Monthly Archives: September 2018

Paying It Forward

Photography by Addie Strozier

Photography by Addie Strozier

Medical services are in demand at FaithCare Clinic – and so is the need for more volunteer physicians. 

Most churches are relatively quiet on a typical Tuesday evening. At Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, however, every other Tuesday night is full of energy and activity. 

On those nights, the education building is converted into a healthcare facility where 30 to 40 people volunteer their services to provide free medical care at the FaithCare Clinic from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The clinic, which was the brainchild of former WUMC pastor Glenn Ethridge, provides patients with acute minor illness and ongoing primary medical care, professional counseling and some prescription drug assistance. 

Patients must meet three criteria to be eligible for treatment at the clinic. They must be Columbia County residents, have no health insurance and be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“This is one of the wealthiest counties in the state, but we have a significant amount of individuals in our county that don’t have access to medical care,” says Lewis Bandy, a retired medical administrator and the clinic’s administrator.

Volunteers-with-ComputersNowhere Else to Turn
FaithCare originally operated at Evans Surgery Center when it was founded in 2002, but it moved to the WUMC education building about 3.5 years ago. The clinic includes a check-in area, waiting room, interview room, nurses’ station, electronic record keeping and a pharmacy assistance program. Sunday school rooms are converted into exam rooms.

FaithCare is part of the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network, which was established in 2007 to address the need for quality, affordable healthcare in the area.

The network includes four hospitals, seven community clinics, the east Central Health District and eight community service providers. Of the seven clinics, FaithCare is the only one in Columbia County.

On a recent Tuesday evening, 35 volunteers took care of 25 patients at the clinic. The volunteers included four physicians, four nurses, a counselor, a dietitian, 17 administrative personnel and eight students.

Of the patients, 15 visited the clinic for medical appointments, five visited the pharmacy, four came for counseling and one received a dietary consultation.

In addition, says Bandy, “Doctors Hospital provides routine lab and x-ray services for free.”

The clinic sees patients by appointment only, and they are treated most commonly for high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory ailments, obesity and smoking. The clinic also offers free flu shots, which are funded through a mission of the church.

Dr.-Richard-Melcher-with-Student“Wesley has always been very community-oriented,” says volunteer Ross Meschke, a pharmaceutical drug representative and WUMC member. “Many of the patients are among the working poor or are single women who have lost their health insurance because of divorce. Most of our patients have jobs, and most of our need is chronic.”

Natalie, an Evans resident, was at the clinic for pharmaceutical services, which she receives once a month. She first came to FaithCare when she had a broken leg in June 2017.

“When you walk in the door, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. The love of God is shown when you walk in the door, and they get you what you need,” Natalie says. “My life has changed drastically by coming here and seeing these people and seeing the smiles, the love and the outpouring of hope and prayers we’re given.”

James, an Appling farmer who has no insurance, has received medical care for knee and back pain from the clinic for two or three years. He also has been referred to Project Access to take part in a sleep study.

Project Access is a Richmond County Medical Society outreach program that provides healthcare for uninsured, low- to moderate-income residents of Richmond and Columbia counties. FaithCare refers patients to this program for specialty care.

Sr.-Laura-Mulloy-&-Student“They help me a lot,” James says of the clinic volunteers. “I don’t know what I would do without the clinic. It would be real rough.”

Patients usually hear about FaithCare by word-of-mouth, but currently the clinic is not accepting new patients because of the shortage of volunteer physicians. Bandy says it is particularly difficult to find behavioral health caregivers. “A lot of patients are in need to talk to somebody,” he says.

However, Paul Schantz, a retired VA chaplain, has filled that void by volunteering at the clinic. “You come in here, and you see hurting people who have nowhere to turn. I try to be a positive presence for them and offer encouragement to them,” he says.

Through its pharmacy assistance program, FaithCare provides its patients with no- or low-cost prescription drugs. However, the clinic does not prescribe narcotics or controlled substances.

Meschke helps arrange for the provision of sample drugs from major drug companies and helps patients understand the free or reduced-cost programs the drug companies offer. He also trains volunteers to fill out the necessary paperwork. Meschke, along with Dr. Laura Mulloy and retired RN Joe Kendall, have been with the clinic since its beginnings.

Medical-Student-Volunteer-CoordinatorsTraining Future Physicians
The patients are not the only reason the FaithCare doctors volunteer at the clinic, however. The opportunity to mentor medical students is a big draw for them as well.

“The clinic is good for the community, but it’s also good for training our future physicians,” says Mulloy, a professor and the chief of the Division of Nephrology at Augusta University. “It helps first-year students feel comfortable in their skin in a white coat.”

The medical students talk to the patients in the interview room about their history and present their findings to the physicians.

“Being able to interact with real patients is better than interviewing someone who is acting,” says Julianne Gillis, a Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University student volunteer coordinator. “We also have to present to the doctors, so they really help us get experience that we’ll have to use throughout residency.”

Her fellow MCG student clinic coordinator, David Reehl, finds other benefits from volunteering at the clinic.

“It’s good exposure to faith-based medicine to an under-served population in the community,” he says. “We learn how to integrate faith and spiritual healing into our practice.”

The student coordinators also make sure patients at the clinic are seen in a timely manner, which is an indispensable part of the services.

“I love taking care of the patients, and I love having students here. Teaching is my first love. I wouldn’t be in medicine if I couldn’t teach,” says Mulloy, who has served as FaithCare’s medical director for about nine years. “And it’s valuable for the students to give back and do community service early in their careers. Ninety percent of what we do is listening to people and talking.”

The doctors benefit from listening to the students as well. “Talking to them is refreshing,” says Dr. Nathan Brandon, an anesthesiologist and pain physician. “They ask questions and keep my brain awake.”

Brandon also finds that the variety of medical needs at the clinic gives him a break from the routine of his practice.

“I like it when the patients say, ‘thank you,’” says Brandon, who has volunteered at the clinic for six years. “I get to know these people.”

After the last patient leaves, Mulloy presents a case study to the students.

“I like to teach. I come up with a clinical vignette. I usually pick something I’ve seen during the day,” says Mulloy. “The students can ask questions. There’s not a lot of pressure. They’re not getting a grade. We’re just here to help them learn.”

Marie-Melcher-&-NataliePhysicians Needed
Since it was founded in 2002, FaithCare Clinic, a free, appointment-only clinic that provides primary medical care to uninsured Columbia County residents, has treated about 700 patients. The clinic, which operates from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every other Tuesday at Wesley United Methodist Church, currently serves 70 to 90 active patients, but it is not taking new patients at this time.

The clinic staff draws from a pool of about 45 volunteers, but only four of them are physicians – Dr. Laura Mulloy, a professor and the chief of the Division of Nephrology at Augusta University; Dr. Karen Phelps, a family practice physician at Eisenhower Army Medical Center; Dr. Richard Melcher, a retired internal medicine physician; and Dr. Nathan Brandon, an anesthesiologist and pain physician.

However, they would love to have some company. 

“We’re not asking doctors to come every other Tuesday for the rest of their lives,” says Mulloy, who also serves as the clinic’s medical director. “If a doctor could volunteer three or four times a year, that would be a gift. They could work for two hours a night, or agree to see five patients. It’s a public service to the community. As health care providers, that’s part of the reason we’re here. They can come one or two times and see if they like it.”

In the past, the clinic has had eight to 10 volunteer physicians. However, some no longer volunteer because they have moved away or their practices have changed. The FaithCare doctors also have found that other physicians are hesitant to volunteer because of concerns about liability or being overwhelmed with patients.

Case-Study-2However, the doctors are covered for malpractice by the Georgia Volunteer Health Care Program through the state Department of Public Health. FaithCare physicians are not under contract, and the appointment-only nature of the ministry prevents them from having to see more patients than they can handle in an evening. The volunteers even get a free meal prepared by WUMC members.

In July, FaithCare had to cancel one clinic because there were not enough physicians available. And if more doctors volunteered, then the clinic could expand its reach to serve more patients.

“Come visit and see what we do,” Brandon says. “Once they see what we do, they wouldn’t be worried about malpractice.”

For more information, email the clinic administrator, Lewis Bandy, at

By Leigh Howard

A Magical Spell


Main-photo--Cinderella,-carriageColumbia County Ballet will help the Imperial Theatre celebrate its 100th anniversary with a performance of “Cinderella.”

No one needs a fairy godmother to have a ball at Columbia County Ballet’s new, original production of “Cinderella,” at the Imperial Theatre.

This production, which features about 65 dancers ranging in age from 10 to 20, is choreographed by Columbia County Ballet alumnus Michael Viator.

“Michael has taken his trademark approach of presenting this classic story in a non-traditional way. He brings his main concentration to the power of the music, which is not the traditional Prokofiev, and the power of the movement he creates for the dancers,” says Ron Jones, Columbia County Ballet artistic director.

Jones and Renee Toole, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School fine arts director, are weaving together the scenes to connect the details of the story. Lia Daniele, dance instructor at SAIL, is joining them to rehearse the dancers and prepare for curtain.

“We decided to bring a new story ballet each fall to the Imperial stage and donate the proceeds from ticket sales to the theater,” Jones says. “The ballet has thus far raised $29,000 on behalf of the Imperial, and with this final presentation to support the 100th, we are looking forward to adding to that figure.”

If You Go:

What: Columbia County Ballet’s “Cinderella” 

When: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, September 21

Where: Imperial Theatre

How Much: $14 – $30

More Info: (706) 860-1852 or; (706) 722-8341 or

Bringing Back the Music

Photo courtesy of Augusta Symphony

Photo courtesy of Augusta Symphony

Augusta Symphony’s 2018-19 season includes traditional favorites as well as a new series in Columbia County.

Augusta Symphony kicks off its 64th season this month with a theme of New Horizons, and the performance series will offer broad appeal for all ages.

“We are embracing the future at the Augusta Symphony,” says Dirk Meyer, music director. “We have a new hall, a new brand and look, a new music director – yours truly, and the orchestra is performing at an all-time artistic high.” 

At the same time, the symphony is diversifying its audience, he says. “This upcoming season features several concerts that will certainly speak to our loyal patrons but, at the same time, appeal to newcomers to the symphony. Our opening performance, for example, features a world-class soloist and repertoire that is hugely popular. But it also features a new composition by American composer Michael Daugherty that revolves around the famous comic book hero, Superman.”

The Symphony Series, which includes six concerts at Miller Theater, will showcase the orchestra performing masterworks by some of the greatest composers from history through today. The first concert of this series and of the season, Obsession, featuring 23-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, will be Friday, September 28.

In addition to Daugherty’s Red Cape Tango, the concert will include Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. During the second half of the performance, audience members can download EnCue app to receive real-time program notes as the orchestra performs. 

The Pops! Series, also at Miller Theater, will feature four concerts this season that include a tribute to the Eagles, a Holiday Spectacular, The Wizard of Oz and a performance by magician Michael Grandinetti. The orchestra will perform Harold Arlen’s musical score live during the screening of The Wizard of Oz

This year Augusta Symphony also debuts its Family Concerts at Columbia County at Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. This series, which features the Holiday Spectacular in December and “Peter & the Wolf” in March, is ideal for introducing children to the symphony. 

“These hour-long concerts are specifically designed for young concertgoers and will be fun for the entire family,” says Meyer. 

The music director also is happy to be able to call the Miller Theater home. “The acoustics at the Miller are wonderful. Everyone on stage can hear each other, and that makes performing there a real pleasure,” he says.

Meyer believes it is crucial for Augusta Symphony to be an integral part of the community, and it needs to adapt to changing times to have success.

“We constantly need to evolve and keep up with new developments. To make orchestral music relevant to a large section of our community, we need to ensure that our performances have relevance to the people in Augusta. We hope to provide just that in the upcoming season,” says Meyer. “Augusta Symphony is embracing its past and its community and, at the same time, heads towards its future. A wider offering and more diverse programming are our first steps towards new artistic horizons.” 

If You Go:

What: Augusta Symphony’s Obsession

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 28

Where: Miller Theater 

How Much: $22 – $67; season tickets are also available

More Info:


By Leigh Howard 

Barrels of Fun

Photos courtesy of Unicoi State Park & Lodge

Photos courtesy of Unicoi State Park & Lodge

One-of-a-kind accommodations and outdoor adventures round out the entertainment at Unicoi State Park & Lodge. 

Few things are better than an overnight stay at a mountain getaway in the fall. And few people have the opportunity to spend the night anywhere in a barrel-shaped cabin – unless, of course, they visit Unicoi State Park & Lodge in the northeast corner of Georgia near Helen.

Designed as an experiment by the University of Georgia and built in the early 1970s, the barrel cabins are positioned around Unicoi Lake. 

“The cabins are on stilts and are designed to be able to be picked up from the area if it is deemed to be overused, and be deposited in another location,” says Alex Raymond, a spokeswoman for the park.

BedroomChoice Accommodations
Three one-bedroom cabins truly are barrel-shaped. The park has 12 additional two-bedroom cabins that are A-framed with rounded sides.

All of the barrel cabins are two stories, and they include a living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs. The bedroom or bedrooms are upstairs. The interiors are predominantly wood, and metal roofs curve over the sides to the base of the cabins. Windows are located on each end of the buildings.

The barrel cabins also have decks that look out onto the lake. Cooking and eating utensils, along with linens, are provided. The cabins are equipped with central heat and air, but they also have wood-burning fireplaces in the living room area.

Couch areaAnd for those who don’t want to retreat from the outside world completely, the cabins have cable TV in the living rooms. They also offer easy access to hiking and biking trails as well as the beach at Unicoi Lake.

Other accommodations include a 100-room lodge, more cabins and 82 campsites. Ten secluded, two-bedroom, two-bath Smith Creek cabins are an ideal escape for nature lovers. These one-level cabins also feature a full kitchen, central heating and air, a wood-burning fireplace and easy access to downtown Alpine Helen, trout streams and Anna Ruby Falls. Visitors who prefer to linger on the premises when they get out of bed can enjoy quiet mornings watching deer and wild turkeys.

Large groups of people can reserve a three-bedroom, two-bath deluxe cabin with two king bedrooms, one queen bedroom, a sleeper sofa, full kitchen, cable TV and fireplace. These four barrel-shaped, two-story cabins have a bath on each floor.

“The barrel cabins definitely pique the most interest, especially with those who are staying at the park for the first time,” Raymond says. “The uniqueness of the cabins is definitely the draw, but the park, available outdoor activities and relaxing atmosphere of Unicoi are what keep people coming back.” 

DCIM201MEDIADJI_0012.JPGOutdoor Fun & Special Events
As inviting as the accommodations are, the 1,050-acre park offers a multitude of outdoor adventures as well.

The park includes 14 miles of hiking trails within its boundaries, and many more trails are available in the area. Unicoi Lake and its beach are swimming with water activities such as standup paddle board, pedal boat, canoe and kayak rentals during the season. The park also offers two phases of zip lines, including one that travels along the lakeshore for 2,000 feet. Guests can go on guided hikes and enjoy fire pit stories and s’mores.

Competitive visitors can vie against each other or against themselves in the new Archery and Air Rifle complex. For meal time, the Main Lodge features two restaurants. The Unicoi Restaurant is known for its mountain trout, and the newly remodeled Smith Creek Tavern features live music Friday nights. 

Unicoi State Park & Lodge is not just a great place to spend a weekend getaway, however. The park also has facilities for any type of group from corporate retreats to family reunions to weddings. 

“We do all of our own catering and are happy to work with groups to create an event that is customized to their wants and needs,” Raymond says. 

Zipline_UnicoiOther special events attract visitors to the park as well. For instance, September 29 is Outdoor Adventure Day, which introduces guests to activities such as fishing, archery, shooting and more. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources assists with the program.

In nearby Helen, where a shuttle from the lodge runs daily, the 48th annual Oktoberfest begins in early September. Visitors can sleep at the park at night and by day enjoy German music, food, drinks and dancing including waltzes, polkas and the chicken dance. Oktoberfest will run September 6-9, 13-16 and 20-23. The festival then reopens September 27 and continues daily through October 28.

By Morgan Davis

Living Off the Land

In The Home
Photography by Sally Kolar

Photography by Sally Kolar

This Appling couple used their talents, TLC and natural resources on their 35-acre property to restore a family farmhouse

Nothing speaks as eloquently about times gone by as a family farm, childhood memories and the American West. 

And a remodeled Appling farmhouse, originally built in 1936, brings these hallmarks of yesteryear unequivocally into the present thanks to the sweat equity of Mary and Jay Menger. Three years ago, the Mengers started renovating the house, which once belonged to Jay’s maternal grandparents, K.R. Smith and Ethel Newby Smith. 

ExteriorAlthough Jay’s mother never lived in the house (she was in college when her family moved in after their previous home on the same road burned down), he welcomed the chance to reconnect with his family roots. His grandparents raised cattle on the farm and grew cotton, corn, beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, potatoes, onions, peas, apples and peaches. 

Not only did the Smiths feed their own family with their bounty – they spread it to others as well. Pet Dairy Company bought milk from them, Jay says, and Tracy-Luckey Company in Harlem bought pecans from them.

The house had been passed down to Jay’s uncle, and after being abandoned for 10 to 12 years, it had fallen into a state of disrepair. The Mengers, who lived in Broomfield, Colorado for 34 years, finally acquired the house in 2015 and started renovating it in October of that year. They moved into the home in February 2017. 

First, however, they had to clear the overgrown 35-acre property. “I told Mary, ‘I’m going in there. If I don’t come out, send somebody after me,’” Jay says.

Fortunately, he emerged from the overgrowth unscathed, and fueled by childhood mementoes and Western memorabilia, they started leaving their own imprint on the family home.

3.-EntrywayAll About Balance
The original house was shaped like a square box and had a tin roof. “It was a livable structure,” says Jay, who grew up in Columbia County.

The Mengers, who did home renovations in Colorado for 30 years, did all of the visible upgrades to the home. Jay also performed work that doesn’t show, such as the plumbing and some of the electrical work. They replaced the roof, siding and HVAC system. The Mengers retained the exterior heart pine siding and used that wood to make all of the interior cabinets. They removed the front porch and rebuilt it, extending it to wrap around the house, and they moved the front door three inches.

“I like for things to either be way off or perfectly straight,” says Mary. “I was born in September. I’m a Virgo. I like balance.”

She gets no argument about her preferences from Jay. “I have moved a light switch a quarter-inch for her,” he says.

They also rebuilt the back porch, where a family of buzzards had taken up residence when they first got the house. “We let them raise their family there and then check out,” says Mary. “They didn’t build a nest. They just laid the egg right on the floor.”

Inside, all of the flooring is original except in the dining room and kitchen. The master bedroom and living room walls are original, and the Mengers also kept as many of the shiplap walls as they could. They took out some walls as well. “Everywhere you see a beam, there was a wall,” says Jay. “We just totally opened it up.”

All of the wood columns in the house are made of beetle-killed lodgepole pines that they brought back from Colorado.

“Where we removed the walls, we put the logs from Colorado,” says Mary. “We didn’t build this house to be real hotsy-totsy Southern because it wasn’t like that.”

4.-Master-BedroomThe house has five fireplaces. A three-sided fireplace opens into the living room, dining area and kitchen. There are two back-to-back fireplaces in the master bedroom and the parlor, which the Mengers call the “chair room.”

“When we moved our furniture in here, they put all the chairs in that room so ‘chair room’ stuck,” says Jay.

A lot of their furniture and artwork has a Southwestern influence. Much of their western art is by Frank Howell and Amanda Pena. “By living in Colorado, you end up with a Southwestern/Indian-type of thought process,” says Jay.

Global Influence
The living room features the original walls and the original heart pine floor, but the furnishings and décor are a striking mix of old and new. 

The curio cabinet is the first piece of furniture that Mary and Jay bought when they got married. Mary made the vase, which won first prize at the South Carolina State Fair and the Augusta Exchange Club Fair, in the curio. Southwestern artifacts in the display case include small pieces of Santa Clara pottery and a wood carving of an Indian. The Mengers bought the wood carving in Taos, New Mexico from an Indian who carved it out of a single piece of cottonwood. ‘He’s a bean counter,” says Jay. “He looked over the crops.”

StaircaseA lamp in the living room is perched behind the couch on one of six logs they brought back from Colorado. The TV is on an old card table that belonged to Mary’s aunt. They found an upholstered chair in a house near a downtown Augusta neighborhood. “I pick up a lot of stuff on the side of the road and in junk shops,” says Mary. 

Black Chinese rice baskets in the living room and master bedroom came from an antique store in Aiken. The Mengers found a bowl in the living room fireplace in Tuscany when they were one of nine couples that took a trip together to Italy and the Greek Isles. The bowl was one of the serving pieces at a place where they stayed in Italy. Mary asked if she could buy it, and they gave it to her. Sculptures on the living room fireplace came from New Orleans. 

“When we went someplace, we didn’t buy keychains and T-shirts,” Mary says.

They bought their large Mexican dining room table, which was in Jay’s conference room in his former real estate office, in Colorado. 

The glass front bookcase belonged to Mary’s father. “Her dad was a minister, and that’s where he kept all his books,” says Jay. “I married the preacher’s daughter.”

“That’s right,” Mary, who grew up in Cayce, South Carolina, says without missing a beat. “He’s the guy that had the most fun.” 

They found the Gustaf Stickley chair, which has vertical back slats, in the dining room at a Habitat for Humanity in the Colorado mountains just after it arrived.

“I’ll give you $200 for it right now,” Mary says she told the woman in the store. “But she said someone else had claimed it for $300. I said, ‘Fine. I’ll still give you $200 for it.’”

2.-Kitchen‘It Just Happened’
The existing kitchen was four feet, and the Mengers extended it to 10 feet. “We did it so when we wrapped the porch around the house, it would fit,” says Jay.

The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a black composite sink, a pot filler and a subway tile backsplash. 

The wood for the kitchen shelves were made from the pecan trees in the yard, and the wood for the shelves at the end of the island were made from the siding of the house. They designed the island to fit the room. 

The Mengers used cast iron knobs for their kitchen hardware, and the knobs sit atop small tabs of leather. “We used the leather tabs for pulls while the knobs were on order, and then we left them there because we liked them,” says Jay. 

The stove features a tempered glass and stainless steel hood, and Mary covered the island stools with leather. 

“I don’t know what to say about the kitchen other than it just happened,” Mary says.

The cabinets in the master bath are made of the original siding, and a friend in Colorado made the mirror frame out of lodgepole pine. The bath features a tile shower, which also includes a band of decorative tile. A sliding pocket door leads to the walk-in closet off the master bath, which includes and a washer and dryer and a chandelier. “That’s my bling,” says Mary.

The powder room door once was a mirror. The room also features a granite countertop and a hammered copper sink. The wall, where they left some of the original paint, came from the outside of the house. 

“The house originally had no bathrooms and not much of a kitchen,” says Jay. “I used to say the old bathrooms were ‘40 yards and a hurry out back.’”

WineglassesReuse and Repurpose
The furnishings in the master bedroom are a mix of family heirlooms and roadside finds. The striped chair had been in Jay’s mother’s bedroom. One of the bedside tables once was a record cabinet that Mary refinished when she was 12 years old, and the other was a cabinet that had belonged to Jay’s great-grandmother. They found the rocking chair on a Colorado roadside.

Mary had had the leather hide spread across the bed for 40 years. “Jay pulled it out of a storage box and put it on the bed,” says Mary. “I liked it.” 

She got the piece of leather from Trooper Inc., a military garment manufacturing plant on Gordon Highway where Mary once worked as a pattern maker.

They found the bed at an outlet store in the town of North, South Carolina, and the wardrobe came from a junk store on Aiken-Augusta Highway. Mary made the bedspread and pillows. 

They added two bedrooms and baths to the unfinished upstairs. First, of course, they had to build the stairs out of two pecan trees they cut down in the yard. The ironwork on the stairs also is handmade.

They made the two desks in the upstairs bedrooms from the siding on the house. Mary did the batik of a lion hanging on a wall in one of the bedrooms. The second bedroom features a metal and wood sleigh bed and an armoire that belonged to Mary’s grandmother. 

She made the mirror in one of the baths out of a boat steering wheel, knocking off the handles and covering it with leather. The bathroom has a clear vessel sink and granite countertops. The other bath features a brick wall, a tile shower and a metal mirror. “We tried to keep all the chimneys we could,” says Mary.

The sitting area upstairs feature a trio of attached opera seats – Nos. 9, 10 and 11 – that they found in a Thomson antique store.

“We like to reuse and repurpose as much as we can,” Mary says.

By Betsy Gilliland

Kick the Dust Up


_Main-photoAwarding-winning country music singer Luke Bryan brings his 10th annual Farm Tour to North Augusta. 

Each fall since 2009, country music superstar Luke Bryan has taken his high-energy tours to farms across the country to celebrate his Leesburg, Georgia upbringing and to honor American farmers. This year the fifth stop of his six-city Farm Tour will bring him to Misty Morning Farms in North Augusta.

More than 100,000 fans have attended the tour each year since its inception. Through the tour, which is celebrating its 10th year this fall, Bryan has given back to the farming community by awarding college scholarships to students from agricultural families that are attending colleges or universities near Farm Tour stops. To date, more than 50 scholarships have been granted.

“I can’t believe we’ve been doing this 10 years,” Bryan says. “Our goal was to bring a show into towns like the one I grew up in that normally wouldn’t get this kind of opportunity while honoring the American farmer at the same time. I can’t express how much it means to me that these towns continue to support this vision. 

The country music artist and “American Idol” judge garnered his 20th career No. 1 single in March when “Most People Are Good” hit the top spot on the Country Aircheck and the Billboard Country Airplay charts. This was his 12th straight Billboard No. 1, the longest current streak among all artists. The song also was the second consecutive No. 1 hit from Bryan’s What Makes You Country album.

Bryan is a two-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, a five-time host of the ACM Awards and the 2017 Super Bowl LI national anthem performer. He has sold more than 10 million albums and more than 40 million tracks with three billion music streams, and has performed for millions of fans on tour.

At the concert, chairs and blankets can be set up in designated areas but no coolers will be allowed. Tickets must be presented for access to parking areas, which open at 2 p.m.

The Farm Tour concludes October 6 at Doug Yates Farms in Ringgold, Georgia.

If You Go:

What: Luke Bryan Farm Tour

When: 6 p.m. Friday, October 5

Where: Misty Morning Farms, 306 Currytown Road, North Augusta, South Carolina

How Much: Tickets – $51 in advance; $60 at the gate, $175 VIP; parking – $5 in advance; $20 day of 

More Info:

Dive On In


1. National Public Lands Day JSTScuba divers – along with terra firma-loving volunteers – can participate in a cleanup effort at J. Strom Thurmond Dam. 

In conjunction with National Public Lands Day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking for volunteers to participate in a cleanup at J. Strom Thurmond Dam at Clarks Hill Lake on Saturday, September 29. 

The event also is affiliated with Project Aware, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to cleaning up ocean environments. 

NPLD_2015_SBR_9194_4x6H“Project Aware focuses on oceans, but everything eventually will end up in our oceans,” says Tara McNaylor, manager of Bubbles or Not in Harlem. “We have a huge problem with trash as a society.”

Volunteer scuba divers and kayakers, who help transport trash to shore, will conduct debris cleanup of the river side of the dam. Landlubber volunteers can help clean up along the shore.

Land projects will include debris cleanup, brush clearing and trail and park maintenance along the shoreline, islands, recreation areas, coves, old road ends and bridge areas. Land volunteers should wear closed-toed shoes and long pants and bring plenty of water. 

NPLD (1)The cleanup will begin at 8 a.m., and a barbecue lunch for volunteers will follow at noon. Check-in for the event will be at the Below Dam South Carolina Recreation Area, 384 Power Plant Road, Clarks Hill, South Carolina.

Volunteers should plan to arrive a few minutes early for check-in and a safety briefing. They will receive a free T-shirt (while the supply lasts). Volunteers can register as individuals or groups, and they are asked to sign up by Wednesday, September 12. 

The divers will attempt to dive below the dam if the power generation schedule allows. Alternate sites will be East Dam and West Dam. 

Martinez resident Justin Walter, who is a member of the dive teams for Columbia and Richmond counties, first organized a group of divers to volunteer for the cleanup five years ago.

NPLD 2017 (1)“It’s a great way to help the environment. You see a lot of trash and debris when you dive underwater in this area,” he says. “The cleanup also provides a free opportunity for local divers to dive.” 

Last year was the first year that Bubbles or Not volunteers participated in the cleanup. “We had about 30 divers and support staff with Bubbles or Not for the dive cleanup, and we hope to have at least that many this year, too,” says McNaylor.

Divers found items including TVs; fishing lines, lures and poles; auto and boat batteries; boat motors; mattresses; bottles and cans.

Bubbles or Not, which partners with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, will offer two classes in conjunction with the cleanup as well. A three-hour class to teach non-divers about ocean conservation will begin at 5 p.m. at the store on Friday, September 28.

Underwater Cleanup DiveThe shop also will offer a Dive Against Debris class, which includes PADI certification, during the cleanup. This class will include a brief overview before the cleanup and the dive itself.

Bubbles or Not also will sell mesh, reusable cleanup bags for $10 for the event. “Every penny goes directly to Project Aware,” McNaylor says. The bags are included in the Dive Against Debris class fee.

For more information or to get a volunteer registration form, call Bubbles or Not at (706) 901-5045 or Ranger Ben Werner at (864) 333-1131. Forms also are available online at Completed forms can be dropped off or mailed to the Thurmond Project Office, 510 Clarks Hill Highway, Clarks Hill, SC 29821. 

They also may be faxed to (864) 333-1150 or emailed to 

In the event of severe weather conditions, National Public Lands Day events will be cancelled. No rain date is scheduled. National Public Lands Day is a nationwide day of service for volunteering at local, state and federal park lands.

The cleanup also is part of Georgia’s statewide Rivers Alive program.

Get in the Race


1.-Main-photo-the-runFeel the burn for a worthy cause – a 5k run that benefits firefighters and their family members who are battling cancer

While wearing their gear and air packs, Grovetown resident Phillip Weathers, a firefighter at Savannah River Site, and his co-workers have been regular participants in races to raise awareness about local charities. Then Weathers decided to up his game. Five years ago he founded FireK FiveK to help fellow firefighters and their family members that are battling cancer. 

In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health launched a study, which was completed in late 2015, of almost 30,000 firefighters in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The results of the study showed that the firefighters had higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population.

2. Firefighters“We know what the risks are, and for most of us, it wouldn’t matter. We’d still do the job,” says Weathers. “We want to raise money for the firefighters that need help. We also want to raise awareness and find better ways to do the job.”

Once the proceeds from this year’s race are distributed, FireK FiveK will have given more than $10,000 to firefighters in need in the past five years. 

The 5k typically attracts 120 to 150 runners, and this year Weathers hopes to have 200 racers in the field. Participants can register as individuals or as teams. The course, which is fairly flat and has multiple water points, is USA Track & Field-certified this year. It also is on the list of races for Run & See Georgia Grand Prix, a series that encourages runners to travel and race across the state. 

3. trophiesTop performers in each age group, as well as the top male and female finishers, will earn trophies. In addition, says Weathers, “Firefighters will compete for a bragging rights trophy that looks like the Stanley Cup.” 

The family friendly event will include a live DJ, inflatables for kids, face painting, displays of firefighting apparatus and more. Hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages will be available at no charge, but donations are welcome. Prizes will be raffled off at the event, and calendars featuring firefighters that have been helped by the fundraiser will be sold as well.

“In the last one or two years, the support has been outstanding from the people that have come on board. This year is shaping up to be a big year for us,” Weathers says. “It’s really cool to be a part of this.”

4. Ninja turtleIf You Go: 

What: FireK FiveK

When: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Saturday, October 6; check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.; race begins at 9 a.m. 

Where: Lady A Pavilion, Evans Towne Center Park

 How Much: $30 – $85 for race participants; spectators are free 

More Info: