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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


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

their welcome.

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



Reader Spotlight 7


Tahya Dobbs


Kevin Dobbs


Mary Ann Kirby

The Way We Were 10

Hometown Family 12

Time to Grow 21



Brenda McCall



Caroline Hodges



Alisha Floyd

Madison's Red Caboose 32

Faith on the Field 38

Random Acts of Kindness 42

Making a Difference 48


Daniel Thomas


Othel Anding



Jodi Jackson

Time Coin 58 ...see you around town.

www.facebook.com/hometownmadisonmagazine. 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 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






Why did you decide to make Madison

your home?

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?

16 years

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

our family.

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

and traveling.

What are three things on your

bucket list?

Travel to Italy, take a family mission trip, and run

another marathon.

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

from now?

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





Hometown MADISON • 9

The way

WE were

Shay & Tray Earnhart

Leigh Ramsey

“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

our own.”

she moved to Jackson.

two dates, they were engaged. Six

10 • MARCH 2021

“...our commitment

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

their family.

one-year old named Jack, and

gospel was the centerpiece of

person’s heart.

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

The Sumralls

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

while working.

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.


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

CALL NOW: 601-401-3299

Bank with a 5-Star Institution!

Awarded January 2021


18 • MARCH 2021




Coming to a Holmes Community

College campus near you!




(601) 605-3311


(662) 227-2325


(662) 472-9144


This annual event is designed

to assist high school seniors

with registration for summer

and/or fall classes. Come

meet other incoming Freshmen,

and get some Holmes

CC swag. We’d love to see

you on campus!


Hometown MADISON • 19







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

each day.

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



cucumbers, eggplant, peppers,

squash, tomatoes, melons, corn,

okra, pumpkins


Plants that only need about

1.5 and 4 hours of direct

sun per day, and may need

protection from the harsh

mid-day sun.

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.


potatoes, carrots, beans, squash,

broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower,

onions, peas, radishes, turnips


Plants that

require less

than 3 hours

of direct sun

per day

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



Brussels sprouts, asparagus, lettuce,

spinach, beets

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 &


kiln-dried products.

Quality wood will

result in a superior

finished product.


sales@eheartwood.com 601.845.8600 335 Mangum Drive, Star, MS

24 • MARCH 2021

Greet Spring

in the


Visit the

high tunnel

1500 Lakeland Dr. Jackson, MS 39216 601-432-4500 @msagmuseum

Hometown MADISON • 25

ESSENTIAL Gardening Tools

A Visual Checklist

Watering can

These are portable water containers

that are effective for watering plants

(particularly indoors), with a long spout

and a detachable

perforated cap.

Leaf rake

One of the most

basic gardening

tools, leaf rakes

are used for raking

leaves, twigs,

grass clippings,

and other

light debris.


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,

remove weeds,

and harvest

root crops.

Hand pruner

Hand pruners are

used mostly to cut

branches and stems

that are less than ¾ of

an inch thick.

Watering wand

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.


A versatile,


tool used

for digging,


and weeding.


Helpful in hauling

large amounts of

heavy materials,

such as soil, leaves,


or mulch.

26 • MARCH 2021

Garden hose

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.

Round head


This earthmoving tool

is used for digging holes

to plant large greenery

and moving loose


Garden fork

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

in hard-to-reach


Hand rake

Your basic tool for soil

manipulation, gently removing

debris/weeds, or turning,

smoothing, or tilling soil.

Bow rake

A bow rake is used

for surface-level

soil manipulation –

planting, spreading

mulch/gravel, and

removing large


Hand weeder

The long handle of a hand

weeder lets you reach

far into beds as the thin,

sharp blade removes

shallow weeds.

Work shoes

When doing heavy

gardening work, be

sure you are wearing

a comfortable pair of

work boots that provide

good support.

Gardening hat

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

getting scratched.

Hometown MADISON • 27

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


28 • MARCH 2021

Gardening Through the Seasons

shop for

supplies, tools,

and seeds

prune trees and

shrubs,add trellises

and arbors,

reorganize garage,

shed, or greenhouse,

fill birdfeeders

start planting

tomatoes, lettuce,

broccoli, cauliflower

and peppers indoors; plant

carrots, turnips, spinach,

cabbage, peas, Brussels

sprouts, parsley, onions,

and potatoes

plant strawberries,

okra, melons, squash,

beets, beans,

corn, pumpkins

and cucumbers


tomatoes and


plant beans,

and okra



set up trellises

and cages




and corn

plant cucumbers,

broccoli, cabbage,

Brussels sprouts,

English peas, beans,

potatoes, squash

and cauliflower

plant lettuce,

turnips, carrots,

beets, and


plant spinach;

pot basil, chives,

parsley, rosemary,

and sage

for a sunny

kitchen window


and enjoy

collect any

remaining produce

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.

Making Jelly

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.)

Muscadine Jelly

• 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 1

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.

Step 3

Blueberry Jam

• 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 1

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.

Step 3

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 birdsongspantry@gmail.com or find them on Facebook @BirdsongsPantry

Sugar Free

Triple Berry

• 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 1

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.

Step 3

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 1

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


Pepper Jelly

• 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 1

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.

Step 3

Hometown MADISON • 31


Red Caboose

Susan Marquez

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

permanent home.

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




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.

36 • MARCH 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 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,

Lester Walls.

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.

He said,

“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

new trees.”

Amelia Earhart

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

to participate.

42 • MARCH 2021

–––––––––– ♥ ––––––––––

Random Acts of Kindness

Melanie McMillan

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

Facebook post.”

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

Fire Department?

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!





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

a firefighter.

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

Madison County?

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

at JAMCpresident@gmail.com

52 • MARCH 2021

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202 North College Street • Brandon, MS

To schedule a tour or to make reservations,

call 601.260.9277

The CHALKBOARD Madison Schools

Madison Central

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

TheTime COIN

Camille Anding

The short, inspirational quote

of anonymous origin spoke to me

years ago.

Its value has become more treasured over the years,

but my inherent sinful nature continues to wrestle with

its guidance.

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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