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MADISON • GLUCKSTADT • RIDGELAND • FLORA • CANTON
Time to Grow
2 • MARCH 2021
Share your Mississippi Moments.
,,t First Baptist Jackson
March 28 tit;, April 4
Journey online with us through Jesus' triumphal entry, last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Featuring the worship ministry of First Baptist Jackson and Pastor Chip Stevens, each video will
mark a significant milestone in this sacred week. Join us on our streaming platforms March 28,
and April 1, 2, and 4, or on April 4 on Fox40 WDBD or My35 WLOO for a special one-hour experience.
Easter Sunday Services
April 4 • 9:00 & 10:30 am • On Campus & Online
Worship with us at our Downtown campus on this special day.
4 • MARCH 2021
FROM OUR CONSULTING EDITOR
As if 2021 wasn’t already
under the pressure of establishing
a decent name for itself after its drunk older sister, 2020, left her
mile-wide trail of destruction—enter the ice storm! Ice paralyzes
our communities—and this storm was no exception. It was beautiful
for a minute, but quickly turned into the guest that had overstayed
But while lots of families were able to shelter in place together,
riding it out, enjoying sledding and the beauty of the moment, one
group took to the streets to protect the most vulnerable.
If you were anywhere near any type of social media you likely saw
where the team at Shower Power, a local ministry serving Jackson’s
homeless community founded by Teresa Renkenberger, was
scrambling for donations in order to get their unsheltered friends
into the safety of area hotels. I am a part of that team.
Our goal was to house 50 people for as long as it took for the
temperatures to rise above freezing. And every time we looked at the
forecast—the longer it seemed that would take. We kept asking
for and accepting donations—and we kept putting people in hotels.
We had people in eight hotels across the metro with the majority of
them in the soon-to-be sold out downtown area.
When it was all said and done, we’d put 137 people in hotels for
nearly eleven nights each. The Salvation Army agreed to bring out
their emergency canteen truck and help to feed our friends. It was an
operation that reminded me of Katrina—just on a smaller scale. Having
them come alongside us took our operation to a whole different level.
We’ve received incredible feedback from our community of
supporters we’ve fondly named our “Village.” And the words “thankyou”
will never be enough to express not only our gratitude for the
ability to help so many—but the gratitude and acknowledgement
from those being helped.
Thank you Tahya, my friend, who so patiently waited on us to
finish doing what we needed to do. And for allowing me this space
to thank everyone we can for the incredible love and support.
It really does take a village.
– Mary Ann
IN THIS ISSUE
Reader Spotlight 7
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Mary Ann Kirby
The Way We Were 10
Hometown Family 12
Time to Grow 21
Madison's Red Caboose 32
Faith on the Field 38
Random Acts of Kindness 42
Making a Difference 48
Time Coin 58 ...see you around town.
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All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Madison may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Madison is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.
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Hometown MADISON • 5
6 • MARCH 2021
L IKE US
Why did you decide to make Madison
My husband I moved to Madison because we
believed it to be a great place to raise a family.
Madison has great people, great churches, great
schools, and is a safe community.
How long have you lived in Madison?
Tell us about your family.
I am married to my high school sweetheart,
Daniel Mallett. We’ve been married for 21 years.
We have two outstanding children, Ethan (15),
and Mae Ellen (13). Ethan is a freshman and Mae
Ellen is a 7th grader at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
They are very active students and athletes.
What is your favorite memory
of living in Madison?
Every Christmas our family enjoys viewing
Christmas light shows at various locations around
Madison. Reunion Subdivision and the Richardson
Light Show are two of our favorites. They both
have created special traditions and memories for
Where are your three favorite places
to eat in Madison?
Kristos has a great, relaxed atmosphere. My family
and friends have enjoyed great food on the porch at
Kristos. Strawberry Cafe has the best Sunday Brunch.
Colony Bistro has fantastic cocktails and tapas.
What are some fun things to do in
Madison on the weekends?
I enjoy shopping downtown at local boutiques such
as Taylor Collection and Impromptu. I also enjoy
long runs in Madison on the weekends. Watching
youth sports at Liberty Park on the weekends was a
big part of our lives when our children were younger.
Share some things you enjoy doing
in your spare time.
Running, weight training, watching Ethan and Mae
Ellen play sports, volunteering at MRA, shopping
What are three things on your
Travel to Italy, take a family mission trip, and run
Who is someone you admire and why?
I admire my father, greatly. He loves Jesus and loves
his family. My work ethic was modeled by my father.
He has taught me to always work hard, to lead by
example, and to be a lifelong learner.
Where do you see yourself ten years
Ten years from now I plan to be active in my career
and continue my leadership influence in healthcare.
My husband and I will also be visiting Ethan and
Mae Ellen regularly wherever college and their
career paths may take them.
What is your favorite childhood
I have many great childhood memories but one of
my favorites is visiting my grandmother who lived
about 30 minutes outside of Orlando. When we
traveled there, we were able to frequently visit
Disney World. Disney always brought happy
memories for me.
If you could give us one encouraging
quote, what would it be?
“People don’t care how much you know until they
know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt
Hometown MADISON • 7
8 • MARCH 2021
INVEST. GROW. BUILD.
WITH A BANK THAT
MEMBER FDIC • EQUAL HOUSING LENDER
Hometown MADISON • 9
Shay & Tray Earnhart
“I guess it was love at first
taught and coached at Madison
It didn’t take long for the
months later, in December of
sight,” Tray and Shay Earnhart
Ridgeland High School.
couple to learn that their attraction
1987, they enjoyed a big wedding
agreed when they were discuss-
He graduated from Madison
for one another ran much deeper
on a cold winter night at Colonial
ing their short courtship. Shay
Ridgeland High School in 1982.
than looks. “I could see her heart
Heights Baptist Church which was
first met Tray on a blind date
At the time, it was the largest
and knew I wanted to marry her,”
located in Jackson at that time.
that was arranged by her youth
class to ever graduate from that
Tray stated. Shay echoed a similar
After that, they immediately
pastor. “He thought our names
school, with 93 students.
sentiment, “I saw his heart and
started their life together in
would sound cute together,’’ she
Shay was raised in a foster
knew that we wanted the same
Dallas, Texas, where Tray was
said as she reminisced about the
home in Lexington, Mississippi.
things. We wanted to raise a
attending Criswell Bible College.
day she met her future husband.
She attended Central Holmes
Christian family and we wanted
In 1989, they were back in Holmes
“He looked so good. I had to
Academy from kindergarten
four or more children. We also
County Mississippi. Shay shared,
drop my eyes because I didn’t
through graduation. She then
wanted to travel and see every-
“Those early years were the most
want to stare.”
went to Holmes Community
thing for the first time together.”
natural thing for us. We left our
Tray was born in Madison,
College at the Goodman
They wasted no time in
families and had to make it on
Mississippi, in 1963. His father
campus. After graduation,
starting that adventure. After
she moved to Jackson.
two dates, they were engaged. Six
10 • MARCH 2021
to Christ and our
kids has held us
The Earnharts continued
serve as principal at Canton
Shay stated that in every
When asked how they think
their adventures in Wyoming,
Academy from 2015-2020.
marriage, sacrifices will have to
they’ve been able to keep a
Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky,
During this time, he was also the
be made at some point. One
strong and healthy marriage all
and eventually back to Mississippi.
pastor for Damascus Baptist
sacrifice they chose was financial.
of these years, they shared that
During that time, they had four
Church in Flora, and still holds
“Pastors don’t get rich,” Tray
they entered into marriage with
children; Will (27), Tori (26),
that position now.
added, “but our commitment
a covenant idea. They agreed
Nathan (21), and Jonathan (19).
Shay now works as adminis-
to Christ and our kids has held
from the beginning that divorce
All of the moves were a little bit
trative assistant to the vice-
us together.” Shay wanted to
would never be brought up as an
easier than they normally would
president. Their family continues
be a stay-at-home mom. They
option. It seems that love at first
be because they knew they could
to grow. Their oldest son, Will
homeschooled all of their children
sight is truly a possibility when
lean on their church to become
and his wife Natalie have a
until about third grade. The
what you are looking at is the
one-year old named Jack, and
gospel was the centerpiece of
In Mississippi, Tray spent
are expecting another boy in
their marriage from day one, and
four years as the head of school
April. Their son, Nathan, is
that continued to be the anchor
at Veritas School. Shay was his
married to Sydney.
for their parenting.
secretary. He then went on to
Hometown MADISON • 11
12 • MARCH 2021
Tell us about your family.
We are Jeff (47) and Kimberly (34) Sumrall. Our children are James (7),
Morgan (5), both in school at Christ Covenant School in Ridgeland, and
Myers (3). Jeff, his brother, and his father, own Sumrall Farms, where they are
operators and producers of the land and crops. Jeff jokes that his hobby is
farming, and he enjoys sharing his passion for farming with his children. He
enjoys playing outside with them, whether it be playing sports or taking John
Deere Gator rides around the farm or going hunting. Jeff also enjoys working
on projects around the farm, like engineering and building gadgets that will
aid in the work they do around the farm. He also enjoys home improvement
projects, a recent example being a bathroom renovation in our farmhouse over
the first few months of the Covid quarantine in 2020. He can frequently be
seen with earbuds under his cap, listening to podcasts and an occasional book
Kimberly is a homemaker, and finds great joy in keeping their home
(mostly) clean and orderly. She maintains a sourdough starter and has made
sourdough bread for several years now, and it has earned the name “Mamma
Bread.” She is also a fan of podcasts and audiobooks, listening while she cleans
and cooks, but especially during her favorite hobby, sewing. She sews most of
the clothes her children wear to church and their dressy casual outfits, also
known to her children as “city clothes.” Kimberly says they look like ragamuffins
in their “farm clothes” though, and accepts any and all hand me downs for
that purpose. She turned this hobby into a (very) small business, Bushel and a
Peck Collection, that affords her the ability to sew and monogram for customers
on her own schedule. We also share some hobbies! We met at a gym and still
Hometown MADISON • 13
enjoy working out when the occasion is offered, but farm
work and housework usually serve for a good workout and
keep us “farm fit.” We also enjoy target shooting, and Jeff
likes taking the older children hunting, but only one child
at a time or else they won’t see a deer the entire hunting
James enjoys anything farming related. He learned
how to drive and operate a good bit of the farm machinery
this past summer, including a forklift, a mini track hoe, a
2955 John Deer tractor, and a Ford F-150 with the pedals
adjusted! He, like his daddy, has a mind for engineering
and building, whether it be Legos, magnet blocks, or a
special track for his race cars. Morgan began taking ballet
at Ballet Magnificat! this past fall and enjoys it very much.
She enjoys being outside, and has a newfound love for
hunting after killing her first deer this year. She and James
also take piano and thus far do not protest when asked to
practice, so we are hoping that continues.
The girls, Morgan and Myers, both love coloring, drawing,
and painting. Myers enjoys singing at the top of her
lungs, playing with all of her toys at once in her room,
getting all of the attention while her siblings are away at
school, and taking naps with Roscoe, the German Shepherd,
in the warm sun on the farm. The children spend the
most time creating their own fun out on the farm, riding
around on the Gator and pretending old tractor parts, flat
pieces of iron, and wooden boards are cell phones and
iPads. The entire family enjoys learning new skills,
especially ones that will be useful for their everyday lives.
James and Morgan in particular have learned some
cooking skills, like proper cutting techniques, and have
both learned basic sewing skills. They stitched their names
into fabric then sewed a pillow for their beds!
Tell us how you met, and how long you’ve been married.
We met at a gym in Madison. I had been going to that
gym for a year or so before purchasing a house in the
Northplace neighborhood. Jeff was already “farm fit” but
his brother and sister-in-law thought it might be a good
idea for him to get off of the farm occasionally and join a
gym, with the hopes he would meet a nice girl. Jeff began
going to the gym a few months after I started, but our
paths didn’t cross often due to different work schedules.
We were both members for about a year and a half before
going out on a date in March of 2012. We were engaged in
July of 2012 and married January 5, 2013.
Do you allow time to be with your spouse for a date night?
We are very fortunate that both of our parents live close
to us, so we try to have a date night about once a month.
Quite often it takes the form of Kimberly grabbing
something to-go after carpool on Friday afternoons and
watching a movie together or sometimes we end up talking!
Occasionally we will go out to eat, but because of where
we live it is difficult to quickly drive to a restaurant, and
we have a pretty limited budget for eating out, so we save
those times for special occasions. Most date nights when
our parents aren’t keeping children look something like
us setting the kids up with a picnic in their room with a
portable DVD player so they can watch a movie while we
have a relaxing dinner, just the two of us!
Alternately, we budget for a quick trip away, just the
two of us, in January each year to celebrate our anniversary.
Aside from enjoying each other’s company and spending
quality time together, we also use this trip as a time to really
discuss our goals as a family, ways we can better serve each
other in our marriage, areas we can better parent our
children, household and farm business, etc.
What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?
Watching our children grow through God’s grace spiritually
gives us the deepest and truest joy. III John 1:4 holds
true for us when the apostle John says, “I have no greater
joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Seeing
them grow in their understanding of biblical truths and
watching that fruit come to bear in all areas of their lives
is a merciful kindness to hold on to when the parenting
days are difficult. After their baptism as infants, we vowed
to rest and trust on the promises that God will bring them
to faith and sanctify them, using us as broken vessels in
that process. Watching those promises unfold in their lives
truly is a joy and a gift, as well as a testament to a God who
is faithful and keeps His promises.
Who is the financial manager in your home?
We really share that job in most ways. Kimberly manages
the day-to-day decisions, and our spending habits, such as
groceries and church tithe, don’t really change much from
month to month. We make big purchases together, and
always have the money for those saved up before making
purchases to avoid credit card debt. We share one banking
account and trust each other that we share the same
thoughts and values when it comes to how we spend our
money and our financial goals as a family, always keeping
14 • MARCH 2021
Hometown MADISON • 15
the line of communication open to discuss purchases. Jeff looks
over the bank statement each month, as he has more of an eye for
detail to catch anything that could have been purchased without
our knowledge. We also pray for wisdom in this area, seeking to
glorify God with our money and for contentment in what He
Since your children are younger, what is your discipline philosophy?
We have three children with very different personalities and very
different ways that they struggle in sin, but we try to discipline with
the view of heart-change first, which we believe will lead to behavior
change as a result. God changes our hearts first before we can truly
begin the lifelong process of sanctification, and we use that as a
model in how we pursue the hearts of our children, not with the
short term goal of behavior change (although, that is wonderful as
well) but with the long term goal of a spirit-wrought change in their
hearts and minds. We also use what could be called the “down
times” when we aren’t actively disciplining after a sin has occurred,
to passively discipline them by casually discussing what God desires
their behavior to be and how they can accomplish that. We find
when tempers aren’t flared they are more willing to listen and have
open discussion about certain sin patterns and what the Bible has to
say about them, and these conversations often take place in the car
or while we are working around the house and farm. We also believe
that we passively discipline in living out our faith before them.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 commands us to teach his commands “diligently
your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your
house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and
when you rise.” We look to God for guidance in our own lives, and
implore the Lord to use our example to convict and influence their
hearts and minds as well. We have learned a great deal of wisdom
from more seasoned members of our church, First Presbyterian
Church in Jackson, with older children, and through a women’s
Bible study at our church called MOMS. Following the pattern of
Titus 2:3-5, each small group has a woman with grown children
that are able to mentor and counsel younger women in parenting
and marriage, and their wisdom has been invaluable. Ultimately, we
pray for and seek after wisdom in Gods word, resting and trusting
that God promises to grant wisdom to those who ask for it.
What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit to your family?
Jeff and Kimberly decided to answer this question about each other:
Kimberly says Jeff is the steadying anchor of the family. He doesn’t
let his emotions rule him, and is “quick to listen and slow to speak.”
As the spiritual head of our family, he is excellent at lowering the
temperature and has that influence on everyone in our household.
Jeff is also principled, has an excellent work ethic, and is pretty
disciplined on daily routines, which has benefitted our family greatly
when it comes to prioritizing family worship, and teaching our
children the value of hard work.
Jeff says Kimberly does a great job of managing the “day to day”
activities around the home, including getting the children to school
and to a couple of enrichment activities. She also is skilled at getting
the children involved in the learning process of how to manage a
home by allowing margins in the family schedule for them to do
chores. Each child is responsible for making their bed, folding
towels as well as their own clothes, setting their place at the table,
picking up their toys after playing, vacuuming and mopping (they
fight over who gets to mop for some reason), and other little ways
that they can contribute to the running of our home. Our thinking
is each day we are preparing our children for life outside of our
home eventually, and instilling work ethic and habits in which they
are responsible and able to take care of themselves and their things
is a valuable lesson. It’s never too early to start! Jeff says she is an
excellent cook, and that she cooks most, if not all, of the meals they
eat every week to help stay on their family budget. He says she works
to do as much around their house herself so as to not outsource a
job that she feels she can do. She also is hospitable, inviting people
into our home about once a week to share a meal and share life with
our church and school friends and family.
What is a quick go to meal that isn’t fast food?
And who does the cooking?
In Jeff’s words, “Kimberly definitely does the cooking.” Jeff can
claim many, many talents, but his cooking talents end at eggs and
frozen chicken nuggets and tots. Kimberly often cooks in large
batches and freezes individual portions that can be pulled out and
defrosted easily, and one of those meals is Jalfrezi chicken, an
Indian dish with a sauce that keeps the chicken moist even during
the reheating process. The sauce is a jarred sauce from the Private
Selection brand at Kroger. The process starts with chicken (Kimberly
prefers the chicken tenderloins) that is cut evenly into cubes,
browned in a skillet with some minced garlic and onions, then
simmered in the sauce straight from the jar. Once the chicken is
cooled down, Kimberly ladles the chicken into quart bags and puts
them in the freezer. All of this can also be done the same day as the
meal, too! Kimberly pulls out a frozen quart bag in the morning,
and when it’s time to prepare dinner, pours the mixture into a
skillet to warm. We have a stand-up freezer filled with vegetables
from our garden that we harvest June through July, and our
favorites to pull out and defrost are our sweet corn and okra. We
also eat “Mamma Bread,” as mentioned above, with many meals.
How long has Madison been your home?
Jeff is 47 and has been a resident of Madison County his entire
life. His father, Jerry Sumrall, moved to Madison County from
Cleveland, Mississippi, in 1971 to begin farming land here while his
father remained in Cleveland to farm their land there. Kimberly
purchased a home in the Northplace neighborhood in 2012, then
moved to the farm with Jeff after they married in January of 2013.
16 • MARCH 2021
What are some of your favorite things about Madison County?
First and foremost, the commitment to the well being of families
would be our first answer. In practicing the principle of subsidiarity,
knowing that supporting strong families will in turn produce the
greatest community benefit is evident when looking around to the
healthy schools, churches, businesses, and community life in the area.
It’s also unique in that we have a vibrant city with many amenities
and attractions, business and industry, mixed with rural life and
farmland, so you get “the best of both worlds” within a few miles
of each other.
How do you spend your summer breaks?
Summer is a busy time on the farm! We plant a 20-acre garden
of vegetables including sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupes,
tomatoes, okra, peppers, and a few others that we harvest and sell
to the public from our farm from the middle of June to the middle
of July. During this season, it is all hands on deck! Everyone in the
family works around the farm, in varying degrees of ability, six days
a week starting quite early in the morning. Due to the high demand
during the summer of 2020, we had customers waiting outside our
farm stand as early as 4:30 A.M. The children have cousins that
also work on the farm, and the children spend afternoons playing
around the farm and in our pool as a reward for their hard work in
the mornings. After the vegetable season, we look ahead to our fall
harvest, typically harvesting cotton, and prepare cotton pickers and
other necessary machinery for the fall harvest. There is always
something to do on a farm!
What accomplishments make you proud during your time in Madison?
Besides getting married and starting a family, we started growing
produce commercially for retail stores. We learned a completely
different side of farming as opposed to conventional crops like
cotton, corn, soybeans, and wheat, which we still do. It is very labor
intensive and required learning new types of machinery. We built
a large cooling system and building ourselves that can store the
produce, which was quite an undertaking. Even though we don’t
grow commercially anymore, we still use the knowledge, building,
and machinery to grow produce that is fresh, local, and economical
for many in our community that have relied on our produce for
almost 20 years. Those in the lower income bracket or who are
on a fixed income buy sweet corn in bulk, put it up in their freezer,
and utilize it throughout the year. To be able to provide goods and
a service, while still doing something we love, gives us great joy and
a sense of accomplishment.
What drives you to have the job that you have?
Jeff deeply enjoys farming because it is a job with a purpose and a
tangible outcome. He sees his purpose as providing food and clothing
for people, both here in America and throughout the world, as a
necessity and one that comes with a heavy weight of responsibility.
America exports about 25% of its food to countries around the
world that do not have a source of food as readily available as we
do in America, and that begins with American farmers.
We believe having a lot of freedom in owning a large portion
of land comes a great amount of responsibility to care for the land
and manage it properly. We have the privilege to plant what crops
we choose, hunt, and adventure all around our property. These
are not freedoms that everyone enjoys and we don’t take that for
granted. We ultimately are driven by our calling to glorify God
in all that we do. There is ultimate freedom in glorifying God in
things both great and small, in the mundane and the extraordinary,
in plenty and in want, because it is all a gift.
QUESTIONS FOR THE KIDS
What is your favorite thing to do as a family?
JAMES I like to go on Gator rides around the farm to explore.
MORGAN I like going on trips together.
MYERS I like going camping and on rides around the farm.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
JAMES Chick-fil-A because I share a protein shake with my daddy.
(Jeff calls the CFA chocolate milkshake a protein shake, ha!)
MORGAN I like going on dates with daddy to Bonefish for my
birthday because they have the door you can spin around and
around in, and they gave me candy for my birthday.
MYERS I like going to McDonald’s because of their fries.
(She often goes on lunch outings with her grandfather,
Jerry Sumrall, to McDonald’s for a ‘hambooger’ and fries.)
What’s your favorite TV show?
JAMES Little House on the Prairie and Reading Rainbow
MORGAN Reading Rainbow
MYERS Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
Hometown MADISON • 17
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18 • MARCH 2021
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you on campus!
Hometown MADISON • 19
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20 • MARCH 2021
Time to Grow
For some, gardening
can feel like a mysterious skill
bestowed upon a chosen few.
But with the right information
and the right supplies, you can
be on your way to growing your
own flowers, fruits, or vegetables,
in no time.
Gardening is a fun and relaxing way
to get in touch with nature–but being
outside in the fresh air and sunshine
is a wonderful way to boost your
mood and de-stress, too.
The following pages contain useful
tips and tricks to make the most of
your gardening experience. So grab
your tools and get in the dirt.
Hometown MADISON • 21
---------- in the garden -------------
Plants that need at least
6 hours of direct sun
This type of light is found in bright,
open areas. Many species of plants
actually thrive under a full day of sunlight,
although they do not necessarily need
to be in direct sunlight for all the hours
of the day. A site is considered “full sun”
if it gets at least 6 full hours of direct
sunlight on a typical day. Grow sunloving
plants away from bushes, trees,
or buildings that will cast long shadows
for most of the day, but also keep in
mind that some plants (even those
labeled “full sun”) cannot handle the
intense heat that often comes from
a full day of sun in the south. Place these
more sensitive plants where they will get
more of their sun in the morning when it
is cool. They should grow well as long as
the plant gets at least 6 hours of direct
FULL SUN VEGETABLES
cucumbers, eggplant, peppers,
squash, tomatoes, melons, corn,
Plants that only need about
1.5 and 4 hours of direct
sun per day, and may need
protection from the harsh
Plants that thrive in partial sun
or partial shade typically need
between an hour and a half and
four hours of direct sunlight each day.
These plants would typically do well in
filtered light for most of the day, or direct
sun during the morning. Keep in mind that
the afternoon sun is the most sweltering,
and these plants will need shade during
the hottest parts of the day.
That being said, partial sun plants do
well in east-facing yards or garden beds
- they’ll still get enough sun during the
morning hours, but they’ll spend
afternoons in the shade.
PARTIAL SUN VEGETABLES
potatoes, carrots, beans, squash,
broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower,
onions, peas, radishes, turnips
than 3 hours
of direct sun
Clearly all plants need sunlight, but
some require less than others. “Light
shade” plants require three or less hours
of direct sun per day. Filtered/indirect
light such as that found under a tree
canopy, porch, or the north side of the
house is a good setting for these plants.
Also referred to as “dappled shade”
plants, you can grow these indoors as
houseplants, or outside in the shadiest
parts of your yard. Light shade plants
are typically low maintenance once
LIGHT SHADE VEGETABLES
Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce,
22 • MARCH 2021
Exposure to sunlight is essential for all plants to survive,
but different plants require different amounts of sunlight to thrive.
Plant labels will categorize the amount of sun each plant requires.
Hometown MADISON • 23
Heartwood sells only
NHLA inspected &
Quality wood will
result in a superior
firstname.lastname@example.org 601.845.8600 335 Mangum Drive, Star, MS
24 • MARCH 2021
1500 Lakeland Dr. Jackson, MS 39216 601-432-4500 @msagmuseum
Hometown MADISON • 25
ESSENTIAL Gardening Tools
A Visual Checklist
These are portable water containers
that are effective for watering plants
(particularly indoors), with a long spout
and a detachable
One of the most
tools, leaf rakes
are used for raking
A spade has a narrower,
square head that makes
it great for digging holes
or trenches in confined
areas of a planted bed.
A garden hoe is a longhandled
tool used to
shape/clear the soil,
Hand pruners are
used mostly to cut
branches and stems
that are less than ¾ of
an inch thick.
Watering wands provide plants a gentle
shower of water, and because of their
length, are particularly helpful in reaching
out-of-the-way containers and plants.
Helpful in hauling
large amounts of
such as soil, leaves,
26 • MARCH 2021
Hoses are used to water larger amounts of plants
at one time. Store hoses coiled (storing with
kinks in them can result in weak spots) and
out of direct sunlight.
This earthmoving tool
is used for digging holes
to plant large greenery
and moving loose
These long-handled tools
are used to manipulate the
soil below the surface -
loosening, lifting, and
turning over soil.
Loppers will help
cut larger branches
Your basic tool for soil
manipulation, gently removing
debris/weeds, or turning,
smoothing, or tilling soil.
A bow rake is used
soil manipulation –
The long handle of a hand
weeder lets you reach
far into beds as the thin,
sharp blade removes
When doing heavy
gardening work, be
sure you are wearing
a comfortable pair of
work boots that provide
A quality gardening hat with
neck protection is essential,
as gardening often exposes
parts of the body that aren’t
accustomed to excessive sun.
Gardening gloves should
be durable, well fitted, and not
too bulky. Longer cuffs keep soil
from getting in, and help protect
wrists and forearms from
Hometown MADISON • 27
Help us help
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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
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
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28 • MARCH 2021
Gardening Through the Seasons
prune trees and
shed, or greenhouse,
and peppers indoors; plant
carrots, turnips, spinach,
cabbage, peas, Brussels
sprouts, parsley, onions,
okra, melons, squash,
set up trellises
English peas, beans,
pot basil, chives,
for a sunny
and store, freeze,
or gift any excess
Hometown MADISON • 29
So Jelly of
Johnathan Simon & Lindsey Murphy Simon
Brandon have owned Birdsong’s Pantry since 2013.
Step 1 Bring boiling-water canner, half full
with water, to simmer. Wash jars and turns
bands in hot soapy water. Pour boiling
water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat.
Let stand in hot water until ready to use.
Drain well before filling.
Step 2 Specific to each recipe.
Step 3 Ladle immediately into prepared
jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops.
Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with
two-piece lids. Place jars on elevated rack
in canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2
inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.)
Cover; bring water to a boil. Process 10
minutes. Remove jars and place upright
on a towel to cool completely. After jars
cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids
with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not
sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
• 1¼ qt. (5 cups) prepared juice (buy about
3½ lb. fully ripe muscadines any variety)
• 1½ cups water
• 1 box powered fruit pectin
• ½ tsp. butter or margarine
• 7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
Step 2 Stem and crush fruit thoroughly, one
layer at a time. Place in large pot; add water to
cover. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover
and simmer. Turn off heat and let steep a few
hours. Place a few layers of damp cheesecloth or
jelly bag in a large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into
cheesecloth. Measure exactly 5 cups prepared
juice into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot and stir in pectin.
Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to
full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling
when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil exactly
1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
• 4 cups prepared fruit
(buy about 1½ qt. fully ripe blueberries)
• 1 box SURE-JELL fruit pectin
• ½ tsp. butter or margarine
• 4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
Step 2 Stem and crush blueberries thoroughly,
one layer at a time. Measure exactly 4 cups
prepared fruit into large pot. Stir pectin into
prepared fruit in saucepot. Add butter to reduce
foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil
that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred on high
heat), stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to
a full rolling boil exactly 1 minute, stirring
constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any
foam with metal spoon.
30 • MARCH 2021
Birdsong’s Pantry offers over 80 varieties of jellies, jams, pepper jellies, sugar free jams and pepper jellies,
and savories. Birdsong’s products can be found at Vintiques and The Legacy Co-Op in Brandon, and at
The Stompin’ Grounds in Pearl. Custom gift baskets, and specialty and large orders for weddings and
other events are available. Johnathan and Lindsey live in Brandon with their little boy Raymond and
dog Max. Email email@example.com or find them on Facebook @BirdsongsPantry
• 1 cup each prepared ripe strawberries,
raspberries and blueberries (blackberries
can replace raspberries if they are more
readily available. Buy about 1 pt. of each)
• ¾ cup water
• 1 box powered SURE-JELL for Less
or No Sugar Needed Recipes
• ½ cup granular no-calorie sweetener or
12 no-calorie sweetener packets.
Step 2 Stem and crush strawberries; place
exactly 1 cup in a 6- or 8-quart saucepot.
Repeat with raspberries and blueberries.
Stir in water. Gradually add pectin, stirring until
well blended. Bring mixture to full rolling boil
(a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred)
on high heat. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring
constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in granulated
sweetener or no-calorie sweetener packets.
Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Dill Red Onion
• 4 lbs. red onion (about 5 medium onions)
• 3 cups apple cider vinegar
• 4 cups water
• ¼ cup pickling salt
• 2 Tbsp. sugar (or honey)
• ½ tsp. dried dill - per jar
(can use fresh if available)
• 1 garlic clove per jar
• ½ tsp. of dill seed per jar
• 5 black peppercorns per jar
• chili flakes - a few shakes per jar
Step 2 Slice red onions as thin as possible
(wear goggles if you are sensitive to onions)
and place in a large bowl for later. Add vinegar,
water, salt and sugar to large pot and bring to
a boil. In the bottom of each jar add dill weed,
dill seed, garlic, peppercorns, and chili flakes.
Fill jars with red onions. Ladle hot vinegar
mixture into jar.
Step 3 *Process 20 minutes
• 4 cups prepared fruit
(buy about 1½ qt. fully ripe strawberries)
• 1 cup finely diced jalapeños
• 1 box powered fruit pectin
• ½ tsp. butter or margarine
• 6½ cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
Step 2 Stem and crush strawberries thoroughly,
one layer at a time. Measure exactly 4 cups
prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot. Stir pectin
into prepared fruit in saucepot. Add butter to
reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil
(a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred
on high heat), stirring constantly. Stir in sugar.
Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly
1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Hometown MADISON • 31
In the 1850s, way before anyone
in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, thought about
growing strawberries, people all over the country
filled their desire for the tasty red fruit that was
grown in Madison, Mississippi.
32 • MARCH 2021
“Madison was known as the strawberry capital of the United States,”
says Madison’s Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler. “Strawberries were grown on
farms all over this area. The farmers would take them to the train depot where
they were sent by rail to locations around the country.”
The original train depot is long gone, but many years ago a reproduction
of the depot was built along the same tracks where Madison’s strawberries
were launched into the world. The building houses the Strawberry Café, a
name that gives a nod to the once-prolific strawberry crops in the area. The
railroad was so important to the livelihood of Madison, an iconic red caboose
was parked on a sidetrack of the main rails, adjacent to the Strawberry Café.
A little further down the track, another train car was parked, which at one time
housed a dining car, a coffee shop and an antique shop owned by Madison
resident Sherry LaCour.
Mayor Hawkins-Butler explains that in the late 1980s the railroad contacted
the City of Madison, saying the rail cars needed to be moved. “The railroad
wanted their track back.” The little red caboose had become an iconic symbol
for the City of Madison, one that gave a nod to the city’s history as a railroad town
and as the strawberry capital of the United States. “We couldn’t afford to lose that
bit of history,” the mayor explains. “We began to look into ways to get it moved,
and places to move it.”
The old Madison-Ridgeland High School on Main Street was going through
a transformation at that time. The school, designed by architects N.W. Overstreet
and A.H. Town, is a two-story structure funded by the Public Works Administration.
A rare example of the Art Deco style in Mississippi, the building was completed
on December 7, 1936. The school served the students of Madison and Ridgeland
through the late 1980s. The building sat vacant for a couple of years before
Mayor Hawkins-Butler had the vision to convert the building into an arts center.
The grounds of the school, on the corner on Main Street across from First Baptist
Church of Madison, became the preferred site for the caboose to find a
Two Madison businessmen, Bucky Gideon and Gary Harkins, paid to have the
caboose moved and permanently placed on the grounds of the Madison Square
Center for the Arts. “They gifted it to the city,” says the Mayor. “But the joke is that
we paid them five dollars for it.”
Over the years, the caboose has been the backdrop for senior pictures,
engagement photos, and for family photo sessions. “It truly is the centerpiece
of our town,” Mayor Hawkins-Butler says. “It has also become the backdrop for
our annual ‘Swing into Summer’ concert series, for the lighting of our Christmas
trees, and for the beautiful Christmas village which was gifted to the city.”
The red caboose is landscaped and features a giant painted logo for Madison
the City. “Over the years, we’ve had different organizations volunteer to paint
the caboose, plant flowers around it and to make sure it always looks its best,”
the mayor says. “We have had proposals in front of it and more. I think what
makes the caboose so special, in addition to being a part of the history of the city,
is that children just love it. It is so much fun to see children around the caboose.
We are fortunate to have it here.”
Hometown MADISON • 33
34 • MARCH 2021
Hometown MADISON • 35
• 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
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,
• 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.
36 • MARCH 2021
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,
• 1 cup strawberries (washed and
• ½ cup chocolate chips
• ¼ cup flour (for dusting over your
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
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.
• 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
• 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.
Strawberry Sweet Tea
STRAWBERRY SIMPLE SYRUP
• 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
• 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 MADISON • 37
38 • MARCH 2021
on the Field
To leave a legacy of empowerment and encouragement in the
lives of numerous student athletes and coaches over the years
has been an enormous blessing to Madison County native,
Walls has not only led an extraordinary life of faith
and athletics, but he has spent many years pouring
blessings into other student athletes and coaches who
now mentor others.
Walls, married 37 years with two grown sons, grew from
humble beginnings in Madison County. He fondly recalled
his high school coach and mentor at Madison Ridgeland
High School. He said, “My coach, P.B. Walker, had a great
impact on me. He challenged me, motivated me, made
me grow a lot,” adding that his coach’s ability to push him
to achieve excellence had a profound impact on him
personally. He said, “He wanted things done right and
had blessed me in the sports arena. I told myself I’m
going to strive to achieve excellence in whatever I do.”
Hometown MADISON • 39
40 • MARCH 2021
This encouragement and lifealtering
point of view helped him go
on to break the state record in track
that year. Coach Walker also impacted
Walls through the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes organization.
The FCA is a sports ministry that
seeks to see the world transformed
by Jesus Christ through the influences
of coaches and athletes.
Coaches cultivate relationships
with their athletes and have an
opportunity to shape them in ways
that they will carry for the rest of
their lives. Walls’ coaches were no exception. He continued
to play basketball, football, and track. The FCA core values
helped to strengthen Walls’ own spiritual journey through
“integrity, serving, teamwork, and excellence.”
Attending Jackson State University on a NCAA scholarship,
he earned a degree in industrial arts education. Following
an impressive football career at JSU, Walls was noticed by
pro teams. After being drafted to the Oakland Raiders in 1980,
a knee injury derailed a highly anticipated professional career.
Little did he know, but God had much bigger plans for him.
Putting his degree to work, he committed himself to teaching
and coaching. While coaching at Carson-Newman College in
Jefferson City, Tennessee, for 12 years, he led the football
team to 12 national championships. However, Walls knew
there was something bigger still on the horizon. As a devoted
Christian and a humble servant of his faith, he felt called
into the ministry himself.
It wasn’t long before he returned to the state and became
involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Organization,
the same organization that shaped and molded him during
his youth and early athletic career in the early 1970s.
Walls’ enthusiasm and overwhelming passion for pouring
into the lives of those he mentors shines through when he
speaks and reminisces. He has witnessed the spiritual awakening
of countless players who have committed their own life
to Christ, a journey that players have been able to see firsthand.
Walls is a shining example of living out your Christian faith
and loving and serving your brothers and sisters in Christ and
in the community.
“Students look up to the
coaches. Leaders point
to other leaders and set
these young people on a
path. I want to empower
them in God’s words and
to be a blessing to them
[coaches] so they can go
out and bless others.”
Now an ordained minister himself,
Walls is serving the community
through the FCA along with steady
speaking engagements to encourage area student athletes
at all levels. Through a solid Christian foundation, Walls has
seen firsthand the positive effect it has had on the community
as these young athletes come together and commit themselves
to a life devoted to serving the Lord and others.
Walls expressed that although winning championships
is fun, it doesn’t compare to your eternal and spiritual life.
He is now being able to see the fruits of his life of servitude
as he is now coming full circle with former students in their
new professions. Recently speaking at a former student’s
school where he serves as principal has allowed Walls to see
the true depth of how much the FCA and Christian fellowship
can impact someone’s life.
He said, “I am blessed by blessing others. I want to continue
to go where there is a need. I have a heart for young athletes.”
His own sons, now successful in their own rights, have thanked
their father for setting them on their paths for Christ over the
years and being an example of a godly man. His youngest
son is following in his father’s footsteps.
Walls plans to continue to mentor with the FCA for a few
more years before he’ll likely pursue a hobby of upholstery
which he learned from his father. He uses his skill in sewing
as relaxation and hopes to open a trade school to teach
others the art of upholstery.
For now, Lester Walls is continuing to shape young
local athletes by sparking a spiritual fire that will serve and
encourage them on and off the field for years to come. l
Hometown MADISON • 41
“A single act of kindness
throws out roots in all
directions, and the roots
spring up and make
Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty.
First penned on a restaurant placemat over 40 years
ago by author Anne Herbert, this simple but powerful
phrase eventually sparked a worldwide movement.
An internet search of the phrase “Random Acts of
Kindness” yields literally millions of results, from
non-profit organizations to books, and even a designated
week of the year, with page after page of ideas for how
42 • MARCH 2021
–––––––––– ♥ ––––––––––
Random Acts of Kindness
Some random acts of kindness are
grand gestures that require great personal
sacrifice, such as the police officer who
shared his lottery winnings with a waitress,
inspiring the 1994 movie It Could Happen to
You, or living kidney donors who give
strangers a second chance at life. Such stories
inspire us, and most of us would love to be
in a position to do “big” things. We may
even question whether something as simple
as taking someone a meal or mowing a
neighbor’s yard really matters, but when the
meal is long gone and the grass has grown
back, it’s the kindness that remains.
Long before the internet or social media,
and certainly before “random acts of kindness”
was a household phrase, my family
and I had an experience that we still talk
about to this day. Although we’re a bit fuzzy
on the year and where we were traveling
to, the sequence of events that day are as
clear as if they’d happened yesterday. It was
mid-summer and we were on a long road
trip when the car began to slow and eventually
died as my dad pulled to the shoulder.
No, it wasn’t mechanical trouble. It was
fuel trouble. We had none.
In the days before cell phones, there was
only one option. Dad got out of the car and
began to walk to the nearest exit, where he
hoped he would be able to purchase a gas
can and gas and make it back to us without
incident. The southern summer heat quickly
overpowered what little cold air remained
in the car as we sat impatiently with our
mom. As we watched Dad walk down the
highway, a car pulled over and stopped right
in front of him. After a brief exchange with
the occupants of the car, Dad climbed
inside. For what seemed like an eternity, we
waited. The heat and worry increased with
every passing minute until finally Dad and
his rescuers returned, gas can and cold
drinks in hand. We witnessed a true act of
kindness that day, and it doesn’t get much
more random than coming up on a family
stranded on the interstate.
In the forty years since that incident, technology
has dramatically altered the way in
which we relate to each other. The instant
access to news and information that computers
and smartphones afford can make us
feel qualified to quickly judge situations that
we really know nothing about. Navigating
social media wisely can be a challenge, and
there are negatives to be sure, but there’s
also never been an easier way to connect
quickly with those who need help. With
one post, communities can learn of needs
and rally to provide physical, emotional,
and financial support for their neighbors.
Throughout the difficult past year, we have
learned the importance of the relationships
in our lives, and realized that faith, family
and friendships are the things in life that
truly matter. Rankin Countians are always
ready to help families in need, and as the
holidays approached and 2020 came to a
close, the desire to reach out to others was
stronger than ever, and community members
came together via social media to do what
they could to help each other.
Brandon resident Greg Davis is the search
and rescue program manager for the
Mississippi Office of Homeland Security.
Often seen picking up roadside trash in his
spare time, Greg believes strongly in doing
whatever he can to make his state and community
a better place. “My family is rooted
Hometown MADISON • 43
in public service,” he says. “My dad was a
minister, my mom is a nurse, my sister is a
school teacher, and my wife works in public
safety. I’m confident that’s why I’m wired
the way I am.”
On November 30th, Greg shared a post on
a Facebook community group page. It was a
simple but powerful idea to connect people
who had items or services to give away with
those who had need of them. The response
was overwhelming, with over 1,000 comments
as people shared what they had.
Clothes, furniture, toys, even help with
overdue bills and transportation, were just
a few of the things that community
members provided for each other. “I had
observed a few posts online stating people
were in need of certain things,” Greg says.
“I was inspired to write that post after
seeing a similar post online where other
communities were helping each other. It
was close to Christmas and so many people
were struggling financially due to COVID.
One of the most amazing things I noticed
was those willing to donate a kidney to
someone in need.” Greg adds, “I believe
everyone in the community has an obligation
to help one another when possible and not
just financially. You don’t realize how much
you have until you get a true understanding
of those in need in your own community.
Simple acts of kindness will lighten the
burdens of someone else as seen in the
Braxton resident Donovan Hulett, a
mechanic for Gray-Daniels Ford, and his
wife Kayla, marketing director for Adult
and Teen Challenge of the Greater South,
also believe in investing in others however
they can. Inspired to rally community
members to help each other, Donovan took
to social media to help families in a slightly
different way. “I love Christmas and seeing
the joy on my children’s faces when they
open their gifts.” Donovan says. “Growing
up, like most kids, I had a Christmas wish
list with the latest ‘cool’ toys, but it wasn’t
always possible for my parents to buy us
what we wanted,” Donovan says. “I would
never have shown disappointment because
I knew my parents worked hard and I didn’t
want to add to their burden.” Knowing the
financial struggles that many families were
going through as Christmas approached,
Donovan wanted to provide a way to help
fulfill some wish lists for those in need.
“My wife and I were very fortunate that
COVID did not impact us financially as it
did for so many others,” Donovan says.
“We wanted to share what we have and
bring some joy after such a difficult year.”
He decided to create a post inviting community
members to share their Amazon or
other wish lists so that others could fulfill
them. “I know 2020 has been rough to
some in our community,” his post read,
“People that have a little extra, let’s help
take some uncertainty away from others in
our community during these difficult times.”
Because of the kindness of generous
Facebook neighbors, parents were able to
experience the joy on their children’s faces at
Christmas, and Donovan hopes it can become
an annual event that grows each year.
The great thing about a “random act of
kindness” is that whether the act is big or
small, for the giver it’s intentional. He or
she intends to interject in someone’s life to
make it better, and the randomness of it
may be life changing for the receiver, like
the small child who forty years later still
remembers the intentional act of strangers
who stopped to help. l
44 • MARCH 2021
Hometown MADISON • 45
to First Responders
Why did you decide to be a fireman?
I believe that the decision to become a firefighter/paramedic began
at a young age. I was involved in a tour of a local firehouse and it made
a huge impression on me even then. As we were climbing through
the rigs and watching the men get dressed out to leave for a call, I was
enthralled by the entire experience. Later in life, through scouting,
I learned how much helping others and giving back to the community
meant to me. I also learned that firefighters not only fight fire, but many
are also trained to provide high levels of prehospital emergency medical
care. These experiences led to the decision of becoming a firefighter/
paramedic and to the most fulfilling career I can imagine!
How long have you been with the Madison
I have been with the Madison Fire Department for six years. My career
as a firefighter began in the fall of 2006 with the city of Vicksburg and
I’ve been with the Madison Fire Department since the spring of 2014.
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been blessed with the most incredible family I could ever ask for.
My amazing other half works as a respiratory therapist specializing in
pediatric care and we have a now six-month-old little girl that is
absolutely the light of our lives!
MADISON FIRE DEPARTMENT
What is the toughest thing you have experienced
in your job?
Early on in my career I came to the stark realization that there would
be situations as a firefighter/paramedic where there are no textbook
answers to what we deal with in responding to and working with patients
and their families to mitigate emergencies. I would have to say that
helping a family that has suffered the loss of a loved one, especially a
traumatic loss that is so unexpected, and assisting them with the grief
and emotion involved has been one of the most difficult facets of being
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are so many rewarding aspects of being a firefighter that make it
hard to choose which one stands out the most. If I had to choose only
one it would be the ability to look back at my career and know without
a shred of doubt that we made a difference for so many in their time
of need. I was told early in my career that there is no such thing as
luck, and that what most would describe as luck is actually being
appropriately prepared and meeting an opportunity to make a
46 • MARCH 2021
Share some things you enjoy doing
in your spare time.
I very much enjoy hunting and fishing. We also love to travel
to different state parks and exploring the great outdoors, it has
been such a joy to introduce our little girl to what it feels like to
be out in nature and to feel the wind and mist rolling in from a
lake and to see her reaction when the sunlight hits her face as
it filters down through the trees as we hike and explore the
outdoors with her!
What are three things on your bucket list?
Traveling abroad with our family, hunting elk in Colorado,
and visiting Alaska by way of a cruise are three of the things
that stand out the most among all the many life experiences
I have on the list!
Who is someone you admire and why?
Without a doubt I would have to say that this person is my
dad. He taught me so many things as I was growing up that
have led to me being the man I am today. He taught me about
work ethic and how important it is to be willing to do the hard
work that many are not willing to do, and when striving to
achieve a goal, to always do my absolute best. He taught
me to maintain a high level of self-respect and to always be
accountable. I will be forever grateful for him and all that
I have learned about life and the traits that he instilled in me.
If you could give one piece of advice to
a young person, what would it be?
To always make whatever you are involved in at the moment
the most important thing in your life at that moment. Creating
and maintaining a focus towards a goal or task is paramount
to achieving that goal or task. Do your absolute best to stay
on track and keep your mind focused on the road ahead.
You and solely you are responsible for the goals that you
want to achieve in life.
What is your favorite thing about
I would have to say that my most favorite thing is the people
that call it home. So many times, I have had the opportunity
to meet and to help those that reside here, and I have been
overwhelmingly impressed so often by their support for those
of us who work in public service.
Hometown MADISON • 47
If you drive past the Junior Auxiliary house on Main Street
in Madison you’ll notice a little library out front. They currently
have three little free libraries around town and will soon be adding
more. Anyone can leave a book, or take a book, all free of charge.
Also added to the JA house this year was a mailbox for “Letters to
Santa.” Children of all ages wrote letters to Santa and his elves
picked up these letters and made sure Santa answered each one.
48 • MARCH 2021
The Junior Auxiliary of Madison County was chartered by
a group of caring, enthusiastic women in 1986 and continues
to grow and thrive throughout Madison County. Volunteers
work tirelessly throughout the year on a variety of projects
that focus on local children and families in need of assistance.
“Covid-19 challenged us to seek new
opportunities and brought significant
changes to the way we serve in our
community,” says Chapter President,
Amy Cummins. “This has been a very
challenging year to find ways to safely
and efficiently serve our community.
As a chapter full of talented women,
we have been able to revamp projects
and find new ways to serve during this
One thing they knew they wanted to
do was spread cheer to the teachers as
they went back to school to face all
the unknowns and challenges of virtual
learning and social distancing in the
classroom. This is how the project
“Chalk the Walkway” was born. Chapter
members were scattered all over Madison
County at various schools and chalked
encouraging words on the sidewalks
to greet the teachers as they returned.
The word soon grew and other school
administrators were asking us to come
chalk their walkways. Who knew a little
chalk and creativity could go such a long
way in brightening someone’s day?
Hometown MADISON • 49
Other JAMC projects include
Blessings in a Box enough food for two weeks was boxed up and distributed
to kids and families for the two weeks that they were out of school for the holidays.
Hope Totes is a project started so kids that are being
taken out of their home can leave with something other than
a plastic bag. These are bags packed with age appropriate
items to help with the transition.Examples, stuffed animal,
coloring books, and necessities possibly needed
the first 24 hours.
50 • MARCH 2021
During Covid, nursing homes were not able
to have visitors, even from family members.
The ladies knew there had to be a way to give
them a little bit of joy and to let them know
we were thinking about them. JAMC came
together and did a magazine drive and a little
fall decorating for the residents to enjoy.
Hometown MADISON • 51
Serving through a pandemic is
not ideal but has shown the
chapter that working together is
vital in order to accomplish the
good they do for the community.
JAMC has already worked over
2,000 service hours doing just
that since May 2020, and they’re
not done yet. The needs in the
community don’t shut down
because of a pandemic. They
just get creative in the ways to
help meet those needs.
For more information on
JA projects visit jamadison.org
or email Amy Cummins
52 • MARCH 2021
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Hometown MADISON • 53
202 North College Street • Brandon, MS
To schedule a tour or to make reservations,
The CHALKBOARD Madison Schools
Lisa Clark, director of SATB and SSA Madrigals
and the SSA Choir at Madison Central and choral
director at Rosa Scott High School, has been
named MHSAA Music Educator of the Year for
the state of Mississippi and the Section 3 NFHS
(National Federation of High Schools) Music Educator
of the Year, representing Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina
and Tennessee. Clark will advance and compete
against seven other NFHS winners for the NFHS
National Music Educator Award.
Senior Braxton Bolden signed a national letter of intent to play football
at Holmes Community College in the fall. Seated left to right are
Barry Bolden (father) and Vicki Bolden (mother). Standing left to right are
Assistant Football Coach Mike Hendershot, Brooks Bolden (brother)
and Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Anthony Hart.
Senior Cam Richardson signed a national letter of intent to play football
at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in the fall. Seated left to right are
Dietrick Richardson (father) and Shainelle Richardson (mother). Standing left to
right are Assistant Football Coach Mike Hendershot, Athletic Director
and Head Football Coach Anthony Hart and Destiny Richardson (sister).
Senior Dalton Stevens signed a national letter of intent to play football at
Mississippi College in the fall. Seated left to right are Brad Stevens (father) and
Christy Stevens (mother). Standing left to right are Assistant Football Coach
Seth McDonald, Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Anthony Hart,
Olivia and Victoria Stevens (sisters).
Senior Jackson Mize signed a national letter of intent to play football at
Northwest Community College in the fall. Seated left to right are Jason Mize
(father) and Amy Mize (mother). Standing left to right are Assistant Football Coach
Seth McDonald, Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Anthony Hart,
Parker and Samuel Mize (brothers).
56 • MARCH 2021
Hometown MADISON • 57
The short, inspirational quote
of anonymous origin spoke to me
Its value has become more treasured over the years,
but my inherent sinful nature continues to wrestle with
I have no excuses. It’s not wordy and certainly not
beyond average comprehension – “The mouth should
have three gatekeepers:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it necessary?”
The human race talks – a lot! Conversations fill the
air waves daily, and information goes wide and near.
Yet, if we applied these three “gatekeepers” to our
conversations, how would the content and length of
our chatting be affected?
“Is it true?” That’s an easy one. A comment rides
through our lips with ease. Good or bad,
damaging or not, we certainly feel no
restraint from sharing items we know
to be true.
“Is it kind?” This one throws up a red flag for me –
if I hesitate long enough to consider the test. Yes, I may
know it’s factual but to share it with others? How kind
would that be? Would I want the one whose “truth”
is being shared to be in my company when sharing it?
Suddenly, if I heed the obvious answer, my conversation
is in reduction mode.
Sometimes imparting a “truth” can slink past my
conscience and the second gatekeeper, but how can it
ever pass the third post: “Is it necessary?” Any excuses,
words of compromise or distorted explanations can’t
wrangle a way past this last question. “Is it necessary?”...
Obviously the gatekeeper’s test wasn’t offered in
connections with topics like the weather, COVID, and
our talented kids and grandkids – or what if they, too,
were meant to be included?
The writer of Ecclesiastes said that there’s a time to
be silent and a time to speak. The “times” in our
world would be arrested with a striking silence
if we listened to that wisdom and heeded
the mouth’s gatekeepers
58 • MARCH 2021
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