How dedicated is this Mobile Meals volunteer? He’s hiking across Spain to raise $50,000
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
The next time you balk at your doctor’s suggestion of an exercise program, you might consider 77-year-old Charley Wood.
Next week, he’ll start on a 500-mile trek across northern Spain.
Although he is indeed an avid hiker and adventurer, Wood isn’t doing this just because he’s got the wanderlust. He’s doing it for a cause near and dear to his heart, and he’s hoping the East Tennessee community will help.
Wood is a longtime volunteer for Knox County CAC Mobile Meals. And the money he raises through sponsorships to his Miles for Mobile Meals will go straight toward bringing hot food and a friendly face to older adults who are frail, socially isolated and unable to cook for themselves.
Wood, who is retired but with his wife, Kathy, owns European Experiences tour company, started volunteering in honor of his mother, who lived in the family home in Newport.
“My mother lived too far from me to actually help her with her everyday needs. The neighbors really provided her care. I decided I wanted to volunteer for Mobile Meals to give back. She passed away in 2001, but I can’t stop now!” Wood has dedicated almost every Thursday since 1995 to Mobile Meals.
He will be walking the Camino de Santiago del Compostela, a route that’s been followed by Christian pilgrims for almost 2,000 years. It crosses two mountain ranges and ends at the tomb of St. James in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.
One of his daughters, currently working on her Ph.D. in Paris, France, will join him for eight days of the trek, but Kathy will stay stateside, running the business. She’s fine with that — the very active couple recently finished leading a tour in the West of England, and are in Provence together this week leading another one before Wood heads to Spain.
The goal is $50,000 over the 40 days of the walk. He and Kathy have already raised over $7,700 just by putting the word out among their international community.
The event is sponsored by Kroger, TVA Employees Credit Union, RVs For Less, Apex Screen Printing & Embroidery, Calloway’s Lamps & Shades, Clancy’s Tavern, Acme Brick and EPRI. You can keep up with Wood’s progress and sponsor Miles for Mobile Meals by choosing to donate a lump sum, or any amount per mile — “even a penny!” he says — at knoxseniors.org/mobile.
Sara Keel, community engagement manager for Mobile Meals, says, “We love and appreciate Charley’s contributions to our program over the decades. The fact that he’s going the extra mile for our clients in this way means the world to us.”
Harper Auto Wash features full service, Mahalo coffee
Ali James, Shopper News
Harper Auto Square opened its full-service Harper Auto Wash and Mahalo coffee shop May 2 at 3163 Alcoa Highway in Alcoa.
“We were running out of room; we needed a place to wash their cars,” said company president Shannon Harper. He’s the son of Tom Harper, who opened the Porsche, Audi and Jaguar dealership in 1981.
Now with seven dealerships and a collision repair center, Shannon Harper said, “We felt like there was a hole in the market.” After researching the concept, they decided to build a dedicated car wash for their customers.
“We wanted a full-service car wash,” Harper said. “A lot of guys do a quick express (service) and most won’t do the full service.”
Demand for the full-service wash at their dealerships was so overwhelming, Harper said they could not promote it until they had the new standalone car wash open.
“This one is our first built from the ground up,” Harper said. “We offer unlimited monthly wash and interior reboot plans you can purchase and personalize online at harperautowash.com. You drive up and cameras read your license plate. There is no sticker, you just come on through.”
Harper Auto Wash customers do not need to be Harper Auto Square customers. Anyone can purchase a monthly membership or one-off car wash either at the kiosk at the carwash entrance or online.
“We put a lot of thought into the equipment we used. It’s a soft (brushless) material that washes your car after a full prep with pressure washers and bug spray,” Harper said. “The equipment washes 95% of the car, and our guys will hand prep to get the other 5% of spots that are often missed.”
Harper said the two-belt conveyor system accepts lowered sports cars and duallys. “There is none of that usual jerkiness,” he added. “The experience is much smoother.”
There is a choice of three unlimited monthly wash plans, a wash-only plan for the exterior and the option to buy individual car wash services.
“After the car travels through the 135-foot car wash tunnel, they go into the finish lane inside,” Harper said. “A lot of people work on cars outdoors; that is no way to treat people.”
The Harper Auto Wash team then hand vacuums; cleans the windows, dashboard, console, cupholders, and door jambs; hand shines the tires and spots dry the vehicle.
Meanwhile customers can relax in the full Mahalo coffee shop integrated into the space. Mahalo staff makes espresso drinks and sells bags of coffee beans, merchandise, baked goods and cold drinks. The light and airy 1,500-square-foot space also has plenty of seating.
“Trevor Bayne already had a relationship through sponsoring his dirt track (racing),” Harper said, who currently serves Bayne’s Mahalo coffee by the cup at his dealerships instead of “nasty drip coffee.”
“We thought, what if we had a Mahalo coffee shop inside? So, we had a full-service coffee shop designed and integrated into the Harper Auto Wash.”
The new dedicated car wash does not offer any other kind of mechanical services.
“Behind us we have our Jeep experience, with a big hill and a log and rock course articulation area,” Harper said. “We also park our overflow inventory from the Harper Jeep Ram Chrysler Dodge dealership, which is 100 yards down the road.”
Harper said they purchased the property from Weigel’s two years ago and started construction last June. After running some cars through the auto wash for a day, they opened to the public on May 2.
“For us, we are not trying to be a national chain, we are family owned and operated,” Harper said. “Currently we are working on getting this up and running and working on two additional locations on Deane Hill in Bearden — our number one requested site — and off Parkside Drive in Farragut and building a new body shop.”
Simple joy of music is enough for jug band picker Drew Fisher
Al Lesar, Shopper News
Hearing Grandpa Jones pick a banjo at the Museum of Appalachia lit the fire for a young Drew Fisher to make music a big part of his life.
“Ever since I saw (Jones) at a Homecoming Festival (at the Norris venue), I always wanted to play there,” Fisher said. “I was lucky enough to get a chance a couple times before (the event was curtailed).”
Those appearances were highlights in a life filled with music on a journey loaded with twists and turns.
A 2004 graduate of Powell High School, Fisher and his buddies were regulars at the barn dances at Ciderville Music in Claxton.
“When the musicians put their instruments down for a break, we were able to pick them up and play a set,” Fisher said. “We always looked forward to that.”
Anything from a bass guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, harmonica, and an assortment of other instruments were learned by Fisher. He played the tuba in high school and middle school.
“I’ve only had two or three formal lessons in my life,” Fisher said. “I just kinda pick up the instrument and use my own technique with it.”
Three bands and a landscape business
Today, his primary instrument is his banjo — the old-time variety, compared to the Bluegrass style (the Bluegrass banjo has a resonator on the back and the old-time is empty in back) — and he juggles three bands, some solo booking, and a landscaping business.
There was a time, about eight years, when Fisher considered himself a full-time musician.
“That was stressful,” he said, providing for a wife and three children. “Once COVID hit, that was done.”
Fisher was a regular on the retirement home circuit. He got a special sense of satisfaction entertaining a geriatric audience.
“Once I’d start playing, the energy in the facility would take off,” Fisher said. “I had my certain songs that would bring back memories and get the audience involved. I’d sing and tell stories. I’d see people clapping, singing along or tapping their legs. I’d hear that they might not have been that involved in anything in a long time.”
The ”old-time” style of the banjo is a fit for Fisher’s personality.
“I’m a laid-back guy, not very flashy,” he said. “The Bluegrass banjo is the flashy one. That’s not me.”
Retirement homes were ground zero for the pandemic. Once that shut down, every other venue followed with doors closing.
Early blues along with bluegrasss
The Knox County Jug Stompers is one of the groups Fisher is involved with now. The 36-year-old shares time between the banjo, harmonica and jug, while also holding his own as a singer.
“Jug bands are mostly urban blues and ragtime music,” he said. “It’s early blues music that we play along with bluegrass.”
April Hamilton (washed up bass), Buck Hoffmann (guitar), Kenzo Bronson (fiddle), Stirling Walsh (hybrid cross between a banjo and ukulele) and Chris Bratta (drums) generate a sound that can get a crowd excited.
“We love to get up in front of people and get the energy going in a room,” Fisher said.
“That’s what we love to see.”
Community Bazaar brings needed funds for AFJROTC
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
From the food trucks to the crafters to the silent auction, the fourth annual Community Bazaar was a big hit at Karns High School on April 30.
The event is a major fundraiser for the Air Force Junior ROTC, said organizer Colleen Plante. Plante is the vice president of TN932, the parent organization of AFJROTC.
It is one of many benefits to be held in support of a new building for the program and for miscellaneous needs of the cadets.
The AFJROTC program has lost its space for several years in a row, finally being pushed out to Byington Solway.
The cadets want to build their own facility, a place to hold drills and daily classes. They plan is to open the building to the community — as it will have a warming kitchen and ample space to hold gatherings such as proms, dinners and daddy-daughter dances.
The building completely furnished will cost nearly $3 million.
“The event today is a major fundraiser for the AFJROTC. It’s a beautiful day and we’ve had a good turnout,” Plante said.
“We’re here to raise money to help support the cadet in whatever way is needed from meal tickets, to sneakers for PT, to paying for activities.”
AFJROTC cadets were out in full force in dress uniforms hosting the event and speaking to community members about the benefits of the organization. They each were well-spoken and knowledgeable.
The event featured a live auction with items donated from the craft vendors. Plante invited about 75 vendors specializing in handmade crafts.
“I want the Bazaar to be something like the old timey bazaars we went to as kids, where there’s music, crafts, food and vendors with handmade items.
“It’s such a worthy cause — the AFJROTC does so much for the community. They retire flags, march in parades, provide the Color Guard for countless events. The cadets go on hikes. They learn what it is to be part of a team. AFJROTC literally changes their lives and gives them someplace to belong,” Plante said.
Three food trucks kept the crowd fed and happy. Options included deep fried fish, burgers and tacos.
Singer-songwriter Eric Cox was back again this year, bringing his wife, Pamela, to sing lead on popular songs like “Strawberry Wine.”
The kids seemed to enjoy the bounce houses and live cartoon characters offering photo opportunities. Deadpool, Mighty Mouse, The Flash, Spider-Man and Batman all made an early appearance.
Missing this year was the Lifestar helicopter, which is not currently doing community appearances because of the pandemic.
“We hope next year will be even bigger and better, while still being small and intimate. The car show will be bigger and hopefully we’ll have Lifestar back. The kids love to see it land and explore it. We really miss it this year,” Plante said.
There is joy to be found even in a doctor’s office
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
It happens sometimes. I run into someone I know at the grocery store, or I walk with a friend who asks about my life.
Most times I deflect. I make an offhand remark about caring for people of all ages, toddlers to nonagenarians. I go for the laugh because it’s easier that way.
Most times the joke works. It allows me to shift the conversation from my life to something else.
But sometimes people want to know more. They want to know about my parents and the role I play in their lives. They want to know what my day-to-day life looks like and how I spend my time.
That’s when things get tricky. Because if I mention something about driving my parents to 11 doctor’s appointments in three weeks, they give me a sympathetic look. They shake their heads, tell me I’m a good daughter, and give me a comforting hug.
I know they picture my life as drudgery. They imagine me dragging my mother from specialist to specialist as we try to manage the worsening symptoms of her cancer treatments. They think I’m stressed and overwhelmed, that I do too much.
I see it in their faces. I see their pity and compassion, and I want to say, “I have bad days sometimes, but it’s not what you think.”
Most days, it’s just my mom and me going to the doctor together. I pick her up at her house in the morning and we share a bite of breakfast before it’s time to leave. I get an update on my dad and her two slightly feral cats. I hear about the stress dream she had the night before or the book she was reading late into the night.
Once we’re in the car alone, we have a chance to talk in a way we can’t when my dad is around. We talk about the challenges my mother faces in dealing with my father’s worsening dementia. We talk about the way his brain works and all the words he’s lost.
And sometimes, if I ask the right questions, she tells me about missing her partner and the loss she feels. I do my best to listen
But no matter what we talk about in the car, by the time we get to the waiting room, we’re usually laughing. I make her pick out her favorite item in every doctor’s office we visit. Or I play a game where she has to pick one person she’d like to trade shoes with.
No shoes are actually exchanged in this game, but it’s surprisingly fun anyway. We play Wordscapes on my phone. We look at photos of the grandkids or pick out pretty flowers to plant in our raised beds.
Sometimes we hold hands. Sometimes our feet are entwined. Sometimes we tell stories about my dad from the time before, when he was big and strong and could do almost anything. Other times, we share the quiet burden of taking care of someone with dementia.
Taking my mom to the doctor isn’t the chore it appears to be from the outside. Most days I’m glad to do it. Most days I’m happy to be with my mom and to support her in her battle with melanoma.
That’s what people are missing when they wrap me in those sympathetic hugs. They don’t know that my mother and I are good friends, that we enjoy each other’s company. They don’t know that there are good times to be had even in a doctor’s office.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News brings you the latest happenings in your community