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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 2, 2024

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Car Crash (MauryCountySource)

Fire crews battled a fiery crash on Wednesday night in Maury County.

Maury County Fire Department responded to the intersection of Campbellsville Pike and Sunnyside Lane at 8:30pm for a non-injury two-car crash with a resulting fire.

Units arrived to find one vehicle fully involved.

The parties in the car fled on foot and got in another vehicle, leaving the scene.

THP is investigating the accident.

UT Southern Lockdown (MSM)

The report of an active shooter on the campus of UT Southern on Wednesday afternoon forced a campus wide lockdown as well as lockdowns of businesses in the area and schools in Pulaski.

Law Enforcement including Pulaski Police, Giles County Sheriff and Tennessee Highway Patrol descended upon the scene.

After more than an hour on the scene, Pulaski Police Chief John Dickey said there were no shots fired and no threat identified. At that time, students who were sheltering in place in buildings across the campus were contacted by law enforcement and allowed to leave the area.

The City of Pulaski released a statement that afternoon stating: “UT Southern learned of a potential threat in the area this afternoon and immediately went into a shelter in place order. State and local authorities responded to sweep the campus. Authorities have issued an all clear. All classes have been cancelled for the remainder of the day. 

Thank you to all first responders that assisted to help resolve this issue and in keeping our community safe!”

UT Southern also released the following statement: “At approximately 2:47 PM on Wednesday, UT Southern Security received a call of a potential threat in the area. The university immediately issued a shelter in place order while state and local authorities evaluated the threat. 

No active threat was identified, and state and local authorities issued an all clear at 4:03 PM. Classes for the remainder of the day have been cancelled.”

Room at the Inn (CDH)

The mission and ministry of Columbia's Room In The Inn is to remain steadfast in providing a temporary safe place to sleep for those experiencing homelessness in Maury County and the surrounding area over the last seven years.

And while the nonprofit has offered services and the bare necessities to its clients for the better part of a decade, one of its top goals has always been to open a permanent shelter.

That dream is now on the cusp of becoming a reality with the construction of "Grace House," a home that will serve those experiencing homelessness. The home is projected for completion this summer.

The new build will kickstart a new chapter for Room In The Inn's continued work, says Columbia Room In The Inn founder Rev. Jeff Kane of Westminster Presbyterian Church, the mastermind behind the long-awaited project.

Grace House, located at 1131 Mapleash Ave., has been a project under construction over the last year and a half, transforming a former East Columbia Church into what will become a shelter for homeless and displaced families.

Once completed, Grace House will feature four fully-furnished rooms, as well as a kitchen, laundry room and community gathering space.

The home would be designed to serve at least four families with children, Kane said.

The shelter aims to house families in an environment that is not only warm and providing, but also peaceful for its residents. It will also focus on transition, with programs to help the families it services find solutions, leading to a better life.

The Columbia Room In the Inn nonprofit, with origins of Nashville's Room in the Inn, will have an office and provide oversight at Grace House.

"They can take care of their families, do their laundry, have warm meals, and we can take care of them. And it's a nice country setting out here, nice and quiet, which I think is going to be really great. Children will have a yard to play in, and there's a farm nearby," Kane said. "This will be strictly for families with children."

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness in Tennessee has been on the rise since 2017, with nearly 11 people for every 10,000 residents. Tennessee also ranks 20th for the highest rate of homeless people nationwide.

In January, it is estimated that more than 568,000 people have experienced the fear and discomfort of homelessness in the U.S. when temperatures dipped into the single digits, with wind chills falling into the negative in the Southern Tennessee region.

In 2023, Columbia's Room In The Inn served nearly 100 clients, Kane said, but that doesn't include the growing number of potential clients on the nonprofit's waiting list.

The number of children experiencing homelessness in Maury County Public Schools, which is classified as not having a permanent residence according to the federal McKinney-Vento Act, is 116, according to Jack Cobb, school district communications director.

Last year, the school district reported 90 children affect by homelessness.

Establishing a permanent shelter goes back to the beginning of Room In The Inn, but the journey included a few more complications, than initially expected.

Finding the right location, fundraising, as well as enduring the rigorous task of abiding by the city's codes has been a journey through the house's completion process, Kane said.

In 2019, the nonprofit ceased housing residents at the Westminster church due to fire marshal codes. Once taking residence in partnership with Columbia Inn, Columbia Room In The Inn secured 20 rooms a few years ago, which eventually decreased to 10 rooms last year due to funding.

Once those troubles began, it was time to put all Room In The Inn's efforts into creating a permanent shelter, Kane said, but one that focused more on families and children.

However, the needs are much greater than simply providing a roof over their heads, Kane explained.

"We've had success with helping kids stay in school, or if there's things like dental work, eyewear and just the want to succeed in life," Kane said. "We want this to be a transition program, where people can work and make that effort. And if they don't, there are plenty of people in line who need it."

Construction efforts included gutting the new space, drafting plans and putting in a little elbow grease that comes with taking on a major construction project.

Architect Justin Hicks has been hard at work overseeing the project, but he says the project has been a collaboration with multiple companies, local contractors and sponsors who have given time, money and a little faith in seeing Room In The Inn's dream come to fruition.

"The vision for it was to create a place for homeless families to be nurtured, loved on, a place where they are comfortable, safe, warm and fed," Hicks said. "This is a very exciting thing, to have a place, a home for the families and a place for the ministry to grow over the next decade."

After the Westminster operation ceased, Room In The Inn had been housing its clients at Columbia Inn, which was more or less temporary housing. Once the new facility started taking shape, Kane said the board decided to terminate its lease with the hotel in December and focus 100% on building up Grace House.

"We wanted to pool all of our money to focus on Grace House, focus on families with children and what we can do best," Kane said. "Single mothers are the most vivacious and aggressive when it comes to their children, and we found that they really work the program to get back on their feet. This is where God is calling us, and we've found that God's blessing has been best when we work with families with children."

Room In The Inn's mission, Kane says, is more than simply providing temporary housing to its clients, but serving as a gateway to a new, better life.

This includes holding its clients accountable to work, keep a clean house and ensure their children remain in school.

In his experience working closely with clients, Kane said that homelessness, while an important issue, is often just the tip of the iceberg.

"Once you peel back one layer, you find out they were either abused, their parents were incarcerated or addicts, they were sexually assaulted or maybe they don't even know how to do laundry or other basic functions," Kane said. "Their kids are also sometimes embarrassed to even go to school. We offer them services like dental work, eyes, things like that. It's really about hope, we offer them hope."

As Maury County's only shelter for the homeless, Kane said the organization's ultimate dream is that Room In The Inn's work will spread to other communities, and that more shelters will open in the future.

"It's offering the 360-service, but also life skills, and the people involved really want to help give them those life skills," Hicks said. "Being in this scenario, they are expected to take care of themselves, and be taught how to do it. Comparatively speaking to everything that's been offered before, this is a major improvement. Prior to this year, there was no place to really do that."

Glovebox Grand Opening (WKOM Audio 2:40)

Yesterday, The Glovebox, a vendor mall for kids stuff held their grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy stopped by the ribbon cutting and spoke to proprietor Brent Glover about what the new business in the Factory at Columbia has to offer…

New PA Joins MRMC Wound Care (Press Release)

 Mahgen L. Kruse, MS, PA-C, a specialist in wound care, has joined the staff at Maury Regional Wound Center.

Kruse received her master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Illinois. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Tennessee at Martin in Martin, Tennessee.

With over 14 years of experience as a physician assistant, Kruse joins Maury Regional Wound Center with experience working in numerous specialty areas like general surgery, burn and wound treatment and abdominal transplant surgeries. Kruse’s clinical interests include chronic and difficult to heal wounds and advanced healing technologies including wound vacs and skin substitutes. In addition to clinical experience, Kruse is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Maury Regional Wound Center has a multidisciplinary team ranging from wound care physicians, podiatrist, plastic surgeons and infection control physicians. The practice provides an array of services, including diabetic and vascular wound treatment, negative pressure (vacuum) therapy, compression therapy, debridement, skin substitutes, wound salvage and more.

At the practice, Kruse joins David A. Daniels, MD, Rhennetta J. Bork, DPM, Matthew R. Endara, MD, Deborah L. Goldsmith, MD, Danielle L. Malin, DPM, and Allison Bridges, BSN, RN. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and closed each day from 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. for lunch.

To learn more about Maury Regional Wound Center, visit

Columbia Artist’s Work Featured (Press Release)

A new art exhibit celebrating African American History Month will display in the heart of Downtown Columbia at the Visit Columbia Welcome Center located at 713 N. Main Street. This exhibit will feature local artist Kanytra Bumpas, showcasing her tremendous talent. The exhibit will run throughout February during business hours: Monday – Friday, 10 AM – 4 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 3 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 3 PM. The art pieces will be available for purchase through the artist directly.

Kanytra Bumpas is a visual artist who specializes in acrylics with vibrant colors to show positivity and life. Her style is to layer the paint and typically use about 12 layers on each painting. She enjoys using bright colors to show the liveliness and beauty of black people. Kanytra is passionate about illustrating each piece with a different feeling and mood. She uses realism mixed with her own style. Kanytra has been painting for three years, but she’s been an artist since age eight. Her goal is to spread light and positivity with each piece she creates.

People are encouraged to stop by the Welcome Center to view the exhibit, learn more about Bumpas, her art style, and the stories behind her pieces.

State Eggs and Issues (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance and Breakfast Rotary for their Annual State Eggs & Issues. This event features a panel discussion and Q&A with State Senator Dr. Joey Hensley, Representative Scott Cepicky, and Representative Kip Capley.

The event will take place on Friday Feb 23, 2024 from 7:00 AM - 8:00 AM at the Memorial Building, located at 308 W 7th Street in Columbia.

The cost is $25 for members, $30 for future members

If you are a member of Breakfast Rotary you do not need to purchase a ticket for this event.

To submit a question or topic in advance for consideration, please email

Mid-State Classic Tickets (Press Release)

Tickets for the 8th Annual Midstate Classic Collegiate Softball Tournament, happening on April 2, 2024, are now on sale. Hosted by the City of Columbia, the Midstate Classic is held annually at Ridley Sports Complex, one of the top recreational complexes in the state. This year's Midstate Classic will feature the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers facing off against the University of Memphis Tigers at 5:30 PM. Earlier that day, Columbia Central softball will play Spring Hill High School softball at 10:00 AM. Also, Columbia State Community College Lady Chargers will be playing the University of Tennessee Southern Lady Firehawks at 1:30 PM. Tickets to the Midstate Classic are $10 and will cover admission to all three games. Tickets can be purchased in advance at

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. William D. “Buddy” Smith, 76, resident of Columbia, and retired owner and operator of Columbia Fire Equipment, passed away Tuesday at Maury Regional Medical Center. A family graveside service will be conducted Saturday, February 3, 2024 at 11:00 A.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday, February 2, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Miss Susan Gail Benderman, 69, former counselor with Centerstone, died Thursday, January 25th at Maury Regional Medical Center. Memorial services will be conducted Saturday, February 3, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Saturday, February 3, 2024 from 12:00 P.M. until the time of the services at the funeral home.

James Dillard Irwin, Jr., 74, the loving husband of Reatha Irwin, an Electrician and HVAC specialist for Morgan Brothers Electric and resident of Santa Fe, died Tuesday, January 30, 2024, at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Irwin will be conducted Sunday, February 4, 2024, at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Fly Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Sunday, February 4, 2024, from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mrs. Nettie Lou Walker Durham, 95, Housekeeper for Maury Regional Medical Center and resident of Columbia, died Tuesday, January 30, 2024, at Life Care Center of Columbia. Funeral services for Mrs. Durham will be conducted Monday, February 5, 2024, at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Henryville Cemetery. The family with friends Sunday, February 4, 2024, from 4:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

February is CTE Month (Press Release)

 Yesterday, the Tennessee Department of Education announced February is Tennessee Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month and will celebrate throughout the month by amplifying the role CTE has in preparing students for postsecondary success. 


With an investment of $530 million, thanks to Governor Lee and the General Assembly, Innovative School Models (ISM) are an integral part of the state’s CTE work and are reimagining students’ daily classroom experiences in public middle and high schools across the state, representing 137 public school districts and 45 public charter schools. 


To spotlight the state and nationwide celebration of CTE Month, Governor Lee issued a proclamation to recognize how CTE provides Tennessee students with various opportunities to improve the quality of their education and increase their skills necessary for career readiness and future success. Using the hashtags #InnovativeSchoolModelsTN#CTEMonth, and #AcceleratingTN, Tennesseans can engage on social media throughout the month to learn about CTE opportunities. 


“Tennessee is committed to ensuring every student is prepared for postsecondary learning and their future careers,” said Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education. “Career and technical education are for ALL students regardless of the pathway they choose, and the opportunities are endless for students taking CTE courses in schools across the state.” 


Across the state, districts and schools are implementing innovative programs geared toward setting students up for postsecondary success. In West Tennessee, a district consortium between Milan, Trenton, and Gibson County Special Schools is implementing a Pathway to Success Project where students meet academic requirements online while working up to 30 hours per week at over 25 partnering employers. In East Tennessee, Oak Ridge High School made vocational education investments, from building an advanced manufacturing school-based enterprise to renovating their welding center. To learn more about exemplary ISM districts across the state, click here. 


Additionally, CTE will continue to keep our state’s workforce strong for years to come. Blue Oval City will bring more than 5,800 jobs to West Tennessee to produce electric Ford Lightning trucks and electric vehicle batteries in the state. Through partnerships with multiple state agencies, the department is supporting Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) and Ford’s Blue Oval City to create a talent pipeline that will meet the demands of emerging technologies and jobs of today and tomorrow.  


Career clusters are another integral aspect of CTE in Tennessee, which house programs of study that prepare students to plan for future career goals and include opportunities to participate in Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO), obtain industry credentials, and take part in work-based learning experiences. 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Now that the recent cold spell has passed, it's time to get out and visit downtown Columbia for First Fridays in February.

As always, shops will stay open late, music will ring throughout the streets and food trucks will be posted up for a night of fun.

Baxter's Mercantile, 808 S. Garden St., will also be celebrating its four-year anniversary from 5-8 p.m., which will include refreshments, food samples, door prizes and new merchandise to browse.

Also, don't forget to make your way down West 6th Street for Maury Alliance's monthly Strollin' on the 6th block party, which will feature even more music, food and vendors to shop.

First Fridays will also be a good opportunity to perhaps do a little pre-Valentine's Day shopping while also supporting local small businesses.


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