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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 26, 2024

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

We start with local news…

Place of Hope (CDH)

Place of Hope has led the way in drug and alcohol treatment in Maury County, serving the community under the radar without much recognition for almost 25 years.

However, to those who have received help from the center, the Coupe family, who runs the 64-bed facility for adult men and women dealing with issues of alcoholism, addiction, co-occurring disorders, and homelessness, is well-known and appreciated.

For program participants to experience a new, redeemed life is enough of an accolade for Mike and Beverly Coupe, who started the nonprofit in 1997.

In the building of the former Bel-Air Nursing Home, Place of Hope, located on James Campbell Boulevard, has stood ready and waiting for the next desperate soul to come through the door since it officially opened April 20, 2000.

Place of Hope is the only free and state-licensed, faith-based treatment facility in the U.S.

The Christ-centered, 12-step treatment center provides services such as a drug and alcohol treatment, temporary homeless shelter, operational kitchen and salon.

Deciding to accept "the call" to start the facility, the Coupe's vision for the nonprofit started with prayer, which is a constant that remains so nearly 25 years later. Mike Coupe, a former drug and alcohol addiction program leader at Maury Regional Medical Center, said he had "stirrings for a nonprofit center" years ago that would seek to provide help and guidance for 12 different life areas, based on biblical teachings.

“Nearly 30 years ago, my father left a lucrative career as a counselor, providing services for-profit, to start a non-profit faith-based treatment experience, unlike anything that had really been done before,” daughter Chelsea Coupe said.

“His vision was unique, and it was important to him to provide high quality, 12-step and faith-based treatment that was licensed by the State of Tennessee. However, he wanted to do it at no charge to individuals or their families. Most thought he was crazy or doubted an idea like this would be possible. But he believed he wouldn’t fail, because it wasn’t his mission. It was God’s.”

A family affair, the Coupes' three daughters, including Chelsea, Cassie Gray and Carrie Ogles, help to operate the facility along with their families.

The family's efforts have resulted in more than 4,200 people being given the chance to be rescued from their addiction over the years.

"Brother Mike," as residents fondly call him, says he believes in creating a "life fully restored" for each program participant.

Medical doctors volunteer their services for free at the center if needed, which is only one piece of the services found at the center. Mental health treatment is also a major component coupled with the addiction program. The Coupes have also found ways to assist the homeless population in a limited capacity with temporary shelter, a shower and a meal for those who have been displaced through life circumstances.

The center also operates Village of Hope, a 15-unit apartment complex that provides affordable permanent rental housing for low income people with disabilities in Maury County.

The center's free care is made possible by a mix of generous churches, local individual donations and some state funding.

Operating and expanding the center over the years has often required relying on the "direction of faith," including unforeseen blessings that have come along the way, Mike Coupe says.

Even the building, once owned by Forrest Preston of Bel-Air Nursing Home, was donated to the Coupe family in 2006, following several years of seeing their work move forward and change lives.

When they opened the doors in 2000, support seemed to pour in— food and clothing were donated by those who believed in the vision — and still do, the staff says.

Back then, the need for repairs was great, Mike Coupe said, recalling a leaky roof that dripped into a kiddie pool in the hallway just outside the front office.

Several years ago, Conduit Church in Franklin came together with the financial backing and manpower to completely overhaul the inside of the aging facility, updating the clinical design on the interior to a more modern homey environment.

A highlight of the property is the garden run by program participants, providing fresh and healthy food to aid in recovery and well being.

Residents learn skills and contribute to daily operations and activities. On any given day, residents can be seen preparing breakfast in the kitchen, while long time staff member, Hal Zang, who was rescued from the streets at one point in his life, can be found helping with the yard work at the facility.

With little advertisement, years of grateful folks, like past program participant Terry Davidson, can attest to the impact of Columbia’s haven for the broken.

Davidson, for example, has seen "miracles" in her life from the treatment she received at the center and has given back more than a decade of her time to working the front lines at Place of Hope as admissions coordinator.

She currently continues to give back by helping clients with assessments, onboarding, transitioning, counseling and other client needs.

Davidson has been recovering from alcoholism for more than a decade and nearly as long serving the center.

More recently, other health victories like remission from cancer have only further turned her own hope to certainty that God has no shortage of "miracles."

Mike Coupe has wondered if Place of Hope should have been named, place of miracles, since “they happen there every day,” he said.

When Mike and Beverly Coupe started Place of Hope, the group of helpers was small.

Jim Beck, a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor, has been serving the facility almost since the beginning. Cassie Coupe recently completed her Masters of Social Work at Middle Tennessee State University and helps lead the clinical administrator aspects of the facility. Her husband Luke also helps with IT services. Chelsea offers counseling services and even shares her musical talent during onsite church services. The youngest, Carrie, helps with human resources-related tasks as the staffing needs of the center have grown.

Mike Coupe, himself has 47 years of continuous sobriety and has been professionally helping others to do the same for the majority of that time. Starting out as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor at Maury Regional Medical Center in 1988, he pioneered an approach to treating those who suffered from addiction, a program that lasted for about 10 years.

At the time, he says there was nothing else like it in the area as he and a small team worked to treat patients in a devoted wing of the hospital.

Drug treatment was new, as alcohol treatment eventually made way for cocaine addiction treatment, Coupe said. Then came the opioid epidemic and rise of methamphetamines, then the most recent and most deadly Fentanyl crisis, Coupe said recounting the crisis of substance abuse through the decades.

“Now we have Fentanyl, which is really a form of chemical weaponry,” Coupe said. “I’m 71 years old, and I’m more inspired today than when I started this."

The treatment that Coupe offers for the changing climate of addiction treatment is not the typical, 28-day stay and release program. Participants must seek a medically assisted detox prior to a stay at Place Of Hope, he said. Participants at first enter the facility for an assessment and go through a short period of “supportive living,” then daily core treatment classes. Clients learn about the disease model of addiction and how it has become a dominant, controlling factor in their lives.

Although not all make it, Coupe said more than most beat the odds at Place of Hope to create a new and vital life for themselves and loved ones.

Davis Wins State Bowling Championship (MSM)

Columbia Central’s Alex Davis stormed through the semifinals of the TSSAA Division I state individual bowling tournament Wednesday, then won a nailbiter to clinch the championship at Smyrna Bowling Center.

With his 226 in the finals, the Columbia Central junior edged Stewarts Creek freshman Matteo Quintero by four pins to give the Lions their fourth individual titlist and the program’s first in eight years.

“It’s great to be here,” said Davis, who follows Luke Flatt (2016), Cole Flatt (2014, ‘15) and Michael Poirier (2008) as Central state bowling champions. “It’s nice.’’

A fifth-place finisher at last year’s state tourney, Davis opened the semifinals with a 225 and followed with four other 200 games – including a 257 – en route to a six-game pinfall total of 1,324. That performance put him at the head of the six-man ladder finals.

“He led the pack all the way through,” veteran Columbia Central coach Randy Cook said. “He bowled well all day.”

Quintero, who came out of the semifinals with a 1,229, opened ladder play as the No. 5 bowler and won his initial match against Green Hill’s Aiden Neal 190-172. He followed with victories over Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett’s Blake McReynolds (201-164), Science Hill’s Peyton Abel (168-153) and Smyrna’s Josh Morgan (213-130) – the defending state champion.

“Hat’s off to Matteo. I’ve watched him bowl since he was a whole lot younger,” Cook said. “He came all the way up through the field.”

While sitting through the initial stages of the ladder matches was “nervewracking”, it also provided a fact-finding scenario for Davis.

“It was a little rough, watching my friends in match play get put out,” he said. “But it also helped because I was able to see what the lanes were doing and how they were transitioning as the games were going.”

Heading into the championship matchup, Davis said his primary objective was to make Quintero uncomfortable.

“My main goal I had coming in was keeping pressure on him – not letting him get any relaxation, make him keep thinking about it,” said Davis, who did so initially by throwing four straight strikes to open.

“I felt like I threw the ball well, like I wanted to.”

An open fifth frame gave Quintero an opening, and he took advantage – stringing together a trio of strikes after the three he posted to start the match and going up by as many as 17 pins. But after picking up a three-pin leave in the eighth frame, the freshman had an open frame in the ninth.

Davis responded with back-to-back strikes, before knocking down eight pins with his second ball in the 10th to clinch the victory.

“Open frames can hurt you big, real big,” Cook said. “He’s got the talent; it just comes down to a lucky break. You’ve got to be consistent, but you’ve got to accept and take the lucky break and capitalize, and that’s what he did.”

Central senior Brendan Bilson placed 27th (1,042), with Lawrence County’s James Runions 35th (990) and Spring Hill’s Brayden Hayes 36th (989).

In Division II, Columbia Academy’s Nathan Hutto (1,002) finished 16th individually, with Knox Ransom (970) finishing 20th.

First Farmers Names CFO (Press Release)

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation (OTC Pink: FFMH), the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, today announced that Jill A. Giles was named Chief Financial Officer of the Bank. The position was formerly held by Robert E. (“Bobby”) Krimmel who continues as Chief Financial Officer of the Corporation.

“I am pleased to announce the promotion of Jill Giles to Chief Financial Officer of First Farmers and Merchants Bank,” stated Brian K. Williams, First Farmers’ Chairman and CEO. “Jill has served as Chief Accounting Officer of the Bank since 2020 and previously served as the Bank’s Controller. As CFO, she will have primary responsibility for Accounting, Accounts Payable, Central Balancing, Treasury, Facilities, Management Reporting Systems, and Shareholder Services. She has worked closely with Bobby Krimmel who previously served as the Bank’s CFO, and I expect a smooth transition in these responsibilities to her.

“Jill Giles joined First Farmers in 2013 as Controller for the Bank. She was promoted to Chief Accounting Officer where she has been responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of the accounting function at the Bank. She was awarded the First Farmers Innovation Award in 2018 in recognition of her leadership in implementing more efficient accounts payable solutions for the Bank.

“In her new role as CFO of the Bank, Jill will oversee the preparation of all financial reporting, budgeting, and tax and regulatory reporting. She will continue to assist Bobby Krimmel with financial reporting for the holding company. She will also provide oversight of the Treasury function of the Bank including asset-liability management, interest rate risk management, investments, pricing, management reporting systems and facilities management. Jill’s new duties will include management of Shareholder Services which includes communications with shareholders, dividend payments and stock repurchases. She will partner with senior leadership to develop and implement strategies across the organization and will ensure the integrity of the Bank’s financial systems and reporting process through the development and implementation of corporate accounting policies and internal control processes,” concluded Williams.

Prior to joining First Farmers, Giles worked in public accounting as an audit manager and provided internal and external audit services for community banks. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from The University of Tennessee at Martin and a Masters in Science degree in accounting from Middle Tennessee State University. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She is a past board member for Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury and remains an active supporter in the community.

About First Farmers and Merchants Corporation and First Farmers and Merchants Bank

First Farmers and Merchants Corporation is the holding company for First Farmers and Merchants Bank, a community bank serving the Middle Tennessee area through 22 offices in seven Middle Tennessee counties. As of September 30, 2023, First Farmers reported total assets of approximately $1.9 billion, total shareholders’ equity of approximately $99 million, and administered trust assets of $5.4 billion. For more information about First Farmers, visit us on the Web at under “Investor Relations.”

CSCC Receives Performing Arts Grant (Press Release)

The Columbia State Community College Foundation has been recognized with a grant of $15,000 from the Robert K. and Anne H. Zelle Fund for Fine and Performing Arts of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to support the Performance Series, which provides a quality performing arts experience to the community and surrounding rural region. 

“This grant will help showcase talented artists that uplift and entertain audiences through the power of the performing arts,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a nonprofit striving to build a more thriving and inclusive community — today and for generations to come — by transforming thoughtful generosity into positive change, has announced $2,803,889 in grants to 438 nonprofit organizations as part of the 2023 annual grantmaking process.

“Good work happens every day in our community through the efforts of dedicated and talented staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations, and we are happy to support that work,” said Laundrea Lewis, VP of Grants at CFMT.

This season’s First Farmers Performance Series has three shows remaining. 

Performing Feb. 15 is Steep Canyon Rangers. The Steep Canyon Rangers are big players in the bluegrass and Americana music scene today, and their performance is sure to be unforgettable.

March 14 Shane Profitt will perform. Country singer-songwriter Shane Profitt went from punching the clock for the City of Columbia to rocking sold-out crowds at the Ryman and standing ovations at the Grand Ole Opry.

Closing the series April 18 is John Oates. John Oates, member of the Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame and best-selling singer-songwriter, will share an acoustic evening of songs and stories.

Community Foundation awards discretionary grants annually from its unrestricted and field-of-interest funds through an open application process to Middle Tennessee nonprofit organizations addressing community needs and benefiting the well-being of citizens through valuable programs and innovative services.

More information on the grant process is online at

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


Mrs. Lynda June Coffey Briggs, 82, resident of Columbia and retired secretary for Highland Church of Christ, passed away Friday, January 19th at NHC Columbia.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, January 27th at 10:00 A.M. at Highland Church of Christ. Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Friday, January 26th from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


Mr. George Allen Clanton, 92, retired employee of Occidental Chemical Company and resident of Columbia, died January 12th at Meadowbrook Nursing Home in Pulaski. The family will visit with friends Saturday, January 27th at 11:00 A.M. followed by a memorial service at 11:30 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


Randall Bernard “Randy” Messick, 75, resident of Columbia, passed away at Maury Regional Medical Center on Monday, January 22, 2024 surrounded by his loving wife, daughter, and son. 

A Celebration of Life Visitation will be held on Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mr. Jerry Allen Uzzell, 82, resident of Culleoka, and retired employee of Lewis County Middle School, passed away Monday, January 22, 2024 at NHC Columbia. Funeral services will be conducted Sunday, January 28, 2024 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.. Burial will follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. 

…And now, news from around the state…

Education Funding and Food Waste (Tennessean)

Tennessee House members looking into the feasibility of rejecting federal education funding aren’t recommending taking that dramatic action, but they do want a comprehensive study of food waste in school cafeterias under federally funded child nutrition programs.

They also want their chamber to begin reviewing any new federal rules and directives sent to the state education department. And they want to conduct annual hearings into federal requirements for student testing.

The actions are among a handful of recommendations outlined in a 13-page report submitted Jan. 19 by House members to legislative leaders.

During five days of hearings in November to study what federal money Tennessee receives for its K-12 students and schools, House members frequently zeroed in on food waste through school programs funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rep. John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, suggested that Tennessee could do a better job of overseeing such programs to improve their efficiency, but that more information is needed.

Anderson County Schools, which is located in Ragan’s district near Knoxville, has studied food waste at one of its schools. But few other Tennessee districts have, and there’s no statewide data measuring the amount of uneaten food in cafeterias.

Nationally, about 41% of milk and 31% of vegetables were discarded from lunch trays, according to the Agriculture Department’s 2019 School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study.

“When you have a $480 million program [in Tennessee], 31% waste is a lot of money that could be devoted to hiring more teachers, buying more classroom supplies, fixing the roof, whatever,” Ragan stated after the hearings.

He said his goal is “not to starve children, but to optimize these programs.”

The House report recommends that the state agriculture and education departments evaluate food waste in public schools, and determine whether to contract with an outside agency to develop an improvement plan.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Suffering from cabin fever with all the snow and rain? This weekend offers an opportunity to prepare for better-weather activities.

Brush up on your paddling and kayaking skills, courtesy of Muletown Rec.

Muletown Rec, 1446 Oak Springs Drive, will host an indoor kayak class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the center's indoor pool.

The first half will consist of classroom-based lessons, including lifejackets and other safety equipment, what to do during hazardous weather/water conditions and trip planning.

The second half will be a hands-on lesson in the pool focusing on strokes and self-rescue.

The course is $100 per person and is open to anyone ages 10 and up.


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