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Appling Amazon fulfillment center prepares for holiday rush

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APPLING, Ga. (WJBF) — It may be the busiest time of the year at Amazon. At the new fulfillment center in Appling, employees are shipping hundreds of thousands of packages a day as the holiday rush kicks in.

“The busiest days make the day go by faster,” Edgar Osorio, a process assistant, said.

Edgar Osorio fills orders each day. He separates each item to ensure they are sent to the right address.

“It’s the most fun time of the year.”

From Osorio’s station, each item is packaged — either by hand or machine. The packages are then sent all over the Southeast.

“We focus in on quality,” Neil Gwynne, the general manage of Amazon’s Appling Fulfillment Center, said. “That allows us to get our customers’ packages to their doorstep in the condition they want on time.”

The new warehouse in Appling has helped speed up delivery times in the region. Customers living within eight hours of the facility can receive their packages the day after they are ordered.

“As we ramp up, we’ll do closer to half a million packages every single day,” Gwynne explained.

Speed and efficiency are helpful as Christmas approaches. Gwynne says Amazon has planned ahead to ensure it has enough stock to keep up with demand. An algorithm tells the fulfillment center which items it should have on hand at all times.

“We invest tons of time and energy in making sure that we don’t get impacted by any sort of supply shortages.”

While Amazon has planned accordingly, Gwynne encourages customers not to wait until the last minute to make their orders.

“The earlier you order, the more availability of products there’s going to be and more guarantee that you’re going to get that product. We ship out until December 24 for those holiday shipments. We spend a lot of time and energy to make sure that any item that comes through this building, that is considered a present for somebody, gets out and delivered on time for when they expect it.”

Thousands of employees have been hired since the facility opened in September. Amazon plans on hiring new employees through February.


'Trees for Troops' provides 450 Christmas trees to military families

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AUGUSTA, GA ( WJBF) — Trees for Troops is all about providing Christmas trees for military members and their families this holiday season. 

” We offer these trees to our active-duty service members so we can bring the spirit of the holidays to the home and give back to the community,” Terry Ryan said.

For some military families, the holidays mean spending without their loved ones who are overseas — but these Christmas trees can still bring in some holiday cheer.

” It just reminds us that even though he’s over there or active-duty service members are overseas protecting the United States, us that are still back here are still thought about, appreciated and not forgotten,” Ryan said.

And even during the pandemic Fort Gordon was able to host a Christmas festival bringing the holiday spirit on base.

” We’ve scaled down where we needed to. We’ve changed the way we do things a little bit, but based on where we were this year with vaccines and transmission rates in the community, we felt the risk was low enough to bring more people in,” Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Shaw Pick said.

The festival featured food, drinks and ended the night with a bonfire. 

” I think what’s important about this time of year is that it’s the holidays. So, its a really fun time for a lot of families, but its a really hard time for some families. Not just the active-duty families, but we still have veteran families out in the community that still want to feel connected to Fort Gordon,” Pick said.

Photojournalist: Chris Shipman

Wagener close to getting new Wagener-Salley High School

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WAGENER, S.C. (WJBF) — Aiken County school leaders are close to choosing the next steps in bringing changes to Wagener-Salley High School.

At a community-wide meeting on Thursday, December 2, “most of the speakers were in favor of going ahead with building of the school on the A L Corbett property, which means work could begin immediately,” school board chairman Dr. John Bradley told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk following the meeting. The property, all owned by the district, currently houses A L Corbett Middle and Cyril B Busbee Elementary Schools.

The new Wagener-Salley High School will be an independent building next to the middle school. The new location is about a mile from the old one. Some options will still be at the current site for students and staff to use. “Some vocational buildings, the auditorium, the main football stadium, softball, baseball fields, and a park,” he shared. The new building will also include a full gym and practice facilities.

The money for the project will come from the federal government, which would allow the district to move the timetable of making changes at the school up by three to four years without needing another source. Dr. Bradley said that out of the three options that were on the table, two of them would have caused a delay in getting the project underway due to the time needed to get preliminary work and planning completed. The deadline to use the funds would expire. “And the funding would be iffy at that point,” he said.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal at its next school board meeting on Tuesday, December 14. “I’m pretty confident that it’ll pass,” Dr. Bradley added.

New adoption-matching program launches in Georgia

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Georgia leaders and many others want to keep the state’s adoption rate’s strong momentum going. From 2015 to 2020, adoptions in the Peach State increased from 761 to 1,410. 

Now a new adoption tool to match families with kids just launched in Georgia. 

Kristina Mongillo and her husband Eric run Augusta’s Broad Street Ministry Center. And they have a big team to help.

Kristina went down the list, “Abbigail, Sarah, Hannah, Maria, Diego, Angelica, Gabriel, and Emily.”

The Mongillos have three biological kids, They’ve adopted five.

“They gave me a whole new life too. That these children, I think they’re more of a blessing to me than perhaps we are to them. They have changed my way of thinking and accepting different kinds of people,” said Kristina.

Currently, the state reports about 300 kids are waiting for a loving home.

“The greatest need is for families who are open to adopting sibling groups which consist of two to three or more children in those groups,” said Adoption-Share Director of Family-Match Program for Georgia, Kimberly Brown.

Kristina and her husband did exactly that.

She said, “God has provided everything. We have never been in need. It’s tight, there’s a family of ten. We live in a three-bedroom house and we do the best we can but we’ve never been in need.”

The new family-matching adoption tool launched on December 1. It’s under a partnership between the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Family & Children Services (DFCS) and Adoption-Share.

The non-profit’s founder and CEO, Thea Ramirez, said, “We’re going beyond those more or less artificial sort of types of preferences matching and what we’re doing is a deeper dive into what are the attributes relationally that are at play between a family and a child.”

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The pilot program is a predictive model to better match families with kids. It includes a compatibility assessment that was developed by former eHarmony researchers.

“Those assessments are based on over 200 peer-reviewed research articles that ever looked at any individual attribute in relation to the success or failure to a foster or adoption placement. So going back to your original question Wes, this is going beyond, ‘the Anderson family likes football and so does Stacey therefore they’re a good match.’ Our system kind of goes more into how each parent forms attachment,” explained Ramirez.

You can check out the program by clicking or tapping here.

As for Mongillo, she said if you’re thinking about adopting or even fostering, don’t hesitate.

“You never think it's going to be you,” Columbia County porch pirates strike again

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COLUMBIA CO., GA. (WJBF)– Porch pirates are striking again in Columbia County.

 “You never think it’s going to be you looking your camera or your home and that actually happens,” Casey Butler-McNair said.

Casey Butler-McNair and her husband moved into their Columbia County home in August. They ordered a few things for their home before taking off to Maryland for Thanksgiving. That Thursday, they got a notification from their security camera app.

“When we looked at it, it was probably about 10:20-10:25 in the evening on Thanksgiving night. Two suspects just came up to all the packages right in front of our front door, and they took off with every single package that we had,” Butler-McNair said.

Butler-McNair says she’s grateful they installed the security cameras that caught the crime.

According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, thieves often aren’t deterred by the cameras, as the criminals sometimes see it and takes the packages anyway.

“I’m quite sure they saw the cameras, so they ended up pulling something against their faces,” Butler-McNair said.

But the sheriff’s office says the footage does help identify thieves.

The suspects stole over $100 worth of merchandise from the McNairs. They were able to be refunded for their purchases, but she says they felt a sense of violation.

“We were just really in awe. It was just something that, like I said, you just never imagine,” Butler-McNair said. “I thought that he [Butler-McNair’s husband] was telling me because it was something funny maybe that he had seen on YouTube or something like that, and then I’m saying, ‘This is my house. This is literally my front yard.’ I’m looking at the things that are right there at my door being taken.”

As of July, stealing three or more packages from any residence is a felony in the state of Georgia.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office says if you can’t be home to receive your packages, consider having them delivered to the post office or a friend’s house, as well as installing security cameras.


Protestors demand removal of Market House Monument in Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, G.A. (WJBF) There was a protest in Louisville over the Old Market House – a historic site with a controversial past.

“Had them shackles on them like that.”

It’s been a year since since Louisville City Council members made a historic decision to remove the market house monument.

“We promised the city council and the mayor, Mr. Morgan was mayor then, that if he didn’t take down that slave market in due time, there would be a selected campaign cast upon the city of Louisville,” said James Ivery.

But that was just to have the monument moved to another part of the town, and since then, it still sits in the middle of downtown Louisville. James Ivery the leader of today’s protest, says it should just be torn down.

He says, “The United States made it illegal for them to sell black people in this country. Savannah shut down, they followed the law, but there was still ships coming in with black they had no where to take them, guess who took them Louisville and they started selling people illegally and they want this thing to stay here to keep black people under a dark cloud.”

The words tear it down, echoed throughout the streets of downtown Louisville. Protestors gathered around the market house kicking the bell, and even reenacting what they believed happened to slaves at this monument.

“Every time I walk by it, you know what I see? I see young mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and brothers, and sisters, and babies snatched away from each other,” said Ivery.

Some people living in Louisville believe the monument is a reminder of how things should NOT be.

“It’s history, we cannot change history, no matter how we try we cannot change history,” said Wes Going, a resident of Jefferson County.

“I hate what it stands for, but I don’t believe it’s part of the heritage, it shouldn’t be torn down, it shouldn’t be done away with. Moved to another site, maybe, restored something like that,” said Thad Rains another resident of Jefferson County.

But for other residents, it’s a monstrosity.

“I think it should be torn down, and put in a museum somewhere,” said Davis, a resident who did not want to give her first name.

Davis says as a child she was told not to play in that area.

“People may not think it has an effect on us mentally but it does. The slave market maybe symbolizing to us that we need to stay in our own place and you can see that it’s on this side of town. That side over there was the black side and this was the black side, so yes, it needs to be torn down,” she said.

Ivery says the monument is just a catalyst for other demands.

“We have other demands we’re putting together right now and that consist of the city and the county because we found a lot of negative stuff in the community that’s going on, so we’re going to address those issues period.”


Social media posts alluding to violence on Burke County School campus raises concerns with parents

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WAYNESBORO, G.A. (WJBF) – A soft lockdown is in effect at Burke County High School after threatening social media posts circulating amongst students raised some concerns with parents.

Investigators say the student who’s responsible for these posts was taken into custody Thursday and has been charged with the disruption of a public school, and has since been released to their parents.

“It was terrifying, so I didn’t know if something happened to my grandson or what,” said Michael Shipp.

“All i know is somebody text me and told me things were going on so I came and got my kid,” said Eva Logan, a parent.

Deputies standing by outside of Burke County High school after several anonymous posts were made on the social media app Yik-Yak threatening a shooting at the school.

“I didn’t know about it, so I went to the bathroom and a boy told me that somebody was talking about shooting up the school this morning,” said Ethan Clay.

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams says the posts started Wednesday. He says they started by mentioning a fight at the Sonic, which is near the school. Deputies later learned that the fight’s location was moved to the school. Thursday morning more posts were circulating from Instagram where a student was seen posing with what looked like guns and the caption of the photo alluded to a school shooting. Parents became aware of that post and called the police.

“It’s the parents they need to start checking and seeing what they kids is going online talking about they see stuff on tv and now it’s here in our county”

Sheriff Williams says so far these threats have not been deemed credible.

“We’ve had some parents that have concerns about the threats and that’s a natural reaction, we have some folks that just as we act in an abundance of caution, but we certainly don’t want parents to panic,” said Sheriff Williams.

The sheriff says the investigation into who made the threats is ongoing. But since some of them were done anonymously, it will be difficult to pursue.

“But we are working we are in communication with the company we are learning their compliance rules and what they might have that will help us identify the persons responsible.”


Social media posts alluding to violence on a Burke County School campus raises concerns with parents

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WAYNESBORO, G.A. (WJBF) – A soft lockdown is in effect at Burke County High School after threatening social media posts circulating amongst students raised some concerns with parents.

Investigators say the student who’s responsible for these posts was taken into custody Thursday and has been charged with the disruption of a public school, and has since been released to their parents.

“It was terrifying, so I didn’t know if something happened to my grandson or what,” said Michael Shipp.

“All i know is somebody text me and told me things were going on so I came and got my kid,” said Eva Logan, a parent.

Deputies standing by outside of Burke County High school after several anonymous posts were made on the social media app Yik-Yak threatening a shooting at the school.

“I didn’t know about it, so I went to the bathroom and a boy told me that somebody was talking about shooting up the school this morning,” said Ethan Clay.

Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams says the posts started Wednesday. He says they started by mentioning a fight at the Sonic, which is near the school. Deputies later learned that the fight’s location was moved to the school. Thursday morning more posts were circulating from Instagram where a student was seen posing with what looked like guns and the caption of the photo alluded to a school shooting. Parents became aware of that post and called the police.

“It’s the parents they need to start checking and seeing what they kids is goinng online talking about they see stuff on tv and now it’s here in our county”

Sheriff Williams says so far these threats have not been deemed credible.

“We’ve had some parents that have concerns about the threats and that’s a natural reaction, we have some folks that just as we act in an abundance of caution, but we certainly don’t want parents to panic,” said Sheriff Williams.

The sheriff says the investigation into who made the threats is ongoing. But since some of them were done anonymously, it will be difficult to pursue.

“But we are working we are in communication with the company we are learning their compliance rules and what they might have that will help us identify the persons responsible”

Return of fines seen as easing trash service complaints

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Augusta, Ga (WJBF) Overflowing garbage cans have been a common sight in Augusta but not as common as  before. 

“It’s gotten a lot better; they haven’t missed any I know back when they were having some problems it’s really gotten a whole lot better here,” said Dr. Rudy Volkmann. 

 The city’s garbage contracts have a list of penalties the haulers can get for service problems. 

 In June commissioners lifted those fines but reinstated them in October. 

 For the month of October, the two city haulers picked up more than 400-hundred thousand dollars in contract penalties, and commissioners say guess what, service is improving.  

“Yeah, it’s getting better the fines have been put on these haulers its working and I want to continue to see that working,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.  

The fines are a   stick, but some commissioners are also suggesting a carrot, the haulers are required to run their trucks on cleaner CNG, or compressed natural gas, but some commissioners say if they could use diesel, it would be easier to get replacement trucks on the street during equipment problems.  

“Looking at this I think that relaxing that requirement would be a good way to help us make sure <our citizens are getting the trash service they deserve,” said Commissioner Brandon Garrett  

“Everybody says diesel is good, I’m all right with compressed natural gas,” said Commissioner McKnight.  

 Commissioners, however, were very encouraged after the landfill director said that it appears the penalties for service for November look to be way down in Augusta George Eskola WJBF NewsChannel 6. 

The “Festival of Trees” bringing Christmas cheer to visitors of all ages

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McCORMICK, S.C. (WJBF) – People in McCormick gathered to kick off the 8th annual “Festival of Trees.”

“It’s been eight years now that the ladies in McCormick decorate the Grist Mill, which was built in 1898, and they decorate it with all Christmas trees, and festive ideas, and decorations inside, and it’s a completely free walk through tour that you do yourself,” said Jim Brady, Commissioner, McCormick Historical Commission.

The Festival of Trees is a fundraising event to help keep up the maintenance of the historic building.

Inside, not only will you find a Winter Wonderland of Christmas decorations, but you’ll also learn about the building’s rich history, as well.

“When you visit us you’re going to see a little bit for everyone. First of all, it’s the sights and sounds of the holiday season, but within that we have history and we have wonderful things for children, as well as for those who are interested in the engineering that would have been a part of a building that is over a hundred years old,” said Design Volunteer, Mary Tobin.

“The Grist Mill, which is the Dorn Mill Complex, was built up, it was encompassed in grinding corn, wheat, barley, oats, and it was also a very big lumber mill going on here at one time, and the Grist Mill is still one of the very unique Grist Mill buildings that is still in existence in the entire United States,” said Brady.

So, whether you’re a local of McCormick or a person coming from out of town, if you’re looking for the Christmas Spirit, The Festival of Trees is worth the drive.

“The Festival appeals to so many different interests. For children, there are displays, the sights and sounds of the holidays. Our music, our lighting, we have over nineteen trees and so many of them are set with themes. So, you can learn about this year, Currier and Ives, you can learn about the Dorn complex in its heyday of 1919. We are one of the last two left in the country that were steam driven and really to see all of it’s equipment still intact. So a little bit for everyone,” said Tobin

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