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Living Proof seeks volunteers
• The nonprofit Recovery Community Organization is holding an open house May 1.

The nonprofit Living Proof Recovery Center serves more than 1,100 people a month – and about 200 are under the age of 12.

That includes children of addicts in recovery and teens who may be seeking recovery themselves. Administrators said Monday they have just 40 volunteers to assist in the seven-days-a-week operation.

"We are three years into our program and as we have grown by leaps and bounds, so have our needs," said Tracy Harrison, LPRC development coordinator.

That's why they're hosting a volunteer open house on May 1, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the converted home at 408 Shorter Ave. Harrison said attendees will get an overview of what it would be like to help out.

Living Proof, funded through government grants and community support, is one of the few Recovery Community Organizations in the state of Georgia. Its free programs run the gamut from recovery and family support meetings, employment services and tutoring to legal help, health and wellness, childcare, training and recreation.

"It's an entire community of support," said program manager Amy Young.

Young and Harrison are working with Betty Schaaf – who dubs herself "the volunteer volunteer-coordinator" – to draw up a manual of procedures and job descriptions. Schaaf said there are nine types of positions to fill.

"We're hoping to get a lot of volunteers from our churches," she said, adding that Bible study programs and some of the recovery meetings are centered around ministry. Harrison added that Living Proof supports multiple pathways to recovery.

"Not everyone gets well the same way," Young noted.

The reception desk positions would likely require the biggest commitment, and there's a need for regulars to handle a bistro-like coffee service during the meetings. The office is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. but most of the activities are at night.

Volunteer meeting leaders facilitate the peer recovery sessions, often just once a week. Young said those volunteers are typically recovering addicts with some prior training. LPRC's motto is "The opposite of addiction isn't sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection."

"Volunteers don't necessarily have to be peers, though," Young said. "Some are what we call allies, who support recovery."

Volunteers are also needed for community outreach at health fairs and schools; marketing the programs and sharing success stories; attending jail ministry sessions; picking up items around the community; helping with fundraising efforts and coordinate social events and activities.

The organization's biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual Garden Party, is set for April 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Lawrence Plantation at Horseleg Creek, 127 Winding Road.

"We'll have food, testimonies and a dunk booth where you can dunk the candidates for sheriff," Harrison said, adding that the two men, Dave Roberson and Tom Caldwell, "are huge supporters of Living Proof."

Along with Moe's Original BBQ and live music, the party will also have a Kids Zone of activities. Tickets are $40 for individuals, with discounts for couples and families. Sponsorships also are available.

Visit the office or the website, Harrison said anyone interested in volunteering but can't make the May 1 open house can contact her to be notified of the next session.

Calhoun man crosses The Empty Quarter
• Joe Norman joins international camel caravan in Rub al Khali desert

In mid-February, Calhoun resident Joe Norman was beside his mother at a Rome hospital — a place he had frequently been since she was admitted on Dec. 11 — when he got the call. The person on the other line was extending the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to join a camel caravan crossing the Rub al Khali desert in Saudi Arabia. But with his mother's health on his mind, he turned them down.

While Norman was on the phone, his mother was listening. So when she heard him turn down the offer, she looked to him and mouthed out the words, "You need to do this." She could not speak, a hole in her throat prevented as much. But the message from her was clear enough — go.

"I asked her another 20 times to the point I annoyed the hell out of her," he said, still worried about leaving the side of his mother, who had suffered from pulmonary edema, cardiac arrest, pneumonia and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).

Norman called back, and three days later he was on a flight from Atlanta heading for Saudi Arabia.

"I almost didn't go to Saudi Arabia because of her experience," he said. "It was a very whirlwind trip."

A new adventure

Norman — a native of Charlotte — had only recently received word of the Rakayib camel caravan, which was set to become the first international caravan of its kind, at the last minute. A friend of his had shared the link to the application web page with him, thinking it would do him good. His friend had hiked the Pacific Crest Trial with a Saudi Arabian man who had talked about the trek across The Empty Quarter, as it's known. So he applied, but did not think he would be selected.

Between Norman and his friend, he was the one chosen. And two days after being accepted, he received a short email, requesting a copy of his passport and a photo of him. He found himself wondering if this trip was even real, with the email not displaying the formal language of an invite to a trip of this size. A few quick internet searches led him to conclusion that it very much was real, and he suddenly had to find money for a flight to the Middle East.

With half his ticket paid for by the Camel Club of Saudi Arabia, which is overseen by the king and prince and was organizing the caravan, Norman found him once again flying over Europe, specifically the Balkans, which he had just recently called home.

"It was really cool because when I was flying there we flew over the Balkans, where I was living for the last year abroad. It was cool to flyover where your last adventure was and ... know you're starting a whole new adventure," he said.

Even though Norman had found himself in Muslim countries before — Bosnia, Morocco and Albania — he was still nervous about the unfamiliarity of Saudi Arabia.

"Going to the middle east is something I think a lot of people have a misconception about," he said. "You start thinking the worst aspects of it all."

But soon after being picked up from the airport in the country's capital Riyadh, Norman saw something absolutely American — fast food, lots of it. Driving through the city he saw Chuck E. Cheese's, Cheesecake Factory and Church's Chicken, which actually goes by the name Texas Chicken in Saudi Arabia. It seemed this country knew much more about America than he originally believed, particularly many of the locals he met on the trip had at one time been students in the United States.

After two days in Riyadh, ensuring he had the supplies needed, Norman flew to the town of Wadi ad-Dawasir. From there, he went 15 hours by bus to reach the start of the journey, 20 miles north of the border with Yemen (it was north of any combat zone in the ongoing war between the two nations). And it was there, "in the middle of nowhere," where Norman began to realize what he had committed to was actually happening.

"That's when it actually felt like this a legit thing," he said of looking out into the expanse of the desert and seeing a large tent camp set up. "It made you feel very small and very humbled."

Finding a camel

There in the camp with Norman were 19 other international participants — from places like Mexico, Russia, Croatia, Germany, New Zealand and Australia — as well as 57 participants from the Saudi Arabian Peninsula. More than two dozen more people made up the support team.

The Bedouin, the camel herders who reside in the desert, were fascinated with foreigners, Norman said, since tourism to the country is virtually nonexistent. He shared a meal with them and the other, eating sheep and rice with his right hand — the left hand in never used for eating since it is the hand used to clean oneself.

On his first morning, Norman awoke to see more than 100 camels off in the distance. This first day was laid back, other than having to select a camel for the journey. He walked the lines of the camels, eventually coming upon an elderly-looking fella. He saddled it up and took it around the valley, seeming to find his match.

On his second ride on the camel, two of the locals had approached him to tell him the camel he'd chosen had a bad attitude. Norman brushed their words off, believing he had made the right choice. However, the next day when he went out, he could not find it.

After talking with the Sudanese men who cared for the camels, Norman was able to find the camel he'd chosen, in the hands of the two men who warned of him of it the day before.

"They wanted the camel so they were trying to do a little trick on me," he laughed.

Following a talk with the organizers, the camel found its way back to Norman, something it seemed to be grateful for. However, this little bonding moment did not last long.

"The bonding moment lasted for two days and then after that it became a grumpy and ornery camel," Norman said.

The journey

After two days in camp, the caravan started out on the 375-mile journey, leaving in the morning before the sun reached its burning peak. Over the initial days, the caravan traveled for 15 to 20 miles each day, moving up to 25 miles in the later stages. For three to five days, they would ride, followed by a day of rest. On rest days, Norman would catch up on sleep, wash clothes, eat, journal and play chess, he said.

In the early stage of the trip, the group ran into trouble — a water shortage. It seemed in calculating the water supply, organizers had failed to account for the water used in preparing the MREs, the ready-to-eat meals rationed for the group. Desperation set in, people positioned to take other's water and some drank camel water, "which came from wells and could irritate people's stomachs." However, the situation was corrected, and the caravan moved on.

One of the biggest challenges of the journey was learning how to ride a camel up and down the endless dunes of sand, said Norman, who had some experience in riding camels in Morocco. His experience with horses — he works at Iron Gate Horse Sanctuary in Waleska — helped in the process.

"I loved it," he said of learning to ride the camels, some of which were retired race camels. "It was definitely a good challenge."

A support crew followed the caravan, providing generators to aid the media members reporting on the historic journey while also providing charging capabilities for participants' cellphones. At times, he was not a fan of the support crew, as watching vehicles drive across the natural landscape seemed to disturb the serenity of the trek. But he understood its purpose, as the group was taken through a foreign and hostile environment, he said.

For much of the journey, all to see is the sand and the sun, Norman said. Though at one point, the caravan came upon a well of sulfur water, essentially a contraption of pipes sticking out of the desert floor. It was like a hot spring shower, he explained, refreshing after a day of riding.

During the day, temperatures reached above 100 degrees, but at night the temperature would drop and the air carried a chill, Norman explained. The temperature would also drop during sandstorms, which clouded the sky with sand. He explained the occurrence to being outside during a cloudy day, when you know the sun is there but you can't see it. The visibility is limited and the line of sight is enclosed, he added.

At night, when out looking at the stars, Norman said the horizon is clouded due to the sand in the air, unlike big sky country in the west, where stars can be seen from the horizon to the Milky Way.

School board votes on policies, staff, supplements
• Floyd County Schools looking to put money back into savings

Some internal restructuring, policy updates and general information were the main topics covered in the Floyd County Schools caucus and board of education meeting Monday night hosted by Model High School.

The board unanimously voted on a number of personnel changes which included appointing current Model Elementary Assistant Principal Kyle Abernathy as principal of Cave Spring Elementary School and Jeff Hunnicutt as a teacher and Model High School's head football coach. There were also two assistant principals who transferred schools. Patrick Hooper will transfer from Coosa Middle to Model Elementary and Michael House will transfer Pepperell Middle to Pepperell High.

There were 14 positions filled, 13 transfers, three retirements, one termination and 23 resignations. Superintendent Jeff Wilson told the board 17 teaching positions along with five others will not be filled giving the system $1.1 million to go into savings.

"That's kind of a one time thing," he said. He reassured the board that no one lost the job over this decision, these cuts are coming from empty positions. Wilson added he wants to have the $1.1 million on hand in case of an emergency.

The board also approved coaching supplements where the system adjusted the supplements teachers get for coaching and added bonuses if those coaches make state playoffs or win championships. Wilson said these changes needed to be made or the system risks losing good coaches to systems who could offer them more. He added that band programs and any programs that can send students to state championships will be looked at for these bonuses as well.

Floyd County Schools set a date for an evacuation drill that will take place on Wednesday, May 15 at Pepperell High School. There will be actual evacuations, police and ambulances however Wilson wants to alert the public earlier so there is no panic the day of.

Wilson also went over the boards policy of non-resident and district transfers stating that there had been some questions regarding how the system handles those students. Glen White the director of student services said the school system does not require a fee from students who commute from out of district like other systems in the area.

The board were presented rough draft blueprints of Pepperell Middle School but did not yet vote to confirm the plans. The board conducted a first reading of the facility use policy and a second reading of Competitive Interscholastic Activities policy. The board also re-approved an annual contract with Floyd Healthcare Management, Inc. to provide nurses to the school system.

The board will take a planning day instead of a retreat on May 4 at the system's central office. Wilson said no items would be voted on and the board will stay local to save money.

Former probation officer pleads guilty to sex crime
• Judge sentences former Rome officer to 15 years, six to be served in prison.

Anyoel Cordovi

"Mr. Cordovi, one of the worst things we can do is to abuse our position," Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham told the former probation officer, Anyoel Cordovi, during sentencing Monday afternoon.

Durham sentenced Cordovi, 31, of Calhoun, to 15 years, 6 to be served in prison.

He pleaded guilty to felony charges that he had sexual relations with a probationer he was supervising in Rome and exchanging nude photos with another.

When he is released from prison he will be required to register as a sex offender and cannot have contact with any minors under the age of 18 other than his children and step-children.

According to Assistant Floyd County District Attorney Natalee Staats, Cordovi potentially called the probationer he exchanged photos with to warn her of a drug test according to phone records.

His attorney Chris Twyman petitioned the court to give Cordovi a lighter sentence, saying his client has accepted responsibility for his actions even though it does not excuse his conduct. Cordovi has "never been in trouble," Twyman said.

Cordovi's conduct had been an issue since April of 2015, when his supervisor was informed of him exchanging nude photos with a probationer, Staats told the court. The department allowed Cordovi to resign in lieu of an investigation.

"(They) did literally nothing," Staats said.

About a year later a second victim told guards at the Floyd County Jail about sexual misconduct regarding a Floyd County probation officer. After an internal investigation, Cordovi was named by

the victim who said he came over to her house and they engaged in sexual intercourse.

During the interim, Cordovi worked in a juvenile detention center and had been hired as a juvenile probation officer. He was arrested on his first day on the job, Staats said.

Twyman also petitioned for his client to be sentenced under the First Offender Act which would have cleared his criminal record after he successfully completed his sentence.

"I don't think it is appropriate in a case like this to do a first offender," Durham said.


Today's artwork is by Zoe Honeycutt, a second-grader at Model Elementary School.