The Rev. Carroll de Forest

Learn how Carroll de Forest serves his community through church and a charity providing medical equipment to those who are ill or weak.

Learn how Carroll de Forest serves his community through church and a charity providing medical equipment to those who are ill or weak.

His closet of hope and care
By Noble Sprayberry

Mattresses, canes, walkers and other necessities needed to support the sick or weak surround the Rev. Carroll de Forest as he stands in his “Closet.”

A tall man, he speaks in soft, soothing tones hinting neither of his New York upbringing, nor of the more than four decades spent in Eastern Kentucky.

“There are a lot of people here in Jackson County who have to choose between putting food on the table and meeting their medical needs,” he says. “Equipment is really expensive, and almost everything is given to us. So, we loan it out, for nothing, to whomever needs it, for as long as they need.”

The longtime pastor of the Gray Hawk Reformed Church continues to spend much of his day managing the Carroll de Forest Loan Closet, which is supported by the Jackson County Cancer Fund.
“He didn’t want us to name it after him, but we out-voted him,” says Vivian Marcum, a fund board member. “We decided he deserved that and even more.”

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is a free resource to those in need of medical supplies.

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is a free resource to those in need of medical supplies.

But the Closet, in the red, metal-sided building near his home, is only one way de Forest, who turns 80 in July, has touched a community he adopted as his own after arriving in 1971.

A life of service
He was raised in Duanesburg, New York, just northwest of Albany. “I grew up on a turkey farm,” he says.

He attended the State University of New York at Cobleskill, where he completed a two-year agriculture engineering course. Then, he went to Central College in Pella, Iowa, and majored in psychology.

The college is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, a denomination de Forest continues to serve. And after his degree, he began his journeys.

“I went to Japan as a short-term missionary after graduating,” he says of the time he taught English and Bible in a small town in the north of the country. “I was there three years. It was an agricultural college, with a boys high school and a girls high school connected to it.”

Once he returned to the United States, his continuing education included seminary in Holland, Michigan. He married his wife, Betty, during his senior year. After graduating, the couple returned to Japan. “We were there for five years, but Betty didn’t like it as well as I did,” he says.

The church’s mission board found the couple a new home. “They needed an agriculture teacher at Annville Institute, and I’d also done a year of graduate work at Iowa State after returning from Japan,” he says. “So, I became an agriculture teacher and farm manager in Annville.”

Jackson County Ministries took over operation of the institute in 1979, and de Forest headed the integrated pastoral calling program, which coordinated visits to area residents in nursing homes and hospitals.

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is supported by the Jackson County Cancer Fund and others. De Forest continues to make deliveries.

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is supported by the Jackson County Cancer Fund and others. De Forest continues to make deliveries.

In 1971, he also became a part-time pastor of the Gray Hawk Reformed Church, eventually serving as full-time pastor. The couple lived in a ranch-style home on the property, where they raised five children: Danny, 44; Nathan, 42; Mark, 41; Angie, 39; and Sherry, 34.

“I was pastor here for 29 years, and in 2000 I retired,” he says. “But, I like to say that I don’t retire, I retread.”

Joining the struggle against cancer
Over the years, de Forest contributed to the community in many ways, including officiating more than 120 marriages and participating in at least 600 funerals.

He has offered condolences and hope, with much of the work focused on individuals and families touched by cancer. He is an organizer and supporter of the Jackson County Cancer Fund.
“He’s the most thoughtful, caring and considerate person I’ve ever met,” Marcum says. “He treats everyone the same, like they’re a brother or a sister. I call him the gentle giant. He’s just wonderful.”

Teams from local churches organize events such as fish fries to support the fund. Also, an annual fall festival in September raises money and honors those lost to cancer, as well as those who survived.

Last year, the effort raised nearly $47,500. Ten percent of that money supports the Markey Cancer Center in Lexington, and the rest remains in the local community to fund efforts such as the Loan Closet.

The fund does buy mattress covers, which go along with any bedding distributed by the Closet. And, the fund may help defray the cost of providing batteries — as much as $170 — for electric-powered chairs. But, the Closet’s operation is frugal. De Forest, for example, pays for his own gas whenever he drives an aging van to deliver items or to pick up donations.

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is supported by the Jackson County Cancer Fund and others. De Forest continues to make deliveries.

The Carroll de Forest Loan Closet is supported by the Jackson County Cancer Fund and others. De Forest continues to make deliveries.

When asked what de Forest means to the community, fund board member Pat Henderson says, “Just about everything. He’s involved in more than you would expect from anyone. He’s just real caring, and a big help to the county. If you need help, all you have to do is ask. He doesn’t care what it takes.”

Through his work as pastor and with the Closet, he has seen people struggle with cancer. And while medicine now often provides life-extending treatments, if not outright cures, cancer remains a diagnosis fraught with fear.

“Cancer makes people think, ‘Well, I’m a goner, and I’m not going to make it through,’’’ de Forest says.

When offering comfort, de Forest turns to the lessons of his church: “As Paul says, our little earthly tent will be folded up one day, and God will move us out to our eternal dwelling. It’s a journey we all make.”

Through the Closet, de Forest, and those who help him, strive to make the journey a little easier.”


Who needs Superman, when you have Lois Lane?

Author Gwenda Bond specializes in young adult fiction.

Author Gwenda Bond specializes in young adult fiction.

An author gives the comic book heroine her first novel
By Melissa Smith

Author Gwenda Bond crafted a career writing young adult novels, but her latest work reminds her of childhood mischief: She often stole her brother’s comics.

Growing up in the Bond community near Annville, the author fondly recalls a love of reading that started when she was 5 years old.

“I don’t know what it is about books, but I can remember thinking they were magic,” Bond says.

She credits her parents, Jerry and Betty, for her love of reading. “I was very lucky to be in a house with a lot of books,” Bond says. “Both of my parents were teachers, and then became principals. I always had access to libraries.”

Always a lover of reading and comics, Bond’s latest book stars Superman’s cherished love interest, entitled, “Lois Lane: Fallout.”

In this story, set long before she falls in love with Superman, Lane moves from Kansas to Metropolis to begin her new life. She doesn’t quite fit in at her new high school and sets out to put the bullies (the Warheads) in their place. She is trying to adjust to her new surroundings, including beginning a new job as a reporter and making new friends. One friend in particular stands out, although she only knows him by his screen name, SmallvilleGuy.

Mild-mannered writer
Bond was excited, but admittedly a bit nervous, about unveiling her new novel and giving Lane her own spotlight. “What helped is that no one really knew about the draft except a handful of people,” Bond says. “I’ve been very lucky that DC Comics and Capstone have been really open and gave me a lot of freedom. The editorial process is great.”

With the success of previous titles such as “Girl on a Wire” and “Blackwood,” Bond says that she really loves being a young adult author. “There’s a supportive community who really loves this literature,” she says. “They’re so engaged.”

Bond believes a good story is a good story, regardless of whether adults or teenagers are reading her work. “Young adult books are about teenagers, but not necessarily for teenagers,” Bond says. “My books have a 50-50 audience of adults and teenagers.”

When it comes to parallels between Bond’s life and her stories, she says that she does use familiar places for her settings.

“I feel like they’re strongly tied to a certain place,” Bond says, specifically about her novel “Blackwood,” which was set in a small town and very much inspired by her high school years. “The stories often involve teenagers who feel like they’re in a small town,” she says.

Her stories shed light on a region often overshadowed with preconceived notions about its inhabitants.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the South,” Bond says. “It made me more thoughtful about assuming things about anyone.”

Bond lives in Lexington with her author-husband Christopher Rowe.

“Lois Lane: Fallout” launched on May 1 and is available at major book sellers.


College credits in high school

Giving Owsley County students an advantage

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

As Frankie Baldwin begins her senior year at Owsley County High School, she has a plan for the future and college-level credits on her record. “I want to go into forensic criminology or anthropology; something like that,” she says.

And thanks to a dual credits program used by about half of the high school’s juniors and seniors, she’ll have a big head start on that degree when she graduates.

During their school day, participating students attend at least one class that counts toward future degrees.

The experience also taught Baldwin about the expectations for college students. “In high school, they have to feed everything to you with a spoon,” Baldwin says. “In a college class, you don’t have someone pushing you to do the work. They just expect you to do it.”

Personalized and connected

The dual credits program is part of the county’s District of Innovation push. It started when the Kentucky Department of Education tested Web-based learning as a way to help students continue their education when weather closed schools.

That 2010 initiative proved successful, and educators wanted to expand the idea. They developed a range of tools, including student-specific education plans, college instructors who teach on the high school campus, video-based distance learning and dual credits programs.

Broadband Internet now adds to the tools connecting students and instructors, says Stacey Davidson, Owsely County Schools’ instructional supervisor.

All Owsley High School students have access to software tools such as Blackboard, which allows students and teachers to interact online.

Connecting educational institutions to the world through broadband is one reason Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative’s 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 University of Pikeville, Hazard Community & Technical College, and Morehead State University have all participated in the dual credits program, which costs as little as $50 per semester.

Building futures
Before Willa Richardson graduated from Owsley High in 2014, she built college credits while also staying active in school and community activities. “There was no computer or Internet at our house,” she says. “It was difficult at times to do it all, but I managed.”

At Berea College, her focus is child and family studies. College-level classes in high school prepared her for her first writing class at Berea. “It put me well ahead of everyone else,” she says.
Once she earns a college degree, she hopes to return to Owsley County as a representative of Partners for Education at Berea College. “I would like to go back and be an advocate for students,” she says.

Heroes of imagination

Area libraries provide valuable resources

Reading, learning and fun are the goals this summer for area libraries, which will focus on programs that include superheroes and aspiring librarians.

The Jackson County Library will offer the Every Hero Has a Story program, which is supported by the Kentucky Department of Libraries Association.

Readers from prekindergarten to 18 years old may attend the free program that extends throughout July. Last year, there were between 75 and 100 readers.

Participants should arrive each day by 11:30 a.m., when they can receive a free lunch. Then, from noon until 1 p.m., they will participate in reading-focused exercises such as “Be Your Own
Hero” or “Community Heroes.”

The Owsley County Public Library also supports a range of programs throughout the summer.

The Young Librarians program allows middle-schoolers and youth to spend all day at the library.

Participants will learn about the Dewey decimal system, cataloging, computer cleanup and the responsibility of maintaining the library’s young adult area.
The program continues until school resumes in August.

“At PRTC we believe reading is essential, and we proudly support the libraries of our communities,” PRTC General Manager Keith Gabbard says. “We hope you and your children take advantage of the summer reading programs.”


Survey Winner

Marie YoungMarie Young, a PRTC customer from Annville, won a $25 Amazon gift card after responding to The PRTC Connection readership survey.

Her name was selected at random from a pool of participating customers.

The survey provided valuable feedback about The PRTC Connection. We learned that the most popular pages are those with stories about local people in our community, as well as the articles about food.

About 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 of the cooperative.
PRTC thanks all of those who participated.

4G LTE wireless coverage expands

Additional transmission towers allows Appalachian Wireless to grow its 4G LTE service, which provides faster mobile downloads.

“Appalachian Wireless is continuing to expand its 4G LTE coverage footprint, and this is especially true in Owsley and Jackson counties,” says Ashley Litteral, marketing manager of Appalachian Wireless.

In March, the company added four towers — Annville, Mummie, Gray Hawk and McKee — to serve Jackson and Owsley counties.

“You’ll know if your device is using 4G LTE by seeing either “4G” or “LTE” next to your signal strength indicator,” he says.

Customers should expect continued expansion of 4G LTE service. A new tower in the Waneta area will be ready by fall.

Making a ‘smart’ decision

By Keith Gabbard
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.
That’s why we decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. And that’s why we worked hard to earn the distinction of being a Smart Rural Community. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in $200,000 more in median annual revenues than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely. While these smart devices offer plenty of convenience, they are also a smart safety decision to avoid coming home to a dark house or to receive an alert anytime someone pulls into your driveway.

We believe we’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your cooperative is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.