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STAR Facilities Manager shares life of service

KNOXVILLE — The farm at Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding in South Knoxville seems like it is often quiet, operating at a slower pace as staff members prepare for the facility to open. But today people busily funnel in and out of the small building that sits beside the barn, wearing headsets or Walkie Talkies.

“Those aren’t usually there,” STAR Facilities Manager, John DeVault says, gesturing towards sheets of newspaper that have been taped to the fluorescent lights on the ceiling.

The small room with desks and a peculiar built-in jail cell, that DeVault says was already there when STAR bought the property earlier this year, has been converted into a set for a movie.

“They just filmed a jail scene in here I think,” he says. A week ago a popular television channel arrived at the farm to shoot scenes for a new movie. This is something that seems like it could be a common occurrence on the facility’s sweeping pastures overlooking Fort Loudon Lake.

The farm is not yet functional as a new branch of STAR’s main Lenoir City location. Much of the on-site preparation for the grand opening of the branch is being done by DeVault, a native of Bristol, who works as a youth pastor at Blue Springs Baptist Church as well as taking care of STAR’s property for the past five years.

DeVault sits back in one of the old wooden office chairs littering the room and looks at the floor, recalling details.

“I did an internship at STAR and became friends with the Facilities Manager at that point and then when he left the organization I applied for the job.

John and Stephanie DeVault

John and Stephanie DeVault.

“My grandfather has a farm that I helped on and it was work that I enjoyed doing and, just, came pretty natural and I knew I could handle the job. When I was doing my internship, when I got done with the office tasks I would say ‘hey I’m gonna go help your facilities manager out.’ So we would go mow and put out hay and stuff like that together and what’s interesting is he still helps me out at the farm now.”

DeVault worked on his grandfather’s farm until he left Bristol to attend the University of Tennessee, getting a degree in Child and Family Studies as well as meeting his wife, Stephanie.

“She went to Johnson briefly actually, until her major was dropped. She was majoring in Disability Ministry and I think the guy who had started that decided to retire.”

Stephanie then transferred to the University of Tennessee for Therapeutic Recreation, which is where she met John.

“She always said she never wanted to marry a pastor and then she met me,” he said, smiling “I said ‘by the way I’m a youth pastor’ and she said ‘Oh, great.’ She’s involved with me as far as helping out with the youth ministry and she loves doing it. So she helps me out, she keeps me in line. I’m not organized at all,” he laughed.

Stephanie now works at The Sertoma Center in Knoxville as a recreational therapist leading cooking classes for clients and is expecting the couple’s first child in just a few weeks.

DeVault noted that UT may have been an interesting choice since Youth Ministry was his aim from the time he was in High School.

“I don’t think what I thought youth ministry was then is what it is now but it was something I was always moving towards,” he said “I always tell people, I majored in secular youth ministry – so I learned everything but the scripture that goes along with it.”

It became clear that youth ministry was his calling very quickly.

“I began working as a youth pastor, really while I was at the university at a small church my family actually went to. My grandmother went to the church and called me and went, ‘Hey our youth pastor resigned – we know what you want to do. Would you be interested?’ and I’m like ‘Yeah!’. So I began working there and I got paid, not much, but it was still a good experience.”

He worked at the church, Mouth of Richland Baptist Church in Blaine, TN, for seven years before deciding it was time to move on.

DeVault with part of his youth group.

DeVault with part of his youth group.

“Blue Springs had recently hired a new pastor that I knew,” he said “I met him through another ministry I had been doing at Mouth of Richland.”

DeVault laughed before describing the odd procedure of being hired as the youth pastor at Blue Springs.

“I realized he’s talking to me and asking me questions and I’m like ‘I think this is an interview’ and it turned into an actual interview later on and that’s how I ended up at Blue Springs.”

Despite working at Blue Spring and preparing for a new baby, DeVault explained his interest in continuing work at STAR, which goes beyond caring for the property. STAR offers many different programs in addition to their services for those with disabilities or daily challenges including Changing Strides for at-risk youth and Heroes and Horses for those who have served or are serving in the military.

DeVault painted a picture of the joy and happiness working with animals in this capacity can bring to anyone.

“There’s one rider in particular I can think of who is so determined to ride either by himself or to just get better at riding. We have a horse show in August and that’s what he wants to do, to do well in that horse show. And you see how much he tries, and how much better he’s gotten, and how much people pushed him and he gets that and learns to do it well.

“One of the things you see, many of the parents kind of realize my child may never drive a car on their own. My child is not going to have that ‘typical’ teenage experience. But they come here and they’re child is in charge. They may never be able to drive a car but they can ride that horse around the arena like nobody’s business. You see how much it helps not only the rider but the volunteers, the instructors, the parents, they’re all benefiting.”

DeVault paused then smiled, adding, “Even the facilities manager gets to benefit from seeing the impact this has on people’s lives.”

As movies are made and buildings are prepared, that impact will be seen very soon at the South Knoxville farm, and DeVault will be there to share in it.

The South Knoxville STAR location will be holding an open house on Oct. 20th for the community to come learn more about the facility. To learn more visit their website.

Students at Johnson can earn SALT hours by joining STAR as one of hundreds of volunteers with a minimum one hour a week commitment and hands on experience with the riders and horses.

Students interested in volunteering at STAR can contact Volunteer Coordinator Brittnay Ferrel at volunteer@rideatstar.org or call 865 988-4711.

 

K16NewsTennessee

K-16: Operation Backyard

KNOXVILLE — Johnson students got the opportunity to serve in various fields for K-16 and Operation Backyard was one for the more artistic students. About twenty students went to Operation Backyard to paint a house that has been owned by the same family since its initial construction in 1917.

This was a great opportunity for students to see life in the greater Knoxville area and also to help out the people of East Tennessee.

Johnson University has had campus wide service days since K-9 and there is no sign of Johnson stopping this great aid to the Knoxville community.

Video Report created by Domanic Hildebrand

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Miles McDowell speaks about Children’s Center of Knoxville

KNOXVILLE – On Wednesday, Johnson students dispersed and went out into the community to serve for K-16. One of the groups served at the Children’s Center of Knoxville where staff member, Miles McDowell was willing to share what the organization is about and what they strive for.

McDowell shared the typical structure of the daycare.p1110183

“All of our teachers are here by 8:15 and we have lead teachers in every room,” he said.”Sometimes we have an assistant teacher too but we always have two teachers in every room.”

With the age group of this facility being from six weeks to five years of age, the teachers also do some lessons with the older kids.

“We want to teach them colors, letters, and even the older kids have a letter of the week,” McDowell said.“They have a show and tell every week that includes what they learned about the letter of the week… this time they’re on C.”

The curriculum used at  CCK is Catron/Allen Creative Play. McDowell concluded with a few things that CCK strives for in regards to the children.

“We strive to get the children prepared for kindergarten and grade school in a fun and safe environment,” he said. “We also strive to be diverse, we have half of our enrollment on financial aid and scholarships because we want every kid to be prepared for the next step in their future.”

After the interview,  Johnson students wrapped up the work that was being done at CCK and ended with coming together before going back to campus.

McDowell and his fellow staff members were happy to see the Johnson students again and are excited for K-17 next year.

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KARM employee finds ministry opportunity every day at work

KNOXVILLE— Down on Merchants Drive in North Knoxville exists a thrift store by the name of KARM, and within that particular thrift store April Pedigo spends some of her time. A middle-aged woman with dark hair and deep brown eyes, April works at the front desk register at KARM. However, no one would ever guess that just a few years ago she worked as a jewelry merchandiser in Las Vegas, Nev.

To some, living in Las Vegas is a dream come true, a real life Disneyland for adults. For others, home will always be here in the South, and that was the case for April. When deeply thinking about her family needs and where she wanted to be in her faith, she came to the conclusion that Knoxville, Tennessee was where she was meant to be.

That one decision ended up changing April’s life entirely.

It was a bright and beautiful morning as April walked into KARM Thrift Store 6 months ago, just hoping to find a job with good pay. To her surprise, she came away with much more. Her and her fiancé had shopped often at KARM for their family in the past, so she was familiar with the store.

“Something told me to pick up an application that day, and I did.” April said.

April was a high school graduate from Kingston, TN, so it was not difficult for her to pick up life where she had left it. But it was not an easy endeavor leaving her life in Vegas behind.

Back in Vegas, April worked under a Larimar Jewelry designer whose top client was often Princess Cruise Line. Through her work, April would pick out variations of different jewelry that clients, such as Princess Cruise Line, would appreciate, and then send it in for them to choose over. April also helped update the website for the designer she worked under.

To April, Las Vegas was a “culture shock.”

However, she knew that the exciting and stimulating lifestyle she held in Vegas would not be adaptable for her family. “[I] didn’t want my kids going to school in Las Vegas,” April said.

April has two daughters, Autumn Grace and Ariana Faith, and she states that moving back to Tennessee was the right move for them.

Her spunky and courageous spirit did not leave her side, though, when she flew back to the South. At KARM, she feels like she can be her individual self without being judge.

At KARM Thrift Store, which is a Christian establishment, ministry opportunities are everywhere. Staying true to the organizations mission, April said she sees ministry opportunities everyday at KARM.

April explains herself as being a talkative person, and her role in KARM being at the front desk register ties in well with her social merits. “I really like the fact that you do build relationships here with the customers,” April commented. “If we can just have a heart of Christ with everybody, no matter what [the situation is], love will always concur.”

Revenue that KARM Thrift Store generates goes to fund Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry, which helps the homeless and those who have fallen under drug addictions. For every purchase that a customer makes at KARM, two dollars from that purchase is donated to the cause.

You can hear April tell each customer at the end of their shopping experience how many meals they helped donate to the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry with their purchase from KARM.

In terms of her daily ministry opportunity, April frequently encounters customers who confide in her with their deepest problems and concerns. Most of the time, these customers are heavy drug addicts and dealers.

“[Drug addicts] are heavy on my heart,” April said.

She said she has had family members in the past who have gotten mixed into the messy realm of drugs.

“Luckily, praise be to God, they are clean now,” she said.

Through it all, April said she gets to be a witness to somebody, and that helps her grow as a person.

“Christ’s message was love,” April said in regards to her customers. “Everybody has a chance.”

April is optimistic about her future, and hopes to continue to grow in her faith. She also is striving to better her family financially. One day, she hopes to be able to go into the cosmetology field and reach people there with the Word of God.

“Being kind makes the world of a difference…” April said. She continues to live by those words every day as she matures her own personal ministry at KARM Thrift Store.

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