Since 2004, the second Saturday of each September has become synonymous with one event in Wilson County—the Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk. While Sherry’s Run 5K is a one-day event, the team works throughout the year to provide hope to those battling cancer in our community by offering financial assistance with everyday needs. To better reflect this important work carried out on a year-round basis, the organization decided a name change was in order. Sherry’s Hope was introduced in January 2021.
“I don’t think anyone who gathered for the very first Sherry’s Run 5K would have imagined where we are today,” says Executive Board Member, Scott Jasper. “With the outstanding support we receive from the community, we have been blessed to grow into so much more than a once-a-year run. It is our prayer that Sherry’s Hope will embody the hope that comes from shared burdens.”
The funds raised from those first few 5K events went to cancer research. It was in 2008 that an idea was presented to use the funds raised to help people battling cancer in our community by offering financial assistance with everyday necessities. That idea began the transition from a fundraising event to a full-fledged 501c3 non-profit organization. Since 2008, hundreds of individuals in our community fighting cancer have received assistance with utility bills, housing payments, prescription assistance, medical expenses, grocery assistance, and gas assistance.
Though the organization is undergoing a name change, this will not affect the assistance offered to those in our community who are facing cancer. In fact, it is the hope of the board and staff that this change will bring awareness to the year-round ministry made possible by the support from generous donors and run participants. “It has been amazing to watch this organization blossom from a small run into the non-profit organization it is today. We are truly blessed and so thankful for our supporters,” says staff member, Corrie Cluck, who also participated in the very first run held in memory of Sherry Whitaker. “Healing begins with hope and this community provides that hope to so many,” says Cluck.
The event our community has come to cherish will continue on every 2nd Saturday in September as the Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk to benefit Sherry’s Hope. The run is an important fundraiser for the work carried out by the Sherry’s Hope organization.
This year’s run will be held on Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 8 am at 623 West Main Street, Lebanon. Register for the 18th annual Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk to benefit Sherry’s Hope online at www.sherrysrun.org and click on the register button at the top of the page. Paper registration forms are available at the Sherry’s Hope office, 110 Babb Drive, Lebanon. Chip timed runner, participant and virtual/sleep in registrations are available. While you don’t have to join a team to participate in the 5K event, teams are a fun part of the Sherry’s Run 5K! Teams are a great way for a group to work together to support family, friends and neighbors who are fighting cancer. More team information is available at www.sherrysrun.org.
The organization wants everyone in our community to know that if you are fighting cancer, Sherry’s Hope is here for you. In addition to financial support, the non-profit also hosts monthly support group meetings. If you would like more information about our programs or if you or someone you know is undergoing cancer treatment and in need of assistance, please call 615-925-9932 or visit www.sherryshope.org.
Smith County native Stephanie McCaleb is making her mark in the design world, one room, one house, one storefront at a time. Stephanie attended Smith County High School and after graduation attended Tennessee Tech University where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Housing and Design with a minor in Business in 2017.
Since then, with her husband Jonah’s full support, Stephanie has blazed quite a trail throughout Middle Tennessee which has finally led to her own storefront – Stephanie McCaleb Interiors, which is located in the heart of her hometown of Carthage, right where it needed to be.
Owning a business in Smith County has always been a goal for McCaleb, and although her business model has shifted over the years, interior design is a long-lasting passion. Over the past four years since graduation, she has worked diligently to gain knowledge and experience in interior design and increase her design skills. And in 2020, the storefront became reality.
Stephanie McCaleb Interiors is a full-service interior design firm and curated home furnishings shop located on Main Street in Carthage, Tennessee. Although McCaleb is based in Carthage, her services are available to all Middle Tennesseans; many of her current clients are from the Cookeville and Nashville surrounding areas, as well as Wilson County.
As a full-service designer, she is able to assist clients in a variety of interior designing tasks, including project and paint consultations, furnishings, renovations, and new home construction layouts. The store – which is soon to be reaching its one-year mark since opening – carries a wide array of furniture, lighting, rugs, and accent decor, all of which are hand-selected for quality, durability, and aesthetic. McCaleb is confident in every service and item she offers, and that’s because, she notes, “I would decorate my own home with my products and often do!”
In addition to working on her own business, McCaleb also regularly coordinates events with other small businesses, especially female-owned and operated. She recently co-hosted a candle pouring event with another small business owned by a Smith County native, and frequently arranges pop-up spotlights within her shop for other businesses, specifically those who may not have access to a storefront property.
In fact, her next big event will be her one-year storefront celebration in September. “It’s going to be a big day for my husband and I and everyone is welcome. We are still working on the details, so for those interested in stopping by, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @stephaniemccalebinteriors.”
Stephanie enjoys providing publicity to other small businesses through these events, as well as through social media shares and other word-of-mouth mentions. She acknowledges that small businesses are not easy to start, but that each of them bring a unique touch to hometowns and allows for community growth.
From an outside perspective, opening and running a small business may seem simple to some, however, it can be challenging. Nevertheless, McCaleb encourages those desiring to start a business to reach for the stars. Stephanie’s advice for potential business owners is, “find yourself a support system that encourages you, believes in your ideas, and most importantly keeps you grounded. I can’t tell you how many times in my journey to become a small business owner I received a ‘no’ or hit an obstacle. Each time I was crushed. I questioned if I was really meant to pursue this dream. My husband has been the best at making sure I did not give up, but also keeping me in check with reality.” She credits her husband for encouraging her ambitions, supporting her, and most importantly reminding her to be patient while working towards her goals.
Stephanie says that she is excited about her future. The housing market is exploding as are renovations. “Everyone is interested in making their homes beautiful and that starts with the basics – colors, staple pieces, and then accents to make it more personal. I love every aspect of what I do. From meeting clients, working with them to come up with the right design, finding the perfect pieces, pulling it all together, and then watching it evolve over time as they grow into their space. And now, with the storefront, I have even more to offer to a wider clientele. And, what makes me even happier is I’m doing it where I grew up. That makes it even more special!”
In the spirit, of giving back to her community McCaleb is offering a deal to the readers of Wilson Living Magazine, “As a thank you to everyone taking the time to read this article, I would like to extend a welcome gift for your next visit to Stephanie McCaleb Interiors. Bring your copy of this article or let us know you read it and receive 10% off your next in-store purchase!” (Exclusions may apply to this promotion.)
Since 2012 Compassionate Hands has been helping the unhoused in Wilson County. In 2020, this much needed local charity found a permanent space and it could not have come at a better time.
Compassionate Hands began as a network of churches working together to provide winter shelter to Wilson County’s unhoused population. Their purpose was to insure that no unhoused friend would freeze to death. In 2020, they were blessed with the opportunity to purchase their own building, thus allowing them to offer year-round services.
Shelia Weathers, the current Director of Ministry Development at Compassionate Hands, continues daily to fulfill it’s mission by procuring volunteers, funds and other resources. Weathers became involved after learning about the organization from a board member with whom she attended church. Before joining Compassionate Hands, Shelia was the Development Officer for another ministry located in Nashville, that also served the unhoused population. Because of her background, she was already familiar with her new role and agreed to join their mission. Weathers stated, “I am continually grateful for God leading me to this amazing organization”.
The mission statement of Compassionate Hands is to provide opportunities to serve, support, advocate, and befriend our unhoused neighbors in need in Wilson County. Weathers believes that by providing the men and women who live on the streets during the winter months, a safe place to eat three meals a day, showers, beds, laundry, clothing, mentoring, further supports the long term goal of eventually helping the unhoused find jobs, permanent housing and other resources. During the warmer months, the organization works to support the same individuals by continuing to provide a place to shower, eat, do laundry, obtain counseling, and acquire other resources that many may not have access to otherwise. Weathers reiterated that Compassionate Hands’ mission is vital to the community, since the organization may be one of the few allies for the unhoused population.
Weathers spoke of an incident in which an elderly man in poor health was living in his car in a business’s parking lot. Compassionate Hands’ volunteers began to work towards building a relationship with the man by providing him meals and other needs and asking him to elaborate on his situation. They soon realized that he was receiving disability benefits and paying for his relative’s expenses with these funds in order to house them, which left him with very little. Due to the man’s condition, the organization was able to utilize funds from a recent grant they had obtained, to assist him and his family into housing where they still remain today. This is just one example of the good this charity does for the community.
There are numerous methods that members of the Wilson County community can aid the organization’s cause. Volunteering can be a beneficial experience for all involved. This summer, volunteers are needed on Mondays and Wednesdays especially. Volunteers can participate in food preparation, serving meals, assisting with laundry and showers, repairing bikes, mentoring, painting and minor repair work, landscaping, and cleaning at the center. During the winter season, the shelter is more active in housing people, and needs volunteers for all of these tasks, in addition to nightly staffing for the shelters and bus drivers. The organization also must replenish supplies frequently, and monetary donations are extremely helpful.
In 2020, the organization moved into its headquarters on College Street in Lebanon. It came right at the perfect time, because with COVID, places to shelter the homeless for the night, became limited. The headquarters was used to house the male population and The Glade Church in Mt. Juliet graciously provided their facility as shelter for the women. “Our new headquarters was a Godsend,” notes Weathers “because finding shelter was becoming harder and harder for us because of the pandemic. The long-term plan for the headquarters is to be a place the unhoused can obtain resources/training to obtain sustainability with jobs, housing, and other much-needed life-skills, with the overnight shelter to return to the local churches. But we are taking it day by day and are just thankful that for now, we have this permanent building to offer our unhoused community.”
To find out how you can help Compassionate Hands as a volunteer or donor, call (615) 784-9897, or email info@compassionatehandsTN.org.
No matter where you are in your reproductive health journey, Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon has got you covered. Our team of four Certified Nurse Midwives and four OB-GYNs empowers you to make your own informed healthcare decisions by supporting you, educating you, and standing by your side at every visit.
“We offer a full range of primary health care services for patients of all ages – from adolescence to post-menopause,” said Heather Potts, Certified Nurse Midwife. “Our team is well-versed in primary care, family planning, preconception care, gynecological care, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Our midwife team works closely with our physician colleagues to provide the best service for you and your family.”
Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon midwives are obstetric and gynecological healthcare providers that offer intimate and personalized care for our patients. All of our midwives have a background in nursing, which ensures effective and safe care for clients. Our Certified Nurse Midwives are experts at assessing, diagnosing, and treating a diverse range of healthcare conditions. Mothers walk away from their appointments with our team feeling heard, understood, and connected to their healthcare providers. Here, you will know your care team by name – and they will know you.
Our midwife team keeps close watch over you during the duration of your pregnancy and birth, offering guidance and a hand to hold. “Nothing is more rewarding to us than delivering your baby safe and sound,” said Megan Donohue, MSN, Certified Nurse Midwife. “Being the first one to introduce parents to their baby is worth its weight in gold. We laugh and cry alongside our patients – it is this connection that keeps us coming back for more.”
At Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon, we ensure you will have a true understanding of your care plan, while also giving you a voice to alter the plan to fit your needs and desires. Our midwives present all options to you, discussing risks and benefits openly and honestly. These conversations start in the clinic, but they don’t stop there. These discussions continue throughout your pregnancy and postpartum period, because we want you to have a say.
If you are a higher-risk patient, we are able to expedite your care to any specialist in the Vanderbilt Health system, ensuring you receive the intimate care that is expected at a private practice, while also offering the resources that come along with a large academic institution. Our patients will always have a comprehensive team supporting them through their entire birth, pregnancy and postpartum process. We’re the best of both worlds.
The majority of our women’s health team is local to Wilson County – we are members of your community who care for you like family. The newest addition to the team will be Zoe Belkin, MD. In fall 2021, Dr. Belkin will be the first female OB-GYN to join Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon.
“I am thrilled to be joining the team as the first female OB-GYN at Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon,” Dr. Belkin said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to provide care for women of Wilson County through all life stages – including pregnancy, postpartum, non-surgical and surgical gynecological care. I strive to improve my patients’ health through evidenced-based care, careful listening, and individualized attention. I am a strong advocate for my patients, and I hope to empower them to feel in charge of their own health.”
With both Certified Nurse Midwives and OB-GYNs, all experts in a wide range of women’s healthcare, Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health Lebanon is ready to serve you and your family. We will empower you to make informed decisions about your care. Let us meet you wherever you are in your reproductive journey.
As Tennessee emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many events and happenings at the Farm Bureau Exposition Center, located on 945 East Baddour Parkway in Lebanon, Tennessee are now in full swing again. And one person that has helped the Expo navigate the unprecedented the last year is Expo Director, Gayle Hibbert. Gayle and the staff have been instrumental in keeping the Expo up and running through 2020 and are excited to say that 2021 is expected to be a banner year for the Expo Center.
Hibbert comes from a marketing background in the healthcare industry. Transitioning to event coordination, Hibbert explains, was natural for her as she had built connections and honed her managerial skills for two decades. After obtaining further education at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Hibbert returned home to Wilson County with the intention of aiding to its growth and development as a community. As the new Expo Director, Gayle is now able to bring with her a multitude of helpful experiences, including her ability to adjust schedules and pivot when necessary and remain the calm within the storm.
Although the pandemic did not close the doors of the Expo Center to all events, many adjustments were made for the safety of the community. Around 75% of the $350,000 worth of cancelled events from March through June 2020 were rescheduled to the current year, with around 25% of these events unable to reschedule. However, in July 2020, while abiding by CDC safety procedures, events were once again scheduled and safely executed, and by the end of the year, bookings for 2021 and 2022 were filling up rapidly, allowing the Expo Center to bounce back after a short amount of time.
The Expo Center was renamed from the Wilson County Expo Center- the title they opened with in 2016- to the Farm Bureau Expo Center following a $225,000 five year naming rights agreement between the Expo and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
The entire building is an impressive 79,000 square feet, suitable for large gatherings and events such as trade shows and concerts, and the individual exhibit halls and rentable spaces can cater to the needs of smaller gatherings as well, for instance, more intimate business meetings or wedding receptions.
Of the numerous occasions planned for the coming months, there are several events for the Wilson County community to participate in and enjoy. The Wilson County Fair – The Tennessee State Fair, held on the James E. Ward Agricultural grounds, are running concurrently from August 12th through 21st. For firearms enthusiasts, the RK Gun Show is hosting multiple events during the fall and winter months in 2021. Near the end of August, a Creating Keepsakes Scrapbooking convention will be held on the 27th-28th, for craft aficionados. And in October, many fun events are scheduled including the Tennessee Antique Vintage Market and Fall Flower Show as well as the Wilson County Oktoberfest- modeled after a traditional German Oktoberfest- which will feature traditional German music, lively activities, and German food and bier, and will be held on the 23rd-24th of October.
Gayle is glad that the storm is behind us and Wilson County has emerged stronger than ever. Gayle notes that “the Expo Center is a great space for our community to come out and enjoy events as well as a source of income for the community. We are proud to be an iconic landmark in the county, as well as this event resource. Our focus is to bring diverse events into Wilson County, drive revenue dollars and further support the merchants and hotels within the greater Wilson County area.”
If you are interested in planning a private event at the Expo Center, you can contact Hibbert through her office number, 615-450-3049, her cell number, 615-864-1977, or through email, at email@example.com. For a schedule of upcoming events you and your family can enjoy be sure to visit their website at farmbureauexpo.com. Events are constantly being added, so check back often and come out to enjoy all the Expo Center offers!
Watertown’s small-town values impact our community in a big way
If you ever have the opportunity to drive through Watertown – you’re likely to see children riding bikes, grandparents sitting on their front porches and neighbors waving at each other as they drive down the road. Boasting only about 1500 citizens, Watertown is a close-knit community where neighbors check on each other, churches are full on Sundays and hard work is valued.
Wilson County’s smallest city was established in the 1790s when the grandparents of Wilson L. Waters, the founder of Watertown, moved into the Round Lick Creek area. Waters established a sawmill, gristmill and blacksmith in the early 1800s and in 1858 was appointed the first postmaster. Waters’ 400-acre farm became forever known thereafter as Watertown.
Watertown – with its rolling hills, fishing holes and a town that takes pride in the fact they don’t even have one traffic light in their entire town – almost sounds unreal in today’s 21st century modern world, where life happens fast and people are quickly losing their connections. But the people of Watertown are holding tight to their small-town values, finding that those values are impacting and shaping Wilson County for the better.
Just ask four local citizens who hail from Watertown. Each of them holds fond memories of growing up in Watertown and how their small-town values have influenced their lives and careers.
County Mayor Randall Hutto, County Attorney Mike Jennings, District Attorney General Jason Lawson and Criminal Court Judge Brody Kane were all raised in Watertown and have not wandered too far from their hometown roots. Hutto and Kane now live in Lebanon, Lawson is in Mt. Juliet and Jennings not only continues to live in Watertown but is also their Mayor. Visit a Friday night Watertown football game and you’re likely to see one or two of these men in the stands cheering their Purple Tigers on while talking to their old friends and neighbors.
“It’s about community. When you grow up in a small town like this, you always feel safe and protected. Everyone was always rooting for you, from your teachers who wanted you to succeed, to your coaches on the field who taught you grit and perseverance, to your friends who always had your back and still do 50 years later,” notes Criminal Court Judge Brody Kane.
Wilson County County Attorney, Mike Jennings, was born and raised in Watertown and then raised his own children there too. In fact, he liked it so much, he has stuck around and has remained the Mayor of Watertown for more than three decades. A job he does without pay because this way of life and preserving it, is important to him. Mike remembers that “growing up in Watertown revolved around church, school and family. These things were focal points then and, in my opinion, they still are.”
In the last ten years, Wilson County’s population has grown by over 26% and as Nashville keeps pushing east and people are moving to Tennessee in droves, change is inevitable. Yet, the reason so many people want to live in Tennessee and Wilson County specifically, is directly because of the fact – church, school and family are important to them as well.
A fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by all four of these men whose job it is to protect and preserve our community, as well as another Watertown resident, who chose to call Watertown home as an adult.
In July, Jeff Luttrell took over as Wilson County’s Director of Schools. Jeff was raised in a town much like Watertown north of the border in Kentucky. He became a teacher because of the deep impact his teachers had on him as a young child. They believed he could when others did not. Their words and actions impacted him and encouraged him. Their efforts led him down a path that eventually brought him to Cumberland University and under the guidance of Coach Woody Hunt, Jeff finished college and began his teaching career in Hartsville and later Watertown. He stayed in Watertown because of a pretty young lady from Watertown named Tiffany Allison, who at the time was cutting his hair. Jeff likes to share that his regular barber only charged ten dollars while Tiffany charged fifteen dollars, which was steep for a young teacher, but he laughs, he kept coming back every few weeks until she eventually went out with him and married him. Since then Jeff and his family have called Watertown home with Jeff eventually going from a teacher and coach to Principal of Watertown High School.
“Watertown is a great place to live and raise your kids. The people are hard-working and have integrity. What they say they mean. It’s not about money, it’s not about who your parents are or what they do, it’s about what you do and how you do it that matters. It was my privilege to be the Principal of Watertown High School and to see small town values in action daily within this community and the school specifically. You don’t necessarily teach honesty or work-ethic – instead it’s instilled in you as a way of life by watching and learning from those around you. Teachers take pride in their work and want their students to succeed. Parents are involved and support the teachers. The community as a whole watches out for each other and for our kids and often steps up to help each other out. The world our children are being raised in might be completely different than the one we were raised in, its faster, scarier, bigger but if your core values are solid, then you can handle anything that life throws your way.”
As Wilson County grows, the Director of Schools has a huge responsibility because how Luttrell leads will affect not just the children but the entire community in the future. “I’m ready for this job. I don’t take lightly the impact my decisions will make. I talked to my family and prayed about it long and hard before deciding to put my name in for the position. I’m up for the challenges ahead and excited to see all that these kids will be doing in the future. And I hope that many of them will return to the area after finishing up their education. The world out there may be all shiny and new but there is something to be said about living and working in a community like the one we have here in Watertown.”
Mayor Hutto, a former teacher and coach himself, also hopes that many of our young citizens will decide to stay within the community. “It’s one of the many reasons I decided to become Mayor eleven years ago. It’s important to me that as this community grows, we grow in a way that preserves our past but makes room for our future. We have to have opportunities for both our older and younger citizens and give them all a good quality of life – good jobs, good neighborhoods, good school systems, safe communities. While we can’t bring Mayberry back, we can teach and encourage the values that support a good quality of life. I was blessed to be raised in Watertown and maybe that’s why I love The Andy Griffith Show so much, because it reminds me of my early years in Watertown.”
“Growing up in Watertown, when you were not in school, a ballfield or church then you were somewhere working,” Hutto reminisces. Hutto remembers at nine years old working for his Uncle Donnie Roberts at the Valley Discount Store in Watertown. “It was the only store that stayed open past 6 p.m.. I learned how to pump gas, run a cash register and eventually become the butcher. When I wasn’t there, I was on my grandfather, Claude Roberts’ farm raising tobacco and taking care of two large chicken houses – which had over 10,0000 laying hens. The eggs had to be gathered twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening – 365 days a year. The store was open 365 days a year as well and only closed early on Christmas evening. So during a typical day, I would wake up around 5:30 in the morning and ride to the store with my Uncle Ed Roberts who also worked there and was like a brother to me. I would pump gas until it was time to ride the bus to school. We practiced football during school in those days, so when practice was over, I’d ride the bus back to the store and stay there until 10 o’clock at night when I’d drive home with my Pa, who would often allow us to do the driving.”
“Those were different times but hard work never killed anyone and made you stronger in my opinion. I support Jeff Luttrell and know he knows the value of hard work and how it impacts our younger generation. To be successful in our world today you must be able to withstand the storms of life – and to do so, you must have a strong foundation. Watertown gave me the foundation that has helped me navigate this world and hopefully make a difference. The first foundation was being raised with people with similar values as my own – people who valued family and a strong work ethic. The second foundation came from the people that came into my life from teachers and coaches to friends. These people helped me make my decisions. I remember my principal Mr. John D. Johnson’s response as I asked him whether I should go to college. He simply said ‘If you don’t try it, you will never know if you can succeed or not.’ The third and most significant foundation would be my faith, which was built by my grandmother Corine Roberts. She made sure I went to church every Sunday at the Watertown First Baptist Church. This church has not only been special to me because it was the first church I regularly attended and served in, but it was also the church that I was married in 35 years ago. I have many great memories in this church but the faith I live by today, especially when the storms of life arise, help me get through the other side.”
“Watertown is different today but I still believe the product it continues to produce is above average. There is just something special about this place. And I carry what I learned those years in Watertown and the foundation it gave me into everything I do to this day, including my job as County Mayor.”
Judge Kane also holds fond memories of growing up in Watertown and how that shaped him. “Mrs. Marian Driver was my 4th Grade teacher and she was wonderful. She often read books to us and had each row of students compete against the other in hotly contested math flash card competitions. Her classroom was located in the “new” high school building which meant I would often see my older sisters during the day when the high schoolers changed classes. I don’t ever remember being afraid of the high school kids, everyone was nice and respectful to each other.” Interestingly, the home and farm that the Kane’s grew up in in Watertown was torn down to make way for the current Watertown High School campus. “Whenever I drive onto the campus, I feel like I’m coming home – because I am. I rode my bike up and down that driveway thousands of times – riding my bike into town to the five and dime located on the corner of the square or to the Snow White for the vanilla shakes. It never once crossed my mind to be scared or that something would happen to me. I felt safe everywhere I went. And when I got older, there was less bike riding with friends and more working in the hay fields with them in the summer. And when I wasn’t working on someone else’s farm then I was helping my parents out on our farm – from taking care of sheep or cattle when my Dad was out of town to planting rows and rows of potatoes for my mother. Work kept me out of trouble. I was too tired for trouble by the time I planted ten rows of potatoes!”
And of course, then there was football. Kane recalls that “Junior Pro Football started in the 3rd Grade and so I immediately started playing. William Taylor and Jack Hale were the coaches my first year followed by Ken Fountain and Bruce Harris and eventually Coach Robinson in high school. They all had a great desire to not only win but to teach us that in order to win we had to work hard at learning our skills and work together as a team. They spent countless hours teaching us these important lessons and for that I will be forever grateful.”
“I moved away from Watertown for college and law school and then lived in Memphis for a few years. All of a sudden the big city and all that came with it was at my door. That impacted me in a big way because I realized that without the support of teachers, family, and church behind you, shaping you, like I had had, you could easily make wrong decisions that could affect you and others negatively for the rest of your life. I returned to Wilson County because I knew I wanted my children to be raised with the same values I was raised in. And as Criminal Court Judge, I see daily what is happening to our world. But if a child is raised with a strong foundation, much like Mayor Hutto, mentions – family, faith, work ethic and then our schools and churches also are proponents of values like honesty and commitment, they are less likely to go astray. But if they do, you find ways to get them back on course. Those are Watertown values for sure – responsibility and caring about your neighbor.”
District Attorney Lawson, the youngest of the Watertown natives, grew up like Kane and Hutto – in that family, school and church were the cornerstones of his childhood. Lawson notes that “as I reflect on my memories about Watertown what I have come to realize is that the most special thing about the town is the people.” From his childhood friends Alan Hill, Patrick Orrand and Jennifer Hearn with whom he would play way past dark in games that spanned all the yards on the street, to attending church and listening to his grandfather Ben Fuston preach on Sundays, to his teachers Paulette Dorris, Sue Simpson and Janice Rochelle (to name just a few) who shaped the future of each child they taught, Lawson attributes who he became on all these one on one connections. “The people of Watertown, those memories, they have helped shape me to be the person I am. A person that cares about other people. A person that wants to help out. A person who isn’t afraid to step forward and make the effort to correct the situation and make it better than it was before.”
It was a great childhood – filled with great memories. Lawson remembers that playing softball at the Watertown ballpark was a right of passage. “My team was sponsored by Anderson’s Backhoe, a company ran by Billy Anderson, with whom I attended church. We were terrible but I’ll never forget one night my teammate Eric Dies crushed his first homerun over the fence. There was a reward for anyone who could hit a homerun – a free ice cream from the concession stand, and we were so bad I was really excited to see someone finally get one! I remember coaches like Clint Dennison and Steve Carlisle who would often talk to us about life lessons that had nothing at all to do with the sport they were coaching. They just cared about the kids they were helping raise. To all of these coaches and teachers, it wasn’t just a job to them, it was a profession that they invested themselves in. They knew how important their job was to make all of us become the people that we ought to be.”
“Watertown people have a spirit of helping people out. When the roads would ice over, my dad would get my brother and I up and tell us to get our warm clothes on, that since we had larger trucks with his business, that we had a duty to use them to help people get unstuck and to make it to their homes. I remember local farmers like Bob Haley reaching out to kids to hire them to help work in his tobacco fields not because he truly needed the help, but because he knew that the kid or the kid’s family could use the money. I remember Fridays and Friday nights during football season. Whether it was a year that I was a fan or a year that I played, the experience was unforgettable. The pride that the whole school and the whole town had for its team. The school decked out in royal purple face paint, pep rallies, and then a parade in town for a team meal at the Depot. It’s an amazing way to grow up.”
“All these people and their acts of compassion and dedication shaped me to be the person I am and I’m not alone in sharing this. County lawyers, county mayors, judges, district attorneys, school directors, there are easier ways to make money. These jobs come with challenging problems and more often than not not everyone agrees with your decision. But there are not better ways to help families in our county and to shape our community into what we want it to be. It is the spirit of service that I learned in Watertown that draws us to these positions and continues to motivate us to continue to serve.”
Lawson, who graduated from Watertown High School and went on to MTSU and then UT Knoxville for law school has been a prosecutor his entire legal career. In 2021, he was appointed by Governor Lee to be the new District Attorney General upon the retirement of General Tommy Thompson. At his swearing in ceremony, Judge Brody Kane had the honor of administering his oath of office, a touching moment that did not go unnoticed by many of their Watertown teachers, coaches and neighbors who undoubtedly had a hand in their achievements.
And it is in that same spirit of service that Mike Jennings, the final Watertown native continues to give back to his small community that has given him so much. Mike has been Wilson County’s county attorney for decades and Watertown’s Mayor for 38 years. He and Luttrell have raised families in Watertown and have no plans to leave. In fact, Mayor Jennings now has grandchildren growing up in Watertown.
Mike reminisces that ”I was blessed to have teachers that cared about me and made sure that I applied myself to my education. The older I get the more I realize how much these teachers influenced my life. Expectations were laid out in class and you were expected to meet them. Behavior issues were dealt with by the teachers in the classroom and they were not afraid to use the paddle. In fact, Mrs. Sadie Knox had an axe handle which she laid out on the front of her desk to remind you of the need to behave! And, should your behavior not rise to their expectation level you can better believe that information would beat you home and there would be worse consequences awaiting you there. One teacher, in particular, Mrs. Dorothy Bass, told me at her desk one day ‘you will be the Mayor of Watertown someday.’ I laughed at her and told her she was crazy. We both laughed about that and I thought about her the night I took my first Oath of office as Mayor of Watertown at age 28.
Mayor Jennings is also a member of Watertown First Baptist Church and remembers how the men of the church spent time with the boys like himself taking them camping, fishing and to the occasional minor league baseball game. They even built a ballfield out back at the church for the kids. With connections and support like this, you can do anything you put your mind to. “Like most boys of that age and time, I started out wanting to be a major league baseball player or football player. At the end of my junior year, the Watertown Lions Club selected me to attend American Legion Boy’s State in Cookeville and that is where I began to get interested in government. In college I became more and more interested in the law, traveling with my best friend, who also became an attorney, to the Wilson County Courthouse many afternoons to sit in on trials. By the time I graduated MTSU, I knew that I wanted to go to law school.” After law school, Jennings started his own law practice that eventually led him to being named the County attorney, representing Wilson County in various governmental matters. And a few years after starting his law practice, he also became the Mayor of Watertown.
As Mayor of Watertown, Mike believes “it’s important to continue the family values and guidance that I received as a student and young man. That is what I have tried to do in my 38 years as Mayor. I want Watertown to be a family friendly community where people want to live and, if they can’t live here, that they enjoy visiting. I want it to be appealing to any age and we try real hard not to make decisions that would not be in the best interest of our families, schools and churches.”
And while Watertown strives in many ways to stay the same and preserve its Mayberry type of community, Mike and the citizens of Watertown see the change coming right before their eyes. The new high school is a jewel in the county, and many families are moving in so their children can attend the school. “We’ve gone from one ballfield in town to a community Park and three fields. We have a drive-in theater and we have many annual events such as the Jazz Festival, Car Shows and the Watertown Mile Long Yard Sale. We still don’t have a traffic light though,” Mike says proudly, and then chuckles, “but we like it that way.”
Small town values – integrity, mean what you say, treat people how you want to be treated, work hard at everything you do. These are the qualities instilled in Watertown’s young not just by words but by the actions of those around them. And these are the qualities instilled in those guiding our community into tomorrow.
Cora Wyatt’s cases at Heavenly Bites by Cora in Lebanon are full to the brim with the most decadent, delicious, and down-right good goodies nearly every day of the week.
Wyatt’s second act involves cupcakes, cake pops, pies, cheesecakes, pretzel sticks, dozens of different kinds of dipped caramel apples, and cakes upon cakes. And much more.
A surgical nurse for 25 years (20 years in Cookeville) she got a real wild hair and moved herself alone to Lebanon and opened Heavenly Bites by Cora on Highway 109 North on July 6, 2019.
“I transferred for a job in Lebanon at what was then Tennova,” she said.
She moved to Lebanon in 2014 and was still a nurse there several years.
But, the fun and secret side of Wyatt was she is a fantastic baker.
“I made pumpkin rolls for children on the side as an emergency call nurse,” she recalled. “I was up all day waiting for the call and just decided to start baking.”
She gave away her scrumptious, secret recipe pumpkin rolls to co-workers and a buzz began.
“People told me I ought to sell them,” she said.
She sold pumpkin rolls out of her Spence Creek neighborhood for several years. It was her Grandma’s family recipe.
Her baking business morphed so much her fiancé, Tim Porter, bought her a place on 109 so she could bake with a business license. She concocted her confections in the back of the place.
In Oct. 2018 Porter built out the space to include an eventual storefront.
“Tim supported me the whole time,” said Wyatt, 52.
At first, Wyatt did all the baking herself because she’s persnickety about her recipes. Porter bakes as well. On a single day, they have 14 different varieties of fresh-made cupcakes from scratch and in the oven at 6 a.m. These aren’t your ordinary varieties though. Each are filled with deliciousness. Kids, and grownups as well, can pick out from four to six different types of cake pops. The ones at the local coffee shop pale in size and taste. There’s Keto, large and small pies, cookies, pretzel sticks and her dipped caramel apples go beyond plain caramel, but are dunked in triple chocolate and rolled in nuts.
“There are too many varieties to list,” Wyatt laughed.
Tim has joined her full time. Out of this world scones are behind her case, as well as cinnamon rolls the likes of blueberry and more.
“All my goodies are family recipes,” said Wyatt. “All tested and tried. Our cupcakes are gourmet with filling in them. Think hot fudge, cherries, Reese’s Pieces. They are twice the size of regular cupcakes.”
She said her delights are affordable.
“I want families to come back again and again,” Wyatt said.
Each day customers will find homemade cakes in about three varieties. And, she bakes special orders every day.
Customers eat up about 250 cake pops a week, German chocolate is the fav flavor for her cupcakes, and the strawberry shortcakes are requested on an hourly basis.
Pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate fudge pies are equally loved, as well as her blueberry crisp pie.
Now a bit of time into this fun foray into the baking world, Wyatt has expanded to Cookeville.
“People were driving to Lebanon to get my desserts,” she said. “We opened the Cookeville store Jan. 9 as a storefront.”
Today both cupcake businesses are flourishing. Despite the pandemic. These days she has some help. Though she’s super woman, she can only bake so many cupcakes herself.
“Now I have four employees at my Lebanon store and two at my Cookeville store,” said Wyatt.
She pops up at both stores on a daily basis, and, still bakes.
Recently, there were about 29 different selections of delectables in her case on one day.
“In 2014, I came here alone and I learned to save,” she said. “Now I have a whole new career.”
Her decades in nursing gifted her with stamina and drive.
“I am my own boss now,” she said, smiling ear to ear.
She and Tim bought a houseboat recently on Center Hill Lake. They put the finishing touches on it and moved in mid-July.
And, this cupcake couple tied the knot in August. It was a destination wedding, just the two of them, in Hawaii.
After a surreal journey the past eight years, Mike Harris believes laughter is the best medicine.
Known as “Dr. Mike” of Mt. Juliet Animal Care Center by legions of friends, family and clients, this loved local vet asks Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa to tell him a joke every morning to start off his day.
“She makes sure I laugh every day,” Mike said while at his home in Gladeville.
What happened to Mike, 67, on Sept. 11, 2013 was the furthest thing from a joke imaginable.
A few hours after a routine sinus surgery, Mike suffered an Ischemic stroke while recuperating at home. That type of stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked. Within minutes, the veterinarian’s 35-year fulltime career came to a screeching halt and he began a fight; first to live, and then to battle back to regain full speech, the use of his legs and some mobility.
His wife, Denise, had been diagnosed with breast cancer a few months previously and was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.
“The neurologist came to me and said Mike’s right side of the brain was devastated and the left side had irregularities,” she said.
Their daughter, Haley, was 12 at the time. They had a son, Drew. Denise said that day changed their lives and she put her cancer in the backseat.
“I was so caught up in keeping him alive I went into emergency mode the whole time,” she said. “Of course, I’d come back to the question of ‘why?’ He is such a good man. It’s devastating to watch your husband struggle.”
Brain surgery led to 30 days in the ICU and 120 days in the hospital. Then years of therapy. Both Mike and Denise fought off COVID-19 last June.
For years, clients and locals asked about Dr. Mike and how he was doing. If he was able to talk and walk? How is he recovering? The community missed Dr. Mike and he was rarely seen.
Life before the stroke
Mike was the first generation of his family who was not born in the log cabin on the family farm in Gladeville. Today he and Denise live in Gladeville, off Leeville Road. Haley is in college and Drew is in California in the music industry.
It was only logical Mike became a vet. He grew up on the farm where his father and grandfather ran a dairy. They then used it for beef cattle. Mike and his brother still run cattle today.
Following graduation from Auburn University’s veterinary school in 1978, he joined a vet practice in Austin, Texas. He came back home in 1982 and after a stint at Hermitage Animal Hospital, he opened his own practice on N. Mt. Juliet Road (Billy Goat Café now occupies that space).
In 1986, he built his animal care facility. He expanded three times before he sold the vet business to VCA in 2010 to spend more time with his family. He had been working 80-hour weeks for years. He had built the practice up to 15,000 clients, five other vets and 65 employees. At one point, it was not uncommon for him to treat 100 pets a day.
His deal was he could work there three years more to help with the transition. His clients begged him to stay.
He didn’t quite make it to finish that third year because of the stroke.
Journey back to ‘new normal’
When he woke from the brain surgery, he could barely speak, could not sit up and had no use of his left arm, and the other limbs were iffy.
“It was so frustrating, I was so scared but I had hope to get better,” Mike said. “As long as I could speak, I had to fight. I had my 12-year-old daughter, son and my wife.”
Denise said they were lucky enough to privately pay for his therapy and is taken aback when she thinks of those who can’t. Haley started a nonprofit called Healing Heads that raises money for those with brain injuries.
“After dealing with the fear and anxiety that comes with cancer, I was pretty emotionally numb when Mike had his stroke,” Denise said quietly. “It was simply a matter of survival at that point. In addition, there was so much support from our families and tons of support from his clients, friends, church family and the community in general.”
Mike said his lowest point was at first when he thought there was no hope to get better. He said his highest point was when after years of therapy he knew he could live a “semi-normal” life.
He hated therapy. He said therapists were strict.
Life’s new normal
One doctor told Denise that Mike would most likely never stand.
He can. He can walk with a cane short distances and uses a motorized chair around the house. He has no use of his left arm. Mike’s mind is as sharp as ever and he remembers every surgical detail. Sometimes former clients call him for advice.
“One client who lives in Florida now called me at 1 a.m. and said her little Yorkie (a former patient) was having seizures,” said Mike. “She couldn’t get a vet at that time. I knew the sugar levels were low and causing the seizures and told her to give a teaspoon of white corn syrup. The seizures stopped within 30 minutes.”
Recently he talked a former client through the delivery of a goat.
He doesn’t want to go into part-time practice, though he has kept up his vet license. He also signs health certificate licenses for the FFA and 4H.
“I realize my limitations,” he said.
Checkers and Scrabble are his favorites. Chess?
Until recently he thought Chess was just too slow. But recently, he began to play.
Denise said he and a friend can play up to 13 rounds of checkers in one sitting. She plays Scrabble with her husband a couple times a day. She said he’s remarkable at it considering his vision in one eye is compromised.
Progress continues every day. Mike said he’s done with formal therapy and good with where he’s at now. Denise said Mike has never been a bad patient.
Hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats later and eight years of fight, the retired vet has found peace with a simpler life.
“I’m a 67-year-old man,” he said. “I am now at my happy place.”
Since March 2020, many of us had to tweak or totally overhaul once normal routines. Medicine cabinets are now fully stocked arsenals of vitamins, tinctures, and essential oils. All serving as an invisible barricade between you and covid-19 or any variant thereof. We know we need vitamins, but 5 or 10 or 12 a day? Luckily, a local medical professional expanded her clinic by offering a supplement solution for the vitamin weary.
Wilson County native Helen Thorne is a family nurse practitioner and owner of MidTenn Primary Care. She had been researching IV vitamin therapy for quite some time and decided to put her research into practice (literally) by opening Lebanon’s first IV therapy service, Up Your Game Hydration.
Operating out of her office located on Park Avenue in Lebanon, Up Your Game
Hydration offers a menu of vitamin cocktails, calming atmosphere with reclining chairs, soft music, and peace from outside distractions.
Helen sat down to answer questions you might have about IV Vitamin Therapy.
WL: When did you decide to expand your medical practice to include IV vitamin therapy?
Thorne: We decided at the beginning of 2021 that it was time to offer Lebanon a service that would make people feel better. We knew that IV hydration therapy was a service that could help promote both wellness and boost immunity while people were still reeling from the pandemic.
WL: What are the benefits of IV therapy?
Thorne: IV Hydration Therapy provides the body with a myriad of amazing benefits that include increased energy, improved skin complexion, higher levels of antioxidants and decreased damaging free radicals, fewer headaches, increased alertness, improved immune system, and shortened recovery time, optimal performance, and improved endurance for athletes.
WL: Are there any age restrictions?
Thorne: Although we do not have a certain age range that we provide our services to, we do like for people to understand that our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Our services are intended only for healthy adults. People who are concerned that they may not be a candidate due to certain pre-existing health conditions should check with their physician before considering IV Hydration Therapy.
WL: Does insurance cover this procedure (in part or whole)?
Thorne: Insurance does not cover IV Hydration Therapy but most often our patients are able to use their health savings accounts for our services.
WL: How was your first experience with IV therapy?
Thorne: My personal experience with IV therapy provided me with a huge boost in energy and erased the brain fog I deal with on a daily basis just due to a hectic, crazy schedule!!
WL: How often can someone get IV therapy?
Thorne: IV Hydration can be performed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Bariatric surgery patients struggle with vitamin deficiency due to limited absorption. They are perfect candidates for IV Hydration. Athletes and heavy drinkers can easily handle weekly hydration, as well.
WL: Why IV vitamins over pill form vitamins?
Thorne: Most of us do not consume the recommended daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy immune system or the energy we need to support our busy lives. While oral supplements are a great way to ingest nutrients, the digestive system can compromise a large portion of their efficacy. IV hydration therapy is a safe and effective way to obtain those important vitamins, minerals, and amino acids directly and immediately into the body through the bloodstream, altogether bypassing any breakdown through the digestive tract.
WL: What are some of the most popular cocktails you offer?
Thorne: We offer a wide array of cocktails that improve performance, immunity, hair/skin/nails, mental fatigue, hydration, energy. There are cocktails for detoxification that remove free radical from the body. We also have cocktails for cramping/pain relief for migraine, hangover, menstrual pain and post-performance for athletes.
WL: How long does the procedure take?
Thorne: We pride ourselves on our impeccable customer service while maintaining that personal feel. We strive to get our patients in and out within 45 minutes.
WL: What do the effects feel like?
Thorne: Most people tell us that they feel a surge of energy within 1-3 hours of having the infusion and report having a great night’s sleep.
WL: What events do you have coming up?
Thorne: We are planning to have a monthly AFTER-HOURS GIRLS NIGHT OUT IV HYDRATION. We want to be available to the working women whose schedule does not allow them to come in during the day. We would like for them to be able to come in, enjoy their hydration experience and not be rushed.
WL: Will you be offering group events (bride and bridesmaids, groom and groomsmen, before/after bachelorette/bachelor parties;))?
Thorne: We are able to offer mobile services such as pre-wedding events for
brides/bridesmaids, grooms/groomsmen, and rehearsal dinners.
If you would like to learn more about IV vitamin therapy, visit the Up Your Game Hydration office at 701 Park Avenue in Lebanon or Call 615-547-6699 for an appointment.
“If you haven’t tried IV hydration yet…you totally need to. It’s not what most people think it is. I finally went to see what all the fuss was about!!! I am feeling incredible after a visit to Up Your Game Hydration. They have all different options based on what your body needs are. Also if you and a group of friends want to go do it together, they have a great set up for that as well.”-Torri and Brian Fussell, Owners of IMA Crossfit in Lebanon
“I have always wanted to try hydration therapy. However, since we did
not have this option locally, I put it on the back burner. When Helen
and her staff announced offering this service, I was so excited. I had my
first, but not my last, and was totally amazed at how great I felt. My
energy level improved, my mind was clear and focused, and my sleep
became more sound and restful. IV hydration therapy is my new self-
care. If you are considering IV hydration therapy do not wait. You will
not be disappointed.” -Kim Stroud-Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Counseling in Lebanon
If one trait has been passed down from generation to generation in the Dixon family, it has been perseverance. Josh and Ashley Dixon and their children have it and then some!
Today this large family are putting the finishing touches on their dream house in Defeated Creek, located on the original site of the farmhouse settled in the early 1800’s by Josh Dixon’s ancestors. Their farm, located in Smith county, has been in the family for seven generations and was given to them originally with a land grant.
Josh and Ashley met at church and dated for 6 months before tying the knot. “When I started dating Josh I saw a man who had an amazing work ethic, already had his own house and farm and I knew he was the type of man who would always take care of our family,” notes Ashley. “We didn’t plan on having
a big family but I came from a big family of 6 girls and Josh came from a family with 4 children so it was definitely something we were used to.”
As their family grew, their small construction busines flourished as well. Josh had been working construction since he was 10 years old and hard work was something that was instilled in him at a young age. However, in 2008 the market crashed and things went south in the construction business. The
Dixons made the difficult decision to sell the family farm and the home they had spent four years remodeling. By then they also had three children under the age of 3, a car and house payment and they had no other choice. They did, however, find a way to keep 45 acres of the farm with the hopes that they could someday return.
At that point, they left their beautiful remodeled home and moved into a 2 bedroom rented trailer, determined to persevere. Josh continued construction and took a factory job at night. They kept working the Dave Ramsey financial plan, saving their pennies and staying out of debt. This meant no credit cards and shopping thrift stores and goodwill for their growing family.“It’s amazing what you can do on so little!” Ashley remarks.
Soon Ashley was pregnant with baby number 4, a baby boy. Ashley says his name was whispered in her ear at a friend’s house. “It was the craziest things. It was like an Angel told me to name him ‘Logan’. I don’t know why and I still don’t to this day, but I believe one day I will.” After renting for a few years and the market making a comeback, they decided to build on the 45 acres
that they left. It was a crazy spot to build but we went for it. Josh continued to build small custom homes and take on remodeling jobs with his company ‘Dixon Homes’, while building the family home as well. They also started flipping houses and kept adding to the family too.
Then one day the person who had bought their original home reached out to them that she planned on selling it and wanted to offer it to them first. They Dixons, of course, jumped at the chance to have the old homestead once again be part of the family farm.
And as if they were not busy enough, Ashley had also started homeschooling her happy family of now 8 children, while also having them participate in gymnastics and baseball and enjoying family trips in between.
But Ashley is the first to admit that she had struggles along the way. After their 5 th child, she suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. “By using micronutrients I was able to heal myself and now I use Instagram to encourage other mothers who may struggle with the same issues. My handle is @takingbackmoterhood and I love sharing what I’ve learned along my journey. As you can imagine our life is a little different than families of a smaller size because everything over here is bigger! Bigger meals, bigger shopping trips and bigger planning!”
So how does this family of ten manage homeschooling, a business and just day to day life? Ashley says that she likes to take her advice from God and how in Genesis God said it was evening and morning the first day. “He started the day at night, so preparing for the next day the night before is really helpful. I
am also a work in progress minimalist. I try to keep my children’s clothes to a minimum so there is less laundry overall, focusing on quality items over quantity items. If they won’t be fitting into it by the next season out if goes. I use apps like ‘Mercari’ to resell clothing so that I can reuse that money to buy what they need. I have never had a problem shopping second-hand clothes and shoes and when I do buy new, I shop sales and use websites like ‘retail me not’ to get cash back online.”
As for groceries they family cooks a lot of meals from scratch, buy from Sam’s in bulk and often buy a whole cow from a local farmer to have it butchered to fill their freezer. The boys also love to hunt so they eat deer as well. Ashley is just like the rest of us though and notes “Walmart grocery pick up is a
blessing!” She continues that “habits are so important for managing a large family. Starting when the kids are young, we teach them simple things like taking off your shoes when coming inside and putting them where they go. Hanging up backpacks as soon as they get home from tutorial and unpacking and putting away their lunchbox. I teach all of my kids to put away their own laundry and as they get older how to do their own laundry as well. Instilling good habits just makes life easier, even if it’s harder at first. And we are definitely not perfect and that is ok. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t but we just keep going till we get it right.”
“The kids are also involved in the business. A good work ethic is so hard to find these days and we felt if the kids were allowed to work when they were young it would produce more productive adults. I always say I’m raising the kids to be adults and not kids. We do pay them for work and they save money and
buy things they want. It’s important that the children learn the value of hard work because if we just buy them something they wanted ourselves, they would not learn that lesson.”
“It’s all about deciding what is worth it to you and thinking about the things you can make do without. Doing without the things you don’t need enables you to save more for the things you really enjoy like trips and hobbies. And the truth is I have grown with my children. It’s like a body of water, if it never moves it gets stagnant. I’ve had to adopt to life changes and I’ve had to learn to grow where I need so that the family can function well. It’s been quite a journey and in many ways we are still at the beginning stages and we look forward to that!”
And while 2020 was rough for the whole world, the Dixons have stood strong in their faith, family and business. They are now in the process of building their final home on the original site of the ancestorial farmhouse and hope to have it ready to move into by Spring 2021. While the road home has not been easy, the Dixons want to use their story to inspire others to reach for their dreams no matter how crazy they may seem.
Josh and Ashley have come full circle and are now exactly where they were meant to be!
Founded in 2017 by husband and wife team, Cole and Erika Ebel, Ebel’s Tavern has become the centerpiece of the Carthage downtown square. And that seems only fitting since Ebel’s Tavern is located in a century-old building
made of solid brick and stone, right in the heart of town.
When Cole and Erika first moved to Smith county in 2012, they were not necessarily interested in starting up a new restaurant. Instead, they were looking for a simpler life, having each served in the military, air force for Erika, and army for Cole. They loved the hometown feel of Smith county and thought it was the perfect place to raise their three children. Upon moving to town, they soon became involved in various community groups and events and
realized that there were not that many places to socialize.
And the idea of Ebel’s Tavern was born.
The Ebel’s family (L-R): Colin, Cole, Evangeline, Cason, and Erika
“We wanted to incorporate a family-friendly, classy atmosphere where community could come together, eat good food, drink well-made drinks and have fun,” notes Cole. During a downtown event in 2016, the Ebels noticed
that the historic building was for sale and just for fun, called to ask about it. Next thing they knew, they made an offer and soon were the new owners.
One might think with no experience in the restaurant business, the Ebels would have been terrified of such a new business venture, but that isn’t their style. “We’ve both traveled the states and world and have enjoyed many
different cuisine styles and we wanted to bring some of those tastes closer for others to try,” continues Cole.
Ebel’s Tavern is a steak and seafood restaurant primarily. Specializing in everything from snapper, grouper, fresh oysters and scallops to calamari, shrimp platters and even lobster stuffed mushrooms, you definitely will find something you’ll love on their menu! They are also known for their delicious steaks that are all hand cut, upper 2/3 grass fed, grain finished and aged 21 days. While the grouper and scallops are local favorites, the oysters are extremely popular as well.
In addition to quality food, Ebel’s Tavern has become a place where the community can gather. The tavern has live music every Friday and Saturday night supporting local artists, a poker league every Wednesday night, family fun trivia on Tuesday night and a Thursday night dart league. And the Ebels continue to work towards filling up every night with an event that supports the community.
The success of Ebel’s Tavern, however, is definitely a group effort. While Cole and Erika certainly are very hands on, they are first to give credit to Janie Jones the General Manager of Ebel’s Tavern, as well as Chris Underwood, their Chef and Vince Vaughn, their Sous Chef. The Ebels are thankful for not only their hard work but also their loyalty especially during the last few months.
And while the restaurant is certainly near and dear to their hearts, the Ebels have not only enriched the town square with their new venture but stay involved in other ways as well. Both are now involved with their local
government with Erika serving on the County Commission and Cole being part of the City Council. As active Libertarians, they are involved not only in government but also other groups that support their community including River City Ball, Smith County Living, Smith County Help Center, Keep Smith County Beautiful and are constantly on the Caney Fork River with a passion for keeping it clean and promoting river tourism.
To say they’ve embraced their new community is an understatement, but the best is yet to come. While expansion is certainly a possibility, for now the Ebels are content on concentrating their efforts on making Ebel’s Tavern the best it can be for the community they’ve come to love and call home.
If you have visited or live in Wilson County, there is a good chance you’ve driven by the IWP Buchanan House. The eye-catching beauty had seen better days until recently. That all changed when the owner of Reid & Co.
Construction, Reid Hinesley and his wife, Ashley, purchased the residence hoping to bring it back to its original grandeur. Ashley notes, “Reid and I had driven by this home for 15 years and promised if we ever had an opportunity to restore it, we’d do it! And, we’re so thankful we had the chance to.” Reid adds, “We were told the house may be torn down and lot scraped before we purchased, which would have been a tremendous loss for the city. There’s just something really special about investing in the town that we live and raise our children in.”
Designed by renowned architect, George Barber, construction on this stunning home began in 1894 and completed 3 years later. “We knew it would be a tough challenge and not a low-cost investment from the first time we walked on site. Although it had fallen into disrepair from years of weathering storms,” Reid continues, “The bones of the home were and still are solid. 16-inch thick hand-chiseled limestone that makes the foundation and hand-pressed brickwork are second to none. Similar original stonework accentuates the front elevation in a polygonal tower. And the granite like strength of the wood
that frames the structure is from the yesteryears of the old growth forest harvest.”
Many rooms of the interior of the Buchanan House have been proudly preserved by Reid & Co. during the extensive renovation process.
The original Burled curly heart pine is an exceedingly rare and unique treasure that has been preserved today and is on
full display in the breathtaking foyer hall woodwork.
Original 19th century embossed wallpaper and simulated leather wainscotting in the foyer
The main level has original solid brass lighting fixtures which have been restored and now glow with new wiring and LED bulbs to make them safe and efficient. Fun fact: Records indicate this home was the first electrified residence in the City of Lebanon.
Reid & Co. Construction Brothers Coley, Reid, Whitney and Gatlin Hinesley
Reid & Ashley Hinesley Family
This renovation was not their first building challenge. In fact, the managing partners at Reid & Co. bring more than 75 years of professional experience in the building industry to every job. “Currently, Reid & Co. Construction is blessed to have eight $1-$3 million luxury lake homes in various stages of
construction on Old Hickory Lake.” Reid says.
By combining a passion for architectural design and interiors, Reid & Co. offers a hands-on boutique business style while building fine custom homes and select high-end renovations to clients throughout Middle Tennessee. They are always working to implement new technologies to better the customer
experience and just launched Vintage Barns, a timber frame barn division.
After graduating from Purdue University, Reid started his professional career in construction, working during one of the biggest housing booms in US history. During his tenure working for a Fortune 500 company, Reid was mentored by an accomplished Master Builder. Early in his career, Reid excelled
in the construction field as an award-winning project manager completing construction of more than 400 homes.
In 2008, Reid left his corporate management position and founded Reid & Co. Construction and brought on his 3 brothers: all highly skilled and accomplished builders. To date, the team at Reid & Co. Construction has been entrusted to manage more than $100 million in projects.
It is the firm’s dedication to quality and making every client’s unique tastes and perspectives a reality that can be found in each Reid & Co. project. “We want our homes to withstand the test of time. The same way that IWP Buchanan invested in the bones of his home some 127 years ago. This is what continues to motivate Reid and his brothers to build heirloom quality homes with the best bones so they can stand for generations to come.” Ashley continues, “When you walk into a home built by Reid & Company Construction, we don’t want you to feel like you’ve ever seen another like it.”
If you’re in the market for a fine custom home, Reid & Co. provides the expertise and vision to ensure your home is built above industry standards while making sure it fits your unique style and way of living. Reid adds, “At Reid & Company Construction, we build with a custom approach catered to compliment your site and lifestyle. While we understand the importance of price per square foot and meeting budget goals, we focus on quality per square foot and overall long-term value.”
Reid and his wife Ashley live in Wilson County with their three children.
What important decisions must you make during your first 90 days in office?
RB: During the campaign, I talked with citizens throughout Lebanon, and three areas of concern emerged from those conversations. In the first 100 days, these need to be addressed.
First, I will work closely with the Finance Director to better manage the budget. I will also ask each department head to look for cuts in their respective budgets. With many homeowners and local business owners facing difficulty and with an unknown economic future, it is essential that we relieve any unnecessary tax burden.
Second, I will work with the Planning Commission to implement a plan of growth management. This will include a deep study of the Comprehensive Plan that has yet to be approved. We must use the compiled data to create a multi-level strategy to tackle immediate concerns and plan for long-term goals.
Third, we must create a plan to attract restaurants and other amenities to Lebanon. I will work with the Economic Development Director to implement a plan to promote our city to regionally and nationally known businesses and to
incentivize the investment in locally owned businesses.
MJ: As I am continuing in office with another term, I don’t know that I can identify any new decisions that must be made during the first 90 days. We will continue to pursue funding for the installation of the railroad turntable and
identify our source of long-term funding for the major sewer project about to go to bid.
WL: What long-term goals are you coming into office with?
RB: My first long-term goal is to ensure that Lebanon runs financially efficient. We must spend citizen’s tax dollars wisely and in areas that enhance quality of life. This includes, but is not limited to, keeping everyone protected in their homes and neighborhoods; improving the infrastructure of the city; and
creating recreational opportunities for people of all ages.
Second, we need to take advantage of Lebanon’s strong position as a place where people want to live. With the proper strategy, we should be able to choose the type of development that we want and where we want it to be located.
Third, we must promote Lebanon’s assets to attract the types of businesses that we want. We have several things – Vanderbilt Hospital, Cumberland University, Music City Star, Lebanon Municipal Airport – that make our city unique in Middle Tennessee. Instead of waiting for someone to come to us, we will go to them and show them why they need to invest in Lebanon.
MJ: I have pretty much the same goals I have always had. I want to offer our citizens as many things as possible while continuing to maintain our small-town atmosphere.
JM: Reducing the fire ISO rating to a four in the city, completing our transportation projects, adding additional park land and greenways.
WL: What do you believe your city’s biggest challenge is right now? And what are your plans to find a solution for this issue?
RB: Lebanon faces several challenges, but I believe that growth is the biggest. Over the past four years, the city has grown tremendously. However, we have experienced the challenges of growth without reaping the benefits that should
come with it. As I stated previously, we must implement a plan that will prepare us for both. The first step is to study the Comprehensive Plan to determine issues that need to be addressed immediately and to map a strategy for the future. With the proper strategy, growth can be managed, and we can choose the type of community that we want to be.
MJ: The biggest challenge is always money. Many people may not realize that citizens of a small community like Watertown expect you to offer the same services that larger towns and cities do. Police and Fire Protection. Parks and
Recreational opportunities. Safe drinking water. An efficient, working sewer system. Paved streets. Codes enforcement. Opportunities for employment. Many of the expenses to provide these things continue to increase with inflation, increases in population, etc. The challenge is to do the most
you can in the most efficient, economical manner.
JM: Our biggest challenge is transportation. In 2019 we passed our long-term transportation plan. We have to ensure staff has the resources they need, and the funding is there to present shovel-ready projects to the state.
WL: How do you plan to manage the inevitable growth that is coming our way, with the “small town” quality of life many citizens want to retain?
RB: During the campaign, I talked about protecting Lebanon’s identity as a place where we can spend our lives; raise families, and watch as our families grow. Protecting our historic core is an important way to do this. For over 200
years, the square and downtown area has been the heart of Lebanon. We must ensure that it continues. We must also protect our established neighborhoods
throughout the city. There are many neighborhoods where people have raised families and are spending their retirement years. These areas have to be protected from the encroachment of higher density subdivisions.
Also, we need a traffic plan. For people in some parts of Lebanon, they can get to Mt. Juliet quicker than they can get across our city. Better traffic flow can make life less frustrating. It can also help people better enjoy the attributes
that make Lebanon a special place.
MJ: It’s difficult because there are just so few things that you can have input on or manage. We have been fortunate in Watertown to have slow, sustained growth. That offers you more opportunities for input and control. Folks who live in Watertown daily may think they don’t see any change. But, if they will look back 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and more they can see what I mean.
JM: One thing we have pushed for is lower density growth. There is a high demand for the area, and we try to balance the demand to develop an area with required open and green space. It’s also important for the growth to be compatible with the area and add value. It’s important we do not settle for just anything and continue to demand high standards.
WL: What will you do to bring more, higher-paying jobs or industries to the area in order to keep our younger citizens from moving away to larger cities with more opportunities?
RB: When businesses relocate, quality of life for their employees is an important part of the decision-making process. As I stated earlier, we must promote the assets that will put Lebanon at the top of their list. We have Vanderbilt Hospital, which has a reputation of providing excellent medical care. We have Cumberland University that creates a skilled workforce. We have the Lebanon Municipal Airport for convenient corporate travel. We have the Music City Star that provides public transportation to downtown Nashville. However, we must also improve our recreational facilities Businesses want to be in cities that provide greenways, parks, and athletic fields. These are places that provide recreational activities but also provide ways for people to be part of the overall community.
MJ: We will continue to look for those things. But, it is more difficult to do in a town that is 10 miles from the interstate system, rather than having multiple interstate exchanges available like Lebanon and Mt. Juliet have. But, we will
continue our efforts. We have some very good small industries here with some fair paying jobs. I think we have the opportunity for more of those. And, I have always tried to identify the businesses that will be “good corporate citizens”. It
needs to be a two way street between government and industry.
JM: One thing we are actively working on is the recruiting of white-collar jobs to Mt. Juliet. Providence Central was recently approved and will provide long-term traffic relief to the Providence area while having the space set aside for the type of jobs many of us commute to other cities for. Mt. Juliet was recently found to be the most cost-effective local government in the state. Keeping taxes and fees low, proximity to the airport, and a great workforce are some
things we offer to attract jobs.
WL: Under your leadership, what will the city do to improve the quality of life for both younger families as well as our Seniors?
RB: Quality of life can be defined in several ways. For some people, it is more places to dine and shop. For others, it is navigable sidewalks and greenways that provide opportunity for exercise and a way to move around the core of the city. For many, it is parks and better athletic fields for their children. For a lot of people, it is a place like the Senior Center, where people can congregate and socialize. For most people, it is a city that places importance on beautification. I will work in each of these areas, and more, to ensure that quality of life for the citizens of Lebanon improves.
MJ: I will continue to lead, and encourage, our City Council to pursue the things that blend into, and compliment, the things already in our community. I have been blessed to have a very cooperative and, I think progressive, City Council over the years who want the best for their community. Many people may not know that none of us receive a salary, or stipend, for what we do. We do it for public service seeking the best for all the citizens of our community.
JM: One thing we recently did was donate land for the senior citizen center. We also have required age restrictive communities to donate to the senior citizen capital fund so they can construct a new center. We are also actively looking
to expand our park land. Recently, in the last few years, the city opened several smaller parks and expanded our greenways. I also plan to explore ways to encourage family activity centers, such as skate centers, bowling alleys, etc. to
build in our city in ways that are not cost prohibitive.
WL: In your role as Mayor, what can you do to improve our education system?
RB: The Lebanon Special School District is independent from the City of Lebanon. However, we know that growth greatly affects the school system. I have asked the Planning Director to speak with LSSD officials when he is researching a potential development. Understanding the impact of a development on the school system is an important part of the process. If school officials say that a development will place a tremendous burden on them, then that should be taken into account when the Planning Director recommends approval or denial.
MJ: Continue to cooperate, and assist, them in any way we can. We have had a long, proven track record of working with all our schools (we have three inside the city limits) to assist with traffic flow, safety, and, through our recreational leagues primarily, provide some part-time employment for students.
JM: I think our parents, teachers, and school administrators deserve the credit for our great school system. One thing the city has done has been to encourage, when possible, the building of age-restricted developments (i.e. 55 and over) which pay into our schools without increasing the load on the school system. We can also work to streamline the building process for our school system when they need to build schools in the city.
WL: Where do you see your city 5 years from now?
RB: In five years, Lebanon will have a plan that manages growth and ensures that it is positive for everyone. It will also be a place where people have a variety of options in dining, shopping and entertainment. It will have a vibrant
downtown core where local residents will gather and people from other cities will travel to spend money. It will be on its way to having a sidewalk and greenway system that connects the entire city.
MJ: I see the slow, steady growth continuing trying to meet the challenge of providing 21st Century businesses, employment, etc. while continuing to maintain our small town image that we have come to be known for. Especially
around our Square and Central Business District.
JM: We will have our third fire station opened and operational, a reduction in our ISO safety rating. Many of our proposed transportation projects will be started and some complete within five years. By that point, we will see the
addition of some needed park space.
WL: Where do you see your city 20 years from now?
RB: In twenty years, Lebanon will be a place that provides a high quality of life for its residents. There will be a completed greenway system that connects neighborhoods and parks throughout the city. That quality of life will help
make it a hub of high-tech jobs. While some people will ride the Music City Star to Nashville for work, others will ride to Lebanon to enjoy our historic downtown and other amenities. It will be a city that prides itself on beautification and strict building standards. It will be a city that its founders and the generations who have lived here would be proud of.
MJ: Very similar to where I see the city in 5 years, however, I do think the urban sprawl that has affected Mt. Juliet over the last 20 years, and to a lesser degree Lebanon will become more of a challenge to future leaders. In school, we learned from the 19th century the encouragement “to go west, young man.” Here, in our County, over the last 20 years or so, it seems the encouragement, and actuality has been “to go east, young man.”
JM: We will see the completion of some major transportation improvements and see Mt. Juliet positioned as not only an edge city but a destination city offering diverse jobs. Mt. Juliet will be a city people commute to and not from. In 20 years, one thing that won’t change is Mt. Juliet will still be one of the safest and family-friendly cities in the state.
There are 231,000 women and girls incarcerated in the United States. Women’s incarcerations have grown at twice the pace of men’s incarcerations in recent decades and has disproportionately been located in local jails. In Tennessee, white women have been the fastest-growing segment of Tennessee’s state prisoners. The number of incarcerated white women increased 117% from 2003 to 2018 compared to 29% for white men.
Research shows that the majority of these women incarcerated suffered from major trauma as children – including abuse, homelessness, and abandonment. Left to fend for themselves, often at very young ages, they, for one reason or another, often end up in the criminal justice system. And once in the system, find it almost impossible to get out without family or support to teach them how to change their lives. A fact that did not go unnoticed for Brittany Davis, an Assistant Public Defender with the 15th Judicial District.
The more involved Brittany became with her many clients within the criminal justice system, the more she realized that they needed more than just legal help. She shared her worries with her friend Suanne Bone, a long-time Wilson county resident known for her community involvement, and together these two strong women formulated a plan to offer help.
Our Sisters Keeper, Inc. is a non-profit recently formed by Suanne Bone and Brittany Davis that will advocate for these very women in our own community jails, both during and after their time in the criminal justice system. “Currently, we serve the General Sessions and Criminal Court in Smith county,” notes Brittany, “but we hope to serve the entire 15th Judicial District as resources
become available. That includes women in Wilson, Trousdale, Macon, and Jackson counties as well.
Currently, with Brittany assigned to Smith County courts, she is able to identify women in the justice system who are in the greatest need in Smith county. She connects these women with Suanne, the Executive Director of Our Sisters Keeper, who is the liaison between the women and determining their needs to lead a purposeful life outside of jail. Services include long-term drug and alcohol treatment, rehabilitation, and mentors and other partners committed to the women as they start anew. To help get the non-profit off the ground, Suanne pulled together various members of the community who also wanted to be part of the solution to this growing issue. The current board of directors includes Brittany Davis, Carl Hudson, Stephanie McCaleb, Jack Bare, Jeff Cherry, Shelley Gardner, Angel Kane, Russell Parish, and Cathey Sweeney. In its inaugural year, the non-profit has its work cut out for it but hard work isn’t something this group shies away from.
First on the agenda is finding permanent office space. One office will be the administrative office where the following services are offered: coordination of rehab beds, teaching the women how to reinstate their drivers license, resume building, interview skills, job placement, housing placement, expungement of criminal records, and completing their education. The second office will be a boutique furnished with donated clothing and hygiene products where the women can “shop” and choose pieces for their new life.
“I remember one of the first ladies who participated in our program. I picked her up from the jail and was taking her to a rehab facility where she would be staying for a few months and she literally had almost nothing to take. She had a few personal items in a garbage bag. That was her whole life. As we were just starting the non-profit, I called on friends and family for anything we could pull together to give her, some clothes and a bag of her own to put her belongings in. You would have thought I gave her a million dollars when I gave her a bag of clean clothes and toiletries and her very own pretty bag to carry it all in, “ Suanne notes. “How can we expect to raise someone up like this, when, if and when she does get out of rehab, she doesn’t even have clothes to put on for a job interview. It’s needs like this that we take for granted but make a huge impact on success for many of these women.”
And if we help these women, the end result is not just that these ladies lives will be forever changed but also the generations of women that will follow them.
When Mt Juliet City Mayor Ed and his wife Katrina Hagerty moved to Mt Juliet, the population was just 3,000. The landscape looked a little different. “I remember driving seven miles to buy a gallon of milk, downtown to enjoy a nice restaurant, and to Opry Mills to see a movie. Today, those activities and more are available right here in our city!” Ed says
Ed and Katrina met playing racquetball and married on February 14, 1982. Later that year, they made the move to Mt Juliet and haven’t looked back.
“We moved several times that year, from Cookeville to Atlanta to Arlington, Texas, and then an opportunity opened up here in Middle Tennessee.” Katrina
adds, “We looked at Nashville and all the surrounding counties but fell in love with Wilson County.”
Cut to 2020, Mt Juliet has a population of more than 34,000. The Hagerty’s have helped usher in a fair amount of the change seen across the western
city of Wilson County. There’s another big change in store for the Hagerty’s this year as Ed retires from local politics after more than two decades-ten of those as the Mt Juliet City Mayor. “I believe in the great traditions of our country, beginning with George Washington and later codified by the 22nd Amendment that the leader is to serve two full terms.” Hagerty continues, “With that said, it’s definitely a bittersweet decision to step aside. I have other passions to pursue. I love my church, I love teaching Economics, and American Government to 12th-grade students at Heritage Christian Academy, and the grands living three doors away were all important factors. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next.”
When Hagerty decided to step into local politics, his mission was simple. He wanted to bring decorum to the city. “Most people may not know or remember but our board was dysfunctional with in-fighting, back-biting, and unprofessional behavior. Shortly after taking the chair, a local reporter called
me and said my meetings were boring. My reply was, ‘Mission accomplished!’ My second goal was to upgrade our building standards.” Ed continues, “I
remember asking a friend to give me his first impression of Mt. Juliet. His response was, ‘Oh, that’s easy, it’s the land of metal buildings with brick fronts.’ I knew immediately that could not be how we would be defined. I worked many years to change that, and our buildings are now beautiful with sustainable designs.”
While the Hagerty’s love their city, they really light up when they talk about family. “We have three amazing daughters. Kristina is married to Sam Parnell,
and they have four children: Eli, Kate, Luke, and Ike. They live three doors down from us! Kacy is married to Andrew Callaghan. They have a newborn baby girl, Ezra, and live in Nashville. Kelly is married to Luke Strimaitis, and they live in Mt. Juliet. Kelly is a Registered Nurse and studying at Cumberland University to
become a Nurse Practitioner. We feel blessed that our children live close
enough for frequent family dinners!”
Katrina helped change the way many parents in Middle Tennessee homeschool by starting Heritage Christian Academy in 1997. HCA is a tutorial program where students meet each week to do school and life together. They have grown from just a few dozen students to hundreds. “We have families across the US and even some missionaries in other countries registered with
Heritage,” Katrina says.
As the world came to a halt in late spring 2020 due to the global pandemic, Katrina, along with her daughters, started Homeschoolers Association, a program aimed at helping families who have chosen homeschooling due to the impact of COVID. While Katrina no longer teaches classes at HCA, she’s still involved. Now she focuses more on the administrative duties of the school. “I love helping parents navigate this homeschooling adventure
for their children. Our students have a yearbook, take field trips together, go camping together, attend dances, participate in our STEM and International
Fairs, participate in Spelling and History Bees, attend graduation, and so much more! HCA has been our family’s ministry for many years, and we are blessed to see families grow together as a family unit and in the Lord.”
From the tornadoes in March to Covid-19, Mt Juliet/Wilson County faced a lot of challenges in 2020. Many of us can’t wait for the year to end, but Ed has a different outlook. “I prefer to think we will all look back on 2020 as a time of great personal growth, a time where we were intentional about our family relationships, and a time where we learned to value and cherish our faith walks. For us personally, we were saddened that Katrina’s father passed away in March. Still, we celebrate that our fifth grand was born, and she is a beautiful miracle.”
If you are planning to vamp up your yard this fall – look no further than Valley Growers.
Valley Growers, located at 1108 W Main Street in Lebanon, is a one-stop shop for everything you’ll need – and many other things you’ll simply want. Over ninety percent of their plants are grown in their main greenhouses in Pall Mall,
Tennessee. Bob Pyle started the business 37 years ago and they now have five retail locations in Lebanon, Pall Mall, Farragut, and Murfreesboro.
The Lebanon location opened nine years ago at the encouragement of Pyle’s sister-in-law, Janet McCluskey. “I told him that we needed something in Lebanon that people can drive by and see,” McCluskey said. McCluskey oversees the operation – and divides her time between working at the
retail shop, buying, communicating with vendors, and other aspects of management.
“We have grown and grown,” she added. “This year we doubled our size and expanded to the lot behind us.” Amy Shaw has worked at Valley Growers as a daily manager for the last few years. She took the job on a whim, not knowing much about gardening; however, planting quickly became a passion.
“A dear friend called me when they were looking for help. I wasn’t into plants until I worked here. She said, ‘If you know how to hold a hose, I’ll teach you how to water,’” Shaw recalled with a laugh.
After much “trial and error” in her own yard, on the job training, and even a few Google searches – Shaw now refers to gardening as “dirt therapy.”
“There is just something about it,” she said. “It is hard to explain, but it has become my passion.”
This year, in particular, she and McCluskey witnessed it become a passion for others.
“I’ve seen a lot of first-time gardeners this year (because of COVID 19 and more people staying home),” Shaw shared. “I think a lot of people are home working inside or outside of their homes and doing what they’ve not had a chance to do. We tell them to just get out there and get their hands dirty.”
McCluskey said this year has been extremely profitable for the business because they were allowed to be open during the quarantine. “Anything agriculture is considered an essential business,” McCluskey explained. “We are averaging 50 new customers every week and they are not just from Lebanon.
We are seeing new customers from Mount Juliet and Smith County. That amazes me.”
Valley Growers opens seasonally from mid-March until mid-November. They carry a wide variety of annuals and perennials, soil, fountains, pottery, and décor. Shaw said the shop has the largest selection of annuals, perennials, veggies, and herbs with a selection of specialty items such as orchids, hydrangeas, and roses. As fall approaches, they shift to mums, pansies, violas, and cold crops like lettuce and Brussel sprouts.
“Right now it is all about mums, mums, and mums,” Shaw said. “Usually in September and October, people are cleaning out their beds because a lot of their annuals have started to look tired.” Mums are a perennial – meaning they
regrow every spring. Valley Grower offers red, yellow, orange, purple, bronze, pink, and white mums – with yellow and orange being best sellers.
“I think that people are ready for those fall colors,” Shaw said, adding that mums are relatively easy to care for. “They like this season and the cool nights. They take water and that is about it.”
Valley Growers has also added pumpkins, straw bales, and cornstalk to their seasonal display. Shaw said they have a lot of fall décor – including metal pumpkin signs and luminaires in the shape of Dracula, Frankenstein, skulls, and jack-o-lanterns. “We have some of the nicest things,” she said.
Valley Growers is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday.
What started in 2018 as neighbors on a 4 mile stretch of Sykes Road putting up crosses at Christmas, has turned into a movement that is exactly what we need this 2020!
It all started when Robin Underwood was driving home from work one evening in late 2018. “I was looking at all the lighted Christmas scenes in yards. It was Christmas time, but where was Christ? I saw snowmen, Santa and all his reindeer, even the Grinch, but where was Jesus? That really sat heavy on my heart. I’m not knocking by any means that we use Santa or snowmen in our decor, but I thought wouldn’t it be neat for children and families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. So, I started thinking about what we could do to share the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of the Savior of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if people came through our little community of
Sykes (that is so small you would blink and miss it) and saw lighted crosses in every yard proclaiming the gospel from the hilltops, from the barns, from the valleys. Wouldn’t it be a glorious sight?! We would be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas every day as we made our path home, we would be reminded of the greatest love story ever told, we would be reminded to slow down and focus on the most important things in life. Soon after that, Clete and I shared the idea with our family over Sunday dinner table talk and they were on board. Our homes were the first to erect a lighted cross scene and then we began making flyers and going door to door in Sykes to spread the word.”
Forty or so other neighbors on Sykes Road joined in and then it expanded from there with a few others in and around Smith County. “It was a glorious sight to drive along the little country road of Sykes, TN, and see all the variety of crosses.”
Robin continues, “We then began seeing crosses come up in other areas of Smith County and had many Facebook messages and requests from the community to make this a countywide event. So, when November 2019 rolled
around, we announced the expansion on “aCross Smith County.” We started a Facebook page with a website so folks could register their crosses. We ended up with 1200 registered crosses in Smith County!”
As news about the crosses spread on Facebook and other news media sites, crosses started popping up in several states and those crosses began to get registered as well.
“It was so joyful to see crosses being erected. They were so creative, we had one of Santa kneeling at the cross and manger, they were on barns, CHRIST spelled out in lights, the traffic on Sykes Rd increased every night as people
came to see all crosses. We also drove out every night just to see what new ones had popped up.”
And it wasn’t just families that participated, businesses participated as well as churches. People stopped at crosses and prayed in yards, children added crosses to their barn playsets in their rooms, they colored crosses and shared them on Facebook.
“The community really showed off big in the love of Christ,” says Clete.
In early 2020, the Underwoods were invited to Christian Day on Capitol Hill to share their story and success of “aCross Smith County.” It was there they first shared their expansion to “aCross TN’ for the upcoming 2020 Christmas season. “We would like to see the cross lighting ministry expand to “aCross America”. Our world is so divided and we just need unity. Jesus is love and our world needs love more than ever.” notes Robin.
What started with the humble beginnings of 47 crosses in one tiny community has spread to every corner of Smith County, and to eight other Tennessee
counties and nine other states. People are reaching out daily from across the nation to learn more and to participate.
Clete states that “our mission is to keep Christ in Christmas and share the love of Christ with the world. As Christians, we are told to go into all the world and share the gospel. What an easier way to share the gospel than with a lighted cross in your yard, field, barn, business, or church and show your love for Christ.”
The Underwoods are gearing up for a lot of work this coming Christmas season as the movement has no boundaries. With the world in crisis right now and people asking what they can do to help, this cross-ministry is the perfect place to lend a hand right in our own backyard!
To help promote or volunteer with the cross lighting ministry within churches and communities please contact Robin Underwood at 615-489-5921 or email her at RobinUnderwood75@gmail.com. You can find the ministry on Facebook at aCross Tennessee or their website at www.aCrossTenn.com (website and
logo are compliments of friends at Better Letter Printing). And if you are wanting to participate with your own cross, be sure to go to their site and register your cross as well.
“Light a cross, be creative, help a neighbor that may not be able to make a cross on their own and let your light shine for all to see!”
When Dr. Bill Schenk was in college his two best friends were blind. One from a congenital disease and the other from an accident.
Looking back now after 39 years as an ophthalmologist, Schenk reflects and said these two friends, plus a job that got him through college related to helping the blind, were the impetus to choosing a path in this field.
Schenk is an ophthalmology specialist in Lebanon and after nearly four decades in practice, retired July 1 of this year. “It’s been great and I have no regrets on my decision to retire,” he said.
He lives just three blocks from Vanderbilt Eye Institute where he leaves in “good hands” a practice he’s built for so many years. His long-time practice, Lebanon Eye Associates, merged with Vanderbilt in 2011, he said.
Schenk is married to Linda, who works with the Wilson County teen court. They have three grown children; Lindsey, 37, Allie, 35 and Collin 31.
Schenk was born in Houston, Texas, and lived there until age 10. He then moved to Kansas for four years and went to high school, college, and medical school in Nebraska. He graduated with honors from the University College of Medicine in 1981.
“When I was in college I worked fulltime and went to night school,” he explained.
His job was at The Library for the Blind, which services the visually impaired.
“One half of them were blind,” Schenk said.
He said during this part of his life journey two of his closest friends were blind.
It was at this time he formulated his career path. “I became empathetic from knowing them and their perspectives,” he recalled. “It was from then on I wanted to improve sight and restore the blind.”
He was in his early 20s when he had this life-altering revelation. Part of his job was going to the University of Nebraska (right next door) where he recorded volunteer readers so those without sight could enjoy books.
“At first it was reel to reel,” he said thinking back. Then it went to cassettes, CDs, and now volunteer reading and audiobooks are online.
One of his best friends was born blind and the other was 16 and in an auto accident with four others where he thought the car was going to plunge down an embankment from an overcorrection. He jumped out before the car was corrected and it was he who made the fall, hit his head and lost his sight.
One of the friends was an athlete and Schenk remembers they worked out together and jogged in tandem through the park, connected and directing with a bandana.
Schenk and Linda met during a snowstorm. “We were at a racquetball court and my friend couldn’t show up and Bill and I started talking,” Linda said. “He asked me out on a date.”
The romantic first connection during a snowstorm solidified to years of marriage.
Schenk’s first practice was his own on Park Ave. in 1985, in Lebanon.
“I had two employees, someone who worked in classifieds and saw my want ad, and, my brother who we trained,” he said.
After three years they were so busy he got a partner and moved to his second location, also in Lebanon, at 1616 West Main. He eventually worked with several other ophthalmologists, and optometrists, and was the first practice in Tennessee that offered both optometry services and ophthalmology services.
In 1998 Schenk built Lebanon Eye Associates and by 2005 had 10 eye doctors and 70 employees. He merged with Vanderbilt Eye Institute in 2011 and the rest is history. “I enjoyed working with Vanderbilt for nine years,” he
Additionally, this practical entrepreneur doctor continues ownership of the building he built that also has Wilson County Eye Surgery Center he implemented. This continued ownership will augment retirement funds, he noted.
Schenk turned 67 in September and said he decided to retire about a year ago. He held off retirement long enough to feel confident he would leave highly trained providers in his absence. Dr. Jessica Mather is essential in this sense of ease and in July he felt it was time to “pass the torch.”
Their long-desired plans for retirement (Linda still works with Christmas For All and Wilson County teen court) was to find a place to retreat for their beloved sports of windsurfing, kiteboarding, scuba diving, and snorkeling. It’s in the Caribbean, and part of the Netherlands called Bonaire Island.
“We visited there some times and it’s the best place to windsurf with consistent high winds,” Schenk noted. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on these plans because of mandates.
So now, the couple bike, kayak, and paddleboard. Schenk works out two to three hours a day. He said he got his love of water activities as a child because his father ran a YMCA camp and he spent his summers there, and also in
California enjoying the ocean. This couple said they will continue their
travels and plan to soon white water raft in Maryland because it’s safe to drive there.
Through his long practice, Schenk estimates he’s conducted about 25,000
cataract and glaucoma surgeries, and about 10,000 laser surgeries. He’s treated tens of thousands of patients. When he first started, it took about an hour and a half to conduct cataract surgery and today it’s about 10 minutes.
And while those many surgeries and helping those with sight problems have
come full circle from his decision to carve a successful career dealing with the eyes, he said it’s been a fun path to travel and now he can slow down a bit and pursue a new kind of fun – enjoying his family and nature. The couple has already conquered places like remote islands, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Seattle, among so many other places. No doubt, they have made a long
list of upcoming explorations during retirement.
TennCommUNITY is the product of a collaboration of nine community banks
who had a desire to help small businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19. These banks “united” to create an initiative to urge the communities to shop locally. As Melynda Bounds (V.P., CedarStone Bank) said “We’ll do whatever we can to bring awareness to small businesses”. The Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, Mt. Juliet Chamber, and Watertown Chamber joined the efforts by spearheading the creation of the TennCommUNITY website and Facebook page, coordinating radio appearances, newspaper ads, and other media advertising.
Left to Right – Jason Loggins, Melynda Bounds, Lee Campbell, Nathan Harris, Debbie Lowe, Chris Crowell, John McDearman & John Lancaster
What is TennCommUNITY all about? John McDearman (CEO, Wilson Bank & Trust) explained it simply when he said “This is about working together to get us to a better spot”. A kickoff video featuring over 40 small businesses along with eight of the bank representatives and the three Chamber presidents was
one of the first promotional pieces that was completed to introduce the initiative in July. You can watch the video by visiting TennCommUNITY.com. The website also features podcasts and business listings, as well as resources and tools for small business owners. The initiative is scheduled to run through December. John Lancaster (Chairman & CEO, First Freedom Bank) noted that “Now is absolutely the right time for this campaign. It’s pretty simple. Shop at home. When asked why First Bank decided to join the initiative after it was launched, Shawn Glover (Sr. V.P., First Bank) replied. “If we want to live and work in a wonderful community, I believe it is our responsibility to contribute and support the people and the businesses in the community. We can each do
our part by shopping for goods and services locally.
Shop as you do now. Dine as you do now, but whenever possible, use that local business”.
Who can participate in TennCommUNITY? Any small business in Wilson County. You do not have to bank with one of the nine local sponsoring banks or
be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Melanie Minter (President & CEO, Lebanon Wilson Co. Chamber of Commerce) said “Our goal with this initiative is to help small businesses with marketing and different tools”. Becky Dungy (President, Watertown and East Wilson Co. Chamber of Commerce) added
that “we want to promote small businesses through this crazy world we are going through right now”. “People in Wilson County can get involved in TennCommUNITY by continuing to shop local” pointed out Debbie Lowe (V.P., F & M Bank).
What is the goal of this initiative?
As Lee Campbell (Sr. V.P., Pinnacle Financial Partners) shared with Coleman
Walker on August 3rd, “We want to change lives and support our small businesses”. The reaction from the small business community has been
overwhelmingly positive. Most every business that has submitted their information to be added to the TennCommUNITY website business listing
has expressed gratitude for developing this to help promote their business. If you visit the business listing on the website, I guarantee that you will discover at least one business that you had no idea existed in Wilson County! If you
want your business added to the site, contact us via the “Contact Us” on www.tenncommunity.com or call the Lebanon Wilson Co. Chamber at 615-444-5503.
We brag about Wilson County being unique, special, and filled with authentic southern hospitality. Chris Crowell (Sr. V.P., Southern Bank of Tennessee)
affirmed that “Small businesses are important in our community”. If you knew that one of your favorite establishments was in danger of going out of business, would you not step up and support them? As Nathan Harris (Commercial Banker V.P., Liberty State Bank) commented “We want all businesses in the community to be strong and healthy.” When asked why his bank decided to get involved, Jason Loggins (Market President Wilson County,
Bank of Tennessee) expressed “Our bank decided to get involved because we are a community bank and simply put, we are going to bank our community”.
What can you do to help small businesses in Wilson County? Mark Hinesley, (President & CEO, Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce) summed it up perfectly
when he said “This is the chance for people to step up and say ‘I care’”
I don’t watch the news. In fact, if my husband turns on the news, I leave the room. There’s no way to truly isolate myself completely, anytime I unlock my phone I see the headlines. But the headlines tell me all I need to know. That I should be very afraid of the world we live in. And that’s the belief that I’m trying not to let take root.
There is no medicine for fear. Scottish proverb
Of the malady, a man fears, he dies. Spanish proverb
He who fears something gives it power over him. Moorish proverb
The day we fear hastens toward us, the day we long for creeps. Swedish proverb
Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. Japanese proverb
Some claim “do not be afraid” is written in some form or fashion 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year.
So what to do during this time of uncertainty and fear? Robert Frost said that “the best way out is always through.” So we’ll go through it and we’ll get through it. And I still won’t be watching the news.