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Rutherford County makes vaccines available to anyone 16 or older
  • Updated

Rutherford County is now booking appointments for individuals aged 16 and older who wish to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Rutherford County Health Department offers COVID-19 vaccination by appointment. To book your appointment, go to Vaccinate.tn.gov and click the blue “Proceed to COVID-19 questionnaire” button at the bottom of the page to start your registration.

If you need help scheduling your vaccination, call the Rutherford County COVID-19 Call Center at 615-898-7997.

“We’re excited to announce the expanded eligibility to all residents aged 16 and older,” said Rutherford County Health Director LaShan Dixon. “The more people in Rutherford County who choose to get their vaccinations, the sooner our community can return to normal day-to-day activities.”

The Rutherford County COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. for assistance in signing up to receive a vaccine. Call (615) 898-7997. Also go to https://vaccinefinder.org/search/ and enter your zip code to find locations of places to receive a vaccine.

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Rutherford County churches start to move past virus with Easter services
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Rutherford County churches are solidifying their game plans for this year’s Easter Sunday services and activities, nearly one year after a pandemic caused several to temporarily close their doors.

“It’s affected the way we do church,” said Lucy Phillips, spokeswoman for World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, “This time last year, the church was not open. We live-streamed all of our services.”

Phillips said that the church halted all indoor activities for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic. In May, outdoor services began to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

One of the church’s parking lots was converted into an outdoor sanctuary lined with rows of folding chairs. Three large video screens were used to project Pastor Allen Jackson to the visitors in chairs, tents and cars near the treeline at the back of the lot.

The space has remained intact ever since, and people continue to visit rain or shine.

World Outreach has more than 10,000 people from surrounding counties who worship there, according to Phillips. The church offers services online and in-person every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Physical attendees can decide if they’d like to view the sermons outside with Jackson or view the live feed from one of several screens in the church’s indoor sanctuaries.

“We’ve seen the attendance creep up as people gain confidence, and as we’ve provided more options and opened up different rooms,” said Phillips. “We’ve really made it a priority to create an atmosphere where people can be comfortable.”

The church has scheduled a three-day Easter festival with food trucks and live musical performances from Christian artists CAIN, We the Kingdom, The Katinas, and Jason Crabb.

The church will also offer baptisms that churchgoers can register for online.

Jackson will deliver his Easter sermon three times: Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3 at 6 p.m. and Sunday April 4 at 9:30 a.m. Several church members have volunteered to help newcomers navigate the facilities throughout the weekend.

Mask-on, mask-optional services

Highland Heights Church of Christ in Smyrna, which has a congregation of about 650 members, offers two morning services in addition to virtual services. The 8:30 a.m. service is mask-required, and the second service at 10:30 a.m. is mask-optional.

During the first service, a slide on the church projector reads, “Although we are taught to share ... for germs we do not care!!” It urges anyone feeling “under the weather” to “stay home and get better.”

Pulpit Minister Wayne Cornwell said that the church is currently operating at about two-thirds of usual attendance.

“During the height of the pandemic, we were having about 200 in person and about 200 online,” said Cornwell.

The church organized a “Reopening” committee to make decisions about how the church would adjust to COVID-19, Education Minister and Committee Chair Kelly Campbell said.

Campbell said that the church encountered several obstacles with the reopening process due to the spikes in virus cases in the summer and winter.

“I guess like most churches, we’ve had to back up a couple of times to try to keep things safe, but right now, I feel like we’re in a really good trajectory,” said Campbell.

She said she is optimistic that Highland Heights will resume Sunday night services as soon as Easter Sunday. The church plans to do the same for Wednesday night services in May.

“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, and then have something happen,” said Campbell.

Both Cornwell and Campbell agreed that the Easter Sunday service won’t look drastically different from those of years past, but the online streaming option will still be in place for those who can’t physically attend.

The church scheduled an outdoor Easter Egg Hunt for last Saturday. The plan had children divided by ages, with mask and social distancing guidelines. All Easter snacks were pre-packaged, according to Campbell.

Attendance increasing

Similar to Highland Heights, Crossway Baptist Church in Murfreesboro offers two Sunday morning services at 9:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Pastor Sherman Boyd said the church encourages anyone who is concerned about mask-wearing to attend the earlier service which typically has a smaller attendance.

“We run between 220 and 240 on a typical Sunday,” said Boyd. “When COVID hit, we’ve dropped down to a pretty consistent about 160.”

Boyd said that the church has seen a surprising spike in donations within the last year, despite a lower turnout of in-person attendance. The church collected a surplus of over $20,000, Boyd said.

“We finished 2020 as one of our best years financially ever,” said Boyd. “People just jumped in and gave online.”

Instead of passing the donation plate through each pew, the church decided to place locked donation boxes near the entrance. He said the pandemic has also given the church an opportunity to improve the video and audio quality of its pre-existing virtual services.

Boyd said that he is noticing more and more people become comfortable with physically entering the building and removing their masks. While the county’s mask mandate has expired, the church leaves it up to the individual to decide what’s best for their comfort level.

So far, he says there have been little to no complaints in taking this approach.

“Part of our DNA is community, so we don’t live in fear at all, but we do want what’s best for each other,” said Boyd, who commended his church’s willingness to ensure the comfort of the older and “more nervous” members of the congregation.

The pandemic has had the biggest effect on mid-week services and special events, which aren’t scheduled to resume until the Wednesday after Easter.

The church is celebrating with a “Holy Week’’ that began last Sunday with regular service hours. A traditional Passover meal is scheduled for Maundy Thursday at 6 p.m. A Good Friday service is scheduled for the following day at 6 p.m., and Easter morning will feature a “Resurrection Sunday Celebration” at regular service hours.

Boyd said that the Good Friday service is typically “more solemn,” and the Sunday Resurrection service is a “big blow out.”

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Tornado damages 22 homes in Smyrna
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The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down for about seven minutes in Smyrna last Thursday night after strong winds damaged 22 homes in the Clarkston Square area.

The homes were located near Rock Springs Road at Blair Road, just west of Interstate 24, according to City of Smyrna spokeswoman Kathy Ferrell. Two of the homes at Jewell Drive and Addie Drive were determined to be “structurally unsound” and were condemned.

“We are grateful our community is safe and we have no reports of injury,” Ferrell said in a news release.

Homes in the subdivision had trees down in their yards, as well as roofing and siding damage. Live power lines were in three streets which also had debris, broken glass and roofing nails. The Smyrna Public Works department responded with a “broom tractor,” a large rotating brush mounted to the front of a John Deere tractor, to clear the debris from the street.

Joe Laster, an AT&T employee, is the owner of one of the two condemned homes. After an official notice had been attached to his front door, he was cleaning up the storm damage at the home. A contractor arranged by his insurance company was on site Friday morning.

Laster’s home lost part of its roof, exposing beams in the attic. The yard was strewn with debris. He said he was grateful that no one was injured.

“The bottom line is no one was hurt. That’s the main thing. We’re getting things moving, still in the early stages, but as the day goes on, I think things will begin getting better pretty quick,” he said.

Murfreesboro received minimal damage aside from fallen trees during the storm. A utility pole on East Main Street and Double Springs Road had wind damage, according to a post on the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

No injuries were reported from the tornado, according to Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni.

The most recent tornado to pass through Rutherford County was on Feb. 6, 2019, according to the NWS tornado database. That tornado, which had no fatalities, touched down on West Trimble Road in Milton, an unincorporated town just south of Highway 96.

The Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency (RCEMA) is in the process of documenting property damage caused by flooding due to the exponential rainfall from last weekend’s storms, according to a press release from Ashley McDonald, spokeswoman for the county.

Home and business owners in Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne and Eagleville are advised to contact RCEMA if their properties sustained flood damage between the dates of March 27 and 28.

Property owners will need to provide their name, address, a description of the damage. Photos of the damage are encouraged, if available, as well as any recorded documentation of damage from previous flooding events at the property location.

They will also be asked if they have property and flood insurance.

Public Safety Director Chris Clark said in a release that reports should be made only for damage that impacted homes. Flood damage to driveways, fences, barns, sheds, mailboxes or other outbuildings does not need to be reported to RCEMA.

All reports can be made via phone by calling 615-898-7764 ext. 1 or via email at ema_admin@rutherfordcountytn.gov.

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Mary Hance brings Ms. Cheap to Main Street Media
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Mary Hance, better known to Middle Tennesseans as Ms. Cheap, has joined Main Street Media of Tennessee to write a weekly column for its 13 newspapers.

Hance retired in January after a 45-year career with The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner. For 27 of those years, she shared her dollar-stretching savvy to the delight of readers. In her new column, Hance will highlight Ms. Cheap’s weekly pick, as well as share her money-saving strategies.

“I’m so excited our readers will now get a weekly dose of the iconic Ms. Cheap,” said Dave Gould, owner of Main Street Media of Tennessee. “Mary is a one-of-a-kind local institution, and we’re thrilled she’s joining our team of local journalists.”

Hance says this new partnership is a bona fide bargain.

“I am so happy to be joining Main Street Nashville and its sister newspapers with my Ms. Cheap columns. I love writing about free and affordable things to do, good local sales, fun day trips, good, inexpensive local restaurants and other ways for us to do more with less,” she said.

Hance’s passion for penny-pinching evolved into impactful charitable work. Over the past 12 years, her annual Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has raised more than $1.3 million.

“I also love highlighting ways for us to stretch our dollars to help others in the community,” Hance said. “I’m hoping to continue to connect local people with areas of need in Middle Tennessee by supporting nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank and Room in the Inn. I’m also planning to launch a T-shirt drive for the homeless later this spring as my first initiative with my new Main Street partners. So, stay tuned, and as always, ‘Stay cheap!’ ”

Hance says her readers have always shared great cheap tips, and she’s counting on them to continue sharing their wisdom. She can be reached at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com.