boy, and there was a creek on their property called Little Escambia Creek where they would cool off in the summer. “Sometimes we got to go to the beach,” she said. The name of the nearest town was Flomaton, AL, a name made up by locals that was “Fl” for Florida, “Ma” for Alabama, and “Ton” for town. The town had previously been given other names, and this last one stuck.

Jennette got her degree in math from Montevallo, and for several years, she was a senior systems engineer for Monsanto. This was back in the day when computers took up whole rooms. She designed systems, wrote programs and code, and was described by her co-workers as “The Queen of the ‘If Statement.’” That was her way of thinking outside of the box, asking “if-then” questions to come up with new ideas.

Jennette had two sons, one whom she recently lost to pancreatic cancer. She has two grandchildren—a boy who is now 30, and a girl who is six. They are the joy of her life.

We talked about favorites, and started with colors. Most residents will fire off the first color that comes to their minds as their favorite, but Jennette had to really think. She finally chose yellow, purple and green.

Her favorite foods to cook are candied sweet potatoes, as well as her own individual version of Chicken Kiev. She also loves to bake and make desserts, and her specialties are chocolate pecan pie and carrot cake.
Favorite food to eat? “Dressing.”
Favorite musician? Elvis. Jennette is a HUGE Elvis fan.
Favorite movie? “Gone With The Wind,” and she especially likes the fact that it is long.
Favorite actor and actress? Tom Selleck and Sela Ward.
Favorite scripture? Matthew 7:12, more commonly known as the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Favorite author? Mary Higgins Clark.
Favorite President? If she had been old enough to vote, it would have been JFK. She really liked Reagan and George W. Bush as well.
The biggest change in her lifetime? 9/11, and the day the Challenger exploded.

Jennette is very happy with the care she receives at Limestone Health Facility, and is especially grateful for the treatment she gets for her feet. As a diabetic, it doesn’t take much for feet to get into real trouble quickly, and the medical staff has worked hard to get her feet back in good shape.

Jennette likes the vegetable medleys cooked up by the kitchen, including green beans and sweet potato casserole. She says that the pies, cakes and cookies are great as well.
Her advice to young people? “Follow the Golden Rule. You can never go wrong with that.” Sound advice from Jennette Carden.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Jennifer Lord began to call Athens home back in 2001, and like those of us who are transplants, her love affair with this town has only gotten more intense over the years. She came here by way of Atlanta, where she earned her undergrad degree in social work from Georgia State University, and she earned her MSW degree from the University of Alabama. Jennifer worked for a few years as a case worker for DHR, and has always enjoyed serving the community.

Jennifer says, “God gave me a heart for animals and I always rescued them, even as a kid in New Jersey.” Interestingly, that love for animals and having a sense of their level of distress served her well in her chosen field. She was one of the few social workers who proactively assessed her case not only from what she was observing regarding her human clients, but always made a point of looking at how the animals in the situation were being treated. “Animal cruelty often goes with abuse,” she said, and she would do what she could to help the endangered pets, too.

Over time, Jennifer has given back to our community in a number of ways. She worked with Hospice for three years. She faced the unusual challenge of working with inmates at the Limestone County Men’s Correctional Facility who were battling HIV/AIDS. She is also a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in October of 2015, only a year after she married. Her last surgery was in May of 2017, and she is cancer free. The great changes in her life led her to start Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting so she could be a stay-at-home mom for her 12-year-old stepson. This is a role she never thought she would get a chance to fill and is enjoying immensely. Life is grand, full of purpose and adventure for their family, and as people of faith, they are most grateful for all their blessings in this holiday season.

Jennifer has been blessed to have rescue dogs and cats in her own home, and made me laugh as she told me about her 17-year-old who “talks” and acts as though he is a grumpy old man. He will make his specific dog sounds, and she imitates those sounds back to him while she tenderly tells him, “You don’t get to be grumpy.” She also volunteers for the Madison Animal Rescue Foundation, as well as Pet Peace of Mind program, a service that cares for pets while their human family members are in hospice.

Although some might find it a bit unorthodox, all of the skills Jennifer has gained over the years, combined with her experiences in social work, hospice, and at the correctional facility have been things she has been able to draw upon to give outstanding customer care for animal and human clients. Her determination to beat breast cancer permanently has served to give her focus as well as an understanding of the need to do work that one genuinely loves. Building a business where she gets to express her love for animals and be there for her stepson for Jennifer is “livin’ the dream.”

Jennifer actually began her business informally back in 2005, where she would care for the pets of friends and neighbors while they were away on vacation, visiting friends and family, or they simply needed extra help with their pets. “When pets are able to stay in their own home, they are much less stressed,” she said. She will feed, water and walk all the pets in the house, and will change kitty litter boxes. She will also water plants, dispense meds, and tend to human needs such as picking up the mail and sweeping the porch so it doesn’t appear that the homeowners are gone. Most importantly, Jennifer will spend at least 25-30 minutes with the animals each visit so they have that crucial human contact during the day while their pet parents are unavailable. She is currently pursuing certification in pet CPR and First Aid, and expects to be finished with her requirements by the beginning of 2018.

People who truly love their pets often have everything they need materially and probably more than enough. So, for the pet lovers in your life, a great gift this season would be to give a gift certificate from Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting so Jennifer can be there for those precious pets when their loved ones can’t.

To contact Jennifer Lord of Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting, you can call her at 256-651-8977, or email her at jenniferlovespetsitting@gmail.com
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In 1928, a man by the name of L.C. Hightower purchased a piece of land on what is now the corner of Washington and Clinton in Athens. Back in the day, that was actually the intersection of Hwy 31 and Hwy 72, and the building that stands there is most definitely a part of our town’s “tale.” It has been the Wilson-White Chrysler Dealership; the Greyhound bus station, which offered food for travelers cooked in the Rebel Café; a print shop; and now is the new home of Riff Raff Furniture.

Riff Raff is owned by Joel Hamm, and started out in 2015 at one of the recently renovated shops on Market Street just east of the railroad tracks and north of the courthouse annex. “We outgrew the building and needed parking,” Joel said as he discussed the details of the move to the “new old place.” The new digs opened their doors in September, and the new location has turned out to be conveniently accessible for people in Athens-Limestone, as well as folks from other areas.
The growing pains have been a blessing, and a building that stood empty for several years has been lovingly restored. There are a number of features in the new location that go back to its roots and have been preserved, such as the place that served as the old ticket window. Speaking of roots, Joel spent 25 years in the family business at Champion Chevrolet, and his life-long love affair with Chevy is manifested throughout the store with large, excellent, sepia-toned “old-timey” photos of Chevys of yore. In addition, Joel parks his Chevy truck outside to let people know that it’s okay to park there and come on in. “We are the only place in town that has covered parking,” Joel said, and that feature has certainly paid off when it’s stormy outside.

Riff Raff made its mark by offering solid mahogany and rustic pine furniture at a price that is affordable. “The majority of pieces are unique to North Alabama,” said Joel. The brand name is Bramble, and Riff Raff is one of a select few dealers of Bramble furniture in our area. While I was in the shop, a woman from Florida came in and raved about seeing the Bramble line being carried here. The mahogany pieces come from Indonesia, and the rustic pine from Mexico. They also have custom wall art, old hymns preserved on genuine barn wood, “barrel bars,” and the largest maker of bar stools in America. In the spring Riff Raff will be able to offer outdoor furniture and display it out in the covered area.

The barn look continues to be hot in the furniture world, and takes up the majority of the interior display space due to its popularity. “The custom dining sets are big sellers,” Joel said. The farm tables can be ordered as small as 4’ in length on up to 8’, and they also have trestle tables. Bedroom suites continue to move quickly, and Joel keeps an extensive collection of catalogues for ordering “all things Bramble” in case what you are looking for is not out on the showroom floor.
Riff Raff will assist with interior design, and offers free delivery as well as help with assembly. They will custom distress your piece for you, and there are over 50 paint colors from which to choose. One of the things that is very important to Joel and is virtually unheard of in the furniture business is “service after sale.” It makes good sense to check on your customers to make sure they are thrilled with their purchase, and as someone who has decorated his own home with his wares, Joel and his wife Sharma understand and respect the process of finding just the right piece.

If you look behind the counter to the left of Riff Raff’s entrance, you’ll see Joel’s electric guitar and speaker, which gets played when no one is in the shop, or perhaps by request. Music is actually the inspiration for the title of the store. When I interviewed Joel at the former location, I asked him about how he came up with the name “Riff-Raff” for a furniture store. He grinned and said, “I’ve played guitar all my life, and I named it after the AC/DC song from the ‘70s. It makes people curious.” If you are “curious” (and then some) about a trendy, beautifully-built line of furniture for which Riff Raff is the exclusive distributor in our area, you need to come see it in the wonderfully re-purposed building located at 110 E Washington Street in Athens.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When Dana Hill was a kid in her native Russellville, Alabama, her favorite people in the world were her grandparents. Though much of their time in the summer was spent working in the garden, there was nowhere else she’d rather be than listening to her grandpa spin yarns while they all shelled beans sitting in the swing under the old oak tree. As her grandparents aged and needed help navigating life, Dana became their advocate. She also became their caregiver, and told me that her grandparents’ journey is what caused her to realize her true calling. Being able to care for them was her joy and purpose, and it also made her wonder what life was like for seniors who had no one to look out for them.

Dana has spent several years in the senior care and assisted living field, and when the Executive Director Position at the lovely new Traditions Senior Living facility on Hwy 72 near Lindsey Lane became available, she knew she was “home.” Traditions Senior Living, according to their COO Wes Bartlett, “was born out of a desire to create a truly unique living experience, shared equally by residents, families and employees. We chose the name Traditions purposefully as it creates a responsibility on our behalf to honor the values, culture and distinct characteristics of the local communities we serve. Our philosophy is simple–treat others with respect, know our residents and employees as individuals, and create unique living and working experiences that draw us closer and keep people coming back. Our goals are to have fulfilled and extremely happy residents, 100% satisfied families, long-tenured staff, and a lot of fun along the way.” I know that the idea of “family” is bandied about a lot these days, but I knew that when Dana described the residents and staff as being family, she meant it.

I was taken on a tour, and one of the first things that “grabbed” me was the display on the wall of some of the best historical pictures of life in old Athens that I have ever seen. There is a gorgeous, sweeping staircase to the second floor, an elegant dining room, and a bistro with a fireplace where residents love to play cards, work puzzles or just visit. There are a number of comfortable common areas, as well as a private dining room, where families can celebrate a special occasion; a marvelous grand piano (which I had the pleasure to play); and a movie room decorated with old movie posters such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Gentleman’s Agreement. Movies are shown several times a week and church services are streamed on Sundays.

The apartments are beautiful and comfy, and are configured to be studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units. There are also 12 independent-living patio homes, which are currently under construction. These are expected to be ready for occupancy in February 2018. There is no long-term contract, and Tradition’s all-inclusive pricing takes the worry out of budgeting as care needs increase. With regard to the financial structure, there are no buy-in fees, long-term leases, or hidden costs. The monthly rental is based on the size of apartment selected and includes all utilities (except phone and cable), personal care and nursing services, activity programs, housekeeping, and maintenance. Here is a further description of some of the amenities offered by Traditions:

  • Private or semi-private rooms or suites
  • 24-hour personal care available
  • Medication assistance is available
  • Assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, and personal hygiene
  • Social, recreational, and educational programs
  • Dining hours meant to be conducive to resident’s schedules

Breakfast is available 7 a.m.-1 p.m., lunch is available 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and dinner is served between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., at the resident’s leisure

  • Transportation to local appointments, social events, and shopping
  • Laundry, linen, and light housekeeping services
  • Kitchen pantry, dining room, and lounge on each wing
  • Beauty salon and barber shop
  • Activity room, fitness room, and outdoor courtyards
  • On-site physical, occupational and speech therapy
  • Safety-monitoring systems in every room
  • 24-hour nursing personnel on duty

One of the services that I found so comforting is the “philosophy,” if you will, toward doing laundry for the residents. Michelle, my tour guide told me that Traditions purposely chose not to get commercial washing machines and dryers so that doing laundry is done for each individual resident, in the manner that laundry is done in every home. “Every load is done separately, and clothing is never mixed. We also use Tide Pods because we want them to have the best,” she said. Interestingly, this is one of the things the residents appreciate the most.

Traditions has an activity schedule that is full and well-rounded. There are brain games, exercise classes, trips to the library, store, church, Wii games, a Book Club, crafts, movies, and the ever-popular bingo. All in all, it is a place that is an asset to our community and our families. Call today for a tour or to speak to a staff member to see if Traditions is right for you or your loved ones.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
For the 31st year in a row, the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce and Athens Main Street are hosting the Annual Athens Christmas Open House and Merry Market. And once again, Athenians and folks from all over the Tennessee Valley are going to get a chance to skate on the square! No matter how warm it may be the weekend of November 17-19, we are going to have ice skating and blizzard bashes on the Square as part of the festivities.
This year’s theme is “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” a classic Christmas tune made famous by a 13- year-old recording artist by the name of Brenda Lee beginning back in 1958. With the new sound system in place at the Limestone County Courthouse, Christmas Open House will feature rockin’ music around the square and live entertainment while people shop, skate, and rock.

Jennifer Williamson, President of the Greater Limestone County Chamber, got the idea to bring a skating rink to Athens from the Chamber in Andalusia, Alabama during their annual holiday event, Candyland. The “ice” for the rink is a synthetic plastic that you can skate on. It is eco-friendly and it made from a non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material. It looks and skates like real ice. This synthetic ice can be used year-round, indoors or outdoors, and in any climate conditions. They construct a rink complete with railings, decorate it, bring about 100 pairs of skates to rent; there will be snow machines with “blizzard bashes” every hour. The cost is $5 per person to skate. The skating rink will be located on the west side of the Courthouse and will be open Friday 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Last year I was one of the vendors at the Merry Market held upstairs at the Center for Lifelong Learning, and I was determined to take a break from “the Market” to steal downstairs to take a spin around the “ice.” I found that my childhood skating muscle memory sprang into action, and I didn’t even need to hang on for dear life to the rails around the perimeter! I can say from experience that it was great fun.

Of course, all of the other traditional features of the Christmas Open House are going to be available for our holiday enjoyment. Santa will be on hand for photos in the Center for Lifelong Learning from on Saturday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. And, rest assured, Santa won’t be alone. Be on the lookout for other Christmas characters to make their appearance at Christmas Open House.

Participating merchants will have refreshments and door prizes, along with special sales. For the merchants that are not technically on the Square but are participating in the Open House, be on the lookout for their “Elf On The Store Shelf.” These merchants will have an elf hidden somewhere in the store. If you find it, you will receive a prize from the Chamber.

And, don’t forget about the 3rd Annual Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest. The contest is open to men, women, and children, and is back by popular demand. Please make sure your sweater is family friendly, and do your best to find the goofiest sweater possible. You will most definitely be adding to the merriment! The contest will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. on the steps of the west side of the Courthouse.

As always, you may catch some of our local performers singing carols and other musical entertainment around the Square and treating us to the songs that are such a treasured part of our holiday season. Tom McClung will be performing on Friday night from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on the west side Courthouse steps and the Jimmy Henderson Trio will be performing Saturday from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the west side Courthouse steps. We are also excited to showcase a new activity during Christmas Open House. There will be a Light Show on the Courthouse to Christmas music on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m.

For merchants who do not have a brick and mortar business, the Merry Market will be held upstairs in the Center for Lifelong Learning, located at 121 S Marion Street. There will be a wide variety of direct sales vendors, artisans, cottage crafts, and more. The Merry Market will be open all three days of the Open House.

Another popular feature returning this year will be Santa’s Wrapping Station, which will also be located at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Any purchases made at a participating Christmas Open House merchant’s store during Christmas Open House weekend will receive FREE gift wrapping. In order to use the service, a valid receipt must be shown to “the wrappers.”

As is the case with all the wonderful events that we get to enjoy in Limestone County, none of it could happen without sponsors and volunteers. Once again our presenting sponsor is Martin & Cobey Construction. There is also going to be a grand prize drawing, which will be provided by Hobbs Jewelers. Bring your family and enjoy the beginning of what will be a very special holiday season. For more information, call the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce at 256-232-2600 or visit the event Facebook page at Athens, Alabama Christmas Open House.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner