December is the Month of Reflection

“It seems like everything sleeps in winter, but it’s really a time of renewal and reflection,” Elizabeth Camden.

Reflecting on an Incredible Year

The Christmas season is upon us and, like so many others, Creative often takes a moment in this season to reflect on the past year. We hope that everyone can take a moment during this special holiday season to count their blessings.

The year started with an addition to our Creative crew, Mark Baldwin, who has been refining our marketing strategies with great success. Mark and the Creative crew have been busy visiting Rotaries, festivals, and numerous other community events throughout this year.

We also started the year with a new program called RUPA. That program helps locals with rent/mortgage and/or utility bill payment assistance (RUPA) when facing financial emergencies. A generous grant from the United Fund helped kickstart that program.

A recipient of RUPA funding sent a note saying, “This will get me over the hump of winter. I’ve struggled so hard since January. I don’t know how I would have done it without you.”

RUPA brought about a wonderful alliance with Cumberland Fellowship Church, Good Samaritans, and St. Alphonsus that has allowed us to help even more people. In fact, we have been able to help 50 families with the RUPA program and it’s only the program’s first year! Those individuals include the elderly, Veterans, and young families who faced some sort of unexpected financial hardship.  

For the first time in Creative’s history, a local author donated a portion of the proceeds of their book to Creative! Rita Reali requested the money from her spring book sales be put into RUPA. Sales from Second Chances, Rita’s latest novel, added hundreds of dollars to our RUPA program. We are forever grateful to Rita and are so thankful for her servant’s heart.  

Rita signs books for patrons.

A new and unique fundraiser was organized for Creative this year with Stonehaus Winery. Our deptuy director is also a meteorologist and he conducted a seminar about weather and wine. The event was well-recieved and we raised money for our RUPA program! In fact, Fletcher House at Uplands has now requested the class be hosted at their location, as well, in the spring!

Weather & Wine at Stonehaus was well attended in May.

Creative received the largest Carol Peterson grant in our nonprofit’s history this year! That has allowed us to help five families with much needed but unaffordable home repairs. Helping folks stay safe and comfortable in their home is one of the more gratifying aspects of our work. Without a local banking partner we wouldn’t be able to receive funds from this grant. We thank Highland Federal Savings & Loan for helping us apply for & receive the Carol Peterson funds from the Federal Loan Bank of Cincinnati.

A home ramp makes access to a home safe.

We also received the largest HOME grant in our nonprofit’s history this year! That $640,000 grant is reserved for our home building program and will allow us to provide homes for several families in our area. This incredible grant is a clear signal of the strong reputation Creative has built over the past 30 years.

A grant from the Home Depot Foundation and Housing Assistance Council enabled us to help more Veterans this year. Creative is always a proud supporter of our local Veterans. Since 2019, we have been able to help nine Veteran families in our community through this grant.

A Veteran recieves a new HVAC from Creative

In November, Creative was able to close on our 185th home! Founded on the idea of providing homes for folks who may not think that dream is achievable, Creative Compassion is proud to have homeowners come from various walks of life, though they all have one thing in common; they achieved the American dream of homeownership.

The new homeowner was gifted a homemade blanket and pictures of the construction of her home.
The beautiful new home.

Finally, this year brought the first festival to ever benefit Creative Compassion! The Upper Cumberland Bigfoot Festival was created in 2021 to benefit nonprofits or charities. This year the festival benefited Creative. It was a great success, with more than 9,000 festivalgoers attending the family-friendly festival in October. Money from the festival will be presented to Creative at the December Christmas party. That festival’s main sponsor was Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union and we sure are grateful for their support! The festival will return in October of 2023.

Creative has certainly been blessed this year and we thank God for those blessings. We would also be remiss not to mention the abundance of support that we’ve received from the community. That support truly is astonishing!

Nonprofit work can be very challenging but if the goal is to help our neighbors, then we’re doing something right. Hebrews 13:16 reminds us to do good and to share, because such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Generous donations will help us do even more for our community! Over the years, we have benefited hundreds of local families, including seniors, Veterans, and families just needing a helping hand. Our mission will continue until all our neighbors are taken care of. We make sure that 100% of our donations go toward our mission to help those in need.

A monthly newsletter was started in March, which is the first of its kind for Creative. The newsletter shares each month’s accomplishments, as well as home repair advice, money saving tips, recipes, and more. It’s quite an interesting and informative read! Just look for the link to that newsletter on our website. Following that newsletter will get you the latest updates sent straight to your email inbox!

On behalf of all of us at Creative, we wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases and the happiest & healthiest New Year ahead!

Amazon Smile

A very simple way to contribute to Creative Compassion is through Amazon smile. Just go to Smile. and log in as you would if you were going to shop. Then, select Creative Compassion as your charity and get to shopping! It costs you nothing and Creative gets a 5% donation from Amazon with each order you place. It really adds up over time!

For instructions on setting up Amazon Smile on your desktop or app, just visit Money raised this way will stay right here in our community to help our neighbors!

Home tip of the week 

While many of us certainly look forward to the holidays and all the joy they can bring, we must also be aware that there are Grinches among us who look to steal some of that joy. American Home Shield recommends keeping a radio or TV on to make the home appear to be occupied. They also recommend keeping indoor and outdoor lights on a timer and not displaying gifts in front a window. If you’re going to be gone for the holidays get a neighbor to check your mail. Finally, never hide the door key someplace obvious. Burglars know to look under the door mat, under flower pots, and over the door. Doing a few simple things can help keep your home safe from those holiday-stealing Grinches!

https://bc.ctvnews via Crime Stoppers

Creative Compassion Cares

Creative Compassion has received a $5,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and $6,750 from your local Cumberland County United Fund! These funds will be used to support our RUPA program in 2023, and will directly help us to provide at least 60 families with housing and utility payment assistance that we have not helped previously.  Other local donations from churches, businesses, and individuals will help this program reach even more people in financial need!

The Community Foundation awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to 435 nonprofit organizations as part of the 2022 annual grantmaking process.

The RUPA program began in 2022.  It was put in place by Creative’s local Board of Directors and initially funded by Cumberland County United Fund and our agency.  We are happy to have helped 50 families with these funds.  However, the need is great and we ran out of funds in August of 2022.  With the rising costs of household necessities, groceries, fluctuating gas prices, and other factors, we anticipate the need of those in financial distress will increase in 2023.  Please consider donating to our program by exploring our website:

The Community Foundation awards discretionary grants annually from their unrestricted and field-of-interest funds through an open application process to Middle Tennessee nonprofit organizations addressing community needs and benefiting the well-being of citizens through valuable programs and innovative services. The Foundation connects generosity with the need to build a stronger community for the future. To learn more, please visit .

To learn more about the work your local United Fund is doing in Cumberland County, please visit

Finally, don’t forget to stop by First National Bank of Crossville and check out our Creative Compassion Christmas tree! We are in spot number 11, which is to the left of the entrance facing south. Go inside and check out all the beautfiul trees. It’s free! And don’t forget to vote for Creative’s tree!

Money Saving Tip 

According to, we can all save money on holiday decorations by making note of the holiday decorations that need to be replaced as you take them down this year, rather than waiting and dealing with those matters next year (and hoping you remember what needed replacing!). Take advantage of post-holiday sales in January to replace that set of lights that didn’t work, that electric candle that stopped working two days before Christmas, and so on. Make note now of what you wish you would have had this year and then get those items during the post-holiday sales. Those sales can save you at least 50%!

Take pictures of your holiday decorations before you take them down and either save the pictures or share them on social media. That can save you time next year when you look back on those pictures to see where you had your decorations the year before. That can save you time and allow you to mix things up from year to year just in case you don’t want the same arrangement of decorations from one year to the next.


Creative Christmas Kitchen Tip

Keep Christmas meals simple and you’ll be less stressed. Also, when making fewer dishes there’s less room for error. An entrée, two or three sides, and a dessert (or two!) is perfectly fine. If your table is full of picky eaters or guests with dietary restrictions, do your best to accommodate them, but don’t be afraid to ask them to bring a dish to pass. No one should expect you to make three different versions of the same dish. 

Also, have some easy-to-prepare drinks on hand, such as warm apple cider, hot tea or cocoa. They’ll be perfect for sipping before, during, and even after dinner. Have some Christmas cookies (store-bought is fine!) to have alongside those beverages and you’ll be a hit!

Getty images

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

This simple casserole is for those of you who don’t have a lot of time but want to bring something delicious to Christmas dinner. This casserole is sure to please!

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Serves 8

1.5 pounds russet potatoes

4 tablespoons butter (softened)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

10 slices crumbled bacon

1 cup sour cream

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 green onions sliced


Preheat oven to 350°. Cut baked potatoes into 1-inch. cubes. Place half in a greased 13×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the salt, pepper and bacon. Top with half of the sour cream and cheeses. Repeat layers.

Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until cheeses are melted. Sprinkle with onions.

Creative Around the Community

Creative has once again been out and about in the community! November offered many wonderful opportunities for our nonprofit to be recognized.

On the 10th of the month, Creative was invited to join the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) for their breakfast for Veterans. Creative was honored to attend. We were also thankful to be given an opportunity to share the services that we offer for Veterans. We’re always grateful for our Veterans and welcome them to come to us for any home assistance need they may have.

Veterans who attended the TCAT breakfast. Creative’s Deputy Director is pictured second from the left.

Later that afternoon, Creative took part in the United Fund fair at Fletcher House for assisted living in Pleasant Hill. Several residents stopped by to learn more about Creative. A quilt similar to the ones we give many of our new homeowners was with our display, and visitors were quite impressed with that.

Saturday, November 12, brought the closing ceremonies of the Field of Honor at Garrison Park in Crossville. The 520 American flags that had been so beautifully standing for more than a week had to be rolled up and put away at the close of that day’s ceremonies. Creative was honored to volunteer for that task. We especially thank the Tansi Exchange Club for putting together that wonderful event!

Left photo by Jean Smith, while the black and white photo is by Jenna Brownfield.

The Chamber of Commerce annual membership gala was November 17. The event was held at Homestead 32 in the Homestead community. More than 200 Chamber members attended, including Creative Compassion. It was a wonderul evening of networking, awesome food, and friendship.

A Creative Funny

November is the Month of Thankfulness

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
—Anthony Robbins

Thankful for a Successful Bigfoot Festival 

The main sponsor for this year’s festival was Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union

Creative is thankful for a successful Bigfoot festival that took place in October! The unique festival benefits a local nonprofit, and this year Creative was chosen! Approximately 9,200 festivalgoers attended the event.

The festival is the first of its kind on the plateau. The idea was dreamt up by festival organizer Mark Baldwin, who also serves as Deputy Director of Creative Compassion. The first festival was originally planned for the fall of 2020, but covid concerns caused a one-year delay. Many would say it was worth the wait!

The first Bigfoot festival benefited the United Fund of Cumberland County. That organization supports three dozen local nonprofits. The first festival raised $5,000 for that wonderful organization. Creative is a partner agency of United Fund.

The Bigfoot festival features all kinds of family-friendly entertainment. Great music fills the air, the smells of the various food trucks make mouths water, and Bigfoot himself walks amongst the festivalgoers for memorable photo ops.

Photo Crossville Chronicle

A variety of vendors lined the festival route at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds. Many had Bigfoot-themed items, while others had various crafts, homemade food items, and clothing. The Bigfoot festival prides itself on having a wide variety of vendors with something for everyone.

New to this year’s festival was a Bigfoot 5K glow run the evening before the festival. More than 70 runners bravely ran a trail from the Community Complex to the Obed River Park in the dark. Runners were equipped with flashlights, headlamps, and glowsticks. Just as runners let their guard down during mid-course, Bigfoot helped get their hearts racing again. All runners said they had a wonderful time and can’t wait to do that again next year. Proceeds from this 5K benefited the Cumberland County Animal Shelter.

Volunteers from the Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School Beta clubs helped make the race a huge success!

Also new to this year’s festival was a mullet contest! That contest proved to be wildly popular and so much fun. This contest will definitely be returning next year!

Photo Crossville Chronicle

A favorite from last year’s festival was back again this year. The Bigfoot calling contest was a huge success last year and an even bigger success this year. Those brave enough to take the stage and give the call their best shot sent laughter and awes through the grandstands.

As with last year, this year’s festival featured a kid’s zone filled with all kinds of activities for the young and young at heart. The combination of fall break for the local schools and kids getting into the festival for free made for a very popular kids’ zone.

Celebrities from Mountain Monsters came to the festival to sign autographs and converse with fans. Ben Hansen was also there from the show Fact or Faked. Other Bigfoot experts joined the celebrities to offer colorful tales from their hunts of the elusive creature of the woods. Lines were long for much of the day to see these interesting characters.

Those willing to pay for VIP tickets enjoyed a wonderful evening of entertainment at the Palace Theatre in downtown Crossville the evening before the festival. This event was popular last year and the same was true for this year. VIP folks had an evening of food, interesting conversation, and lots of fun! VIP folks left with special goody bags and lots of memories!

The money raised from the festival will be presented to Creative at a very special Christmas party and end-of-year celebration at the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Crossville in December. A check to the Cumberland County Animal Shelter will also be presented from money raised at the Bigfoot 5K.

While there are many sponsors that we’re very grateful for, Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union was the headline sponsor. Please be sure and thank them when you see them!

Planning is already underway for the third annual Bigfoot festival coming October 21, 2023. Mark those calendars and we look forward to seeing you there!

Home tip of the week 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving Day is the number one day for home cooking fires. Make sure you’re safe with turkey deep fryers, check fire detector batteries, and make sure the fire extinguisher is up to date and that everyone knows how to use it correctly.

If a fire does break out on the stove, never use salt, water, or flour to put the fire out. Those substances can cause the fire to spread. For oven fires, turn off the oven,and keep the door closed. Call 911 if needed.

National Fire Protection Association

Creative Compassion Cares

This month, Creative is thankful for all those we’ve been able to help this year. The new Rent/mortgage, utility assistance program (RUPA) has helped 50 families this year! These families faced financial emergencies that left them unable to pay necessary bills.

Thanks to a start-up grant from the United Fund, donations, and a partnership with St. Alphonsus, Cumberland Fellowship, and the Good Samaritans RUPA money was able to go even farther. We hope to help even more people next year!

We’re also thankful that we secured more Carol Peterson grants than we’ve ever been able to secure this year, along with the largest HOME grant in our agency’s history.

Finally, we’re thankful for the first festival to ever benefit Creative. The Upper Cumberland Bigfoot festival was a success and we are so grateful for that.

Look for a full year-end review of Creative’s activities this year in next month’s newsletter!

We’ve a lot to be thankful for at Creative this year and we thank each and every person who has had a hand in our success!

Money Saving Tip 

That Thanksgiving grocery list is looking more expensive than ever this year with inflation running so high. Look for ways to save money on that list by using coupons. Not a fan of cutting those coupons out of the paper? You’re in luck! There are many apps that help you save without you having to cut out a single coupon! According to Investopedia, the following apps are some you may find very handy! Keep in mind that some grocery stores also have their own apps that can help you save money.

Best Overall:Dosh

Best for Groceries:Ibotta

Best for Automatic Savings:Honey ( I use this one and I highly recommend it!)

Best for Price Comparisons:Capital One Shopping

Best for Rewards:Rakuten

Best for Printable

Meet the Creative Crew

Mark Baldwin joined the Creative crew on January first, after serving on the Creative Board of Directors for two years. As Deputy Director, Mark is involved with lots of community outreach programs to help get word out about all the services available with Creative. Mark’s elected position as county commissioner made him a good candidate for the outreach skills needed for the deputy position.

Mark first became familiar with Creative when a fellow co-worker invited him to be on the board. The co-worker had been the recipient of a Creative Compassion home and wanted to give back by serving on the board. After a couple of meetings, Mark was excited to join the team.

Mark is a meteorologist by degree and enjoys keeping his weather website updated daily. His far-reaching influence on social media allows him to easily add material about Creative from time to time.

“I was impressed with Creative from the start. Once I started to learn more about their history and mission, I wanted to tell others what I had learned. I’ve been so inspired by the mission of our RUPA program that began in January. Helping others is what it’s all about! I am so thankful to be a part of the staff now and can’t wait to see what Creative does next!”

Creative Kitchen Tip 

Dispose of any leftovers in the fridge to make room for fresher food, especially at the holidays. While a packed freezer can keep food colder, food packed too closely in the fridge can inhibit airflow and cause uneven cooling within the fridge.

Food experts recommend cleaning out the fridge two weeks before Thanksgiving. That gives you room to store food items both before and after the big feast. Keep in mind that frozen turkeys may need a few days to thaw in the fridge. Thaw that turkey in a container to avoid cross contamination.

If your fridge gets crowded, consider using labels to allow fast and easy identification of food items in containers. There’s nothing worse than craving that last bit of pumpkin pie but you can’t figure out what container it’s in!

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

We all have a holiday favorite food and mine has always been my Granny Lorene’s pumpkin pie! I always looked for this holiday favorite on the table! Now, enjoying a piece of that pie not only makes my taste buds very happy, but also conjures up wonderful memories of a grandma who loved us all so very much.

Granny’s Lorene’s Pumpkin Pie


3 eggs

1 1/2 cups of cream

1 1/2 cups of pumpkin

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla


Combine all ingredients and carefully mix with a spoon (don’t whip) and pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with cool whip if you dare to take those taste buds to higher level. Enjoy!

Creative Around the Community

October was filled with Bigfoot festival preparations. However, Creative did make an appearance at the Allardt Pumpkin festival! The Creative booth was visited by folks from near and far, giving us the opportunity to tell even more folks about our wonderful organization.

A Creative Funny

July is National Grilling Month

When Columbus landed at Hispanola in 1492, he observed Natives cooking meat over an open flame, using green wood to ensure that the food didn’t burn. They called it barbacoa. By 1540, explorer Hernando de Soto observed the Indians of the Chicksaw tribe near Tupelo, Mississippi using the same cooking method to cook pork. Barbequing was spreading through the Americas!

Today, barbequing is one of the most common American activities for the summer. Not only is grilling a fun way to prepare a healthy meal, it’s also a good opportunity to spend time outside. Make sure to take time to enjoy both the outdoors and your time with family and friends this summer!

Photo credit:

A Big Sponsor for a Bigfoot Festival  

Creative was elated to learn that Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union will be the main sponsor for this year’s Upper Cumberland Bigfoot Festival! That festival will benefit Creative Compassion’s mission to help those in need in our area. Last year’s inaugural festival brought in about 8,000 festival-goers.

This year’s festival will feature celebrities from the show Mountain Monsters, as well as former FBI agent-turned-actor Ben Hansen! Music by the Obed River Band will fill the air, as well as music by an up-and-coming artist out of Georgia named Kaleb Garrett. The festival will feature more than 100 vendors and a big kids area under the big white tent. Be sure and mark your calendar for a family-friendly festival filled with good stories, good food, and great company!

Home tip of the week 

Hang at least one mirror in every room. According to, mirrors can make a space feel brighter because they bounce light around the room. Hang the mirror on the same wall as the window or, better yet, perpendicular to the window. Keep in mind that placing a mirror on a wall opposite from a window can actually bounce the light right back out the window!

Photo credit:

Creative Compassion Cares

We are so very proud to announce that 100% of our Carol M. Petersen Housing Fund applicants recieved funding this year! This grant is from the federal home loan bank of Cincinnati. Six households applied and all six were granted funding. This is the largest number of applicants that Creative has submitted at one time.

“Through the Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund (CMPHF), the FHLB provides grants up to $7,500 per homeowner to fund accessibility and emergency repairs for low-income special needs and elderly homeowners. The fund is named in honor of the former FHLB executive who spearheaded FHLB’s affordable housing and community investment initiatives for more than two decades,” Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati.

Our new program to help families facing financial emergencies continues to help families in our community. As of today, Creative has been able to assist 29 local families with various needs. Those needs consist of utility bills, rent, or mortgage assistance. This program was initiated by a generous $5,000 grant from the United Fund of Cumberland County. That money has been exhausted and now the program is supported by donations to Creative.

We continue to enjoy a partership with St. Alphonsus, Cumberland Fellowship, and Good Samaritans! Whenever an individual comes to us with a need that is too great for us to meet, we can reach out to the other three organizations and pool our resources to meet the need.

Applicants need only access our website or stop by our office to fill out the necessary paperwork. The money then goes either straight to the utility company or to the holder of the lease or mortgage. Donors can feel certain that their money is put to good use in this program. To support Creative’s mission to help those facing financial emergencies, please consider giving on our website at or by mail or office visit at 20 Penny Lane, Crossville, TN, 38555. There are many in need in our area and every donation can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Money Saving Tip 

Landscape with transplanted plants. If a friend, family member, or neighbor has a plant you love, ask if you can have some seeds from the plant or even a trimming to start your own. Many plants can be (and usually should be) divided and spread apart. Ask if you can have one of those divisions for your own garden. This will save you money at the nursery, as well as provide a memory of who gifted you the beautiful plant for many years to come!

Photo credit:

Meet the Creative Crew

Denise Cooper has been a board member since 2019.  Denise was inspired to join the board after Creative’s Executive Director, Sarah Halcott, presented information to the Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union staff about the purpose of Creative Compassion.  Sarah’s passion for Creative inspired everyone in the room as she spoke of how Creative helps those with lower incomes, the elderly, the disabled, and veterans get into a new home or to make repairs on their existing home.  To this day, Denise still sees that same focus that Sarah and the other board members have in serving the community. 

Everyone at Creative is thankful that Sarah’s talk inspired Denise to take action. In the spirit of the Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union, Sarah wanted to help the community that she loves so very much. Her professionalism and kindness inspire all of us to keep working hard to make our community an even better place to live.

Denise has worked for Upper Cumberland Federal Credit Union for over 40 years and enjoys living a simple life on a tiny farm in Cumberland County with goats, her dogs and a garden.

Kitchen Tip 

Mix up your favorite beverage and freeze it into ice cubes. Then, when you need ice for that drink you can add ice cubes that are already your drink in frozen form. This keeps “regular” ice cubes from watering down your drink.

This tends to be an idea most used with Kool-Aid, especially for the kids. Wrap a piece of Saran wrap around the tray and punch popsicle sticks into each tray. The Saran wrap helps keep the popsicle sticks in place. After the cubes are frozen everyone can enjoy a delicious frozen treat!

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

Nothing says summer like grilling out! Try this recipe for some delicious grilled vegetables. A mouth watering recipe that’s also healthy. What a win!


3 (12-inch) wooden or metal skewers

1 pt. cherry tomatoes

1 pound fresh asparagus 

4 small zucchini or yellow squash (about 1 lb.), cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices

2 small sweet potatoes (about 1/2 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

5 sweet mini bell peppers, halved

1 (8-oz.) container fresh mushrooms

1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 small bunches green onions

Olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Veggie Vinaigrette


Step 1 Soak wooden skewers in water 30 minutes. (Omit if using metal skewers.)

Step 2 Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Thread tomatoes 1 inch apart onto skewers. Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus.

Step 3 Brush zucchini, next 5 ingredients, tomatoes, and asparagus with olive oil; sprinkle with desired amount of salt and black pepper.

Step 4 Grill sweet potatoes, covered with grill lid, 6 minutes on each side or until tender. At the same time, grill zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. Grill green onions, asparagus, and tomatoes 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until tender and grill marks appear. Remove from grill, and brush with vinaigrette. Arrange on a serving platter. Serve with remaining vinaigrette.

Just in case you need a simple vinaigrette recipe, try this one from The Food Network!


1/4 cup white, red or aged sherry vinegar

2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Set a medium bowl on a kitchen towel shaped like an “O” (this helps keep the bowl steady while whisking). Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper in the bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking continuously until the mixture is combined and blended well. Use right away, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Creative Around the Community

Some of you may have heard Creative’s public service announcement (PSA) on the radio last month. The PSA airtime was offered to Creative for free by StoneCom radio stations in Cookeville, TN to announce our grant to help veterans who need home repairs. We are very grateful for that opportunity.

Earlier in the month, Creative’s Deputy Director Mark Baldwin spoke with the Cumberland County Master Gardeners group monthly meeting at the Communty Complex. Mark spoke to the group about the effects of weather and climate on gardening but he also had the opportunity to speak about Creative’s mission. In the weeks that followed, donations came in from the group that helped with our program to help folks facing financial emergencies.

The Lifelong Learning program at Roane State Community College invited Mark to come speak on preparing a home for adverse weather. Mark also had the chance to speak about Creative, which led to a $500 donation from a student in the class!

Creative set up once again at Friday at the Crossroads in Downtown Crossville in June. We were impressed by the number of folks who stopped by our booth and learned about Creative and our mission. There was a great attendance, the weather was perfect, and the atmosphere was lively and fun-loving! We can’t wait for Friday at the Crossroads to retun in August!

Another interesting fundraising event this month involved local authour Rita Reali. For the past three months, Rita has been offereing a portion of her book sales to Creative. In June, Rita hosted a book reveal party and asked Creative’s Deputy Director Mark Baldwin to emcee the event. Rita once again offered a portion of book sales from her new book to Creative. We even had donations from the audience! It was a wonderful event and everyone had the best time.

Chronicle story on sponsorship

A Creative Funny

June is National Homeownership Month

In 1995, National Homeownership Week began as a strategy of President William Clinton’s administration to increase homeownership across the nation. In 2002, President George W. Bush expanded the observance to the entire month of June.

National Homeownership Month in June shines a spotlight on supporting the American Dream of homeownership. It’s also a time to recognize the organizations that help individuals and families to achieve their goals.

Weather & Wine Fundraiser

The first Weather & Wine class was a huge success! There were beautiful Charcuterie boards of delicious food, there was lots to learn, and good company to share it all with! Wine tasting was offered to those who were interested, along with a history lesson of Stonehaus Winery.

Money was raised for Creative’s program to help those facing financial emergencies and that is the most important part of all. Money raised at this event will help ease the burden of folks in our community who are facing tough times.

If you missed this class don’t despair! We’ll definitely be doing this one again in the fall!

Home tip of the week 

Sometimes it’s necessary to make marks on the wall when hanging pictures. Marking the edges of where the pictures should go makes that task a lot easier! Use white chalk the next time you need to make those marks. The chalk will work well to outline borders and it easily wipes off the wall afterward!

Creative Compassion Cares

Creative has now helped 26 families with rent, mortgage and utility assistance! We have prevented evictions, some of which would have involved children, helped folks keep the lights on, the water running, and more! This wonderful new program by Creative is making a very positive difference in our community.

We are so grateful for the donations to our program. The first week of June has already seen more than $500 worth of donations to the program! In addition, our partnership with St. Alphonsus, Cumberland Fellowship, and Good Samaritans allows each of us to help even more people facing financial emergencies.

If you would like to give to this program just find the donate button on our website. You can also mail checks to 20 Penny Lane, Crossville, TN, 38555. We’ll put your money to use in a way that could change someone’s life.

Money Saving Tip

Consider a barter system among your friends and family to save money! For instance, maybe you are the one they call when they need a squeaky door fixed. You can then call on them for a similar favor as needed. Everyone can help each other in some way, with no money changing hands. Make a list of each other’s talents and see how well it works!

Meet the Creative Crew

This month’s spotlight is on Sarah Halcott, the Executive Director of Creative Compassion. Sarah had this to say about her experience here at Creative:

“I did not even know Creative existed until 2015 when I needed to complete a job placement program sponsored by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.  I’m a Crossville native & love the Plateau!  Those 10 weeks turned into a full-time job!  I’ve always said I want to work for the best, and I truly think Creative fits that standard.  We may not have the best facility, but we have the closest staff and greatest volunteers on our Board who care about helping people where we can.  We may not be the most well-known, but we have managed millions of dollars in federal & state grants and brought needed funds to our local area since 1992.” 

Sarah leads by an example that reminds many of us of a lady in the Bible named Ruth. Like Ruth, Sarah leads with kindness and servant leadership. Those of us who know Sarah know her to be a quiet person (well, most of the time. (ha!)) but one need not make a lot of noise to use kindness to change the world, just as the story of Ruth shows us all.

Sarah shared a quote by Achim Nowak that she thinks fondly of. She noted that it describes our nonprofit perfectly, but I think it also does a wonderful job of describing Sarah’s character. The quote reads, “Lead with quiet authority.  Confidence does not shout.”  

Sarah Halcott

Kitchen Tip 

Forget to bring the eggs to room temperature? No worries! Just set them in some very warm water (not hot!) for about 5-10 minutes. Problem solved!

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

Blackberry Icebox Cake

The perfect dessert for those hot summer days when the oven is best left off!

2 pints blackberries, divided

½ cup blackberry jam

1 lemon

2 cups chilled heavy cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

8 oz. vanilla wafers, divided


Step 1 Measure out 2 cups blackberries from two pints. Slice berries in half lengthwise and transfer to a medium bowl. (Save remaining berries for decorating later.)

Step 2 Add 1/2 cup blackberry jam to bowl with berries. Using a citrus juicer, juice one lemon over berry mixture. Let sit 10 minutes.

Step 3 Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups heavy cream in a large bowl, starting on low speed and icnreasing to high, until soft peaks form.

Step 4 Beat in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and pinch of salt just to combine.

Step 5 Line a medium bowl (6-cup capacity) with a plastic wrap, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving plenty of overhang. Line the bottom of bowl with a layer of vanilla wafers.

Step 6 Spoon about 1/4 cup berry mixture over wafers. Scoop 1 1/2 cups whipped cream into a small bowl; cover and save in fridge for later. Spread 1/2 cup of the remaining whipped cream evenly over wafer and berry layers. Repeat layers with wafers (breaking to fit as needed–no one will know), blackberry mixture, and whipped cream, using more for each layer as the bowl gets wider, until you run out of all the components.

Step 7 Bring up plastic overhang to cover and chill at least 24 hours.

Step 8 Unwrap plastic from top of cake and place a large cake stand or platter firmly over it. Flip over and lift bowl away; peel away plastic wrap. (Ta-da!)

Step 9 Using a whisk, beat reserved whipped cream back to soft peaks, then usa spoon to dollop cream all over cake and spread around evenly.

Step 10 Cut reserved berries in half lengthwise and arrange them on top.

Step 11 Slice cake into 8 pieces to serve.

Step 12 Do Ahead: Cake can be assembled 2 days ahead and can also be unfolded and covered in cream 1 hour ahead; either way, keep in the fridge until the last minute.

Creative Around the Community

Earlier in the spring, our Deputy Director, Mark Baldwin, was invited to speak to the Jamestown rotary about Creative and what our organization does. On the 10th of May, Mark visited the group they were very interested in the work we do. They even invited Mark to come back and speak again! They were wonderful hosts and Mark can’t wait to visit them again.

The month ended with Mark attending a Legislative Conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This gave Mark the opportunity to let other legislators from across the state know what we do and why our work is so very important.

A Creative Funny

How do electricians get confused?

They get their wires crossed. 🙂

May 2022 Newsletter

May is National Military Month

There are more military related observances during the month of May than any other month. This makes May the ideal month for recognizing our service men and women. Among those observances are Armed Forces Day (May 21) and Memorial Day (May 30). We thank all those who have served!

All gave some, some gave all.

Veteran’s Assistance

Creative Compassion’s Veteran’s Assistance program was started in 2019. This program has proudly helped eight veterans in the Upper Cumberlands with various home repairs and improvements. We thank the Home Depot Foundation, in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), for the funding of this grant.

Pictured below is a fellow Army Veteran who benefited from a new heating and air conditioning unit thanks to money from this program. The new unit is energy efficient, which will save him money in the years to come.

If you or anyone you know is a veteran and is in need of a home repair please send them to Creative! Funds are available for distribution and we would like to see the money put to good use for an American hero. We have more info on our website or you can give us a call at (931) 456-6654.

A Bigfoot Festival to Benefit Creative 

It’s a festival unlike any other and this year it benefits Creative Compassion! The inaugural Upper Cumberland Bigfoot Festival was held last year and was a raging success. This year’s festival is expected to draw an even bigger crowd!

The festival begins Saturday, October 15th, at 9:00 a.m. and wraps up at 6:00 p.m. that evening. Jeff and Willie from Mountain Monsters will be there, as well as Ben Hansen from Fact or Faked. Other Bigfoot experts coming include Thom Shay and Charlie Raymond. You just never know who you might run into at this eccentric festival!

New to this year’s festival is a Bigfoot 5K Glow Run the evening before the festival! That is already proving to be very popular and folks are already signing up! That race will feature live music and too much fun. Glow sticks will light up the runners as they run to the Obed River and back at the Fairgrounds. Runners will be timed by chips in their bibs and an awards ceremony will follow the race! That race will begin at 8:00 p.m.

To learn even more about this incredible festival, just visit!

Home tip of the week 

Pull your refrigerator away from the wall at least once a year and vacuum the dust off the condenser coils. This helps your refrigerator continue to work efficiently and extends its life. Add this to your spring cleaning list and enjoy a more efficient fridge the rest of the year!

Creative Compassion Cares

Creative has now helped 19 families with either rent, mortgage or utility assistance since this new program began in January. These are families who came to us and were struggling due to a financial emergency. The grant for this program was made possible by the United Fund of Cumberland County, though that money will soon be exhausted. Fundraising events, such as the Weather and Wine class, as well as generous donations from the community, will provide additional funding for other families to receive help going forward.

The importance of this program is emphasized in the following quote from a gentleman we recently helped.

“This will get me over the hump of winter.  January, February, and March [heating] bills were so hard.  I’ve struggled so hard since January.  I don’t know how I would have done it without you.”

If you would like to give to this program, just find the donate button on this page or reach out to our agency.

Money Saving Tip 

Treat yourself! Just be sure to use your treat as an opportunity to save. Match the cost of your nonessential indulgences in savings. For example, if you splurge on a strawberry ice cream cone (or three!) while out running errands, put the same amount into your savings account. Before you know it, you’ll have a sweet amount of savings in that account!

Meet the Creative Crew!

Beginning with this month’s newsletter, you will meet each and every one of the staff and board members that keep things running smoothly here at Creative Compassion! For this month, I would like to introduce you to Kim Jordan. Kim has been on the Creative Compassion Board of Directors since 2014.  She has held the Secretary/Treasurer position, Vice President position, and currently sits as the Board President for 2022.

“Since I became a mom I always tried to give back, volunteered, coaching t-ball, basketball, and soccer. I moved to Crossville from Massachusetts and started volunteering and helping with the kid’s school sports. In that time, I applied for a home through Creative Compassion and I got approved! I was so happy and proud of myself! After I moved in, I got a call from a board member from Creative Compassion asking me to be a board member… I was a little nervous to say the least, but I wanted something else to do (since the kids have grown up), so I decided to give it a try. I wanted to be able to help another family and have them feel as happy and proud as I was with myself. It’s been 7 1/2 years now and I love it, and I continue to love helping hardworking families achieve their goals.”

We are so very proud of Kim and all that she has accomplished. Her contagious smile is always nice to see at our board meetings. Just keep in mind that there’s one word you can’t say around Kim, as I’ve learned the hard way many times. Don’t say the “snow” word and no one gets hurt! Kim will be quick to point out that she moved here from Massachusetts “to get away from that nonsense.” (ha!)

Thank you for all that you do, Kim!

Kim Jordan, President of the Creative Compassion Board of Directors

Kitchen Tip 

Since May is the month we start tasting those delicious strawberries, it seems appropriate to share a strawberry-related kitchen tip! To wash those beautiful berries just place them in a colander and gently rinse them under cool water before removing the stems. If the stem is removed before the wash, the water will have a greater affect on the texture and flavor of the strawberries. We sure don’t want to risk losing any of that sweet and delicious strawberry flavor!

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

Strawberries begin to ripen in Tennessee just as the weather is really warming up! This means you just might get a craving for a delicious strawberry milkshake. Check out this tasty recipe by Mary Gormandy White!


Makes approximately three, 12-ounce servings

  • 1 pound of fresh strawberries
  • 1 pint of vanilla or strawberry ice cream
  • 1/2 cup of milk (your choice of whole, 2 percent, or skim)


  1. Hull the strawberries and cut them in half.
  2. Place all ingredients in a blender.
  3. Process until smooth (approximately 45 – 60 seconds).
  4. Test before serving, adding additional time if needed for desired smoothness or adding more milk to adjust consistency.


There are plenty ways to vary this basic recipe for a strawberry milkshake. Consider:

  • If you like your shakes thinner, add a bit more milk or even a few splashes of water.
  • If the initial concoction is a bit too thin, add more ice cream or a few ice cubes and blend for 10 – 15 seconds longer.
  • Blend in a few teaspoons of sugar or other sweetener (stevia, Splenda, etc.) if you like an even sweeter milkshake.
  • For a silkier texture, blend in a small amount of strawberry or vanilla yogurt. Start with 2 tablespoons, adding more as needed to get to the texture you prefer.
  • Use frozen strawberries instead of fresh.
  • Enhance the fruit flavor by blending in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of another fruit that pairs well with strawberry, such as other types of berries, kiwi, or banana.
  • Reduce carb count by using Hood Calorie Countdown Whole Dairy Beverage instead of milk and a reduced carb ice cream such as Breyers CarbSmart.

Serving Suggestions

Serving suggestions to consider include:

  • Garnish the side of the glass with a whole strawberry and a sprig of mint. Cut a slit in the strawberry to set it on the rim of the glass.
  • Top off the shake with a generous portion of whipped cream.
  • Add a few sliced chopped or sliced strawberries to the top.
  • Drizzle chocolate sauce on top of the shake.
  • Fill the glass halfway up, drop in some chopped strawberries, then fill to the top.
  • Invest in a set of classic soda fountain shoppe glasses if you plan to serve milkshakes often.
  • Be sure to include a straw.

A Strawberry Festival to Remember

The city of Portland, Tennessee, is located about 45 miles north of Nashville and hosts one of the biggest strawberry festivals in the region on May 13-14! Just take I-40 to Lebanon and then hit Highway 109. That stretch of beautiful highway will take you right to Portland and to a lip-smacking good strawberry festival! For more information, please visit the festival’s website at

Weather & Wine

Everything is coming together for the Weather & Wine class coming up on May 13th! Attendees will be treated to refreshments and fun and informative class by Meteorologist Mark! Few other industries are as impacted by weather and climate as the grape and wine industry. Changes in the past have influenced wines of today, and changes to come in the future will influence the wines of the future. It’s all very intriguing!

This creative fundraiser will benefit Creative Compassion and our mission to help folks with rent, mortgage, or utility assistance due to financial emergencies. The program has helped 19 families so far this year and many more will need our help by year’s end.

So, get your tickets today and support a very worthy cause while enjoying a very cool class! Tickets can be purchased for $25 at The class is filling up fast, so get your tickets today!

Creative Around the Community

Creative’s booth at the Master Gardener Flower, Lawn, & Garden Show last month was a hit! So many of you stopped by to chat and learn more about our organization. We had our new promotional car air fresheners to give away, free candy, as well as opportunities to register to win a baby sasquatch or yeti! It was all so much fun and we very much enjoyed talking with everyone who stopped by!

Creative Compassion car air freshener
The Creative booth at the Flower, Lawn, & Garden Show

Roane State’s Open House was Monday, April 25th and we had such a blast there! So many folks stopped by and get their picture with the rarely-seen big man himself! And yes, Bigfoot is seen here clutching a baby sasquatch.

Bigfoot at the Roane State Open House

Creative’s Deputy Director, Mark Baldwin, was invited to speak with the Fairfield Rotary Club for their final April meeting. Mark spoke Creative’s mission and how this nonprofit has helped and will continue to help the community for many years to come! Mark was thankful for such a welcoming audience and a very warm reception!

Deputy Director Mark Baldwin speaks to the Fairfield Rotary Club about Creative Compassion.

A Creative Funny

Q: What did one strawberry say to the other strawberry?

A: If you weren’t so sweet, we wouldn’t be in this jam!

April 2022 Newsletter

April is the National Month of Hope.

We celebrate the power of hope–the belief that things will work out, especially when it seems otherwise. 

Image by

 Bookin’ a Fundraiser

Creative Compassion’s first fundraising event of 2022 was held at the Art Circle Public Library in downtown Crossville on March 5. Local author Rita Reali is currently writing a series of books that takes us into the intriguing lives of the Sheldons. The series highlights the human condition and takes readers on a journey filled with tests of love, loss, betrayal, hope, and faith.

Rita states that the biggest complaint she receives from the books are from people who begin reading the book just before bedtime. The page-turning series keeps readers up through the night. Rita’s advice is to start the books when you have a few hours to indulge in reading!

Rita’s book series that takes us on a wild ride with the Sheldons!

Rita has generously offered a portion of her book sales to go to Creative. That fundraising campaign began on March 5 and ends June 5. When you buy a book you support both a great local author and great local cause. To purchase a book(s), please contact Rita directly

Creative is very grateful for Rita and her generous contribution to our organization. Be sure and give her a big thank you the next time you see her around!

Rita converses with a visitor during the book signing.

If you would rather meet Rita in person and get your very own autographed copy of one of her books, just meet us at Grinder House Coffee on Saturday, April 30 from 11:00 – 1:00! Grinder House is located at 73 North Main Street in Downtown Crossville. Stop by to chat while you enjoy one of Grinder House’s delicious coffees or desserts. They also have a wonderful lunch menu!

Grinder House Coffee House

A Creative Update

The new rent/mortgage and utility bill assistance program that began in January continues to help folks in our local community. Since January, Creative has now been able to help 14 families in need of assistance! Keep in mind that while Creative’s mission is to help mainly low-income individuals, this particular program is intended to help anyone who has encountered financial difficulty. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, please reach out to us today! The application for that assistance can be found at

A Busy March!

Creative has been busy getting the word out about our nonprofit! On the third of the month, Deputy Director Mark Baldwin was invited to speak with the Crossville Noon Rotary Club about Creative Compassion and explain what the organization does for the community. A big thank you to that Rotary Club!

On the fifth of the month, the Art Circle Public Library hosted the book signing that you read about at the start of this newsletter. Creative is so thankful for the Library’s sponsorship of that event and we are grateful to Rita Reali for being so generous with both her time and money.

On the 22nd, Mark had the pleasure of sitting down with Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-TN) at his Nashville office. It’s always nice to put in a good word about Creative with Mr. Sexton and to know that he appreciates us being here and what we do for the community.

On the morning of the 29th, Mark had the great pleasure of speaking with the Cookeville Breakfast Rotary Club. They wanted to know all about Creative Compassion and the Bigfoot Festival coming in October that will support Creative! Mark says it’s always nice to start the day with good and friendly people! For more information about the Bigfoot Festival, please visit that website at Look for a story on this festival in an upcoming newsletter!

Creative is so thankful for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) for hosting our organization for Frito Bandito Day on the 29th. More than 80 students, faculty, and staff were served! It was a wonderful event and we are so thankful for that opportunity. We can’t wait to be invited back!

Home tip of the week 

Are you tired of the dread of using a hammer to drive a nail? If you’re anything like me, you’ve suffered the blow of a misguided hammer on more than one occasion! Next time, try using a comb to hold the nail in place. The comb should hold the nail in place and keep your fingers safe from that next swing of the hammer!

Creative Compassion Cares

Creative hired a Deputy Director this year who is also a local meteorologist. Many of you may know Mark from his website, Part of Mark’s responsibilities involve coming up with unique fundraiser ideas. One of those ideas was inspired by the parent of one of the kids in Mark’s monthly class for kids at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). She proposed a class for adults to learn about the impacts of weather and climate on the wine industry.

After looking into that topic, Mark decided there was definitely an interesting class to be had on this subject! That idea has turned into a fundraiser for Creative Compassion. Thanks to a sponsorship by Stonehaus Winery, that class will become a reality on Friday, May 13th at 5:00 pm! We hope you will join us for refreshments and a very interesting seminar on the impacts of weather and climate on wines and the grapes they rely on.

The class is limited to the first 40 who sign up, so be sure and secure your spot today! To learn more and to register for the seminar just visit

Money Saving Tip 

With gardening season upon us, it might be time to consider a vegetable garden, especially if you’ve never had one before. Seasoned gardeners know all about that delicious taste of a fresh-from-the-garden veggie and the pride that comes from harvesting those veggies from your very own garden. Those same veggies can also save you a lot of money. Even with increasing prices of seeds and fertilizers, growing your own vegetables can still be a cost-effective thing to do, not to mention the health benefits! According to, the seven most cost-effective vegetables to grow are lettuce, broccoli, green beans, carrots, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and tomatoes. My mouth is watering already!

For some added beauty to your garden, don’t be afraid to mix some flowers in with your veggies. In fact, many gardeners are convinced that Marigolds ward off pests like tomato hornworms and rabbits!

Photo – Rosie Yeomans Sparsholt

Kitchen Tip 

This month’s kitchen tip is more about gratitude. With real-estate it’s always about location, location, location. In the kitchen, it’s all about gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Whether you thank God for your food before, during, or after a meal or whether you simply remember to thank the chef, always remember to be grateful for what you have to eat. And, of course, let’s not forget to be grateful for the ones we get to share our meal with, even if it’s just ourselves.

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

This month’s recipe features a Raspberry Poke Cake that our very own Janie Burgess prepared for one of our Creative Compassion board meetings. The cake was a delicious success! This retro Raspberry Jell-O Poke Cake is a potluck favorite. It’s made with raspberry-flavored Jell-O, but you can use any flavor.

Raspberry Poke Cake

Photo by @starryrose

Prep Time: 10 mins Cook Time: 30 mins Chill Time: 3 hrs


  • 15.25 oz box white cake mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil


  • 8 oz container Cool Whip thawed


  • 3.3 oz box raspberry Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¾ cup cold water


  • Raspberries optional
  • Sprinkles optional

STEP ONE:  First, make the cake and bake in a 9×13-inch pan. Let the cake cool completely after baking.

STEP TWO: Next, prepare the Jell-O. Then, poke holes all over the cake with a wooden spoon handle.

STEP THREE: Using a measuring spoon, add the Jell-O to the holes. Chill the cake for at least three hours.

STEP FOUR: Finally, spread cool whip over the top and garnish with raspberries and sprinkles. 

A Creative Funny

I wanted to buy some literature on DIY shelving. Sounds easy, but try going into a book store and asking if they have “any books on shelves”. (credit:

istock by Getty image
“If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday,” Isaiah 58:10

March 2022 Newsletter

 “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday,” Isaiah 58:10.

A Very Gracious Offering 

Local author Rita Reali recently reached out to Creative Compassion with a very enticing offer. She offered a portion of her book sales to benefit Creative Compassion’s mission!

Rita told Creative that she decided to support our organization because she wants to see Creative succeed. “We need organizations like yours in our area,” Rita said. “I’ve always heard, ‘You can’t go through life with a catcher’s mitts on both hands: you’ve got to be able to throw something back’ This is my way of giving back to a cause I believe in.”

Rita is the author of a book series that takes a reader on an adventure with the Sheldons. While the books are written in such a way that they don’t need to be read in the order in which they were written, Rita suggests readers might enjoy the series more if they read the books in order.

The four-book series by Rita Reali.

Rita is a two-time international award-winning novelist and is a professional editor and proofreader. She’s also a national award-winning journalist and an award-winning essayist, parody songwriter, photographer and visual artist.

The onetime radio announcer and news director – “bitten by the radio bug” at an early age – weaves elements of the broadcast world and its miscellaneous quirky personalities into her novels. A native and longtime resident of Connecticut, Rita now lives atop the picturesque Cumberland Plateau in rural Tennessee, with her husband, cat and an assortment of fictional characters who keep life interesting.

You can meet Rita at the Art Circle Public Library on Saturday, March 5 from 12:30-3:30 for a book signing. The library has generously offered their beautiful Community Room for the occasion.

So, make plans to come visit us at the library on March 5. We would love to see you there! The books sell for $15 each, with the fourth book in the series selling for $20. Cash, check, and credit card are accepted.

Creative will provide light refreshments. In the book Second Chances, readers learn that Gary Sheldon’s favorite cookie is the Cinnamon-Walnut cookie. Rita has hinted that those may make make an appearance at the book signing! We hope to see you there!

Rita attends a book reading and signing in the summer of 2021.

Home tip of the week 

Use those plastic bread bag ties to label power cords! Just place the plastic tie on the cord and then label it with a sharpie. You’ll be helping out the environment by recycling and you’ll know which cord goes with each appliance. No more unplugging the wrong thing! A win, win for sure!

Creative Compassion Cares

The new rent and utility assistance program is off to a wonderful start! Since the program began on January first, Creative has helped 11 households with either rent or utility bill assistance. Those who qualified for assistance had experienced unexpected financial emergencies. To apply for assistance, just go to the “services” tab on our webpage at


The rent and utility assistance was funded by a grant from the United Fund of Cumberland County. Creative is very grateful for this generous grant that will help so many families.

Later this spring, Creative will once again be participating in the Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund grant. This grant is for low-income households that have special needs and/or are 60 years of age or older and inhabiting the residence. In the past, Creative has helped homeowners replace roofs, water heaters, plumbing, HVAC units, leaking exterior doors, etc. 

Special needs criteria includes physical, mental, or developmental needs. It also includes those who are co-occurring disabled, physically/emotionally abused, chemically dependent, aging out of foster care/orphanage or other residential facilities.

The low-income status will be determined from the application filed with Creative.

At least one applicant must have ownership in the home needing the repairs and they must live at the home needing the repairs (i.e. meaning their name must be on the deed).  Applicants can have a lien or mortgage on the home; it does not need to be owned “free & clear.” That home address must be in Cumberland, Fentress, White, Overton, or Putnam counties.

Applications are available by request via email, mail, or pick up at our office. If you have any questions, please call our office at 931-456-6654 and ask to speak with Jessica!

Money Saving Tip 

Change your HVAC filter every month during the heating months. Change it every month if your unit also uses the filter for air conditioning. Keeping that filter changed creates less stress on your unit and can save you as much as $60 a year! A clean filter also increases the lifespan on your unit. 

Bonus tip…take a sharpie and write the date you changed the filter in the white space around the filter. Then, you’ll always know when you changed it out last. 

Kitchen Tip 

Few things are worse than trying to clean up the mess from the egg that got away! I know this has never happened to you seasoned chefs, but if an egg should happen to slip away from you and splat on the floor, just sprinkle lots of salt on it. No more chasing that broken egg all across the floor!

How to Clean Up a Dropped Egg » How To Clean

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

With St. Patrick’s Day coming on the 17th, Creative figured you all would like a “green” recipe for the occasion. This delicious cake might just help you have the best St. Patrick’s Day yet!

Pistachio Pudding Cake

Prep Time: 10 mins Cook Time: 40 mins Cool: 1 hr

What you’ll need:

  • 15.25 ounce box white cake mix
  • 3.4 ounce box pistachio instant pudding (powder)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup 7up soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract , optional
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar , for dusting

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 or 12-inch fluted Bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix, instant pudding powder, eggs, 7up soda, vegetable oil, and almond extract (if using); beat with an electric mixer or whisk vigorously for 2 minutes, until combined. Fold in the pistachios.
  3. Pour evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes, then run a dull knife along the edges to loosen. Then allow to cool completely.
  5. Turn cake out onto a wire rack or plate; dust with powdered sugar.
  6. Slice and serve!

A Creative Funny

Please don’t come to my garage sale if you’ve ever let me borrow something. —@Mjkspeaks (Reader’s Digest)

February 2022 Newsletter

 “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday,” Isaiah 58:10.


A new chapter in Creative Compassion’s 30-year history has begun! With the hiring of a new Deputy Director, Mark Baldwin, things are changing at Creative and we can’t wait to see what this new chapter brings for our non-profit!

Many of you may know Mark from his weather forecasts on social media and his website MeteorologistMark. The good news for his more than 20,000 followers is that his work with local weather will continue!

Mark served on the Board of Directors for Creative before applying for and being hired into this new role with Creative. He looks forward to working with Creative on fundraising ideas, as well as community outreach that educates the public on what Creative is and how we can help our communities.

One of Mark’s first projects is this monthly newsletter, which is a first for Creative! Mark’s background in journalism, along with his love of writing, makes him well suited for this endeavor. His skills and love for his community made him a shoo-in for a Deputy Director. We can’t wait to see what he does for Creative!

In the beginning…

Creative Compassion began with a sermon from the book of Isaiah. The verse that formed the heart of that sermon is the one you see titling this letter. That message of compassion resonated in the hearts of Mike and Judy Smathers and led them to create Creative. Thirty years later, we continue our work of serving our communities through the love of Christ.

Since our founding in 1989, Creative has helped more than 700 people with various housing needs, including making it possible for low-income individuals to become home owners. Creative also takes pride in helping local individuals with home repairs, as well as rent and utility assistance.

HOME Grant

Creative Compassion is celebrating the largest HOME grant in the agency’s history! The $640,000 HOME grant will make it possible for Creative to provide even more housing for local low-income families. The grant is a clear signal of the strong reputation Creative has built over the past 30 years.

The HOME grant is the largest Federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households. Were it not for Creative Compassion, this money would have gone somewhere else, costing our own region this much-needed money.

Home tip of the week 

Did you know that you can use crayons to fill in nail holes on the wall? Just find a crayon that matches (or closely matches) the wall paint and use the crayon to fill in the hole. This works great on white walls with a white crayon!

Just don’t let the kids see you do this. You may end up with more crayon on the wall than you bargained for!  


A New Creative Compassion Program

Photo credit:

Creative has been busy reviewing applications for the brand new home utility and rental assistance program that began this month. Winter has been harsh and that means utility bills are high. For those who were struggling before the winter hit, the added stress of higher utility bills has quickly become a burden.

That’s where Creative Compassion steps in. After filling out an application that proves the need, applicants are then considered for financial assistance. Money never goes directly into the hands of recipients. Rather, it is sent to the utility company that is needing to be paid.

If rental assistance is sought, that need is also confirmed through an application process. If granted, the money then goes directly to the landlord.

All financial needs must be proven by the applicant. An applicant can only receive funds once every 18 months.

Assistance from this grant is made possible by funding provided by the United Fund of Cumberland County.

“After a hard year of financial difficulties resulting from events out of my control, my spouse… had an affair and left our home. I had to continue to pay for all our financial responsibilities…. After (some time) I had reached a point where I had fallen behind and just couldn’t keep up the financial burden any longer. My savings were depleted, and I could no longer pay for the financial responsibilities of two individuals on my salary alone. This assistance helped me get back on track and kept me from falling further behind. It was a true blessing.” – Cumberland County Family needing help with utilities.

Money Saving Tip 

Clean your lightbulbs. Dirty lightbulbs may emit as much as 30% less energy, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cleaning those bulbs will make the room brighter, making it less necessary for other lights to be used. So, something as simple as just cleaning off the bulbs could put some extra cash in your wallet! That’s always a good thing!

Photo credit: Amazon via

Kitchen Tip

Do you get tired of buying bananas, only to throw several of them out because you didn’t use them before they went bad? Well, don’t be so quick to throw them out! Just peal them, slice them up, and place them in a freezer bag and freeze them. They’ll keep for several more weeks and will work perfectly in banana bread or smoothies! In fact, I use frozen banana slices quite often for my blueberry smoothies. Packed with potassium, antioxidants, and Vitamin C, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more delicious and nutritious treat!

Creative’s Recipe of the Month

Delicious Banana Blueberry Smoothie


1 banana (frozen slices work great!)

2/3 cup Greek Vanilla Yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup blueberries


Mix all together in blender until smooth. Feel free to alter ingredients to taste.

Extra topping ideas

Nuts of choice, seeds of choice, protein powder, strawberries, or peaches. I also add a teaspoon of vanilla for flavor. Feel free to be creative with your own topping ideas!

DIY Bloopers

(Tim McGuire/Getty Images)

I once started demolishing a wall… before I knew what ‘load-bearing’ meant.

-Angela C. from Antioch, TN (Source:

We hope you’ve enjoyed our first newsletter! Stay tuned for the next letter coming in March!