Friday, May 28, 2021
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine
The long Memorial Day weekend is getting underway, unofficially marking the beginning of summer.

As the pandemic lessens and restrictions loosen around the country, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend – a 60% jump over last year but still 6 million people fewer than Memorial Day weekend in 2019, says the AAA Auto Club Group.

AAA expects travel to be up in Georgia by 62%, but be prepared to pay more for gasoline. On Thursday, average gas prices in Tifton were $2.79 a gallon compared to an average $1.81 per gallon last year at this time.

While many of us will mark the holiday with cookouts and outdoor activities, let us remember that Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while in military service, making the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country.

Memorial Day differs from Veterans Day, which is a separate day in November to thank and honor all who served, whether or not they they died while in service.

Tifton will hold its Memorial Day tribute Saturday morning. American Legion Post 21 will host the ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday at Veterans Park in downtown Tifton.

Chris Beckham will be the keynote speaker, and Tyron Spearman the master of ceremonies. The Tifton Fire Department will present the colors. Mayor Julie B. Smith will welcome attendees and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Brenda Saunders will sing the National Anthem and “God Bless the U.S.A.” 

Cmdr. Tommy Treadway will give greetings; Chaplain Bob Robinson will give the invocation and benediction; and Megan Rose will play "Taps."

The annual local tribute has been organized for decades by Tifton businessman Jack Stone; this is the second year that the American Legion has hosted, said Greg Miller, historian for American Legion Post 21. He said that Stone, Danny Bailey, and J.D. Slater organized this year’s program.

Miller added that the American Legion will also have a Flag Retirement Ceremony on June 13

“Anyone with a damaged flag that needs to be retired may drop it off in a special box at the American Legion on Moore Highway,” he said. “Just drive under the shelter and leave it in the box.”

Miller said Southern Regional Technical College donated the box to the American Legion Post, located at 1224 Moore Highway, on the section of the road where it forks away from 12th Street (Highwy 41); the building is on the left before the railroad tracks. 
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County's unemployment rate in April fell to a pre-pandemic level for the first time since early 2020, according to data released Thursday by the Ga. Department of Labor (DOL).

During April, Tift County recorded a jobless rate of 3.4% – the same percentage rate in February 2020. In March 2020, Tift had an unemployment rate of 4.1%, which had zoomed to 9% by April 2020 as the state was locked down because of COVID-19.

This past March, Tift's jobless rate had finally fallen to 3.6%.
"We continue to be very bullish on the Tift County economy and the likelihood for continued growth. Our existing industries continue to add jobs and invest additional resources in the community," said Tony McBrayer, Tift County Commission chairman and Tift County Development Authority member.

"Furthermore, our prospect activity remains high. We continue to recruit quality companies that offer attractive career opportunities for those seeking employment. Wage rates are at an all-time high, and I would encourage everyone seeking employment to give our local companies serious consideration in their job search," McBrayer told the Tifton Grapevine.

While there are many jobs available in Tift County, there are also more county residents employed right now than before the pandemic. In April, there were 20,169 county residents employed; before the pandemic, employment totaled less than 19,000, according to DOL data.

Tift's labor force, the number of residents able to work, has grown by 5.3% during the past year. The DOL placed the county’s labor force in April at 20,889. In April 2020, the Tift County labor force was at 19,777.

In the latest state data, the April unemployment rates in Tiftarea counties include: Worth, 3.6% (4% in March); Turner, 5.9% (6.6% March); Irwin, 4.2% (4.4% March); Cook, 3.7% (3.3% March); Berrien, 5.6% (3.6% March); and Ben Hill, 4.8% (5.4% March).

Gov. Brian P. Kemps office last week announced that the state will end federal unemployment insurance supplements on June 26.
The State Bar of Georgia’s South Georgia Office in Tifton
is seeking an Office Manager

This is a full-time position; salary is commensurate with experience

The office manager will run the day-to-day operations of the State Bar of Georgia’s South Georgia Office, including accommodating attorneys from across the state by providing office space for mediations, depositions and client meetings. This position handles correspondence from both lawyers and consumers, and provides information as requested, presenting a positive experience while representing the State Bar of Georgia. 

Job Responsibilities include: 
  • Discernment and confidentiality
  • Knowledge of the State Bar of Georgia and its departments 
  • Manage one part-time employee
  • Operate audio-visual components
  • Host continuing legal education programs
  • Serve consumers in person and by phone
  • Host meetings and luncheons for State Bar committees
  • Assist area bar associations by facilitating programs
  • Assist with State Bar meetings as needed, some travel required

Required Skills:
  • Pleasant, accommodating, and hospitable attitude while assisting attorneys and consumers
  • Ability to multitask
  • Strong organizational ability with excellent attention to detail
  • Poise, tact, professionalism, and diplomacy
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office

Education & Experience:
  • Bachelor’s degree in business or related field plus 3-5 years of office management experience

Apply via email with resume to: 
no later than Friday, June 4, 2021.

Please type “OFFICE MANAGER TIFTON” as the subject line of email.
Please include a cover letter explaining your interest in the position, summary of 
your work experience, at least two references, and your contact information.
Rodrigo Francisco Juan, 34, of Tifton was found dead with gunshot wounds Sunday night outside his mobile home on Ira Drive.
Tifton Grapevine
Authorities are investigating the homicide of a 34-year-old Tifton man found Sunday night lying in the front yard of his mobile home on Ira Drive.

Rodrigo Francisco Juan was pronounced dead at the scene after Tifton Police responded to a call at about 11:49 p.m.

Police said Juan had apparent gunshot wounds, and his body was transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Crime Lab for an autopsy. The victim's truck – a red, two-door, 1997 Dodge Ram 1500 with tag number RXM2208 – was stolen from the scene, police said.

Juan, who is also known as as Lico, and his wife Estela have three children and were staying with family in Jennings, Fla., for work, according to his niece Maria Diego. She said that her uncle was back at his mobile home in Tifton to get his truck repaired.

"Rodrigo was a good man who loved his kids and wife," Diego wrote on social media. "Our family is going through a really hard time, and we are asking for donations for funeral expenses that will cover services and to send his body to Guatemala where he was born and raised."

The family has created a account.

Tifton Police have requested the GBI's assistance with the homicide investigation. Anyone with information may call the GBI Tip Line at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477) or leave a message with Tifton Police Detective Lt. Chris Luckey at 229-382-3132.
Refreshing careers for Tifton area CDL drivers and more. 
Click the link below to apply.
Betty Cromer, left, Golden Deeds chair for the Exchange Club of Tifton, presents the Helen Rainer Book of Golden Deeds Award to Ida Tidwell.
The Exchange Club of Tifton this week surprised Ida Tidwell with the 68th awarding of the Helen Rainer Book of Golden Deeds Award.

One of the longest running programs of the Exchange Club, the Book of Golden Deeds recognizes the dedication of community volunteers. The Exchange Club seeks to recognize those extraordinary individuals who serve others without looking for praise.
Tidwell has been a volunteer with the Salvation Army in Tifton for more than seven years. She is faithful to the mission of the Salvation Army and is committed to ensuring the food pantry is stocked, the donation warehouse is organized and new employees are trained.
Ms. Ida shows up faithfully every week. She quietly comes in and goes right to work. She is kind and patient, and it is a pleasure to get to spend time with her each week,” said Debra Cannon, Tifton Salvation Army director.
Those who nominated Tidwell for the honor said that she is not loud or boisterous and does not call attention to herself, and that she is a humble servant and shows the love of Jesus. As one nomination letter read: “People like Ms. Ida is what makes Tifton such a wonderful place to live.”

When surprised with the award, Tidwell said, “This is the kind of thing that happens to other people; it is truly a pleasure to do what I do.”
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County has recorded 14 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH) reported Thursday.

During the period, Tift's coronavirus-related deaths rose by one to 98 since the pandemic began, the DPH said.

Tift County's new confirmed cases translate to 34 per 100,000 population, the DPH reported. The county’s positive testing rate during the two-week period is 2.5%.

Since the pandemic began, Tift has reported 3,459 confirmed cases.

On Thursday, Georgia reported 486 new cases with 35 additional deaths and 120 new hospitalizations. The state has had a total of 894,892 confirmed cases and 18,021 related deaths, the DPH said.
Tifton Grapevine
Downtown Tifton Main Street has once again been designated as an accredited Main Street program for meeting rigorous performance standards, Main Street America announced Thursday.

Each year, Main Street America announces the list of accredited programs to recognize commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization. 

Tifton is again on the list that includes 889 nationally accredited Main Street programs.

Downtown Tifton’s performance is annually evaluated by the state Office of Downtown Development and the Georgia Main Street Program, which work in partnership with Main Street America to identify programs that meet 10 national performance standards, such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, documenting program progress, and actively preserving historic buildings

“We’re very proud of this accreditation and to uphold this level of excellence,” said Abbey McLaren, executive director of Tifton's Downtown Development Authority. “Our restaurants and merchants had a very challenging year in 2020, but downtown was still able to gain new businesses and was very active in economic-based historic preservation.

“With exciting developments on the horizon, we will continue to put downtown first because we know that is where the hub and the heart of our city is,” she said.

On Wednesday, McLaren told the Tifton Rotary Club about several redevelopment projects that were put on hold for the pandemic, and which have restarted. For instance, Drs. Cameron and Margaret Nixon have completed the first phase of their Towne Center Lofts on Main Street. Two apartments are available for renting, and a new restaurant and three more efficiency apartments are on the way. The Nixons have purchased three more buildings in the block. 

The Golden Building, with three floors and a basement, is going to provide a new restaurant, boutique store and event space. The owner, Jenna Turner, applied for state and federal tax credits, McLaren said, and “we facilitated the tax credit applications.” 

Many changes are coming on Commerce Way: Steve Cooksey recently bought the 125-year-old building at 325 Commerce Way that formerly housed the Davis Music shop. Constructed in 1895 by Dr. G.W. Julian for his medical practice, the structure later became the city’s first African-American hotel.

The finished project will provide living spaces upstairs and retail space downstairs. Farther down the block, the former Hawkeye’s location is going to be an Oyster Bar by the owner of a food truck, the Shrimp Box, from Nashville. Another building, formerly owned by Jack Stone, will provide six condos. The former Carey’s Antiques building will be an interior store, developed by Lamar Boyer

“I encourage you to drive down Commerce Way to remember how it is now,” McLaren said. 

Another project is around the corner at 136 E. Third St, where Regina’s School of Dance has been; the site will house two condos and three airbnb units.
Several area residents committed to the economic success and welfare of the region were among the 32-member class that recently graduated from the South GeorgiaLEADS program. 

Launched in 2016, South GeorgiaLEADS is an eight-month leadership experience that links regional site visits and issue awareness to relevant leadership development content.

The program has partnered with Valdosta State University’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact and is facilitated by faculty from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

“This year’s participants faced challenges that allowed them to immediately utilize the leadership skills they learned to adapt and thrive throughout an unprecedented year,” said Matt Bishop, Fanning Institute director.

“Over the last five years, South GeorgiaLEADS has set the standard for developing leaders with the skills and regional perspective to address issues and take advantage of opportunities in South Georgia.”

The 2021 graduating class includes, from Tift County: Sara Hand, Georgia Museum of Agriculture at ABAC; Eric Larson, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College; Tom Mark, Tom Mark Diversified Enterprises; and Katie Murray, University of Georgia Tifton Campus.

Other area graduates include: Ben Hill CountyMelissa Dark, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce; Worth CountyDonald Gilman, Ignite College & Career Academy; and Cook CountyHeather Green, Adel-Cook County Chamber of Commerce; and Chris Posey, ANS Signs Inc.
Tifton Grapevine
Georgia is known worldwide as the "Peach State," but it could more accurately be called the "Blueberry State" as blueberries are now the the No. 1 fruit produced in Georgia, according to the Ga. Department of Agriculture.

Georgia blueberries bring in more than $220 million annually to the state’s economy, the agriculture department says. Georgia now leads the nation in blueberry acreage harvested – and commercial blueberries had their start in Tifton.

In 2019, Georgia planted 21,700 acres of blueberries, surpassing all other states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But in production, Georgia ranked third in the U.S. in 2019 with 93,980 pounds, behind Washington and Oregon.

Blueberry production has grown fast in Georgia in recent years, but it actually began in the state nearly a century ago in Tifton.

In 1925, the best selections of rabbiteye blueberries were brought in from private collections of wild seedlings and planted at the University of Georgia in Tifton, according to the Georgia Blueberry Commission.

"Fast forward to the the early 1940s when, thanks to the foresight of Mr. Cason J. Callaway, Georgia legislator, funding was secured to establish blueberry breeding in Tifton," the Blueberry Commission notes in its history of blueberry production in Georgia.

Working with the USDA, UGA researchers released cultivars, as Callaway" and Coastal" in 1950.

"In 1955, the state of Georgia proudly released the first cultivar with good commercial quality, ‘Tifblue,’” the state Blueberry Commission said.

Currently, rabbiteye blueberries make up most of the state's commercial production and are harvested from late May through mid-July. Georgia's sandy and acidic soil is said to be ideal for blueberry production.
Tift County High School’s Work-Based Learning Program says participating businesses offered their time, talent, and expertise in working with students this school year.

Students in the program logged a total of 32,342 hours, some paid and some non-paid. The success of the Work-Based Learning Program is primarily based on the quality of the placement of the student in a business, and the instruction that the student receives as part of the work-based learning segment of the program.

Through Work-Based Learning (WBL), students are able to develop technical skills that support success in careers and post-secondary education.

Students whose work placement is an extension of their Career Technical Agricultural Education (CTAE) pathways have the opportunity to connect what they learn in classroom with worksite application, enabling a smooth transition into the work force and/or education beyond high school. 

Businesses interested in partnering with the program may contact Tift County High School at 229-387-2475, ext. 8318 (Cassandra Thomas, WBL coordinator) or ext. 8338 (Dr. Fred Rayfield, CTAE director).
The former Georgia Baptist Conference Center, currently part of Shorter University, will be sold at auction June 30.
The former Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Norman Park, now part of Shorter University, will be auctioned on June 30; the campus is for sale either as a whole or may be sold in five different tracts.

Bidding will be both on site and online.

The property at 4243 U.S. Highway 319 N. in Norman Park consists of approximately 32.05 acres and includes buildings with guest rooms and meeting rooms, a dining hall, an auditorium, a gymnasium, and a chapel.

It was built in 1901 as Norman Institute, a school for first grade through high school, became Norman Junior College in 1928, and was renamed Norman College in 1951.

In 1971, the property was turned over to the Georgia Baptist Convention. Since then, under a variety of names, the facility has hosted meetings by churches and other groups. For a while it was a satellite campus of Brewton-Parker College.

In 2016, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board gave the campus to Shorter University.
Kim Spinks has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Roy R. Jackson Award for Staff Excellence, presented each year to the top staff member at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. 

Presented in memory of Roy R. Jackson Sr., award recipients must have completed at least 10 years of continuous full-time service to ABAC. Award criteria states that the staff member must be dependable, loyal, reliable, and one who contributes to the growth and development of the college beyond the normal call of duty. 

Now serving as the office coordinator for the Office of Academic Support, Spinks has been an ABAC staff member for 22 years. 

A coworker said Spinks is always pleasant and professional. She has proven to be flexible and adaptive at ABAC, serving in various positions and working well as a team member or alone, depending on the task, and is always ready and willing to assist when needed in a pinch.

One colleague said Spinks is service-oriented and “others-minded, always going above and beyond to assist ABAC students. I believe our students, faculty, and staff would all agree that this year’s awardee has a genuine desire to make the ABAC experience positive.” 
Tiftarea seniors are resuming their dances at the Leroy Rogers Senior Center in Tifton.

The Fred Hand Band will play dance favorites beginning at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 18. In a change from the past, no meals will be served, but chips, soda and water will be available.

For information, email
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Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day, honoring those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it became an official federal holiday in 1971.
  • Wiregrass Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-Noon, Georgia Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Memorial Day Ceremony, 10 a.m., Veterans Park, Downtown Tifton

  • Memorial Day Parade, 10 a.m., Downtown Sylvester
Elsa" is available for adoption at the Tift County Animal Shelter on Highway 125 S. To see her and other pets available, visit the shelter between 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055  
MAY 20
Brenda Kennedy York, 75, Tifton
Donald Lee Sumner, 69,
Alwyn E. Perryman, 73,
Tift County
John William Shepherd, 81,
Turner County

MAY 21
Mary Evelyn Luke Conger, 64,
Tommy Dale Gibbs, 72, Enigma
James Robert “J.R.” Hannah Jr., 68, Fitzgerald
Lillie Mae Rathburn, 95, Fitzgerald

MAY 22
Michael “Mike” Glen McKee, 59, Tifton

MAY 23
Kimberly Amanda Lavender, 29, Fitzgerald
The Rev. William Henry Leggett Sr., 69, Sycamore
Sylvia Henry, 98, Lenox
Magnolia West, 83, Ty Ty

MAY 25
Ernest Owen Balliet, 71, Nashville
MAY 26
John Henry Bearden Jr., 72, Tifton
Linda Bishop Burchett, 82, Sylvester
Edgar Fry Perry, 69, Ashburn
Tifton Grapevine
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