A report of a missing fiberglass bell led five Floyd County police officers to spend their day off Wednesday clearing the yard of an elderly woman on Billy Pyle Road.
"Every one of them was just precious," said Shirley Patterson, who still wears a cast from a broken hip this summer and is recovering from a recent heart attack.
"I'm used to cleaning up my house and doing things inside," she added. "But I can't do the outside any more."
Lt. Ron Hunton led the platoon of volunteers that included Sgt. Rusty Williams and Officers Brittany Heffelfinger, Dallas Bryant and Craig Stanfield.
Between them, they sawed up and removed a toppled tree covering much of Patterson's side yard, hauled away the brush someone had heaped near the property line and raked all the fallen leaves to the street.
"She didn't really have anyone else to help," Hunton said.
The goodwill gesture was something he'd been thinking about since the weekend, when he was called to Patterson's home about the missing bell. It had been a gift from her daughter three decades ago, from the old Taco Bell restaurant that used to stand on Shorter Avenue.
"I had that bell for 32 years and decorated it every Christmas," Patterson said.
But when she came home from a hospital stay last week, it was gone. Hunton said he poked around the cluttered yard and found it, smashed, under a pile of brush and tree limbs that someone had dumped there.
"I talked with her for a little bit and she was upset, because she thought her yard was an eyesore for her neighbors," he said. "I told her I'd try to find someone to fix this bell."
He kept thinking about her situation, though, and when he told the other officers he wanted to clean up her yard, "they were more than willing to help," he said.
After spending about three hours on the task Wednesday, they also hauled the bell away. Hunton said it won't ever look as good as new, but they're going to do what they can to restore it.
They left behind a far less happy, but no less treasured, holiday display: a painted plywood memorial Patterson made for her dead son, Tony Patterson.
"It's my first Christmas without him, and it won't be the same," she said, smiling brightly as she wiped at a small tear.
Tony Patterson, 55, was killed in June when the ambulance bringing him to Floyd Medical Center from a nursing home in LaFayette crashed into a tree off of Martha Berry Highway.
It's been a rough year for Shirley Patterson, but the kindness of five Floyd County officers shines for her like a star.
"I couldn't believe someone would do that for me," she said. "I've never asked anyone for anything, but God answered my prayer."
Rome will be one of three Georgia Department of Driver Services locations in North Georgia which will offer commercial vehicle road tests through a partnership with Floyd County.
This week the Rome location at 3390 Martha Berry Highway joins 10 other DDS service centers throughout the state which now offer the test.
"DDS understands that many of our customers rely on CDL licenses for their livelihood, and it is a vital component of Georgia's commerce," said DDS Commissioner Spencer R. Moore. "We remain customer service focused and are grateful for the help and support that we have received from Floyd County."
"The new testing site here in Floyd County will benefit our residents as well as our commercial businesses that depend on CDL drivers," said Floyd County Manager Jamie Mc- Cord.
Georgia licenses over 340,000 commercial vehicle drivers annually who play a critical role in the economy.
Job opportunities for CDL holders are on the rise, a press release stated. Adding more testing locations, expanding CDL online services and developing a DDS Mobile Services App, DDS 2 Go, are ways the agency continues to meet the increase in demand, the press release stated.
The agency has already begun booking CDL road test appointments. There are also 17 third party CDL testing sites that are state certified for testing along with the DDS locations.
Read this story online for a link to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
The Greater Rome Board of Realtors honored its outgoing president Melody Harrison as Realtor of the Year on Wednesday.
The board also used their annual holiday luncheon to present a check for more than $11,400 to Jim and Bonnie Moore of the local National Alliance on Mental Illness, the organization's community service project for the year.
John Ryan, Georgia Multiple Listing Service membership and marketing director, was also in the giving frame of mind, presenting the Rome realtors group with a check for $4,000.
Harrison said the money would be used both for general budget support and whatever 2018 community service project they decide to fund.
Several annual awards were handed out during the luncheon at the Coosa Country Club.
Steve Graves was honored as the organization's Humanitarian of the Year for his contributions to the community during the past year. President Della Gore said Graves served on the Citizens SPLOST committee, which put together the package approved by voters in November.
Jimmy Byars, CEO/broker at Hardy Realty, was honored by his selection to the local Greater Rome Board of Realtors Hall of Fame. Byars has been a licensed realtor since 1994.
Ruth Terry was honored by Harrison with the President's Award for her many years of service to the local group.
Lynn Dempsey returned to Rome Wednesday to install the group's leadership for 2018 including President Kevin Ayers, President-elect Soraya Collins and Treasurer David Tillery, as well as board members Bill Temple, Derinda Stephens and Della Gore.
It's beginning to feel, if not look, like Christmas. Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing this weekend, and there's a slim chance of a snow flurry if you're planning to drive up into higher elevations across the North Georgia Mountains.
Captain Jason Smith at The Salvation Army on East First Avenue said he's already seen an increase in people coming into the shelter to spend the night. The shelter has 20 beds for men and 4 designated for women. "We haven't had to pull out the cots yet," Smith said. "We are prepared to do that. We don't want anybody out in the cold."
Floyd County Extension Director Keith Mickler said Floyd County has already seen the temperature dip below freezing on five occasions, including mornings during the last week of November.
The Salvation Army does not provide day shelter services, so people who check into the shelter by 11 p.m. each night generally leave for the day after getting breakfast. Smith explained the shelter is open to anyone other than individuals who may have been previously banned from the facility.
Devon Smyth, director of the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter, said she is also capable of adding cots to the existing 16 bed inventory, which she explained stays pretty full. One thing that Smyth and the Davies Shelter do a little differently during periods of extreme cold is that they don't close during the day. "We don't want them out in the cold with nowhere to go," Smyth said.
Normally, Davies Shelter residents leave after breakfast to do job searches, get treatment or otherwise take action to try to improve their own lives. Homeowners should take steps to protect their newer plants.
"People can put out bed sheets to protect fall plantings." Mickler said. He also suggested that people put a five-gallon bucket over tender plants, or turn a wheel barrow upside down over them. "But you've got to remember to uncover them the next day," Mickler warns. He does not encourage people to use plastic because if it is left on the plants during the day, the sun searing through the plastic could burn the tender foliage.
As for pets, local veterinarians encourage people to bring their dogs and cats in when the temperature drops below freezing and remind pet owners to make sure water for their animals is refreshed frequently and not frozen over.
Today's artwork is by Rome Middle School eighth-grader Bridgette Guardado.