Success Stories

Recovery Court Helps Graduate Make a Statement

South Central Human Resource Agency, through the Community Corrections Department, supports three Recovery Courts: one in Lawrence County, one in Maury County, and one in Lincoln County.  Even with the current COVID-19 crisis, Stephanie DeMay, Community Corrections Director and Tony Patterson, Recovery Court Program Coordinator, worked hard to make sure everyone stayed on track ensuring successes and support continued no matter what.

We have had our first couple of Recovery Court graduations– days of incredible joy, pride, and sometimes trepidation.  After all, some of those who are standing up to be recognized for the hard work they put in to be a successful graduate of these programs have previously been at their very lowest.  They were determined to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones.   The judges, attorneys, probation officers, social workers, and counselors all believed in them as well and were resolved to make sure they succeeded.  For many of the graduates, as well as those that are currently in the program right now, this is not where they necessarily saw themselves being.  However, sometimes life gets tough for whatever reason, bad decisions are made, and you end up dealing with the consequences.  The big question is, how will you deal with those consequences?  What path will you take?  Where will you find the determination and the fortitude to make the important decisions to get to the other side a healthier, more positive person, ready to take on the world and make a positive impact for yourself, your family and your community?

Todd Bean, a lifelong Lincoln County resident, has always had a passion for cooking.  Where he is right now is a testament to his determination, sense of responsibility, and love of and for his family.     He is the first person to tell you that he has made some bad decisions; but he knew that those decisions were not who he really was nor were they going to determine who he could or would be.   Todd is a recent graduate of the Lincoln County Recovery Court.  He is also the co-owner of one of Lincoln County’s newest restaurants, Beano’s.  I had the honor of being able to spend a little time talking with Todd about his journey with the program and getting ready to open a restaurant.

Social media along with his natural born talents share responsibility for where he is right now.  He has a pasta dish that he is known for, and after making it, he posted a photo of it onto Facebook.  He got a great response from the photo and ended up taking samples of it to people who had commented.  That photo eventually led to Todd becoming certified for catering.   He started making plates from home, and his food business boomed.   When he got to the point where he was having to turn down business, he realized that he had to get into a commercial kitchen.  You can call it fate, good karma, or just being at the right place at the right time; but right as Todd was realizing that  he wanted to continue to move forward and make a real business out of this, he got a notice that a kitchen and restaurant building was opening up in Park City right on Hwy. 231/431.  It was a great location and opportunity that he wasted no time on.   He called late that night to set up a time to see the building the next morning.  Todd saw his vision in that building and what he could turn it into.  Even though the owner of the building said he should wait, Todd said no, he was ready to get moving on it, and Beano’s was born.

Todd has worked incredibly hard to get to where he is right now, not only with the restaurant but with his work in the recovery program.  He gives all of the glory and credit to God and said that God is the upmost influence in his life.  He told me, “I have tried to change myself, when I first started the program I submitted.”  Once he did this he says he started to see the things he needed to do to be successful, both spiritually as well as with the requirements of the program, which are rigorous.  He told me he was taught structure, responsibility to self and others, and the importance of staying clean.  He learned a lot about himself, too– his fight with addiction and about his cravings and triggers and how to handle and respond to them.   He said, “on cravings you don’t have to ride the wave but you learn to surf.”  He learned a different route and he changed his friends.  He says that it is not easy, “ but it is easier by following what I’ve learned.”  He also added, “I learned to pause, to realize the drug was the wrong choice, to think through the consequences and realize what can be lost.”

I asked Todd about the people in his life and in the program that he thought made a difference.  The first person he mentioned was his wife Latisa, stating “She has been extremely supportive in all that I have done.”  She is also co-owner of Beano’s with Todd.  Todd has dealt with a couple of different therapists but one made a definite impression on him and that was Katelyn Armstrong.  He said she was different, “she made me face some things.  Even when things got heated she stayed with me – even when I was stubborn.  She gave me closure, she made me talk.”  Todd also mentioned Tony Patterson, the program coordinator.  He called him Superman, “ you know he is there for you, you can’t pull anything over on him, you can rely on him and can call him any time.”  He wanted to make Tony proud, he wanted a great report at each Recovery Court meeting.  Finally, he mentioned his mom and dad.   Regarding his mom he said, “back then, everything she said I listened to but not really listened”.  Today so many people tell him that now his mom is looking down on him and saying “my baby got it”.  He says this with a huge amount of well-deserved pride and happiness.

Now as if all of this does not seem like a mountain to climb, try having a restaurant grand opening days before the State goes into lock-down over COVID-19.  Todd dealt with it all in stride.  He had a great, well attended ribbon cutting on March 19th.  Once the shutdown was in effect he like most other restaurants, went to pick-up and delivery only.   Since that is where Todd started this was not about to hold him back and was an easy transition and the restaurant did not skip a beat.  I was so happy when I was able to visit for lunch and see that his success is continuing; that and I was able to have a great meal.

Todd had to miss the actual graduation ceremony because it happened at 11:30 and well, he was running a restaurant.   However that did not stop Tony and the rest of the group from making sure that he received the recognition of a job well done, they just went to Beano’s for lunch and celebration.  Todd’s final words were about his future, “these same principles, I will continue to apply to whatever I am doing.”  Congratulations to Todd and to all of the recent graduates of this Recovery Court.

Head Start Success Stories Can Be Parents Stories Too

When we think about Head Start success stories we immediately think of one of the children reaching their potential and being ready to take on elementary school. However, we also have Head Start parent success stories and this story in particular is one that needs to be bragged about. A parent success story is not just a success story for the parent but also for the family which makes it a double success.

Jennifer Shaffer’s relationship with the Head Start program began when her boys became students. Jennifer’s niece, who she raised since she was three years old also became a Head Start student so this program has been very personal to her and her family. Jennifer started volunteering in the classroom and from there moved into a substitute teacher position. In April of 2002 she was given the opportunity to be a teacher assistant at Columbia Head Start and she took it. That opportunity allowed her to become more involved with the program as she worked her way up to a full teacher position while she worked on and completed both her Preschool CDA and her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. She then went from the Columbia Head Start site to the Lead Teacher position at Northridge Head Start where for she worked for three years growing in the supervisory role of the program. Jennifer did not stop there; her next Head Start opportunity happened when she was offered the Site Manager position at Lawrenceburg Head Start/Early Head Start. This opportunity drove her to continue her studies and lead to her being awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Relations. Still, Jennifer did not stop there. She spent about four years as the Site Manager in Lawrenceburg, continuing to gain experience, supporting families and promoting her positive influences on the Head Start program. Jennifer continued to advance in the program becoming a Program Coordinator with the overall Head Start/Early Head Start and is now the Lead Program Coordinator. This success story is not only for Jennifer and her family but for the sites and the whole program where she left her positive imprint. In addition to that, this story shines a light on how incredibly smart the HS/EHS program is. When it finds that parent showing the interest and desire, it will take them and work with them to become an integral partner in the overall success of the program.

Jennifer has a unique way of looking at the Head Start program due to the close relationship she developed with different levels of the program starting out as that parent wanting to make sure that her kids have the best educational start possible to making sure that everyone else’s children have that same opportunity for success. She says “Head Start gave my children a chance to be able to learn about diversity and become ready for kindergarten” She also gives Head Start the credit for her determination obtaining her degree saying “ I truly feel that I would have never gone back to school had Head Start not been the force behind me getting back in there”, “I love what the program stands for and that I am able to show the families we work with that they too can do anything they set their mind to”. Thankfully for us as well as the families that she is able to touch with her dedication, she does not see herself going anywhere else to work. Jennifer has been an incredible role model for her boys and her niece. Both of her sons have graduated from High School and now work full time jobs supporting their families. Her niece graduated in 20109 and is currently working on being accepted to the Surgical Tech program with TCATS.

Foster Grandparents Help Children to Thrive

We all know that volunteering can be good for the soul. We have a group of ladies and gentleman that have taken that saying to heart. This group of dedicated volunteers work with Kathie Larsen in the Foster Grandparent Program. The Foster Grandparent Program is one of the programs that is run through Senior Corps. Senior Corps is a network of national service programs for Americans 55 years and older who dedicate their time to address critical needs in their communities. These needs include academic tutoring and mentoring, elderly care and disaster relief to name just a few. The academic tutoring and mentoring is the need that our Foster Grannies (and Grandad) address 5 days a week in our community schools.

Our Foster Grannies and Grandad stay active serving the children in their community. They are role models, mentors and friends to the students and give an important and sometimes critical helping hand to the teachers in their schools. We have 51 Grannies and 1 Grandad serving in 8 out of our 13 counties. They serve in 23 different schools, to include our Head Start program, and one Boys and Girls Club. During 2019, these 52 amazing volunteers gave 54,900.50 hours of their time to help the children in the counties where they live. Let’s think about that for a minute, those hours divided by the 52 volunteers is 1,056 hours per volunteer! That is just an average, we have 33 grannies and grandpa that gave over 1,000 hours and 7 grannies that gave over 1,500 hours. That is amazing dedication and caring. Let’s talk a little more about the stats of our FGP program. The number of years of service to the program varies greatly; however we have a small group who have been the bedrock of the program for quite a while. We have 8 who have been with the program for 10 or more years and one who has been with the program for more than 20 years. The average age is 74. Our biggest “age” group are those in their 70’s with 19; however, not to be outdone, we have 8 who are in their 80’s and one incredible woman who is in her 90’s.

I had the opportunity to meet with the West side program, which is basically all those on the west side of I-65. The grannies and grandpa will work where each individual school needs them to be. Some work in the library, such as the grannies at Frank Hughes Elementary; others work in specific grades and others still are mobile throughout the day going to different classrooms and grades. Some work with groups in the classroom and others work one on one with children that need a little additional help with their subjects. They tend to work mainly with reading assistance but we also have a number of grannies who help with math and our grandpa works on the high school level working in the shop. The jobs are varied but all are important and are making a difference in their respective classrooms. Their reasons for being a part of the program were also varied. A couple of the comments that I heard were, “it is a new adventure every day”, and that it was amazing to “see the kids pick up a book and be able to read”. A number of grannies said, “they meet me at the door each morning” and that they “love starting the day with the hugs”. The one comment that had all the others agreeing was “ I appreciate getting up every morning and being greeted with a hug and getting something new every day – a note, a card. A lot of these kids just want a hug.”

Ms. Virginia Ludine Moore, or Ms. Virginia as she is affectionately known, is our longest serving, our amazing amount of lifetime hours served and our most senior grannie who turned 93 years young this past November 11th. She has been reading to the children, and sometimes to those children’s children at Frank Hughes Elementary in Clifton for 22 years. Ms. Virginia can best be described is a force and one of the nicest ladies you will have the honor of meeting. She told me that she started teaching school after High School and has been involved in education ever since. She and her husband raised their family in Lawrence County and she has remained there even though most of her family has moved away. She started volunteering with the program about the same time her husband passed away and has kept busy with the program helping students in the library. Ms. Virginia is legendary in her dedication to her students. One day last year she got a small cut on her leg due to a rouge rocking chair and had to be taken by ambulance to the ER to get it taken care of. This was not about to keep Ms. Virginia down and she was back at the school the following morning ready to help her students. In her 22 years of volunteering, Ms. Virginia has given approximately 28,600 hours of her time to the students in Clifton.

Not to be outdone, the grannies at New Prospect Elementary in Lawrenceburg, Novella Salsman, Bertha Faulkner, Betty Steadman and Teresa Nolan have made such an impact on the school and the children that the school wanted to show their appreciation. At the urging of their supervisor at the school, a mural was commissioned in their honor. It was a complete surprise to the grannies and they are very proud to have been acknowledged in that way. The mural recognizes and honors those foster grannies for their love and devotion to the school and it’s students. The grannies at New Prospect have a varied path to the program that include a former SCHRA Head Start supervising teacher, as well as one who was new to the area and had heard about the program. Together they have over 29 years in the program at New Prospect.

The FGP Program does reimburse these volunteers; basically to assist with the travel that is required to participate. In 1965 when the program began, the stipend amount was $1.10 per hour volunteered. This amount was 88% of minimum wage in 1965. In 1974 the stipend was raised to $1.60 and for a couple of months during that year that was also the minimum wage in the country. It was also the only time this occurred. The stipend was raised by a dime or a little more approximately every five years until 2003 where it hit a high of $2.65. In 2009 an increase was approved however Congress never funded it and so it has remained at $2.65 for the last 16 years. Now the volunteers do not do this for the money. If that were the case many probably would have left quite a long time ago. However, like for most people today, every little bit helps and the stipend for some is used to help cover costs for items such as gas for those who drive. This part of the story does have a happy ending though. Kathy just found out that Congress has approved and funded a raise in the stipend for the FGP program that will begin in the new year. The stipend has been raised to $3.00 per hour so Happy Holidays to all of the volunteers in the FGP program!

SCHRA Nutrition Department Does More Than Just Cook Great Food

The SCHRA Nutrition Department is multi-faceted. It is not only responsible for feeding our seniors, it is also an event catering organization. This wearing of multiple hats keep Becky Christa, Nutrition Department Assistant Director and Ashley Roland, Program Assistant for Nutrition busy every day. The Department is available to cater public and private events and during the holiday months they are kept extra busy. Becky has been with SCHRA for 13 years and started as the site manager for the Lincoln County Senior Center. Ironically, she took the position as a way to get away from the catering work that she had been doing previously; not knowing that she would eventually stand up the catering department we have today. Ashley has been working for the Agency for 6 years. She started while she was in the Families First program and made such an impact that she showed herself to be the perfect person to hire when a part time position opened up in the Nutrition Department. A fun fact you may not know is that this is not the first time Becky and Ashley have worked together, they were originally co-workers at Shoney’s. This could be part of the reason they have worked so well together keeping the kitchen and program running as smoothly as it does. While Becky looks at catering as her baby, she has been placing more of the responsibilities of the program with Ashley and Ashley has stepped up. This department does not have an off day; they are ready to cater 7 days a week and it is not uncommon for them to have more than one catering event a day. This is in addition to their “day job”.

Their day job keeps them pretty busy as well. The Nutrition Department, which includes the main kitchen in Fayetteville and the second kitchen in Hohenwald, ensures that every senior in each of our 20 congregant sites and all homebound clients have a hot nutritious lunch 5 days a week as well as preparing the meals and snacks for the Harris Head Start site in Shelbyville. Let’s break down, or more correctly add up, the numbers. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the kitchens delivered over 105,000 meals to the 20 different sites. Of those, 47,000 meals were served by our amazing site mangers at the congregant sites and then those same site managers put together over 58,000 meals that were taken out for delivery to our home bound clients. Between the two kitchens in Fayetteville and Hohenwald approximately 825 meals go out each morning. This is before the catering responsibilities start to kick in.

The catering service is the work horse of the Nutrition Department and generates the income that pays for equipment when it is needed, utility maintenance and labor cost of each job. The remaining money or “profit” goes right back into the Nutrition program. Those dollars that are put back into the program are what allows for the congregant meals to be served 5 days each week. Without this money from catering, those seniors would only have those hot meals 4 days a week. These meals that are provided are much more than just a nutritious lunch. Studies have shown the importance of human face to face contact for our seniors. These connections have been shown to lessen the chances of becoming depressed and having feelings of isolation. The sense of community that the sites provide along with the daily visits can mean the world to some of our seniors. If you have ever had an opportunity to volunteer in one of the sites you know how important it is to have this available. This program, both the congregant sites as well the meals that are delivered, plays an important role in allowing seniors to remain in their homes where they feel comfortable and safe. On average, catering works 20 jobs per month. January and July are the slowest months and in January it is definitely needed following the hectic holiday months. In the month of December there were 27 catering jobs alone. Many are probably not aware that Becky and her crew not only prepare and cook the food for catering events, they also deliver when the event is outside of the agency, do all of the set-up and serve the food at their location. While it helps that they have a menu for clients to choose from, Becky is open to making specific food for clients to make it personal. I asked her how catering has grown since she first started the program and she pulled out two binders where the catering contracts are kept. The first binder she brought out was 2009 and it was in a small ½ inch 3-ring binder. Then she brought out the 2019 binder and they had to move to the large 3 inch 3-ring binder and it was full. In addition to all of this whenever we have an event at the Agency, like quarterly Board meetings, they cater those as well and this past year they also catered the agency Employee Day. There is no doubt there are many people who are aware of the great thing we have going on here at SCHRA with the catering department.

A typical day for Becky and her crew is normally just dealing with what may come up that particular day. The big difference for her is that these issues can come up in any of the 13 counties and 20 different congregant sites that we cover. They can include any issue one of the site managers are dealing with and could include having to go to that site to take over if one of the site managers is out ill. She also makes sure that both kitchens are running smoothly and that all food is ordered and ready to go . The Nutrition Department is made up of 2 main kitchens. In Fayetteville there are 5 people that work in the kitchen and three drivers who deliver food to the east side of the region and in Hohenwald there are 3 people that work in the kitchen and three drivers who deliver food to the west side of the region. Basically, we have 14 people that are making sure 825 people have a hot meal at lunch 5 days a week. This is one department that does not have an off day or off time. Now that the holidays are over, both Becky and Ashley are finally able to take some well-earned and deserved time off. Kudos to the Nutrition Department for another great year supporting our communities!