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July 31, 2003 Issue

Demonstrating Native American techniques, Ben Kirkland creates fire during the recent meeting of the Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek.

Boyhood interest with arrowheads turned into lifetime obsession

By Elizabeth Howard

When Ben Kirkland of Albany found his first arrowhead as a boy, he was so intrigued that he began making his own.

His childhood hobby developed into a fascination that has led him through the rest of his life.

Ben and his wife Karen were the guest speakers at a tribal meeting of the Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek in Wrens Saturday.

They shared their talents and their knowledge of the Native American culture with Jefferson County's own Native Americans, the descendants of Pee Dee Indians.

Ben is a wildlife biologist with roots in Jefferson County. His grandparents were the late E. Ray and Fannie D. Jordan of Wrens and the late Ollie C. and Ada N. Kirkland of the Zebina Community.

On his recent visit to Wrens he educated those present on the roots of those who first settled our land-Native Americans.

Ben used the tools and artifacts he created by hand to demonstrate the primitive culture of Native Americans.

His tools included bows and arrows, spears and fish hooks. There were tools chiseled out of stone and carved out of wood or bone.

He illustrated primitive methods of tanning leather by showing pieces of animal hide in various stages of leather making.

Ben took a moment to play a handmade flute and demonstrate the use of a bull-roarer, an instrument that recreates the sound of an approaching storm.

Ben recently sold two of his own bull-roarers to be used in a New York production of Cirque du Soleil.

When Ben finished his presentation, Karen, a gourd artist and president of the Georgia Gourd Society, spoke on gourds and gourd art. As she spoke, she displayed her own pieces of artwork, including several award winning gourds.

After the Kirklands spoke, the meeting moved to Lena Braswell's gourd farm in Wrens where those inspired by Karen's presentation had the opportunity to purchase gourds for their own crafts.

The Kirklands are craftsmen and their pieces demonstrate a mastery of ancient skill.

Revival violates noise ordinance

• Old-style tent meeting with high-tech sound system causes Wrens officials to revise ordinance

By Parish Howard

All over town the word was heard...praying, preaching, singing and praising. But not everyone who could hear the voices and gospel music carrying from the big white tent was rejoicing. A number of them even called the police.

Although it has been a few years since the city's council remembers the last one, tent meeting revivals aren't in the least unfamiliar or unwelcomed guests in Wrens.

"We used to have them a lot more often," Councilwoman Dollye Ward said. "I remember they set up behind where the bank is now. I haven't seen one in a long time. I guess they just didn't have the high powered equipment they do now."

The word of God may remain the same but the way it's conveyed is changing with the times. Over 100 people a night gathered under to stand and dance in front of their folding chairs and listen to the word as presented by Babe's Highway International Ministry with The Twins of Thunder. The services, which included a modern band, complete with keyboards, drums, bass and lead guitars, lasted about a week and ended Saturday.

"We got complaints from at least three or four different areas of town," said Wrens Police Chief David Hannah. "They were calling to complain about the noise level."

Officers approached the service's leaders, brothers Darrell and Daniel Smith at least three times before they were ticketed for violating the city's noise ordinance Hannah said.

"At first it was pretty loud as we had to adjust our sound," Darrell Smith explained.

After they started getting complaints, Smith said they turned off the power amplifiers and from then on performed without them.

"The officers were very nice," he said. "They even told us that they hated to do it."

The vast majority of those attending the services were from the Wrens area, Smith said.

"These were local people, Wrens people who came to hear the word of God," he added. "They pay taxes in the city and support local businesses."

Regardless of the ticket and what came later, he considers the services a blessing and is grateful for all the people who came out.

Wednesday City Attorney John Pilcher, at the city's behest, obtained a temporary restraining order to ensure the meeting's volume levels did not get out of hand again.

"This wasn't to stop it," Pilcher told the council in a called meeting Thursday afternoon. "It was just to lower the volume. These services were going late into the evening and people were having trouble getting their kids to sleep on time and there are people who have to get up early to go to work who couldn't get to sleep.

"Before he set up he was made aware that we have a noise ordinance. On Tuesday we talked to him twice (about the volume) and it was on the third time our officers went back out there that he was cited. I just want people to realize that we went to great lengths not to do this."

The city held the meeting Thursday to discuss the actions taken and the city's current noise ordinance.

Several council members said they had personally received calls and had been stopped in the grocery store and asked about what could be done to quiet the services.

Pilcher suggested that the city look into rewriting their current noise ordinance, which, while it applies to all loud noises, primarily focuses on vehicles. The ordinance says that if the sound can be heard from 50 feet away then it is too loud and therefore is in violation.

"I believe this was extreme," Mayor J.J. Rabun said. "I was a half a mile away and I couldn't hear the TV. I believe that (a limit of) 50 feet is reasonable."

Pilcher said that he has a Georgia Municiple Association proposed ordinance that is enforced in Savannah that he feels can be tailored to fit the needs of the Wrens council.

"Ours is pretty good, but I believe we should qualify a few things," Pilcher told the council. "We need to steer away from words like excessive, unreasonable or unnecessary. Subjective words like this could be argued. Who's to say what is unreasonably loud or what is an unnecessary noise?

"I want it to be clear that the city doesn't have anything against revivals. I believe there are a lot of people who could really benefit from them. I probably should have been there myself, but we can't ignore the other people or the noise ordinance."

Although they were fewer, more calls came in during the week, even after the ministers were ticketed and the restraining order was in place.

"There's no doubt it was too loud the first few nights," Hannah said. "But we were still getting calls later in the week. I sent cars out to the neighborhoods where the calls were coming from. And yeah, you could hear a little something outside, if you were sitting on your porch, but you wouldn't have been able to hear anything indoors. So we didn't ticket them again."

The Smith's ministry, which began in Augusta, stemming off of the teaching of Apostle Darrell Glenn McCoy, now has a church in Thomson. The brothers said they try to hold three to five of these tent meetings across the area every summer with plans for doing it all year around.

"We believe in seeing people set free, seeing lives changed," Smith said of their high energy services which often include dancing, singing and rejoicing in the word of God.

On Tuesday night, the same night the service was ticketed, Smith said that God revealed himself to a Wrens woman.

"She had been out of work for something like six months and couldn't find a job," Smith said. "We prayed for her and the next day she overheard someone in Thomson talking about taking applications. She spoke to them and was hired on the spot without having to fill out an application."

Smith talked of demonstrations of God's power in the Wrens services, a woman's sight being cleared and another who came to the service on the anniversary of her brother's death who was finally able to release her pain and sense of loss.

Chief Hannah said that while he regretted having to ticket the ministry, a violation that could carry a $244-$344 fine, he feels the noise ordinance has to be enforced.

"It's over now and I don't really expect the judge to enforce it," Hannah said. "I expect he'll just throw it out. I think we all learned something from it this time. It's something for us to think about from now on out when we have different events in town."

Summer's over and schools systems prepare for students

• Students return to classes next week

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The time is almost here for one of the most anticipated events of the year. No, it is not Christmas or birthdays or family reunions. It is time for school to begin.

For Jefferson County public schools the first day of class will begin Aug. 6 and end May 19 while classes at Glascock County Consolidated School will begin two days earlier on Aug. 4 and end May 21.

Conversations with Superintendent Carl Bethune in Louisville and Superintendent Jim Holton in Gibson showed a look at what is new this year for each of the school systems.

Glascock County Consolidated School

Two standout additions will be evident this year at Glascock County Consolidated School (GCCS). One of the two, said Holton, is the completion of four new classrooms at the school.

The addition enables all GCCS class to be held again under one roof, said Holton. Prior to the new additions Pre-K classes were held at the little school due to room restrictions.

Also new for the 2003-2004 school year is the addition of a computer and technology lab for grades K-12. The lab contains 24 new computers and will supplement those already in use, averaging approximately six per classroom.

Course offerings also increased this year. GCCS now offers Spanish, Physics, Calculus and Forestry. The new offerings, said Holton, will help meet the community's increasing academic needs and will go a long way toward preparing students for their future.

"We are extremely proud of our school," he said. "It is the heart of our wonderful community. We feel that we have excellent, dedicated teachers who are devoted to providing the best education possible to our children."

Extending the school's reach beyond the campus is the school system's work with Sandersville Tech in offering a credited nursing course to GCCS students who are interested in medicine.

GCCS is in its second year of a Reading Excellence Act (REA) grant enabled the school to provide intensive staff development and purchase many reading materials for use in classrooms, Holton said.

Additionally, he explained, GCCS is one of the few schools to have all returning K-5th grade teachers, counselor, principal and the family literacy coordinator in possession of state certified reading endorsements from Georgia Southern University. Middle school teachers also worked this summer with GSU's Dr. Michael McKenna to strengthen reading strategies and techniques and diagnose reading difficulties.

In keeping with parameters of the REA grant is the community outreach provided. The school provides a family literacy coordinator and has opened a family learning center.

The family literacy coordinator is also a certified parent educator who visits homes in the community to model instructional strategies, said Holton.

"We believe to truly make a difference we must work cooperatively with other groups in our community," he said. "We work closely with Glascock Action Partners and the many programs they provide such as America Reads tutors and a social worker to aid students."

GCCS will hold an open house at the school Aug. 1 from 1 p.m.-7p.m.

Jefferson County schools

Chief among the changes at Jefferson County schools are the one-percent sales tax-funded school improvements.

The 21,600 square foot expansion at Carver Magnet/Theme Elementary in Wadley will see the addition of six new classrooms, a cafeteria with a performing arts area, music and dance rooms, nursing clinic, administration area and a completely new façade, said Bethune. Coming in two phases, the first will be complete in October and the other in December. Wrens Elementary will gain 10 new classrooms, including technology, art and music rooms, totaling 12,600 square-feet along with some roofing, all to be completed by the beginning of the school year. Students at Louisville Academy will return to school to find 6,000 square-feet of additions, including six new classrooms, an expanded cafeteria, a new nursing clinic and the replacement of old windows, additional whiteboards, roofing and the replacement of carpet in the media center and offices.

"The construction should have an impact on learning," said Bethune. "We will now be able to hold classes in permanent buildings rather than in portable buildings. These permanent additions will meet the current and future needs of our students."

Bethune said the school system is continuing to meet increasing technological demands despite the current budget difficulties imposed by the state through the acquisition of new computer hardware and software in each of the systems schools. An amazing number of computers have been acquired by the school system since the first computers arrived 12 years go.

"Knowledge today is so vast that it can't all be contained in a textbook," he said. "And replacement units become necessary periodically because yesterday's computer cannot always function properly on today's software and network systems. The Internet and the state's Galileo program are so important to the academic process. The research skills required in the real world of employment can now be provided at the high school."

Along with the exponential growth of computer-related academics will come the introduction this year of mobile, wireless hardware for Wrens Elementary. The wireless Internet hardware will be installed on a mobile cart providing the capability for the service to be transported from room to room and possesses the capability of handling up to 30 laptop computers at a time, said Bethune. The wireless network will be complete by the end of December.

As for providing additional tutoring for those students who will benefit, Bethune said each school will conduct an After School Program during the 2003-2004 school year. Each school will provide transport to assist parents who may find it difficult to pick up their child. The reason for after school programs across the system is simple, he said.

"We want to help any of our students who may need some extra assistance," he said. "That assistance is meant to provide a pay off now and in their academic future."

Another way to positively impact the academic future of some of the county's younger students will come near the end of the first nine weeks of school. A number of the old computers that cannot handle the system's current network and operating system. The old computers were considered better off in the hands of students rather than trying to sell them at-large because with their limited capabilities they would bring few dollars. The old computers, nearly 97 in total, will be given to 3rd grade students who do not have computers at home. Though Internet access will be absent, students can use the computers to utilize the reading and math software installed in the units.

"Our rationale in providing the computers, in line with the federal 'No Child Left Behind' program, is to do our best to enhance the educational status and standing of this target for their academic future and the future of Jefferson County," said Bethune.

Community attempts to Weed and Seed

• Program designed to weed out area's bad elements while sowing and nurturing the positive ones

By Elizabeth Howard

Wrens will soon be the site of a United States Department of Justice community-based program to strengthen law enforcement, crime prevention and community revitalization.

Operation Weed and Seed was developed in the early 90s under the original Bush administration. It is a strategy that involves “weeding out” crime and “seeding in” human services, and it is coming to Wrens.

The Weed and Seed program operates with support from the United States Attorney’s office as well as federal, state and local agencies.

Wrens is the fourth Weed and Seed site in the Southern District of Georgia. There are sites in Augusta, Savannah and Waycross, but there are many more throughout the rest of the state and nation.

“The primary goal is to identify a problem area and use federal money to attack the problem,” said Dan Drake of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Wrens is still in the early stages of developing a Weed and Seed program, still trying to identify a problem.

Drake said possible areas are crime, drug abuse, unemployment and teen pregnancy.

The program has been in the works in Wrens for the past year or so.

When Pastor Christine Wallace of Praise Deliverance Church heard of the program at a conference in another state, she knew it was something Wrens needed.

She returned home and contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the program has been growing here ever since.

A Weed and Seed meeting took place July 15 at Wrens City Hall. Over 20 people met to discuss problems in the Wrens area and possible directions for the program.

In attendance were representatives from the Wrens City Council, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, Wrens police department, Jefferson County sheriff’s office, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson County DFCS, the Department of Juvenile Justice and many other groups.

After a brief overview of the program and an introduction of all individuals present and their contributions to the program, Police Chief David Hannah and Sheriff Gary Hutchins reviewed criminal activity in Jefferson County.

Jim Cox with 911 provided data showing the highest crime areas, to aid in identifying a problem area.

There are four components of a Weed and Seed program: law enforcement, community policing, prevention, intervention and treatment and neighborhood restoration.

A planning committee analyzes data to designate a Weed and Seed area, and a steering committee develops a strategic plan for implementation.

The Weed and Seed program is a community-based initiative and depends on the input of citizens.

Meetings will take place at 11:30 on the third Tuesday of each month at Wrens City Hall.

For more information on the program visit the website at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/eows.

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