As driver shortage continues, school bus company is hiring
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
It’s no secret there is a school bus driver shortage in Knoxville. Back-to-school was a stressful time as parents and students learned the bus routes and schedules, made even more chaotic than normal due to a shortage of about 30 drivers across the county.
In an attempt to fix the shortage, the district brought in two new contractors this year, Ryan Dillingham, Knox County Schools director of transportation, told Knox News on Aug. 3.
Jacob Sims, owner of Sims Bus Lines/Hensley Bus Lines, was born to the industry. He grew up riding the bus with his parents, who drove school buses. Sims now owns his own bus line, specializing in little buses carrying special needs children. While Sims Bus Lines is new, his family has been in the business for about 20 years.
“My family has owned a bus line since 1982. I’ve driven for them about eight years, then I became my own contractor. This will be my second school year.
“I love the schedule! I love being home with my kids at night and on weekends. Mostly I enjoy building relationships with the kids and their parents. That’s my favorite part … getting to know the kids year after year. You become family,” said Sims.
Sims is hiring, as are most of the school bus lines in Knox County.
“We’re not just looking for a warm body to fill the seat. We want difference makers who make safety a priority for the kids.
“You have to pass a background check and (Department of Transportation) physical, then we’ll send you to Transportation University. It’s a little strenuous, but you’re hauling kids. The process needs to be strenuous. The job is well worth the effort,” Sims said.
The job can be stressful not only because of the driver shortage, but other drivers ignoring rules of the road.
Driver Talya Zuo drives for Sims Bus Lines in the Karns area. She’s new to the job, having joined in March. She said she quit her job as an event coordinator to become a bus driver because she loves the flexibility.
“I have a special needs child and I wanted to be with him in the evenings and on weekends. The job I had didn’t allow me to be with him much. Plus, I get to take him to work with me if need be,” Zuo said.
She wishes other drivers understood how school buses have to operate.
“I wish people would stop when I have my stop sign out. Too many times people just drive by, and that’s so dangerous for the kids. It’s the law that you stop even in the school parking lot.
“Also, school buses come to a full stop at railroad crossings and do not turn right on red,” she added.
“I have people laying on their horns just about every day. Just lay off the horn. I probably have a thousand more wishes, but honestly, I love the job and I have a great rapport with my kids. We laugh together all the time.”
Info: To apply, email Jacob Sims at [email protected].
Covenant Health Urgent Care Center opens in South Knoxville
Zach Thomas, Shopper News
To bolster health care accessibility in the South Knoxville community, Covenant Health has opened its new Urgent Care Center.
The new center, at 7625 Chapman Highway, Suite 107, is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Opened on Oct. 17, it is already offering a wide range of services for those in need in the South Knoxville and Seymour communities.
“This was an area that didn’t have a lot of medical care services, and this will help people from having to take longer trips into the city for urgent situations,” said Jerri McCumbee, director of operations for the Urgent Care Center.
McCumbee, who has successfully launched four other Urgent Care Centers in the Southeast, highlighted the impressive initial turnout for the South Knoxville location.
“We can already tell that this is going to be a great service to an underserved community because we had 10 people come through the Urgent Care Center on the first day, and it usually takes several weeks to get the word out before people know the Urgent Care Center is fully open.”
With 12-13 dedicated staff members currently on hand, the Urgent Care Center is poised to expand its workforce by adding a few more in the coming months, ensuring continued timely urgent patient care.
The Urgent Care Center offers a wide array of services, including the treatment of sprains, broken bones, cuts, scrapes, burns, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, congestion, sore throat, bites, stings, headaches, allergy reactions, rashes.
It performs EKGs, physicals, X-rays, and COVID-19 testing.
The Urgent Care Center is the newest addition to Covenant Health’s presence on Chapman Highway. The main medical center, which opened in various phases earlier this year, boasts a comprehensive suite of medical services that include cardiology, imaging, nephrology, physical therapy, primary care, and women’s health.
Urgent care patients can choose to register and “save their spot in line” in advance online or simply walk in when urgent medical attention is required.
The launch of the Covenant Health Urgent Care Center is a step toward bridging the health care gap in the surrounding Knoxville area by serving the South Knoxville and Seymour areas. It brings essential medical services closer to residents, eliminating the need for extended trips for urgent health care needs.
With an impressive turnout on its first day of operation, the center is well on its way to becoming an indispensable resource for the community.
For more information, visit www.covenanthealthurgentcare.com or call (865) 983-1310.
From one-hour photos to ORNL archiving, Fleetwood’s services evolve
John Shearer, Shopper News
Fleetwood Photo/The Print Refinery started more than 40 years ago printing customers’ photos in a one-hour format.
To keep up with technology and customer interests, it now also does archival restoration work and even sells invitations and greeting cards.
“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves many times,” said co-owner Frank Distefano with a laugh.
Along the way, the business at 6504 Kingston Pike on Bearden Hill has become a part of the Knoxville visual history it has helped to preserve, too. And today, it has a portfolio of products and services as detailed as an interesting and well-done photograph.
“We do framing, we do a lot of design work, and do a lot of business printing brochures, and we design all that,” said Distefano, who is the principal owner in the business along with his wife, Doris. “And we do greeting cards of all kinds. We design and print them here.
“We also do a lot of scanning and video transfer, and we do a lot of corporate scanning and archiving. We do all of it.”
Distefano said the business started in its original form in 1981, when they partnered with some other family members to open a one-hour photo stand outside West Town Mall in an old banking building in a parking lot.
At that time, being able to quickly get photos that people had taken with regular cameras and film was the rage across America. Before that, customers would have to drop film off at a camera store or mail it off in a special envelope, and several days would pass before the developed pictures would be returned.
In 1985, the Distefanos decided to open the current business on Bearden Hill in what was a former karate studio. It had also been a women’s clothing shop owned by the late noted actress and former Knoxville resident Polly Bergen.
Distefano said his father, Tony, was a doctor and would buy a Fleetwood Cadillac every two years. The son liked the name and came up with it for the business.
At first the business on Bearden Hill primarily focused on being a place for serious amateur and professional photographers to bring their film to be developed away from the then-busy mall traffic.
Over the years, though, it evolved into not only printing regular photos using the latest technology but also enlarging them onto such unusual backgrounds as canvas, wood and metal. Framing, card design, and printing also came along, as did archiving of photos and important documents.
He said he has enjoyed the work of transferring people’s old movies or VHS tapes onto watchable devices, or reproducing or repairing deteriorating old photographs through a process that starts with scanning them.
Businesses, churches, and other entities also like to preserve documents, and his firm has done plenty of that, he said. He added that some people realize such work is not quite as easy to do properly as by simply making some copies on a copy machine.
“What people find out is if they want it done right and efficiently, you don’t do it in house, you hire professionals,” he said, saying his firm has done some document archival work for such firms as Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
All the work has been fascinating, he said, not only with the technology used, but also with the photographs and films they are trying to preserve in a more modern and more easily accessible format or medium. “You find a lot of history,” he said.
Distefano has also discovered plenty of history simply through the changing technology involved in the archival preservation work. For example, he said transferring old films onto an easily accessible form of media has changed greatly in recent years.
“We used projectors to do transfers,” he said. “We used a mirror device where it was projected onto a mirror and recorded that way, so that it was a pure picture. But now the technology has changed, and we have actual high-speed film scanners and we put the film through that, and it actually takes each frame as a separate scan. It is much better quality.”
He has enjoyed all this archival work as well as the business overall in trying to keep up with both technology and customer interests, he added.
“I love the customers and love the challenges of working with different things,” he said. “And just trying to keep up with the technology, that is always fun.”
Powell Tennessee mom starts permanent jewelry business
Al Lesar, Shopper News
Education can be as important as marketing for Haley Lett in her new endeavor.
A hairstylist by trade, Lett has started a business with her two teenage daughters that touches on one of the newest trends in jewelry: Permanent Jewelry.
About four months ago, Lett and her daughters (age 17 and 13) started Forever Stranded Permanent Jewelry and are regulars at shows and events around the Powell area.
“When we talk about permanent jewelry, people are asking if I mean tattoos,” Lett said. “I have to tell them that it’s jewelry that is welded on, that’s all. You don’t take it on and off. It’s a convenience thing.”
Lett said she has a TIG welder at all of the pop-up events she attends. When someone picks out of chain for a necklace, bracelet or anklet, she puts a piece of leather between the jewelry and the skin and welds it with a jump ring.
“The whole process takes about 15 minutes,” Lett said. “It’s not like there are any sparks with the welding, but it can get hot next to the skin.”
Big seller is gold
Lett said she has had a permanent anklet since April and it has survived well.
“I’m pretty rough on it,” she said. “But it still looks like it did the day I put it on.”
She said that when she welds the jewelry with a jump ring, it creates a weak link. That way, if it needed to be removed for something like a medical procedure or for some other reason, it could be easily cut. Then, it could be re-attached with another weld.
Gold is the big seller. She said there are 10 options. There are 15 enamel possibilities and six silver.
“Turning this into a business has been more time consuming than I thought it would be,” Lett said. “Getting the word out, working behind the scenes, getting into the markets we need to be at. All that’s important.”
Being part of those markets means getting up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, something she wondered if her daughters would be willing to follow through with.
“I’ve been surprised,” she said. “They’ve enjoyed it and they’ve been ready to go.”
Keeping up with the trends
The jewelry Lett has to sell ranges anywhere from $48 to $98. She said she plans on adding charms to what she has to offer.
“At first, I didn’t order a huge amount of fall-colored chains, since they’d be on someone year ‘round,” Lett said. “I was surprised how well they’ve sold. I’ve had to order more.
“I try to keep up with all of the trends, but that’s one I really didn’t expect.”
Lett said her welder draws a lot of interest at shows. It has a microscope on it, which allows her to see if she has a solid weld.
“When they see it, people will stop and ask questions,” she said. “I try to show them as much as I can. They can see that the jewelry will go with everything they wear.”
Farragut Harvest Fest a fun day for all
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
It was a beautiful fall day for the third annual Farragut Harvest Festival presented by Shop Farragut at Village Green Shopping Center on Oct. 22.
About 2,000 people, more than a few dressed for the costume contest, gathered by the end of the day at the popular shopping center at 11505 Kingston Pike.
About 68 vendors set up for the event, many in costume, handing out candy, promotional items, or toys to trick-or-treaters.
“Everyone gets to do a little trick-or-treating, listen to live music and just generally have fun,” said Stephen Krempasky, executive director of Shop Farragut.
“We have the festival to showcase the wonderful shops we have here and all over Farragut. We’re promoting Farragut business; most of the vendors are from the Farragut area.
“Farragut loves its sales tax. That’s how we run the town. We don’t have a property tax so it’s important for our businesses to do well. When they do well, our town does well. Most of all, this is a free event, so we want the community to come out and enjoy the day and each other,” Krempasky said.
There were princesses aplenty in attendance, several dogs, a pirate family, and even a dinosaur. The dinosaur gathered more than a few laughs with his antics.
EmiSunshine opened the festival with her special blend of music. She got toes tapping and more than a little applause for her rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey.”
She was followed by local blues band Mighty Blue singing blues and rock tunes.
A costume contest was judged by WVLT-TV personality Whitney Kent, Tennessee District 14 State Rep. Jason Zachary, and WIVK 107.7 morning host Nancy Barger.
Winners of the six-category costume contest received gift merchandise and gift certificates donated from a variety of Farragut businesses, including Funky Meat Snacks, The Embroidery Boutique, Stretch Fusion, The Admiral Pub, Water Into Wine, Admiral Nutrition, Kona Ice, Dream Katcher Lodge, Blue Ridge Yoga, and JC Penney.
Winners of the Group category were the Vigil family dressed as “Moana” characters. The 50-and-over category first-place winner was a tie – Tami Bradford and her husband, David, won with their pirate costumes. Other winners include the 12-and-under winner, Alex McQueen, 6; Best Baby category winner was Everleigh Gribbons, 14 months; Judges Choice category winner was Patrick Mugridge, Ed Henderson and daughter Avery, 2, with Jessica Henderson and dog “Q”; and Best Pet category Henry Simpson and his “Football Dog.”
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