Backpacks of Blessings

By Kerry Scott

Thursday afternoons at LivingStone Academy in Fort Payne are a bustle of activity. Excited children gather around rows of long tables piled high with foods such as tuna, peanut butter, ravioli, crackers, granola bars, instant oatmeal, Fruit Roll-Ups and juice boxes. With the help of several adult volunteers, they prepare bags with a weekend’s worth of breakfast, lunch and snack items to feed some of the hungriest kids in DeKalb County each week throughout the school year thanks to a program called Backpacks of Blessings.

Amber Gardner and her classmates at LivingStone Academy prepare Backpacks of Blessings.

Amber Gardner and her classmates at LivingStone Academy prepare Backpacks of Blessings.

The idea of helping feed the hungry in her community struck Kelli Gardner last year while watching the movie “Good Deeds” by Tyler Perry. In the movie, a struggling single mother ends up homeless and is forced to take her daughter to work with her. “By the end of the movie, I was on my knees in tears and knew that God wanted me to do something,” recalls Gardner.

After telling friends and family about her desire to help in some way, she began researching and learned some startling statistics.

According to Kids Count, a national data center, approximately 249,000 Alabama children lived in households that were “food insecure” at some point in 2012.

Gardner also learned there were 400 children in DeKalb County that were classified as homeless. “These children aren’t necessarily living under a bridge,” says Gardner, “but they have some pretty scary stories about their home situation — living with friends or going from one home to another and never knowing where they’ll be.”

Identifying the need

Gardner took the idea to her church, LivingStone Ministries, and they agreed to help oversee the program. Collinsville School was identified as having the most immediate need. With the help of teachers and counselors, about 35 kids were found to be underprivileged.

Ashley Cunningham (right) asked friends and family to donate to Backpacks of Blessings rather than give gifts for her 15th birthday.

Ashley Cunningham (right) asked friends and family to donate to Backpacks of Blessings rather than give gifts for her 15th birthday.

She called upon local businesses and churches to help start the program. By the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, those 35 kids were receiving bags with two breakfasts, two lunches and snack items for the weekends. It took more food than would fit in a backpack to feed the children over extended school holidays. On those occasions, either parents pick up the box from school or a network of volunteers deliver them to the childrens’ homes.

In January, Pine Ridge Baptist joined the effort and began providing bags for children in need at Plainview School. Broadway Baptist has come along beside them to help as well. “I believe this is an outreach of the gospel,” says Gardner. “Sometimes feeding the hungry is a way to get there, and it’s an important way.”

Helping local people in need makes this cause doubly important, according to Gardner’s helper, Katie Patterson. “Part of the heart behind Backpacks of Blessings is that we really want to see our neighbors and community helping our local people,” she explains. “When the local body of Christ is serving its people, that’s how you stay in touch with the needs in your community. When Kingdom resources are being used, I believe we will see Kingdom results.”

Doing the math

Jonathan Patterson (left) and Nash Gardner double check to make sure all the bags have everything needed.

Jonathan Patterson (left) and Nash Gardner double check to make sure all the bags have everything needed.

Initially, Gardner was overwhelmed by how much she thought it would take to start the program. But when she started breaking down the numbers, she realized it could happen. Kids are out of school about 92 days during the school year, not counting summer break. At $2.50 per day to feed a child, the total for those days comes to about $230 per child. “That’s doable,” Gardner says.

Gardner says they try to pack nutritious foods that most children will eat. Everything must be ready to eat or something youngsters can easily prepare themselves. “A box of macaroni and cheese might feed more, but we send microwavable cups instead because they don’t have to look for a pot or measure out other ingredients they might not have on hand, and they don’t have to use a stove,” she explains.

Making sure that every pack contains the same items is just as important. Gardner says they don’t ask for food donations because they want to make sure that every pack they prepare is alike unless, of course, a child has food allergies. They purchase food in bulk from local grocery stores when possible and shop at Sam’s Club. “We prefer buying locally,” explains Patterson. “We shop UGO and Wal-Mart — both are supporters of this program — but we have to be frugal.”

When it comes to delivering the bags, Gardner says they try to be discreet. They don’t want the children to be made fun of or made to feel bad. But most of the kids are so glad to have the food that they don’t care who knows. “One boy asked his teacher if he would get another bag because that was all he had to eat at home,” says Gardner. “It’s very touching. These children are grateful.”

Backpacks of Blessings currently serves about 80 kids in two schools. In order to help feed kids in need at other schools, they require help from local businesses, churches and individuals. “When you think about $5 feeding a child for the weekend, you realize that anyone can help,” says Gardner.

“I get passionate because I see God’s provision,” says Gardner. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the numbers. But God will provide. That’s what he does.”

Kelli Gardner (left) and LivingStone Academy administrator Katie Patterson work diligently on this food ministry.

Kelli Gardner (left) and LivingStone Academy administrator Katie Patterson work diligently on this food ministry.

Get involved!

Anyone can help Backpacks of Blessings by making a tax-deductible donation to:

LivingStone Ministries
Attn: Backpacks of Blessings
609 3rd Street NE
Fort Payne, AL 35967

For additional information, or other ways to get involved, call Kelli Gardner at 256-572-3980 or email

Join us!

Print2014 Annual Meeting

Saturday, Aug. 2
DeKalb County Schools Coliseum
Highway 35, Rainsville


  • Registration begins at 8 a.m.
  • Entertainment begins at 9 a.m.
  • Business meeting begins at 11 a.m.

Election for the Board of Trustees

Vote for Board of Trustees representing Flat Rock and Henagar

Enjoy Old-Fashioned Coke Floats and other refreshments! 

Fantastic prizes 

  • Dine In or Drive-In: The first 1,000 members will get their choice of a coupon for a meal at a local restaurant OR a ticket to the Henagar Drive In Theatre.
  • Grand Prize: One lucky winner will go home with a 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe! (must be present to win.)
  • Other Prizes: Many other great door prizes will be given away including an iPad, an HDTV and more.

1950s & 1960s Antique Car & Truck Show

FTC is hosting a car and truck show from 8 – 11 a.m. featuring classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Every registered entry will be entered for a chance to win a $100 VISA Gift Card. For more information call Kim Williams or Kristie Bailey at 256-638-2144.

America’s Premier Family Vocal Group

Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative once again brings The Rick Webb family to its stage to perform for members at its annual meeting. Attendees are sure to enjoy the music and ministry of this amazing family. The Webbs are currently celebrating 30 years of music ministry with a strong heritage and wonderful memories.

FTC Scholarship winners

Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative awards two college scholarships to deserving students within its service area each year. One scholarship is awarded to a high school senior and the other to a student enrolled in college. The $2,000 scholarships help students with college tuition, fees and books.

Joey Markowski

Joey Markowski

High School Winner: Joseph Markowski

Joseph Markowski is a 2014 graduate of Plainview High School. He was a member of the Beta Club, Science Club and the football team and received several awards including D.A.R.E. Role Model and SAR Outstanding Citizen Award. He attended Boys State and the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference. Markowski plans to attend NACC while he pursues a degree in civil engineering.

College Winner: Patrick Gant

Patrick Gant

Patrick Gant

Patrick Gant of Pisgah is currently a freshman attending NACC, where he is taking general education courses. Once completed, he plans to transfer to the University of Montevallo to earn a degree in business management and marketing. Upon graduation, Gant plans to return to his rural community to pursue a career in his chosen field.

FRS Staurulakis Family Scholarship Winner: Kennedy George

Kennedy George

Kennedy George

The Foundation for Rural Service , a national group affiliated with FTC, has implemented a new scholarship program. The FRS Staurulakis Family Scholarships will provide four $5,000 scholarships, giving preference to students with an interest in science, math, medicine or engineering each year.

Kennedy George is a recipient of this prestigious national scholarship. George is a 2014 graduate of North Sand Mountain High School, where she was a member of the basketball team, Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, FCCLA and the Science Club. She participated in many community and volunteer activities throughout high school. George plans to attend Jacksonville State University and study neuroscience.

Reed and Hughes attend Washington Youth Tour

Each year, FTC sponsors two local students to participate in the Foundation for Rural Service’s (FRS) annual Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. The tour’s purpose is to educate students from rural areas about the functions of government in our nation’s capital, as well as provide them with a firsthand look at the telecommunications industry.

This year, Chasody Reed of North Sand Mountain High School and Samuel Hughes of Sylvania High School were selected to attend after competing in a speaking contest held in March.

In addition to visiting with elected officials and industry leaders, the students spent time with some of their peers from across the country.

The students were accompanied on the trip by Regina and Chris Woods who served as chaperones.

“FTC and the FRS work hard to ensure that students walk away from the Youth Tour with a better understanding of how things work in the world around them,” says Brandi Lyles, manager of marketing and public relations.

While in Washington, the students toured several famous historical sites including the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian Institute, the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Vernon and Arlington National Cemetery.


Net neutrality is a complex issue

By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager

The term “net neutrality” has been in the news many times this year. It’s a simple term for a complex issue that concerns how the flow of Internet traffic may someday be regulated. Here are some of the main questions people have about the issue.

Fred Johnson

Fred Johnson

What Is Net Neutrality? Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet is an open environment where users have the ability to access whatever legal content they choose. Whether you want to watch an action movie on Netflix or a funny video on YouTube, net neutrality says this should be treated the same as checking your email or surfing websites about your favorite hobby — no content should be given preferential treatment across the network, either through more speed or easier access.

Should Net Neutrality Be Protected? Those who support net neutrality say it is a matter of personal freedom, and that neither the government nor big businesses should be allowed to limit what content is available to you on your Internet connection. They say a free and open Internet — where no type of service is given a “fast lane” over any other — encourages people to create new technology and business ideas. There is also concern that, without net neutrality, national Internet service providers who also own cable channels could unfairly provide easier access to their own content.

Should Net Neutrality Be Changed? Those who believe net neutrality policies should be changed say that the concept actually discourages innovation. They say Internet service providers should be able to charge a fee to high-bandwidth services that place more requirements on their networks, which in turn would allow them to provide consumers with faster access to these services. An example would be giving a fast lane to video services such as Netflix and YouTube (which account for 50 percent or more of Internet traffic), allowing them access into your home at a faster speed than basic Web browsing.

What Is The Status Of Net Neutrality? In January, a federal court struck down the net neutrality rules established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2010. These rules were intended to prevent Internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to different types of content. As a result of the court order, the FCC is now in the process of creating new rules, seeking public input to develop a framework that the agency says will ensure choices for consumers and opportunity for innovators, prevent practices that can threaten the open Internet and expand transparency.

Is There A Right Or Wrong Approach? As I said in the beginning, net neutrality is a complex issue, as is the case with many public policies. There are pros and cons to each approach. And the debate is sure to continue no matter what rules the FCC adopts.

The future of the Internet will certainly be written in part by these rules, and that is why rural providers like us remain involved in the process through our combined voice, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. Issues like this are why FTC actively participates in national efforts both before the FCC and politically with our legislative delegation.  FTC is always representing the collective interest of our customers.

Be sweet and cook with honey!

Barbecue Spareribs

Honey is one of the most popular varieties of barbecue sauce. From ribs to chicken, the sweet taste is the perfect accent to any smoked meat.

Honey is one of the most popular varieties of barbecue sauce. From ribs to chicken, the sweet taste is the perfect accent to any smoked meat.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thick steak sauce
  • 1 cup honey
  • Spareribs

For the sauce, mix all ingredients except ribs and cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes; set aside. Simmer ribs for 1/2 hour in water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Place drained ribs in shallow baking pan, pour sauce over ribs and bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until tender, basting every 10-12 minutes with sauce. They may also be cooked on a grill over hot coals.

Note: This sauce is equally good on chicken. 

Rich Honey Gingerbread

  • 1-1/4 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup milk or water
  • 4 tablespoons melted shortening

Sift dry ingredients together 3 times.  Mix egg, honey, milk and shortening.  Combine liquid and dry ingredients and beat thoroughly.  Pour into greased, 9- by 12-inch pan and bake in middle of oven at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Delicious by itself, or serve with your favorite topping, such as caramel sauce or lemon cream cheese frosting.

Caramel Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix butter, brown sugar, cream and salt together and simmer over low heat while gently whisking for 6-7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add vanilla and cook another minute or so to thicken further. Pour over warm gingerbread and top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat cream cheese with butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar alternately with lemon juice. Chill for 1 hour or until of spreading consistency.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Honey Nut Granola

  • 3 cups uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup shredded or flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients, except dried cranberries, in bowl, mixing well. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread mixture on large shallow baking pan and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, stirring twice. If desired, let the granola stay in oven for a bit longer after turning off to give it a drier texture. Upon removal from oven, add dried cranberries. Delicious on yogurt, ice cream or oatmeal.

Buzzing about honey

Dr. Larry Lawson enjoys sharing the flavor and health benefits of the local honey he produces.

Dr. Larry Lawson enjoys sharing the flavor and health benefits of the local honey he produces.

By Anne P. Braly

It was the taste of honey that sent Dr. Larry Lawson on a search for the best from local hives. It was his fascination with the intricacies of honeybees that encouraged him to start his own honey of a hobby.

Semi-retired from his Abbeville, South Carolina, dental practice, Lawson has nine hives and manages three other nearby colonies. He is president-elect of his local beekeepers association and serves on the executive committee of his state’s association.

Lawson’s honey comes from chance encounters with bees as they buzz around his neighborhood feeding on wildflowers to produce honey with a subtle flavor distinct to his region.

“My wife and I sweeten our coffee with it each morning,” he says, adding that when the grandkids come to visit, it’s used as syrup for their pancakes.

“We’ve found eating local honey every day has a pronounced effect on our allergies, too,” he says.

According to the National Honey Board, honey is also great for sore throats, is a natural energy booster and, when a drop or two is mixed with your moisturizer, works to better hydrate your skin.

The growing interest in buying local honey, plus a decline in the honeybee population due to Colony Collapse Disorder, a problem that threatens the health of all honeybees in the United States and whose cause is still unknown, has brought renewed interest in bees and pollination, Lawson notes. As a result, more people are going into the honeybee business, he says.

Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year, according to the USDA. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables are dependent on pollination by honeybees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor and nutrition.

Beekeeping is not for the faint of heart. Lawson says he’s been stung more times that he can count. Winter months are the most demanding, requiring Lawson to maintain equipment and feed the bees when there are no blooms on which they can feast. But the rewards, Lawson says, are many, including sharing honey with friends, and watching as the bees dance in and out of their hives.

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.

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.

“It’s fascinating,” Lawson says, “to watch how they live and care for each other.”

What’s all the buzz about?

  • Honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of all insect pollination in the U.S.
  • Their honey is worth more than $14 billion to U.S. agriculture.
  • Bees from a single hive fly up to 55,000 miles to make a single jar of honey.
  • A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day.
  • One hive may hold up to 80,000 bees.

Source: International Pollinator Systems

Connected Backyard

Wi-Fi enabled devices make the great outdoors even greater

By Adam Reid

When it comes to making your home “smart,” the focus is usually on the inside. From smart thermostats to smart light bulbs, it’s an easy task to make the interior of your home more connected. But what about the backyard? How can you use technology to take your next cookout to a new level? Here are a few products to get you started.

The Signal Booster:

TL-WA850RE-EU-V1-05The easiest way to make your backyard more connected is to boost your Wi-Fi signal so that you can enjoy its benefits outside. Your Wi-Fi router is a great tool to get your Internet connection to all your devices, but it’s not so great for traveling through walls. The way to make your router stronger is with a Wi-Fi repeater or range booster. There are many options available, but an inexpensive, well-reviewed choice is the TP-LINK TL-WA850RE ($30, It has one-touch setup with most routers, a signal indicator to let you check on performance and an Ethernet port to make wired devices wireless. This is a great way to ensure you can access your network on your smartphone, tablet or laptop in your backyard.

Easy Listening: speaker

Nothing gets a party going like a great soundtrack, and that extends to a backyard party as well. Whatever outdoor speaker system you choose, you’ll want to make sure it’s Bluetooth capable. Bluetooth will enable you to ditch the wires and make your system “smart.” There are a couple of Bluetooth options for enjoying your music outside: portable and permanent. In the portable category, it doesn’t get much better than the Braven BRV-1 ($149, The BRV-1 is ruggedized, allowing it to absorb shock from accidental drops or impacts from backyard activities. It’s also IPX5 certified water resistant (which makes it all but submersible). It is safe for use near pools, and protected against accidental spills and inclement weather. It’s also very small at only 3.3 x 5 x 2.2 inches and weighing 12 ounces. All that, and it delivers great sound.

If you don’t want to carry a speaker back and forth, a more permanent solution may be a better fit. One option for you is a faux rock Bluetooth speaker like the C2G Granite Speaker System ($97, It is also water resistant, but it is recommended that you bring it inside during heavy downpours or snow. And as the name implies, you can add more speakers to the system to get your music from all angles wirelessly and conveniently in your backyard.

Grilling without the guesswork:

3D RenderingFood may taste best when grilled, but grilling involves a lot of guesswork. Digital grilling thermometers have taken the guesswork and eyeballing out of grilling, but you can still take grilling a step further. The iGrill Mini ($39.99, and iGrill 2 ($99.99, are digital grilling thermometers that also have companion apps to give you the right temperature for different types of meat, and for determining when your steak is cooked just the way you like it.

Planting made easy: flower

Having a green thumb can be tough if you don’t know the optimal conditions for your garden. Instead of whipping out the almanac, there’s a “smart” way to ensure your gardening isn’t fruitless. The Parrot Flower Power ($59, wireless plant sensor measures essential soil data such as water, fertilizer, heat and light, and the companion app will remind you to water your plants so you never forget.

Getting the big picture:

projectorHow can you make movie night better? Enjoy your movies in a different setting with a night under the stars. Your best bet for enjoying your favorite video content in your backyard is a small, battery operated projector known as a pico projector. There are many pico projectors to choose from, and one of the best is the 3M Streaming Projector Powered by Roku ($229,

Other pico projectors have better picture quality or better battery life, but what makes the 3M Streaming Projector a standout is the included Roku Streaming Stick. This gives you a completely wireless projection option that lets you view Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus or any of the thousands of channels available on Roku anywhere you wish. And you won’t have to worry about a sound source, as the projector has built-in speakers. Project your video onto a wall or sheet and you are ready for your audience.

These are a few ideas for getting your backyard more connected. With these gadgets you’ll be sure to take your entertaining to the next level. You’ll have fresh veggies, expertly grilled food, music everywhere and a way to watch TV, movies or internet clips outside. It’s the perfect outdoor party.

Hands on history

By Stephen V. Smith, Editor

Through a website, a book and a national competition, “American Pickers” creator and star Mike Wolfe is helping kids connect with their families and communities.

Mike Wolfe is encouraging kids to learn about their families and communities through picking.

Mike Wolfe is encouraging kids to learn about their families and communities through picking.

The decade of the ‘70s had barely begun when a 6-year-old Iowa kid pulled a discarded bicycle from his neighbor’s trash. The fire of discovery that began burning in Mike Wolfe that day has flamed into a top-rated TV show — and, to Wolfe’s delight, it has also ignited a passion for picking treasures in the hearts of kids across America.

“American Pickers” made its cable channel debut on History in January 2010, becoming the highest-rated non-fiction program of the year. Having spent much of his life traveling the country in search of rare and collectable items, Wolfe knew a show based on the thrill of discovery, nostalgia and the interesting characters he met along the way would attract an audience. “What I never saw coming, and what the network never saw coming, was the connection the show has to children,” Wolfe says.

Indeed, children were calling his Antique Archaeology store in Le Claire, Iowa, sending letters and even stopping by with their families to share stories of their picking adventures. Children were also sending photos to History and posting on the network’s social media channels.

“It’s really made me step back and say ‘wow, this is the way it was when I was a kid.’” says Wolfe. “They reminded me of myself.”

Help for the kid pickers

Wolfe realized the TV show he created based on his lifelong passion was so popular with kids because it resonated with the sense of wonder that is born in everyone. “When you think about the sense of adventure, the curiosity and wanting to discover, we have that in us,” he says. “But we lose that as we get older a little bit. For a child, this show is incredible, because it’s just this huge treasure hunt.”

Mike Wolfe talks with kid pickers at Nashville’s Antique Archaeology store during last year’s Pick and Tell event.

Mike Wolfe talks with kid pickers at Nashville’s Antique Archaeology store during last year’s Pick and Tell event.

Wolfe saw that young people needed more information on how to pick, and a way to share the stories and lessons they were learning with others their age. He launched, a social network where children — with guidance from their parents — can post photos and share stories of their finds. It has attracted thousands of kid pickers from across the country. “Am I making any money off that? No,” says Wolfe. “But I feel like it’s important for me to do that.

“I’m on a reality show, he adds. “I created a reality show. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is … While I’m doing this I want to make a difference. These kids are such an inspiration to me.”

To help kids get the most from picking, Wolfe released a book last year entitled “Kid Pickers.” He was assisted with the project by an elementary school teacher he has known since they were both kid pickers themselves in Iowa.

Learning about family and community history

The Antique Archaeology store in Nashville has become one of the Music City’s most popular tourist draws. The store features items picked by Mike Wolfe, the creator and star of “American Pickers” on History.

The Antique Archaeology store in Nashville has become one of the Music City’s most popular tourist draws. The store features items picked by Mike Wolfe, the creator and star of “American Pickers” on History.

While some of Wolfe’s finds on “American Pickers” can be quite valuable, his book does not stress picking for money. “It teaches children that when they find things, they can learn about their community’s history, they can learn about their family’s history,” he says. “Grandparents tell us that kids come out to their house now and they want to look in their barns, their attics, their basements … they want to know whose this was, what it was, they want to know more about it. And through this thing that’s been in the basement forever, all of a sudden they are learning about their family history. They’re getting history the way they want to get it — hands on.”

Wolfe has also joined forces with History for the Kid Pickers Pick and Tell National Student Contest, which provides scholarships to contest winners. And in September, Wolfe and the Tennessee State Fair will host a special kid pickers market.

Preserving rural USA

While “American Pickers” has been a huge success for Wolfe, he sees it as the vehicle that has allowed him to do something far more important than star on reality TV. “If you look at what’s going on with America’s small towns and main streets, they are disappearing,” he says. “We are on the road all the time and we see it.”

Much of this change, Wolfe reflects, happens as communities lose their agricultural base, manufacturing jobs move overseas and new highways bypass downtown areas that once thrived.

“If a child finds things in their community and they learn about their community, then they take pride in their community,” he says. “Maybe when they leave, when they go to college and do whatever they’re going to do, they will come back and open up a business, because they have roots there in their mind.”

A guide for all kid pickers Kid Pickers Book Cover

Every kid with an interest in adventure, history and treasure hunting should pick up a copy of “Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk Into Treasure.” In this kid-focused book, Mike Wolfe guides young readers through the exciting hobby of picking, with chapters such as “Picking With a Purpose,” “Every Pick Has a Story,” and “Unlocking Your Past.” The book is available from all major bookstores and online retailers. Ask your local library if they have a copy, too!

An online community for kid pickers

Modern Computer And Mobile Devices SetPart of what makes picking fun is sharing the stories behind your finds. Mike Wolfe’s website provides a safe environment for kids to interact with others their age who share a love of learning and adventure. The site is only open to kids age 13 and younger, and a parent must be involved in the registration process. Half of the one-time $5 subscription fee is donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Don’t miss the Kid Pickers Flea Market at the Tennessee State Fair
September 5-14
Nashville, Tenn.
Learn more at

The IP Evolution

Rural telcos lead the move to an Internet-based society

Today’s Internet is about so much more than websites and email. The technology behind that connectedness also drives shopping, entertainment and business operations, as well as vital public services and health care delivery.

Rural telecommunications companies have long been leaders in building broadband networks to serve their communities. In fact, small rural carriers had deployed broadband to 92 percent of their consumers as of 2010. “Broadband is the great equalizer in terms of allowing rural consumers to communicate with others and participate in civic and economic activities,” says Mike Romano, senior vice president of policy for NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. “Rural telcos recognized that, and were early adopters of broadband technologies — trying to deploy networks that were built for tomorrow and not just for today.”

In a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), NTCA has highlighted “IP Interconnection” as part of its recommendations:

“There would be greater incentive to invest in IP-enabled networks,” reads an overview of the petition, “if the FCC were to confirm that the costs of allowing other carriers to use such networks can be recovered consistent with the (Telecommunications) Act.”

Policies such as this will help ensure that customers of rural and independent service providers like us continue to benefit from a robust broadband network. We will keep working on this issue alongside our fellow telecommunications providers. There are nearly 900 independent telcos united through NTCA. These numbers help ensure that rural consumers have input into our nation’s process of fueling a true IP Evolution.