Within the past few months, I had the occasion to talk to a parent of a former student of mine. I asked how that student was doing and the parent went into a rant about how the child is doing great because they got out of Pendleton County.
She went on about the failings of our community and, generally, as teachers, even retired teachers, we are polite and listen. This time, I had what I call a Popeye moment. “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!”
I countered that I had taught thousands of students who have lived in Pendleton County, and they had not had the issues that were being laid at the feet of the community that has helped raise my kids and me. I defended Pendleton County and felt there are some great reasons to be thankful to have grown up and live in Pendleton County.
I asked a simple question to several long time residents: “What do you have to be thankful for in growing up and/or living in Pendleton County?” Based on the replies, it is simply the community is family.
Keaton Belcher is one of the most well-known faces in Pendleton County. Whether it’s from leading the Wildcats to the KHSAA State Tournament in 2005 or coaching on the sidelines presently for the Wildcats, he knows Pendleton County.
“I’m thankful that I grew up in a tight-knit community where everyone is willing to help out when there is a need for it,” he said.
Pendleton County High School senior, Rebecca Darling, echoed it. “I’m thankful for the feeling of community. I’ve known most of my friends since we were five. I’ve gotten to watch them grow up, and I’ve grown up with them. We will all always be connected by that, and I think that’s beautiful.”
Two residents traveling the country are Nate and Lacey Jones. As a member of the Chicago White Sox, Nate gets to experience life in multiple big cities while Lacey is with the kids in Chicago during the season.
“For half the year, we live in the third most populated city in the country,” pointed out Lacey. “While that is super fun and has its advantages, there is a reason the first day of baseball off season is our favorite day of the year. There is nothing like coming home and having space and knowing our neighbors.”
She continued with the theme that so many said. “We want our kids to grow up in a place where people really care about each other and where the whole community works together when people are in need. That is what we have in Pendleton County and why we are so thankful to live here.”
Nate echoed his wife’s thoughts. “Living in a small community that cares. When people need dusted off and helped back on their feet from family heartache or tragedies or they have just hit a tough patch in life, our community is there to support them and help them through those trying times.”
That’s what family does, and Dontaie Allen’s family has seen it the previous years, this week, and they will likely see it in the future.
“When I was younger, I don’t know if I appreciated as much as I do now being raised in a community like Pendleton County. I’m beyond blessed raising kids here. I feel 100 percent comfortable sending my kids to school, the store, or a park,” said April Thomas. “We are a basketball family and the amount of support in the community is beyond amazing.”
Dontaie pointed out that with his dad, Tony, being in the Navy, there were opportunities for them to move around the world, but he is thankful they chose Pendleton County.
“Being able to go all the way through school with the same friends, teachers and teammates, I’m thankful for that. I knew the community was behind me when I got access to a church gymnasium even though I’m not a member of that church. It is the church where I played my first basketball game,” he said.
While thanking his church family for all of the prayers sent his way, he emphatically said, “Falmouth, Kentucky is my home and I’m truly blessed and thankful for that.” Amelia Franxman was a big fish in the small PCHS pond last year but as a freshmen at University of Louisville, she now lives in a much larger pond. But she recalls Pendleton County fondly.
“I’m thankful for the close-knit relationships in Pendleton County. The support and encouragement I received from everyone in my community taught me to achieve high but to stay humble and remember my roots.”
It’s simple. Families have issues and fights, but they remain family. Pendleton County is simply a family that supports, encourages, roots and sometimes when needed chastises its family members. But its family.
Northern Elementary Assistant Principal Ashley Himes works and lives in the community she grew up in. She said, “There aren’t many places you can travel in the county without seeing a familiar face. A friendly face or help when you are in need is never far away in Pendleton County.”
Superintendent Joe Buerkley who is a PCHS alum sees it everyday in his first year. “I am thankful to live and work in a community that has so much pride in our school system. Everyone always works together to try and provide the best opportunities for our students to succeed.”
New Board of Education member Amber Beebe has had the unfortunate situation to experiencing the highs of success and the lows of grief while living in the community she grew up in.
“I’m thankful for the greater sense of family, in Pendleton County. We celebrate victories together, we love together and we grieve together as a community family.”
Each spring and summer, the back roads of Pendleton County are filled with motorcyclists roaring through the countryside and soaking in our rural atmosphere.
There was a group eating at Smoking Pig in Falmouth and I stopped to talk with them. “Why did they come to Pendleton County?”
One couple from Hebron, one of the fastest growing areas in the state, answered, “Cause THIS is real America! Not where we live and the busyness. It’s here.”
They continued by pointing out how beautiful our views are and how peaceful and relaxing it is here.
There is much to be thankful for by being born into the most successful country in history, but there is also much to be thankful for in living in Pendleton County.
This Thanksgiving, make sure you add to your prayer of thanksgiving for Pendleton County.