3-5-2016 9-26-12 AMResidents of Athens-Limestone have good reason to be proud of their rich heritage when it comes to music. We are still celebrating the fact that our very own Alabama Shakes won three Grammys this year, legendary songwriter Roger Murrah has loaned us the piano that started his career, and Limestone County natives such as the Delmore Brothers, Jabe Hess, and Ernie Ashworth are all honored in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Recently tourism officials from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas attended a meeting at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame to discuss their strategies for attracting more visitors to what has become known as the Americana Music Triangle. The “Triangle” is a term for the cities in the South which have become famous for their role in shaping American music such as jazz, country, rock and soul. The points of the Triangle include Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. The Americana Music Triangle was founded by Aubrey Preston, a Leiper’s Fork, TN, businessman, for the purpose of building music tourism in the South. At the meeting, Mr. Preston said, “Pass the ball,” meaning when it comes to increasing music-related tourism, “Work with your team mates so you can score and get ahead.” Other officials at the meeting said, “The cooperative efforts of local and state tourism agencies, along with the music industry and the help of the Americana Music Triangle are paying off.”

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Aubrey developed a website called www.americanamusictriangle.com and launched it about a year ago, using all media platforms to do so. Its tag line is, “Where history made music, then music made history.” It has been highly successful. The site functions as a web-based guide to the cities in the triangle, and there is no cost to use the site.
Debbie Wilson, of the Alabama Tourism Office, said Americana Music Triangle maps have been placed in the 8 Welcome Centers across Alabama. The Athens-Limestone County Tourism Office will have the maps in their visitor’s center in the next couple of weeks.

Alabama and Tennessee tourism associations have been especially engaged in promoting music tourism for the past two years. The Muscle Shoals and Nashville musical connection is especially strong, and Franklin and Florence have become connected as well. I would like to see Athens participate in this partnership as well.

There is no cost to tourism to be a part of the Triangle. It has no paid staff and exists as a virtual map and guide that can be used by tourists everywhere. If Athens can start its own Athens-Limestone Music Museum soon, we can tap into and post upcoming events and news.

The Colbert County Convention and Visitors Bureau has actively marketed the Shoals to Europeans interested in the music heritage of the area. The Americana Music Triangle, along with the Muscle Shoals feature length documentary have been really good for raising our level of music tourism activity. The documentary was released in 2013.
Preston said the launch of the site generated 6 million media impressions, which was coupled with a weeklong bus tour around the Triangle. He encouraged tourism officials to work with each other and coordinate trips to other events when possible.

Since tourists coming to our area often aren’t completely aware of state and county lines while traveling, they will go outside the Triangle borders to visit the location of the birthplace or home of their favorite musician or music genre. If we can make a way for there to be a music museum here, they will come. We can all win by showing support for the great talent we are so blessed to have as a part of our community.
By: Teresa Todd, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association

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Poke Sallet Follies

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Friday, Saturday, Sunday, March 11, 12 and 13, Athens Senior Center; Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with dinner; Sunday, a lunch matinee at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Athens Senior Center, as well as on Monday evenings from 5-8 p.m. Cost is $35 and includes a meal from 306 BBQ. This is a variety show where local leaders and some-what talented folks known as the Prime Time Players perform crazy skits and spoof shows, songs, local issues and more. This year’s theme is Athens Choice Awards, and the skits include a playful “poke” at the Hospice of Limestone County Chili Challenge, city and county officials attempting to rap live to the song “Rapper’s Delight,” and a local version of Athens Family Feud. The show is a fundraiser for the Limestone County Foundation for Aging. It is directed by Stacey Givens.

To stay up to date, follow on Facebook at Poke Sallet Follies.

2-19-2016 11-13-01 AMIn 2013, Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful received a grant from Lowe’s Corporate through Keep America Beautiful to create a community garden at the Farmer’s Market. It was our hope to create a place where fresh produce could be grown and provided to those in our community that would benefit from it.

Asphalt was removed and additional green space was added to the property in preparation for garden beds. Hundreds of volunteer hours were spent building three raised beds and three hugelkultur beds.

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What is a hugelkultur bed, you ask? It was a new concept to us as well. Hugelkultur (pronounced hoogle-culture) beds are created by either digging a hole and filling it with tree trunks, limbs, and branches along with other compostable materials or just piling them up and covering them with dirt. The trees will become spongy as they decompose and will absorb and hold water, feeding it back to plants during dry periods. All of the materials attract healthy organisms which improve the soil, which benefits any plants grown on or around these beds.

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Many volunteer hours were also spent tilling the beds, planting, weeding, and harvesting crops. All of the produce that has been grown has been donated to LCCI’s food pantry.

2-19-2016 11-10-50 AMWe are proud of the vision we had for this garden and what has been accomplished; however, we at KALB believe that our staff and the KALB commission have taken this project as far as we are capable of doing. It is time to turn the gardens over to a more capable community group with gardening knowledge that will allow them to expand into sustainable vertical gardening to substantially increase the harvest and help make this garden what we envisioned it could be. We would like to turn this project over to people that have a heart for the community with a desire to bring fresh produce to those in need, whether that be LCCI or for another worthy purpose.

Part of the grant money received was used to build a storage shed for garden tools and equipment. Several hoses, sprinklers, rakes, and hand tools will be available. Plans to create a drip system have been discussed and funds are available to make this happen with the right person taking charge.

Our contribution to LCCI has been small, but appreciated. We know this community garden is capable of so much more than we are able to accomplish.
We welcome anyone to contact us for more information on the community garden project. Let’s make our community garden a GREAT garden!
By: Lynne Hart

2-19-2016 11-11-58 AM

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans!

2-19-2016 10-18-17 AMWe must never forget the horrific dishonor that many of our veteran brothers and sisters faced upon their return from Vietnam. Stories of being snubbed, called names, and even spat upon are unfathomable to a society that today reveres its soldiers returning from war. It wasn’t until the late seventies that something was done to prioritize the issues our Vietnam-era veterans and their families faced.

In 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists went to Washington in search of allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of the Vietnam veterans. Initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, the members felt if they brought attention to the plight of the Vietnam veteran that a grateful nation would take steps to remedy them. Sadly, they failed to win even a single legislative victory.

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Thankfully this group did not give up. They soon came to realize that political strength would be measured in numbers, and numbers translated to membership. By 1979, the Council of Vietnam veterans was transformed into Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), an organization that today is 75,000 members strong, with more than 650 chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island, Guam and the Philippines. Their founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” VVA’s goals are to promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.
Athens Chapter 511 is 188 members strong and is named in honor of PFC Gary Elmore, the first Limestone County soldier to be killed in action in Vietnam in 1965. PFC Elmore served with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He attended Tanner High School.

In addition to upholding the principles of the national organization, Chapter 511 supports the local community in many ways. One of these programs is a scholarship program awarded to local high school students. You can help support this scholarship program by joining them for lunch or dinner. On the third Monday of each month, Chapter 511 and Associates holds an all-you-can-eat spaghetti meal for just $7.00. Lunch is served from 11ma-1pm, and dinner runs from 5pm-7pm. Proceeds go to support the scholarship fund.

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Chapter 511 president, Ron Webster, invites potential new members to come to their meeting and see what they are doing for our community. Meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month, with dinner starting at 6pm and the actual meeting beginning at 7pm. At this time, a lifetime membership is only $100.00, a single year membership is $20.00, and 3 years is $50.00.

Their building is also available for rent. It is a great place for civic organizations, church groups, community events, and craft/trade shows. The Vietnam Veterans building is located at 17915 W. Elm St., Athens, AL 35612. For more information on membership, building rental or general information about the Vietnam Veterans of America, please call 256-431-3213.

I am reminded daily of the need to educate our future generations by a short story I keep in a frame in my office. When my son was in 4th grade, he was given an assignment to write a piece called “My American Hero.” I was surprised and proud when he decided to write about a Vietnam veteran we had recently met. This is his short essay:

“My hero is Terry Lane. He fought in Vietnam. His life was horrible when he came back from ‘Nam. The reason was the news anchor lied and his comrades were hated by Americans because of that news anchor. He is really not messed up, but he can tell a good story, but when he tells about his fallen friend it is sad.”
As they say, out of the mouths of babes…
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

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2-5-2016 4-59-01 PMOn March 2, Athens State’s Center for Lifelong Learning will be hosting a team of well-respected, successful female leaders across a multitude of disciplines including aerospace, business, broadcast journalism, engineering, entrepreneurialism, sports technology, higher education, and cancer research. Each of these highlighted women either currently lives in North Alabama, or has strong ties to our area.

This event will be held at the Dynetics Solutions Complex Main Conference Center. The Complex is located at 1002 Explorer Boulevard in Huntsville. The event is scheduled from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.

Your $85 registration fee includes admission to the event and access to speakers. Also included are a continental breakfast, lunch, networking breaks, and interactive discussions. This is an opportunity for purposeful communication and strategic leadership development.

A complimentary autographed copy of celebrated author Linda Spalla’s Leading Ladies: 30 Tips for Dynamic Female Leaders, a survival guide for women at any level of management, will be provided to the first 50 registrants.

Our featured speakers include former astronaut Dr. Jan Davis, vice president and general manager of Jacobs Technology (ESSA), and Paula Payton who is SmartSports chief commercial officer, consultant and Past Director of NYU’s Department of Strategic Communication, Marketing, and Media Management.

Hadiyah-Nicole Green, is a St. Louis, Missouri native and has more than ten years of training and research experience, initially in optics and nanotechnology and subsequently in the applications of nano-bio-photonics to cancer research. She was recently awarded a $1.1 million VA grant for Cancer Research.

Ms. Lisa Williams was the co-founder and president of 3D Research Corporation from 1997-2006. 3D Research was acquired by the Schafer Corporation in December 2005. After the sale of 3D Research Corporation, Ms. Williams took over as president of Systems Dynamic International in February of 2011 after their president died unexpectedly. She was able to put the company back on track for success and left SDI in March 2012. Ms. Williams is currently president of the Solder 1 Corporation.

Angela Henderson brings a special mix of family and career development knowledge blended with leadership and direction enabling men and women to realize their potential as parents, co-parents, and productive citizens. For more than eleven years, she provided leadership and direction for Calhoun Community College’s Alabama Parenthood Initiative where she could impact the future to strengthen entire families.

Linda Spalla was one of the first females in top corporate television management in the deep South, one of the early few for CBS and the first for the New York Times Broadcast Group. During this time, she was a wife, mother, daughter and community enthusiast who never lost her femininity or her Southern roots.

Lori King-Taylor has extensive experience in leadership development and organizational effectiveness and has worked with a wide variety of industries including automotive, financial services, manufacturing, aerospace, technical and non-profit organizations. King-Taylor specializes in helping companies and their employees develop skills and strategies needed to improve individual, team and organizational performance.

So mark your calendar today and call in your reservation. Reservations can be made online at www.athens.edu/CLL. This program is listed under Concerts and Conferences. You can also call us at 256-233-8260 or email us at CLL@athens.edu and we will get back in touch with you.

What are your goals for this year? Is “leadership next” on your list of life goals?
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262
By: Wanda Campbell

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June Van Pamel was born in London on June 7th, 1928, and for the first eleven years of her life lived what could be considered the normal life of a British child. Her father served in WWI, and was a taxi driver. Her mother worked in the employee’s cafeteria for 20th Century Fox, who had a studio there. Then, in 1939, everything changed. Germany attacked Britain, and June and her brother were part of what was known as the Evacuation, when British kids were sent to live in the country, ostensibly removed from harm’s way. “They were good to us,” she said, (referring to the family that took her in), “but still, it was a very hard time. We could hear the bombs, we knew what was going on.” She lost her brother, Ivor, 4 days before the war ended, and her brother-in-law died as well. She came home to London in 1943.

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June met her future husband, Louis, when she worked at a US Naval base in England. It was a true whirlwind romance. “Our first date was on February 17th, 1953, and we were married on May 2nd of that same year, just three months later.” She went on to add that she and Louis were married for “55 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks.” They had one son, also named Louis, who was born in 1963.

They lived in New Jersey for 30 years, then in Florida for 20. They ended up in Alabama so that Louis could get good care until he passed. Miss June had so many stories to tell me that it would take several articles to contain them, but here are some of the highlights:

“We used to stand in our yard in Florida and watch the space launches. We saw the Challenger take off and explode,” she said. “It was terrible,” she added with the voice of someone who has seen her fair share of difficulties. Another was that her husband Louis’ ship was the one that fished former President George H.W. Bush out of the water when his plane was shot down.

During the 30 years she lived in New Jersey, she worked with “a very nice Jewish man who had the death camp tattoo burned into his arm. He always wore long sleeves to cover it up. One day, after the war, he was walking down the road with his wife, and there was a 15 or 16 month year old baby girl, who was sitting on the side of the road crying. The man and his wife tried to find her parents, and no one had any idea whose she was. So, they picked her up, went to the Americans, came to America, and raised her as their own. They were never able to have any of their own children because the Nazis had sterilized them.”

We moved on to the topic of favorites:
Color? “Blue, then yellow,” she said.

Food? “Steak, as rare as can be, served with mushrooms, with a potato in its jacket, DRIPPING with butter,” was the reply.

Football team? “Auburn, for collegiate ball, and the Giants for pro ball,” she said. She then added, “I am not sure who to root for in the Super Bowl because I love Cam Newton and Peyton Manning,” she said with a chuckle. Apparently her room is always busy with football fans during the season.
President? Eisenhower, and Reagan.

Inspirational saying? “The one that is on Ivor’s grave.” It read as follows:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

She loves Christmas, and keeps her tree and decorations up all year. She was camera shy, but she let me take a picture of her tree, and if you look closely, you’ll see that it is decorated with “proper tea pots from Boston, made from cloisinee.” She says she is “98% satisfied with things at Athens Rehab”, and laughed out loud when she told me, “I am spoiled rotten, and I love it!”
Her advice to young people? “Enjoy life, be kind to people, respect your parents and the law.”
Sprightly wisdom from a woman who has lived the life to earn it.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2-5-2016 4-53-59 PM

2-5-2016 4-32-39 PMBefore I get into the topic of this article, I would first like to share KALB’s belief that a healthy environment is of great importance to all. We believe that people inherently understand the value of and care about a healthy environment. Every educational program, every project, every volunteer opportunity, and every means of sharing information is in place because of these beliefs.

Now, on to the topic of litter. I hate that we still have to talk about it because littering is still a problem. Then I remind myself that there are people out there that may not have the facts necessary to make a good, educated decision about littering. There are others who agree that litter is a problem, but aren’t sure how they can help.

Sadly, there will always be a small portion of people that will never change their mindset. That will never stop us from reaching out to young and old with information and opportunities. My hope is increased when I speak with our youngest students who seem to already understand that littering is wrong — and you should hear them tattle on their parents!

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My dog, Annie, and I enjoyed the recent warm temperatures by going for long walks. It is amazing what can be seen when walking that would be missed when driving by. The photos on this page are just an example of what Annie and I passed by on a recent walk. I didn’t have a litter grabber and a trash bag with me; however, Annie and I went back the next day to pick it up. In case you are wondering, I always have a bag with me in case Annie leaves a “present” along the way. I will add a litter grabber and trash bag to my dog-walking gear as often as possible from here on out.

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The following facts about litter are for those who are still unaware and for those that would like to share this information with others:

The Cost of Litter is Substantial

More than $11.5 billion is spent each year nationwide, with businesses paying a huge portion of that amount, and state and local governments, schools, and other organizations picking up the rest of the cost. All of these costs are undoubtedly passed down to consumers and taxpayers.

There are also indirect costs that we don’t often think about. Keep America Beautiful conducted an in-depth study and determined the following: it is estimated that the presence of litter in a community decreases property values by 7% — $7,000 on a $100,000 property; 93% of homeowners said a littered neighborhood would influence their desire to purchase a property; 36% of business development officials said that litter impacts a decision to locate to a community, jeopardizing the possibility of new jobs in that area. Litter can also cause lost tourism revenues, vehicle repairs, fires, and injuries.

Litter Has Costly Environmental Consequences

All living things rely on a healthy environment to survive. When we litter, we can damage ecosystems which must be restored, cause injury to humans and wildlife, and eventually these things will pose a threat to human health. Litter is carried by wind, animals, and rain into storm drains and local waterways, including the Elk River which is our source for drinking water. It doesn’t matter how far you live from the river, litter can travel many, many miles!

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Get Involved!

If you would like to stand up and take some responsibility for your neighborhood, we can help by supplying you with some trash bags and a litter grabber. Invite neighbors to join you in the effort and we’ll provide supplies for them, too! Organize a group to join the Adopt-A-Spot program. There are rewards connected with this program that can benefit local non-profits and organizations. Take a stand against a littered community and be an example to others.

We have a no-pressure guarantee that you can contact us with your questions about this and other issues. You’ll receive answers without obligation. That’s our promise.
By: Lynne Hart

1-22-2016 11-08-58 AMMonday the 18th had been a whirlwind of celebrations centered around Martin Luther King’s birthday. Sweet Home Church once again had been the host for the ceremony (or more accurately, “service”), and the Round Island Men’s Choir “tore it up,” as they always do.

However, someone very special was missing, and that was the “Jimmie” of this article. Veteran Athens City Councilman Jimmie Gill is in a serious “street fight” with cancer, and Mayor Ronnie, wanting to be respectful of Jimmie’s privacy, asked him, “Jimmie, what do you want me to tell caring people who call this office?” Jimmie’s response was as follows: “Tell them I am battling stage 2 cancer, and am starting chemo on Jan 25th.” But, the unsinkable Mr. Gill was not through—he also said, “I plan to whip this and be a candidate in 2016!” Mayor Ronnie then added, “We really missed Jimmie. It just wasn’t the same without him.”

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Every year, our school system has an essay contest in connection with Martin Luther King’s birthday, and there were 48 entries. It is significant to note that 30 of the 48 were from Julian Newman Elementary School.

We talked about Arise And Build, the original play being produced by Frank Travis and Charlotte Fulton, based on Charlotte’s book on the history of Trinity School as commemorated in Holding The Fort. The play is going to be presented at Athens State University on Friday, February 5th, Saturday the 6th, and Sunday the 7th. For more information, see Holly Hollman’s Special Feature on page________ “This is a big deal,” said Mayor Ronnie, and he added, “we have so much cooperation and support in our community that comes from business, the schools, the County, and the citizens.” We celebrated the “unscripted healing” that has taken place in our community because good hearted folks have chosen to do the right thing. We agreed we could use a serious dose of “arising and building” all over our nation.

We were then off to something that was genuinely stunning, and that was the Sankofa African-American Museum on Wheels, exhibited in the Athens State University ballroom on January 19th and 20th. The “rolling museum” was part of the Livingston Concert Series. It is the lifetime labor of love collected by Angela Jennings, and we could have stayed all day. There were heavy shackles used on slave ships which she had procured at auctions held by Christie’s and Sothby’s. There were original receipts for the purchase of slaves, Tuskegee Airmen memorabilia, kente cloth made out of silk, displays of invaluable inventions (such as the cell phone), which were made by African Americans, and so much more. “Every dime that I have has gone into this, “she said, and she is gone from her home in Denmark, SC for more than 300 days of the year making sure people have a chance to see it.

It was my pleasure to hear Mayor Ronnie tell her about Judge Horton’s decision to put everything on the line right here in the Limestone County Courthouse to see to it that the Scottsboro Boys got justice, and to watch her soak in the benefit of that act of bravery. It was also my pleasure to tell her about getting the chance to personally attend the last of the 16th Street Church bombing trials when I first got here, and to again see her enjoy the fruit of justice being served. But the true twinkle in her wise, soft eyes came when I told her what kind of history was made when the Swampers were Aretha Franklin’s back-up band when she recorded her breakout hit “I Ain’t Never Loved A Man” at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals. She promised me she would get the DVD of Muscle Shoals from PBS and devour it.

It was time for Ronnie “to roll” to the Youth Commission Meeting, and I stayed behind for awhile to experience the depth and beauty of Ms. Angela. We talked, hugged, prayed, sang, and had church. I finally tore myself away, so proud to be a citizen of Athens. Ms. Angela said she had been “treated like royalty,” and I was not surprised, because this is not just how Mayor Ronnie rolls, this is how WE roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

1-22-2016 11-04-35 AMI know it is cold outside and the weather is miserable this time of year. These frigid days are a good time to curl up with a good book. If you don’t mind getting out on these cold nights, I suggest the Athens State Book Club meetings.

The Athens State Library sponsors a book discussion group that meets once a month during the fall and spring semesters. Anyone is welcome! Reading selections are chosen by members. There are no fees, and there is no pressure to join or participate. Meetings are held at the Center for Lifelong Learning on the scheduled day at 7:00 pm.

The February selection, “K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist,” written by Peter Carlsen, will be discussed on Tuesday, February 16. The book chronicles Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America. If history is not your thing, you might prefer the March selection “Silas Marner” by George Eliot which will be discussed on March 15.

If reading doesn’t ring your chimes, the Center is offering other events you might consider.

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The first is the Hand Gun Safety Course. In the first session, Thursday, January 28, from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm, you will learn liability and handgun laws in Alabama, the psychology of defense, handling and storage issues, how to maintain your handgun, how to hold your hand gun, and the fundamentals of handguns. This session of the class will be held at the Center for Lifelong Learning and refreshments will be provided.

The second session, Saturday, January 30, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, will be taught at the firing range. You will receive directions from the instructor on Thursday. Remember to bring your handgun to class both days. DO NOT bring your handgun loaded; remove the ammunition prior to entering the building. You will need to bring your ammunition with you to the range.

The fee for the Hand Gun Safety Course is $65 per person. You can register in person at the Center, by calling 256-233-8260 or go online at www.athens.edu/CLL.

Another event is the Sweet Melodies Valentine Lunch, which is scheduled for Friday, February 12, from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, at the Center. On a day when romance is in the air, nothing will warm your heart more than sweet melodies sung the way they were meant to be. Join us for a wonderful lunch event and music provided by Barry Kay. Kay was born in Huntsville and raised in Lacey’s Spring, Alabama. He graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Birmingham-Southern College and is a local favorite in Athens. Bring your best friend or beau and bask in the warmth of friendship and “sweet melodies.”

The fee for this event is $40/couple. You can register in person at the Center or call 256-233-8260 or go online at www.athens.edu/CLL.

One other class offered in February is the Business 101 course, cosponsored with the Decatur Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center. This is an all-inclusive 9-week class that includes real world expertise from small business owners. Participants will be involved in strategic planning and the establishment of a solid foundation It is designed for entrepreneurs with a new business start-up, for owners of a growing business, employees of small business that desire to add value and support in their job, and anyone desiring knowledge of entrepreneurship and how to start a business.

This class is offered on Mondays, February 22 – April 25, from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm, at the Center for Lifelong Learning. The fee is $350 per person. You can register in person at the Center or call 256-233-8260 or go online at www.athens.edu/CLL.

Keep watching the website for more classes in March, and never stop learning.
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262

1-22-2016 11-04-58 AM

1-8-2016 9-59-05 AMWhen you hear the words “nature” or “outdoors,” what does that mean to you?

When I was a child, I lived upstairs from my grandparents in a double house in Cleveland, Ohio. The section of yard with grass was about the size of a postage stamp, and the rest consisted of driveway. I spent many hours of play outside with friends climbing the tree that grew in an empty lot down the road, playing kickball in the street, or riding bikes. There were small playgrounds nearby, but we could drive for miles and miles, seeing nothing but concrete and patches of grass.

It was a great treat when my family went to the Metro Parks for a picnic. The Cleveland Metro Parks System consists of 18 park reservations spanning 23,000+ acres which form a “necklace” around the City of Cleveland. It is referred to as the “Emerald Necklace.” Thank goodness for the Metro Parks, where we could breathe in the beauty of nature.

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Moving to Athens gave my husband and me a chance to experience living outside of a big city. We built a home in West Limestone on 7 acres. I enjoyed watching the birds come to our feeders and logged each new species I saw. When my granddaughters visited, we would sit at the window and search the bird books together. It was exciting to see the deer play or watch the turkeys make their way across our property. I was truly a city girl in awe of having nature visit my back yard.

I am grateful for the forward thinking people who reserved land around Cleveland for those of us living in the “concrete jungle.” Here in Limestone County, I am grateful to those who have worked so hard and continue their efforts to create the “Rails to Trails” and the walking trail in Athens, as well as the Mayor’s appreciation of green space in future planning. As Athens, Madison, and Huntsville continue to grow toward each other, we run the risk of losing easy access to the wonders of nature.

The loss of land to “progress” also means wildlife find the space they share to be crowded and move into populated areas to find food and shelter.

So what can we as individuals do? First, let’s make sure our children turn off the electronics and go outside. Fresh air and sunshine are good for the body and soul. An appreciation for nature must be nurtured. Let’s take time to go on nature hikes or stroll on local trails to refresh ourselves and remember why we need to care about our environment. As you walk, stop to inspect the plant life, search for insects, talk to your children and grandchildren about the miracle of a tree, the importance of bees and bats to crop production, or how we rely on our Elk River for our drinking water.

The following quotes were from papers written by a class of 8-year-olds when they were asked “What is a Grandparent” and published anonymously. I found the following three to be so telling.

• “When they take us for walks, they slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars.”
• “They show us and talk to us about the colors of the flowers and also why we shouldn’t step on cracks.”
• “They don’t say, ‘Hurry up.'”

Don’t deny your children the precious gift of time spent outside together.

At home, you can create gardens that provide the native plants that welcome birds, bees, butterflies, and bunnies. Native plants are “built” for the area and require less care than non-native plants. There is a great deal of information on the internet regarding what is native to this area and the wildlife they will attract. One of the local nurseries would also be a great resource.
So much of nature is in the hands of the human race. As individuals, we can’t fix it all. We can, however, teach upcoming generations of children how it all ties together, how every creature on this planet (big, small, and microscopic) rely on one another. Maybe along the way we will awaken our own love of nature and concern for the environment.

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Here are a few websites that have great information on outdoor activities:
Parks and Recreation in Limestone County (includes the Elk River Canoe & Kayak Trail and Rails to Trails): http://www.limestoneparks.com/
Alabama State Parks: http://alapark.com/
Land Trust of North Alabama: http://www.landtrustnal.org/
By: Lynne Hart