2 • JULY 2021


My parents have

a photo of my Uncle

Irwin holding me.

I was just a toddler so

I don’t remember him

well, but I’ve heard lots

of stories about him.

He and my Aunt Candy had only been married a year and

a half when he got orders for Vietnam. He was a flight pilot and

flew missions in his F-4 Phantom jet. Irwin was nicknamed “Ace”

because he was tops in his crew of pilots.

His was a young life, a “new” husband and had just been ordained

a deacon where he and Candy were members in Virginia Beach, VA.

Then the tragic news came. His plane exploded during a maneuver

of his final mission. He was given a memorial burial at sea.

We owe more than we can imagine to the military who have

given all to preserve our freedoms. I will forever be grateful for their

ultimate sacrifices.

It would be most fitting to take time to remember the price of

our freedom this 4th of July. So many still carry the scars of the cost.



Tahya Dobbs


Kevin Dobbs


Mary Ann Kirby


The Way We Were 6

Out of the Wreck I Rise 12

A Peaceful Mission 20

Top 40 Under 40 26

Hometown Family 56

On Military Service & Family Life 66

Neighborhood Eats 80

Shannon’s Home of Hope 84

Rankin’s Red Carpet 97

The Time Coin 114



Brenda McCall



Caroline Hodges



Alisha Floyd


Kim Cochram

...see you around town.


Daniel Thomas



Othel Anding



Jodi Jackson

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 • JULY 2021







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Hometown RANKIN • 5

The way

WE were

Denise & David Ashley

Jodi Jackson

David refused to start dating after his

divorce. His friends gave match-making

their very best efforts, but they concluded

they “could not find anyone he would agree

to date.” Shockingly, David found himself

very willing to extend a dinner invitation

to a lovely woman whom he met while

attending a divorce seminar at First

Baptist Jackson.

Denise often recalls the memory of

her sister trying to convince her to accept

David’s offer, but she harbored so much

pain and unbelief that God could redeem

her story. She had recently gone through

a discouraging, difficult divorce that left

her alone to raise her three sons.

There had been many conversations

between God and her regarding her future.

One, in particular, ended with, “If You

want me to have a husband, I’m going to

have to see him in neon lights.”

Denise continued to argue with her

sister, “I don’t want to date someone from

Yazoo City.” Her sister reasoned, “It’s not

like you’re going to marry him.”

Little did she know, she and David, who

had a son and daughter of his own, would

be married within the year and living in

Yazoo City, where Denise would be devoted

to a new job, the kids’ schools, their church,

and their community.

While the Ashleys enjoyed their new

life as a large, fun-loving, blended family,

the new arrangement came with its

challenges. Feeding all those hungry mouths

was at the top of the list. “With so many

children, and four of them being very active

boys, cooking was a constant at our house,”

says Denise. “It was normal for the boys to

walk out of a buffet restaurant after eating

multiple plate-fulls and ask what we were

eating at the next meal.”

After about nine years, the family of

seven added their eighth, and final, member,

a baby girl appropriately named Faith. Faith

entering the world served as a physical

reminder to the entire family that God is

certainly a God of second chances, and He

can turn any circumstance into a blessing.

When Faith was about three, she

adopted her own mantra as a result of

playing and competing with her much

older siblings: “Never give up.” Those

impactful words from an innocent child,

who knew nothing of the many hardships

her parents and siblings had experienced,

are words the entire family lives by to

this day.

6 • JULY 2021



is not just

about you.”

“One of the favorite things that has

remained a constant over the years is

watching The Andy Griffith Show together.

When we first moved to Yazoo City, we

would watch it during the day when David

came home for lunch,” Denise recalls.

“We still watch it together in the evenings.”

The other habit the Ashleys formed

early on in their marriage was doing

devotionals together as a family at

dinnertime. “We found this little 365-day

devotional, and each day was composed

of a Bible passage, a key verse that

summarized the overall message, and

a story about a family to illustrate the

real-life application of that day’s lesson.

We would try to have a little fun by

substituting the kids’ names in the story.

They thought their names were really

in there and that God might be speaking

to them, and they listened closely because

the ‘winner’ for the evening was the person

who guessed the key verse.” David and

Denise committed to this ritual as

mealtime was the only time the whole

family was together.

Making their faith the foundation of

their home and family was of utmost

importance to the Ashleys, but they knew

they could not do life alone. “The church

was always our mainstay. We were so

blessed with a church where God placed

so many strong Christian mentors, staff,

and friends, who were exactly the people

we, and our children, needed at that time,”

David declares.

Looking back on almost three decades

of marriage and their experiences raising

six children with over twenty years between

the two bookends, Denise and David are

amazed that five of them are now married

and they’re the proud grandparents of nine


The Ashleys have a few pieces of advice

for young couples, which include, “Keep

your family involved in church,” and

“Realize marriage is not just about you.”

However, perhaps the most important

lesson we can all learn from their story,

whether in faith, family, failure, or fear, lies

in those three, little words: “Never give up.”

David and Denise are currently living in

the Pisgah area, enjoying their grandchildren

and working toward continuing to share

what they have learned in their professional

and personal lives with as many people as

they can touch. David is currently a cyber

security policy analyst with Mississippi

Department of Information Technology

and Denise is a floor nurse at Baptist

Hospital in the oncology area.

Hometown RANKIN • 7





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8 • JULY 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

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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


Welcome Home

To The Blake!

Voted “Best of the Best”

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Hometown RANKIN • 9

plan your next journey.

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AAA Travel is here for you when you’re ready for

your next vacation. Our travel advisors in the AAA

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10 • JULY 2021





Why did you decide to make Rankin County

your home?

I was born and raised in Rankin County. When I

was 17, I left to attend the United States Air Force

Academy. During my military time I lived in

numerous places, but Rankin County was always


Tell us about your family.

I am married to Sara Martin Morrow (42 years).

We have a son, David Morrow III (wife Amanda)

and they have both of our grandchildren, Drew (9)

and Will (2). We have a daughter Sara Ashley

Morrow. We all reside in Rankin County.

What is your favorite memory of living in

Rankin County?

My favorite memory of living in Rankin County is

a current one, and that is spending as much time

with my grandsons, Drew and Will, as I can to

help them build memories and just have fun.

Where are your three favorite places to eat

in Rankin County?

My three favorite places to eat in Rankin County

would be Amerigo in Flowood, Fannin Mart in

Flowood, and Billy Burgers in Puckett.

What are some fun things to do in Rankin

County on the weekends?

Fun things I have done in Rankin County would

be the parks for baseball tournaments, taking

family to Jellystone Park in Pelahatchie, concerts in

the amphitheater, water activities on the Reservoir,

and Braves games.

Share some things you enjoy doing in your

spare time.

Spare time is usually family related. Recently we

have been to many, many baseball tournaments

with Drew and his baseball travel team (Golden

Spikes-Hopkins). I also enjoy going to Starkville

for MSU football, basketball, and baseball games.

What are three things on your bucket list?

Bucket list: fishing trip to Alaska with grandkids;

travel to Greece and Italy with Sara; and a family

cruise with the whole gang.

Who is someone you admire and why?

The names on my most admired list seem to move

around some. My most enduring admired person

would be Ronald Reagan. His ability to communicate

and his conservative nature have always

appealed to me.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

10 years from now I see myself going to Mississippi

State to watch my grandson Drew play baseball at

MSU and watching my grandson Will doing

whatever in the world he wants to do.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory revolves around

election nights when the election totals would be

written on a big chalkboard in front of the old

courthouse in Brandon.

If you could give us one encouraging quote,

what would it be?

My favorite quote is also what I learned from

the military, “All limitations are self-imposed.”

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, United States

Supreme Court.

What is your favorite thing about

Hometown Magazines?

It is preserving our current way of life through

articles and pictures that relate directly to

Rankin County.

Hometown RANKIN • 11


of tHE


I RiseCamille


12 • JULY 2021

Aubrey Prigden finally hit the proverbial wall.

He stood before the judge in 1995 and heard the sentence:

two years in jail! It really came as no surprise. Aubrey had been

running from God most of his life, but God’s grace and seeking

had never stopped.

Even when Aubrey owned his own

bar, he was making a lucrative living, but

he began to drink - a lot. It was a DUI

that landed him before the judge. Aubrey

had injured two girls in the wreck, so

mayhem and aggravated assault were

added to his crime. “I was broken,” Aubrey

admitted, but didn’t realize that jail was

where God would mend his broken life.

“I was scared, desperate, and knew I

had hit rock bottom. It was in this state

that I gave my life to the Lord.”

The “wreck” of his life didn’t end with

this new life direction. While in jail he

lost his home, car and everything he

had ever considered his own.

Nevertheless, Aubrey began making

friends with his new family. He remembers

Ron Pennington, the sheriff, and

Bryan Bailey, the narcotics investigator,

treating him like a man and with respect.

He made more friends while being assigned

to work in the mechanic shop.

“None of the people in the jail environment

treated me like trash,” Aubrey said.

Not only was he making new friends,

but he was freed from all his drug and

alcohol addictions. He remembers a

Gideon coming to the jail to share his

testimony of how he, too, had been

incarcerated, but Jesus had broken his

life of crime.

By the time Aubrey was released in

1997, he knew that doing wrong was in

his past. Any future wrecks of life would

not be due to his own wrong decisions.

However, his new direction in life was

opposite his wife’s, so a divorce ended

their marriage. A former position as a

wholesale paper salesman was offered

to him but with a considerable drop in

pay. He moved in with his dad, and life

appeared to be looking up, especially

when he met Debbie.

In 2002, they were married, began

attending church together but “we

weren’t living it,” Aubrey admitted. After

they had tried it “their” way, they turned

to Jesus - not just as their Savior but as

their Lord.

Life turned positive. Both Aubrey and

Debbie were bringing home great wages

and growing spiritually. Aubrey was

invited to Copiah County jail to minister

and share his testimony. The experience

felt right. He was being drawn to

the jail ministry.

Soon the couple heard some news

from Rankin County about “Celebrate

Recovery” - a twelve-step program for

anyone struggling with hurt, pain, or

addiction. Aubrey sensed his calling!

In 2012, Bryan Bailey was the newly

elected sheriff of Rankin County, and

the jail was without a chaplain. Aubrey

called about an interview, and he and

Debbie met with Sheriff Bailey. Their old

friendships were renewed and both

Aubrey and Debbie were appointed jail


Bailey remembers that day with

enormous gratitude for what God has

done through the Prigdens’ ministry.

In trying to describe the impact the

Prigdens’ lives have meant to Rankin

County, he said, “You ask God for $5 and

He gives you $100.”

Kristi Shanks, administrative assistant

at the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,

said, “We had situations with some of

the inmates that called for help that we

didn’t know how to give. When we met

with Aubrey and Debbie, they had the

same burden, but had the vision of how

to meet those needs. This husband and

wife team did amazing things for those

who couldn’t help themselves.”

Sheriff Bailey realized the Celebrate

Recovery program could bridge the

gap from the inmates being ministered

to inside the jail, to their walking out

Hometown RANKIN • 13

of jail with no support group. Pointe

Church near Star, Mississippi, opened

their doors and arms to all that needed

to enroll in the program that they began

offering at their church.

A meeting was held at Pointe Church

to share with churches about the program.

Twenty churches were represented

at the first meeting. Today over fifty

churches are participating. Hope Fellowship

Church offers free childcare for

the Monday night meetings at The

Pointe. Other churches like Pinelake send

mentors to the individual inmates who

need godly counsel and friendships.

Aubrey and Debbie began an extension

of Celebrate Recovery called “All

Things New, Inc.” Through this branch,

they oversee the Celebrate Recovery

program in the Rankin County jail and

churches. They set up mentors, group

counseling, and educational classes

for the inmates along with providing

supplies to inmates such as Bibles,

glasses, underwear. Inmates re-entering

society need money for childcare,

utilities, groceries, and clothes for

employment. Some inmates need bus

tickets to family out of town, and All

Things New, Inc. provides those.

Inmates earning trustee status

through points outlined by the jail have

opportunity to work in local businesses

while completing their sentences. Some

of these steps to earning trustee status

are completing the Celebrate Recovery

program, earning a GED, and being a

model inmate.

Under Aubrey’s supervision and belief

in teaching discipling, he carries trustees

to help victims of hurricanes and tornadoes.

Their annual toy drive, begun

three years ago through the Prigdens’

vision, collected toys for all the Rankin

County inmates’ children (500) plus

enough for inmates in Simpson and

Neshoba counties and other lower

income employees in the jail system.

In late November of 2019, Aubrey

would meet the most catastrophic

challenge of his life. Debbie was diagnosed

with COVID soon after Aubrey’s

own diagnosis. “It was brutal,” he said of

the virus. After a harsh case, Aubrey

recovered, but Debbie continued to

struggle. On December 1, she was admitted

to River Oaks Hospital and fought

through the month. Aubrey couldn’t

see her, but went to the hospital every

day to stand outside and pray. Friends,

sometimes sixty or more, would hold

prayer vigils in the parking lot. God

chose to give Debbie eternal healing

on New Year’s Eve of 2019.

Family and friends were dazed and

shocked. Hundreds attended her outside

funeral. So many remembered their

“Mama Bear” and how she loved them

and gave so sacrificially. She and Aubrey

had baptized 1,700 through their jail

ministry. From their own money they

bought, cooked, and fed students every

Monday night at the recovery classes at

Pointe Church. “Debbie had the gift of

discernment,” Shanks continued. “Within

a brief conversation with a stranger she

could detect their pain and end up

praying for them, and they’d both be

hugging each other and crying. She

loved everybody!”

Kristi held back tears when she remembered

this dear friend who was called

“Mother Recovery” by so many who had

felt her healing prayers and counsel.

“She had a supernatural way of making

everyone who knew and loved her think

they were her favorite. She was the glue

that held us together.”

Sheriff Bailey said, “Her death was

something we thought God wouldn’t

allow, because she did what it would

take ten other women to do. But it was

a wake-up call for all of her admirers to

step up and do our part - like Debbie

would expect.

Aubrey listened quietly to the many

compliments paid to his beloved mate.

His peace, faith and strength were a

perceived support around his life and in

the room. He admitted that there was a

brief period after her death that he didn’t

think he could continue the programs.

Ministry without her seemed too big a

task. Never had he dreamed that the

“all things new” of their ministry would

mean leading it without Debbie. However,

God’s strength enabled him to

go forward with his life’s work - his

ministry, pastoring the Church of the

King in Morton, and part-time work in

the sheriff’s office.

All Things New, Inc. has grown to

the point that another staff member,

Scott Walters, was just added in June.

In Aubrey’s gentle, soft voice, he

shared that some days were still extremely

tough. “Just last Monday her

headstone came in. That really made it

reality. I had a small solar cross that

would go on the headstone, but I headed

home as I worked up a pity party for

myself. In just a minute that cross lit up!

I said, ‘I hear You now!’” he concluded.

Aubrey will continue to point the

hurting, the addicts, the jailed and the

homeless to Jesus and walk with them

until they, too, rise out of life’s wreck.

14 • JULY 2021

All Things New, Inc. is a charitable, nonprofit organization

and is funded by compassionate contributors and

physically supported by volunteers.

Contact them at P.O. Box 2183, Brandon, MS 39043

Hometown RANKIN • 15

16 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 17

18 • JULY 2021


Memorial Day


May 31 - Rankin County Courthouse

Hometown RANKIN • 19

20 • JULY 2021

A Peaceful Mission

Camille Anding

Jim Lewis’s mom had heard

the expression “cuss like a

sailor” enough to know she

didn’t want her son to have

anything to do with the Navy.

That’s why Jim had to do a lot of convincing

before his parents would sign for his

volunteering for the Navy at age seventeen.

He explained to his parents that if he

didn’t volunteer for the service branch

he wanted, he’d be drafted into the Army.

“I want to be a sailor,” he urged his parents,

and he promised his mother he would never

use profanity. Jim kept that promise, and

for the next twenty-two years lived in ten

different states plus doing a tour in France

- serving his nation as a model sailor.

Lewis retired as chief

electrician and, on his last

tour, taught electrical engineering at Great

Lakes, Illinois, in the naval school. The

family moved from there to Pensacola,

Florida, where he and wife Dot planned to

retire. During their three years there, Lewis

taught in the Naval Junior ROTC program

at Woodham High School.

A visit to Brookhaven to see his parents

would turn out to be their next home for

thirty years. St. Regis Paper Mill had just

been built and during the visit, Lewis went

to see the new operation. When Lewis met

the electrical superintendent, he asked to

see Lewis’s application. “I’m not applying

for a job; I’m just here to look at the new

business,” Lewis answered.

The superintendent handed Lewis an

application and asked him to fill it out.

By the time the Lewis family had gotten

back to Pensacola, St. Regis had offered

him a job with a significant pay increase.

Brookhaven was now home.

After retiring from

the paper mill,

Lewis continued

using his

teaching skills

as a consultant at


Community College

with students seeking

possible careers with

St. Regis. Also, Lewis didn’t just teach

others, he continued to learn throughout

his active life, earning his pilot’s license and

instructor’s license in 1975.

Sitting in the presence of a true patriot,

along with his wife of almost seventy-three

years and their middle daughter, Laura Oster,

stories of life in the military were a natural


Imagine a teenager of fourteen years

moving with his parents from Jackson,

Mississippi, to a shipyard near Seattle,

Washington, for his dad to find work. At

age fifteen, Lewis also began working in

the shipyard during the day and worked

on high school classes at night. When

Lewis turned seventeen, World War II

had just ended. But Lewis volunteered

for the Navy.

When this young sailor got a thirty-day

leave, he visited his first cousin in Jackson

who was married to the sister of Dot

Yelverton. Dot, from Bay Springs, Mississippi,

happened to be living with her sister.

Dot and Jim met and spent the majority of

his leave as steady dates. Dot was “fifteen

and a half.” “I was young, but back then we

grew up faster. The times were harder,” Dot

said in describing their youthful romance.

“He was a gentleman - just what I wanted

in a husband.”

Hometown RANKIN • 21

22 • JULY 2021

“It was Mama and her

fl y swatter that taught us

how to be ladylike

and act nice.”

Lewis recalled, “She was really pretty,

sweet, and seemed attracted to me. We both

knew we had found our mate.” On October 15,

1948, Dot and Jim were married at Southside

Baptist Church parsonage in Jackson

'by the preacher S.W. Valentine. She was

almost nineteen and Jim was twenty-one.

Over his military career, Lewis served on

three aircraft carriers, three destroyers, an

icebreaker, cruiser, transporter, and seagoing

tugboats. Once he was on board a small

boat in the China Sea with two other sailors.

Their boat hit a Japanese planted mine and

splintered. The three, in life jackets, were

unharmed but thrown into the sea in

56-degree water. They latched themselves

together and began praying and treading

water. Their hands were too numb to shoot

the flares, but a U.S. freight ship spotted them

and rescued all three who were suffering from

hypothermia. It was one of God’s miracles

because it was just minutes before night fell

which would have left them in total darkness.

Behind every great patriot is a great spouse,

and Dot Lewis needs a salute for her military

sacrifices as a wife and mother of three

daughters. “We moved every eighteen months

to two years, but I knew Jim belonged to the

Navy, and I belonged to Jim. I always tried

to make a home wherever we were stationed.

My biggest concern was for our three

daughters having to always leave friends and

make new adjustments.”

With her husband at home only ninety-two

days out of the year, Dot was the necessary

disciplinarian. Daughter Laura said, “It was

Mama and her fly swatter that taught us how

to be ladylike and

act nice.” She recalled only one instance of

her daddy spanking her and his apologizing

before she went to bed.

Dot and the daughters have fond memories

of being a big part of their military husband

and father’s duties. When the family was

stationed on the Riviera in France, Dot and the

girls would travel to the different ports by car

to meet up with Lewis when his ship docked.

When Lewis would be gone on six-week

assignments, he would send reel to reel tapes

to his girls with messages and special songs

dedicated to each of the four. Laura still

remembers her “theme” song - “Yellow Rose

of Texas.” Dot’s was “Unchained Melody.”

“That was our song,” Dot shared as she patted

her soulmate’s knee.

The stamina and courage of these military

heroes is noteworthy. The Lewis’s first home

was in Boston, Massachusetts. Dot left Bay

Springs, Mississippi, to join her new husband by

traveling on the Southerner train from Jackson

to Grand Central Station in New York. She

changed trains for Boston to meet Jim there.

It was quite a feat for a teenager who

had never been out of Mississippi.

Dot’s landlady was a kind Jewish

woman “who probably kept me from

starving when Jim had to leave for three

weeks in December for a rescue mission

in Iceland.” Jim’s ship broke up ice for an

oil tanker to fuel the weather station there.

For the past twenty-one years the

retired military couple has lived in Brandon,

next door to daughter Laura and husband

Daryl Oster. Eldest daughter Dawn and

husband Art Ruggles live in Fairhope,

Alabama. Judy, the youngest, lives with

husband Harry Smith in West Monroe,

Louisiana. Dot and Jim enjoy their five

grands, ten great grands and one great


Health difficulties have slowed Jim

physically, but his brain is sharp with an

amazing recall of dates and places. Dot is his

smiling, joyful, able assistant who believes

that age is just a number and hers remains

unlisted! They are certain that finding their

homes close to good churches and schools

has been a key in God’s blessing them.

And their commitment to God and each

other is indisputable.

The seasoned sailor of ninety-four

years is still military through and through.

“It concerns me that people confuse the

military with war. We are here to keep peace,

if done right,” Lewis says with conviction

and pride.

Speaking fondly of her dad’s service in the

military, Laura added, “Oh, he’s a flag-waver,

for sure.”

Hometown RANKIN • 23


for voting The Blake at Flowood


Best of the Best "



Mississippi’s Premier Assisted Living and

Memory Care Community

350 Town Center Way | Flowood, MS 39232

(601) 401-4906 | blakeliving.com/flowood

24 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 25




Rankin’s Best of the Best Top 40 Under 40 recognizes the very best young professionals

that Rankin County has to offer. They are industry disruptors and innovators of all types.

They are the best in their fields and will be instrumental in leading us through the new

wave of technology and ways of doing business that have resulted from changes

in the workplace over the last few months.

Criteria for consideration required that candidates must be under the

age of 40 at the time of selection and work in Rankin County. Nominations

were solicited from the public–with the top 40 being selected by committee.

Winners will be celebrated with an awards luncheon on July 21st.

26 • JULY 2020

Hometown RANKIN • 27

Blake Norris Ainsworth

Brady B. Anderson

Brian N. Baucom

Community Bank

Blake Ainsworth is a graduate of Mississippi

State and the Ole Miss banking school, and

currently serves as a lender and vice-president

of Community Bank in Brandon. In his spare

time, Blake enjoys training his dogs, hunting,

and playing golf. Blake is an active board

member of the Rankin County Chamber of

Commerce and serves as the president of the

Rankin County Kiwanis Club.

“Being promoted to vice-president at the

age of 25 is an accomplishment that I’m very

proud of. While being in a leadership role at a

very young age was a great challenge, I sought

to overcome this by working hard and earning

respect from those older than me. My

performance and work ethic proved me

capable of this role at Community Bank.

One piece of business advice that has

impacted my career is to ‘work hard and let the

numbers and success speak for itself.’ This has

allowed me to not only reach my goals, but

even higher goals than were even expected.”

Rainer Law Firm, PLLC,

The McCaughan Company Real

Estate, Southern Raised Children’s

Boutique, The Wilander

Brady Anderson of Brandon works simultaneously

as a paralegal, real estate broker

salesperson, and small business co-owner.

Between two kids under three, multiple jobs,

and co-owning two stores, he doesn’t have

much free time – but when he does, Brady

enjoys woodworking and vacations at the

beach! He also serves as the treasurer/board

director for the Brandon Business Association,

as well as the president of the Cannon Ridge

Homeowners Association.

“Buying a business and opening a new

business during the middle of a pandemic may

not appeal to most, but it’s an exciting adventure

to me! My family and friends definitely thought

I had lost my mind, but I told them it would all

be fine. There will always be challenges, but

I’m proud of my drive to power through these

obstacles, and I couldn’t be more proud of

our stores.

‘Busyness or time shouldn’t stop you from

reaching your dreams. If you don’t do it now,

you’ll never do it!’ I took this advice to heart

with the new business ventures of the past

year. These stores have been a dream of mine

for many years, and when we finally realized

that our lives were never going to slow down,

we dove in head first!”

Merit Health,

Jackson Fire Department

Brian Baucom of Florence is both a

registered nurse with Merit Health and a

firefighter/paramedic with the Jackson Fire

Department. Brian is a member of the MS

Nurses’ Association, the MS Firefighter’s

Association, the International Association of

Firefighters, and Hickory Ridge Baptist Church.

The majority of Brian’s free time is spent with his

wife and kids, reading books, and exercising

as a sport.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome

was to trust myself and my decisions. When I

was first put into leadership positions, I had

doubts that I was making the correct choices.

I’ve overcome this by knowing that I can trust

God, and that I don’t always have to make

perfect decisions – I can only make the best

one for that moment. Even though I’ve had

many successes in my career, my proudest

achievements aren’t measured by accolades.

My proudest moments occur when someone

is in need of help and I’m able to bring comfort

and safety to them.

The best advice I’ve been given is, ‘People

don’t care about how much you know until

they know how much you care.’ This has had

a profound impact on how I treat people,

and patients.”

28 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Tracy Branch

Amanda Nixon Brewer

Kyle Brown

The Glossary Salon,

The Tracy Branch Agency

Tracy Branch is the co-owner of The Glossary

Salon in her hometown of Florence. She is also

a hair stylist and makeup artist with The Tracy

Branch Agency, which she owns and operates.

Tracy is a graduate of Richland High School,

Belhaven College, and the Academy of Hair.

She enjoys creating, thrifting, traveling,

reading, and going to concerts, when time

allows. Tracy is a proud member and volunteer

for AllforGOOD.org, and is a board member of

the Wedding Krewe in New Orleans.

“Coming back to my own hometown to open

a salon with my business partner, Kerri Welch,

has been an absolute honor and something

I’m so proud of when I look back at my career

so far. I’ve also loved getting to travel the country

and do what I love. Our motto is: ‘Success

unshared, is failure.’ – by John Paul Dejoria.

The pandemic/quarantine/salon shut-downs

last year were, of course, scary for all business

owners. We did all we could to stay connected

with our team and clients by creating ways to

keep revenue flowing. My business mentor

once told me, ‘Whatever you decide, make the

decision, and don’t look back. Go forward and

give 100% effort. Don’t look back. Do it.’”

Pearl Public School District

Amanda Brewer graduated from Mississippi

College in 2008 and now works with the Pearl

Public School District as the public relations

specialist. She enjoys spending time with her

husband and two daughters, singing, baking,

and serving on the Rankin County Chamber

Education Committee. Amanda is also a member

of the Mississippi and National School Public

Relations Associations, and was a member of

the Rankin County Chamber Leadership Rankin

Class of 2020.

“The greatest challenge I have faced in my

job has been to establish an effective system

of communication between our school district

and families, businesses, and community leaders

of the City of Pearl. We’re living in a world with

information at our fingertips. In order to inform,

educate, and connect our stakeholders to our

district, I expanded our reach through social

media. Increasing our presence and highlighting

our successes not only increased our online

traffic, it also helped create a stronger sense of

pride in our school throughout the community.

The best piece of business advice I’ve

received is to not be afraid to ask questions.

Being inquisitive helps me gain insight, perform

to the best of my ability, and produce work in

which I am confident. Asking questions also

provides opportunities to learn and grow. I am

surrounded by some incredible people from all

walks of life – they hold insight and knowledge

and I want to soak it up!”

Mississippi Public Utilities Staff

Kyle Brown received his Master of Science

in Economic Development from the University

of Southern Mississippi and now serves as

deputy director on the Mississippi Public Utilities

staff. In years past, Kyle has served as the

president, secretary, treasurer, and architectural

review board director for his homeowner’s

association. He enjoys problem solving and

reading, and has appreciated the opportunities

he’s been given to speak to local Rotary and

Kiwanis Clubs.

“There are several things I’ve achieved over

the course of my career that bring me a sense

of accomplishment. First of all, seeing folks

fishing and kayaking in Crossgates Lake today

makes me smile. Watching people attend any

amphitheater show is another one - I knew it

would be a catalyst for generational change in

Brandon. Lastly, helping bring Starbucks to

Brandon and then later going to work for the

former CEO of Starbucks are both things

I consider a great career achievement.

‘If you do not set a bar of expectation,

then you will never miss it.’ This has always

reminded me to set expectations that are

achievable and when you deliver even higher

or better results than expected, people are

more excited and pleased. Surprising people

is always fun!”

Hometown RANKIN • 29

Katherine Barkett Byrd

Emily Chance

Lauren Smithart Coley

American Heart Association

Katherine Byrd of Flowood is the current

Go Red of Women director with the American

Heart Association. Katherine is a current active

member and provisional advisor for the Junior

League of Jackson, and served as the co-chair

for Rankin County’s Distinguished Young

Women program for seven years. Singing,

exercising, playing tennis, shopping, and

spending time with friends and family are all

things Katherine holds dear.

“I am very proud of my current role at the

American Heart Association, where I have the

honor of working with so many wonderful

community leaders to raise awareness for

heart disease in women. Not only do I get to

work with a great group of people, I have a job

that is making a difference right here in our

community and that makes me extremely

proud to be afforded this opportunity!

The best piece of business advice I’ve ever

received is to make as many connections as

possible. I truly believe the more people you

meet throughout your life and in your professional

career, the more opportunities will be

presented to you. Once you prove your work

ethic and your character as an individual, then

people will recognize that and want you to be

a part of their professional network as well.”


Emily Chance of Richland is the Wellness-

Plus manager with BankPlus and is very

involved in a number of professional and civic

organizations in her community. She loves

spending time with her family, watching her

two boys play ball, running, and CrossFit.

“I am a nurse by trade and have a passion

for helping people. While it’s not traditional

nursing, my goal in this job is to design our

wellness program to impact the health of

others, and it is so rewarding when I hear

from someone that the program did just that.

Whether it be a colleague changing their

lifestyle/behavior or a disease being caught

early from the wellness program, I feel a great

sense of accomplishment from my job, and it

truly gives meaning to what I do.

Trust God has a plan and purpose for your

life—and hard work pays off. The combination

of these two thought processes has brought

me where I am today. Early in my education,

God closed a door but opened an unexpected

one wide, which launched my wellness career.

I had to trust that God put me exactly where

He wanted me to be. Since then, I strive to

work hard in my job each day, and that has

helped me to continue to grow and thrive.”

Flawless Boutique

Lauren Coley is a native of Rankin County,

graduating from Pearl High School before

going on to receive her Bachelor of English

Licensure from The University of Southern

Mississippi, where she also danced with the

Dixie Darlings. While she still enjoys singing

and dance, Lauren also enjoys spending time

with her two boys, watching TV with her

husband, and working out.

“The career achievement that makes me

most proud is when Flawless Boutique won

Best Women’s Boutique in Rankin County for

2020. It means so much that people believe

in our boutique and take time out of their day

to nominate and vote for us.

The best business advice I’ve ever received

is to invest. I use this advice daily to invest in

my co-owner, my brand, my employees, my

customers, and myself. I stay focused on being

intentional that my business represents who I

am as a person. I treat my employees like family,

and connect with our customers in a way that

makes them lifelong friends. During the first

couple of months of the pandemic, Flawless

provided free shipping and even made

hundreds of local home deliveries straight to

our customers’ doorsteps. This was a challenging

experience, but through it I learned how to

adapt to an ever-changing retail environment,

all the while investing in and keeping personal

relationships with our clients.”

30 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Michael Drew Crenshaw

April Shelby Crowell

Jennifer Davis

Brandon Middle School

Drew Crenshaw is the choir director at

Brandon Middle School where he has proudly

served since 2017. Drew received both his

bachelor’s and master’s in music education

from Mississippi State University. He is a member

of both the National Association of Music

Education and the Mississippi Music Educators


“I am very proud of my choirs at Brandon

and am constantly surprised by the amount of

talent at this school. The students have inspired

me as much as anyone in my life. I never

believed that middle schoolers could do as

much as mine can. Having my students perform

beyond expectations is what I am most proud of.

Over the years, I have had several educators

who have told me to not underestimate what

your students can do, that students will meet

whatever bar you set for them. When I started

at Brandon, I had no idea how true that really

was. I learned very quickly that students can

and will rise to the occasion if you give them

the opportunity.”

A. Shelby Pottery

April Crowell is a graduate of Mississippi State

University and an artist and owner of her own

ceramics business, A. Shelby Pottery. April is a

member of FBS Brandon, where she is a

college life group leader and women’s ministry

team member. She is also a Gather Jackson

participant, Pottery Makers of MS member,

and Small Business Development Center

participant. In her spare time, April enjoys

kayaking with her husband, JR.

“My pottery business was a side-gig and

my studio was at home in my garage for years,

but I always dreamed of having a space of my

own. I thought that dream was so far away.

However, after only three months of doing

pottery full-time, I outgrew my garage and

moved into a bigger studio space that was

solely for pottery. Having that space that is

separate from everything else, literally and

figuratively, really helped me focus and allowed

my business to grow even more. It was an

investment that was a big decision to make,

but it was worth it and I’ve never looked back!

As a creative person, you’ve got to stick to

your passion. Continue to make art that you

enjoy and feel good about. Otherwise, this

business you’ve chosen to create is no longer

yours. Also, others can sense if you’re

passionate or not!”

Jane Thomas Salon

Jennifer Davis is a hair stylist and owner of

the new Jane Thomas Salon in Brandon.

When not at the salon, Jennifer spends the

majority of her time with her family, taking her

children to cheer, baseball, and soccer


“Right as I was getting started in hair and

starting to see success, I had a son. He had

major complications and we didn’t think he

was going to make it. During that time I still

managed to take time to work and decided to

not give up on my career. Being able to help

others during my own struggle healed my soul.

It was the absolute hardest time of my life but

I trusted that God would see us through and

I didn’t look back. For that I am so proud.

Always treat others how you want to be

treated. I definitely feel that this is especially

important to remember when you’re in a

leadership role and in the service industry.

Something else that I’ve learned from watching

people over time is to always stay humble.

Humility will take you way farther in life than

any dollar or title could. I think implementing

these concepts into my business is why I’m

where I’m at today, because people don’t just

look at your talent but your character.”

Hometown RANKIN • 31

Zachary Ford Evans

Shane Davis Fletcher

Thomas Flickner

Mississippi Braves

Zach Evans, a Mississippi College graduate

with a degree in sports management, is the

director of stadium operations for the Mississippi

Braves. Zach enjoys spending time with his

wife and son, as well as hunting deer, duck,

turkey, and alligator. He also spends his spare

time watching baseball and football, as well as

continually competing for yard of the month in

his neighborhood! Zach is an active member

of the Pearl Kiwanis Club and the American

Red Cross.

“COVID has been detrimental to everyone,

especially to those of us in the hospitality and

entertainment business. Adapting to a world of

social distancing and creating new events for

our fans to enjoy was quite the challenge.

Clear communication and a ton of trial and

error went into play, and we learned more and

more each day that we are so much more than

a baseball stadium.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received

is to work hard, all day, every day, give 110%,

and then do it again tomorrow. To me, it is so

important to treat everyone with grace and

respect, and to never become too good to

take care of the fundamentals.”

Farm Bureau –

Shane Fletcher Agency

Shane Fletcher graduated from Pearl High

School in 2001 and went on to graduate from

Delta State University in 2006. He enjoys the

outdoors, golf, watching his son play baseball

and soccer, spending time with his wife Emily,

and is an active member of NAIFA and the

Pearl Chamber of Commerce. Shane not only

serves as an insurance agent with Farm Bureau,

but also as assistant soccer coach at Pearl High

School and a reserve police officer at the Pearl

Police Department.

“Restarting my career at the age of 30 in the

insurance agency presented many challenges,

but I dedicated my time and energy to learning

the business and building relationships. When

I was hired in 2014, I won New Agent of the

Year, which is the highest award Farm Bureau

offers. I finished first in production among

3,600+ agents in 13 states, and I was very

proud of this achievement.

My grandfather always said ‘doing right is

always the right thing.’ I try and apply this to

not only my personal life, but also my business.

I always want my clients to know that I put them

first in every business decision I make.”

Thrash Commercial Contractors, Inc.

Thomas Flickner serves as controller with

Thrash Commercial Contractors and is a

graduate of Mississippi State University. In his

spare time, Thomas enjoys spending quality

time with family and close friends, as well as

being in the great outdoors. Thomas is a proud

member of Shiloh United Methodist Church,

where he serves on the Missions and Shiloh

Campground Committees. He is also a

representative member of the Construction

Financial Management Association.

“Looking back on my career thus far, I am

most proud of my ability to purchase, develop,

and invest in properties at a young age. The

biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is a

lack of time, yet throughout my career I have

learned how valuable one’s time truly is. I have

learned the difference between being present

in the moment and simply one’s presence. This

has helped me slow down and celebrate the

small accomplishments, not only the major


The best advice that I have carried over

into my career is to push yourself – set an

unachievable goal, focus yourself, then surpass

yourself. Everyone’s biggest competitor is

oneself. Always push yourself and you will be

surprised what you will accomplish.”

32 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Kenneth Gray

Michael Gray

Erin Russell Green

First Baptist Church Richland

Kenneth Gray serves at First Baptist Church

Richland as minister of students and teaches

high school Bible at Discovery Christian School

in Florence. After graduating from Mississippi

College, Kenneth went on to obtain his

master’s from New Orleans Baptist Theological

Seminary. In his free time, Kenneth enjoys

watching sports, playing guitar, spending time

outside, and above all he enjoys spending

quality time with family and friends.

“It is very common for those who pursue

youth ministry to live very transient lives,

moving quickly from one place in the ministry

to another. Although the challenges of local

church ministry can be daunting, through the

sustenance of the Lord, the support of my wife,

and the love of our congregation, I have been

able to faithfully stay at FBC Richland for almost

eight years. It has been unbelievably rewarding

to have been able to serve in one place for so

long. I cherish being able to see former youth

who I had the privilege to invest in serving their

local church, communities, and families well!

‘Ministry isn’t everything – Jesus is.’ – Ray

Ortlund. This quote, like many others, has

served as a guiding force to remind me to

keep Jesus as my focus and allow ministry to

overflow from my relationship with Jesus.

Philippians 3:8, ‘Indeed, I count everything as

loss because of the surpassing worth of

knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’”

Irby Electric

formerly Stribling Equipment

Michael Gray received his bachelor’s

degree in business administration from

Mississippi College. He has recently moved

from his position as credit manager with

Stribling Equipment to director of credit with

Irby Electric. Michael’s hobbies include shooting

sports, hunting, being a soccer dad, cheering

on Mississippi State, and spending time with

his family.

“COVID has been the biggest challenge

thus far in my career. The historical methods

and analytics fall short of being able to predict

circumstances in such an unprecedented time.

Businesses have struggled with cash flow and

revolving the credit accounts. We’ve had to

create different and new financial products to

assist customers through this troubled time,

but I am proud of our team and how we have


As a manager, my biggest achievements

have been in my teams of people. I’ve had

many former team members to be promoted

into upper management and higher positions

within our own organization at the time and into

other companies. This is rewarding for me not

only on a professional level, but a personal

one as well.

I was taught this many years ago and have

used it an untold amount of times. The advice

was that ‘Management is doing things right.

Leadership is doing the RIGHT things!’”

Grants Ferry Family Dentistry,

Green Wellness Spa

Erin Green is the owner and serves as a

dentist at Grants Ferry Family Dentistry in

Brandon and is the owner of Green Wellness

Spa. Erin is a member of the American and

Mississippi Dental Associations, American

Academy of Facial Esthetics, Rankin County

Chamber of Commerce, and Pinelake Church.

Raising kids, writing, interior design, exercise,

and reading are a few things Erin enjoys doing,

when time allows.

“Through support of close friends and family

and a lot of prayer, I’ve opened a dental

practice and Mississippi’s first dental spa while

simultaneously having four children and

supporting my husband’s career goals – this,

along with being the first doctor in my family,

is what I consider the biggest challenge I’ve

overcome in my career. I’m proud of the recent

addition of GWS to GFFD during 2020, a time

where many thought I was crazy for opening

a new business. It was a long-term dream that

allowed me to believe that anything is possible

if you believe in it.

The best piece of business advice I’ve ever

received is to hire the best people you can

afford and prioritize their happiness. I have an

amazing team and each individual brings

unique value and perspective that makes for

a successful and fun business environment.”

Hometown RANKIN • 33

Jordan Hall

Wendy Hamilton

Derek Havard

JAM Athletics

Jordan Hall is a choreographer and owner

of JAM Athletics, an all-star cheer, tumbling,

and dance training center in Flowood.

Originally from Panama City, Florida, Jordan is

now on the board of directors at GRIT Training

and has been a member with the USASF for

over ten years.

“Due to COVID-19, our doors were closed

during our national season, and of course

this cut our season short unexpectedly. Not

knowing what was going to happen financially

and mentally for our athletes, my staff and I

created a program called CORONA CAUTION!

This was a virtual program that kept the

athletes engaged from any location and gave

them daily challenges to complete. Due to the

success from this program, we were able to

fully fund our payroll for our staff and keep

things going at JAM! I’m very proud of all those

involved in that process at a very difficult time.

As a young kid I couldn’t afford all-star

cheerleading, so my cheer coach Robert

DelTorro told me I needed to learn and

understand the value of a dollar! With that

I worked in the gym and learned its daily

operations. To this day, I still use his advice

and even moreso now that I have my own

cheer gym. I strive to be the best in the

business and pay it forward any chance I can!”

Capital Ortho

Wendy Hamilton is a registered nurse and

first assistant in surgery at Capital Ortho in

Flowood. A mom of two young boys, Wendy

loves to watch them play ball in her free time,

as well as traveling and making memories

with her family.

“My favorite career achievement was taking

the extra step to become a first assistant in

surgery. I did not know how I would be able to

do this with two young kids but I knew if I could

put my mind to it, along with the help of my

husband, I would be able to get it done.

As an orthopedic nurse of 10 years, I have

faced many challenges. The biggest challenge

by far was trying to take care of patients during

the COVID pandemic. It was also during the

pandemic that I personally faced my biggest

challenge to date. In October of 2020, my

husband was involved in a horrific vehicle

accident, leaving him with substantial physical

and brain injuries. This experience has

stretched and grown our family tremendously,

and helped my vision as a nurse to understand

what life is like at home for my patients and

their loved ones.

Treat every patient as if they were a loved

one. Listen and show compassion to every

patient, showing them you truly care about

them! Patients learn to trust you and will rely on

you for any help or advice they may need.”

Havard Real Estate Group

Derek Havard of Pearl began his real estate

career at the age of 20 and is now a real estate

broker and owner of Havard Real Estate Group.

Derek serves as the president of the Pearl

Chamber of Commerce, is a board member

for the Pearl Educational Foundation for

Excellence, and is a member of the National,

Mississippi, and Central Mississippi Association

of Realtors. Derek enjoys traveling to explore

new places, and spending time with his wife

and dogs.

“I always dreamed of opening my own

brokerage. In achieving that dream, I have

been blessed with an amazing group of agents

to work alongside each day. With our commitment

to service, our small firm has grown to be

home of 26 agents who have built our firm to

rank as one of the top-producing firms in the

Central MS market.

One of my former business coaches told

me that I had to learn to ‘do it, delete it, or

delegate it!’ This advice stuck with me and has

made a huge impact on my career and how

efficiently I can work each day. It taught me

the importance of having a top-notch administrative

staff, as they truly are the backbone to

our business.”

34 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Shelby Hennessy

Kevin Norman Hodges

Nathan Holditch

The Blue Feather

Shelby Hennessy is the owner of The Blue

Feather a delightful new coffee shop and

bakery located in Pearl. She is a board member

with Pearl Main Street Development, a member

of the Pearl Chamber of Commerce, and

serves McLaurin Heights Baptist Church as

their VBS director and Sunday school leader.

Although she doesn’t get to go very often,

Shelby loves kayaking with her husband, is

known to thrive under pressure, and enjoys

public speaking.

“I was operating my business out of my

home for years. Learning how to manage that

while being a full-time stay-at-home mom to

two toddlers was very challenging at times,

and it pushed me to grow my business and

finally open my own storefront. Looking back,

I am very proud of that, especially having done

so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the best business advice I’ve been

given is to ‘be patient, and you will know when

the time is right.’ Being encouraged to be

patient and wait has always been welcomed.

Even though I knew that opening during a

pandemic would be tough, I also knew in my

gut that it was the right time. We walked into it

with faith!”

Kroger Pharmacy

Kevin Hodges is the pharmacist in charge at

the Brandon Kroger Pharmacy and is a

graduate of East Rankin Academy and the

University of Mississippi. Kevin is an active

member of Park Place Baptist Church, where

he serves as a deacon, Sunday school teacher,

and as a member of the stewardship committee.

In his spare time, Kevin enjoys reading,

cooking, traveling, wood working projects,

attending Ole Miss athletic events, and

spending time with his friends, family, and dog.

“I am proud of the fact that I was able to go

from intern to staff pharmacist to pharmacist in

charge with the same company and at the

same store. I still work with a few people and

see customers that were here when I started,

and those are special relationships. Also, I

knew I was doing something right when my

grandmother and great aunts moved their

prescriptions to me – that took a few years,


The district coordinator that hired me out of

pharmacy school told us, ‘There is nothing in

this world more important than how you treat

other people.’ I believe that statement to be

important not only in the workplace, but in life

in general. You never know what the person in

front of you is going through, and you may just

be the only smile or kind word that person

receives that day.”

Front Gate Realty; Destination

Homes, LLC; Destination

Properties, LLC; Pitch Perfect

Roofing & Construction, LLC;

Holditch Properties, LLC

Nathan Holditch is involved in all things

pertaining to real estate, from landscaping and

roofing, to building and selling/developing.

A Mississippi State graduate with a degree in

construction management and land development,

Nathan now co-owns four businesses

in Rankin County. Nathan is a member and

deacon at Crossgates Baptist Church and

serves his neighborhood HOA board as the

developer. When not working or spending time

with his wife and three kids, Nathan enjoys

mentoring and encouraging young entrepreneurs,

as well as wakeboarding, snowboarding,

off-shore/in-shore fishing, and boating.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being

surrounded with tons of people doing the

same things I do and doing them well. The

way I have to overcome this is by developing

methods and strategies that separate me from

the crowd while more importantly benefiting

my clients. Through the years, I am most proud

of the connections I have made, the relationships

I’ve built, and the people I have been

able to help.

The best business advice I’ve received was

to ‘spend less than you make. “Following this

advice has allowed me to both save money

and build up working capital.”

Hometown RANKIN • 35

Paul Maxwell Holley

Joshua Lunn

Matt Manor

Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,

Rankin County Election Commission

Paul Holley provides legal counsel for the

sheriff of Rankin County and was recently

elected election commissioner for District 2 in

Rankin County. After receiving his bachelor’s

degree from Mississippi State University, he

went on to obtain his juris doctorate from the

Mississippi College School of Law.

In his free time, Paul enjoys coaching youth

sports, reading, hunting, fishing, and working

out. Paul is a member of the Mississippi Bar

Association, the Rankin County Bar Association,

and the Northshore Elementary PTO.

“The career achievement that I am most

proud of thus far is being presented the 2020

Lee Tartt Award. Being mentioned in the same

breath with the man that made the ultimate

sacrifice for his colleagues and the citizens of

this state was a huge honor.

My father told me once to listen more and

speak less. He explained that people often

want to just be heard and that by just being a

good listener, you can learn more in addition to

maybe just helping that person out.”

Kopis Mobile

Joshua Lunn is the co-founder and director

of engineering for Kopis Mobile in Flowood.

Joshua graduated from Mississippi State

University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

He is an accomplished entrepreneur, using his

software design and development skills to

build complete systems in a variety of

industries such as financial services, electric

utilities, and online retail. When time allows,

Joshua enjoys playing and watching golf.

“Helping to build the fastest growing

technology company in Mississippi is something

I’m incredibly proud of. As of 2021, we

have an eight-year-old Mississippi-based

technology company that is still going strong

and defying the odds. We at Kopis have a

strong team that is able to weather whatever

challenges come our way.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve

received is to enjoy the journey. As a high

achiever, I am often focused on the end goal.

I have learned that focusing only on the end

product leads to short bursts of joy in achievement

that quickly fades. However, having a

vision/purpose, building a great team, and

striving to constantly provide value to our

customers helps to maintain a feeling of pride.”

Son Seekers After School

and Summer Camp

Matt Manor is the owner and program

director at Son Seekers in Pearl. Matt is a

member of Hickory Ridge Baptist Church,

and is a member of a national network of

childcare directors, as well as the Rankin

County and Pearl Chambers of Commerce.

“I had no savings and was working two

jobs when I started Son Seekers. I had to leave

my full-time job and keep shortening and

giving up shifts at my part time job. It was an

amazing time of seeing God provide for me

when my income was a fraction of my monthly

bills. To say my faith was built as I had no other

option but to trust Him to multiply fish and

loaves, both in the business and in my life

personally, is a big understatement!

‘Give yourself a salary.’ I grew up watching

my dad put everything into his business, and

the struggle of balancing pulling money for

personal use and putting money back in the

company to keep it afloat. He eventually

partnered with an investor, who set him on a

salary. That stuck with me as the tone of both

work and home was completely changed.

Being a salaried employee has allowed me to

be guilt-free about earning a living, taking care

of the program’s needs, and then allotting the

remainder as profit or funds to continue to

grow and improve the program.”

36 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Alana Victoria Miles

Whitney Leigh Pace

Lyndsey Patrick

Rivertrust Federal Credit Union

Alana Miles obtained her Bachelor of Arts

in Psychology from Mississippi University for

Women and is currently the marketing director

for Rivertrust Federal Credit Union. Alana

enjoys traveling, painting, clothing/costumes,

and celebrating every holiday possible.

“Working through the Covid pandemic was a

challenge, of course, because of the unprecedented

fear that we all felt from an unseen and

unstudied enemy. Our lives completely changed,

from the way we conducted business, to the

way we moved throughout our days, to

interacting with one another. I pray that we are

rounding a corner in this pandemic battle.

Through it all though, God has been good.

My faith has gotten me through.

My dear friend and mentor, Judge Mary

Libby Payne, has been a constant source of

support and inspiration to me ever since we

were matched together in the mentor program

at MUW. I was an aspiring lawyer at the time,

and we became fast friends. At some point,

I was applying for and stressing over some

accolade, and she quickly noted: ‘Alana, you

are well-deserving, and you are certainly

qualified. But don’t you ever tie your self-worth

to man-given awards. Because if you’re not

enough without it, you’ll never be enough

with it.’ Those words have echoed in my mind

countless times over the years and as I’ve

gotten older.”

Studio Sole Dance,

Soul to Sole Dancewear

Whitney Pace of Florence is the owner of

Studio Sole Dance and co-owner of Soul to

Sole Dancewear. She is a proud member of

the National Dance Education Organization

and the Rankin County Chamber and, of

course, enjoys dancing, choreographing,

traveling, and drawing.

“I am most proud of simply pursuing my

dreams and starting my business from the

ground up. With the help of my parents, I was

able to pursue a passion and make it a career.

A couple years after Studio Sole Dance

opened, I partnered with my mom to open a

dancewear/athletic clothing store. I’m humbled

that not only was I able to bring dance to a

continuously growing community, but that I

was also able to make being a dancer more

convenient by opening the store. I am proud

of the success of both!

Treat people right! - I learned early in

my business career that if you treat people

(employees, customers, students, etc.) the right

way, they will support your dreams. I strive every

day to do just that. I try to continuously show

my appreciation for my staff as much as

possible. I believe a huge part of building a

business is building relationships. I always say,

‘GOD loves Studio Sole Dance.’ He never fails

to show himself in every aspect of my business

and I always want the people around me to

know just how grateful I am.”

GI Associates

Lyndsey Patrick is the lead CRNA (certified

registered nurse anesthetist) at GI Associates

in Flowood. After she received her Bachelor

of Nursing from UMMC, Lyndsey went on to

Samford University to receive her Master of

Anesthesia. Lyndsey loves jazz music, and

not many people know that she can play the

alto saxophone!

“As a working mother of five boys, the

biggest challenge for me is finding balance

in work and home. My heart is with my family,

and my work enables me to enjoy them all

the more. This year at GI Associates, I have

stepped into the lead anesthesia role, and my

goal is to lead well. I am humbled and thankful

that my colleagues trust me to be fair and kind.

‘People will forget what you’ve said, people

will forget what you did, but they will never

forget how you made them feel’ – Maya

Angelou. In anesthesia, there is a small window

of time to build rapport with a patient. I am with

them at their most vulnerable time, and it is

important to me to build trust. I also find this

advice echoes through the rest of life as well

- people desire to be acknowledged and

appreciated. A genuine attitude of kindness

and honor gets you there.”

Hometown RANKIN • 37

Deloris Larria Powell

Julia Putt

Brooke Rhodes

Right Investment Realty, LLC

Deloris Powell with Right Investment Realty

is a real estate broker and a member of the

National Realtors Association. Deloris enjoys

spending time with her family, cooking, interior

decorating, and being a hair stylist.

“My biggest challenge has been becoming

an entrepreneur. I have always been somewhat

of an introvert and never considered myself

to be business oriented, and certainly not a

salesperson. With the support and encouragement

from my husband, I finally took that leap

of faith and established my brokerage firm in

September 2020. I’m excited and looking

forward to a long prosperous career in real

estate if it is the Lord’s will. God has blessed

me to become a registered dental hygienist,

licensed hairstylist and establish my real estate

brokerage firm all before the age of 40.

The best piece of advice I’ve received is to

be open minded and eager to grow - there is

no success without failures, knock downs, let

downs and growing pains. The joy of being an

entrepreneur is reflecting back and realizing

that I overcame those setbacks through

constant prayer and faith in God trusting he will

see me through every situation according to

his will. Those challenges have equipped me

to perpetuate unrelenting growth.”

Fresh Cut Catering & Floral,

Galleries Rentals

Julia Putt majored in horticulture with a

concentration in business and floral management

during her time at Mississippi State and

is now an event stylist and floral designer with

Fresh Cut Catering and Floral and Galleries

Rentals in Flowood. Julia’s latest hobby has

been floral workshops, as she loves meeting

new people and sharing her passion for flowers.

“I am most proud of our amazing staff, and

that we were able to stay standing while being

faced with Covid and a fire. We lost our new

building for our new event rental business,

Galleries, and everything in it. It was heartbreaking

to watch it literally burn to the ground,

but by the grace of God, He got us through

and allowed us to rebuild and move back in

within ten months! We know Covid hit a lot

of businesses extremely hard, and our hearts

remain with them.

Never stop dreaming - the sky is the limit!

My parents have taught this to be so true. For

example, my dream has always been to have

a showroom where our clients could better see

what we offer, and that is exactly what Galleries

provides. It has truly been a dream come true

to watch our clients better visualize their event

with our rental displays! I appreciate my

parents Wendy and Bruce Putt for allowing an

expansion of the business. Without them,

I would not be where I am today!”

East Rankin Academy

Brooke Rhodes is the new head girls’

basketball coach at East Rankin Academy in

Pelahatchie. She earned both her bachelor’s

and master’s degrees from the University of

Southern Mississippi and now serves as an

ambassador for Shannon’s Homes of Hope

and is a member of Women’s Basketball

Coaches Association. In her free time, Brooke

enjoys farming at her family’s farm, running,

and most outdoor activities.

“Prior to April 2021, I was college basketball

coach for six years. Four of those years were

at the Division 1 level in areas of the country

that I was unfamiliar with. I had to make all new

relationships for recruiting while also helping

turn around a program that had previously

been in shambles. This experience was very

challenging but taught me a lot about perseverance

and the importance of relationships.

The best advice I’ve been given is to have/

find a job that you truly love so you never work

a day in your life. I can honestly say that I’ve

found that job, because I love basketball and

helping young ladies become better players.

But more importantly, I love building relationships

with them and helping them grow into

strong women.”

38 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40

Jerrick W. Rose

Christopher Landon Stroud

Lindsey Renee Walker

The Pediatric Dental Studio

Jerrick Rose is a pediatric dentist and the

owner of The Pediatric Dental Studio in Pearl.

Outside of his work in dentistry, Jerrick is a

volunteer and active board member with

Bridge Builders Leadership institute and is also

a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Jerrick is an avid gym enthusiast, traveler,

restaurateur, and real estate investor.

“My greatest challenge has been starting

my private practice, which is part of why The

Pediatric Dental Studio makes me most proud!

This practice was developed from the ground

up and has flourished into more than I could

have ever imagined. We have treated well over

20,000 patients and we are still growing. We

have a knowledgeable and well-trained staff,

whose primary concern is the care of our

patients. We participate in our community, both

as individuals and as a group. My colleagues

remain my greatest resource and I appreciate

those relationships.

‘Dress for the job you want not the job you

have.’ This statement impacted my entire life.

I have always conducted myself with the future

me in mind. Living by this mantra has afforded

me many opportunities. No matter where you

are in life, strive for greater and greater will come.”

The Club at Crossgates, The Club

24/7, Brandon Athletic Club,

Brandon Club Properties

Landon Stroud earned his bachelor’s degree

in physical education with a concentration in

fitness management, and now serves as the

general manager with The Club at Crossgates,

The Club 24/7, Brandon Athletic Club, and

Brandon Club Properties. Landon loves to

spend time with his children, bow hunt,

wakeboard, and work out, and many do not

know that he is also a talented musician and

artist, enjoying playing guitar and recording

his own piano pieces.

“I’d have to say the specific career achievement

that makes me most proud so far has

been building the team for and launching

The Brandon Athletic Club/Kids Club Aftercare

and summer camp. The Lord opened so many

doors throughout the process to make it

happen, and it’s been truly awesome to see

Him bless families through our staff and


In the beginning of my career, I had to

overcome trying to do and be all things and

learned to delegate and distribute responsibility

more frequently. ‘In your core team of

management personnel, hire people that excel

at your weaknesses.’ I consider this advice

every time I hire for key positions in our business,

and really believe it’s part of what has allowed

us to grow exponentially.”

NewSouth Neurospine

Lindsey Walker is a medical laboratory technician

and currently serves as a lab manager with

NewSouth Neurospine in Flowood. Lindsey is

a member of the American Society of Clinical

Pathology, and loves to serve her home church

where she is a team leader for a women’s

discipleship group, is the chairman of the

children’s ministry and nursery, and teaches

fifth and sixth grade Sunday school. Lindsey

has a heart for serving and getting to know

others, and enjoys reading, music, spending

time with her family, and watching her kids

play sports.

“Since I have been promoted to lab manager,

I have been able to bring in a fully functional

lab to my employer. When I was hired, everything

was contracted, and now we have a lab

that can run over 50 tests in-house for our

patients, and I’m proud to have been a part

of this accomplishment.

The best business advice I ever received

was to let your work prove your point. If you

work hard, are honest, and stay humble, your

hard work will pay off. Above all else, give

God all the glory. NewSouth Neurospine is a

wonderful place to work, and I’m so blessed

to be there!”

Hometown RANKIN • 39

Tiffany Boyte West

Brennan Morris Williams

Richard Tanner Wilson

Bob Boyte Honda,

Bob Boyte Honda Moss Point

Tiffany West earned her degree in broadcast

journalism and is now a dealer manager at

Bob Boyte Honda. Tiffany is a board member

for Special Olympics Mississippi and NAMAD/

NADA, and enjoys singing, playing tennis,

biking, and helping young women in business

and lifestyle.

“Being a young female in a male dominated

industry was extremely difficult to break into

and earn respect. It was important to me to

always work my hardest, be the smartest I

could be, and to always grow. I overcame this

challenge by working in every department

within a dealership, not being afraid to ask

questions, learning from my mistakes, and not

making them twice, all while setting aside my

ego and always listening to the best advice.

Something that has always kept driving me

is this piece of advice from my dad: ‘The day

that you stop learning is the day you stop

growing and when you stop growing, you start

dying.’ Our dealership is number one because

we have always strived to provide exceptional

service. We work with our hearts because we

are passionate about what we do but also think

with our heads to make sure we are the most

efficient ones out there. When we find

mistakes, we fix them and go on to the next

and we never stop.”

The Wilander, Hopper Properties,

Children’s Hospital of MS

Brennan Williams is co-owner of The

Wilander in downtown Brandon, is an associate

broker with Hopper Properties, and also serves

as a pediatric critical care nurse practitioner at

Children’s Hospital of Mississippi. Brennan is a

member of a number of professional realtor

and nurse practitioner organizations, and

enjoys photography, tennis, bartending, and

attending Ole Miss football games.

“Through my different careers and passions,

I have the opportunity to serve people. At the

hospital, I serve the children of Mississippi and

their families on what is often their worst day.

As a realtor, I serve families by helping them

find their dream homes and represent them in

some of their biggest investment transactions.

The Wilander has given me the opportunity to

serve my community. The ability to serve my

community and the state of Mississippi has

been my biggest blessing and proudest

career accomplishment.

A wise friend once told me, ‘Always seek

an opportunity to learn.’ Shying away from

education, or these opportunities, is what I

believe to be one of the most detrimental

characteristics to growing as a person, a

leader, and a business owner. As a young

leader, I remain cognizant of my position

by searching for others that I can look up to

and grow from regularly.”

Tanner Wilson Farm Bureau,

K.R. Wilson, Inc.,

Disinfect-Care of MS, LLC

Tanner Wilson is a native of Florence and

a graduate of Mississippi State University. He

proudly serves our community as an insurance

agent with Tanner Wilson Farm Bureau, and

also owns and operates two additional

businesses locally: K.R. Wilson, Inc. and

Disinfect-Care of MS, LLC. Tanner is a member

of the MWPCOA, MSRWA, and the National

Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

When not working, Tanner enjoys spending

his time hunting, playing golf, exploring the

outdoors, and being with his son, Wynne.

“Owning and operating three business in

Rankin County, two of which we built from

scratch, is my proudest career achievement

thus far. The biggest challenge I have had to

overcome is remembering a work-life balance

is critical to having healthy relationships and a

successful business. Having a supportive

spouse is key. I wouldn’t be where I am today

without the support of my family, friends and


‘Take care of people and they will take care

of you.’ This has been true with employees,

friends, owners we do business with, as well

as their employees. An appreciative work

environment is always the best environment.”

40 • JULY 2021

top 40 under 40



Hunter Miller

Miller’s Custom Carpentry

Hunter Miller is a graduate of Brandon

High School and the owner/founder of Miller’s

Custom Carpentry based out of Florence.

Hunter is known for his craftsmanship,

professionalism, and work ethic, always

completing a job with excellence. In his spare

time, Hunter enjoys hunting, fishing, coaching

his son’s baseball team, and spending time in

the great outdoors.

“Deciding to step out in faith and invest in

myself has been the biggest challenge I’ve

had to overcome in my career so far. Leaving

a dead-end job was scary, but I’m glad I did, as

it has proven to be well worth it. I’m just proud

to be where I am today. When I started this

business, my family and I were living in my

father’s rental trailer, eating his leftovers. Today

we just finished building our forever home on

36 acres, and I couldn’t be happier to be able

to provide that for my family!

Value over revenue – this phrase/advice is

some of the best I’ve been given and has

definitely impacted my career. Revenue will

only come after someone values what I have

to offer. It is crucial to always build a trustworthy

relationship with the customer.”

Special thanks goes to

PriorityOne Bank

for sponsoring this event.

And congratulations to all the winners!

Hometown Rankin Magazine

looks forward to telling your stories

as your stars continue to shine.




Hometown RANKIN • 41

42 • JULY 2021

v o t e d " b e s t D i n n e r "


Hometown RANKIN • 43

44 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 45



Judy’s Strawberry

Pretzel Salad

Nancy Swales

• 1½ cups crushed pretzels

• 1 (8 oz.) container frozen

whipped topping (thawed)

• 4½ Tbsp. of white sugar

• 1 (6 oz.) package strawberry

flavored gelatin

• ¾ cup butter - melted

• 2 cups boiling water

• 1 cup white sugar

• 1 (16 oz.) package frozen


• 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix

together the pretzels, sugar and

butter and press into the bottom of a

9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes

or until lightly toasted. Set aside to

cool completely. In a medium bowl,

beat the sugar and cream cheese

until smooth. Fold in whipped

topping and spread evenly

over the “cooled” crust.

Refrigerate until set (about

30 minutes). In a medium

bowl, stir together the

gelatin mix and boiling

water. Mix in the frozen

strawberries and stir until

thawed. Pour over cream

cheese mixture in pan.

Refrigerate until

completely chilled

(at least 1 hour).

Stuffed Mushrooms

Nancy Swales

• 12 whole fresh mushrooms,

tough ends trimmed

• 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1 Tbsp. minced garlic

• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese,


• ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

• ¼ tsp. ground black pepper

• ¼ tsp. onion powder

• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

• cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare

a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Clean mushrooms with a damp

paper towel. Carefully break off

stems. Pulse in food processor to

get them to a fine consistency.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium

heat. Fry chopped mushroom stems

and garlic in hot oil until all moisture

has disappeared taking care not to

burn the garlic (3 to 5 minutes).

Spread the mushroom mixture into

a bowl to cool completely (about

10 minutes). Stir cream cheese,

Parmesan cheese, black pepper,

onion powder, and cayenne powder

with the mushroom stems and garlic

until very thick and completely

mixed. Use a small spoon to fill each

mushroom cap with a generous

portion of stuffing. Arrange stuffed

mushrooms onto the prepared

cookie sheet. Bake in preheated

oven until piping hot and liquids

tart to form und the caps (about

20 minutes).

Summer Vegetable


Donna Speed

• 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• ½ tsp. salt, divided

• 1 cup diced fresh zucchini

• ½ tsp. black pepper, divided

• ½ cup chopped red, yellow

or green bell pepper

• 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled & diced

• ⅓ cup chopped onion

• ½ cup chopped fresh tomato

• 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

or rosemary

• 9 large eggs (or) 1 cup egg

substitute and 5 fresh eggs

Heat olive oil in 10-inch cast iron

skillet. Add zucchini, bell pepper,

onion, thyme or rosemary, ¼ tsp.

salt, pepper and garlic. Cover and

cook until vegetables are tender,

stirring occasionally , usually 5-7

minutes. Stir into any other leftover

vegetables and tomato. Cook,

uncovered for 5 minutes or until

liquid evaporates. Combine eggs

and remaining salt and pepper.

Stir with a whisk until frothy.

Pour egg mixture into pan over

vegetables, stirring gently. Cover,

reduce heat and cook 15 minutes

or until almost set in the center.

Preheat broiler. Broil frittata

3 minutes or until set. Invert onto

a serving platter and cut into wedges.

Makes 8 servings.

46 • JULY 2021

Nancy Swales and her husband have

lived in the Cornerstone Subdivision

for five years. This home has made it

possible for her to really enjoy

cooking with a huge open space

looking into the den, dining room

and breakfast area. Nancy’s family

enjoys cooking and eating at home

with each other.


Back to School


a u g u s t


- 7

Donna Speed is a registered dietitian

and works for the Dairy Farmers of

Mississippi. She enjoys preparing a

frittata because she is able to use

vegetables she’s grown in her own

back yard and it’s perfect for breakfast,

lunch, or supper. Donna has lived in

Rankin County for over 33 years and

loves that the community is such a

family-oriented place. She is active

with preschool ministries at Pinelake

and is grateful to be raising a

6-year-old angel that keeps her busy

each day.

The Vault

downtown Brandon

Don’t miss this opportunity to revamp your

fall wardrobe with incredible clothing and

accessory vendors from all over the state.

Friday, August 6, 10am-7pm

Saturday, August 7, 10am-6pm

$5 entry / Cash or card

601-260-9277 for more info

Hometown RANKIN • 47

48 • JULY 2021




The physicians and staff of

GI Associates join in celebrating

Lyndsey Patrick as a Top 40 Under 40.

As a certified registered nurse

anesthetist, Lyndsey is a great example

of the CARE approach to patient health

that is foundational at GI Associates.

Learn more about GI Associates at gi.md

Richland Senior Center Q&A

What does freedom mean to you?

Pat Randall

To me, freedom means

I have the ability to speak and

express my thoughts without

being told what to do. We are

blessed to be in a country

where we still can worship as

we please and express ourselves.

I am proud to be an


Faye Burnside

Freedom can be used in

a good way or a bad way.

I choose to be grateful for

my freedom and do as much

good as I can. Here in Richland

I’m glad they have given senior

citizens a place to come and

enjoy our freedom, sharing

with others the fun, exercise,

crafts, games, etc. Freedom

is something Christians

should always use for good.

Linda McLendon

Freedom means having the

opportunity to live life doing

what we love to do everyday,

serving our Lord where

and when we want.

Jean Goodman

Freedom is the right to

worship my God of choice.

I want my great-granddaughter

to have the same freedoms

I have had for my 74 years.

America is the greatest country

of all! Let freedom ring!

Shirley Speairs

Freedom means I have the right

to express my opinion in all

situations, the freedom to go

to the religion of my choice, to

vote for whom I want to, and

be allowed to have and/or

carry a gun. It is the greatest

thing a country can have

– true freedom.

Linda Hurst

Freedom means being able

to worship, go to church, and

fellowship with other Christians.

We got a lesson during Covid

what freedom meant.

Diane Croxton

Freedom is the right to make

life choices without fear of

persecution. As an Army nurse

veteran, my personal and

political freedom was paid for

by the sweat, blood, and life of

the American G.I. As a Christian,

my religious freedom was

paid for by the sweat, blood,

and life of Jesus Christ.

God bless the USA!

Mary Owen

Freedom is everything.

Without it, you have no voice

- and government usually runs

what you do and how it’s done.

The men and women who have

fought all these years for our

freedom should always be

remembered as very special

and for everything they do,

even losing their lives.

50 • JULY 2021

Martha Mowdy

It means I can talk to my

friends and be with them

when I can. I can go to church

and I can be with my family,

and that helps me.

Georgia Tackett

Freedom to vote, freedom

to worship, freedom to speak,

freedom to a good education.

God Bless America, a great

country to raise your children.

Sandra Pruitt

Freedom means everything to

me. Freedom means

doing what God has planned for

me. Freedom means joy,

happiness, love and faith.

Bobbie Garner

Freedom is the right to vote

with an I.D., and a fair election

– the freedom to speak.

Jimmie Sue Simpson

Freedom means everything

to me.

Sylvia Rieger

Freedom of religion and speech

- to be able to make choices

without being dictated.

Sara Oldham

I feel so blessed to live where

I do, when I do. We are so

blessed to be free, to come and

go and feel like it’s OK to do

whatever within the law.

Rhonda Anderson

Freedom is my grandchildren

being able to grow up in the

same world as I did: free

to do what the want, to live, to

speak, and to worship.

The Richland Senior Center

has been in operation for twenty-five years and is a true

treasure of the Richland community. The staff at TRSC is

very intentional about creating a space for seniors with an

area to gather, practice favorite pastimes, learn new skills,

and foster friendships, both old and new. Card games, arts

and crafts, dance lessons, and exercise classes are just a few

examples of the programs available to these beloved citizens.

TRSC staff puts the mental and emotional health of their

members at the forefront, which they demonstrate through

encouraging participation in the Bible study and grief counseling

classes. A couple of times a year, the center travels with

about thirty-five seniors, out of state, to do a little exploring!

Branson, Missouri, has been a favorite in the past, and the

group is planning to visit Savannah, Georgia, and Pigeon

Forge, Tennessee, in the future.

“We are passionate about seniors. Our job here is to

enhance their quality of life through physical and social activity.

It’s a wonderful thing. We’re fortunate to have a city that knows

it’s population of senior adults and wants to take care of them.”


Hometown RANKIN • 51

52 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 53

54 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 55

56 • JULY 2021

TheCoker s



Tell us about your family.

We are the Coker family! Our family of four includes

Karrie and Bradley, Grayson who is five and Camden

who is four. Bradley’s hobbies include farming and

working on hot rods, and Karrie loves chasing the

Coker boys around the farm.

How did you meet, and how long have you

been married?

Bradley and I met at a University of Mississippi

Medical Center party, and have been married for

twelve years.

Do you allow time to be with your spouse

for a date night?

Yes, we try to go out on a date at least once a month.

We especially love to go out for sushi!

What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?

It is our goal to raise our boys to be self-sustainable,

respected, humble and God-fearing men. Our greatest

joys come when we see glimpses of that in our young

boys’ lives.

Who is the financial manager in your home?

I handle the personal and day-to-day finances, and

Bradley does the business side of things, handling the

finances of Coker Farms.

Hometown RANKIN • 57

What do you see in your role as the greatest benefit

to your family?

BRADLEY - My greatest benefit to my family is my work ethic.

KARRIE - The greatest thing I bring to the table for my family

is my compassion.

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

And who does the cooking?

I do most of the cooking, and even some of the grilling.

Spaghetti in the insta-pot is the go-to at our house!

How long has Pelahatchie been your home?

We have lived in Pelahatchie for six years. We looked at the

place we live now when our oldest was only two weeks old.

What are some of your favorite things about

Rankin County?

Rankin County is a down-home community where the

people are caring and supportive with the best schools,

fire department, and police department.

How do you spend your summer breaks?

We work on the farm with our boys.

What accomplishments make you proud during

your time living in Pelahatchie?

The start of our farm to table business “CokerFarms” is

definitely something we’re proud of since we’ve lived in

Pelahatchie. CokerFarms was established as an alternative for

people that care what is in their beef, pork, and lamb. From

farm to field, we aim to please and would like to meet our

customers’ needs for many years to come!

What drives you to have the job that you have?

BRADLEY nurse anesthetist - Helping people get better and

back to their normal lives drives me day in and day out.

KARRIE occupational therapist - My patients motivate me.

I love to hear them laugh and reminisce. I love recommending

home adaptations and habits to help them live more fully in

day-to-day life.


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

GRAYSON I love riding around checking on the animals.

CAMDEN Jumping in muddy puddles.

What’s your favorite TV show?


CAMDEN Paw Patrol

58 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 59



As First Vice President at

BankPlus, Emily is one of

our finest. So we’re proud,

but not surprised, that she has

been chosen for this honor. Her

service to the community has been

recognized by many. We take our

hats off to Emily.



Emily Chance, RN, BSN

First Vice President

& WellnessPlus Manager


© Copyright 2021 BankPlus.

Member FDIC.

60 • JULY 2021



for voting me as

Rankin County's Best Realtor

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve you!




Hometown RANKIN • 61


into a reality





(0) 601.203.2222

(C) 601.906.1921

NMLS# 730127

Brunini.com | 601.948.3101




62 • JULY 2021

Mississippi Book Festival

The Mississippi Book Festival started when a group of like-minded

literary friends got together over the course of a year, studied

other book festivals and decided it was time to make a concerted

effort to start a festival. The spark was lit when Malcolm White

connected Holly Lange to Jere Nash and they met with John

Evans of Lemuria Bookstore and Steve Yates of University Press

of Mississippi. Soon thereafter, a board was formed and a date

was set for first ever Mississippi Book Festival. August 22, 2015

was a bright, sunny day when John Grisham welcomed large

crowds, lines of festival-goers wrapped around corners in the

Capitol and our literary lawn party was born.

The festival represents the best of Mississippi and, while some

of our legendary authors may be long gone, their work endures

for all time. There always seems to be a new book on Welty,

Alexander, Faulkner, Wright, Morris, Wells, et al. and panels

are structured to continue to delve into those literary giants.

But the festival also honors our current host of authors whose

notable talents are recognized not just within our state, but well

beyond; Jesmyn Ward, John Grisham, Richard Ford, Angie

Thomas–the list goes on and on. We want to celebrate those

authors, and so many others, here and now! When we do that,

we hope to inspire a new generation of writers.

The book festival celebrates our readers. We typically host over

170 authors and connect them with more than 9,000 readers

through a series of panels, interviews, and book signings on

the day of the festival. Our booksellers sell thousands of books.

That’s what we call a celebration! Meeting a favorite author

can be life-changing and if we inspire even one young child to

continue reading, or write a book, the festival honors our state

in the best way we know how.

In 2019, the festival celebrated its 5th anniversary with a record

crowd of over 10,000 at the State Capitol Complex. In five years,

we’ve hosted poet laureates, a Librarian of Congress, a Supreme

Court Justice, several Pulitzer Prize winners, and while we paused

in 2020, the 7th Annual Mississippi Book Festival will be held

on August 21, 2021, live and in-person.

This year’s line-up features some of today’s brightest and

best authors, such as Walter Isaacson, Kiese Laymon, Aimee

Nezhukumatathil, Jerry Mitchell, Richard Grant, Angie

Thomas, and Nic Stone, just to name a few. You won’t want

to miss Curious George’s 80th Birthday Celebration in the

State Capitol.

To learn more about the festival and to view past panels from

the festival, please visit msbookfestival.com and signup for our

regular email newsletter. As always, the Mississippi Book Festival

is free and open to the public. We look forward to seeing everyone

on August 21st for Mississippi’s own Literary Lawn Party!

Hometown RANKIN • 63

64 • JULY 2021

Thank You







NMLS #730127

Hometown RANKIN • 65




66 • JULY 2021






“God definitely put me in an area where I could serve,” said Capt. Jack W. Smith,

operations officer in the Mississippi National Guard. Jack admits his transition

into military life was not the usual as he was a “late bloomer” being called and led

after making a career for himself in the business world.

Jack and wife, Lauren, grew up together in Brandon attending the same school. The then-cheerleader and football player

began dating right before their senior year. It wasn’t long before they realized their parents had also gone to school together at

Brandon Academy years prior. Their love story began to resemble what movies are made of. Quickly becoming inseparable

and “high school sweethearts,” the pair set out to begin their life together after graduation.

Hometown RANKIN • 67

While Jack was attending classes at Hinds Community

College, he was “all but signing the dotted line” away from joining

the Marines. This came at a time when our nation was rocked

by the devastating events of 9/11. He recalled, “I didn’t pursue it

then and thought that chapter had closed.” God had other plans

for Jack. He just didn’t know it yet.

He put all thoughts of the military in the back of his mind and

joined Lauren in Oxford at Ole Miss. After graduation, Jack and

Lauren were married and he spent the next 10 years traveling the

states in the insurance industry. Coming full circle, they returned to

Brandon where he worked at Trustmark National Bank.

Jack admits, “We lived near the armory in Brandon at the time

and every time I drove by it, something clicked. I just had this desire

to serve that I couldn’t let go of. It just wasn’t going away. I knew

that I had to do something.”

Jack prayed about what his next step should be. Approaching

Lauren and explaining this overwhelming pull to join the military,

he asked, “Do you think you can let me pursue this dream?” As the

couple sought confirmation from the Lord, Lauren wholeheartedly

gave her blessing for Jack to pursue his dream and admitted her

strong desire to become a mom and begin a family.

Enlisting in May, the couple found out they were expecting a

precious child in June. Jack said, “Two dreams came together right

away as our prayers were answered.”

Lauren added, “One of the scriptures that helped Jack make the

decision to join the military was Mark 10:45, For even the Son of

Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a

ransom for many.”

Lauren said, “The first time I went to a military base, I was

overwhelmingly humbled and saw that it’s not about me or Jack.

I am honored to be part of that and watch him be a leader for

so many.”

However, the couple quickly found out the challenges that come

with this life. While Jack was away at basic training, Lauren spent

several weeks without him home to experience the joy and excitement

that comes from pregnancy and creating a new life. She said,

“One of the biggest challenges while he was away, was the lack of

communication. But I would send photos and letters.” Upon his

return home, their daughter, Mary Olive, was born.

Jack added, “God has taught us patience and persistence.

We have trusted His provision and plan for our life.”

68 • JULY 2021

In all things, Jack and Lauren lean on their faith in their pursuits.

He admits, “God put me in an environment to serve. I look past

ranks to see a good person. A good leader knows that behind every

person, from a superior all the way down, is a story–someone

unique. I strive to get to know them on a personal level and look

through their uniform, into their heart.”

Captain Smith is proud to serve his community and country,

and is eager for what the future holds.

With a new baby, they admitted that there was a fear of Jack

being “shipped off ” and of course, the ever-present fear of

dangerous assignments. Looking back, Lauren recalled, “When

we were first married, he traveled with his job at Trustmark two

weeks out of every month. I truly believe that God was preparing

my heart for the times that Jack would be away from home for

his job with the military.” They have had eight years to settle into

the military life that Jack loves so much.

Jack said of the 1-204th Air Defense Artillery Regiment and

Covid-19 Joint Task Force, “Its truly an honor to work with, work

for, and have the opportunity to lead so many people in such a

diverse organization.”

Hometown RANKIN • 69




70 • JULY 2021






“Every time I put that uniform on, I carry the flag on my shoulder. This country

is dear to me,” said MS National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Antonio McCullum.

Antonio’s love and adoration of our great nation is evident and resonates in all that he does. Growing up with grandfathers

who both served in the military, he saw and understood from an early age what that truly meant. Seeing firsthand

what life was like for servicemen, his interest was sparked. When recruiters came to his high school, he decided to take

advantage of the opportunities provided to servicemen and enlisted in 1999.

With five deployments under his belt and entering his 22nd year in service as BN Master Gunner with the

1st Battalion, 204th Defense Artillery Regiment, he knows the joys and struggles that come from this life. With the

loving support from wife, Leah, and children Makenzi (18), Kennedy (16), and Caroline (3), the family understands

the sacrifices it takes to make it all work.

Hometown RANKIN • 71

Antonio and Leah had known each other for many years

through their families, but it wasn’t until a chance outing with

mutual friends, they knew there was something more. Quickly,

the pair were smitten with each other. After a year of dating,

they went on vacation to the most magical place on Earth,

Disney World, with Leah’s two young children.

Leah recalled, “Upon leaving, Antonio asked me in front of

the kids if I had a magical experience in which I told him I had a

great time. Then he said, ‘Well, this may make it more magical….

Will you marry me?’” Leah immediately said yes and the couple

was married later that year in 2010 on a day that shared another

special occasion, Antonio’s birthday.

Being a military family is full of joys and blessings–but also

comes with many challenges. Leah said, “Some of the joys of

being married to a serviceman include knowing that he serves

our country daily, the respect people of all races give him, and

just the joy he gets out of doing what he does.”

Antonio added, “The respect I get from all races while in

uniform is a big joy especially when you are away from your family.

Most people I meet are always supportive.” Having others recognize

their service and support what they do is a morale boost

that oftentimes helps servicemen know that what they are doing

is making a difference.

Servicemen and women play an integral role in our country’s

freedoms. But the sacrifices they make for our country, unfortunately,

come at a cost. Oftentimes, soldiers are away during special

events in their children or spouses’ lives. Antonio said, “One of the

biggest challenges has been when I am away. I missed our first

anniversary, but thankfully we were able to video chat and with

social media, we can communicate when I am away.”

Leah added, “There are some challenges that come along with

it which include not being here during deployments especially

for special events, death of family members, birthdays, family

reunions, and holidays, worrying about when he’s on a certain

mission if I will get to talk to him even if it’s just to check on him,

abrupt/impromptu assignments especially if we have something

planned already, and of course the obvious, always wondering if

he will return.” The worry and fear from loved ones are a reality

they face every time a soldier leaves. These families bravely

embrace this lifestyle without a second thought. Their dedication

and courage are unmatched.

Spouses and family members understand the sacrifices of serving.

Children sometimes do not grasp the magnitude of what our

military does and how we have our freedoms because of them.

To them, they are just regular people with cool jobs.

72 • JULY 2021

Leah recalled, “When the kids were younger and he was gone

and we saw a group of soldiers on TV, they would ask if that was

his group or if he knew them. Being little, they didn’t know that

there are thousands of soldiers.” She explained, “Now that they

are older, they respect what he does and understand the importance

of his job to defend/protect our country.”

The dedication and commitment to our freedoms is something

only a few are called to do. Antonio said, “When we come

together, we put everything aside and become brothers and sisters

no matter the race or gender.” He added that the brotherhood

is truly a family and they lay it all out there for each other to serve

this great nation. He takes great pride in being able to wear that

uniform and walk alongside other like-minded soldiers that

courageously fight for our freedom and safety.

As a military spouse, Leah concluded, “I am certainly happy

to be married to Antonio and seeing him in uniform as a distinguished

black man gives me such honor to know that he serves

our country proudly.”

Hometown RANKIN • 73




74 • JULY 2021






“In the 2nd grade, I told my parents I would be a fighter pilot in the Air Force,”

admits Lt. Col. Ashley Sullivan. From an early age and growing up in a military family,

Ashley knew exactly what he wanted to do and set out on a journey to make it happen.

Being a self-proclaimed “military brat,” he admits that his dad never pushed him into the military but has always been

supportive in his choices and aspirations. Wife, Kristin, said, “Being an Army pilot was his childhood dream. I’m proud of

his determination and the sacrifices he made to make that dream a reality.”

Ashley’s formal military career began in 1996 when he enlisted in the MS Army National Guard as an intelligence analyst.

He said, “You don’t enter into service without pride to be able to stand in front of and salute our flag. I have always had a true

desire to serve and understanding of our freedom from seeing, firsthand, the places that don’t have them. You realize the role

you have in our freedoms and maintaining them.”

Hometown RANKIN • 75

Knowing the challenges and sacrifices that military life brings,

Ashley prayed and left it to God to bring him his future spouse. It

wasn’t long before Ashley and Kristin met and fell in love while attending

the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He

said, “God brought the right person into my life. She knew and accepted

the role. I’m so lucky to have her. She is super independent and

super smart.”

The couple was engaged and set a wedding date for January

2004. Kristin, a New Orleans native, was busy planning their wedding

which takes several months in the popular Nola area. During

their engagement, Ashley joked, “My superiors called and I thought

they were calling about the wedding, maybe to attend.” Unfortunately,

the call was military business. The couple suddenly had a huge

decision to make as Ashley learned he would be deployed to Iraq in

December, a month before their scheduled wedding.

Ashley said, “It was a big decision. We could move it up or postpone

the wedding, that is if I came home. Being a new pilot, there

were many unknowns.”

Kristin fully accepting this lifestyle and eager to marry her love,

used contacts from her job in New Orleans making connections that

not only sped the wedding up but caught the attention of the media.

Their wedding and story were featured throughout the Louisiana

area as soldiers began their deployments.

The challenges just kept coming. Kristin said, “Coming from a

military family, he was too familiar with the sacrifices that are made

with having his job. Any event that you want to attend or that is important

will more than likely get interrupted. In our case, it was our

wedding and the arrival of our first child along with missed birthdays

and holidays.”

Ashley added, “I was deployed when she was pregnant with our

first son and building our home. She was moving into a new house

with a new baby all alone. Being a nurse, she is used to always being

flexible and somehow she just picks up with no issues of being mom

and dad.” He joked that they now plan life and vacations and tell him,

“We are going here, we hope you can make it!” Life does not stop with

assignments or deployments. Sacrificing those special family moments

are just a few of the challenges servicemen and women face to

do what they love and to serve our country.

Kristin said, “When he’s home, we value family. I’m proud of him

for fulfilling his dreams. I’m proud of him for being brave. I could not

do what is expected of him for his job. I cannot imagine the bravery

and discipline it takes knowing that you are going into a place where

someone will potentially try to kill you.” This is a stark reality of what

life is sometimes like for our soldiers and they step in that role without


76 • JULY 2021

Ashley said, “As a child, you don’t grow up desiring to be a hero.

You grow up wanting to be like your heroes. For me that was my

father, Command Chief Master Sgt. Charles R. Sullivan. I watched

his service and sacrifice to this country. I admired him and his work

ethic. He was able to serve our country while still being there for our

family as a father and husband. To this day, he is my hero. Patriotism

and joining the military grew naturally from his example.”

Now with two sons of his own, Liam and Grayson, he strives

to set that same example for them. Lauren added, “Even with his

extremely demanding job, he is always there for us, one way or

another. The boys are getting old enough to see not only the

sacrifices he makes, but also how he always makes time for them.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Ashley’s years of dedication

and hard work have earned him an impressive list of assignments,

decorations, badges, and honors. He currently serves as the assistant

chief of joint staff and executive officer for Joint Force Headquarters

for the MS National Guard.

To his colleagues, he is a well-decorated man of honor who takes

his role in the military seriously. He said, “In addition to the patriotic

side, I get the most joy when I can really affect a soldier’s individual

life whether it’s military or a personal issue. We are a real family.

Coming from so many different types of units, I get to offer a fresh


To Kristin, he is her soulmate. She concluded, “I love him for

what he does for our family and how he loves us.” To their two boys,

he is just dad who gets to have “the coolest job” flying helicopters. His

godly and patriotic example will live on through his children as he

continues doing what he loves and serving this great nation.

Hometown RANKIN • 77

78 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 79



Susan Marquez

Who doesn’t

love a good


Scoops of

creamy ice

cream blended

with fresh milk.


fruit is added,

or chocolate.

And perhaps

a swirly dollop

of whipped

cream on top.



Now imagine a milkshake on

steroids. A big Mason jar with icing

and sprinkles around the rim, milkshake

inside, and topped with

mounds of whipped cream and

all kinds of add-ons such as candy,

cupcakes, cookies, fruit and just

about any other sweet treat that you

can imagine. A milkshake big enough

for two or more. A milkshake that is

an experience like none other. Now

you know what’s in store when you

visit The Yard Milkshake Bar in


Owned by Christian Ulmer and his

wife, April, The Yard opened in Flowood

in August 2020 - a big leap of faith,

considering the world was in the

middle of a major pandemic.

Christian says he never thought about

getting into the ice cream business.

“This was never on my radar,” he says.

“I was active-duty military until 1999,

then went to grad school. I signed up

for a five-year inactive ready reserve

and was told they never call anyone up.

Then came 9-11, and I was called up.

That took me over the ten-year mark,

and I stayed in the reserves, retiring in

2013. I retired in June of last year from

working with a government contractor.”

80 • JULY 2021

Retired, but too young to sit at home,

Christian wasn’t sure what his next

chapter would be. “My wife and I took

our two daughters to Orange Beach in

June 2017, and while there, we decided

to go out for ice cream. We looked up

places to go and saw The Yard. It looked

like a fun place, so we went, and we

loved it.”

Founded in May 2017 by Logan and

Chelsea Green of Gulf Shores, Alabama,

the company is rapidly expanding with

franchises across the country. “I was

super impressed with our experience

there, and immediately looked into

becoming a franchisee,” says Christian.

“We got home from vacation, and I

started the process.” He chose Flowood

to locate his business because it was the

best spot he could find in the metro

Jackson area. “The reception here has

been tremendous,” he says. “We have

customers who come from all over the

tri-county area.”

As they were building out their business,

Christian got a call from a friend. “He said

I should watch Shark Tank. I turned on

the TV and Logan and Chelsea Green

were presenting The Yard to the Sharks.”

The founders of the company were

asking for $400,000 to go towards new

franchises. With a couple of Sharks

interested and making offers, Mark

Cuban swept in to close the deal. “It has

been amazing to come into the fold and

getting in on the ground floor,” says


The whole Ulmer family is involved

in the business, including Christian and

April’s daughters, Evyn (13) and London

(10). “They are still young, so they help

with sweeping up and such, but they’ll

grow into more hands-on roles as they

get older.” Christian says that this is a

first-ever job for many on his team.

“I look at this as a teaching opportunity,

to train future leaders. They are learning

responsibility, and they are gaining

self-esteem and confidence. They take

their job seriously. We have a great team

that I’m very proud of.”

The Yard, as a company, encourages

creativity. “I didn’t want a cookie-cutter

business,” says Christian. “We have a set

menu, but we also premier three to four

monthly specials. There is also a ‘secret’

menu that features creations by our staff.

They have come up with some really

wonderful creations.” Christian says he

hopes he can develop a scholarship fund

for his staff members in the future.

Hometown RANKIN • 81

In addition to over-the-top milkshakes, The Yard

also offers sundaes, edible cookie dough, and ice

cream. “We source as much as we can locally,

including getting our fruits from local vendors and

farmers markets.” Christian is looking at other places

to open new franchises, including Charleston,

South Carolina.

The couple met when he was stationed in

Washington, D.C., and she was doing a fellowship

there. “I moved back to my home state of New York,

and April moved to Pennsylvania. We ended up

getting married, and when we decided to have

children, we wanted to be closer to her parents,

so we moved to Mississippi in 2009. I had never

been to Mississippi before she brought me here.

The Yard

Milkshake Bar

is located at

113 Dogwood Boulevard

in Flowood.

Sunday - Thursday

11am - 9pm

Friday - Saturday

11am - 10pm

I may not be from Mississippi

but I’m never leaving. This state

has been so welcoming.”

82 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 83

Melanie McMillan

Shannon Love was everything you would

want in a friend. A loving wife, mother, and

grandmother, Shannon gave of herself to those

around her. “Shannon was one of the most

kind-hearted, compassionate, and spiritual

women that I have ever known,” says Michelle

Rhodes, president of the board of directors

of Shannon’s Home of Hope. “She loved her

husband and family so much and was so proud

of her children, sons-in-law and grandchildren.”

Michelle and Shannon became acquainted

in 2012 when Michelle worked as the juvenile

detention administrator for the Rankin County

Sheriff’s Department. Shannon had a heart for

young people and wanted to minister to the

youth at the juvenile center by providing art

classes, which she faithfully did every Thursday.

On one of her visits, she brought a sandbox to

let the kids dig for treasures because she realized

that many of the youth had never been to the

beach. One of the most memorable crafts she

made was a book of the children’s handprints.

She told them she would place her hand over

their handprints and pray for them. This project

was one of the most meaningful to the youth.

They knew Shannon truly cared for them and

they never gave her any trouble.

Shannon gave so much of her time and

energy to others in need, one would never

know that she had struggles of her own.

Diagnosed with lymphoma at 25 and breast

cancer at 40, Shannon battled cancer for much

of her adult life. Ultimately, the cancer would

spread, but despite her illness, she continued

to work with the youth and envisioned a home

for those in crisis situations. “Shannon was a

realist. When she knew that the cancer had

spread to much of her body, she had a talk

with her family and her closest friends about

her decision to discontinue treatment. She

was trying to prepare all of us for her death

and let us know that she would miss us, but

looked forward to being in heaven,” Michelle

says. “She and I had discussed opening a home

for years. We decided to take a leap of faith

and begin the process because she was sick and

knew she might not be able to work on it much

longer.” Michelle suggested that the home be

called “Shannon’s Home of Hope” because

Shannon’s love for the youth that she worked

with gave them hope despite their oftendesperate

situations. Shannon was humbled

but agreed on the name, and, with her friend

Madelyn Roberts, was able to design the logo

before her death.

Shannon passed away on December 10,

2018, but her legacy continues through

Shannon’s Home of Hope. The board and

volunteers are working to raise funds to

purchase land and a home to provide temporary

housing for children in crisis. Shannon’s

Home will be a safe home-like environment in

84 • JULY 2021

which youth will receive services such as case

management, character building, educational

assistance and advocacy, medical care coordination,

and transportation to appointments.

“Many of us don’t realize how many children

in Rankin County are in crisis,” Michelle

shares. “It’s easy to get caught up in our own

world and assume everyone has the same

lifestyle we do. Unfortunately, many children

suffer the negative consequences of their

parents’ choices and actions. We want every

child to have a chance for success, regardless of

his or her home environment. Whether the

issue is abuse, neglect, a child in need of

supervision, or even a runaway, Shannon’s

Home will be a safe place to stay. Our hope is

that the partnerships we forge with the

community will inspire a culture that embraces

and supports vulnerable children as we work

with families and authorities to eventually

reunite families.”

Shannon’s Home of Hope will have a social

worker on staff who will work with families to

assess needs and connect them with available

resources. Working with parents and not just

the youth can help prevent sending kids back

into a toxic environment. Parenting classes,

alcohol/drug services, and GED classes all

benefit the family as a whole. Additionally, if

parents cannot provide basic necessities such

as food, shelter or transportation, a stable

home life is difficult to maintain, so connecting

families to available services in our community

is vital.

While the search continues for land and a

home, help is being provided in other ways.

Donations from individuals and community

partners allow Shannon’s Home to assist with

immediate needs which vary from situation to

situation. Anything from clothes to haircuts to

groceries have been provided, as well as a hotel

room for a mother and child who were in a

domestic violence situation. On June 12th,

Shannon’s Home of Hope held the second

annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise

money for its mission. All Things New

ministries graciously donated hamburgers and

gatorade, and corporate sponsors and community

members contributed time and money to

make this a successful, fun event that organizers

hope will grow every year. Funds raised

bring them that much closer to the goal of a

permanent home.

Before she passed away, Shannon Love

purchased a plaque, the words of which

perfectly sum up her philosophy, as well as

those who carry on her mission. “Start where

you are, use what you have, do what you can,

and it will be enough.”

For more information on Shannon’s Home of Hope, visit

shannonshomeofhope.org or follow them on Facebook.

Hometown RANKIN • 85

86 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 87

88 • JULY 2021




Hometown RANKIN • 89


to First Responders

Mistie Desper

Why did you decide to be a fireman?

A friend of mine was a volunteer with the Ridgeland Fire Department. I was

out with him one day when his pager activated and we responded to a medical

aid call. I was hooked from that day forward. The thought never crossed my

mind until that point. I had always wanted to serve, so in 1989, I joined the

National Guard right out of high school in order to serve my country. I thought

by becoming a firefighter, I could serve my community and help those in

their time of need. I became a volunteer with the city of Ridgeland in 1993

and became a paid firefighter for the City of Ridgeland in 1995. I have never

looked back and have absolutely loved every minute of my career.

How long have you been with the

Puckett Fire Department?

I moved just outside of Puckett in 2012 and immediately joined the Puckett

Volunteer Fire Department. I became their training chief not long after

becoming a member. All the members of the Puckett Fire Department have

been trained to the level of volunteer fire fighter.

Tell us about your family.

My wife Terryl and I met and were married in May of 1995. She works as an

auditor for the Department of Defense. We have two children, a daughter that

is 28 and is currently serving as a flight medic in the Air Force, stationed in

Okinawa, Japan, where she flies sick and wounded military members back to

the States. I can’t think of a more honorable job than the one she has. My son

is 22 and is currently getting ready to begin his senior year at Delta State

University in Cleveland, Mississippi. He is enrolled in the aviation program

with hopes to fly with FED-EX after graduation. God has richly blessed us

through the years and I couldn’t be more proud of my family.





What is the toughest thing you have experienced in

your job?

The toughest things as a firefighter are the patients and property that were lost

along the way. You try so hard to save as many lives and as much property as

you can. The ones that you do lose, you never forget. I continue to give myself

to the job, and lose pieces of myself along the way. We are taught to be tough

and not let things get to us, but that is impossible. We build our walls up for

protection and there are times when we build the walls up and block out our

family, friends, co-workers and yes, even God. It has been labeled as

post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short. I like to think of it as

post-traumatic stress injuries. It is an injury to our minds that most firefighters

never get help for. We would seek help for an injury to our arm or leg but

never seek help for an injury to our minds. There is a team in Rankin County

that I am a part of for first responders—the Rankin County Critical Incident

Stress Response Team. We go around talking to first responders involved in

the horrific calls that stick with them. I also started a class at The Pointe

Church in Brandon called Biblical Solutions for Line of Duty Stress and

Trauma. I have found these classes geared to helping others has helped me


90 • JULY 2021

Share some things you enjoy in your spare time.

My wife and I recently purchased a camper and that has become my escape.

I love going to different areas around the state and the southeast to escape the

hustle and bustle of life. I also enjoy hunting and fishing.

What are three things on your bucket list?

I would love one day to take my wife to Germany. I have been throughout

Europe with the military and would love to go back. I would love to go to

several of the top dive sites in the world. And I would love to go to

Yellowstone someday.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I would have to say my wife. I was deployed in 2015 when I got the worst

phone call I have ever received. It was my wife on the other end of the line that

said she had breast cancer. The Air Force sent me home immediately through the

Red Cross where we began a very scary journey together. She had a double

mastectomy and received chemotherapy treatment. I admire her unwavering

faith and the positive attitude she portrayed throughout the journey.

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

what would it be?

I would have to say, find a career that you love. The saying is, if you find a job

that you love you will never work a day in your life. This is so true. Being a

firefighter for 25 years has been the best experience of my life. The satisfaction

of helping people in their time of need is so gratifying. There has never been a

day that I wake up and say that I don’t want to go to work.

What is your favorite thing about Puckett?

The smalltown feel where you get to know everyone. I moved to Puckett

nine years ago and immediately joined the Puckett Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire department welcomed me with open arms and now I feel as much a

part of the community as families that have lived there their entire lives. I got

to meet all the selfless volunteers of the Puckett Fire Department and got to

witness, firsthand, the tireless dedication to the town of Puckett and surrounding

communities. The volunteers answer the call, day or night, without compensation.

They do this for love of their neighbor—and that in and of itself should be

commended. Members of the Puckett Volunteer Fire Department have become

my second family. The sign coming into town says there are a few sore heads

but I haven’t met them yet.

What is your favorite thing about Rankin County?

Rankin County has the best fire service and law enforcement in the entire

state making it the safest county in the state of Mississippi. Rankin County

has four paid fire departments and 15 volunteer fire departments. I have been

so impressed with how organized each department is and that has a large part

to do with Rankin County Emergency Operations Center. There are also four

city police departments and Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s

department has a very large area to cover and they do an amazing job of

getting to emergency calls. If you ever need emergency services, you can

bet they will be there in a timely manner.

Hometown RANKIN • 91











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Hometown RANKIN • 93

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Hometown RANKIN • 95





. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thank you for voting us

“besT BarbeQue” of rankin county

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

601-825-7675 · sonnys-brandon@acgBbq.com · 1374 West government street Brandon, ms

96 • JULY 2021



Five years ago, with the intense desire to promote Rankin

County businesses being at the core of our company mission,

the team at Hometown Publishing, publishers of Hometown

Rankin Magazine, embarked on creating a red carpet event

that would celebrate the outstanding business community in

which we live and work. Rankin County’s Best of the Best

Red Carpet was born.

So, we thank you. Thank you for not only supporting this event

but for supporting each other as we all strive to make Rankin

County the very best it can be.

Hometown RANKIN • 97

Nominees & Winners



Osaka Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Grill - WINNER

Fuji Japanese & Sushi Grill

Asahi Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar


Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, Brandon

Little Willie’s BBQ

Sonny’s BBQ - WINNER

Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ

Smokehouse of Florence


Burgers & Blues

Laid Back Burger Shack

Mugshots Grill and Bar - WINNER

Steak ‘n Shake

Taste of Detroit


Chicken Salad Chick

Frisco Deli - WINNER

McAlister’s Deli of Brandon

Newk’s Eatery of Flowood

Which Wich


El Cabrito Mexican Restaurant, Florence

El Potrillo Mexican Restaurant, Brandon


El Sombrero, Flowood

Fernando’s, Spillway

Papito’s Mexican Restaurant, Flowood


Lost Pizza Co. - WINNER

Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, Richland

Papa Johns, Florence

Pizza Hut, Richland

Soulshine Pizza Factory


Boo’s Smokehouse BBQ

Longhorn Steakhouse

McClain Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse

Table 100 - WINNER


GB Bakery

Primo’s Café

Sugar Magnolia Takery

SweeTee’s Treats & Design

The Yard Milkshake Bar - WINNER


Alumni House Sports Bar & Grill

BB’s Live

Buffalo Wild Wings

Table 100

The Gallows Bar at Genna Benna’s



4 Top Catering

Fresh Cut Catering & Floral

Georgia Blue - WINNER

Sugar Magnolia Takery

The Hungry Goat


Cups at Crossgates - WINNER

Dunkin Donuts

GB Bakery

Mocha Mugs

Starbucks, Flowood


Another Broken Egg - WINNER

GB Bakery

Jo’s Diner


The Donut Shop, Florence


Cross Country Grocery

Fannin Mart

Grant’s Kitchen and Grill

Mama’s Kitchen - WINNER

Table 100


Amerigo Italian Restaurant - WINNER

Cerami’s Italian Restaurant

Half Shell Oyster House

Jerry’s Fish House

Table 100

Health & Wellness


Dr. Carrie Nash, Baptist Medical Group,

Brandon - WINNER

Dr. Todd Perkins, Merit Health, Flowood

Dr. Marc C. Hellrung, St. Dominic’s,


Dr. John Brooks, MEA Medical Clinic

Dr. James D. Polk, Greenfield Family



Baptist Medical Clinic, Brandon - WINNER

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Merit Health, Flowood

St. Dominic’s Family Medicine, Brandon

TrustCare, Brandon


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

Dr. Danny Mullins, The Children’s Clinic

Dr. Dennis W. Rowlen,

Rankin Children’s Group - WINNER

Dr. Adam Adcock, The Children’s Clinic

Dr. W. Craig Flowers,

Rankin Children’s Group

98 • JULY 2021


Blake Hobbs, Apex Physical Therapy

Mark Ware, The Strength Center Physical


Spencer Shoemaker,

Performance Therapy - WINNER

Samantha Odom, Elite Physical Therapy

Brooks Fortenberry, Performance Therapy


Karen Seago, NP, Merit Health - WINNER

Kelley Martin, NP,

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Candace Ashley, NP,

Florence Family Medical Clinic

Jennifer Pate, Tri-County

Pulmonary & Sleep Clinic

Donald Garrett, NP,

Greenfield Family Healthcare


Capital Ortho

East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates

Jackson Healthcare for Women

MS Sports Medicine and

Orthopaedic Center - WINNER

New Path Counseling



Dr. Missy McMinn,

East Lakeland OB/GYN Associates

Dr. Chris Kneip, Capital Ortho - WINNER

Dr. Donald Baker, Orthopedic Surgeon,

Merit Health Medical Group

Dr. Chad Hosemann, Capital Ortho

Dr. James Ramsey, MS Sports Medicine


Castlewoods Place

Peach Tree Village Assisted Living

Plain View Assisted Living

The Blake at Flowood - WINNER

Villa South Assisted Living


Dr. Lynn Flower, Fowler ProChiropractic

& Wellness Center - WINNER

Dr. Brad Kennedy,

Kennedy Chiropractic Clinic

Dr. Chad Brown, Brown Chiropractic Clinic

Dr. Joanie Winstead, Reservoir Chiropractic

Dr. Hailey Fortenberry,

Brandon Family Chiropractic


Dr. Jason Cox, Belle Meade Family Dental

Dr. Shaun Mayette, Mayette Family Dentistry

Dr. Sara Langston, Dental Wellness

Dr. Wendy Lewis, The Winning Smile

Dental Group - WINNER

Dr. Erin Green, Grants Ferry Family Dental



Dr. Anna Taylor, Taylor EyeCare

Family Optometry - WINNER

Dr. Anh Giang Edwards,

Professional Eyecare Associates

Dr. R.W. Pharr, Family Eye Care

Dr. Mark Allen, The Optical Shoppe

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


Burn Boot Camp, Flowood

Fitness 1440, Richland

Focus Fit, Pearl

Squad 232, Flowood

The Club at Crossgates - WINNER


Adrian Jones,

Trusting Hands Massage Therapy

Lacey Clark, The Wellness Spa - WINNER

Rachel Garletts, Well Being Massage Therapy

DeAngela Hall, The Peaceful Escape

Tonya Blough, Reservoir Chiropractic



Jennifer Brown, Garrett & Garrett

Kimberly Foreman, CPA - WINNER

Jason Witcher, Witcher CPA

Kristi Thompson, Barlow & Company

Tom Windham, Windham & Lacey


Erin Zieren, JH&H Architects

Joshua Jeffcoat,

JH&H Architects - WINNER

Jose´ Arellano, Pryor Morrow

Jeff Green, The Pickering Firm

Nat Whitten, The Pickering Firm


Sharon Thibodeaux, Patterson & Thibodeaux

Tameika Bennett, Bennett Law Office

Mel Coxwell, Law Office of Mel Coxwell

Jeff Arnold, Arnold & Associates

Shannon Elliott,

Elliott Law Firm - WINNER


Andrew Comans,

Trustmark Bank - WINNER

Chas Gualano, Trustmark Bank

Dywayne Watkins,

Raymond James Financial Services

Michael Humphreys,

Humphreys Consulting Group

Rob Osborne, Primerica


BankPlus, Flowood

Community Bank, Brandon - WINNER

Priority One Bank, Brandon

Renasant Bank, Flowood

Trustmark Bank, Castlewoods

Hometown RANKIN • 99

Nominees & Winners


Melissa Usry,

Community Bank Mortgage - WINNER

Leslie Key, Iberia Mortgage

Kasey Finklea, Diversified Mortgage

Savana Skelton, Origin Bank

Shane Dubois´, Community Bank


Malcolm Houston, State Farm - WINNER

Jordan Pitts, The Policy Center

Stephen Wallace, Insurance Associates

Andy Eaton, Andy Eaton Insurance Agency

Clancy Walker, Insurance Protection



Burrell Properties

Deep South Custom Homes

Lyles Signature Homes - WINNER

Mike Roberson Builders

S & S Builders



Byrd & Cook - WINNER

Kitchen Kreations

Lakeside Moulding

Miller’s Custom Carpentry

Stephens Custom Renovations



Chadwick Inspection Services

Clear View Property Inspections

Cornerstone Inspections

Keith Stewart Home Inspection

Magnolia Home Inspections - WINNER



The AC Doctors

AirCo - Heating & Air Conditioning Services

Pure Air Consultants - WINNER

AKM Air Solutions

Southern Air Services



Ambiance Landscape

Plant It Earth

Scarlet Oak Lawn Care

Murphy’s Lawn & Landscape - WINNER



Kim Griffin,

The McCaughan Company - WINNER

Trey Fontaine, Havard Real Estate

Layla Hutton, Three Rivers Real Estate

Victoria Prowant, Southern Real Estate

Suzie McDowell, Keller Williams


Erica Burleson Photography

Haley Lowe Photography

Katelyn Anne Photography

Watson Photography - WINNER

Sherri Derrick Photography


Barnett’s Body Shop

Darrell’s Auto

Gleason Tire - WINNER

The Service Station

The Tire Depot


Nu-Way Dry Cleaning

Express Cleaners

Safeway Cleaners & Laundry

Wells Cleaners

Kolb’s Cleaners - WINNER


Dr. Scott Houston, Brandon Animal Hospital

Dr. Gina Blackwell, Oakdale Animal Hospital

Dr. Tammy Dye, Florence Animal Clinic

Dr. Rick Kirby, Hometown

Veterinary Hospital - WINNER

Dr. Ben Zieren, Luckney Animal Hospital


Miss Mandy’s Christian Daycare - WINNER

Kids Konnection Christian Learning Center

Circle of Friends Learning Center

Railroad Center Daycare

Kids Stop Daycare & Preschool

Retail &




Bob Boyte Honda

Fowler Buick GMC

Gray-Daniels Ford

Mac Haik Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Rogers-Dabbs Chevrolet - WINNER


A Yellow Rose

Chapman’s Florist - WINNER

Green Floral

Simply Southern Celebrations

Willow Blu Florist, Gifts and Custom



Ashley HomeStore & Outlet

D Noblin Furniture

Miskelly Furniture

Ross Furniture - WINNER

T & D Furniture

100 • JULY 2021


Crossgates Jewelers

Crown Jewelers

DNS Diamonds

Jackson Jewelers - WINNER

Mike Wright Jewelry


Apple Annie’s Gift Shop - WINNER

Downtown Giftery

Mockingbird Marketplace

O! How Cute



Cockrell’s Farmers Market

Doris Berry’s Farmers Market

Lakeland Yard & Garden

Rivers Greenhouse & Garden - WINNER

The Landing Plant & Feed


Brandon Discount Drugs - WINNER

Family Drug Mart

Kroger Pharmacy at Dogwood

Polk’s Drugs at Crossgates

Rhodes & Robby Rexall Drugs



Itty Bitty Kid’s Boutique

Southern Raised - WINNER

The Punky Rooster


Willow & Grace



Flawless Boutique - WINNER

Heart of the South

Sweet Peas Boutique

The Beach Look Boutique

The Punky Rooster


LIV the Salon - WINNER

Meraki Hair Studio

Salon 232

The Chop Shop Barber & Salon

Untamed Salon


Harley Taylor, Liv the Salon

Jessica Hudson, Meraki Hair Studio

Noelle Covington, The Chop Shop

Jamie Windham, Shear Shack - WINNER

Tamara Shows, Untamed Salon


Elegant Nails

Guitar Nails and Spa

Infinity Nails - WINNER

Polished Nail Bar

ZaZa Nails & Spa


BMARKETED - Benavides, LLC

Global Screen Printing

Hallet Group Marketing

One Way Promotional

Pollchaps Screen Print

& Embroidery - WINNER



Black Axes Throwing Club

Fannin Lanes

McClain Safari Park - WINNER

Spinners of Florence

Brandon Amphitheater



Apex Physical Therapy

Fowler ProChiropractic & Wellness Center

Greenfield Family Healthcare - WINNER

Humphreys Consulting Group

Performance Therapy



Capitol Body Shop, Flowood

Infusion Plus

Precision Spine

The Face & Body Center

Zavation Medical Products, LLC - WINNER



Capitol Ortho

Encompass Health

KLLM Transport

Mississippi Sports Medicine

and Orthopaedic Center

Rankin County School District - WINNER


Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue

Ever Reaching Community Outreach

Junior Auxiliary of Rankin County

Mustard Seed - WINNER

The Baptist Children’s Village

Hometown RANKIN • 101

102 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 103

104 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 105

106 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 107


you’re going...

You Can

Get THERE From



Register Now For Fall Classes!


If you plan to pursue a bachelor’s

degree from a university, choose

academics and save on tuition for

your first two years.


Many professions don’t require a

bachelor’s degree. Get job-ready

with hands-on training in 1–2 years.

Hinds offers academic courses

guaranteed to transfer to

universities, more than 70 career

and technical program options

and 12 nursing & allied health


JACKSON-Academic-Technical Center | JACKSON-Nursing/Allied Health Center | RANKIN | RAYMOND | UTICA | VICKSBURG

In compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 of the Higher Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other applicable Federal

and State Acts, Hinds Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and

activities. The following have been designated to handle inquiries regarding these policies: EEOC Compliance: Sherry Franklin, Vice President of Instruction/Career & Technical Education, Box 1003, Utica, MS 39175; Phone: 601.885.7002 or Email:

EEOC@hindscc.edu. Title IX: DeAndre House, Associate Vice President Student Services, Title IX Coordinator, Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601.857.3353 or Email: TitleIX@hindscc.edu.

108 • JULY 2021

Hometown RANKIN • 109


Pearl Public School District

Friends and family gathered for a luncheon honoring the 2020-2021 Pearl Public School District retirees. This group has more than 375 years of combined service

in education, with 11 retirees (*) serving PPSD students throughout their entire career in education. The 2020-2021 PPSD retirees are Monna Burns*, Geneva Davis,

Beth Ditto, Janice Dukes*, Maria Figueroa*, Bobbie Grady*, Becky Tullos Jones, Tonia Kersh*, Lynn Lewis, John McHenry*, Pamela McQueen, Gary Monk*,

Brenda Myers*, Cindy Paschal*, Darrell Rutland, Patricia Schmidt*, Janette Turner*. The luncheon was sponsored by Wier Boerner Allin Architecture and the

Pearl Educational Foundation for Excellence.

110 • JULY 2021










Photo credit to Victoria Ashley with V Ashley Photo - www.vashleyphoto.com.

Hometown RANKIN • 111

112 • JULY 2021

TheTime COIN

Camille Anding

It’s probably an age thing, but the older

I get the more I appreciate “old” furniture.

In my younger days, I wanted every item that we

purchased for our home to have a manufacturer’s tag or

a warranty attached. Now I enjoy searching for pieces that

proudly reflect their past but need the rejuvenating touch

of a refinisher.

Years ago I was able to secure the work desk that

my dad used while sorting the mail for his rural routes.

Its distressed wood was authentic due to the loads of mail

bags emptied onto its surface, and one end was bleached

from the morning sun that warmed it for over eighty years.

Its design was simple, but workable – just what the

government intended it to be in those “good ole days.”

When it first came into my possession, my husband

helped me move it from room to room as I tried to find the

perfect spot. There just wasn’t one. Its faded surface and

scarred legs begged for refinishing, and its size demanded

more space than we could offer.

The only solution was to store it until we had

more room and then we would revitalize its finish.

We removed its sturdy legs and stored the

dismantled relic in the storage room.

It waited there for several years until we

were able to transform it into a workable

piece of furniture and place it in a spot

to accommodate its sprawling design.

It says, “Thank you,” every time I pass it.

Now its distressed surface glistens with a shiny finish,

and its strong legs gleam with matching stain. Its drawer

glides smoothly and conceals tiny grandchildren’s toys.

It doesn’t see the same kind of work it saw with Daddy,

but its worn edges are a constant reminder of the work it

once aided. Over the eighty plus years that it stood in the

post office, thousands of letters were poured onto its

surface – some filled with joy, others with sorrow. Years of

monthly bills, catalogs, and daily papers were sorted and

stacked on that desktop. News from servicemen millions of

miles from our rural home, including the ones I received from

my spouse in Vietnam, have reached their destination via

that desktop.

What stories it could tell! But even in its silence it bears

testimony to me. We’re each made for a purpose and when

we fulfill that purpose, we touch lives all around us for good.

The scars and dents that come with that

service will only add to our our inner

beauty, thanks to our Master-Refiner.

114 • JULY 2021

You can postpone

the vacation.

You can postpone

the vacation.

But don’t put of f your

But don’t put of f your

health care.

Many things have been postponed because of the pandemic,

Many things have been postponed because of the pandemic,

but your health care shouldn’t be delayed. Routine screenings

but and annual your health wellness care exams shouldn’t can help identify be delayed. health issues Routine in the screenings

and earliest annual stages, wellness when they exams are most can treatable. help identify health issues in the

earliest stages, when they are most treatable.

Our providers are committed to helping you stay well. We are

Our taking providers extra precautions are committed to provide to a safe helping and clean you stay environment well. We are

and offer both in-person and telehealth appointments.

taking extra precautions to provide a safe and clean environment

and Make offer your both health in-person a priority and and schedule telehealth an appointments. today.


Make your health a priority and schedule an appointment today.




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