Jeanette DunnavnatThe Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce and the Spirit of Athens invite the public to the 26th Annual Christmas Open House. Events will be held all day on Saturday, November 17, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 18. It will be a weekend of unique shopping, yuletide fellowship, and holiday fun.

At each business, shoppers will have an opportunity to register for door prizes and a grand prize donated by Hobbs Jewelers. The winner of the grand prize will be announced on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. at the Athens State University’s Center for Lifelong Learning located at 121 S. Marion Street. Activities planned for the weekend include visits from Santa, entertainment, carriage rides and refreshments.

Hobbs JewelersThis is the perfect time to start Christmas shopping. There will be sales in all the stores and a large variety of items to select from. Be sure and get the children’s picture taken with Santa Claus and Mother Christmas. Santa will be located in the Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning on Saturday from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM and on Sunday from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM. Cost per picture is $5.

Athens Christmas
For more information, contact the Chamber of Commerce,, at 256-232-2600 or the Spirit of Athens,, at 256-278-6436.
By Jeanette Dunnavant, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association, Inc.

Self Defense Solutions Athens Shop Local

Mayor MarksThe election is over, thankfully, and irrespective of whether your candidates won or lost, I think most thoughtful folks are concerned about the deep divide that has emerged in our country as a result. Mayor Ronnie and I met at LuVici’s for breakfast, seeing as City Hall was closed for Veterans’ Day, and this was one of many topics we discussed.

We talked about the fact that for many folks, disagreeing has come to mean being disagreeable, and what could be done to heal the divide? For Ronnie, some of it meant refusing to buckle under the burden of post election “doom and gloom,” irrespective of the source. The rest of it had to do with exploring the concept of allegiance to Athens.
Mayor's Youth Commission
“Last week I saw the sparkling eyes of the new members of the Youth Commission, he told me, and these kids have dreams, for themselves and for Athens. You should have heard their questions, the clapping, their answers to my questions.” I could tell the kids had recharged his batteries, and he said, with resolve, “You know, I really can’t focus much on what is going on in the national scene. We’ve got to make sure this town is the best it can be for the future of these kids.”

27 students from Athens Bible School and Athens High School chose to become part of the just commissioned Mayor’s Youth Commission. “Jackie Warner was instrumental in keeping after me to make sure I did this,” he said, and he is also thankful for the help of Holly Hollman. The kids were sworn in at the City Council Meeting on Tuesday night, November 13th. They were of all colors, both genders, and I could see what he meant by the sparkle in their eyes.

They raised their right hands and swore, as had their Council Member counterparts, to, amongst other things, uphold and protect the Constitution, both of America and Alabama. Mayor Ronnie is teaching them all about city, county, state and federal government, how bills get passed, and more. “We need to help the kids of Athens have dreams,” he said, and I think that was at least part of what he meant by having allegiance to Athens, to pave the way for a bright future with bright eyed kids.

Tuesday night he also gave a Power Point presentation entitled “Facts About Tax,” that showed in simple, clear terms both the tax rates of our city, as well as those of Elkmont, Decatur, Florence, Madison and Huntsville. The focus of the presentation, he explained, “was not to be adversarial, or to defend the recent tax increase, but to show what is going on in relation to surrounding cities.” He also illustrated the fact that Huntsville is marching west, essentially unhindered, and already owns 38 square miles of Limestone County. He dispelled the myth that Athens has the highest taxes in the state, and reiterated that as long as he was mayor, he would do everything he could to protect the City of Athens from being swallowed up by Huntsville, Madison, or Decatur. And that is what he means by allegiance to Athens, and is some of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

T & T Auto The Shoe Gallery

Alfa Insurance

A former leader of the Limestone County Habitat for Humanity, Garth Lovvorn is now a licensed insurance agent with Alfa Insurance.

“I enjoy working for people in order to help them protect the things in life that matter the most, which are family, property and their livelihood,” Lovvorn said.

Lovvorn decided to make the career change to Alfa after witnessing his friends’ experiences following the April 2011 tornadoes. There were some people who suffered emotional and material losses, and it seemed as though their insurance carriers were “missing in action,” Lovvorn said.

By contrast, Lovvorn recognized that Alfa was on the scene, ready to help policyholders.

“As soon as it was safe, Alfa had a mobile response team on the ground,” Lovvorn said. “Adjusters were on site and people were actually getting claims checks on the spot.”

Lovvorn Alfa InsuranceFor Alfa, Lovvorn said that sort of response is the norm. The company prides itself on customer service and being there for policyholders when it’s most important. Alfa is also proactive when it comes to storm preparation, hosting an online severe storm center on the company’s website to educate customers. The site provides information on the various types of severe weather, Alfa’s claims process, a property checklist for families to use before a storm and tips on how to recover after the devastation.

This dedication to customers and to providing excellent claims service is just one of many reasons Lovvorn loves working for Alfa.

“I like Alfa because their claims service is second to none,” he said. “My first priority is the person I’m working for. I go out of my way, I’m very thorough, and I always get back to people as quickly as I can.” Lovvorn describes himself as persistent, and doesn’t quit until everything is taken care of and the job is done.

He recognizes that he could not do his job well without the level of integrity and professionalism that Alfa sets forth and possesses as part of its corporate culture.

Alfa offers a variety of products and services to its customers to ensure that they are protected should a loss occur. With insurance for auto, home, life, renters, business and more, Alfa is sure to have a policy that fits most budgets and needs. And, the company offers discounts to help policyholders save money.

According to Lovvorn, one of the most important products he sells is life insurance policies. These policies protect families in the event of an unexpected death. Policyholders who purchase life insurance are getting peace of mind that they will have some financial security for their family. Alfa offers term and whole life options to help customers plan for the future.

While no one wants to think about the death of a family member or loved one, Lovvorn said he has been impressed with the care Alfa takes to pay out benefits to the bereaved.

“Alfa absolutely makes sure the family is secure and taken care of,” Lovvorn said.

Because he has seen how life insurance benefits the families left behind, Lovvorn knows that all families need this protection.

“Even the simplest of funerals can cost thousands of dollars,” he said. “Many families are not prepared for it, and they need to be.”

While Alfa is known for providing affordable products and excellent service, the company is also keeping up with technology by offering new ways for customers to interact. A new version of Alfa2Go, the company’s smart phone app, was recently released and allows customers to pay bills, view member benefits, file claims, review policy information and more.

But, Lovvorn knows that no amount of technology advances can replace good, old-fashioned customer service, and that’s what he and Alfa Insurance are all about. Alfa strives to be “Right there with you” and Lovvorn stands behind that promise.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Garth Lovvorn, Alfa Insurance
11220 South Memorial Parkway
Huntsville, AL 35803
Phone: 256-883-8598
Cell: 256-874-2411
FAX: 256-880-2827

Garth Lovvorn Alfa Insurance

Jeanette Dunnavant

Following the Change of Command Ceremony, the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives will hold the Athens Veterans Day Parade November 3rd at 11:00 am. The parade will use the same route as the Christmas parade, lining up at Athens High School. Contact 256-771-7578. Show the veterans how much you appreciate them by lining the streets of Athens and waving a “Thank You” as they pass. Former Prisoner of War (POW) Dempesy McLemore will be the grand marshal.

East Limestone High School “Support our Soldiers” program will be on November 8th at the high school at 8:00 am.

Veterans MuseumThe Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives will celebrate its 10th Anniversary with a Rededication Ceremony on November 10th at 10:00 am. Join the celebration at the museum. The museum is offering an anniversary price for the bricks of $45. They have only 200 spots remaining. This would a great time to purchase a brick for your veteran.

Ardmore Veterans Organization will hold their annual Veterans Day Ceremony and Chicken Stew November 12th at 10:30 am at the Ardmore, TN Annex building located at 26349 Main Street. Contact 931-427-2124.

For information about the above events and other Athens-Limestone County events call 256-232-5411/256-867-1438 or visit our website
By: Jeanette Dunnavant, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association

Country Lane Discount

Ronnie MarksThings have been somewhat testy lately in Athens, Alabama. Recently, the City Council voted to raise taxes, and folks turned out in droves to attend the meetings. For some, it was the first City Council meeting that they had ever attended. There were some tears and harsh words, some decent points made from several perspectives, and thankfully none of it came to blows and fisticuffs. Conflict is never enjoyable for anyone, and conflict that involves money especially

I am not here to weigh in on my opinion as to whether or not I agree with the tax increase. I am as annoyed as the next American with what has become of our country in general as a result of taxes that are either poorly spent, or are procured from a premise that would make the Framers go over in a dead faint. I also know that the decision to raise the sales tax in Athens was not made capriciously, and it personally
affects those who voted for it. They will be paying, literally, for that which they chose.

“No one takes this lightly,” said the Mayor. He knows, as do all of us that there is a “general mistrust of government,” and that “the timing for a tax increase was especially tough.” People have hugely different opinions as to the role of government when it comes to land, services, and infrastructure. But, at the end of the day, the question that must be asked is, “Who are we when we disagree?”

In other words, if a decision has been made that is controversial, how do we handle ourselves? Good question. I was a bit taken back when I heard about some of the calls made and emails that were sent to City Hall after the vote. And, as I know that the Mayor is no stranger to conflict, either in Vietnam, Montgomery, and most recently in City Hall, what I find most important is observing how someone behaves when under fire.

So, I asked my own set of tough questions and waited to see what he would say. Thankfully, I found that per usual, his concern for the total well-being of Athenians eclipses that of his own, the principles that have always guided him, guide him still, and he challenged me with the following question: “Do we pray, come together, come up with ideas, get creative where it hurts, or do we allow ourselves to be divided?”

And, he added, “No matter what happens as a result of the tax increase, we still face the same issues. We must find a way to increase the level of retail recruitment, we must improve the quality of life, we must protect the public, and see to it that our kids’ educations and futures are secure.”

I know he doesn’t want to see us overtaken by Huntsville or Madison. I know that comparatively, we have some of the lowest taxes in the area. I know that the State of Alabama allows for municipalities choosing to raise local sales taxes. No one likes any of it, including the Mayor. I also know this, that one of the things that makes Ronnie roll is searching for good ideas that are not short sighted, and are equitable even when they are not perfect. And I would also add, if we put some prayer and passion into getting wisdom that exceeds our own, honorable solutions can indeed be our daily bread.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

The Colossians Project Shoe Gallery II

Teresa Todd - Community Service AwardWhenever Teresa Todd and I are in the same room, I describe her to whoever is listening as being “the sweetest of competitors.” Technically, Teresa’s online newspaper, Athens Plus, is in competition with Athens Now. But in all the time I have known her, Teresa has never seemed like a rival, and has only been what Doris Estes of the John Keyes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution describes as “an encourager.”

Therefore, it is with great joy that as part of the November 2, 2012 edition of Athens Now, we get the chance to spread the word that the local DAR chapter has honored Teresa with its Community Service Award.

I initially met Teresa when I attended my first Coffee Call at the Veterans’ Museum. She had on an apron and a name tag, and she made me feel completely welcome even though she had a number of duties to attend to. That “welcoming spirit” is what I have consistently encountered as we have worked on projects and attended functions together, and she dishes it out to everybody.

How she manages to be everywhere at once with her camera is beyond me, and she has, on more than one occasion, provided photos for us to use. This is what I mean by “the sweetest.” She has saved my bacon, and I am grateful.

I have watched her carefully escort Alice Rogers, who is over 90 years old, (and a WWII nurse,) to and from her car, and yes, Teresa picks her up and takes her home so she can attend Coffee Call. She has a gift at making aging vets feel like they are the “king of the world,” and sheds tender tears when they pass.

She serves on the boards of Spirit of Athens, Limestone County Tourism Association, and the Veterans’ Museum. I probably have missed some organizations, and if so, I apologize.

One of the many things I appreciate about her is her humility. While she has been the recipient of a number of awards, she is quick to find a way to honor others. She also gives great hugs!

I am sure she has her “moments,” (as do we all,) but this gal is the “real deal.” Her sweetness is genuine and consistent, and by contrast she has a dry wit. On more than one occasion she has completely cracked me up with a one liner made with a straight face.

Her love for her family is intense, and she has taken care of other ailing family members who live in Tennessee, her birthplace. I imagine they are enormously proud of her, as they should be.

So please, when you see her, take the time to congratulate her on her well deserved award. Athens is already a wonderful place to live, and it is people like Teresa who make it even more so. Congratulations, Tessie, and thanks for being so very easy to love!

Kindred Spirits & Diva Nails

It’s back-to-school time, and everyone, from kids to parents and grandparents, or anyone that has kids in their lives look upon this time each year with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Mayor Ronnie Marks remembers all too well what it was like to be the “skinniest kid in school” and then, later on, the “skinniest teacher in school.” He moved from Clements to Tanner High School, graduated, went to college at UNA and then in TN, and while he was at it, faced down the Viet Cong. That’s some serious “fear-facing.”

“I have nothing but respect for teachers,” he said, “and I’ll tell you, I have never come home more exhausted than when I spent a day in the classroom.” He spoke of the anxiety expressed recently by one of his granddaughters while shopping for school clothes, wondering if she would have any of her friends left from last year. And on it goes—kids worried, adults worried, and meanwhile, there’s an education to be gotten if Athens is going to continue to be an excellent place to live.

“It’s the responsibility of the community to provide the best possible environment in which students can learn,” said Mayor Marks, “and some of what has been helping to build our students’ confidence has been the implementation of the Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People program especially designed for the public schools and used by the Athens school system.” He also wanted teachers and students alike to know that “We believe in you, and understand how important education is for you and the future of our city.”

To that end, there are some “pet projects” of the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce that are starting to take shape and are designed to help our kids “find a seat at the table.” For quite awhile the Mayor has wanted to have a Mayor’s Youth Commission, whose purpose would be to select students from various schools as well as homeschoolers in learning about how city, county and state government work. These students would come from a broader range academically than just the top of their class, and the question put to them would be, “What do you want your city to look like?” By “look,” he means far more than its outward beauty. He means, “What do you want Athens to be like, and how are you going to get it there?”

Jackie Warner, City Hall PR Director and Grant Coordinator Holly Hollman and others are going to be involved in helping with the Youth Commission, and on August 16th Holly gave a presentation at Athens State University to introduce the concept. The Chamber of Commerce is also working on a mentoring program. All of this is to make sure that, as Holly Hollman put it so well during this interview, there’s more than enough room, chairs, and benches for our kids to “come take a seat in our city.” Let’s all of us make sure they can do so comfortably and without fear.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Jimmy Gill, President of City Council of Athens and Mayor Ronnie Marks

The term “servant leadership” gets bandied about these days in everything from business publications to the pulpit. I asked Mayor Marks if he would invite Athens City Council President Jimmy Gill to join us for our interview time, because I wanted to get an idea of how these guys work together to serve our community, and specifically how they viewed leadership styles and their roles as leaders.

Jimmy Gill has been serving on the City Council since 1992, and is in his 6th term. A lifelong resident of Athens as well as a Class of ’66 Trinity High School graduate, Jimmy has seen some “wild times,” especially during the ‘60s and the Civil Rights era. .Jimmy is also a cancer survivor and works part time at People’s Funeral Home. He’s a master BBQ-er, and according to Mayor Marks, “gives back to the community like few people do.” Jimmy has actually been Mayor of Athens, (serving when Dan Williams was out for health reasons,) involved in Relay for Life, the Birdie Thornton Center, and Ronnie says, “He’s sharp, works hard, and knows what’s going on.” I myself have seen him stand up for the truth when it would have been way easier to lay low and let things just pass over, and have admired him for his courage in doing so.

“Jimmy, how would you describe your leadership style?” I asked. He thought for a minute and said, “I listen, think it through, go to prayer with God, and then make what I think is the right decision.” I liked the fact that the first thing on his list is that he listens, and also that he prays. Jimmy and Ronnie have been friends for years, having met through Ronnie’s brother Claude when Jimmy and Claude worked together for the same company. I have wondered, knowing that they are both friends, colleagues, and men of deep faith, just how they
handle the inevitable disagreements that arise when trying to govern well or just maintain relationships in general. “What do you guys do when you disagree?” I asked them. Jimmy spoke first. “We agree to disagree, and then move on. We have disagreed, and we get over it.” Ronnie seconded him. Jimmy added, “If you are doing things for the right reasons, things have a way of working out.”

We talked about the need to be able to trust each other’s hearts, even when we didn’t see eye to eye, and to stand strong on principles. Jimmy talked about how important it is to remember that every City Council member, any public servant, for that matter, “takes an oath on the Bible, and it don’t matter if you are black, white, red, or green, you gotta do the right thing.” Ronnie added, “It’s one thing to talk, and another to talk and walk.” Talk and walk, I think, is an excellent way to describe what makes for good leaders. And one thing I know, that’s the only way Ronnie and Jimmy desire to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

My entrance into the 21st century re: the use of facebook, twitter and even understanding the full potential of having an online version of Athens Now has been a painfully slow one, that is, until Teddy Wolcott came into my life. Teddy, at 71 years young and who describes herself as “older than dirt,” is in my view, the “engineer” of what I have come to call “The Little Search Engine That Could.” More on that later.

Teddy and her brothers are the children of artists, and possess minds which work like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They’ve been “at it” (i.e. involved with everything that pertains to computers,) a long time, and Teddy totally got my attention when she told me she could build a website from scratch in 12 hours. My ultra-professional response was, “Whoa.” I had been told that our original Athens Now site was going to cost several thousand dollars to renovate, and a common complaint when it comes to website building is how long it takes for a web designer to finish the project. It can also be very difficult to explain what it is that you want, and if you decide to go with a web building kit, the chances are quite good that someone, after observing how you are floundering about, will borrow Dr. Phil’s line and ask, “How’s that workin’ out for you?” In our case, it wasn’t. We were stuck, and the day Teddy called, God smiled on the whole crew at Athens Now.

So it is with total pleasure and gratitude that I announce the “birth” of our new website, WWW.AthensNowAl.Com. It is beautiful, user friendly, linked to everything, and even has a button that lets you read the whole paper while “turning” the pages, much like amazon’s Kindle. It also did not cost me my yet-to-be-born grandchildren to build, for which I am thankful! In a word, the work was exquisite, the price fair, and I am a highly satisfied customer.

Teddy also has her own online “paper,” called WWW.AthensShopLocal.Com, and we are linked to each other, having seen the value of entering into a joint venture relationship. She also is the owner of WWW.TruWebHost.Com, is the manager of more than 100 sites nationwide, and owns her own server. With the launch of the Athens Now website, Athens business owners can get even more traction through the use of what is known as “Search Engine Optimization.”

Because some of our readers are not interested in the Internet and how it can be a powerful marketing tool, I will keep this brief. “Search Engine Optimization,” (or SEO,) is a term that refers to how outfits like Google and Yahoo use and position your Internet ad or entry. The object of the Internet marketing game is to get listed as closely to the top of the Google, Yahoo, Bing or other page as possible, because that is where most folks go to find you. The way to “win” is through the use of what are called “key words.” Key words are a mathematically formulated list of how often certain words show up in your work. The more often the key words show up, the higher up on the Google, etc, list you go. Is your head swimming yet? If it is, that’s why you need Teddy. She “gets” this stuff like you and I can say our ABCs.

Speaking of ABCs, that is the last of Teddy’s projects I would like to talk about. Athens Business Connection is a newly formed business cooperative that is patterned somewhat after BNI, (Business Networking International,)the world’s largest business networking and referral organization. ABC meets every other Tuesday at the HG Asian Bistro on Hwy 72 near S. Jefferson, right next to Taco Bell. The time is 11:30 am til 1pm, and I have both thoroughly enjoyed the contacts I have made, the challenging personal growth I have experienced, and the business I have garnered. Who do I have to thank for getting me into this? God and Teddy, in that order. To contact Teddy Wolcott for your advertising or web building and management needs, or for more information about Athens Business Connection, please call 256-729-0916, “like” her on facebook, or email her at Smartbird@Hughes.Net. You’ll be glad you did!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner