Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Turkey dinners feed 5,000 at Grace Baptist Church
Around 500 families lined the sidewalk at Grace Baptist Church for the annual Feeding the 5000 turkey dinner distribution Saturday, Nov. 21.
People began lining up about 6:30 a.m. The line was long, but spirits were high. The weather was excellent and church volunteers provided Rice Krispies Treats to the jubilant crowd.
Pastor Bobby Lewis said the event is a labor of love for the church family.
“The whole thing is just a blessing for us. They may have gotten the food, but we got the blessing. It really brings our church together; every generation helps out.”
Hundreds of church members and volunteers helped pack 1,000 boxes at a massive packing party at the church days before the event. Each box was packed with stuffing, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, corn muffin mix, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Turkeys were added Saturday morning.
Each box feeds five to eight people.
Pandemic protocols were in effect. The sanctuary was filled to socially distanced half capacity; mask wearing was enforced. Everyone entering the church was given a temperature check.
“These are strange times, but we felt we had to hold the second annual Feeding the 5000. What better time to give people some encouragement. We just wanted to love on them,” Lewis said.
Feeding the 5000 is a Grace Baptist Church event, but this year, many members of the community donated food. Ingles Market on Oak Ridge Highway prepackaged the suggested items for convenience. Between church and community donations, 1,000 boxes of food and 350 extra bags of food were collected.
“Church members donated food and funds to help out, and we were surprised to find many members of the community getting involved, too,” Lewis said. “They may go somewhere else but liked what we were doing and wanted to help. Things went so well, each family got two boxes of food, and most got an extra bag of food as well. Many will share that extra box with extended family or neighbors; they’ll pass along a blessing.”
Lewis said he got the idea from the Bible story about the loaves and fishes, which appears in all four Gospels.
Before the distribution, Lewis gave a 30-minute sermon on salvation.
“We gave each person a sanitized bag containing a card they would fill out only if they wanted to ask for prayer or salvation.
“We could not have an alter call or baptism, but 158 people indicated that they prayed to trust Christ as their lord and savior and 51 people indicated that they wanted to recommit their lives to the Lord. We had another couple hundred prayer requests. We had over 400 people respond through those cards.”
Lewis said he hopes next year to be able to reinstate the alter altar call.
“I missed the personal touch this year, the hugging and high fives. I missed people huddled up together praying. Hopefully we’ll have that back next year.”
Karns JROTC to take part in Wreaths Across America
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
Karns High School Air Force JROTC will be participating in Wreaths Across America at Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Wreaths Across America draws together Scouts, JROTC, and other civic organizations at more than 2,100 veterans cemeteries across the nation, where they speak the name of an armed services member then place a remembrance wreath on the grave.
“It’s really something to see, and it will choke you up. You stand at the foot of the grave and speak the fallen hero’s name then place the remembrance wreath on the headstone. Their name is spoken so they are remembered and honored,” said unit instructor Lt. Col. John O’Donnell.
“I don’t know which president said it, but the country that doesn’t honor its veterans won’t be around long. So we have to remember those who fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Wreaths Across America is an excellent way to do that.”
This is the second year Karns High School JROTC will be participating in the program. It’s a large mission; there are about 5,680 headstones alone at Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, at 5901 Lyons View Pike.
The group is asking for sponsorship of the wreaths. Each wreath is $15. Donations can be made at www.knoxwreaths.org. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find Karns HS AF JROTC. Donations are accepted year round.
“We begin asking for sponsorships in late October,” O’Donnell said. “This year our goal was only 100 wreaths and we’ve exceeded that by five, but we still need more. There are thousands of heroes buried at Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. Each and every one needs a remembrance wreath.”
O’Donnell said the JROTC participates because the organization is about citizenship. Part of being a good citizen is to understand the history of the country, be thankful for the opportunities available and be appreciative of those who provided them.
“It’s important that the cadets see the enormity of the project. That they see the many people who gave their lives for our country. Some of those headstones reveal heroes about the same age as the cadets. It has an effect on them for sure.”
Last year, hundreds of civilians joined in the project at Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. O’Donnell said he wasn’t sure how it was going to play out this year due to the pandemic. It is anticipated that groups will be smaller and more spread out, “but each and every wreath will be placed,” he said.
Mom of five awarded Adoptive Parent of the Year and family Disney vacation
Ali James, Shopper News
When Beth Schneider decided to become a foster parent, she was 24 years old and working full time as a Latin teacher and coaching volleyball.
She was also single.
Two and a half years later, she is the adoptive mom to five daughters.
On Nov. 17, Schneider was honored at the City County Building as the 2020 Adoptive Parent of the Year by the national nonprofit Transfiguring Adoption. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, along with representatives from Knox North Lions Club and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS), presented the award and a free family vacation to Disney World.
“I have five daughters (ages 2 to 9),” said Schneider, mother to Ava, 9; Sadie, 7; Nora, 3; Mia, 2, and Lucy, 2. “Taking five girls to Disney is not really a [normal] possibility. This is a great honor and I’m really excited about this gift I can give to my kids.”
Answering the call to be a foster parent
“It was while I was teaching Latin at First Baptist Academy that I became a foster parent,” said Schneider, who had moved to Knoxville in 2011 to attend the University of Tennessee. “I went through the foster care process — the classes and home studies.”
Biological sisters Ava and Sadie were 4 and 2 years old when Schneider opened her home to them. Then, 10 months later, 1-month-old Nora joined the sisters. “Ava and Sadie’s adoptions were finalized in November 2017 and Nora’s was finalized in early 2018,” said Schneider. “I was happy with my three girls and wasn’t on the list to call.”
Then she learned of Nora’s sister, Mia. “She had withdrawals and the day she came home from the NICU I started a new job,” said Schneider. Shortly afterward, she got a call that Nora’s biological mom had a baby, Lucy, and wanted Schneider to adopt her.
Asking for help
Schneider, who is originally from Indiana, did not have any family in Knoxville. “My eldest has cerebral palsy and had no medical care before she was 4½ years old — her growth spurts are harder on her and she needs speech and emotional therapy,” she explained.
A woman from Schneider’s church volunteered to step in and help take the girls to their therapy appointments.
“Motherhood is a beast anyway, and I had become a mother at 24 to two children who had gone through trauma,” she said. “I was prideful about asking for help. When I finally did, they said I should have asked sooner.”
Time to enjoy her girls
The last adoption was finalized Feb. 28. “Quarantine has been a gift to us, it was nice to cancel everything and just be home,” she said. “We didn’t have to do any appointments for a month and I have been able to just enjoy my girls.” Schneider is currently homeschooling her two eldest daughters and trying to home in on some of their struggle areas.
Willing to say ‘yes’ to hard things
“People think we are saints, but we are not, we don’t have an extra blessing of being patient, we are just people willing to say ‘yes’ to hard things,” said Schneider. “There is never a perfect time to adopt or foster, but there are so many opportunities to love on these kids. They don’t ask to be in foster care.”
A close-knit community
Foster parents are supportive of each other. “Someone will always show up with diapers, formula and a bed if I need one,” she said.
Schneider attends Whitestone Church in Halls and said that her pastor has started a foster care trailer so that when someone gets a placement it is full of supplies and they can drive it to them. They also organize meal trains.
“There are always a million reasons why you shouldn’t do it or it’s not the right time,” said Schneider. “I look into the faces of my five daughters and these children are worth it. I was 24 with no family here and God worked it out, put people into my life and worked out the details.”
Schneider has recorded her family’s journey at schneiderladies.com/blog/.
Children’s Theatre carries on — safely — with ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
If you talk to Sien Moon, managing director of Knoxville Children’s Theatre, the topic is likely to be the kids under her watch, and their willingness to comply 100% with coronavirus restrictions — fully, and with no fuss.
“It has been amazing to me. I honestly think that kids are more resilient than adults are. They do not complain about their masks. They don’t have any trouble keeping them on. They are very respectful. Most kids who come here really want to do what we do — they don’t want us to shut down, so they abide by the rules.”
It’s a good thing, because since they reopened in June after several months’ complete shutdown, Moon and her staff at KCT have been sticklers for precautions.
That month, the company finally presented the show they had been rehearsing before the pandemic: “Peter Rabbit.” Moon says, “The actors did wear masks. We kept the audience very small, and we set up the seating groups so that each family is separated. And we’ve continued to do that for every show.
“As far as rehearsals are concerned, we require masks. We did have two shows where they wore face shields, but we’ve switched to masks because everything’s gotten worse.”
The kids are screened upon entry, temperatures taken and hands sanitized. Breaks for hand sanitation are taken every 30 minutes. KCT has hired a cleaning service, and Knoxville-based Ionopure products are used to spray down surfaces. Parents no longer observe rehearsals.
“We’re trying to eliminate any unnecessary people in the building,” says Moon. And when they’re not onstage, the kids are kept apart, which, admits Moon, does take away “some of the fun.”
But the precautions are working. “We haven’t had any child get COVID-19, and to our knowledge nobody as a result of being in our theater has gotten it.”
On Dec. 4, a young cast, ages 8 to 16, will present a pandemic-era version of one of the most beloved seasonal plays for children — “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
In this hilarious Christmas classic, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids — probably the most inventively awful kids in history. Much mayhem ensues. This delightful comedy, suitable for all ages, is adapted from the bestselling book by Barbara Robinson. And KCT’s young actors are more than up to it.
“Even though they’re performing with masks on, they have all compensated with their projection, elocution and pronunciation,” says Moon. “They have been awesome.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be presented by Knoxville Children’s Theatre, in partnership with the Clayton Foundation, Dec. 4-20, Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 1and 5 p.m., and Sundays at 3 and 6 p.m. Tickets will be limited to 65 attendees for each performance, and groups/families will be distanced from each other. Masks will be required for entry.
Those who wish to support KCT but don’t feel comfortable coming to the theater may also purchase a “ghost ticket.” Moon says, “That would be hugely helpful.”
River & Rail Theatre presents (online) gala with special guest
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
Live performing arts and a global pandemic go together like a … well, actually, they don’t go together at all.
Performing arts organizations all over East Tennessee are doing what they can to stay up and running, ready for rosier times. On Sunday, Dec. 13, River & Rail Theatre Company — “a professional theatre company with a community heart” — will present an online gala.
River & Rail was founded by New York transplant Joshua Peterson and his wife, Amelia. Named for two symbols emblematic of not only Knoxville’s industrial past but also of class division, the organization is known to strive for inclusivity in everything it does. The company fully supports Black Lives Matter, and uses the well-considered and comprehensive list of demands published by We See You White American Theatre (WYSWAT) as a guide in its efforts to become an actively anti-racist theatre company.
For the gala, Peterson and his crew have had to think creatively, to say the least. First of all, they’ll be welcoming two special guest stars from “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” — Tony award nominee and SpongeBob himself, Ethan Slater; and Danny Skinner, who played Patrick Star.
“They’re really, really great,” says Peterson. “It’s pretty cool to have a Tony award nominee and his co-star, singing together.” Also, Slater, Skinner and other notables — including the Petersons themselves and Ellen Nikbakht, who played Mary in “The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby” at River & Rail — will be available at private Zoom tables, accessible to qualified ticket holders.
Some of the event will be filmed in advance. Peterson will make use of multiple online platforms and tiered ticketing to provide varied experiences for attendees.
There will even be food and drink — cocktails and Dale’s Fried Pies — delivered right to your door.
The gala will include a preview of “The Nineteen,” a River & Rail film production which follows a group of 19 artists and their families as they navigate the upheaval of their lives and livelihoods in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film, when completed, will be offered for sale to streaming platforms.
And while most theatre companies announce their upcoming season the previous spring, Peterson doesn’t want to wait; along with general updates about the company’s activities during the pandemic, he’ll reveal River & Rail’s 2021-22 season. “We just wanted our audience to hear from us this year.”
River & Rail Theatre’s “1st Annual (Online) Gala” starts with VIP cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13. For more info and to purchase tickets, visit RiverandRailTheatre.com.
Algebra teacher creates his own grooming products
Ali James, Shopper News
“Things that are extraordinary in mathematics are ‘outliers’,” said Martin Sierocinski, owner of Outlier Grooming. “It is a statistical term for a point that falls in the upper and lower ranges of the bell curve, and our products are in the upper .13 percentile. It is really nerdy.”
The South Knoxville math teacher started making his own artisan shave soaps and beard oils when a friend introduced him to the concept of wet shaving in 2018. “He had 15-20 little containers of shave soap and offered me one or two to try,” he said. “When I started to use them, it was so good to see and feel the difference between using a gel or a foam.”
Sierocinski’s friend had experimented with different scents and showed him how to make it himself.
The biggest benefit of Outlier Grooming products is that the ingredients are natural with no chemicals being manipulated into a gel, according to Sierocinski. “It’s better for your skin and you notice the difference and softness,” he said. “It doesn’t leave as much residue, so your razors last longer. And there are less nicks and cuts.”
One of Sierocinski’s first clients was a barber. “He shaved his whole head and loved it. He couldn’t believe how much it helped his razor, and started buying it from me. That was my affirmation that it was good. Then I had more confidence to talk about it; it wasn’t a private hobby and then it blossomed into a business.”
It made sense to create new holiday gift sets. Outlier Grooming has three sets available this season. The Bearded Man does not include shave soap and instead comes with beard oil, balm and a comb for $25. The Clean Shave includes a brush, bowl, stand, shave soap and comb for $35. The Total Package comes with everything just mentioned for $55. There is also an option to ‘build your own’ from a list of Outlier Grooming products.
The Barbershop Oil is scented with Sandalwood and vanilla essential oils. “I have my products in a barbershop in Morristown and I can’t keep the Barbershop Oil in stock there. People are pre-ordering it and stocking up on it,” he said. “The barber says it is his favorite and let me put the display up in the shop. That was cool for me. He is using my products instead of a foam.”
Outlier Grooming’s shave soaps come in the following essential oil fragrances: orange and lavender, peppermint, Damascus rose, Eucalyptus Spearmint. “The orange and lavender has been my signature scent from the beginning; it’s a calming but fresh smell,” said Sierocinski. “Peppermint is good for testosterone and smells good and you want things to smell minty around your mouth.
“Outlier Grooming has grown a little bit each year; now trying to make time for it is the biggest thing — from making the product to marketing to shipping,” said Sierocinski.
All purchases can be made using an online order form at https://outliergrooming.weebly.com/or through his Facebook page @outliergrooming. Local pickup can be arranged in the comments section of the order form. The shipping deadline for all orders is Dec. 11.
Bissel Catering finds a way to adjust during pandemic
Al Lesar, Shopper News
Pressure doesn’t bother Andrew Bissel as he navigates through the sixth year of his catering business.
The 32-year-old Powell resident knew pressure in the kitchen when he was 17, so what he sees now is nothing.
Bissel grew up just outside New Orleans. In 2005, Bissel was a 17-year-old cook at Outback Steakhouse, the first restaurant in the parish (county) to open after Hurricane Katrina hit.
“These were the old days, when there was no technology,” Bissel said. “(Servers) would pile up orders in a bowl. You don’t worry about how many (orders) there are, you just put your head down and keep working.”
Bissel said Outback was doing post-hurricane business at the clip of $38,000 a night, normally what would be considered an amazing Friday night’s receipts. An average pre-hurricane weeknight would pull in between $17,000 and $20,000.
“That was stressful, especially for a young guy in his first job,” Bissel said. “That’s when I look at the things I deal with now and realize it’s not that bad.”
Bissel Catering, headquartered in Powell, opened for business in 2014. He followed his wife, Jessica, to her East Tennessee roots.
“There’s a lot of pride that goes into having my name on the business,” Bissel said. “I’m a perfectionist. Our menu is not complex. We depend a lot on customer rapport.”
After starting with a corporate event lean in the early days of the business, Bissel Catering has evolved into primarily a wedding vendor. With the Great Smoky Mountains — one of the country’s top wedding venues — nearby, Bissel said the shift has been successful.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic last March threw a monkey wrench into the operation but hardly derailed the plan.
“What the pandemic did was cut down 600-person weddings to 150,” Bissel said. “Right away, we had some massive events cancel, and we gave back a lot of wedding deposits.”
Bissel and his two regular employees weathered the initial setback and came away as strong as ever.
It doesn’t take Bissel, a hard-core LSU football fan, long to become philosophical when talking about his passion for food.
“Food is the only thing in the world that touches all five senses,” he said. “That gives someone who prepares food an opportunity to make the world a better place.”
That distinctive Louisiana flavor sets his food apart from others in East Tennessee.
“It’s not just Cajun, it’s more of a Cajun skill,” he said. “We have a Creole seasoning that we use a lot.”
Most of Bissel’s main courses are grilled in the metal tent behind the headquarters in Powell. Chicken and sausage jambalaya is the only true Louisiana dish Bissel prepares. Grilled chicken, pork tenderloin, redskin mashed potatoes and almond-crusted green beans — with the proper spices — are the popular offerings.
“We like the good ol’ Tennessee comfort food done our way,” Bissel said.
Bissel said his dream of having a catering business without the attachment of a restaurant has been a recipe for success.
“When there’s a restaurant with the catering business, there are always problems in the restaurant that get priority. When a chef in a restaurant prepares a meal, he has it ready to be perfect in 10 minutes. On gameday (the day of the event) for me, I’m preparing the meal to be perfect four hours later.
“There’s some pressure involved, but I don’t let it bother me.”
He just thinks back to that kid in Outback.
For more information, contact Bissel at: [email protected] or 865-696-2447.
Officials urge following CDC guidelines for safe holidays
Gabriela Szymanowska, Shopper News
The holiday season is already in full swing, with Thanksgiving done and Christmas right around the corner. As with each holiday season, people are shopping for gifts, getting together to enjoy one another’s company and spreading good cheer.
However, this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials continue to worry about the spreading of COVID-19 and the increasing death toll in the U.S.
With numbers continuing to rise, the Centers for Disease Control urged citizens right before Thanksgiving not to travel for the holiday, instead saying the “safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”
Mayor Ron Williams again stressed the importance of Farragut residents following CDC guidelines: stay 6 feet apart, wear a mask, wash hands frequently, avoid large gatherings.
“It works, it has been working quite well,” Williams said. “I don’t know anybody that’s got this that actually, truly did practice social distancing and face mask and sanitizing.”
Smaller family gatherings
Williams added that residents should consider smaller family gatherings for the holidays, providing as an example his own family, who usually during Thanksgiving would have 12-16 people coming together. But this year, only four gathered at his home.
“Let’s all live,” Williams said as a message to residents. “It’s very simple to do. I know it’s a pain, but I’d hate to lose anybody in our town, I really would. Any older people — the older generation — they’re very susceptible, and so are our first responders. You’d hate to lose anybody.”
The Town of Farragut is continuing to increase safety measures for town staff, citing the plexiglass shields at the receptionist desk in Town Hall and a new fogger to help sanitize the larger conference room in the Farragut Community Center.
Director of Parks and Recreation Sue Stuhl provided a few suggestions for socially distanced activities in Farragut parks, including Light the Park at Founders Park.
Stuhl said picnic pavilions remain open throughout the winter and can be rented either by calling or emailing Parks and Recreation. Stuhl also said the trails and greenways will be open, so that people can “enjoy a walk with your family instead of gathering inside a home.”
Trend is ‘frightening’
Dr. Jason Collins, who specializes in family medicine with Tennova Medical Group, said the biggest concern is the current trend in Knox County, with the increase of cases and deaths throughout November.
“The deaths we’re seeing right now are from cases that were diagnosed generally two to three weeks ago, when our numbers were actually lower,” Collins said. “And so as we’ve seen a spike within the last week in our cases in the county, we would then expect that two to three weeks from now, our deaths would be increasing again, and that’s a frightening trend.”
And as winter progresses, people will gather inside more, where the chances of transmission of the virus are higher.
Collins advised that if anyone is showing any symptoms — whether it’s a high fever, cough, loss of sense of smell, muscle pain or any listed on the CDC website — to call the doctor and get it checked out early on, while also quarantining away from those more susceptible.
Most medical staff, according to Collins, hope to avoid another scenario where hospitals are focusing on COVID cases, and not focusing on other health concerns. If the trends continue to escalate, medical employees are at risk of getting sick, space becoming limited and hospitals not being able to keep up.
‘Double down’ and make ‘sacrifices’
“I understand that we all want things to go back to normal. I understand that we’re tired of wearing masks. I understand that we’re tired of feeling like our freedoms are restricted. … This is the time to actually double down, because this is the most concerning time for risk of transmission of this virus and making our situation worse than it is now,” Collins said.
“With all the encouraging news that’s coming out about the vaccine, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Collins added. “So if we all pull together and make selfless sacrifices, we will get through this and we will be able to go back to gathering together with family and friends.”
When times are hard, we need to see each other
Leslie Snow, Shopper News columnist
At first, I wasn’t sure why I was so upset. Worse things have happened. It was just a bad doctor’s appointment. But for some reason, I couldn’t shake it.
The problems started in the parking lot. There were no handicapped spots and my dad’s walker barely fit through the cement parking barriers. Once I got him steadied, I opened the door to the podiatrist’s office so my parents could shuffle in and find a seat. Then I went to the front desk to sign in for my father’s appointment.
“Hello,” I said to the lady behind the glass barrier. “My father, Ron Friedman, is here for his appointment.” When the lady didn’t answer I kept talking. “He’s a new patient. The VA sent us here.”
She looked up at me, blankly, and said, “Insurance? Photo ID?” I gave her the documentation and sat down. My mom looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. “Not very friendly, is she?” I whispered.
After a few minutes, the same lady called my father’s name and led us to the examining room. She directed my dad to sit in a reclining medical chair, but the footrest was up. He lost his balance trying to sit down and I grabbed him, quickly. She ignored his near fall without trying to help and said curtly, “Take his shoes and socks off so the doctor can examine him.”
A few minutes later the podiatrist came in and stated his name. He didn’t ask our names, but I offered them anyway. “These are my parents, Ron and Anita Friedman. They just moved to Knoxville from Ohio. My dad is a new patient.” The doctor didn’t look up and he didn’t say anything. He just picked up a pair of clippers and went to work on my dad’s feet. When he was finished, he stood up and said, “See you back in 10 weeks.”
I had to put the footrest down myself so my dad wouldn’t stumble again. He had trouble getting out of the chair and I did my best to help him. No one said goodbye when we left the office.
“That was awful,” my mom said on the drive home. We spent the next 30 minutes talking about all the things that were terrible about the visit. “Did you see the plaque on the wall honoring veterans?” I asked, angrily. “Do you think Dad felt honored?”
“I felt invisible,” my mom replied softly. “It was like we were nothing.” And that was the crux of the problem.
No one said anything unkind to my parents. No one was outwardly rude. But the people in that doctor’s office treated my mom and dad with profound indifference, and somehow, that felt worse. There is something so belittling about not being seen.
Rudeness is terrible. Cruelty is appalling. But indifference may be the worst sin of them all.
These next few months are going to be challenging. The coronavirus is going to get worse before it gets better and the holidays are going to strain our patience and highlight all the things we’ve been missing as we try to keep ourselves and each other safe. We’re mourning the loss of our normal lives and waiting for things to get better.
These are hard times. We need to take care of each other and to be kind to one another, but most of all, we need to look and really see each other. Because as it turns out, there’s nothing worse than being invisible.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News blog: Turkey dinners feed 5,000 at Grace Baptist Church