Unclaimed Baggage

North of Birmingham, West of Atlanta and South of Chattanooga is where you will find the most unique shopping destination: the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where lost suitcases finally settle to have their contents reappraised, cleaned, repriced for display. With over a shoppers that annually visit, it’s a must not miss extravaganza.

The store was founded in 1970 by Doyle Owens, when he borrowed a pickup truck and $300 to head for Washington, D.C., where he purchased unclaimed bags from the bus industry. The selling started on top of card tables from his home, growing into the opening of a store that today is more than 40,000 square feet and occupies a city block.

The finds are cultivated from airlines, bus lines and train carriers from unclaimed baggage and cargo. Doyle Owens’ son, Bryan, purchased the business in 1995 and made getting national media attention for the store a priority. Everyone from“The Today Show” to Oprah have featured the store on their shows. The store itself is much like a typical suitcase with clothes, shoes and jewelry taking centerstage. A significant choosing of books, plenty of eyewear and large selection of electronics and sporting goods are highlighted.

There are items you wouldn’t expect to find like a suit of armor, a mummified falcon and a Jim Henson puppet-goblin from the cult film Labyrinth. And the bling found will blow your mind: a 5.8-carat diamond set in a platinum band that was found packed in a sock, a 40.95-carat natural emerald and a platinum Rolex valued at over $64,000.

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center website, about 5% of unclaimed bags are reclaimed. The airlines pay the lost claims and then sell those bags to the center. The lost bags arrive by tractor-trailer to the processing facility to be sorted and priced. All clothing is dry-cleaned and laundered at their in-house facility, the largest in Alabama. Fine jewelry is cleaned and appraised.

Electronic equipment is tested and cleared of personal data. The best stuff gets onto the retail floor with remaining items being donated through their Reclaimed for Good program, helping people around the world.

It’s not just about shopping. It’s a wonderful experience from the Guest Services to the Starbucks cafe to the smiling, helpful associates. You can reserve a personal shopper, a ninety-minute session with one of their professional style advisors to build your profile and help you shop the best of all

the clothing and accessories. There is custom shipping that will take the hassle out of getting those fancy finds home. They even have a plan for the furry ones who can be cared for while you shop at Cutie Petooties for $10 a day, located only five minutes away. Most fun is that daily you can join in the action with the Baggage Experience. At 2:30 each day, a shopper is chosen to experience opening an unprocessed bag; you never know what you might find! The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located in Scottsboro, Alabama, a picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the banks of the Tennessee River. It is the perfect road trip break. Enjoy the shopping experience, and then head an hour south to Huntsville to check out the U.S. Space and Rocket Center or north to experience all the fun of Chattanooga. The final home of lost luggage in the middle of the best road trip route all the year-round!


9:00 – 6:00 CT


8:00 – 7:00 CT

Closed Sundays,


and Christmas

509 W. Willow Street

Scottsboro, Alabama 35768

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Lee Grant Johnson

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.- 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Truth is, as told in the Bible and shared by Pastors around the world, we are handpicked, created to bring glory to God. For Lee Grant Johnson “Houser” of Madisonville, it was a lifetime of being handpicked by both his earthly connections and his Savior.

Cecil and Dude Johnson were very special people with big hearts. After adopting their first son, Terry, they walked the heartache no parent should as he passed on to grow up in heaven. With faith in their dream of children, they opened their hearts adopting sons, Ray and Guy, then expanded their hearts once more to hand-pick Lee Johnson, a baby brother to complete their family. Raising the three boys to be honest, punctual or don’t bother showing up,  work hard, laugh much and love all. All of those character traits existed and thrived in the youngest Johnson boy. Reminded often by both parents, Lee and his brothers were chosen, cared for, loved beyond measure and given a foundation of knowing the importance of being embraced by another. Lee’s life is a legacy of embracing others, loving much and yes, laughing even more.

Growing up in Monroe County, the love for his friends and classmates at Madisonville High School is memorable. In fact, he is the infamous “Houser.” The class of 1980 was and remains forever changed by life of the party, Lee Johnson, who never missed a moment to be in the middle of it all, hand-picked by classmates as favorite. Naturally, he studied at Hiwassee College and loved the University of Tennessee Volunteers just down the road. Lee was a huge fan with a lifelong dream to have a bright orange Harley Davidson. His life is a legacy of being proud of his roots, loving his friends and being the greatest Vol fan!

Along with loving his family and friends, it was his love of country that would make his legacy a part of American history. Following in the proud footsteps of his father, Cecil Johnson, a U.S. Navy World War II veteran, Lee served in the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment of the United States Army. It is readily identified by its nickname, The Old Guard. Each member of The Old Guard is hand-picked to guard the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan at the time), the White House, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and perform ceremonial funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The regiment is the oldest active duty regiment in the U.S. Army, having been first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784, being the official ceremonial unit of the U.S. Army since 1948. Lee’s life is a legacy of service to country, something he honored for those that served in the past, alongside him and currently.

With a foundation of love for family and country, it was an acknowledgement of God’s love that made Lee personally proud. He shared often about being hand-picked by his Heavenly Father and lived a life of gratitude. With the heart of a servant, Lee never met a stranger and made sure there was a smile or laugh shared. It was a good time, all the time for the vibrant and contagious personality that lit up the room with positive energy. Lee’s life is a legacy of letting his light shine to show that love hand-picked all of us for glory if we allow ourselves to be embraced.

It was that embracing love of God, family and friends that would sustain Lee Johnson during his valiant life battle. In September of 2017, Lee was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Adenocarcinoma of the lung. The warrior readied for the fight, armed with his constant smile, positive outlook and unmoving faith. It is known today that most did not know about his diagnosis at first due to Lee always presenting as the same fun-loving, smiling “Houser” they had always known. Every three weeks, his older brother Ray would pick Lee up in the early morning hours, drive him to Vanderbilt for treatments and make the return trip home. It was a precious time of togetherness for the brothers, moments that time nor space can erase. The aggressive cancer, long trips for treatment and medication never dimmed the famous grin. Lee’s life is a legacy of fighting to the finish with constant joy of heart.

In the wee hours of the morning on Monday, February 19, 2019, Lee was hand-picked for heavenly wings and a glorious reunion with his beloved parents and the oldest brother he had never known. Lee’s life is a legacy of loving dogs, collecting Mickey Mouse memorabilia, loving Hooters for the hot wings, playing with his nieces & nephews, enjoying his dream job riding tractors all day for the city of Madisonville, working at the local golf course, being a best friend, being a baby brother, being a U.S Army Veteran, honoring all military personnel, and being the biggest UT Vols Fan!

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The Lord Is My Shepherd

One of the most beautiful and well known passages in God’s Word is the 23rd Psalm written by King David as a young shepherd boy about His loving Shepherd – The Lord God. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff -they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever.The psalm brings comfort, provides hope and offers the peaceful outlook required to walk through the sometimes difficult stages of our lives. It is also the foundation for which Billie Karen Walker bases her life. She finds motivation in these words.“Yes, it’s great therapy and my peace and walk with God,” she said, “being a shepherd to these precious lambs and sheep.”From a child, Billie Karen had always been drawn to how God used and inspired writings using the analogy of the sheep for His children. She always wanted to get a hands on experience as a good shepherd to be like Jesus and know these beloved animals.It started in a simple way with the acreage behind the home she shares with her husband, Paul. The back room of the home, overlooking this additional land, is a place for Bible study and visual enjoyment of the outdoors by Billie Karen, “It seemed so empty – it needed animals”, she reflected.As she thought about what kind of animal, she remembered the Sheep farm of friends, Bryan and Mia Sage Beason, they passed daily coming home. She gave them a call asking if possible to come by to pet and love on one of the gentle creatures. It was a touch that reminded her of that childhood calling.Billie Karen also visited another shepherd, Kristen Svensen, of Foggy Knob Farm, who spent many hours sharing knowledge about the lambs and sheep. Discovering that the bottle fed ones required extra love and care, she reflected on that acreage behind her home and how beautiful their presence would be in the green pastures. “May I care for these lambs and other sheep on my land”, she asked Brian and Mia Sage Beason. With resounding approval and support to get started from them, Bille Karen Walker the Shepherd was born.She was instantly in love with the lambs and sheep, sharing her vision with her family and close friends. A vision supported daily by husband, Paul; daughter, Halie Anna Duncan and her husband, Nathan; father, Bill Grady; friends, Leslie, Macy and Meadow and her amazing neighbors.It is the perfect home, just the sight of them grazing and playing about in the field brings peace. It is exactly as the words the song of David says: The Lord is my Shepherd. Billie Karen is able to bring them to her green pastures, lovingly care for them for the pleasure and goodness that is experienced by all who encounter these gentle lambs and sheep. Granting opportunities for photography, visiting churches and allowing some 4H students to visit has created a ministry for showing the love of God to all creatures.“Jesus sees us as His sheep and lambs. We need love and gentle guidance, He is our Shepherd, caring for our needs, showing us ways to give to others and to be used for a greater purpose.” said Billie Karen, “I just love the opportunity to love, and show support to other people and the sheep, I am truly blessed to have this chance and share these sheep and lambs with others. I have been so surprised that from children to the oldest of my friends have never had the opportunity to hold and love a lamb. Many have said they were excited to hold a lamb – that’s the way Jesus sees all of us. As Isaiah 40:11 says: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…” Thank you Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God!”

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Megan Hurst Music

Singer and songwriter Megan Hurst calls herself “just a girl with a vision”, a perfect description of the daughter, wife, mother and now artist who uses her gift from God to positively impact others. Megan released her debut album entitled “Saved,” which features 10 recorded songs that came from her personal experiences and the shared experiences of others in their walk with the Lord.One song on the album is “Daughter of the King,” a fun song for woman and girls.Megan wrote the song after hearing a lesson on what it really means to be a daughterof the King of Kings. Sharing her personal experiences is the first part of the gift as she penned the lyrics placed on her heart. The second part of the gift appears as she gives voice to those lyrics and the final part of the gift is the inspiration it gives to others who hear the lyrics. She is just a girl with a vision. It’s a mighty big vision, but so is her gift!“I can remember where each song was formed and how God whispered lyrics to my heart,” recalled Megan, “when we are happy in God, we are stronger.”

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Jim Gray: The Artist’s Memories

In space, they are together, ageless. Their image travels on a probe launched four decades ago, now sailing beyond gravity and time. Should it encounter life beyond the stars, a snapshot of their lives will tell part of the human story.On Earth, it was Valentine’s Day, 2019. Jim looked at Fran through his thin-rimmed glasses. He took one hand off his walker and reached for her, and she helped him settle into his seat. They sat hand in hand, Fran’s nails polished a pale pink. A medical alert necklace dangled from her neck.Jim and Fran Gray have been married 65 years. In January, they’d moved into an assisted living center in Bloomington, surrounded by dementia patients like them. In the living area, Billie Holiday was singing about all the old familiar places, and Jim sang softly along. “I’ll be seeing you…”In the distance, three large paintings covered one wall. They show a parade bustling down the street – balloons and confetti, dancers and trumpets. Overhead, two spacecrafts streak across the sky. Jim started painting them when he turned 80 and dementia began to creep into his mind. They weren’t his best work, but that wasn’t the point. Jim was a nationally renowned artist whose landscapes and seascapes continue to hang on the walls of homes and galleries around the world. But when his hands lost their dexterity and his memory started to slip, he painted a series of three canvases called the “Joy of Life Parade.” His earlier paintings were for others. These paintings were for himself.Every character, from the two men balancing on unicycles to the fisherman casting his rod off the back of a pickup truck, is a person he knew. He painted them — all the old familiar faces — because he was afraid he might soon forget.There’s a long-legged woman in a yellow, skin- tight leotard and matching yellow heels. The red on her lips complements the red feathers in her grand, bejeweled headpiece. That’s Fran. The center of the painting and of his life. Now Jim is 86 and Fran is 85. In the assisted living center, Elvis is singing “Love Me Tender.” “Way to go!” Jim tells Elvis. “Shush,” Fran says.Jim met Fran when he went with two Air Force buddies to visit her hometown in Illinois one night. Fran and two other young women pulled up in their car, and his friends talked to the ladies in the front seat. ButJim wanted an introduction to the third girl, sitting in the back. The streetlight lit up her face, and Jim stepped back to take in her beauty. His Frannie. “I just sort of fell in love with her first time I saw her,” Jim said.Fran has been an anchor for Jim ever since. They married and had three children. Art fueled their family.Their daughter Laurie, who eventually became an artist herself, remembers playing a game when they traveled. On her website, she describes how they took turns pointing to something out the car window — a beautiful sky, for instance — and describing what brushes and colors they would use to paint it. Alizarin Crimson? Prussian Blue? Laurie says the game taught her how to see quickly and retain what she saw in her head.When Jim asked Fran’s opinion on his art, she’d answer honestly. When he wanted more opportunities for people to see his art, Fran suggested moving to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where they would later open the Jim Gray Gallery. When he decided he needed to step back and focus on the creative side of his artwork, she took over runningthe gallery.They were playful and pranked each other. They taught their kids never go to bed upset, and they showed them what it means to love another person. When Jim’s dementia started setting in, Fran became his primary caregiver. Now in the assisted living center, she continues to hold his hand. She loves being surrounded by his art. It’s in her bedroom, the living area, the hallways. “They’re all my favorites,” she said.In the parade painting, a policewoman is smiling, a badge on her sleeve and paintbrushes in her holster. That’s Miss Clyde Kennedy, Jim’s high school art teacher. Jim is the boy on the tricycle in the aviator helmet and goggles. One of his earliest memories came when he was 4 and felt the wind brush his face as he raced over a bridge. He felt like he was flying. Beside his younger self, Jim painted his childhood neighbor, Mr. Galyean. Like most kids, Jim has loved drawing since he was old enough to hold a crayon. But he didn’t know he could make art for a living until he was 11 and Mr. Galyean gifted him with art books, brushes and other supplies, giving him the push he needed.Jim painted for art shows and sold thousands of paintings and prints worldwide. He even carved a larger-than-life sculpture of a barefoot, smiling Dolly Parton that still stands outside the courthouse in her Tennessee hometown.As clocks tick and Earth continues its rotation around the sun, art captures a moment in time. Jim believes it also captures joy.“The pure joy of creating something that ‘you’ want to make, just for that pure purpose alone, sets it aside from all the other made things, and it is ‘art,’” he wrote a few years ago. In the corner of the “Joy of Life Parade,” the two space probes race through the dark sky.In 1967, a man named Jim Amos showed up at Jim and Fran’s Gatlinburg home, camera in hand. He was a photographer for National Geographic working on a story about artists and craftsmen in the Great Smoky Mountains and happened upon the Jim Gray Gallery.It was a chance encounter between two explorers. Amos took a photo of Jim sitting at his easel painting a landscape. In the forefront, Fran tends a fire in their big red fireplace, with Mama Cat lying on her lap. A moment of their life frozen in film.A few years later, NASA began plans for the Voyager I and II, two space probes created to explore the outer reaches of the solar system. Astronomer Carl Sagan was assigned the task of recording the sights and sounds of Earth onto golden records that would travel with the Voyagers into space. The thought was that if extraterrestrial life ever captured one of the Voyagers, the records offered at least a chance to communicate with them, to tell the human story.Each record contained 115 images, natural sounds and music selections representing the planet and its capabilities.Jane Goodall and her chimps. The Great Wall of China. Compositions by Mozart and Bach. A time capsule for the universe.In a stroke of what Jim called “pure luck,” Sagan also included the photo of Jim and Fran. It represents man and woman and domesticated animals. The red fireplace shows Earth’s oxygen-based atmosphere. And Jim painting in the background shows man’s creative drive. The Voyagers launched in 1977 and remain in space today, on a journey without end.Jim has long suspected Alzheimer’s might be in his future. His father Jerry had suffered from the same disease. One day, a few years before Jerry died, the two were walking down the road when Jim’s father turned to him. “What’s your name?” he asked. “It’s Jim.” “Well, I have a son named Jim,” his father said.Jim Gray spent much of his life trying to capture the fleeting shadows cast by trees as the sun moved over the Great Smoky Mountains. He knew time would not stop for him, but he hoped his art would outlast him.“He has literally recorded his memories outside the confines of his brain,” his son Chris, 59, wrote in an email. “Long after Jim is gone, his memories will remain on walls all around the world.”It’s hard to tell how much of the “Joy of Life Parade” Jim remembers now. Some days his memory is stronger than others. Some days he, like his father, can’t remember the names of his own kids. Now when he paints, volunteers set newspapers underneath his canvas, and his art isn’t precise. But he still paints with the same concentration, and the colors are just as lush.Valentine’s Day was ending, and Fran was getting tired. She wanted to go to bed, but she didn’t know what to do about Jim. She spoke softly, telling him she was leaving. He couldn’t hear her over the sound of “Fiddler on the Roof” playing from the television. “I’m going up to bed,” she said,a little louder this time. “Huh? Where are you going?” “Up to bed.” “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “You don’t know what?” she asked. Now she couldn’t hear over the movie. “I don’t know what to do,” he repeated. “I’d rather go to bed.”But he made no move. It was like his body was waiting for instruction from his brain, but his brain wasn’t answering. They wanted so badly to understand each other. Fran leaned toward him, holding his hand. Jim’s other hand held her face as he tried to pull himself as close as he could to hear her.It was no use. Finally Fran stood up and started making her way out of the room. A moment passed, and Jim said, “Where did Frannie go?” As if that was a signal, a nurse came in and told Jim he was going to follow Fran and head to bed. They shuffled along, Jim with his walker, Fran with her cane. They came to the elevator. The elevator would take Fran to her bedroom on the second floor while Jim continued to his first-floor room. This was the spot where, every night, they said goodbye.Fran stopped walking. Jim kept going. Then stopped. “Fran?” He had forgotten. He thought Fran was going to bed with him,as she had for 65 years. “Fran?” The nurse assured him she would come down and say goodnight in a bit. It was the only way to get him to go to his room. “Fran?”Jim took one hand off his walker and reached for her. Fran paused between the open elevator door and his outstretched arm. Go ahead, the nurse told her. I’ve got him — you go ahead.A drawing of Fran 20 years ago, hangs on the wall of Jim’s bedroom. In it, she squats in the garden of their Tennessee home. She’s planting flowers, trowel in hand. When Jim thinks of his Frannie, his son believes, this is how he remembers her. Neither have aged past this point in Jim’s mind. He still sees himself as a younger painter sometimes. And as the dementia tightens its grip, he has a hard time reconciling the Fran he sees sitting next to him and the Fran in that drawing.As they each drift to sleep in their separate rooms, somewhere the Voyagers charge through space. They have been in space for 41 years, while on Earth Jim and Fran raised three kids, moved 11 times and sold thousands of Jim’s pieces.Scientists say that in interstellar space, free from the destructive forces of gravity and the atmosphere, either Voyager could last for billions of years. One day, they say, the probes could be the only remaining evidence of life on Earth. Some nights,Jim and Fran’s son Chris will step outside of his rural home in Maine and look up at the night sky. The clear nights there show the vastness that surrounds us all – the stars that have blinked down on us since mankind first looked up. He’ll think about his parents’ photo up there, past the man-made satellites and aircrafts, past the planets and asteroids. A moment preserved forever. He’ll think about how his father’s life has been devoted to capturing moments like this through art.On Earth, the years hurtle forward, and Jim and Fran’s memories retreat. And Chris imagines Voyager I spinning through space, where his parents are youthful and creative and together for what might as well be an eternity. He likes to look into the dark sky and wonder, “How far is it now?”It is 13.4 billion miles away, and moving fast.

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Dr. Matthew Wilson

In July 2007, a UT Hamilton Eye Institute patient brought the project of raising funds for an American Cancer Society Harrah’s Hope Lodge to the attention of Matthew Wilson, MD, FACS, UTHSC faculty and St. Jude Chair a of Pediatric Oncology. The project had already received major gifts from Harrah’s Entertainment, the UT Health Science Center, but more funds were still needed.Partnering with Terrapin Racing Triathlon Team in Memphis, Dr. Wilson raised funds and increased awareness about the project through the Janus Charity Challenge external link as part of the 2008 Ironman Lake Placid event. Dr. Wilson also canvassed the community, securing additional gifts of funding. Subsequently, Dr. Wilson was awarded the ACHHE Distinguished Service Award, and the fitness room at the Hope Lodge facility was named for Terrapin Racing in honor of Dr. Wilson.Dr. Matthew Wilson, MD, is an Ophthalmology specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. With an unmatched passion for teaching the next generation of physicians and healing all ages, Dr. Wilson is a profile in the best of medicine. Daily it is the care of his patients, guidance for students & fellows, and perseverance in research that make him more than just a doctor, he is a miracle-worker.The UT Hamilton Eye Institute (UTHEI) is the department of ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee. It serves several key purposes, including clinical care, education, research, and international outreach. It also influences public policy related to eye care.

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Artist of the Year Judy Lavoie

Award-winning Artist, Judy Lavoie thought 2018 was “her year” as an artist, but 2019 started out with being selected as the 2019 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Artist of the Year! The designation was made by the renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in conjunction with the 69th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “This combines two of my greatest passions, painting and spring wildflowers, making it a wonderful personal milestone,” remarked Judy, “I am so elated!”The honor stems from the selection of wildflower painting, “Bloodroot,” as the featured image for this year’s Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which will take place April 23-27, 2019. The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is an annual five-day event in Great Smoky Mountains National Park offering professionally guided programs which explore the region’s rich wildflowers, wildlife, ecology, culture, and natural history through walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars.“I painted more in 2018 than in many previous years, experimenting with new methods and materials,” explained Judy, “ I am humbled to be the recipient of honors such as this.”Judy Lavoie’s “Bloodroot” painting appears on the event t-shirts, mugs, and other Pilgrimage promotional items. In addition, it is featured in a solo exhibition of Judy Lavoie paintings at the Wolpert Gallery at the Arrowmont School running through April 26, 2019, with a reception at the gallery during the Pilgrimage week, on Wednesday, April 24th, from 5 – 7pm.Judy is grateful for the opportunity to indulge in her passion for painting. She loves capturing everyday subjects such as beloved pets, wildflowers, rural scenes, fishing boats, and landscapes, as well as depicting the exotic, such as frolicking dolphins and African wildlife. Judy paints in a highly realistic manner with a unique sensitivity to detail. Her work is exhibited in private collections throughout the U.S. and abroad.Judy’s long list of awards attests to the quality of her work. She won “Best of Show” in the 2018 Tennessee Watercolor Society Exhibition and has been included in each of their juried shows since 2008. Judy is also a signature member and multiple award-winner of the Jacksonville (FL) Watercolor Society and the Florida Watercolor Society.Judy’s fine art is now being featured in an extensive solo exhibition during April, May and June at the Community Activity Center in Rarity Bay, Vonore TN. Hours are Monday-Friday from 9am-4pm, and the public is welcome.Visit www.judy-lavoie-art.com to view the online gallery featuring original paintings and limited edition fine art prints along with her Art Blog, a must read for all.

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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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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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Motorcross Passion: The Lifestyle Of A Thrill Seeking High School Senior.

In East Tennessee, if you hear of a high school senior girl that has become a successful athlete, normally you’d be talking about cheerleading, basketball, or softball. Sequoyah senior Cassie Belcher, however, decided to take a different track to success. Both figuratively and literally. Cassie’s track is the dirt and dust filled hills and turns of motocross dirt bike racing where she won the Tennessee State Championship in her class last season and is looking to uphold that championship in the upcoming 2017 season.
Cassie is the daughter of Shelia and Lance Belcher of Madisonville. Instead of weekends of travel ball they spend weekends traveling to tracks supporting Cassie at race tracks all over the southeast. “The love of riding came at the age of 5 when she got her first bike. She’s always loved to ride and get muddy” says Shelia.
They started taking Cassie to the local WMMX track in Sweetwater in 2014 where she started learning how to maneuver through the turns and jumps. This is where her passion for racing started to grow with every minute she got on the track. The fever grew to the point that she wanted to start racing so she started training even harder and even helped the owner at WMMX with weed eating and mowing at the track to get him to help train her. They started entering several races close
to home between 2014 and 2015 and with each race improved over that span.
To raise her game to the next level Cassie traveled to South of the Border MX Motocross Training Facility in Hamer, SC where she lived and trained for 2 months in all facets of racing. This was no walk in the park training either. Her days would consist of getting up early and doing physical training in the gym followed by track riding for most of the day. When they were done riding they would be trained on bike maintenance and had to do the upkeep and cleaning of their own bikes every afternoon. Then another round in the gym in the evening. She was home schooled while at SOBMXM and had to do homework late at night or sometimes during her lunch breaks.
Since then her goals were to pursue a Tennessee girls state championship and to qualify and race at the Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN. In the process she has raced in 10 different states and at big races like Mini O’s in Gainsville, FL, South of the Border in Hader, SC, Daytona Supercross in Dayton, FL, Red Bud in Buchanon, MI, Iron Man in Crawfordsville, IN, and Lazy River in Dalton, GA. Along the way she has met and made
a lot of amazing friends including training with WMX standout Shelby Rolen, top 5
in women’s pro motocross, where they traveled all over the southeast track to track training and racing.
In August Cassie reached one of her goals by qualifying and racing the Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s. This was a huge achievement for her. She then followed that up by tallying the most points over a 10 race season, winning most of those 10 races, to win the 12-16 Girls Mega Thor Series Championship. She then secured her second goal of becoming the Tennessee Girl’s State Champion by winning at Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, TN. The road was tough on her physically as well having to race through broken ribs and a finger during those 10 races and concussions. What a test to her determination and perseverance.
“She’s working hard and training hard to see what 2017 has in store. Cassie put’s her faith and trust in God each and every time she gets on the track with a prayer before every race.” Proud mom Shelia adds.
Daytona 2017 is the next big race for Cassie in March. It’s pretty obvious that she will put in the time and effort to make the 2017 race season bigger and better than the last and we can’t wait to see where she goes from there.

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