Focus Days

For almost 6 years, I was the managing editor for a local newspaper, now called the Knoxville Focus. When I began, it was the Fountain City Focus, it was a 2 color 16-page tabloid paper distributing 12,000 issues weekly; when I left in 2008, the paper was a full-color broadsheet paper with 5 sections and 36 pages distributed to 25,000 people weekly.

As in any small business, management wears many hats, I trained new employees, invoiced customers, maintained deadlines, databases and files, managed sales staff, graphic designers, writers, photographers, delivery staff and a host of other tasks. It was fun, it was challenging and it was ever-changing. I had a hard time finding the balance because I tend to do everything at 110%. I worked too many hours and spent too little time with my family. The lessons I took away from there have been invaluable. I learned my limitations and how to say “no” gracefully. No. It’s a complete sentence.


A Few Focus Newspaper Articles

These articles were written between 2003 and 2008.

Don’t forget the families

By Charmin Foth

Being an Army wife for many years and being a fairly patriotic person Memorial Day always moves me to tears. I spend the day thanking the veterans of our Armed Forces for serving their country and protecting the freedoms we can sometimes take for granted in this great land. I also say a prayer and thank those who have paid the ultimate price, those who have laid down their lives, for our freedom.

My husband was in the Army for many years, and I’ve lived through many trying times. Being a military spouse is hard; many people think it’s a choice and if you don’t like it just leave. Many spouses do just that. The biggest cause of divorce in the military is a deployment or a PCS (Permanent Change of Station). Both of those are very trying. But if you are a stand by your man (or woman) kind of person, you suck it up and drive on. You do what has to be done, and your military spouse appreciates you for it. They know when that tour is over you will be there waiting with open arms to celebrate whatever holiday they missed with the scrapbook of all the things that happened while they were gone. The hardest thing for those spouses is the fear their soldier will not come home.

I was very involved in the military community. I always felt it was better to help those around me cope with the same issues I was dealing with than it was to complain about them. I volunteered wherever we were stationed as a Family Readiness Group leader both at the company and battalion levels, as well as an Army Family Team Building trainer. Both of those volunteer positions helped the soldier’s spouse deal with things like the stress of deployment and how to deal with doing everything they needed their spouse to do. They also learned how to deal with the stress of a soldier coming home after a year tour in a gun zone and getting reintroduced to their family.

Organizing food drives and creating care packages to send soldiers were a constant. We included some of the comforts of home, like soft bathroom tissue and books to read in their off time so they don’t have to reflect so much on what is going on around them. I’ve sent chocolate kisses, coloring books and crayons for them to hand out to the many children a soldier can come into contact with during a war. I’ve helped arrange video conferences so soldiers could see their newborn babies for the first time. I’ve seen soldiers who have needed food stamps to feed their children. I’ve seen military housing that made “the projects” look good. I’ve seen people divorce over a change of duty station. And worst of all, I’ve seen wives cry because their husbands were never coming home.

The stresses of a military spouse are great, greater than many of you will ever know. I’ve been where many of them are right now. My husband is now out of the service, but it is something that never leaves you. I thank God every day that he is here with me.

I also thank God for those who serve and for their families, who sometimes go unnoticed of the many hardships they bear. Their job is so important. The next time you thank a veteran for their service, thank their family as well.


Evelyn Kirby turns 100

By Charmin Foth

On Sunday, December 30, members of Fountain City United Methodist Church and friends gathered to wish Evelyn Goddard Kirby a Happy Birthday. This was not your average birthday; this was a milestone, Evelyn celebrated 100 years. She attributed her long life to eating good food and getting out and doing things. She said she had always been active both in body and mind. Evelyn doesn’t like doctors and only takes an occasional Advil when she gets an ache in her hip. She is a testimony to living a healthy lifestyle.

Evelyn is also a historian who has documented some of the early histories of Fountain City with a book that was published by the church.

She is an alumnus of Central High Class of 1925. She celebrated her 100th birthday with her Central High classmate Louise Mathis-Widner. Louise is just a few months older than Evelyn, and they enjoyed reminiscing about their times at Central High. Evelyn told me that she dated Louise’s brother Ed for a short time while they were in school and that Ed dated all the girls. Louise said, “He only dated the pretty ones.” It was wonderful to sit and listen to them talk about how things had changed over the years.

Evelyn is still sharp, quick witted and spry for 100 years, she is a joy to be around. I can only hope that I age as gracefully as has.

Happy 100th Birthday, Evelyn! We wish you all the best.

Caption: Fellow historian Dr. Jim Tumblin talks history with Evelyn Kirby and Louise Widner.

Focus Expands – We are going places…

By Charmin Foth

It is hard to believe the Focus is only five years old. We have grown so much with each passing year. We remain independently owned and operated and will continue to do so. Our goal remains the same, to put out the best publication we can, featuring good, positive community news. The response we have had from you, our readers, has been phenomenal. In the last year, not a week went by that someone, in some other part of the county, called and asked, “How do I get the Focus?”

Because of those requests we have decided to distribute our paper county-wide. That does not mean that the coverage we already have will change at all, it only means that we will offer more of the good news we already do to other areas in the county. We love Fountain City, and our offices will remain in Fountain City. We appreciate all of our advertisers for the love and loyalty they have given us through the years, thank you. Your advertising dollars will no go much further with us than ever before as we now offer you one great community paper, with good community news for everyone in Knoxville/Knox County.

Get the Ducks Out…Boys & Girls Club Kick Off Great Rubber Duck Race

By Charmin Foth

On Tuesday, July 17th the Boys and Girls Club kicked off the selling season for the Great Rubber Duck Race that will happen on August. 18th.

Comcast hosted the kick-off party at Calhoun’s on the River, Mike Hammond of WIVK emceed the event and the children of the Boys and Girls Clubs performed. The children from the club dressed as ducks and sang “Rocky Top Duck” to kick off the new duck for sale this year. Rocky Top Duck is UT Orange and has flashing lights, but the coolest thing about this duck is it quacks. It was an afternoon of great food and fun. Sponsors got a preview from Victor Porter of WBIR for the commercial that will air on WBIR News2 and Comcast.

John D. Lee, President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, aka “the Big Quacker” spoke about the importance of this fundraiser and what it means to thousands of children in our area. A hot meal, a safe place to play and learn mean so much to these kids, help us help them.

They also debuted the t-shirt this year. Robert Weaver did the design and Duck Head provided the t-shirts. Robert works for the Western Heights Boys and Girls Club and has provided a fantastic design on a light blue shirt that makes the ducks look like they are floating on water.

If you have never been to the Duck Race, you are really missing out on an event. There are games and prizes for the children and prizes for the adults if you duck places in the race. Claiborne Hauling in the big Rubber Duck Race Dump Truck drops thousands of rubber ducks off the South Knoxville Bridge, and they make their way down the river to the Henley Street Bridge. Whichever duck comes in first this year will win a new convertible PT Cruiser from Farris Motors. The prizes this year an excellent the sponsors are excited, and this promises to be the BEST Rubber Duck Race ever.

Ducks will be on sale at various Food City locations and also at West Town Mall and Knoxville Center Mall. You can also pick up a duck adoption form here at the FOCUS office.

A chorus from Rocky Top Duck
Rocky Top Duck, you’ll always be the favorite duck for me.
Good old Rocky Top Duck, win first place for me.

Johnny Wayne Farris of Farris Motors with a replica of the PT Cruiser that will be first place this year, Mike Hammond of WIVK with a dump truck full of rubber ducks and John D. Lee, President of the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley

Rubber Duckies from the Boys and Girls Club sing out Rocky Top Duck for the crowd.

Jeff Money shows off the new t-shirt design for the race.

Taking Leave…One Soldier’s Midtour to Tennessee

By Charmin Foth

My husband and I have been well blessed with friends from his time in service to his country. During his time in the Army, we have made many friends that we have kept over the years.

These friendships run deeper than most, due mostly in part to the fact that when your husbands are away at war, you need friends to rely on who understand things your family sometimes never will. When husbands are in the same unit, under very trying times, away from family for months at a time, they tend to rely on who has their back in tough situations. These bonds can be stronger than some families. I am lucky to say Andy, and I have several such friendships.

We have known our friends Amy and Ian Tarasevitsch for ten years. We met in Germany in 1998. Amy and I bonded over a trip to Poland shopping for pottery while our husbands were making trips to Bosnia or Kosovo or whichever conflict needed to be resolved at the time.

Andy left the Army in 2002 while Ian remained on active duty. Since then, Ian and several of our other friends have had several tours in Iraq. Ian has four months left of his current tour in Iraq. When he got the opportunity for two weeks of leave, Amy called and asked if we could help them find a great place to stay in Tennessee.

It is a pretty great honor to have friends want to spend their midtour leave with you. Midtour leave can be brutal, just when the family and kids get used to dad being around again he has to say good-bye for Iraq again. It is heart-wrenching for dad too, he feels he is missing so much, and he has a duty he must fulfill. Army good-byes are never easy.

During Ian’s time abroad Amy and their children Gabriel and Jessica came to Knoxville to get away from the stress of military life. Visiting with us a few times previous to this, we were excited that Ian would finally get to visit our neck of the woods.

Since both Ian and Amy’s families are from New Jersey, and when Ian is not deployed, his duty station is Savannah, Georgia, so Tennessee is a nice halfway point for everyone.

We found them a condo in downtown Gatlinburg with enough room for their family to come meet them. It was within walking distance to everything. Park Place Condos even offered great a military discount, as did many of the attractions they visited, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, many of the miniature golf courses and go-carts and more. I was personally very pleased that so many places in Tennessee offer military discounts. You can only imagine how it makes a military family feel to know that businesses support what they do to protect our country. It made me proud to be from the Volunteer State.

We spent time visiting, reminiscing and making new memories with Ian, Amy and the kids before he is back to Iraq. These visits remind me to be thankful for my friends and I keep them in my prayers.

When Ian comes home from this tour he moves from Fort Stewart Georgia to Fort Gordon, Georgia and more than likely to another deployment that will put him in harm’s way once again. Thank you Ian, and all those like you who do what you do for our country. We hope to have you visit Tennessee again real soon! HOOAH!

Revive Us Again

By Charmin Foth

In 1970, the Billy Graham Crusade came to Knoxville. At that time, it was the largest turnout the Crusade had seen with upwards of 500,000 people attending and 12,000 people coming to know Christ. That event has shaped many of the Knoxville’s business leaders of today. One such person is Bo Shafer, who invited me out to the announcement ceremony for the East Tennessee Franklin Graham Festival. Shafer said, “This is a great thing for the city of Knoxville and all the surrounding areas, the Gospel is great news and we want everyone to know about it.” Shafer attended the 1970 crusade, and it changed his life he wants everyone to share in that experience.

Bo Shafer, Ann Furrow, Bill Fowler, Warren Payne, Dr. Joe Johnson, Rev. Gerald McGinnis, Dr. Harold Middlebrook, Dr. Hollie Miller, Herb Slatery, Donna Cobble, Dr. Ron Stewart, A.C. Massengill, Meg Millikan and Grant Standefer make up the executive committee with Rev. Lane Adams as an Honorary Chairman who worked so hard to bring the Graham ministry back here. That work has paid off, on Tuesday, September 4, the announcement was made at the Knoxville Convention Center that The Franklin Graham Festival will come to Knoxville on April 25, 26 and 27, 2008 at Thompson Bowling Arena.

Hallerin Hilton Hill gave the welcome, and his opening statement after hearing the Grace Baptist Church choir perform “Wow.” Both City Mayor Bill Haslam and County Mayor Mike Ragsdale gave greetings to more than 150 church leaders who attended the announcement celebration. It is a powerful statement for our area to have so many community leaders and business leaders stand up for their faith.

Hill said, “Today we are announcing that our city is seeking God’s wisdom. Is that not good for our city? We have the great opportunity to have leaders in our city that want God’s wisdom. I don’t care if you think it is politically correct or not, we need the Lord.”

Haslam said, “A city has a spirit to it, it has a sense of its purpose and mission. I am excited to about the impact of this event to help change that spirit, to make it one that all of can look toward and pray for it to be the kind of city we all want it to be.”

Ragsdale said, “We need to come together as a community of faith and say we are going to reach our full potential and we are not ashamed, in fact, we are very proud to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Hallerin Hilton Hill then introduced Ann Furrow as “a spark plug.”
Furrow gave the history of the 1970 crusade and how is still affecting our city. She told of how many had prayed for just such a revival. She also spoke of how the late Dr. Lane Adams was instrumental in making this event possible and just before he passed away he was named Honorary Chairman of the Festival.

The Rev. Cliff Barrows, longtime friend of evangelist Billy Graham, and associate since 1945 said, “185 countries and 419 crusades and let me tell you honestly, when we walked into this room, I felt an excitement I’d never felt at an announcement rally before.”

The Franklin Graham Festival is much more than three days of preaching. In October, there will be an emphasis on leadership and prayer with festival information seminars and student leaders. In November and December there will be a children’s leaders fellowship; Anne Graham Lotz will host a seminar for pastors and leaders called “Fan the Flame” on November 29 and 30. January emphasizes prayer, training and outreach with a discipleship seminar. February and March will focus on prayer, training, outreach with follow-up discipleship seminars, a Christian life and witness course and much more, and all this happens before the festival even begins. The greatest need of the Festival is prayer, and they ask that you begin to pray today.

The purpose of the festival is to mobilize the Christian community to assemble as many people as possible to hear the message that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; to give an opportunity for person commitments, and to refer inquirers to a local church for follow-up and Christian nurture.

If you would like more information about the Franklin Graham Festival coming to Knoxville, you can contact East Tennessee Franklin Graham Festival by calling 865-637-6386 or e-mail

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s