Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Sunday a bill by Rep. Eddie Lumsden aimed at strengthening volunteer fire departments and the communities that rely on them.
House Bill 387 lets volunteer fire departments place liens against non-subscribers who ask for help but later refuse to cover the cost.
Lumsden, R-Armuchee, said about 25% of the fire departments in Georgia are volunteer. Many are nonprofits offering subscription services where no other protection is available.
"A (Georgia State) Firefighters Association representative contacted me about carrying it since I have a public safety background," the retired Georgia State Patrol trooper said Sunday.
"It came out of an issue common to many volunteer fire departments across the state but also because of a substantial fire in Chatham County," Lumsden added.
Kemp signed the measure, along with a number of other public safety bills, at a ceremony in Savannah. Lumsden said he couldn't attend because he was celebrating with his wife, Teresa Lumsden, the 50th anniversary of their first date.
Two other bills Lumsden was involved with were enacted with a stroke of the governor's pen Friday in Chickamauga. A GSP helicopter brought Kemp to Gordon Lee High School and dropped him off on the football field.
The featured bill at the signing ceremony was SB 77, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, which provides added protection for monuments within the state.
While efforts to remove Confederate statues sparked calls for the legislation, Kemp cited the monument of Martin Luther King Jr., and praised King's legacy of peace.
"It's true we have monuments that do not reflect our values," Kemp said. But, he said, those monuments are also part of our history and we can learn from them. During the same ceremony, Kemp signed
Lumsden's HB 33, which extends the gun permit renewal period for active duty military personnel who are stationed out of the country.
Also, Lumsden was the House sponsor of a bill by Mullis that lets people prepay their local property taxes if their county adopts a resolution authorizing the early payments.
SB 77 also allows county tax commissioners to auction properties with delinquent taxes in their offices or places other than the courthouse steps.
Catoosa County News staff writer Tamara Wolk contributed to this report.
An open house at McHenry Primary drew generations of former students, faculty and staff Sunday for a final look at the 123-year-old school slated to close for good at the end of the term.
Myra Smith used a walker to navigate the halls where her late husband, Charles Smith, once went to high school. She said she also wanted to see Tony Pope. The former school librarian was displaying thousands of documents, pictures and other items he's collected from McHenry's past.
"We want to hear about the book he's writing, because he's so good at history," Smith said.
Damon Langham, who attended McHenry from Pre-K through third grade, came with his wife and young children with an eye to traversing the Ocean Hall one last time. Teachers Sherrie Hughes and Mary Clark painted undersea scenes on the breezeway connecting the old and new buildings in 1995.
Langham's aunt Stacy Davis said many of their family members are alumni. He and her daughter, Erica Davis, were in the same class.
"His mom and I were pregnant together. They're six weeks apart," Davis said. "They graduated in 2013 but it doesn't seem like it's been that long. There are lots of memories here. Good memories."
Over in the Ocean Hall, Clarke and Hughes were posing for photos with
friends and former students when they noticed Hughes' signature on the wall had faded. Clarke went to find a Sharpie to touch it up.
"I hope the Pepperell kids enjoy this," Hughes said as she scrawled her name anew.
Pepperell Middle students will be temporarily housed in the facility while their new school is being built.
McHenry Principal Brig Larry presided over the cake and punch tables in the media center festooned with flowers and balloons. She said retired teachers and staff were joining their former students to reconnect and reminisce.
"I've seen a lot of tears and a lot of laughing," Larry said about halfway through the two-hour event.
Gina Dubek was doing both in the lunchroom, as she sifted through a box of yellowed ledgers and photo albums chronicling her first-grade class.
"A lot of people aren't here anymore," she said, then brightened as her children returned from looking at memorabilia of their own school days.
"Most of my family went here. We were Nicholsons back then," Dubek added. "My Dad went here, when it was up on the hill, to the eighth grade."
On the other side of the room, Sandi Mendoza was showing her 2-year-old daughter Camila Ramirez slick color snapshots from her class. She said she'd run into a lot of her old schoolmates at the open house, then she looked down at Camila.
"I was hoping she'd have a chance to go here. But, no," Mendoza said with a wistful smile.
Carolyn Cothran didn't fully realize she was providing the most significant written account available today of her community's history until her first books rolled off the press and people began requesting them.
"It was a huge project," she says. "I had no intention of doing any such thing. I never even thought of it."
Cothran unwittingly embarked on the project when her classmates kept bringing her old photos and newspaper articles about the community during the Everett Springs Schools class reunions each year. She credits her good friend, Martha Kemp, with the book idea. Kemp, she says, urged her to compile the accumulating memorabilia.
"It became a big collection," Cothran says. I started collecting that stuff and putting it in there in the book," she says. "It was 2005 when I said, 'OK, we've got to print this.'"
The book went to print that year in time for the annual Everett Springs Schools reunion, and in keeping with the volume's status as a labor of love, Cothran made the decision to sell it at cost. She had no idea how popular it would be.
"I charged what it cost to be printed," she says. "We thought we'd sell about 25 copies. Well, they were gone that day."
She printed 50 more, and they disappeared like hotcakes. She ended up moving a total of about 225 copies. People still ask about purchas-
ing the book, she says, but it's out of print now, owing to the fact that the local printer who had the files has closed up shop.
"A History of Everett Springs Schools: 1877 to 1959" didn't start as a book project. At this point, however, the volume is ubiquitous among members of the Everett Springs community in northern Floyd County. When a newcomer asks a question about community history, longtime residents inevitably whip out the white volume with the plain, black lettering on its cover.
The pages house the history of a rural community that was once a bustling educational center with its own stores and even a hotel and a courthouse. The account centers largely around the schools that formed in the area, beginning in the late 1800s when adult students began attending the Moore Seminary and living on the grounds. Cothran mentions other schools, including the Barton School, and Utopia, which both burned, necessitating the transfer of their students to the Everett Springs Schools. There are photos of seminary and public schools students from the late 1800s on as well as newspaper stories from the days when Everett Springs School was operational. Excerpts from other local history books, letters and school system records provide additional information.
Cothran emphasizes the idea that the education options, though far removed from town, provided a solid start for young people through qualified, devoted instructors.
"Throughout the years, Everett Springs School students were blessed with knowledgeable, dedicated teachers who came from within and without the community," Cothran states in the book. "The boys and girls from the farms of Everett Springs were well equipped with the knowledge the acquired as adults to perform well in various professions."
Cothran herself, who went on to graduate from Armuchee High School after attending the Everett Springs Schools, is an example of such a well-equipped student. She finished up her educational experience with a degree from Shorter University at the age of 44. She had four children by the time she embarked on an a career as a certified public accountant in 1983. In light of her chosen career path, the book project was a departure from her comfort zone.
"I'm used to dealing with facts and figures," she says.
Growing up in Everett Springs
Cothran, now 84, attended the Everett Springs Schools from first through seventh grade. She remembers the interior structure of the long brick building that still stands on Everett Springs Road.
"We had three large school rooms and a lunchroom and an auditorium," she says. "So, we'd have more than one grade in each classroom."
Some of the faculty came from outside the community, but the inhabitants welcomed them.
"They became friends with many of the Everett Springs people," Cothran recalls.
Her mother, Hazel Mills, prepared the meals in the school lunchroom for a time, and Cothran remembers how tasty the food was.
"She was a wonderful cook," she says. "People my age still remember how good the food was in the lunchroom."
Her mother bought groceries from A&P and supplemented with government provisions. Cothran remembers the raisins she saved as a treat for the boys who emptied the kitchen trash for her.
About 30 people still meet each year for the school reunion at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church on Everett Springs Road, Cothran says. The attendees gather for a group photo before they adjourn.
That first book project nearly 14 years ago led Cothran to produce several more genealogy volumes. Although the book is no longer in print, it's available for use at the Rome-Floyd County Library in the special collections section. Readers cannot check the book out, but they can make copies of its pages.
This is the second story in a four-part series about the history of the Everett Springs area in northern Floyd County.
Today's artwork is by Kaylee Burkhalter, a third-grader at Pepperell Elementary School.
Daniel Poirer finds the remains of military veterans and makes sure they're given a proper military burial. And when there are no family members or friends to mourn these fallen heroes, he and other volunteers make sure someone is there when those remains are finally put to rest.
Poirer, as part of a national non-profit group, is on a mission to help ensure no veteran goes without proper military honors after death.
The Missing in America Project has representatives spread out in states all across the nation constantly searching for unclaimed remains of qualified veterans. They'll also help families or friends of veterans who may soon pass away, but don't have the means to (or know-how) to ensure their loved one receives the death benefits to which they're entitled.
"We've been doing this now for about 12 years," said Poirier, MIAP's Georgia State Coordinator and National Training Officer. "We search out the unclaimed remains that have been sitting on a shelf as well as veteran spouses and dependent children under 21."
Poirier says the oldest set of remains the organization has dealt with so far was an unclaimed cremated child of a veteran that had been sitting on a shelf in Seattle, Washington for 94 years.
MIAP works with funeral homes and crematoriums to find the remains of individuals who qualify for military burial. Most of those remains have been cremated — "cremains" as Poirier calls them — but the group also helps to arrange and fund the transportation of remains in caskets, if needed.
"We work with the Jefferson barracks in St. Louis to verify if someone is a qualified veteran, then we do our best to give them a dignified and respectful funeral," said Poirier.
MIAP volunteers also do their best to ensure that no veteran is buried, interred or has their ashes scattered alone.
"Usually nobody shows up and we're often the only family there," said Poirier, who said that's what he and other volunteers consider the deceased. "One veteran's ashes stayed in storage in North Carolina for over 19 years. The family had paid to cremate him, but never bothered to claim him. No
family members even showed up for the funeral."
Poirier says the work that MIAP does can often seem endless.
"I've been doing this four years and it never gets old, but the road never seems to have an end," Poirier said. "The most veterans we've found at once was 1,300 sets of remains between two Florida funeral homes." He said the most he's personally helped find at a single location was 75.
While MIAP can always use donations from individuals and funeral homes, the organization most needs dedicated volunteers. Poirier said he is tasked with personally training each volunteer himself.
"Anyone interested in helping out should visit our website at www.miap.us and click on the Supporter Registration link," said Poirier. Potential volunteers can also email Poirier at email@example.com or call Poirier directly at 770-377-2377.
MIAP has two volunteers in Floyd County in Edward Codding and Jim Parker, but could always use more in Rome and elsewhere around Northwest Georgia.
Initial volunteer training can take anywhere between an hour and three hours, depending on the trainee's computer and internet abilities.
Donations can be made through the organization's website at miap.us/Donation.html, or can be mailed to United Community Bank, 117 Highway 515 East, Blairsville, GA 30512, Attn: Missing in America Project/Veterans Recovery Program.