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Sunset Gapís summer projects help many elderly with chores

(c)2013 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL

Fred Barnes of Eastport was glad to host a Sunset Gap work crew last Tuesday
for the day. His yard needed trash removed, big and small. From left with Fred,
a retired Cocke County deputy, are Wes Farmer, Jake Giacchino, Dan Bergsten,
Kathy Tyler, and Callie Ierardi. They are from Topsfield, Massachusetts.
Published: 5:26 PM, 07/05/2013 Last updated: 5:27 PM, 07/05/2013
 

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Is this the strangest summer weather you have seen? With all the rain and then flood warnings in early July for our hometown, where fireworks and outdoor activities were victims of overcast skies, we have to wonder what the long month has in store.

It has been more than an interesting week and this has caused me to shuffle some of my column conversation with you. It was saddened by the passing of E. C. Baxter, who I have known for about 40 years. Like others who have gone on before, he died from brain cancer. While looking at his date of birth, I couldnít help but notice he was born 18 days after my February 29, 1944 birthday and the same year. E.C. was a good neighbor, hard worker, and befriended many who will miss his company. Later, as my thoughts congeal you will hear more about how fortunate we are to have Tennovaís Newport Medical Center emergency room where a visit on June 30 set me up for an overnight stay because of a spike in my blood pressure. The good news is that Jim Gonzalez is still working in medical care at age 74. He personifies the splendid staff and high competency of the medical center people. Get sick, break a leg, and visit them some time soon.

Recall we had been talking about the late George ďHeavyĒ Green in conversation with his daughter-in-law, Linda Green. Iíve discovered more information and stories to share about him after chatting with Tommy Williamson. Perhaps Susie Evans, Heavyís daughter, can also tell us some things we didnít know. So I am postponing this chat until next time, as I really must tell you about Sunset Gapís latest compassionate work in our community.

 

Lending a hand to Fred

 

Sunset Gap extended its helping hands into Newport last week after a Newport city official got to wondering if there was an alternative way to get property cleaned up without using a hammer-threat, such as strict codes enforcement. I havenít heard of anyone ever doing jail time for having a littered lot with grass and weeds waist high. Yet folks may have been fined or forced to spend money on cleanup that they didnít have. I found out about this story accidentally when our circulation manager Pat Helms, who is also a Sunset Gap director, told me about a clean-up crew from out of state helping out a disabled resident. You know Fred Barnes. Heís the fellow whose Eastport property was rather untidy, but Fred, because of a stroke years ago, did not have the physical ability or the money to get it cleaned up.

This is where city interim administrator James Finchum comes into the story. Last Tuesday I had already visited Fredís house, met the clean-up crew, and left. You will soon read more about these dedicated young people working via the summer Sunset Gap fix-up, clean-up program. James, who by the way served as a Cocke County deputy when Fred also was a deputy, said one of the distasteful things he has to do is deal with blighted properties and complaints from residents about how high the grass is in the neighborís yard or calls about how many junk cars and piles of trash have accumulated in yards. James is sympathetic towards the elderly, disabled, widows who canít afford to hire people and canít do it themselves. Nonetheless, there are city ordinances that Mayor Connie Ball and aldermen expect to be enforced. ďI wanted to find a way to help. Government canít clean up citizensí yards. You canít do for one what you canít do for everyone.Ē

About the same time James was mulling over the problem, Neighborhood Watch leader Claude Gatlin visited James to echo the complaint about some shabby sites. The Neighborhood Watch was willing to help with clean up as volunteers. James thought it would be nice to see churches, Key Clubs, and others step up. This could be a pilot project, thought James, who saw things jell when Alderman Kenny Morgan started talking about the Sunset Gap summer program. Kenny is executive director of Sunset Gap. ďHis thoughts hit a note with me,Ē said James, who asked if it would be possible for the church volunteers, that arrive every week throughout the summer, could help in the city? Yes they could, provided the properties were owner occupied and not rental, vacant, or abandoned, said Kenny. So this proved to be Jamesí answer and alternative to the city hammer to force residents to tidy up. And I donít think former Mayor Jeannie Wilson is going to come back and do the kind of volunteer trash and litter pickup she did for years during her term.

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