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2020- What a year! – In review

2021 is almost here and the Donalsonville News presents a look back at the top stories in 2020

2020 has been an unprecedented year with a pandemic, political races, protests, and population counts dominating the headlines. Here are the top stories affecting Seminole County and Southwest Georgia residents over the past twelve months.

 

JANUARY

Abigale Haywood is the 2020 STAR Student for SCMHS

January 16 – Seminole County Middle/High School (SCMHS) proudly announces Abigale Haywood as its 2020 STAR Student. Haywood, selected on the basis of her SAT scores, class standing and scholastic averages, has chosen Mr. Jordan Arline as her STAR teacher. Abby  is the daughter of  Teresa Haywood and the granddaughter of Harold and Glenda Gordon. She has two siblings, Triston Haywood and Kelli Brock and is a proud native of Colquitt, Georgia. Abby is a member of the SCHS Lady Indians basketball team.  Among her long list of achievements, one of her proudest moments is her early acceptance to the University of Georgia.  She plans to attend UGA to pursue a career in research medicine. 

Mr. Arline graduated from Seminole County and attended Albany State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education. Currently, he is furthering his education at Troy State University by obtaining his Masters of Education. He is married to Ronda Arline and has four daughters, all of whom he is very proud of. In addition to teaching, Mr. Arline has been a pastor for 14 years and since 2017 he has been with the Spread the Word Ministries of Southwest Georgia.  He takes great pride in spreading the gospel to this generation. Mr. Arline founded and is the CEO of Men Leaning Forward, a non-profit organization responsible for mentoring and providing scholarships for numerous at-risk youth around Southwest Georgia.

Maxwell receives the Georgia 

Peanut Commission Media Award

January 23 – More than 1,600 attendees were able to fine-tune their farming operations with information gained at the 44th annual Georgia Peanut Farm Show and Conference on January 16 at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton.  The Georgia Peanut Commission’s 2020 Georgia Peanut Media award was presented to David Maxwell, managing editor of the Donalsonville News for  his promotion of Seminole County agriculture, Georgia Peanut Commission’s interests, and for his coverage in the Donalsonville News of survival and recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael’s devastation. In presenting the award it was noted that David has led efforts within the Donalsonville Community to be a champion in boosting local business, civic, religious and cultural interests and in educating all on topics from local government and education to the next town event. 

This year’s Outstanding Georgia Peanut Farmer of the Year Award for District 1 was awarded to Jud Greene. Unfortunately, Jud passed away on Dec. 27, 2019, before he could be recognized for this award. His mother, Barbara, and brother, Joel, were in attendance to accept the award on his behalf. 

Spooner attends signing of China Trade Agreement in Washington D.C

January 23 – Seminole County Commissioner Mark Spooner was in Washington D. C. last week and had the opportunity to be in present and witness President Donald Trump sign the Phase One Trade Agreement with China, a historic trade agreement that will significantly impact Seminole County’as ag-based economy. Spooner commented, “As an area that relies heavily on agriculture, this agreement will hopefully bring increased revenue to a struggling community that is still feeling the effects of a destructive hurricane, as well as four years of low commodity prices. Though this is only the first step of many to improve our relations with China, it is a welcomed start.”  This agreement is enormously important to the agricultural industry, as well as many others in the state of Georgia and the entire nation – a step forward in the promotion of more equal trade and the protection of our nation’s industrial and agricultural technologies.

Finally, it’s the right time again 

in Seminole County

January 23 – Before Hurricane Michael, it was always 5 o’clock in Seminole County – according to the Courthouse’s broken clock. On the day Michael stormed into town, time literally disappeared when the clock was blown away by Michael’s 160+ mph winds. But today, more than fifteen months after the storm, it’s now the right time to make something positive happen in Seminole County. A new and working clock is now ticking at the Seminole County Courthouse. Ed Trout’s company, Eco-Built Homes, coordinated the repairs and renovations of the Courthouse and the installation of the new clock.  By the way, the inscription on the Courthouse’s frieze reads: A Populo Seminoli Iudicium Ad Causam Iustitiae Humanae Aedifactum Est – Anno Domini Mille Nongenti Viginti Duo. Translated into English it reads, “To the people of Seminole (County), this is built for the cause of Human Justice. In the year of Our Lord 1922.”

Donalsonville wins GMA’s 

inaugural Visionary City Award

January 30 – The City of Donalsonville won the inaugural Visionary City Award presented by Georgia Trend magazine and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) during the association’s Cities United Summit in Atlanta on Sunday, January 26. It is one of nine cities from across Georgia to receive the accomplishment. Donalsonville won in the small city category. Judges noted the city’s eDonalsonville initiative, which has made affordable, fixed wireless broadband possible for residents and businesses in this rural city. On accepting the award for the city Donalsonville Mayor Dan Ponder commented, “I am very happy for our city to be recognized for this award.  The eDonalsonville project continues to slowly grow and we look forward to even greater things in the future.”

Kate Shingler crowned 

2020 Teeny Miss Albany

January 30 – Kate Shingler is the new 2020 Teeny Miss Albany, after competing in the Albany’s Little Miss Pageant in Albany, Georgia at Dougherty County High School this past Saturday. The pageant was open to girls ages 0-13 years of age who reside in Georgia. Kate was judged on personality, poise, beauty, attire, and overall appearance. In addition to winning her new title, Kate also received awards for Best Attire and Most Photogenic.  As Teeny Miss Albany, her duties will include maintaining good moral character, making appearances, participating in community service activities in the Flint River Area, and fund raising for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the Miss Albany Scholarship Pageant.  Kate is the daughter of Jim and Shay Shingler, and the granddaughter of Dell Shingler. She attends Seminole County Pre-K3. 

FEBRUARY

Billy Williams selected 

Citizen of the Year

February 6 – The theme for Thursday’s Donalsonville-Seminole County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting was all about working together to make today just a little better than yesterday. That theme was echoed by the selfless actions of this year’s Citizen of the Year recipient, Billy Williams. Nominated by multiple citizens, Williams was cited for his efforts to go above and beyond the call of duty helping those in need in the Seminole County storm-ravaged community. Williams, a local pharmacist, was nominated in part for volunteering his time as the case manager for the community’s Blue Tarp Project and working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of homeowners in desperate need of  home repair and assistance. The Blue Tarp Project of Seminole County, a non-profit long-term recovery group founded by area churches and community leaders, assists non-insured homeowners with needed roof repairs in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Its goal is to remove every blue tarp from Seminole County. The Blue Tarp Project have helped and continue to help provide tangible relief, and offer hope to people who have lost so much.

Ameris Bank makes $40,000 contribution to Donalsonville Hospital

February 6 – Ameris Bank has contributed $40,000 to Donalsonville Hospital.   “Ameris Bank recognizes Donalsonville Hospital’s value to our community. It is our honor to support Donalsonville Hospital and its pursuit in providing access to quality health care close to home. We recognize the hospital’s impact to our community, as it helps to attract and retain businesses in Seminole County and is a significant employer,” stated Tracy Pickle, Ameris Bank city president. Pickle added, “As a company with strong roots in the community, we understand the importance of neighbors serving neighbors. No matter the industry, personal connections and compassion makes all the difference, especially in local healthcare.” Ameris Bank has participated in the Georgia HEART Program, the statewide rural hospital organization expense tax credit program since 2018.

Another High Yield Year! 

Seminole County Young Farmers honored at convention

February 6 – The 50th annual Georgia Young Farmers Association (GYFA) convention was held this past weekend on Jekyll Island. The GYFA convention is the highlight of the year for GYFA members. Seminole County’s Jeff Braswell once again opened the evening banquet event with the National Anthem on Friday night and followed with another performance of the anthem on Saturday night.  Dr. Cindy Bryant, Seminole County Young Farmers “Outstanding Chapter Member” took the stage and was recognized as one of the Outstanding Young Farmer members in the state for her service and dedication to the organization.  Seminole County’s Katibeth Mims prepared and delivered a five minute statement on “Stewardship of the Land”.  At the conclusion of the GYFA convention during Saturday night’s banquet, Seminole County’s Stan Deal was announced as the 2020 President of the Georgia Young Farmers Association. As President, Stan appointed his local Young Farmer advisor Wes Pace as Parliamentarian and his dad Ben Deal as Chaplain of the GYFA Executive Board. The 2019 GYFA board of directors were retired, and the newly elected board for 2020 was announced, along with Jeff Braswell being announced as the 2020 GYFA South Region Sr. Director.  

Melvin Fox selected 

Ag Person of the Year

February 13  Each year the Donalsonville-Seminole County Chamber of Commerce and the Seminole County Young Farmers honor one individual who makes valued contributions to the agricultural industry of Seminole County and presents them with the Ag Person of the Year award.  At the chamber’s 21st Annual Farmer Appreciation event, held as a luncheon last Thursday, February 6th, Melvin Fox was announced as this year’s recipient.  Fox was born in Pulaski, TN.  He was a great athlete in Giles County and later attended David Lipscomb University where he played basketball for two years before attending Middle Tennessee State University where he obtained his degree in Physical Education.  He started work for Triangle Chemical Co on January 1, 1976 and moved to Bainbridge.  This person has been a member of various agricultural organizations such as the Georgia Crop Production Alliance; Southern Crop Production Association; Georgia Plant Food Association; Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association and Georgia Agribusiness Council.   He has been a strong supporter of the 4-H, FFA and Young Farmer organizations as well as other agricultural events and activities in the community.  This man has also coached Little League teams in the past, and has always supported sports teams and the Seminole County recreational department. He and his wife Kathy married on September 11, 1976 and moved to Donalsonville. They have one daughter, Kyla, a granddaughter, Malyn and a son-in-law, Nick. 

Shane Purdy selected 

principal of SCMHS

February 13  Shane Purdy has been employed as the new Seminole County Middle School Principal. In an unanimous decision, the Seminole County Board of Education made it official at its Monday evening meeting. Purdy replaces Kent Richardson who retired on December 17, and will begin his official duties as principal on Tuesday, February 18.  “Shane Purdy is a good school man,” commented Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest. “He brings to this position a wealth of knowledge and experience, having served at both the middle and high school levels.  He understands the two key roles of being an effective school principal.  He is an excellent instructional leader and a good communicator.  These are important for enhancing the vision and beliefs of a school.  We look forward to Mr. Purdy continuing the success of Seminole County Middle/High School.” Purdy holds an Ed.S degree in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a Masters of Health Science Degree from the University of Alabama and a Bachelor of Arts Degree, English Education from Piedmont College.

Ready and roarin’ to rebuild! 

Construction to begin in March 

on new Donalsonville Lions Hall

February 27 – As of press time Wednesday morning, it had been 512 days, or one year, four months, sixteen days, ten hours and thirty minutes, since the 160+ mph winds of Hurricane Michael stormed through Seminole County. The storm’s wide path of devastation included the complete destruction of the Donalsonville Lions Hall on Wiley Avenue.  The damaged building, resembling an opened  sardine can, has been an eye sore of a reminder of that horrific day that changed all of our lives here in Southwest Georgia forever. After lengthy negotiations with insurance providers and discussions with engineers, architects, contractors, sub contractors and attorneys, that reminder will soon be a goner.  Work began last week on the removal of the crumpled roof. Once the roof is completely removed the remainder of the building will be demolished, and beginning in March, construction on a new 4,720 square foot facility will begin.  The new building, projected to be completed in time for the community’s October Centennial Celebration, has been designed for beauty and function adding windows, LED lighting, and an overall design with columns to compliment the design of the gazebo in the park just southwest of  the facility. 

EMS services now on duty 

at Lake Seminole

February 27 – As of Tuesday, February 25, Seminole County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is back in operation in the Lake Seminole area. A fully-staffed EMS unit is now stationed at Spring Creek VFD from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily and will remain there until a new facility is constructed.   Seminole County Manager Paula Granger commented, “We are very grateful to SCVFD for offering their community room to house EMS and helping us reinstate our EMS presence in this area of the county. Hurricane Michael completely destroyed the substation on October 10, 2018.  Plans are currently being developed for the new facility and property acquisition is being discussed.”  

MARCH

Another literary landslide! Literary Indians take region crown, again!

March 5 – The 2020 Seminole Indian Literary Team, coached by Maribeth Burke, swept the competition at last Thursday’s Region 1A Literary meet, held on the ABAC-Bainbridge campus. Seven schools in the region vied for the trophies in several events. “The dedication and work ethic of these kids astounds me. They came to win, and that is exactly what they did!”, Mrs. Burke. Seminole County placed first in nine of the competition’s twelve events. Abigail Grantham won first in girls solo; Bailey Fields won first in boys solo; Caden Kearns won first in dramatic interpretation; David Pollock won first in humorous interpretation; Will Pace won first in international extemporaneous speaking; Millie Holt won first in rhetorical essay; Abigail Grantham, Macy Batchelor, and Autumn Sherrer) won first in trio; Bailey Fields, Jordan Williams, David Pollock, and Caden Kearns won first in quartet; David Pollock and Caden Kearns won first in duo interpretation; Jaylen Brannon and Rudra Patel won third place in personal and argumentative essay; and Jacob Jarvis won second in domestic extemporaneous speaking. 

Ross selected Interim Dean

March 5 – Dr. Jeffrey Ross has been selected as the Interim Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. “ABAC and ABAC-Bainbridge have exceptional nursing programs,” Ross said. “I am honored to be able to serve as Interim Dean. I want to guide, support, and aid the students, faculty, and staff into the next phase of the programs.” Ross, who is from Donalsonville, has been teaching practical, associate, and baccalaureate nursing degree level programs for 15 years. He has served as Chair of Nursing for the practical and associate degree programs at ABAC Bainbridge. Ross received his associate degree from Darton College, his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Albany State University and his Ed.D. in Nursing Education from the University of West Georgia. Ross also maintains certification through the National League for Nursing as a Certified Nursing Educator. Ross’ nursing clinical specialties include medical/surgical, long term care, nursing management, and hospice care. He has taught all the courses in the associate degree in nursing program except for courses in women’s health and pediatrics. Ross also teaches a large array of the RN to BSN courses offered by ABAC.

Coronavirus crisis is 

spreading county wide

March 19  As of presstime on Wednesday, March 18, there are no confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Seminole County and most local businesses are operating as usual while remaining flexible in their future plans. However, life here and in counties throughout America — and in countries the world over is changing drastically. We’re physically distanced from our favorite people, we’re avoiding our favorite public places, and many are financially strained or out of work. The response to the Covid-19 pandemic is infiltrating every aspect of life, and we’re already longing for it to end. But this fight may not end for months or a year or even more. We’re in this distancing effort because public health experts believe social distancing is the best way to prevent a truly horrific crisis: perhaps hundreds of thousands or more if our health care system is overwhelmed with severe Covid-19 cases, people who require ventilators and ICU beds that are now growing limited in supply. Federal health leaders urge people to avoid gatherings of ten or more, to utilize restaurant drive through windows and continue proper hand washing. 

Kemp orders schools closed;

March 19 – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, in accordance with newly issued federal guidance, ordered all public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary public schools in Georgia to be close from March 18 to March 31 in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.  “To keep our students, teachers, and administrators safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering the closure of all public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in Georgia from March 18, 2020 to March 31, 2020,” said Governor Kemp. “This measure is critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state, and I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices – washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill, and avoiding large events if possible – in the days and weeks ahead.”The Seminole County School System was notified last week that a school employee exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus. This employee was possibly exposed to the virus in a physician’s office in another state. Testing is still in progress, and as of press time on Wednesday, March 18, this person had not tested positive for the virus. In an effort to implement proactive measures to minimize risk to students, employees, and families, school authorities closed all schools and suspended all  extra-curricular activities through March 27. At that time, school was scheduled to resume on Monday, March 30th. Once the Governor made the announcement that schools would be closed  through March 31, the Seminole County Board of Education decided, instead of reopening school on April 1 only to close three days later for the already scheduled Spring Break, the school system would resume operations on April 13, unless otherwise directed by the Governor.

School system mobilizes to make sure students are fed

March 19 – With Seminole County schools closed until April 13 the focus has shifted from reading, writing and arithmetic to mobilizing staff and volunteers to distribute nutritious breakfasts and lunches to students who otherwise might not have food to eat.  Last week, it was announced Seminole County Schools would be closed from March 16 through March 30, but Governor Brian Kemp ordered all Georgia school closed through March 31 in an attempt to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. With Seminole County Schools already slated to be closed April 6-10 for Spring Break, the Seminole County Board of Education decided in a called meeting on Tuesday, March 17, that instead of reopening school only to close three days later, the school system would resume operations on April 13, unless otherwise directed by the Governor. Under the leadership of School Superintendent Mark Earnest, school nutrition program director Ivey McLendon and David Williams of the Seminole County Ministerial Association, the school system has established eleven locations throughout the county where children can go to receive a free breakfast and lunch. 

ABAC students to take online classes, all events cancelled through May 7

March 19 – Students at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will finish the remainder of the Spring semester by receiving all of their instruction online beginning March 30. All scheduled ABAC events including intercollegiate athletics have been cancelled through the end of the Spring term on May 7, 2020 due to the need for social distancing because of COVID-19. A University System of Georgia media release on Monday said, “The University System of Georgia has decided that all 26 institutions will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester with extremely limited exceptions.  Residence halls will be closed, with minimal exceptions for students unable to return home or who cannot find housing elsewhere.” Lindsey Roberts, Director of Marketing and Communication at ABAC, said students, faculty, and staff should be prepared for other changes in their Spring term schedule.

Southern Regional Technical 

College suspends classes

March 19 – In light of the current health issues and concerns resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Southern Regional Technical College is announcing that as of the close of business Friday, March 13, 2020, ALL SRTC campus locations and sites will be closed. At this time, the College is not aware of any presumptive or confirmed cases at any of its campus locations. However, to ensure the health and safety of the Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) community, all SRTC locations and sites (including online students and courses) will be closed Monday, March 16, 2020 – April 3, 2020. The SRTC administrative team has decided to move our scheduled Spring Break from the week of April 6 to the week of March 30.  Additionally, all college-related travel has been suspended for faculty and staff. 

Ponder resigns as Mayor. Special Election set for Tuesday, May 19

March 26 – Tuesday afternoon, March 24, in a called City Council meeting, Donalsonville’s two-term Mayor Dan Ponder submitted his resignation from the office he has occupied in service to the citizens of Donalsonville for the past 2,274 days. Ponder said his decision to vacate the office was a painful and difficult one to make, but with the Coronavirus crisis impacting almost every aspect of life, the one thing the City does not have – but needs now more than ever – is a full-time Mayor who lives here. Under Georgia law a special election must be held to elect someone to fill Ponder’s unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2021.  In order to allow election officials the appropriate time period needed to get the Special Election established and on the ballot for the May 19 election, the Mayor said he had to resign on Tuesday, March 24. Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Bond will serve as Mayor until the Special Election is held and a new Mayor is selected.   “There is never a good time to leave a place you love, that gave you a good living, helped nurture your family, and honored you with the opportunity to lead in good times and bad. However, in this case, I truly believe that Donalsonville needs a full-time Mayor that lives and works in the city, that is engaged every day in the life of the community, and that is there on the front lines with those in city government each and every hour,” commented Ponder.   The Special Election to fill the vacancy in the office of Donalsonville Mayor for Ponder’s unexpired term will be held on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

State of emergency declared 

Curfew now in effect

March 26 – In separate called meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24 and 25,  the City Council of Donalsonville, and the Seminole County Commissioners, along with the Town of Iron City each adopted a resolution to enter into a local State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order on March 14, 2020 declaring a public health state of emergency due to COVID-19 in the State of Georgia and to authorize the Department of Public Health to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to effectuate the Executive Order.  Seminole County Department of Public Health has requested support and assistance from the city  and the county in the implementation and enforcement of temporary actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. 

Gov. Kemp orders shelter in place for state’s most vulnerable citizens

March 26 – Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Monday requiring Georgians at high risk of contracting Coronavirus to stay at home. The order, which takes effect at noon Tuesday and runs until noon April 6, also will close all bars and nightclubs in Georgia and prohibit gatherings of 10 or more unless the participants remain at least six feet apart. The state Department of Public Health will be authorized to close any businesses that aren’t complying with the order. Kemp specified that the groups of Georgians considered at risk of contracting Coronavirus include residents of long-term care facilities, patients with chronic lung disease or undergoing cancer treatment, those who have tested positive for the virus, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with Coronavirus.

APRIL

Ron Johnson, Mitzy Moye 

to face off  for Mayor

April 2 – Ron Johnson and City Councilperson Mitzy Moye have qualified and will face each other in the May 19 Special Election to elect a Mayor of Donalsonville. Qualifying ended on Wednesday, April 1 at 12 p.m. for the Special Election to fill the vacancy in the office of Donalsonville Mayor for recently retired Mayor Dan Ponder’s unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2021. Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Bond will serve as Mayor until the Special Election is held and a new Mayor is elected.  

The building may be closed but library services still available

April 2 – The Seminole County Public Library may closed because of precautionary actions during the Coronavirus crisis; however, some services provided by the library are still available to the public..  Seminole County residents may still use the library’s  wifi outside of the building, Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and library patrons still have access to free e-books, e-audiobooks, and e-magazines through RBdigital and eRead Kids at swgrl.org/ebooks. 

Moses James, Jr. appointed to Donalsonville City Council

April 9 – In a called meeting held Friday afternoon, April 3, the Donalsonville City Council, in a 3-1 vote, appointed Moses James Jr. to the council to fill the unexpired term of District 1, Post 1 councilperson Mitzy Moye, who announced her candidacy for Mayor of Donalsonville last Wednesday. Complete minutes of the meeting are on Page 13 in this edition. With the called meeting held just hours before Governor Brian Kemp’s mandated Shelter in  Place restrictions took effect, Councilperson Mitchell Blanks commented, “I believe that we need to have a full six person council as we move into these difficult times.”  

Public health emergency 

now in effect

April 9 – Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s top legislative leaders jointly announced Wednesday they will extend a statewide public health emergency due to the Coronavirus pandemic through May 13. Kemp first declared a public health emergency back on March 14 as COVID-19 began taking hold in Georgia. Lawmakers ratified the governor’s order two days later during a one-day special session and set the declaration to expire on April 13.“This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our health-care facilities,” Kemp said in a prepared statement. “We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together.” The extension of the public health emergency by Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan – the state Senate’s presiding officer – and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston came as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the resulting deaths continued to mount.

Virtual SCHS graduation 

planned for May 22

April 16 – The Class of 2020 will always be remembered as the class that ended with the COVID-10 crisis. A traditional graduation season this year will not happen; however Seminole County Middle High School Principal Shane Purdy and Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest are developing plans to give the Seminole County Class of 2020 some type of end of year recognition and ceremony. “One way or another this class will graduate and we do everything allowed and in our power to give the class an end-of school-year celebration,” commented Principal Purdy. To begin the graduation season, on Monday, May 4th, Seniors will be able to drive by the front of the school building and receive their Josten graduation orders – caps, gowns, invitations, etc, – from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A social distance pick up system will be in place to deliver each item to the students without them having to exit their vehicles.  A Seminole County Middle High School Virtual Graduation is being planned for Friday, May 22nd. Jostens has generously shared a program the school will be using to distribute the online graduation ceremony.  

May 19 elections 

postponed until June 9

April 16 – Last week Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that, pursuant to the authority vested in him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1, he is postponing the Statewide General Primary/Presidential Preference Primary Election until June 9, 2020. The Seminole County, the Special Election to elect the new Mayor of Donalsonville will also move to June 9. Pushing back the primary to June 9 gives Georgia election officials additional time to put in place contingency plans to allow for safe and secure voting, but pushing back the primary election any further could potentially have negative consequences on preparation for the November 3, 2020 General Election. Given existing deadlines to prepare and send ballots for the November election, particularly for military voters, moving forward on June 9 is the best way to ensure a successful election year in Georgia.

Dr. Pierce retires as SCES Principal

April 23 – Seminole County Elementary Principal Renea Pierce has decided to retire after 35 ½ years of service  to SCES.  In announcing her retirement Superintendent Mark Earnest commented, “Dr. Renea Pierce has served the students and teachers of Seminole County Elementary School for three and a half decades.  We want to wish her all the best on her retirement.  We appreciate her years of service to the school system.”

Jay Winkler is new SCES Principal

April 23 – The Seminole County Board of Education has announced the hiring of Jay Winkler as the new Principal of Seminole County Elementary. Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest commented, “We are very pleased that Jay has accepted our principal’s position at Seminole County Elementary School (SCES).  Jay will make a great addition to the team at SCES, and we are looking forward to him leading our school.  He has the experience and the skills to lead our elementary school.  Please join us in welcoming Jay Winkler back to Seminole County.” Winkler, a 1992 Early County High School graduate, earned a BS degree in Secondary Science Education and an education Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State University, and a Master’s in Science Education from Troy University.  He began his teaching career at Seminole County in 1996 where he taught Physical Science and Biology for three years as well as coaching football and cross country. Winkler moved to Early County in 1999 and taught physical science and biology, along with coaching football, cross country and track. He was promoted to Assistant Principal of Early County High School in 2015 and held that position until he resigned to take the lead as Principal at SCES.

Inside dining or drive in, 

take out only

April 30 – Spread out tables, limited seating, and lots of hand sanitizer and masks; restaurants across Georgia were allowed to reopen and offer dine-in service on Monday, April 27 after Governor Brian Kemp controversially eased the state’s social distancing restrictions. Restaurants are now allowed to resume dine-in service, as long as owners and employees meet a list of 39 required guidelines to achieve what Gov. Kemp refers to as “minimum basic operations,” including a mandate that all employees wear masks, owners screen employees for signs of illness, and restrictions on the amount of customers allowed inside at the same time.  He reiterated that bars, nightclubs, sports stadiums, and amusement parks across the state will remain closed until further notice, and “medically fragile” people should continue to shelter at home through at least May 13. Businesses like gyms, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys were allowed to reopen on Friday, April 24.

2020 SCMHS Honor Graduates announced

April 30 – In a school year unlike any other with school closures and social separation becoming the norm because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Class of 2020 is preparing to officially end  its year in a not so normal world. However the local school system is not about to let the following annual end-of-year announcement be presented with anything less than its normal sense of pride and admiration. With that said, the Seminole County School System proudly announces the forty-four Honor Graduates for the Seminole County Middle/High School Senior Class of 2020.  The Valedictorian for the Seminole County Class of 2020, and receiving Superintendent’s Honors, is Abigale Haywood. The Salutatorian for the Seminole County Class of 2020 and also receiving Superintendent’s Honors is Masey Tabb.  In addition to the class’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian, four students,  Ty’Ina Moore, Shelby Godby, Millie Holt, and Annie Register, received Superintendent’s Honors.Students receiving Principal’s Honors include Abigail Grantham, Larry King, Kamaya Gosier, Hunter Hodges, Cintorra Jackson, Raelyn Kearns, Precious Morman, Terryan Bryant, Jaleah Wolfe, Jeremiah Sims, Macy Williams, Autumn Sherrer, Chandler Alday, Angel Barlow, Peyton Price, LaDazmun Brannon, Jalisa Wolfe, Cooper Bell, Elizabeth King, Jose Alvarez, Lee Martin, Jared Rogers, and Kermisha Foster Students receiving honors include Jay Patel, MyKenna McCord, Destiny Jones, Cassidi Brown, Brandi Brown AL’asia Bullock, Alyssa Wallace, Xzaveon Conley, Aubry Moody, Kaylanise Howard, Bailey Dixon, Matoya Murphy, Reygan Lee, William Brooks, and Brandi Thompson.

National Guard to make 

Donalsonville’s Seminole Manor even safer this Saturday

May 7 – The Georgia National Guard is sending infection-control teams to nursing homes around the state to help limit the spread of COVID-19. This Saturday, May 9th, Seminole Manor Nursing home will utilize this service as an added precaution for our residents. The 2-121 Infantry Battalion, 48th IBCT will be in Donalsonville completing this mission. 

“We are so thankful that Seminole Manor Nursing Home has so far kept COVID-19 at bay. We want to continue to do everything we can to keep our residents safe. We are so appreciative that the National Guard is providing this service.” said, Shelly Hines, Director of Seminole Manor.  

Long-term care residents are vulnerable to illnesses that can be caused or exacerbated by COVID-19. Among the precautions advised by the health department is frequent cleaning with disinfectants registered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Col. John Till, safety officer for the Georgia Department of Defense and members of his team will use a disinfectant process that incorporates a solution approved by the EPA, following protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the health department. 

MAY

SCHS virtual graduation
set for Friday, May 22

May 7 – The virtual graduation presentation will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. and will include, in the following order,  a welcome, Pledge of Allegiance, invocation, Salutatory address, Valedictory address, introduction of the speaker, speaker address, slideshow of the graduates, turning of Tassels and the presentation of the graduates.

On May 22nd, all Seniors who plan to participate in the Senior Appreciation Drive Through need to arrive at the school by 4:30 p.m. in caps, gowns, stoles, etc.  The Seniors will park in the faculty parking lot by the tennis courts.  Each Senior will be given a designated space, six feet apart, to stand in a line starting with Valedictorian, and followed by the  Salutatorian, Honor Graduates by rank and the remaining
Senior class members.  

American Legion Post 157 cancels Memorial Day Ceremony 

May 21 – On Monday, May 25, 2020, Americans across the country will celebrate the brave men and women soldiers who died defending our country. As our nation and the state of Georgia still suffer from the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Donalsonville American Legion Post 157 Commander Royce Davis announced the cancellation of this year’s 2020 Memorial Day celebration.

As part of Post 157 Memorial Day observance the white crosses with the names of the fallen veterans of Seminole County will be displayed at the intersection of Highway 84 and Highway 91 for the next two weeks. 

Whether you celebrate by hosting a backyard BBQ get-together or having a simple and intimate moment of silence with your loved ones, Memorial Day is a special time to honor America’s history and commemorate the bravery, courage and honor of our troops.

Donalsonville American Legion Post 157 will remain closed and all monthly meetings will remain canceled until further notice.  The closing is in keeping with the shelter in place of the elderly that make up many of the post members and the sanitation requirements of the Legion Hall.

The American Legion Post continues to pray for the families of our Post members that have passed recently and the service they gave to their country and to the local Post in Donalsonville. Several members have passed this year, but Johnny F. Frith’s service will be greatly missed.

In person graduation 

planned for June 26

May 21 – Even after a very emotional and successful Senior Appreciation drive through and virtual graduation ceremony last Friday, Seminole County Seniors and their families are likely pleased with the news that a time and a plan has been developed to congregate for an in-person graduation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 26. The event will be held at the school’s gymnasium and the doors will open at 6. p.m.  

For safety reasons, the in person ceremony on June 26 will include the following precautions. Honor graduates will not be able to sit on stage during the ceremony because there is not enough room with over 40 Honor Graduates in a class of under 100 graduates.  

People attending the ceremony will place their ticket in a box and not hand it to the person standing at the table.  

Attendees will sit staggered as a group in the stands to follow social distancing guidelines.  Family members will sit together in positioned seating in order to have appropriately safe distancing.   

Everyone attending the live graduation ceremony will need to disperse immediately following the graduation so that people do not congregate. 

Those who cannot attend the graduation can watch the graduation live on SCMHS Tribal News Facebook live. 

No fireworks is disappointing, 

but not surprising

May 28  – The Fourth of July will happen as it does every year, but Independence Day will have to come and go without its usual fanfare in Seminole County at Seminole State Park.  Park officials confirmed Wednesday that a Fourth of July fireworks display will not be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a lack of funding.

Any hope the special pyrotechnic illuminations salute to the nation’s birthday would remain on track was already in jeopardy before the pandemic because of a lack of funding for the event. The current COVID-19 health crisis was the deciding factor in canceling the event with officials commenting it wouldn’t be feasible to try to enforce social distancing when so many people are crammed into a small area.

The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled, postponed or altered so many activities, but it has not canceled all outdoor activities available at the State Park. 28 campsites, 14 cottages, four picnic shelters, one walking trail, the beach and the park’s day-use area are available for use as long as visitors follow current COVID-19 safety guidelines.  Boat rentals are not available and the mini golf course, playground and fishing pier are closed.  

Canning Plant opens by appointment only under new COVID-19 safety guidelines

May 28  – Operating with new safety protocols and guidelines amid the current COVID-19 crisis, the Seminole County Canning Plant has been given the go ahead to open by the Seminole County Board of Education and the State Agricultural Education staff. 

Just in time to can and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables growing abundantly in our county, the canning plant is now open on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment only. No walk-ins will be allowed, and appointments must be made by contacting Wes Pace  at 229-220-1233, Dusty Smith at 229-493-0553, or Holly Garcia at 229-254-4536. The price of cans this season $1 each. 

Georgia Agriculture Education authorities recognize the importance of the food processing facilities to the schools and communities they serve. They also recognize that food processing/home canning is essential to many families and individuals in these communities. It is their desire to see these facilities utilized as much as possible while protecting all those involved and providing a safe product for the customers. A Georgia Agriculture Education spokesperson commented, “We further understand that due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, practices and procedures used in these food processing facilities will have to be altered for the coming season.”

Family Boutique, a fundraising for missions store to celebrate grand reopening

May 28  – Family Boutique, a fundraising store owned and operated by Deana Lee, is having its grand reopening June 4th, 5th and 6th. Profits from the boutique go to Christ Missions, Inc., a religious non-profit organization, to support spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, each month there is a different local mission focus that is highlighted for our “Keep the Change Fund”; a jar you can drop your change in that is given directly to the leader of that month’s project. This month’s mission focus is June is Donalsonville’s  Friendship House of Jesus, as they prepare their facility to start receiving children again as soon as possible. 

Customers making a donation of $20 or more to the Friendship House will then be able to draw a ticket to receive 10%-50% off your entire purchase. “There will be door prizes, as well,” commented Lee.

Family Boutique is a resale store of high quality, brand name, new, consigned and donated merchandise. Owner Lee commented, “We offer clothing and shoes for men, women, teens and children, formal dresses, jewelry and accessories, Bibles, purses, and decorative home goods, and we are now a Fuller Brush Company/Stanley Home Products dealer.”

Family Boutique is located at 603 South Tennille Avenue in Donalsonville. Regular business hours are Thursday and Friday 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

JUNE

Recreation Department

 to reopen June 8th

June 4 – Following the observance of Coronavirus guidelines, the Seminole County Recreation Department will be reopening to the community on Monday, June 8 for practice sessions. Local play will resume on Tuesday, June 16 at 6:00 p.m. with games scheduled to be played on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Travel Ball USA tournaments are scheduled at the park for June 6 and 7, June 27 and 28, July 11 and 12 and August 1 and 2. 

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to return to the ball fields and to the game we love,” Park Manager Billy Fain commented.  COVID-19 guidelines have been put in place to ensure a safe return to the game. Fain asks that all park visitors review these guidelines closely. “We need every single player, coach, manager, parent, grandparent and all spectators to work with us to ensure all goes smoothly. This is new to all of us and we must work together to ensure that we can continue to complete the three weeks of play safely,” Fain added.

The following Coronavirus safety guidelines will be in place at the park. First and foremost, everyone entering the park will have their temperature checked. If anyone’s temperature is 100 or above, they will not be allowed to enter the park.

Bleachers will not be available for any seating. Spectators need to plan ahead and bring their own seating and maintain social distancing six feet apart between families up and down the fence line from the dugout to the foul poles. If using a tent, please restrict the tent to family members only and space tents a minimum of six feet apart. 

After each game, in lieu of handshakes, each team shall line up on their respective baseline and tip their cap to the opposing team, minimizing player contact.

There will be no team coolers, and dugout personnel shall consist of essential team personnel only. No bat boys/girls, no scorekeepers, etc. – just active rostered, uniformed team players and up to three adults (one manager and two coaches). All players must be supervised at all times when expanding the dugout. 

Parents should supply their players with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer for disinfecting shared playing equipment and cleaning hands between innings. 

Players may wear any personal protection equipment deemed necessary by their parents as long as such items do not compromise the safety of any and all participants in the game.

Upon arrival at a dugout prior to a game, teams are to wipe down (clean) hard surfaces such as benches, bat racks, etc.

Teams are required to thoroughly clean their dugout of all trash and other items after each game, and wipe down (clean) hard surfaces such as benches, bat racks, etc. 

Sunflower seeds and other items that require spitting shall be prohibited.

Park officials understand this is a serious illness; we request those with a chronic disease or those who are immune compromised, to please consider staying home and not attending until the doctors signal all clear.

“Any person who is experiencing symptoms of sickness will be prohibited from attending the event / venue of play. Please use common sense,” added Fain.

The concession stand and rest rooms will be open. 

For more information, contact Billy Fain at 229-400-1304.

Ron Johnson elected Mayor

June 11 – In the COVID-19-delayed June 9 Special Municipal Election for the Mayor of Donalsonville, Ron Johnson with 593 votes defeated Mitzy Moye with 240 votes. 833 of the City of Donalsonville’s approximately 1,849 voters (45%) participated in the election.

 Twice delayed because of social distancing restrictions put in place because of COVID-19, polls closed at 7 p.m. in the June 9 General Primary and Special Municipal Election. Advance vote totals and Election Day voting totals in the Mayoral race were announced shortly after 8:30 p.m. with Johnson receiving 485 votes to Moye’s 176. Breaking those numbers down, Johnson received 178 Election Day votes and 307 Advance Voting votes. Moye received 82 Election Day votes and 94 Advanced Voting votes. 

Due to approximately 700 absentee votes received by Seminole County Election Superintendent Michael Jon Rogerson’s office, the process of counting those ballots delayed the announcement of a winner in the Mayoral race. Beginning at 7 p.m. each Absentee Ballot had to be opened, sorted, and scanned into the voting system before the total number of Absentee Votes could be determined and the number of those Absentee Ballots cast by City of Donalsonville residents could be known. Shortly after midnight, Rogerson announced and posted in the race for Mayor, 108 Absentee Votes for Johnson and 64 Absentee Votes for Moye, bringing the total votes cast in the race to 833 – 593 or 71.19% for Johnson and 240, or 28.81% for Moye.

At the end of the evening, Donalsonville’s new Mayor Johnson commented, “First, I would like to thank God who is the head of my life, without Him none of this would have been possible; furthermore; with Him all things are possible. To my wife, Karla, thank you for being by my side through everything. You are my favorite and I thank you and I love you. To the world’s greatest campaign committee – thank you guys so much. Without y’all this would still be a dream. Your labor, dedication, and sacrifice can never be overstated or appreciated enough. To everyone that prayed, donated, and campaigned, thank you. To every citizen that voted (whether for me or not) thank you. This was one of the biggest turnouts ever. You used your voice and thank you for speaking your mind/heart. To everyone that has RunWithRon thank you. Now we Ron together in a new direction. This is only the beginning, we will continue to run towards our common goal of  ‘A Better Donalsonville.’ Lastly, to Mrs. Mitzy and Mr. Joe, I have nothing but love and respect for the both of you. I couldn’t have run against a finer opponent.” 

President Trump received 959 Seminole County General Primary votes and Joe Biden topped all Democratic candidates for President with 610 Seminole County votes.

In the race to choose the Republican candidate who will face Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop in November for the U.S. House Representative District Two seat, Seminole County preferred Vivian Childs over Don Cole,  548 to 391; however, as of press time Wednesday morning, June 10, with only 40.74% of the Second Congressional District’s precincts reporting, Childs, with 6,.947 votes was trailing Cole who had received 8,462 votes.

Seminole Manor debuts 

safe-for-all visiting booth

June 11 – The COVID-19 pandemic, and its social distancing safety restrictions, have made life sad and almost unbearable for many. Increased stress and loneliness caused by the inability to socialize and visit with loved ones have been especially hard. However, the staff of Donalsonville Hospital’s Seminole Manor Nursing Home has gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep its residents active, occupied and in high spirits.

From making we love you  and miss you signs and posting  in the newspaper and on social media sites, to partnering with Great Gran’s and staging a Friends and Family drive by parade in May, nursing home residents have been given, as much a safely possible, some sense of  family connection.

But still, all of that wasn’t enough. Seminole Manor has solved to problem of not being allowed to host in person visitation – they are now allowing it – separated by a wall of plexiglass for safety. 

Tracy Dee and Erin Christenberry have constructed a mobile visitation and conversation booth to allow Seminole Manor residents to sit outside and have face-to-face visiting time with family and friends. The booth is constructed out of two by fours and plexiglass and mounted on wheels. It  can easily be rolled out into the sunlight and residents  can sit comfortably and safely inside and visit and reconnect with their friends and family members – with everyone protected from the possibility of COVID-19 transmission by that thin sheet of barely-can-be-seen plexiglass.

“Just as if we couldn’t see our family, there’s certainly some concern of the psychological impact of that and that’s why we’ve done those special things to try make sure people’s spirits stay up and everyone has the opportunity to correspond with their family members,” said Shelley Hines, Seminole Manor director.

Visitors will be able to come visit with their loved ones on a scheduled basis and must call Seminole Manor at (229) 524-2733 to schedule an appointment.

County’s 2020 census response rate among lowest in the state

June 11 – Georgia is lagging in its count of the 2020 U.S. Census as outreach workers struggle reaching communities in isolated areas for counting amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

The decennial count affects the state’s share of a huge pot of federal dollars given annually for a wide range of programs like Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps, housing vouchers, highway construction, child-care services, special education and more.

As of this week, 32 counties – mostly in rural South Georgia – of the state’s 159 counties had a census completion rate of less than 40%, according to Census Bureau data. Combined, just 15% of those counties’ households had filled out the census via the internet.

Seminole County is one of these counties, currently reporting a 37.3% response rate.

Roughly $1.5 trillion will be available for states to tap into, depending on the size of their census-determined populations, according to research from Georgia Washington University. The larger the population, the larger the share.

But so far, only 56% of households in Georgia have filled out the census this year, far fewer than the 72% completion rate the state saw in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The low response rate ranks Georgia 35th among all states and trails the national average by about 4%.

That has prompted worry among local workers and volunteers tasked with boosting Georgia’s census count this year.

“From a statewide standpoint, we’re just not doing well,” said Michele NeSmith, research and policy development director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. “Unfortunately, the counties with the worst response rates are the ones that need to have as accurate a count as possible.”

The bulk of the undercounting is in rural parts of the state – like Seminole County –  that were already at risk of flying under the radar due to poor access to the internet, which is how most people complete the census.

Still, census workers and volunteers like Haygood view the upcoming outreach push this Summer as critical. He stressed Georgians should not accept having a low census count and less federal funding just because Coronavirus has made tallying up people more difficult.

FPCB establishes In This Together fund for Donalsonville Hospital

June 25 – First Port City Bank in Donalsonville has generously created the “In This Together” fund in honor of Donalsonville Hospital’s frontline healthcare workers’ continued fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. With a founding contribution of $1,000 by First Port City Bank, they will begin taking community contributions immediately to help grow the fund.   

Nancy Jernigan, Executive Vice President/Chief Lending Officer at First Port City, said,  “First Port City Bank was founded in 1974 by a group of local business people who believed that the owners of a financial institution should be made up of friends and neighbors within the community. Our community needs us more than ever and we are happy to create a way for people to give back and support the tireless efforts of healthcare workers.”

Anyone can contribute to the fund by visiting the drive-thru or lobby at 201 S. Woolfork Avenue in Donalsonville, or by mailing a donation to First Port City Bank P. O. Box 1027, Attn “In This Together Fund”. Any donation amount is welcome and will be used to sponsor meals for healthcare workers, supplement PPE costs, and continue to boost the morale of Donalsonville Hospital’s employees. 

James Moody, CFO of Donalsonville Hospital said of the fund, “We are deeply grateful to First Port City for establishing the “In this Together” fund. The fight against COVID-19 is far from over and we want our employees to know they are valued and appreciated each and every day. We hope our community will continue to contribute to the fund and help us do just that.”

For more information please visit www.donalsonvillehospital.org

Public Library now offering 

curb side service

June 25 – Seminole County Public Library,  and all libraries in the Southwest Georgia Regional Library system  began offering curb side service on Wednesday, June 24th. Because of COVID-19 precautions the library building will remain closed to the public for now; however, local residents may now request books, DVDs, and other materials and pick them up outside the library at an appointed time. 

Library patrons may request materials and schedule a pickup appointment by calling the library, placing a hold on selections through your library PINES account, or by completing the online request form at swgrl.org/curbside. 

The Seminole County Public Library, located at 103 West Fourth Street in Donalsonville, can be reached by calling (229) 524-2665. The library’s curb side service hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

When you arrive at the library during the appointed time, you will call the library to the staff know you’re ready for your items. A library staff member will then place your items on the table outside of the library entrance. Once the staff member is back inside the library, you may collect your items from the table. If you have any items to return, please place them in the book drop. If you need help picking which items to request, we are happy to provide suggestions over the phone or through email at librarian@swgrl.org. 

JULY

COVID-19 State of Emergency 

extended statewide

July 2 – On Monday Governor Brian P. Kemp signed two executive orders extending the Public Health State of Emergency and existing COVID-19 safety measures.

“As we continue our fight against COVID-19 in Georgia, it is vital that Georgians continue to heed public health guidance by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and practicing social distancing,” said Governor Kemp. “We have made decisions throughout the pandemic to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians by relying on the advice of public health officials. I am extending previous COVID-19 safety requirements and guidelines that were due to expire on June 30 at 11:59 p.m. Executive Order 06.29.20.01 extends the Public Health State of Emergency through 11:59 p.m. on August 11, 2020. Executive Order 06.29.20.02  runs through July 15, 2020.

Boxes of produce to be 

distributed free July 11

July 2 – A Farmers to Families Food Box distribution event, organized by the Donalsonville Lions Club, and in partnership with the USDA and Collins Brothers Corporation, will be held Saturday morning, July 11 beginning at 7:30 a.m. The free food box pickup event is for Seminole County residents only, and will be held directly in front of the historic fire station complex on Woolfork Avenue in downtown Donalsonville. COVID-10 safety precautions will be in place and residents are requested to enter Woolfork Avenue from Second Street and remain in their vehicle at all times. Food boxes will be placed in car trunks and truck beds. Each box will contain potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, oranges, apples, lemons and carrots.

Good News for Donalsonville ISO rating is now a Class 3

July 9 – Effective October 1, 2020 The City of Donalsonville’s Insurance Services Offices (ISO) rating will drop from a Class 4 to a Class 3 inside the city limits. The Insurance Services Organization (ISO) evaluates a community’s fire protection abilities and effectiveness every five years. ISO evaluates 39,800 fire departments nationwide with only 14% of those achieving a Class 3 or lower. The Donalsonville Fire Rescue is proud to join that 14%.  Donalsonville Fire Chief Dean King credits this lower rating to the support provided by the City Council and the aggressive efforts put forth by the members of the fire department on a daily basis through response times, training, fire and building inspections, fire safety education, equipment maintenance, record keeping and the tactics put into place at every fire responded to. A major benefit to the community is that lower ISO ratings result in lower fire insurance premiums. 

Friendship House reopens

July 9 – Donalsonville’s Friendship House reopened at its newly renovated Rambeau Gymnasium facility for a small Summer program. More than a year and a half since extensively damaged by Hurricane Michael, the facility, with its new roof and flooring, is back in operation and better than ever for housing the after school  ministry of the Friendship House. Program director Justin Gravlee commented, “Over the past year and a half we have had the privilege of using facilities at the First Presbyterian Church, Seminole County Schools, and the Friendship UMC to house our kids and run the program, and we are most appreciative for their hospitality.” The logistics of restarting the program this Summer is obviously very different with the current pandemic social distancing precautions and new safety guidelines have been put into place for operation. 

Four people shot early Sunday morning in Donalsonville

July 16 – On Sunday, July 12 at approximately 1:45 a.m., Donalsonville Police Department was notified and called to the scene of reported gunfire and multiple shootings on the corner of East Fourth Street and South Henderson Avenue in Donalsonville. Upon arrival on the scene of what was described as a block party, officers reported  four people had been shot. Three of the victims were transported to Donalsonville Hospital, treated and later released with superficial and non life-threatening injuries. The fourth gunshot victim was life-flighted to an area trauma center and at press time on Wednesday remained in critical condition. At the request of the Donalsonville Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist with the ongoing investigation.

Seminole Livestock Exchange hosts Customer Appreciation Day 

July 16 – With a new name, a new look, and some new faces, Seminole Livestock Exchange, formerly Seminole Stockyard is now open and continues to proudly serve cattle producers in Southwest Georgia, North Florida, and Southeast Alabama. Now hosting a sale every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., Seminole Livestock Exchange is ready as always to meet all cattle buying, selling and marketing needs.“Join us for a Customer Appreciation Day this Saturday, July 18,” commented Like Spooner. “We will be serving a BBQ lunch beginning at 11:30 a.m. and our Saturday sale will begin at 1:30 p.m. 
Join  us for a thank you lunch, some Southern hospitality and a great Saturday afternoon sale.”

 County’s 2020 census response rate among lowest in the state

July 23 – Seminole County and most counties in Georgia are lagging in the count of the 2020 U.S. Census as outreach workers struggle to reach communities in isolated areas for counting amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The decennial count affects the state’s share of a huge pot of federal dollars given annually for a wide range of programs like Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps, housing vouchers, highway construction, child-care services, special education and more. As of this week, 32 counties – mostly in rural South Georgia – of the state’s 159 counties had a census completion rate of less than 40%, according to Census Bureau data. Combined, just 15% of those counties’ households had filled out the census via the internet. Seminole County is one of these counties, currently reporting a 38.9% response rate. The City of Donalsonville is currently reporting a 49.1% response rate, and Iron City has a rate of 35.4%.

Governor asks all Georgians to do four things for four weeks

July 23 – Governor Brian P. Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey are calling on all Georgians to implement “Four Things for Four Weeks” into their daily routines to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. “I am encouraging all Georgians – from every corner of our great state – to do four things for four weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Kemp. “If Georgians commit to wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing their hands regularly, and following the guidance in our Executive Order and from public health officials, we can make incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19. Together, we can protect our loved ones, revive our economy, and continue to take measured steps forward.”“Georgians, we need your help,” said Dr. Toomey, “By implementing these simple – but effective – practices, we can slow the spread of the Coronavirus and continue on a path toward ultimately defeating COVID-19.”

To stop the spread of COVID-19, Governor Kemp and Dr. Toomey are asking all Georgians to follow these four steps:

1) Wear a mask when out in public or when you cannot keep distance inside.

2) Practice physical distancing – six feet from those you don’t live with.

3) Wash your hands for 20 seconds several times throughout the day with soap and warm water.

4) Follow the Governor’s Executive Order and heed the guidance provided by public health officials.

AUGUST

Local schools delay opening 

to August 24

August 6 – With the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases exploding in Seminole County over the past ten days Seminole County School officials have postponed the first day of school for in-person instruction and distance learning until Monday, August 24.Open House events for all schools, originally scheduled for August 6 have also been postponed. New dates and times for open house events will be announced when they become available. Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest commented, “With the recent rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases locally we are not ready to have full in-person contact consisting of hundreds of students and teachers with the expectation that no one spreads  or contracts COVID-19. Also, Seminole County has had a spike in the number of cases this past weekend. So as long as COVID-19 runs rampant, there will be too many bodies in close quarters for us to co-exist in a traditional school setting. We are not ready to return to in-person schooling and be highly confident that we can protect employees and students. We are ready to teach virtually, and our teachers are getting better with that every day. When schools are able to reopen in person with students, we will be even better teachers because of the virtual experience.”

Family Connection’s School Supply Scramble postponed

August 6 – Seminole County Family Connection’s annual “School Supply Scramble” for Pre-K through fifth grade students has been postponed. The event was originally scheduled for Thursday, August 6th in the Seminole County Elementary School gymnasium.  When a new date is announced it will be posted at donalsonvillenews.com Community partners can support the scramble by donating wide-ruled loose leaf paper, pencils, colored pencils, colored markers and three-prong folders. These items can either be purchased, or participating partners can make a monetary donation to support the purchase of schools supplies. 

Seminole County Fall Fair 

postponed/canceled

August 6 – The Seminole County Fall Fair, previously scheduled to return to Donalsonville August 26-29, has been postponed due to the continued increase of positive COVID-19 cases here in Seminole County. The Fair, which will be held at the corner of Crawford Street and Tennille Avenue in Donalsonville, is sanctioned by the Downtown Donalsonville Development Authority and will hopefully be rescheduled at a later date in the Fall.  The rescheduled date, when and if it becomes available, will be posted at donalsonvillenews.com and in the Donalsonville News.

Census to stop counting 

on September 30

August 6 – The U.S. Census Bureau is ending all counting efforts for the 2020 census on Sept. 30, a month sooner than previously announced, the bureau’s director confirmed Monday in a statement. That includes critical door-knocking efforts and collecting responses online, over the phone and by mail. The latest updates to the bureau’s plans are part of efforts to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce” who oversees the bureau, Director Steven Dillingham said in the written statement posted on the bureau’s website. Seminole County and most counties in Georgia are lagging in the count of the 2020 U.S. Census, and now, with the shortened time table, there is even less time to make up the shortfall. The state’s average response rate is 58.7% compared to the national average of 63%. Seminole County is currently reporting a 39.1% response rate. The City of Donalsonville is currently reporting a 49.6% response rate, and Iron City has a rate of 35.8%. Seminole County’s total response rate in the 2010 census was 47.5%.

Lions Club suspends 

weekly meetings

August 13 – Due to the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases here in Seminole County, the Donalsonville Lions Club has suspended its weekly membership meeting for the remainder of August and until it is deemed safe to gather again. The club’s Board of Directors made the decision late last week, deciding it was better to err on the side of caution about future meetings.   When September arrives the board will review the current situation and make a determination on when to resume meeting at that time. 

1,350 students head 

back to school Monday

in Seminole County

August 20 – Seminole County school leaders and school officials all across the state are putting in overtime to respond to the challenges of reopening schools in this never-before -seen COVID-19 world. Some districts are beginning in an all-virtual mode, with an intentional phase-in plan for in-person instruction, prioritizing students who can be disproportionately impacted by virtual learning. After months of preparations, Seminole County Schools will open on Monday, August 24 for more than 1,350 students. For months, school officials, administrators, faculty and staff have been sanitizing all surfaces and developing COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure the safest environment and conditions as the Seminole County School System will be offering both the traditional model of instruction as well as a Full-Time Distance Learning program to registered students in grades K-12. Beginning on day one social distancing guidelines will be in place and mask wearing will be encouraged by students and staff; however they will not be required – at school. On the school bus it will be a different story. The Seminole County Board of Education voted this month to require the wearing of masks by everyone at all times when on a county school bus. No exceptions. Students will not be allowed to board a county school bus if a face mask is not being worn.  A mask will be provided by the school system and the bus driver if a student attempts to board without one.

$1,000 incentive offered 

to get counted!

August 20 – Seminole County’s census response rate is one of the lowest in the state, and the lowest in Southwest Georgia. As of Wednesday, August 19, Seminole County’s response rate is 39.4 percent, compared to the state average of 59.4. As an incentive to encourage all Seminole County citizens to register for the census by the September 30th deadline, a local group of concerned citizens is now offering a $1,000 incentive to take the time and get counted.  On October 1, the name of one Seminole County resident who has registered for the 2020 census will be randomly picked to receive the prize.   To make sure your name is in the running for the census sign up incentive, Seminole County residents must submit proof of census registration to the Donalsonville News office by 5 p.m. on September 30. 

Indians to open season 

at home September 4

August 27 – Are you ready for some football in this new-normal COVID-19 altered world? In the midst of this ongoing pandemic, Seminole County head coach Trey Woolf and his 2020 Indians have been working hard getting ready for the 2020 gridiron campaign. Earlier in the Summer, because of
COVID-19  safety first guidelines, the high school football season in Georgia for GHSA member schools was pushed back by two weeks with games starting on September 4th. The 2020 Seminole County Indian varsity football season opens at home on September 4 with a game against the Early County Bobcats. 

Maxwell appointed to 

Georgia Press Board of Directors

August 27 – On Thursday, August 20 Donalsonville News Managing Editor David Maxwell was appointed by Georgia Press Association (GPA)  President Alan NeSmith to serve on the Association’s Board of Directors. Maxwell, editor of the Donalsonville News since 2012, previously served on the association’s board from 1998-2001 while employed as Marketing Director for the Bainbridge Post Searchlight. “I look forward to serving on the board of an association I have supported and been a part of for more than three decades – beginning with my days as a Journalism student at the University of Georgia. I am looking forward to working with my GPA colleagues in our efforts to keep newspapers, especially community newspapers, current and relative in this ever-changing world of fake news and digital news sources,” commented Maxwell. GPA was founded in 1887 to bring together Georgia newspapers by creating an organization which would protect, promote, foster and advance the interest of the newspaper industry in Georgia.

SEPTEMBER

Ten test positive for virus 

in first week of school

September 3 – As of Thursday, September 3, Seminole County schools have been open for nine days. So far, seven students, six at the middle high school and one at the elementary school, and three school employees, one at the middle high school and two at the elementary school, have tested positive for COVID-19.  The school system followed all the guidance and directives of local and state health departments in each situation, and immediately contacted any persons who had come into contact with a person testing positive for the virus. 165 students who were identified as having direct contact were sent home to be quarantined for 14 days.  Following local and state health department COVID-19 safety guidelines, school officials plan to proceed with in-person instruction, sanitizing classrooms every day and doing temperature checks before students enter the buildings. The school system reports the positive case numbers to the local and state health department each Friday. The school system continues to ask all parents to stress to their children the importance of wearing masks when social distancing is not possible. This includes always wearing a mask on the bus, during class changes, and in the hallways. 

Downtown Development
Authority awarded $99,999
Rural Development Grant

September 3 – The Trump Administration on Tuesday announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding the Donalsonville Downtown Development Authority  (DDDA) $99,999 as one of the 16 grants, totaling $1,384,000 for rural business development and job creation in Georgia.  Funding comes from the Rural Business Development Grant program The Rural Development funds will be used by DDDA to purchase and make minor repairs to the property at 120 East Second Street in Donalsonville. The project will support the development of small and emerging private businesses by renting spaces to Seminole Trading Post and other businesses in need of space to start or expand their businesses.

Dr. Henry is back home 

and in the house

September 10 – Southwest Georgia Healthcare Clinics and Donalsonville Hospital are pleased to announce the homecoming of one of its own, Obstetrician and Gynecologist De’smond M. Henry, M.D. Dr. Henry is a 2006 Seminole County High School Alumnus who completed his undergraduate degree at Columbus State University, his medical degree at Mercer School of Medicine and his OB/GYN residency training at Morehouse School of Medicine where he served as Chief Resident.  Dr. Henry is now seeing new patients at Southwest Georgia Healthcare Clinics located at 900 N. Wiley Avenue in Donalsonville. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 229-524-8489. Dr. Henry, the son of Crystal Hunter and Sheldon Henry, says he is thrilled to be back in Donalsonville to serve his hometown community and help deliver the next generation. 

It’s official – Harvest Festival 

is cancelled

September 10 – With a heavy heart, the Donalsonville-Seminole County Chamber of Commerce announced this week the 2020 Harvest Festival has been cancelled.   “In this year of the unusual, we made the decision to follow suit with all of the neighboring local events, small and large.  We all have made a call to err on the side of caution.  We want our community to be safe and we are trying to prevent any serious spikes in the local COVID-19 numbers,” commented Chamber President
Sarah Avery.   With this year’s cancellation, it is now three years in a row the Chamber of Commerce has had to make this difficult decision.  In October of 2018, in the wake of Hurricane Michael, there was no question. Last year, a tropical storm caused too many safety concerns for the event to go on in October, and this year’s cancellation is the result of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s socially distanced safety precautions. 

Millers receive UGA’s Peanut Achievement Club honor as one of state’s top producers

September 10 – The University of Georgia Peanut Team honored Georgia’s top peanut producers recently at the annual Georgia Peanut Achievement Club. The farmers/farms were recognized around the state in their home counties as Georgia’s highest-yielding peanut growers. Again this year, Seminole County’s 4 Miller Farms, represented by Dee and Eddie Miller, Jr. received the 2019 Georgia Peanut Achievement Club State Winner award in the 700 plus acres category. They had 7,066 pounds for 707 acres. Georgia is the No. 1 producer of peanuts in the United States. Georgia farmers provide more than 45 percent of the country’s peanut crop every year.

75-year-old resident 

assaulted by five juveniles

September 17 – On the evening of Monday, September 7 at approximately 10:52 p.m., Donalsonville Police Department (DPD) officers were dispatched to Mr. Pips Auto Truck Plaza on East Third Street in Donalsonville in reference to a reported assault. Upon arrival, DPD Officers Shelby Gale and Zach Poague made contact with the victim, 75-year-old Willie Odom, who, in obvious need of medical attention, had made his way to Mr. Pip’s in an attempt to get himself to the hospital. Mr. Odom, who resides on Gip Avenue in Donalsonville, told investigators he was inside his residence when he heard a noise. Odom stated he opened the door and several males struck him in his head numerous times with unknown objects, forced themselves into the house and continued to assault Mr. Odom and vandalize and burglarize his property. After speaking with witnesses, DPD officers were able to develop leads in the case and identify the parties involved. As a result of the investigation, five juveniles were identified as the offenders in this case and were subsequently arrested and transported to Department of Juvenile Justice Centers. Due to the severity of this case, all five juvenile defendants were charged as adults. The five defendants were charged with one count each: home invasion robbery, armed robbery, burglary, aggravated battery and aggravated assault. Mr. Odom was transported to a Dothan hospital for medical treatment and reported to be recovering.

Southwest Georgia Regional 

Library launches live, online 

tutoring program

September 17 – Just in time for back-to-school-season, the Southwest Georgia Regional Library, which includes the Seminole County Public Library, announces the launch of its new Tutor.com program. Tutor.com connects students at their time of need to one of over 3,000 highly vetted expert tutors. With instant access to one-to-one homework help and tutoring, students can lower their anxiety and raise their confidence about their schoolwork. Over 95% of Tutor.com student users surveyed said that having the service available helped them complete their homework and improve their grades.  This service is made possible by The Thomas M. & Irene B. Kirbo Charitable Trust and the Decatur County – Gilbert H. Gragg Library Foundation. Tutor.com provides online, on-demand academic tutoring, homework help, and test preparation to kindergarten through twelfth grade students, plus early college students and adult learners. Any library patron can connect with a highly qualified, expert tutor in a safe and secure online classroom. Tutors are available in a variety of subjects and test prep areas from 2 p.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Skeletal remains identified

September 24 – On Friday, September 18, the Donalsonville Police Department received news from the state’s crime lab that the human remains found north of Donalsonville in February of 2020 were those of Sharon Michelle Crawford. A caller to Seminole County 911 informed authorities  on February 12, 2020 of human skeletal remains discovered off Robbie Forrest Road just north of the city limits of Donalsonville. Seminole County Sheriff officers were dispatched to the scene. At that time, with the identity of the remains unknown, they were transported to the state’s crime lab for identification.  The 43-year-old Crawford, identified as a woman around 5-foot-7 tall, weighing around 125 pounds with black hair and brown eyes, had been missing since November 27, 2018.

OCTOBER

The race will go on, virtually!

October 1 – This year’s Rejoice Run and Mom’s Mile will be a little different. So, lace up your sneakers and hit the road wherever you are for this year’s VIRTUAL Rejoice Run and Mom’s Mile on October 17th, 2020. Run a 5K (3.1 Miles) or One Mile race with your family or friends.  Steffey Vines, Rejoice Run & Mom’s Mile organizer, makes that announcement as she presents Donalsonville Hospital with a generous donation of $5,500 to Donalsonville Hospital to sponsor Free Mammograms for the month of October.  The purpose of the event, as in each of the previous runnings of its predecess – Joyce’s Jog, is to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer here in Seminole County.  Steffey’s mom, the late Anne Coirini, is the namesake for the new name of the new run and walk. Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2004 after a routine mammogram. 

EMC’s annual meeting to follow drive in format

October 1 – This year’s annual meeting of the Three Notch Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) will be held Saturday, October 10. However, because of COVID-19 social distancing and safety precautions, the meeting, to be held in the Seminole County Middle High School parking lot, will follow a drive-in format. Registration for the 10 a.m. meeting will begin at 7:30 a.m.  Members attending the meeting will be required to remain in their vehicles at all times for the duration of the meeting and listen to the morning’s scheduled events on their vehicle’s FM radio on station FM 87.9. Musical entertainment will be broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. and the business session of the meeting will be called to order at 10 a.m. All attending members will receive a door prize at registration, and they will also register for one of the event’s grand prize – one of eighty $50 bill credits, to be given away at the end of the meeting. 

Downtown to host a drive thru Trick or Treat parade

October 15 – After a year filled with so many cancellations, community leaders and volunteers have decided that Halloween is not going to be added to the list of events not happening this year in Seminole County.  Traditional downtown trick or treating, with costumed characters walking the streets of Donalsonville, will not be happening this year, but a Downtown Donalsonville drive-thru Trick or Treat parade will be! The Downtown Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce are partnering to host the socially distanced Halloween event on Saturday, October 31st from 4 to 6 p.m. It will be a COVID-19 safety precaution stay in your car parade with no foot traffic.   Tables and treat stations will be set up along Second Street and local first responders, merchants and community volunteers – all wearing gloves and hopefully masks – will hand out candy and treats to kids in vehicles as they pass. Trick or treaters are encouraged to come in their best costumes!

City of Donalsonville awarded $300,000 CHIP Grant

October 22 – The City of Donalsonville has been awarded a $300,000 Community HOME Investment Grant  (CHIP) to make needed repairs to the homes of eligible low and moderate income homeowners living in a target area within Donalsonville’s city limits. Priority will be given to eligible applicants 62 years of age and older, and repairs cannot be made to mobile or manufactured homes. The CHIP Program is funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and HOME Investment Partnership Program to assist local governments, non-profits, and public housing authorities. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) administers these federal funds to help communities meet housing needs and connect people with housing assistance.

Donalsonville receives 

Rural Zone designation

October 29 – The City of Donalsonville has been designated as a Rural Zone. This program is a collaboration between the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Since its creation in 2017, this initiative provides tax credits to individuals creating jobs and making qualifying investments within historic downtown areas that have been designated as Rural Zones. Each designation lasts for five years, and activities to begin earning tax credits within the new Rural Zone begins Jan. 1, 2021.  The program includes Georgia state income tax incentives which are utilized for job-creation activities, investment in downtown properties, and renovation of properties. The credits can be layered, but none are available without the job creation element being present. The Job Tax Credit is equivalent to $2,000 per new full-time equivalent job per year for up to five years. The Investment Credit is equivalent to 25% of the purchase price of a property within the designated Rural Zone (not to exceed $125,000). The Rehabilitation Credit is equivalent to 30% of the qualified rehabilitation costs of a building located within a designated Rural Zone (not to exceed $150,000).

Veterans Day Parade has been 

cancelled for this year

October 29 – For the second time in the last three years, unforeseen events have caused the cancellation of the annual Veterans Day parade held each  November 11th in downtown Donalsonville.  In 2018, devastation caused by Hurricane Michael forced its cancellation, and this year, safety precautions in place because of the  COVID-19 Pandemic threat is the reason. Out of an abundance of caution, parade organizers and representatives from American Legion Post 157 decided not to stage this year’s parade, as well as the Wednesday, November 11 Veteran’s Day ceremony.  The Donalsonville News’ Veterans Day  Salute will not be affected by the cancellations and is scheduled to be a special section in next week’s November 5th edition. 

NOVEMBER

More than 65% vote 

in November 3rd election

November 5 – With results still pending, as of press time, in the  Presidential race and others, one thing is for sure about the 2020 General Election – It was a historic one. Tremendous record voter turnout of 65 percent and more was reported in communities all across the nation. 3,894, or 65.6 percent of Seminole County’s  5.936 registered active voters  cast a vote in Tuesday’s election – 2,095 advance votes, 542 absentee ballots and 1,257 Election Day votes. That large number of Seminole County voters also overwhelmingly approved the Special Local Option Sales Tax  referendum (SPLOST) with 2,448 yes votes to 1,173 no votes. With the Presidential race still undecided nationally, Seminole County voters favored President Donald Trump over former Vice-President Joe Biden 2,607 to 1,251.In the race for U.S. House District 2, Seminole County voters favored challenger Don Cole over Congressman Sanford Bishop, 2,416 to 1,358; however, district wide, Congressman Bishop defeated Cole 153,734 to 109,409 and was elected to his fifteenth term as the U.S. House representative for Seminole County and all of Georgia’s  District Two. In other state races Seminole County voters favored Doug Collins over Incumbent Kelly Loeffler for U.S. Senator 1,262 to 1,019; however, Loeffler and Raphael Warnock were the top two candidates receiving votes statewide, neither of which received a fifty percent plus one vote threshold to win outright. They will now face each other in a January runoff. Loeffler  was appointed in January  by Governor Brian Kemp to hold the seat vacated by retired Senator Johnny Isakson, who stepped down due to health concerns with three years remaining in his term. Whoever wins that runoff in January and claims Isakson’s old seat will need to run again in 2022 for a full six-year Senate term. Seminole County voters favored Incumbent U.S. Senator David Perdue over challenger Jon Ossoff 2,593 to 1,184. Statewide Perdue, a Republican, was leading Democratic challenger Ossoff 54% to 44%  as of press time with 2,071 of Georgia’s 2,656 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. All vote totals are unofficial until certified by the Secretary of State.

Runoff races kick off in Georgia as election recount looms

November 12 – Election Day may have come and gone, but the race for control of the US Senate continues in Georgia, as its voters are on track to vote again in January for its two Senators. Under Georgia’s laws, a Senate candidate needs to hit 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Neither of the state’s Republican Senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – have so far reached that cutoff, meaning both contests will likely go to a runoff January 5. Loeffler, who was appointed late last year to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, faced multiple candidates in her race, including the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and GOP Rep. Doug Collins, depriving her of enough votes to win outright. Loeffler and Warnock advanced to the runoff, as projected last week. A projection  has not been made in the Perdue race, which featured three candidates. But Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff looks to be pulling Perdue below the 50% threshold, making it almost certain that the pair will also meet in the January 5 election, as both candidates are already campaigning for the runoff.

Two Donalsonville bank veterans join First Port City Bank

November 12 – First Port City Bank (FPCB), Bainbridge, Georgia, is excited to announce the hiring of two Donalsonville area bank veterans, LaToya Fennell and Dave Fain. Ms. Fennell has worked for over 24 years in the Donalsonville market in several capacities, but most recently as a branch manager. LaToya will be the new branch manager of our Donalsonville branch located at 201 South Woolfork Avenue. Mr. Fain will be joining First Port City Bank as a commercial loan officer. Dave has over 15 years of experience in consumer, commercial and agricultural lending. “Both LaToya and Dave have strong ties to Donalsonville and are both very active in the community,” said Scott Ewing, President and CEO of First Port City Bank.  “We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to bring this level of experience to our bank and the community.” 

Seminole County’s graduation 

rate increases to 92.5%

November 12 – Georgia’s high school graduation rate increased again in 2020, rising to 83.8 percent – an all-time high since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law, and up from 82 percent in 2019. Georgia’s high school graduation rate has increased by 14.1 percentage points since 2012, with steady increases each year.  In 2020, 105 Georgia school districts and 230 schools recorded graduation rates at or above 90 percent. Twenty-nine districts and 89 schools recorded rates at or above 95 percent. The graduation rate for Seminole County Middle High School increased to 92.5 %, well above last years rate of 86.54%. “Along with members of the Board of Education, I am extremely proud of this accomplishment. We appreciate the hard work of our students and teachers,” commented Seminole County School Superintendent Mark Earnest.  “I’m very proud today of the class of 2020,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again — in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments, and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above. While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”  

Gov. Kemp reimposes COVID-19 restrictions statewide

November 19 – Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday he is extending Cronavirus-driven social distancing and sanitization restrictions for businesses, gatherings and long-term elderly care facilities in Georgia. Kemp has signed an executive order, effective at midnight Nov. 16 and running through the end of the month, leaving the current set of restrictions in place. “As COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations rise across the country, Georgia Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey and I are asking Georgians to remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19,” the Governor said. “Continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance, follow public health guidance, and get a flu shot. By taking these simple steps, we will protect lives – and livelihoods.” The latest order keeps in place a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people in Georgia and continues to make wearing a mask voluntary at the statewide level rather than mandatory. Cities and counties have been allowed to impose their own mask mandates since August so long as their local requirements do not apply to businesses and residences.

Spirit of Christmas Parade 

set for December 3

November 26  The annual Spirit of Christmas parade and Santa Claus will roll into town at 6 p.m., Thursday, December 3rd. Lineup begins at 5:00 p.m. on Sixth Street, just north of Seminole County Elementary School. Bundle up, bring the whole family and make an It’s a Wonderful Life night of it in Donalsonville. COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place and all attendees will be encouraged to wear masks.

Corner Bistro passes the 

whisk to new owners

November 26  The Corner Bistro and Supper Club is under new ownership and officially opened last week with the official passing of the whisk from previous owners Jill and Kenny Miley to new owners Kimberly and Scott Bowen. The Bistro, offering mouth-watering soups, salads, sandwiches and more, will be open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. -until 2 p.m. for dine in and take out; and open Monday – Friday, from 2 to 6 p.m. for take out. Supper Club selections will be available for pre-orders beginning November 30, with pick up from 4 -6 p.m. The menu will be posted and emailed out on Sunday afternoons.

 The Bistro will also be offering sides for holiday and family reunion celebrations. Order forms are available at the restaurant for side selections, each serving six to eight people; side selections include green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, breakfast casserole, macaroni and cheese and cheesecake fluff. Call 229-524-1412 for pricing and for additional information.

Kimberly Bowen commented, “We would like to thank Jill and Kenny for giving us the opportunity; my family for their support and hard work; and the Donalsonville community for their support and business.”

DECEMBER

COVID-19 vaccine poised 

for mid-December roll out

December 3 – Georgia is gearing up to distribute the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to health-care workers and the state’s elderly residents in the coming weeks once federal officials approve the vaccines for emergency use. Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday he expects health-care workers and nursing home residents in the state to start receiving vaccines in the second or third week of December, noting several state agencies have been preparing to move quickly on distribution as soon as the initial vaccine shipments arrive. Two vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna showed unexpectedly good results in recent clinical trials and are now poised for emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The federal government is leaving it to Governors and other state officials to hash out plans for distributing COVID-19 vaccine doses in their respective states, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention giving guidance on which populations to prioritize like health-care workers, first responders, elderly persons and those with chronic health conditions. 

Public Health Emergency 

extended, restrictions renewed

December 3 – On Monday, November 30th Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order 11.30.20.01 and Executive Order 11.30.20.02, extending Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency until January 8, 2021, and extending current COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order 11.30.20.02 also includes changes that allow nurses and pharmacists to administer the pending COVID-19 vaccine, including in a drive-thru setting, and permits any nurse or pharmacist to observe patients for the requisite 15 minute window after receiving the vaccine. Both Orders took effect on December 1, 2020 at 12:00 a.m. Executive Order 11.30.20.02 runs through December 15.

Donalsonville Hospital named #3 top medium sized hospital 

December 10 Donalsonville Hospital has been ranked by Georgia Trend as the #3 medium-sized hospital in the state of Georgia – for the second year in a row. Georgia Trend compared Donalsonville Hospital with similar sized facilities throughout the state, and evaluated each hospital based on information obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services including clinical process, patient experience, outcome, and efficiency. According to Hospital Administrator, Chuck Orrick, “This top ranking is a testament to the hard work and patient centered care our physicians, nurses and staff provide our community. We are constantly striving to provide the healthcare services, technology and access to care that our patients need and deserve. We are proud to be a leader in community healthcare. Although 2020 has been a challenging year, our staff has continued providing the best patient care possible. None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of each person at Donalsonville Hospital.” For more than 100 years Donalsonville Hospital and those who worked inside have been bringing much-needed healthcare to the community. The uniquely beautiful exterior of the 65-bed non-profit hospital is workplace to close to 400 employees who strive to improve the quality of patient care and access to healthcare for our rural community.

PeoplesSouth Bank honors 

healthcare heroes through 

Georgia HEART

December 17 PeoplesSouth Bank has donated $17,000 to Donalsonville Hospital through the Georgia HEART Rural Tax credit program for 2020.  This is the second year in a row that the bank has invested in rural healthcare at Donalsonville Hospital and comes in the midst of their ninth month battling locally with the COVID-19 global pandemic. The State of Georgia uniquely empowers its citizens and businesses to make 100% tax credit-eligible contributions to qualified rural hospitals of their choice and help enhance rural healthcare for thousands of Georgians, including those served by Donalsonville Hospital. 

COVID-19 Vaccine 

comes to Seminole County

December 24 The first doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 arrived on Tuesday, December 22 at the Seminole County Public Health complex in Donalsonville. Dr. Jeff Holley, Donalsonville Hospital Chief of Staff, was the first medical staff physician to receive the vaccine on Tuesday morning. He was followed by Pam Register, Respiratory Therapist Supervisor and other hospital employees involved in direct COVID-19 patient care.  Donalsonville Hospital front line workers will begin receiving the vaccine immediately. Seminole Manor Nursing Home residents will receive their vaccinations through Walgreens Pharmacy.  Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose within 28 days. Chuck Orrick, Donalsonville Hospital Administrator, says the vaccine will be staggered to ensure adequate staffing remains in place in the event of vaccination side effects, known to be more common after the second dose. Once the front-line employees are vaccinated, the next tier of essential hospital and medical office workers will be offered the opportunity as more doses become available.  Dr. Holley addressed the room before receiving his vaccine and emphasized that this was a monumental day. It is the beginning of the road back to normalcy, and this vaccine is the result of much sacrifice and sorrow across our state and nation. Holley said, “It has been amazing how our community, neighbors, patients and employees have pulled together through this pandemic. This is a day for us all to remember – a historic day in modern medicine.” Dr. Holley also sends out words of encouragement for all to get the vaccine when available, continue to wear masks in public and follow all of the COVID-19 safety precautions.  “We are not out of this yet, but this vaccine is certainly a light showing us out of the darkness we have been in all year long,” added Holley.

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