Angel Kane - Kane & Crowell Family Law Center

Celebrating A Wilson County Legend

You might call him a trendsetter. Before, mixology became a word. Before, liquid nitrogen became part of cocktails. Before microbreweries. Before, bartenders became the star of the show. Before it all, Wilson County native James Cason was calling the shots and pouring on the fun.

  • Portrait painted of James by a former Art student at Cumberland University

Cason’s storied career began 50 years ago by accident. “I was asked to work at a wedding reception at Lebanon Golf & Country Club. When I got there, they gave me a jacket and asked me to pour champagne. But they didn’t tell me not to give it to the kids.” Cason says with a hearty laugh.

Even though a few children had their first taste of alcohol that night, he caught the attention of Lebanon Golf & Country Club Manager, Larry Swafford, who thought Cason was a natural. Swafford convinced him to bartend at the club full-time. “That first night, I made $5. And $5 in 1970 was A LOT. So, I decided that this was the job for me, and I haven’t looked back.”

Growing up the 5th of 18 children (his mom had TWO sets of twins in the same year!), James dropped out of Baird’s Mill School after the 8th grade to help the family.

He worked at various jobs in Wilson County before that evening spent pouring champagne changed the trajectory of his life. As Wilson County’s first licensed African American bartender, Cason had dreams of moving to a different state to expand his knowledge and grow in his career. Today, he’s happy those plans didn’t work out. “A long time ago, I wanted to move to Atlanta or Washington,” he continues, “But the Lord directed me to stay here, and it’s been wonderful.”

Married for 55 years, Cason and his wife Katharine have two children and four grandchildren. When he’s not crafting cocktails at Sammy B’s Restaurant or singing in the choir at Lebanon’s Primitive Baptist Church on Sunday mornings, he tends to a small herd of cattle on his farm in south Wilson County.

It’s been five decades since Cason began his impressive career and lucky for everyone who’s had the privilege to watch him mix a cocktail while sharing a funny story, he’s not showing down anytime soon.

“It’s the people that keep me coming back. I’ve met so many good people. I’ve had customers who became friends and took me under their wing and gave me an education in business. It’s hard to beat the life I’ve lived.”

Cheers to you, James Cason! Wilson County appreciates you!

Getting Back To Normal

Covid-19: something everyone in this community, and the world, can relate to. Four months ago, those words meant nothing to any of us, today, we cringe when we hear them.

Lives have been shaken up because of the “Corona Virus,”; health put in jeopardy, schools, graduations, proms gone awry, jobs changed overnight and, in some cases, even lost. When they say “we are all in this together”, they really mean it, because never in our lifetimes have we experienced something so globally, that we can just look at someone else and know exactly what they are feeling, because we are feeling it too. And yet, even during this crisis, it is evident that we are slowly learning to overcome.

  • Judge Clara Byrd, Attorney Kayla Horvath and the Grooms family finalize an adoption by Zoom

“You were forced to adapt overnight and it wasn’t easy at first but we finally did get the hang of it,” notes Tonya Sacci, Lebanon resident and a kindergarten teacher at May Werthan Shayne Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee. In a matter of days, Tonya and her students were forced into their homes and the school year came to an abrupt halt. It was up to her and many other local teachers and administrators to insure some sort of normalcy not only for the children, but their parents as well. Zoom or on-line learning became the new norm for high schoolers as well as many college students sent home after Spring Break never to return.

“Meeting with students through Zoom is a completely different atmosphere than face to face. My fellow teachers and I have had to find creative ways to adapt to this situation while still providing learning opportunities for the children. Many kids did not have access to Wi-Fi or a computer, so one thing I did was is mail different educational worksheets to the kids to have options to continue their learning. Although this has been an adjustment, I believe the new techniques and skills we have picked up will be beneficial to us in the future when we make it back to the classrooms. I speak for myself and other teachers, we miss our students and pray everyone is staying healthy!”

Not only has the teaching profession changed in the blink of an eye, but others like doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers, have become known as the warriors on the front lines. From long lines at the grocery stores that led to many citizens working double shifts, to nurses and doctors setting up, almost overnight, COVID testing facilities, these folks truly stepped up in our time of need. Fear gripped the nation and most of us were shuttered within the safety of our homes, and yet, those on the frontlines kept it all together for the rest of us. For that, the words, thank-you, will never be enough.

Small businesses, restaurants, banks, lawyers, and the courts had to find alternatives in order to continue to stay in contact with their clients and to continue to be of service. Many restaurants began curbside pickup and even delivery. Boutiques and shops transitioned to online orders as well. Judges and lawyers started having hearings online or by phone. Attorney, Ashley Jackson, a Wilson County resident and mother of four small children, found herself in many hearings where her client was at home on one computer screen, the Judge was at the courthouse on his computer screen and she was in her office looking into her screen as well – all for one hearing that used to take place in the courtroom. “Yes, it was different and at first, we all didn’t know how to make it work, uploading documents, sharing screens, muting participants but justice can’t stop just because there are stay at home orders. We had children who weren’t seeing their parents and clients in jail so, together, we just figured it out. And now, it’s almost seamless. All the attorneys and Judges are participating in Zoom hearings and have become quite the experts in technology. I can see the future of law changing for the better because of what we’ve been through.”

And in times of crisis, the one place a community can always turn to is their church and sadly, many of those had to be shuttered like the courtrooms. Pastor, Randy Cook, of Crossroads Community Church experienced first-hand the loss felt throughout the world. “Everyone is struggling with a lack of fellowship. People who were previously battling addictions, mental health and their faith now have lost encouragement they found by physically being in the church. We can’t let people believe the lie that we can hide ourselves and our hardships in the darkness. We all need to be surrounded by light and reminded that we are still connected and never alone, even in these trying times.”, stated Cook.

Cook went on to note that the church has been impacted in three major ways, “physically we have been affected by

not being able to gather, logistically by adapting and learning to connect with people outside of the church in new ways, and spiritually by not being able to fellowship and grow our relationship with the Lord in the ways we have in the past.” He added however, “we have been working together to be a resource for those in need. We just finished a 2-week food drive and have received many forms of donations that will all be available for people in need. Our members have also been reaching out through phone calls, personal cards, and grocery shopping for those at high risk Regardless of where you were in relation to technology, it was a major disruption, for some smaller churches, like Crossroads, more so than others. We decided not to do Sunday morning services to keep from overloading all the other churches who gather virtually at the time. Also, we understand that for some, it is hard to sit and stay engaged in an hour-long online service. We decided to meet through Facebook and Instagram briefly every afternoon (Mon-Fri) at 4:30, which we call Connection Point. We simply encourage people to spend 5 minutes surrounded by others of faith to replenish and give hope during these times.”

When asked if Cook had any words of encouragement as we are now slowly recovering, he added that  “we strongly encourage those losing their jobs or having hours cut to continue to reach out to people and places of faith. Although we can’t solve all their needs, we can help them in many different areas. People want to help! Don’t make the mistake of shrinking back into isolation. It’s an easy thing to do, but it is toxic. We were created to be in community, so be proactive and continue to make connections in any way possible. When all of this is over, what will you come out of this with? Let this be a season of introspection. Don’t let this time go to waste. Emerge from this full of growth in your faith in God!”

Covid-19. Words we will never forget, but one day we hope when we hear these words, we will remember a time that as humans, we grew stronger because of it.

Toppled trees ‘turned’ into heirlooms

Jennifer Rowland Sheppard’s mom, Sue, started dating Jennifer’s dad in 1968. That courtship lasted 10 years before marriage.

He loved farming and he ran cattle,” Sue said from her daughter’s home in Timber Ridge during quarantine. “There was a beautiful, big Oak tree there and we would meet under the tree before we were married.”

  • From fallen tree to custom wood bowl, Bruce turns loss into artwork with help from his lathe

When it was lunchtime, she’d take her future husband, Albert, lunch to the massive tree that graced the family farm on Tuckers Gap Road in Lebanon.

“We’d sit under the tree on the truck tailgate and eat lunch,” she remembers.

Albert passed, 10 years ago, this October. Majestic in size and form, through the decades it was known as “the tree.”

“After we married, it was the meeting place,” Sue said. “He would call and ask what I had for lunch and say, ‘meet me at the tree.’”

Everyone knew which tree it was. The mighty Oak commanded the respect it de-served, smack dab in a big hayfield.

“It was a gorgeous tree,” recalls Sue.

“Beautiful and humongous. After the grands came along, it was their meeting place as well.”

Sue reckons the tree must be 100 years old, or more. Through the seasons, this family had picnics, get-togethers, sunny day siestas and more under the tree that sidles up to a narrow gravel road that goes deep into the farm.

Jennifer got engaged to husband Micah under this tree. Their daughter, Maggie Grace, turned 2 April 11.

For over a century, this tree stood tall and took many hits when storms were restless, and winds were high. Its roots were deep, and they held strong.

The March 3, EF-3 tornado’s winds upwards of 136 miles per hour were simply too much for this aged and mighty Oak. Her roots let go and she toppled to the ground in what was likely a graceful and dignified bow.

The original family farmhouse, built in the late 1880’s, also took a huge hit from the ferocious winds. The ceilings caved in, as did the ancient chicken coop, outhouse, and smokehouse. It is futile to repair the house, but they will salvage the large logs, for keepsakes. A barn was demolished.

But it’s the Oak tree still laying in the field that puts collective daggers in the hearts of this family. The uprooted tree’s naked roots are exposed and reach as high as a tall man.

Jennifer was determined to somehow capture the tree’s integrity and memories. She heard about a Mt. Juliet woodworker, Bruce Humphrey, who makes boxes and bowls out of family trees that are down. When the March 3 tornado blew down stately, timeworn, family mascot trees across our region he reached out to families to say he could do something “small” for them. For these families, this gesture and token of empathy is not “small” but huge.

“It’s the least I can do,” he said from his workshop on Benders Ferry Road. “They are beautiful, a memento, some-thing of beauty that will last a lifetime or more.”

He thought the process of being gifted with a bowl made from the wood of a once living family favorite would “ease the process” for them.” It’s the overall process that runs deeper than an old tree’s roots but encompasses a gamut of feelings.

And, they are gifts from him.

“When it comes down to it,” said Bruce. “If no bowls are made by me, these ancient trees would be no more than fire-wood. I can’t let that happen.”

Bruce likes to go out to the downed trees to choose the best piece of wood to work with. In addition to Jennifer’s gorgeous bowl made of Oak [one of the trickier woods to hone], Bruce has crafted different sized bowls from Walnut, Maple, Cherry, and other types of wood. All are one of a kind, with different gradations of colors and veining.

He shared a picture of his very first turned bowl.

“At that time, I thought it was pretty great,” he said.

“Looking at this picture, the walls are too thick.”

Turning wood is a rather new hobby for Bruce. He works full time. Several years ago, after work, he found himself “falling down in front of the TV and so bored.”

“I went to the University of YouTube,” he said with a laugh. “I was too stupid to be scared of losing fingers.”

He thinks that first bowl ended up the burn pile. If he didn’t burn some, his workshop and home would be inundated with the beautiful pieces.

“I look back at them as from my ‘youth period,’” he said.  Many of the bowls are literal works of art, and, some can be used for decoration and even fruit bowls. These recent, heartfelt pieces of wood gifted to grateful tornado victims are some of his favorites. He also sells bowls made from treasured trees that have finished their time on earth to non-tornado victims.

The Rowlands recently received a memorial bowl from Bruce to help them remember the mighty Oak that was their meeting place for generations.

The bowl’s home is at Jennifer’s right now. Her mom dreamed of a rocking chair made from her favorite tree, so she can sit in it and remember. The bowl is the perfect piece and now an irreplaceable family heirloom.

Sue always said no matter what, this Oak would be pre-served and never taken down by man. She said only if the hand of God took it down, could she live with it.

“And, it was an act of God,” she said. “The bowl is absolutely beautiful. My new grandbaby never got to meet Pa Albert, but she has this bowl that represents many of his memories. It gives us comfort.”

This grandma said she’s yet to go down and see the toppled tree.

“Too many memories,” she said. “I’ve not been able to go back there. I have not done it yet. It’ll break my heart.”

To see Bruce’s works, go to riverviewwood.com or on Facebook.

Hometown Heroes

By Sarah Haston, TCEcD
Economic Development Director | City of Lebanon

For the first time in his adult life, Lebanon Assistant Fire Chief Nick McCorkle sheltered in a closet with his wife in their home as a violent storm swept through his Westview Acres neighborhood. Minutes after the storm passed, he was dressed and attempting to assess the damage, first to his house, then to his neighbors, then to the whole area.

William Glover, the public safety officer for the Lebanon Police Department, heard the alert on his radio after midnight – and like he does for any perceived emergency service, he headed toward the police headquarters. He had to pull under a canopy at a gasoline station as he neared Highway 109 as the wind and rain pushed through the city around 1:30 a.m. on March 3.

Lebanon’s engineering services director, Regina Santana, was attending a conference in Dallas, Texas, on behalf of the City of Lebanon, and was awakened in her hotel room by her daughter-in-law, calling to tell her that an EF4 tornado with winds exceeding 150 miles per hour had just raged through Lebanon. She cancelled her plans and booked the first flight out of Dallas the next morning.

McCorkle and Glover and their first responder colleagues, aided by Jeff Baines, Commissioner of Public Works, General Services Director Lee Clark, and his team, worked through the night and into the next night. Santana was on site by early afternoon, and they all proceeded to be key players in the near miraculous search, rescue, and restoration response that unified the city and exemplified the spirit of volunteerism by residents and kind-hearted strangers alike. All three long-time Lebanon residents and city employees worked tirelessly through the next two weeks to help bring some semblance of normalcy to the city as it reeled in the aftermath of the deadly storm. And all give credit to the entire community.

“The quick action by first responders, other city employees, residents, volunteers from other police and fire departments, and thousands of volunteers from near and far is a great point of pride for me,” said Mayor Bernie Ash. “It was grueling, exhausting work, and a great example of what communities can do when they work together, and I am exceptionally proud of the City of Lebanon employees.”

McCorkle’s home sustained what he called minor damages, but the homes of neighbors two blocks away were leveled. Glover knows several members of his church whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Santana’s home was spared, but her grandmother’s house was heavily damaged. All knew someone who suffered from the tornado.

“As terrible as the damage was, we were lucky the storm hit in the middle of the night when most people were not at work. The number of injuries and possibly deaths would have been much higher if it had been in the day,” the 20-plus year veteran of the Lebanon Fire Department said.

The trip to Fire Station #4, which usually takes McCorkle 6 to 7 minutes, took 45 minutes. Power lines were down, trees blocked roadways, the Eastgate area was devastated, a fire there was reported, and an injured tenant of one of the many destroyed businesses was rescued and taken to the nearest ambulance in the fire chief ’s pick-up truck.

“We’re used to dealing with chaos, but I have never experienced anything like this,” he said. “Radios went out; we had two firefighters take off on foot to help clear a path into the area. “We went business to business, house to house that first night along Leeville Pike and Eastgate Blvd.

McCorkle said Lee Clark and Lebanon’s public works crews, along with Middle Tennessee Electric teams, were instrumental in the initial clearing of downed trees, power lines and debris. And he praised City Garage workers for setting up shop at Station #4 where they changed damaged tires on local and neighboring fire department fire engines.

“The fire chief decided to open up a big bay at the Administration Office to accept donations. There were an unbelievable amount of donated supplies, from food and water to cleaning supplies every day and we were able to saturate the area with these items over the next two weeks.” Glover’s role, working from the police department’s mobile command center since power was out at the main headquarters, was helping make sure people were safe the first day, and then to coordinate the huge volunteer response. “We had more than 400 the first day and from Wednesday through Sunday a total of 3,500 showed up to help.

“Regina and I worked extremely well together. We wanted everything to be as smooth as possible.

Glover said Highland Heights Church of Christ on North Cumberland still had power, and immediately agreed to provide shelter to displaced residents. And he praised local businesses in the surrounding area which then sent food and supplies.

“Police Chief Mike Justice, LPD Command staff, Officers and dispatchers worked tirelessly for our community. Police officers from other communities, driving their marked patrol cars and wearing their uniforms, assisted with traffic, and worked intersections around the clock. Firefighters and their equipment were dispatched from Hendersonville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Brentwood and even the Millersville Volunteer Fire Department,” Glover said.

He also lauded Lebanon’s C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) for the 500 hours of volunteer service 20 of its members logged.

“The outpouring of love was amazing. Everyone was tired, but the thing that kept me going was the love of our community. It made you so proud to be from Lebanon,” Glover said.

“From the time I received that phone call in Dallas, it was an emotional roller coaster. When you see so many people hurting, you wanted to do so much,” Santana said.

She set out moving through the city, helping to identify areas where volunteers could make a difference.

“People, our neighbors, showed up in force with gloves, chain saws, skid steers, tractors, trailers, back hoes, knucklebooms, dump trucks, rakes, shovels, food, hugs, prayers and lots and lots of love,” she said.

Her team also helped assess property damages for use in receiving aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and volunteered on weekends identifying downed power lines, potential traffic snags, and with debris removal.

Santana praised Glover’s role in helping coordinate the response. “For two weeks, he stayed calm and cool. He was a great leader.”

“Just to see the impact of what the volunteers were able to do was unbelievable,” she said.

She echoed what her colleagues said when asked how they kept the steady pace for two weeks.

“How did I keep going? I got home, fell into bed, couldn’t sleep. Kept thinking…all these people who need help. All these people who want help,” she said.

“After working here for 24 years, I know a lot of the people who work here. Some I’ve worked with closely over the years and others not so much. One thing I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt is that there isn’t a group of people I’d rather go to war with than the ones who pulled together when the tornado hit and the days that followed. This group worked in sync as if we had hand in hand on a daily basis for years, “Santana said.

Rebuilding, reconnecting, and restoring our community one day at a time

We keep you in our hearts as your journey continues. Wilson County is truly a great place to live, work, and play. Together we can make a difference.

During the March tornado, the response and support of volunteers who stepped up to help in rebuilding our community was extremely overwhelming. It proved that our county came together lending a hand to help one another. We were stronger together.

In honor of National Hospital Week, we presented TriStar Summit Medical Center, TriStar Summit Medical Center ER Mt. Juliet, Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital, and McFarland Campus with a blue ribbon and signage to say, “Thank You”. A hospital is more than a place where people go to heal; it is a part of the community that fosters health and represents hope.

This week allowed the opportunity to show our support and appreciation to our health care workers. It is important to highlight hospitals, health systems, and healthcare workers and the innovative ways they are supporting the needs of their community members. Our healthcare workers continue to be the frontline of each community. We can’t thank them enough for their time, commitment, and dedication. Anytime you see a healthcare worker, take a moment to thank them.

In honor of National Police Week and Peace Officer’s Memorial Day, we presented the Lebanon Police Department with a black & blue ribbon and signage to say “Thank You” for your service and show gratitude to our fallen soldiers. Our Law Enforcement officers continue to protect and serve our community. We can’t thank them enough for their bravery, commitment, and dedication.

In honor of National Public Works Week, we were able to say “Thank You” to all City of Lebanon, TN – Public Service leaders and their dedicated staff for the hard work and commitment they give each day. They have continuously been instrumental in our community, especially since the recent tornado. The tireless hours they give are appreciated.

As a countywide initiative, the Lebanon Wilson County, Mt. Juliet, and Watertown Chambers of Commerce are presenting Blue Ribbons to businesses that have implemented Governor Lee’s Tennessee Pledge. We want to recognize them for their commitment to protecting their business, their employees, their customers, and their community. Your businesses make a difference and provide our communities with the quality of life that makes Lebanon and Wilson County home.

Memorial Day is a day to celebrate, honor, and remember those past and present that have served our country. “Thank You” and God Bless the USA.

-Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce

A GRAND CHAMPION AMONG US

Marshal shakes hands with one of the competition judges

Showing sheep is not a skill and passion that everyone has the drive for, but when it comes to 5th grader Marshal, he has us all beat. It all started with his great grandfather in California and continued on with his grandfather, his uncle, and mother in Oregon. They brought their love of showing with them when they came to Tennessee, and the legacy and knowledge have been passed down to Marshal; this makes him the 4th generation in the Hull family to be raising and competitively showing sheep.

Continue reading “A GRAND CHAMPION AMONG US”

Family, Business, Community…Building Tennessee’s ‘Mayberry’

These days, life is looking a little different for Wilson County resident, Randall Clemons. After more than 30 years at the helm of Wilson Bank & Trust-the institution that he helped organize-Clemons passed the torch at the end of 2019 and called it a day… sort of. “I’m still on the board at the bank so I’ll still be around, but not in the day to day operations.”

Continue reading “Family, Business, Community…Building Tennessee’s ‘Mayberry’”

Cream of the Crop…Farm to Family with Shop Springs Creamery

With Shop Springs’ growing population, Elizabeth and Jeffrey Turner decided to no longer wait to put their dream into action! Both being raised on dairy farms, Shop Springs Creamery’s founders have a passion and love for the dairy industry and agriculture. “The Dairy industry has faced many challenges over the past decade,” explained the Turner’s. “The greatest of those challenges being financial burdens due to low prices that farmers receive for their milk from processors and market uncertainty.” This is one of many reasons they feel there is a great advantage to processing and marketing their product directly to consumers.

Continue reading “Cream of the Crop…Farm to Family with Shop Springs Creamery”

WILSON MANOR NEW OWNERSHIP – SAME VALUES

Wilson Manor reflects the decades of experience that Inspirit brings to the vocation of caring for seniors. Formerly known as Southern Manor, Wilson Manor is operated by the same friendly and welcoming faces as before. Southern Manor has been in business since 1998, and it came under new ownership in 2019, by Inspirit. The new owners put endless time and effort into choosing a company that already had the same values and care as they did. Continue reading “WILSON MANOR NEW OWNERSHIP – SAME VALUES”

MAKING BLANK WALLS TALK

Kristy Oakley has painted her magic in Mt. Juliet. To say her fingerprints – brush strokes – crisscross Wilson County is a mammoth understatement.

Though just 5’2” tall, she sure paints big. Her broad strokes are enormous, but she manages to get in exquisite detail.
A well-known muralist, with signature murals in Donelson, Nashville, the YMCA, and some other places, Kristy, 49, took her large strokes to Mt. Juliet last June on Jennifer Osborne’s office building near City Hall.

Continue reading “MAKING BLANK WALLS TALK”

Things are ‘Poppin’ at Poppie’s Boutique

Two brick and mortars, a thriving online store, a podcast, a new lifestyle brand, an upcoming bible study series…and all conceived, carefully curated, and managed by the 25-year-old owner of Poppies Boutique, Sarah Collins. Impressive isn’t it!? Before sitting down with Sarah, I did a little research. Given all that she has going on, I assumed she was in her mid-30’s. When I found out she was just 25-a full two decades my junior, I felt like Chris Farley’s character in Tommy Boy. Then I met her. She’s smart, kind, creative, and has one of the most infectious laughs you will ever hear. Plus, she shares my affinity for all things Golden Girls. She’s like a unicorn! Continue reading “Things are ‘Poppin’ at Poppie’s Boutique”

P is for Piper

Therapy dog and her owner give back to young readers

As a Registered Nurse Alison Keenan spent her career caring for others; however, she found herself on the other side of the lab coat in 2015. Keenan was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer.

Recovery from a bone marrow transplant was difficult. Keenan spent one month in the hospital and three months homebound. She shared that her dog got her through the hard times.

Keenan made a vow that somehow she would use her experience to help others. “I thought, ‘There has got to be something I can do to give back,’” she recalled. “I was given this second chance.”

Keenan found her calling in a dog named, Piper.

  • Piper remains focused throughout her reading session with kindergartener J.R. Nacarato III.

Keenan, who moved to Wilson County from Wisconsin, had owned several dogs during her life, but Piper, a Golden Retriever, was special. “When I started training her, I envisioned more of a service dog. I had a total knee replacement and needed her for balance. A service dog is trained to be devoted to only you, but Piper was so engaging that it wasn’t fair to her,” Keenan said. “I pulled her out and into a therapy dog program and she blossomed.”

Both Keenan and Piper went through extensive training with Intermountain Therapy Animals and one of its registered programs, R.E.A.Ding Paws.

“The first program was six weeks but it also entailed eight hours of class for me as a trainer. You can teach a dog to do anything. You have to teach the trainer how to train,” she said. After that, the dynamic duo had to pass an exam with other handlers in various scenarios. Because Piper is trained to offer support everywhere from classrooms to nursing homes, she had to become familiar with those environments.

“When we passed, we became registered and supported by an insurance program. We are insured as a team,” Keenan added. “We have been tested and proven we can meet the requirements of going out into the public.”

When the family moved to Tennessee, they were eager to integrate themselves into the community. Piper spends many days visiting the elderly at McKendree Village in Hermitage and veterans struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Still, children are her forte.

Keenan realized Piper’s interest in children early on. “When she would hear kids in a commercial on television she would wake up and try to find those kids. It became really clear to me that she loves children. She wants to play with them. She isn’t afraid of them,” she said.

Keenan reached out to the Lebanon Wilson Public Library about their unique services through Reading Paws. The Reading Paws program launch in 1999 helps struggling readers by having them read to the therapy animal.

“I reached out and let them know we would like to come once a week. This was something that hadn’t been done there,” she said.

Two young children from the private school next door, Cedars Preparatory Academy, came every Thursday to read with Piper. They didn’t miss a session for months. Their mother introduced Keenan to Cedars Prep teacher Brittany Sewell. Sewell helped arrange for Piper to visit the school beginning in 2019.

Currently, Piper visits Cedars Prep on Monday mornings. Prior to her visits she follows protocol including, but not limited to, bathing and having her teeth brushed so she is shiny and clean for reading time.

The maximum a therapy dog can perform duties in these situations is two hours. Otherwise, the animal can become stressed and tired.

Piper spends two hours weekly at Cedars, where she works with eight students. “We work a lot with teachers to identify who are the kids who need support and one-on-one motivation. The kids get to turn the tables a bit and be the teacher. They tell the dog what is going on in the book and their interpretation of the story,” Keenan said. “Children improve their reading skills in a unique and fun environment, free of performance pressure. That makes a huge difference for a child.”

The program is free of charge. Keenan simply wants to uphold her promise to give to others and support her community.

“I’ve seen the magic that happens when you take a child who is reluctant, afraid, or challenged in their reading ability and give them that consistency and support. I’ve seen that working with a dog becomes a success for them,” she said. “I was given this wonderful animal with a lot to share and it only seems right that I give back.”

Keenan has written Piper’s story in a children’s book, “Piper Finds Her Special.” It follows Piper from getting trained to become a Therapy Dog and how she discovers what makes her special. In the process, Piper and her family learn she only has one kidney but triumphantly overcomes health issues. The book is in its final stages of publishing and will be released in the spring.

An Experienced Common Sense Approach

If you ask Shawn McBrien, what he’d bring to the bench if elected as the next Circuit Court Judge for the 15th Judicial District, he stops for a minute, and then thoughtfully answers back, “I’d hope to bring some simple common sense

This from a man with over 33 years of legal experience as both a lawyer and mediator. A man who has been married for over 35 years to his wife Karen, a local nurse, and who together with her, has raised four children in their hometown of Lebanon, Tn. A man who many know as a generous person who has given of his time both to his church and various civic organizations by helping those in need both close to home and far away.

“I’d also bring a strong work ethic and my sense of fairness,” he adds.
Hard work is a quality that Shawn McBrien is known for. Ask any attorney in town and they will tell you that Shawn works hard, is honest and always shoots you straight. “For over a decade, I have known Shawn as someone that has used faithful morals and years of legal experience to serve his clients selflessly. There is no doubt Shawn will serve from the bench using the same legal expertise and faithful morals.” notes Jason Denton, a local attorney.
Shawn started practicing law 33 years ago and during these past three decades has handled almost every kind of civil or criminal case there is. “I’m ready on day one to take over Judge Wootten’s docket. I handled many cases in front of Judge Wootten and greatly respected his knowledge of the law, his decorum, and his patience. I certainly was saddened to hear he was retiring because I loved to try a case in front of him and I hope if elected to continue to handle cases just like he did.”

A Tennessee native, Shawn received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Tennessee in 1983 and Doctor of Jurisprudence from Cumberland School of Law at Samford in 1986. He began his legal career in Chattanooga, Tn and for several years practiced law in the same town as his late father, also an attorney, and then later moved to Wyoming where he continued to expand his practice. A growing family and a yearning to be closer to home led he and Karen to move back to Tennessee in 1992 and since that time Shawn has been representing local citizens throughout the District. Upon his return, Shawn initially worked for the Law Offices of Hugh Green for two years before establishing his own practice in 1994. Ten years later, he formed a partnership with Brody Kane and together they formed the law firm of McBrien and Kane. In 2018, Shawn opened the McBrien Law Group where he currently practices both as an attorney and mediator.

McBrien has handled hundreds, if not thousands of cases, in both State and Federal courts during the last 33 years. He has been involved in jury and non-jury cases and argued for his clients in front of state judges, federal judges, mediators, arbitrators, and appellate court judges. And in the last few years added Mediator to his long list of experiences.

“It’s during these mediations that I realized being a Judge is what I wanted to do. For years I’ve advocated one side or another for my clients but being a mediator taught me to see both sides of an issue. I read documents provided to me, listen to both parties and their attorneys and then work out the issues. But when we get so close and their decisions come down to emotion or just a lack of common sense, it is frustrating. As a mediator, I cannot make a decision and it becomes the Final Order, as a judge can. In those cases, I feel sorry for the parties because now they are going to a trial. And I know first hand the cost, pressure, and emotions that these parties are going to face. It is in those situations that I wish I could make a decision so that they can move forward with their lives.

Being a mediator and lawyer has enabled me to help so many people in my community. I take pride in knowing I made a difference and did all I could to right a wrong.”

But law isn’t the only place Shawn has made a difference, from coaching all four of his children in sports to being on the Board of Directors of The Glade Church in Mt. Juliet and local non-profits such as the Lebanon Noon Rotary Club, to being a board member of Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl, Shawn is definitely a man of varied talents. And getting down and dirty is one of those things that Shawn never shies away from. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Shawn with his children traveled with his church to help with the recovery. He has also helped in his own community such as moving people, mentoring children, chopping firewood and making repairs. When the floods hit Nashville several years ago, Shawn took off work and with his children helped his fellow neighbors there as well.

“Raising my children and being a good example to them as a provider and protector has been my greatest accomplishment thus far. I’m so proud of my wife for what she does as a nurse in our community and our children bring us our greatest joy. They are all adults now making their way in life and so the time seems right for me to do this. I’ve had a long, solid history of being a lawyer in my community and I’m ready, if the people honor me with their vote, to take on the role of Judge”

Being a Judge is not an easy job. Someone always leaves the court a little unhappy. But the best Judges I’ve ever practiced in front of were the ones who gave my clients a fair shot. They listened to the evidence, carefully reviewed the law and then when they made their ruling they explained the why behind their decision. Even when I lost the case, I felt the court had allowed my client to be heard. This is what I plan to do if elected.

Listen carefully, apply the law, treat people with respect, be fair and use common sense, if elected I pledge to do all these things.

To learn more about Shawn McBrien visit his website teammcbrien.com or find him on Facebook @mcbrienforjudge, Instagram @mcbrienforjudge or Twitter @mcbrienshawn.

This is an advertorial paid for by the Committee to Elect Shawn McBrien Circuit Court Judge, Bill Easley, Treasurer. 

Relentless Pursuit of Justice For All

  Javin Cripps was the first to announce his commitment to run for Judge Wootten’s seat upon his retirement in early January.  And since that day has relentlessly worked to earn the vote of the citizens in Wilson, Trousdale, Smith, Macon and Jackson county – the counties that make up the 15th Judicial District. 

Earning each and every vote by getting out and meeting the people of the community has been priority number one in the Cripps household. On any given day, you’ll find a squad of people knocking on doors, handing out flyers, wearing Cripps For Judge t-shirts and espousing all the reasons Javin Cripps would make a good Judge. 

Those working hard not only include Assistant District Attorney Javin Cripps but also his wife Melanie Cripps, a local Smith County Chiropractor, as well as Javin’s daughters Addie and Anna and the family pet, German Shepard Gus. 

“It’s a family affair for sure,” notes Cripps. “I love getting out there and meeting folks and telling them about my background and what qualities I’d bring to the bench. What  I love the most though is that my girls are with me when I’m doing all this. I want them to know that if you work hard and put in an honest day’s work, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”

Javin Cripps certainly has the experience for the job having served the citizens of the 15th Judicial District as an Assistant District Attorney for more than 13 years and before that was an attorney in private practice handling civil cases – everything from divorces to business litigation to worker’s compensation and social security cases.

“I had the privilege of practicing in front of Judge Wootten and understand all the different perspectives of a courtroom. As an Assistant District Attorney I’ve had to make some very tough decisions. I’ve met with the victims of crimes and their families, and I’ve been involved in jury trials and non-jury trials. I’ve made decisions in over 10,000 cases in the last five years alone.” 

Cripps believes one of the biggest problems our community is facing is drug addiction. 

“I’ve seen it first hand as an Assistant District Attorney in the 15th Judicial District because with my job I work in all 5 of our counties. All our counties are a little different, some being more rural than others, each having different economies, some having more crime than others, but in all, drugs are our biggest problem. The court dockets are jam packed with drug cases. Drugs impact our criminal court as well as our civil, domestic courts. Knowing this first hand, I’ve met with the Sheriff in every county as well as all of our local Judges, trying to determine, if elected, how best we can all work together to help solve our growing problem. My kids are 12 and 10, their mother and I were raised in this community, our families are here, this is where we are going to raise our girls and hope one day they choose to make this area their home. I’ve got a vested interest in making sure my girls are safe and that your children are safe too. It’s why I left private practice to join the District Attorney’s Office and why I’m now seeking the office of Circuit Court Judge. I want to help my community.” 

And preserving and protecting his community is something Cripps holds dear to his heart. 

Cripps grew up on the family cattle farm between Smith and Wilson County and worked every day on that farm when not in school. During summer breaks he’d join his father, a general contractor, at work. Thereafter, Cripps continued to work 30 to 40 hours a week, in construction, while earning his undergraduate degree at MTSU. He went on to earn his contractor and plumbing licenses before entering law school. 

While in law school at University of Memphis, he interned for the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office and returned home to Middle Tennessee to start his career. First working with a well-established private practice handing civil matters and later joining the District Attorney’s Office prosecuting crimes within the 15th Judicial District.  

“I have built relationships with the people in my community and with the legal and law enforcement communities in every county in the district. Over the years, I have prosecuted every type of case from speeding tickets to first degree murder. Justice has always been my goal. I know when to prosecute a case but at the same time will work with a defense counsel, to hear the accused’s side of the story. Justice is not just about throwing people in jail but also about preserving and protecting our constitution and the rights of all citizens to a fair and impartial legal system.” 

This Court, however, is not the Criminal Court. It’s a Circuit Court that handles quite a bit of civil work such as divorces and termination of parenting rights as well as criminal cases, so it’s important whoever is elected has a good understanding of both areas of the law. 

On the domestic front, Javin notes that “not only have I handled divorces for other people, but I’ve experienced a divorce first hand. I’m proud to say the mother of my children and I work very well co-parenting our two amazing girls. We share custody and so I know first hand what many of the people are going through who will be coming before this Court. Part of the job of a circuit court judge is to help families navigate the process of becoming co-parents, and I having experienced that process as an attorney and as a father.  I can bring a level of understanding and insight that families who go through this difficult transition often need. 

This is a big job but I’ve got the experience as well as the energy to make some positive changes in our community as the next Circuit Court Judge. I’ve been privileged to work for this community as an attorney for many years and I’d be honored if this community would elect me to take over where Judge Wootten left off. 

All I can do is work hard day in and day out to earn your vote. I took a leave of absence in January from my job because I’m committed to getting out there and meeting our citizens. I want to answer their questions, I want to show them I’m relentless and hard working and if elected will bring this same passion, energy and tenacity to our Circuit Court.”  

To learn more about Javin Cripps go to 

Crippsforjudge.com or follow him on FB @ Javin Cripps for Circuit Court Judge or on Instagram @CrippsForJudge or Twitter @ CrippsForJudge.

This is an advertorial paid for by the Committee To Elect Javin Cripps Circuit Court Judge, Madeline Jennings, Treasurer.

2020 – JUDICIAL ELECTIONS EXPLAINED

By Judge Brody Kane,  Criminal Court Judge for Wilson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale, and Jackson County

By Judge Brody Kane,
Criminal Court Judge for Wilson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale, and Jackson County

In 2020, the Judges who cover the 15th Judicial District comprised of Wilson, Smith, Macon, Trousdale and Jackson counties will undergo a bit of a makeover.

The path to this election is different than most as Circuit Court Division II Judge, John Wootten, retired effective January 1, 2020, five and a half years into his eight-year term. Continue reading “2020 – JUDICIAL ELECTIONS EXPLAINED”

The Road Home

No matter where you grow up, to the young, the grass is always a little greener somewhere else. Bryson Eubanks was certainly someone who wanted to spread his wings.

Bryson and his brother Lee were raised by their single mother, Marie Eubanks. “We lived near Carroll Oak-land school and it was the late 80’s, early 90’s, so Wilson county didn’t have as much going on as it does now,” notes Bryson. “Growing up I attended church at Immanuel Baptist Church, went to Lebanon High School, played baseball, football & basketball, the usual things kids from around here do. My family is very close so I was usually with my brother or my cousins, Lisa Eubanks Nave or Michael Eubanks but I always figured I’d move away.”

After high school, Bryson attended Carson-Newman where he continued his baseball career. Later he obtained a Masters in Gerontology from Appalachian State. “When I was growing up, my great-grandmother was very important in my upbringing. She would babysit my brother and I when needed and taught us many life lessons. It was tough seeing her fall ill because she was the first person I had ever seen age and progress through the later stages of life. I watched my entire family come together to care for my great-grandmother. There were not many options back then nor was there information as to what options were even available. We did what we could to help insure her later years were good ones, but it was then I knew my calling would be working with the aging population.”

After obtaining his Masters Degree, Bryson returned to middle Tennessee, settling in Nashville working for two of the leading attorneys in Elder Law. My adult life has been focused on the field of public benefits, Medicaid planning, VA planning, and asset protection. It was while I was working for Tim Takacs that he and another attorney came to me and encouraged me to attend law school because I had a real knack for elder law. I laugh now because most attorneys I know don’t like math but I loved it. I was really good at reading the Medicaid laws and then figuring out how to reallocate client’s assets to meet  Medicaid rules.

To say his mother is proud of the fact Bryson not only has a college degree, graduate degree and now a law school degree would be an understatement. “We didn’t have much growing up but I instilled in Bryson and his brother that an education and helping those less fortunate than you, are two things that will always steer you in the right direction.”

“I learned so much working with Tim and later Barbara Moss. They are both outstanding attorneys who specialize in the areas of estate planning and elder law. In fact, it was also at Barbara’s office where Bryson met his wife, Miller Hunt, also an attorney. The couple will soon be celebrating their one year anniversary and are excited about all their future holds.

“After law school, I knew the right place for me was back home. Back to my roots, back to my family and friends, back to where all this knowledge could really make a difference. So I knocked on a few doors and here I am, back in Lebanon practicing law with the law firm of Kane & Crowell. It’s a great fit because the firm already handles estate planning and I’m able to offer even more services to their clients by bringing my years of experience in elder law as well as asset protection. Plus it was about time the law firm hired a male attorney – I’m their 6th attorney and the only male, which makes for lots of laughs every day.”

Senior Law Partner, Amanda Crowell points out that “helping families has always been our goal, but as we ourselves are getting older, we are seeing the need locally for more expertise in the areas of Estate Planning and Medicaid and VA Planning. That’s why when we met Bryson, we knew he would be a perfect person to lead our Estate Planning & Asset Protection Division, with our other local attorney, Kayla Horvath.

Bryson points out that “U.S. News and World Report previously published an article that stated that 75 million Baby Boomers are on the verge of retirement, and over the next twenty years, approximately 10,000 people will turn 65 each day. The same report goes on to say that 18% of adults will be over the age of 65 by 2030, and the number of senior citizens in the population will total 89 million by the year 2050. To add to these staggering numbers, the parents of these baby boomers are living much longer than their parents due to better medical care, easier access to nutritional choices, and a focus on exercise and well-being.

These facts are important because the cost of long-term health care is rising as fast as those aging into it. The 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey presented facts from a study done by CareScout showing that nursing home care in 2019 will cost a resident between $78,960.00 and $84,588.00 per year; additionally, lower levels of care in an assisted living facility or at home will cost between $17,952.00 and $48,456.00 annually. All of those numbers are up from the previous year and can only be expected to rise; therefore, how people pay for long-term care is very important. Statistically, one in three Ameri-cans over the age of 65 rely on Social Security benefits alone.”
Being proactive is always the best option, but no matter the situation or timing, Bryson’s goal is to help clients face disability, aging, and the rising cost of long-term care head-on. Kayla Horvath, who has been with Kane & Crowell for several years notes that “our approach is a holistic one that focuses on care, finances, and the law. These three focus areas will work together so you and your family can answer questions such as:

• “Does my Will really do what I want?”
• “How will we provide for our disabled child when we can’t take care of ourselves?”
• “Who will make financial and healthcare decisions for me when I can’t?”
• “What do Medicare and Medicaid actually cover?”
• “How will I afford nursing home care, and will Medicaid take everything from me?”
• “Can my status as a Veteran help me in any way?”

Attorney Angel Kane, one of the founders of Kane & Crowell Family Law Center, commented that “everyone knows us as a Family Law and Estate Planning law firm which is what we do, but Elder Law is something very different from typical Estate Planning. We all need a Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will, because no matter how old you are, you should plan for who will take care of your children or your affairs if you suddenly pass away. Kayla Horvath has been working in this area of law with us for many years, and she has both the knowledge and compassion to serve our clients well with these needs.

Elder law, however, is for older adults who want to plan for their future care needs. It lays the groundwork for a financial legacy rooted in protecting family assets. It also encompasses crisis care planning for elderly adults that have immediate health and safety needs with a focus on getting proper, affordable care. This includes both Medicaid and VA aid and attendance benefits.

Amanda and I began focusing on this area of law many years ago as our own grandparents and parents were getting older, and we needed to help them plan and prepare. And as often happens, we grew busier and busier, and the cases we saw became much more complex. This area of the law is not one you can learn overnight. You really have to immerse yourself in this area of law to truly understand the complexities of Medicaid and Trust laws. Bryson has done that, plus when he told us he was raised here and all about his great-grandmother’s story – we knew he would be a perfect fit because he has a real passion to help those around him.”

“Elder law is near and dear to my heart,” Bryson says. “Watching my family’s struggle with my great-grandmother impacted me. Watching that struggle led me to focus my career on helping our aging community, and I’m glad to be back working in my hometown, serving the people who helped make me who I am today.”Recently, Kayla and Bryson, were asked to speak to a church group about elder law and asset protection. “People had so many questions and we loved being able to answer them and help make a complicated process easier to understand.

In 2020 we are planning many more seminars so if your organization or group would like us to come out, we are happy to do so. My goal is to help the aging population preserve their dignity and protect their assets. Information is power. I’ve got the information and I’m ready to help you get your power back.”
To reach Bryson call (615) 784-4800 or visit www.kane-law.com. Or to schedule a speaking engagement email him directly at beubanks@ kane-law.com

Denise Vermeulen: A Christmas Angel to Local Families in Need

Denise Vermeulen of Lebanon has taken what might have been a story of sadness and shame and turned it into a story of generosity, compassion, and love through her leadership in a local Prison Fellowship Angel Tree ministry.

 

Vermeulen’s dad was a drug addict and dealer and was in and out of prison most of her childhood, as well as her adult life.
Christmas was often a hard time for Vermeulen and her family when she was a child. Her parents were divorced, leaving her mother to raise three young children on her own. Her grandparents provided as much as they could for their grandchildren, and she has many happy Christmas memories with them. However, her contact with her father was intermit-tent, often via a letter from jail, and Vermeulen only remembers only receiving one gift from him after her parents’ divorce.
“He was actually so big-time that he was on the TBI list,” she said. “The last time they got him, not only did he have a large amount of cocaine and marijuana in the car, but he also shot at a police officer, and they got him on that, too. I was 17 or 18 at the time, and he stayed there [in prison] until about four years ago,” Vermeulen said.
When she passed by an “angel” tree in the lobby of Fairview Church in Lebanon almost 15 years ago, Vermeulen was intrigued by the paper angels hanging on the Christmas tree and asked Janice Holden, who was overseeing the ministry at the time, for more information. She was surprised to learn that each angel represented a local child who had one or both of their parents incarcerated, and Janice was gathering Christ-mas gifts for them.
“When she explained it to me, I just started bawling. This particular angel tree ministry was something that really resonated with me.”

Vermeulen was so moved that she began to assist Janice with the program at that time and then, about 10 years ago, started serving as the church coordinator for Fairview Church. She continues to lead that ministry until today.
Angel Tree is a Prison Fellowship program that serves incarcerated parents by giving them a pathway to restore and strengthen relationships with their children and families. Through this ministry, children receive a gift, the Gospel message, and a personal message of love on behalf of their mom or dad behind bars.
In America, 2.7 million children have a mom or dad in prison, which is about 1 in every 28 children, or one boy or girl in every classroom. Fairview will be assisting over 70 children, the majority of whom live in Wilson County, this Christmas.
Vermeulen encourages everyone to remember: “It’s not the children’s fault.”
“As a child, you should not have to deal with the consequences of your parents’ decisions. But these children deal with those consequences every single day. This is why it is so dear to my heart. I want them to know I understand.”
“To me, for the children to get a gift and know that their parent is thinking about them, regardless of the mistakes that they’ve made, that really spoke to me, because I never felt that way.”
“When you’re a kid, you don’t understand mom or dad is in prison,” Vermeulen said. “All you know is that it’s Christmas, and they should give you a present no matter what,” she laughs.
Terry Kemp, another member at Fairview, was help-ing Vermeulen hand out gifts on an afternoon at the church several years ago when he felt a desire to do more.
“These people–many of them would come through the doors and you could see that they were hurting–and sure we were giving them gifts and praying with them–but I told Denise, ‘We can do better than this,’” Kemp said.
Kemp’s community group got involved next year and helped to add the party element to the ministry. Now participating families come to the church to pick up their gifts and stay for a pizza party with games and arts and crafts.
“We have members of our class who look forward to helping with this every year,” Kemp said.
“It’s about the children, letting them know they are loved and sharing the Gospel with them,” Vermeulen said.
Churches, companies, and organizations will provide gifts to families and individuals in need through a variety of “angel” trees across Wilson County. Check with your local church to find out how you can give and what group they will be serving this year.
For more information about the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program, visit prisonfellowship.org.

Christmas All Year in Mt Juliet

A long-kept secret was finally revealed late summer when Judd Sellars announced Christmas Place was to be constructed on three acres in the planned Sellars Station development on North Mt Juliet Road.

At the groundbreaking, Santa Claus made his grand entrance with a “ho ho ho” atop a Mt. Juliet fire engine with nearly 100 well-wishers there to welcome Christmas Place owners Toby and Karen Barnes, along with co-owners daughter, Kristin, and son-in-law, Mark Jackson.
Projected opening is summer 2020, just in time to lead into the holiday season.


It’s a $3 million investment that will make Mt. Juliet a destination place and sister store to the south’s largest Christmas store, The Incredible Christmas Place, owned by the same family, already open at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

“We are so honored to be here in Mt. Juliet,” Barnes said at the groundbreaking. “We feel so lucky to be embraced and now Mt. Juliet and all around here can celebrate Christmas 365 days a year.”
Barnes is semi-retired now and Kristen is CEO of the company. And while this 12,000-square-foot centerpiece will highlight Mt. Juliet for years to come, the original The Incredible Christmas Place had 12 million visitors in just one week this past summer.
“They came to us,” said Sellars. “It was between Mt. Juliet and Brentwood. I know Mt. Juliet will embrace the Christmas theme and we are so family-oriented. They saw my Sellars Park (built in 2014) development and loved the old-world-looking brick. They want to replicate that for their store.”
The site plan calls for five lanes for tourist buses and about 65 parking places.

Kristen said part of the footprint will be a four-story bell tower that can play holiday music year-round.
Actual work on the project began in November.
“The project is going fantastic,” Kristen told Wilson Living. “We are finalizing all the plans and should begin construction in the next couple of weeks. We are so excited to see the ground move.”
Kristen said they are in full swing of this Christmas season in Pigeon Forge.
“We have already begun buying, planning and constructing displays for the new store,” she added. “We have an amazing product selection and themes planned and cannot wait to unveil it next year.”
Spokesperson for the Christmas Place, Chad Nether-land, told Wilson Living the store planned for Mt. Juliet will be a smaller version than the massive store in Pigeon Forge (at 40,000 square feet and in its 34th year).
“But in itself, it [Mt. Juliet store] will be a regional draw as well,” he said. “It’s such a cute town and a great paring withdraws from Metro Nashville and way be-yond.”
Netherland said it’s so important to note the two Christmas stores are family owned and operated.
“Mt. Juliet is near and dear to their hearts,” he noted.
“This Mt. Juliet store may not have as much as the one in Pigeon Forge, but it will still have the same variety of Christmas trees, ornaments and all things Christmas from head to toe. All the best of the best. One hundred percent Christmas.”
And while they will include seasonal nods, the focus is the merriment of the Christmas season.
What’s unique to the Christmas Place is they have design teams on hand to customize wreaths, garlands and anything one can imagine. And they ship everywhere.
“I guess the takeaway is that everyone loves Christ-mas and our store is not like your typical home-goods type store,” Netherland said. “It’s unique and is an ‘experience’ and people wander through and pick up great themes and ideas to replicate at their homes. We create one of a kind displays and rooms and layouts.”
To say it’s elaborate would be an understatement. The bell tower at Pigeon Forge and planned for Mt. Juliet’s store, is designed after a German village.
“We will bring a little of that to Mt. Juliet,” said Netherland.
Additionally, there are future projects for Mt. Juliet, Sellars revealed.
In Pigeon Forge, there’s an Inn at Christmas Place. And, more land is acquired by Sellars, so you never know! Other endeavors are in the works.

Enchanted Duck Pond Farm

Local couple, Dan and Lisa Liles, like to have breakfast and coffee on typical Saturdays. and this particular off-grid day they decided to haunt an auction to perhaps by farm equipment.

“Once we arrived at the auction, unknown to me, my husband’s interest quickly changed from the farm equipment to the land being auctioned,” remembers Lisa from that 2010 slumber Saturday.

Meanwhile, Lisa was poking around the landscape and became mesmerized by the natural beauty of the 150-acre spread off Couchville Pike in Mt. Juliet.

“While the auctioneer was doing his chant, I slipped away to walk close to the creek to calm my anticipation of finding out who would be the highest bidder,” said Lisa. “Talking with another lady about the charm and peacefulness of this secluded acreage the chant came to a stop.”

That lady told Lisa a tall guy with glasses was the new owner of the peaceful respite. Lisa’s husband was tall but didn’t wear glasses. She was poignantly disappointed. But when she got to the sale place, that tall guy was wearing
sunglasses, not “real” glasses.

And it began then.

Duck Pond Farm is now a true local gem. Minutes from the heart of Mt. Juliet and a couple more from Nashville, it’s a unique venue for a stay-cation this fall, or a preeminent wedding destination for those couples who want a flair for something other than the normal place to say their vows.

There’s no need to travel to faraway venues when Wilson County offers this spectacular one-stop getaway that is so close but transports you back off a country road to a splendid wilderness respite, but with all the amenities.

The Liles want to provide their guests, no matter the occasion, with an unforgettable experience, with a stress-free atmosphere, with a feeling of being tucked away with a view second to none.

Duck Pond manager, Marisa Henson, explained the gorgeous place was once a working farm with horse stables. There were some original buildings and the
Liles upgraded, and added to, for their dream to turn the place into a multi-faceted venue for the community.

Today, there are multiple cabins which include a bridal suite, a groom suite, a kitchen and full-size dining room, and huge pavilion, plus more.

There’s a huge A-frame with open-air accommodations, wraparound porch and a view of the pond that in all can accommodate up to 38 guests. There are other cabins and chalets, some with fire pits, grills and picnic tables.

The moniker “pond” is two acres and is majestic on the property. “Dan built a gazebo and pergola by the pond,” said Marisa “They were built from trees on the property.”

And, there’s a separate island on the pond that is a favorite ceremony site. It doesn’t have to be a wedding, but has also been a favorite for engagements and such.

Dan said he’d never sell the property, he loves the land and takes some occasions to hunt and hike on it. The greenspace pays homage to ducks, geese, deer and turkeys. A local grows impressive corn crops on some of the acres.

Marisa explained there are three main areas of the event space; the main pavilion, the party pad (concrete patio) and a cocktail area where patrons can bring in food trucks of their choice for their special occasion.

Already over 150 weddings have shared their joy on the place. Corporate retreats, family and high school reunions, birthday parties, baby showers, bar mitzvahs and more have found this local gem.

Duck Pond Farm is just several miles from Providence and greets guests with a long cedar tree-lined drive. Recent renovations include fresh coats of paint and a new pavilion and decks.

A common statistic is that 33 percent of engagements happen between September and Thanksgiving, so those newly engaged should snag this local venue as soon as possible to feel at ease while they plan their once in a  lifetime wedding. Also, locals who just want to chill can book a long-earned respite just a stones throw away.

“Come see our treasure,” said Lisa.
For prices, terms, reservations, and accommodations please go to their website at Duck Pond Farms.