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Grovetown K-9 Unit

Buzz

The city of Grovetown is getting a K-9 unit, thanks to the generosity of the Shield Club of Greater Augusta.

The city’s Police Department recently received a $14,500 donation from the organization to help establish the department’s first K-9 unit.

The department will use the contribution to purchase a dual-purpose K-9 trained in narcotics detection and tracking.

The funds also will go toward the purchase of equipment associated with the program as well as training and certification for a K-9 handler.

Art Grants

LIFE + STYLE

The Greater Augusta Arts Council is accepting online applications for funding that is allocated annually by the city of Augusta for distribution to the nonprofit arts community.

More than $71,000 is available for distribution. For fiscal year 2023, funds will be re-allocated in increments of up to $7,000 for general operating expenses and up to $5,000 for art projects.

Applications are available at augustaarts.com/grants. The deadline to apply is 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 13.

Can Do

Buzz

Savor summer all year long. The Thomson High School FFA Club is accepting summer produce for shelling, blanching and canning at the FFA Cannery, located at 702 Whiteoak Road (in front of the McDuffie County Animal Shelter).

Items for canning include tomatoes, peas, beans, apples, peaches, pears, juices, spaghetti sauces (no meat), soups (no meat), salsa, applesauce and pie fillings.

The cost is $0.75 per quart-sized can and $0.20 per pound for shelling. Hours are 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. June 27-28, June 30, July 1, July 6-7 and July 18-22.

For more information, contact Rick DuBose at duboser@mcduffie.k12.ga.us or (706) 986-4297.

Life is Good

LIFE + STYLE

The accolades keep coming. Along with the honors that Columbia County communities earn year after year, Augusta also is turning heads.

For 2022-23, U.S. News & World Report ranked Augusta as the top spot in Georgia and #76 overall on its list of Best Places to Live and #79 on its list of Best Places to Retire.

In addition, retriable.com named Augusta to its list of 30 Best Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2022.

To compile its lists, U.S. News analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States. Augusta was lauded for its culinary and arts scenes, outdoor amenities, low cost of living and warm weather.

The magazine also gave a shoutout to Evans, Martinez and Grovetown as go-to places for families to settle.

Top retirement criteria included the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and health care quality.

In its ranking, retriable.com cites the area’s low cost of living, which is 13% below the national average; tax friendliness for retirees; and availability of outdoor activities such as running, walking, biking, kayaking and boating.

Miss Kitty’s Lounge — Widespread Panic

Listen To This

There’s no question that Athens, Georgia has been the home of some serious music culture through the years. With bands like The B52’s, R.E.M., Washed Out and Pylon on the shortlist, it’s no wonder this eclectic electric Classic City is known worldwide as the East Coast sonic-boom town.

Widespread Panic, another Athens original, has been a Southern jazz-blues- explosion-jam-rock jewel in the crown since forming in 1986.

Blazing new trails and wearing out the roads of the world, Panic has been a fan-driven tour pioneer with hordes of loyal Spread Heads steering the ship.

Commonly grouped with bands like The Grateful Dead, Phish and The Allman Brothers Band that earned commercial success without typical airplay and promotion, Panic’s uniquely accessible and hook-stomping stream of good-time jams places them among the finest Southern Rockers.

With a lush discography of studio and live recordings, their latest release, Miss Kitty’s Lounge, is a deep dive of demos recorded in 1990 and conjures up the energy and spirit of the band in a whipped casserole of absolute awesome.

Each track taps into a brew of raw and unfiltered, blazing-edge craftsmanship and ignites a raw perspective into some of their finest tunes.

The shelf life of Miss Kitty’s Lounge is as fresh and yummy today as it was 32 years ago and will remain in the infinite bread and butter pickle jar of Georgia’s finest music.

– Chris Rucker

The Recovery Agent — by Janet Evanovich

Literary Loop

Lost something? Gabriela Rose knows how to get it back. As a recovery agent, she’s hired by individuals and companies seeking lost treasures, stolen heirlooms or missing assets of any kind. She’s reliable, cool under pressure and well trained in weapons of all types.

But her latest job isn’t for some bamboozled billionaire. It’s for her own family, whose home is going to be wiped off the map if they can’t come up with a lot of money fast.

Inspired by an old family legend, Gabriela sets off for the jungles of Peru in pursuit of the Ring of Solomon and the lost treasure of Lima.

But this particular job comes with a huge problem attached to it — Gabriela’s ex-husband, Rafer. It’s Rafer who has the map that possibly points the way to the treasure, and he’s not about to let Gabriela find it without him.

Rafer is as relaxed as Gabriela is driven, and he has a lifetime’s experience getting under his ex-wife’s skin. But when they aren’t bickering about old times the two make a formidable team, and it’s going to take a team to defeat the vicious drug lord who has also been searching for the fabled ring. A drug lord who doesn’t mind leaving a large body count behind him to get it.

Recipes for Success

Features

Three local food producers – including the grand prize winner – got a taste of victory at this year’s Hart Dairy Grand PrizeFlavor of Georgia contest.

The local area earned considerable bragging rights at this year’s Flavor of Georgia, an annual food product contest for established or market-ready foods and beverages made in the state.

Hart Dairy in Waynesboro won the dairy products category with its chocolate whole milk – and the overall grand prize – in its first year as a contest participant.

“We’re proud to be the only national brand to sell milk that comes from cows that are pasture-raised and grass-fed 365 days a year – and it all starts right here in Georgia,” says Mandy Schulz, marketing manager. “We wanted to compete and meet other companies that are also thriving.”

Another Waynesboro agribusiness, Byne Blueberry Farms, collaborated with Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge to take first place in the beverages category with their blueberry cider. The blueberry farm became the first six-time winner in contest history this year.

“I like the competition because you’re up against the best marketers in the state. These are the most progressive, competitive people in Georgia,” says Dick Byne, owner of the blueberry farm. “Every time I go, I learn something. It makes you a better business person.”

In addition, Cassava Breads, based in Evans, was a finalist in the snack foods category for its garlic and herb cheese bread.

“It’s a great contest. It puts a spotlight on Georgia brands, value-added producers and entrepreneurs,” says Chef and CEO Solomon Cohen. “It helps put us on the map. It helps bring exposure to our brand.”

During the first round of judging, 32 finalists were chosen from 148 entries in 11 categories, and the Flavor of Georgia finals were held in Athens in April.

Hart DairyNatural Choice
For Hart Dairy, entering the farm’s chocolate whole milk in the contest was a natural choice.

“It’s delicious. People rave about it,” Schulz says. “Also, we want to bring awareness to doing dairy the right way. We know – because it’s how we operate – that farming can be done responsibly by treating animals humanely, providing highly nutritious food, and working with the earth – not against it.”

She says Hart Dairy, founded in 2017 by Tim Connell and Richard Watson, is the only national brand to sell milk from cows that are pasture-raised and grass-fed 365 days a year.

“Our cows are never confined. They’re always outside grazing on fresh grass,” Schulz says. “We’re the first grass-fed pasteurized dairy cow milk sold in America that’s certified humane.”

The dairy calls the milk a great post-workout drink, due to its protein and carbohydrate content, as well as a drink that the entire family can enjoy.

Byne Blueberry FarmsWinning Combination
According to Byne, who also teaches marketing at Augusta Tech in Grovetown, 92% of the public likes fresh blueberries. However, he says, “I started going after the 8% that doesn’t like fresh blueberries and put them in another form.”

Byne Blueberry Farms, the oldest organic blueberry farm in the Southeast, and Mercier Orchards, a fourth generation family-owned apple orchard founded in 1943, started collaborating on the cider in 2012. Development of the product really started to gel in August 2020.

“It’s the first time two farms in Georgia have come together to make a product,” says Byne, who started the blueberry farm in 1980. “Apples and blueberries are super fruits, and I don’t know if anybody has ever put two super fruits together. There are a lot of health benefits to it.”

Byne has entered Flavor of Georgia eight times, and in past years, the farm also has won in the barbecue sauces, beverages, condiments and salsas, confections and snack foods categories.

“I’ve always wanted to be creative and continue to come up with new ideas,” says Byne. “You have to come up with something that people will like and keep buying. You can have a great product, but you haven’t done anything if it’s not in a vehicle that’s marketable.”

Cassava BreadsRoot of the Matter
Cassava Breads was another first-time Flavor of Georgia entrant. For the initial round of judging, Cohen submitted all four of his cheese breads – classic, garlic and herb, sweet potato herb and chili lime – and the judges selected the garlic and herb to advance to the finals.

“We made a lot of connections with UGA food scientists,” Cohen says. “It was a great opportunity for exposure.”

The entrepreneur named his company, which he founded in 2017, after cassava, a mineral-rich, ancient root that is a centuries-old sustainable food source. Calling the root the ideal foundation for his artisanal breads, Cohen says the naturally gluten-free, grain-free and vegan cassava flour naturally highlights the flavors of the breads.

He imports cassava starch flour from the Minas region of Brazil and hand-selects aged cheeses to complement his artisan recipes.

“We cater to people that love bread and cheese and to people with dietary criteria for food products,” Cohen says.

Cassava BreadsPrized Products
To evaluate the entries, the Flavor of Georgia judges considered technical aspects of the products such as flavor, texture and ingredient profile. The judges also take into account consumer appeal including packaging, innovation and how well the product represents the state.

Each entry is featured in the Flavor of Georgia print and digital product directory, which is seen by leading food industry buyers. Finalists are granted the right to use the Flavor of Georgia logo on their label and promotional materials, a one-year membership in Georgia Grown and the opportunity to present their product to a panel of food industry experts.

As the grand prize winner, Hart Dairy also was awarded exhibit space at the Georgia Food Industry Association Annual Convention and three consultation sessions from the UGA Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center.

Since the beginning of Flavor of Georgia in 2007, more than 1,600 products have been entered in the contest.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

Literary Loop

Greta James Jennifer E. SmithJust after the sudden death of her mother, her most devoted fan, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes second album, indie rock star Greta James falls apart on stage.

The footage quickly goes viral, and she stops playing to retreat from her very public life. Greta’s career is suddenly in jeopardy – the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always warned her about.

Months later, still heartbroken and very much adrift, Greta reluctantly agrees to accompany her estranged father on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their 40th anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss.

But the trip also will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian onboard who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life.

“Warm, funny and bursting with heart, it’s exactly the book you want to read,” says New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Serle.

“It’s not only entertaining but heart expanding and seems destined for book clubs and the big screen,” says Amazon.

Paint This Town — Old Crow Medicine Show

Listen To This

Volunteer, Paint This TownTwenty-one years of dust-kickin’-jangle-stomp sing-a-longs have certainly defined and refined the hootenanny troubadours of Old Crow Medicine Show.

The ole’-time root-boogie boys have lit the hills again with their eighth studio release, Paint This Town. The successor to the 2018 barn-burner Volunteer, Paint This Town has the classic Old Crow spitfire with a refined barrel of smooth and smokey flavor.

Even though the OCMS lineup has changed quite a bit over the years, the vibe that founder and band leader Ketch Secor etched into the groove remains as a steady base to explore new territory.

This may be a more mature record with extra attention given to arrangement complexity, but the songwriting is where the jewel of the record is found.

The evidence of the perfect sonic and lyrical storm can be found on “Bombs Away,” a reflection of Secor’s recent divorce, which leaves an avenue for open interpretation and perspective with an autobiographical flavor wrapped up with a raucous foot-stompin’ bow and string.

“Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise” is a celebratory chant-a-long with the allurement of an impromptu line dance. Even the ballad-laden “Painkiller” and “New Mississippi Flag” craft a solid flow of creek to river through the journey of this record.

As the days get hotter and longer, Paint This Town is a great segue way into the summer melt.

– Chris Rucker

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Literary Loop

ONE ITALIAN SUMMERThe bestselling author returns with a moving exploration of the powerful bond between mother and daughter, set on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone.

To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms — to Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer before meeting Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with going alone.

As soon as she arrives, Katy feels her mother’s spirit. And then Carol appears, healthy and sun-tanned…and 30 years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how. All she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back.

Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her.

Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and a daughter. With her signature prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.

Wednesdays, Big Colors, Chris — Ryan Adams

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RYAN ADAMSUnless your name is Prince, releasing three albums of solid new material over the course of a year is a feat that is absolutely crazy by most standards. Not only did singer-songwriter Ryan Adams effortlessly deliver, he surpassed the goal by releasing a double album encore.

With an abundance of inspiration and grit, the first album, Wednesdays, is an acoustic-filled retro-introspective of mellow Americana. With heart on sleeve and tank full of experiential soul, the journey of heartache, triumph and the winding roads in between makes Wednesdays the perfect lazy porch swing soundtrack.

The next release, Big Colors, is a 12-track rock ’n’ roll fantasy wrapped in a nostalgic Bruce Springsteen-meets-Rick Springfield vibe with catchy hooks and warm layers of vibrant wild abandon.

The grand finale in the Adams trifecta is the double album, Chris, an ode to Adams’ older brother who passed away a few years ago. Chris harkens back to the early Adams catalog, and for the diehard fans, there is a hint of his prior band, Whiskey Town, in the mix.

Much like the discographies of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and James Brown, two generations from now will truly reap the benefits of Ryan Adams, but until then, enjoy the firehose of tunes and catch him live.

– Chris Rucker

The Tipping Point — Tears for Fears

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What does it take for two legendary music geniuses to reunite and drop the same hook-n-play firepower as if time stood still? The same common thread that brought them together in the first place: life’s emotional journeys of good and bad with the saving grace of hope.

Tears for Fears has been an iconic staple in pop/new wave music since the early ’80s with classic songs like “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Shout,” providing a vast catalog of tunes that defined the MTV era and bridged the gap between the British invasion and American pop.

Now, after a complicated road of bogged differences, twisty musical directions and some years well spent apart (the two would not speak for nine years), the unrivaled power duo of Kurt Smith and Roland Orzabal returns to the basic formula that brought them together almost 40 years ago with The Tipping Point, their first studio release in 18 years.

The opening track “No Small Thing” is an organic crescendo of sound and color that sets the rest of the record on fire. Tracks to follow like “Break the Man,” “The Tipping Point” and “Rivers of Mercy” craft a flowing river of inspiration only Tears for Fears can deliver. The promise of a season in bloom is the vibe of spring, and The Tipping Point is the soundtrack.

– Chris Rucker

So Help Me Golf: Why We Love the Game by Rick Reilly

Literary Loop

In this book, available May 10, bestselling author and golf aficionado Rick Reilly unpacks many of the wonderful, maddening, heart-melting, heart-breaking and captivating things about golf that make the game so addictive.

We meet the PGA Tour player who robbed banks by night to pay his motel bills, the golf club maker who takes weekly psychedelic trips and the caddie who kept his loop even after an 11-year prison stint. We learn how a man on his third heart nearly won the U.S. Open, how a Vietnam POW saved his life playing 18 holes a day in his tiny cell and about the course that’s absolutely free.

Reilly mines the game’s quirky traditions, from the shot of bourbon you take before you tee off at Peyton Manning’s course, to the way the starter at St. Andrews announces, “You’re on the first tee, gentlemen,” and means it literally: St. Andrews has the first tee ever invented.

You’ll visit the 18 most unforgettable holes around the world including the hole in Indonesia where the biggest hazard is monkeys, the one in the Caribbean that’s underwater and the one in South Africa that requires a shot over a pit of alligators.

Reilly expounds on all the great figures past and present in golf, and connecting it all is the story of his own personal journey through the game.

Cool to be Kind

People

Busby’s Heating & Air has launched The Busby’s Cares Community Contribution, an initiative in which the company makes a $1,000 donation to a small local nonprofit organization each month. The inaugural recipient of the funds was Garden City Rescue Mission in February.

“With small local charities, $1,000 can be significant,” says Rick Busby, owner of Busby’s.

The company also conducted a food drive for Garden City Rescue Mission, the largest men’s homeless shelter in the CSRA, and Busby’s delivered the food contributions at the same time that it presented the financial donation to the rescue mission.

“A lot of folks have helped me in my life one way or another. I just feel like the world would be a better place if more people helped each other,” Busby says. “We’ve always given back. That’s just part of our culture. That’s how I was raised.”

Restoring the Warrior

People

Photos courtesy of Operation Double Eagle

Operation Double Eagle prepares veterans and transitioning active duty military personnel to work in the golf industry.

U.S. Army veteran and Grovetown resident Matt Weber, who medically retired from the military in 2009 after five years of service, had fallen on hard times.

He lived in his car with his service dog, a Dutch Shepherd named Max, for a while. He moved in with a friend, but that situation ended up causing more harm than good. Then Weber spent the little money he had left on a hotel room. In November 2020 his hours were cut before he ultimately lost his job during the pandemic. He struggled with alcohol abuse and addiction to his medications.

“I was in a dark place for the better part of four years,” the 36-year-old Weber says.

Last fall, however, his circumstances started to change. In October 2021, he met Jeremy Tindell, program manager for Operation Double Eagle, through a local veterans service organization.

Operation Double Eagle is a nine-week skills development program at Augusta Technical College that connects veterans and transitioning active duty service members to a network of employers seeking “job-ready” veterans for nationwide career opportunities.

The program, a workforce initiative of the Atlanta-based Warrior Alliance, actively recruits veterans with barriers to employment through its network of partners, transitioning active duty military personnel and government agencies.

Tindell, who lives in Evans and served in the Army for 20 years, talked to Weber about Operation Double Eagle. Although a session had started a week before their conversation, Tindell squeezed the veteran into the program.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go,” Weber says. “I kind of bounced around for a couple of years. I was making an attempt to figure out what I wanted to do. Operation Double Eagle had resources for me to make something of myself.”

Weber finished the program on December 17, 2021, and three days later he started working as an equipment operator for Landscapes Unlimited, one of the largest golf course contractors in the country.

“The first thing I told my boss was that in two-and-a-half years or less, I plan on taking his job,” says Weber.

And that wasn’t the last time he put his director supervisor, Brett Ambrose, on notice that he’s coming after his position. Ambrose, a Landscapes Unlimited project superintendent, appreciates the ambition.

“I want to have people that want to move up and have goals. If he’s a go-getter, let’s do it,” he says. “I said, ‘Dude, come and get it. Let’s see it happen.”

Landscapes Unlimited also hired one of Weber’s classmates, and Ambrose hopes to hire many more people from the program. “I like where they’re going with it. It has a lot of promise and gets people in different careers in golf,” he says.

Optimum Exposure

Operation Double Eagle is the brainchild of Scott Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Warrior Alliance. During his 20-plus years as a corporate executive, he worked with wounded warriors and saw a contingent of the veteran population that was unemployed or bouncing from job to job.

“I wanted to try to help veterans find a way to be trained like they are in the military. This is the kind of work they want to be doing, and it was a chance to try something that hadn’t been tried before with veterans. We want to restore the warrior that is inside of each individual,” Johnson says. “On the flip side, it solves a huge problem for the golf industry where there is a high demand for skilled labor.”

With local assets such as Fort Gordon, a rich military tradition, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and Augusta National Golf Club, Johnson says this area has been the ideal place to build the program.

“Logistically, Augusta made sense,” he adds. “Why not take the mecca of golf and do something unique for it?”

Nine-week cohorts are scheduled four times a year, and up to 15 selected “warriors” per session receive a monthly stipend for housing and meals to attend the free educational program. Participants are not required to use their GI Bill benefits, and graduates receive Augusta Tech’s Golf Turf and Landscape Specialist certificate. In addition, the students earn 14 college credit hours.

The first cohort was launched in February 2020, but Operation Double Eagle went on hiatus from March 17, 2020 until June 2020 because of covid.

The program is structured so that students receive classroom instruction from 8 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday at Augusta Tech. Topics include golf course maintenance, horticulture science, irrigation, construction, turf management, mechanical and equipment operation, golf operations, landscaping and pest control.

“We tell people on the second day, ‘You’ll learn a dozen different things in nine weeks. Get passionate about one of them, and you’ll find a career,’” says Johnson.

In the afternoon the students go to the Performance Center, a par-3 hole that was built in 2019 at Augusta Municipal Golf Course, for hands-on learning opportunities.

At the Performance Center, the students practice golf course design, construction, renovation and maintenance skills. Veterans, as individuals and teams, tackle clearly defined projects to solve real-time challenges.

“We have everything that a larger golf course operation would have,” says Evans resident O’Neil Crouch, a former golf course superintendent and Operation Double Eagle program director. “They get to learn real-world problems. If we have to, we create problems.”

The students also take field trips to local golf courses such as Champions Retreat and Forest Hills Golf Club as well as Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson. They also have helped prepare the course at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the Tour Championship.

“Veterans love to be outside. They love working in tough nature conditions. They love working in teams,” Johnson says.

In addition, the program covers golf course etiquette and what to expect when working on a golf course and introduces students to industry sales representatives.

“We try to expose them to everything possible so they can make a decision,” says Crouch. “We’ve had a few graduates that have started their own business or more veterans support programs.”

The Right Fit

Warriors have to go through a three-tiered application review and assessment before they are accepted into Operation Double Eagle. “You have to educate veterans and find people that are right for the program,” says Johnson.

As part of his responsibilities, Tindell recruits students and vets the military applicants. He conducts an overall evaluation of the soldiers to assess each individual’s attitude, aptitude, academics and achievement.

Operation Double Eagle finds recruits through the Department of Labor, social services organizations, veterans services organizations, career centers, grassroots efforts, word-of-mouth, social media and by visiting military installations.

“When potential students fill out a questionnaire and application online, they self-identify their barriers to employment,” Tindell says. “I contact them and build a personal relationship with them before they join the program.”

Johnson has found that warriors often have difficulty transitioning to civilian life because they lose their network when they leave the military or realize that the work they have been doing does not translate to other employment opportunities. Weber agrees.

“You’re losing that ‘suited and booted’ mentality,” he says. “You knew that what you were doing was important. When you have to stop wearing that uniform for whatever reason, you feel like it’s been taken away from you. There’s a lot of camaraderie in the military that you rarely get in civilian life.”

Veterans lose the team mentality that the military fosters as well. However, Crouch says golf course superintendents sometimes model their maintenance staffs on military groups to build camaraderie.

“The golf course maintenance staff has always been a very tight-knit group,” he says. “They work outside in all kinds of weather and situations. Rarely do you do a job by yourself.”

Tindell says that employment in the golf industry offers structure and uniformity. In addition, he says, “There’s a therapeutic aspect of working outside and working with your hands.”

With Tindell’s military connections and Crouch’s ties to the golf industry, they make a good team as well.

“He can find veterans that need training and employment,” says Crouch. “I know superintendents all over the country that need quality employees. The labor pool is very small. There’s a great demand for quality labor.”

Crouch also oversees fundraising for the program. He says fundraising tournaments are coming up locally, in Atlanta and in North Carolina, and people can get involved by making donations on a monthly or yearly basis. They also can help make connections with potential employers, sponsors for the program, military resources and industry players.

“We are seeing a tremendous amount of support from the community,” Crouch says.

‘Purpose, Direction and Motivation’

Tindell keeps track of everyone who completes the program for 24 months post-graduation. “I try to instill a sense of purpose, direction and motivation in everyone who comes through the course,” he says.

About 50 people have gone through the program so far, but Johnson hopes that close to 100 will complete the certification this year. Students have ranged in age from 25 to 64 years old, and 30% to 40% of them have been female. While the program has drawn students from across the country, 60% to 70% of them live in the local area.

The participants agree that they will start working or continue their education after they finish the program. Johnson says 90% of the people who have gone through the program have “made it.” He hopes Operation Double Eagle, which also is building partnerships nationwide, can be a solution for a lot of people, like it was for Weber.

In January Weber moved into a house, and he is continuing his education by pursuing a degree in Golf Course Turfgrass Management at Augusta Tech. He also hopes to mentor the students in the next Operation Double Eagle class.

“Because of what they’ve done for me, I want to give back as well. I want to give them direction like Jeremy did for me,” he says. “I’m immensely blessed because of the program. I’m more than grateful for everything they’ve done. Every aspect of it from that first conversation with Jeremy allowed me to have what I have right now. I went from having nothing to having everything.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Photos courtesy of Operation Double Eagle