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Tree Lighting at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Begins the Christmas Season
By Karen Brewer


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Alan Blackmon, who retired from Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative in 2016, had this year's honor of lighting the majestic tree in front of Blue Ridge Electric's Pickens office, beginning the Christmas season. He shakes hands with President and CEO Charles Dalton, who will retire in January, 2018 after 36 years.



Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Charles Dalton, who will retire in January after 36 years, welcomed the crowd gathered at 5:15 p.m. the evening of Tuesday, November 21, 2017 for the lighting of the majestic tree in front of the Pickens office, a
beginning to the Christmas season as well as Dalton’s final Christmas tree lighting as President.

“We appreciate you coming to our annual event,” Dalton told everyone. “This is a big day for Blue Ridge, and, I hope, a big day for the Pickens community, where we get a chance to kick off the Christmas season. Thank you for being here and being a part of this.”

Dalton recognized the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and their spouses who were present for the special occasion, and whom he called “special to Blue Ridge Co-op and special to me and the folks that work here”: Kenneth Southerlin, Mendel Stone, Joel Davis, Spencer Dalton and his wife, Angela, Frank Looper, Jimmy Dodgens and his wife, Helen, William Elrod, Len Talley and his wife, Jackie. “And my wife, Libby, is here,” Dalton said, adding, “Let’s thank these folks.”



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors with retired Manager of Engineering Alan Blackmon and Rev. Nath Briley of Pickens Presbyterian Church.


Also present for the occasion were State Rep. Davey Hiott, longtime previous State Senator Larry Martin, previous Pickens City Council member Connie Bowers (who also worked for Blue Ridge Electric for a long time), previous Pickens City Council member June Bowers, Pickens Police Chief Travis Riggs, retired Judge Eddie Welmaker, longtime previous Pickens County Sheriff David Stone, Pickens County Clerk of Court Pat Welborn, Pickens City Council member Patti Welborn, previous Clerk of Court Oliver Nealy, State Rep. Neal Collins, Pickens County Attorney Ken Roper, and his wife, Judge Karen Roper, State Senator Rex Rice, Pickens County Council member Wes Hendricks, and Pickens County Council member Chris Bowers. Dalton thanked them for their support through the years and for coming back this year.

He then asked for a show of hands of all Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative employees, past and present. “Let’s thank all these great folks,” he said.

“Let’s start out with a little bit of Christmas music,” said Dalton, as he introduced Ashley Dodgens, a music teacher at Palmetto Elementary School in Williamston who has also served as the Choir Director for Pickens Presbyterian Church since February of 2012. Originally from Lisbon, New York, Dodgens graduated from Southern Wesleyan University (SWU) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education. While a student at SWU, she played trumpet in several ensembles and was also a member of the University Singers, which visited many churches each semester. She lives in Easley with her husband, Cory. “Ashley, we’re glad to have you,” said Dalton.

“I’m glad to be here,” said Dodgens, who then sang three Christmas songs, “Silent Night,” “Mary, Did You Know?”, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

“Thank you, Ashley,” said Dalton. “Thank you very much.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Ashley Dodgens, Choir Director for Pickens Presbyterian Church, sang Christmas music for the tree lighting.



 “At this time, we’ll have a little meditation and get a little bit more focused on the Christmas message," said Dalton. "We’re happy to have Rev. Nath Briley, who was called to be Pastor of Pickens Presbyterian Church in January of 2010. Nath is a graduate of Wofford College and Columbia Theological Seminary. He is currently a doctoral student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Nath is originally from Charlotte. He was a banker in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He felt called to go into the ordained ministry. While in Pickens, he has been involved in the community. He has been on the Board of United Christian Ministries in Easley, Chair of the Pickens Ministerial Association, and Past President of the Pickens Rotary Club. He is married to Amy, who is a reading interventionist at Hagood Elementary School. He and Amy live in Pickens with their three sons, Charles, Caleb, and Ethan. They love to do many activities together as a family, especially camping, whenever possible. Nath, it’s good to have you.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Rev. Nath Briley, of Pickens Presbyterian Church, delivered an inspirational message for the Christmas tree lighting.



Thank you, Mr. Dalton,” said Rev. Briley. “I appreciate being here, and it’s great to see this wonderful crowd here tonight. It’s thrilling to see the tree be turned on.

“When I think of Christmas -- this is kind of a little strange for a lot of people -- but I think of the Gospel of John. John is one of two Gospels that did not share the birth of Jesus Christ. So, everybody’s saying, ‘That is strange.’ Usually, you read in Matthew or Luke. But, in John, I like to hear the very beginning of that, because John has a lot of symbolism, and it’s deep theologically. The Gospel starts off, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ He was in the beginning. All things came through Him and without Him not one thing came into being. In him was life and the light was the life of all of the people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’

“In the very beginning of John, you hear those words of creation: ‘In the beginning.’ You hear that in Genesis: ‘In the beginning, God created.’ I think John wanted everybody to know that this was a new beginning, a new way of living, a new way of seeing how God is, a fresh, innovative way to live life.

“I think John also wanted us to know two other things about Jesus. First, that Jesus was around in the beginning. Yes, he came as human, but He has always been around, because Jesus was and is God. He was the divine nature. Jesus was and is Emmanel, God with us through Christ. I think the second thing he wanted us to know was that light is necessary for life. We cannot survive without light. I read an ancient proverb the other day, confirmed by our science. The death of sunlight is the death of what we know as life. Light is essential for survival. And John is saying that Jesus Christ is the life-giving light. Jesus is essential for life. Later in the Gospel, Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never be in darkness but will have the light of life.’

“As you know, the darkness can be very scary and very frigid at times. One can go crazy if you’re just in darkness. This past year, in our country, in our world, we have experienced much darkness. For a number of years, we had as many mass shootings as we had days of the year. That’s hard to believe. We only hear about the big ones, but we have them every day. This past year, we experienced terror in our country. This past year -- and you folks at Blue Ridge know this -- Pickens experienced some horrendous storms. As we look at our newspaper or our electronic devices, we see darkness every day. I want you to imagine what life would be if there was no light in Christ in the midst of that darkness. In the midst of the hatred and destruction that we see, if we did not have hope and peace, if we did not have love, if we didn’t have the possibility of joy, what would life be like? If we did not see the light of Christ in others, the way we do here at Pickens every day, we would not have hope, peace, love, and joy. It would be very difficult to go through it. Jesus Christ gives us hope, He gives us love, He gives us peace and joy in the midst of difficult times.

“My mother-in-law loves lighthouses. So, every time my family goes anywhere near a lighthouse, we have to go visit it. We have to go in it, around it, and we have to take lots of pictures and send to Grammy. And if we like it or not, we have to smile. But actually, I’m fascinated with lighthouses. I’ve always enjoyed them. I can imagine being a sailor in a boat and not knowing where to go but seeing that light, and that light is the direction to the land.

“I read a story of a time right after the end of the second World War. A lighthouse keeper off the coast of Scotland spied, in the distance, a mine that was coming toward him. The beach wave was coming closer and closer. He couldn’t do anything to stop it. All he could do is get the lighthouse ready. And, all of a sudden, a big boom. And people could hear that boom for miles and miles away. Folks from the mainland saw it and sailed over there to see what had happened. They saw on the island a big hole in the middle, the lighthouse standing and the injured lighthouse keeper. The light was still shining for those lost sailors to come home. Friends, Jesus is that light. When we’re lost, when we’re having difficult times, when we’re in the darkness, we can look and see that light.

“And each one of us can carry that light and share that light with others. As we light this beautiful Christmas tree, this wonderful light, as we drive by it, let us remember the light of Christ, to always shine here in Pickens and throughout the world. And remember the wonderful people here at Blue Ridge, under the leadership of Mr. Dalton, who make sure that we have visible light. They also share the spiritual light of Jesus Christ. May we all experience the life-giving light of Christ every day of our lives.

“Let us pray. Precious and loving God, we give you thanks for everyone here. We give you thanks for everyone in Pickens and throughout the world. Lord, bad things happen, and there is darkness in the world. But we know that your light will shine in all darkness. Your light will overcome darkness. So, Lord, please let us share your light with each other, share your love, peace, hope, and joy. Let us enjoy this Christmas season like no other. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.”

“Rev. Briley, thank you so much for that message,” said Dalton, “and thank you for being with us today, and thanks again for the music provided by Ashley.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric President and CEO Charles Dalton will retire in January after 36 years of service.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric President Charles Dalton greets retired Manager of Engineering Alan Blackmon, who lit the Christmas tree this year
.


“The person lighting our tree tonight began work at Blue Ridge on March 3, 1985 – a 31-year history at Blue Ridge until his retirement in 2016. Alan Blackmon was Manager of Engineering at Blue Ridge Electric, where he saw many, many upgrades over the
years on the Blue Ridge system and was someone that I relied on very heavily. I don’t have to tell many of you that I was not an engineer. So, when I came here, I needed to rely on people like Mr. Red Hinton and then, later, Alan Blackmon. Alan worked with Southern Engineering in Georgia for eight years prior to his joining us. Alan is married to Shelvia and has three beautiful daughters, Christin, Ashley, and Paige. But, what he would want me to tell you tonight is he’s got a new grandson, Charles. So, at this time, Charles Alan Blackmon, come say a few words, and you and I will light this tree.”

“One of the things I would like to say is I appreciate Mr. Dalton and the Board for allowing me to be here today and also for allowing me to work those 31 years,” said Blackmon. “And I also want to give my highest appreciation to the employees. They supported me all along the way.” He also thanked the Pickens community, which, he said, just as Blue Ridge, “is a wonderful place to be.

“I thank God for this Christmas tree,” he added. “I tended this for a long time.”


After Blackmon lit the Christmas tree with its multi-colored lights, Dalton invited the crowd to stay and fellowship and enjoy the refreshments. “And thank you for being here," he said. "Thank you so much.”




Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative staff members Elaine Banks, Kathy Ellenburg, and Cindy Leslie prior to the tree lighting.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric President and CEO Charles Dalton (center) and Mendel Stone, a member of Blue Ridge Electric's Board of Directors, greet retired Judge Eddie Welmaker (right) before the start of the tree lighting.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Rev. Bryan Hester, Minister of Music at Pickens First Baptist Church, and State Rep. Davey Hiott of Pickens


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Past Pickens City Council member June Bowers with Hester and Hiott prior to the start of the tree lighting.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Bowers and longtime Senator Larry Martin greet State Rep. Neal Collins


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

State Rep. Neal Collins, past Pickens City Council member June Bowers, and past State Senator Larry Martin.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Larry Martin with Frank Looper, a member of Blue Ridge Electric's Board of Directors, prior to the Christmas tree lighting service.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Pat Welborn, past Pickens City Council member and current Pickens County Clerk of Court, with his wife, Patti Welborn, a member of Pickens City Council.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Larry Martin, Neal Collins, Pickens Police Chief Travis Riggs, and Davey Hiott enjoy watching the tree lighting service.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Retired Pickens County Clerk of Court Oliver Nealy and family enjoy watching the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative tree lighting service in front of Blue Ridge's Pickens office.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Bryan Hester and Larry Martin among the crowd enjoying the tree lighting service, as the sun begins to set.




Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Longtime Pickens County Sheriff David Stone and his wife, Donna, enjoy watching the tree lighting service.




Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine                                  



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine




Publisher's Note: Below are links to more articles related to Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative published in 2017:


Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting
: The 2017 annual meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, held at the Blue Ridge Electric equipment facility in Pickens, featured Gospel and Bluegrass music by The Sweet Potato Pie Kids, Tugalo Holler, the Sheltons, and Primitive Quartet. High school students Tanner Stegall, Peyton Brown, and Drew Holcombe were recognized as delegates for the Washington Youth Tour. Click here to read the in-depth article on the entire annual meeting and view more than 150 photographs.

Blue Ridge Fest: The 2017 Blue Ridge Fest charity fundraiser, held at the Blue Ridge Electric equipment facility in Pickens, benefitted 12 local charities and featured classic cars and oldies music by Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Contours, Jim Quick and the Coastline, and The Flashbacks. Longtime Manager of Engineering Alan Blackmon, who had recently retired due to illness, was honored at the Blue Ridge Fest. Click here to read the in-depth article and to view more than 150 photographs.

The Moving Wall: The Vietnam Moving Wall, a  half-sized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. that includes the names of those killed in action in the Vietnam War, visited the Upstate November 9-13, 2017, displayed at the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative office's shelter in Westminster. The Christian View magazine visited the wall the afternoon of Thursday, November 9, when it was first set up for display, and also on Friday morning, November 10, for the official opening ceremony, and also on Sunday afternoon, November 12, for the closing ceremony.  Click on the following links to read three separate in-depth articles and to view nearly 250 photographs.

          Click here to read: The Moving Wall Moves Visitors, Some to Reflection, Some to Tears. The Christian View magazine interviews veterans and veterans' family members who visit the Wall, and also Oconee County Veterans Affairs Director Jerry Dyar, Oconee County Veterans Affairs Assistant Director Janice Mattheson Holbrooks, and Paul and Kim Chen, who drive the Moving Wall to sites across the country.

          Click here to read the article on the opening ceremony. Oconee County Veterans Affairs Director Jerry Dyar served as Master of Ceremonies, and speakers included Amy Childress from Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, and U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan. American Pride, a Statler Brothers tribute band, sang the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," as well as "More Than a Name on a Wall."  Wreaths were placed by representatives from 13 veterans' organizations in Oconee County, and Vietnam veterans led in the Pledge of Allegiance, gave an invocation, and gave the benediction. Members of the Walhalla High School JROTC performed the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action ceremony. The names of 21 men from Oconee County who died in Vietnam were read.

          Click here to read the article on the closing ceremony. Oconee County Veterans Affairs Director Jerry Dyar served as Master of Ceremonies, and speakers included Denise McCormick from Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, Oconee County Assistant Veterans Affairs Director Janice Mattheson Holbrooks, who worked to bring the Moving Wall to Oconee County, and State Senator Thomas Alexander from Oconee County. The names of the 21 men from Oconee County who were killed in action in Vietnam were read aloud, and representatives from 13 veterans' organizations in Oconee County retrieved the wreaths that had been placed during the opening ceremony