Making students’ dreams come true

Congratulations to NCTC’s 2015 Scholarship winners.

Congratulations to NCTC’s 2015 Scholarship winners.

North Central awards $14,000 to local high school seniors

College is off to a good start for 10 area students. North Central is proud to provide $14,000 in college scholarships to local high school seniors.

Ryan Rough, pictured far left, a senior at Allen County-Scottsville High School, was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) and NCTC. The FRS scholarship is awarded to high school seniors, like Rough, who are good students and who work to serve their community.

Nine local students were awarded $1,000 scholarships from NCTC. The students are (top photo, left to right): Jonathan Jones (Red Boiling Springs High School), Adam Cornwell (Trousdale County High School), Haylee Hodges (Portland High School), Jordan Durham (Gallatin High School), Hayley Andrews (Westmoreland High School), Sebastian Brawner (Macon County High School), Jessica Neal (Smith County High School), Heagan Caldwell (Clay County High School) and, not pictured, Quinn Towery (Allen County-Scottsville High School).

NCTC’s Ramona Wilmore, left, accompanied Madison Medrano on her Washington, D.C. trip.

NCTC’s Ramona Wilmore, left, accompanied Madison Medrano on her Washington, D.C. trip.

Additionally, Madison Medrano, who will be a senior at Red Boiling Springs High School this fall, represented North Central as part of the Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. Medrano received the trip, sponsored by FRS, for her winning essay on “Understanding Telephone Cooperatives Past, Present and Future.”

 

It pays to read The North Central Connection!

KevinStewart
NCTC would like to congratulate Kevin Stewart of Adolphus! Stewart was randomly selected as a winner after participating in the magazine’s readership survey. He won a $25 Amazon gift card, and his name was randomly chosen again as the grand prize winner, receiving an Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Thanks to everyone who participated in the readership survey!

Congratulations to Pam, Ricky and Randy!


Retirees1Retirees2

NCTC would like to congratulate Pam Heath, Ricky Rather and Randy Reeves on their retirements. After years of working with local business customers, both Rather and Reeves are retiring as central office technicians. Heath is retiring after working for years as a customer service representative in the NCTC Scottsville office. North Central would like to thank each of them for their decades of service to the cooperative and wish them the best of luck in their retirements!

It’s time for NCTC Summer Bingo!

PrintSince bingo was such a huge success over the last three years, North Central is excited to bring the game back this summer as a way to say “thank you” to loyal members of the cooperative.

In order to win, the entire shaded area of any card must be completely covered. Bingo numbers are available every weekday on NCTC’s Facebook page, in each NCTC office lobby or by calling 615-666-BINGO (615-666-2464). Winners are eligible for great prizes, like an iPad Mini, a 32-inch television and $100 cash! Bingo cards run concurrently and cease only when a winner is declared. The single daily number applies to all three cards. This is not your typical straight across or diagonal bingo game. Members will receive a bingo card with their monthly bill. E-bill customers can email Amy Phelps at amy.phelps@nctc.com to receive their bingo card.

If your card is a winner, call 615-666-BINGO (615-666-2464) to claim your prize. The winning card, along with a photo ID validating the winner is at least 18 years old, must be brought in for authenticity verification. For complete contest rules, please visit www.NCTC.com.

Broadband helps local banks serve customers with confidence

MACON_1654

By Patrick Smith

Editor’s note: This story is the fourth in a series of articles that will highlight NCTC’s Smart Rural Community award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

Banks offer the confidence of knowing your money is secure and available whenever you need it thanks to the latest broadband technology.

Macon Bank and Trust Company, Citizens Bank — both based in Lafayette — and Farmers National Bank in Scottsville manage a range of responsibilities, including online banking, credit reports and loan management.

IMG_1780High-speed broadband Internet from North Central provides an essential tool as these banks manage more than $1 billion in assets.

“We’re in the business of providing great customer service,” says Jay Rinehart, chief operations officer at Citizens Bank. “In order to provide great service, we need fast Internet to communicate with our customers and other branches. North Central gives us the ability to do that, and that’s why we shine.”

STABILITY AND SPEED WITH BROADBAND
Customers rely on these three local banks to complete a range of transactions, including buying cars, securing home loans and depositing earnings. As a result, any of these banks may process gigabytes of information through the Internet daily.

The advancement of local broadband Internet speeds, combined with the local banking services, is one reason North Central’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

Before using North Central’s fiber service, Macon Bank and Trust relied on two off-site servers to process loans. Now, the bank communicates directly with out-of-state offices.

“It’s two more pieces of equipment we don’t have to upgrade,” says Keith Ballou, senior operations officer at Macon Bank. “Not having those servers allows us to save costs and put that money toward serving our customers.”

Michael Houchens, IT manager at Farmers National Bank in Scottsville, appreciates the benefits of working with a local company such as NCTC. “The broadband connection definitely provides great speed. It’s always on, and it’s always fast,” says Houchens.

With NCTC, local businesses receive better Internet performance. “When I first came to Citizens Bank, we had our Wide Area Network connecting other branches through another company, and the slow connection was hindering our operations,” says Rinehart.

Citizens_1708NCTC also provides excellent service and support. “We’ve had other companies call and try to get our business, but North Central is local and gets to us quickly if we have a problem. They’re here when we need help, and that means a lot to us,” says Radford West, president of Macon Bank.

But the personal service from NCTC wouldn’t mean much without reliable services. “The stability is wonderful,” says Houchens. “We’re able to serve people faster and handle more capacity with broadband from NCTC.”

Making a ‘smart’ decision

CEO. Nancy J. White

CEO. Nancy J. White

By Nancy J. White
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.

That’s why NCTC decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. And that’s why we worked hard to earn the distinction of being a Smart Rural Community. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in more annual revenue than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices, some of which are available through North Central, allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely. While these smart devices offer plenty of convenience, they are also a smart safety decision to avoid coming home to a dark house or to receive an alert anytime someone pulls into your driveway.

We’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your cooperative is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.

Scottsville’s Center for Courageous Kids has one requirement: HAVE FUN!

Scottsdale Center for Courageous Kids

Hundreds of kids experience the time of their life at CCK each summer

By Jeremy Wood

Children and families are involved in dozens of different activities during their time at CCK in Scottsville.

Children and families are involved in dozens of different activities during their time at CCK in Scottsville.

For some, there are enough prescriptions to make their heads spin. For an unfortunate few, there’s ultimately no prescription.
For the 18,000 and counting who’ve come through the gates at The Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, though, there’s one simple prescription that’s worked wonders, and it has nothing to do with a physician: fun.

When a child is wheelchair-bound, stricken with cancer or needs daily dialysis treatments, laughter and play can be the best medicine of all.

“Sometimes we have ice cream sundaes for breakfast,” says CCK Communications Director Stormi Murtie. “We roll in pudding; we play in spaghetti. Our goal is to jam-pack their days with laughter.” Just what the doctor ordered.

Special treatment

CCK has helped more than 18,000 children and adults by allowing them to escape the daily hardships of life with illness and letting them enjoy a ‘normal’ vacation in Scottsville.

CCK has helped more than 18,000 children and adults by allowing them to escape the daily hardships of life with illness and letting them enjoy a ‘normal’ vacation in Scottsville.

The Center for Courageous Kids opened in 2008 in Scottsville with the goal of providing a life-changing camp experience paired with top-notch care for medically fragile children. Founded by local philanthropist Betty Campbell, the camp sits on 168 acres and includes plenty of fun stuff — a horse barn, bowling alley, indoor pool, fishing lake, boating area and more — as well as medical facilities that allow them to care for any child at camp, no matter their illness or disability. Children can have chemotherapy treatments in between horseback lessons, advanced respiratory therapy for asthma patients and specialized food for diabetics, and there’s a helipad on site in case a camper needs to get to a hospital quickly.

“We’re one of a handful of camps of this caliber nationwide,” says Murtie. “When the kids pull up and see 160 acres with horses and fishing and bowling, they’re blown away. They love it. We really have no business serving medically fragile children if we aren’t able to medically care for them.”

DSC_0187The late Campbell, known around CCK as “Ms. Betty,” was inspired to create the camp after visiting another medical camp founded by actor Paul Newman and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and directed by retired Col. Roger Murtie, Stormi’s husband. Ms. Betty herself had lost a son after his own lengthy battle with cancer, and was touched to see young cancer patients having the time of their lives. She made a large financial donation to endow a cancer weekend program at that camp, but didn’t feel it was enough.

“She came home to Scottsville, and then she called Roger and said, ‘I don’t know what to do, but I’m supposed to do more,’” Stormi says.

TAKING A ‘NORMAL’ VACATION

Big Hug_Stage Day_PhysDis2The Center for Courageous Kids offers different programs to support sick children and their families. Nine one-week sessions during the summer are individually tailored to children with specific illnesses and host 120 children at a time.

There are also 22 weekends during the year where the entire family can come with the ill child to enjoy some rest, relaxation and support from other families who face similar challenges.

“Some of them have not ventured out on a vacation since the child was diagnosed,” says Stormi. “It allows them to get away from the normal routine and bond with other families that have been going through the same thing.”

Melanie Evans, who sends four of her six children — all with varying degrees of cerebral palsy — to CCK, initially came to the camp for one of the family weekends and found the support system for both her children and her husband to be a huge boost of confidence.

“It was definitely reassuring for us,” she says. “We felt a lot less alienated. We felt encouraged and supported. They just have a way of making you feel empowered.”

MDA 6
Evans’ 10-year-old biological triplets (daughters Savannah and Mariah and son Ethan) have been joined by their adopted disabled child, Forever, for a summer week-long session. The family also attended a retreat weekend with the entire crew, including Evans’ two other children, in late March.
Evans says that swimming and the “messy games” have been a big hit with the triplets, and Ethan also loves to perform in the talent show.

“What’s nice is that when you’re there, you feel like anyone else would feel if they went to Disneyland,” she says. “They’re having a blast and having fun. At CCK, there are no limitations. Anything a child wants to do, they can do. They help you to feel like you can do everything just like anybody else.”

‘ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD’
071In its infancy, the camp had stretches of time where the facility sat nearly unused. Ms. Betty recruited Roger Murtie, a career army officer who served as Schwarzkopf’s aide-de-camp during Operation Desert Storm, to be the executive director at CCK. Roger soon saw an opportunity to serve another population that is near and dear to his heart. The Center for Courageous Kids becomes Wounded Warrior Camp four times a year, when injured soldiers who are receiving care at nearby Fort Knox and Fort Campbell can come to use the facility.

“I was thrilled, and I felt like I was back with my people again,” says Roger. “Time was available, and our primary benefactor was very patriotic and welcomed the opportunity to serve the soldiers. They were thrilled to come, and I was thrilled to have them.”

To manage the unique challenges of providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the medically fragile, Roger oversees both a paid staff and a veritable army of volunteers. For its summer programs, CCK recruits college-age counselors who are interested in career fields like pharmacy, social work and child care. In addition, doctors, nurses and other caregivers come to work for a week or weeks at a time, with different specialists volunteering during illness-specific weeks. During the summer sessions, the camp tries to maintain a 1:1 ratio of staff to campers.

Looking forward, Stormi says the camp has plans to expand on Ms. Betty’s vision. CCK is in the midst of its first major gift campaign in an effort to raise $10 million over the next 3 to 5 years. The camp hopes to build a lodge for older campers to help teach disabled adults life skills and to become more independent, as well as the addition of a challenge ropes course, amphitheater and reflection center.

“We’re always looking ahead and seeing how we can do what we do better,” she says.

 

Advancing the community, one connection at a time

Stimulus portion of broadband project nearly complete as NCTC’s new network continues to expand

By Patrick Smith

NCTC linemen remove the copper lines from a residence in Bethpage.

NCTC linemen remove the copper lines from a residence in Bethpage.

When North Central Telephone Cooperative started in 1951, locals banded together to bring telephone service to rural communities that were not profitable enough for large corporations trying to make big earnings for stockholders. Passionate locals went door to door, explaining the benefits of a telephone network and recruiting new members.

One after another, poles were erected and telephone lines were strung throughout the community. Soon, more and more members joined North Central, and over the course of time, a vast telecommunications network was built.

But as time goes on, technology and consumer demands change.

North Central saw the future potential of bringing high-speed broadband to the area, and in January 2010, NCTC was awarded a $50 million loan/grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the new network would transform the community, it also meant most of the old network, which had previously taken decades to create, would have to be completely rebuilt in just five short years. NCTC accepted the challenge.

“Rebuilding the network so quickly has been a huge feat,” says Nancy White, North Central CEO. “But to see the changes that it’s already brought to our community is incredible. I’m excited to see what will come next.”

The new network is being constructed using fiber optic technology. It works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. The network is delivering blazing-fast Internet speeds throughout the area, in addition to crystal-clear television and phone service.

In June, North Central will finish building the portion of the network that was to be funded by the stimulus grant. “I’m very proud of the network and the work NCTC has done to build it,” says Bob Smith, North Central’s director of engineering. “When you look at the rural areas that we serve, it’s wonderful to know that these residents have this incredible technology.”

NCTC linemen load a reel of fiber onto a plow.

NCTC linemen load a reel of fiber onto a plow.

With all the work that’s been completed, the stimulus portion of the project isn’t the only top-notch broadband project NCTC is currently building. As work in Tennessee wraps up, North Central will continue expanding its high-speed broadband footprint in Allen County, Kentucky. NCTC was recently awarded a $1.7 million grant to provide broadband to much of Mt. Zion and Amos through the Rural Utilities Service Connected Community Grant.

Since the work began in 2010, thousands of local businesses and residents have seen the impact of broadband. Local health care facilities, 911 centers, area banks and residents are experiencing new possibilities through fiber — a technology that’s not yet available in nearby Nashville.
The efforts of those first North Central patrons have paid off time and again. Over the past 64 years, people have depended on North Central to bring first-class service to the area. NCTC’s services have helped recruit businesses, big and small, and North Central has helped locals live and work in their hometown. Today, broadband is continuing the tradition and helping to bring new innovations to the area.

“The network North Central is building will continue to advance the entire community,” says Smith. “The changes we will see in 10 to 15 years because of broadband will improve the quality of life for the entire region.”

 

Empowering members to be advocates for rural telecommunications

By Nancy J. White
Chief Executive Officer

The results are in. Almost 200 readers responded to The North Central Connection readership survey in our January/February issue. Your responses gave us good insight into what we’re doing right and how we can serve you better.

I appreciate those who took the time to share this valuable feedback with us.

Not surprisingly, the stories about local people in our community and the articles about food are the most popular pages among respondents. But I was pleased to see readers also enjoy the articles with information about your cooperative.

Perhaps that readership is why 85 percent of respondents said this magazine gave them a better understanding of technology, and 90 percent said they have a better understanding of the role this cooperative plays in economic and community development because of The North Central Connection. It’s very gratifying to know our efforts are working.

I shared this data not to boast about how proud we are of this magazine, but to explain the reason why I’m proud of it. I believe having informed and educated members is a key factor to the long-term health of this cooperative.

In fact, educating our members is one of the seven core principles that lay the foundation for a cooperative. The National Cooperative Business Association says members should be informed about company and industry news “so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative.”

Informed and engaged members make our cooperative better.

Broadband has been in the news quite a bit lately, from net neutrality to the president discussing high-speed network expansion. It’s important for our members to know how federal regulations, state policies and shifts in the industry can affect their broadband and telephone services.

Educating you on issues that matter to rural telecommunications and your community empowers you to become advocates for rural America. Big corporations and urban residents certainly find ways to make their voices heard, and it’s up to cooperatives like us and members like you to let legislators and policymakers know that rural America matters and decisions that affect telecommunications cooperatives matter to rural America.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos in this magazine. I always do. But I also hope you come away with a little better understanding of your cooperative, the role we play in this community and the role you can play in making rural America better.

Evolving technology continues to transform farming

By Patrick Smith

Editor’s note: This story is the third in a series of articles that will highlight NCTC’s Smart Rural Community award from the NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

Today, if farmers need rain for their crops, all they have to do is push a button.

Day or night, farmers can activate a center pivot irrigation system from their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. The large metal tube system sprays water on the crops when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. It’s one of the many new conveniences that technology provides today’s farmers.

From tractors equipped with an automated steering system and instant access to grain market reports, to soil testings and yield monitoring, technology plays a vital role for modern, tech-savvy cultivators by increasing efficiency and lowering expenses.

EVOLVING QUICKLY
For farmers, things have moved fast in the past few decades.

Steve Walker believes he was one of the first people in Macon County to get a cellular phone in the late 1980s. Walker, who retired in December 2014 from his position as the Macon County extension agent, is currently working as an agronomy consultant and outside sales representative with the Macon-Trousdale Farmers Co-op store. Walker, 58, grew up around farming and has been involved heavily since the early ‘80s.

He’s seen technology continually change, especially as smartphones and broadband have brought some of the biggest advancements. “Technology plays a vital role in production agriculture today,” says Walker.

Changes in farming technology, along with advances in broadband Internet speeds, allow farmers to do nearly 
everything on the go. The fast connection provided through NCTC’s fiber network is one reason North Central’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

“Nearly everything can be performed from a field situation,” says Walker. “Broadband and cell phones have made farmers a lot more efficient during the day.”

Many farmers use “auto-steer” technology on several pieces of equipment. It allows the tractors to be programmed and driven by an on-board computer — the driver’s hands aren’t even required to be on the wheel. Also available are monitors that control the amount of fertilizer used when spraying crops.

This helps farmers reduce costs while providing benefits to the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used. Farmers are also using soil testing to oversee chemical levels and make sure their soil is hearty. A mobile GPS system will put them in the exact same place each year to monitor the area’s soil health.

Additional technology, known as “variable-rate seeding,” is advancing how farmers plant their crops. Looking at previous years’ yield data, a farmer can pinpoint where the most and least fertile parts of his fields are, then control how crops are planted in the best and worst areas.

Walker, like many farmers, doesn’t see the advancements stopping anytime soon. “There’s still a lot of hard labor that farmers do each day, but it’s pretty amazing to think about the things that can be done with today’s farming technology,” he says.

CAPTIONS:
1. Tobacco is one of the biggest crops in NCTC’s service area, as seen at this Pleasant Shade farm.
2. Steve Walker has spent more than 30 years in the farming industry.