• Valerie Gray (right) and Jason Maguire help receive donations to aid Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Texas as rain pours Thursday afternoon in Murphy. Photo by BEN KATZ
  • Knotty Girl Mountain Retreat participants Yvette MacQueen, Kristy Harris, Diana Albritton, Cindy Jenkins, Diana Furr, Dianne Atkinson and Cindy Maxon (from left) pause from shopping at Kitt’s Boutique. Photo by SAMANTHA SINCLAIR

SCOUTING AROUND: County residents come through for Harvey victims

   Domnic Profenno had the ability to do something to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and so last week he organized a local donation effort at his business, Chop Shop, and drove a trailer full of supplies to Texas over the weekend.
   “I just feel like it was the right thing to do,” Profenno said.
   A customer he does business with has connections to Texas and got him in touch with IV HydroPros, a Fort Worth business working on relief efforts. He made arrangements with HydroPros the night of Aug. 28, then posted on social media his plan to help.
   Profenno announced he was accepting donations of non-perishable items at his shop on Reservoir Road in Murphy, and that he could haul about 10,000 pounds of goods in his enclosed trailer. Soon a neighbor, Valerie Gray, offered her support and volunteered to coordinate a second donation drop-off site in the Walmart parking lot Thursday.
   Donations were slow coming in at first, Profenno said, but by Wednesday morning support had grown so much he thought he might have to make two trips. However, he was able to fit all donations in one trip, leaving about 11 a.m. Friday and arriving in Fort Worth on Saturday morning. He carried about 8,500 pounds in the packed trailer.
   “The response was overwhelming,” Profenno said.
   He is considering another trip to Texas to deliver more donations, but wants to see what Hurricane Irma does first to the Southeast.
   Meanwhile, another business spent the weekend holding a benefit car wash to raise money to support charities helping victims. Distinctive Touch Detailing washed any vehicle inside and out for $35, with 50 percent of the money raised going to charity.
   “Those families, those people who lost everything, they need all of us to help,” said Tina Fedor, who owns the business with her husband, Joseph.
   Several area churches also offered donations in addition to their prayers. For example, Shepherd of the Mountains Church jumped into action after finding out an organization they regularly work with, Operation Gratitude, needed help preparing first-responder kits. Donations for the kits – including hand and foot warmers, socks, snack bars, beef jerky, disposable razors, plus travel-size body wash, cotton swabs and tissues – need to reach Operation Gratitude’s headquarters in California by Friday.
   “We’re pushing hard to get what we need to get it out there,” church administrator Tammy Fleischer said.
   She said the congregation has been very supportive, and many have done weekend drives with local sports teams. Volunteers came in Tuesday morning to sort and package the donations to make sure everything could be mailed out that day.
   “It’s incredible,” Fleischer said. “It just touches my heart that people are willing to give so much of themselves.”

Knotty Girls return for retreat
   Breast cancer survivors from central Florida took time to “reconnect, relax and exhale” in Cherokee County for the second annual Knotty Girl Mountain Retreat Labor Day weekend.
   Four survivors – Cindy Maxon, Diana Furr, Yvette MacQueen and Dianne Atkinson – got to go hiking at Turtletown Falls, tour downtown Murphy during the Art Walk, go ziplining and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River, and even learn fly fishing at White Wolf Kayaking Adventures.
   The ladies were most excited about the opportunities to go rafting and ziplining, said Kristy Harris, Knotty Girls’ social media coordinator and graphic designer.
   Once in Murphy, they loved the small-town atmosphere, mountain air and being worry-free.
   “I’m at a loss for words,” said Maxon, an 8-year survivor. “Just the camaraderie and being able to put a lot of the negative things behind me.”
   To participate in the retreat, survivors had to submit an application telling their story and why they wanted to attend the retreat. A few others besides the four ladies who visited were invited but couldn’t make the trip due to health or family reasons.
   The ladies – including four staff members – all stayed at Knotty Girl founder Diana Albritton’s vacation home. Albritton, a 15-year breast cancer survivor, came up with the idea of Knotty Girl while working on her 2013 business plan during a visit to Murphy.
   While the organization primarily educates about detecting breast cancer – the lump Albritton had felt like a knot – she always wanted to bring ladies to her vacation spot for a retreat.
   She received a lot of support from both her home community in Florida as well as Cherokee County for the retreat.
   “Murphy is a wonderful community,” Albritton said while showing the survivors around downtown Murphy during the Art Walk Friday night. “How do I feel? Blessed, humbled, honored.”
   Sponsors for the retreat include Walmart, Wildwater, Lowe’s, Coffee News, Warriors on Water, Kristy’s Kreatives, Whisker Wear, Publix, G&N Developers, Gentle Footcare Center, Skincare by Elle, doTerra with Betty Springsteen, Peg’s Alterations, Albritton Insurance Services, Heartland Triathlon, David E. Willey Aesthetic & Comprehensive General Dentistry, Alanjay.com, Life Brokerage Financial Group, AmazonSmile, Bella K’s Handmade Goods, The Daily Grind & Wine, Heartspun Knit & Crochet Ministry, Heartland Spring Water, Highlands Little Theater, A Jem’s Gem, Lake Placid High School SGA, Marketplace Antiques, Odom Springs Vineyards, Parson’s Pub, Peace-Full Pieces Custom Jewelry, Prairie Rock Honey Co., Pretzels & Prose, ShoeBooties Cafe, Serenity Mountain Gift Shop, Valley River Brewery, White Wolf Kayaking, and Knotty Girl friends and family.
   For details about Knotty Girl, visit knottygirl.org.
   Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.