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Kentucky by Heart: In these tumultuous times for our country, there is much good happening in Kentucky

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune Columnist

There are many good things happening around our state these days that might not receive the coverage they deserve, whether it’s because they carry only a “local” tag, maybe they are drowned out by so many reports of bad news, or perhaps those involved in the good things are limited in ways to publicize them.

Good things untold is a perfect reason to bring to light some of them in this week’s Kentucky by Heart column. Check out these nuggets and spread the word!

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Scott Whiddon (Photo provided)

Transylvania University’s director of its Writing Center, Dr. Scott Whiddon, has a couple of uplifting projects going on related to his additional work as an independent musician. Archipelago: Songs from Quarantine Volumes 1 and 2 is an all-instrumental collection, recorded remotely from May-September during the early days of the pandemic. Scott collaborates with Drs. Kevin Holm-Hudson, UK, and Jim Gleason, EKU, and the work has been showcased at such events as the recent “Sounds of the Pandemic” online conference/Universita di Firenze, Italy. Proceeds via bandcamp.com sales support the work of Lexington’s Central Music Academy, which has given over 40,000 free music lessons to students in need since 2004.

Scott also recently released a two-song single as part of a series of ongoing releases. “The Ballad of Chris Bell,” he noted, “tells the story of Big Star, one of the most influential but underappreciated bands of the 70s from Memphis, Tennessee. Funds from this project support Lexington and Memphis Habitat for Humanity efforts.”

For more information about these worthwhile endeavors, email Scott at swhiddon@transy.edu.

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According to a recent Woodford Sun article, the local Salvation Army Red Kettle collection total was $27, 955 and achieved the goal despite the pandemic, with fewer sites and volunteers. Spokesperson Debbie Tichenor praised the outpouring of support, including a Woodford County church, Pisgah Presbyterian, which “donated one hundred percent of their collection from the ‘Pisgah’s Living Nativity’ (December 19, 2020) to the Red Kettle. In two hours, they collected $2, 847. Overwhelming, indeed!”

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Marie Parsons, 75, recently started writing poems after her writing group, she said, “convinced me I was a poet… a revelation to me!” What also followed was her book of poems, Echo in the Wind, published in January by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Clark County librarian John Maruskin called her poems “rooted, firm as the hills, in the Appalachian ballad tradition. They are poignant, enigmatic, humorous – always memorable, always good companions.”

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In the southern part of Kentucky, a drama presentation with a religious emphasis is on the agenda. Spokesperson Amber Frangos announced that Mary: Her Story, has launched a social media campaign running until the May 2022 production at Flashback Theater in Somerset.

Find information about the play and more at the production’s Facebook page, along with Instagram and Twitter. According to Amber, it is “a story of a mother and a son… the human story between Mary and Jesus. The Facebook page has weekly trivia, development history, blogging, and updates.”

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Harold Rainwater (center) with Asbury Service Mounts. (Service provided)

Harold Rainwater is a busy man, both as the director of The Asbury Equine program at Asbury University, in Wilmore, and as his town’s mayor for over three decades.

Particularly fascinating to me is the school’s equine outreach in the specialty of training “service mounts,” or horses used for police work.

Currently, explained Harold, there are 26 horses being prepared. “Six of the present horses (being trained for police work) are already committed to various departments in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Louisville. Last year, we placed ten horses around the U.S. and Canada,” he said.

A video of Harold talking about Asbury’s overall program is available at youtube.com

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The oldest rural settlement school in the nation, still going strong since 1902, is in southeastern Kentucky. Hindman Settlement School, said new board member Lois Matteus, is a “Kentucky treasure.” The school’s purpose, stated on its website, is to be “a vibrant beacon for progressive learning, community enrichment, and cultural exploration in the Central Appalachian region.”

Included among its works are Lois’s personal favorite, the Foodways program, which teaches local families to start small plot gardens to raise their own food. Lois noted that Foodways needs seeds for the spring planting.

Visit hindman.org to find out much more about this amazing school in the beautiful mountains of Kentucky.

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Barry Hisel (Photo provided)

Barry Hisel, of Butler, sees his livelihood as more than making money to support his family.

Several years ago, while he did lawn maintenance as a side gig, I appreciated the fact that he mowed my elderly mother’s yard at a reduced price. Talking to him, I found that he does that kind of thing all the time, he said, “for the elderly and widows… I see it as a ministry.”

Today, after losing his job of ten years for pandemic-related reasons, he has expanded his side work into a handyman service, called “That’s Odd – Odd Jobs.” If you live in the Pendleton County area and need his services, contact him via Facebook or email at moparbarry@aol.com.

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In Winchester, Unity Committee director Deatra Newell is justifiably proud of her group’s outreach to the underserved in her community. “Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted service to the people of God, just as Jesus did a long time ago,” she said. “Our theme this year is “Everyone can be great… because everyone can serve.”

The group recently provided a healthy lunch for the staff of the Clark County Health Department in respect, said Deatra, for their “long, tiring hours… it appears that their days never end.” The committee also plans to establish four “Blessing Boxes,” containing free food staples and personal items, in front of various public locations in Winchester. Alongside each will be “Library Boxes,” with free books having diverse content. She added that the committee is also looking at ways to make sure that “no child (in the community) sleeps on the floor.”

To help or seek further information about the good things happening in the town, email Deatra at wdnewell99@yahoo.com.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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Author and co-founder of Wilderness Road Hospitality, Angela Correll, recently began sending out email updates to the good happenings around Lincoln County and beyond, where she and her husband, Jess Correll, have been instrumental in revitalizing Lincoln County. Come and check out downtown Stanford’s ambience… an inspiring model for other Kentucky towns!

To receive regular updates, contact Angela at info@angelacorrell.com.

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Oh, the kind-hearted people in western Kentucky! In Henderson, retired teacher Roy Pullam, who grew up poor in the nearby town of Providence, saw the need to provide bicycles to the underserved in the community—both children and adults. A local columnist for The Gleaner newspaper wrote an article about the need and Roy noted that soon “the bikes came flooding in.” The Salvation Army helped in qualifying recipients, including students, homeless individuals, and elderly people. The local jailer offered the services of some inmates to repair bikes when needed. For those who received the bikes at the Harbor House Christian Center (for homeless individuals), it provided some exciting opportunities, said Roy. “The lucky bike owners could (now) ride to the YMCA where scholarships were available. They could ride to the library to check out books, music, and DVDs or to the public pool in Henderson.”

Roy also was instrumental in acquiring computers for distribution in Henderson. The bike and computer outreach has attracted those donating the items from as far away as Lexington.

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To conclude this sampling of positive Kentucky happenings, here are new books published recently published by some of our good-but-too-often-under-the radar writers. Michael Embry, of Frankfort, released Make Room for Family, part of his John Ross Boomer Lit series, which I have enjoyed. Another Frankfort writer, Chris Helvey, has two coming soon: The White Jamaican and, along with Howard R. Wolf, Echoes of Loss and Belonging: A Duet of Novellas.

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