Beware of sales calls disguised as surveys

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says they have received numerous complaints from individuals who report receiving deceptive sales calls. The callers identify themselves with Political Opinions of America and ask you to participate in a brief survey, usually consisting of about three questions. After answering the questions, the individual is transferred to someone offering them a bonus for participating in the survey — usually a sales pitch for a time-share disguised as a “free vacation.”

The FTC warns that if the purpose of the call is to try to sell something — even if it includes a survey — it is telemarketing and all Do Not Call Registry rules apply.

If you believe a call violates the FTC rules against telemarketing, you can file a complaint by calling 888-382-1222 or go to

Bowled Over

Liberty Bowl Stadium(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Liberty Bowl Stadium
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s more to bowl-game trips than football

As football season fades into history, host cities gear up for events that really score. Get ready for kickoff with a tour of the 2015 bowl games in cities across the South — which are great places to visit anytime.

December 23

GoDaddy Bowl; Mobile, Alabama; Ladd-Peebles Stadium

Let’s start your tour with the week leading up to the bowl game in Mobile. The focus is on the bowl’s eve and its Mardi Gras-style parade. Marching bands and cheerleaders from each bowl team will help pump up team spirit. The parade culminates in a giant pep rally on the waterfront at Mobile Bay. So don’t sit on the sidelines. Get into the action.

Other sights to see:

USS Alabama in Mobile Bay

USS Alabama
(Photo courtesy of USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park)

The USS Alabama arrived in Mobile Bay in 1964 and opened for public tours a year later. Bill Tunnell, executive director of the USS Alabama Memorial Park, says bowl week is always a lot of fun for players and fans.

One of the best places to view Mobile’s historic past is at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows date to 1890, so bring your camera. And this would be a good place to say a prayer for a successful Hail Mary near game’s end. The church is at 2 S. Claiborne St.

Where to eat: Regina’s Kitchen, 2056 Government St., a mile from the stadium. Best bet: muffuletta with a side of potato salad.

December 26

Camping World Independence Bowl; Shreveport, Louisiana; Independence Stadium

On our next stop, the days leading up to the bowl game see a marked change in the city of Shreveport. Fans sporting team colors are out in full force enjoying the many cool, old places to eat, drink and socialize along the riverfront. There will be a pep rally, which consistently draws big crowds. And there’s always been a free event for families: Fan Fest — a fun time with face painting, jump houses and more.

If you feel the need to shop, there’s no better place to go than Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, home to 60-plus stores. “It’s probably the most-popular destination for football fans,” says Chris Jay, with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.

Kids will enjoy spending time at Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center. It’s always ranked in the top 10 of children’s science museums in the country.

Where to eat: Sam’s Southern Eatery, 3500 Jewella Ave., 0.7 miles from the stadium. One of the best spots in town for fried seafood. Favorite dish? It’s a coin toss between the 3N3 — three shrimp and three fish fillets — or the shrimp with red beans and rice.

December 30

Birmingham Bowl; Birmingham, Alabama; Legion Field

The journey continues as the year winds down. It’s one of the smaller bowl games, but don’t be blindsided by the fact that there will be as much play-by-play action off the field as on.
Bowl eve begins with the Monday Morning Quarterback Club Team Luncheon. The public is welcome, but tickets are required. Then, at 2 p.m., the Uptown Street Fest and Pep Rally kicks off a huge celebration with team bands, cheerleaders, players and live music.

And if you have time, make a drive to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum with its collection of almost 750 vintage and modern motorcycles and race cars.

Where to eat: Niki’s West Steak and Seafood, 233 Finley Ave. W, 2.7 miles from the stadium. Some of the best soul food in Alabama. Fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, stewed okra and white beans are favorite sides to daily entree choices.

December 30

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl; Nashville, Tennessee; Nissan Stadium

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship (Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship
(Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

The home of country music earns a stop on the itinerary. Last year’s Music City Bowl was one of the highest-attended in its 17-year history, and organizers are hopeful to repeat that success this year. To kick things off, there’s a battle off the field on game eve: MusicFest and Battle of the Bands. It begins with the Hot Chicken Eating World Championships, followed by a free concert at Riverfront Park. The evening ends with the two team bands “duking it out” on the streets.

While in town, be sure to make time for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where the history of country music comes alive.

Where to eat: Manny’s House of Pizza, 15 Arcade Alley, 0.8 miles from the stadium. Creative pies are the trademark of this pizzeria, as well as great spaghetti and calzones. A local favorite.

December 31

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl; Atlanta, Georgia; Georgia Dome

Don’t forget to plan a New Year’s Eve stop. When traveling to a city the size of Atlanta, deciding what venues to visit is difficult. And during bowl week, they’re often crowded. The Peach Bowl draws one of the largest of all bowl crowds. Visitors enjoy the restaurants, sights and sounds of The Big Peach, including the Peach Bowl Parade. Dozens of bands and floats pass through the streets.

To narrow down the playing field of other sights to see, there are two places near the Georgia Dome. The College Football Hall of Fame is a touchdown for football fans with its interactive exhibits and helmet and jersey collections. And for fishy folks, there’s the Georgia Aquarium and the inhabitants of its 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water.

Where to eat: Jamal’s Buffalo Wings, 10 Northside Drive NW, 0.7 miles from the stadium. Scramble over to Jamal’s for a football tradition: wings. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, but don’t let that stop you.

January 2

AutoZone Liberty Bowl; Memphis, Tennessee; Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium

Bash on Beale Pep Rally (Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Bash on Beale Pep Rally
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s nothing sad about ending a bowl season journey at the home of the blues. As if Beale Street wasn’t busy on any given day or night, it scores big with an undercurrent of excitement that builds as the Liberty Bowl teams come to town, exploding at the Bash on Beale Pep Rally. The area comes alive beginning at 3 p.m. with a parade featuring local bands, team bands, cheerleaders and more. When the parade ends, the pep rally begins. And this year, it all happens on Jan. 1, the day before the game.
And if there’s time in your schedule, don’t forget a tour of Graceland, as well as Sun Studios where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and more sang the blues.

Where to eat: Soul Fish, 862 S. Cooper St., 1.4 miles from the stadium. The best catfish, Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos in Memphis, but the place scores an extra point for its oyster po’ boys.

Tech-Savvy Traveler:

As if the holidays didn’t provide enough excitement, it’s nearly time for an unending blitz of college bowl games. There are a few apps to help get us even further into the game. Team Stream is a popular sports news app by Bleacher Report. Want the latest scores and highlights? The ESPN app alerts you when your team scores. Searching for a social media society of sports fans? FanCred’s app could help visiting fans survive a trip into hostile territory.

For the love of food

A Q&A with Stephanie Parker, a blogger from Birmingham, Alabama, who loves to share recipes and family adventures with fellow foodies on her blog “Plain Chicken.” Check out her blog …

What do readers find at your blog in addition to recipes?
Stephanie Parker: In addition to recipes, Plain Chicken posts about our world travels and our three cats, and we also post a weekly menu on Sunday to help get you ready for the week.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SP: Blogging started as a way for me to store recipes. I would make food and take it to work. People would ask for the recipe later, and I had to search for it. I decided to make a blog and store everything online. The blog started expanding because we were in a dinner rut. I decided to make one new recipe a week. Well, that morphed into four new recipes a week. Plain Chicken has totally changed my life. I was in corporate accounting for over 18 years. Plain Chicken took off, and I was able to quit my corporate job and focus solely on I am so lucky to be able to do something that I love every single day.

Everyone has different tastes, so when the extended family gets together, what kind of menu can you plan to please everyone?
SP: Pleasing everyone is always hard, especially nowadays with all the different diet plans people are on. I always try to have something for everyone. If you know someone is vegetarian or gluten-free, make sure they have some options. But for me, at the end of the day, I’m their hostess, not their dietitian.

What are some ideas for getting the children involved in preparing the holiday meal?
SP: Getting the children involved with preparing the holiday meal is a great idea. When making the cornbread dressing, let the children mix up the batter and crumble the cooked cornbread. Have the children mix the cookie batter and form the cookies. For safety’s sake, just make sure the adults put things in the oven and take them out.

Budgets play a big role in planning holiday menus. What are some ideas for hosting a party with “champagne taste on a beer budget?”
SP: Plan your menu early and watch the grocery store sales. Buy ingredients and store them for the holidays. Freeze what you can, and store canned/dry goods in the pantry. Wholesale clubs, like Sam’s and Costco, are also great places to buy large quantities of items and meats.

Do you have a good recipe for the holidays you’re willing to share?
SP: Yes. Spicy Ranch Crackers are a great snack to have on hand during the holidays. The recipe makes a lot, and the crackers will keep for weeks. They are perfect for unexpected guests and are also great in soups and stews.

Spicy Ranch Crackers
Spicy Ranch Crackers
1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix
1/2 to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 box saltine crackers

Combine dry ranch mix, cayenne pepper and oil. Pour over crackers. Toss crackers every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes, until all crackers are coated and there is no more oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Store in a resealable plastic bag.

Other food blogs that might tempt your palate:
This site combines a love of reading, writing and cooking into a blog that will keep you busy in the kitchen creating recipes that have been tested and tweaked for delicious results.
Even for people who work with food for a living, the editors at Saveur “were overcome with desire,” and named this blog its “Blog of the Year” for 2014.
This Prattville, Alabama-based blog focuses on Southern food with the idea that “food down South is not all about deep frying and smothering stuff in gravy.”

Connected Christmas

Your 2015 Gadget-Giving Guide

Ah, Christmas. It’s approaching quickly, and it’s never too early to start shopping. But are you struggling with what to buy that someone who has everything? Here are some of the season’s hottest items that are sure to impress that technologically savvy, hard-to-buy-for family member, significant other or friend.

Wocket Smart Wallet


If you’re tired of keeping up with all the cards in your wallet, the Wocket is for you.

The Wocket Smart Wallet is the world’s smartest wallet. How does it work? First swipe your cards using the card reader included in the Wocket. Information like your voter registration or any membership or loyalty cards with bar codes can also be entered manually.

The information stored in the Wocket is then transmitted through the WocketCard.
The WocketCard gives the information to the point-of-sale device when it is swiped, just as with a regular credit card.

For only $229, you can own the smartest wallet on the planet. Order yours at


The Lily Drone

Have you been considering getting a drone, but can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger? Meet Lily, the drone that takes flight on its own, literally. All you have to do is toss it up in the air, and the motors automatically start.

Unlike traditional drones that require the user to operate what looks like a video game controller, Lily relies on a hockey puck-shaped tracking device strapped to the user’s wrist. GPS and visual subject tracking help Lily know where you are. Unlike other drones, Lily is tethered to you at all times when flying.

Lily features a camera that captures 12-megapixel stills, and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, or 720p at 120 frames per second. You can preorder today, but Lily will not be delivered until May 2016. Expect to pay $999.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a new personal assistant, Amazon has you covered. The Amazon Echo is designed to do as you command — whether it be adding milk to your shopping list, answering trivia, controlling household temperature or playing your favorite music playlist.

The Echo, which uses an advanced voice recognition system, has seven microphones and can hear your voice from across a room. The Echo activates when hearing the “wake word.” The Echo is constantly evolving, adapting to your speech patterns and personal preferences. “Alexa” is the brain within Echo, which is built into the cloud, meaning it’s constantly getting smarter and updating automatically.

It’s available for $179.99 on



Have you ever wondered what your beloved pup is doing while you’re not at home? Wonder no more. iCPooch allows you to see your dog whenever you’re away. By attaching a tablet to the base of iCPooch, your dog can see you, and you can see them — you can even command iCPooch to dispense a treat.

Just download the free app to your tablet or smartphone and never miss a moment with your pup!

iCPooch is available for $99, not including tablet, from Amazon and the website

Classic Christmas Cookies

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky, makes family cookie recipes her own.

Cookies so good Santa won’t want to leave

By Anne P. Braly,
Food Editor

We all know that holiday cookies are a lot more than sugar, flour and eggs. They tell a story. Remember walking into grandma’s house only to see warm cookies she just took from the oven sitting on the counter?

Hope Barker has similar stories when she reminisces about baking cookies with her mom. Her favorite recipe is a simple one: sugar cookies.
“My mom and I used to make these when I was young,” she recalls. The recipe came from an old cookbook — now so yellowed and worn with age that it’s fallen apart, but, thankfully the pages were saved and are now kept in a folder.

She learned to cook at the apron strings of her mother, Glyndia Conley, and both grandmothers. “I can remember baking when I was in elementary school,” Barker says. “My mom and I made sugar cookies to take to school parties. And Mamaw Essie (Conley) taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. From Mamaw Nora (Cottle), I learned how to make stack pies — very thin apple pies stacked and sliced like a cake.”

She honed these techniques and soon became known for her baking skills in her town of West Liberty, Kentucky, so much so that she opened a bakery business that she operated from her home, making cookies and cakes for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other special events.
During the holidays, cookies are in demand. Not only are they scrumptious, but just about everyone loves them, too. They make great gifts from the kitchen, and if you arrange them on a beautiful platter, they can become your centerpiece.

“Cookies are easy to make and easy to package,” Barker says. “They don’t require plates and forks, so they are more convenient than many other desserts. Also, because they are less time-consuming, you can make a variety in less time than many other desserts. They can be decorated many different ways. And who doesn’t love to get a plate of pretty cookies?”

But there is one big mistake some less-practiced cooks often make when baking cookies — overbaking.

“If you leave them in the oven until they ‘look’ done, they are going to be overdone,” Barker warns. “The heat in the cookies will continue to bake them after you have taken them out of the oven.”

She says the best outcome for pretty cookies is to start with the right equipment — a good, heavy cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. “This will keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet and help them to brown more evenly on the bottom,” she says. And when finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before putting them in a sealed, airtight container to keep them moist.

Barker no longer caters, but she continues to do a lot of baking during the holidays for family, coworkers and friends.
Cookies, she says, just seem to be a universal sign of welcome, good wishes and happy holidays.

Sugar cookies are a delicious and versatile classic during the holiday season. This is Hope Barker’s favorite recipe. They can be made as drop cookies or chilled and rolled for cut-out cookies. You can use the fresh dough and roll balls of it in cinnamon sugar to make Snickerdoodles, or use it as a crust for a fruit pizza.

Classic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk
Additional sugar (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix very well. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Make sure all ingredients are well-incorporated.
For drop cookies, scoop fresh dough into 1-inch balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Smear a small amount of shortening on the bottom of a glass, dip the glass into the sugar of your choice and flatten each dough ball into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. Continue to dip the glass into sugar and flatten the dough balls until all are flattened into disks. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Bake the cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.
For rolled and cut cookies, refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. Roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.

Sugar Cookie Variations

Various Sugar Cookies Frosted Cookies
Bake either the rolled or drop cookies. Prepare your favorite frosting recipe (or buy canned frosting) and frost the cooled cookies. Frosting can be tinted with different colors and piped on in seasonal designs.

When making the drop cookies, mix together 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1 cup granulated sugar. Roll each ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then put onto the cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass into a disk shape and bake as directed.

Maple Cookies
Replace the vanilla flavoring in the recipe with maple flavoring. Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. On the stovetop, stir together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons milk; stir well. (Be careful as the mixture will splatter a little when you add the milk.) Put saucepan back on stove and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over 1 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and mix on low/medium speed until smooth. Drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies with a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Jell-O Cookies
Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. When the cookies come out of the oven, spread a thin layer of light corn syrup on the tops with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with Jell-O gelatin powder of your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Fruit Pizza
Use about a half batch of the dough and spread evenly in a greased jelly roll pan. This will be the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough begins to get some color at the edges and on top. Let the crust cool completely. Mix together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 7 ounces marshmallow creme. Spread this over the crust. Cut up about 4 cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, etc.) and stir together with a package of strawberry fruit gel. Spread the fruit mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate before slicing and serving.

Mark your calendar!

SU5 - Services 2 Lines CDTC annual meeting
Saturday, Sept. 19
DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Alexandria

The fairground gates open at 11:45 a.m., and voting for board members will take place from noon until 4 p.m., when DTC will begin its business meeting. Sept. 10 is the final day to make changes to your membership and still be eligible to cast your ballot.

Only DTC members with proper photo ID may vote. For single memberships, only that individual may vote. For joint memberships, either member may vote — but not both. Business members must have a business affidavit. For more information about membership and voting, call DTC at 615-529-2955.

Photo Contest

2015-09-15_05h53_29Hit us with your best shot! Your amazing photo could become the front cover of the upcoming 2016 DTC Directory. The photographer of the winning cover shot will receive $250 in DTC products and services!

Please remember the rules:

  • Only DTC members may participate.
  • Please submit your photos in JPEG format.
  • Please submit only photos you took.
  • More megapixels is better. It takes a lot of pixels to print a photo on our cover, so the more pixels, the better the chance we can use your photo.
  • Files must be under 10 MB.
  • Photos must be in electronic form.
  • Photos with added borders or text will not be accepted. We will take care of the layout.
  • There is no limit on the number of photos you can submit. However, please use good judgment and submit only quality photos.
  • DTC employees and their immediate family members can participate, but no cash prize will be available.
  • Mailed entries must be postmarked by Nov. 1. Emailed photos must be sent by Nov. 1.

Entries may be submitted by visiting DTC’s website at or by mailing photos on a CD to: DTC, Attn: Photo Contest, P.O. Box 247, Alexandria, TN 37012.

Back on course


Cruising around the lake as a golden sunset glimmers off the water is the ideal boating experience, but once in a while you hit a patch of rough water, as Crane Interiors did in 2009.

By Matt Ledger

A commitment to quality starts with a focus on the little details.

And for Crane Interiors, that means every stitch.

The Woodbury-based marine upholstery company runs as a single shift each day — because each sewing machine is calibrated for a specific person to produce exacting results.


Chris Anderson, GM at Crane Interiors, says the company manufactures marine upholstery for everything from small fishing boats to luxury sport cruisers.

That commitment goes back to the beginning of the operation. The company began as Crane Manufacturing in Nashville during the late ’60s. In 1984, Larry Buckland and Tom Evans — retired executives from General Electric — purchased the business out of bankruptcy, changing the name to Crane Interiors. The entire operation moved to Woodbury four years later, leasing a building from the Cannon County Industrial Board.

“The boating industry isn’t cyclical anymore,” says General Manager Chris Anderson. “It used to be that the builders only made boats six months out of the year, and then they’d shut down.” However, Crane Interiors’ largest customer is Knoxville-based Yamaha Boats, which requires marine seating and padding for 96 boats each week for 48 weeks of the year. Year-round production helps the company retain workers and maintain quality standards. That alone is a tall order for the 175 employees on staff, but Crane Interiors also manufactures seating and bolsters for Boston Whaler, Sea Ray, Scout, Everglades and MasterCraft, making from 10 to 30 pieces for each watercraft, ranging from fishing boats to luxurious sport cruisers.

The company has rebounded from its lowest point in 2009, when $14.5 million in annual sales sank to $4.5 million as the Great Recession took hold. “We weathered the storm, and I kept our core group of people,” says Anderson. “We even tried to find them odd jobs on the weeks when they were laid off, just to keep them in the family.” Crane Interiors didn’t capsize; Anderson even laid himself off for 16 weeks to keep things afloat.

As the economy improved, the company began filling positions and methodically returned to full capacity. Crane Interiors has a sunny future on the horizon, hopeful for expansion when Yamaha begins making larger sport boats.

Crane Interiors, of Woodbury, creates marine upholstery for watercraft, including Yamaha Boats.

Crane Interiors is among many businesses that are benefiting from streamlining to one telecommunications provider. “I like having services where it’s basically one-stop shopping,” adds Anderson. “If I ever have an issue, whether it’s phone or Internet, I just call this local number, and DTC usually has someone in the area the same day. You wouldn’t see that from other providers.

“We changed our phone system to DTC because our old one was outdated. They came in and replaced our whole network and put it in another room,” Anderson says. “It’s been great because it’s been a lot more reliable than it was before.”

Crane Interiors has the full suite of DTC services, adding phone and Internet. They also integrated new security cameras with 1st Choice’s DVR system in 2015.

“Dependable Internet is crucial to us because most of our orders come by email,” Anderson says. “Our goal is that when our customers send us a work order, then later that same day we are addressing that issue and emailing them back.”

Blackout Bingo

proof April DTC Bingo 4.25x5.5Blackout BINGO is back for a second season beginning Monday, Sept. 7. Each game will air on Monday and Tuesday nights on DTC3 at 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. through the end of November. There will be a total of 63 numbers called for this next round.

Stop by your local DTC business office each month and pick up a color-coded Blackout BINGO card. Then tune in each night to play! Be sure to pick up a new card at the beginning of each month.

It’s free, it’s fun and you might be a winner! Black out each space on your BINGO card, and you’re a winner! There will be a grand-prize winner each week for a $50 restaurant gift card, but everyone who has a Blackout Bingo will receive a prize.

At the end of the Blackout BINGO season, all weekly winners will be entered into a drawing for a $250 Visa gift card. Complete rules can be found at or at your nearest DTC location.

Providing a path in the life of a child

By Matt Ledger

Ben and Ermeda Chapman founded Lighthouse Christian Camp, in 1981 for disadvantaged children.

Ben and Ermeda Chapman founded Lighthouse Christian Camp, in 1981 for disadvantaged children.

In the 1960s, Ben Chapman had his eye on two things that would ultimately provide great meaning to his life. Naturally, the first was a lady, named Ermeda — they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2014.

The second was a rugged piece of land that he found when they were newlyweds.
It took a while, but the Chapmans would eventually turn that tract of land into Lighthouse Christian Camp, which has helped build self esteem and has provided a refuge for thousands of disadvantaged kids.

Building a brighter future

Secluded benches provide the perfect opportunity for times of reflection or discussions of faith at Lighthouse Christian Camp in Smithville.

Secluded benches provide the perfect opportunity for times of reflection or discussions of faith at Lighthouse Christian Camp in Smithville.

Living in Baxter in the 1960s, both Ben and Ermeda worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, and his responsibilities as a ranger brought him by a large property adjacent to the Corps of Engineers land. Chapman contacted the owner, asking if he would sell the property. “Back then, I think my salary was about $4,500 a year, and hers was only $3,000,” Chapman says. “I tried to secure a loan, but bank officers just laughed at me.”

Impressed by Chapman’s career, the landowner decided to finance the couple for the purchase of the property. “We worked hard and managed to make the payments,” Chapman says. A few years later, Chapman purchased another tract of land with a farm, creating a 400-acre oasis, with a single gravel road that wandered over pine-covered hills and valleys.
“We were going to be big land barons,” Chapman says, joking. “Then I got saved in 1973, and when that happened everything changed.” Shortly after that he became a pastor, and the Chapmans purchased another farm in Clay County. “That’s when God started working on my heart about making a camp,” he says. “So we gave everything away — our home, our land, our horses and cattle — everything.” With that, Lighthouse Christian Camp soon became a reality and a 501(c)(3) charity in 1982, and Chapman resigned from his profession to focus on the project full time.

Ermeda and Bob Chapman founded Lighthouse Christian Camp which reaches kids ages 9 to 12 throughout the summer.

Ermeda and Bob Chapman founded Lighthouse Christian Camp which reaches kids ages 9 to 12 throughout the summer.

With no income, Chapman was determined to get started, doing much of the labor himself by cutting timber and improving the site to suit his long-term vision. The tack room became a snack bar, and barn stalls were turned into small cabins, as church groups began signing up for the summer camp program. Chapman also built two small log homes — still used to this day — and two outhouses, which were thankfully retired long ago.
More than 50 disadvantaged, abused or neglected kids were able to attend the first year. “At the end of the week, it was hard to get them back on the bus; they didn’t want to leave,” Chapman recalls. “They were hugging each other and had never really been in a place like this.” The compassionate environment at the camp led the Chapmans to become foster parents a few years later.

“God kept putting a question in my head: ‘What are you going to do about those children who could never come — the ones that are forgotten in society?’” he says. With another leap of faith, Chapman decided to make it free for children in 1984, and the challenge became how to fund it.

While in Nashville, Chapman was fortunate to meet a former professional boxing trainer named Kerry Pharr. “God had turned his life around, and he got saved at a camp,” Chapman says. Now a successful businessman and inspirational speaker, Pharr was willing to substantially donate to the camp. The two men went to the impoverished portions of the city, inviting children ages 8 to 16 to attend the summer camp.

Camp grows, along with kids’ needs

Campers wait their turn to ride on one of several horses, which helps build confidence for those youngsters who have never ridden before.

Campers wait their turn to ride on one of several horses, which helps build confidence for those youngsters who have never ridden before.

Chapman continued to add to the original camp facilities as donations allowed, building a gymnasium and larger group houses instead of cabins. Chapman says the Lord provided, often right when he needed funding. One donor who had consistently given a check of $25 a month for many years sent a one-time donation of $88,000 just as Chapman wanted to build the girls group homes.

To further expand the camp, the Chapmans sought qualified people who shared their vision and Christian faith. “One of our greatest needs is getting strong people to volunteer,” he says. Couples stay in a room adjacent to a bunkhouse with up to 10 kids. A few elderly widows who want to remain active in their twilight years live at the camp rent-free in exchange for helping prepare food and care for the children.

Two young campers pedal their way around the nearby lake.

Two young campers pedal their way around the nearby lake.

In 2002, a second camp was built on the site — without ever needing a loan — and now it includes a dining hall, hiking trails and pool. Now, the camp focuses on children ages 9 to 12, alternating weeks for boys and girls throughout the summer. Through the years, nearly 20,000 children have attended the camp for free. Some kids that attended the facility call back years later as adults, hoping their child may have that same experience. After their first visit to the camp, kids can return for weekend retreats each month. Local youngsters can attend a weekly program, which provides games, a meal and a Bible study session.

The camp has also hosted a Christmas celebration ever since the completion of the gymnasium in 1988. It was a modest gathering that first year, but has grown so large now that it needs 200 volunteers. A mission group of 30 people from Wisconsin and Minnesota has even come to help. Approximately 800 kids will return for the gathering with a large holiday meal and a few presents bought by others trying to make a difference.

A youth counselor tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan to children.

A youth counselor tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan to children.

The Chapmans selected DTC for internet and phone services many years ago, using social media and the camp website to recruit volunteers. Many of the contributions to the camp are made online, at

The site features updates on their ministries and upcoming events like the Lighthouse Kids Golf Challenge on May 11. Like much of the rest of the camp, somehow, it all comes together.

“We have an obligation with no congregation and no assurances,” Chapman says. “We start each year — or week for that matter — by faith.”

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