The Democrat staff selected Tennessee for Texas in the first year the honor was given for its volunteer work to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, as well as Hurricane Irma in Florida.
“We’re Tennesseans; it’s what we do. We help out our neighbors,” said Jones.
In September, the group set up four semi-trucks outside Bargain Hunt in Lebanon and collected donations to be sent for relief efforts. Several other businesses donated money and goods for the drive.
“We’ve had a lot of help from other businesses that wanted to partake in this,” said Trawick. “We’re just a group of friends who wanted to make a difference and help people, and I can’t thank Bargain Hunt enough.”
After the relief efforts, Trawick wrote a letter to the editor to The Democrat, thanking everyone involved for donating time and money.
“The group that had a helping hand in this donation drive are Kevin Jones, Haley Faughn, Jennifer Roddy, Jennifer Box, Jay Stubblefied, Chris Carter, Walter Kent Jr., Sarah Crafton, Brittney Calderon, Rachel Colson, Kirby Varney, Laura Brandon and Anthony Trawick,” the letter said. “All we ever wanted was to help people. A random act of kindness is all it took, and it changed the lives of thousands.”
Since the disasters, the group decided to keep the charitable works coming, and changed its name to Tennessee for Families. They also secured a partnership with 506 Events in Nashville, where they can meet and hold events.
During Christmas, they collected donations for a local family who needed help financially.
According to Trawick and Jones, the group plans to continue to help in the community and farther away if the situation calls for it.
“No, I don’t ask for any more catastrophes to happen anywhere to anybody, but hopefully in the future, if it does, we’ll still pull together, and we’ll do it again,” said Jones.
“With the work we’re doing in the community now, we’ve tried to make it a point to keep it on a personal level,” said Trawick. “Our current plan for next Christmas is to help out two families.”
Trawick was surprised to learn his group was named Person of the Year, but said he hopes their work will inspire others in the community to continue helping people.
“We don’t like to hound people, but we hope to inspire people through what we do,” said Trawick. “I’m still blown away by the people who helped out, and I hope it spills over into the community. We hope people saw what we did and do their own thing.”
Trawick encouraged anyone interested in helping to visit the Facebook page, Tennessee for Families.
Besides the Tennessee for Texas group, 16 other individuals and groups were nominated for the honor for the work they did in Wilson County during 2017.
Mitchell Vantrease received a nomination for his role in bringing adult theater to Wilson County with Centerstage Theatre Co. Centerstage has brought several productions to Wilson County, including “Steel Magnolias,” “A Raisin’ in the Sun,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Father of the Bride,” “Fences” and more. The production company received 28 nominations for the 2017 Broadway World Nashville Awards.
Chloe Kohanski brought Wilson County to the national spotlight when the 24-year-old former Cumberland student and Mt. Juliet native won NBC’s singing competition, “The Voice” in December. Kohanski’s performance of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler ranked No. 1 on the show’s iTunes charts in November.
Wilson County received a huge new attraction in 2017 when Mike Scalf brought his Dancing Lights of Christmas to the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. Scalf came to Lebanon after the Metro Nashville City Council decided to close the popular show at Jellystone Park due to traffic concerns. The show featured about 1.5 million lights that flashed in sync with music. Guests turned off their headlights, tuned the radio to 102.3 FM and rolled through the show on roads used for parking during the Wilson County Fair.
Beth Petty and the Lebanon Special School District’s Neon Mobile Café served 7,350 lunches last summer to anyone 18 years old and younger. Petty, LSSD Family Resource Center coordinator, said the Neon Bus is the district’s first mobile bus café for its summer food program. Anyone 18 and younger, regardless of income, was able to get a meal through the program. A Neon Bus party in the park was held in July where hundreds of families enjoyed free food, books and music, as well as appearances from local emergency service agencies.
In October, the Wilson County Veterans Museum received a grand opening. The volunteers, donors and workers who set up the various displays received a nomination for their roles. The museum features a Vietnam-era fully restored “Huey” helicopter, as well as exhibits from each period in U.S. history. The artifacts in the exhibit belonged to Wilson County veterans.
Perhaps the most heroic event of the year was when Wilson Central High School senior Kyle Shaw saved a man who was preparing to jump from the Central Pike overpass into oncoming traffic on Interstate 40. Shaw was on his way to work when he saw the man getting ready to jump. He held the man tightly until Mt. Juliet officers arrived and took control of the situation.
Friendship Christian School head football coach John McNeal did what very few high school coaches ever have done when he led his team to an undefeated season culminating in a Division II-A state championship in December. The school’s third state championship since 2011 marks the first perfect season by a Wilson County team during the playoff era, which kicked off in 1969.
Mt. Juliet High School football player Jalan Sowell was featured on ESPN in July after a condition called chronic pulmonary embolism kept him sidelined for the majority of his high school playing career. CPE is the clotting of an artery in the lungs, which has traveled from elsewhere in the body through the bloodstream. Blood-thinning medication treats the condition, but it keeps Sowell off the field and ineligible for college football. Sowell spent his senior year holding for place kicks and signaling plays from the sideline, which he says will prepare him for his next chosen career, coaching.
Tragically, one of the most iconic Wilson County residents, Hale Moss, died in April after he attempted to attend a Wilson County Commission meeting. Moss was inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame earlier in April, was well known for his work with the Wilson County Fair and his business, Moss’ Florist and Garden Center. In September, the Tennessee State Fair presented the Hale Moss Distinguished Service Award after the Fair Association board voted to rename the award in Moss’ honor.
One Mt. Juliet native received an award that put him in the company of four former U.S. presidents, former professional athletic league commissioners, actors, astronauts, elected officials and more. Former astronaut, Tennessee Tech football player and Mt. Juliet native Barry Wilmore received the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, the group’s highest honor given to an individual. The award is given to a graduate from an NCAA member institution who earned a varsity letter in college for participation in intercollegiate athletics, and who ultimately became a distinguished citizen of national reputation based on outstanding life accomplishment. Wilmore made two space flights aboard space shuttle Atlantis twice for STS-129 – serving as the pilot – and STS-135 – the final flight of the space shuttle program as the designated capsule commander. From September 2014 until March 2015, Wilmore returned to space as a member of the Soyuz TMA-14M crew to the International Space Station for Expedition 41-42 for a 167-day mission. During the mission, humans manufactured off world for the first time as the ISS’ 3D printer made a tool with a design file sent from the ground to the printer. The tool was a ratchet wrench needed by Wilmore, who otherwise would have had to wait until the next supply mission.
Mary Harris helped form the Wilson County Black History Committee in 1994 and has served as its president since 1997. In 2017, the committee received an appropriation of $25,000 from Wilson County. The committee used the money to pay off the remainder of the mortgage on Pickett Chapel, a historic church on Market Street in Lebanon that was bought by African-Americans after the Civil War. The committee had been trying to preserve and restore the church property since 2007.
One major addition to Wilson County this year was the Batch and Bushel Farmer’s Market at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, coordinated by Wilson County Expo Center marketing manager Charity Toombs brought the Farmer’s Market to Wilson County as a test to see how residents would respond to having fresh, locally grown products available to them. The event went well enough that Toombs had plans to bring it back for 2018 before it was even over. She has also kept the Wilson County Expo Center full of attractions and visitors throughout its first full year in operation.
University of Tennessee at Martin women’s basketball sophomore guard and former Wilson Central player Kendall Spray set a school single-game record in December with 11 three-pointers en route to a 90-49 win over Rhodes College. Earlier the same week, Spray was named Ohio Valley Conference Co-Player of the Week for her week of standout performances against North Carolina A&T and Chattanooga.
Wilson County Commissioner Joy Bishop donated $700,000 to New Leash on life in September for an expansion project in hopes that more space mixed with reasonable prices will urge residents to spay and neuter their animals. The money went toward the Joy Clinic at New Leash, a 2,500-quare-food spay and neuter clinic. The organization, located on Jim Draper Boulevard behind Pro Bowl West, at the time spayed and neutered 20-40 animals in Wilson, DeKalb and Smith counties through its mobile spay and neuter clinic. The new facility allowed the group to service larger animals and about 100 animals per week.
Historic Lebanon executive director Kim Parks was nominated for her work with city and state representatives to bring the Cumberland Ignite Lab to the Lebanon Square. The center is a central meeting space for businesses and business owners to share information, learn and work with other owners and professionals. According to Lebanon economic development director Sarah Haston, the goal is to connect people, resources and information together to turn ideas into reality.
Last but not least, the youngest nomination recipient was 9-year-old Madison Brito-Woodall for bringing the idea for a second Little Free Library in Mt. Juliet to the Providence Landing homeowner’s association in October. Residents can take a book to read and return or they can take a book to keep. If they choose to keep a book, Britto-Woodall asked they bring a book to replace the one kept. The facility was donated and built by several Providence Landing residents and placed by the community’s pool house for easy access. Britto-Woodall is a voracious reader, and when she learned about the Little Free Library program, she wanted one in her community. When she was younger, she was taken to the library almost every day. She even had a birthday party there. She said her dream is to have the Little Free Library all across Mt. Juliet and the state.