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November 27, 2008 Issue

Season of lights
Officials say get your flu vaccines now
Four men convicted in string of robberies
Program helps families make ends meet

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Season of lights

By Leila Borders
Staff Writer

Festivities abound this holiday season in Jefferson and Glascock counties. From parades to festivals to tree lightings, the area offers an array of activities and fun for the whole family.

Gibson kicks off the holiday season with its fourth annual WinterFest and Christmas parade on Saturday, Nov. 29, in downtown Gibson. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features arts and crafts vendors, food, games and entertainment. The parade begins at 2 p.m. Applications for vendors and parade participants will be accepted until the day of the parade. Contact the GCIDA at (706) 598-3637 or email at gcida@glascockcountyga.com for more information and applications.

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After WinterFest, join the Rolling Hills Garden Club for the Lighting of the Square in Gibson on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. Hot chocolate, coffee and donut holes will be served.

The next weekend take a ride over to Wadley for its Christmas parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6. The parade features fire trucks, floats, walkers, dancers, bands and, of course, Santa Claus. The Grand Marshal of the parade is Miranda Moore, Carver Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year, and the honorary Grand Marshal is Ethan Rachels.

Ott Stephens is the Master of Ceremonies. There also will be vendors, food and prizes at the festivities. Vendors and parade applications will be accepted until the day of the parade. Contact Wadley City Hall at (478) 252-1116 for more information.

“We just want everybody to come out and support us,” said Sallie Adams, Wadley city clerk.

Later that same day, downtown Wrens joins in the festivities with their 18th annual Christmas parade at 2 p.m. The parade features the Fort Gordon Band and Color Guard, Jefferson County High School Marching Band, Thomson Shriners and Santa.

Remember to bring your stamped and addressed holiday mail to the Wrens festivities. The Wrens Post Office is offering a special holiday postmark and will be open until 3:30 p.m. the day of the parade.

After the parade, hang around town for the Christmas tree lighting at 6:30 p.m. featuring Christmas carolers and pictures with Santa. The pictures are $3.

If you miss Santa in Wrens, do not worry. He will be stopping in Louisville on Friday, Dec.12, from 1 until 5 p.m. at Queensborough National Bank and Trust. Come have a candy cane, tell him what you want most this Christmas and smile for a picture.

Then, save some time for the Louisville Christmas festival and parade on Saturday, Dec. 13, sponsored by the Louisville Lions Club. The festival begins at 9 a.m. and features arts and crafts, food and entertainment by WPEH. Applications for festival vendors will be accepted until the Wednesday before.

The Louisville Christmas parade begins at 1 p.m. Fire trucks, tractors and classic cars are just a few of the attractions. Applications are not needed to be in the parade, participants need only be ready to line up at 12:30 p.m. in front of Louisville Academy.

“We’d like to encourage anybody that wants to participate to do so,” said Reggie Morgan, Louisville Lions Club member.

With three weekends to choose from, there is a time and a festivity for everyone. And, with events merely a hop, skip, or a jump away, why not attend them all?



Officials say get your flu vaccines now

By Faye Ellison
Staff writer

Fighting off the flu is something that many people deal with each year. And each year doctors and health departments urge citizens to receive a vaccine shot for influenza.

This year is no different, a flu shot can sometimes mean a choice between life or death. Each year on average 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die.

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“We really started giving the vaccine early this year,” Health Department Nurse Manager Janet Pilcher said. “We started giving it in October, but people should get it through January because the peak for flu season is February and March in this area.”

The flu is a contagious disease, which is caused by the influenza virus that can be spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions.

Symptoms which usually last a few days are fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches. But others may become sicker which can lead to pneumonia and can cause high fever, diarrhea and seizures in children.

Who should get vaccinated?

- All children from six months through 18 years of age.

- Anyone 50 years of age or older.

-Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.

-Anyone with long term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, liver disease, metabolic disease such as diabetes.

- Anemia and other blood disorders.

- Anyone with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids, or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs.

- Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.

- Anyone who lives with or cares for people at high risk for flu-related complications, such as health care providers, household contacts and caregivers for children for children and the elderly.

“Getting the vaccine is really to protect your health and prevent it from spreading to others,” Pilcher said.

Vaccines are available at the Jefferson County Health Department and the Glascock County Health Department. Vaccines cost $25, but those with Medicare or Medicaid will receive the shot for free. Most doctors offices in the area also carry the vaccine as well and many insurance companies cover the fee for the shot.



Four men convicted in string of robberies

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Three friends walked along the sidewalk behind the Jefferson County Courthouse video taping Kyle Gilmore, Christopher Young, and cousins Merkeith Lane and Dominique Lane as they were led to a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office van transporting them to jail.

As Gilmore was pushed towards the van, he yelled to the friends, “Ya’ll have my back. Don’t worry I’ll be back in two years.”

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But multiple life sentences, even those running concurrently, often require the convicted to spend many years behind bars before the opportunity for parole is available.

Friday, Nov. 21, Gilmore, Young and the Lanes were sentenced in a case that began in the summer of 2007, when the young men and a juvenile, identified in court as Brandon Miller, held a reign of terror on the city of Louisville with a string of armed robberies. The men robbed a truck driver and Dairy Queen before going on a spree of four armed robberies after dark on July 2, 2007.

They were all convicted after the jury returned their verdict on Nov. 5 for several counts including armed robbery and burglary. Young and Gilmore were both found guilty of two counts of armed robbery, one count of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of burglary. The Lane cousins were both found guilty of two counts of armed robbery, one count of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and two counts of burglary.

“The jury decided that evidence supported those charges,” Adrian Love, a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s office, said before sentencing. “We are happy they were able to successfully reach a verdict.”

Young, Gilmore and M. Lane were all still being held behind bars, but D. Lane met his bond. While out on bond, D. Lane held a steady job and stayed out of trouble according to his lawyer Brannen Bargeron.

It was disclosed that during the trial there were allegations of improper contact between one of the defendants’ families and a juror.

“We do not know who did it,” Assistant District Attorney Heyward Altman said after an investigation into the call. “We were not going to be able to determine the contact. We can determine when, but a lot of people had access to the particular phone. The judges were upset about it, but that was that.”

Love said that all four young men were tried at the same time, but the District Attorney’s office attempted to try each one separately. She said the defendants insisted on being tried together.

Armed robbery could carry a sentence of life or imprisonment of not less than 10 years, but no more than 20.

Criminal attempt to commit armed robbery carries no more than 10 years. Burglary and aggravated assault both carry no more than 20 years.

“The judge will determine if they serve sentences consecutive or concurrent,” Love explained. “The judges in our circuit are very consistent.”

Sentencing

Love said Friday in court that after interviewing Gilmore and Young neither of the young men, who both have previous convictions, showed remorse for their crimes. Their lawyers said they could not because, though they wanted to maintain their innocence, at the time of their arrests both Young and M. Lane gave full confessions to investigators which were not allowed to be presented during the trial.

Young’s father, Albert Young, took the stand to ask the judge for leniency for his son and took the blame for his son’s actions.

“I believe I failed him as a dad,” his father said, after explaining that he divorced Young’s mother at an early age. “I should have been there more. I wish I could serve some of his time.”

Young’s father also told the judge that he would probably not live to see his son exit the prison door. After Young was convicted and served time on a previous offense, his father said he would take him to work at his shop to keep Young on the straight and narrow. Young was let out of prison just three months prior to the first armed robbery in which he was involved.

“I told Chris, if you keep doing the same things, you will get the same results,” he said. “I told him to hang out with different people. When he no longer listened to my advice, it became harder and harder to get a hold of him.”

Unlike Gilmore and Young, both the Lane cousins were found to have no prior convictions. Also, neither was indicated to have a gun in the July 2 armed robberies. Both of the Lanes’ attorneys asked the judge to be lenient in light of their clean records and their young age.

“Dominique Lane does not have a mature understanding of the world,” his attorney Bargeron said. “While he was out on bond, he has been a productive citizen. He has gone to work and paid taxes. He has done everything a productive citizen does.”

After hearing from both the prosecution and the defense, Superior Court Judge Bobby Reeves explained the factors that he considered while deciding their fate.

“It is difficult to know what to do in a case like this,” he said. “I envision this as their attempt to be tough. Victims of their crimes said they feared death, that they would be killed. These are people who make the streets unsafe for the rest of us. And none of these young men have accepted responsibility.”

He noted that no teachers, former employers or any other person except for Young’s father testified on Friday. Also, no attorney gave a recommendation for what their client’s sentence should be.

“There are men who are the same age, 20-years-old, serving in Iraq and Iran who take responsibility,” Judge Reeves said. “My heart goes out to all of these young men’s families and I understand your willingness to serve time for your son. But there is no reason to put a good man in prison and put someone who gives away his life in the streets.”

Judge Reeves also commented on the convicted group’s demeanor during the trial and sentencing. During sentencing, Gilmore appeared agitated squirming in his seat and mouthing that his friends have his back to the audience.

“I’ll never understand it, I have seen one of you laughing,” he said. “Mr. Gilmore thinks this is all a joke and Merkeith has had the same hateful stare. It is hard to ask for mercy when you think it’s a joke.”

Gilmore and Young were both sentenced to life plus 20 years, followed by probation for their eight counts. M. Lane received a slightly less harsh sentence because of his non-criminal past. He received 40 years and probation.

D. Lane received the most lenient sentence. Judge Reeves said at the trail he saw the most promise in the young man.

“Having observed you, you have not had a bad attitude,” Judge Reeves recounted. “You probably, out of all of them, have more in you to be salvaged, but you decided to start at the top. That in a lot of ways ties my hands. But I do know while out on bond, you did not show an inclination to re-offend. That goes a long way and I am struggling as what to do.”

Judge Reeves sentenced D. Lane to 15 years plus probation.

“It will keep you a while and this is fairly lenient. But I hope you serve your time with honor and respect.”



Program helps families make ends meet

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A program two people started 14 years ago in Monroe has grown to a service that helps about 2.5 million people a year throughout 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Joe and Linda Wingo, who started Angel Food Ministries, said they never dreamed in a million years that feeding 37 families would lead to what AFM has become.

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The organization helps non-profits provide families with about $60 worth of food for $30.

Currently, there are no groups within a 50-mile radius of Louisville or within a 50-mile radius of Gibson. However, there are groups in McDuffie, Richmond and Columbia counties.

In order to locate a host site, a person can go to AFM’s website, www.angelfoodministries.com and follow the prompts. Information on becoming a host site is also on the website.

The main monthly menu is enough food to feed a family of four for a week, according to Angel Food Ministries, or AFM. This menu varies from month to month and may be paid for in cash, money order or, in some cases, by food stamps.

Although AFM requires the main offering, referred to as a regular box, to be purchased in order to buy other options, there is no limit to the number of boxes a person can order.

There are no forms to complete, no application process and no proof of income.

After ordering at least one regular box, a person may order a senior box, or any of the special boxes offered that month. In November, there is a Thanksgiving box.

The special boxes typically include a fresh fruit and vegetable box. In November, this choice contained two types of apples, three pounds each; four pounds of oranges; celery; baking potatoes; sweet potatoes; grapefruit; carrots and onions.

The other special boxes for November were a grill box containing a beef roast, pork ribs, hamburger steaks and Italian sausage; a meat combo box containing rib eye steaks, strip steaks and pork chops; and a box of flavored chicken breasts.

As with the regular box, there is no limit to the number of these boxes that can be ordered. These boxes range in price starting at $18.

Payment is made when the order is placed and deadlines for the orders vary from host sites. The distribution date is the same for all sites and is typically at the end of the month.

Rev. Mike Timmerman of the Dearing Baptist Church has ordered a box every month since the church became a host site in August.

“It’s a lot of food and it’s good quality food,” he said. “It’s excellent. My wife and I have bought a box every month and we’ve been well pleased. I would recommend it to anyone.”

The young adult Sunday school class oversees the church’s participation.

“It’s really been a good experience for our church and has helped us meet some needs of our community and meet some people in our community we wouldn’t otherwise have met. It’s been a win-win situation,” Timmerman said.

Besides being able to help people in the community buy food at a more affordable price, AFM sends $1 back to the host site for every box ordered. The dollar is specifically to be used by the host site in its benevolent fund, said Doug Metcalf, AFM’s director of media and communications.

“This is an excellent way to help any community throughout the United States, an excellent way to reach people in your community,” he said.

“For every box that gets sold through a host site, which has to be a non-profit, we put $1 back into the benevolent fund of that host site. What that does is help these host sites continue to help people in their community,” Metcalf said, adding that most churches have a fund that helps people with needs such as electric bills.

“By us putting a dollar back in it allows the host site to help these people further,” he said.

Timmerman agrees.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing and it really creates a real partnership between the church and Angel Foods. I think it’s just a neat arrangement. When they first told me about it I thought, ‘Wow. I’ve never heard of anything like that,’” he said. “I’ve been really sold on the program.”

Chanda Harbeson, the church’s coordinator for the program, said information about the program in McDuffie County has spread by word of mouth. She has also received permission from the local school to contact parents by sending information home with the students.

There is also information left at The Good Samaritan House, a health clinic in Dearing that the church helps support, as well as other places, Harbeson said.

The church accepts cash or food stamps as payment. Currently, the church has a telephone number they call and give information to so the food stamps can be processed.

“I have been impressed with the amount of food,” she said.

In September, about 37 people participated in this program with Dearing Baptist Church, Harbeson said. In October, the number was about 20.

One customer said October was her second time ordered food from AFM and said the food was good quality.

Another customer said October was his first time. He heard about the program from his children’s school. He said his aunt in Ohio has mentioned the program was available there.

“We have a procurement department that searches high and low for a menu with the best quality ingredients in it,” AFM’s Metcalf said.

“Some of our vendors are ConAgra, Tyson Foods, Perdue Chicken, Prime Cut Meats and Seafood, Birdseye and General Mills,” he said. AFM has host sites in 37 states plus the District of Columbia, he said.

In September, AFM sent out 575,000 boxes of food, feeding about 315,000 families, he said.

“Which roughly works out to 2.5 million, if you base it on a family of four,” he said.

Until about four months ago, AFM shipped everything out of Georgia, Metcalf said, adding they now have a warehouse in Texas.

“We’ve divided it up,” he said. “They take a certain segment of the population and then we do, too. They’re not as big a distribution as we are here. Less than a quarter of our sites are distributed through our Texas warehouse. A fifth of our orders go out of that warehouse.”

Metcalf said AFM has more than 200 employees. For distribution across the nation, he said they have the help of more than 40,000 volunteers.

Timmerman said it’s his hope that more churches in the area join AFM in its mission to help people buy quality food at a more affordable price.

“I’ve had people in the community ask me if the food’s good and I say yes,” he said. “You don’t have to be a large church to do this. Any size church can do this.”

Antioch Christian Church, whose first distribution will be in November, will take cash or money orders.




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