Photo by Wayne Clark
By Wayne Clark
WEST POINT — On Friday afternoon, West Point resident Anderson Ferrell saw a couple of things he thought he'd never see again. He saw the boyhood home he'd grown up in looking new and he got to put around his neck one more time the dog tags he'd worn while a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Ferrell served his country in World War II and stayed in the Army several years after the war, retiring in 1958. He returned to West Point and for many years has lived in the family home he grew up in on Pear Street.
Over the years, that aging home became in much need of repair.
Within the past year, Ferrell contacted Kim Roberts of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project to see if his home would qualify for repairs though the Fuller Center's Greater Blessings program. Arrangements were made, and while a large group of volunteers were involved in flipping the house into a much nicer place to live, Ferrell stayed nearby with relatives.
He didn't see the house again until Friday afternoon's dedication ceremony and was amazed by what he saw. He was taken from room to room and marveled at the transformation that had taken place.
"I'd don't know what to say. It's beautiful, beautiful," he said upon completing the tour. "It's so much more than I expected. I thank you all so much."
CFCP President Curt Johnson thanked the many volunteers who had taken part in the home's turnaround.
"It's important to give back to those who have served our country," he said.
Volunteers who worked on the project over the past several weeks included students from Point University and Springwood School and employees from Home Depot in LaGrange. Some of the final touch up work done on Friday was done by a group of 35 cyclists who are taking part in the current Fuller Center Bike Adventure.
While they were taking care of some final chores such as some touch-up painting, cleaning the windows and cutting the grass in preparation for the afternoon dedication ceremony, the house passed a final inspection from the city of West Point. That was the final hurdle to be cleared for Ferrell to move back into his residence.
West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson thanked the Fuller Center on having made a big impact in West Point.
"As we look to reap the benefits of economic development, having quality, affordable housing is at the core of community development," he said. "The Fuller Center has been important in the revitalization of neighborhoods."
"This old house is this NEW house," the mayor said, looking to a smiling Ferrell. "Thank you, Fuller Center, for being a guiding light for the city of West Point."
CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts recognized the important role played by Home Depot of LaGrange in the home's turnaround. Home Depot volunteers put 29 work days on the site, handling many chores from gutting the home to building it back.
Home Depot Store Manager Robby Salemi thanked Gene Overby and Tim Scannell for their efforts in overseeing the project.
"It's remarkable what the volunteers did here," Salemi said. "It's great to work for an organization that takes part in these projects. Gene and Tim are the true heroes of this. They were here day in and day out."
Roberts said the Home Depot crew had become like family to the CFCP. The Pear Street project was the second home renovation effort involving the CFCP and Home Depot of LaGrange. They'd previously worked together to flip the home of cancer survivor Carly Bird, located on Potts Road north of West Point.
Roberts said she had "fallen in love" with the Fuller Center bikers and very much admired their enthusiasm for life and eagerness to assist in home rehab projects.
Speaking on behalf of the bikers, Ryan Iafigliola said the 35-member group was delighted to lend a helping hand to close out a successful project.
"We're on a nine-week trip from the east coast to the west coast," he said. "We started out in Tybee Island, and some of us will be going all the way to Vancouver."
Iafigliola said it was a blessing for the Fuller Center bikers to take part in such projects like the one at the Ferrell home.
"This home has new life in it," he said.
In keeping with a long-standing Fuller Center tradition, Roberts presented Mr. Ferrell a new Bible.
"We would like to this to be a part of your home," she said to Ferrell, who nodded in agreement.
Roberts told Ferrell that the Lanett Methodist Church had him on their list to deliver him a hot meal five days a week.
Point Refuge Church Pastor Matt Thrower, also the CFCP chaplain, read some scripture from the 58th chapter of Proverbs, that those who raise up the foundation are the restorers of the breach.
"You shall call and the Lord will answer," he said.
Ferrell's daughter, Slyvette Ferrell, who lives in Atlanta, said that she had always visited with her dad at the family home in West Point but had always been reluctant to stay for the night, given the poor condition of the house.
"This house is so much better," she said. "I will be staying with him overnight now."
Granddaughter Jennifer Ferrell of West Point thanked the big group of volunteers for what they had done for her grandfather.
"This means so much to us," she said.
Iafigliola concluded a very happy occasion by leading everyone in the "O-yee!' shout out that was much liked to the late Millard Fuller.
WEST POINT — It was probably a change of pace on Friday as a group of bicyclists grabbed hammers and nails to help finish a residence in need of their services.
Riders with the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure brought things back to basics on Friday as they worked alongside community members during a West Point house renovation.
Officials with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project joined together with residents and the cyclists to finish off a residence in the works since March.
The CFCP teamed up with Home Depot of LaGrange to finish the Pear Street residence of World War II veteran Anderson Ferrell, 84.
The house experienced significant water damage and had to be gutted for proper repairs to be made.
"We basically gutted it out and started over," CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts said. "… You just don't know what you're going to run into when you start tearing down."
The single residence already has seen dozens of workers — Springwood School and Point University students, members and employees of the CFCP and Home Depot, and, finally, a dedicated group of bicyclists.
"This was a great blessing when we teamed up with Home Depot," CFCP Executive Director Kim Roberts said.
The residence was dedicated alongside the riders on Friday, with the cyclists providing some finishing touches for the residence at 635 Pear St.
A total 42 cyclists have signed up for segments and the entirety of the 2013 ride, which will see riders traveling 3,700 miles from Tybee Island near Savannah, Ga., all the way to Vancouver, Canada.
It's no quick trip. The ride will take them through 13 states, across Georgia and Alabama, through the mountains of Colorado, the plains of Utah and the waterways of Washington before finally arriving in their colder-than-normal destination.
They've got some stops to make on the way, however, with some houses to build as well.
"Everybody's just been great to help us," Roberts said.
WEST POINT — No one knows the West Point River Park the way Mike Crook knows it. He was involved in the design and handled most of the construction of the six miles of walking trails in the park now open to the public.
The park, and the many ways available to walk through it, remains an undiscovered treasure for many people in the local area, and Crook would like to change that.
"This land is just too big a gift not to be accessed by lots of people," he said.
The river park, Crook said, is a great setting for those who like to walk in the woods and those who like to get lawn chairs and sit in a natural setting.
The park's trail system includes a three-mile perimeter trail, which is best reached from the baseball fields on the south side of the park; one-and-a-half miles of recently completed crushed granite trails and a three-quarter-mile Heritage Trail made of concrete and located near a group shelter on the north side of the park.
Crook recently spent about three weeks building one of the park's final trails. It took a full week to construct an 80-foot boardwalk across a beaver pond and two weeks to spread crushed granite all along the trail.
Spreading all that granite was a daunting task. A huge pile of it was left in the parking lot near the group shelter, and Crook ferried it bucketload by bucketload to the trail.
Each load was heavy, and it took more than 400 trips to finish it off.
Investing strain and sweat into a project is a tried and true way of getting someone to appreciate a completed job, and that's the way it is for Crook with the park's newest nature trail. Crook especially likes the spot where the boardwalk crosses over part of a beaver pond.
"It's a safe crossing, and you're really close to nature here," he said. "I was out here a few days ago watching a family of otters."
Crook credits a number of parties for making it possible for the park to be developed the way it is today. The Trust for Public Land made the site available. Grants from the city and funds raised through some adventure races held on the site helped with various phases.
There's been much volunteerism in helping the projects along. Some of the foot bridges and benches in the park are the result of Eagle Scout projects.
"The adventure racers did a lot," Crook said. "They've utilized the park and raised funds for it."
A total four Adventure Races have been held in the West Point River Park.
Another race will be held later this year on the new mountain biking trail near West Point Dam. John and Jay Hall are handling it.
A father and son, the Halls built one of the first foot bridges in the park. Crook credits Bill Frazer and his daughter, Tammy, with blazing the first trail in the park.
Crook joked that one has to be "young, crazy and dedicated" to take on adventure racers, but he's the first to commend them for what they've meant to the river park's development.
One of the trickiest tasks in having a completed park was building an underpass under the CSX Railroad trestle that crosses the Chattahoochee.
"It took some persistence on the part of the city hall staff to get that done," Crook said. "There's been so much help from so many people. Thomas Scott of the street department has brought us a lot of mulch. Springwood students have helped us on their Wildcat Work Days. Continued community participation will ensure the park's success."
Crook invites the public to come out anytime during the daylight hours to enjoy the park.
"The best way is to park at the youth ball fields and follow the signs to the kiosk located near the trestle," he said. "The crushed granite is very foot friendly. You can't get lost if you stay on it."
Those who are into mountain biking have found crushed granite more to their liking than other types of trail coverings.
Crook credits West Point 2100 on having played an important role in getting the park to where it is today.
"They accepted donations and disbursed them for us," he said.
Doug Shumate of West Point 2100 loves going to the park.
"He runs it almost every day," Crook said. "He was the first person to cross every bridge in the park."
Crook said the casual visitor might like to see the park from the north end. There's an access road off Highway 29 not far past the railroad crossing. It's directly across the road from Lott's Pattern Shop. It's gated, but the site is open each day from 8 a.m. till dark.
A short walk along the concrete Heritage Trail branches off onto the new crushed granite trail and leads to Crook's favorite spot at the beaver pond.
"It will be nice for you to come out here, bring a lawn chair with you and sit for a spell. You'll love it. You'll even forget that there's a town around you," he said.
Crook asks visitors to the river park to have some basic respect for humanity and nature.
"We don't want to burden people with too many restrictions," he said, "but we want no use of alcohol and no littering in the park. We ask people to take only photographs and leave only their tracks on the way out."
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
VALLEY — Learn from the best and it certainly doesn’t hurt when they live local as well and willing to offer guidance and direction.
When it comes to punting, Point University rising sophomore All-American punter David Strickland couldn’t have found a better mentor and nicer guy and friend than former Auburn All-American punter Terry Daniel.
A former two-time All-American at Auburn (1993, 1994), Daniel is working with Strickland on all aspects of his game as the rising Point sophomore is considered one of the top punters in the nation at any level, including Division I.
Daniel played at Springwood 1987-89 and then transfered to Valley High his senior year for the 1990 season.
Following his prep career, Daniel first attended Alabama then later transfered to Auburn where his career really took off.
Daniel had to sit out the 1991 season when he left Alabama for Auburn.
He was All-SEC for coach Pat Dye in 1992 and followed that up with coach Terry Bowden as All-SEC in 1993 and 1994 as well as a unanimous All-American both years as well.
Daniel was a member of the 1993 Tigers which went 11-0 and completed its unbeaten season with a 22-14 come-from-behind win over defending national champion Alabama.
He had an amazing career and his signature punt was a booming 71-yard kick against unbeaten and No. 4-ranked Florida when Auburn shocked the Gators 38-35 in the school’s most important win since the 1989 SEC championship season.
But what Daniel gained in knowledge and skills development at Auburn as an All-American punter has been a tremendous boost and learning tool for Strickland, who views Daniel as his mentor.
The former Beulah High football and baseball standout decided to concentrate on football instead of playing both sports at Point University.
Although another power hitter would have been nice for the Skyhawks baseball team, Strickland decided to focus his talents on football and it proved to be a very wise choice.
He’s obviously had a terrific start in earning All-America honors as a freshman but the big youngster realizes he can improve and be a much more effective and efficient kicker.
Solid special teams play with a great kicking game and good defense can win a lot of college football games and that’s exactly what coach David Rocker is counting on from Strickland this fall.
Pin opponents deep with booming punts and win or change the all-important battle for field position, often crucial to success in football.
“I first met David when (then) Point University assistant Michael Ervin asked me last year if I would consider working with the Skyhawks punters,” Daniel said. “David has a ton of ability and the great thing is that he works hard, wants to learn, get better and is really dedicated,” noted Daniel.
Technique, foot speed and the proper drop are some of the keys to being a successful punter, Daniel added.
In his career at Auburn, Daniel was the nation’s best and a huge weapon for coach Bowden’s Tigers and its two-year unbeaten streak by consistently winning the battle of field position.
He says Strickland brings has all the tools necessary to be among the very best in the nation and a future playing beyond college.
“David has great potential and I think he can consistently hit 5.0-5.2 hang time range,” Daniel says. “Most colleges want a 40-yard net punting average but also at least a 4.6 hang time for special teams coverages,” Daniel added.
“I’ve changed a lot of stuff I did in terms of how to hold the ball and went back to what I was comfortable with in terms of my techniques,” Strickland says. “I’ve had some 4.8 to 4.9 hang times working with Terry and been averaging up to 52 yards per kick with a long of 69 yards and a 5.0 hang time,” noted Strickland.
“Ideally, two steps is still fine for a punter,” Daniel noted. “When I played, I watched film and see what the ends and secondary guys were doing with their hands. If they were digging in, then I knew they were coming for the block. If they just lined up in a three-point stance, I knew the punt block wasn’t on. Alabama had some great punt block players in Antonio Langham and others and you had it get off under 1.5 seconds or it would be blocked,” Daniel said.
“Special teams play has changed a lot in the SEC and college football in general over the last 20 years when I played,” Daniel said.
“A lot of it now is specifically set up for returns. With the power and techniques David has, if he gets a good snap, has some good blocking, he should be able to consistently have 50-yard plus kicks. Ideally, I’d like to see him have 4.6 hang times but reach the 5.0-5.2 range as well,” Daniel says.
“There’s no doubt David has the potential to be one of the best in all of college football. I’ve never worked with someone who could kick as high or as long as I could and David can do that and he’ll get a lot better. Flexibility is key for kickers,” Daniel added.
“Foot speed or leg speed is crucial. More than anything it’s three things – 1) timing; 2) techniques; and 3) foot speed. Combine these three with consistency and you can go a long way,” Daniel said.
Not to mention help your team win a lot of games and get a chance to play at the next level.
That’s exactly what Strickland is counting on.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
EUGENE, Ore. — Former Lanett High, Mississippi State and now Florida State track and field star James “Boomer” Harris is earning respect around the nation as one of the most versatile athletes in all of NCAA track and field competition.
He completed a terrific showing over the weekend for the Florida State track team as the Seminoles men’s squad finished ninth overall at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held here at the University of Oregon.
Harris and teammate Dentarius Locke combined to score 16.5 points for Florida State.
The 6-6 Lanett native scored 8.75 points for the Seminoles.
Harris competed in the high jump, where the Lanett native leaped 2.24m (7-feet, 4.5 inches) good for fourth and earned a fifth-place finish in the 400 meters finals with a time of 45.56.
“Boomer” also competed as part of FSU’s 4x100m relay team which earned an eighth-place finish.
By virtue of his standout efforts in the high jump and 400 meters, Harris earned All-America honors in both events and it’s the timing that made his performance so amazing, according to Florida State coaches.
Harris’ showings were both completed within 30 minutes of each other in searing heat conditions, the coaches noted.
Making a difference and being a champion is nothing new for the youngster.
“Boomer” has made a real impact for the Florida State track and field team after transferring over last year from Mississippi State.
He enjoyed a spectacular career while at Lanett High School under coach Terrance Price and helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back AHSAA 2A state track and field state championships in 2009 and 2010.
The soft-spoken and well-liked Harris also played on the Panthers state-ranked boys basketball teams and was a wideout and defensive back for the Lanett football teams.
Harris is a junior at Florida State, is one of the leaders on the team and expected again to be one of the top high jumpers and 400 meters athletes in NCAA Division I track and field.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
VALLEY — The phone call came a little later than expected but for Valley High baseball star Matt Foster, the excitement and realization that a life-long dream has come true is now reality.
A strong-armed righthander, Foster was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 29th round of the MLB amateur draft as the 870th overall selection.
Foster was told by draft experts that he would most likley be taken in the 12-15th rounds area but although he went a little later than expected, a call from a major league franchise is a huge honor.
He signed earlier this spring with Gulf Coast Community College in Florida and it’s his plan to honor his commitment to play for the school, hone his many skills with a year at a top-notch college baseball program and see if he can improve his draft rank for the next summer.
Foster had a brilliant career for the Valley High baseball team and his senior season he was simply overpowering on the mound.
Clocked in the low 90s for much of his high school career, Foster hit as high as 95 mph, according to coach Ben Burnett.
In his 10 starts this spring, Foster struck out at least 10 batters in nine of his 10 outings, including a stunning 21 strike outs in a heartbreaking, extra-inning playoff loss at Marbury. In addition, he worked at least six innings in all 10 of his games, including nine brilliant innings in the 21K effort against Marbury.
Foster also struck out 18 in an early season win over defending 3A state champion Trinity. He struck 15 or more in four of his 10 outings.
His numbers his senior season are simply off the charts for a high school pitcher.
Foster posted a senior season 0.75 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and struck out 115 batters in just 65 and 1/3 innings work.
But Foster was far from just a great arm and was one of the leading hitters on the team for his career as well.
He hit at a .353 clip his senior season, had a .462 on-base percentage and led the team with four homers as well.
As great a baseball player as he is, Foster is even a better young man and has earned the respect of his peers and school officials as a fine student-athlete.
FRANKLIN, Ga. — Funeral services for Daniel Akins, 95, of Franklin, formerly of Valley, were held Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m. CDT at Quattlebaum Funeral Chapel with the Revs. Mark Moore and Bill Calhoun officiating. Burial followed at Hillcrest Cemetery in Lanett.
Mr. Akins died Thursday, June 13, 2013, at West Georgia Hospice in LaGrange.
Quattlebaum Funeral Home of Roanoke handled arrangements.
LaFAYETTE — Funeral arrangements are pending for Ms. Georgia Avery, 86, of LaFayette, who died Saturday, June 18, 2013, at LaFayette Extended Care Nursing Home in LaFayette.
Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home of LaFayette is handling arrangements.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mrs. Lavelle Raughton Birmingham, 91, of Scottsdale died Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at McDowell Assisted Living Home in Scottsdale.
She was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, Ariz., alongside her husband.
LANETT — Funeral arrangements are pending for Mrs. Penny Hadaway Olko, 45, of Lanett, who died Friday, June 14, 2013, at her residence.
Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home of Valley is handling arrangements.
NEWNAN, Ga. — Mrs. Pheobia Barnes Taylor of Newnan, formerly of Valley, died Saturday, June 16, 2013, at Doctor's Hospice of Georgia in Riverdale, Ga.
Funeral services and survivors to be announced by Davis Memorial Mortuary of Valley.