What A Difference A Year Has Made!

Last year, the Board of Directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Monroe Area made the decision to form a strategic alliance with Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region. On January 1, 2018 the Monroe Area Clubs became Boys & Girls Club of the Ocoee Region – Monroe County Units, representing the northern operations (Bradley, Meigs, and Polk County units are part of the southern operations). The goal of this merger was to strengthen both organizations through consolidation of operations, and allow them to expand staff opportunities. The primary objective is, and always has been, to focus on better serving the kids through our region.
So what have we accomplished thus far in the Monroe Units? Across all Club units, our average daily attendance for September was 319 kids served. This represents an increase of over 70% over this same time last year. This increase is attributed to our tremendous staff, volunteers, our increased community partnerships, and reduced
fee structure for after-school and summer programs. In fact, the Vonore and Teen Center Units have reached their capacity! The Board of Directors are exploring options to expand capacity so as to allow our Clubs to serve more kids in both after-school and summer programs.
In addition to better serving our community, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region – Monroe County Units have turned a part-time position at the Sweetwater Unit into a full-time position. A full-time Unit Director was added for Vonore and the Madisonville Teen Center hired an Assistant Unit Director. Staci Dean, Director of Northern Operations stated, “You can feel the excitement in the air at all our units. We are truly motivated to create an environment of fun and learning for all our kids.” Beyond added staff, the Monroe units improved its technology capabilities at all Club locations and is currently implementing more programs that make attendance at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region more fun, more educational, and more responsive to our kids’ challenging school requirements.
The stated goal of Boys & Girls Clubs has always been to serve more kids. The Monroe Unit Board Chairman, Joe Crabtree stated, “The merger has made a positive impact in our ability to accomplish the mission of better serving our kids and has made perfect business sense.” As we continue to grow, as part of the overall Boys & Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region, we want to thank businesses, community partners, and all who have contributed to the Monroe units for the tremendous support you have provided. We are so excited about the future of serving our youth in this region. We will continue to deliver programs that provide them with the tools for academic success, specialized educational programs, leadership growth, and character development. Our aim is to continue to equip our kids with the essentials necessary to make wise life choices and promote healthy lifestyles.
For more information, visit www.bgcocoee.org or call us at (423)442-6770. You may also connect with us and learn more via social media: facebook.com/pg/bgcocoee | twitter.com/bgcor | instagram.com/bgcoregion | linkedin.com/company/bgcocoee

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Her Majesty Boutique

Beauty is as beauty does and for Ms.Tennessee United States 2017, Ashley Ingram, its creating a platform for making every woman feel like a Queen. She is an expert on self confidence and beauty, participating in pageants from the age of 5 months. It’s not just about clothing and accessories, it is a inner trait that builds with the confidence of feeling good about how one looks on the outside.
Ashley has always known she wanted to own a business, build on a personal passion that rewarded others. The Tennessee Wesleyan University business and marketing graduate fulfilled a dream bringing mainstreet fashion to Main Street in the opening of Her Majesty Boutique in the historic shopping district of downtown Sweetwater. A unique atmosphere for aligning women of all ages and sizes with their inner beauty, making them feel like a queen with unique items at affordable prices. No matter how they come in the boutique, they all exit wearing the crown of feeling like a queen.
The goal of Her Majesty Boutique is to bring a selection of stylish and trendy apparel
lines from designers hand-picked by Ashley. The boutique also features ladies accessories, designer-inspired jewelry and handbags, gifts for any occasion and the cutest baby clothing. For Ashley, opening the first Her Majesty Boutique in her hometown of Sweetwater was a priority, it’s been a great success and they celebrated their 2nd birthday this year.
Experience in fashion is not equal to age for Ashley, it is vast beyond her years from taking advantage of learning opportunities from life, pageants and managing a boutique while attending college, there was evidence of future success back in high school as
she was awarded, Best Dressed. It was the reflection to those past experiences that also expanded the Her Majesty Boutique dream.
A second location in Maryville, Her Majesty Boutique in the Foothills Mall is now open! The same focus and atmosphere beloved in Sweetwater, can now be enjoyed in Maryville. Ashley splits her time between the two locations-Sweetwater & Maryville. Additionally, she is purposed to expand the online presence of Her Majesty Boutique to assure that every woman, regardless of age, size, location or style can be a queen.
Visit Her Majesty Boutique in Downtown Sweetwater or at the Foothills Mall in Maryville or on Facebook at www.facebook. com/groups/shophermajesty or Instagram @shophermajesty.

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Santa Claus Indiana

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away… well not really…just 60 miles outside of Evansville, Indiana. The town of Sante Fe needed, desperately wanted, a Post Office to mail Christmas letters. But word came from the federal government that Indiana already had a town with the same name, so there would be no post office unless a new name was declared. The town gathered at the 1852 Christmas Eve service to discuss a new town name; suddenly, the church door blew open, and the sound of sleigh bells was heard. The adults were shocked, as there was no one outside; however, the children screamed with excitement, “It’s Santa Claus!” That is what they say, it is the legend of how Sante Fe became Santa Claus, Indiana. But no matter how it happen, it is a real place with a Post Office.The town has a population of about 2,500 and reflects the Christmas spirit all year round. There is Christmas Lake, Santa Claus Hardware, St. Nick’s Restaurant, Lake Rudolph Campground and Santa’s Lodge. The streets are named accordingly: Silver Bell Terrace, Candy Cane Lane and Prancer Drive, just to name a few.It is Christmas all year with the Holiday World Theme Park and Splashin’ Safari Water Park open in the summer, but as you can imagine, it is beyond festive in the winter. Enjoy breakfast with Santa, and visit the Santa Claus Museum… it’s free! Stop by Santa’s Candy Castle for old-fashioned candies, plus hundreds of Pez dispensers and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. There is even a ‘Toy Test” area where kids of all ages are encouraged to play while browsing what’s new and fun at Santa’s Toys.The holiday season brings the annual Santa Claus Parade and the Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph. Special storytelling happens at the historic 1880 church, and everyone is encouraged to write a letter to Santa. As the only “Santa Claus Post Office” in the world, a different picture postmark is used annually, designed by a local high school student, a tradition since 1983.Special events and holiday traditions take over the town and provide a very merry getaway, from festive shopping to cozy lodging. It’s a trip of a lifetime for any age and the perfect family holiday memory. Visit santaclausind.org for more information!

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Living History: Charlie Rhodarmer

History is a subject in school. Some enjoy it, some study it, however, for Charlie Rhodarmer it is living history. One might say he has discovered a time machine, for at any moment, Charlie will take you back in history with historical storytelling in period costumes. It is his calling, evident when you learn his personal history. Born in Haywood County, North Carolina, he was a typical boy that enjoyed the outdoors and participated in Boy Scouts, achieving the prestigious Eagle Scout. With a great interest in military service, it was around the age of 14 that he was introduced to Civil War reenactments, and, as they say, the rest is history.

After high school, Charlie served in the 82nd Airborne. Being a veteran of our country’s military is a significant place of pride, and telling the world about the service of all men and women from the beginning to present is a passion. He received an associate degree in criminal justice from Haywood County College and a bachelor in science from Western Carolina University. While at WCU, Charlie began working at the Mountain Heritage Center.

Before, during and after his time at Mountain Heritage Center, Charlie would be introduced to many life passions. A trip to Fort Loudoun resulted in a lifelong commitment to being a living historian, with a solid involvement as a volunteer since 1988. It was also this time that interests like blacksmithing were ignited, for which he continues today. He has worked at the Scottish Tartans Museum managing exhibits, moving them when it relocated from Highlands, NC, to Franklin, NC. He designed the layout of the museum, building most of the interior himself. He also served as Curator in residence at the Scottish Tartans Museum in Comrie, Scotland, and several years as the exhibit specialist for the JFK Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg. His permanent position with Boys Scouts of America led to becoming the National Scouting Museum Curator in Murray, KY. When the decision came to move that museum to Dallas, TX., it seemed the next life stage would be in Texas. However, a conversation on the phone with his mentor would change the direction.

That phone call gave notice of a museum job opening close to his heart, the chance to tell the story of Sequoyah and the Cherokee Nation. All of his life paths from blacksmithing, Civil War reenactments, the Heritage Center, volunteering at Fort Loudoun and historical storytelling were intersecting at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore, TN.

From listening to recorded Cherokee stories at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian as a kid to sharing history through period clothing and reenactments, the Cherokee story seemed to always be entwined with Charlie. It seemed no matter what period he turned to, there was a Cherokee connection. World War I is a historical period that he holds great interest in sharing, having many period uniforms and regularly participating in reenactments. Charlie shared that during WWI, the U.S. 30th Division Infantry Regiments, which contained Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina..

The U.S. Military Commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications and attacking them. So they issued the tactic of having the Cherokee troops deliver messages in their native tongue. It was successful, as the Germans didn’t understand. The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire.

Everywhere he turned, the story of the Cherokee was coming into his view. Since 2000, Charlie Rhodarmer has enjoyed that view, fulfilling the dream to be at Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. He has been featured on C-Span and all over the world as the Keynote Speaker for many museums and events. Often sharing in period clothing, “I have always loved history, having military uniforms and civilian clothing from many periods. It’s fun to bring history to life.” Charlie remarked. And he really knows how, no matter the period or place, he makes the historical event, place or person come alive.

The connection to Sequoyah himself, from blacksmith to military service to educating others, is not lost to those who experience the living historian, Charlie Rhodarmer. He has faithfully served, for 18 years, as museum historian and director. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum celebrated 27 years of history, heritage and culture this year. The museum honors the life and legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Indian, who created the Cherokee syllabary. His passion to educate others on the Cherokee history is something he considers a great privilege. He will join the 2nd Cherokee Indian delegation to London at the end of this year, as they have been invited to participate in the 2019 New Year’s Day Parade in London. Charlie is honored to serve in the period costume of Lt. Henry Timberlake, the escort of the first Cherokee delegation to London.

It is difficult to capture the Charlie Rhodarmer story in an article. It truly needs the page numbering equal of the novel, “War & Peace.” They say success is to live your life doing something you love, and therefore Charlie is one of life’s most successful. He found the ultimate happiness living history for us all.

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Beef Short Ribs

4 pounds bone-in short ribs3 sprigs of fresh rosemary3 tablespoons bacon fat3 cloves garlic, crushed1 small onion, sliced1 cup dry red wine1 cup beef stockSalt & pepperPre-Heat the oven to 325. Pat dry the ribs and season with salt & pepper. Warm the bacon fat over medium heat in a dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot with a lid. When the oil is almost smoking, add the ribs in a single layer being careful not to crowd them. Brown on all sides in batches, setting aside once done. Pour off the remaining fat, leaving approximately 3 tablespoons and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion and saute until lightly golden. Add garlic and rosemary and cook another 2 minutes until garlic is super fragrant. Add red wine and stock, it will boil almost immediately. Now place the ribs back in the pot along with any juices that have collected while sitting. Cover and place the whole pot in the oven for at least two hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.Serve with mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree, cauliflower potato puree or creamy polenta and pan juice. Add a small arugula salad (arugula dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil) on top or on the side for freshness and a bright acidic note to the dish.

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This season, Monroe Area Council for the Arts celebrates twenty years of memorable performances with Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT). In the past two decades, countless memories have been made as children of all ages throughout Monroe County audition, rehearse and perform an imaginative and entertaining play directed by MCT tour actor/directors.“Missoula Children’s Theatre has been a part of our annual performance series for twenty years, positively impacting the lives of our local children,” said Alan Jackson, Executive Director of MACA. “What they accomplish in one week is amazing. The shows always delight an audience of all ages. We are thankful to share this great children’s theatre in our community.”From the initial performance in 1999, this event has offered kids a chance to perform on stage in front of hundreds of people, including local schools and a general audience of local residents. This opportunity has been instrumental in providing not only on stage direction but a path toward future endeavors in the performing arts.Mia Sage Lowry Beason of Madisonville is a testimony to the impacting experiences of MCT. When Lowry Beason was just a small child, her parents knew they had an imaginative young lady on their hands. Lowry Beason’s flair for acting was apparent, as she was often found in elaborate outfits from her mother’s closet, practicing favorite Disney film dialogues.The Monroe County native’s affinity for the theatrical lead her to a Missoula Children’s Theatre audition when she was in fifth grade, and that moment changed her life in a number of ways.“For my life, theatre has been a journey of personal development. I would have never found my true self or had the confidence to speak in front of people without the opportunities I was given with the MACA and Missoula Children’s Theatre,” said Lowry Beason.Lowry Beason’s debut performance for Missoula Children’s Theatre in 1999 was the role of Mom Munch of the Munch Kin in the performance of “Wiz of the West.” “It was a small group that year. Over time, auditions for Missoula performances through MACA have grown to the point that it’s not uncommonto have more than a hundred children trying out for roles,” said Lowry Beason. “I lovedthe audition process. It felt like a game. The experience was so incredible, I knew theatre was the thing for me.”Missoula Children’s Theatre is the nation’s largest touring children’s theatre, touring for almost fifty years with teams of actor/ directors. Lowry Beason has been a child actor, youth assistant director and a tour actor/director with the company.“In sixth grade, I attended camp in Sealy Lake, Montana. We learned so much about touring and acting as a profession and worked on further developing our theatre skills. It was hard work, but I loved every minute,” said Lowry Beason. “After that summer I knew someday I would spend time as a tour actor/director. I never knew I was funny. I discovered so much about myself. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears for most people. Having a chance to overcome that from a young age is such a valuable experience in itself,” said Lowry Beason.After earning her degree, Lowry Beason returned to Monroe County and to the classrooms she had known a child. She soon realized her experience with Missoula had influenced her teaching methods. During the summer, Lowry Beason worked with MCT from daylight to dark. The program emphasizes the importance of each child’s experience. Lowry Beason says that emphasis on the child’s experience has become a major focus as a teacher.“When I came back, I was a different teacher. Being a part of Missoula really impacted the way I teach. I have been fortunate to have had the presence of Monroe  Arts performances, events and activities throughout my school career. The fact that this community chooses to wrap their arms around the children and let them shine is a very special thing.”This year, MCT will arrive in Monroe County to embark on an adventure with the legendary Robin Hood, Maid Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham and a host of others in a musical wonderland as the Missoula Children’s Theatre andmore than 50 local students present an original musical adaptation of ROBIN HOOD. The time of the performance is simply long ago, and the place is the magical, mythical Sherwood Forest. Our hero, Robin Hood, and his Merry Bandof colorful characters seek the help of the Foresters, manage to waylay the Aristocrats and set out to rescue Maid Marian and Marian’s Maid. Prince John tries to stay calm as his Sheriff, guards and horsemen botch Robin’s arrest, thanks to the aromatic Skunks. Wacky humor and an original score add to this fresh new look at a legendary outlaw in a legendary time.

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University of Tennessee Chair of Honor

On the banks of the Tennessee River sits one of the most iconic landmarks in college football, Neyland Stadium, home to the University of Tennessee Volunteers. The seating capacity of 102,037 has grown by one, but it is a seat that will always be empty. That’s right, no one will ever sit in that additional seat added recently, as it was placed to honor the greatest of all Volunteers…The United States of America Veterans.
The chair located in section ZZ12 with an expansive view of the stadium will remain vacant, honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. “This unoccupied chair is in honor of the brave men and women who are still Prisoners of War or Missing in Action and symbolizes there will always be a place in Neyland Stadium awaiting their return. We are thankful. You will not be forgotten.” is the wording found on the plaque placed at the newly installed POW/MIA Chair of Honor.
Since World War II, more than 82,000 soldiers are unaccounted for. There are four Tennessee football lettermen, Clyde Fuson, Rudy Klarer, Bill Nowling and Willis Tucker, who made that ultimate sacrifice in World War II. It is a clear view from the POW/MIA Chair of Honor of their names and retired numbers already placed in honor at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee Athletics’ history of military appreciation is vast, including sending care packages, flags and signed items to active military overseas, armed forces conducting ceremonies during athletic events and the “Salute to Service” events for active military, veterans and military families.
The University of Tennessee is believed to be the first university in the state to dedicate a POW/MIA seat. Two chairs nearby will be used by specially selected “Volunteer of
the Game” at each home football game,
a new tradition that started at the game against Florida.
The combined effort of Tennessee Athletics, UT Student Government and the Veterans Resource Center has resulted in
a crown jewel, significant place of honor, remembrance and pride at the University of Tennessee Neyland Stadium. Go Vols!

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Gary & Karen Braden’s Tennessee Christmas

When you pull down the wooded gravel driveway that leads to the Braden home, you have no idea of the little slice of paradise that awaits you. Three years ago, Gary and Karen Braden purchased their lovely 6+ acre lot and farmhouse and dove straight into the process of making it their dream home, or in this case, homestead.

The former owners (and builders) were from Knoxville, and they themselves had quite the affinity for antiques—travelling around the southeast as dealers of early American pieces.

The home was a Williamsburg plan that they constructed with various farmhouse elements from the 1850s. Because of this, the house boasts 7 dismantled and refurbished fireplaces, two large stairwells and other incredibly idyllic ‘farmhouse’ traits.

It was only natural, when the Braden’s set out to update and customize the home, that they wanted to maintain its original nature, character and charm. They did opt, however, to add a covered front porch that runs the length of the home, an incredibly cozy screened porch, a mudroom/office, garage and guest cottage.

The property is also home to a cabin (c. 1830) that was relocated from upper East Tennessee, reconstructed and re-chinked, that happens to be the first building one sees when entering the property.

And if the cabin and main house interiors aren’t enough to make one swoon, the Colonial Williamsburg-style flower, fruit, vegetable and herb gardens–complete with antique brick formations, pebble rock footpaths, Koi pond, shed and gazebo–certainly are.

When asked about his favorite aspect of the home, Gary Braden—2nd generation owner of Braden’s Lifestyles Furniture—says it’s definitely the keeping room, which opens up directly off of their dreamy farmhouse kitchen. He explains that the keeping room is where the home’s largest fireplace is located, creating an inviting, warm and relaxing area during the fall and winter months when the wood fire perpetually burns. The home’s cozy screened porch with painted wood floors is his 2nd favorite spot and where he prefers to greet the day with that first cup of coffee and quiet time.

Karen Braden, without hesitation, says her favorite spot in the home is the kitchen. It could be the large open space, the gorgeous marble countertops, the subway tile, the big behind-the-sink windows or the sink itself—a refurbished 100+ year old cast iron farmhouse basin. Or it could be because it’s where she makes all of her magic, as she is quite the baker.

The Braden’s recently shared that while their family’s Christmas traditions have changed in recent years, due to the growth and development of their kids’ families and personal traditions, they still hang on to a few of the same activities. For starters, in addition to her other Christmas trees, Karen maintains a ‘kids’ tree,’ where she showcases all of the homemade ornaments from each of her three children: Nick, Natalie and Alexander. They still love to host and entertain, whether it’s a Christmas Eve dinner for the family, a large church-based group or even the Braden’s team members and spouses for holiday parties.

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Chelsea & Drew

It’s not the typical love story for the mother of a boy to set up a blind date, but that is the case of how Drew Bowlin met Chelsea Harris, his mother set them up on a date. Turned out that Chelsea’s University of Tennessee cheerleading coach, Joy had watch Drew grow up and when the time came for him to propose, his mom and Joy would assist in making it extra special.

That particular day, Joy was out of town and spent the day issuing orders to her assistant coach, Chelsea. It was an exhausting and stressful day being made better by a planned date with Drew later than evening. That was until the insisted text from Joy sent Chelsea to Neyland Stadium with Mascot Smokey to search for something. Through many twists and turns they finally found what they were looking for and Chelsea found Drew standing in the middle of the field with a heart made of pom poms. Unable to move and breathless, Chelsea looked up to the Jumbotron seeing a picture with the text…Will you Marry Me?

The engagement photos show the story of merging of two worlds, Drew Bowlin,former minor league pitcher for San Francisco Giants and Chelsea Lee Harris, former UT Cheerleader. He pitched his loved which she secured with a glove.

On Saturday, December 9, 2017 at Castleton Farms in Loudon, the two became one and forever will be known as Drew and Chelsea Bowlin. The holiday themed wedding was captured in photography by Melanie Fritz, with personal touches of floral arrangements done by family members. Cascading poinsettias highlighted the six tier wedding cake, perfectly matching the decor of a spectacular day. The perfect venue with
all the right details for a blessed and beautiful union.

No matter where baseball takes Drew, his favorite cheerleader Chelsea will at his side.

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Monroe Life Balloon Fiesta


The 6th Annual Monroe Life Balloon Fiesta will return to East Tennessee at The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore, Tennessee. Enjoy balloon rides, live music, food, games, an inflatable Kid’s Zone and much more all while supporting CASA Monroe. The two-day Balloon Fiesta begins on Saturday, September 1st from 2pm – 10pm, and runs through Sunday, September 2nd, from 2pm – 10pm. The finale each night will be a Balloon Glow set to music with over 22+ colorful hot air balloons beginning at dusk. “We are delighted to be bringing back a fall family favorite to East Tennessee,” says Lisa Bingham, publisher of Monroe Life Magazine and owner of The Bingham Group, a long-time supporter of CASA Monroe. “We have 22+ of the most talented balloon pilots in the country excited to entertain the community. We invite everyone to come out and join in the celebration!”

Buy tickets EARLY or at the gate.
We will have separate gates for attendees that already have tickets.


This is a rain or shine event. No Refunds. Balloons will fly weather permitting.

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