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Watch now: 'May the seventh will not define me' – Norton Police chief leaves hospital to hundreds of well-wishers


NORTON — Three weeks after being injured in a shooting, Norton Police Chief James Lane choked up at the sight of hundreds of people applauding his discharge from the hospital Friday.

“May the 7th will not define me,” Lane said after rehabilitation staff at Norton Community Hospital wheeled him to the patient exit.

Police, deputies, federal law enforcement, and campus officers from across Southwest Virginia joined rescue squad members, firefighters and local officials surrounding the hospital exit to applaud Lane’s recovery and discharge.

On May 7, Lane responded to a complaint near a convenience store, where a Pound man allegedly shot him. Norton Police Sgt. Jason McConnell — to whom Lane waved Friday — arrived and both returned fire.

Before Lane came outside Friday, rehabilitation center staff lined the hallway to clap and cheer as he made his way to the exit.

“I promise you I will be back,” Lane, flanked by hospital staff wearing T-shirts with the chief’s name and badge number, told the crowd. “I look forward to serving beside my brothers and sisters in blue and improving, making this a better place that we live and we work.”

Lane said community support helped him get through two weeks of rehabilitation and “I know it will continue as I continue the road to recovery.

“Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of you,” Lane said.

“He’s been building up the patients around him and the nurses around him,” said Shannon Showalter, Ballad Vice President for Wise, Dickenson and Lee County operations. “Every time I go in the room, he has something positive to say. His attitude has just been great through all of this.

“We feel so glad in this community that we can take care of one of our heroes,” Showalter said. “He has just been an amazing person for this community.”

Abingdon Police Chief Jon Holbrook represented one of several police and sheriff’s departments across Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky welcoming Lane.

“He’s the kind of chief you look up to and call for advice,” said Holbrook. “I’m glad he’s leaving the hospital.”

Wise County and Norton Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III and Virginia 38th District Sen. Travis Hackworth also joined a line of people waiting to shake Lane’s hand and help him into an SUV leading a motorcade of dozens of police, emergency medical and firefighting vehicles.

Norton Detective Sgt. Bucky Culbertson said Lane was looking forward to one gift he got: a bag of peanut butter cups Lane said he was going to “dig into” once he got home.

Nursing staff also lined the hospital exit drive, holding signs to give Lane an early sense of what was to come on his trip home.

Lane rode through downtown Norton at the head of a convoy of police, fire and emergency vehicles as hundreds more city and area residents lined Park Avenue waving signs and flags and bringing gifts to him in his vehicle.

The Norton Fire Department framed the parade with a large U.S. flag hanging from the department’s aerial truck.

Lane’s fellow Norton Kiwanis Club members joined the crowd with their own signs, telling him they looked forward to him coming back to weekly club meetings. Lane’s aunt, Mary Collins, also brought the motorcade to a brief stop as she went to the passenger window to speak with him.

“He’s my nephew,” Collins said, smiling, as she went back to the sidewalk.

WATCH NOW: Body scanner helping keep drugs out of Sullivan County Jail


BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County jailers are more easily finding drugs or other contraband hidden inside inmates’ bodies during the booking process. And they’re saving taxpayers’ money to boot.

Incoming inmates undergo a full body scan, thanks to a $250,000 donation from Ballad Health. The money was used to buy an Adani full-body scanner for the jail, as well as build a room to house it.

“It helps tremendously,” Sheriff Jeff Cassidy said of the machine, which has been in use about six months.

Typical items discovered inside inmates from the scanning process: meth, heroin, and marijuana, to name a few.

Jail staff underwent training to become certified in the use of the scanner, which puts out much less radiation than medical x-ray equipment, Cassidy said.

Stopping contraband from entering the jail, especially drugs, protects staff and inmates from direct and indirect dangers. There is less drug use in jail as well as less fighting over drugs. Some repeat offenders who would come back again and again to try to smuggle drugs into the jail now know the scanner is in place and they’re going to get caught.

“We are grateful that Ballad Health recognized the need for a body scanner in this facility and took action to make it possible,” Cassidy said. “This equipment has and will continue to decrease the amount of contraband coming into the jail.”

Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said it is a great example of community collaboration.

“We are proud to work with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in this effort to help protect inmates, law enforcement officers and jail visitors, and also help curtail the far-reaching effects of drug use and illegal activity and the impact they have on our health and in our community,” Deaton said.

On average, the Sullivan County Jail books about 160 inmates a week.

Cassidy said discoveries of contraband using the scanner are averaging about one per day.

Local teacher receives statewide Holocaust Educator of Excellence award

By Staff Report

JOHNSON CITY — A Johnson City teacher this month received statewide recognition for her efforts in bringing Holocaust education into both her classroom and the entire Northeast Tennessee region.

Kim Kenneson, a middle school teacher at St. Mary’s School, was named a Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator of Excellence, one of three across the state, by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission. As such, Kenneson was recognized at the statewide Holocaust Remembrance event at the Tennessee General Assembly and received money to further Holocaust education in this region.

Kenneson, an organizer of the Northeast Tennessee Holocaust Education Council, serves as a teaching fellow for the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and a teaching fellow for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She and other Holocaust educators organized a regionwide virtual event in April in which high school students joined with the Milligan University choir and orchestra to remember the Holocaust. The event was shown at high schools across Northeast Tennessee.

“Lessons from the Holocaust create a moral compass for our students,” said Kenneson. “By providing an in-depth look at the forces that created this atrocity, we can teach students how to prevent this from ever happening again.”

At St. Mary’s School, Kenneson teaches a unit on the Holocaust that embeds both the historical context and literature from Holocaust victims. She has traveled to such Holocaust sites as Auschwitz and the Jewish quarters of Krakow, Poland, to further her education. Over the past several years, she has attended several conferences nationwide on the Holocaust and was named as part of a cohort of teachers for the Museum Teacher Fellow program at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 2019, she organized the Northeast Tennessee Holocaust Education Council along with other area teachers, professors, and members of the B’nai Sholom congregation. They have assembled teaching materials for area schools that will be augmented with the proceeds from this award and distributed upon request by schools.

The Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator of Excellence award is given annually by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission after a statewide competition in which teachers apply or are recommended by their students and others. The educators are recognized by the Tennessee General Assembly at its annual Holocaust Remembrance Event. A former student of Kenneson’s wrote her recommendation.

Lunch Box child lunch program on hold until three employees can be hired


ROGERSVILLE — For the first time in 15 years, the Of One Accord ministry’s Lunch Box summer feeding program will not deliver lunch to Hawkins County children.

At least not until some help arrives.

The ministry has food, and it has the “Lunch Box” mobile cafeterias converted from old buses to deliver the meals.

What the ministry doesn’t have is three critical staff members to prepare and deliver the food.

Program director Rita Jones said the lunch deliveries, which usually begin when the Hawkins County school year ends, will be delayed or possibly canceled this summer if three employees aren’t hired.

The open positions are for a cook and two monitors to deliver meals to about a dozen neighborhoods.

“Everyone from fast-food restaurants to industry is begging for workers right now, most of which have increased (pay) to get people to work,” Jones said.

“As a nonprofit, raising money for our program and giving away free lunches, we can’t do that. In past years we’ve had an abundance of applications to choose from, but this year, literally none.”

The Lunch Box program, which began in 2006, delivered more than 12,000 lunches to 20 locations across Hawkins County at its peak. Last year the numbers were down due to the schools providing free lunches throughout the summer as well, with only 4,400 lunches delivered to 12 locations.

“If workers or volunteers present themselves soon, we can pick up service in July,” Jones said. “If not, we will have to cancel for 2021 for the first time since Of One Accord started this program in 2006.”

Anyone willing to volunteer or work the three positions is asked to contact Jones at (423) 921-8036 Monday through Friday before 2 p.m.

Walk-in applicants are also welcome at the Shepherd Center in downtown Rogersville.