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2 • JUNE 2021


We will celebrate

fathers on June 20th,

and I can’t help but be

incredibly thankful for

the men God placed

in my life.

I had the privilege of growing up next

door to my mom’s parents and learned to walk

trying to get to their house. My grandfather

worked hard and loved his family. I’ll never

forget him allowing me to help him with things

around the house which I know increased

the time it took for that chore. But he was

kind and patient and loved me well.

My dad’s parents lived in Brookhaven

which was four hours south from where

we lived. I was their only granddaughter

with three grandsons in the mix. I definitely

received special treatment and had no

doubt that Papaw thought I was very special.

When I married Kevin thirty-one years ago,

I had no doubt he would be an incredible

dad to our children. He had loved kids in his

children’s and youth ministry through the

years, but when we had our own children,

that love went to another level. He’s been

an example for our children to follow in how

to walk with the Lord and love others. I love

doing life with him!

Then there’s MY dad, the one everyone

calls Daddy-O. The man has a work ethic

like no other, and still has more energy than

I do, even to this day. He has been a “picture

perfect” example of what it looks like to

spread joy wherever you go.

As Pastor Billy Graham once said, “A good

father is one of the most unsung, unpraised,

unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable

assets in our society.” I think this quote is

more true now than ever. As we celebrate

Father’s Day this year, may we all be even

more intentional about encouraging the

fathers around us with prayer and kind words,

some of life’s most treasured gifts.



Tahya Dobbs



Brenda McCall


Daniel Thomas



Kevin Dobbs



Caroline Hodges


Othel Anding


Mary Ann Kirby



Alisha Floyd



Jodi Jackson


The Way We Were 6

Rankin County Courthouse 12

Circle of Red 18

Hometown Family 32

Strong Fathers Strong Families 37

Neighborhood Eats 46

Straight Shooter 50

Disney Vacation 58

Adventure Awaits 66

Time Coin 82

...see you

around town.

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

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

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

Hometown RANKIN • 3


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4 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 5

The way

WE were

Stacey & Glenn Ferreri

Camille Anding

As we walked to the front door

of the Ferreri home, Winston,

the gray tabby, sat dozing at the

entrance, probably waiting for

the next open door to give him

entry. It only took one doorbell

ring for the inside welcoming

committee to greet us – three

barking, collared dogs. Then

through the glass panes, we saw

the man of the house walk

toward us while snapping his

finger and pointing the dogs to

their own space.

Just one hello and a brief

introduction identified Glenn

Ferreri as a friendly, warm Cajun

who still treasures fond memories

of growing up in New

Orleans. Mrs. Ferreri, Stacey,

was close behind Glenn, and

their just-home-from-college

daughter, Gabrielle, joined the

introductions. “Gabbi is short

for Gabrielle,” Stacey explained,

“but Gabbi is what we call her.”

Glenn with a twinkle in his

eye for their only child, joked

that it was a perfect name for

her knack at carrying on


As we took our seats in the

living area, the family pets made

their way back in the room to be

near their masters. “These are all

rescue animals,” Stacey said as

she pulled Poppi into her lap. “It’s

the only kind of pets we’ve ever

gotten.” As the interview began,

one dog sat sentinel by Glenn;

another stretched out on the

cool, hardwood floor, and Poppi

napped undisturbed except for

an occasional stroke by Stacey.

The immediate feel of the Ferreri

dwelling was of warm hearts,

security, and contentment.

In 1983 Glenn joined the

Marine Corp after realizing a

college football scholarship

and college life were not for

him. College would have to

come later. In 1990 Glenn

had finished his military commitment

and moved to Clinton

and found work which eventually

led to his position as international

sales manager for Blue Bunny

ice cream. From there he was

employed as an international

trade specialist.

Meanwhile, Stacey Smith, a

graduate of the University of

Southern Mississippi, was pursuing

her career as a corporate

paralegal in the Jackson area and

also as an adjunct, teaching

paralegal classes at Hinds

Community College. Mutual

friends introduced the two,

and they became good friends,

even double dating but with

different dates. They weren’t

aware at the time, but others

in their group felt Stacey and

Glenn made a perfect match.

Their first official date with

each other was to see the movie,

Clear and Present Danger. Glenn

asked her out for a second date,

and on the third date, the bells

and whistles rang. “I knew she

was the one,” he said, recalling

their romantic beginning. On

December 19, 1994, Glenn asked

Stacey to marry him. It was no

surprise that she said yes. Stacey

knew they had similar solid family

6 • JUNE 2021

“If we missed

church two or

three times in

a row, it showed

up in our home.”

backgrounds, the same values,

and they were both Catholics.

At ages thirty- four and thirty-six,

the two were mature and

had dated numerous people.

Marriage was a commitment

they were confident in making.

St. Peter’s in downtown

Jackson was the setting for

their wedding on October 28,

1995. “It was a huge wedding,”

Stacey said as she recalled the

grand celebration and reception

at the University Club.

The two are quick to share

that their marriage was God’s

will, and they also give Him

credit for giving them the perfect

child. After five years of marriage,

they were discussing the

possibility of adopting a Russian

child, but on Valentine’s Day of

2000, she heard the life-changing

word that she was pregnant.

“What were key elements in

your attractions to each other?” I

asked. Glenn didn’t wait to consider

his answer. “She wasn’t dependent,

wasn’t needy and never

complained – and of course she

was beautiful.” Stacey’s lap dog

was in a deep dog nap when she

said, “Glenn had a great work

ethic, was well-rounded, kind,

good to my family and really

cute – and I loved his voice. He

was the whole package.”

“What do you think makes a

marriage stick?” was a second

question. “Church!” Glenn answered

without hesitation as

Stacey nodded in agreement.

“If we missed church two or

three times in a row, it showed

up in our home.”

Stacey gave laughter as a

second “glue.” “We laugh all the

time,” she said. As for arguments,

Glenn said, “I usually

lost. I would take time to filter

through it while Stacey diluted

the argument with a shopping

trip.” The main disciplinarian?

Gabbi was quick to enter the

conversation with an answer she

knew from experience. “It was

Mama’s look – that’s all it usually

took.” She continued, “Both

parents were strict, but they

expected my best at all times.”

It was obvious that Gabbi has

honored their expectations.

From 1999 to 2010, Glenn

was a chief warrant officer in the

National Guard. From there he

began working with the Federal

Department of Commerce.

Retirement seemed enticing last

June when he made it official.

Then the pandemic instigated

another job offer as president of

Premier Guard USA, a surgical,

medical mask company in


Stacey holds her own impressive

resume. She’s worked with

governors, mayors, and other

political officials in fundraising

and as a strategist. Even with

busy workloads she’s been an

active volunteer, serving as

immediate past president of the

Greater Jackson Art Council,

president of Jackson Symphony

League and a sustainer in the

Junior League of Jackson. Her

expertise as a fundraising

consultant still keeps her busy

with various projects.

The couple keeps an apartment

in Starkville so they can be

a part of Gabbi’s college life.

After she graduates, they plan to

begin checking off travels on

their bucket list. The likelihood

of laughter and contentment

accompanying them is a sure bet.

Hometown RANKIN • 7

8 • JUNE 2021

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Hometown RANKIN • 9

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10 • JUNE 2021





Why did you decide to make Rankin County

your home?

I’ve been a Mississippian my entire life living and

having worked in Coahoma, Hinds, Madison, and

Rankin Counties. Rankin County drew me with it’s

friendly citizenry, excellent schools, close proximity

to healthcare, and outstanding public servicemen

and women. Rankin County is home.

How long have you lived in Rankin County?

I have called Rankin County home since June 2008.

It is hard to believe that 13 years have gone by so fast,

but it has been exciting to see the growth that has


Tell us about your family.

I’ve been married to my best friend, Elizabeth

Knight, for almost 17 years. She is a wonderful wife,

mother and teacher. She has served faithfully for 15

years in one of Rankin County’s public high schools.

Her commitment encourages me to be a better

teacher and person. We have two children, Carter,

age 12 and Colesie-Anne, age 7. Carter is an amazing

reader and loves to be helpful. He enjoys piano,

fishing, Scouts, and video games. Colesie-Anne

loves all animals and is ready for any kind of craft at

the drop of a hat. She is as smart as her brother and

has no problem getting her hands dirty. Second to

my Savior and Lord, Jesus, my family is the most

important to me.

What are three things on your bucket list?

I would love to visit all the major national parks,

learn to play the piano, and tour Jerusalem.

What is your favorite memory of living in

Rankin County?

My favorite season of the year is winter. I like the

cold. The colder and icier the better. This past

winter my kids and I had a blast in the snow and ice

that got dumped on central Mississippi. I know

many lost power and had property damage, but we

wanted to make the best of a bad situation. We

played and played and played. I hope my children

will never forget the memories made.

Where are your three favorite places to eat

in Rankin County?

When we eat out it is so hard to choose. One,

because we are so hungry and two, there are so many

places to choose from. Our all-time favorite is

Fernando’s. The food and service are always top

notch. Two others that are always a treat and never

disappoint are Cerami’s and Osaka.

What are some fun things to do in Rankin

County on the weekends?

My kids and I love fishing and taking the canoe out

on our subdivision’s pond. Also, biking on one of the

many trails is as entertaining as it is good exercise. I

know that in the Flowood area there are miles and

miles of trails. The many parks in the county offer a

great place to walk and play.

Share some things you enjoy doing in your

spare time.

I like to spend time with my family as mentioned

above, I enjoy playing the guitar and teaching music

to others. I have a great time at my local range, Two

Gun Tactical, working on my shooting skills. I help

with my son and daughter’s Scout troop and pack,

respectively. I help my friend and fellow archery

coach at the Mississippi Archery Academy.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire those who serve others and give of

themselves freely. I admire individuals who work

hard and are team players. I admire people who

tell the truth straight and don’t sugar coat the facts.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years, I will have one child finishing college

and the other finishing high school. I see myself

wrapping up my final years as a teacher for

Rankin County School District, spending more

time serving at my church as worship pastor, and

enjoying my family and friends. I hope to be

living in the county on a small piece of land to

share with loved ones.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I don’t know if I could pick one memory. I do

remember fondly the individual interactions with

my mom, dad, little sister, grandparents, friends,

and church leaders, etc. The relationships are what

are most important. I realize how blessed I am to

be loved and cared for by so many people.

If you could give us one encouraging quote,

what would it be?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its

ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life

believing that it is stupid. - Albert Einstein

What is your favorite thing about

Hometown Magazine?

I like that Hometown Magazine focuses on all of

the positive things taking place in Rankin County

and the support for local businesses. The magazine

is very well put together and there is always a wide

variety of material represented.

Hometown RANKIN • 11

It has been a long time coming, according to Rankin County Chancellor Hayden Roberts.

The new Rankin County courthouse is located at 201 North Street in Brandon. “It’s a state-of-the-art

building that houses both the chancery court and justice court, and it’s a big step up from what we

were working out of before this new building opened.”

12 • JUNE 2021

A New Era

The Rankin County Courthouse

Susan Marquez

Hometown RANKIN • 13

The historic Rankin County courthouse,

completed in 1925, was not ADA accessible

(Americans with Disabilities Act) and lacked

safety measures that are standard in courthouses

around the country. The chancery

court met in in a separate building that had

no elevator and could not be renovated to

add one. “It was also very small, so people

were crammed in there,” says Judge Hayden

Roberts. “It certainly wasn’t very COVIDfriendly.”

Judge Roberts says the old chancery court

building once housed a grocery store and

Mississippi Power & Light. “My courtroom

was in the old loading dock of the grocery

store. In my opinion, the county was pushed

up against the wall. A new courthouse was

needed, and laws stated that the courthouse

has to be near a jail.” Rankin County was

responsible for the new building. “I think the

idea has been batted around since 2013 or

2014. They started doing dirt work in 2017.”

The new state-of-the-art building,

located at 201 North Street in Brandon,

opened in July 2020. Court proceedings

were held for the first time on July 20. The

courthouse, coming in at a cost of about

$20 million, encompasses 55,000 square

feet. The contemporary federal-style

building was designed by JH&H Architects

of Flowood and was built by Chris Albritton

Construction of Laurel.

The chancery court has four courtrooms

and four judicial suites for the judges and

their staffs. “There is also space for guest

judges,” says Judge Roberts. “There is room

that allows for growth, and for more efficiency.

It’s a user-friendly space for both our litigants

and our witnesses.”

One of the biggest improvements,

according to Judge Roberts, is parking.

“Before we had very little parking, and now

we have a dedicated parking lot.”

Justice Court Judge Richard Redfern

says that with the volume they have in justice

court with misdemeanor and civil charges, a

new courthouse was inevitable. “We had no

14 • JUNE 2021

ADA access, no metal detectors, and very

little parking. Rankin County is one of the

wealthiest and fastest growing counties in

the state. This building was long overdue.

We have as many as 250 cases a day, and now

it is easier for us to serve the people in our

county. There are also more waiting rooms

and ‘neutral ground’ areas for mediation.

I’m glad we have it, and we should all be

thankful for it.”

Daniel Cross, who serves as a Rankin

County supervisor for District Two, says the

building’s design has allowed it to encompass

the justice court, chancery court, and chancery

clerk offices. “That is a lot of different purposes,

but it is designed for that. The old building

just was not set up to meet today’s needs.

This building will serve the people of

Rankin County well. We spent a lot of

money, and before we did, we went to

each agency and talked with them about

their needs.”

Chancery Clerk Larry Swales’s office is

in the building. All his court records are

stored in there. “Before, there was no file

room, and we have records dating back to

the early 1900s,” says Swales. He also says he

is very thankful for the building. “We have

waited a long time for this. I am thankful to

the board of supervisors, and to the citizens

of Rankin County. There are great improvements

here, including more parking and

more courtrooms. This will allow us to do

our work more efficiently and better serve

our citizens.”

Judge Roberts says that he is proud of the

building. “When we have visiting dignitaries

or anyone who has business with the courts

to come to the building, they will look at the

new courthouse as an institution. It is a

symbol of sorts. The old one just did not

speak of formalism or project a serious

nature. This new building makes a strong

statement that this is a place of justice.”

Hometown RANKIN • 15

16 • JUNE 2021


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Hometown RANKIN • 17

The Metro Jackson American

Heart Association’s “Circle of Red”

is a passionate group of women

and men who have the influence

and resources to significantly impact

the health of Mississippians. A social

circle grounded in advocacy for

women’s health issues and fueled

by a passion to empower, educate,

and save lives, the Circle of Red is a

network that teaches women and

men to love their hearts and take

active steps to protect them. These

members are active ambassadors

and supporters of the American

Heart Association’s mission to be a

relentless force for a world of longer,

healthier lives.


of RED

To become part of this dynamic

group, contact Katherine Byrd at


or 601-906-8596.

Central Mississippi

Go Red for Women Premier Sponsor

18 • JUNE 2021

Amanda Fontaine of Brandon serves as executive director for the

Mississippi Association of Broadcasters. Fontaine previously held the position of

director of the Mississippi Burn Foundation. She has volunteered with numerous

organizations in the Jackson area, including the Junior League of Jackson,

Rankin County Junior Auxiliary, the Association of Fundraising

Professionals, Rankin County YMCA, and the Rankin

County Chamber. She and her husband, Patrick,

have three children.

This year, Fontaine is serving as the 2021

Go Red For Women Circle of Red chair

for the Metro Jackson American Heart

Association (AHA). The Circle of Red,

a group of men and women who

use their influence to further the

mission of the AHA, meets yearround

and focuses primarily on the

Go Red For Women initiative, a

comprehensive platform designed

to increase women’s heart health

awareness and serve as a catalyst for

change to improve the lives of women,

globally. While nearly 80 percent of

cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular

disease is the leading cause of death

in women, claiming the lives of one in three

women. The American Heart Association believes

losing even one woman is too many.

“Women do a lot on a daily basis,” said Fontaine. “From working outside the

home, to managing all the things that go on inside the home, to often serving as

primary caretakers, we have a lot on our plates at all times. We have to stop and

remember that we must be our own health advocates. We must listen to our

bodies and make our overall health a priority. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

This year, the Metro Jackson Go Red For Women Luncheon will be hosted as

a digital experience. It will be an opportunity to come together and take action

against heart disease in women while empowering guests to take charge of their

physical, mental and maternal health. Guests will learn about the efforts of the

American Heart Association during the last year as the work of the organization

moves forward to ensure longer, healthier lives for everyone in our communities.

The program will include educational opportunities, an inspiring story from a very

special little survivor, and a fun survivor fashion show. Registration is free and can

be completed at metrojacksongored.heart.org.

Hometown RANKIN • 19

Alissa Hebert Wallace

US Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Allison Muirhead

Allison Muirhead Photography, LLC

Ann Barnes

Prime Care Nursing

Betsy Latham Brenda Hayes-Williams Brett Thompson-May

MS State Board of Nursing

Brian Fenelon

The Fenelon Group

Bridget Galatas

Molina Healthcare

Cindy Carraway

Carraway Construction

Denise Stewart

MS State Board of Nursing

Dr. Deborah Minor


Dr. Doty Jackson

MS Premier Plastic Surgery

Dr. Erica Bass

MS Premier Plastic Surgery

Dr. Joyce Wade-Hamme

Tri County Pulmonary & Sleep

Dr. Kellan Ashley


Dr. Kelly Wingerter


Dr. Loleta Kellum

Molina Healthcare

Dr. Michael Maples

MS Baptist Medical Center

Dr. Myrna Alexander Nickens


Dr. Natasha Hardeman

Lakeland Premier Women's Clinic

Dr. Rishi Roy

MS Baptist Medical Center

Dr. Tamika Bradley

Jackson State University

Emily Speed


Floyd Wiley

MS State Board of Nursing

Frances Ware

First Commercial Bank

Jan Collins

Madison County Business League & Foundation

Janet Harris

Janie Jarvis

The Bridal Path

Jaquita Davis

MS State Board of Nursing

Jeanhee Kang

Berkshire Hathaway Ann Prewitt Realty

20 • JUNE 2021

Jeff Speed

Speed Commercial Real Estate

Jennifer Boydston Johnson

The Law Offices of Roberts Bridges Boydston

Kim Stonecypher

Stonecypher Consulting, LLC

LaKeysha Greer Isaac

United States Magistrate Judge

Laurie Cutrer


LeAnne Brewer

Millsaps College

Leigh Ann Ross


Mary Lee

Frontier Strategies

Melissa Goodson

MS Dept. of Human Services

Meshelle Rawls

Foundation for the MidSouth

Michael Parnell


Michelle Dunn

Merit Health

Mike Barkett


Missy McMullan

Pam Ware

First Commercial Bank

Patti Daly


Patty Clark

Peder Johnson

Phyllis Johnson

MS State Board of Nursing

Rachel Lott

Rebecca Martin

Prudential Advisors

Samantha Lofton

Barentt's Body Shop

Sandra Culpepper

MS State Board of Nursing

Sandy Stonecypher

Shan Montgomery

MS State Board of Nursing

Shirley Jackson

MS State Board of Nursing

Tammy Phillips

Community Bank

Tina Highfill

MS State Board of Nursing

Tina Lakey

Vera Rucker

MS State Board of Nursing

Hometown RANKIN • 21

22 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 23



Creamy Pineapple Pie

• 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened

condensed milk

• 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple,

not drained

• ¼ c. lemon juice

• 1 carton (8 oz.) frozen whipped

topping, thawed

• 1 graham cracker crust (9 in.)

Optional: Chopped toasted

macadamia nuts and additional

crushed pineapple

Combine milk, pineapple, and

lemon juice; fold in whipped

topping. Pour into prepared crust.

Refrigerate until serving. If desired,

serve with toasted macadamia nuts

and additional crushed pineapple.

Yields: 8 servings

Strawberry Lemonade

Ice Cream Float

• 1 pt. strawberries, about 12

• 1 Tbsp. granulated or powdered


• 3 c. vanilla bean ice cream

• 1½ c. light lemonade

• Lemon or strawberry slices

for garnish

Slice 6-8 of the strawberries and

place in a small pan over low heat.

Sprinkle strawberries with sugar and

stir occasionally until mixture comes

to a boil. Remove from heat and

transfer to a small glass bowl. Set

aside to cool. Place 2-3 scoops of

vanilla bean ice cream into a tall

glass, and pour half of the cooled

strawberry syrup over the ice cream.

Slice the remaining strawberries and

top the ice cream with the slices.

Fill the glass with lemonade and

enjoy! Yields 2 drinks

Rainbow Waffle


• 2 c. all-purpose flour,

spooned and leveled

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 Tbsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. baking soda

• ½ tsp. kosher salt

• 1½ c. buttermilk

• 2 large eggs

• 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

• 2 pt. vanilla ice cream, softened

• multicolored sprinkles

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking

powder, baking soda, and salt in a

bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk

together buttermilk, eggs, and

butter. Add buttermilk mixture to

flour mixture, and stir just until

incorporated. Heat a round waffle

iron and spoon a heaping half cup

of batter onto waffle iron and cook

until light golden brown, 5 to 6

minutes. Cool on wire rack. Spread

ice cream onto half of the waffles.

Sandwich with remaining waffles,

gently pushing ice cream out to the

edges. Coat edges in sprinkles.

Freeze until firm, 4 hours and up

to 2 days. Cut each waffle into

four triangles just before serving.

Yields 10 servings

24 • JUNE 2021

Rainbow Jell-O Popsicles

• 3 oz. Jell-O packets in the colors

of your choice

• 2 c. cool water for each Jell-O


Mix the first packet of Jell-O into two

cups of water. Pour a small amount of

Jell-O water into each Popsicle mold

– the amount will depend on how

many colors you decide to use. Place

the Popsicle mold in the freezer until

the Jell-O water is frozen. Repeats

steps 1-3, until your popsicle molds

are full!

S’mores Bars

• 3 Tbsp. butter, plus more for pan

• 1 (12 oz.) package mini


• 7 c. Golden Grahams cereal

• 3 Hershey’s milk chocolate bars,

broken into pieces

Grease a 9”x13” pan with butter. Melt

butter in a large pot over medium heat.

Add all but 1 cup of marshmallows

and stir until melted and smooth.

Remove from heat and quickly stir in

Golden Grahams until evenly coated.

Press into pan and top with chocolate

pieces and remaining marshmallows.

Heat broiler, and cook until

marshmallows are toasted (about 2

minutes). Let set at least 30 minutes

before slicing. Yields 20 servings

Frosty Watermelon Ice

• 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin

• 2 Tbsp. water

• 2 Tbsp. lime juice

• 2 Tbsp. honey

• 4 c. cubed, seedless watermelon


In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle

gelatin over water; let stand for 1

minute. Microwave on high for 40

seconds. Stir and let stand until

gelatin is completely dissolved, 1-2

minutes. Place lime juice, honey, and

gelatin mixture in a blender. Add

1-cup watermelon, cover, and process

until blended. Add remaining

watermelon, one cup at a time,

processing until smooth after each

addition. Transfer to a shallow dish;

freeze until almost firm. In a chilled

bowl, beat with an electric mixer is

bright pink. Divide among 4 serving

dishes; freeze, covered, until firm.

Remove from freezer 15-20 minutes

before serving. Yields 4 servings

Peanut Butter Popcorn Bars

• 10 c. popcorn, popped

• ½ c. sugar

• ½ c. light corn sugar

• ½ c. creamy peanut butter

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Place popcorn in a large bowl; set

aside. In a saucepan over medium

heat, bring sugar and corn syrup to a

boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one

minute. Remove from heat. Stir in

peanut butter and vanilla; mix well.

Pour over popcorn and stir until well

coated. Press into a buttered 9”x13”

pan. Cool slightly before cutting.

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream

• 3 c. whole milk

• 2 c. heavy cream

• ½ c. sugar

• ¼ tsp. kosher salt

• 1 vanilla bean

• 5 large egg yolks

• 1 refrigerated piecrust

• 1 tsp. cinnamon

• 1 tsp. sugar

• 2 c. fresh peaches, chopped

• 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

• 3 Tbsp. bourbon

Whisk together whole milk, heavy

cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean.

Cook over medium heat, stirring

often, 4 minutes, or until sugar

dissolves and mixture is hot.

Gradually whisk about 1 cup hot

milk mixture into yolks. Whisk yolk

mixture into remaining milk mixture.

Cook over medium heat, whisking

constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until

mixture thickens and coats a spoon.

Pour through a fine wire-mesh

strainer into a bowl, discarding solids.

Cool completely. Chill 8 to 24 hours

or until very cold. Unroll refrigerated

piecrust on a baking sheet and sprinkle

with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 425

for 10 minutes. Cool and break into

½ inch pieces.

Mash together peaches, brown sugar,

and bourbon with a fork until smooth.

Fold piecrust and peach mixture into

prepared ice cream. Pour mixture into

bowl of an electric ice cream maker,

and process according to manufacturer’s

instructions. Freeze 1 hour before

serving. Store up to 1 week.

Snack Mix Squares

• 2½ c. halved pretzels sticks

• 2 c. Corn Chex

• 1½ c. M&M’s

• ½ c. butter

• ⅓ c. creamy peanut butter

• 5 c. mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, combine pretzels,

cereal, and M&M’s. In a large saucepan

over low heat, melt butter and peanut

butter. Add marshmallows; cook and

stir until marshmallows are melted

and mixture is smooth. Pour over

pretzels mixture; stir to coat. Press

into a greased 9”x13” pan. Cool until

firm, then cut into squares.

Hometown RANKIN • 25

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a story of people.

We’re a global company with a legacy of leadership

that always marches in lockstep toward a job well

done — wherever the job takes us next.

To learn more, visit Ergon.com

26 • JUNE 2021

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


Hometown RANKIN • 27

WE ALL HAVE STORIES. They’re on the sidewalks, in

the church pews, on the football fields, and in the porch

swings of the places that built us - our hometowns.

These towns are where we were raised, where we gather for

holidays, or, perhaps, where we chose to settle and create a life

for ourselves and our families. Our hometowns are the special

places and faces that make up our everyday lives. We all carry

them in our hearts, along with our stories, and we’re honored

to tell yours.

What do you love

about your hometown?


Kimeka Corley

I love the atmosphere. There are so

many social events, restaurants, and

leisurely activities to enjoy with family

and friends. The school district is

astounding. Staff, teachers, and parents

work together in support of one

common goal: to ensure success for

all students. I love that my hometown

always feels like home. The safety

and security of family, neighbors,

and community presents a hometown

like no other.


Kevin White

I came from a small town, so Flowood

has definitely been an adjustment for

me, but I love my new hometown for so

many reasons! Even with the “bigger

city” feel and so many things to do and

see, it still makes you feel like you’re in

a small-town setting. When I think

about Flowood, it just feels like home.


Jade Jackson

I love the peace and the fun that comes

with living near the water! Whether you

want to take a walk down Northshore,

or spend a day on the boat with all your

friends, there is always a way to enjoy

the view. Even though more and more

people are moving to the reservoir area,

we still remain a close-knit community

and are happy to welcome new neighbors!


Danny Thompson

Growing up here, regardless if you

lived in Sandhill, Goshen Springs, or the

Pisgah area, everyone grew up together.

Families knew families. I love now that

it’s slowly expanding. The secret is out

about how nice and peaceful our area is.


Richie Lott

I love the people. They are always ready

to lend a helping hand in a time of need.

They believe in God, country, family, and

southern hospitality. It’s one place you

don’t need to make an effort to fit in.


Megan Davis

I’ve always felt a strong connection

to the town of Pelahatchie and the

people who live here. There really

is no other place like my hometown,

and I love that I’m able to contribute

as an educator and coach!


Stephanie Hughes

I love that my hometown is small,

providing a strong sense of community.

Puckett welcomes a unique culture with

its mom-and-pop stores, family-owned

businesses, and family physicians who

are all locals. I feel blessed to be one of

these locals, serving my community as

one of the administrators at Puckett

High School. As cliché as it may sound,

it’s comforting and reassuring when

everybody knows your name.


Carlie Dortch-Gonzalez

I love the sense of community.

No matter what, you can always rely on

the people you’ve known your entire life.

We love and support each other.

28 • JUNE 2021

1 2


4 5



Josh Jones

Florence is a place that holds so many

fond memories from my childhood.

The years have changed the appearance,

but it still has a small-town feel.

I am glad that I now get to watch my

little girl grow up here and build

memories of her own.


Lacey Smith

Pearl is the type of town where when

you move into a new neighborhood,

people from around the corner stop by

to welcome you. If you’re ever going

through a tough time, you can be

assured that people in the community

will be more than willing to lend a

hand. The city of Pearl is family!





Hometown RANKIN • 29

30 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 31

32 • JUNE 2021


Tell us about your family.

Grant (47) is vice president of sales/business development for BSN Sports based

in Dallas, Texas. He loves to hunt, fish, and play golf. He is also a huge Mississippi

State fan! I’m Susanne (46) and I taught school for most of the last 20 years, but

I stayed home the last few, so I didn’t have to miss a ballgame my girls participated

in. I love to read. Karen Kingsbury is my favorite author. I enjoy taking pictures

of my girls and their teammates playing sports, and walking with a friend several

times a week for exercise. Mackenzie (21) is finishing her second soccer season at

Holmes CC in Ridgeland this semester and will transfer to Delta State University

in the fall to continue her soccer career. She is majoring in psychology. She is super

competitive and loves any and all sports! Bailey (20) will finish her time at Holmes

CC this semester as well. She also played soccer at Holmes, but tore her ACL in

2019, and decided not to play this year. She is majoring in elementary education

and loves to cook and hunt just like her dad! She will attend Mississippi State

University in the fall. Presley (14) will be in the 9th grade next fall at East Rankin.

She enjoys playing soccer and basketball. She loves all animals, especially her

8-year-old dog, Toby, a birthday present she begged for when she turned six!

How did you meet, and how long have you

been married?

We met in the third grade when Grant transferred

to East Rankin. Our first official date was his

16th birthday party in 1989, our sophomore year

of high school. We dated on and off thru college

and were married the year after we both graduated

from Mississippi State. We celebrated 24 years of

marriage in March with a thoughtful gift of three

baby chickens (Loretta, Dolly, and Reba) from our

comical daughters.

Do you allow time to be with your spouse

for a date night?

We’ve never really set “date nights.” All three of

our girls have always had pretty busy schedules

with their after-school activities, so this wasn’t

always a realistic option when they were younger.

When we did have a free night, we were too tired

to go anywhere. We are blessed to have had two

Hometown RANKIN • 33

sets of grandparents close by who were always ready and willing to

help! I think we do a much better job now of carving out time for

dates because we obviously have more time with no small children

in the home. Thanks to COVID, we’ve spent lots of quality time

together this last year.

What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?

That’s an easy question. We have had a front row seat to watching

them grow and mature into the beautiful, kind, loving, thoughtful

young women they have become. They are all three so different,

but also alike in many ways. We love watching them compete, and

so do their grandparents! They are also at almost everything our

girls do. Backyard basketball games got pretty intense when they

were younger. All three of them have also played soccer since they

were very little.

Who is the financial manager in your home?

Grant manages the daily/monthly finances. All major decisions

are made together; however, the girls and I decided a long time ago

that any and all money spent on homecoming or prom dresses did

not fall into the category of major decisions.

When your children were younger,

what was your discipline philosophy?

We both grew up in homes with great parents who raised us

with similar family values, so we really never disagreed on how to

discipline them. I think our girls would say that we were pretty

strict. Of course, our older two say that we are much more lenient

with their younger sister. Teaching them to be kind and thoughtful

has been something that was really important to me.

What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit

to your family?

First of all, praying for them daily. Keeping up with the many

overlapping practice/game schedules and making sure we are all

in the right place on the right day. Making sure schoolwork was

always taken care of. Grant was always the one in the backyard

encouraging whatever kind of ball they wanted to play. He was

never easy on them just because they were girls.

How long has Pelahatchie been your home?

I grew up just south of Pelahatchie in the Shiloh community.

We moved back here from Brandon in 2007, when we built a

home on my grandparent’s farm.

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

And who does the cooking?

I’ve always done most of the cooking (when we were actually

home and not headed to some sort of ballgame). Spaghetti or

poppyseed chicken has been a quick meal for us that we all like.

We were always on the road so much, we were spoiled to eating

out. Grant likes to grill, and since we’ve been home a lot more this

year, he’s done most of the cooking outside! I usually fix the sides.

What are some of your favorite things about

Rankin County?

We love how safe the area is! We are beyond thankful for the

sheriff department and police department who work very hard

to make Rankin County a safe place to raise a family. We love

all the great restaurants that are available. Crossroads Grill in

Pelahatchie is a close go-to we all love!

How do you spend your summer breaks?

Most of our summer breaks for the last ten years or so have been

made up of one camp or practice after another. For many years

we traveled out of town with the older two playing soccer once or

twice a month, so we didn’t really go on many extra vacations those

years. When the older girls were in high school, we would go to

the beach with a few other families. We just had to plan around

practice schedules. Two years ago, the five of us went to Hawaii

for a week. This was something I had wanted to do as a family

for years and we had a ball!

What accomplishments make you proud

during your time living in Pelahatchie?

Although Grant sold his interest in the company a few years ago,

he partnered with Chip Thomas and Dan Boyce to begin a start

up insulation install company, Insul-Pro Plus. The company is

located in Pelahatchie and still thrives today. All of our girls played

soccer with BFC and won several state championships representing

Brandon well. Grant was honored to be able to coach all three of

our girls at some point. They won multiple state championships

together and have the matching rings to prove it!

What drives you to have the job that you have?

My girls motivate me to want to be a better person each day. Our

kids are watching us...how we treat our spouse, friends, or strangers.

Grant loves the opportunity he has thru his job to make each

student-athlete’s experience better. He has a passion for athletics

and truly has his dream job with BSN Sports.

34 • JUNE 2021



What’s your favorite thing

to do as a family?

MACKENZIE Going out to eat

after a ballgame. We talk about

everything that went on during

the games. Also, going to either

grandparents’ house to eat.

BAILEY Going on vacations and

fishing (we did lots of fishing last

year during COVID).

PRESLEY Going to the beach.

What your favorite



BAILEY Chick-fil-A

PRESLEY Firehouse Subs

What’s your favorite

TV show?

MACKENZIE Grey’s Anatomy

BAILEY This is Us

PRESLEY This is Us

Hometown RANKIN • 35







(0) 601.203.2222

(C) 601.906.1921

NMLS# 730127

36 • JUNE 2021



Strong Families

Father’s Day is a time in which we recognize fathers and father figures

and their contributions to their children, as well as society overall.

There are tremendous advantages that are afforded to children who have active,

involved fathers during childhood and adolescence.

We’re grateful for the father’s we meet on the following pages–

and for the contributions they’re making toward creating

the next generation of fathers to follow.

Hometown RANKIN • 37

38 • JUNE 2021

Investing Time Outdoors

Mistie Desper

Keith Polk has used his passion and love for

the outdoors to shape the lives of his sons and

other boys in his community. Keith recalls

always having a love for anything outdoors and

spending as much time as possible hunting and

fishing. He is now instilling that same love into

his three sons, Caleb (15), Collin (11), and Ben (4).

His passion for the outdoors dates back to

1986 when he spent time enjoying hunting with

his own father. Keith said, “I love watching the

boys enjoy the same things. It is very special

when we are back in my hometown [of

Prentiss] hunting in the same woods that I

grew up in.”

Keith admits that while hunting is a passion

of his, the quiet time spent in the woods has

given him opportunities for deep discussions

and life lessons with his boys. He said, “Hunting,

in general, teaches so much about life, disappointments,

and dealing with loss, especially

when you lose big game you have been chasing.

It’s also an opportunity to reflect on life and

gives us time to slow down and have deep talks,

even some that are hard to talk about in a

traditional setting. The stillness and time we

have together helps the boys open up and

allows me to be able to have some good

teachable moments.”

Caleb said, “Some of my most memorable

moments I have spent in creation with my dad.

He has taught me so much through hunting. I

don’t know what I’d do without it.” The bonds

that the Polk boys share are undeniable. The

lessons learned about hunting, life, and faith are

ones that they will carry throughout their lives.

Faith is a large part of the Polk home as well.

As members of Crossgates Baptist Church, they

strive to raise their boys with a deep Christian

background that serves others in their

community. But Keith not only pours into his

own sons but into a community of young boys

who have been abandoned by their own

fathers. He is proud to partner with the

Fathers in the Field Ministry.

The Fathers in the Field Ministry works

closely with churches and was established with

a deep conviction to answer God’s call to

defend the cause of the fatherless through the

provision of Godly mentoring fathers. The

mentors lead the boys outdoors where they

can connect with them one-on-one while

teaching them various outdoor activities.

Having sons in the same age ranges that

benefit most from this ministry, Keith has

become very passionate over the years to strive

to be a better father to his sons and a father

figure for boys who desperately need the

guidance of a loving male role model. Keith

admits, “The ministry has taught me so much

about myself. The first boy I mentored didn’t

go like I thought it would have and I ended up

learning so much myself. I saw the confidence

build in this young man and we still have an

incredible bond to this day.”

Strongly rooted in his faith, Keith is leading

his wife, Danielle, and their sons in their own

Christian teachings. He added, “The ministry’s

goal is to also take them (fatherless boys) to

the foot of the cross and come to Christ.” He

is teaching his own sons these same aspirations

while showing them to live Christ-like and be

a role model and friend to all.

Danielle, a teacher at StoneBridge Elementary,

also sees the need of this ministry and how it

has bonded her husband and sons. She said,

“I think there are so many life lessons learned

in the woods. My boys have learned about

disappointment, patience, respect for others, and

doing what’s right when no one is watching.”

She added, “I’ve seen Caleb grow in his

relationship with his brothers, his dad, and

Jesus through not only hunting but watching

his dad mentor others through Fathers in

the Field.”

Caleb added, “The most important life

lesson my dad has taught me is that you can

learn through failure. Whether you are

hunting or whatever you do, it’s easy to fail

but you can always learn and get better.”

Keith knows what a profound impact

having a positive male figure is to a young boy

growing up. He has been blessed to have had

the guidance of a loving father himself so he is

honored to be able to share his passion, the gift

of “investing time” outdoors, with his sons and

pouring into others to help create the next

generation of world changers.

Hometown RANKIN • 39

40 • JUNE 2021

On & Off the Field

Mistie Desper

“I have always believed the need to leave it

all on the field, be the best person you can be,

and use each day that God gives you.” Mozell

“Mo” Little Jr. has used his faith and positive

attitude to shape his children, on and off the


Mo admits that sports has always been a

major part of his family’s life. With him and

his wife, Kim, both active in sports and playing

ball growing up, it was certain their children

would be natural athletes as well. Mo said, “I

always taught our children to have a teamwork

mindset and know that it’s not always about you.”

Starting at a young age, the Little children,

Alyssia (19) and Mozell III (17), had a loving

and supportive father who not only helped

them achieve their goals on the field but used

that to teach them valuable life lessons. He

recalled, “They started in soccer and I remember

teaching them good sportsmanship, and to

help a fellow player, to always strive for their

personal best in every game and that personal

best for that day may not actually be their best.

It was important for them to be able to realize

that they had limitations and be mature enough

to say ‘hey coach, I’m not feeling the greatest

today but I will give you my best and prepare

hard and play hard.’”

Mo added, “In the game of sports and the

game of life, you will get knocked down. Life

is just a big game and you have to always work

hard and just give your best.”

As their children began to excel in their

own sports, Mo quickly realized that his desire

to be their dad was greater than his desire to

be their coach–so he helped to get them to

that next level. Both children decided to

change sports to one they both were passionate

about. Mo supported their decision and

watched them flourish and grow. He recalled,

“They made the decision and I saw a different

level of energy and focus because it was

something they wanted.”

As a father, Mo always watched for their

times of failure. He explained that he wanted

to see how his child would respond at that

moment of disappointment or anger when life

didn’t go their way. Mo said, “Its not about the

action but the reaction. That is where your

character is built. Your core values will show up

in defeat.”

This work ethic Mo instilled in them came

from his own youth. Losing his father as a

young boy caused his mother to raise him and

his sister. He saw her work very hard to provide

for her family. That same hardworking mentality

shaped Mo’s young life and he strived to do the

same in his life to accomplish all that he wanted.

Carrying on this legacy, Mo taught his children

how to always work hard and strive to be their

best creating an unbreakable bond of love and

mutual respect.

Mo’s son, Mozell, added, “Throughout my

life, my dad has always taught me that if I want

something to always go after it. For example,

I have a dream of making it as far as I can

with baseball and he has taught me that for

my dream to come true, I would have to work

for it.” Mozell plays baseball for Brandon High

School and has big dreams ahead while sister,

Alyssia is pursuing her own dreams while she

plays softball for Mississippi Gulf Coast

Community College.

Mozell said, “I’m glad that he [my dad] has

taught me to work for what I want when it

comes to sports because if feeds into the rest of

my life.” He praised and thanked his father for

helping shape him into the young man he is

today by giving him the tools to work hard to

achieve all his dreams that would take him to

places he could have never imagined.

Alyssia concluded, “He not only enforced

hard work with sports, but he also encourages

this in school and in life. He has provided

confidence and never ending love–and for

that I am truly thankful.”

Mo prays that his children will always “use

the same effort and passion they have in sports

to give their all in everything they pursue and

to do what touches them in their life, whether

it be their mission, ministry, or job. If they do

that, everything will always fall into place.”

Hometown RANKIN • 41

42 • JUNE 2021

Seeing the Potential

Mistie Desper

Randy Easterling and son, Bailey, have a

knack for seeing the “diamond in the rough”

when looking for their next project. Randy has

a long history of loving all things cars, motors,

and generally things to “tinker on.”

From around the age of eight, Randy

learned to see the value in things and the value

of working hard by helping at his neighbor’s

small repair shop. Randy said, “I started

tinkering at a young age because we didn’t have

much so I had to learn to fix things up that

other people didn’t want or threw out because

they didn’t know how to fix it. Many times,

these items would just need a good cleaning

and then I’d sell them for a little money here

and there.”

From there, Randy’s work ethic continued

to grow as did his love of cars. He recalled

sharing a love of racing with his son. He said,

“The dirt track was a huge part of our love for

cars and all things that go fast. I had Bailey at

the track when he was between 1-2 years old.”

It didn’t take long for Randy to earn the

reputation as the “car guy” and the neighbor

who could fix just about anything. As Bailey

grew older, he would always help his dad in the

shop and quickly developed the same passion.

Randy recalled, “We would work together and

he would start to ask questions. Over the years,

I taught him how to fix things up for himself.

We have the same eye for things now and can

see the potential. We enjoy and like to see the

finished product.” He added that there is so

much more value in working and creating

something by hand that you can’t feel just by

purchasing something sometimes.

Taking something that is seemingly

unwanted and seeing the beauty in it is a gift.

This gift requires much time and patience.

The time the Easterlings have spent together

over the years on their projects have bonded

them in a unique way over shoptalk and

spending countless hours working together.

They enjoy looking for their next project and

planning what they can do with it. Randy

joked, “We are always looking and bringing

things home.” Randy recalled that his wife

sometimes just laughs and pokes fun at them

because they are always into something.

A father and son share a special bond.

Randy said, “Being able to spend so much

time with Bailey over the years has been a

great blessing and bonding experience.”

Creating beautifully restored items, fixing

up cars or boats to flip, or enjoying races are

small in comparison to the valuable life lessons

and time spent with one another.

Randy added, “Time is a valuable commodity.

I hope Bailey takes these skills and uses them

to his advantage to bless himself, his family,

and to pass down to his children.”

Work ethic is very important to both

Easterlings. They pride themselves on being

very detail oriented and willing to learn new

things and get up and “hit the grind” every

single day. Randy said, “There is no shortcut

in life. You must plan your work and work

your plan. I hope I have taught Bailey to set

daily goals, whatever they may be, that he can

take to college and beyond.”

Randy has shown Bailey this work ethic

through his own actions over the years. He

has been able to not only hear it but witness

it firsthand shaping his young life. Bailey, a

2021 graduate of Brandon High School who

also has a side business along with the projects

with dad, has a bright future ahead of him.

Bailey said, “I have learned to see the

potential in every given situation. A lot of

times, if you can look past the first impression,

a little elbow grease goes a long way! My dad

learned from a young age that hard work and

determination will take you as far as you want

to go. The sky’s the limit!”

Hometown RANKIN • 43

44 • JUNE 2021

CALL NOW: 601-401-3299

Hometown RANKIN • 45



When she was just 13 years

old, Vania Martinez moved

from Mexico to the United

States with her family.

She never dreamed that one day she

would be a business owner. “I started

working as a server at El Potrillo in

Flowood when I was in high school,”

she says. It was there that she met the

man who would become her husband,

the restaurant’s owner, Jon Martinez.

Vania graduated from Brandon High School and attended Wesley

College, a Methodist college in Florence. She then transferred to Hinds

Community College. “Then I got married, had children, and the rest is

history,” she laughs. Throughout her marriage, Vania has worked at the

El Potrillo in Brandon, the first of seven restaurants her husband has opened

with his brothers. Last year, the restaurant was transferred to her name,

making her the full owner. Sadly, the Covid pandemic affected the restaurant

business overall last year, and El Potrillo in Brandon certainly had their

challenges. “I didn’t always have a full staff, but our wonderful customers were

so patient with us. We have many customers who eat lunch here every day,

and some people come every Saturday for the live music in the bar.”

The restaurant has been successful all these years, due to Vania’s management

and because of the staff. “I have a really awesome group of people

working at the restaurant,” she says. “Some of them have been working there

for many years, with a couple of people working there since we first opened

in 2007. Many of our regulars know our staff very well because they have

been there for so long.” Vania describes the food at El Potrillo as a mixture

of Mexican and TexMex. “Some of our dishes are authentic Mexican. It’s a

good variety, and our customers seem to love it!” Many of the people who

frequent the restaurant are Hispanic. “If they like the food, we feel like we

are doing something right,” Vania says. One of the more popular drinks on

the menu is the Painkiller Margarita. “I don’t drink, but I do know that it is


46 • JUNE 2021

A Taste of Mexico

Susan Marquez

Hometown RANKIN • 47

“My faith

is very


to me.”

The live music in the bar has become quite popular

on Saturday nights. “Mike Mott has been playing here

for years, He plays popular music that everyone enjoys.”

Vania says Mike plays from 5pm to 9pm. “We are going

to add another band a couple of times a week as well.”

Jon and Vania live in the reservoir area of Brandon

with their two children, Santiago (11) and Azul (6).

When they aren’t working, Vania says they enjoy

hanging out with friends and entertaining at home. “As a

family, we love going to the movies. We also love to travel.”

The family travels to see relatives in Vania’s hometown of

Leon in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. They always

enjoy going to the beach. “We went to the Dominican

Republic in 2019. I think it’s a good idea for our children

to be exposed to other cultures, often realizing how good

they have it here in Rankin County, Mississippi.”

The family is active in New Life Christian Fellowship

in Pearl. “My faith is very important to me,” stresses

Vania. “I grew up in church and that has shaped my life

in a positive way. I know I can go to the Lord for any

situation that may come my way. He is my strength.”

48 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 49

50 • JUNE 2021



Jessi George

Evan Teten, a sixth grader at Discovery Christian School in

Florence, was the top elementary shooter in the division 1A-4A

All-State archery tournament, and placed 2nd overall last year.

This is quite an accomplishment given his age, and the fact that he had only been shooting for

one year. But this accomplishment goes from impressive to phenomenal when you learn that Evan

was born without his right hand and actually pulls the bowstring back and shoots with his mouth.

Wes and Wendi Teten of Florence were ecstatic when they discovered they were expecting a baby boy in 2008.

They were already parents to daughter Olivia, and had visions of ball games, hunting, fishing, and all the adventure

that having a son can bring. The day of his birth brought all of those dreams crashing down around them when they

discovered that he was missing his right hand. Evan was born in January 2008 with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a

rare birth defect in which bands of tissue inside the sac of fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb tangle around

Hometown RANKIN • 51

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the baby’s body causing injury. This condition is usually

diagnosed during a prenatal ultrasound, giving the parents

time to prepare themselves before birth. In Evan’s case,

however, the diagnosis was missed and was quite a shock

to his parents.

“Initially, we were devastated,” explained Wendi, “It was

just such a shock to us, and we were worried about what his

future held.” Wendi admits that she really struggled the

first year of Evan’s life, mourning her expectations of what

“normal” would look like for her son. But she continually

prayed over him and eventually found some Facebook

support groups where other moms whose children shared

similar conditions helped her see that Evan could not only

survive this challenge, but could thrive with only one hand.

“We decided early on that we would not let him feel sorry

for himself,” said Wendi. “We don’t even call it a disability.

We call it a limb difference. He is not disabled at all. He

can do anything and everything other kids can do, he just

has to do it in a different way.”

Sometimes figuring out that “different way” was

incredibly frustrating for Evan and his parents. “There were

times I would see him struggle to learn how to do something

new, and I mean, really struggle, but I never let him see me

upset about it. Of course as a mom, it broke my heart to

seem him struggle or hurting or to watch as he had to fight

for what came easy to other kids. But if I was upset, I would

go in another room to process those emotions, and would

come back out when I was ready to encourage him to keep

working. We always told him to get back up and try again.

Keep trying until you figure out what works.”

That strategy has paid off immensely as Evan now

successfully plays many sports, plays guitar, and even rides

dirt bikes with his younger brother, Drew. He uses a special

prosthetic for a few select activities. His dirt bike prosthetic

is specifically designed to release if he loses control or has

an accident, so he is not trapped in a dangerous situation.

However, he mostly just makes due with his “little arm” as

his family calls it. The prosthetics feel heavy and bulky and

he has learned to accomplish daily tasks without one. And

while archery may seem like one of those tasks that Evan

would require a prosthetic, Evan simply learned to shoot

without his right arm entirely.

About two years ago, Wes Teten saw some videos

online of one-handed archers shooting the way Evan has

learned to shoot–with his mouth. He showed the videos

to Evan and they got excited to try something new. Wes

designed all the mouthpieces that Evan uses to pull back

his bowstring and, simply through trial and error, they

eventually came up with a design that was a perfect fit.

Evan then joined the Discovery Christian School archery

team, where he is a student and Wendi is the head of

school. Coach Dennis Adams, the owner and head coach

of Mississippi Archery Academy is also the head archery

coach at Discovery Christian School. Coach Adams has

worked with Evan from the beginning and taught him to

“pick his spot” and aim just like all the rest of his archery

students. Coach Adams believes that archery is the most

inclusive sport there is because it doesn’t take special

athletic ability or skill to be good. It only takes practice,

and Evan has been successful because he loves the sport

and works hard at what he does. Evan loves archery so much

that he is beginning to train in Olympic style shooting

and hopes to compete in archery professionally one day.

It is obvious that Wes and Wendi’s strategy of raising

Even to not feel sorry for himself has been successful. Evan

is a happy, confident kid with a big heart and a great attitude.

Clearly, there is no bitterness or self-pity regarding his limb

difference, and he has figured out that God allowed this

in his life for a reason. Some people have even tried to tell

Evan that one day in Heaven he will be “fixed” and will

have both his hands. But Wendi insists that is the wrong

way to look at it. “That implies that something is wrong

with him,” she explained, “And that really isn’t the case.

He’s perfect just the way he is. He can do anything he puts

his mind to.” Evan even says that he likes his “little arm”

so much that he hopes God lets him keep it in Heaven.

Although COVID-19 changed the way archery

competitions were held this school year, Evan and his DCS

archery team were still able to compete and they achieved

some incredible awards in spite of all the challenges and

changes from the pandemic. The DCS elementary

archery team won first place overall in the South State

tournament and second overall in the state tournament.

Individually, Evan received overall high score, top male

archer, and overall top archer because he had the highest

combined scores for both tournaments.

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McDaniel Family

Disney Vacation

Susan Marquez

The unforeseen and unfortunate Covid-19

pandemic caused many to hunker down and

go into a self-imposed quarantine for several

months in 2020. Travel all but stopped while

planned vacations were canceled. As the

pandemic progressed, measures were established

and proven to provide for the safety of

people as they ventured back into the world.

Face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing

became the norm.

For the McDaniel family of Brandon, it was

uncertain if their much-anticipated trip to

Disney World would happen in 2020. “We

made plans to go for Thanksgiving,” says Jay

McDaniel. “It was our sixth trip to Disney.”

Jay and his wife, Carly, have been taking their

children to Disney World since they were just

out of strollers.

The McDaniels love the “happiest place on

Earth.” Disney has always been their go-to

vacation destination. “We’ve gone other places

as well, but we usually plan a Disney trip about

every couple of years.” When the Florida theme

park re-opened last fall, the McDaniels decided

it would be safe to go.

“It was great,” says Jay. “We usually go in the

off-season anyway because it is not as crowded.

Our travel agent had gone a couple of weeks

before us and she told us that with the park’s

reduced occupancy, it was great.”

The family traveled to Orlando by car and

arrived the Friday before Thanksgiving, staying

through Wednesday. “We stayed on-site at the

Pop Century,” Jay says. He explained that the

Disney resorts are moderate, deluxe or value.

“We’ve always stayed in a moderate resort, but

our travel agent convinced us to try the Pop

Century, which is considered a value resort.

It has a new skyliner attached to the hotel that

takes guests directly to the park. We found it

to be a great property, and a really nice resort.”

Jay was impressed with the safety precautions

taken at the park. “Everyone had their

temperature taken upon entering the park.

Masks were required at all times unless guests

were eating, drinking, or sitting, and there

were hand-sanitizing stations everywhere.”

The social distancing aspect worked in their

favor as well. “It made the lines look a lot

longer, but they really moved much quicker.”

Some of the features they typically enjoy

were absent this trip. “There were not many

live shows, which we enjoy, but we’ve seen

them all, so that was fine. And there weren’t

as many character visits, but that’s not as

important to my kids anymore.” Jay says his

children, Avery (16) and Jake (14) are at the

age that what they most want to do is ride and

eat, which is what the family did during most

of their trip.

The McDaniels were joined on the trip by

Jay’s brother, his wife, and their nine-year-old

son as well as his parents. “It was nice to spend

time with them, and to feel ‘normal’ again.”

Hometown RANKIN • 59

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Hometown RANKIN • 61


to First Responders

Mistie Desper





What started like a typical day for Coty Hamilton,

narcotics investigator for Richland PD, ended

with a fiery crash that almost cost him his life.

Coty has considered himself to be “extremely blessed and honored”

to serve his community for many years. Many children dream of

becoming a police officer. Coty made that dream a reality. Born and

raised in Richland, he is the son of a firefighter and had always been

interested and fascinated in both areas of public service throughout

his life.

At Richland High School, Coty was active in sports throughout his

youth and while in school. There, he also met Wendy, a young lady

who stole his heart and would later become his wife. He was slated to

play baseball at Holmes Community College when he got the call to

become a dispatcher. Coty immediately changed courses to pursue his

dream. From there he went on to attend the police academy and has

been a part of the Richland PD since 2006.

Coty married his high school sweetheart and together they have

two sons, Bentley (9) and Bryson (6).

Coty has experienced an impressive career during his time as an

officer. He prides himself and his department for being able to help

keep drugs off the streets. He said, “One of the most rewarding parts

of my job is when I have a person or a family member of someone I

have pulled over and arrested for drug possession to see me later and

tell me how I saved their life and got them back on track.”

Unfortunately, oftentimes a component of those arrests includes

dangerous police pursuits. They are a common occurrence in an

officer’s career.

On the day of his accident, Coty attempted to stop a motorcycle

traveling at a high rate of speed through town. The driver decided to

flee, and a chase ensued. Coty followed the individual for several

miles. Two additional units joined in the chase.

Coty made a split-second decision to pass the other officers to

attempt to reach the suspect. Rounding a turn too fast caused him to

lose control and slam into a large pine tree. His patrol car burst into

flames with Coty trapped inside. With only seconds to spare, fellow

officer Trey Walker was part of the pursuit and sprang into action to

rescue Coty. Unfortunately, Coty was severely injured, and his car

was too mangled for Walker to get him out by himself. Coty recalled,

“After the accident, Trey told me that nothing he did worked. I was

62 • JUNE 2021

not budging. He told me that no matter what, he wasn’t leaving me

and wouldn’t give up trying to rescue me.” Luckily, former Richland

PD Officer Jason Goad, who happens to leave near the site of the

wreck, was in the right place at the right time. Together, they were

able to retrieve Coty from the burning wreckage as the fire raged

around them.

Coty said, “If it had been any longer, I would not have made it.

We all have each other’s backs and they both risked their lives to save

mine without hesitation.” This brotherhood meant life or death for Coty.

Wendy recalled, “I heard sirens and didn’t think anything of it.

I think we both had gotten complacent thinking ‘Oh it’ll never happen

to us.’ It wasn’t until I got a phone call [shortly after the crash] that I

knew something was bad wrong.”

Wendy, fearing for her beloved husband and for their precious

children, raced to be with Coty. He had suffered a multitude of injuries

including a traumatic brain injury, fractured spine, broken femur, an

open ankle dislocation, and broken tibia and fibula bones. But Coty

was alive and was about to discover and show everyone how much

fight he had left in him to not only survive but to overcome his

condition. Coty said, “I have my boys who expect me to come to their

games and a wife that needs me to return home and a community

that needs me to serve them again.”

Wendy, who is an orthopedic nurse, understood the extent of

his injuries. She said, “I see patients with his injuries, and I know

the amount of pain they are in. But he never complains. It amazes

me at the amount of strength he has and how determined he is.”

With six surgeries behind him and one more to go, Coty is well on

his way to returning to the career and community he loves. That same

community has shown him and his family an enormous amount of

love throughout this difficult time by hosting various benefits in his

honor. His police family has also taken care of him and supported

him. Coty said, “Someone has come by or called every single day

making sure I had a ride, or brought food, offered money, prayed for

us, really anything we have needed. Our community has been there.

The support has been overwhelming.”

He added, “I have always wanted to be in the middle of everything.

This has made me have to take a step back and live each day a little

differently. Things can really change in the blink of an eye.” Coty is

eager to get back to serving the community he loves so much and

giving back all that has been given to him in the last few months.

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Leigh Ramsey

“It’s a crazy story,” Susannah Ash commented, before

telling about her seven-member family’s adventures. David

(40), Susannah (38), Solomon (13), Finley (10), Chapel (8),

Sumner (7) and Jude (3), live a life filled with adventure.

They initially thought they would be having fun vacations,

but quickly learned that they were adopting a new lifestyle.

In 2015, David and Susannah Ash entertained their

dream of “RVing.” David Ash was working for a local law

firm. He had the opportunity to go into practice with a

partner. During this time, the family sold their home in

Fondren, and decided to rent space in Susannah’s mother’s

home while they decided what the next step would be. They

placed all of their items in storage and spent the next year

coming up with a plan.

David Ash had been dreaming of traveling in an RV

for years. He said his wife gave him just the “call to action”

he needed to make this dream a reality. She said, “Quit

dreaming about it, and do something about it.” Within a

week of that statement, Mr. Ash was putting a down

payment on a 36-foot camper in Alabama. Within a week

of that purchase, he was flying to Ohio to purchase a diesel

Ford Excursion. The next week, the camper was furnished

and supplies were purchased for the family to spend a month

in Florida. This whirlwind experience all came together in

June of 2017. Susannah commented on that first adventure,

“If it could go wrong, it went wrong. If it could break, it

broke. We laughed the whole time.”

Hometown RANKIN • 67

They came back from that trip and parked

the camper. The family did not buy this

camper to use as a home. However, the trips

kept getting longer and the breaks kept getting

shorter. When they were in Mississippi on a

break, they decided to park the RV by the

reservoir. They moved in for what they

thought was a weekend, and never moved out.

After two years in the camper, they pulled

everything out of storage, and sold it all. The

beauty of the camper was the simplicity. David

stated, “Our kids function so much better with

less stuff.”

The family was in Chattanooga, Tennessee,

when the lockdowns began in March of 2020.

They thought it would be best if they came

home. However, by August, the family realized,

“We have our own house on wheels, we can

self-contain. We are going on a trip.” The Ash

family was having a custom six-door truck built

in South Dakota. They began their adventure

by heading there to check on the truck’s

progress. The trip continued to North Dakota,

Montana, Idaho, Utah, and back home.

A typical day in the Ash home looks similar

to what it would look like in any home. David

works regular, but flexible hours, Monday

through Friday as an attorney handling

commercial transactions. He has his own firm,

but still has to seek new clients, and head up a

team and staff. During this time, Susannah

homeschools the five children. They spend

part of the day doing regular school work, then

spend the afternoons exploring. They love to

learn the history and geography of the places

they are staying.

The Ash family recently upgraded their

vehicles. The old ones, affectionately named

Whimsy (camper) and Fred (Excursion), were

traded in for their new truck, (Dakota) and

camper (yet to be named). They are looking

forward to their longest adventure yet; a

one-to-two year tour of the east coast,

beginning in Maine.

David Ash shared one of his favorite things

about living this lifestyle, “We have friends all

over the country. I knew I’d love the hiking

and the adventure. I was surprised at all of the

people we’ve met. There are some amazing

people on this planet.” Susannah added that

her goal in life was to “be with her people.”

That goal is being met.“We love to be together

as a family.”

The family came up with a three-point

mission statement:

Live life on adventure.

Engage the people we encounter.

Inspire others to do the same.

When you have “your people,” it doesn’t

matter what is going on in the world.

Adventure still awaits.

Follow their adventures on Facebook and

Instagram at Our Wandering Canvas.

68 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 69



Support our Small Businesses

70 • JUNE 2021

SHOP Local

Sunset Bar & Barstools

Callaway’s Yard & Garden Center / Gluckstadt

Hoover Sauce

Apple Annie’s / Flowood and Madison

Bird Houses

Chapman’s Florist / Pearl

Carhartt Hats & Wallets

Rankin County Co-Op / Brandon

Hand-crafted Hickory Carving Board

Maui Jim Dragon’s Teeth Polarized Sunglasses

Rick’s Pro Truck / Flowood, Pearl, Madison

Hometown RANKIN • 71

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Shop local in Rankin County.

SHOP Local

Daly Recliner by Catnapper

T&D Furniture / Pearl

Wind Chimes

Lakeland Yard & Garden / Flowood

Dad’s Summer Threads

The Wilander / Brandon

STIHL Leaf Blower

Frederick’s Sales and Service / Brandon

Hometown RANKIN • 73



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Providing Strength,

Hope and Guidance for

Your Divorce.

Mel Coxwell P.A.

A Family Law Firm


20 Eastgate Dr. Suite E

Brandon, MS 39042


Experience that Matters for a Brighter Tomorrow

Hometown RANKIN • 75

Rankin County




May 18 / The Vault

76 • JUNE 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 77



What Makes

Your Heart Soar?

Art! Kristen Mosal

Due to a year that has been overly

transient because of the COVID-19

pandemic, our special teachers have

spent the majority of the year in the

classrooms with the students. Oakdale’s

music teacher, Ms. Stover, has gone

above and beyond to ensure that our

students are still engaged in the arts

despite staying in the classroom. She

has spent this year focusing more on

visual arts across grades K-6. Ms. Stover

says her favorite thing about this new

focus this year has been “watching the

individual personalities come out in their

art and watching them make peace with

making mistakes.” She has seen the

students become more patient with

themselves and appreciate that mistakes

are a normal process in art. A favorite

project of Mrs. Stover’s and the students

this year has been weaving blankets for

carboard animals they created. In fact,

the project has already been requested

to repeat next year by some students.

When you walk down our halls, it is hard

not to be captivated by the beautiful

mural of wings outside of her classroom.

She orchestrated for each student to

show their personality on a feather and

turned it into a masterpiece. Ms. Stover

is looking forward to integrating visual

and performing arts in the 2021-2022

school year. “Both have so much to teach

our students and I’m really looking

forward to getting to enjoy both,” says

Ms. Stover. Oakdale Elementary is

extremely thankful to have Ms. Stover

teach art to our students in a year that

needs a little touch of beauty. She truly

is an asset to our school, district, and

community. It is evident that she is

passionate about her job and she puts

her all in taking the students of Oakdale

Elementary from Great to BEST!

78 • JUNE 2021

Pearl Public School District

Students in Ms. Claudia Zynosky-Sharpling’s class have been learning about zoo animals

in celebration of the letter Zz.

Coach Calhoun with Move To Learn visited kindergarteners and first-graders at Pearl

Lower Elementary. Move to Learn is designed to help teachers raise student fitness

levels and, in turn, raise student achievement.

Students in Mrs. Peacock’s second grade class at Northside Elementary have been

learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder. They have been reading the book Who Was Laura

Ingalls Wilder? and many of Wilder’s books.

Pearl Upper Elementary students donated over 1600 items to fill care bags for the

homeless. Quest students worked together to assemble and load the care bags for

Gateway Rescue Mission.

Sixth-grade art students at Pearl Junior High School partnered with the Children’s of

Mississippi Hospital to create 3D human-sized sculptures of imagination friend monster

drawings by patients.

The Pearl High School National Honor Society teamed up with Mississippi Blood

Services to host a blood drive at Pearl High School. Blood donations were open to

students and faculty members.

Hometown RANKIN • 79

80 • JUNE 2021



TheTime COIN

Camille Anding

While Othel and our youngest grands

were screaming and squealing on the

Hulk roller coaster, news of the possible,

deadly pandemic began to headline the

news in March of 2020.

We had barely gotten home with our Mickey ears when

we heard that the pandemic had closed Disney World.

Our son, Eli, called us from Tennessee a few days later

and said his good friend, much younger than Othel and

me, had almost died from COVID. He described it as

trying to breathe through a wet sock lodged in his throat.

Our son’s demand: Stay Home!

And we did for about three weeks. We ordered

groceries to be delivered, rationed our toilet paper,

and went to church via live stream.

Then we realized that life was going on, regardless

of COVID, and we were in the “winter” of our years.

Othel said, “Enough – if we perish, we perish, but I don’t

want to die in my recliner.”

So we hooked our truck to our camper and for the

remainder of 2020, we used our home as a restocking

station for breaks between our travels.

At first we tried local campsites. Roosevelt is about

twenty minutes away, but the campfires and peace in

the woods seemed a remote distance from COVID.

Why not try a little further camp? We visited Meaher

Park in Mobile in May, followed by a visit to Tishomingo

Park. On one of our hiking shortcuts there, the trail just

disappeared. The only reassurance I

felt while we wandered through the

undergrowth was the confidence that COVID couldn’t

find us there!

The beach at Destin called us next, along with other

family members. The waves rolled rhythmically, undisturbed

by the growing numbers of COVID cases.

June held a camping trip to Townsend, Tennessee,

in the mountains. The four grands said the water was too

cold for COVID, so they tubed the river while Othel and

I absorbed the beauty and peace of God’s creation.

We made our longest trek of the year out West and

saw sights of vast lands, skies, rivers, mountains, and rocks

that my vocabulary could never describe. In fact, their

presence removed all thoughts of COVID, but back home

and in the large and small cities the virus was raging.

Travel and camping continued in our fall – brilliant

colors at Roosevelt and in the Smokies. For Christmas

we celebrated at home with our entire family. COVID

had attacked a few family members but with slight


However, the list grew of friends and acquaintances

that COVID killed. The virus was like a sinister game of

Russian roulette – there was no way to predict the next


We were spared, only by God’s grace, but are well

aware that God numbers all our days. We can only thank

and praise Him for each breath He gives

and each mile He allows us to travel.

82 • JUNE 2021

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