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Keeping the Faith

Demario Davis family

4 • FEBRUARY 2021


Pinks and

reds, hearts,

flowers and


all a part of February and all laced together

with the love theme. No wonder I consider it

one of my favorite months of the year! It’s

hard to be sad that Christmas is over when

Valentine’s decorations quickly replace holiday

ornaments in the stores. And February 14th

isn’t just for couples–it’s a day for everyone to

tell someone they are loved.

It’s always one of the easier publications

for our staff to assemble due to the endless

love topics that touch our lives. You’ll enjoy

reading about our featured couples who were

sweethearts in high school and still are to

this day. And it’s always fun to talk to a group

of kids and get their perspective on things.

Find out what a few Pearl students have to

say about love.

Our team is excited about a new monthly

feature for this year–Neighborhood Eats. We

at Hometown Magazines will spotlight our

locally owned restaurants and hopefully help

to alleviate some of their stress and challenges

due to Covid. Each month we will go behind the

scenes and get an inside look at the owners,

their stories, and the great food they offer.

We hope this will encourage you to step up

your support for these hard-hit businesses.

If we make it a team effort, our hometown

can add some much needed revenue to the

restaurants we need and rely on.

Show a little extra love to someone this

February. It will bless the recipient and bring

you, the giver, a lot of February joy. “It is more

blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35



...see you around town.

Reader Spotlight 7


Tahya A. Dobbs


Kevin W. Dobbs


Mary Ann Kirby

The Way We Were 8

Hometown Family 22

Keeping the Faith 36

Hearts on Fire 42



Brenda McCall



Caroline Hodges



Alisha Floyd

High School Sweethearts 49

Neighborhood Eats 54


Chalkboard 70




Othel Anding



Jodi Jackson

Time Coin 74

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 • FEBRUARY 2021




FOUST ________

Why did you decide to make Rankin County

your home?

It’s where most of my community has been

since college. Even though I went to school

in Jackson, I was really involved in church and

in the community in Rankin County. Shortly

after college, I married my wife and she’s grown

up in Rankin nearly her entire life. It was very

easy to make Rankin County home!

How long have you lived in Rankin County?

I have lived in here for nearly four years.

Tell us about your family.

My wife, Augusta, and I have been married for

over two years and we’re expecting twin girls in

April 2021. I work locally with Fellowship of

Christian Athletes as an area representative in

Rankin County and my wife teaches 6th grade

math at Pisgah Elementary School.

What is your favorite memory of living in

Rankin County?

For me, it’s where I’ve started my adult life,

started my family, and now growing my family.

I would say one of my greatest memories has

been buying our home here and really making

it feel like we were officially a part of this


Where are your three favorite places to eat

in Rankin County?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say Chick-fil-A. They

know my name there! My wife and I frequent

El Sombrero in Flowood. And on date-nights,

we love to eat at Amerigo!

What are some fun things to do in Rankin

County on the weekends?

You can’t go wrong with a weekend on the

Rez in my opinion. I’m a nature guy, so I love

being outdoors and enjoying God’s creation.

It’s always fun to see a movie, bowl a couple

games at Fannin Lanes, or even axe throwing!

I never thought that would be a fun thing to

do–but it is!

Share some things you enjoy doing in your

spare time.

I really love reading and writing. At any given

time, I could be doing either of those things.

Since my job requires a lot of my mental,

emotional, and spiritual strength, I find it

restful to do things in my spare time that get

me physically moving and doing something.

Anything from working out to working on

my father-in-law’s land, I find it can often be

therapeutic. I also love to cook and create in

the kitchen. My wife especially likes that

about me!

What are three things on your bucket list?

I for sure know I’d love to travel to the Holy

Land. It’s always been a dream of mine to be

able to see the places Jesus actually walked!

I’ve always thought it would be really neat to

write and publish a book. Lastly, because of my

love for cooking I’ve always thought it would

be really cool to open a restaurant one day.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I really admire my wife. She is an awesome

spouse to come home to, and watching her

these last few months carry our children has

been nothing short of amazing to see. I’ve

grown a deeper love for her just seeing that.

Despite how crazy our life can get, she is always

thinking of others and giving her best to what

she’s invested in. This year has been one of

the busiest and stressful we’ve had, and she

was awarded Teacher of the Year at Pisgah

Elementary! I’m ready to see her become

mom when these babies get here.

Where do you see yourself ten years from


We’ll still be here in Rankin County involved

in much of what we are now. I see a big future

ahead in my ministry role with FCA and my

wife wants to continue her career in education

as well.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

It may not be one single memory, but a

culmination of a bunch of different ones.

As a kid, I was a huge Ole Miss football fan.

My dad used to work the gate in the games

that was closest to the locker room. Some of

my greatest memories were interacting with

all those players as a kid as they would come

back and forth before and after games. I was

even fortunate enough to run into a few

Mannings every now and then!

If you could give us one encouraging quote,

what would it be?

“Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along

with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”

1 Timothy 6:11. There is no “point of arrival”

in this life, only a constant pursuit; so it is

always important to stop frequently and make

sure that what we’re pursuing is worth it!

What is your favorite thing about

Hometown Magazines?

I love that it is a local snapshot of all the

places and people that make our community

so special. Hometown does a great job of

capturing the heartbeat of Rankin County

in every issue that I’ve read thus far!

Hometown RANKIN • 7

The way

WE were

Christy & Jeff Walker

Mistie Desper

The arrangement couldn’t

have been better for seventh-grader

Christy while

attending McLaurin Junior High

in Florence, Mississippi. Her

ninth-grade neighbor and good

friend Jeff, who lived just down

the road, would pick her up on

his way to school. Over the years

they grew to appreciate each

other’s obvious qualities.

According to Christy, Jeff was

“super cute, popular and just a

nice guy.” Jeff described Christy

as being “genuine.” There was no

pretense or putting on heirs in

his young friend.

It was the kind of friendship

where Christy could share her

broken heart over a relationship

and cry on Jeff’s shoulder. He

was a sounding board for many

of her youthful questions about

boyfriends and teen “growing


Christy was close enough to

comment on Jeff’s decisions and

give advice on girls he might be

dating. It was obvious that they

could refer to one another as a

best friend.

It was the weekend he came

home as a sophomore at

Mississippi College that reshaped

their friendship. He asked Christy

if she would like to go to a movie.

She said, “Sure.” The best friend

relationship turned romantic for

the two of them. Jeff discovered

that he had found his future

mate. “She couldn’t get rid of

me,” he said in describing the

love of his life.

Christy remembers a high

school teacher/cheerleading

sponsor who was married to the

high school coach. That lifestyle

was her paradigm, but she didn’t

realize how closely she would

mirror it.

Jeff admits wanting to

impress Christy and prove he

was the perfect match for her.

Majoring in architecture was

one of the ways he felt sure he

would impress her. Christy

laughs at that choice with her

recap, “I dated an architect but

married a coach!”

After a June graduation from

Mississippi College, Christy

became Mrs. Jeff Walker on

June 29, 1991. The wedding at

Wesleyanna United Methodist

church in Star and reception in

Christy’s backyard, is a standout

8 • FEBRUARY 2021

“If you’re lucky

enough to marry

your best friend,

marriage is just

a bonus.”

memory, and the weather played

Taylor’s physicians, she would

at McLaurin High School where

relationship discussions, and I

a big part. “It was hot as blue

never walk or talk.

Jeff serves as athletic director,

remind the younger students

blazes,” according to their

Christy refused to accept that.

head baseball coach, and teaches

that hearts have to be broken a


Jeff described it best, “Mama was

Drivers’ Ed. (Christy recognizes

few times, but you have to fall in

Their first major challenge

not taking no for an answer.”

she’s living her dream.)

love with your person.”

came in their fourth year of

Today Taylor clocks in 14,000

As for the adjustments to

Jeff added the last marriage

marriage. Their first child,

steps a day in her job at McLaurin

being married to a coach, Christy

advice: “If you’re lucky enough

Taylor, was born, but Christy

Elementary School, and is an

admits it’s not all peaches and

to marry your best friend,

had a motherly instinct that

avid conversationalist, thanks to

cream, but as a family they accept

marriage is just a bonus.” He also

their daughter had some

“God’s goodness,” and parents’

the role. Balancing family time

added that his bride of thirty

underlying issues. Taylor didn’t

and friends’ unrelenting work

is a priority. “We’ve realized

years hadn’t changed. “She is still

walk until she was two, and the

with Taylor.

what’s most important and what

as genuine as in the 7th grade,

couple continued to ask questions

The Walkers are also parents

we have to make important,”

but prettier than ever.” l

and seek help. When Taylor had

to recently wed Katherine, and

Christy says.

a seizure in the first grade, more

ninth-grade son, Anderson. With

In her counseling position,

in-depth tests gave them an

a master’s degree in counseling,

Christy listens and shares insight

accurate diagnosis. According to

Christy is employed as a counselor

with the students. “We have

Hometown RANKIN • 9

Help us help


© 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


10 • FEBRUARY 2021

Home is where you are loved, cared for,

and life is being lived. Home is HERE.


(601) – 664 – 1966

Hometown RANKIN • 11

12 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 13

Grand Opening & Dedication / January 16

14 • FEBRUARY 2021

Brought to you by Hometown Magazines

Hometown RANKIN • 15

We Build Families.

149 Fountains Blvd, Madison, MS 833- POS-STEP (767-7837) postivestepsfertility.com

16 • FEBRUARY 2021






Bank of Yazoo is pleased to announce that Misty Edwards

has joined its team as Vice President and Loan Officer and

will be located at the Bank’s Flowood branch in Rankin

County. Edwards, a native of Pelahatchie, has more than 20

years of banking experience in commercial and consumer

lending, retail services, operations, credit, and compliance

in the Jackson Metropolitan market.

"Misty brings a wealth of experience to our institution, and we are thrilled that she

has joined our Metro team. Her broad-based experience in banking, particularly in Rankin

County, allows her to provide valuable financial insight and solutions to our clients.

We also appreciate her ongoing desire to contribute to her community through civic service.

We are excited to see what the future holds for Misty at our Bank.”

B E N A L D R I D G E , C H I E F O P E R A T I N G O F F I C E R A N D M E T R O P R E S I D E N T

"I am pleased to join the Bank of Yazoo team where client relationships are nurtured and

valued. In this new position, I am excited to help develop and grow consumer and commercial

relationships in and around the community that has always meant so much to me.”

M I S T Y E D W A R D S , V I C E P R E S I D E N T A N D L O A N O F F I C E R



Hometown RANKIN • 17




Cinnamon Rolls


• 2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast

(1 standard packet)

• 1 cup warm milk

• ⅔ cup granulated sugar

• ½ cup unsalted butter, melted

• 2 eggs, lightly beaten

• 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

• 4½ - 4¾ cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of your stand mixer

fitted with the dough hook, add

yeast, warm milk, and 1 Tbsp. of

measured out sugar. Stir lightly and

allow to sit for 10 minutes or until

foamy on top. Stir in remaining sugar,

melted butter, and beaten eggs until

combined. Add 3 cups of flour first

and then add one tablespoon at a

time until you have workable

dough. Place dough into a lightly

greased bowl and set into a

warm place to rise until

doubled, about one hour.


• 1 ½ cups strawberries, chopped

• ½ cup granulated sugar

• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 1 Tbsp. water

• 1 Tbsp. cinnamon

• 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

While the dough is rising, gather

your ingredients for the strawberry

filling. In a medium sizes saucepan,

add the strawberries and sugar. Stir

constantly for five minutes until they

start to release their juices. Mix corn

starch and water together and stir it

into the strawberry mixture. Allow

to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow the

strawberry filling to cool to room

temperature. Stir together the

cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl

and set aside for later.

Once the dough has risen, don’t

punch it down just yet. Flip the bowl

over and dump it out onto a lightly

floured surface. Pat it down lightly

to release the air inside and roll it

with a rolling pin into a very large

rectangle, about 1/4” thick. Spread

the strawberry filling on into an even

layer and sprinkle the cinnamon

sugar on top.

Roll the dough up very tightly

into a long log. Cut the log into 12

or 16 cinnamon rolls. 12 for a large

9x13 pan or 16 for two round 8”

baking pans (8 rolls in each). Grease

your pan of choice extremely well

and place cut cinnamon rolls into

prepared pan.

At this point, BEFORE the

second rise you can choose to finish

the process the next morning. Just

place the pan of cinnamon rolls in

the refrigerator with a damp cloth

on top. In the morning, remove the

rolls from the refrigerator and place

them in a warm environment to do

their second rise. Once they are

puffy, they’re ready to bake!

Continue the recipe as normal.

Once rolls have done their second

rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees

and arrange the rack into the center

of the oven. Bake cinnamon rolls for

20-25 minutes or until lightly

golden on top.


• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened

• ¼ cup unsalted butter,

room temperature

• ½ cup granulated sugar

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 pinch of salt

Beat cream cheese and butter

together until smooth with no

lumps. Add in sugar, vanilla and

optional pinch of salt and mix until

smooth and creamy. Spread a thin

layer of the frosting onto the warm

rolls just as they come out of the

oven so it seeps into all of the

crevices and then a heftier layer once

they have cooled down a bit.

18 • FEBRUARY 2021


Cream Cheese

Strawberry Cookies


Strawberry Avocado

Pico de Gallo



Chocolate Chip Scones

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• ½ tsp. baking soda

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 egg

• ½ cup butter (unsalted, cold,

and cubed)

• 1 cup strawberries (washed and


• ½ cup chocolate chips

• ¼ cup flour (for dusting over your

work surface)

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Line

a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour,

sugar, baking soda, baking powder

and salt. In the measuring cup used to

measure the buttermilk, whisk the

egg with the buttermilk.

Add cubed butter to flour mixture

and using two knives or a pastry

blender cut in the butter, until dough

is crumbly and resembles peas.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the

flour mixture and mix well using a

fork or wooden spoon.

Add strawberries and chocolate

chips to the dough and roughly mix

until well incorporated. Turn dough

over onto a floured surface, and form

into a round disk. Cut the into eight


Place the scones onto your baking

sheet. Brush with buttermilk and

sprinkle with a bit of sugar if

preferred. Bake for about 25 to 30

minutes or until golden brown.

• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. baking powder

• ⅛ tsp. salt

• ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened

• ¾ cup sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ¾ cup fresh strawberries, chopped

• 2 Tbsp. lemon juice

• 1-2 Tbsp. flour

• 5 oz. white chocolate, chopped

• Sanding sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line

pans with parchment paper. Pour

fresh lemon juice over chopped

strawberries; drain after a few

minutes. Whisk together flour, salt

and baking powder and set aside.

Beat butter with sugar and cream

cheese until it’s light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

Gradually add flour mixture and mix

until well combined. Stir in chopped

white chocolate.

Sprinkle strawberries with 1-2

tablespoon flour, toss them until all

strawberries are coated with thin layer

of flour and then stir them really

gently in the batter.

Drop heaping tablespoon of batter

onto pan leaving an inch space


Set the cookies in the refrigerator

for 5-10 minutes before baking.

Sprinkle with sanding sugar if you

want, but do not overdo it because

they are sweet enough.

Bake for 13-15 minutes (until the

edges become golden brown).

Let them cool a few minutes in the

pan than transfer them to a wire racks

to cool completely.


five-Minute Healthy


Frozen Yogurt

• 4 cups frozen strawberries

• 3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar

• ½ cup plain yogurt

(non-fat or full fat)

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Add ingredients to the bowl of a food

processor. Process until creamy, about

five minutes. Serve immediately or

transfer to an airtight container and

freeze for up to a month.


Strawberry Crumb Bars

• 1 cup sugar

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 3 cups flour

• 1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

• 1 egg, beaten

• 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled

and chopped

• ½ cup sugar

• 4 tsp. corn starch

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease, or line

with foil, a 9x13 pan. In a medium

bowl, whisk together sugar, baking

powder, salt, and flour. Cut in the

butter using two knives or a pastry

blender, until pieces are no bigger

than pea sized. Stir in the egg to form

crumbly dough. Pat half of the dough

in an even layer in the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, toss strawberries

with the sugar and corn starch, then

spread the mixture on top of the

dough in the pan. Crumble the

remaining dough evenly over the

strawberry layer. Bake 45-50

minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let cool before slicing and serving.

• 1 California avocado, halved,

seeded, peeled, and diced

• 1 cup diced strawberries

• 1/3 cup diced mango

• ½ jalapeno, seeded and minced

• 1/4 cup diced red onion

• 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

• 1 tsp. honey, or more to taste

• Juice of 1 lime

• Kosher salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine avocado,

strawberries, mango, jalapeno, onion,

cilantro, honey, lime juice, and salt, to

taste. Serve immediately.


Southern Style

Strawberry Sweet Tea


• 4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries

• 1½ cups water

• 1 ½ cups pure cane or coconut sugar

Add the strawberries, sugar, and water

to a saucepan and bring to a boil,

Lower the heat and simmer or 10-15

minutes. Let cool slightly then pour

the syrup through a fine mesh sieve

into a gallon pitcher. Discard the

cooked fruit.


• 3 Luzianne family size tea bags

• 3 cups water

• Strawberry simple syrup

Bring water to a boil, remove from

heat, drop in tea bags, and steep for

10-15 minutes. Pour tea into the

pitcher with the syrup and stir. Fill the

rest of the pitcher with cold water.

Chill completely then serve over ice

and/or freshly frozen strawberries.

Hometown RANKIN • 19

20 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 21

22 • FEBRUARY 2021



Tell us about your family.

BRETT (37) I am an interventional cardiologist at Jackson Heart Clinic.

For hobbies, I enjoy coaching the kids’ sports teams and hanging out with them.

We went snow skiing for the first time last year, and I can’t wait to do that

again. We are also members of McLaurin Heights Baptist Church in Pearl.

SHARON (36) Stay-at-home mom, active in the schools with the PTA, and

has been named Parent of the Year twice at Pearl Schools.

COLSTON (13) Currently in 8th grade at Pearl Jr. High and has enjoyed

kicking on the football team, running cross country, and playing junior high

soccer as well as club soccer for BFC.

BRYNN (8) Currently in the third grade at Northside Elementary in Pearl.

She plays soccer for IFC and enjoys tumbling and riding the moped she got for


BRITTON (5) Currently attending the ECEC in Pearl. She played soccer for

the first time this past season and enjoys tagging along to cheer on her siblings

at their sporting events. She is also an avid Disney fan.

did you meet, and how long have

you been married?

We met in high school when I rode to school

with my family friend, Coby, who was a

friend of Brett’s, and they parked beside each

other in the school parking lot. Our first

New Years dating was the year of the new

millennium. We have been married 14 years.

Do you allow time to be with your

spouse for a date night?

Yes, we try to do a date night every now and

then when schedules allow. Our favorite is a

quick dinner, but we have taken a few short

trips–just the two of us. We are extremely

fortunate to have a lot of family around

willing to help out. And the kids enjoy

seeing their grandparents.

What brings you the greatest joy as a


BRETT For me, it’s watching the kids grow.

Everything from watching them participate

in sports and academics to interactions with

peers. But my greatest joy is when they ask

me for help.

Hometown RANKIN • 23

SHARON I enjoy making memories as a

family. Whether it is going on a trip or

sitting on the couch watching movies as

a family.

Who is the financial manager in your home?

As far as the day to day finances, Sharon

definitely pulls the weight. With big

decisions, it has always been a team effort.

We are fortunate to have similar beliefs

and typically see eye to eye on big things.

When your children were younger,

what was your discipline philosophy?

Well, this has definitely evolved over the

years. We have been progressively more lax

with each child as the years pass by!

What’s a quick go to meal that isn’t fast

food? And who does the cooking?

BRETT Sharon does the cooking in the

kitchen. I have scars from the last time I

tried to cook anything that wasn’t on the

grill. However, I did get a Green Egg two

years ago and enjoy grilling.

SHARON I definitely do most of the

cooking. Some of the easiest things all

agree on are breakfast food, homemade

fried rice, and steaks on the grill.

How long has Pearl been your home?

We both grew up in Pearl and both

graduated from Pearl High School. We

moved back to Pearl shortly after getting

married. Sharon was an assistant teacher

at Pearl for two years, and Brett is the

medical director. We moved to Flowood

two years ago, but the kids attend Pearl

Schools and we couldn’t imagine them

anywhere else.

What do you see in your role as the greatest

benefit to your family?

BRETT Support. Lead by example in

regards to hard work, dedication and

applying yourself to achieve your goals.

SHARON Organization, peacekeeper,

stability, and shoulder to cry on. Being

able to stay home with the kids has

allowed me a lot of time to work on these.

What are some of your favorite things

about Rankin County?

Pride. Love the southern pride and

hospitality. Everywhere you go feels

like home.

How do you spend your summer breaks?

We usually take a beach trip. For the past

few years we have gone to the Beach Club

in Fort Morgan with friends. However,

most of the summer is spent following the

kids sporting events.

What accomplishments make you proud

during your time living in Pearl?

BRETT We won State in soccer my senior

year of high school and I was named to

the Pearl High School Hall of Fame.

More recently, Pearl won the football

state championship in 2017. At that time,

Colston was a ball boy for the team and

my cousin, Kyle, was the kicker. Last year,

Colston’s junior high cross country team

won the first ever state championship.

This year, Colston’s 8th grade football

team made it to the Little 6 Championship.

Brynn was Pirate of the Quarter

last year as well.

SHARON Being a member of the dance

team my senior year and being selected

as a homecoming maid. I’m proud to be

able to help at the school, and seeing the

Pearl School district consistently graded

as one of the top in Mississippi. I agree

with Brett on the kids’ accomplishments.

I have also enjoyed watching the city

grow–and getting to see the Mississippi

Braves games.

What drives you to have the job that you


BRETT One is the example that I set for

my kids. The other is the care that I am

able to provide. I am often able to care

for patients who are at their worst or most

critical and they trust me with their lives.

This is an enormous responsibility and

I am humbled to be in the position that

I am.

24 •• FEBRUARY 2021

SHARON Definitely the kids. My day, in and

out, is for them. I want to provide them a

stable home environment and the utmost

support and security. With Brett’s work and

call schedule, I am depended on, a lot, for day

to day activities, homework, and stability.


What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?

COLSTON Watch LSU football with Dad

and family soccer games in the yard.

BRYNN Taking family trips and playing

with the dogs

BRITTON Going to Baskin Robbins to get

ice cream. And the family trips.

What’s your favorite restaurant?


BRYNN Fernando’s

BRITTON Waffle House

What’s your favorite TV show?

COLSTON Friday Night Tykes

BRYNN Bunk’d

BRITTON Doc McStuffins

Favorite memories of 2020:

COLSTON & BRETT We were fortunate

to attend the SEC championship game

with the family in Atlanta and the LSU–

Clemson National Championship game

in New Orleans. It was a once in a

lifetime season and experience.

BRYNN Going to the American Girl

doll store in Atlanta while Colston and

Dad went to the SEC championship

game. Also getting our new puppy, Arya,

on my birthday. She is a Goldendoodle.

BRITTON Playing in the snow when we

went snow skiing in Deer Valley, UT.

Hometown RANKIN • 25

26 • FEBRUARY 2021

CALL NOW: 601-401-3299

Hometown RANKIN • 27

Grand Opening & Dedication / January 22

28 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 29

30 • FEBRUARY 2021

Mel Coxwell

Hometown RANKIN • 31



3 4























32 • FEBRUARY 2021

Pearl Upper Elementary 4th Graders

What does love mean to you?

1 Ila Bolls















Spending time with my family.

Cadence Crenshaw

Caring for one another.

Jakari Townsend

When a family member says they love me,

it means they would do anything for me.

Peyton Johnson

When you care for someone very much.

Taylor Dispenza

Family and friends coming together.

Kendall Carrington

Love is something I can’t explain, but love is

powerful because my brother and sisters and I,

we have love.

Autumn Jinks

Liking someone for how they are. Someone

who laughs with you and helps you when you

are feeling down.

Austin Galloway

Helping and caring for people.

Seager Foster

You are there for someone.

Mayra Gomez

Letting people know that they can count on you!

Ruby Russell

A strong friendship or connection. It means

to have the best connection with someone.

Jackelinhe Hernandez

Love is what everyone has in their heart.

Briggs Costello

Caring and kindness.

Emmett Smith

Love means saying nice things.

Love is being nice and kind.












Caelyn Moak

You will do anything for someone and

you always feel safe around them.

Kamryn Kent

Love to me is happiness. It brings joy to people.

I love love because it helps me in life.

Asia Jones

Love means family. You don’t need the same

blood to love each other.

Emmalyn Humphrey

Love means home.

Nathan Whittington

When you really like someone and you want to

stay with them forever. When you see them you

get butterflies in your stomach.

Alyssa Williams

Love is when you will do anything for someone

you care about, no matter what the circumstances

are. Love is the one thing that overcomes hate.

John Paul Acey

The best thing ever that you can have in life.

Jacob Temple

Having a family, and they love you.

And you love them back.

Katelyn Watts

When someone cares about you.

Ja’Toya Harris

Caring about people who care about you.

Good or bad when we have a problem

we could fix it.

Markel Johnson


Kiley Brooks

Love is the best thing in my family.

Hometown RANKIN • 33




Steven Wallace



34 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 35

36 • FEBRUARY 2021

Keeping the Faith


They seem like a family that has it all.

Demario Davis is an NFL standout, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints.

He has a beautiful wife, Tamela, who he met in college at Arkansas State University.

Together, the couple has four adorable children:

Bailey-Grace, Roman-Parker, Summer-Joy

and Carly-Faith. Born in 2019, it was Carly-Faith

who caused the Davises to rely on their faith

like never before.

Demario and Tamela both have a strong

Christian faith, which is something they

incorporate into their daily lives. The couple

met in a class they had together at Arkansas

State. “He was there on a football scholarship,

in his senior year,” says Tamela. “I was in my

first year of graduate school.” The couple

talked after class one day and realized they were

both from Mississippi. Demario graduated

from Brandon High School where he was a

three-sport athlete in football, basketball and

track. Tamela was from Walnut Grove. “We

realized that with band competitions and

other events, we were most likely in the same

place at the same time during high school,”

muses Tamela. We met in January 2011, got

engaged in December of that same year, and

married in July 2012.”

Because he red-shirted his freshman year,

Demario was able to play an additional year

of football at Arkansas State. “During his last

year there he started grad school, working

towards getting his master’s degree,” explains

Tamela. “Then he was selected to train for a

combine in New Jersey and was drafted in the

third round by the New York Jets.”

Hometown RANKIN • 37

“When she was born, Carly-Faith had a bit of a glare in her eyes.”

The couple moved to New Jersey and had

their first two children there before moving to

Ohio, where Demario played for the Cleveland

Browns. In 2018, they moved to New Orleans

when Demario was offered a position with the

New Orleans Saints. Carly-Faith was born in

New Orleans. The family, by all accounts, had it

all. But there was something about Carly-Faith

that had the couple a bit concerned.

“When she was born, Carly-Faith had a bit

of a glare in her eyes,” recalls Tamela. “Her eyes

were an unusual color, kind of greenish-gray.

But my family has a history of unusual eye color,

so that wasn’t very strange.” What was strange

was that glare, which was something that could

only be seen when Carly-Faith was in a certain

position, or in a certain light. Over the next few

months, her eye color got darker, and the glare

became more noticeable.

The couple went to their home in Nashville,

which is where they plan to eventually make

their permanent home. “Maybe the light there

was different, but it seemed more noticeable in

that house,” observed Tamela. Back in New

Orleans, the couple took the baby to their

pediatrician who said she would keep an eye

on it. They returned to Nashville, and a couple

of weeks passed. They noticed the glare more,

but because of COVID-19, unless it was an

emergency, they could not take her to the doctor

in Nashville. Then one day Carly-Faith was on

the floor and Demario and Tamela noticed an

orange-colored dot in her eye that looked like

a laser light. That was concerning enough for

their pediatrician in New Orleans to refer them

to a specialist at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

“Honestly, we thought we were ‘over

parenting’ a bit, and that they’d tell us it was

nothing,” says Tamela. With a new sitter at

home with the other three children, Demario

and Tamela thought they would be gone for a

short time. Instead, Tamela spent hours at

Vanderbilt with Carly-Faith, going from one

doctor to another while Demario had to stay

outside, as they would only let one parent in

due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Carly-Faith had an MRI, and the couple

was given the heartbreaking news that she had

a tumor behind her eye that was already in an

advanced stage. “She was already completely

blind in that eye,” says Tamela. “We were

told the tumor was a size typically found in

two-to-three-year-old children, but she was

only nine months old.”

Over the next few days, the couple

consulted with everyone they could. Demario’s

aunt is a researcher in Atlanta, and they had

38 • FEBRUARY 2021

“We put our trust in God.”

Carly-Faith’s chart sent to St. Jude’s there. The

question came down to whether the eye should

be removed or not. In the end, everyone they

spoke with held the doctor on their case at

Vanderbilt in high esteem, and they agreed on

his plan. “It was a lot to digest,” says Tamela.

“We put our trust in God, and we spoke to the

doctors at Vanderbilt about our faith. We

prayed over our doctors and we prayed the

cancer had not spread further. Believing in a

higher power and being saturated in faith

makes any journey different. I had to realize

the true power of God and believe all that was

happening was much bigger than me.”

Sometimes a valley is so low that it is hard

to believe there will ever be better times on the

other side. Tamela says family, friends and

teammates all stepped up to support her family

and to journey with them. Little Carly-Faith

may have lost an eye, but she has a prosthetic

that makes it hard to notice. She is walking and

talking and doing all a healthy 17-month-old

should be doing. “She had a rare form of eye

cancer, retinoblastoma, that required her to

have genetics testing done monthly,” explains

Tamela. “She had to be put under anesthesia to

monitor her eye socket and to check the other

eye for suspicious growths. She went through

that for months, but as of November, she has

been declared cancer-free! Doctors have told us

she is not at risk for any additional tumors. Our

daughter is healed!” Tamela says that although

Carly-Faith can only see with one eye, she will

thrive in life and her story will serve as an

inspiration to many people. “I see her future

being really bright. This is just the beginning.

She has so much more life to live, and I’m sure

there will be other things that will go along

with this story that will give her a tremendous


In addition to the great news about

Carly-Faith’s remission, Demario was recently

named the New Orleans’s Saints 2020 Man

of the Year and he is the team’s 2020 Walter

Payton Man of the Year nominee. According to

the Saints press release on Davis’ nomination,

“All of the 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year

team nominees will receive a donation of

$40,000 in their name to their charity of

choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL

Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000

donation to the charity of their choice. All

donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation

and Nationwide.”

PHOTOS: @aprilbellephotos

Hometown RANKIN • 39

©2020 JEA


Your Eye Exam, Too!


Scheduling a yearly comprehensive eye exam with

Jackson Eye Associates is easier than making your

weekly manicure appointment. It Is A Big Deal!

Call one of our three convenient locations to schedule your exam.

For sunglasses, prescription glasses, or contacts

visit JEA Optical today!








40 • FEBRUARY 2021


into a reality





(0) 601.203.2222

(C) 601.906.1921

NMLS# 730127

Hometown RANKIN • 41

42 • FEBRUARY 2021





Sparks flew for a local fireman

and nurse during a chance meeting

on the same ambulance years ago.

BJ and Emily met, became friends, and that

friendship blossomed into a heartfelt love story.

Hometown RANKIN • 43

44 • FEBRUARY 2021

PHOTOS: Firelenz Photography

Pearl Fire Department Lieutenant BJ Wells met Emily Ann Jones in

2013 while on call with American Medical Response. Emily is a

neonatal flight nurse at UMC and a neonatal nurse at Newborn

Associates. They fondly recall the night they met. At the time, BJ was working

as an EMT. He and Emily were on call together. While Emily was busy working

with a neonatal patient during transport, BJ remembered that it was storming very

badly that night. It was quite a treacherous drive because the ambulance was leaking,

causing him to struggle to see. Desperate to find something to clear the water to

get them to their destination safely, he asked Emily for anything to help.

Laughing, BJ said, “We really didn’t have much in the ambulance but she tossed

me a roll of paper towels.” Emily added, “I guess you could say we bonded over

that roll of paper towels that night.”

Busy with their healthcare and fireman duties, their paths crossed frequently

and they became good friends who were able to work with each other from time

to time. BJ recalls, “She is such a loyal person with a big heart and never meets a

stranger.” He added that his close friend and co-worker had a postcard that came

in the mail with Emily’s face on it. He joked to his buddy and said, “Get her

autograph for me, I’m going to marry her one day.”

Fast forward a few years—they agreed to go on a real date. Unfortunately,

Emily was already committed to move to North Carolina but did not want to

miss an opportunity to see where this may lead. After that first date, Emily knew

this was real and questioned her big move. She had already sold her house and had

to go. She said, “He is just so easy to love so I really felt like I had made a mistake

by moving.”

Determined not to let distance get in the way, they both agreed to give their

long-distance relationship a go. BJ said, “I knew that if we could make it work

long distance then we could make it work here.” A year later in 2019, Emily was

back in Mississippi and back to BJ.

Emily said, “The move and the long-distance relationship really showed me

who he was.” Excited for the future, Emily and BJ were happily back on the same

soil together.

For Emily’s birthday this year, she and BJ had planned an exciting and

fun-filled trip to New York. She added, “We were so excited for this trip. We

even bought matching outfits and had so much planned to do but because of

Covid, we had to cancel.” Leaving their plans behind and their new outfits

hanging in the closet, they made back-up plans for her special day.

They planned to attend a simple cookout with her family instead. Knowing

the disappointment Emily felt from having to cancel the trip, BJ said, “I told her

she should go get her nails done and we’d dress up in our outfits anyway and go

to dinner!” Emily, concerned about being way overdressed to go eat burgers with

family, humored BJ and got all dressed up for her birthday. Little did she know

what BJ had in store for her.

After dinner, BJ sweetly asked Emily to walk outside and dance with him.

When she stepped outside, she was surrounded by twinkling lights and music

playing for them that he had already set up. BJ also made and displayed a poster

board with photos documenting special times throughout their relationship. As

they danced on her special day, BJ proposed to her asking if she

would be his forever. Overcome with emotion, Emily admits,

“It was so sweet and overwhelming. I feel like I almost blacked

out a little.” BJ, thinking ahead, had someone posted nearby

filming the entire scene for the happy couple.

BJ and Emily are eager to begin their life together. With

BJ’s 15 year old son, Brelynn Wells, by his side as his best man,

they plan to wed in 2021. After a trip to the mountains and a

larger honeymoon to come in the future, they plan to reside in

Rankin County together and will continue serving our

community as first responders.

Hometown RANKIN • 45

46 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 47

48 • FEBRUARY 2021

here is something pretty incredible

about having experienced the tumultuous

few years between adolescence and

adulthood with the person you end up

marrying. You experienced so many firsts

together, and there is something really

special about that. You share many of the

same old friends. You grew up with your

in-laws about as much as you did with

your own parents. You share a hometown.

And class reunions are the bomb! And while

there are zillions of beautiful love stories

out there, all unique in their own ways,

there’s something really special about

marrying your high school sweetheart.



Hometown RANKIN • 49

Brad & Amanda Heath


Brad and Amanda met in 1993 as Algebra I classmates. As the

years passed, they continued to hang out with a mutual friend

group, but it wasn’t until 1995 that these two friends figured

out that there was more than friendship between them. They

have been a couple ever since. Miles of highway between

Mississippi State and Delta State separated them for five years,

but in December of 2002, the couple finally said, “I do.” Their

contrasting personalities keep them balanced. Brad is quiet

and a deep thinker where Amanda is outgoing and is always

ready to be the first to dress up for any themed occasion. Having

a foundation rooted in Christ, making time to get away and

reconnect with each other, and watching their three children

grow into amazing (and quite humorous) humans is how they

push through the ups and down of marriage.

Justin & Candice Ashley


Justin and Candice were friends and classmates since early

childhood, and started dating when they were in the 9th grade

at Richland High School. They always knew they would get

married, and both wanted a big family. The pair married on

February 7th of 2004. Justin and Candice now have four active

boys, Kayne (13), Kruz (11), Kamp (9) and Kolt (5), and are

members of FBC Florence. Justin is the co-owner of Ashley

Hardwood Flooring and Candice serves as a family nurse

practitioner at Florence Family Clinic. The Ashley family spends

almost every night weeknight and weekend participating in

multiple sports – Justin with coaching and Candice cheering

on from the stands!

50 • FEBRUARY 2021

Justin & Jennifer Boykin


Justin and Jennifer Boykin met in January 1996 while

attending a music clinic. They went on their first date on

February 3, 1996, just one week after meeting. At the time,

Justin was a senior at Taylorsville High School and Jennifer

was a sophomore at Petal High School. Their connection was

instantaneous, and both knew, early in their relationship, that

they had met the love of their lives. Living an hour apart, they

only spoke to each other for a short time each day and spent

time together on the weekends. Despite the distance, they

dated throughout high school and college, and were married

on December 21, 2002. Justin and Jennifer celebrated their

18th wedding anniversary in December. They live in Pearl,

Mississippi, with their two children, Brady and Ally.

Chad & Diane Davis


Chad and Diane Davis met in March of 1995, when they were

both attending Pearl High School, and married in April 2005.

They are the first to admit that although their relationship hasn’t

always been smooth, with perseverance and grace they have

been able to work through every obstacle. During the last five

years, their marriage has become stronger than ever. They

have two beautiful children, Kirsten who is 13 and Myles who is

11. Chad and Diane have grown so much over the years, since

their high school days, and are thankful that God choose them

to do life together.

Hometown RANKIN • 51

Matt & Torri Armstrong


Matt and Torri first met in middle school at a Brandon High

football game, and soon after, they developed feelings for each

other while riding rides at the Mississippi State Fair. Their

relationship continued to grow as they attended youth group

together at church, and they dated throughout most of high

school and while attending Mississippi State University. After

college, they moved back to Brandon. Matt attended physical

therapy school at the UMMC and Torri attended the Mississippi

College School of Law. Within two weeks of graduating from

their graduate programs, they were married by their youth

minister, Kevin Cooper, at First Baptist Church of Brandon.

After four fun years of working hard, travelling, and attending

numerous concerts and sporting events, God saw fit to send

them the best possible blessing – Anne Caroline Armstrong.

Roger & Linda Polk


Fifty years ago, in 1971, best friends found love and sealed

it with a kiss! Roger and Linda met at age 15 as sophomores

at Florence High School. As classmates in several classes,

they quickly became great friends, and started dating at 16.

Their first outing was a double date with one of Roger’s best

friends and one of Linda’s best friends to the FHS football

game and the Mississippi State Fair. Roger and Linda were

married in September of 1974. Here they are 46 years later

with two sons, a daughter-in-love, and three beautiful

grandchildren, with another due this month. Life is a journey,

but it’s worth it when you love each other and are married to

your best friend!

52 • FEBRUARY 2021

Colby & Christy Roberts


Colby and Christy Roberts knew of each other all through

childhood because of church activities, and Christy’s mom

taught Colby in the third grade. It was not until August of 2007

that they started dating thanks to a mutual friend that told

Colby about Christy’s crush she had on him. This was at the

beginning of Colby’s senior year and Christy’s sophomore year

at Brandon High School. They went on to date at Mississippi

State University and then as Christy attended occupational

therapy school and Colby attended nursing school. Colby has

since returned to dental school. Colby and Christy got married

on December 13, 2014, and recently celebrated their 6th

wedding anniversary. They currently live in Brandon with

their baby girl, Laney, who turns one in February.

Conner Watson & Avery Harmon


Conner and Avery went to Jackson Prep together beginning in

the seventh grade, but their romantic relationship didn’t start

until their senior year when they were cast as the captain and

baroness in Prep’s production of The Sound of Music. They

started dating at the end of their senior year–after they had

both independently decided to attend college at Mississippi

State University. They dated throughout college as Avery

pursued a degree in architecture and Conner, a degree in

engineering. In July of 2020, after dating over four years,

Conner proposed, and they are currently planning their

wedding for June of 2021.

Hometown RANKIN • 53



As the pandemic continues to leave

its mark on businesses all across the nation,

no one has been bumped and bruised more

than local restaurants. With lots of indoor

dining offerings being closed for much

of the last ten months, many restaurants

rely solely on takeout and delivery

orders–and even when they are

open to a limited capacity, it’s very

challenging to make a profit.

Most restaurants in our area are

open and ready to see you! But if you’re

not ready to venture back out into the

restaurant scene, order takeout. One local

restaurant owner told us that, aside from

coming in, that’s the absolute best thing

you can do to help. But never underestimate

their need for our support. It not only

exhibits compassion, it, most

importantly, exhibits hope.

In the coming months, Hometown Rankin

will highlight locally owned restaurants in

a new feature we call Neighborhood Eats.

Please support this community of businesses.

It will take all of us doing our part to make

sure we all not only survive–but thrive.

54 • FEBRUARY 2021

Susan Marquez

When Steven Sahler wanted to open a restaurant, he went to his father

to see if he would help financially. “I expected him to say no, but instead he

asked me to tell him more about what I had planned.” Steven explained his

concept for a burger joint that would appeal to all ages. “I wanted it to be a

place where people could go on dates, but also a place where kids would be

welcomed.” His dad liked the idea and supported Steven’s restaurant.

He named his place Burgers and Blues and opened the doors to the

public in April 2010 in Centre Park, off County Line Road in Ridgeland.

When thinking of a name for his new restaurant, Steven immediately

thought of the blues. “Mississippi is known for the blues, and I imagined

blues music playing in the restaurant. Besides, burgers and blues just

naturally go together.”

The business took off, and over time, it evolved, with menu items

added, as well as a patio addition. “The patio was so popular, we put a

roof on it. People really liked what we were doing.”

Hometown RANKIN • 55

We get fresh

meat in three

times a week.

We also use

our own special

seasoning, and

we know how

to cook it to get

the most flavor. ”

56 • FEBRUARY 2021

The original location recently closed

about the time a new location, Burgers Blues

Barbeque, opened in Brandon.

“I’m from Madison, but we played football

against Brandon, and I’ve always had a lot of

friends in Brandon,” Steven says. “Brandon

has always struck me as a family-oriented,

wholesome town, and it’s a great place to put

a restaurant.” The Brandon location will also

feature a patio area.

The restaurant’s menu is extensive,

centered on fresh hand-formed burgers. “We

use all fresh ingredients, nothing is frozen,” says

Steven. “We get fresh meat in three times a

week. We also use our own special seasoning,

and we know how to cook it to get the most

flavor.” Customers can build their own burger

or choose from one of the many specialty burgers

on the menu. There are also daily lunch blue

plate specials. “If someone doesn’t want a burger,

there’s plenty more to choose from on the menu,”

says Steven. “From chicken tenders to salads,

we have a wide variety of menu items to

choose from.”

Something new at Burgers and Blues will

be breakfast, served six days a week starting

February 1. All the basic breakfast items will

be served, as well as a hash brown/grits bowl,

fried egg and brisket waffle, chicken and

waffle and French toast. “Of course, we’ll

serve great coffee and juices as well,”

Steven says.

In addition to the restaurant, Burgers

and Blues has two food trucks and they do a

lot of catering. “We take the food trucks out to

events. We can handle really big crowds, and

we do a good job of it.”

Steven and his wife, Abby, live in Madison,

along with their four children, Landon (19),

Lane (13), Presleigh (12) and MaryCline (8).

Landon helps his dad out at the restaurant,

and Abby is also very involved with the

restaurant as well. The Sahler family is

fit and healthy. “We are a CrossFit family,”

Steven says. “We all participate to stay

healthy and for the love of it. Everyone

enjoys it.” The children are also involved

in various sports. The family attends the

Vertical Church in Gluckstadt where they

are all very involved. “I’m also involved

with a men’s movement called The Hangar,”

says Steven.

Steven says his priorities are faith first,

then family, then his business. “I am richly

blessed and looking forward to great things

in our new location in Brandon.” l

Hometown RANKIN • 57

58 • FEBRUARY 2021





Hometown RANKIN • 59


Mississippi Emergency Management Agency

Erin Williams

60 • FEBRUARY 2021

How many of us have lived in Rankin County our whole lives and not realized that our

state’s only state-wide emergency response agency is just down the street?

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, is a hidden

gem, of sorts, in Rankin County, yet they provide essential and

vital services to our local area and state, as a whole.

We were able to talk with Malary White, the director of

external affairs at MEMA, and Kelly Richardson, a public information

officer at MEMA, to learn a little bit more about the

big-picture work that MEMA does, as well as the day-to-day

preparedness and recovery efforts that keep Mississippi and

her residents safe and strong.

Tell us a little bit about MEMA and why it’s integral to our state.

MEMA is essentially the state coordinating agency during

an emergency. We help manage all of the moving parts of all

different types of emergencies that many may not think about.

For example, in addition to handling natural emergency

disasters like Hurricane Zeta that recently came through our

state, we have also been managing the logistical operations of

COVID-19 in our state since the spring. While we are not FEMA,

we work hand-in-hand to make sure our state secures the

appropriate federal assistance to help us in our efforts.

Hometown RANKIN • 61

62 • FEBRUARY 2021

I think we would be remiss to discuss any of the emergencies

that 2020 has dealt our state without talking about COVID-19.

Tell us a little bit about how you help manage logistical

operations regarding the coronavirus.

It’s been a very busy year! One of the main objectives for

MEMA in handling COVID-19 was to appropriately secure

adequate numbers of needed PPE and make sure they get

distributed to first responders, front line workers, the elderly in

nursing homes, etc. So in addition to purchasing PPE, we store

it, we distribute it, and we work hand-in-hand with others like

the Mississippi National Guard and Mississippi State Department

of Health to help execute our distribution missions.

We are also proud to say that we have evolved and updated

our warehouse capacity – which is a safe, climate-controlled

space, where we have stockpiled additional PPE so that we are

prepared if we need it in the future. One thing people may not

realize, especially when addressing COVID-19, is the work that

MEMA has done to utilize our small businesses to meet PPE

supply demands. For example, we sourced a local mattress

company to make gowns and masks, we had a local distillery

making hand sanitizers, and we’ve worked really hard to keep

local businesses operating when it was very tough to do

business. It has shown and highlighted the many ways that

Mississippians are resilient and self-sufficient in more ways than

people realize.

It seems like we have had an active tornado and hurricane

season during 2020, tell us a little bit about the work MEMA

does in natural disasters.

We’ve had a very, very active tornado and hurricane season

this year. In fact, this year has broken records in active natural

disaster for our area, with over nine federal disaster declarations

alone this year.

There’re a lot of moving parts that MEMA does in a natural

disaster event – such as coordinating with counties to make

sure they have the basic necessities they need, coordinating

with federal agencies and officials to request the assistance we

need, coordinating with distribution of supplies to MEMA and

out from MEMA into the areas that need it, proper messaging

and press conferences, fielding post-damage assessments,

distributing federal monies effectively and efficiently, and

making sure that tornado and hurricane shelters are ADA

compliant, just to name a few. These are required for each

natural disaster!

We are often working on various past and future disasters at

one time. For example, currently we are working on various

facets of the Easter tornadoes, Hurricane Zeta, Hurricane

Katrina (believe it!), and the Mississippi backwater flooding. It is

nonstop. And as soon as you think you get a step ahead, you’re

not. We have to constantly be preparing for any upcoming

natural disasters.

To learn more about MEMA, visit www.msema.org

Hometown RANKIN • 63

64 • FEBRUARY 2021

Providing Strength,

Hope and Guidance for

Your Divorce.

Mel Coxwell P.A.

A Family Law Firm


20 Eastgate Dr. Suite E

Brandon, MS 39042


Experience that Matters for a Brighter Tomorrow

Hometown RANKIN • 65


to First Responders

Why did you decide to be a policeman?

Growing up, I had several people in my family that were in law

enforcement. I felt a drawing towards law enforcement and truly

believed God opened many doors to the path of me becoming a

police officer. Being there for people who are in times of need is

very rewarding.

How long have you been with the Florence

Police Department?

I’ve been with the Florence Police Department since 2017.

Tell us about your family.

My family is a big part of my life. I married my wife in 2019

and could not have made it as far as I have without her. She was

very supportive of my decision in getting into law enforcement.

I also have a dog named Dexter that loves go for rides in the

truck and sleep.

What is the toughest thing you have experienced

in your job?

To me, anything involving children can be tough.

Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.

I enjoy being outdoors, fishing, and spending time with family

and friends.





What’s on your bucket list?

My bucket list is simple but important to me. My ultimate goal

is to have a simple home on a large amount of land when I retire

and enjoy nature with my grandchildren.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire every first responder for Rankin County and the state

of Mississippi who put their lives on the line every day to protect

the great people of their communities.

66 • FEBRUARY 2021

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

what would it be?

Never take time for granted. Don’t wish to be older or grown because

you have no idea the responsibilities that come with growing up.

What is your favorite thing about the city of Florence?

My favorite thing is that it is my hometown. There is no better feeling

than to serve and protect the people I grew up around and have

associated with since grade school.

What is your favorite thing about Rankin County?

Rankin County can be considered one big family. My favorite part

would have to be the comradery and the support that I have seen

firsthand from surrounding police and fire agencies who are always

willing to help in times of need.

Hometown RANKIN • 67

Rediscover Joy With

Life Solutions That Work.

5611 Highway 80 East, Pearl MS • 601.939.6634 • crossroadscounselingms.com

68 • JANUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 69



Inspired by the renowned young adult novel “Refugee”

by Alan Gratz, Lori Jones’s 8th grade English classes

spent a segment of their semester immersed into the

stories of individuals who have faced harrowing journeys

in search of refuge.

Seniors Julia Dyess, Jill Sullivan, Olivia Sallis, and Taylor

Philips attended the PL College One conference led by

church staff, Chip Henderson and Levi Lusko.

On the first Monday of 2021, East Campus students

showed up ready to learn this morning with bright

smiles and “Happy New Year” wishes all around.

6th graders took to the great outdoors to show off some

of their Maker Faire projects. Among many others,

students showcased their handmade crafts and

machinery, science projects.

Through the Little Explorers program led by Mrs. Jenny

Cummins, east campus preschoolers have become

true “little explorers,” learning how to do

a traditional Mexican hat dance!

Inspired by the Hartfield crest and #OneHartfield theme,

3rd graders created their own personal crests -

each student chose their own scripture verse and

action steps to guide them as they live out a

"One Hartfield" mentality.

Congratulations to Hawks wide receiver Brandon

Buckhaulter, who signed with The University of

Mississippi on National Signing Day, making

Hartfield football history as the first athlete to

early-enroll to a Division I football program.

Hartfield upper school’s end-of-semester Discipleship

Day was all about servanthood, and our students

showed up in a big way for their organizations,

delivering collections for several local ministries.

4th grade students continued their tradition of

assembling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

to be sent to children in under-served nations

as a sign of God’s love for all children.

Hartfield students enjoyed a rare Mississippi snow day!

Every week, the Hartfield worship team

does the good work of leading our upper school

students and staff in song and worship.

70 • FEBRUARY 2021

Pearl Public School District

Pearl Junior High School BETA Club along with Creative

Writing, Quest, Art and Creative Project classes made

cards of appreciation for the staff at MEA Clinic in Pearl,

Mississippi. After realizing the long hours and exposure

to individuals who are being tested for COVID-19,

students thought making cards was the least they could

do to say thank you to all the doctors, nurses and staff.

Hometown RANKIN • 71


Florence National Signing Day

Jessie Broadwater signs to play softball with Meridian Community College. Jessie

is pictured with her parents Curtis and Alyson.

Jessie is a 3 time All District catcher for the Lady Eagles.

Gabby Hoffman signs to play softball with Jones County Junior College.

Gabby is pictured with her parents Mark and Brecca Hoffman and her sister Emily.

Gabby is a 5 Time All District shortstop for the Lady Eagles.

Mattie Granberry signed to play softball at Meridian Community College.

Mattie is pictured with her parents Vince and Michelle Granberry and brother

Gunnar. Mattie is a 3 Time All District 2nd baseman for the Lady Eagles.

Austin Robinson recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball

for Hinds Community College in Raymond, MS.

Austin is the son of Angie and Chad Robinson.

Kade May recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Copiah-Lincoln

Community College in Wesson, MS. Kade is the son of Ed and Hollie May.

Cole Smith recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Hinds

Community College in Raymond, MS. He was on the All- District team as well as

the All-State team for the 2019 season. Cole is the son of Jennifer and Neil Smith.

72 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 73

TheTime COIN

Camille Anding

Words! Who can count them?

They’re everywhere – on signs, billboards, assembled

in books, letters, and reports. They spill from our lips

– often without forethought and merge with an

endless flow from tongues of every nation and tribe.

Some words are put to music to tell stories or reveal

happy or broken hearts. Other words are written in

love letters, intimate and saturated in romance.

It’s striking to me to realize the power in words.

A collection of the alphabet of innocent letters can

form words that build up and edify or they can

mutilate and destroy.

Words also have the power to lodge in our minds

– like a branding in our brain. Children learn quickly

to use words to communicate, but their words are

less likely to stick. Their memories are short, and their

hearts more forgiving.

It’s the teenage years when words become

weapons of survival. Sarcastic words grow in

popularity as individuals seek a rank in the “pecking”

order. Group laughter elevates the speaker while

singling out that individual to be the butt of the joke.

I find it interesting that my memory has “fogged”

over a lot of my childhood’s details, but one memory

is as fresh as the day it was made. A friend – I thought

– singled me out in a group and formed a series of

words that cut sharper than a dagger. There was no

outward sign of blood, but I learned that day that

hearts can bleed.

After the laughter died, life went back to the usual.

All was history, but I had learned the searing pain of

words and their ability to leave scars.

The most painful lessons are usually the best

learned. That brief experience has remained a witness

to me and a permanent reminder of the power of

words. I wish I could say that my own tongue was

tamed from that moment until now, but I can’t.

I still let it say things that are not edifying or kind.

A wise Proverb says, “Kind words are like honey

– sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Another

says, “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful

tongue crushes the spirit.”

Gentle, kind words are what we need.

There are enough scars.

74 • FEBRUARY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 75

Great news at the

Heart of Rankin County.

Merit Health has expanded our heart care services with an interventional cath

lab at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood. This is great news for Rankin county

and surrounding communities as we can diagnose and treat heart attack –

miles closer when minutes count.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.


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