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Public invited to see new school
Graysville Elementary School will hold dedication, tours of new wing on Jan. 10

Denia Reese

Superintendent Denia Reese and the Catoosa County Board of Education will dedicate Graysville Elementary School to the community on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Changes at the school were aimed at improving instruction space and safety for students.

The old part of the school, which was nearly 70 years old, had pod classrooms that didn't facilitate instruction very well.

That part of the school was removed and a new wing added.

The school also has a new entrance designed with security in mind.

Superintendent Reese said, "The new construction for Graysville Elementary School accomplishes the board's commitment to provide safe and equitable facilities for our students. This project was funded with ESPLOST V pennies.

"We are so grateful for our citizens support for ESPLOST to provide excellent schools for our children, and we will dedicate the new building to the community and provide tours on Jan. 10, 2019."

The dedication ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium, with a reception following. For community members who cannot attend the dedication ceremony, there will be student-led tours of the new building from 6:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Mrs. Reese said, "The GES faculty and students are so proud of their new school, and they are very excited for their families, friends, and the community to visit on Jan. 10."

"The board of education is committed to facility equitability," says Superintendent Denia Reese, "because they understand that parents want the school their child is zoned to attend to be equitable with all the other schools in the county. The new design for Graysville will improve safety and academic achievement while providing facility equitability."


Meet Amy Jackson, new Chamber CEO

Amy Jackson is not new to the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, but she is the new president and CEO of the group that represents 375 businesses in Catoosa County and neighboring parts of Chattanooga.

"I appreciate the support and confidence from the Chamber board in selecting me and the recommendations and support of Catoosa County, Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold city officials, as well as the overwhelming support of Chamber membership on my selection," says Jackson. "This has been a very humbling experience."

Jackson is replacing former Chamber president and CEO Martha Eaker, who retired last year.

We asked Jackson to share a little of her life and experiences with us. Here's what she had to say.

Please share your history with the Chamber.

I became a Chamber ambassador in 1999 when my family and I moved back to the area after living in Savannah and Nashville for 10 years. I served as an ambassador through 2002. I personally experienced how the Chamber can help individuals build business and personal relationships to increase sales and become more involved in the community while I was working as the business sales manager for T-Mobile in Chattanooga.

I started working for the Chamber as membership coordinator in April 2016.

How would you describe your responsibilities as Chamber president and CEO?

It is my responsibility to lead the Chamber in efforts to champion business in Catoosa County by carrying out the Program of Work as approved by the Chamber board of directors. I'm thrilled to be working with Denia Reese, Catoosa schools superintendent, who is the Chamber board chair for 2019. I love the Chamber's involvement and partnership with business and education.

What makes you excited about your new position?

The opportunities to make a greater impact on the Catoosa County community. I look forward to working with local non-profits, business owners and leaders and education entities to promote our community in business, workforce and economic development.

Does anything seem daunting about your new position?

Martha Eaker has held the position of Chamber president and CEO for 12 years and has done a great job. I know these are big shoes to fill, but she has been a mentor and has allowed me to participate in decisions throughout my time at the Chamber, especially since I was named president and CEO in August of last year. I look forward to getting the Chamber employee team in place as we continue the vision and mission of the Chamber.

What strengths do you feel you bring to your new position?

Organization, planning, relationship-building, communication and a positive attitude.

Any new ideas you'd like to implement?

I'd like to have a Young Business Professionals group and also an individual membership for retired business people who have years of professional experience to share and who would like to be a part of the Chamber.

Please share your job history.

I was an account marketing representative for IBM in Savannah and in Nashville. I worked as a business sales manager for T-Mobile in Chattanooga. And I've worked as the Colonnade events coordinator and Chamber membership coordinator. I also worked several parttime jobs while raising our two sons.

What are some community things you've been involved in?

I'm a member of Brainerd Hills Baptist Church and a board member for both the North Georgia YMCA and Catoosa County Community Food and Benevolence/Stocking Full of Love. I'm on the steering committee for Catoosa County Schools Partnership and a board member for Catoosa County Schools From HERE to CAREER! College and Career Academy.

Where did you grow up?

I'm the baby of five children. My family moved to Chattanooga (East Brainerd) when I was in third grade. I went to Westview Elementary, Ooltewah Middle and Ooltewah High School. I graduated from UTC with a BS in business management. After graduation, I married my husband Greg and we moved away for 10 years, then we came "home" to Catoosa County to be near our parents and to raise our children.

Please share some about your family.

My husband Greg and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage in May 2019. We have two sons — Eric, 22, who graduated from Berry College in 2018, and Evan, 16, who is a junior and a band member at Heritage High School. My husband and sons are all actors and have been in many musical theatre productions at The Colonnade, the Tivoli and at Heritage High School.

Do you have any pets?

We have two precious dogs that we refer to as "the girls." Lexi is an 8-year-old Yorkie and Joy is a 3-year-old Shih Tzu. We adopted them both from other homes.

Any hobbies?

Watching musical theater stage shows, especially ones my husband and sons are in. I'm a great audience member!

We just enjoyed our first trip to New York City and saw three Broadway shows. We have season passes to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

I love to plan gatherings and game nights with my "theatre moms" group. There are 10 of us who have grown close over 12+ years of our kids doing community theatre.

I like to stay busy and plan memorable experiences close to home.

Most of our outings are local or within two hours of home — Atlanta, Gatlinburg, Knoxville or Nashville.

Favorite movie?

"Gone with the Wind." I first watched it in the theater at age 6 and have probably seen it 15 times in my lifetime. It's a classic.

Favorite food?

Chick-fil-A and Coca Cola.

Favorite person from history?

I've loved Abraham Lincoln from a very young age. I think it's because he held our country together during its darkest days.

Sports fan?

Not really. We are band parents and enjoy a football game for the half-time show.

Favorite quote?

"Don't find fault, find a remedy." — Henry Ford

Someone who has had a deep influence on your life.

My mother, who passed away three years ago. She created memories and always made people feel like they were the most important person in the world at any specific time. I love to create memories for those I love and care about. I used to post pictures on Facebook so my mother could see what the kids were doing and what was going on. My parents always encouraged me to live outside my comfort zone. I'm pretty sure they are enjoying my Chamber journey!

What is an event in your life that has helped define the kind of person you are?

Learning to live on my own while I was in college, which prepared me to live independently while my husband was deployed overseas for Operation Desert Storm.

What are some things people may not know about you?

I'm afraid of frogs. I was once an Army wife. My husband was deployed in a tank company in Iraq for seven months in 1990-1991. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Also, I love business!

In sales and in life, you have to get the "no's" to get the "yeses." Cold calls are a great opportunity to meet others in my community and I enjoy that.


Cabela's: Classes in fishing, shooting, archery, more

Before talking about what Cabela's offers, it would be useful to talk about exactly where the store is. The address is Ringgold – 350 Cobb Parkway, 30736. That's what you use for GPS (if you want to go there) or USPS (if you want to mail them a letter).

But when you walk inside the store, high on a wall, in huge letters, you see "Welcome to Cabela's Fort Oglethorpe." That's because Cabela's is in Fort Oglethorpe.

To make matters more confusing, if you go to the Cabela's main website and wish to click on your local Cabela's, it's listed as the Fort Oglethorpe store — in Ringgold.

The US postal service assigns homes and businesses to whichever local post office it deems preferable. So blame the federal government for the confusion.

Cabela's is in Fort O, but GPS isn't about to defy Uncle Sam, so if you want to find it, try the Ringgold address — you'll get there.

Now that we have that cleared up, there are a few things you might find interesting about Cabela's.

First, according to several employees, it's a great place to work. On a scale of 1-10, Cabela's elf impersonator Sarah Trew rates the store as a 20 as far as employers go. "It's a great atmosphere," says Trew. "And I learn something new every day. It's the best place I've ever worked."

Erica Brewer agrees. "I've been here since April 2018. The management team is great. They do a lot for the employees. If you win Star Performer, they take you out to eat. They feed all the employees each month and do giveaways for us. They really care about us. It's worth making a career here."

Kristen Cordell has been with the store since it opened three years ago. "I started as a seasonal," she says. "I like the discount they give employees and all the activities they have for customers. I also like the deli — a lot of us eat here for lunch."

The activities Cabela's conducts for customers make up a long list. For those who become Club Members, besides discounts and points earned using a Cabela's Mastercard, there are VIP events after-hours in the store, in which members are entertained, fed and offered private shopping opportunities, and there is access to special outdoor events and trips.

For the general public, says Fort Oglethorpe Cabela's events coordinator Lori Gilley, there are classes on gun safety, shooting, hunting, fishing and cooking. There's family camp in the summer with activities for adults and children, including fishing lessons for kids, a bait toss contest and prizes.

"In the fall," says Gilley, "we have Sporting Dog Days where trainers bring out bird dogs and show people how they work with them. In spring or summer, we have Dog Days and invite local groomers and vets, kennels and rescues to come out and share what they do."

Gilley says that in February there's an event called "Crappie Madness" that includes fishing seminars, contests, a fish fry and the chance to win anything from a rod-and-reel to a boat or a fishing trip. There are also events at which local outfitters set up and share tips for camping, fishing and hunting trips and share what they offer.

"We have Legal Heat come in once a month to do conceal and carry classes," says Gilley. "One of our pro-staffers, Amy Ray, president of Sisterhood of the Outdoors and board member for Shoot Like a Girl, teaches shooting especially for women, including beginner pistol classes."

Cabela's offers archery classes for adults and children, and they do meetand-greets with craftsmen/women who come to demonstrate their products, like Chattanoogabased Ryan Johnson who designs, among other things, special tomahawks for the military.

"We're always developing new events," says Gilley, "so it's good to watch the calendar on our web site or follow our Facebook page.

To learn more, visit cabelas.com/stores/Georgia/Ringgold/067.jsp. That's right — it says Ringgold, but on the page, you'll see it says Fort Oglethorpe, but on the map, you'll see it says Ringgold.


Social media and the new year

What did people do before social media? If you're under 30, you may have no idea, but even many people well over that age have a hard time recalling pre-social media socializing.

According to Pew Research (an early 2018 study), 68 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook, 35 percent use Instagram, 27 percent Snapchat and 24 percent Twitter.

The younger you are, the more likely you're attached to social media. Eighty percent of the under-50 crowd uses Facebook. 78 percent of the under-25 crowd uses Snapchat, while only 7 percent of those over 50 use it. While 55 percent of people over the age of 50 use Facebook, says the Pew study, only 16 percent of them use Instagram and 15 percent use Twitter.

Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat users tend to use other social media sources at high rates, while Facebook users more often stick to just one platform. For instance, 91 percent of Instagram users also use Facebook, but only 47 percent of Facebook users use Instagram.

What does all this social media use mean for society? Studies abound and the debate rages.

Maybe the best measure is the annual New Year's Resolution.

Spending less time on social media has become the top item on the lists you see online. Young people seem to sense there's something more to communication and relationships than can be summed up in skyward-pointing thumbs, happy and sad faces, blurbs, pithy sayings and selfies. They feel the self-centeredness, alienation and shallowness of social media. Older people often feel left out and ignored or long for the good old days of sitting around on the front porch chewing the fat with neighbors. The fact that people across the age-range vow to limit their social media use is indication enough of its negative impact on life as it could be lived.

So, a few thoughts from various practitioners of limited social media use...

Put the phone away— completely out of sight — when talking with someone, at mealtime or any other time. To have your phone in your hand as you speak with another person is to say, "I'm just listening to you until something more interesting comes up."

Set one time to check social media each day.

Try something different. One local couple went on vacation and found a board game called Imaginiff in the cabin they rented and enjoyed a hysterical evening of choosing answers to questions like "Imagine if (choose the name of someone you know) accidentally emitted an unpleasant anti-social noise at a dinner party. What would he/she do? 1) Say nothing and blush brightly, 2) Apologize, 3) Laugh and repeat the offense, 4) Blame the person in the next chair, 5) Try to reproduce the sound by shifting in his/her seat, 6) Carry on as if nothing happened.

Practice starting real conversations by planning a "Question of the Day" — a question you ask people as you encounter them throughout the day. Examples include: Have you ever been to a foreign country, what's the most interesting job you've ever had, do you have any pets, have you ever met a celebrity, do you think you're a brave person?

Pursue a new interest— a hobby or something you'd like to learn or volunteer somewhere. As the popular saying online goes: Do something so fascinating you'll forget about your phone.

The statistics and studies are interesting, but the ultimate indicator that social media is a problem is our own concerns about how much of our lives it eats up and what we could be doing with that precious time instead.