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Thumbs column

OPINION by Melinda Gassaway, guest column | April 6, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

As most local denizens know, the Spa City has long had "a heart for the arts."

So we begin today's digit doings column with a "Thumbs-up" to three Lakeside seniors who recently won college scholarships from the Thea Foundation for their work in that field.

Jackson McAfee received a $7,000 scholarship in the performing arts category; Hope Drake received a $3,000 scholarship in the performing arts Category; and Aerial Haney received a $3,000 scholarship in the creative writing category.

Per information from the Thea Foundation, more than 450 students participated in this year's competition and a record $219,000 in scholarships was awarded.

Named after Thea Kay Leopoulos, the foundation stresses the importance of the arts in the development of our youths.

Congratulations to this artistic trio.

And we send out a salute and "Thumbs-up" to the Garland County Veterans Memorial Committee for sponsoring an inaugural event to commemorate National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29.

The special program -- held at 118 Orange St. -- featured Master Sgt. Joe Burke as guest speaker. Burke was born in Hot Springs, graduated from Glenwood High School in May 1955, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1955, and joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1958.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in education from Henderson State University in 1963, he served as a classroom teacher inn Pine Bluff, Caddo Gap, Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton.

At the conclusion of Burke's address, attendees were introduced to Linda Murphy, whose father, Cpl. Larry Harvey, died in Vietnam before she was born.

Plans are to hold a tribute to Vietnam War veterans on March 29 of every year.

Meanwhile, we give another "Thumbs-up" to the Garland County Library and Sarah Richardson, executive director of the Literacy Council of Garland County for raising public awareness about issues related to illiteracy in our community.

During last week's library presentation -- which was also livestreamed -- Richardson cited the economic, health, and social problems associated with being illiterate, noting that "20% of Garland County residents have a third-grade literacy level while 31% of the population functions below an eighth-grade reading level." She also said that "just bringing every adult who is 'low-literate' up to a sixth-grade reading level would add $2.2 trillion to the American economy" and that such a boost would mean $500 million for the Garland County economy alone."

The Literacy Council provides a wide range of free and confidential literacy services and interested persons may call 501-624-7323 or visit for more information.

On the good deeds front, we give a "Thumbs-up" to the six members of Hot Springs Emblem Club No. 194 for helping serve about 80 lunches at the Eleanor Klugh Jackson House for Crisis Intervention Services Inc. on March 30.

Our thanks to Emblem Club volunteers Margie Yates, Pam Gruber, Alene Meacham, Jerri Roper, Sally Hatten, chair of this community service project, and Pam McDaniel, organization president.

Your service to others is greatly appreciated, ladies.

Here's another well-deserved "Thumbs-up" to the 2022 Hot Springs Polar Plunge, main fundraiser for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Arkansas.

The February "Thrill of the Chill" benefit was held at the Hot Springs Health and Fitness Club's outdoor pool and was experienced by 94 "plungers," including 11 teams from law enforcement, businesses, schools, fraternities, and a civic club. Altogether, participants raised $18, 539 and increased public knowledge about Special Olympics Arkansas.

Kudos to everyone who contributed to the success of this most worthy cause.

A Hot Springs resident recently emailed this columnist about another Resort City happening, commenting, "Thumbs-up" to The First Ever 19th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, which was a huge success. The crowd was the largest ever after a two-year COVID hiatus. Congratulations to Steve Arrison, Bill Solleder, Alexis Hampo, and the entire crew at Visit Hot Springs for all of their hard work in making this celebratory event so memorable.

Thank you, King Tim Culbreth and Queen Cindy Baswell for your graciousness. And thanks also to Arkansas football Coach Sam Pittman and Jamie Pittman for bringing added excitement to this always highly anticipated occasion.

The Thumbs Column appears in The Sentinel-Record on the first and third Wednesday of each month. The newspaper welcomes readers' comments and suggestions, which should be submitted in writing with a telephone number and home address for contact and verification purposes. This information is kept confidential.

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