V73 / 1121
Hometown Clinton • 2
DECEMBER 18 & 19, 2PM THALIA MARA HALL
4 • NOVEMBER 2021
FROM OUR CONSULTING EDITOR
Here we are with the
last Hometown Clinton
issue of 2021.
It seems difficult to believe—mostly because both 2020 and 2021
have been a long, strange blur. But one thing is for sure; we endured
it together and have shared in an historical event that will mark our
lives for generations to come.
We’re honored to be able to highlight the stories of people from
right here in our area. All of us have something to contribute to the
world—and when we celebrate the wins of those around us, it creates
a greater sense of community and resilience.
This issue is full of such success stories. Be sure to read about
One Shred of Hope—a non-profit organization that uses document
shredding as a way for people with disabilities to work and make
money. The first-ever home that has been remodeled to be wheelchair
accessible through the One Shred of Hope program is right
here in Clinton.
November 20th is National Adoption Day. We highlight multiple
families and organizations that have “chosen” children by opening
their homes and hearts to adoption. Hearts of Compassion, an
orphan care and adoption ministry, was born right here at Colonial
Heights Baptist Church.
Clinton is incredibly special and full of amazing people and
stories. Thank you for allowing us to share them in such an impactful
way. We pray you have a safe and healthy holiday season. May God
continue to bless you all. Be well. See you next year!
PUBLISHER & EDITOR
Mary Ann Kirby
IN THIS ISSUE
The Way We Were 8
Portrait of a Veteran’s Life 10
Clinton Author Thomas R. Ruffin 14
Cover Art Contest 18
Hometown Family 22
A Chosen Child 33
One Shred of Hope 42
The Time Coin 50
...see you ....see around you around town. town.
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All rights reserved. No portion of Hometown Clinton be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The management of Hometown Clinton is not responsible for opinions expressed by its writers or editors.
Hometown Clinton maintains the unrestricted right to edit or refuse all submitted material. All advertisements are subject to approval by the publisher. The production of Hometown Clinton is funded by advertising.
Hometown CLINTON • 5
Buy 3 Get 1 Gift Card Free!
12 Days of Giving
We Give 10% to Charity!
This sale comes only once a year: November 12th - 23rd, 2021
- Purchase online at 3in1giftcard.com or BRAVO!, Broad Street, or Sal & Mookie’s
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6 • NOVEMBER 2021
You can postpone
You can postpone
But don’t put of f your
But don’t put of f your
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.
Hometown CLINTON • 7
Susan & Greg Belser
“Remember that marriage is
a promise. I would encourage
people to take that promise
seriously. It is intended to make
you dependent on God.” These
words of advice easily flowed
from Greg Belser’s heart as he
shared about his marriage of
nearly forty-two years.
Greg and Susan Belser grew
up together in Ingleside. Texas.
Greg was close friends with
Susan’s brother, Jeff. They were
on several sports teams together.
This friendship made it where
the two families knew each other
well. When Greg was a senior
and Susan was a sophomore,
they decided to start dating, but
the relationship was put on hold
when Greg left for college.
Greg graduated college and
the two decided to date again in
the summer of 1979. By the end
of that summer, Greg had
proposed. He worked as a
delivery person for a man who
re-upholstered furniture while
attending seminary and waiting
to marry his bride. After getting
married on December 29,1979,
he began working as a youth
minister at Northside Baptist
Church in Duncanville, Texas.
Mr. Belser finished his degree
with a master’s in divinity in 1983
and was hired as a youth minister
in Montgomery, Alabama. Soon
after moving, their family
experienced their first tragedy
since they had gotten married.
Susan’s brother Jeff passed away
unexpectedly in 1984.
Susan was a homemaker with
one daughter, Lindsay, at this
time. Greg proudly explained,
“Susan did a marvelous job as a
homemaker for our family.” The
Belser family spent many years in
Alabama. Their family grew with
the birth of two more daughters,
Ashley and Bethany.
In 2005, the Belser family
was asked to move to Morrison
Heights Baptist Church in Clinton.
Greg shared how he felt this was
the Lord’s will for their family.
Greg moved first. This allowed
their youngest daughter to finish
her senior year in the school she
had grown to love. Susan also
stayed behind to be with her
oldest daughter, who was getting
married in July of 2005.
Immediately following the
wedding, the family endured
their second major trial. Susan
was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Greg would come home weekly
to be with his wife, but their
church family helped carry
them through that season. They
discussed how much their church
families stepped in when their
actual family was far away.
Immediately after getting
married, they moved seven hours
away from their family. They
never lived near family and had to
rely on their church family for
support. “We were helped by
folks who were in the race with us,
but not biologically our family,”
Greg shared. “At every church we
have had people who would take
us under their wing,” Susan added.
In the summer of 2006, Susan
moved to Mississippi. When they
began the move, none of their
children were married and they
had no grandchildren. Now, after
sixteen-and-a-half years in
Mississippi, all of their daughters
are married and they have nine
grandchildren. As a matter of
8 • NOVEMBER 2021
“Selfishness is the
greatest threat to
fact, though it was unplanned,
every daughter married a man
who serves in ministry.
When asked if they had any
other advice for married couples,
Mr. Belser added, “We went into
it with a strong commitment to
marriage. We never intended to
become a statistic.” He added,
“I often tell young couples to find
a couple that has been married
twenty or more years. Tell them,
‘You are going to take us out for a
steak dinner and tell us how your
marriage works.’ He jokingly
continued, “You can’t lose! You’ll
get a free steak dinner and great
advice.” He then added, “Selfishness
is the greatest threat to all
relationships. Humble yourself.
The secret sauce for our marriage
has been God and church.”
Hometown CLINTON • 9
PORTRAIT OF A
In the Brookdale Senior Living Center, here in Clinton,
there is a collection of photographs in the main hall -
a grouping of photos featuring veterans who live in
the center. On the far end is a picture of one particular
veteran, John McNeece. His life, like many others on
the wall, is a unique ode to years lived in service to
his country, sacrifice for the greater good, and an
accumulation of adventurous memories.
THE EARLY YEARS
His story began in Fulton, Mississippi,
where he was born in 1931, on what
he describes as a “red dirt road cotton
farm.” He spent his childhood and
adolescence in Fulton, as one of six
boys. In the 1940s, as young men
across the U.S. enlisted to serve in
WWII, McNeece decided he wanted
to follow suit. Four of his six brothers
served in WWII at one time. He
registered for the draft, however the
war concluded before he reached
18 years old. But when the Korean
War dawned in the 1950s, similarly
drawing American men into service
(including a brother of his) McNeece
made the decision to serve his country
in a different way than he initially
envisioned. In November of 1951,
he opted to join the Air Force.
He enlisted in Tupelo, beginning a
decades-long career of service.
Following initial enrollment,
McNeece was then transferred to
Louisiana, where he became a KP
(“kitchen patrol”), which, he laughingly
says, “Was not what I wanted to do.”
He transferred out to Wichita Falls,
Texas, where he began aircraft and
engine training. He went in to school
for about a year, learning everything
he could about the B36 engine, which
was, according to him, “his area.” He
followed his stint in Wichita Falls with
time at the (now former) Carswell Air
Force Base, where he invested time
learning about a range of engines,
and became a mechanic on the B36’s
carrying nuclear weapons.
The ensuing years of his career
encompassed working on airplanes
and missiles that carried “nukes.”
McNeece served in multiple areas
across the U.S. The high point,
according to him, was time he spent
in Blytheville, Ark. Around the 12-year
mark of his career, he says, “I went
back to school yet again” in Spokane,
Wash., to work on the SM-65E “Atlas-E”
missile (he was a technical sergeant
at this juncture). He stayed there for
about a year before re-entering school
to obtain training on the famous
Minuteman missile. He subsequently
moved to North Dakota for four years.
His years there, were, by his account,
extremely difficult due to the frigid
winters. As he says, “We worked one
night in -16 degree weather, trying to
dial locks without gloves on our fingers.
People froze to trucks.” He recalls
his time in North Dakota as his least
favorite of his entire career, as his
childhood in the deep south and
young adulthood in Texas had hardly
prepared him for such dire weather.
While the majority of McNeece’s
career kept him on U.S. soil, the latter
years eventually provided the
opportunity for overseas travel. After
moving up to the title of senior master
sergeant, which meant he covered
all missiles, he was assigned to the
Philippines. He says that the best
experience of his career, where he
truly felt as though all his accumulated
knowledge came to bear fruit, was
during those years. “We were in trouble
one time,” he said. “In one situation,
the test gear was rusted.” However,
McNeece solved the problem. “That
moment,” he said, “was my greatest
achievement.” It was during this time
that he was named the director of
missile maintenance for Southeast
Asia, a title he carried until he finished
While McNeece loved his career,
he candidly acknowledges the
challenges that accompanied it.
“It was difficult learning to live without
a wife while away,” he said. “That is
hard on a family.” However, when
reflecting on his family now, and how
his three children (two boys and a girl)
have grown up, he shows deep fatherly
pride. The military also provided him
with opportunities to make and keep
deep relationships with those he
served alongside; in recounting years
past, he named a particular superior,
Jerry Fall, who ultimately gave him
his master sergeant stripes, as one
of the most influential commanding
officers he had, and also, one of his
good friends with whom he kept up
throughout the years.
While any long-term occupation
provides one with an opportunity to
fully scrutinize the changes that might
need to be made, or the benefits and
drawbacks, McNeece says he has few
complaints. “The divisions between
enlisted and officer grades could have
changed,” he notes. “And maybe the
pay,” he adds ruefully, with a smile
and chuckle. Pay and divisions aside,
McNeece says he ultimately could
not have imagined anything different.
“In the early years of my career, I would
take a slot on a flight once or twice a
month, which would fly along the
U.S. and Canada border, with possible
orders to hit Russia. You got paid extra
if you went on those flights. It was a
daunting experience for an old farm
boy.” He paused, his eyes welling with
tears, “But I would do it all over again.”
10 • NOVEMBER 2021
”It was a daunting
experience for an
old farm boy.
But I would
do it all over
Hometown CLINTON • 11
12 • NOVEMBER 2021
CALL NOW: 601-401-3299
Why did you decide to make Clinton
I made Clinton my home because it has a
great community and educational system.
How long have you lived in Clinton?
Tell us about your family.
I am very thankful to have a great family,
and we can always rely on each other.
What is your favorite memory of living
My favorite memories of living in Clinton
are all the different sports and teams I have
gotten to be a part of.
Where are your three favorite places
to eat in Clinton?
3. Margaritas Mexican Grill
What are some fun things to do in
Clinton on the weekends?
On the weekends, I enjoy riding bikes on
the Natchez Trace, bowling at Indian Lanes,
and working out at Planet Fitness.
Share some things you enjoy doing in
your spare time.
I enjoy playing piano, riding bikes, and
What are three things on your
1. Visit every state
2. Break some records in track & field
3. Go to college
Who is someone you admire and why?
I admire Kobe Bryant because of his
mindset to strive to do your best and to be
the best in whatever you do.
Where do you see yourself ten years
In 10 years I see myself being 100 times
better than I am today, with a great career
and many achievements.
What is your favorite childhood
My favorite childhood memory is when
I went to Universal Studios for spring
If you could give us one encouraging
quote, what would it be?
“The moment you give up, is the moment
you let someone else win.” - Kobe Bryant
What is your favorite thing about
I love that Hometown Magazines is
about places we’re familiar with and it
keeps you updated on what’s going on
in your community.
Hometown CLINTON • 13
14 • NOVEMBER 2021
“If you can’t feel something
from reading or writing it,
it’s not worth your while.
Poetry should spark
emotion in some way.”
compared life as a poet
to selling peanuts on
the side of a highway.
“You meet a lot of
but you don’t make
any money!” he said.
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the self-published author
moved to Clinton when he was four years old. He proudly
proclaims himself a Clinton native. Ruffin has five children
and has been married to his wife, Stacey, for almost 30 years.
Ruffin discovered his aptitude for writing while he was
in high school. “One day, I was writing in the study hall when
a teacher approached me and asked what I was writing,” he
said. “I was nervous to hand her the paper, but she read it.
When she was done, she said, ‘That’s good. Keep going!’”
This short encounter is what encouraged him to keep writing,
and he never stopped.
Thomas R. Ruffin has quite an impressive professional
background. Ruffin earned an Associate in Applied Science
from Hinds Community College, a Bachelor of Science in
psychology from Mississippi College, and a Master of Social
Science in administration of justice from Mississippi College.
He was also an adjunct professor at Mississippi College,
teaching in the department of history and political science.
Prior to becoming a professor, Ruffin served as a military
policeman in Germany. He was assigned to a drug
suppression team under the command of the criminal
investigation division. He primarily worked in a covert
capacity, gathering intelligence on the drug trafficking
organizations operating throughout Europe.
Apart from serving as an undercover investigator for
the armed forces, he also spent some time in the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. Upon completing his training at
the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, Ruffin served as a
negotiator on the crisis negotiation team. Following Ruffin’s
military and FBI career, he worked at the Clinton Police
Department as a patrol officer, lieutenant detective, and
special operations group commander. He medically retired
from the Clinton PD in 2007, after being diagnosed with
Parkinson’s disease in October of 2001.
Hometown CLINTON • 15
“One night while on shift at the police department,
I ran into Vicki Waters. She was a friend,” said Ruffin.
Waters was a school teacher in Clinton. At the time,
she was married to the local artistic legend, Wyatt Waters.
“I shared a few of my poems with her, and I asked for her
academic opinion,” he explained. A couple of months
later, Waters showed back up at the police department
with suggestions and notes. “There were red markings
all over the poems. I thought this meant she did not
like them very much,” Ruffin said jokingly. “Turns
out, she loved them!” Waters encouraged Ruffin to
publish, so he did.
His first book, On the Weeping Floor, was
self-published by PublishAmerica in 2005. Ruffin
has written and self-published eight books since
then. They are available on Amazon. When asked what
inspires him to write, Ruffin replied, “Real life. When life
inspires me or I feel like I have something I need to say,
I write it down.” According to Ruffin, about 80 percent
of his poems are inspired by real people or true-life events.
“I take the truth, then I add creativity to it,” he said,
explaining his creative process.
Jackson Free Press described Thomas R. Ruffin as,
“a working man’s poet,” adding, “this man writes what he has
lived.” In Touch Television described him as, “in touch with
the soul of the masses,” and, “a master of human expression.”
Thomas doesn’t look at the “stereotypical” poets as role
models. “I like to read headlining poets on occasion, but the
obscure poets are better writers in my opinion,” he explained.
“If you can’t feel something from reading or writing it, it’s not
worth your while. Poetry should spark emotion in some way.”
Ruffin writes for pure enjoyment. “Some people exercise
for stress relief, while others watch television or sleep.
Everyone has a different outlet. My stress relief is writing.
16 • NOVEMBER 2021
It gets things out of me that need to come out,”
he said. When asked what kind of advice he
would give other writers, Ruffin replied, “Write
what you want to write. Success is not guaranteed,
so write for the love of it. Don’t write what you
don’t think people want to hear. If it’s controversial,
write it anyway.”
When asked how Parkinson’s disease affects
his writing, Ruffin replied by saying, “It makes
me more ambitious.” He added, “I am in a hurry
to get things done, and I care less about what
Ruffin has attempted to venture into other
forms of writing, but he found that his passion
lies with poetry. “I just feel like I can’t quite get
there,” he explained, referring to his efforts in
writing a novel. “With poetry, I can see the end
of my story. That is more challenging when trying
to compose an entire book.” While it may be a
challenge to see the end of a story when composing
a novel, Ruffin shared a similar problem with
poetry. “You have to tell a story with a small
number of words. Novelists get 350 pages to
share their story, while I only get a few lines,”
Ruffin is currently working on his 10th volume of poems. The collection
will be called The Merciful, and it will launch on February 22, 2022.
The book release will be accompanied by a launch party. Details will
be announced on his website, www.thomasruffin.com, at a later date.
Hometown CLINTON • 17
Cover Art Contest
For the 2021 holiday issue of
Hometown Clinton Magazine, we asked for
submissions of Christmas-themed art from
junior and high school art students throughout
Clinton. We want to encourage the artistic
ability in the city’s brightest young artists!
We were thrilled to receive dozens of entries,
with the best being featured here.
Evie Maynard, Sumner Hill
Junior High School 9th grader,
for being chosen as our
grand prize winner!
CCA - Alex Toth - 9th
CCA - Haile Kosek - 9th
CCA - Ashton Adams - 9th
CCA - Jamaya Lofton - 9th
CCA - Marli Noone - 9th
CCA - Paris Brooks - 9th
18 • NOVEMBER 2021
CCA - Wilson Yi - 9th
CCA - Zion Hudson - 9th
CCA - Brian Wood - 9th CCA - Connor Purvis - 9th CCA - Cooper Loftin - 9th CCA - Duke Collins - 9th
CCA - Jordyn McGee - 9th CCA - Josiah Clemons - 9th CCA - Karmen Manuel - 9th CCA - Marcus Catchings - 9th
CCA - River Curtis - 9th CCA - Tiffany Wilson - 9th CCA - Ty Goings - 9th CCA - Walkers Lyles - 9th
Sumner Hill - Evie Maynard - 9th Sumner Hill - Kyla Keir - 9th Sumner Hill - Makayla Speed - 9th
Hometown CLINTON • 19
20 • NOVEMBER 2021
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!
Hometown CLINTON • 21
22 • NOVEMBER 2021
PHOTO: Heather Sullivan
Tell us about your family.
Jonathan (33) Works at Mississippi College as assistant dean
of students. Graduated from MC with a BSBA in Marketing and
Master of Science in Higher Education Administration. Currently
enrolled in the EdD in Higher Education Administration at
Southern Miss. Hobbies: Relaxing and hanging out with family
when time allows.
Anna (33) Owns and runs James & Leigh which is a women’s
clothing and accessories boutique, now fully online. Had a
storefront in Olde Towne Clinton for almost 8 years. Graduated
from MC in 2010 with a BSBA in Marketing. Hobbies include
watching movies and tv shows when we have the time.
Ellie (6) First grader at Clinton Park Elementary in Mrs. Rone’s
class. Loves to do anything arts and crafts related; likes to play with
Barbies, spending time with cousins and watch her tablet
whenever mom and dad allow.
Evie (3) Pre-School at First Baptist Church Clinton in Mrs. Kim’s
class. Loves to do anything big sister is doing, playing dress-up,
spending time with her cousins and watching her tablet whenever
mom and dad allow.
How did you meet and how long have you been married.
We met in 9th grade at Sumner Hill Jr. High School in 2003.
We started dating in March of 2003 and we’ve been together
Do you allow time to be with your spouse for a date night?
Whenever we can. We both like to eat out and do something
simple like go to Target without the kids. We are lucky enough to
have both sets of grandparents living in Clinton, so they’re usually
willing to babysit for us!
What brings you the greatest joy as a parent?
Jonathan Hugs, kisses and smiles from either one of my girls.
Anna Spending Saturdays with our girls now that we no longer
have a storefront. I often had to work on Saturdays, keeping me
away from the kids. So we enjoy spending time together now!
What is your discipline philosophy?
We encourage them to be kind (especially to one another) and to
share, and when they don’t do that, they typically will have a time
out or lose privileges. But overall, our girls are very well behaved,
and we feel very lucky for that. When they do get in trouble, it’s
often for not cleaning up. Neither one of them are good at cleaning
up and they hate having to do it!
Hometown CLINTON • 23
What’s a quick go to meal that isn’t fast food?
And who does the cooking?
Spaghetti or some kind of soup or chili. Both of us enjoy cooking so
we take turns. Neither of us enjoy cleaning up though.
How long has Clinton been your home?
Anna I was born in Jackson and lived in Clinton for all of my life.
We live in the same neighborhood as my parents (which is the house
I grew up in) and my grandparents lived in the neighborhood as well.
After my grandparents both passed away, one of our best friends
bought their house and remodeled it.
Jonathan My family moved to Clinton in 1996 when I was 8 years
old. I have lived in Clinton ever since. My parents actually moved
away for ten years, but they have retired and moved back to Clinton.
What are some of your favorite things about Clinton?
We love the family feel of Clinton, not only because it is where we
grew up, but because we know many people that grew up here and
have chosen to raise families here. We also know many people who
came to Clinton to attend MC and decided to stay in our community.
We also love the school system. We are both products of the Clinton
public school district and believe very strongly in our public school
system. We are very proud to be sending our kids to Clinton schools.
Not only do the schools strive for excellence, but the teachers care
about students and are passionate about their work.We also love that
Mississippi College is here. Both of us attended MC and Jonathan
has worked at MC for over 9 years. MC is a home away from home
for us and our girls who love being on campus and love interacting
with college students. Clinton is a better place because MC is here.
How do you spend your summer breaks?
We try and travel some during the summer, typically to the beach
at least once. And we also visit family (on Jonathan’s side) in July
every year. We also enjoy swimming at Gigi and Pops’ house
What drives you to have the job that you have?
And what do you do for a living?
Jonathan I work at Mississippi College, and I am the assistant
dean of students in the division of student experience. I love working
with college students because college is such a huge time of development
for young people. My work entails a lot of the things that
happen outside of the classroom which help complete the college
experience for so many students. I’m very passionate about what
I do and see myself working in higher education long term. This is
one of the reasons I am pursuing a doctorate in higher education
administration at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Anna I’ve always loved clothing and shopping, so we decided that
I could turn it into a business and help other people shop for
themselves too! That’s how James & Leigh started. I love keeping up
with trends and making them relatable for people to wear. I also love
the feeling of connecting with people through clothing and giving
them confidence in what they wear.
We love our neighborhood as well. We live in a small, older neighborhood
in the middle of town called Lakeview Heights. We have
seasonal get-togethers and have a group text message now where
people help keep track of each other’s pets, etc. This kind of community
cannot be found everywhere.
What accomplishments make you proud during your
time living in Clinton?
I think the work of Main Street Clinton has brought so much to
our community. This organization works to better the Olde Towne
and Clinton Boulevard districts in our community through events,
beatification, and economic development. Their events like Olde
Towne markets help make our community an attractive place for
people of all ages to live. We also appreciate the upgrades to our
city parks like Lion’s Club now that we have young children who
beg to go to the caterpillar park, often daily.
QUESTIONS FOR THE CHILDREN
What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?
Ellie & Evie Go to Disney World
What your favorite restaurant?
Ellie Chick-Fil-A Evie Sonic
What’s your favorite TV show?
Ellie & Evie Sofia the First
24 • NOVEMBER 2021
Hometown CLINTON • 25
26 • NOVEMBER 2021
Hometown CLINTON • 27
to First Responders
Why did you decide to be a fireman?
I have always enjoyed helping people and serving others.
Shortly after high school, I joined a volunteer fire department,
which allowed me to see how rewarding the job of a fireman is.
CLINTON FIRE DEPARTMENT
How long have you been with the Clinton Fire Department?
I began my career as a fireman in 2011. Shortly after, in 2013,
I came to Clinton.
Tell us about your family.
I married my high school sweetheart Kristen, who also works here
in Clinton. We have two children, Jax (3) and Annelise (3 months).
Raymond has been home for us for almost ten years now.
What is the toughest thing you have experienced in your job?
Early in my career I experienced losing three children in one week.
Any call that involves children is always tough.
Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.
I own a small business that requires a good deal of my time when
I’m not at the fire station. When I am home, I just enjoy getting to
spend time with my family and working outside on our property.
We recently got a camper and are looking forward to taking trips and
making memories as a family.
What are three things on your bucket list?
I would love to be able to take a few weeks and go out west.
Camping, hiking, and hunting are all things that I hope to be able
to do one day. Greece is another place I’ve always thought about
visiting and exploring. And I want to be able to watch my children
grow and be able to be a positive influence on them.
Who is someone you admire and why?
My dad he gave me the strong work ethic that I have today.
I hope to pass this along to my kids.
If you could give one piece of advice to a young person,
what would it be?
When considering a career, it is not always about the money or
the prestige. Enjoying what you do and fulfilling your calling is truly
rewarding. Enjoy life and appreciate the small things. We aren’t
always guaranteed tomorrow, so enjoy what you do and do it to
Taylor Carter of Brookhaven your best ability. is
headed to the University of Southern
Mississippi for a degree in biology Rodric McClain got out of the car to take a photo
and an eventual career as a
of his best friend, Tia Denise Cook of Jackson.
28 • NOVEMBER 2021
What is your favorite
thing about Clinton?
The people. Clinton residents
always go above and beyond to
support us and each other.
What is your favorite thing
about Hometown Magazines?
They bring us all together by
introducing key people in our
Hometown CLINTON • 29
30 • NOVEMBER 2021
SUMNER HILL 9TH GRADE Q&A
As difficult as the past year has been, what are
you most thankful for this holiday season?
Abigail Thomas This past year has been
hard because so many people can’t see their loved ones.
I am thankful I get to see my family and spend time with
them throughout the holiday season. I could not ask for
a better family to spend time with this season.
Andreanna Foster I’m most thankful for
being able to spend quality time with my family. I’m also
thankful to have the different events that were prevented
due to the pandemic, for example the school carnival
that’s coming up in October. Finally, I am thankful to have
the opportunity to join the different social clubs such as
student council and peer leadership committee.
Anna Smith I am very thankful that this year
we can gather with family and do things we haven’t been
able to do for a while. Family is very important to me and
I’m so happy that things are coming closer and closer to
normal and that we can be together for special times and
make good memories.
Asia Davenport Hands down, I am the
most thankful this holiday season for life. The past year
has made me appreciate the little and big things in life.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only person that has
survived this past year and is more thankful for life than
Caleb Nettles I am thankful that all my
family members have been safe from COVID-19 and other
dangers in this world. I am also thankful for my friends
keeping in touch with me even though we hadn’t seen
each other over the whole entire lockdown and summer.
Grayson Fortenberry I am very
thankful that we have somehow gotten through this
terrible pandemic. I am most thankful this holiday season
for my family and everyone who has supported me.
It means the world to me to have an amazing supporting
cast that is cheering me on.
James Farr This past year has been pretty
hard on many people. Thankfully I have not been affected
badly by COVID-19. The thing that I am most thankful for
this holiday season is that I will be showing in the state
fair cattle show.
Jerusha Dasary I am very thankful for
the fully devoted workers in our community. In spite of
the circumstances, they come committed to do their
very best every day. From teachers who encourage us,
to builders who work through grime and sweat, every
person plays an important role in shaping our community.
Jordan Butler I am most thankful for
moments of joy I have been able to experience.
Throughout the last year, which was extremely difficult,
I’ve been continuously reminded that there is a reason to
have hope. Those moments of happiness are what keep
me going, and they are what I’m beyond grateful for this
Kaedyn Wilson I am most thankful this
holiday season for the togetherness of the community.
Together we are better than ever. The community has
proved that to be true because, even through a pandemic,
we still managed to keep the feeling of togetherness alive
through hard times.
Mati Claire Miley This holiday season
I’m thankful for being able to gather with my friends
and family. It’s such a small thing but it makes all the
Nitika Kumari Because I was virtual last
year, I couldn’t participate in classes physically. This year
I am thankful for school reopening physically, despite the
COVID cases still increasing steadily.
Riley Burnside Even though the past year
has been rough, I’m really thankful for all that my parents
have provided for my siblings and me. Sometimes I think
we can forget about how much we are blessed and for
how much stuff we have. I am so very thankful for all of
my friends and family because I know that if I ever need
someone to talk to, I can always turn to them.
Sumaiya Alalili I’m thankful to be able to be
near my peers again. I’m thankful to be able to meet my
teachers this year, and I’m thankful to be participating in
school/school activities. Last year was hard, but this year
proves that there are some benefits from the effects of
hardships! Now, I’m sure not to take things for granted
and appreciate the little things that I have in life, because
you never know life’s schedule.
Wellsley Wilkinson As challenging as the
past year has been, I am most thankful for the community.
Clinton has joined together, despite the social distancing
to make the most of our situation and create a feeling of
Hometown CLINTON • 31
Christmas Memorial Reflection December 3
Christmas for Clinton December 12
Cafe Noel December 19
Christmas by Candlelight December 24
100 E. COLLEGE STREET
CLINTON, MS | 601.924.6705
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32 • NOVEMBER 2021
National Adoption Day is November 20, 2021.
It was initially started to raise awareness of the
children waiting to be adopted in the United States–
120,000 this year alone. We’re honored to have
met local families from all across the metro who
opened their hearts and homes to adoption.
We celebrate the families that have been created
and the children chosen–not of your flesh, nor of
your bone, but still miraculously your very own.
Hometown CLINTON • 33
34 • NOVEMBER 2021
“We knew that there were children out there
that needed homes and we felt God calling
us to adopt a child that needed one,”
said Denise Coleman.
Denise and husband, Stephen, found
their way to each other while continuing
their education at the University of Southern
Mississippi. Marrying in December 2007,
they began their lives together in Clinton.
As they began careers, the desire to have a
family was soon at the forefront of their
minds and hearts. Denise, a second-grade
special education teacher at Gary Road
Elementary, and already having a love of
children, knew in her heart that she wanted
to share that love with a precious child.
The couple admits that they both felt
God “had called them” to be a beacon for
children in the area who needed loving,
nurturing homes. The Colemans leaned on
their faith and trusted the path the Lord had
set out before them as they eagerly opened
their home to foster children.
On Mother’s Day weekend in 2015,
Stephen and Denise received the call from
Southern Christian Services to take in a
foster. Little did they know that this young
foster, a bouncing 16-month-old little boy,
would change their lives forever.
What initially was to be a temporary
placement for the summer turned into four
years. On March 26, 2019, Jaxson legally
became their adopted son. He was part of a
large adoption ceremony that took place at
the Hinds County Courthouse. The couple
admitted to having a variety of emotions over
Jaxson’s adoption. Being elated and eager to
make it official, they also had a “sense of relief”
in knowing now that he would be theirs
forever. Denise added, “We simply wanted
him to grow up being loved, cared for, and
knowing that he would be ok and not have to
worry about whether or not he was going to
have to leave our home or get to stay was a
great relief. We also felt sadness because we
knew that that ended a chapter in his life,
a life he had before he came to us.” Stephen
added, “The most rewarding part about
adopting has been knowing that we had
a part in the story of Jaxson’s life.”
Becoming new parents is a time of
unexplainable bliss but also uncertainty and
sometimes fear. Stephen said, “I had to learn
to think of Jaxson first and put his needs
before my own. Being able to watch him grow
on a daily basis and absorb new things all the
time has been an amazing thing to watch.”
Denise added, “Parenting itself can be
tough and challenging, but that’s true for any
parents who have children.” Both Denise and
Stephen were born deaf and wear cochlear
implant processors. She said, “Our hearing
impairments have not presented any challenges
in raising a child.” The Colemans are showing
Jaxson true determination, dedication, and
positivity each day. Denise added, “The thing
he says all the time is ‘I’ve got this.’”
Jaxson attends Northside Elementary,
has three dogs who just happen to be adopted
also, and “loves to go to church with his family
at First Baptist of Clinton.” He loves pizza,
his friends, Minecraft, and sports. He said,
“I love to go out the eat with my family, have
family movie nights, go to church with my
mom and dad, and play Beyblades with my
Denise added, “He has truly blessed us
with his smile, his big heart for others, his silly
sense of humor, his determination to be the
best person he can be. He has blessed us so
much in teaching us how to be godly parents
just as we are teaching him to be a servant for
Fostering and adopting can be an emotional
roller coaster. For those considering it, Denise
offered, “The advice we would give is to be
patient and have faith in God to be in control
of your adoption journey.” She also adds to
be an advocate for your child when working
through the process making sure that he or
she is really “heard.” She urges, “Make time
to spend together as a family and make
memories, even if you don’t know what will
happen, if the child will leave or get to stay
and be adopted. Those memories are what
you will have together in the long run. Don’t
be afraid to also allow the child to know God.
Take your child to church, let them know
God, and ultimately lead them to have a real
relationship with God because God loves
that precious child too.”
Hometown CLINTON • 35
We never know the journey God has for us. We may think
we do, but we don’t. The Bible says His ways are higher than
our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts
(Isaiah 55:8-9). I’m glad they are. I’m glad He has better plans
than I do.
Our adoption journey began with a pull, an emotional tug
at the heart. Adoption is a good idea. A nice thing for someone
to do. Little did we know God was beginning a process
of calling us to adopt. Three times He called us to adopt.
Three times we obeyed.
We considered adopting again. We prayed about it. We
were open, and our “yes” was on the table. But we sensed
that God was moving slowly. So, we waited.
Meanwhile, God was calling someone else to adopt. He
placed the call on the heart of a child who shared that call
with her family. They answered with a “yes,” but adoption
is expensive. After years of trying, they hit what seemed to be
the final wall. In a tearful post, the mom shared the greatest
burden of her heart. They would have to abandon the adoption
process for lack of funding. They just kept hitting dead ends.
But thankfully, a friend read her post. A friend from church
who had been praying about how God wanted her family
to invest in the kingdom of God. A friend who had not been
called to adopt, but who suddenly felt the undeniable call
No one whom God calls to adopt should have to abandon
that call for lack of funds, not when the family of God can help.
That’s when it happened. A phone call between two women,
my wife and the woman who read the post, connected
their hearts’ desire to do something about adoption– first and
foremost to do something to help this family to continue
What happened next was the birth of an organization
called Hearts of Compassion, the orphan care and adoption
ministry of Colonial Heights Baptist Church. The goal was to
help bring awareness to the plight of 147 million orphans
around the world and to help fund adoptions by Christian
families. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.
It’s not enough that children be adopted into earthly families,
we long for them to be adopted into God’s family as well.
How do you take the gospel to all nations? Sometimes,
one child at a time.
The two women, with the help of their church family, were
able to help the tearful mom at the end of her rope. That
family did adopt a little girl from China. We call her our first
Hearts of Compassion kid. That was almost eleven years ago.
But one child was not enough. God began to stir the heart
of a congregation to get behind the idea of adoption. Some
were called to adopt. Others were called to help families
adopt. Through the help of ministry partner, Lifesong for
Orphans, the Hearts of Compassion team found like-minded
believers who provided exceptional administrative help to
36 • NOVEMBER 2021
establish the Hearts of Compassion Adoption
Fund. Through the partnership with Lifesong,
Hearts of Compassion is able to offer matching
grants and no-interest loans to approved families
who are in the process of adoption.
But how do you raise enough money to
help provide funding for years to come? How
do you build something sustainable? The
Hearts of Compassion team tried several
avenues at first, including partnerships with
local businesses who would offer a portion of
their proceeds to Hearts of Compassion. The
first partner, Sweet Tree Yogurt, went so far as
to open their doors one Sunday afternoon
and gave 100% of their proceeds to the
adoption fund. Church members and friends
came out in droves.
I’m not really sure who came up with the
idea of hosting a run, but in the fall of 2011,
we hosted the first Hearts of Compassion 5k
and 1-mile Fun Run. We had no idea what we
were doing. We recruited a few sponsors and
rallied the church to run for adoption. The
Lord blessed, people came, and we raised
enough money to keep our little fund moving.
We could do our part to help make sure a few
more families could afford to adopt.
This year the Hearts of Compassion 5K will
celebrate its 10th anniversary. It’s hard to
believe all that we have seen. One year we
combined our race with the church’s fall festival.
One year we hosted a silent auction outside in
the rain. One year, it was so cold and rainy we
were sure no one would show up. That year, to
our great surprise, became our highest grossing
and most well-attended event up until that
time. God can do amazing things when we
answer His call and follow Him in this journey!
In our first race event, we were thrilled to
raise close to $10,000. A few years later, we
were blown away when we doubled that.
Now, we typically raise over seven times that
much through each event. In the last 10 years,
Hearts of Compassion has raised over $430,000.
We expect to exceed the $500,000 mark with
this year’s event. Through matching grants
and additional fundraising, the adoption fund
has mobilized over $754,000 for adoption.
But this really isn’t about money. Yes, the
Hearts of Compassion team works tirelessly to
raise money for adoptions. Yes, our stated
goal is that no Christian family should ever
have to abandon the call to adopt due to a
lack of funds. But this ministry is ultimately
about the children. It’s about impacting the
lives of children with forever families and the
truth of the gospel. It’s about going after the
“least of these” for the glory of God.
Because of His work through our meager
efforts, more than 115 children have been
adopted or are in the process of being adopted
into gospel-centered homes.
It began with an undeniable desire to help
one specific family fulfill God’s call on their
lives. A call to help one beautiful little girl in
China find the love of a mom, dad, sister,
brothers, and church family. A call to make
sure that one beautiful girl grew up in a home
where she heard the gospel and eventually
responded to God’s call to salvation.
We didn’t realize that saying “yes” to this
call would open the door to God’s blessings
on so many more kids and adoptive families.
We didn’t realize the work God would do in us
along the way. We had no idea the people He
was calling to labor along with us in the journey.
We didn’t know the change it would make in
us as a church family.
As God has given more and more of us a
heart for adoption, our church has begun to look
a little more like the Revelation 7 picture of
Heaven. Come and visit us, and you’ll find kids
of all races and ethnicities running through
the halls. You’ll see a church that welcomes
people from all nations, tongues, and tribes.
Hearts of Compassion is about God changing
us. He graciously allowed us the opportunity
to be made better through the lives of children
from around the world and by the love of moms
and dads who would do anything to bring them
home. Hearts of Compassion reminds us of the
Father’s love for us, His children. He wasn’t
willing to leave us orphaned and destitute, helpless
in our sin. Instead, He chose to leave the
glory of Heaven through the birth of His Son, to
walk among us, to share the truth with us, and
to pay the ultimate price for us that we might
be called His sons and daughters.
Join us for the 10th Annual Hearts of Compassion
5K, 1-mile fun run, and silent auction on
Saturday, November 13. You too can heed the
call of God to be a part of helping take the
gospel to the nations through impacting the
life of one child at a time. You too can be a
part of the Hearts of Compassion legacy.
• Donate to the silent auction
• Sponsor the race
• Run the race (in person or virtual)
• Get the gear
Hometown CLINTON • 37
38 • NOVEMBER 2021
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
• 2 pounds (approximately
3 large) sweet potatoes, peeled
and cut into ½ - inch pieces
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• ¾ tsp. fine sea salt (kosher salt;
use less if using table salt)
• ¼ tsp. freshly cracked pepper
• ½ tsp. ground chili powder
• ½ tsp. paprika
• ½ tsp. ground cumin
• ½ tsp. garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425º. Peel and cube
the sweet potatoes into ½ inch
pieces. Place sweet potato pieces
on your largest sheet pan and add
the olive oil, salt,
top. Toss to
coat all the
then spread out
to arrange in an even layer.
Flip every 10-15 minutes
cooking for a total of
Sweet Potato Casserole
• Cooking spray
• 4 cups large sweet potatoes,
peeled and cubed
• ½ cup packed brown sugar
• 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
• ½ cup milk
• 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 2½ cups mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350° and grease a
9x13 baking dish with cooking
spray. Place sweet potatoes in a large
pot and cover with water. Bring to a
boil, then reduce heat and simmer
until the sweet potatoes are tender
(about 15 minutes). Drain and let
cool, then transfer to a large bowl.
Mix together sweet potatoes, sugar,
butter, vanilla, milk, eggs, and salt
until smooth. Pour into prepared
dish. In a separate bowl, stir together
sugar, flour, and butter until it
clumps. Stir in pecans, then spread
evenly over potatoes. Top with
marshmallows. Bake until cooked
through and golden, about
Sweet Potato Bake
• 4-5 sweet potatoes
(finely sliced, skin on)
• 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
• 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus a little extra
• ¾ tsp. kosher salt
• ¼ tsp. black pepper
• 1 Tbsp. rosemary leaves,
finely chopped, plus more for
garnish / serving
Preheat oven to 350º. Brush skillet
base and sides with a little olive oil.
Slice potatoes about ¼ inch thick.
A mandoline will make short work
of this. Place in large bowl, add butter
plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil, rosemary, salt
and pepper. Toss well with hands,
separating the slices so they are all
coated with oil. Layer potato in
skillet in a spiral/circular pattern,
overlapping the slices. Cover with
foil, bake 30 minutes until potato is
quite soft (almost fully cooked).
Remove from oven, turn up to 430°.
Remove foil, brush potato with
remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Bake
uncovered for 20 minutes until
tops are golden and slightly crisp,
and potato is cooked through
(check with a knife or skewer).
Scatter with more rosemary leaves,
a whole sprig of rosemary and pinch
of sea salt flakes if desired. Serve
immediately! Sweet potato loses
crispiness as it cools.
• 2 sweet potatoes, peeled
• ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
• ¼ cup cornstarch
• 1½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• ⅓ cup mayonnaise
• 2 Tbsp. honey mustard
• 1 tsp. hot sauce
Place sweet potatoes in a large pot
and add enough water to completely
cover potatoes. Bring to a boil over
high heat. Boil until almost tender,
but a knife still meets a little
resistance, about 8 minutes. Drain
and let cool. Preheat oven to 400°
and grease a large baking sheet with
cooking spray. When potatoes are
cool enough to handle, grate on the
large holes of a cheese grater. Add
grated potatoes, parmesan, cornstarch,
and cajun seasoning to a large
bowl. Season with salt and pepper
and stir to combine well. Scoop out a
heaping tablespoon sized amount
and squeeze together with your
hands and form into a tater tot shape.
Place on prepared baking sheet and
repeat with remaining sweet potatoes.
Bake until crispy and bottoms have
darkened, flipping halfway through,
about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, make
sauce: Combine mayonnaise, honey
mustard, and hot sauce in a small
bowl. Add more honey mustard or
hot sauce to taste. Serve tater tots hot
with dipping sauce.
Sweet Potato Fritters
• 1 medium size sweet potato,
peeled and grated
• 3 eggs
• 1½ Tbsp. chives, chopped
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper,
• 1 ripe avocado
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• Cherry tomatoes (optional)
Peel and grate potato using a food
processor or box grater, sprinkle
potatoes with sea salt, toss and place
in a paper towel lined colander.
Whisk 1 egg, a pinch of sea salt, a few
turns of freshly ground pepper and
one tablespoon chives together.
Mash avocado with a fork and place
in a small bowl, and slice tomatoes
(if using). Use a paper towel to
squeeze out any extra moisture from
potatoes. Place in a bowl and stir in
egg mixture. Heat a medium sized
pan on med/high heat for two
minutes, add olive oil, covering entire
bottom of pan. Drop potatoes by two
large spoonfuls into pan, using the
back of the spoon to spread fritters
into a 4-5” circles (will make two
fritters). Turn down heat if needed
and cook first side for 2-3 minutes or
until golden and crispy; carefully flip
and cook second side. When second
side is done, place fritters on plates.
Add more oil to pan if needed and
carefully crack two eggs into pan.
While eggs cook, spread avocado
mash onto fritters, leaving edges
exposed When eggs are cooked to
your liking, remove with spatula and
place on fritters. Season with more
salt and pepper if desired, garnish
with chives and tomatoes, serve!
Sweet Potato Pancakes
• 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• ½ tsp. baking soda
• 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
• ¼ tsp. ground ginger
• 1¾ cup buttermilk
• 2 small sweet potatoes, roasted
and pureed until smooth
(about ¾ cup puree)
• 2 large eggs
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
• Butter, for cooking and serving
• Toasted pecans, for serving
• Maple syrup, for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together flour,
baking powder, baking soda, brown
sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and
ginger. In a separate bowl, whisk
together buttermilk and sweet potato
puree, then add eggs and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry
ingredients and stir with a wooden
spoon until just combined. Melt
butter in a large nonstick skillet
or griddle over medium heat.
When butter is foamy, reduce heat
to medium-low and ladle a scant
½ cup pancake batter into skillet.
Cook until bubbles start to form in
batter and pancake is golden
underneath, about 3 minutes, then
flip and cook other side until golden,
another 3 minutes. Repeat with
remaining batter. Serve with more
butter, toasted pecans, and maple
Sweet Potato Salad
• 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked
• 3 large sweet potatoes peeled and
cut into chunks
• 1 cup thinly sliced celery hearts
• 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
• 1 jalapeno pepper seeded
• 2 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
• 2 garlic cloves minced
• 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
• 3 Tbsp. olive oil
• ¼ tsp. kosher salt
• ⅛ tsp. black pepper
Bring a large bot of salted water to a
boil, then add the sweet potatoes.
Simmer just until fork tender, about
10 to 15 minutes depending upon
the size of your potato chunks. Drain,
gently and quickly rinse with cold
water, then set aside. If necessary,
cook the bacon according to one
of my easy methods listed below.
Once cool, crumble it into a large
bowl. Add the celery and green
onions. Prepare the mustard dressing:
In a small bowl or large measuring
cup, whisk together the jalapeno,
mustard, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt,
and pepper. Add the sweet potatoes
to the bowl with the bacon, drizzle
with the dressing, then toss gently to
combine. Taste and season with
additional salt/pepper as desired.
Serve warm, chilled, or at room
Hometown CLINTON • 39
Support our Small Businesses
40 • NOVEMBER 2021
T & D Furniture
Swivel Rocker Recliner $199
42x42x16 console, available in different colors $269
Rick’s Pro Truck
Orca Walker Tote $199
14K Rose and White Gold Diamond Ring
1.11 carat center diamond, clarity E-VS2, 1.84 total carats
Hinged Bangle Bracelet
14K white gold, 100 diamonds, GVS2 color and clarity
1.27 total carats
Great Stocking Stuffer:
Platinum and Gold Membership Cards
Hometown CLINTON • 41
Lauren Compere maneuvers her power wheelchair with ease around
her well-appointed home in Clinton. Widened doorways, lowered
light switches and a roll-in shower all serve to make the home
accessible to Lauren, who was born with a body that doesn’t allow
her to move in this world the way most people do.
Once you choose hope,
anything is possible.
The home is set on a wooded lot on Wickstead Drive. The older house has
been made modern through the work of One Shred of Hope, who owns it.
“There are monetary limitations placed on people with disabilities regarding the
amount of money they can earn and assets they can own,” explains Lauren.
“These restrictions make it practically impossible to live independently.”
Lauren worked on the interior design of the home with Lorron Cottrell, an
interior design student at Mississippi College.
One Shred of Hope is an organization founded on the premise that individuals
and families affected by disabilities experience many difficulties, but those
difficulties can be overcome with the foundations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
– its inherent truth, and its power over and through our lives.
The “movement of God,” as Lauren refers to it, serves individuals eighteen
and over with documented physical and/or intellectual disabilities, excluding
chemical dependency and severe mental illness. “The One Shred of Hope
movement is about creating both spiritual and physical freedom for families
affected by disabilities.”
The communities built by One Shred of Hope will not just be for people
affected by disabilities. “It is my dream that able-bodied, and persons affected
by disabilities can cohabitate,” says Lauren, who serves as the development
director for One Shred of Hope. The organization was the brainchild of
Joe Little, who was a colleague of Lauren’s at another non-profit for people
affected by disabilities. “Joe and I talked one day, and he told me about his
idea. I was thinking of something similar. With the Lord plus the idea, plus
a burning desire, One Shred of Hope was founded.”
PHOTO: Clinton Chamber of Commerce
42 • NOVEMBER 2021
PHOTOS: Lorron Cottrell
The non-profit organization uses document
shredding as a way for people with disabilities
to work and make money of their own. The
organization will pick up documents from
companies or individuals to shred, or they can
take their documents to be shredded to the
Clinton office. “That has allowed conversations
to be had,” says Lauren. “More often than not,
people add a little extra donation to the fee
we charge when they find out what we are
doing.” Other donations come from churches,
civic organizations, grants, and various other
Lauren lives in the first ever home that has
been remodeled to be wheelchair accessible
by One Shred of Hope. “The organization
purchased an older home in good condition
because it was cheaper,” she explains. “What
so many people don’t realize is that one in five
people are affected by disabilities, and people
affected by disabilities experience some of
the highest rates of homelessness. As a group,
people affected by disabilities are the largest
group to be unreached by the Gospel, due in
part to the lack of disability ministry and the
lack of understanding from churches and
Lauren’s personality is so bubbly and
inviting that people can’t help but notice her
and get to know her. That has made getting
her message across easier. She also had the
platform of being Miss Wheelchair Mississippi
in 2015. Lauren has spoken at churches,
Rotary Clubs, and anywhere else she can get
people to listen to her message about One
Shred of Hope.
“I have seen problems that people with
disabilities face, and I knew something needed
to happen. We hope to acquire more land and
build two more accessible homes near this house,
creating a community where able bodied and
disabled people will both live. Our goal is to
create multiple communities in college towns
throughout Mississippi, and eventually,
around the country. The options are limitless!
The college partnerships we could establish
would give able-bodied students the opportunity
to work, volunteer and intern with our
neighbors affected by disabilities. We believe
college students who are passionate about the
medical field and/or ministry could gain
valuable experience from spending time in
these communities. Our neighbors with special
needs would have the opportunity to be
involved on the college campuses through
attending classes, working, attending events and
more. God’s house is full and complete when
people affected by disability are present.”
Lauren is a native of Madison and graduated
from Mississippi College. She is currently
working on her master’s in counseling at the
Reformed Theological Seminary in Clinton.
For more information, visit
Hometown CLINTON • 43
44 • NOVEMBER 2021
“A Home for Brad” organizers Deputy Dwayne Moak, LeeAnn Sanders,
Sheriff Randy Tucker, and Lt. Joey Butler with Deputy Brad Sullivan
as a social media campaign to build Brad a new home kicks off.
MARY ANN KIRBY
Back in November of 2020, our
sister publication, Hometown
Madison, published an in-depth
story about Brad Sullivan, the Madison
County sheriff deputy that sustained
life-threatening injuries while attempting to
arrest a kidnapping suspect east of Canton on
September 5, 2019. The events of that day left this single father
of two with two bullet wounds in his head. Thirty-two days later,
after being in a medically induced coma, Brad Sullivan was
awake and facing the uphill battle of rehabilitation and recovery.
As with most physical disabilities, the ongoing expenses associated
with an injury of this magnitude can often make prioritizing
a livable home fall way down on the to-do list. Brad suffers
paralysis to his left side and regularly uses a wheelchair. Brad
has retrofitted and engineered as much as he can on his own,
including his personal vehicle, but it’s not hard to imagine the
limitations that come with not having properly ADA compliant
Fast forward to 2021 and enter the Madison County Mississippi
Sheriff’s Department Benefit Association. This organization has
begun a fund-raising project with the goal of building a fully
compliant home for Brad and his family to spend the remainder
of their lives. Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies, Lt. Joey Butler
and Dwayne Moak are spearheading the “A Home for Brad”
project and hope to provide a special place for their former
co-worker and friend—a place that will accommodate his
“Brad has a piece of land that we’re going to build on—so we’re
already that far along in the process,” stated Joey Butler. The
Home Builders Association of Jackson will be coordinating the
construction of the home through Kirkland Development, Charter
Homes, HouseWorks, and other HBAJ partners.
The “A Home for Brad” campaign
launched on August 31 and utilizes
Facebook, primarily, to reach the
over 11,000 followers of the “A Home
for Brad – Praying for Deputy Brad
“This is going to be an expensive project,” said Dwayne Moak.
“Not only have the cost of building supplies skyrocketed, but
everything in Brad’s home will have to be customized, adding
expense, so it’s important we reach as many people as possible.”
All donations are fully tax deductible. Contributions can be made
through their website at www.ahomeforbrad.org or checks may
be made payable to the Madison County Mississippi Sheriff’s
Department Benefit Association, Inc. (Madison SD Benefit
Association) at 2941 Highway 51, Canton, MS 39046.
Those interested in donating homebuilding services, supplies,
equipment, etc., can contact Vicky Bratton of the Home Builders
Association of Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For all
monetary donation inquiries, contact LeeAnn Sanders with
the Madison County Sheriff’s Department at leeann.sanders@
madison-co.com. For all other general inquiries email support@
Joey Butler is confident the community will support this endeavor.
“We depend on law enforcement to keep us
safe and protect us. Brad did his job. Now Brad
needs a home. He deserves that. We’re looking
forward to meeting that need.”
Hometown CLINTON • 45
The CHALKBOARD Clinton Schools
Inaugural MAIS Season
This fall was our inaugural MAIS soccer season, and our players worked hard to build a good foundation
for upcoming seasons. We had fifteen students who played soccer this year, two of whom are seniors–
Casidee Sanders and Caitlynn Wiegand. The girls’ soccer team was coached this year by Ian Kayser.
Reading Buddies Students in the fifth grade have partnered with first grade students as reading buddies. Each week the fifth graders listen as their first grade
buddies read books, and then help their buddies with pronunciation and reading comprehension. These partnerships encourage both mentoring and fun with reading!
Eighth Grade Cell Projects Our eighth grade
students recently created plant and animal cell
models in 3-D. Their creativity was on display as
they used various mediums to craft these models,
ranging from Styrofoam to edible models of cake.
This project not only offered the students an
opportunity to incorporate their preferred form
of art but also a hands-on approach to learning.
46 • NOVEMBER 2021
Second Grade Olympics Mt. Salus second graders recently participated in their own version of the Olympic Games. There were events, medals, and lots of fun! Students
represented various countries as they learned more about the history of the Olympics, as well as the origin of the events included in the games. Students even did research to
discover more information about the countries they were representing.
STEM The science, technology,
engineering, and math programs
at Mt. Salus offer the students
opportunities to explore and
seek solutions to various issues
and problems using hands-on
techniques. In STEM, students
develop and apply thinking,
reasoning, investigative, and
collaborative skills while also
exercising their creativity and
Hometown CLINTON • 47
The CHALKBOARD Clinton Schools
Congratulations to the members of the Clinton High School 2021 Homecoming Court.
The court was presented September 24 during halftime of the football game. They also rode in the Clinton Homecoming Parade that afternoon.
Front L-R: Sophomore Maids Kelsi Murriel, Leslie Brunson, Mattise Pickett. Juniors Maids Ramayiah Ervin, Peyton Brown, Zharia Bonner,
Back L-R: Denior Maids Kayleigh Kupietz, Arianna Durrell, Kenijha Flowers, Najmah Muhammad, Addison Pletzke, Myla Toaster, Abigail Vargheese Karina Trejo.
National Merit Semifinalists
Four seniors have been named as National Merit
Semifinalists in the 67th National Merit Scholarship
Program. Seniors Abhay Cheruku, Gertarryan Coleman,
Jared Miller and Abigail Vargheese are amongst the
one percent of high school students across the country
to be recognized as National Merit Semifinalists.
These academically talented high school seniors have
an opportunity to continue in the competition for some
7,000 National Merit Scholarships worth more than
$30 million that will be offered next spring.
To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship
award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements
to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
Over 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to
attain finalist standing, and more than half of the
finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship,
earning the Merit Scholar title.
“We are exceptionally proud of these students,”
Clinton High Principal Brett Robinson said. “Their hard
work in the classroom has certainly paid off so far, and
we are excited about their participation in the National
Merit Scholarship Program.”
48 • NOVEMBER 2021
Clinton Jr. High
Students 7th grade STEM program received a little community assistance
from the Clinton Fire Department when it came time to participate in the annual egg
drop challenge. “With the help of the Clinton Fire Department, my students had the
chance to watch their designs in action in an extraordinary way,” 7th grade STEM
teacher Lauren Taylor said.
“Each design was given to a fireman in the bucket of the big ladder truck.
They were then hoisted in the air to three different heights and dropped,” she added.
Taylor said Clinton’s firefighters extended the ladder to 20-feet, 50-feet and 95-feet,
releasing the structures from each height.
“Their excitement when they saw the ladder extend to max height was epic,”
Taylor said. “This project is certainly something that my students nor I will soon forget,”
she added. “This only happened because CJHS has an administration that backs and
supports us as teachers and a wonderful fire department that saw its chance
to assist in the education of our students. “We are extremely thankful for Chief
(Jeff) Blackledge and his department,” she said. “More than they will ever know.”
Hometown CLINTON • 49
Fall break for our grands meant camping
at Roosevelt Park, just a few miles from
our home. This would be a repeat campout like we
had enjoyed during their last fall break—except this time
we would concentrate on bootcamp skills for life. Days
like this are few, so I wanted them to count for some
lifelong memories and education.
There were trails through the woods and along the
campsites. I warned them that the mild days certainly
hadn’t sent the snakes into early hibernation. They had
to watch their steps. That was a needless warning. The
noise we carried onto the trails made all the critters flee.
There are limited volume controls on children, and most
know only full throttle.
I had planned some semi-healthy meals, but food
at campsites is limited to the outdoor grill. It was an eyeopening
experience to learn the energy that’s packed in
cheese puffs and pretzels. Sugar from the individual cups
of Blue Bell ice cream added extra energy boosts. It was a
lesson I learned the first day. Survival mode automatically
kicks in with children. Food pyramids have
no place during campouts.
Othel and I loaded down the camper
with their scooters, basketball, whiffle ball
and bat, tennis rackets, and rip sticks.
I quickly learned that the fire pit on our
site was the acme of entertainment.
Gathering firewood, stoking, stick lighting
and smoke-outs with pine needles won out over every
entertainment item they brought. The grands taught me
that simple things can be the best things.
Their mom had sent ample selections of matching
outfits for cold and warm temps. However, in the early
morning rushes to get outside, matching didn’t matter.
They chose whatever shirts and bottoms were nearest to
the top of their bags. Along our walks we met other
campers, but our troop was not the least inhibited by their
apparel. I learned that clothes and the time we can invest
in “looking the part” can take up too much living time.
I had wanted to make the experience fun and joyful for
the kids. From ages seven to fifteen, there’s a broad
difference in likes, and I had selected games and activities
to ensure their camping enjoyment. However, they taught
me that joy came in their birth packages. We had to remind
them of the “quiet hours” in the park and how the lake
amplified their laughter. I learned that joy and laughter
were blessings they didn’t even have to consider. It would
probably take adulthood before they would
understand such blessings.
As I reflected on our first few days of
boot camp, I thought how God must have
seen the humor of our teaching lessons.
The grands were the real instructors;
it was actually grandparents’ bootcamp.
50 • NOVEMBER 2021
Hometown CLINTON • 51
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