News Briefs:

Randy Travis films suicide prevention PSA in Maryville
Country singer Randy Travis left more than Foothills Fall Festival memories when his tour bus rolled out of town Monday.

The country star taped a public service announcement that organizers hope will help prevent suicides throughout the
country and remove the stigma of mental illness.

The PSA was filmed on the ground floor of the Ruby Tuesday corporate office building Monday morning. The production came about because of the efforts of hair designer Phillip Ivey and Dario and Josh Gildrie.

Ivey, whose parents live in the Seymour section of Blount County, has been friends with Travis for 10 years. The two met while Ivey was working on the set of the movie "Blackdog." While Ivey went on to work on movie sets all over the world, most recently on the movie "We are Marshall," he and Travis remained close.

Ivey said that after his youngest son, Damon, committed suicide in January of this year, Travis contacted him and offered condolences on behalf of himself and his wife, Elizabeth Travis.

Dario Gildrie, who owns the DA-SH film production company with his brother Josh Gildrie in Knoxville, was also a friend of Iveys, and he lost his wife, Stella, to suicide. The two decided to start the Damon and Stella Foundation for Mental Health to support those with mental illness and to help curb the amount of suicides in the country. The Randy Travis commercial is the first in what they hope will be a set of four commercials. They said they hope to roll out the commercials to a nationwide audience in 2007.

"Randy knew Damon. We did the last episode of (the television show) "I’ll Fly Away" together. He and Elizabeth pulled out the stops to make this happen," Ivey said of Randy and Elizabeth Travis staying in Maryville to film the commercial the day after the festival wrapped.

Because of a contact Dario had with Ruby Tuesday, the company allowed them to film the commercial on site.

"Everyone involved has given freely of resources and equipment, and I’m really thankful," Ivey said.

Dario Gildrie said the project meant a lot to everyone involved. "We’ve been working on this for a while. This is the very beginning of something that will go on through the rest of my life," Dario Gildrie said. "It feels very good."

Calloway Oil gives $5,500 to area schools
Tommy Hunt of Calloway Oil announced Tuesday that Exxon had donated $5,500 to 11 schools in Blount County. The grants were part of an annual program whereby the company gives money to help schools throughout the nation.

"It’s something we try do every year," said Hunt. "In April our stores have to meet certain guidelines from Exxon," which include standards in cleanliness, overall volume of customers and how well the image of each individual store is maintained, he said.

In addition, mystery shoppers visit the stores to check on the employees and how the stores are run. "If we have a good score with that, then we qualify for the grants," he said. "We get forms to the schools in spring, and the checks come out in the fall."

Hunt explained that the money must be used instruments, enrichment such as computer software, globes, books, Reading is Fun programs. School officials fill out the form and explain how they’ll use the money. Maryville High School was going to use their funds to buy drapes for the theater, Hunt said.

Hunt said the Calloway Oil had been working with Exxon to get the grant dollars to area schools for six or seven years. In Blount County, the 11 schools getting money include: Maryville High School, Eagleton Middle School, Maryville Intermediate School, and Fort Craig School for Dynamic Learning, Heritage High School, Foothills Elementary School, William Blount High School, Maryville Middle School, Fairview Elementary School, Mary Blount Elementary School and Alcoa High School
Hunt said he felt fortunate to get the grant money. "A school in Polk County said the $500 grant was the largest grant they had ever received," he said.

Hunt said the grants are a way Exxon gives back to the community. "It’s a way to say thank you to the community and to help our schools and children get a little extra benefit," he said.

Calloway Oil owns 20 convenience stores from Polk County to Loudon County and Anderson County back to Polk County with 215 employees total in the chain, Hunt said.

Alcoa Fire and Rescue earns life safety award
The City of Alcoa Fire-Rescue Department has been presented with a Life Safety Achievement Award for the year 2005 by the Residential Fire Safety Institute (RFSI). Roy L. Marshall, Director of the RFSI, recently announced the award winners.

For 13 years, the Life Safety Achievement Award has recognized local fire prevention activities that contributed to reducing the number of lives lost in residential fires. The City of Alcoa Fire-Rescue Department qualified for this award because it recorded no fire deaths in structures in 2005. Although residential fires in the U.S. account for only 20 percent of all fires, they result in 80 percent of all fire deaths. The RFSI is committed to reducing that number. As of October 1, 2006, 769 fire departments in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Japan and Greece received the 2005 award.

"Experience tells us that fire prevention activity and public education can significantly reduce life and property loss from residential fires," Marshall said. "Prevention and education are very cost effective compared to the traditional approach of relying on fire suppression. The Life Safety Achievement Award recognizes fire departments for their fire prevention efforts and encourages them to continually improve those efforts."

The RFSI is a public interest group whose mission is to reduce residential fire deaths and injuries. The RFSI advocates the use of residential fire sprinklers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and teaching people fire-safe behavior.

City Manager Mark Johnson said, "The citizens of Alcoa are deeply appreciative to the fire fighters for their hard work and dedication for the fire protection services they provide to Alcoa citizens and property."

Alcoa Inc. highlights service with projects at zoo, park
Employees of Alcoa, Inc., recently participated in the company’s annual worldwide month of service events. Events were be held in more than 200 Alcoa locations in 33 countries - including Tennessee Operations.

Employees partnered with local nonprofit organizations to do projects that would have "a real and lasting impact," said an Alcoa Inc., press release.

Alcoa’s senior leadership also was personally involved. This year’s theme was Conservation and Sustainability. Last year, more than 6,000 employees at 170 locations in 27 countries participated in the Week of Service.

The first event happened Oct. 13 at the Knoxville Zoological Gardens. Alcoa, Inc., donated roughly two tons of playground sand to use in exhibits at the zoo. Alcoa volunteers dispersed the sand in the exhibits. They also did a variety of other tasks, including planting, painting, sorting recyclables, and doing light construction in select zoo exhibits.

On Oct. 14 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, employees installed water bars and steps along the Appalachian Trail. The water bars were installed to prevent erosion.

Knoxville Zoo also was awarded a $3,000 ACTION grant and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was awarded a $1,500 ACTION grant for Alcoa’s volunteer efforts. ACTION (Alcoans Coming Together In Our Neighborhoods) recognized the team efforts of Alcoa employees who spend time on a community service project for a local nonprofit/non-governmental organization.

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