A promising public-private partnership

By Matt Ledger

Pictured from left, Brian Baine, Gov. Bentley and Jason Harper. (Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)

Pictured from left, Brian Baine, Gov. Bentley and Jason Harper. (Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

A few new faces with a fresh approach are revitalizing the Leadership DeKalb program.

Jason Harper attended the Marshall County Leadership program while working in U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt’s office and has worked for TVA in Huntsville for the past five years. “I looked at my home county and decided to take action and remedy the absence of a leadership program in DeKalb,” Harper says. “I started thinking of people willing to serve and truly engage themselves to help bolster a better DeKalb County.”

The first person that Harper contacted was Brian Baine,who he met several years ago while working with the Fort Payne Improvement Authority. Baine has worked his way through the ranks at Foodland during his 30-year career from intern to human resources manager.

Baine attended the same Marshall County Leadership program, as well as a prior Leadership DeKalb class in the 1980s. “I was young and saw it as a way to get out of work back then,” Baine says, with a chuckle. “Now, I am learning things and seeing amazing places, and this new program has even been very informative for me.” That experience may explain why he’s getting a lot more out of the new Leadership DeKalb program than he did the first time he participated early in his career.

State Senator Clay Scofield speaks to the leadership class during State Government Day.

State Senator Clay Scofield speaks to the leadership class during State Government Day.

Revitalizing under new leadership
For two years, Baine and Harper met to discuss the dynamics of their plan and to create the curriculum, which is focused on the areas of education, economic development, tourism and workforce expansion. “The county needed the synergy of all aspects of leadership, talking and working together,” Harper says.

The program aims to help the participants become well-rounded leaders, equipped to make the county better. “Going out and seeing these departments, instead of just hearing about them, makes more of an impact,” Baine says. “It will better inform these leaders and give them the tools they need to guide the future direction of DeKalb County.”

After an absence of nearly seven years, Leadership DeKalb restarted in 2014, with a renewed long-term focus on communication between the public agencies and private businesses in the county. Each month, the current class of 18 participants attend a program detailing aspects of county agencies and area businesses.

It took three years to revamp the new Leadership DeKalb program, made possible with a $25,000 TVA community relations grant that Harper secured. They formed a nonprofit with a board of directors that selected Baine as the president of the Leadership DeKalb program and Harper as the vice-president, then added Janet Hartline as the executive director.

To assemble the first class of students, which began meeting in August, Baine, Harper and the Board sought out current community leaders from various agencies, with an equal balance from throughout DeKalb County. The idea was that networking among these leaders would lay the groundwork to help move the region forward in the future.

The Leadership DeKalb group meets with Governor Robert Bentley during a trip to Montgomery. Front row, left to right: Jason Harper, board vice-president; Judy Davidson; Pam Clay; Dale Manning; John Dersham; Brandi Lyles, board member; and Janet Hartline, executive director. Second row Left to Right: Keri Hamrick; Joey Graham; Corey Ewing; Debbie Nickelson; Renee Simpson; Jenna Sue Payne; and Brian Baine, board president. Third row Left to Right: Buddy Goolsby; Michael Posey; David Clemons; Alabama Governor Robert Bentley; Kristen Emory; Nick Jones; and Bryon Miller.

The Leadership DeKalb group meets with Governor Robert Bentley during a trip to Montgomery. Front row, left to right: Jason Harper, board vice-president; Judy Davidson; Pam Clay; Dale Manning; John Dersham; Brandi Lyles, board member; and Janet Hartline, executive director. Second row Left to Right: Keri Hamrick; Joey Graham; Corey Ewing; Debbie Nickelson; Renee Simpson; Jenna Sue Payne; and Brian Baine, board president. Third row Left to Right: Buddy Goolsby; Michael Posey; David Clemons; Alabama Governor Robert Bentley; Kristen Emory; Nick Jones; and Bryon Miller.

Back to school … and other agencies
Nearly 20 professionals from around DeKalb County are learning about business, government and their community, with a new topic each month of the course. After the class members established relationships with one another, it was time to get down to business, like examining strengths and weaknesses within the community. “Let’s talk about the good and bad things,” Harper says. “Sometimes we are uncomfortable with that, so let’s take a comprehensive approach and look at all aspects of our county.”

The focus in the fall quickly became tourism, as fall colors began to blanket the mountain. The discussions were spearheaded by John Dersham, executive director at DeKalb Tourism and one of the program’s participants. “These public services are important to everyone and integral to a community,” Dersham says. “If all of the leaders in the community understand all of the processes within the community a little better, then I think it helps with our ability to communicate.”

The class also covered public services. “Public Service Day” included trips to the DeKalb Sheriff’s Department, Children’s Advocacy Center and Fort Payne Fire Department Training Center. Other classes in the program included health and social services, education, manufacturing, finance and media, while other activities had the class rapelling from the rim of Little River Canyon and blowing glass ornaments at a local artist’s studio.

In March, the group made its farthest trip during “State Government Day” to visit with officials in Montgomery, including Governor Robert Bentley. “Having citizens interface with leaders in their environment is really good for rural communities,” says Harper. Their final class will cover economic development, with graduation in May.

Class participants listen to Israel Partridge as he explains rock climbing and rappelling on the rim of Little River Canyon.

Class participants listen to Israel Partridge as he explains rock climbing and rappelling on the rim of Little River Canyon.

Planning for the future
Organizers hope the program is not a one-time class, but the start of something new. They’re working to establish a Leadership DeKalb alumni association to include anyone who attended the previous version of the program. The ability to network with peers is proving to be a major benefit of the class, and the participants believe that it will aid strategic planning for the county.

Those interested in enrolling in the next course can find more information on the Leadership DeKalb County Facebook page. Some of the presenters throughout the year have even asked about being in the next leadership class. “The word is getting out that this program has value and is a great networking system,” Hartline says.

This year’s graduates will take on that planning responsibility for the next group of applicants, with board members simply advising. The group will also complete a class project to benefit the community.

“Leadership is void without hands-on service that makes a difference,” Harper says. “There are many people around here who are ready to tackle any problems and revitalize our community beyond the status quo.”

For more details or for an application please visit the Fort Payne or Rainsville Chamber of Commerce websites. www.fortpaynechamber.com, or 
www.rainsville.info.

 

Real men do eat quiche

By Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly

Food Editor Anne P. Braly is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. Prior to pursuing a freelance career, she spent 21 years as food editor and feature writer at a regional newspaper.

Bea Salley loves to cook. So much so, in fact, that she says she’d like to own a restaurant in her hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina. But until her ship comes in, she’ll stick to catering for area residents in her spare time. Her forte? Quiche.

“I make potato pies, apple pies, coconut pies and cakes, but quiche is my specialty,” she says. “It’s a good, year-round dish, but particularly in the spring.”

Salley’s mother died when she was 13 years old. So with just her father and no siblings, she would never have learned the intricacies of cooking had women in her community — she grew up in Oakman Branch right outside Walterboro — not intervened, taking her under their wing to teach her and stirring her interest in what would become her passion.

But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she realized she wanted to make a difference by catering to her community with more healthful food choices.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

“No one in my household — my husband, Fred, our five kids and 10 grandchildren — ever had any problems with high blood pressure or diabetes, and I know what you cook with makes a difference,” she says.

So almost all of her recipes, particularly her quiches, have healthy ingredients, such as fish and vegetables, and not a lot of sodium. And everyone loves them, she adds.

But there’s a saying that’s become quite familiar: “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
Not so, Salley says.

“There are a lot of men who love my quiche. They say it’s filling, so they don’t have to eat as much.”

David Walton of Summerville is one example. He’s been eating and enjoying Salley’s quiches for at least a dozen years. “‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ simply isn’t true when you have quiche as good as Bea’s!” he says.

And it’s this time of year that Salley’s kitchen heats up with quiches in her oven. People like to be outside in the warm weather and not inside cooking, so Salley does it for them.

“Quiche is a quick, full meal for friends and family,” she says. Serve a slice of quiche with a salad and a basket of bread, and you have a complete, healthy dinner. Leftovers are even better — if there are any to be had.

Whether you’re baking a brunch-friendly bacon-and-egg-filled treat for Easter or an elegant vegetarian dinner served with a healthy lettuce or fruit salad, quiche is extremely easy to adapt in a number of delicious ways. The recipes that follow are some of Salley’s favorites.

Veggie Quiche

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
Quiche_11611/2 onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 10-ounce bag spinach
1 12-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice), plus more for
 topping
1/2 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add onions and bell pepper; let simmer. Add spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and squash; cover and saute until softened. Stir in salt and pepper; let cool, then pour in bowl and add eggs, flour and cheese, blending mixture together. Last, add sour cream, blending well. Pour into crust, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Salmon and Mushroom Quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 16-ounce container fresh
 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can salmon
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and let simmer for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, stirring until soft, then add salmon. Blend mixture together, let cool, then add Swiss cheese, eggs, flour, sour cream, salt and pepper. Blend all together, then pour into crust, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: This quiche is also good served “crustless.” Bake in pie pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray using no pie crust. Follow directions as written.

Bea’s Pie Crust

This is the quickest and simplest pastry crust ever, and it tastes great.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whisk together flour and salt in medium bowl. Add shortening and butter, tossing with fingers until pieces are well-coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice; mix just until the dough comes together, adding the last tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. Do not overwork the dough or it will become too tough. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.

Tips to make the perfect quiche

Quiche is a simple idea for brunch or dinner, but getting it right can be difficult. Here are a few key steps to ensure that your quiche will be creamy and your crust will be flaky.

  • The crust: The first step to a good quiche is having a great pastry shell. It will come out better if you parbake (partially bake) it for about 10 minutes so that it’s dry and crisp before adding your filling.
  • Seal it: To avoid a soggy pastry, brush the bottom of the crust with an egg wash (a beaten egg white) right after parbaking it. The warmth of the crust when you remove it from the oven is all you need to “cook” the egg white and seal the shell to help keep it crispy.
  • Say “no” to low-fat: There’s nothing worse than wimpy flavor when you bite into a quiche, so make sure to avoid using low-fat or nonfat ingredients. Their high water content prevents the quiche from setting properly, resulting in a watery finish.
  • Protect the edges: Once in the oven, keep an eye on the shell, and if the edges of the pastry start browning too quickly, wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
  • Loose is a good rule of thumb: Take the quiche out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly. This will ensure that it doesn’t over-cook and will still have its creamy custard texture when you cut into it.

A nation divided: 150 years later

Relive history on a tour of these prominent Civil War battlefields

By Robert Thatcher

This year, the country will conclude its 150th anniversary remembrance of the Civil War. But don’t worry if you missed the reenactments and fanfare over the past four years. Take this trip on US Highway 41 from Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to find plenty of history while tracing pivotal battles in America’s most costly war.

Stop #1 – Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Where Ulysses Grant became a household name

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, on the banks of the Cumberland River just south of the Kentucky border, is a natural starting point for a drive through Middle Tennessee. It’s also a good beginning militarily.

Dover Hotel

Dover Hotel

“Almost everything that happened in the state is a sequel to what happened here,” says Doug Richardson, Fort Donelson’s chief of interpretation.

Rivers were arteries of commerce for the South, and the Confederates built Fort Donelson to protect the Cumberland and upstream cities like Clarksville and Nashville

But on Feb. 12, 1862, a little-known Union brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on Fort Donelson. He was confident of victory after his gunboats easily took nearby Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Donelson was not so easy. Well-positioned Confederate guns brought victory, setting up a successful “break out” through Union lines. But the victory was short-lived, as the Confederates unwittingly helped Grant by pulling troops back to their original positions. Grant retook the lost ground, and the 12,000-man garrison surrendered unconditionally. The battle made Grant a star and was a catastrophe for the South.

Touring Fort Donelson

The park preserves more than 20 percent of the original battlefield, with several square miles of earthwork fortifications. Don’t miss these highlights:

  • Stand at the gun batteries where Confederate gunners battered Grant’s gunboats.
  • Visit the Dover Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant demanded “unconditional surrender” from his old West Point friend, Confederate Simon Buckner.
  • Pause at Fort Donelson National Cemetery for a reminder of the sacrifices that Americans have made from the Civil War to the present day.
  • While absorbing the history, you may also encounter two notable park residents. “We’ve got two resident bald eagles who live down at the river,” Richardson says. “Our eagles are about as famous as our generals.”

Stop #2 – Stones River National Battlefield
The Fight for the Confederate Heartland

We could follow General Grant to the Mississippi line and Shiloh, where his Army of the Tennessee headed after Donelson, but there’s good reason to drive to Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

“When Fort Donelson falls, the Confederates have to give up Nashville,” explains Park Ranger Jim Lewis. “And Nashville becomes the base for the Union Army to launch the campaigns which will lead to Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.”

For many, Stones River is a quiet retreat from bustling Murfreesboro. But the 6,100 gravestones across from the visitor center are a sober reminder of what took place there. Of the 81,000 who fought here, 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in action — the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle.

Early success, then retreat

Cemetery at Stones River

Cemetery at Stones River

On New Year’s Eve 1862, the Southern army under Braxton Bragg attacked first, catching William Rosecrans’ Union troops at breakfast and driving them north. Then on Jan. 2, the Confederates launched another attack along the east bank of the Stones River to drive Union troops off of a high hill.

“In the process of pursuing, those Confederates will come under the fire of 57 Union cannons along the other side of the river and will lose about 1,800 men in 45 minutes,” Lewis says. “That’s a pretty bloody exclamation point.”

The Confederates then retreated.

Touring Stones River

Stones River offers a 12-stop auto tour, including these sights:

  • Walk around The Slaughter Pen, a rock outcropping where Union troops made a stubborn stand.
  • Pay respect at the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest war monuments in the country.
  • Be awed by Fort Rosecrans, the largest earthworks fortification in North America.

Stop #3 – Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Death Knell of the Confederacy

We’ve followed the Union push to Nashville and Murfreesboro. The next stop is Chattanooga. Actually, we’ll go south of the city to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Driving to the park, you’ll cross the mountains that convinced General Rosecrans not to advance directly on Chattanooga. He moved southwest of the city to block supply lines, forcing Confederate troops into Georgia as well. But Chattanooga was the Union goal.

“Chattanooga is a doorway through the southern barrier of the Appalachians,” says Park Historian Jim Ogden.

Driving through the dense woods of the 5,300-acre park, you can see why confusion reigned in the war’s second-bloodiest battle. About 35,000 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured in fighting from Sept. 19-20, 1863. Strategic mistakes led to a Union retreat. The Union troops retreated to Chattanooga, where they withstood a two-month siege before ultimately breaking through in the battle of Chattanooga.

“This allowed the Union drive across Georgia in 1864, from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah,” Ogden notes.

Touring Chickamauga

Start at the visitor center on Lafayette Road. After touring the park, drive 17 miles to Lookout Mountain Battlefield for views from 1,500 feet above Chattanooga. Other key sites:

  • Stand on Snodgrass Hill where George Thomas became “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
  • Get a general’s view from Orchard Knob, Grant’s command post, and the Bragg Reservation, Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge.
  • Watch the conflict electronically at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum on Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga was a major blow for the Confederacy. But there’s much more to see on the campaign South – Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain all the way to Savannah and then into South Carolina. The war continued on and your trip can too. Visit nps.gov/civilwar for more sites from the War Between the States.

Tech-Savvy Traveler: Charting your course

Point Park Cannon

Point Park Cannon

Robert E. Lee is regarded by many as the most clever battle tactician of the Civil War. Imagine what he could have done with a GPS! Nowadays, it’s easy to come up with a battle plan and map out the route for you and your troops on your next vacation. Apps like Google Earth provide directions for tourists with aerial or street views of those historic sites from Gettysburg to Charleston. For those battling interstate traffic, Road Ninja is an app that will help you find fuel, food and shelter for the evening, keeping your small army on the move.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog: www.PerfectlyImperfectBlog.com

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:

www.TheLetteredCottage.net
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.

www.BeneathMyHeart.net
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.

www.thistlewoodfarms.com
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.

 

Can you hear the music?

You’re only a click away from your favorite tunes

By Cecil H. Yancy Jr.

The Rolling Stones asked, “Can you hear the music?” And the answer is, yes! You can easily listen on your computer or mobile device anytime you like.
Digital music services offer you two ways to listen to old favorites or explore new artists.

A download captures the music on your computer for use in the future — think of being able to burn a CD or play the music by clicking on a file from your computer. On the other hand, music streaming is like having a steady flow of music coming into your computer. Just click and create stations from artists you choose.

While downloads have their advantages, streaming appears to be the wave of the future. By this year, according to a Pew Research Institute study, as many as 80 percent of Americans will listen to audio on digital devices. While 51 percent of all adults say they listen to music on these devices, age makes a big difference in music habits, according to the study. More than 60 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers listen to music online compared with 48 percent of younger Boomers. Older Americans tend to prefer the traditional AM/FM radio format. But streaming music is getting so easy, music lovers of all ages can jump on board.

Open the box to music streaming

Woman Listening To Music On Her TabletPandora opened the box with one of the first online Internet radio services. With Pandora, you can listen free for 40 hours per month, with advertisements. Pay $36 a year and get the music without commercials. It’s easy to use. Say you like Johnny Cash: Type in his name and a “radio station” of his songs and those of similar audiences will begin playing. The best part is Pandora gives you background information about the artist as the music is playing. You can even skip a certain number of songs you don’t like.

New releases and exclusives

Spotify is another big player in the music-streaming arena. It has a 20-million-plus song catalog from the major record labels, which can be organized into playlists that allow users to stream their own lists or lists from friends or celebrities. The basic features are free after downloading the application, or the premium version is $9.99 per month. Music on Spotify can be imported from iTunes and synced with a mobile device so you can make your favorite songs available anywhere you go!

Create your own iTunes station

In addition to 25 DJ-curated and genre-based stations, iTunes Radio allows you to create personalized radio stations or follow “guest DJ” stations from famous artists. You can pause, skip and playback with iTunes Radio and even buy the tune you’re currently listening to. If you have an iTunes Match Account for $25 per year, it’s ad-free. iTunes Radio is a great merge between a download provider and a streaming service.

A couple of clicks and no cost

Silver Ear Bud HeadphonesIf you’re leaning toward listening to music online, but a bit overwhelmed by the choices, check out sites that only require a couple of clicks to get started and are designed to be more like your radio.

Sites like Boomerradio.com and Bluegrassmix.com offer an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes, with either stations or DJs that pick the tunes. On the Bluegrass site, DJs host shows. On the Boomer Radio site, users can pick from moods like acoustic café, sweet soul music and classic mix.

Chasing a championship

How coach Benefield’s Red Devils brought home a state football title

By DeWayne Patterson

 

The Fyffe Red Devils football team and cheerleaders celebrate the state championship victory on the field of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium after defeating the Elba Tigers.

The Fyffe Red Devils football team and cheerleaders celebrate the state championship victory on the field of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium after defeating the Elba Tigers. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Wilson)

The Class 2A state championship trophy sits in the Fyffe field house, a few months past the 28-17 title-clinching victory over Elba at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. At some point,  the cherished award will move to the school’s trophy room. For now, though, it still belongs close to the man who spent a lifetime chasing it.

Paul Benefield fought with the reality, for years, that he might never coach a state-championship-winning team. It was hard to accept, but it was still there.

Now, he’s won that fight; he has the blue trophy to prove it. You must understand, it began long before 2014.

Setting a foundation

Benefield, a 1975 graduate of Fyffe, returned to coach his alma mater’s football team in 1997. The program became a work in progress.

“When I got here, the year before, they didn’t have enough kids to have a junior varsity team,” says Benefield.

In his first team meeting, in the spring of 1997, 23 prospective players showed up. After the first week of spring practice, five quit.

In his third year, the 1999 team had three seniors and two juniors. After four years, Benefield’s Fyffe record was 28-16.

“For us to go 28-16 those first four years was a miracle,” says Benefield. “Those kids overachieved.”

And they set the foundation. By year five, it was on. And it hasn’t stopped. Since 2001, Fyffe is 135-17, a winning percentage of 88.9 percent, second only to Hoover within the state, a big school powerhouse (90.2 percent). There have been seven unbeaten regular seasons during that stretch.

“Since 2001, I could name four teams that had no business winning 10 games,” says Benefield. “Those kids just believed they were going to win.”

There was heartbreak along the way, for sure. Seasons ended, sometimes deep in the playoffs, to the likes of Lineville, Clay County, Woodland and Tanner.

A tough loss to Gordo in 2001 almost sent the program back to square one. Controversial calls late in the game cost the Red Devils, who were overmatched in every aspect of the game — except heart.

“That was the worst,” says Benefield, who was literally sick following the game and gave serious consideration to quitting coaching.

Fyffe made it to the state championship game in 2007, coming up short 25-20 to three-time defending champion Leroy, a team loaded with college prospects.

“Over the years, life has made me a pessimist,” says Benefield, laughing. “Through the tough losses, I’m thinking it’s just not meant to be.”

Building champions

Coach Paul Benefield cradles a long-awaited state title trophy earned by the Red Devils.

Coach Paul Benefield cradles a long-awaited state title trophy earned by the Red Devils. (Photo courtesy of DeWayne Patterson)

To give his players a better chance on the big stage, Benefield wanted them faster and playing against faster teams in jamborees and the regular season.

“We had to get faster,” he says. “We make our kids go fast all of the time. We work at it. It’s not that Fyffe has the fastest players in the county naturally.”

Still, the weight room remained a priority.

“I felt like we had a good team coming back,” says Benefield of the 2014 season. “I also felt like if we spend this much time in the weight-room, we need a physical, smash-mouth offense — a weight room offense, you could say.”

Benefield knew by the summer it would take a good team to beat his.

“It just all fell together,” he says. “And we were able to stay away from injuries.”

Benefield says his team played together as one, behind senior All-State performers DaKota Newsome and Austin Stiefel.

“Everybody just did his job,” he says.

Adopting a new motto

The motto to start the championship season was “Why not us?”

The Red Devils became only the second team in DeKalb County history to finish 15-0 and win a state title (Crossville did it in 1986).

The blood, sweat, hard work and even heartbreak of the past led to the championship season, as did the times of running the hill and pushing tires in the dead of summer. When you think you can go no more, you learn you can. It’s that time from January through July in the weight room and the heat that championships are won.

By now, at Fyffe, where a community has pulled together each year for more than 50 years for its football team, it has started again.

The state championship trophy will soon find its permanent resting place. It will sit there, awaiting company.

“Why not us?” is now “Do it again!”

—DeWayne Patterson is managing editor of The Daily Sentinel in Scottsboro
(www.thedailysentinel.com)

Red Devils’ cheerleaders building a tradition of excellence

By Matt Ledger

While this marks the first state title for the Fyffe football team, the cheerleaders that root them on are building a legacy of success all their own. The 2A-classified Red Devils cheerleaders won both of the regional competitions they entered during the season, while competing against much larger 4A and 5A schools. The 15-member squad later took home yet another trophy in 2014, their third consecutive state championship.

“We’ve been building our program for a few years now,” coach Connie Cochran says. “We didn’t have any injuries this year, so we were very lucky. It’s been really special this year.” She sensed the team had a special chemistry when the girls spontaneously held hands while taking the mat for their first performance. Starting the program with that unrehearsed gesture ignited a cohesiveness that remained throughout the season.

The cheerleaders’ season begins toward the end of the school year in May, starting with summer workouts — three days a week — just like the football players. The team’s success, and their parents’ fundraising efforts, has led to a new addition to the school. This summer, the girls will begin practicing in their new 50-by-70-foot practice facility. Team members plan to increase the difficulty, with more tumbling in the routine, as they aim to defend their title.

Fyffe cheerleaders (front row, from left) Nadia Powell, Katie Carroll, Isabelle Blackwell, Addison Rains, Alexa Bailey, Colby Cochran, Savannah Johnson. (Back row) Kaley Miller, Cheyenne Holbrook, MaKayla Turner, Madison Stoner, Jaiden Hatch, Anna Wootten, Sagen Thomas, Taylor Spatz.

Fyffe cheerleaders (front row, from left) Nadia Powell, Katie Carroll, Isabelle Blackwell, Addison Rains, Alexa Bailey, Colby Cochran, Savannah Johnson.
(Back row) Kaley Miller, Cheyenne Holbrook, MaKayla Turner, Madison Stoner, Jaiden Hatch, Anna Wootten, Sagen Thomas, Taylor Spatz.

Top Gun Dogs aim for title in Section

By Matt Ledger

Jeff Ferguson training his pointing dog Frank on the grounds of the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, which he owns.

Jeff Ferguson training his pointing dog Frank on the grounds of the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve, which he owns.

Championships are often won inside stadiums with a capacity crowd wearing colorful jerseys. However, in the sport of field trials, everyone embraces the same uniform — with variations of camouflage and fluorescent orange — as they guide their dogs through golden fields of weeds and mud.

Coming this February, hundreds of the best camo-clad competitors in the country will converge in Section.

“It’s kind of like this: You’ve got your football games every weekend, and then you’ve got the Super Bowl — this is our Super Bowl,” Jeff Ferguson says of hosting the national championship for the United Field Trialers Association.

Nearly 20 years ago, Ferguson began hosting weekend events for sportsmen on his property, especially for bird hunters. “It gave me a good chance to see that I was going to be able to do something that I enjoyed, and we’ve done it ever since,” Ferguson says. “This is saving the old Southern tradition of the quail hunt.”

Jeff Ferguson gives his stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon, a shotgun safety lesson.

Jeff Ferguson gives his stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon, a shotgun safety lesson.

Frank Kirby, from Fort Payne, has known Ferguson the entire time and works on the property as a hunting guide. One of Ferguson’s favorite dogs is named Frank, based on his longtime friendship with Kirby.

“I know they’re hard to win, and you’ve got to have a good dog and a little luck,” Kirby says of the tournament. He has trained pointing dogs for a few years and is one of several of Ferguson’s friends helping in the preparations for the United Field Trialers Association’s National Finals. More than half of the members attend the championship, with many coming from the Midwest and Northeastern states. It will be held at the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve in Section from Feb. 13 to 21.

Rules and Regimens

Jeff Ferguson receives a quail retrieved by his pointing dog Frank.

Jeff Ferguson receives a quail retrieved by his pointing dog Frank.

The sport of field trials tests a dog’s obedience and a handler’s patience. The canine and his companion are equally tasked to accumulate points within the competition and must follow specified rules to have a chance to win. Both are placed in a blind, as officials place quail in designated areas. The handler leads the dog onto the field — which can be as large as 12 acres — to seek out the three birds within 15 minutes.

Handlers choose one of two different disciplines: pointing and flushing. A pointing dog must alert the handler and hold for three seconds, then the handler flushes the bird into the air to shoot. Flushing dogs — predominantly Labradors, Boykin and Springer spaniels — pursue the quail until it flies off. The entire process is judged and timed by an official, with the most critical factor being the dog’s ability to retrieve the bird and bring it directly back to the handler.

The competition begins with the “Amateur” classification for competitors with dogs under three years of age, followed by the “Open” classification for the top dogs in the sport. An Open competitor must have run in six events during the year to qualify for the Section tournament, while Amateurs will qualify with four trials. There are also divisions for women and kids.

Jeff Ferguson with his wife, Melissa; pointing dog, Bonnie; stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon (left); and stepson, Caleb (right).

Jeff Ferguson with his wife, Melissa; pointing dog, Bonnie; stepdaughter, Kennedy Willmon (left); and stepson, Caleb (right).

“Many times the young dogs will come in and surprise folks,” Kirby says. “The dog that goes by the rules and gets the birds the quickest wins. There are four or five top guys who will always make it competitive.”

Some folks work their dogs once a week and others work them every day. It can take from six months to a year to get a dog trained, with many of the dogs being trained by a professional handler, which can cost $1,600 to $1,800 on average.

Community Impact

In July 2014, UFTA President Frank Arnau notified Ferguson that his property was selected” We really liked his facility, and he was eager to make it happen,” Arnau says. “We had to find a place that had an area large enough that we could have eight to 10 fields to utilize at one time.” Another important factor in the selection was the birds. Ferguson’s brother breeds quail nearby, and many of those birds will be used for the competition.

2014 UFTA Finalists (from left) Billy Ring with his German Shorthair Pointer named Hank took first, Frank Arnau with his Brittany named Beaux placed second and Paul Vaughn with another Brittany named Red took third.

2014 UFTA Finalists (from left) Billy Ring with his German Shorthair Pointer named Hank took first, Frank Arnau with his Brittany named Beaux placed second and Paul Vaughn with another Brittany named Red took third.

“This is a family sport, because everyone is involved with the dogs,” Arnau says. Competitors have already booked many local hotels, residences and cabins months ahead of the weeklong tournament. “This will be huge for the whole area,” Ferguson says. For several years prior, the competition was held at Doublehead Resort near Muscle Shoals. But after the acreage they had been using was sold, UFTA board members began scouting several locations in Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia for the 2015 tournament. Officials toured Ferguson’s property and stayed three weekends before making their decision.

Since July, Ferguson has been upgrading some of the amenities and renovating a barn to serve as a rustic banquet hall. After the selection, a qualifying field trial on the same land — held in November 2014 — filled up with competitors immediately upon announcement. “I’ve already been to some of the local restaurants and people are excited about this event,” Arnau says.

Changing the culture is a long-term project of faith

By Matt Ledger

Paul Long has a vision to help the community through the Long Ranch for Boys.

Paul Long has a vision to help the community through the Long Ranch for Boys.

Surviving verbal and physical abuse in an alcoholic home and losing both parents at an early age were some of the many hurdles for Paul Long to overcome. For many children, that devastation can spiral downward toward a dark place that is difficult to recover from. What makes Long an inspirational story is the way he bounced back.

When Long was 11 years old, he lost his mother to a brain disease. A few years later, right after he graduated from high school, his father committed suicide. Those hardships could have hardened Long’s heart — or led him to repeat his father’s path of self destruction. Instead he persevered and has since become the pastor at Antioch Baptist Church and the founder of a new camp for boys with experiences like his.

“My heart is really for families; I’ve been involved with youth ministry for a long time,” says Long, who has felt called to preach since his senior year of high school. “I see what’s going on in a lot of these families.”

Bat Signal

Long remembers watching a Batman movie in Chattanooga about three years ago and feeling a spiritual tug. The film’s heroic character, like Long’s real-life experience, had childhood challenges that forged his future.

Long Ranch board members Brian Bailey, Mary Lance, Kristy Long and founder Paul Long, during the groundbreaking for the Long Ranch for Boys in November 2014.

Long Ranch board members Brian Bailey, Mary Lance, Kristy Long and founder Paul Long, during the groundbreaking for the Long Ranch for Boys in November 2014.

As Long watched the closing scenes of homeless boys exiting a bus toward a group home, he knew that he wanted to provide an opportunity for those needing guidance. “I just felt like God spoke to me and wanted me to start a boys ranch,” Long says.

Much like that caped crusader, Long plans to gain the support of local officials to combat the challenges in his community. “I didn’t really know how big of a problem it was until I started talking to people,” he says.

DeKalb County School System has more than 400 children classified as homeless, which includes any child living with a friend or in a vehicle and those not living with birth parents, according to Long. The most concerning trend is the increasing number of grandparents having to raise their grandchildren on fixed incomes.

He has developed plans to form the Long Ranch for Boys, providing caring role models to teach boys how to become responsible young men. Uncertain of what course to take, Long prayed at length for his own guidance in this project. “I didn’t have to figure it all out; I just needed to be obedient with each step God gave me,” Long says. “Doing the right thing at the wrong time can still get you in trouble.”

Organizers began the construction of the first home late last year, with completion anticipated in spring 2015. The two-story house will be built for up to six children who will reside with a set of parents chosen for the program. “They will be a regular family and have issues like everyone does,” Long says.

He has high expectations set for the boys, who will undergo an interview process to make certain that the program is right for the child. Those selected will stay for a minimum of six months with the paid guardians, but the child’s parents will not surrender any custodial rights. “After that, if they decide there are too many rules or too much love, they can leave anytime they want to,” Long says.

The program will also use community mentors to provide counseling for struggling families. Long’s greatest concern is that the local challenges are so widespread that he expects the first home to quickly fill to capacity. The 22-acre ranch will have cattle and livestock, providing chores and responsibilities for the families that live on the grounds. Additional homes are a possibility, but any further construction requires long-term donations, which have yet to be secured.

Mentoring

Numerous community members gathered to show support for the Long Ranch for Boys at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Numerous community members gathered to show support for the Long Ranch for Boys at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Long is also concerned about the current generation of young adults that seem to emulate reality TV stars or media icons instead of local mentors who are thoroughly invested in the lives of their children. “There is an epidemic of fathers who have checked out,” Long says.

He believes others can serve as role models to help men who are struggling as parents or facing troubled relationships.

In his childhood challenges, Long was influenced by several mentors as a kid, including his uncle Danny Ashley and basketball coach Larry Lingerfelt. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be,” Long says.

Long has a special respect for coaches to this day. “On the front line of all this are these coaches,” he says. “They see this day in and day out. A lot of these kids spend more time with their football coach than they do their own parents.”

Men need to do a better job of expressing feelings and teaching lessons to the younger generation, he says.

“Some men are just not very communicative, and that’s why church is so hard for younger men,” he says. “Young men feel disconnected in a place where they can get instruction on how to be a great dad or husband.”

Continued Community Support

The Long Ranch for Boys is a registered 501(c)(3) foundation, with board members and many local volunteers who have already donated their services. Other local churches have supported the effort with fundraiser dinners, including a highly popular Elvis dinner show which raised $14,000 in 2014.

A few annual events will help fund the ranch. An old-timers football game drew nearly 4,000 fans, either cheering for the North or South portions of DeKalb county, raising $40,000 toward the ranch. Each team had 50 former players — including Long — and thirty cheerleaders. The football referees initially laughed at the old-timer concept, but quickly saw an intensity that rivaled college football and requested to call the game next year. For 2015, former marching band members will reunite to play the classics. Long estimates that the crowd in April could swell to 6,000 fans. At the end of last year, an old-timers basketball game was held after the holidays.

These annual events will continue to provide for the ranch in years to come. Long appreciates donations of all sizes, but one from an ordinary family thoroughly surprised him. They handed him a check, but Long didn’t notice until later that it was written for $20,000. “God has touched other people’s hearts, and they really want to be a part of this,” Long says.

Long Ranch Board of Directors

  • Kristy and Paul Long
  • Brian Bailey
  • Tammy Hughes
  • Barry Owens
  • Mary Lance

Any skilled tradespeople who would like to volunteer can contact Long through the website www.longranch4boys.com.

Featured Blogger: Woman on a Journey

Health & Fitness

Photo Frame CollectionA Q&A with Shelley bowman, a blogger from Texas who has been inspiring readers with her story of weight loss and fitness since 2008

What do readers find at your blog?

Shelley Bowman: Ramblings of someone who has managed not only to lose a large amount of weight — 100 pounds — but who is also keeping it off. This is a bigger victory to me than the initial weight loss. After all, hasn’t just about everyone lost weight at one point, only to regain it?

What are some tips for those interested in losing weight and becoming fit?

SB: Stop eating fast food. Stop getting your meals handed out a drive-thru window. Track your food on a daily basis. I used MyFitnessPal.com. Put it all in there: the good, the bad and the ugly. Go for a 15-minute walk to start. Move daily. All the things you hear, like parking farther away and taking the stairs, add up.

How can someone new to running get started? before, one year, two year

SB: Get fitted at a running store for a good pair of shoes. The right shoes can make or break you. Then go for a short walk, and at the end, try a slow run for 30 seconds. Gradually transition to running a little more each time; don’t go crazy and try to run a mile if you’ve never run before because that’s a good way to get shin splints; then you’ll end up hurting and not wanting to run. Also, finding a friend to run with 

makes a big difference for me. Knowing that you’re going to meet someone to run helps to make sure you actually do it.

How do you stay motivated?

SB: I feel so much better now that I’m not carrying 100 extra pounds. I have a different lifestyle, too. I’m much more active, and I like being able to run or walk without feeling like I’m going to die. Continuing to eat right most of the time keeps me in check; I honestly don’t like how I feel when I overindulge.

What are some of your favorite healthy foods?

SB: You should have a few go-to meals where you can eat healthy without having to think about what you are preparing. For me, it’s nonfat Greek yogurt (I love Fage), either fresh berries or Craisins, and some homemade granola. If I’m out of my granola, I like the Kind brand. For dinner, I like to make black bean tacos using corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo and a little Parmesan cheese. Snacks range from watermelon or pineapple in the summer, to raw almonds and a little bit of dried cherries. And sometimes an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter. I also drink a lot of water daily and try to have a glass right before I snack — it makes me fuller so I don’t overdo it.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?

SB: I became a blogger when I started my last diet. I wanted to remember how hard I worked to get the weight off, so this time I would actually keep it off. I had no idea how much blogging would connect me with other like-minded people who were doing the same thing. The most important thing was finding a couple of bloggers who had lost over 100 pounds and were keeping the weight off. I was very overwhelmed in the beginning, but finding others who had succeeded gave me hope. And I hope I’m able to give that to the new person who is just starting their journey to weight loss and fitness.

Check out her blog…www.MyJourneyToFit.com

Other health and fitness blogs you might like:

  • www.DashingDish.com
. Besides fitness ideas, this blog is “a place to find healthy alternatives to the food you crave.”
  • www.ComeBackMomma.com
. This fitness coach shares her “continued journey to be the best woman, wife and mother that I can be.”

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write online websites about a variety of topics. In the March/April issue, we’ll focus on home/DIY projects.