For the love of food

A Q&A with Stephanie Parker, a blogger from Birmingham, Alabama, who loves to share recipes and family adventures with fellow foodies on her blog “Plain Chicken.” Check out her blog … plainchicken.com.

What do readers find at your blog in addition to recipes?
Stephanie Parker: In addition to recipes, Plain Chicken posts about our world travels and our three cats, and we also post a weekly menu on Sunday to help get you ready for the week.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SP: Blogging started as a way for me to store recipes. I would make food and take it to work. People would ask for the recipe later, and I had to search for it. I decided to make a blog and store everything online. The blog started expanding because we were in a dinner rut. I decided to make one new recipe a week. Well, that morphed into four new recipes a week. Plain Chicken has totally changed my life. I was in corporate accounting for over 18 years. Plain Chicken took off, and I was able to quit my corporate job and focus solely on plainchicken.com. I am so lucky to be able to do something that I love every single day.

Everyone has different tastes, so when the extended family gets together, what kind of menu can you plan to please everyone?
SP: Pleasing everyone is always hard, especially nowadays with all the different diet plans people are on. I always try to have something for everyone. If you know someone is vegetarian or gluten-free, make sure they have some options. But for me, at the end of the day, I’m their hostess, not their dietitian.

What are some ideas for getting the children involved in preparing the holiday meal?
SP: Getting the children involved with preparing the holiday meal is a great idea. When making the cornbread dressing, let the children mix up the batter and crumble the cooked cornbread. Have the children mix the cookie batter and form the cookies. For safety’s sake, just make sure the adults put things in the oven and take them out.

Budgets play a big role in planning holiday menus. What are some ideas for hosting a party with “champagne taste on a beer budget?”
SP: Plan your menu early and watch the grocery store sales. Buy ingredients and store them for the holidays. Freeze what you can, and store canned/dry goods in the pantry. Wholesale clubs, like Sam’s and Costco, are also great places to buy large quantities of items and meats.

Do you have a good recipe for the holidays you’re willing to share?
SP: Yes. Spicy Ranch Crackers are a great snack to have on hand during the holidays. The recipe makes a lot, and the crackers will keep for weeks. They are perfect for unexpected guests and are also great in soups and stews.

Spicy Ranch Crackers
Spicy Ranch Crackers
1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix
1/2 to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 box saltine crackers

Combine dry ranch mix, cayenne pepper and oil. Pour over crackers. Toss crackers every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes, until all crackers are coated and there is no more oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Store in a resealable plastic bag.

Other food blogs that might tempt your palate:

www.brittanyspantry.com
This site combines a love of reading, writing and cooking into a blog that will keep you busy in the kitchen creating recipes that have been tested and tweaked for delicious results.

www.iamafoodblog.com
Even for people who work with food for a living, the editors at Saveur “were overcome with desire,” and named this blog its “Blog of the Year” for 2014.

www.southernbite.com
This Prattville, Alabama-based blog focuses on Southern food with the idea that “food down South is not all about deep frying and smothering stuff in gravy.”

Connected Christmas

Your 2015 Gadget-Giving Guide

Ah, Christmas. It’s approaching quickly, and it’s never too early to start shopping. But are you struggling with what to buy that someone who has everything? Here are some of the season’s hottest items that are sure to impress that technologically savvy, hard-to-buy-for family member, significant other or friend.

Wocket Smart Wallet

wocket_smartwallet

If you’re tired of keeping up with all the cards in your wallet, the Wocket is for you.

The Wocket Smart Wallet is the world’s smartest wallet. How does it work? First swipe your cards using the card reader included in the Wocket. Information like your voter registration or any membership or loyalty cards with bar codes can also be entered manually.

The information stored in the Wocket is then transmitted through the WocketCard.
The WocketCard gives the information to the point-of-sale device when it is swiped, just as with a regular credit card.

For only $229, you can own the smartest wallet on the planet. Order yours at www.wocketwallet.com.

Lily

The Lily Drone

Have you been considering getting a drone, but can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger? Meet Lily, the drone that takes flight on its own, literally. All you have to do is toss it up in the air, and the motors automatically start.

Unlike traditional drones that require the user to operate what looks like a video game controller, Lily relies on a hockey puck-shaped tracking device strapped to the user’s wrist. GPS and visual subject tracking help Lily know where you are. Unlike other drones, Lily is tethered to you at all times when flying.

Lily features a camera that captures 12-megapixel stills, and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, or 720p at 120 frames per second. You can preorder today, but Lily will not be delivered until May 2016. Expect to pay $999. www.lily.camera

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a new personal assistant, Amazon has you covered. The Amazon Echo is designed to do as you command — whether it be adding milk to your shopping list, answering trivia, controlling household temperature or playing your favorite music playlist.

The Echo, which uses an advanced voice recognition system, has seven microphones and can hear your voice from across a room. The Echo activates when hearing the “wake word.” The Echo is constantly evolving, adapting to your speech patterns and personal preferences. “Alexa” is the brain within Echo, which is built into the cloud, meaning it’s constantly getting smarter and updating automatically.

It’s available for $179.99 on www.amazon.com.

iCPooch

iCPooch

Have you ever wondered what your beloved pup is doing while you’re not at home? Wonder no more. iCPooch allows you to see your dog whenever you’re away. By attaching a tablet to the base of iCPooch, your dog can see you, and you can see them — you can even command iCPooch to dispense a treat.

Just download the free app to your tablet or smartphone and never miss a moment with your pup!

iCPooch is available for $99, not including tablet, from Amazon and the website store.icpooch.com.

Classic Christmas Cookies

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky, makes family cookie recipes her own.

Cookies so good Santa won’t want to leave

By Anne P. Braly,
Food Editor

We all know that holiday cookies are a lot more than sugar, flour and eggs. They tell a story. Remember walking into grandma’s house only to see warm cookies she just took from the oven sitting on the counter?

Hope Barker has similar stories when she reminisces about baking cookies with her mom. Her favorite recipe is a simple one: sugar cookies.
“My mom and I used to make these when I was young,” she recalls. The recipe came from an old cookbook — now so yellowed and worn with age that it’s fallen apart, but, thankfully the pages were saved and are now kept in a folder.

She learned to cook at the apron strings of her mother, Glyndia Conley, and both grandmothers. “I can remember baking when I was in elementary school,” Barker says. “My mom and I made sugar cookies to take to school parties. And Mamaw Essie (Conley) taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. From Mamaw Nora (Cottle), I learned how to make stack pies — very thin apple pies stacked and sliced like a cake.”

She honed these techniques and soon became known for her baking skills in her town of West Liberty, Kentucky, so much so that she opened a bakery business that she operated from her home, making cookies and cakes for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other special events.
During the holidays, cookies are in demand. Not only are they scrumptious, but just about everyone loves them, too. They make great gifts from the kitchen, and if you arrange them on a beautiful platter, they can become your centerpiece.

“Cookies are easy to make and easy to package,” Barker says. “They don’t require plates and forks, so they are more convenient than many other desserts. Also, because they are less time-consuming, you can make a variety in less time than many other desserts. They can be decorated many different ways. And who doesn’t love to get a plate of pretty cookies?”

But there is one big mistake some less-practiced cooks often make when baking cookies — overbaking.

“If you leave them in the oven until they ‘look’ done, they are going to be overdone,” Barker warns. “The heat in the cookies will continue to bake them after you have taken them out of the oven.”

She says the best outcome for pretty cookies is to start with the right equipment — a good, heavy cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. “This will keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet and help them to brown more evenly on the bottom,” she says. And when finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before putting them in a sealed, airtight container to keep them moist.

Barker no longer caters, but she continues to do a lot of baking during the holidays for family, coworkers and friends.
Cookies, she says, just seem to be a universal sign of welcome, good wishes and happy holidays.

Sugar cookies are a delicious and versatile classic during the holiday season. This is Hope Barker’s favorite recipe. They can be made as drop cookies or chilled and rolled for cut-out cookies. You can use the fresh dough and roll balls of it in cinnamon sugar to make Snickerdoodles, or use it as a crust for a fruit pizza.

Classic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk
Additional sugar (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix very well. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Make sure all ingredients are well-incorporated.
For drop cookies, scoop fresh dough into 1-inch balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Smear a small amount of shortening on the bottom of a glass, dip the glass into the sugar of your choice and flatten each dough ball into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. Continue to dip the glass into sugar and flatten the dough balls until all are flattened into disks. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Bake the cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.
For rolled and cut cookies, refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. Roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.

Sugar Cookie Variations

Various Sugar Cookies Frosted Cookies
Bake either the rolled or drop cookies. Prepare your favorite frosting recipe (or buy canned frosting) and frost the cooled cookies. Frosting can be tinted with different colors and piped on in seasonal designs.

Snickerdoodles
When making the drop cookies, mix together 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1 cup granulated sugar. Roll each ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then put onto the cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass into a disk shape and bake as directed.

Maple Cookies
Replace the vanilla flavoring in the recipe with maple flavoring. Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. On the stovetop, stir together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons milk; stir well. (Be careful as the mixture will splatter a little when you add the milk.) Put saucepan back on stove and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over 1 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and mix on low/medium speed until smooth. Drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies with a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Jell-O Cookies
Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. When the cookies come out of the oven, spread a thin layer of light corn syrup on the tops with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with Jell-O gelatin powder of your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Fruit Pizza
Use about a half batch of the dough and spread evenly in a greased jelly roll pan. This will be the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough begins to get some color at the edges and on top. Let the crust cool completely. Mix together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 7 ounces marshmallow creme. Spread this over the crust. Cut up about 4 cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, etc.) and stir together with a package of strawberry fruit gel. Spread the fruit mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate before slicing and serving.

Empowering members to be advocates for rural telecommunications

By Keith Gabbard
Chief Executive Officer

The results are in. Almost 200 readers responded to The PRTC Connection readership survey in our January/February issue. Your responses gave us good insight into what we’re doing right and how we can serve you better.

I appreciate those who took the time to share this valuable feedback with us.

Not surprisingly, the stories about local people in our community and the articles about food are the most popular pages among respondents. But I was pleased to see readers also enjoy the articles with information about your cooperative.

Perhaps that readership is why 85 percent of respondents said this magazine gave them a better understanding of technology, and 90 percent said they have a better understanding of the role this cooperative plays in economic and community development because of The PRTC Connection. It’s very gratifying to know our efforts are working.

I shared this data not to boast about how proud we are of this magazine, but to explain the reason why I’m proud of it. I believe having informed and educated members is a key factor to the long-term health of this cooperative.

In fact, educating our members is one of the seven core principles that lay the foundation for a cooperative. The National Cooperative Business Association says members should be informed about company and industry news “so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative.”

Informed and engaged members make our cooperative better.

Broadband has been in the news quite a bit lately, from net neutrality to the president discussing high-speed network expansion. It’s important for our members to know how federal regulations, state policies and shifts in the industry can affect their broadband and telephone services.

Educating you on issues that matter to rural telecommunications and your community empowers you to become advocates for rural America. Big corporations and urban residents certainly find ways to make their voices heard, and it’s up to cooperatives like us and members like you to let legislators and policymakers know that rural America matters and decisions that affect telecommunications cooperatives matter to rural America.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos in this magazine. I always do. But I also hope you come away with a little better understanding of your cooperative, the role we play in this community and the role you can play in making rural America better.

Earle Combs: ‘just a country boy from Kentucky’

By Brian Lazenby

Earle Combs, born in Pebworth, Kentucky, played 11 seasons with the New York Yankees. He earned a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.)

Earle Combs, born in Pebworth, Kentucky, played 11 seasons with the New York Yankees. He earned a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.)

Earle Combs loved spring, because by the time the jonquils began to appear, he had worn holes in his wool socks.

It wasn’t that Combs hated wool, or even wearing socks, but every spring his father would unravel the worn threads and wind the yarn into a tight ball. He would then cut leather pieces from a pair of his wife’s old shoes and stitch them around the yarn. Then, with a piece of wood cut from a poplar tree, Combs practiced the game he loved — baseball — a game which he later said he owes for everything he ever had.

It was baseball that helped him get an education and took him all over the country — from Pebworth in Owsley County to the Big Apple as a member of the New York Yankees. Ultimately, it led him to the infamous 1927 New York Yankees lineup that struck fear into the hearts and minds of many opposing pitchers. And not only was Combs a part of “Murderers’ Row,” as the gang of sluggers came to be known, but he was also their leadoff hitter. He set the table for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Toni Lazzeri. He helped lead the Yankees to seven American League pennants and four World Series Championships, and according to his friends, “always wore the same size hat.”

Kyle Bobrowski played baseball in high school and portrayed Earle Combs in the “Homesong” community play in Owsley County. He learned a lot about the local hero and became a big fan. “He was very humble and never wanted to be in the spotlight,” Bobrowski says.

FROM PEBWORTH TO COOPERSTOWN

Earle Combs, known as “The Kentucky Colonel,” played for the New York Yankees from 1924 until 1935. (Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.)

Earle Combs, known as “The Kentucky Colonel,” played for the New York Yankees from 1924 until 1935. (Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.)

The son of a farmer from just outside of Booneville, Combs is one of only two Kentuckians inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The day he was inducted at Cooperstown, he referred to himself as “just a common guy from Kentucky.”

“All he knew his whole life was farming,” Bobrowski says. “He always believed in honesty, hard work and the Golden Rule — treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Combs never imagined he would make a living playing baseball, so he left Pebworth for Richmond to study to become a teacher at Eastern State Normal School, now Eastern Kentucky University. But baseball was always part of his life. After a remarkable performance in a student-faculty game at Eastern, Combs was convinced to try out for the school team, where he became a star and hit .591 his final year at the school.
Combs returned home to begin his teaching career, but in the summertime he played semi-pro ball for several Kentucky towns: Winchester, High Splint and Lexington. It was while playing with the Lexington Reos in the Bluegrass League that he caught the eye of a scout from the Louisville Colonials of the American Association. They offered him $37 a month — more than his salary as a teacher. It was only then that he realized a career playing baseball might be possible.

He played for Louisville in 1922 and 1923 and transitioned from a shortstop to a ball-hawking center fielder with a penchant for stealing bases. It was in 1924 that the New York Yankees purchased Combs for an eye-popping $50,000 and brought him to the big leagues.

The hometown boy from Pebworth proved to be worth every penny. He cruised center field, snagging fly balls between Bob Meusel in left field and Ruth in right. His speed prompted many sportswriters to refer to him as a “gazelle,” “thoroughbred” and “greyhound.” He hit .400 his rookie year before a broken ankle ended his season. But the following year, he picked up where he had left off. In 1927, the year of the infamous Murderers’ Row, he led the American League in at-bats (648), triples (23) and hit a career-high 231 base hits — 39 more than Ruth. On top of that, he scored the winning run in the Yankees’ four-game World Series sweep of Pittsburgh.

During his career, Combs had a lifetime batting average of .325, had more than 200 base hits in a season three times, led the American League in triples three times and twice led the American league in putouts.
“He never really considered himself an all-star, just a country boy from Kentucky,” Bobrowski says. “But his numbers still hold up today with some of the greats.”

Combs played a role on the Yankees teams that went beyond the box score, says Earl Cox, who retired after a five-decade news career that included a stint as sports editor for The Courier-Journal in Louisville.
“He is credited with saving the Yankees a lot of games, and with saving Babe Ruth, too,” Cox says. “When Babe had been out on one of his benders the night before a game, Earl would have to play center field and right field, too.”

TOUGH STUFF
Combs’ career was dotted with injuries, but in 1934, he suffered skull fracture when he collided with the center field wall. He was carried from the field on a stretcher, unconscious with blood gushing from his nose and mouth. He was admitted to the hospital and listed as critical with a fractured skull, broken collar bone, dented nose and contusions on his face and knees.

He spent weeks in the hospital recovering. Despite the horrific injuries, he healed more quickly than most expected.

“I was made of tough stuff,” Combs said of his recovery.

He was beloved by teammates, Yankee fans, opposing players and fans of opposing teams. That love and admiration was shown during the time he spent hospitalized for his injuries with the thousands of letters that poured into the hospital. And in true Earle Combs form, he tried to answer as many as he could.
Combs returned to the Yankees the following year, but torn ligaments in his throwing arm sidelined him for much of the season. That fall, he decided to hang up his glove for good.

Earle Combs, born in Pebworth, Kentucky, played 11 seasons with the New York Yankees. He earned a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall Of Fame.)

Kentucky native Earle Combs earned a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played alongside greats such as Babe Ruth.

“I’m not as young as I once was,” he said at the time.

After that, Combs coached for several years, first for the Yankees, before moving to the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. He retired from the game after the 1954 season and returned to Kentucky, where former baseball commissioner A.B. “Happy” Chandler served a second term as governor from 1955 to 1959. Chandler named Combs the state’s banking commissioner. The retired player also bought a farm with his wife, Ruth, and became president of Peoples Bank of Paint Lick.

Combs died in 1976 at the age of 77. He is still remembered today as one of the most humble, yet talented, players to step on the field. A dormitory at Eastern Kentucky University bears his name, and the school awards an athletic scholarship in his honor.

“In my eyes, he is the most famous person from here,” Bobrowski says. “I think he even tops Daniel Boone, because Daniel Boone wasn’t actually from here.”

Learning to work from home

Teleworks is connecting Eastern Kentucky job seekers with “brand name” companies

Editor’s note: This story is the second in a series of articles that will highlight PRTC’s Smart Rural Community award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

An advisor answers a student’s question during a Teleworks USA class at the Jackson County Industrial Park.

An advisor answers a student’s question during a Teleworks USA class at the Jackson County Industrial Park.

Expectant mother Paige Adkins needed work, but she did not want to face a nearly 30-mile, one-way commute.

“The closest job I would have been able to find would have been in London,” says Adkins, who lives in Gray Hawk, Kentucky. “There are no jobs here at all.”

Free training provided through Teleworks USA, however, may prepare her for a job with one of the growing number of companies developing remote, Internet-connected workforces.

“We’ve had folks who are working with Sony, Apple, Amazon and U-Haul,” says Owen Grise, deputy director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

The classes, held at Jackson County Industrial Park and at the Kentucky Career Center JobSight in Hazard, Kentucky, are funded mostly through the U.S. Department of Labor.

The self-directed training usually requires four to six weeks. Afterward, employers recruit from the pool of certified candidates. “We have one employee in Eastern Kentucky working for a company in Paris, France,” Grise says.

Owen Grise helps oversee the Teleworks USA program in Jackson County as the deputy director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

Owen Grise helps oversee the Teleworks USA program in Jackson County as the deputy director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

Connecting workers to jobs
Teleworks was one of the first initiatives nationally to embrace the idea of training people in rural areas and connecting them with companies building remote workforces. In addition to training, the company manages a website to connect employers with job seekers.

Teleworks helped about 500 people secure jobs in just less than four years, Grise says.

Classes can accommodate about 15 people. Each trainee works through the program at his or her own pace. Certifications might require a testing fee, but qualified students can receive financial assistance.

Pay for an entry-level job is about $20,000 annually, and many jobs will include benefits, Grise says. For counties such as Jackson, the jobs can provide a welcome economic boost. “If we produce 15 people in a month or six weeks who can land those jobs, that’s $300,000 in wages, before taxes, that wasn’t in the county before,” Grise says.

Waiting lists exist for classes at both locations, Grise says.

Developing customer service skills
Adkins has worked since she was 16 years old. Most jobs were in customer service.

“I want to do good for people, and I want people to be happy with what they’re getting,” she says. “I know this will be good for me.”

She hopes a work-from-home job will allow her to stay employed while also preparing for her new baby.

“Classes are three days a week from 9 o’clock until noon,” she says. “We go through lessons each day. We watch videos explaining what good customer service is, and how to present yourself when doing customer service.”

Then, each lesson includes sample questions. Afterward, a quiz determines if each person passes a section. At the end of training, job seekers can earn certifications verifying their new skills.

Without the program, Adkins says she would find it difficult to pay for training. “I’ve been married almost two years, and we do good,” she says. “But, it would be hard to pay for schooling if we had to pay for it out of pocket. I feel very blessed.”

Paige Adkins works through an Internet-based lesson during the Teleworks USA training program.

Paige Adkins works through an Internet-based lesson during the Teleworks USA training program.

Business tools at home
Training, however, is only one part of succeeding at a work-from-home job. “It’s a different situation than most folks are used to,” Grise says.

Hurdles might include lack of a good computer, or coping with family and pets unaccustomed to someone working from home.

For a time, however, new employees might have the opportunity to work from the training center while they get their home office ready. “We can let them work here for a little while as they get their feet on the ground, a routine down and better understanding of the demands of the job,” Grise says.

While many work-from-home employees face a transition, quality Internet access is not a concern.

“One of the things about being here is that Jackson County is so well connected,” Grise says. “It’s an opportunity that many of them don’t realize they have.”

Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

Changing business strategies
Introducing people to the idea of work-from-home jobs is key for Teleworks. “You have to convince them that this is real — it’s not a scam,” Grise says. “These companies will hire you, even though they’ve never seen you.”

Many national employers are “off-siting” part of their workforce. The move saves on office space, utilities and other costs associated with call centers, Grise says.

Employees connect through the Internet to a company’s servers. And despite the distance, employers can still track each worker.

Grise believes demand will continue to increase for employees who work from home. Soon, the concept will need little explanation.

“We’re raising a generation of people right now who can’t imagine being out of touch,” Grise says. “Those folks are going to grow up where it’s not at all a strange concept that they should know an employer only through a laptop.”

Learn more about Teleworks USA jobs: www.teleworksusa.com

Your bill, simplified

At PRTC, we’re a community — a community that believes in helping our customers every way we can. We are converting to a new, more efficient billing system. And we are making sure your monthly bill is as easy to read as possible with a format change beginning June 1. We put important information at the top of the bill to help make handling and filing simpler for you. To be certain you always know what everything you see means, we’ve broken it down in detail, section by section below.

New Bill

 

Trail Town: Plan to connect McKee to Sheltowee Trace

By Brian Lazenby

Leaders in Jackson County are working to take advantage of the area’s most valuable resource — its natural beauty.

Bob Gabbard hikes along the Sheltowee Trace. Soon a connector will link the trail to downtown McKee to lure hikers.

Bob Gabbard hikes along the Sheltowee Trace. Soon a connector will link the trail to downtown McKee to lure hikers.

Tourism officials and outdoor enthusiasts are working to have McKee designated as an official “Trail Town” along the Sheltowee Trace, a long-distance trail that begins in Pickett State Park in Tennessee and runs north-northeast through Jackson County to Roan County, Kentucky, near Morehead. A spur trail would connect McKee to the main 307-mile trace so it could serve as a stop-off for long-distance hikers. Currently, hikers pass right by McKee without ever putting a hiking boot in local shops, restaurants or hotels.

“The trail is the one golden thread that we can build upon,” says Bob Gabbard, owner of the Town and Country Motel in McKee. He is spearheading the proposed trail connector. “It is not the answer by itself, but I think it can go a long way to helping us develop the area’s economy.”

The Jackson County Department of Tourism has already submitted its permit application for McKee to be designated an official Trail Town. Jackson County Tourism Chairman Demian Gover says the feedback from the U.S. Forest Service has been very positive.

“They seem to be very happy with our plan,” he says.

Both he and Gabbard are eager for the permit to be approved and are hopeful that it happens this spring, but they know it may take until summer before they get the go-ahead.

“It looks like this will be a banner year for us in the trail business,” Gabbard says.

Connected

Currently the Sheltowee Trace bypasses McKee by about a mile and a half, and a portion of that section travels along U.S. Highway 421. Gabbard says the proposed new section will eliminate the on-road section of the trail.

Officials have already built one new trailhead in the Hamilton Bottoms area near the McKee welcome sign. Another is planned at the other end of town across from the post office, where hikers could have mail and supplies shipped ahead of them.

Bob Gabbard is spearheading efforts to have McKee designated an official “Trail Town” and build two trailheads and a connector to the Sheltowee Trace.

Bob Gabbard is spearheading efforts to have McKee designated an official “Trail Town” and build two trailheads and a connector to the Sheltowee Trace.

Both trailheads will connect to one another by a trail running parallel to Main Street, but it will pass off the roadway behind businesses and houses.

Both trailheads will connect to the trace, which sees thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year. Plans are underway to link the trace with other trails to form the Great Eastern Trail running from Alabama to New York, similar to the Appalachian Trail.

While the Sheltowee Trace is primarily used by hikers, it is a multi-use trail and allows horses, mountain bikes and all-terrain vehicles in some designated sections.

Gabbard and Gover want to bring those using the trail into McKee, where they will hopefully spend the night, eat dinner or replenish their equipment.

“We want to be there for the hikers to re-fuel and re-equip,” Gover says. “They are going to do that somewhere. Why would we not want to be there for them when they do?”

It isn’t clear what the economic impact will be if the plan is approved, but Gover says Livingston built a visitors center across from a Sheltowee trailhead in Rockcastle County, about 30 miles southeast of McKee, and is already seeing positive economic results.

“It is not the end-all, be-all for the economy in McKee and Jackson County, but it could be that stimulus and catalyst we need,” Gover says.

Down the road

People inhabited this region as early as the 10th century, says Gabbard, who is also a paleontologist. He says once the connector is approved and built, there are additional plans to capitalize on the “adventure tourism” crowd with a village to honor those early inhabitants.

Did you know? Sheltowee is a Shawnee term meaning “Big Turtle.” It is the name Shawnee Chief Blackfish gave to Daniel Boone because he moved slowly along the trail compared to the native tribesmen.

Did you know?
Sheltowee is a Shawnee term meaning “Big Turtle.” It is the name Shawnee Chief Blackfish gave to Daniel Boone because he moved slowly along the trail compared to the native tribesmen.

“If the plan goes through, in five years we want to have a replica native Appalachian village,” he says. “We have the beauty of our natural resources, and those assets need to be promoted.”

Officials are working closely with Native American groups, and a portion of the village will be dedicated to them.

Gabbard says the proposed trail will not only attract hikers to McKee, but it will also bring bird watchers, naturists and other outdoor enthusiasts to the area.

“This is an ancient land, and it is very fossiliferous,” he says. “There is a lot to see here if people will take the time to look for it.”

For more information about Jackson County and the area’s natural resources, visit www.visitjacksoncountyky.com or www.sheltoweetrace.com.

Get local with PRTC Channel 9

Are you a high school sports fan? Do you want to keep track of the issues going before the city council? Or maybe you are interested in learning more about the local region.

Mark Sulfridge films a play at an area school for PRTC Channel 9. PRTC continues to expand its coverage of events in the community.

Mark Sulfridge films a play at an area school for PRTC Channel 9. PRTC continues to expand its coverage of events in the community.

Whatever your interests, PRTC Channel 9 is your source for what is happening in Jackson and Owsley counties.

Local programming from PRTC brings you all the high school sports action, local election coverage, area church services and much more right to your living room.

“PRTC is enriching the community in so many ways and letting you know what is going on,” says Brian Murray, who hosts several of the segments on Channel 9. “With this wide variety of programming, PRTC is making a huge investment in the community.”

Murray, who got his play-by-play start in radio, is the voice of high school sports on Channel 9. The local channel brings all the high school action a diehard fan could want. Basketball, baseball, softball and football — Murray stays busy bringing all the fast-paced action to you.

Highlights

After 5 years of covering local sports, PRTC expanded its programming to include coverage of local elections and government, as well as a program that would quickly become one of the more popular segments, “Local Treasures.”

“Local Treasures” highlights some of the interesting sites around the region. In the past, they have aired shows about Flat Lick Falls, Hooten Old Town and natural historian and caver Jake Lainhart, among others.

Murray interviews those associated with the sites and highlights the many fascinating stories and facts about all the treasures this region has to offer.

“PRTC is always on the lookout for new topics and ways to bring interesting local stories to our members like no one else can,” he says.

In any given span of 90 days, Murray says Channel 9 usually broadcasts 40-50 events, including local school plays, holiday parades and just about anything going on in the region.

“I’m not aware of a local cooperative anywhere that is dedicated to bringing viewers this much local content,” he says.

For more information about the programming available on Channel 9, visit www.prtcnet.org and click “Channel 9 Video Schedule.” Advertising opportunities are also available. Call 606-287-7101.

Annville Christian Academy

Broadband technology is helping to enrich education at area schools

SRC Logo+url_liveEditor’s note: This story is the first in a series of articles that will highlight PRTC’s Smart Rural Community award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. 

The children begin each day with a devotion service in the chapel. They make prayer requests — sometimes for a sick family member or sometimes for a lost puppy.

Betty Madden, director at the Annville Christian Academy, says it is a great way to start the day, and it sets the tone for the school’s Bible-based curriculum.

Annville Christian Academy was established in 1985 on the historic campus of the Annville Institute at the request of parents who believed in the benefits of a faith-based education. The school offers students from any background a non-denominational Christian-based A Beka program.

Because of the low pupil-to-teacher ratio, students get ample one-on-one instruction.

Because of the low pupil-to-teacher ratio, students get ample one-on-one instruction.

“Our faculty and staff strive to share God’s love, exhibit his grace and teach his word daily, preparing students educationally, physically and spiritually to be Christian citizens wherever they go,” Madden says.

And with a broadband connection from PRTC, students at Annville Christian Academy are traveling across the globe through online streaming videos, they’re researching information online, and they’re exposed to new teaching styles through broadband.

Connecting educational institutions to the world through broadband is one reason the PRTC service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

The academy serves children from preschool through the eighth grade. There are currently 33 students enrolled, but there is room for about 70. Madden says the enrollment fluctuates from year to year.

“A lot of the kids we get struggle in larger public schools,” she says. “They sometimes don’t do well in crowds, but they thrive here in our small environment. They get a lot of one-on-one, individualized attention.”

Recently, younger students were working on an art project, older students were in the computer lab researching a history project and others were studying math.

Students research the topics for their history projects in the computer lab.

Students research the topics for their history projects in the computer lab.

“They get everything here they get in public schools, plus some things they don’t get,” say Madden, who points out that many public schools no longer teach cursive writing or have devalued the importance of spelling. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication, but it works.”

Madden says many of the teachers are retired from other school systems, which benefits the students because the teachers are more experienced and know the techniques that resonate with their students.

The school is privately funded, meaning it receives no government money. They operate with some grant money, but most of their operating cost is generated from fundraisers and donations from area churches. “Other than that, if we don’t raise the money, we don’t get it,” Madden says.

For more information about Annville Christian Academy or to learn how to donate to the school, visit annvilleinstitute.com/aca.shtml or look them up on Facebook