Two weeks after the Christmas event called “Shop with a Hero,” as most of Gilmer County prepares for the new year. A story comes in from one of those who volunteered for the event.
Attending the event as a reporter is one thing, many people focus on the aspect of helping the community and the joy on the kids faces. But some may notice something more. Looking around, there was more than just kids and families there. There were more people affected than just those who were helped. Reaching out to the agencies who participated, FYN got a very special response from one officer who volunteered. Take a moment and feel this story from Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey:
Captain Ray Grace of Ellijay Police Department has been talking about his desire to have a Shop with a Cop type program for at least three years. We recently had a criminal case which required the assistance of the GBI and as such we spend a lot of time with GBI Special Agent Renea Green. One day (about 8 weeks before our event) SA Green, Capt. Grace, and myself were in Captain Grace’s office when the topic of this type of program came up. Special Agent Green became very excited and we found that she had worked first hand with a similar program in Bartow County. As the conversation bumped around the room the creative juices flowed between Grace and Green and by the end of the day they were fully committed to making sure this program came to fruition.
The decision was made to not just do a “Shop with a Cop” program, but to include all public safety in Gilmer County. The name Shop with a Hero was born. Since the Ellijay Police Foundation has been up and running for a couple of years now, it was deemed the perfect vehicle for the program as it has civilian oversight in a non-public safety affiliated board of directors. We had a meeting with all public safety department and agency heads and school officials and the program was off and running. We originally planned to try to sponsor 25 children in our school system for a $150 shopping trip to Walmart with $75 mandatory spent on clothes and the other $75 on anything the child wanted to purchase (within reason, of course). It was just a few weeks of support flowing in when we had met our goal and we noticed that we were going to be able to do so much more than we originally planned.
Soon we were financially able to sponsor 52 children. At first we thought about focusing on youth who were in foster care and/or identified by DFACS as children in need. But in our hearts we knew that there were other children that had not been “touched by the system” that were just as needy. We knew that there were many programs out there to help with foster care, CASA, and DFACS but realized that these other children often go overlooked. That’s when we decided to involve those who know the children the best – our counselors from the Gilmer Schools.
It was amazing to see all of public safety working together with private businesses and the public school system to take care of these children in need. The financial support surpassed our dreams. Soon we realized that we could do more than just sponsor shopping with 52 children. We paid off the lunchroom debt of one school, set up a system to provide school counselors the ability to purchase shoes, jackets, and other necessary clothes (year round) for children that were in need. The folks at Walmart, especially Tom (manager) were awesome. They just kept on giving support. Their efforts provided a huge amount of food for the High School food pantry.
When the day of the event came, I had asked not to shop with a child unless it was the last resort. I didn’t want to take the opportunity away from any police officer, dispatcher, or fire fighter. When the leadership nodded at me and paired me up with a 10 year old girl, I must admit that I was a bit out of my element. Although I have a 3 year old granddaughter, I am the father of sons and don’t know much about shopping with girls. I didn’t know what to expect.
It was not long before my heart strings were tugged hard. First I learned that her grandmother was with us because her mother had recently passed away from an illness. Next came what truly revealed this precious girl’s heart. She did not shop for herself first, but purchased Christmas gifts for 5 friends and then a small toy for her cat. When I asked, “Okay, do you need any clothes?” she told me that she was singing in church on Sunday evening and needed something to wear. I said, “Really? What church” to which she replied, “First Baptist”. It was not until this point that I knew that she was involved in the music program at my church and that she would be singing during the same program as my wife on Sunday evening. That’s when I remembered what an old friend once told me, “There are no coincidences. Only God at work”.
She picked out a few clothes but I could see that she had her eyes on a red sequined romper. She picked it up a few times and put it back. I leaned over to her grandmother and asked, “What’s she doing” and was told, “she’s worried about spending too much money”. I had been keeping track of the budget and noticed that we had spent about $50. I went over to her and said, “Get it. It’s okay, just get it”. Her face lit up and then we went and got some shoes, and earrings. Surprisingly, she didn’t really get any toys for herself, but stocked up on paints and craft supplies. Soon, with a quick hug and photo op, we were out of there to go our separate ways.
I couldn’t wait for Sunday evening. I can’t tell you how great it was to see her all dressed up in the church musical on Sunday evening. They sounded wonderfully. She wasn’t the least shy in singing or performing and looked awesome in her sequin romper, white sweater, grey shoes, and sparkly earrings.
One thing I’ve learned after 30 years of law enforcement is that the “warm and fuzzy” moments which shed light upon why we do what we do are rare. When these happen we cling to them as the sustenance that gets us through the darkness. If this were my last warm and fuzzy moment of my career, this one would sustain me until then.
Has anyone ever thought of the fact that most of our Christmas songs and traditions are only
about 75 or so years old? Doesn’t it seem like this array has just always been there, always been
Well, it hasn’t always been so joyous and celebrated as it came to be after World War II.
Why is that?
Prior to the victory of the Allies and their return to home and family, Christmas was more
reserved and localized. Songs such as The Messiah and other religious hymns were in place, but
jolly and more secular songs came along with popular movies, such as White Christmas and
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, among others were the result of a desire to make the
Christmas holiday a very special time for families and friends.
Dad, brother, uncle, son and military women etc. had faced the horror of war, with its death and
destruction. There were sights that they could never unsee. Those who were able to return home,
to their wives, husbands, sweethearts and families, wanted to erase those thoughts to the best of
their ability. They had fought pure, unadulterated evil and had won. It seemed their intention to
eradicate such influences in the years to come.
Many of our Greatest Generation put a great deal of time and effort into making the world as
right as possible, to bring as much joy as possible to those they loved. Not only did they save the
world, they saved the best part of themselves and shared that desire for happiness and perfection
with the making of happy stories, happy songs and familiar bliss. No one can argue that the
generation of the 40s and 50’s worked very hard to create as much perfection in society as they
could. It was a halcyon time that, unfortunately, will never be repeated.
Television and movies had their morality department and strived to show family life as a
network of love, discipline and happy endings. Father always knew best and the Donna Reed
show lauded the middle-class family life.
What has happened to society that it has come from the pure entertainment of those shows to
today’s reality television, moral corruption and disdain of most things that relate to God and
In 1965, a wonderful radio announcer named Paul Harvey made an amazing prophecy on his
weekly show. The title was, If I was the devil.
Anyone who hasn’t heard or read this far-reaching piece that has come to pass in ways that no
one would have guessed. One of his lines quoted from the transcript is “If I were the devil, I
would make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.”
How close is that? He had it nailed and 54 years later, it is true.
Christmas was still reverent in the 70s, and the 80s. People dressed up, had parties, visited with
family and it was a happy time. God was still the Man in Charge in the White House (mostly)
and it reflected on the nation.
The 90s brought us the Clintons and their version of “morality” and the great decline began for
Now in 2019, there are fewer parties, fewer gathering of family and friends than ever. Christmas
cards are not a thing anymore, just send a generic online greeting.
People are well engrossed in their electronic devices. Social life and the moral pressure of
society is long gone. Stores decorate for Christmas in August and begin the big sale that lasts
until well after the New Year.
Retailers completely pass over Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday from the Pilgrim
days when living through the winter to harvest was an occasion for thanking Almighty God.
Even Charlie Brown and his gang in Peanuts, when it aired in 1965, complained of the
commercialization of Christmas, lamenting the lack of meaning for monetary gain.
When Christmas songs from the 70s and 80s are played, it is depressing almost to the point of
tears when a comparison is made of the warm, loving, wonderful time of those decades to
today’s commercial apathy.
Maybe, this is an “old folks’ rant about the good old days, but what can be gleaned from today’s
lukewarm electronic holiday?
America has best go back to Ronald Reagan and remember his line:
“If we ever forget we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
If Christians don’t stand up and fight for our basic joys of the Lord, His sacrifice for us
and the right to celebrate such, these rights will be taken away by the Liberal Left with
their Atheistic and destructive ways. There are no more free countries to find with such
liberties as we enjoy. They must not be lost, as they will never be found again.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are calling for one last meeting in 2019.
Next week will see a special called meeting for the board, but it will come two days before Christmas Day. The schedule sets the meeting to begin at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 2019.
While the meeting agenda is set with only three items, it almost got bigger last week with the Board of Commissioners looking to add a few items tabled from their regular meeting.
With Public Works Director Jim Smith returning to the meetings after taking personal time, the Commissioners had originally tabled the Concrete Bid agenda item from November. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asked to table the bid again until this meeting on December 23 to give Smith more time to analyze the bids. However, taking time as the meeting progressed Smith worked on the bid submissions to make sure to give the board an answer. The board wound up awarding the bid in the meeting and cancelling its addition to this meeting.
However, the meetings’ second addition did not get canceled as new information is arising from the agenda item to consider possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission. The board is taking extra time to investigate issues with the Forestry Commission’s previous rental space in Pickens and agreement details.
The meeting will go forward with three agenda items;
1.Discussion and possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission
2. Discussion and possible action on approval of an MOU with SORBA/IMBA
3. Resolution to Adopt the 2020 Budget.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – What’s better than sitting in a comfy warm chair with a beautifully theme-decorated Christmas tree, some Christmas music playing in the background, a warm drink in your hands, and some friends gathered to enjoy it with you? Well, 34 trees of course.
That is 34 different trees and wreaths gathered from the community to decorate the Gilmer County Library in celebration for the season. Being the 25th consecutive year of the annual Festival of Trees, the library has become experts at celebrating the season as they opened their doors late into the evening on December 3 for people of the community to pack inside for the event. Packing in is exactly what they did to see the first official day of the December-long celebration.
With entities like the Gilmer Chamber, Stay Active Ellijay, THRIFT, Gilmer County Master Gardeners, Kids Ferst, Safe Choice Pregnancy Care Center, Walnut Mtn, Garden, American Legion Auxiliary, Operation Christmas Child, Optimist Club, Dept of Juvenile Justice, Chattahoochee Technical College, Friends of Harrison Park, Southern Flare Antiques, Mountain Education Center, Keep Gilmer Beautiful, Girl Scouts, Re-Max, ABG, Small Batch Garden, North Georgia Mountain Crisis Network, Gilmer County Parks & Rec Department, Marine Toys for Tots, Boys and Girls Club, Apple Contry Quilters Guild, Cub Scout Pack 404, Coosawattee Shrine Club, Friends of the Gilmer County Library, Garden Club of Ellijay, 4-H, Gilmer Genealogical Society, Faith,Hope, and Charity, and more, the Festival grows each year to the massive events it has become with crowds looking to meet Santa for pictures, listen to live music, and enjoy the trees.
This years event saw the Ellijay Elementary Chorus and Mountain Spirit Dulcimer Group playing through the evening while activities continued.
Yet, more than just a one-night event, the Festival of Trees really kicks off the Sequoyah Regional Library’s Christmas Season. Gilmer alone is hosting the Grinch to visit on December 11, a Holiday Card Making event on December 6, and a continuing Winter Literacy Challenge going on until January. Check out more events for Gilmer on their Facebook Calender and the Region and the Regional Library Calendar.
That doesn’t meant you missed your chance to see the trees. Make sure to swing by the Gilmer County Library to enjoy the ongoing Festival of Trees before Christmas to fully enjoy the decorations made possible by the county and community.
Make sure to see photos of the trees by visiting the FYN Facebook Photo Album.
Thanksgiving 2018 has come and gone and about all we really know about it comes from
commercial sources. Through the constant drumming of the media we are basically told all we
need to know about Thanksgiving, when to start, when to stop and, by the way, ‘don’t forget
those great deals on Black Friday’ because, well, Christmas is just around the corner and after
all, America’s economy depends on commercialism. Their point is, It’s okay to go into debt but
don’t eat the Romaine lettuce. Is it who we really are? Apparently!
But this year I sense a distinct change in the atmosphere. I’ve heard more detailed explanations
of the real Pilgrims story at Plymouth, Mass. in attempts to correct the re-written history some
elements in our society want us to accept. I feel a perceptible shifting of moral values going on
and I sense a not so subtle shift back to religious faith especially as the destructive tenants of
Islam are flooding our country. The leadership of our churches, long beaten into compliance to
accept the dictates of a secular society, must return to their mission of spreading the gospel and
abandon the demand that we must accept the perverted deviancy of 1% of our population that
demands acceptance, without consequence.
What Americans know about Christmas is mostly suggested to us by the years of Macy’s Day
parades, Hollywood movies and Coca-Cola. TV quickly changed our values. Decades ago,
Coca-Cola embraced Clement Moore’s poem, A Christmas Carol, “Twas the Night Before
Christmas” and lo, we now have an indisputably accepted short, fat, happy ol’ elf who enters
homes down chimney pipes, never gets dirty and enjoys their product while winking at us.
When I was a little boy, a world war was underway yet the traditions of Christmas, and even
then they were commercial, were anticipated and observed. We decorated Christmas trees, had
special seasonal attractions and attended Church programs singing hymns while we little
children read or recited memorized snippets of scripture to the audience. I recall my surprise
upon learning that even Germans soldiers observed Christmas, indeed was responsible for
introducing the Christmas tree as a tradition. And, they sang “Silent Night.” What a revelation.
Among the big traditions were Christmas cards. My mother saved Christmas cards for years
and she gave them out in profuse qualities herself. Those that came to me, mostly from mothers
friends and sisters, were scenes depicted as cartoons. Family cards were actually incredible
works of art depicting scenes of happy home fires or snow, doubtless of a Victorian England, the
country where greeting cards and Santa Clause were introduced as a tradition.
Until Coca Cola’s depiction, St. Nick was tall and skinny, a poor emaciated figure, hungry
looking with a limp bag hanging over his shoulder. None of that has changed except Santa’s
size, but I am sensing once again, with Christmas day still weeks away, a change in the public
attitude, a realization that a prosperous America is returning even with all its social problems of
drug addictions, homelessness and hunger. I feel a sincere longing to return to our old traditions
where good cheer and happiness are not feigned but heartfelt; where charity is freely given
without conditions and people actually enjoy helping other people.
But, we must be careful and not allow the Left to peculate our good thing and introduce social
changes we know to be destructive to a free peoples. Government in the hands of Progressives,
will sweep all that away and the once shining city on the hill idea, as Ronald Reagan coined it,
will be but a footnote in history. We must strive to preserve all of our God given liberties.
Remember, freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em! (29Nov18)
By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
In my opinion, there is nothing like a fresh Christmas tree in the home. Artificial trees look more
natural now than when I was growing up, but they are not the same. Choosing a fresh tree
should be a fun family affair, but you also want to get the best value for your money.
So let’s start with how to select a fresh tree. First, determine where in your home you will
display your tree so that you will be able to tell what size and shape you need. Next, if possible,
cut the tree yourself. This will provide the best opportunity to have a fresh tree throughout the
Christmas season, but you still need to care for it like you would any other “live” tree. If you are
choosing a pre-cut tree, you need to do a freshness test on it before you bring it home so hold a
branch about 6 inches from the tip then pull your hand toward the tip, allowing the branch to slip
through your fingers. Very few green needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh.
Here’s another freshness test: lift the tree a couple of inches off the ground, then bring it down
abruptly on the stump end. If the tree is fresh, outside green needles should not fall off in
substantial numbers. Remember, inside needles do turn brown and shed naturally every year.
Now let’s look at how to care for a fresh tree. The most important thing to remember has to do
with water. These trees need water daily, just like a fresh bouquet of flowers. You’ll want to
remember to keep plenty of water in the stand at all times. If you are choosing a stand, be sure
and choose one that has a big water storage area. A Christmas tree may absorb a gallon of water
in the first 24 hours it’s up and between two pints to a gallon of water a day thereafter. Check
the stand daily and supply fresh water as needed. If the water supply runs out, a seal will form
on the cut surface of the tree trunk and the tree will not absorb water and dry out. If the water
runs out, a new cut should be made.
When a tree is first cut, a seal of sap occurs naturally over its stump which keeps moisture in the
tree. It’s important to break that seal to allow the tree to take up water needed to keep it fresh
throughout the holidays. Once you’ve selected your tree and you have it at home, make a fresh
cut across the base of the trunk, ¼ inch up from the original cut. Put it in a bucket of water and
protected from the sun and wind until you get ready to move it indoors. If you are selecting a
balled and burlap tree, first make sure that the tree will grow in our area and second do not let the
root ball dry out as the tree will not survive when planted outside.
When you do bring the tree indoors, position it away from heat sources such as fireplaces,
radiators, heat vents, and television sets. When it’s time to put the lights on and trim the tree,
first test your light cords and connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they are
in good working condition, without cracked insulation or broken sockets, and make sure all the
sockets are filled. Once you get the lights on, then it’s time to finish trimming and enjoy, but
don’t forget to unplug the lights when you go to bed or leave home. Never leave a tree with the
lights on unattended!
For more information, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Despite numerous weather and climate hurdles including a cold evening sharpened by winds and rain at times, the Downtown Ellijay Business and Community Association (DEBACA) is reporting a very successful year.
With some changes like the absence of the town of Bethlehem that First Baptist Church hosted at last year’s event and added security measures, this year’s event was noticeably different than 2017. Changes that both DEBACA Chairman Steve Cortes and Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey praise as improvements to the event.
One major safety improvement that both parties noted separately was barricades set up to block the parking spaces on the roundabout, allowing pedestrians to safely view both the tree lighting and parade apart from traffic and parade vehicles. While these barricades have been used for the majority of 2018, this is the first Light-Up Ellijay event they have been used. The major difference being that this parade is largely held in the dark with lights on the float and the town decorations illuminating the area.
Chief Lacey noted this year’s event went “very smooth” as they conducted safety and traffic control with six on-duty officers. He also reported no traffic issues during the event and the after-event surge.
The parade hosted around 35 different groups, according to Cortes, and just under 20 vendors in the temporary market throughout the day. Though he says DEBACA did scale back on certain things, the event still pulled in one of the best business days for downtown merchants despite the tree-lighting ceremony being interrupted with a 5-minute rain shower and a continuing sprinkling of rain until the parade.
Lacey referred to the event as a “more traditional Light-Up Ellijay event.” With Santa Claus appearing on the city steps just before 2:00 p.m. and the market on Broad Street quickly following, citizens and merchants in downtown seem to agree saying, “no question its safer and more efficient.”
Along the lines of balancing Light-Up Ellijay between a tourism event and a local event, Cortes told FYN that despite cancelling the Whoville earlier in November, there are still plans to return to it in coming years. However, he did add that DEBACA has been considering multiple options including hosting Whoville in partnership with another organization with available manpower to host the event on a separate day from Light-Up Ellijay and more cosplay actors to enlarge it on its own.
With possibilities for the future of Light-Up Ellijay being discussed, Cortes also noted the he, personally, thinks that the events success could continue into next year by adding to the parade size and seeking opportunities for the marching band or live-music of some sort.
Citizens, law-enforcement, and business owners all seem to agree that Light-Up Ellijay was indicative of continuing a bright future for Ellijay’s Downtown Events.