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Local youth project offers inspiring start to 2018

Katherine Scoggins • Jan 18, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Imagine you are a young person about to be taken from your home (through no fault of your own) and sent to live in another house with a family that you have never met. You only have maybe an hour to gather your clothes and a toy or two, maybe a couple of books, and throw them into a plastic bag from a local grocery store, or a plastic garbage bag, to take with you to your new home. How do you feel?

If you’re like most children or young people, you are likely embarrassed or ashamed. Meeting your new family with little more than a few clothes and personal possessions in a cheap, torn plastic bag. This is where another group of young people and adults are helping ease the awkwardness and difficulty of the situation. Enter H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Potential Evolve), a group of local youth who have entered into a partnership with the Department of Children’s Services and Just Store It, to collect duffel bags, backpacks and luggage and pair it with pieces of new clothing and personal hygiene items to make the move easier and to give the child a little bit of dignity and self worth.

This initiative kicked off on Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Just Store It facility in the Big Lots shopping center. By 1 p.m., the Just Store It office was packed with young people, a quickly growing assortment of backpacks, duffel bags and several sizes of luggage, many pieces in bright, bold colors and on wheels, and colorful socks and personal care items.

“We are just overwhelmed with the generosity of this community,” exclaimed Stella Robinette, adult director of H.O.P.E. “The plan is to have a large box here in the lobby of Just Store It filled with new duffel bags, backpacks and luggage and for them to be given to our area’s foster children to use to pack their clothes and carry new donated socks, underwear and personal care items, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and perhaps a toy, book or small throw as they transition to their new homes.

Items will be accepted throughout the year and then picked up and packed up as foster children are identified by the Department of Children’s Services. The backpacks and luggage can be lightly used. “We do ask that the new socks and underwear be purchased for children, toddler through 18 years of age,” Robinette continued.

It is important to note that the H.O.P.E. youth will not come in contact with the foster children.

Robinette has worked hard to identify and work with the H.O.P.E. youth over the years. To date, there are approximately 38 on the roll, but the H.O.P. E. program does not limit itself to just the members of the group. “We often work with other young people on projects and we often identify and recruit those we meet in our working together that might benefit both groups,” adds Robinette.

One of those is the current H.O.P.E. youth president for 2018-2019, Shanequa Carpenter. Actually, she has served in this capacity since 2016, making her youth president from 2016 to 2019 when she will graduate and leave for college, where she plans to major in electrical engineering. Gregarious and poised, she is quick to share a favorite quote: “If you blame people for failure, you must give them credit for successes.” She currently works part time at Eastman Chemical Company and admits (enthusiastically) to liking math and science. Another young woman I met hopes to study medicine, specifically psychology. Robinette shares news that some of H.O.P.E. students will begin learning more about medicine at Wellmont-Holston Valley Medical Center in the summer of 2018.

It is gratifying to see and hear about the successes that a number of these young people are experiencing. It doesn’t come easily or quickly. But with discipline, focus and hard work, the sky is the limit. For more information about the H.O.P.E. program, contact Robinette at (423) 276-6541 or visit them on the web at www.hopetricities.com or on Facebook.

Before I made it by to see this project kickoff, I drove over to Warrior’s Path State Park on that cold (13-degree) morning to hear the 29th Annual Winter Gardening Seminar. This year’s topic was attracting butterflies to your yard/garden. I was met by a full house, although the location was in the process of being moved to a warmer room (the usual hall was 43 degrees - and that after the heat had been on all night!!). After cups of coffee and hot chocolate, we settled in to hear the introduction of the morning’s speaker, Rita Venable of Franklin, Tennessee. She is the author of “Butterflies of Tennessee” and is a wonderful speaker. She spoke for a little more than two hours, and illustrated her talk with delightful (and beautiful) slides that she had taken over the past few years.

She used to work with the Tennessee Park Service and knew a lot about the state-wide parks and especially about our Warrior’s Path State Park, endearing herself to us when she referred to ranger Marty Silver as the “gold standard” of park rangers. She left four or five pages of information (as well as a copy of her book) with Marty, in case you would like to start or continue attracting butterflies to your yard. I took four legal sheets of notes and here are some of the highlights:

Butterflies are insects, as are caterpillars. Butterflies do sleep. Butterfly boxes do not work. While a decorative one may look pretty, the slits are the perfect size for wasps and other predators. The Zebra Swallowtail is the state butterfly of Tennessee (as of 1994). Butterflies need nectaring plants for adults, shelter and water. Good nectaring plants include pale or creeping violets, red clover, Buttonbush, zinnias, goldenrod and wild geranium. This is a partial list only, of course. There are many more, some invasive and some not native to Tennessee, but we have enough to attract many different types of butterflies.

I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can start growing some plants that will attract and nurture these beautiful, fragile creatures. Thanks to ranger Marty Silver and to Ms. Venable for sharing your wisdom, knowledge and inspiration - we hope to see many more butterflies in our region very soon! To learn more about how to help with this, contact Ranger Marty Silver at marty.silver@tn.gov.

And we hope to see you “out and about.”

Katherine Scoggins is a Sunday Stories columnist who highlights local happenings and community organizations twice a month in Out & About with Katherine. To share photos from a community event, add an event to our calendar or invite Katherine to attend, email us at communitynews@timesnews.net.

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