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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for February 20, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Missing Teen (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate a 15-year-old runaway juvenile, Fernando Membreno. Fernando was last seen on February 15th, 2024, in the area of Westover Drive.

Fernando is 5’05” tall and weighs 100 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this or any other investigation is encouraged to contact Columbia Police Department Dispatch (24 hours) at 931-388-2727, Maury County Crime stoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SafeTips@ColumbiaTN.Com

Main Street Awarded GM Grant (Press Release)

The GM on Main Street Grant Program has awarded five $50,000 grants to nonprofit organizations and municipal government entities near GM facilities, including four Main Street programs, to implement innovative placemaking initiatives in their local districts. Last year, the program awarded six $25,000 grants.


Made possible by General Motors, this grant program prioritized applications that were place-making focused, innovative, inclusive, prioritize pedestrian safety, and were replicable or easily scalable for other Main Street programs.  

“GM on Main Street has become a catalyst for place-based progress in our hometowns and communities across the U.S.,” said Heidi Magyar, executive director of Corporate Giving at GM. “We’re proud to work with Main Street America as they help connect resources to these important and worthy nonprofit and municipality projects.” 

The 2024 GM on Main Street grantees include Columbia Main Street.

The City of Columbia, a Main Street America accredited community, has been awarded a GM on Main Street grant for their Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvement project, which will create a safer, more pedestrian-friendly downtown district through infrastructure and greenspace improvements.  

Although the City of Columbia has an attractive and vibrant downtown, improvements are needed to provide safer conditions for pedestrians and motorists while creating an enhanced placemaking experience. The proposed Columbia Infrastructure and Greenspace Improvements Project will include curb extensions, increased greenspace, and an informational kiosk. The improvements are meant to increase safety for downtown pedestrians and motorists, create more greenspaces and passive areas for downtown visitors to enjoy, and to create a stronger sense of place by highlighting Columbia’s unique down businesses, attractions, and history.  

Yorks Open New Business (CDH)

Columbia couple Adam and Kathryn York, owners and proprietors of existing businesses Smith & York and Woven in downtown Columbia, have recently relocated another business to Public Square, Gather Kitchen Mercantile.

Gather offers high-end kitchen appliances, cutlery, soup kits, dishware and other essential kitchen and dining accessories — everything needed for the most important room in the house — the kitchen — where families and friends "gather."

Located at the former Muletown Coffee space, the culinary and houseware retail shop opened its doors in November, and the Yorks are getting settled in their new location after operating the business formerly as Lime & Loaf on North Garden Street.

"We wanted to honor this space, to retain the authenticity for all the great memories people have that happened here (at the former coffee shop), the feel of what it was," Adam York said. "It still has the character being right next door to all the coffee shop folks who spent days in here."

And while the name and brand are new, Gather represents a reformed version of the Yorks' former Lime & Loaf business founded in 2021 with The Dotted Lime owners Paul and Chrissy Jensen.

The Yorks took full ownership of Lime & Loaf in July of 2022, but found that their needs as a business weren't being met to its highest potential at the former North Garden Street location.

"We loved that space, but when we designed it, it was more like a café and a working kitchen," Adam York said. "It was what it was meant to be, but Gather embodies more of the retail shop. This is basically the same operation, just with a different skin on it."

The name Gather stems from the concept of how the largest spot in the home for gathering centers around the kitchen and dining areas, Kathryn York said.

"That was important to us, because we love to host and have people in our home," Kathryn York said. "So much of your life happens in your home, and when you are home, it's usually in your kitchen or dining area. That's where families gather, where friends gather and there is something spiritual about people gathering, which is at the heart of everything we do."

The business owners, met in Nashville while working jobs in college with Kathryn York attending Trevecca Nazarene University and Adam York attending Belmont University. With Kathryn's background in tourism and hospitality and Adam's background in marketing and publishing, the couple has been combining their talents as business and lifelong partners ever since.

They moved to Columbia in 2019 to begin their entrepreneurship journey after several years of living in Franklin and Nashville.

"Both of our experiences naturally helped us embrace an entrepreneurial spirit, and a couple of visits to downtown Columbia affirmed that this was the right city for us to begin our new adventure as small business owners," Adam York said.

Gather's downtown locale reduced the businesses' overall operating space from about 2,700 square feet at the 510 N. Garden St. former Lime & Loaf site to around 900 square feet now at 23 Public Square.

However, the Yorks say the move has benefited them in many ways, such as opening the ability to display more products along the walls, as well as focusing on domestic kitchenware versus commercial.

"We have more retail products than at the previous location because we didn't have much wall space with all the windows," Kathryn York said. "We, of course made some changes, like the fact we don't need to serve food and coffee anymore with Muletown right next door."

There has also been an increase in their customer base with all of the downtown foot traffic and downtown tourism.

"Lime & Loaf did great business when we were there, but when you compare that to a business on the square, we knew it could do even better, and that we could capture more of a tourism market," Kathryn York said. "That was one of our main business strategies, the tourism you see on the square that we didn't see off the square. It made more sense from a retail standpoint, and the opportunity was there."

And all three of the Yorks' stores are located within steps of each other on Public Square, close access for whichever flavor of goods customers desire.

"Smith & York is our home and gift shop, Gather is our kitchen and table shop, and then Woven is primarily a boutique for clothing, accessories and lifestyle," Adam York said.

Customers may also shop beyond what's found on the shelves at Gather. Lighting fixtures, display cases and just about anything in the store short of the checkout counter is available for purchase.

"There is nothing in here, other than a few tables that are custom made, that we can't sell or order," Kathryn York said. "If you want these lighting fixtures or the large bookcases, tables, the chairs, artwork, we can sell that whether it's at Smith & York or on our website.

"We designed a space that we think is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also attainable. You can have these items in the home, not just in our store."

Gather has also created new opportunities to benefit the Yorks' other businesses at Smith & York and Woven, which the Yorks operate with business partner Abby Youngblut. Wedding registries, house-warming gifts and more are offered at the stores.

Gather is also a business which adds yet another layer to the downtown square's business landscape, providing something new and as a way to enhance the home.

The Yorks say it's exciting to continue building relationships with other fellow small business owners and an opportunity to meet customers new and old every single day.

"Columbia, I feel, has never had so much balance of all the different types of businesses and offerings as we have now," Adam York said. "It keeps getting better and better with more people moving here. People can choose so many different options from decor to furniture, food and more. It's just a good time to be here and be a part of it."

Gather, 23 Public Square, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Customers can also shop online at

Mule Day Organizers Offering Scholarships (MSM)

The organizers of Columbia’s annual Mule Day celebration are marking the 50th anniversary of their involvement by creating a scholarship program that honors the blue-collar nature of Maury County’s biggest event.

The Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club has dedicated $7,500 in funding for scholarships for 2024, which will be awarded to students planning to pursue career & technical education (CTE) or vocational training.

“The theme this year is ‘50 Years of Long Ears.’ This is the 50th Mule Day since it was brought back in the early 70s,” said Brady Carr, chairman of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club. “Mule Day is a blue-collar event and we’re paying homage to the unique contributions of the mule. They’re known for hard work, strength and intelligence.”

Students can receive a maximum of $2,500 in scholarships, but awards will be based on need in an effort to make that $7,500 go as far as possible, Carr said.

“With a lot of these CTE programs, they may not need that whole amount because Tennessee Promise oftentimes pays the entire tuition. The issue is, students sometimes may not have the money for the tools and supplies that go along with this type of educational program,” Carr said. “We may end up impacting half a dozen or three; it just depends on the applicants and the amount of need.”

Students will be able to use Mule Day scholarships to purchase books, tools and other equipment that would not be covered by Tennessee Promise.

Those interested in applying must be a Maury County resident or an active member of the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club and must exhibit financial need. Carr said those with “less than perfect academic records” are particularly encouraged to apply. Students who graduated within the last two years can also apply in the first year of the program, Carr noted.

“Maybe they got a GED or weren’t top in their class, they can still qualify,” he said.

The Mule Day scholarships are only available for CTE or vocational training, not for postsecondary education.

For 50 years Mule Day has supported a number of charities, ranging from construction and site improvements at the Maury County Park to local schools and civic organizations. Carr said the Mule Day organizers see the scholarship program as an extension of their mission.

“Mule Day is a 501(c)3 and we donate money back into the community,” Carr said. “This is a whole new direction for us.”

The scholarships are funded by local sponsors for Mule Day and businesses and individuals interested in sponsoring are encouraged to reach out to the Mule Day office.

“We have sponsorships from $500 and up, so we have spots for anyone who wants to get involved,” Carr said. “We want people to join us in this effort to make Maury County a better place.” 

Applications are due by March 11, 2024 and awards will be announced by April 1. All awards will be paid directly to the institution of enrollment by the Maury County Bridle & Saddle Club.

For more information on applying for a scholarship, or to become a sponsor, contact Carr at or (931) 224-1930, or co-chair Mandy Mills at or (931) 982-0061. Information is also available at

Maury County GOP Meetings (Press Release)

Monthly Meeting of the Maury County Republican Party will take place on Thursday, February 22, 2024 6:00pm. Doors Open at 5:30pm at the Memorial Building, located at 308 W. 7th Street in Columbia. 

Executive Committee Meeting Will Take Place Prior to Membership Meeting.  All Current Members are Welcome to Attend.

Republican Women of Maury County Will Meet Tuesday Feb 20 at 11:00AM at Catfish Campus located at 2509 Keith Drive in Columbia.

Denise Daniels from The Moodsters Children’s Foundation will be the featured speaker.

Mule Kick 5K (Press Release)

Hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by First Farmers and Merchants Bank, the annual Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will take place Saturday, April 6, at Riverwalk Park in Columbia.

Proceeds from the 2024 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot provide funding for Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which delivers health care services to at-risk and underserved individuals throughout southern Middle Tennessee by providing basic health screenings, education and resources. A portion of the proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot will also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment and the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, the Maury County school with the most participation in the event will receive a donation to their P.E. program from the Foundation.

“The Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot is a great tradition for both Maury County and the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation that helps support our mission of providing important health care services for individuals who may not otherwise be able to obtain care,” Foundation Executive Director Joe Kilgore said. “We are excited to host the Mule Kick 5K and look forward to an exciting race!”

On Saturday, April 6, the race will begin at Riverwalk Park in Columbia with an 8 a.m. start time for the 5K and a 9:15 a.m. start time for the 1-Mile Trot. Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants may register for the race online at

“First Farmers is pleased to continue our ongoing partnership with the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation for this year's Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot. We are proud to support the vital work of the Foundation which exemplifies our dedication to fostering well-being in our region,” said Brian K. Williams, chairman and CEO of First Farmers.

In addition to presenting sponsor First Farmers and Merchants Bank, sponsorships ranging from $350 to $2,500 are still available for those who are interested in marketing exposure at this event. For additional information, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.381.1111, ext. 1012.

To learn more about the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation, the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot or to make a direct gift to support the mobile medical unit fund, visit

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

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

Mr. Jerry Bryan Johns, 84, resident of Columbia, died Monday at his residence. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at 1:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 11:00 AM until the time of the services at the funeral home.

Mrs. Ann Derryberry Wright, 102, former resident of Columbia, died Tuesday, February 13th at Claiborne & Hughes Nursing and Rehab in Franklin. A graveside service will be conducted Friday, February 23rd at 2:00 PM at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Franklin.

Mrs. Loretta Hensley Ballard, 79, died Friday, February 16th at Life Care Center of Columbia. A graveside service will be conducted Friday, February 23rd at 3:00 PM at Ridgecrest Cemetery in Jackson, TN. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mr. William Porter King, 88, retired professor and longtime resident of Columbia, died Sunday at Poplar Estates. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday at 11:00 AM at West 7th Street Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Worley Cemetery in the Hampshire Community. The family will visit with friends Friday from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home and Saturday from 10:00 AM until time of the services at the church.

…And now, news from around the state…

Another Ogles Running for Congress (TheNewsTN)

A former state representative has announced his bid for the 7th Congressional District following U.S. Rep. Mark Green's surprise decision to not seek reelection.

Brandon Ogles, a Republican who represented Williamson County in the state House from 2018 to 2022, is the first Republican to confirm a run on the seat, though it's unlikely he will be the last.

Ogles — a cousin of U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents Tennessee's 5th Congressional district — posted to social media on Saturday that he had picked up candidacy papers and is officially running. In that same post, Brandon Ogles calls "the government in Nashville and the government in Washington D.C." the greatest threats to Tennesseans' prosperity.

Ogles’ policy-making career has been  as focused on so-called "law and order" issues, sponsoring bills that increased penalties for aggravated rape, increased pay for police officers and firefighters, and stiffer penalties for the possession of certain types of narcotics.

Political observers await the potential announcements of other state Republicans, including Clarksville's Bill Powers, who told reporters he is considering a bid.

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry is currently running for the Democratic nomination for the district.

Gas Prices (MSM)

Rising prices at the pump picked up steam last week, rising 11 cents, on average. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $2.97 which is 26 cents more expensive than one month ago but 14 cents less than one year ago.  

“Tennessee drivers likely felt the pain at the pump last week as we saw a pretty significant increase in our state average,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “This trend, however, isn’t unique to Tennessee. Even with a significant jump in our pump prices, there were still 16 states that saw bigger increases in their state average compared to last week.” 

“Last week, pump prices rose to just a penny shy of $3.00 per gallon, on average, before dropping two cents to today’s average of $2.97,” continued Cooper. “If pump prices rise above $3.00 per gallon this week, it will be the first time the Tennessee state average has reached this benchmark since early November 2023.” 

Quick Facts

76% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.79 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.21 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 15th least expensive market in the nation

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Dierks Bentley announces over 30 new dates for his summer GRAVEL & GOLD TOUR, Presented By Jersey Mike’s, with Chase Rice and Lee Brice for direct support and a diverse lineup of special guests including Graham Barham, Tyler Braden, Kaitlin Butts, Mae Estes, Ella Langley, Randy Rogers Band, Zach Top, Tanner Usrey, Bella White and more.

The tour will stop at Bridgestone Arena on September 7th. Produced by Live Nation, tickets are on sale now at


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