DNR rescues couple lost on Ogeechee
By Faye Ellison
A Johnson County couple found themselves stuck on the Ogeechee River after planning an outing they thought would only take a few hours April 11.
“About 9 p.m., we got a call from a family that said a couple had put on at the boat ramp on Highway 88, and intended to canoe down to Louisville to Highway 24 by lunchtime,” Department of Natural Resources Ranger Brian Adams explained. “It looks like good water at Highway 88 and 24, but in between it turns into flats. It is so flat, that there is no river channel and it is basically a mile wide swamp.”
Adams said that by dark, the couple, Charles Allen and Beth Spratt, had texted their family and called when they had cellular phone service saying they were lost, having no idea of where they were located, and wet, because they had flipped their boat a couple of times.
The Department of Natural Resources, along with help from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office began the search for Allen and Spratt by putting a little boat in the water at Highway 24, but were not able to go far.
“We then went to a private boat ramp about three to four miles down from Highway 24,” Adams said.
All rescue attempts were cut short because of the flats and dark. Georgia Aviation Pilot Tony White was called to locate them. Adams said the helicopter came from Albany and arrived at 1:30 a.m., by 2 a.m. the couple was found.
“It still took over two hours to get to them,” Adams explained. “We had to park the trucks and wade and wade through the swamp. We finally got them over a river channel and had to drag them in by canoe until we got them to dry enough land so they could walk back.”
Allen and Spratt were finally reunited with their families at around 4:35 a.m. on Monday. The couple had actually only made it about four miles from Highway 88. The length of the actual trip would have been about 15 miles from Highway 88 to Highway 24.
“They just thought it would be cool to go canoeing,” Adams said. “Do a little more homework before canoeing, check with someone who has done it. Just because there is good water at the boat ramp, does not mean it will be good in the middle. It was so flat it is just flooded wood and swamp.”
Assisting Ranger Adams, were DNR Rangers Grant Matherly, Jeff Billips and Sgt. Max Boswell.
By Faye Ellison
“Dad, are you going to leave me?”
How do you answer this question while looking into the eyes of your scared six-year-old son?
“Dad is going to be here for you,” cancer patient and survivor Larry Hunt said he told his son, Carson.
Larry faced questions like this many times after doctors discovered that he had prostate cancer in August of last year. But survival was never a question for him. At only 40 years old, Larry said he has too much to live for, like his wife, Latisha, 12-year-old son, Dontavis, and Carson, to let “The Big C” cut his life short.
Larry is a strong, God fearing man, who thanks his Savior every chance he gets for his life. He worries more about others often than himself. He pushes himself each day to better his community and churches.
The next step
He works at Thiele Kaolin and has to undergo routine health checks.
“I was actually doing fine, and was never sick much,” Larry said. “Many men ignore their health.”
His strength was put to the test in August of last year, when everything seemed to come crumbling down.
“There were no detections of it,” Larry said of his cancer. “I had started to change my diet and was working out and all of a sudden I had a heart complication. Here I was trying to avoid this happening and it did. But I try to endure and go on.”
Larry was being checked at University Hospital in Augusta for heart complications, when doctors realized he had not had his first prostate check yet.
“When men turn 40 we start having to check our prostate,” he said. “I was actually scheduled for a prostate check a little later in August. By having the incident with the heart attack, the (nurse) said, ‘You know you need to get a prostate check.’”
Larry said since the blood work was already being drawn, he said, “why not?”
The PSA levels that detect cancer were far beyond normal, which is around a 4. Larry’s PSA level was 10.7.
“Actually I was surprised,” he remembered. “I was hit with the news, you know, it really, really surprised me. I go from not being sick much, and all this happened in the same month, almost at the same time, it was like, ‘whoa.’ But I try to always stay positive.”
Larry somehow found the words to tell his family.
“When I had to tell my wife, at first I didn’t know how to tell her,” Larry sighed. “She broke down, and I told her, ‘Baby it’s going to be all right. We have faith in God and we will continue to trust in Him.’”
Since the news of his cancer and even before in his everyday life, Larry has let his faith in God, his family, friends, community and churches nurture him and he carries it with him every step of his frightening journey.
Larry did not have surgery, for what doctors said is one of the worst cases of prostate cancer they had ever seen in a 40-year-old, but he is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. He began chemotherapy in December of last year and will continue to do so through injections every four months for the next two years.
Road to recovery
He is currently undergoing radiation, every day of the week, Monday through Friday, until he completes his 44 sessions. He said Thursday, he only had 13 left.
“The treatment is going well,” Larry said. “I have not been fatigued and the doctors have been so surprised because I have not had any side affects. He’s been saying it’s a miracle and I say, ‘The God I serve said he will never leave you or forsake you.’ It’s been a spiritual healing.”
Since beginning his treatments, his PSA level is now down to a 4 and the last check on his prostate showed it had gone from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a quarter.
“Actually the chemo is working,” Larry remarked. “I have been praying and fasting and trusting in God for healing, and God has been working in my favor. It has truly been a blessing.”
When all of this began, Larry was no stranger to cancer. His grandfather also had prostate cancer and he watched both his grandmother and mother fight the disease. Having shared their individual fights, he knows that if his had gone undetected other cells would have became cancerous and spread over his body.
“I haven’t lost any weight or hair,” he laughed. “I just feel great and feel better than I have in 20 years. I continue to trust in the doctors and God and actually feel healed by going through this.”
Larry has been out of work since February, saying he has been blessed with a supportive work family. Larry now has a little more time for himself and believes God helped him find that.
“I was always more focused on doing for others and forgetting about me. Sometimes God can grab your attention and let you know you are important too,” he confirmed. “Your existence is very important. I learn everyday, to always think positive and help anyone when I can lend a helping hand.
“It has made me slow down and think God put you here, take your time and seek out your purpose and be obedient. This is my time to take for myself and live and enjoy life.”
But he has not slowed down one bit. The morning spent receiving radiation is only a minor setback in his day. He continues to be supportive of his community, schools and churches, through a youth ministry with a total of 38 children involved.
“Everybody knows me in the Jefferson County community, they help with my ministry also. It is a blessing to be working outside of the county and still have support,” Larry said of his two youth groups in Thomson and Millen through House of Fire Ministries. “I do this every Saturday. I am living just to make a difference in someone else’s life. That is my joy, that is where my energy comes from.
“I always stayed focused on pleasing others and making a difference in others’ lives. I do pray and have faith and I am trying to maintain in knowing that I have a lot to live for, so many in the churches and community have supported me. I have even tried to talk to people who have or have had cancer.”
Though Larry has attended the Relay for Life in Wrens for years, he never thought he would be behind the Survivor banner, carrying hope and miracles for cancer patients and survivors everywhere.
Though his journey with cancer is far from over, the people he has helped and continues to surround himself with are his everyday inspiration. His church even posted the results from his last check up to hang for everyone to see that God does work miracles.
“It’s just a blessing to just be alive to feel good and to give love,” he said. “Many of us are getting away from that now, I just want to make a difference. We have a gift to heal ourselves and through truly believing and trusting in Him, all things are possible. I give God all the glory.”
His family and friends are not the only ones who believe in his miraculous testimony, his doctors and nurses do to.
“I have been a miracle,” Larry said. “When I walk in for my treatment they smile and say, ‘Here is Mr. Hunt, our miracle.”
Relay for Life event kicks off in Wrens this weekend
This Friday will note an event 16 years in the making. In Jefferson County, it seems that somehow, some way everyone is touched by cancer, whether actually suffering from cancer to being a survivor to being a pillar of support, the fight against cancer is something in which all citizens unite.
Friday, May 7, will mark Jefferson County’s 16th Relay for Life. The theme for the American Cancer Society is “A World with Less Cancer is a World with More Birthdays,” so this year’s theme for Jefferson County’s Relay will be, “Happy Birthday, Sweet 16.”
“Our goal is to celebrate more birthdays,” Relay for Life Survivor Committee Chairman and cancer survivor Cathy Hadden said.
Relay for Life Committee Chairman Vicky McDonald said that the goal for funds to raise at this year’s Relay is set at $85,000. Last year, the Relay brought in $91,697.02 for cancer research, while the goal was set at $100,000.
“With the economy like it is, we decided to lower it a little bit,” McDonald explained.
But things are already looking good with 14 Relay for Life teams this year, which is more than last year.
“Our goal was 15,” McDonald said.
Also McDonald said the Relay for Life hours have been extended from beginning on May 7 at 5:30 p.m. with its first performance, to finishing the Relay at 2 p.m. on May 8, instead of noon as in prior years.
“We are hoping to get more people out and on the track the next day,” she said.
Also new with the closing ceremony, will be Balloons to Heaven, a balloon release. McDonald said there will be white balloons in honor of a survivor or purple balloons in memory of those who lost the fight. Balloons may be purchased from any committee member beginning on Friday at the Relay until noon on Saturday.
The Relay for Life welcome will be held at 6 p.m., followed by the Survivor Walk at 6:15 p.m. Hadden said there are 250 survivors registered so far and other survivors may register at the Relay at the Survivors’ Tent.
This year the banner will be held by Larry Hunt, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 14 year survivor Virginia Garrett, who has always been the Survivor Committee chairman, according to Hadden.
“It is special to honor her after all these years,” Hadden said. “She was always the one behind the scenes doing a lot of work.”
Hadden would like to remind survivors that shirts may be picked up at Lee Woods State Farm in Wrens until Friday, and then at the track before the Survivors’ Lap.
Other events throughout the Relay will include entertainment throughout the day, the Baby Stroller Parade at 7:30 p.m., the crowning of the Relay Princess at 8 p.m., the Luminaria Ceremony at 9 p.m., a scavenger hunt at 11:30 p.m. and the closing ceremony beginning at 1 p.m.
The Relay for Life teams this year are Lynne’s Family and Friends Fight Like a Girl, The Seekers, First State Bank, Kingdom Life, Jefferson County High School, Wrens Middle School Colts Kickin’ for a Cure, Wrens Elementary Schoolhouse Rockers, Louisville Middle School, Queensborough National Bank and Trust, Disciples for Life, Kamin Chalkwalkers, Heritage Caregivers, Run 4 Ur Life and The Believers.
Sponsors this year include Battle Lumber, Barney’s, M.B. Jones/Sprint/Town and Country Gas, Mt. Horeb Baptist Church, Atwell Pecan Co., Inc., First State Bank, Jefferson Energy Cooperative, W.T. Lamb Investments, Inc., Wrens Medical Associates, All Star Concrete, Avera Hardware and Industrial Supply, Inc., City of Wrens, Club Car/Ingersoll-Rand, Lowe’s, Prescott Septic Tank-Pumping, SouthernLINC Wireless, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter and WPEH Radio 92.1 FM.
“There are new teams and I believe there will be a lot of new faces on the track for the survivor walk this year,” McDonald said. “We want everyone that can, to come out to support the Jefferson County Relay.”
Bartow council raises water rates
Bartow City Council voted Monday, April 26, to increase water rates to the city’s customers.
Rates have been the same since July 1, 2008.
Bartow Mayor Hubert Jordan said he received a letter from Georgia Rural Water Association with a recommendation based on a water rate study.
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Jordan made a recommendation to the council that was lower than that suggested by the association, he said.
The mayor told council he had checked with Louisville and Wadley and compared their water rates to Bartow’s.
Residential rates inside the city limits currently are $12.50 for the first 2,000 gallons used in a month. That rate is increasing to $14.
Residential sewer rates inside the city are $18.50. That rate will increase to $20.
The commercial base rate is remaining the same, $60 for the first 50,000 gallons. However the cost per gallon over the base of 50,000 gallons is increasing from 90 cents per 1,000 gallons over the base to $1.06 per 1,000 gallons over the base.
Additionally, residential costs inside the city limits will increase from $1.10 per 1,000 gallons over the base of 2,000 gallons to $1.30.
Residential rates outside the city limits will increase from $18.50 for the first 2,000 gallons to $20.50. The charge for each 1,000 gallons over the base will be $1.80, up 20 cents from $1.60.
Garbage rates will stay the same.
The mayor addressed the reason for the increase by saying, “We’ve got to have more money to operate.” The new rates will go into effect June 1.
A citizen who was present told the council there are businesses that come into the city and pull water from fire hydrants and therefore do not pay the city for using its water.
In other news, a recent food giveaway was held in the city. The event, sponsored by the food pantry in Louisville, resulted in 190 families stopping by and picking up food.
“They had a lot of food,” Councilman Lee Shellman said.
Councilman Billy Neal said after the event the group picked up every bit of trash in the area, even trash that had been there prior to the event.
A citizen asked council when the city would be spraying for mosquitoes.
Jordan said the city didn’t have the money for this.
City manager Susan Scarboro said the cost is about $1,000 for 35 gallons.
Council discussed the possibility of finding grants to help with the cost. The mayor asked Scarboro to check into this.
Keith Scarboro asked if he could work for the town. He said the mayor had said it may appear to be a conflict of interest since his wife is the city manager.
“We aren’t in any position to do anything extra,” the mayor said. “Especially in the water department. We just don’t have the money.”