PARADE PARTICIPANTS – Fulton County Transit Authority has participated in five Christmas parades this holiday season. Although Mother Nature managed to rain on Mayfield’s Christmas Parade November 26, the precipitation didn’t dampen the holiday cheer or cause the parade to be cancelled. Fulton County Transit Authority had a Christmas light decorated entry in the annual event. The Transit wagon was driven my Mrs. Claus (aka Driver Supervisor Jo Ann Gardiner). Riding next to Mrs. Claus was FCTA Ambassador Darrell Sims. Mr. Ambassador, as he is lovingly known within the FCTA ranks, was almost as popular as the Jolly Old Elf himself. Marketing Director Kim Jobe rode in the parade as well, getting out of the Transit wagon about midway through it to take photos of FCTA’s entry. A crew of employees picked up Sims on the way to Arlington Saturday morning, December 3, to participate in their parade. After eating lunch with the FCTA crew – which consisted of Drivers Supervisor Jo Ann Gardiner, Dispatch/Scheduling Supervisor Christy Snow, Driver Tonda Casey, and Marketing Director Kim Jobe as well as Gardiner’s granddaughters RayBell and Addie – Sims participated in the Twin Cities Christmas Parade that evening. Driver Kelly Poyner joined the Transit wagon riders while Jobe opted to take photos of the entire parade from Commercial Avenue. The Ambassador and his crew also took part in the Clinton Christmas Parade and the Hickman Christmas Parade.
Gardiner, Taylor named supervisors
Two Fulton County Transit Authority Drivers were recently promoted to supervisory positions.
According to Operations Director Rachel Cook, FCTA’s Driver Supervisors are responsible for a plethora of duties.
“They are basically our eyes and ears out in the field,” Cook said. “They serve as the liaison between drivers and management and bring any issues to management’s attention. They also assist drivers with any issues pertaining to wheelchairs and client loading. They supply drivers with PPE and ensure the drivers are filling out their paperwork correctly. Recently, they have been providing water to the drivers to make certain they stay hydrated during the hot temperatures the region has experienced.”
In addition to all those duties, the supervisors continue to make sure the drivers are keeping themselves and clients safe by making sure the FCTA vehicles are cleaned and sanitized.
Some might say working at Fulton County Transit Authority is on the other end of the employment spectrum from what JoAnn Gardiner used to do.
“I was a cook on a towboat. I did that for 15 years,” Gardiner said. “I was gone for six months a year. Then the grandkids came into the world, and I didn’t want to miss out with them. This job kept popping up on Facebook, so I took that as a sign this was what I was supposed to be doing. So, I applied and here I still am.”
Gardiner will celebrate her fourth anniversary with the agency in October.
“The best part is our clients,” Gardiner said. “They make the job worth it. We have some great coworkers here. Another benefit is being home which makes all the difference.”
It was her supervisor and his support that made Gardiner want to take on the Drivers Supervisor responsibilities at FCTA.
“I got the driving part down over the last couple of years,” Gardiner said. “I had help from a great supervisor who helped me along the way. I wanted to challenge my old self and try to learn this job and help keep us all team players at work. I know I have the support from the office to learn all the aspects of this side of Transit.”
Born in Tiptonville, Tennessee to Richard and Mary Jo Smith, Gardiner is the second child of six. She has two brothers and three sisters: Glen, Tim, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Amanda.
“I married Bob Gardiner in January 1987,” Gardiner said. “We had two boys – Robert, who married Rache Wilson, and Dewayne, who married Tiffany Elkins.”
It was Dewayne and Tiffany who gave Gardiner what she calls her “greatest gift ever,” her granddaughters RayBell and Addie.
“They are my pride and joy and my little joys who are getting us into something all the time both good and bad,” Gardner said. “Our favorite pastime is getting Nana in the pool.”
Goldie Taylor took on a new responsibility at Fulton County Transit Authority recently in an effort to help the agency.
“There was a need and I felt that I could meet that need in a professional manner,” Taylor said of the Drivers Supervisor position.
Taylor, who has worked at FCTA for two years, believes in the agency’s mission.
“FCTA is a much-needed service in Fulton, Graves, and the surrounding counties,” Taylor said. “I look at it as a ministry of helping people. Many of the people have no other transportation or outside contacts. FCTA fulfills those needs.”
For Taylor, the best part of working at FCTA is helping people. His coworkers are a big part of why he enjoys the job, too.
“The people working for FCTA are some of the nicest people,” Taylor said. “It’s a pleasure working with people that are professional yet pleasant.”
Taylor is the father of three children – Latoya, who is a teacher and has one child, Karson; Goldie III who has three children; and Kennie who has nine children and 13 grandchildren.
After retiring from USEC after 40 years, Taylor found it hard to just sit down. That is part of the reason he sought employment at FCTA. Taylor cares for his 98-year-old mother, Lillie. Taylor attends Greater St. Paul Church in Wingo. He is also a coin collector.
Taylor holds an AA degree in sociology and completed approximately three years of college.
Christy Snow has worked in Dispatch at FCTA for four years.
Fulton County Transit Authority Dispatcher/Call Taker Christy Snow was given new duties recently. The four-year veteran of the FCTA Dispatch Office was named Dispatch/Scheduling Supervisor by Executive Director Paul Maxwell prior to the weekly team meeting.
Snow, who marked her fourth year at FCTA in April 2022, earned the FCTA Executive Director’s Award from Kenney Etherton in 2019. In 2020, Snow was named FCTA Employee of the Year by her coworkers. During the 2021 Kentucky Public Transit Association Conference, Snow was named CSR of the Year – Outstanding Customer Service.
Snow worked daily throughout the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to make certain the agency lived up to its motto of “Going & Coming Your Way.” A team player, Snow never hesitates to cover shifts and goes above and beyond for FCTA.
Born in Fulton, Snow is the daughter of Walter and Freda Boquette. A graduate of South Fulton High School, she has been married to Michael Snow for more than 30 years. They have three children: Elizabeth, Brandon, and Alayna. They also have two grandchildren, Jameson and Adalynn.
MAKING WAY FOR NEEDED GROWTH - Ground was broken May 25 for the new office complex at Fulton County Transit Authority. The new facility will be dedicated to Sam Jones, a driver who worked at FCTA for 28 years. Jones passed away a little over a year ago. Those participating in the actual groundbreaking included FCTA Board Member Carol Ann Parker; Blaine Thompson-Beasley, Head Project Manager and Estimator at Evrard-Strang Construction; Stacey Courtney, Associate Director of Planning & Community Development at the Purchase Area Development District ; FCTA Executive Director Paul Maxwell; FCTA Board Member and KenTenn EMS Director Kevin Kelly; FCTA Board Member Rev. Jesse Webb; Fulton City Commissioner Cubb Stokes; FCTA Executive Director Paul Maxwell; Fulton-Hickman Counties Economic Development Partnership President Mark Welch; FCTA Interim Director and Special Project Manager Mark Davis; Former FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton; Paducah Area Transit System Executive Director Arthur Boykin; and FCTA Board Member and Fulton City Manager Mike Gunn.
Group brings food, funds to tornado area
Photos by Marketing Director Kim Jobe
PROJECT PARTICIPANTS - Fulton County Transit Authority provided transportation for delivery of meals recentlly to those affected by the December 10, 2021, tornadoes. United By Barbecue, Southern Boyz Outdoors, Bruce Mitchell and Ronnie Adams from History Channel’s “Swamp People,” Albany, Louisiana’s Fire Chief and Police Chief, and other volunteers from the Hammond, Louisiana, area among those in Fulton preparing the meals January 28-30. Hosted by Fulton’s First United Methodist Church, the group was joined by many Fulton and South Fulton area residents to help cook the meals and fill the plates. The goal of the group was to share love, hope, and food. By Sunday, the entire group of people had prepared and delivered 3,121 meals. On Friday, a FCTA driver delivered lunch to law enforcement and first responders in the Mayfield area while two other drivers delivered meals to Cayce and Clinton. Shortly before noon on Saturday (January 29), several members of the group from Louisiana boarded a FCTA bus after it was filled with 600 meals to take to the Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds. Included in the group were Mitchell, Adams, Albany Police Chief Boyd Wild, and Kinion Bankston, owner of Southern Boyz Outdoors. Those travelling to Mayfield spent over an hour visiting with people at the fairgrounds including those affected by the tornado and volunteers who were working at the fairgrounds that day. “Swamp People” and Southern Boyz Outdoors fans took numerous photos with Mitchell, Adams, and Bankston. Then the group travelled around downtown Mayfield to view the damage for themselves that they had seen on TV newscasts and other areas. Walking around downtown, Mitchell, Adams, and Bankston went live on their respective Facebook pages to show their followers the damage there and encourage them to consider aiding residents of the area. The Transit driver made a couple of stops in the downtown area for the passengers to disembark and talk with those in the vicinity. During one stop, the group visited with some individuals who had been providing food and other items to people since a few days after December 10. Prior to reboarding the FCTA bus, the group presented the volunteers with several Walmart gift cards to give to some of those who stop by and seem to need a real monetary blessing. The gift cards were provided by students in the Albany, Louisiana, area who collected money at their schools to send gift cards to Kentucky and Tennessee storm victims. The students collected around $4,000. FCTA employees who helped load and deliver meals throughout the weekend included Executive Director Kenney Etherton; Marketing Director Kim Jobe; and drivers Tonda Casey; Shaun Destratis; Jenny Evans, Armeta Johnson; Kim Rust; and Goldie Taylor. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Photo Albums Page on this website.
BGCAP Driver Rebecca Hafley (left) and RTEC Driver Michael Dixon (above) were among those who kept free relief rides going in the Mayfield/Graves County area.
Commonwealth 'cavalry' helps keep FCTA's tornado relief program going
By Kim Jobe
Fulton County Transit Authority Marketing Director
Just like in the old TV Westerns, Fulton County Transit Authority put out a call for help and the “Transit cavalry” showed up.
On December 17, a week after a tornado tore through portions of Western Kentucky, FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton sent out a call to members of the Kentucky Public Transit Association for assistance – in the form of 10 vehicles and 10 drivers - to help with relief efforts in Cayce and Mayfield/Graves County.
KPTA answered quickly and largely.
Later that day, the FCTA Leadership Team put together a plan of action for the tornado relief transportation utilizing FCTA personnel and the visiting drivers from across the Commonwealth. That weekend, drivers from Paducah Area Transit System (PATS), Murray-Calloway Transit Agency, Audubon Area Community Services, Inc., and Pennyrile Allied Community Services Organization, Inc. arrived in Mayfield to work.
Under the leadership of FCTA Operations Manager Rachel Cook and FCTA Driver Supervisor Frank Glisson, the volunteer drivers transported those displaced residents from local hotels and shelters to seek assistance from state and governmental agencies as well as food and supplies from donation sites around the area on Saturday and Sunday. Some of the drivers transported those assigned to the area Kentucky State Parks, with what belongings they had gathered up, to their temporary shelter.
Sunday evening, three vehicles and three drivers from Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, Inc. arrived in Fulton to go to work in the Mayfield area Monday morning. Throughout the week before Christmas and the next week, drivers from Federated Transportation Service of the Bluegrass (FTSB), Rural Transit Enterprises Coordinated, Inc. (RTEC), Frankfort Transit System, and Transit Authority of River City (TARC) also arrived ready to do what they do best – moving people from place to place.
Transit Authority of River City (TARC) also brought a Louisville city bus loaded with supplies and employees to the area to help make certain water, baby formula, diapers, and other items were available for those needing them.
When asked, many of the drivers said they really didn’t know what to expect from their assignment.
“I took a guy over to his apartment building near downtown Mayfield,” said Rebecca Hafley, a driver from Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, Inc. in Frankfort. “He had lived on the third floor. The whole upstairs was gone.”
The man, Hafley said, told her that he heard a tornado was headed their way and attempted to get his neighbors to evacuate to the building’s basement with him. One refused, Hafley recalled the man saying, and was found later under a fallen wall where she perished.
“You can see his belongings and his clothes still hanging in the closet there,” Hafley said, pointing to the apartment building and the area where the man had once resided.
Driving through a neighborhood near downtown Mayfield where cleanup had yet to begin, Hafley said the devastation was amazing and weighed somewhat heavily on her emotions.
“I’ve been through downtown way too many times,” the driver added. “It’s very sad.”
Hafley also said seeing the Mayfield/Graves County area in person gives you a better perspective of the power of the storm than seeing it on TV.
“You’re more desensitized sitting at home,” Hafley explained.
Driving a woman from a church in Mayfield to a hotel in Paducah, Hafley said the woman began sharing about her experience during the tornado.
“She said during the storm she fell on her knees and began praying, ‘Lord, Jesus, save me!’,” Hafley recalled. “And he did.”
Hafley also recalled transporting a woman who was at home in a Mayfield housing project prior to the storm.
“She said her apartment is the only thing still upright there,” Hafley said. “She opened the front window and a back window and locked her and her doggie in the bathroom. She believes that saved them.”
The kindness and goodness of humanity made a real mark on the BGCAP driver while in the Mayfield/Graves County area.
“People from everywhere have come to Mayfield and are making a difference,” Hafley said. “I took some people to Mayfield High School. When we pulled up, some volunteers asked one man how many children he had. When he told them two, they gave him two gift cards with $500 each on them – one for each child – and age-appropriate toys for the children as well.”
Given the widespread damage and the amount of people forced from their homes because of the tornado, Hafley thought she would be busier.
“We have transported quite a few people, though,” she added.
Her last day spent volunteering in the area had Hafley driving to and from Mayfield and two of the state parks housing area residents which did keep her from being idle too much.
Hafley admitted the only thing she didn’t know what to expect about the area was what was available and what wasn’t for herself, her husband – who is also a BGCAP driver – and their coworker.
“I was worried about what would be available to eat,” Hafley admitted. “So, we went to the store and got Pop Tarts, honey buns, dry cereal, instant oatmeal, peanut butter and crackers – “snacky” stuff we could eat on if we had to. But we really haven’t needed it.”
Michael Dixon, Operations Manager for Rural Transit Enterprises Coordinated, Inc. (RTEC) in Mount Vernon was another driver who was impacted by his time spent helping those who were displaced by the December 10 storm.
“I had a few thoughts in my head on what the City of Mayfield would look like once we got there,” Dixon said. “It’s safe to say the pictures and media didn’t do it justice on what it looks like in person. I was overwhelmed.”
The destruction of all the buildings and houses are a memory that Dixon said would always be with him.
“One of the ladies I took to the high school to get supplies, she and her daughter were in the candle factory that night. She said she was on top of her daughter covering her up and they were trapped for five hours,” Dixon recalled. “They were unhurt, but their friend was five feet from them, and she passed away. That’s sad.”
A veteran of the United States Navy, Dixon said he has joined in relief work oversees in other countries.
“This was by far the worst destruction I have been a part of,” Dixon said. “Hopefully they will be able to build back this beautiful town soon.”
Other volunteer drivers may not have openly shared their experiences with the tornado relief, but many left visibly changed from their time spent in Mayfield/Graves County. One driver left Mayfield in tears as she was heading towards home. Several others told Glisson, their FCTA guide in the area, that the time spent driving those residents displaced by the storm gave them a more heartwarming and profound definition of the “spirit of giving” during the holiday season.
FCTA drivers were not absent during the early part of the tornado relief in the storm damaged areas. Several spent their workday staged near First Baptist Church in Cayce assisting those in need of transportation or ready to move volunteers from one place to another. Other FCTA drivers spent time between their medical or other calls shuttling displaced residents from sites to receive federal, state, or local assistance to churches and other areas to get supplies or a hot meal. Much of the time the drivers were someone to listen as survivors recalled their personal stories of December 10 and how the storm affected them.
“This really helped put a purpose to why we exist,” FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton said. “It’s about helping people and providing for their needs no matter the situation. We are more than taking people to the grocery store or to medical visits. Helping people in disasters is part of our mission as well.”
The agency leader has had a mantra of sorts during his years of service to the community.
“I have said many times when I lay my head on the pillow at night that I know we helped people that day,” Etherton said. “We proudly serve four counties. We are a part of every community we serve. We are there for them no matter what even in the day-to-day transportation.”
Etherton knows FCTA is fortunate that the foresight was there 35 years ago when it was established.
“We are an asset to these four counties,” Etherton added “We are truly going and coming your way, no matter what the way is.”
FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton, Operations Manager Rachel Cook, and Driver Supervisor Frank Glisson helped Transit Authority of River City employees deliver donations they gathered in Louisville for area tornado victims. The group delivered about $7,500 worth of supplies via a city bus.
Transit agency delivers supplies via city bus
Area residents who thought they saw a large, gray city bus traveling on I-69 and Purchase Parkway recently weren’t seeing an optical illusion. It was, indeed, a city bus.
Transit Authority of River City (TARC) sent one of their newer buses to Western Kentucky from Louisville. Signs on the bus stated the vehicle was on a tornado relief mission. Aboard the bus were employees of the agency and a large quantity of supplies including bottled water, diapers, baby formula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other necessities for residents of Mayfield and Graves County.
“The collection of supplies was greatly appreciated,” said Fulton County Transit Authority Executive Director Kenney Etherton. “This shows that every walk of life in the Commonwealth is coming together where other Kentuckians are in need.”
Driving an FCTA vehicle, Operations Manager Rachel Cook and Marketing Director Kim Jobe led the TARC bus to the Mayfield/Graves County Fairgrounds. FCTA Driver Supervisor Frank Glisson met the group at the fairgrounds to assist with the delivery of the items. The employees of both agencies joined the volunteers at the “infield” to help place the donations on wooden pallets so they could be distributed to the sites within the area for pickup as needed.
This was not the first Transit agency to send assistance to the area damaged by the December 10 tornadoes.
“We’ve had agencies supply us with drivers and vehicles,” Etherton explained. “We’ve provided over 300 rides to displaced residents in Fulton and Graves counties from the volunteer drivers over the past two weeks. Without the help of our partner agencies, we would not have been able to perform the services needed at this time.”
The FCTA leader is extremely grateful to those who have helped.
“Thanks is a small word for the assistance we have received,” Etherton said. “When the tornado hit the Mayfield/Graves County area on December 10, we lost 11 vehicles from our fleet at our office on North Ninth Street. That’s why our partners’ help was so greatly valued. The overall support has been almost emotionally overwhelming at times and proves there is still a lot of goodness in mankind with neighbors helping neighbors.”
TOP EMPLOYEE - Kenny Patterson has been named Fulton County Transit Authority Employee of the Year for 2021. The annual honor is chosen by secret ballot voting by FCTA employees. Patterson, a resident of Clinton, has been FCTA Mechanic for five years. “Kenny is a valued member of our maintenance team,” said FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton. Pictured (left to right) are Patterson and Etherton.