MLK Day celebrated
• Hundreds gather at Jefferson County NAACP's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration
By Ben Roberts
Stiff winds and the chill of a winter night bit the air outside the walls of Stone Springfield A.M.E. Church Sunday night, Jan. 16, during the annual program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; but you couldn't tell it from looking at the throng of people inside.
Coats and jackets lay over the backs of pews and hand-held fans passed back and forth in front of the congregation's faces during the nearly three hour service to honor and remember Dr. King's legacy. The church's heating units may have supplemented that warmth, but the majority of it rose from the crowd itself, who came alive in a spirit of celebration.
The excited tone of the evening was set by presiding minister, the Rev. Jacqui Mathis, when she told the congregation, "There were those that died so that I might have the right to enter a school building … so tonight I may shout."
That tone was echoed with a soulful devotional by the Hardeman Springfield Deacons and continued throughout the night with musical selections from The Metro Mass Choir.
There was no mistaking that while the congregation had gathered to remember the dream of a civil rights leader, they were also there to honor God and thank Him for His many blessings, including Dr. King, himself.
"We owe Dr. King's presence and everything he was able to do to God Almighty," Barbara Thomas said in her welcome.
The Rev. Samuel Thompkins, pastor of Stone Springfield A.M.E. Church, as well as a pastor for the Lofton circuit, delivered the night's message, recounting the story in Genesis of how Joseph's own brothers plotted to kill him after he shared his dream with them. Thompkins compared this not only to the eventual assassination of King, but to the way his dream has been seemingly forgotten by younger generations of African-Americans.
"Some of us are no longer sharing the dream," he said, "or telling our children about the dream."
Thompkins pointed out, as his theme for the evening, that there is "a thin line between love and hate." That line, he said, exists not only between the black and white communities, but among people of the same color as well. "There is violence among our community and our own neighborhoods."
An offering of $1,065.15 was raised during the service to benefit the scholarship fund of the Jefferson County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who organized the evening's event. Those scholarships were awarded Monday morning, Jan. 17, at the NAACP's Youth Program and Breakfast, held at Gordon Grove Baptist Church, outside Louisville. The 10 Jefferson County students receiving scholarships were Chandrel Evans, Trenesha Flournoy, Jennifer Hickson, Roderick Jones, Shenna Jones, Casey Jordan, Courtney Jordan, Bridget Neal, Ashley Reaves and Tanekgeia Tillman.
Willie Batts Jr. delivered the morning's message, while the Gordon Grove Youth Choir, Whitley Gains, Amanda Gains and the Saint Matthews Praise Team all provided musical selections.
Lee Shellman, president of the Jefferson County Branch of the NAACP, said he was pleased with the turnout for both services, but said the need for more local members is urgent.
"We need members. We need men and women of the black race to come together and help us to do what's right for all races," he said.
The Jefferson County branch of the NAACP meets on the first and third Sundays of each month at 7 p.m. at the Masonic Hall on Eighth Street in Louisville. Anyone interested in becoming a member is invited to attend or may contact current members for more information. The cost of a one-year membership is $30.
Armed robbery suspects sought
• Officers looking for three men who entered the South Jet in Wrens and held a gun on the clerk
By Parish Howard
Officers with the Wrens Police Department are looking for three men who robbed the Jet Food Store in south Wrens Monday night at gun point.
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah said that officers were on the scene shortly after receiving the distress call at 9:03 p.m.
"We called in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the GBI and a Richmond County tracking dog, as the three men left on foot.," Chief Hannah said. "We have the video surveillance tape from the store and expect to make arrests soon."
Amethyst Landers, the store's assistant manager, was still shaken from the experience Tuesday morning.
"I feel like I must have strained my back," Landers said. "The man was pointing the gun at me and I was trying to keep my left side turned away from him because I didn't want him to shoot me in the heart."
Landers said the robbery had really shaken her, and proceeded to describe the events as she recalled them.
"One came in with a scarf on his face," Landers said, "It was cold outside and I never once dreamed I was going to get robbed. Then the other two came in behind him and he raised the gun up.
"I said, 'Oh, no, tell me this is a joke,' and he said 'No, this is real,' and he put the gun right in my face."
"I told them whatever they want, just to take it, just don't shoot me. I have babies at home that need me."
That's when the other two came around the counter and told her to put the money in the gum bucket.
All three were wearing dark clothes with hooded shirts pulled over their faces, the clerk said. All Landers could see was the "shadow of their eyes," she said.
They took the drawer from the cash register, the bucket of gum and money and several cases of Newport cigarettes from the wall behind the counter.
"When they got to the door, one turned around and pointed the gun back at me," Landers said. "That's when I went down and hit the floor."
After the perpetrators had left on foot, she locked the door to the store, called 911 and locked herself in the cooler.
The men were able to get away with an undisclosed amount of cash.
"We do have some leads and are following up on those," Chief Hannah said. "But we do encourage anyone who may have seen anything or have any information on this case to call the department at (706) 547-3000. Any information given will be kept confidential."
The perpetrators, if convicted, face 10-20 years for armed robbery and additional time for the charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Chief Hannah said that according to his memory, it has been almost 10 years since a convenience store was robbed at gun point in Wrens.
Glascock development authority in the works
By Faye Ellison
D'Ann Simpson has a dream for Glascock County to bring in businesses and build on its stable foundation.
Between herself and David Jenkins, Simpson is determined to get a Development Authority up and running in Glascock County. She approached Glascock County Commissioners at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3 with her proposal.
The Commission approved beginning a Development Authority, but Simpson is scared that it will go no further.
"We want businesses to move in," said Simpson. "We want a better quality of life."
Back in 1968, the Commissioners started a Development Authority for the county. In 1987, the Development Authority became defunct.
"We can be here to work on special projects," said Simpson. "But we have to start with a plan."
The development authority can help steer many aspects of a growing county ranging from economic development to land use management. This gives an entity from Glascock County a chance to talk to businesses who are looking at the prospect of moving to the county.
Though the county does have a Chamber of Commerce, it does not have the right to apply for grants for the county, which a development authority can do, and it could also issue bonds.
Simpson requested the appointment of six people from the county, along with Sistie Hudson the house representative for Glascock County, to be on the authority.
The six have to be tax-paying residents of Glascock County.
Simpson is currently working on a list of residents in the county that are interested in participating. Simpson said she will give the list to commissioners before the February meeting, so that the members can be appointed.
Simpson asks that if anyone is interested in joining the board to contact her at the Chamber office at (706) 598-9901.
Simpson already has six to seven names. She discussed at the meeting how the authority will have to work, not just meet, because the county does not have money to pay a staff.
"I am working on a retreat for a planning session," said Simpson. "We have to work towards developing the county and we need to work on a plan for that growth."
The planning will include Glascock Action Partners, schools, cities, the Chamber and the county.
According to Simpson, Glascock County's Development Authority will work hand in hand with businesses that are looking to move into the county.
It will look for businesses that are prospects for moving into the county. This will involve those that are already interested in moving to Glascock and those that the authority would like to recruit into the city.
Research is also a major component of the process. The Development Authority will look into zoning. Simpson said it would involve finding places that will be residential or commercial.
"We will make the proposals to the businesses, purchase land or issue revenue bonds," said Simpson. "There is a lot of possibility that was not there before. This is something to look towards."
Ben Roberts joined The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter as a staff writer Monday, Jan. 17.
Roberts joins newspaper
From Staff Reports
The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter recently added Ben Roberts to its growing staff.
"We interviewed a number of qualified individuals for this position, but I believe Ben Roberts was by far the best fit for our newspaper and our community," Editor Parish Howard said. "Ben brings with him not only years of experience with another weekly newspaper, but a passion for superb community coverage and a philosophy of journalism that I personally share."
Roberts has spent two and a half years as a staff writer, photographer and columnist with The True Citizen in Waynesboro.
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Roberts graduated high school in Macon, where his mother still lives. He moved to Munnerlyn, a community just outside of Waynesboro in Burke County about three years ago.
"I moved to some family property there from Atlanta looking for a place to settle," Roberts said. "I do like rural Georgia. I think it is very important to be involved in the community. I plan on raising a family here one day."
Some may recognize Roberts as he has been a waiter at Emily's On West Broad for the past six months.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity to work here," Roberts said. "I certainly missed it more than I thought I would over the last six months."
Roberts began work as a staff writer with The News and Farmer on Monday, Jan. 17.
"I really like the ideals of small communities," he said, "but I do believe there are things that need to change in both Jefferson and Burke counties. Things we need to move forward into the 21st century. Having dealt with elected officials in small communities before, I have been frustrated that they sometimes don't seem to plan for very far into the community's future.
"I think that it's vitally important that a community pay attention to the world outside the county lines."