Cool, breezy weather greeted dozens of Rome residents who gathered outside the Rome City Auditorium Friday for a symbolic walk.
The annual walk to raise awareness of sexual assault was renamed this year. "The Walk to Reframe the Shame" was the new name, with event organizers emphasizing the effort to end the culture of victim shaming in cases of sexual assault.
The event is hosted by the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. Organizers and participants wore T-shirts that read "Reframe the Shame" on the back and "End Victim Blaming" on the front. While participants registered and milled about before the actual walk, many took photos with cardboard frames that said "reframe the shame" and "reframe the blame."
"The walk is important because it brings awareness to the community, supporting survivors and lets people know that it's real and does happen in our county," said Kim Davis, director of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.
The center provides resources, an emergency hotline and medical exams as well as victim advocates and counselors to assist women who are victims of sexual assault.
"There are people here who are struggling with sexual assault and truly need help," Davis said.
The center serves Bartow, Chattooga, Floyd, Gordon and Polk counties. They work to not only assist sexual assault survivors through crisis and intervention services, but also seek to inform the community about the nature of sexual assault.
"You don't get a concept of the amount of education they bring to the community," SAC board member Chase Watterson said.
The center has a full-time staff, Watterson said, to educate people about appropriate behaviors and healthy relationships. Kids who spend much of their time on the internet these days aren't socialized in many ways, he said, and have to unlearn inappropriate behaviors they see online.
They rely on grant and donation to fund their programs and services and recently announced this year's lineup for the 2019 Rome Celebrity Dance Challenge. The event is their largest fundraiser and will take place in August.
For more information or to contribute to the SAC, visit www.sacnwga.org or call 706-292-9024.
The drivers weren't really going that fast, in fact some of the Rome High School students didn't even have to activate their brakes after they crossed the finish line on Wolf Drive Friday morning during the school's first ever Soap Box Derby.
The derby was the final product of students from the school's Career, Technical and Agricultural Education pathways who have been working for several months to design and produce the race.
Tracey Warren, a teacher in the construction pathway, said the new program combined all of the lessons taught to students over the school year for one final end of the year project that staff hopes can be an annual event. It was an experiment for everyone, he said.
During the first semester students learned shop and tool safety. During the second semester students were broken up into teams and had to design their soap box without any internet help. Associate Principal Misty Tucker said in the trial runs students drove with weights and studied the physics of the course. The project has helped the students learn to work in a competitive environment and also how to work together as a team, Warren said.
Each team had a rotating driver along with a pit crew who serviced the car in between each heat. Students tightened wheels and adjusted brakes to ensure their car performed like it was supposed to during the next heat. After the pit stop drivers and crew towed the car to the top of the hill where two at a time drivers raced down Wolf Drive towards RHS.
Principal Eric Holland manned a car during one of the heats and crossed the finish line while students chanted his name right before he spun out his soapbox car.
Holland was unharmed but broke a wheel during his unintentional burnout at the finish line.
"We only broke two cars today," Warren said to students after their lunch break. "I can live with that, the main goal is to have a good time."
"This is the best thing the school has ever done," senior Taylor Shaw, a pit crew member said. "Glad I was still here for it."
Holly Amerman, CTAE director, said the event encompassed more than just engineering and construction pathways, it also included several other CTAE pathways as well. Health care students manned a first aid tent in case of injury, public safety students kept onlookers off the track and audio-video, technology and film students handled recording as well as photography.
The graphic design program actually designed the cars, Amerman said, and consulted with the racing teams to determine what the final car would look like. The students brought color wheels and let the teams choose a theme, then created the vinyl wrap for the cars.
Mary Saunders, who worked on the "Purple Rain," said her team had to scrap a few design ideas before they arrived at the final product. The other guys wanted to include a lion, a galaxy theme and money she said. The final product scrapped the money aspect and featured a purple lion flying through space. Saunders said she is happy with the outcome, it is really special and different.
Saunders also said she has enjoyed the entire process and it really displays everything there is to do at Rome High School. One of her favorite elements was students of different ages and backgrounds hanging out and talking about the derby.
"I don't even know some of these kids," she said. "People think Rome High is a bad school and nothing good happens here, but they are wrong."
Students and staff took notes during the derby so to improve on the event next year. Warren said physics students would be studying the event and making notes on what can be improved.
The winning car from Friday's derby will be on display in the Rome High School front office.
Funeral services are slated for 11 a.m. Saturday at Lovejoy Baptist Church for Evon Billups, 69, the first African-American woman to lead a department in Floyd County government. She died on April 14 after a brief illness. Billups retired in 2015 after 31 years with the elections office, much of that time as the elections supervisor.
Esther Vaughn served as chairwoman of the Board of Elections and Registration for many years, working alongside fellow board members Donna Bojo and John Ware with Billups. Vaughn said Billups knew elections.
"She knew the ins and outs and if she had a question, she knew where to go to find the answer," Vaughn said.
City Clerk Joe Smith said Billups handled all of the city elections for many years and was always easy to work with.
"You always knew where you stood with Evon," said former Board of Elections and Registration Chairman Steve Miller. "She was well versed in elections and she was very dedicated to Floyd County. She was a real people person and served our community well for many years."
Vaughn said that what may have set Billups apart from so many government officials was her ability to use common sense.
"She was a master at that," Vaughn said.
On election nights over the years, Billups made sure there was plenty of food at the courthouse for all of the volunteers.
"Most people don't know that she cooked a lot of that herself or paid for it out of her own pocket," Vaughn said.
Vanessa Waddell, an elections clerk who worked under Billups for close to 20 years, said she would give you the last dime in her pocketbook if you needed it.
"She was just a good person, she loved the Lord," Waddell said.
Lovejoy Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. Carey Ingram, said that in addition to supervising the kitchen staff at the church, Billups served as CFO of Lovejoy Community Services, was involved working with the church ushers and served as a liaison between the church and participation with church conventions.
"She made a difference at Lovejoy and will truly be missed," Ingram said.
Her pastor said she loved to use a lot of unique ingredients in her meals "but the most important ingredient was her love."
After retiring from the county, Billups served for close to a year as a teacher's aide at the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority's House of the Children Academy.
"The kids loved her and she loved those kids," said Sandra Hudson, a longtime friend and executive director of the housing authority. "She thought it was going to be temporary but she stayed on until she had to give it up because of her health."
Today's artwork is by Bree Pearce, a first-grader at Unity Christian School.
Chick-fil-A plans to open its first company-owned distribution center in Cartersville in the summer of 2020.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced the company's construction plans on Thursday. The center is expected to create 300 jobs.
"Today is an exciting day as we announce that Chick-fil-A — one of our state's most successful companies and a hometown favorite — will create 300 brand-new jobs for hardworking Georgians in Bartow County," said Kemp. "To be able to say that Georgia is now home to Chick-fil-A's first ever company-owned distribution facility is a big win for us and highlights our world-class logistics infrastructure. I am thrilled that Chick-fil-A will also take advantage of our Quick Start program to provide workforce training for new hires."
The distribution center will open initially as a pilot facility in the summer of 2019, serving as a learning lab while the full-scale permanent facility is being built. At a nearby site, the new, full-scale distribution center will open in the summer of 2020, with the capacity to serve up to 300 restaurants.
"We are thrilled to be opening our first distribution center right here in Georgia," said Paul Trotti, executive director on the distribution project. "This investment will allow us to continue to innovate around Chick-fil-A restaurants' unique needs so that we can better serve restaurant operators and team members, and ultimately our guests."
There are more than 18,000 Chick-fil-A team members who currently serve customers in restaurants across the state. The new positions at the full-scale facility in Bartow County will include drivers, warehouse team members, leadership team members and administrative staff.
"On behalf of Cartersville and Bartow County, it is truly our pleasure to extend the many advantages that this community has to the success of this 'first of its kind' milestone with Chick-fil-A," said Bartow County Sole Commissioner Steve Taylor.
"We believe that collaboration is key to mutual success and are excited to be part of this partnership between Cartersville-Bartow County, Chick-fil-A and the State of Georgia."