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FLOWOOD • BRANDON • PELAHATCHIE • PUCKETT • FLORENCE • RICHLAND • PEARL • STAR • PISGAH• RESERVOIR

V81

121

Renewed

Restored

REDEEMED




4 • JANUARY 2021


FROM OUR PUBLISHER

My mom

is a big fan

of Matthew

Henry,

a mastermind in the area of theology. He’s

one of the “old” writers dating back to the

1600s. She shares some of his quotes with

the family, and the following is one of her

favorites. Henry was reflecting on his wallet

being stolen and said, “(1) I am thankful that

I was never robbed before. (2) I am thankful

that although he took my wallet, he did not

take my life. (3) Although he took all I had, it

was not much. And (4), I am glad that it was

I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.”

Now that is a perfect picture of a positive,

trusting attitude. I’ve tried to remind myself of

Henry’s phenomenal mindset about life’s

difficulties as I’ve reflected on 2020. What a

difficult year for so many with such upheaval

in so many areas of our nation and world.

With the closing of 2020, we can’t help

but be somewhat apprehensive about 2021.

Will our nation continue to be divided? Will

the Covid vaccine be effective? Will struggling

businesses survive?

There’s only one comforting answer to so

many unknowns. We don’t know, but God

does, and He’s in control!

HOMETOWN STAFF

IN THIS ISSUE

PUBLISHER & EDITOR

Tahya A. Dobbs

SPECIAL PROJECTS

MANAGER

Brenda McCall

LAYOUT DESIGN

3dt

CFO

Kevin W. Dobbs

SPECIAL PROJECTS

ASSISTANT

Caroline Hodges

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Othel Anding

CONSULTING EDITOR

Mary Ann Kirby

ADMINISTRATIVE

ASSISTANT

Alisha Floyd

Reader Spotlight 7

The Way We Were 8

Hometown Family 16

Renewed Restored Redeemed 21

Where Are They Now? 39

Rankin's Red Carpet 41

Salute to First Responders 82

Mrs. Mississippi America 86

Chalkboard 92

Time Coin 98

...see you around town.

www.facebook.com/hometownrankinmagazine. For subscription information visit www.htmags.com or contact us at info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 26 Eastgate Drive, Suite F / Brandon, MS 39042

All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Rankin may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Rankin is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.

Hometown Rankin maintains the unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted material. All advertisements are subject to approval by the publisher. The production of Hometown Rankin is funded by advertising.

Hometown RANKIN • 5


6 • JANUARY 2021


READER

SPOTLIGHT

Vickie

CHAPMAN ________

Why did you decide to make Rankin County

your home?

My husband grew up in Richland, and after

getting married and having children we

decided to move back and make Richland our

home. We love the small town feel but still

being around everything.

How long have you lived in Rankin County?

We have been married for 26 years and have

resided in Rankin County for 21 years.

Tell us about your family.

Donnie and I have five children, Kayla (24)

who graduated from Richland and is now

attending UCF; twins – Mallory & Mason

(16) who attend Richland High School, active

in cheer, softball, football, Mayors Youth

Council, and Rankin County Crown Club;

Carson (10) attends Richland Upper and loves

playing baseball and basketball; and Carly Kate

(7) attends Richland Elementary love to cheer

on her little Ranger team.

What is your favorite memory of living in

Rankin County?

I love living alongside all my friends who have

become family – my village! Right now, my

favorite memory would be after Rangers Friday

night lights, we go out as a group to have food

and fellowship with our friends/ family. I love

seeing all these kids grow up together and go

alongside our friends through life’s journeys.

Where are your three favorite places to eat

in Rankin County?

Tom’s Fried Pies (that is a little bias of course),

Genna Benna’s, and Corbin’s!

What are some fun things to do in Rankin

County on the weekends?

Bowling at Spinners, football games, having a

picnic or just hanging out with the kids

at Winner’s Circle Park.

Share some things you enjoy doing in your

spare time.

HA! Well not sure about spare time but I do

try to make a little time to do some of my

favorite things - grabbing a movie with the

kids, playing Bunco with my friends, trying out

recipes for new fried pies, and reading.

What are three things on your bucket list?

I would love to take an Alaskan Cruise, visit

the Grand Canyon, and have Guy Fieri with

Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives come visit Tom’s

Fried Pies in Richland and talk with my dad.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire my dad the most! He has taught me

the value of family, how to worship, and how to

work hard and achieve goals. I treasure the

extra time I have with him now as we work

together daily.

Where do you see yourself ten years from

now?

In ten years I see myself still residing in Rankin

County, growing Tom’s Fried Pies into

additional locations and adding a food truck.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Cooking with my grandmother. She was so

sweet to always want to make my favorites, like

chicken and dumplings and banana pudding!

If you could give us one encouraging quote,

what would it be?

“When life gives you a hundred reasons to

break down and cry, SHOW life that you

have a million reasons to SMILE and

LAUGH! Stay Strong!”

What is your favorite thing about

Hometown Magazines?

Definitely the highlights of the local business

locations and people. I love being able to

open up the magazine and recognizing

faces and places!

Hometown RANKIN • 7


The way

WE were

Dianne & Ron Baer

Mistie Desper

A decision on a whim to

change colleges and attend the

University of Southern Mississippi

led Dianne Baer to her best

friend and future husband back

in 1978.

Dianne was a music major

and decided to transfer schools

to be with friends. It wasn’t long

before she met Ron, a young

baseball player from Iowa, and

they quickly became close.

Regarding the circumstances of

switching schools suddenly and

meeting Ron, Dianne said, “It

really was a God thing meeting

him.” Ron added, “She really is

my best friend.”

Those best friends grew closer

and closer over their junior year

and before long, the natural

progression led to a relationship.

Dianne lovingly recalls, “Ron,

being from the Midwest, became

southern very quickly.”

Just like the old saying, first

comes love then comes marriage,

Ron knew Dianne was the one.

After traveling home to Iowa

for the holidays, he returned late

one night to Brandon bearing

gifts for Christmas. Dianne,

assuming she had her gift all

figured out, didn’t open it right

away. Little did she know that it

wasn’t the metronome she’d

convinced herself she was

receiving. Inside the box, Ron

had tied an engagement ring

to a rose in hopes that his best

friend would say ‘yes.’

The couple married in August

1981 at First Baptist of Brandon.

Married and eager to begin their

life together, their careers, both

of them in education, soared.

Both Baers have impressive

and extensive teaching careers

throughout Rankin County and

Tupelo, Mississippi. Ron was

hired as the soccer coach at

Brandon and led them to the

championships many times.

Ron and his teams won the state

soccer championships in 1989,

1990, and 1995. He had a brief

coaching opportunity in Tupelo

and led them to the championships

in 1998 as well. After

coaching for Tupelo, Ron

returned as Brandon Middle

School principal until his

retirement from the education

sector.

Dianne’s education career

spans many years in the public

and private school system.

Teaching at Tupelo, McLaurin,

Brandon, Hartfield Academy,

8 • JANUARY 2021


“...what makes a

successful marriage

is making God and

church important

in your household.”

and Park Place Christian

Academy, she joked, “When we

returned from Tupelo, I went

back into my job at Brandon

Middle School but this time,

Ron was my boss.”

Teaching is a noble and

admirable profession that takes a

truly gifted person. Teachers

touch the lives of every student

they teach. Dianne emotionally

recounted, “I didn’t realize the

influence of teaching until I

didn’t have it any more [after

retirement].”

She added, “You make

connections and those kids

become your own, and you

know you are making a difference

and I really became a mom to

those kids.”

Although both Ron and

Dianne consider so many local

students their own, they do have

two sons together with one

granddaughter and another one

on the way.

Dianne is currently enjoying

her first year of retirement and

is looking to the future when

Ron fully retires. Once serving

as pianist for First Baptist

Brandon, Dianne laughingly

recounted, “Ron bought me a

baby grand piano, so my goal is

to start practicing again since

I can’t go anywhere right now

and I have time and I’m here

by myself.” Dianne is also eager

return to travel like they did in

the past for their sons’ sports

and to spend as much time as

possible with their grandchildren.

Ron is excited to travel in the

future and take Dianne on

adventures to places he has

experienced. He said, “I want to

take her out West and on an

Alaskan cruise. There are places

I have seen that she hasn’t and I

can’t wait to take her places like

Yellowstone and other places

where I grew up.”

The pair will celebrate their

40th anniversary in 2021. Ron

expressed, “The key to a long

marriage is definitely communication

and dependability. But

what makes a successful

marriage is making God and

church important in your

household.”

Both are looking forward

to family and adventures and

are excited at what the future

has is store. l

Hometown RANKIN • 9


10 • JANUARY 2021


Help us help

MISSISSIPPI KIDS.

© Copyright 2019 BankPlus.

Member FDIC.

Friends of Children’s Hospital

supports Batson Children’s Hospital,

part of University of Mississippi

Health Care, Mississippi’s

ONLY hospital designed for the care

and treatment of sick or injured children.

*NOTE: All donations subject

to change on an annual basis.

Friends of Children’s

Hospital CheckCard

The Friends Card cost $12 per year, 100% of which is

donated to Friends

BankPlus makes a donation to Friends each

time the card is used

Available via instant issue

Since inception, the Friends CheckCard has raised

almost $2,000,000

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Hometown RANKIN • 11


Hometown

GOODNESS

12 • JANUARY 2021

_____________________________________________________

Chicken & Dumplings

Soup

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken

breast, cubed

• 1 cup diced yellow onion

• 1 cup sliced carrot

• 3 cloves garlic cloves, minced

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 6 cups chicken broth

• ½ cup heavy cream

• ½ teaspoon dried thyme

• 2 bay leaves

• 1½ cups frozen peas

• 4 tablespoons fresh parsley,

minced

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a

6-quart Dutch oven. Add chicken and

cook until browned on both sides.

Remove from pot and set aside. Add

carrot and onion and cook until just

tender, approximately 3 minutes.

Add garlic and stir until fragrant,

about 1 minute. Reduce heat to

medium-low, add butter and flour,

stirring constantly for 3 minutes to

prevent lumps from forming. Add

chicken and any accumulated juices

back to the pot and stir to coat in

the roux. Add chicken broth, cream,

thyme, and bay leaves and bring to

a simmer. Once the soup is at a

simmer, add the frozen peas, cover,

and cook for 15 minutes.

Dumplings

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tablespoon baking powder

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ½ teaspoon pepper

• 1⅓ cups heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine

flour, baking powder, salt, pepper,

and cream. Stir until well combined.

Using a large spoon, form dough

into small round 1-inch balls about

(about 15 dumplings). Making sure

they don’t touch, place dough balls

in the simmering soup, then add the

parsley and cover. Let the soup

simmer for 15 minutes, or until the

dumplings are cooked through.

_____________________________________________________

Potato Soup

• 5 slices bacon, diced

• 3 T butter

• 1 cup diced white or yellow onion

• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

• ¼ cup all-purpose flour

• 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

• 2 cups milk, warmed

• 1½ pounds Yukon gold

potatoes, diced

• 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

cheese

• 1½ cup plain Greek yogurt or

sour cream

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• ½ teaspoon freshly-cracked

black pepper

Heat a large pot over mediumhigh

heat. Add diced bacon and

cook until crispy, stirring occasionally.

Transfer bacon to a separate plate,

using a slotted spoon (if short on

time, dice the potatoes and onion

while the bacon cooks).

Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes,

stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir

in garlic and sauté for an extra 1-2

minutes, until fragrant. Stir the flour

into the mixture and sauté for an

additional 1 minute to cook the

flour, stirring occasionally. Then

stir in the stock until combined,

followed by the milk and potatoes.

Continue cooking until mixture

just reaches a simmer, before it

begins to boil. Reduce heat to

medium-low, cover, and simmer for

10-15 minutes or until potatoes are

soft, being sure to stir the soup every

few minutes so that the bottom does

not burn (the smaller you dice your

potatoes, the faster your soup will

cook).

Once the potatoes are softened,

stir in the cheddar cheese and Greek

yogurt (or sour cream), salt, pepper

and cooked bacon bits. Season with

extra salt and pepper, if needed.

Recommended toppings:

thinly- sliced green onions or chives,

extra shredded cheese, extra bacon,

sour cream

Serve warm, garnished with

desired toppings. Refrigerate for

up to 3 days.


_____________________________________________________

Crockpot Chili

• 5 slices hardwood smoked bacon

• 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

• 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

• ½ cup celery, finely chopped

• 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

• 1-2 small jalapeno peppers, seeds

removed and finely diced (optional)

• 2 15 oz. cans chili/pinto beans in

medium sauce

• 1 15 oz. can chili (pinto or kidney)

beans in mild sauce

• 2 28 oz. cans petite diced

tomatoes, undrained

• 1 6 oz. can tomato paste

• 2 pounds ground beef chuck

• 1 pound Italian sausage

Seasonings

• 4 T chili powder

• 1 T dried oregano

• 2 tsp. cumin

• 1 tsp. dried basil

• 1 tsp. seasoned salt

• 3/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 1 tsp. paprika

• 1 T white sugar

• 1 T Worcestershire sauce

• 1 T minced garlic

• 3 beef bouillon cubes

• Optional: fresh cilantro, sour

cream, shredded cheddar cheese

In a skillet over medium heat, cook

bacon until crisp. Remove onto a

paper towel lined plate and dab off

excess grease. Reserve bacon grease in

skillet. Remove stems and seeds from

red and green peppers finely chop.

Finely chop celery and onion. Chop

jalapeno pepper and remove seeds if

desired–leave them in for extra heat.

Add red pepper, green pepper,

celery, onion, and jalapeno pepper to

the skillet with the reserved bacon

grease. Sauté the veggies over

medium heat until tender. Transfer

to the crockpot. Add in the three cans

of chili beans (undrained and do not

rinse), petite diced tomatoes, and

tomato paste to the crockpot. In the

same skillet used to cook the bacon

and veggies, cook ground beef chuck

and Italian sausage over medium high

heat until no longer pink.

Drain off all the fat and add into

slow cooker. Add all seasonings to

crockpot. Crumble bacon (or chop)

into very small pieces and stir into

crockpot. OR reserve the bacon in

the fridge and add at the end. Stir

everything together. Cover and cook

on low for 6-8 hours. Taste and adjust

seasonings (salt, pepper, chili powder,

etc.) Enjoy with fresh cilantro, sour

cream and cheddar cheese.

_____________________________________________________

Simple Vegetable Soup

• 3 medium russet potatoes

• 1 T olive oil

• 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

• 1 16 oz. bag frozen mixed

vegetables

• 1 15 oz. can corn

• 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

• 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

• 4 cups vegetable broth

• 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

• 1/2 tsp. paprika

• 2 teaspoon garlic powder

• salt and pepper to taste

• 2-3 drops hot sauce (optional)

Stovetop Method

Finely dice half a large yellow onion.

Add olive oil to a large pot and sauté

onions for approximately 3 minutes.

Wash, peel, and cut potatoes into

bite-sized pieces. Add potatoes, frozen

vegetables, corn and remaining

ingredients to the pot and stir well to

combine. Turn heat to low, cover, and

simmer for 30 minutes, or until

vegetables are tender. Serve warm.

Slow Cooker Method

Dice onions and potatoes as listed

above. Add all ingredients into the

slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours

or high for 3-4 hours. Serve warm.

_____________________________________________________

Wonton Soup

• 50 - 60 wonton wrappers

• 7 oz. ground pork

• 7 oz. peeled prawns/shrimp,

chopped

• 1 T ginger, finely grated

• 2 shallots/green onions, finely

chopped

• 1 T light soy sauce

• 2 T Chinese cooking wine

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 2 T sesame oil

Place ingredients in a bowl. Use a

potato masher to mash until fairly

smooth, but not completely – small

chunks are good. Lay wontons on a

work surface. Use two teaspoons to

put the filling on the wontons. Brush

two edges with water. Fold to seal,

pressing out air. Brush water on one

corner and bring corners together,

pressing to seal. Place wrapped

wontons into a container with a lid as

you work, so they don’t dry out.

Broth (for 2 servings)

• 3 cups chicken broth

• 2 garlic cloves, smashed

• 1 piece of ginger, sliced (optional)

• 1½ T light soy sauce

• 2 tsp. sugar

• 1½ T Chinese cooking wine

• ¼ - ½ tsp. sesame oil

Place ingredients in a saucepan over

high heat. Add white ends of scallions

/shallots if leftover from wonton

filling. Cover, bring to simmer then

reduce to medium high and simmer

for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a

large pot of water to boil. Cook

wontons four minutes or until they

float. Remove with slotted spoon into

serving bowls. Pick garlic and ginger

out of broth. If using vegetables, blanch

in the soup broth and place in serving

bowl. Prepare noodles according to

packet directions (if using noodles).

Place in serving bowl with cooked

wontons and blanched vegetables.

Toppings

• Shallots/scallions, finely chopped

• Bok choy, quartered

• 1½ oz. dried egg noodles per

person

Ladle broth into serving bowls and

enjoy!

_____________________________________________________

Lobster Bisque

• 3 T butter

• 1 cup white or yellow onions,

chopped

• ½ cup chopped carrots

• ½ cup chopped celery

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 3 T tomato paste

• 3 T flour

• 2 cups seafood stock

• 1 cup white wine

• ¼ cup cognac or brandy (optional)

• 12 oz. (or more) chopped lobster

• 1 tsp. smoked paprika

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 sprig fresh thyme (or ½ tsp.

dried thyme)

• ¼ tsp. cayenne

• ½ cup (or more) heavy cream

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt butter over

medium-high heat. Add onions,

carrots, celery, garlic and tomato

paste, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until

onions are cooked and translucent.

Sprinkle mixture with flour, and stir to

evenly coat the veggies. Sauté for one

minute. Add seafood stock, white

wine, cognac (optional), lobster meat,

paprika, bay leaf, thyme and cayenne,

and stir to combine. Cook for 30

minutes over medium-low heat,

stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf

and sprig of thyme. Stir in heavy

cream, and season if needed with

extra salt and pepper. Puree soup

using an immersion blender, or

transfer in small batches into a

traditional blender and blend until

smooth.

Hometown RANKIN • 13


14 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 15


16 • JANUARY 2021


TheMartins

Tell us about your family.

Tony is the principal at Florence High School and Kelley is a

nurse practitioner for Florence Family Clinic. Our jobs keep us

busy, but we are blessed with a great family, friends, co-workers,

and community.

Kyle and Blake attend the University of Southern Mississippi.

Kyle is majoring in political science and hopes to go to law

school. Blake is majoring in construction engineering and plans

on returning to Florence when his education is completed.

He recently joined the Mississippi Air National Guard and will

be leaving for basic training in February.

Sam is a sophomore at Florence High and is a football

phenom in his parents’ eyes.

We are definitely a football family and competitive. We love

watching high school and college games together. The boys love

to fish, hunt, and ride four-wheelers. They all get along very

well, so they typically hang out with each other when the older

boys are home.

How did you meet, and how long have you

been married?

We met at Forest Hill High School. We were good friends

during high school. Tony taught me how to drive a standard in

the Forest Hill Youth Club parking lot and he denies it, but he

cheated off my paper to pass chemistry. We would run into each

other once he graduated, but no dating was involved until our

days at Southern Miss. I heard someone call my name when

I was walking across campus. It was Tony–and I was so glad

to see him! We picked that high school friendship right back

up and started dating shortly after. He was always easy to be

around and our relationship came so naturally. We have been

married 26 years. It has been a good marriage and has blessed

us in many ways.

Hometown RANKIN • 17


Do you allow time to be with

your spouse for a date night?

We don’t do date night too often. We are

definitely homebodies. When people say it

doesn’t take much to impress, that is us.

We do easy. We love having friends over

and throwing something on the grill,

which is manned by Tony and I love to

cook about anything from appetizers to

sides. Tony says my grandmother name

will be Cookie, because I always have

cookies available when guests are over.

What brings you the greatest joy

as a parent?

Many things bring you great joy when you

are a parent. It brings great joy for our

children to have good friends, do well in

school, be kind, be appreciative, be

respectful, be humble, show love, and

definitely having a relationship with our

Lord. Parents make many sacrifices for

their children and you pray those sacrifices

are appreciated.

Who is the financial manager

in your home?

We both are our financial managers. We

trust that each of us has the other’s best

interest at heart and would not jeopardize

our family.

When your children were younger,

what was your discipline

philosophy?

Our boys didn’t need a lot of discipline

when they were younger. They knew the

expectations and understood consequences

when rules were broken. They had a few

spankings with the principal’s paddle and

that typically lasted for years. We were

blessed with good boys that are growing

up into men, which is hard on their

mother.

What do you see in your role

as the greatest benefit to

your family?

Tony is a wonderful role model to these

boys. He shows them what it is to love a

wife. He supports and loves me so

unconditionally. We are all blessed that he

is the leader of our home and team. We

have always told the boys that were not

perfect parents and we make mistakes

daily, but when we do it was done with

love and concern for their wellbeing.

What’s a quick go to meal that

isn’t fast food? And who does

the cooking?

I guess our quick go to meal is something

cooked in the air fryer or on the grill.

Those are easy and quick and most of

the time delicious. We are not a picky

family when it comes to food. We’ll eat

about anything.

18 •• JANUARY 2021


How long has Florence

been your home?

We have lived in Florence for 23 years,

but it seems like forever. I can’t imagine

raising my children anywhere else but

here. We love this community.

What your favorite things

about Rankin County?

The best thing about Rankin County is

the people that choose to live in Rankin

County. Because of those people, we have

the best schools, churches, leaders, law

enforcement agencies, businesses, and

volunteers. We are always helping each

other and it’s a very generous community

when there is need. Our communities are

big enough to offer everything we need,

but small enough for the hometown

atmosphere we all enjoy.

How do you spend

summer breaks?

We love the beach. We typically take the

week of July 4th and head to Destin. We

all love our toes in the sand and seafood.

What accomplishments make

you proud during your time

living in Florence?

We’ve both tried to make this community

better with our jobs. Tony helps kids every

day try to maneuver through high school

and those challenges they may face at

school and home. He loves his job and his

school family.

Kelley prays her role as a town provider

helps patients feel better and that they know

she is always there for them. She also has a

wonderful work family that she loves. Both

jobs are very rewarding.

What drives you to have

the job you have?

We are both motivated by making

Florence the best it can be. We both

have a giving nature and love to give

more than receive. That is a service type

job that we feel is so vital in this world

today. We have been blessed to have the

jobs we do and have a chance to make

a difference every day.

What’s your favorite thing

to do as a family?

Kyle - Family meals, especially those

we have prepared together.

Blake - Sitting around the island just

talking to each other. We always say

what’s said at the island stays at the

island.

Sam - Playing any type game from

board games to competitive ring toss.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Kyle - El Cabrito

Blake - El Cabrito

Sam - El Cabrito

What’s your favorite TV show?

Kyle - The Office

Blake - The Office

Sam - The Office

Hometown RANKIN • 19


20 • JANUARY 2021


Renewed

Restored

REDEEMED

In a year filled

with tremendous challenges

and heartache, there have also

been stories of great triumph and

achievement. We’re all on our own personal

journeys–but celebrating the success of

others serves as motivation to many.

It is in that spirit that we present a

collection of stories we lovingly call

Renewed, Restored, Redeemed.

Happy New Year!

We wish you the very best

that 2021 has to offer.

Hometown RANKIN • 21


BEAUTY FROM THE ASHES

Melanie McMillan

When Taylor and Kevin McKay lost their

home to a fire right before the birth of their

first child, family, friends, and even strangers,

rallied around them to help. As they watched

their beloved home burn, they could not have

imagined the blessings that would follow. In

the midst of the tragedy, the McKays have

focused on the positives and are grateful for

the love of community.

Taylor and Kevin met as freshmen at Brandon

High School. The high school sweethearts

married in 2018 and began their life together.

Taylor, a nurse at St. Dominic’s, and Kevin,

who works at Eaton Aerospace, began building

a new home in 2019 and eagerly anticipated the

arrival of their first child. “As any new mom can

imagine, I was having the best time decorating

the nursery,” Taylor says. The McKays moved

into their new home in March of 2020 and

looked forward to their daughter’s arrival a

few months later.

At 6:30 on the morning of October 15th,

the McKays’ world changed dramatically. Kevin

had already left home for work, and Taylor awoke

to her dog barking and what sounded like water

running. She opened her bedroom door and saw

flames surrounding the door to the garage, which

was extremely close to her bedroom. Grabbing

her phone, she climbed out the window and

called 911. Kevin’s father was staying with them,

and she ran to his window to alert him and get

him out of the house. Their loyal pet who had

awakened Taylor with his barking never left her

side, standing as her protector.

The 911 operator was so kind and did his

best to calm and comfort Taylor while she waited

for help. The police arrived first, and as it was a

cold morning, Officer Dan Carter settled Taylor

in his car where it was warm. Firefighters arrived

and went to work quickly, but since there are no

fire hydrants in the neighborhood, water had to

be brought in. EMTs, firefighters, and police

officers made numerous trips inside the house

to rescue anything they could that seemed

sentimental or valuable. “I cannot thank them

enough for that,” says Taylor. “They saved many

family pictures and sentimental things that we

would never be able to replace. This was huge

to me that these people would go inside a

burning house grabbing things they could save

for my family. It truly meant so much to the

both of us. I hope they know how thankful

we are for them.”

Losing a home to fire is overwhelming,

with so many details to be worked through,

not the least of which is where you will live

until you can rebuild. Luckily, Taylor’s grandmother,

Jessica Lay, had enough room in her

home for Taylor and Kevin, and even an extra

room to use for a nursery. “We knew for the

immediate future we had a place to lay our

heads at night,” says Taylor, “and I’m so

thankful for this.”

22 • JANUARY 2021


“God is the light in all that burned rubble and darkness, leading us to a precious stone

that represents our promise to each other. He is a miracle worker.”

–Taylor McKay

Watching her beautiful new home burning,

Taylor was heartbroken to realize that she didn’t

have her wedding ring on, and knew it was in

the house. As a nurse, she’s not able to wear her

ring while working, and it was still in her work

bag from the day before. Taylor says, “I knew

the ring could be replaced but it just wouldn’t be

the same.” A kind firefighter stayed long after

the fire was out to help them look through the

debris for the ring but they were unable to find

it. Two days later, Taylor’s sisters, Lindsey and

Jordan, and a family friend came to the house

to help look for the ring. After searching for

about 30 minutes, they stumbled upon a pen

that Taylor recognized as one she had used at

work the day before the fire. Tears filled her

eyes because she knew then that they were

getting close to where the ring might be. The

search continued and within a few minutes

Jordan and Lindsey had found the ring under a

piece of burnt wood. “Somehow it wasn’t melted,”

Taylor says. “I figured if we found anything it

would just be the diamond but somehow God

allowed us to find the whole ring. I think this

was Him telling me it’s all going to be okay and

that we will make it through this.”

When the fire happened, Taylor and Kevin

were just one month away from their baby girl’s

arrival, or so they thought. On Friday, October

30th, Taylor had an appointment with her

doctor and, because of the pandemic, it was the

first time Kevin was able to go with her. They

excitedly watched their baby girl on the screen

during the ultrasound, but found out from the

doctor that due to some minor complications,

they would be welcoming her to the world in

just a few days. It was an exciting but stressful

time, as they were still reeling from the fire and

now needed to make preparations to bring their

daughter home. Taylor shares, “I was very

emotional about not having our house to bring

her home to, but so many family and friends

and even people we do not know sent us baby

clothing, diapers, and everything else we needed.”

On Tuesday, November 3, Sully Ruth made

her debut and brought such joy to her parents,

helping them heal from the pain of the fire.

As they were building their home, Taylor

and Kevin wrote Bible verses on the studs in

each room. Miraculously, one of the studs,

and the Bible verse written on it, were intact.

“Through all this God has continued to

shine through in what we felt was devastating.

He has truly shown us that for some reason this

was his plan, and that he is taking care of us,”

Taylor says. “Kevin and I are both so thankful

that we’re safe. We know the house can be

replaced. We will forever be grateful for all the

first responders, family, and friends that showed

up for us and helped us along this season in our

lives. We know without God and the help of

family, friends and the community of Brandon,

we could not have made it through this.”

Hometown RANKIN • 23


A

Waiting doesn’t fit well in the average human’s lifestyle,

but waiting combined with resoluteness can bring life-changing rewards.

Tony & Deidra Rosenberger are admirable examples of that truth.

Storybook

Beginning

Camille Anding

24 • JANUARY 2021


Their relationship began in June of 1994. Deidra had just graduated from high school in

Oxford, Ohio, and Tony had graduated one year earlier. One of Deidra’s friends was dating a friend

of Tony’s, so it was those friends that introduced Deidra and Tony. That meeting resulted in a

bond that they sealed with their wedding vows on April 22, 1995.

In 2013, a job offer for Tony, backed by a leap of faith, moved the Rosenbergers to Madison,

Mississippi. By this time the couple had all but given up hope on having children. Doctors were

stumped on why Deidra couldn’t become pregnant, so the couple turned to every option available

in infertility treatment. In 2016, precancerous cells dictated a complete hysterectomy for Deidra.

With that surgery, the couple knew all biological options were exhausted.

For years, the couple had considered adoption as a means to having children of their own.

Now it wasn’t just an option but their only path. Their first contact with an adoption agency in

2017 was disappointing due to the financial requirements exceeding their resources. Foster care

would be their next avenue with intentions to adopt.

Deidra and Tony completed foster classes and met the qualifications in the home study.

Next was to find a group of foster siblings that were eligible for adoption.

DHS knew the Rosenbergers’ desire to adopt siblings but couldn’t promise a quick answer.

It would be a waiting game. Meanwhile Tony began to pursue online listings of children for

adoption from out of state with TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) status. These listings are

known as Heart Galleries.

Tony located four children in Indiana that captured his attention. Deidra emailed DHS in

Indiana saying she and Tony were interested in the four. However a baby, recently added to the

four, was not yet up for adoption. The waiting was on again.

A month and a half later, the Rosenbergers were notified that all five children were now

adoption eligible and that the couple could come for an interview. Also, three other couples were

interviewing, wanting to adopt the five.

On October 12, 2017, DHS conducted the interview and asked lots of questions. The

Rosenbergers headed home, believing that the interview had gone well. An hour later, Deidra’s

phone rang. DHS was calling to see if they would like to meet the kids in Terre Haute, Indiana,

the very next day. It was an immediate U-turn for the excited couple.

Their first meeting was like a story out of a fairy tale. “It felt right from the very beginning,”

Deidra said. “There wasn’t an awkward moment. They took to us, and we took to them.

Everything just clicked.”

It was back to Mississippi on Saturday for the couple, and on Monday, they got a call from

DHS verifying their foremost desire. The five children could be adopted!

From October of 2017 to March of 2018, Deidra and Tony left their jobs every Thursday after

work to drive to Indiana to pick up the children. The five kids were living in three different foster

homes, each forty minutes apart. DHS required that visiting time be allowed for the transition

and adjustment of everyone involved. The visits began with two hour meetings and eventually

hotel stays until a foster parent of the twins arranged for them to stay in a duplex a local

Christian agency owned. “We lived for weekends,” the couple admitted.

The kids were brought home on March 3, 2018, and it was a wonderful new life for parents

and kids when the adoptions were completed on October 23, 2019. Even new names were in

order. The seven- year-old daughter chose her own name, Piper. The four-year-old twin boy and

girl were named Anthony and Quinn. The two-year-old became Stephen, and the one-year-old

was named David.

The Rosenbergers’ 1900-square-foot home with three bedrooms worked for a while, but in

November of 2019 the family moved to a bigger home and yard. Deidra left her position with

Mississippi Premier Plastic Surgery in December to stay home with the kids.

Today the children are active in school and sports and have adjusted beautifully. The biggest

hurdle for the parents was finding a routine to fit the kids’ needs. Anthony, one of the twins, had

medical issues - a heart defect, was nonverbal and had a feeding tube. With ongoing speech and

feeding therapy at Batson Children’s Hospital, removal of his feeding tube, and treatment by his

cardiologist, Anthony is now talking, running and playing with his siblings.

When thinking back over the years of waiting and longing for children of their own, the

Rosenbergers attest to how God’s plan always falls into place.

There are spring plans for soccer and cheer. Deidra added, “Piper wants to play softball for

the first time. We’re trying it all!” Some fairy tales really do come true.

Hometown RANKIN • 25


Taking

Heart

Lauren von Foregger

Gregg & Sidney Harper of Pearl are counting

their blessings as 2021 will mark six years since Gregg,

a member of the United States Congress from 2009-2019,

experienced a blockage in his major artery, a condition known

as “the widow maker.”

26 • JANUARY 2021


Gregg was at home one weekend in June

2015, mowing the lawn. He noticed that he

felt tired and winded. “Mowing the lawn was

something I did often, and I never felt winded

like that; we have a really small yard!” he recounts.

“I would sit and rest and then I’d be fine, so I’d

go back and start again, and a few minutes later,

I’d have to sit down again.”

Gregg decided to take the symptoms

seriously as his father had died of a massive heart

attack in 1993 at the age of 67. He was slated to

fly back to Washington D.C. the next day, where

he made an appointment with a physician. At

the appointment, Gregg had an EKG done and

all the results came back as normal.

“I just kept thinking I wanted to be sure,”

he said. “Even though everything was showing

up as normal, I wanted to do more testing.” He

scheduled a stress test for later in the week.

“I go in for the stress test and I’m in there

with the cardiologist and technician, and they

explain that the treadmill test will take about

20 minutes,” he remembers. “Well, a couple

minutes into it, I told the doctor I felt some

sharpness in my chest. He looks at the screen

and he tells the technician, ‘You can stop,

something major is wrong.’ Then he looks at

me and says ‘You are not leaving the hospital

today.’”

A heart cath revealed that Gregg was

suffering from a 95 percent blockage in his left

anterior descending artery. He was immediately

sent to have a stent placed in his heart.

“When they were prepping me for the stent,

all I could think about was my relationship with

Christ, and my family. My daughter was getting

married soon and I wanted to walk her down

the aisle. I prayed right then and there, ‘Lord,

please let me walk my baby girl down the aisle.’”

Gregg says he immediately felt better after

the successful stent placement.

“You feel a lot better when your blood’s

flowing right,” he says. “As soon as I was cleared,

I could tell the difference. I am so thankful for

the physicians that caught it. I probably should’ve

never gotten on that airplane, but I just will

always be thankful that it was discovered.”

Gregg says he encourages people to be their

own medical advocates when they feel something

is not right. “I encourage anyone with

family history or symptoms of any kind to

please go get yourself checked out.”

Gregg and Sidney Harper reside in Country

Place where they still live in the same home

that they purchased together in 1986. They

have two adult children, Livingston and Maggie,

one grandson, and another grandson on the

way. They are members of Crossgates Baptist

Church. Gregg, though now retired from

his congressional service, is a member of

Watkins & Eager where he does consulting

and lobbying work.

Gregg is serving as the American Heart

Association’s 2021 Heart Ball Chair.

“I know what it’s like to have a heart scare,

so the American Heart Association’s mission

is near and dear to me. I think what they do is

so important: creating awareness around

prevention and getting people the resources

they need to extend their lives.”

The Metro Jackson Heart Ball is a yearround

campaign that supports the life-saving

mission of the American Heart Association.

It is the largest source of revenue for the organization

in the state of Mississippi, contributing

nearly $7 million since its inception. The funds

raised support local research, community

programs, hospital education, CPR training,

and much more.

For event information, visit metrojacksonheartball.heart.org, or contact Jordan Walker, Heart Ball director,

at 601.321.1215 or jordan.walker@heart.org.

Hometown RANKIN • 27


Project HOPE

Mary Ann Kirby – Shower Power Director of Operations

Sleeping in a bed is something

we all take for granted.

But according to data that we’ve found, Jackson

has nearly 900 unsheltered citizens that make

tents, abandoned buildings, and bridge

over-passes their sleeping quarters.

In November of 2019, Shower Power MS

(a non-profit founded by Flowood resident and

Jackson native Teresa Renkenberger), began

offering weekly showers for the homeless

community in downtown Jackson. We have

served an estimated 300 unique visitors, roughly

a third of the entire homeless population, at a

rate of 60-70 per week. And the number is

growing.

In October of this year, Project Hope, an

extension of Shower Power, was born. Project

Hope serves to identify which of our unsheltered

visitors would be good candidates for

low-income housing–and then helps them

get there.

Lucious is one of the first to have been

entered into the program. He’d been coming to

Shower Power from the very beginning–since

November 2019, and is beloved. He’s 64 years

old, but the last 20+ years on the street have

been hard on him. He seems much older.

He’s originally from Memphis, Tennessee.

He came to Jackson over 20 years ago to bury

his daughter. She died from cancer. (His voice

cracked when I asked him about her.) After the

funeral, he just never left. I’m not entirely sure

what the circumstances were. Maybe he

couldn’t afford to leave. Or maybe he didn’t

want to leave her behind. It’s heartbreaking

either way. He’s lost track of time.

On October 2, Lucious came to Shower

Power and was frail. We were immediately

worried. He couldn’t focus and seemed off

balance, mentally and physically. He said his

medicine had been changed. These guys have

no one to help them manage things like their

prescriptions—assuming they can even get

them filled. He was definitely off. It felt

extremely vulnerable. Lucious is quiet, keeps

to himself, and is very soft-spoken. He’s no

match for the cold streets of Jackson.

28 • JANUARY 2021


He’d previously had a room that he rented

for $200 per month but was turned out after the

room suddenly became unavailable. He secured

a spot at a men’s emergency shelter–which is

where we left him on that day in October–but

not before taking him to see another low cost

apartment, one he categorically could not

afford.

But we could.

He was timid. I assumed he was overwhelmed.

He turned to one of our team members

and said, “I love it here.” It’s low income housing

but it’s well run and it feels safe.

Lucious knew he couldn’t afford it and had

tears in his eyes when he tried to convey that by

simply mouthing the words, “I can’t.” But

Lucious didn’t understand what was happening.

That’s where Project Hope comes in to play.

We signed a lease on it and promptly raised the

money to pay his rent for an entire year. And we

are absolutely confident that we’ll raise the

money to keep him there.

We took him back to the emergency shelter

and told him that the very next Friday he’d be

spending the night in his new home—which is

where he’s been ever since. And with the most

bewildered expression, he thanked us. He

whispered, “I don’t even know what to say. I

love y’all so much. I just don’t know what to say.”

$600 per month provides sustainable

housing for our friends and provides money for

groceries. We currently have three in the

program and, as of this publishing, have just

secured a fourth sponsorship. We take them to

the grocery store every couple of weeks—and in

so doing, they’ve become way more than

friends. They’re family. Through the generosity

of others, we’re able to change lives—and our

lives are changed, too.

We moved Lucious into his apartment that

following Friday and he slept for four days. But

the next time we saw him he was stronger, had a

twinkle in his eye, and was immensely grateful.

As are we.

“And the

King will reply,

‘Truly I tell

you, whatever

you did for the

least of these

brothers and

sisters of Mine,

you did for Me.’”

To learn more about Project Hope

and how to donate, visit showerpower.ms

Hometown RANKIN • 29


AWeight Loss

Journey

MISTIE DESPER

30 • JANUARY 2021


Running into an old friend would change Sharon Tipper , s life

in ways she could have never imagined by helping her shed

over 60 pounds and regain her health and happiness.

During a chance encounter at

the 2019 Mistletoe Marketplace,

Sharon ran into an old friend that

she simply did not recognize due

to her weight loss. She said, “I had

to do a double take because she

looked so different.” Admitting

her friend, Lynnette McNeil,

looked simply “incredible,” she

was compelled to find out exactly

what she had been doing.

At the time, Sharon had been

struggling with her own health and

weight issues. Having little energy

and a plummeting self esteem that

was causing her distress in daily

life, she revealed, “The Lord said to

me that this is not the life I called

you to live.” Adding to her distress,

her weight was causing shortness

of breath, body aches, and just

general unwellness.

Wanting to “hide from the

world,” Sharon was ready to make

a real change in her life. Her

husband, Carey, and daughter,

Ansley Morgan, were behind her

one hundred percent. She recalled,

“My husband is my biggest

supporter. When I talked to him

about it, he told me, ‘Do it for you

sweetheart.’” Overcome with

emotion remembering those who

have been her rocks during this

time, she lovingly spoke of each

person that has been instrumental

in her success.

She then contacted Lynnette

who became her health coach and

part of her support system. With

the support of her friends and

family and the guidance of

Lynnette, Sharon eagerly began her

journey on Memorial Day 2020.

Eating several small meals

during the day, avoiding junk food,

soft drinks, and aiming for 10,000

steps daily, it wasn’t long before

the weight started peeling away.

Daughter Ansley has been

Sharon’s biggest cheerleader always

expressing how proud she is of her

mom. These little constant words

of encouragement have helped her

push through the hard days and

trials she has faced along the way.

The love and support she has felt

has made a huge impact on her life.

As the weight melted away,

Sharon’s confidence and overall

happiness began to return. “My

family, friends, and work family

have been my biggest supporters

and always help me stay on track,”

she explained. Sharon’s co-workers

at Highland Endodontics in

Madison support and cheer her

on daily. Her friends also keep

her needs in mind when hosting

dinners or meetings at restaurants

so Sharon can stay on track with

her goals. This type of support is

vital to accomplishing such an

objective and her circle has risen

to the challenge to help ensure her

success. Sharon considers herself

fortunate to have so many people

behind her during her journey.

Her health coach has been a

constant encourager and support

system to keep her positive

throughout this journey as well.

Lynnette said, “I love seeing how

much more she is enjoying life now

because of all the effort she’s put

into creating new healthy habits

that will last her a lifetime.”

Regaining her health has been

Sharon’s main goal and motivation.

“My biggest victory through all of

this is resolving IBS health issues.

They have completely gone away,”

she admits.

Health coach Lynnette added,

“Sharon is a lady on fire for her

health and I’m so blessed and proud

to walk alongside her and so many

other people just like us who were

tired of not being able to have the

quality of life we longed for.”

Sharon isn’t done yet. Full

steam ahead and not looking back

to her former ways, she hopes to

lose an additional 20lbs. A journey

like this has its ups and downs as

well as setbacks. Sharon encourages,

“Believe in yourself. You are worth

the investment in yourself.” For

those wanting to begin a similar

journey, she suggests finding an

accountability partner. Sharon said,

“There will be hard days, you need

someone to encourage and keep

you positive.”

Sharon is taking her journey

one day at a time and enjoying her

new vigor for life and renewed

health. She said, “The Lord keeps

showing me that I can do all things

through Him.” She is excited to see

what the future holds.

Hometown RANKIN • 31


Picking Up

the

ieCes

Mistie Desper

P

32 • JANUARY 2021


The heart of a teacher not only serves but loves, shapes, and molds each student

as if they were their own child. Local teacher Caribeth Robinson took her love

and compassion one step further by opening her home in a time of need for one

child almost five years ago. That decision has changed her and her family’s life

as well as the life of young Jay Williams.

Caribeth, entering her 16th year of teaching

in the Canton School District, fondly recalls

being able to be involved in her students’ daily

lives over the years.

When 6-year-old Jay was in her second

grade class years ago, he and his family suffered

an unimaginable tragedy. Jay’s family was

victim to a violent crime that involved a gang

related shooting. This shooting riddled their

apartment with bullets and left his 9-year-old

brother shot ten times and severely wounded.

An angel was watching over the boys that night.

Jay walked away unharmed. His older brother

miraculously survived the brutal attack, as

well, but was in need of an extended hospital

stay and the full attention and care of their

mother. Jay was having trouble getting to

school every day. Heartbroken at what her

student was going through, Caribeth felt

called and led to offer a lending hand the

only way she knew how.

Caribeth approached her own family who

were all in favor of offering any help needed so

Jay could remain in school and maintain what

little normalcy he could. With her family on

board, she reached out to Jay’s mother offering

assistance until the woman was able to get her

other son’s health restored and regain her

ability to care for her children. Caribeth and

her family soon opened their home to Jay. She

said, “Jay has been an absolute blessing and a

gift to our family.”

In the following months, the opportunity

presented itself to become legal guardians of

Jay and they jumped without a second thought.

They had all quickly fallen in love with him and

he was already an integral part of their family.

Caribeth and her children, 17-year-old twins

Kate and Kyle Brasher and 15-year-old Kelli

Brasher, already considered Jay “theirs.” The

legal stuff was just a formality at that point.

Since then, Jay has thrived continuously

and the family has worked hard to ease his

transition and to make things as easy as possible

for him. Caribeth sought the help of her

African-American co-workers and friends

to learn the little things to make his life easier.

She remembered, “I took Jay to a regular barber

just not knowing. My principal at the time took

one look at him and asked me what I had done

to him. I just didn’t know.” Looking back and

finding a little humor, she admits there was a

slight learning curve.

Caribeth fondly recalled how her community

and friends have rallied around them and

treated Jay as their own. She said, “Everyone

has been so kind and welcoming.” Jay who

affectionately calls Caribeth “CB” added,

“I love them and I’m glad that they love me.”

Jay’s childhood experience has been

something no child should ever witness. His

resilience, determination, and sheer strength

is astonishing to all who know him.

Jay, now an 11-year-old fifth grader, is a

typical boy that loves sports. Caribeth gushed,

“He is a major baseball player, a true sweetheart,

and just a precious boy.”

Coach Joey Evans has had the opportunity

to coach Jay in baseball on several teams. He said,

“I’m a firm believer that coincidences are what

we often use as a means of explaining God’s

plan that we can’t yet fully understand or see,

and Jay entering my world was no coincidence.”

Admitting he knew early on that Jay was a kid

who had faced more than his share of adversity

he added, “The Jay we know today is not the

first to hang his head. In fact, he is the first to

lift his teammates up when they fall.”

Coach Jason Regan shared the same

sentiments. Both coaches rave about Jay’s

natural athletic talents and abilities. Coach

Regan added, “I watched Jay use the game of

baseball to help him learn how to deal with

adversity and become more mentally tough.”

Jay’s love of baseball is very clear. He said,

“I love having a big brother that always messes

with me and teaches me about baseball. I want

to be able to throw a fastball at 95mph soon.”

Jay extended kind words about his teammates

as well. Bonds like the ones with his family,

coaches, teammates, and teachers have helped

shape who he is today.

One of his favorite teachers, Shelly Gates,

bonded with him over sports. She lovingly

said, “Jay is one amazing kid. He never let his

circumstances define him. He came to school

every day with a smile on his face and a

willingness to work hard.” She admitted these

were the same characteristics of his older sister

Kelli and admirable qualities clearly being

taught at home. She added, “Jay chose to

overcome what was in the past and looks

forward to all that is in his very bright future.”

Of that very future, Jay confidently said,

“I’m going to pitch for the New York Yankees

one day.”

The outcome of a tragedy has grown into

an immense blessing for Caribeth, Jay, and

his siblings, Kate, Kyle, and Kelli. Caribeth

has been Jay’s legal guardian for five years now

and plans to finalize adoption in the future.

Right now, they are just enjoying a full life

with Jay. And Caribeth is relishing in all the

joys of raising her four children.

Hometown RANKIN • 33


RENEWED RESTORED REDEEMED

At the TOP of His Game

Susan Marquez

34 • JANUARY 2021


At six feet tall, Jeff Wall says he has always been a big guy.

“I’ve battled my weight my entire adult life,” he says. But at 58 years old, he

found himself weighing in at 242 pounds and knew he had to do something

to turn his health around. “I was clinically obese, and that was scary.”

Jeff knew what it was like to be at

the top of his game. “About 15 years

ago I was into power lifting. I felt so

good at 215 pounds, and even then,

I was carrying a lot more muscle, which

weighs more.”

Six months ago, Jeff and his wife,

Cynthia, hired a health coach and got

serious about losing weight. “What we

learned in the process is the things we

were eating were not right. Our coach

helped us with a structured nutrition

plan.” Eating six meals a day, Jeff never

got hungry. His eating was intentional

and planned for optimum weight loss.

He set a goal for himself to lose 27

pounds. “The first week, I lost 9.8 pounds.

I realized then that I needed to up my

goal!” Hoping to lose 50 pounds, Jeff

stuck with the plan and in five months,

he exceeded his goal, and he says he

did it simply by eating the proper foods.

Now Jeff weighs 179 pounds, down

63 pounds from his starting point. He

currently weighs the same amount he

weighed when he graduated from high

school. “People tell me all the time that

I’m getting too skinny, but for my height,

this is a healthy weight.” So healthy, in

fact, that when Jeff had a physical

recently to renew his life insurance, he

realized he was as healthy as he had

ever been in his life. “My body mass index

was healthy. The doctor ran a blood

panel and did an EKG, and all indicators

came back in the normal range. The

only reason I did not get the highest

rating from the insurance company is

because I had recently lost a significant

amount of weight. The insurance

company statistics show that 88% of

people regain their weight by the

second year. I’m determined to be in the

12% of people who keep the weight off!”

When he started his weight loss

journey, Jeff did not exercise. He had to

lose his goal weight before he could

start an exercise program. Now he rides

his Peloton bike three to four times

week, and he does Peloton yoga and

strength classes. “I don’t miss a day,” he

says. “Exercise is something I look

forward to. This is a whole new lifestyle

for me.”

Jeff and Cynthia are now health

coaches themselves, helping others to

achieve their desired weight. “Having a

doctor-developed nutrition plan makes

all the difference. This is not a temporary

thing. It is a long-term lifestyle change,

and having a coach keeps you accountable

to another person. But really, in the

end, you must be true to yourself. When

I hit my goal weight and realized how

good it feels to be healthy, I decided I

never want to go back to my old ways.”

Hometown RANKIN • 35


36 • JANUARY 2021


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BUSINESS

WITH PEOPLE AND

TECHNOLOGY THAT

WORK FOR YOU.

MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER

Hometown RANKIN • 37


38 • JANUARY 2021


??????????? WHERE ARE THEY NOW ???????????

Robin Sanders

MISTIE DESPER

Growing up in a small town is something

special that many do not get to experience. But

Robin Sanders was inspired at a young age to

pursue a career in education so she could give

back to the town she grew up loving so much.

The small, close knit community of

Pelahatchie has always been home to Robin. She

recalled many wonderful memories over the

years. Reminiscing about her former cheerleading

and basketball days, she said, “Coach Billy

Guy Gray was my basketball coach and he helped

to shape my attitude and determination. He

taught me to show up early and that you must put

in the work to be great.”

Robin’s very own teachers throughout school

made such an impact on her young life that she

decided to pursue education herself and give back

to her community. “I have many memories of

teachers who poured love into me over the years

and helped me to foster a love of learning and

helping others,” she said.

The love and dedication that the teacher

carries in her heart can be felt by every student

she teaches. Following in her own mother’s

footsteps to become an educator was an easy

decision. Robin fondly recalls her childhood

watching her mother, Brenda White, teach and

serve in their small community. Robin said, “She

dearly loved Pelahatchie and touched the lives of

many. I spent many afternoons at school with

the other teachers’ kids and learned at a young

age how to appreciate a loving work family.”

Earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary

education and a master’s in school psychometry

from Mississippi College, Robin soon fulfilled

her dream of being in the classroom with her

very own students. She humbly stated, “It is

amazing how, throughout your career, you meet

students, fellow teachers, and staff members who

make such an impact on your life.”

Now, with 22 years in education under

her belt and having earned the 2000-2001

Pelahatchie Elementary Teacher of the Year

award, Robin has helped to shape countless

students and has left a positive impact that has,

no doubt, changed lives. “One of the best feelings

is watching your students grow and go on to

make their own way in life,” Robin lovingly

recalled. “I have seen students time and time

again beat the odds and grow up to do great

things.”

Robin, her husband of 23 years, Shane, and

their daughters Reagan (18) and Payton (15) plan

to continue loving their small community of

Pelahatchie for many years to come as she serves

as principal of the elementary. She stays busy

with her two girls plus all of her bonus children

at the school but enjoys a good TV binge when

she can.

She proudly speaks of her town stating, “I

absolutely love a small town and the community

within it. I like that you can develop relationships

that are also your own community. Many of the

students I have today are the kids of childhood

friends and classmates, and I certainly don’t

mind having the occasional parent conference in

the aisles of the local grocery store.”

After teaching for 17 years at Pelahatchie

Elementary, she went on to serve families

through the Rankin County School District

before she was given the chance to return as

principal. Robin plans to continue serving her

community for the foreseeable future. She said,

“When the opportunity to come back home and

serve as principal became available, I knew it was

time to go home and work closely with my

community again. For now, my future goals in

education are to be a part of all Pelahatchie

Elementary successes to come! Go Chiefs!”

Hometown RANKIN • 39


Register Now!

hindscc.edu/ready

In compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 of the Higher Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities

Act of 1990 and other applicable Federal and State Acts, Hinds Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin,

religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and activities. The following have been designated to handle inquiries regarding these policies: EEOC Compliance: Sherry Franklin, Vice

President of Instruction/Career & Technical Education, Box 1003, Utica, MS 39175; Phone: 601.885.7002 or Email: EEOC@hindscc.edu. Title IX: Deandre House, Associate Vice President Student Services, Title

IX Coordinator, Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601.857.3353 or Email: TitleIX@hindscc.edu.

40 • JANUARY 2021


BEST OF

THE BEST

Five years ago, the team at Hometown Publishing, publishers of Hometown Rankin Magazine,

embarked on creating a red carpet event that would celebrate the outstanding business community

in which we live and work. Rankin County’s Best of the Best Red Carpet Gala was born.

This year, nominations were accepted in sixty-eight categories, and online voting was used to determine

the winner in each category. Winners will be announced at the sold-out gala on January 14th.

Anyone in the top five of any category has clearly established themselves as a leader–

and for that we congratulate you!

We wish you continued success in 2021 and are honored to celebrate your achievements.

Hometown RANKIN • 41


BEST OF

THE BEST

Nominees

42 • JANUARY 2021


Dining

BEST ASIAN/SUSHI

Osaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Grill

Fuji Japanese & Sushi Grill

Asahi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

BEST BARBEQUE

Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, Brandon

Little Willie’s BBQ

Sonny’s BBQ

Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ

Smokehouse of Florence

BEST BURGER

Burgers & Blues

Laid Back Burger Shack

Mugshots Grill and Bar

Steak ‘n Shake

Taste of Detroit

BEST DELI

Chicken Salad Chick

Frisco Deli

McAlister’s Deli of Brandon

Newk’s Eatery of Flowood

Which Wich

BEST MEXICAN

El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant, Florence

El Potrillo Mexican Restaurant, Brandon

El Sombrero, Flowood

Fernando’s, Spillway

Papito’s Mexican Restaurant, Flowood

BEST PIZZA

Lost Pizza Co.

Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, Richland

Papa Johns, Florence

Pizza Hut, Richland

Soulshine Pizza Factory

BEST STEAKHOUSE

Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ

Longhorn Steakhouse

McClain Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse

Table 100

BEST DESSERT/BAKERY

GB Bakery

Primo’s Café

Sugar Magnolia Takery

SweeTee’s Treats & Design

The Yard Milkshake Bar

BEST BAR

Alumni House Sports Bar & Grill

BB’s Live

Buffalo Wild Wings

Table 100

The Gallows Bar at Genna Benna’s

BEST CATERER

4 Top Catering

Fresh Cut Catering & Floral

Georgia Blue

Sugar Magnolia Takery

The Hungry Goat

BEST COFFEE SHOP

Cups at Crossgates

Dunkin Donuts

GB Bakery

Mocha Mugs

Starbucks, Flowood

BEST BREAKFAST

Another Broken Egg

GB Bakery

Jo’s Diner

Primo’s Café

The Donut Shop, Florence

BEST LUNCH

Cross Country Grocery

Fannin Mart

Grant’s Kitchen and Grill

Mama’s Kitchen

Table 100

BEST DINNER

Amerigo Italian Restaurant

Cerami’s Italian Restaurant

Half Shell Oyster House

Jerry’s Fish House

Table 100

Health

& Wellness

BEST FAMILY DOCTOR

Dr. Carrie Nash,

Baptist Medical Group, Brandon

Dr. Todd Perkins, Merit Health, Flowood

Dr. Marc C. Hellrung, St. Dominic’s, Brandon

Dr. John Brooks, MEA Medical Clinic

Dr. James D. Polk,

Greenfield Family Healthcare

BEST FAMILY MEDICAL CLINIC

Baptist Medical Clinic, Brandon

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Merit Health, Flowood

St. Dominic’s Family Medicine, Brandon

TrustCare, Brandon

BEST PEDIATRICIAN

Dr. Amanda H. Cook, The Children’s Clinic

Dr. Danny Mullins, The Children’s Clinic

Dr. Dennis W. Rowlen,

Rankin Children’s Group

Dr. Adam Adcock, The Children’s Clinic

Dr. W. Craig Flowers,

Rankin Children’s Group

BEST PHYSICAL THERAPIST

Blake Hobbs, Apex Physical Therapy

Mark Ware, The Strength Center

Physical Therapy

Spencer Shoemaker, Performance Therapy

Samantha Odom, Elite Physical Therapy

Brooks Fortenberry, Performance Therapy

BEST NURSE/

NURSE PRACTITIONER

Karen Seago, NP, Merit Health

Kelley Martin, NP,

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Candace Ashley, NP,

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Jennifer Pate,

Tri-County Pulmonary & Sleep Clinic

Donald Garrett, NP,

Greenfield Family Healthcare

Hometown RANKIN • 43


BEST SPECIALTY

MEDICAL CLINIC

Capital Ortho

East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates

Jackson Healthcare for Women

MS Sports Medicine and

Orthopaedic Center

New Path Counseling

BEST SPECIALTY

MEDICAL PHYSICIAN

Dr. Missy McMinn,

East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates

Dr. Chris Kneip, Capital Ortho

Dr. Donald Baker, Orthopedic Surgeon,

Merit Health Medical Group

Dr. Chad Hosemann, Capital Ortho

Dr. James Ramsey, MS Sports Medicine

BEST ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY

Castlewoods Place

Peach Tree Village Assisted Living

Plain View Assisted Living

The Blake at Flowood

Villa South Assisted Living

BEST CHIROPRACTOR

Dr. Lynn Flower,

Fowler ProChiropractic & Wellness Center

Dr. Brad Kennedy,

Kennedy Chiropractic Clinic

Dr. Chad Brown, Brown Chiropractic Clinic

Dr. Joanie Winstead, Reservoir Chiropractic

Dr. Hailey Fortenberry,

Brandon Family Chiropractic

BEST DENTIST/ORTHODONTIST

Dr. Jason Cox, Belle Meade Family Dental

Dr. Shaun Mayatte, Mayatte Family Dentistry

Dr. Sara Langston, Dental Wellness

Dr. Wendy Lewis,

The Winning Smile Dental Group

Dr. Erin Green, Grants Ferry Family Dental

BEST OPTOMETRIST/

OPHTHALMOLOGIST

Dr. Anna Taylor,

Taylor EyeCare Family Optometry

Dr. Anh Giang Edwards,

Professional Eyecare Associates

Dr. R.W. Pharr, Family Eye Care

Dr. Mark Allen, The Optical Shoppe

Dr. J. Minor Pace, 20/20 Vision Care

BEST FITNESS CENTER

Burn Boot Camp, Flowood

Fitness 1440, Richland

Focus Fit, Pearl

Squad 232, Flowood

The Club at Crossgates

BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST

Adrian Jones,

Trusting Hands Massage Therapy

Lacey Clark, The Wellness Spa

Rachel Garletts,

Well Being Massage Therapy

DeAngela Hall, The Peaceful Escape

Tonya Blough, Reservoir Chiropractic

Retail &

Professional

Services

BEST CAR DEALERSHIP

Bob Boyte Honda

Fowler Buick GMC

Gray-Daniels Ford

Mac Haik Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Rogers-Dabbs Chevrolet

BEST FLORIST

A Yellow Rose

Chapman’s Florist

Green Floral

Simply Southern Celebrations

Willow Blu Florist,

Gifts and Custom Framing

BEST FURNITURE STORE

Ashley HomeStore & Outlet

D. Noblin Furniture

Miskelly Furniture

Ross Furniture

T & D Furniture

BEST JEWELRY STORE

Crossgates Jewelers

Crown Jewelers

DNS Diamonds

Jackson Jewelers

Mike Wright Jewelry

BEST GIFT SHOP

Apple Annie’s Gift Shop

Downtown Giftery

Mockingbird Marketplace

O! How Cute Boutique & Gifts

Vintiques

BEST MARKET/

PLANTS/PRODUCE

Cockrell’s Farmers Market

Doris Berry’s Farmers Market

Lakeland Yard & Garden

Rivers Greenhouse & Garden

The Landing Plant & Feed

BEST PHARMACY

Brandon Discount Drugs

Family Drug Mart

Kroger Pharmacy at Dogwood

Polk’s Drugs at Crossgates

Rhodes & Robby Rexall Drugs

BEST CHILDREN’S CLOTHING

BOUTIQUE

Itty Bitty Kid’s Boutique

Southern Raised

The Punky Rooster

Traditions

Willow & Grace

BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING

BOUTIQUE

Flawless Boutique

Heart of the South

Sweet Peas Boutique

The Beach Look Boutique

The Punky Rooster

BEST HAIR SALON

Liv the Salon

Meraki Hair Studio

Salon 232

The Chop Shop Barber & Salon

Untamed Salon

BEST HAIR STYLIST

Harley Taylor, Liv the Salon

Jessica Hudson, Meraki Hair Studio

Noelle Covington, The Chop Shop

Jamie Windham, Shear Shack

Tamara Shows, Untamed Salon

44 • JANUARY 2021


BEST NAIL SALON

Elegant Nails

Guitar Nails and Spa

Infinity Nails

Polished Nail Bar

ZaZa Nails & Spa

BEST SPECIALTY

ADVERTISING

BMARKETED – Benavides, LLC

Global Screen Printing

Hallet Group Marketing

One Way Promotional

Pollchaps Screen Print & Embroidery

BEST FINANCIAL

INSTITUTION

BankPlus, Flowood

Community Bank, Brandon

PriorityOne Bank, Brandon

Renasant Bank, Flowood

Trustmark Bank, Castlewoods

BEST FINANCIAL LENDER

Melissa Usry, Community Bank Mortgage

Leslie Key, Iberia Mortgage

Kasey Finklea, Diversified Mortgage

Savana Skelton, Origin Bank

Shane Dubois, Community Bank

BEST LANDSCAPING

PROFESSIONAL

Ambiance Landscape

Plant It Earth

Scarlet Oak Lawn Care

Murphy’s Lawn & Landscape

LawnSouth

BEST REALTOR

Kim Griffin, The McCaughan Company

Trey Fontaine, Havard Real Estate

Layla Hutton, Three Rivers Real Estate

Victoria Prowant, Southern Real Estate

Suzie McDowell, Keller Williams

Professionals

BEST ACCOUNTANT

Jennifer Brown, Garrett & Garrett

Kimberly Foreman, CPA

Jason Witcher, Witcher CPA

Kristi Thompson, Barlow & Company

Tom Windham, Windham & Lacey

BEST ARCHITECT

Erin Zieren, JH&H Architects

Joshua Jefcoat, JH&H Architects

Jose´ Arellano, Pryor Morrow

Jeff Green, The Pickering Firm

Nat Whitten, The Pickering Firm

BEST ATTORNEY

Sharon Thibodeaux,

Patterson & Thibodeaux

Tameika Bennett, Bennett Law Office

Mel Coxwell, Law Office of Mel Coxwell

Jeff Arnold, Arnold & Associates

Shannon Elliott, Elliott Law Firm

BEST FINANCIAL ADVISER

Andrew Comans, Trustmark Bank

Chas Gualano, Trustmark Bank

Dywayne Watkins,

Raymond James Financial Services

Michael Humphreys,

Humphreys Consulting Group

Rob Osborne, Primerica

BEST INSURANCE AGENT

Malcolm Houston, State Farm

Jordan Pitts, The Policy Center

Stephen Wallace, Insurance Associates

Andy Eaton, Andy Eaton Insurance Agency

Clancy Walker,

Insurance Protection Specialists

BEST HOME BUILDER

Burrell Properties

Deep South Custom Homes

Lyles Signature Homes

Mike Roberson Builders

S & S Builders

BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT

COMPANY

Byrd & Cook

Kitchen Kreations

Lakeside Moulding

Miller’s Custom Carpentry

Stephens Custom Renovations

BEST HOME INSPECTION

COMPANY

Chadwick Inspection Services

Clear View Property Inspection

Cornerstone Inspections

Keith Stewart Home Inspection

Magnolia Home Inspection

BEST HEATING & COOLING

COMPANY

The AC Doctors

AirCo - Heating & Air Conditioning Services

Pure Air Consultants

AKM Air Solutions

Southern Air Services

BEST PHOTOGRAPHER

Erica Burleson Photography

Haley Lowe Photography

Katelyn Anne Photography

Watson Photography

Sherri Derrick Photography

BEST AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE

Barnett’s Body Shop

Darrell’s Auto Repair

Gleason Tire

The Service Station

The Tire Depot

BEST DRY CLEANER

Nu-Way Dry Cleaning

Express Cleaners

Safeway Cleaners & Laundry

Wells Cleaners

Kolb’s Cleaners

BEST VETERINARIAN

Dr. Scott Houston, Brandon Animal Hospital

Dr. Gina Blackwell, Oakdale Animal Hospital

Dr. Tammy Dye, Florence Animal Clinic

Dr. Rick Kirby,

Hometown Veterinary Hospital

Dr. Ben Zieren, Luckney Animal Hospital

BEST DAYCARE

Miss Mandy’s Christian Daycare

Kids Konnection Christian Learning Center

Circle of Friends Learning Center

Railroad Center Daycare

Kids Stop Daycare & Preschool

Hometown RANKIN • 45


Miscellaneous

BEST FAMILY

ENTERTAINMENT

Black Axes Throwing Club

Fannin Lanes

McClain Safari Park

Spinners of Florence

Brandon Amphitheater

BEST PLACE TO WORK -

SMALL BUSINESS

Apex Physical Therapy

Fowler ProChiropractic & Wellness Center

Greenfield Family Healthcare

Humphreys Consulting Group

Performance Therapy

BEST PLACE TO WORK -

MEDIUM BUSINESS

Capitol Body Shop, Flowood

Infusion Plus

Precision Spine

The Face & Body Center

Zavation Medical Products, LLC

BEST PLACE TO WORK -

LARGE BUSINESS

Capital Ortho

Encompass Health

KLLM Transport

Mississippi Sports Medicine

and Orthopaedic Center

Rankin County School District

BEST NON-PROFIT

ORGANIZATION

Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue

Ever Reaching Community Outreach

Junior Auxiliary of Rankin County

Mustard Seed

The Baptist Children’s Village

46 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 47


48 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 49


50 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 51


52 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 53


54 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 55


Congratulations!

TO OUR OWN

SAMANTHA ODOM

FOR HER NOMINATION AS

TOP 5 PHYSICAL THERAPISTS

IN RANKIN COUNTY!

Ready to serve all of your physical therapy needs!

Visit us at MyElitePT.com to request an appointment.

THANK YOU,

RANKIN COUNTY!

For nominating Gray Daniels Ford

Best Car Dealership!

GrayDanielsFord.com

56 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 57


58 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 59


When Care at Home is Not Enough…

We’re Here For You!

Thank You for

Voting Us

TOP 5

st of th st

214 Spell Drive Richland, MS

601-664-1966

Committed to excellence in providing

compassionate and quality senior care

www.hickoryseniorliving.com

60 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 61


62 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 63


Proud to be nominated as a

Top 5 Best Family Medical Clinic

in Rankin’s Best of the Best

Thank you for letting us

serve in this community we love.

Stay safe & healthy.

trustcarehealth.com

64 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 65


Thank you for making our new

Flowood location a huge success!

theyardmilkshakebar.com

113 Dogwood Blvd Suite #34 Flowood, MS 39232

66 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 67


68 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 69


70 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 71


72 • JANUARY 2021


CONGRATULATIONS,

Savana!

Congratulations to Savana Skelton

for being nominated as a Top 5 Nominee in the Best Financial Lender category of the Red Carpet program.

NMLS# 1119600

Origin Bank NMLS# 455990

www.Origin.bank

Member FDIC

Hometown RANKIN • 73


74 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 75


76 • JANUARY 2021


Pearl MEA Primary Care Plus

is honored by the nomination

of our very own

Dr. John Brooks

for

Top 5 Best Doctors

in

Rankin’s Best of the Best.

Dr. Brooks is a member of MEA’s dedicated team of healthcare heroes who

are on the forefront of patient care in Central Mississippi.

A native of Rankin County, Dr. Brooks loves his community and sincerely

appreciates being nominated.

Brandon Byram Canton Clinton Flora Flowood Jackson Laurel

Madison Pearl Richland Ridgeland Tupelo Vicksburg Yazoo City

Hometown RANKIN • 77


Congratulations

to St. Dominic’s Family Medicine-Brandon

for being nominated as

RANKIN’S TOP 5 BEST OF THE BEST!

Marc Hellrung, MD Shara Beckwith, NP Emily Harbarger, NP Heather Kuriger, NP

St. Dominic’s Family Medicine-Brandon

1297 West Government Street

Brandon, MS 39042

601-200-4790

stdom.com

2820-SDM-HomeTownRankin-FP-Bestof.indd 1

78 • JANUARY 2021

12/10/20 11:33 AM


THANK YOU

FOR NOMINATING US!

SHANE’ DUBOIS

Best Banker

BEST

FINANCIAL INSTITUTION

MELISSA USRY

Best Banker

NMLS#730127

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Staff

Hometown RANKIN • 79


80 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 81


SALUTE

to First Responders

Why did you decide to be a fireman?

As a young adult in high school, a few buddies of mine and I

volunteered for the Langford Fire Department up until graduation.

My buddies went off and joined the Army, but I signed on at the

Reservoir Fire Department a year later and have been here ever

since. All my family was in the military, and I knew most of my

life that I wanted to serve my country. When things didn’t pan

out to join the Coast Guard, I decided to serve as a fireman.

How long have you been with the

Reservoir Fire Department?

I have been with Reservoir for 25+ years. I was recently promoted

to a battalion chief position and am honored to be a part.

Tell us about your family.

My wife Nicole and I have a blended family of four boys that

range from 14-19 years old. We are a Christian family and are

members of First Baptist of Fannin. In our spare time, we love

to grill out, go hunting, fishing, and watch/attend Mississippi

State football games.

What is the toughest thing you have experienced

in your job?

Encountering kids in need of help is always difficult, and

probably the toughest part about my job.

Battalion Chief

Michael

Robbins

RESERVOIR FIRE DEPARTMENT

What is the best/most rewarding part about your job?

The best part about my job is definitely helping people – it’s why

I began volunteering in the first place. I had no idea what I was

getting into when I first started the job, thinking it would be

mostly fighting fires, when in reality we do mostly medical calls

in the day to day. It definitely helps to have a background in

many different areas, and I’ve gone back and forth to the

Mississippi State Fire Academy many times over the years for

classes to be able to serve people like I do today.

82 • JANUARY 2021


Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.

I enjoy spending my spare time in the outdoors, whether it be

fishing and hunting with the kids or working outside in the yard.

What are three things on your bucket list?

1. I would like to tour each state and see the countryside. 2. Travel

the world with my wife and experience new things together. 3.

Maybe run for public office one day.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire my wife in so many ways. She is able to hold our house

together without complaint, and run two full-time jobs seamlessly.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young person,

what would it be?

Make smart decisions in life and treat one another with respect.

Help out where you can.

What is your favorite thing about the Reservoir?

The community here is one of the closest-knit group of people

I’ve ever seen. Neighbors helping neighbors is what I have noticed

in most of the community.

What is your favorite thing about Rankin County?

Having grown up in Pelahatchie, I’ve lived in Rankin County

all my life. Rankin County has a family oriented feeling, and

I’m proud to have lived and grown up here.

PHOTOS: Jennifer Nicholson Photography

Hometown RANKIN • 83


84 • JANUARY 2021


I’ve worked as a coach, teacher,

and administrator both at Hartfield

and at other excellent schools. I’ve found

that Hartfield Academy is different.

The fulfillment I get from being a part

of God working through our faculty is

extremely rewarding. I truly feel like I’m

a part of a school community that is

making a difference in the lives of students,

both now, and for years to come.

-David Horner, Head of School

WINNER

FIND YOUR WHY

(601) 992-5333 hartfield.org

TURN YOUR HOPES OF HOMEOWNERSHIP

INTO A REALITY

MELISSA USRY

MORTGAGE LOAN ORIGINATOR

EQUAL HOUSING LENDER

melissa.usry@communitybank.net

(0) 601.203.2222

(C) 601.906.1921

NMLS# 730127

Hometown RANKIN • 85


86 • JANUARY 2021


From

Hometown Girl

Mrs.

to

Mississippi

America

Erin Williams

Madison resident Whitney Gladden is a lot of things to a

lot of people. She’s a dedicated wife, loving mama, attorney,

registered therapy dog handler, community service advocate,

and a fitness instructor, to name just a few. In addition to all

of her existing roles, Whitney added a new platform to her

daily duties in 2020–Mrs. Mississippi America.

“It’s still so exciting for me to even talk about my current

title as Mrs. Mississippi America because honestly I’m not a

pageant person historically,” said Whitney. “I never competed

in pageants growing up, except for the one year I did Junior

Miss as a teen. The only thing I won that year was an award

for most ads sold!”

Although her entrance into, and success in, the pageant

world came as a surprise to Whitney initially, it’s a platform

she has truly come to enjoy.

“My husband Lee’s family followed friends in pageantry as

he was growing up, so it was familiar to him,” said Whitney.

“For 10 years, he always told me I would be good at pageants,

but I never really understood why until I got involved in it.

So I said no for a while before finally saying yes.”

Whitney’s first pageant in the “Mrs.” division was in 2017,

and Whitney has been fortunate to win multiple titles in that

time before achieving her current win as Mrs. Mississippi

America in 2020.

“I am a naturally competitive person, but I’ve always

focused more on competing against myself. I just work hard

to bring the best version of Whitney Gladden to the table,”

she said. “I love the discipline it takes to compete, to work to

further a cause you’re so passionate about, and how it can set

an example for my kids that you can accomplish whatever

you want in any stage of your life.”

Hometown RANKIN • 87


Although Whitney’s husband Lee is one of her biggest

supporters, he’d no doubt have to compete for the title of

“biggest fan” with their two children, Tucker and Macy,

whom Whitney says are two of “the absolute best things

I ever did in life.”

Tucker and Macy have also been integral to Whitney in

her pageant career because their heart and focus on community

service has inspired her platform, Kids for a Cause. “Kids

for a Cause was inspired by my two kids. It’s about getting

kids involved in meaningful service opportunities so that they

can give back to others in their community,” said Whitney.

“Can you imagine what would happen if we had an entire

generation of people who lived in a mentality of serving

others? It would change the whole world!”

Her children understand her platform firsthand. They

are the founders of a service organization themselves, The

Provision Project. The Provision Project aims to meet the

needs of homeless people in their community through gift

drives and fundraising projects. Tucker and Macy also enjoy

accompanying mom and their registered therapy dog,

Chicken Nugget, on community service projects to places

like Shower Power or The Grace House. In all that they do,

community service is rooted in the day-to-day lives of every

member of the Gladden family, right down to Chicken

Nugget himself!

“My kids have such genuine, service oriented hearts, and

it’s something God did in them, not us,” said Whitney.

“They inspire Lee and me both, really. They’re world changers,

and they prove that you don’t need a title to change the

world.”

Whitney went on to talk about her faith and the way

that it impacts each decision in her life. She spoke about how

there is no greater crown anyone could wear than the crown

that God puts on your head.

88 • JANUARY 2021


“This title is like a megaphone. When you

have a crown on your head, suddenly people

want to hear what you have to say,” said

Whitney. “It has put me in a bigger space to

share my ideals and my faith. I’m here to

glorify God and for others to see Jesus through

me, and through my family. And at the end of

the day, regardless of if I ever win another title,

I know who I am and I know who Jesus

thinks I am.”

Although Whitney is preparing to compete

in the national Mrs. America pageant, which

is currently set to take place in Las Vegas on

January 22-30, she stresses that you don’t need

a title to change the world.

“When I no longer have this title, and that

day will come, you can still find me spreading

the same message, said Whitney. “Right now,

I just have a bigger stage.” ●

Hometown RANKIN • 89


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90 • JANUARY 2021


Hometown RANKIN • 91


The CHALKBOARD

Brandon High

Brandon High School is proud to highlight

our two National Merit Finalists, seniors

Lindsey Patrick and Joseph Bailey. Through

their remarkable academic achievements,

extracurricular involvement, and leadership

qualities, both students truly embody what

it means to have the “Heart of a Bulldog.”

Undoubtedly, Lindsey and Joseph will leave

a mark of excellence on BHS.

Lindsey Patrick’s academic inclinations

are evidenced by her 36 ACT score, her

4.4 Grade Point Average, her numerous

1st place Math and Science Tournament

awards, and her participation on BHS’s

Academic Team. While maintaining this

stellar academic performance, Lindsey has

devoted upwards of five years swimming

competitively for Brandon High School and

Sunkist Swim Team, garnering a myriad of

awards and recognitions including many

state champion performances, being named

Most Valuable Swimmer and Swimmer of

the Year, and serving as captain of the girls’

varsity team.

Joseph Bailey has likewise achieved

academically as a member of the ACT 30+

Club and securing a spot on the All A Honor

Roll for four consecutive years. Additionally,

Joseph serves as a leader in various

extracurricular activities, both school and

community based–captain of the BHS tennis

team, lead member of the BHS media team,

president of the Fellowship of Christian

Athletes, and president of Mayor’s Youth

Council.

As leaders in the classroom, among their

peers, and within the community at large,

we have no doubt that these students are

leaving Brandon High School as burgeoning

change-makers, guaranteed to meaningfully

impact the communities with which they

engage and doing so with intellect,

compassion, and humility.

92 • JANUARY 2021


Northshore

While this year may have started off a little bit differently, Northshore

Elementary has had a great year! Our students have embraced the use of

technology and use their new iPads and Chromebooks daily.

We found ways to stay involved with our Rankin County community.

For example, our younger students have had exciting educational visits from

the fire department and the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office.

This year Northshore has added a STEM class, where students learn and

practice the engineering design process as well as learn basic coding skills.

In addition to academics, Northshore students have participated in a variety

of other schoolwide activities. To name a few, Northshore students celebrated

Go Gold Day to raise money and spread awareness of childhood cancer.

In addition, students celebrated both homecoming and Red Ribbon Week

by having dress-up days.

We know that the rest of the year will be just as exciting as the first semester!

Hometown RANKIN • 93


The CHALKBOARD

Pelahatchie High

Finding Joy

Leslie Hebert

Teaching is hard–so add a worldwide pandemic with

new classroom cleaning procedures, additional

expectations with technology, hybrid and/or online

classes, and you have a recipe for exhausted

teachers. However, teachers are resilient –

adaptable; we make adjustments and continue

moving forward with just about any new initiative

or procedure. How do we continue that pace?

Joy – finding joy in the midst of our circumstances.

We are intentional when it comes to seeking joy

because it, alone, has the ability to keep pushing

us forward.

Here, at Pelahatchie High School, most of our

teachers say they find joy in their families. Some,

however, elaborated a little more. See their

responses below:

Williams

Keyes

Our principal, Teague Burchfield, says he finds joy in

faith, family, and service.

Kelsey Williams, transportation supervisor and math

teacher, finds joy most in the Lord, but also in her

family, friends, and coworkers. However, most

of all, she finds joy in spending time with her new

baby niece.

Librarian Eles Renfroe finds joy being out in nature.

Assistant teacher, Kimberly Keyes, has found more

joy during the pandemic because she has had more

time with her family. They are cooking and eating

together more than ever before.

Coach Tip Nutt says baseball practice and his PS4

helps relieve stress and bring him joy.

Watson

White

Kimberly Watson, our Spanish teacher, finds her joy

in yoga, arts and crafts, and unplugging to balance

the calm and chaos.

Science teacher, Tammie Bright, finds joy in her

children and grandchildren.

Larry White, substitute teacher, finds joy in having

extra time to spend with his wife; they are talking

more and eating at the dinner table more.

Bookkeeper, Kristen Butcher, says cooking and

Netflix are bringing her joy during this time.

I, too, find joy in spending time with my family but

also in reading and writing. In this upcoming holiday

season, how will you find joy?

Hebert

Bright

94 • JANUARY 2021


Pearl Public School District

The Pearl Junior High Thespian Troupe 89177 and Pearl High

Thespian Troupe 4537 presented Descendants the Musical via

live stream. The community had the unique opportunity to

experience the musical from the comfort of their own home.

Pearl High School Key Club members served alongside Pearl Kiwanis Club members

to prepare and deliver meals to vehicles for the Pearl Kiwanis Club Annual Pancake

Supper. All the proceeds of the Pancake Supper go to civic and charitable projects

primarily in the Pearl community.

Hometown RANKIN • 95


The CHALKBOARD

Hartfield Academy

5th graders read “The Kid Who Became President”

in their unit about our nation’s government and election

process. They also had a former secret service member

and Hartfield mom to share a little bit about her

experience helping keep our nation’s leaders safe!

Wearing costumes inspired by the first Thanksgiving, Hartfield kindergarteners

spent the morning appreciating the meaning of this important American holiday

by making crafts, reading fun stories, and enjoying a sweet treat or two.

East campus students browsed the book fair in small groups

before the book fair officially opened to parent shoppers.

Creed Redditt, a K5 Hartfield student,

grins as he works on a Thanksgiving art project.

Second grade students are refining their

persuasive writing skills as their turkey friends

try to convince turkey-lovers to NOT eat them

for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Kim Simpson’s dual credit biology class used

the «Is Genesis History» series as inspiration for a

recent project exploring some of the world›s most

debated topics related to the creation account

laid out in the book of Genesis.

K3 made turkey donuts for Thanksgiving this year!

This kind of tactile activity allows students to think

creatively while working with their hands, resulting

in a yummy snack that is almost too cute to eat!

It was signing day for seniors Carson Turner,

who signed with the Jones College soccer

program, and Annelise Bell and Taylor Phillips,

who signed to the Copiah-Lincoln Community

College soccer program! We are confident that

these state champions have many more

accomplishments ahead, and we are thrilled

for what is to come for each of them.

.Congratulations to senior varsity volleyball player

Julia Dyess, who signed her national letter of intent!

This outside hitter and Hartfield Athletics standout

has committed to Ole Miss Volleyball, where she

will represent the Hawks well this fall.

96 • JANUARY 2021


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Hometown RANKIN • 97


TheTime COIN

Camille Anding

It was in my childhood that I first learned

it from my parents, “Say thank-you.”

The circumstances were usually for compliments

or gifts. Without really understanding the significance

of the brief “thank you,” I soon caught on, and as I

grew older, added an assortment of “you’re welcomes”

that the really polite people use to accompany a

compliment.

When I became a student of historical facts

somewhere around my fourth grade year, I learned

the details of a celebration – a holiday celebration

– that said a grateful “thank you.” As I watched Mother

add extra butter to the November stuffing and Daddy

layer the giant slabs of white meat from our turkey

onto a super-size tray, I could picture the Pilgrims and

Indians gathered around a long, food-laden table as

a thanksgiving prayer was offered.

Years later as I continued to broaden my education

into theology, I began a totally new study on thanksgiving.

God’s Word, which I declare to be totally inerrant,

states that we believers are to offer thanksgiving in

everything. What a bold declaration!

When I was younger that meant, “Thank you for

the sunshine, our food, my family, our pets, and all

the presents we get.” As I matured and studied God’s

Word and His faithfulness, I was able to enlarge my

thankfulness. IN everything, I was able to thank God

when the biscuits burned, when the transmission

began a “funny” clicking sound, when I lost my billfold

and then my keys, when prayers weren’t answered

the way I expected, when the moles treated my tulip

bulbs like appetizers, when unkind words were spoken

to me, when 2020 flipped our lifestyles upside down,

when worship services were moved to virtual meetings,

and when school schedules were placed on hold or

zoomed.

Obviously there’s no magic in chanting God’s

praises and thank yous, but it is a unique, blessed

response for believers. Why? With each thank you in

every difficult situation, I’m affirming my faith in God’s

sovereign control which empties a little more of me,

making room for more of my Peacemaker.

98 • JANUARY 2021


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Hometown RANKIN • 99


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