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2 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 3

4 • NOVEMBER 2022

Oh What Fun!<br />

it is to Run (or walk)!!<br />

When: Saturday, Dec. 3<br />

Where: Capital Ortho in Flowood<br />

Register today!! @<br />

rankinchamber.com<br />

Age group awards for runners & walkers · Best Christmas Costume Contest Awards too!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 5



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8 • NOVEMBER 2022


John 15:12 tell us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”<br />

Rankin County is a wonderful close-knit community where<br />

that verse is carried out by so many. Through good times and<br />

hard times, Rankin Countians rally around one another, and<br />

it’s our pleasure to highlight some of these stories.<br />

This issue of Hometown Rankin is dedicated to extending<br />

the Thanksgiving season by focusing on people that have<br />

touched multiple lives in so many positive ways. You’ll enjoy<br />

reading about these individuals that you nominated for this<br />

special feature called “Heart of Hometown.” If you don’t know<br />

them now, you’ll want to meet them, and I’m certain you will<br />

be thankful that they are part of our neighborhoods.<br />

I believe it’s good to reflect on our blessings, and you will<br />

discover lots of blessings for reflection in this issue. Enjoy the<br />

inside looks at people who are making a sound difference in<br />

our hometowns and be challenged to become a part of those<br />

who invest time and money in others.<br />

Don’t overlook our advertisers and please think local in<br />

shopping. Without our advertisers, we couldn’t showcase so<br />

many wonderful things about the people and places in our<br />

hometown.<br />

Out of all the magazines we have published in nine years,<br />

this has to be one of my all-time favorites. Happy Thanksgiving<br />

from all of us at Hometown Magazines – a team that always<br />

wants to promote an attitude of gratitude!<br />



Tahya Dobbs<br />

CFO<br />

Kevin Dobbs<br />


Mary Ann Kirby<br />


The Way We Were 10<br />

Reader Spotlight 15<br />

Thankful in Rankin 19<br />

Heart of Hometown 34<br />

Make-A-Wish 47<br />

Hometown Family 56<br />

God’s Heart for Orphans 62<br />

Magic of Lights 70<br />

A Centenarian Patriot 84<br />

The Time Coin 106<br />



Caroline Hodges<br />



Alisha Floyd<br />



Lexie Ownby<br />

...see you around town.<br />


Daniel Thomas<br />

3dt<br />

STAFF<br />


Othel Anding<br />


Nikki Robison<br />

www.facebook.com/hometownrankinmagazine. For subscription information visit www.htmags.com or contact us at info@HTMags.com / 601.706.4059 / 200 Felicity Street / Brandon, MS 39042<br />

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.<br />

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.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 9

Cynthia & Jeff Wall<br />

Sunday weddings aren’t the norm,<br />

high school newspaper in Troy,<br />

cataclysmic. Cynthia had discovered<br />

not only seeing each other during<br />

but schedules – the kind that can’t be<br />

Alabama. It was a joy more than a job,<br />

an error that meant stopping the<br />

workdays, they had a standing date<br />

altered, always supersede the norm.<br />

and now, after more confirmation of<br />

presses. She gave the order to Jeff,<br />

every night of the week.<br />

This was the circumstance dictating<br />

“what she didn’t want to do,” the<br />

who was in charge of keeping the<br />

Three months later, Jeff proposed.<br />

a Sunday wedding for Cynthia Smith<br />

press and journalism were plying<br />

presses running. There were dead-<br />

Cynthia said, “Yes,” creating a<br />

and Jeff Wall.<br />

for a realistic career choice.<br />

lines to meet.<br />

newspaper phenomenon because<br />

Early on, they would qualify as<br />

Meanwhile Jeff was pursuing<br />

Jeff refused to shut down and a<br />

production mangers and city editors<br />

successful businesspeople in their<br />

newspaper work, but as production<br />

heated verbal battle followed. While<br />

are usually incongruous. But they<br />

trades. The gene pool in Cynthia’s<br />

manager working the night shift for<br />

Cynthia was standing her ground,<br />

were, and are, the exception.<br />

family background was pointing her<br />

the newspaper in Hattiesburg.<br />

Jeff was noticing that she was<br />

On September 27, 1987, they<br />

toward the field of mathematics.<br />

When he was promoted to day shift,<br />

especially pretty when she was mad.<br />

were wed in Hattiesburg.<br />

She attempted to subscribe to the<br />

it wasn’t long until he met the city<br />

Not only that, he loved her spunk<br />

Jeff married the professional<br />

obvious direction, but a statistics<br />

editor, Cynthia. By this time, she<br />

and drive for her profession.<br />

whose brain and business skills he<br />

course made her reconsider. Perhaps<br />

was convinced that she had found<br />

Soon after their explosive<br />

admired. And was pretty, even when<br />

mathematics wasn’t meant to be her<br />

her place, and her expertise and<br />

meeting, he asked her for a date.<br />

she was angry. Cynthia married the<br />

career choice.<br />

talent for the newspaper business<br />

She agreed. “I thought it was for him<br />

businessman whose business expertise<br />

She recalled the time when her<br />

was obvious.<br />

to apologize,” she said. That date led<br />

she had witnessed and admired –<br />

friend solicited her aid with their<br />

Their first official meeting was<br />

to another and within days, they were<br />

his discernment in seeing potential in<br />

10 • NOVEMBER 2022

“Cynthia has been<br />

supportive of all<br />

my dreams and<br />

mission work...”<br />

the often overlooked or challenged<br />

He partnered with two other<br />

another non-profit organization<br />

October from the UMMC Cancer<br />

worker, and then his leadership in<br />

businessmen to open The Tire<br />

that arranges free air transportation<br />

and Research Institute.<br />

investing time in his staff with<br />

Depot, now in two locations. Their<br />

for people who need to travel to<br />

Even their two dogs are part of<br />

detailed instructions for their<br />

motto has been, and continues to be,<br />

receive lifesaving medical treatment<br />

the working household. Therapy<br />

particular job.<br />

“Don’t be selfish.” Their success<br />

but lack the means. Jeff considers it<br />

dog visits are their work assign-<br />

Their admiration for each<br />

substantiates this business practice.<br />

one of his most fulfilling life choices.<br />

ments. Another business that the<br />

other’s attributes has been a sound<br />

In the midst of Jeff’s demanding<br />

“Cynthia has been supportive of<br />

Walls operate from home is Wall<br />

foundational key to their years of a<br />

business endeavors, he pursued<br />

all my dreams and mission work,”<br />

Wellness. It focuses on a health and<br />

fulfilling marriage. Their support<br />

another dream – earning his pilot’s<br />

Jeff added. But life hasn’t exactly<br />

nutrition weight loss program<br />

for each other’s dream-goals has<br />

license. He accomplished that<br />

stood still for Cynthia’s work,<br />

– one that the Walls credit for their<br />

been yet another.<br />

dream and joined Pilots N Paws,<br />

either. In addition to her career<br />

losing sixty-plus pounds, each. It<br />

In 1990 the couple made a<br />

a non-profit organization where<br />

in newspapers, she earned her<br />

appears that weight loss is the only<br />

job-related move to Jackson. Cynthia<br />

pilots and plane owners assist with<br />

master’s degree and taught writing,<br />

item of the Walls’ success in<br />

worked at The Clarion-Ledger, and Jeff<br />

the transportation of animals to<br />

journalism, and editing at the<br />

business and marriage that would<br />

was with Quality Printing. In 2004<br />

those that rescue, shelter, and<br />

University of Southern Mississippi<br />

appear in a negative column.<br />

Jeff decided it was time for a new<br />

foster animals.<br />

and was an adjunct instructor at<br />

career. After twenty-seven years, it<br />

That led to another volunteer<br />

Mississippi College. She celebrated<br />

was time to move away from printing.<br />

mission, Angel Flight Soars. This is<br />

another retirement the last of<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 11

A<br />


YOU CAN<br />

COUNT ON<br />

12 • NOVEMBER 2022

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Hometown RANKIN • 13

14 • NOVEMBER 2022

READER<br />


Alex<br />


Why did you decide to make Rankin<br />

County your home?<br />

Honestly, I never expected to live in Rankin<br />

County. I moved to Copiah County in 2016<br />

to help family. Life had different plans and<br />

I ended up getting married, and with that<br />

moved to Pearl for family and work (I was<br />

working with Copiah Bank at the time as a<br />

customer service representative). It was during<br />

the time with Copiah Bank that Pisgah High<br />

School called me to come work. I started at<br />

Pisgah in February of 2018 and haven’t looked<br />

back. I love the area, I love the people, and it’s<br />

just an amazing place to raise my family.<br />

How long have you lived in Rankin County?<br />

Six years<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

I have two boys: Reece, who is five, just started<br />

kindergarten, and Graham who is two. Both of<br />

them are a ball of energy with incredible<br />

personalities.<br />

What is your favorite memory of living<br />

in Rankin County?<br />

I think my favorite memory comes from the<br />

first week I started teaching at Pisgah. On my<br />

way to work, I decided to take a different route<br />

by the reservoir. I think it was the sunrise and<br />

just the peace that came that made me know<br />

this was home.<br />

Where are your three favorite places<br />

to eat in Rankin County?<br />

Papitos, Burgers and Blues, and McClains.<br />

What are some fun things to do in<br />

Rankin County on the weekends?<br />

McClain Lodge Safari, Pump it Up, Fannin<br />

Lanes, and Black Axes.<br />

Share some things you enjoy doing<br />

in your spare time.<br />

I really just enjoy getting outside. I love to go<br />

biking, kayaking, and going to the park with<br />

my boys. There are so many trails and parks,<br />

perfect to just get out of the house and enjoy.<br />

What are a few things on your bucket list?<br />

Visit Istanbul, Turkey (specifically to see the<br />

Hagia Sophia). Watch a sunrise in Alaska.<br />

Visit and explore all of the Civil War battlefield<br />

sites in the Eastern Theater, and run<br />

for governor.<br />

Who is someone you admire and why?<br />

I think the person I admire the most is my<br />

mother. After my father passed away in 2003,<br />

my mother ended up taking on responsibility<br />

that she never expected. She is the strongest<br />

person I know, and I know she gave up a lot<br />

to not only stay in Pontotoc so my brother and<br />

I could finish school there, but to also give us<br />

every opportunity imaginable.<br />

Where do you see yourself ten years<br />

from now?<br />

In ten years, I hope to still be at Pisgah with<br />

both of my boys in the high school with me. I<br />

hope to still be teaching and coaching because<br />

honestly there is nothing better. In a dream<br />

world, I would love to say that in 10 years, or<br />

within the next 10 years, I would love to run<br />

for governor of the great state of Mississippi.<br />

What is your favorite childhood memory?<br />

I think my favorite childhood memory is<br />

playing in the woods with my friends. We<br />

would spend all weekend, every weekend,<br />

playing games, building forts, and just having<br />

a blast!<br />

If you could give us one encouraging<br />

quote, what would it be?<br />

“Life is about making choices and learning<br />

from them.”<br />

What is your favorite thing about<br />

Hometown Magazines?<br />

I just love how Hometown gives people and<br />

organizations in Rankin County the chance<br />

to shine!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 15

Need a routine eye exam, cataract or eyelid surgery, glaucoma care, or a new pair of glasses or<br />

contacts? Our physicians are the key to unlock your eye care plan. From pediatric to geriatric,<br />

we want to be your forever eye care provider. Schedule an appointment today.<br />

16 • NOVEMBER 2022



DEC 17-18<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 17

18 • NOVEMBER 2022

Thankful<br />

in Rankin<br />

When you look up what it means to be “thankful” the<br />

first thing that comes up is, “to be pleased and relieved.”<br />

If you keep reading, the next bullet point will say,<br />

“expressing gratitude and relief.”<br />

In this time of Thanksgiving, we not only are expressing<br />

our gratitude to those in our community, but also to God.<br />

There are no restrictions when it comes to what we can and<br />

cannot be thankful for. With the trials and tribulations that<br />

life throws at us, sad things are unpreventable. Community is<br />

important, and in this issue during the midst of the sad,<br />

we cover the happy things as well, showing gratitude<br />

from Omaha to our neighbors right next door.<br />

And as the season continues, we hold tight to what we<br />

are thankful for. From a man’s best friend, to members of a<br />

private school baseball team leading their way to a college<br />

National Championship title, to a little girl that is stronger and<br />

brighter than all of us, the Rankin County community shines<br />

far and beyond the spotlight on what it means to merely<br />

be thankful. Flip through the next few pages to see just how<br />

steadfast our community is and how coming together as<br />

one can not only impact the community as a whole but<br />

also every individual person who is a part of it.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 19

20 • NOVEMBER 2022


Thankful for Community<br />

“Every once in a while, a dog enters your life and changes everything.”<br />

- Anonymous<br />

For the Underwood family – Ian, Melissa, and their two<br />

children – of Brandon, Mississippi, this quote is certainly true.<br />

“Chester is the 9-year-old goldendoodle that our home<br />

revolves around,” said Melissa. “We got him shortly after<br />

getting married and he has been with us ever since and<br />

walked with us through sickness, loss, grief, and joy. He has<br />

stood by me through both pregnancies, welcomed our kids<br />

home from the hospital with a wagging tail, helped with<br />

late-night feedings and sick babies, and is the best protector<br />

of our family.”<br />

Life changed unexpectedly, and perhaps forever, for the<br />

Underwoods when Chester was lost earlier this year after<br />

he escaped from his backyard, was hit by a vehicle, and fled.<br />

“I still remember that Saturday morning like it was<br />

yesterday,” said Melissa. “I let Chester out the back door<br />

to use the restroom, just like we had done every morning.<br />

What I didn’t know at the time was that a board had fallen<br />

from our fence, which is how Chester escaped from our<br />

back yard.”<br />

Melissa’s stomach sank when she heard a knock on the<br />

door not long after they let Chester out. The knock came<br />

from a young man who was holding his collar and asked the<br />

Underwoods if they owned a white dog. He went on to tell<br />

them that he saw Chester get hit by a vehicle and tried to<br />

get him before Chester broke from his collar and ran down<br />

Louis Wilson towards Highway 80.<br />

“The rest is both a blur and a vivid memory,” said Melissa.<br />

“We jumped in the car to go look for him, and called<br />

immediate family members, friends, and neighbors, to help<br />

us in our search. After about an hour of searching down<br />

Louis Wilson and Highway 80 without any luck of finding<br />

him, I decided to take to social media.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 21

22 • NOVEMBER 2022

Within three hours of the post, Melissa’s plea for help to find Chester had been shared over 500 times; however, there was<br />

still no sign of him. By the end of the night, there were over 1,000 shares. What started off with family and friends quickly spread<br />

throughout the community of Brandon and manifested into a huge search and rescue mission.<br />

There was no sighting of Chester until around 10 p.m. that Saturday night, where he had been seen walking down North<br />

Street. Ian drove up and down North Street with other searchers until 3am looking for him, and the entire family returned to<br />

search at 5am that Sunday morning.<br />

“I’ll never forget seeing the large numbers of people searching with us – people that we knew and others that we didn’t,”<br />

said Melissa. “It looked like a parade was taking place up and down North Street all filled with people – by foot and by vehicle<br />

– looking for our boy.”<br />

By Sunday evening, Melissa’s original social media post had been shared over 1800 times.<br />

The parade of people searching for Chester only grew and involved the Rankin County Sheriff’s<br />

Office, a family with Mississippi Search and Rescue, and countless others. With the help of their<br />

community who rallied around the Underwood’s with a search and rescue mission, Chester was<br />

found 48 hours later with extensive injuries.<br />

“Monday morning, we were all feeling defeated, but we didn’t let up. We knew we owed it<br />

to Chester, and then my phone rang,” said Melissa. “He had been found! A lady who had been<br />

following our story went out looking for him Monday morning and found him hunkered down<br />

on a tree line behind the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office.”<br />

This stranger – who the Underwood’s call an angel in disguise – was out of breath from<br />

carrying Chester who couldn’t walk and said he needed to immediately go to a vet. Melissa<br />

drove as fast as she could to Oakdale Animal Hospital.<br />

“Chester had extensive injuries that left him septic, extremely dehydrated, weak, and<br />

in critical condition,” said Melissa. “One of the first things Dr. Sullivan said to us after assessing<br />

him was that if he had not been found when he was, the outcome would not have been what<br />

any of us had hoped for.” Chester remained with Dr. Sullivan and Oakdale Animal Hospital staff<br />

for a week receiving IV fluids, antibiotics, and surgery on his back foot. Following that initial week,<br />

Chester had to remain on medications for nine weeks to combat the infections in his body.<br />

With the help of Dr. Sullivan, the Underwoods tried all that they could to save his leg.<br />

However, with no progress being made, the decision was made to amputate Chester’s front<br />

leg to eliminate the source of infection and keep it from becoming systemic.<br />

“Since his amputation, Chester has done great! He is back to his old self running around<br />

outside, jumping on and off furniture, and playing with us and the kids,” said Melissa. “Seeing<br />

him now and knowing how close we were to this all turning out so, so differently, just brings me<br />

to my knees.”<br />

According to the Underwoods, they’re forever grateful for their community who helped<br />

them find, and ultimately save, their boy. “I can’t even begin to list who all I saw out there in the<br />

trenches of that June Mississippi heat searching with us,” said Melissa. “It had to have been<br />

hundreds of people physically looking and even more helped us by sharing our post on Facebook<br />

and keeping an eye out. I’ll never forget it.”<br />

BOE. Most natives of Brandon know exactly what this means – Brandon Over Everything.<br />

For the Underwoods, their story is but one example of what BOE means in real life, where a<br />

community rallies together for a greater purpose.<br />

“Brandon is home, and our story of how Chester was found and how people still ask about him daily just wrecks me,”<br />

said Melissa. “It’s etched in my family’s heart forever. You can’t beat that, you know? We are so thankful.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 23

24 • NOVEMBER 2022

Peace<br />

Be Still<br />

Sarah Rein<br />

Gabby<br />

Buford<br />

The Calm<br />

“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us<br />

to mistake them for home.” C.S. Lewis<br />

A year ago, the Bufords were living a typical, busy suburban life. After a midlife career change,<br />

David was finally finished with medical school and was completing the last year of his residency.<br />

Kimberly was staying home with their four elementary-age children. She planned to eventually<br />

return to work as a school counselor, but, with a daughter practicing soccer three nights a<br />

week and three younger boys, there was little time to focus on anything else.<br />

They had moved to the Flowood area from Hattiesburg when it was time for David to start<br />

his residency. Grateful to return to a familiar area (both are originally from central MS), they were<br />

excited to settle in and have family close by. Gabby, their oldest child and only daughter, soon<br />

became involved in the local soccer scene. They joined Pinelake’s Reservoir campus and filled<br />

their days with practices, homework, school activities, and family time. During that busy season,<br />

David and Kimberly also had the privilege of introducing their children to their faith and teaching<br />

them the ways of God.<br />

In 2021, Gabby was thriving as she started her first year at Northwest Middle School. In a<br />

refreshing change from the usual kid complaints about the topic, Gabby loved school and was<br />

always eager to go. She was a gifted student, with a particular enjoyment of mathematics. But<br />

a year ago, around fall break of 2021, Kimberly began to notice some unusual changes in her<br />

daughter. Gabby was fatigued, frequently wanting to nap after getting home from school. She<br />

also noticed that her honor student was coming home with some occasional B’s. And while<br />

none of that was particularly alarming on its own, the changes were enough to get Kimberly’s<br />

attention. She made an appointment for a wellness check-up with Gabby’s pediatrician.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 25

The Storm<br />

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists<br />

upon being attended to. God whispers to us in<br />

our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but<br />

shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to<br />

rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis<br />

But it was soon after that, while waiting for<br />

Gabby’s appointment, that a moment came that<br />

things shifted for Kimberly. On November 4, they<br />

were reviewing vocabulary words as they waited<br />

in the drop-off line before school and Gabby was<br />

unable to recall the words she’d known well the<br />

night before. “I was honestly a little frustrated with<br />

her. But then, as I was driving home, it just hit me.<br />

Something is not right. I went home and got on<br />

my knees in her bedroom and asked God to give<br />

me answers. I asked Him to help me understand<br />

what was going on with my baby.” She called the<br />

pediatrician’s office back and insisted on an earlier<br />

appointment. Gabby was diagnosed with cluster<br />

headaches and sent home with a prescription.<br />

After additional symptoms presented that November,<br />

the Bufords wound up taking Gabby to the ER<br />

where they requested an MRI. They were given<br />

an appointment for one in February.<br />

When the family left for a Thanksgiving trip to<br />

Gatlinburg, they were looking forward to slowing<br />

down and enjoying uninterrupted time together.<br />

And that was when David fully recognized the<br />

changes his wife had been seeing the last few<br />

weeks. He was actually the first to diagnose<br />

Gabby’s brain tumor. “We called a friend who<br />

was in radiology at UMC and asked for his help.<br />

We drove home on Sunday and he had us in for<br />

an MRI on Monday.”<br />

Here, Kimberly pauses for a shaky breath and<br />

lets the tears that have been held back during<br />

most of the conversation flow freely. “That<br />

Monday was the worst day of my life...”<br />

The first days and weeks after her diagnosis<br />

went by in a blur. David and Kimberly sat down<br />

with Gabby to explain what the MRI had revealed.<br />

“If I write a book one day, the first line will be...<br />

I took my daughter to get ice cream and to tell her<br />

she had a brain tumor.” Gabby was taken in for<br />

surgery to relieve the pressure caused by fluid from<br />

the tumor. At first, they found themselves reluctant<br />

to share the devastating news. But as they began<br />

processing it, Kimberly felt a pressing need to get<br />

the word out. “I knew I needed to ask for prayers.<br />

And once I asked, they began flooding in.”<br />

Gabby hasn’t said much at this point but she<br />

quietly interjects here...”Thank you Jesus.”<br />

26 • NOVEMBER 2022<br />

The Savior<br />

I turn my attention to Gabby. Having put me at<br />

ease by answering the door with a broad smile,<br />

she is taller than I’d expected. With a beautiful<br />

complexion and thick, wavy hair, Gabby has<br />

seemed calm and peaceful as she’s sat next to<br />

a perfect stranger on her couch. Kimberly had<br />

shared with me that conversation is sometimes<br />

difficult for Gabby. Words don’t come as quickly<br />

or easily as they used to.<br />

I can’t imagine how a twelve-year-old girl might<br />

begin to process the dramatic shift in her life over<br />

the last year. With no idea how she might respond,<br />

I ask her how this experience has changed her.<br />

She pauses as she considers the question. “I think<br />

I’ve grown stronger and healthier. But at the same<br />

time, the opposite.” The weight of her statement<br />

washes over me as I try to recall why it sounds<br />

familiar. Then the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians<br />

come into focus in my mind. “So we do not lose<br />

heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our<br />

inner self is being renewed day by day.”<br />

After a long pause, Kimberly speaks to how this<br />

trial has grown their faith. “We are completely<br />

dependent on God. We may have been lukewarm<br />

before this, but we won’t ever be again. All this has<br />

brought to light what is important. Our society is<br />

so skewed - what we think matters doesn’t. I hope<br />

we can shed light on that for others. Sports aren’t<br />

important, school is not important. Whatever<br />

people put emphasis on, the things that drive<br />

them....it’s only Christ that matters.”

I ask Gabby if she has seen any good come from<br />

what she has gone through. She smiles that same<br />

big smile and looks into the distance. “I see good<br />

things everywhere. Good things always happen<br />

when bad stuff comes. And I feel very loved.”<br />

I wonder aloud what has made the family feel<br />

most loved. The community in central Mississippi<br />

has rallied around them in grand and beautiful<br />

ways. There have been numerous fundraisers,<br />

including a 5k. The Northwest Rankin Athletic<br />

Association named one of their fields the Gabby<br />

Strong field and the Pearl Futbol Club just hosted<br />

a tournament in her honor. Gabby and her family<br />

were even sent to Hawaii by the Make-A-Wish<br />

Foundation.<br />

And, while the Bufords are beyond grateful for<br />

all these efforts on their behalf, none of those are<br />

the first thing they mention.<br />

Gabby - “Mommy, Daddy, and the boys.”<br />

Kimberly - “The prayers. I’ve had people walk<br />

up to me in public who tell me they don’t know us<br />

but that their family has been praying for Gabby<br />

every day. People have sent me videos of their<br />

children praying, pictures of their prayer journals.<br />

There are days when I can’t even listen to a<br />

worship song, but I know I have Christian brothers<br />

and sisters who are praying constantly.”<br />

Gabby steps out the room for a few minutes,<br />

and I have the chance to speak to Kimberly alone.<br />

I comment on what a beautiful girl Gabby is, and<br />

Kimberly sheds fresh tears as she expresses her<br />

delight in her daughter. “She has always been just<br />

an angel of a child and I think...why? How can this<br />

be where we are?” She pauses, gathering herself.<br />

“But God’s using her in this way. We just want<br />

to honor Him and stand strong in faith as much<br />

as we can. When we dedicated her as a baby, the<br />

verse we had read over her was Jeremiah 29:11.<br />

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the<br />

Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you,<br />

plans to give you a hope and a future.’ And Gabby<br />

says that verse to herself when she is having a hard<br />

moment. She will be watching her friends on the<br />

soccer field sometimes and question - why? But<br />

then she will say that she knows God has a plan.<br />

She’s been so strong from the beginning and it’s<br />

because her identity never was in soccer or school.<br />

It’s in Jesus.”<br />

I ask Gabby one last question as we wrap up<br />

the interview. Knowing that she has the chance<br />

to say one more thing to a large group of people,<br />

most of whom she’ll never meet, what would she<br />

like to tell them?<br />

“Jesus loves them. He loves them and He is in<br />

charge. He is all we need to fix us where we are<br />

broken. He is everything.”<br />

As I walk out the door, I look back at the pair.<br />

Kimberly has her head resting on Gabby’s lap as<br />

she wraps her arms around her little girl. I’m struck<br />

by the image. Two daughters of the King walking<br />

through something they never would have imagined<br />

or chosen. Unsure of what comes next but<br />

choosing to trust with childlike faith in a Father<br />

who will never leave them or forsake them.<br />

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God<br />

comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps,<br />

you can understand what He is doing. He is<br />

getting the drains right and stopping the leaks<br />

in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs<br />

needed doing and so you are not surprised.<br />

But presently He starts knocking the house about<br />

in a way that hurts abominably and does not<br />

seem to make any sense. What on earth is He<br />

up to? The explanation is that He is building quite<br />

a different house from the one you thought of -<br />

throwing out a new wing here, putting on an<br />

extra floor there, running up towers, making<br />

courtyards. You thought you were being made<br />

into a decent little cottage: but He is building a<br />

palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”<br />

C.S. Lewis<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 27


TO OMAHAMelanie<br />

McMillan<br />

Fall in the South brings to mind the slow but sure changing of colors and the hope of cooler temperatures.<br />

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, but for many Mississippians, and Ole Miss fans in particular,<br />

Thanksgiving and Christmas came earlier this year. After six appearances in the College World Series, the Ole Miss Rebels<br />

brought home their first ever National Championship title, and, at least in the minds of their fellow Mississippians,<br />

solidified the Magnolia State’s claim to college baseball domination. Like the rest of the state, Rankin Countians,<br />

even those who normally chant “Hail State” or sport black and gold, were cheering for the team from Oxford, and were<br />

especially excited for Jackson Prep graduates Riley Maddox and Mason Nichols, freshmen on the Ole Miss roster.<br />

28 • NOVEMBER 2022

Mason and Riley began their athletic careers, and their<br />

long-standing friendship, as 7th graders at Jackson Prep, where<br />

the two played football and basketball as well as baseball. The<br />

list of honors they earned in their high school careers, on and<br />

off the field, is impressive, and Nichols and Maddox helped<br />

lead Prep to three state titles. Considering that COVID ended<br />

the season their junior year, there was not a single year they<br />

played that Prep didn’t win the championship. Not surprisingly,<br />

both players caught the eye of college recruiters, but<br />

their paths to Ole Miss didn’t look exactly the same.<br />

Riley had grown up a Mississippi State fan, and was<br />

offered a spot on the Bulldog roster, so initially it seemed he<br />

would commit to play in Starkville. “Although I’d always<br />

been a Mississippi State fan, when it came down to it, it just<br />

didn’t feel right,” Riley says. “When I received an offer from<br />

Ole Miss, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Coach Carl<br />

Lafferty had a lot to do with that decision.”<br />

For Mason, the choice to go to Ole Miss just made<br />

sense. “Coach Bianco had been there for almost 20 years<br />

at that point, and I really respected him and the program<br />

there. Ole Miss also had a reputation for having really<br />

good pitchers, so I felt it was a great fit for me.”<br />

The College World Series experience was very different for<br />

the two freshmen. Riley suffered an injury and underwent<br />

“Tommy John” surgery in May, so he was unable to play<br />

alongside his teammates in Omaha. His outlook and attitude,<br />

however, are extremely positive, and his recovery is going well.<br />

“It was difficult not playing of course, but I would do it again<br />

if it meant we would win another national championship,”says<br />

Maddox. “I have just recently started my throwing program<br />

which takes around 6-8 months.”<br />

When Mason took the mound in the sixth inning of game<br />

one of the championship series, the bases were loaded and<br />

Oklahoma had no outs. “I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t<br />

nervous before I went in to pitch,” Nichols says. “I did my best to<br />

focus on my catcher and not allow the situation to be overwhelming,<br />

but ultimately I just always found myself praying for<br />

strength and peace before I jogged in from the bullpen. It honestly<br />

is part of my testimony that God gave me the calmness to perform<br />

well when my team needed me to. The only thing I can say for<br />

sure about my experience of being on the mound in Omaha is<br />

that it was not by my own strength, there was something much<br />

bigger at work there.” Nichols pulled off five strikeouts, holding<br />

the Sooners at bay and setting his team up to add to their lead<br />

and win the game.<br />

Riley Maddox Mason Nichols<br />

Riley Maddox<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 29

“Riley and Mason are two<br />

of the best competitors I’ve<br />

ever been around. It’s been<br />

a lot of fun to see them have<br />

success, not only at the<br />

high school level, but now<br />

the college level. They are<br />

two great teammates<br />

with bright futures<br />

ahead of them.”<br />

Brent Heavener<br />

Head Baseball Coach<br />

Jackson Prep<br />

“Riley and Mason are<br />

two extremely talented<br />

pitchers. Their work ethic<br />

and competitiveness is<br />

what separates them<br />

from others.”<br />

Jay Powell<br />

Assistant Head<br />

Baseball Coach<br />

Jackson Prep<br />

30 • NOVEMBER 2022

Winning the national championship was obviously the<br />

highlight of the season, but there have been other milestones<br />

along the way as well. For Riley, playing against Southern Miss<br />

at Trustmark Park was one of them. “I’m from Pearl and playing<br />

at Trustmark Park felt like playing at home. It was great to have<br />

so many family and friends who might not make it up to Oxford<br />

come out to see us play.” Mason felt the same about the super<br />

regionals in Hattiesburg. “I have a lot of family in that part of<br />

Mississippi,” he says, “and my parents went to Southern Miss,<br />

so it was really special to play there.”<br />

As we head into the Thanksgiving season, we tend to<br />

reflect on the people in our lives for whom we are most<br />

grateful, and Maddox and Nichols are no exception. Both<br />

young men are keenly aware of the sacrifices and support<br />

their families have given them over the years, not to mention<br />

the coaches who have invested in them personally and<br />

professionally. Riley’s family consists of parents Jeff and<br />

Renee, both physical therapists, and older brother Aden,<br />

who lives in Atlanta. “My parents have always been so<br />

supportive and I may not have realized it at the time, but<br />

I certainly understand now the sacrifices they made with<br />

their time and finances. It’s not cheap to play travel ball,and<br />

I’m grateful for everything they did to make it happen for me.”<br />

Mason also credits his family for making him the player<br />

and man he is today. His dad, Mike, is an oral surgeon and his<br />

mom, Kimberly, is an OB/Gyn, while older sister MacKenzie is<br />

in her senior year at TCU. “I’m grateful to my parents for always<br />

pushing me to do my best, paying for countless lessons, and<br />

driving me where I needed to go for so many years.”<br />

Looking to the future, both young men hope to play baseball<br />

at the next level once they finish at Ole Miss, but their plans don’t<br />

end there. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Mason hopes to<br />

attend medical school and specialize in orthopedics, while Riley<br />

has his sights set on becoming a commercial pilot. The two have<br />

proven they have the determination to put in the hard work to<br />

achieve whatever they set their minds to. Both agree that their<br />

coaches and teammates at Prep prepared them for success at the<br />

college level, and a “healthy element of competition” between the<br />

two of them has fostered their growth as players and friends.<br />

Having won three state championships together at Prep,<br />

winning the national championship as teammates just seemed<br />

fitting. As the confetti fell in Omaha, Mason looked at Riley and<br />

said, “I think we’re getting pretty good at this.”<br />

Riley Maddox Mason Nichols<br />

Riley Maddox<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 31

32 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 33

34 • NOVEMBER 2022

With the holidays in full swing, it’s always important to be intentional in thinking about who we are thankful for in our lives.<br />

When it comes to thinking about the people who make a difference, a variety of people come to mind. From those who have made<br />

a difference in the community to those that have touched our hearts personally, Rankin County is full of individuals who love to<br />

serve each other and make a difference in the lives of others for the better.<br />

Over the past few weeks, we have asked for nominations through social media for those who come to mind when you think about<br />

someone who is not only special in your life but serves Rankin County as well. As you will see, the following people were recognized<br />

as our “Heart of Hometown” winners for this year. These individuals not only make an impact in our Rankin County community but<br />

also hold high the morals and understanding of what it means to serve and love your neighbor. We are thankful for these hearts in<br />

our hometown–and Rankin County would not be as great as it is without them!<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 35

Shakena Bowie<br />

“Since the age of 17, Shakena has been ill with several<br />

autoimmune conditions, but you will never hear her<br />

complain. Through all of her life circumstances;<br />

with her health, to losing a sibling and her parents,<br />

she still finds a way to be a light to everyone she<br />

comes in contact with. She loves serving and has a<br />

passion for mental health, particularly with youth.<br />

She is a member of Junior Auxiliary. She also works<br />

to find volunteers to work with hospice patients.”<br />

– Anonymous<br />

“You can’t do everything,<br />

but you can do something.<br />

Sometimes the smallest acts of service<br />

are the ones that make the biggest impact.”<br />

Shakena Bowie has called Rankin County her home all of her<br />

life. She feels blessed to be a graduate of Pisgah High School and<br />

a a two-time graduate of Jackson State University – the university<br />

that she refers to as “THE Jackson State University!”<br />

Her love for people is what drives and motivates her, and she<br />

credits her mom for this admirable quality. “It was my mother that<br />

inspired my siblings and me to have servant hearts.”<br />

According to Shakena and all who knew her mother, this special<br />

mom left a legacy of caring service. “My mom worked in Rankin<br />

County all her adult life at the Rankin County Human Resource<br />

Agency, the JTPA Career Center, Family Healthcare Clinic, and the<br />

Medicaid office. Her positions were never high-paying, but she was<br />

dedicated to helping others with all the energy and skills she had,”<br />

Shakena said.<br />

She recalls how her mother continued to work while battling<br />

cancer – even up and to the disease terminating her ability to carry<br />

on. People still stop Shakena to share how her mother helped them.<br />

Those encouragements continue to fuel Shakena’s desire to serve<br />

and help others – even as she has to deal with her own challenging<br />

health issues.<br />

Shakena’s most recent title is manager of volunteer services<br />

for a hospice center. She also serves as a mental health therapist<br />

to youth in the greater Jackson area – a work to which she’s<br />

extremely dedicated. Rankin County Junior Auxiliary provides<br />

another of her serving outlets as well as her church where she<br />

continues to care for and serve others.<br />

In the midst of Shakena’s active and serving life, she saves time<br />

for her husband Ivory Bowie and their one-year-old daughter,<br />

Kay’Lee. Family life ranks high on her priorities.<br />

This energized servant maintains her life philosophy: “It’s not<br />

about self.” She’s reminded of what her pastor Perry Fletcher<br />

always says, “You can’t do everything, but you can do something.<br />

Sometimes the smallest acts of service are the ones that make the<br />

biggest impact.”<br />

Well said, Pastor Perry, and well done, Shakena Bowie (and her<br />

servant mother).<br />

36 • NOVEMBER 2022

Trey Spillman<br />

“We all know exercise is good for your physical health, but<br />

participating in outdoor activities can increase personal<br />

confidence, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and<br />

encourage social interaction. Trey Spillman has been a<br />

dedicated advocate for cycling in our community by<br />

organizing The Brandon Beatdown Short Track Mountain<br />

Bike Series, The Brandon Quarry Crit Series, Quarry Kids<br />

Day, and numerous group rides. These events and group<br />

activities have brought people into the cycling community<br />

who haven’t touched a bike in years or are entirely new to<br />

riding. Trey’s constant encouragement and warm nature<br />

have welcomed all age groups and all experience levels<br />

creating a positive and fun environment. It is widely<br />

accepted that communities that participate in and<br />

support recreation develop strong social bonds, are safe<br />

places, and the residents are healthier and happier – Trey<br />

Spillman has played a vital role in creating this environment<br />

in Rankin County.” – Taylor Spillman<br />

The draw to biking for Trey Spillman began in 2016 when he<br />

realized that he needed to get outside, and to exercise. Why not<br />

mountain biking? It was a great idea because he began biking and<br />

spreading the word to colleagues and friends that biking offered<br />

not only physical benefits but also mental health benefits. Trey<br />

wanted to promote those benefits to the community so there<br />

could be fun times with biking groups while enjoying healthy<br />

exercise as a byproduct.<br />

Trey was aware that biking was something that was huge in<br />

other parts of the world, and due to the topography and the rural<br />

nature of Mississippi, biking could be huge in Rankin County.<br />

Word began to spread among those interested in outdoor exercise.<br />

He convinced other bikers that bike trails weren’t just for large<br />

cities; there could be trails locally.<br />

Biking was one of the keys that Trey felt could open opportunities<br />

to see others having fun in healthy and sustainable ways. It would<br />

be his answer to, “What can I do to improve our community?”<br />

In 2018 the local, newly formed, bike club approached the<br />

City of Brandon about partnering with the club to build mountain<br />

bike trails at the Quarry Park. Mayor Lee was very receptive,<br />

especially with the bike club already managing trails in Ridgeland,<br />

Clinton, Jackson, and near Ackerman. Interest was growing, and<br />

the mayor and club put a plan in place to develop biking trails.<br />

Their work continues on the trail system, and by early 2023 the<br />

bikers hope to have an additional 4.5 miles of off-road trails.<br />

Since the biking club was formed, they have held a multitude<br />

of free annual events, such as the Brandon Beatdown Short Track<br />

Mountain Bike Series, the Quarry Criterium Series at the Amphitheater,<br />

the Quarry Kids Bike Day, and several non-competitive but fun<br />

group rides.<br />

They have also been instrumental in bringing in larger, regional<br />

race series, such as the Louisiana and Mississippi Bicycle Racing<br />

Association. Due to the accessibility of more local trails, Mississippi’s<br />

first high school mountain biking league has been established<br />

and will start racing in 2024.<br />

A catalyst for growth and a relationship builder are obvious talents that<br />

Trey invests in the county, but he refuses to take credit for all the hard work<br />

that so many people have done to build the cycling community. He says that<br />

the real credit should go to the local leaders that allow us access to public<br />

lands and resources to build trails, the Tri-County Mountain Bike Association,<br />

the volunteers who build trails and help at events, and the people in the<br />

community willing to go outside their comfort zone to try something new.<br />

Trey, the current assistant county prosecutor for Rankin County, and<br />

running for county prosecutor in 2023, has used his skills and connections<br />

to ultimately ensure that outdoor recreation is something that everyone can<br />

have access to. Trey and his wife, Taylor, have called Rankin County home<br />

since moving to Flowood from Jackson in 2017. “We immediately fell in love<br />

with this place and with the people here,” Trey said.<br />

It appears safe to assume that biking can be added to that list.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 37

Kayla Jones<br />

“Kayla deserves this recognition because she is<br />

always there for others. She is the most selfless<br />

person I know. She looks out for others and puts<br />

them before herself. Kayla has a pantry called the<br />

beauty pantry that helps women and their families<br />

with toiletries and other necessities. The items are<br />

received through donations and out of Kayla’s<br />

pocket. But one of the other perks is that those<br />

receiving the items remain anonymous. I know<br />

because I have been one of those women. Kayla is<br />

truly a godsend and there’s no one else like her.”<br />

– Anonymous<br />

“It takes one person<br />

to make a difference.”<br />

Kayla is a makeup artist, specializing in giving brides a<br />

cosmetic “glow” that matches their wedding-day hearts.<br />

That, and her operating Spray Tans by Kayla in Brandon,<br />

Mississippi, for the past seven years, keeps her workdays<br />

busy, but her compassionate heart doesn’t stop there.<br />

Kayla was able to turn a memorable request into her<br />

ongoing ministry. She remembers being approached by a<br />

young girl who was in need of hygiene products. There<br />

was no mother figure in the young girl’s life, so Kayla was<br />

moved to help fill that void by meeting the girl’s immediate<br />

hygiene needs.<br />

It was that experience that prompted Kayla to initiate a<br />

ministry out of her business for young girls, moms, or just<br />

women in need, to come in and grab what they needed<br />

with no questions asked. Items such as toothpaste,<br />

toothbrushes, and shampoo and conditioner are just some<br />

of the items that she stocks. And because good news<br />

travels, Kayla now has had others come alongside her<br />

ministry and make donations to help with keeping her<br />

supply levels maintained.<br />

“I have a heart for helping women – especially young<br />

women,” Kayla explains. She is aware that there are always<br />

those who are in “hard places” and don’t have any of what<br />

most people take for granted. She is an advocate for<br />

people donating their time and resources to local<br />

ministries that spend countless hours helping others.<br />

Kayla was raised in Pearl and lived there until three years<br />

ago when she moved to Simpson County. However, she’s<br />

quick to respond that her place of business is in Rankin<br />

County, and she doesn’t ever plan to leave.<br />

Mother and wife are two other titles that bring Kayla joy.<br />

She’s married to Thomas Jones, and is mom to three, Tori<br />

Grace, Natalie, and Trey. She describes their home as a<br />

house full of love!<br />

Kayla hopes to leave a simple but meaningful charge<br />

to others: “It takes one person to make a difference.”<br />

This makeup artist is proof!<br />

38 • NOVEMBER 2022

Benny Ivey<br />

“Benny is a former gang leader, drug dealer, and addict<br />

who strives to keep kids from going down the path he<br />

did. His Strong Arms of Mississippi is his labor of love,<br />

and compassion. He never seeks attention. But his work<br />

is very important to our communities and youth.”<br />

– Christine Kendall<br />

“God has restored<br />

our lives and families<br />

and we're dedicated to pouring love<br />

into our youth to help push them<br />

toward a more positive path.”<br />

According to recurring polls, crime is the number one issue<br />

among voters. It’s common knowledge that drugs play a major<br />

part in the crime epidemic. Ask Benny Ivey. He knows firsthand,<br />

because he was once part of a gang, even “advancing” in crime<br />

to become a gang leader. He’s not hesitant to confess: “I’ve lived<br />

a polluted life with gangs and drugs most of my life.”<br />

Sadly, his home life contributed to the problem because his<br />

parents were drug addicts. Gang activity ensnared his empty<br />

and dysfunctional existence, and he was addicted to meth for<br />

sixteen years of his young years. Benny was incarcerated at an<br />

early age and lived that life for most of his youth and was in<br />

prison eleven years as an adult.<br />

What looked like a dead end road to Benny and to any who<br />

witnessed his downward spiral, was not! He made a dramatic<br />

turn in 2010. He remembers it well, because it marked a major<br />

milestone in his life – he “got clean.” He began building a life for<br />

himself and most importantly, he began building a relationship<br />

with God.<br />

In 2018 Benny began building a youth program to help lead<br />

youth away from the path that he had followed for most of his<br />

life. He named the program Strong Arms of Mississippi. He, the<br />

co-director, and other mentors spend time with youth that are<br />

in and out of juvenile detention. He carries his life-restoration<br />

message to the communities and schools and wherever he can<br />

sound hope to a hopeless segment of our youth.<br />

Strong Arms of Mississippi is making a powerful impact<br />

among those who are drowning in the quagmire of crimes and<br />

drugs. Benny’s goal is to lead youth away from the path to prison<br />

or death. His message comes through to those youth who hear<br />

him because he knows where they are and what they are<br />

experiencing. “I’ve been where you are!” is a statement that gets<br />

their attention.<br />

“We mentors can use our life experiences to meet youth<br />

where they are,” Benny says with committed confidence.<br />

He speaks for himself as well as the mentors that assist in the<br />

program, “God has restored our lives and families and we’re<br />

dedicated to pouring love into our youth to help push them<br />

toward a more positive path.”<br />

Benny is truly a product of what God can do in the midst of<br />

seemingly hopeless situations. He and his wife, Kristina Ivey,<br />

have a daughter, Natalie, a seventeen-year-old at McLaurin<br />

Attendance Center. Kristina works at UMMC Heart Clinic, and<br />

Benny is owner of Benny Ivey Plumbing & More LLC.<br />

Benny is happy to share that he’s been clean for twelve years<br />

and hopes to show others that there are paths out of the crime/<br />

drug cycle. He would also encourage every citizen concerned<br />

about the crime epidemic to get involved in some form of<br />

support for programs like Strong Arms of Mississippi.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 39

Rusty Clark<br />

“Captain Rusty Clark lives in Brandon. He is the director<br />

of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal<br />

Information Center in Pearl. He has a long career in law<br />

enforcement, most notably his time as a trooper with the<br />

MS Highway Safety Patrol and now with MBI. He strives to<br />

make Mississippi a safe haven for its citizens and to make<br />

the jobs of law enforcement easier through his role at the<br />

CIC. Captain Clark is a great man to work for and a true<br />

community leader. We are grateful for his leadership.”<br />

– Megan Costilow<br />

There are a lot of people with lengthy as well as impressive<br />

resumes. One who qualifies to be a candidate for that type of<br />

resume is Rusty Clark, presently serving as the director of the<br />

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Information Center<br />

in Pearl. His thirty years in law enforcement and public service<br />

stem back to his home life environment.<br />

Rusty’s dad, Jay Clark, retired as the chief of the Mississippi<br />

Highway Patrol in 1995. His mother, Mary Clark, was a school nurse<br />

and a nurse at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Public<br />

service just came naturally to Rusty.<br />

The CIC is a division of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.<br />

This center is the state’s criminal history repository and a conduit<br />

for information exchange with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s<br />

National Crime Information Center. The CIC houses MBI intelligence<br />

analysts, MS Sex Offender Registry, MS Justice Information Center,<br />

special processing, automated fingerprint identification system,<br />

mental health adjudication reporting, and the National Incident-<br />

Based Reporting System. Being director of this center carries a<br />

weighty responsibility.<br />

Rusty also serves as Mississippi’s CJIS systems officer which<br />

allows him to sit on national committees in advisory capacity –<br />

all relating to crime prevention. In September of 2021, Governor<br />

Tate Reeves appointed him to the SEARCH Membership Group.<br />

This national body of state-level professionals is widely representative<br />

of the various disciplines within the justice system and also dealing<br />

with operational decisions and policy making concerning the<br />

management of criminal justice.<br />

His position before his present role with CIC was the Troop C<br />

District Supervisor of MBI, which encompasses ten counties, including<br />

Rankin. In 2020 he was given the task of leading the investigation of<br />

the prison riots across the state with MDOC investigators. Prior to<br />

that, he was a criminal investigator serving with MBI, an accident<br />

reconstructionist with Mississippi Highway Patrol, and a trooper<br />

with MHP. For six years before serving with MHP, he was a police<br />

officer in Hattiesburg and Gulfport.<br />

Then there’s family life that is a valid and important part of his life.<br />

He and his wife, Carrie, are parents to four sons – Trey (23), married<br />

to Bella, Brockman (20), Banks (17), and Cooper (17). Trey is in the<br />

United States Air Force in Tampa, FL, Brockman is in Austin, TX, and<br />

Banks and Cooper are at Hartfield Academy.<br />

Rusty’s family continues to carry on the public service legacy.<br />

Carrie is a nursing leader at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, and this<br />

summer won MORA’s Nurse Manager of the Year award. After Trey’s<br />

military service is completed, he wants to work in law enforcement.<br />

Carrie and Rusty, residents of Flowood for the past twenty years, find it<br />

rewarding to give back to the community through their careers. He’s grateful<br />

to have friends like District Attorney Bubba Bramlett and Sheriff Bryan Bailey<br />

and mentors like Judge Kent McDaniels and Mr. Jesse Bingham. “These men<br />

are great examples of what good men in the right positions can accomplish<br />

in keeping Rankin County safe,” Rusty confirms.<br />

Rusty says, “I have loved every minute of my law enforcement career, and<br />

as I near thirty years in law enforcement, I feel as though I have a lot left to<br />

do.” One of his goals is to help Mississippi show the rest of the country and<br />

the world what we are capable of. The Clark’s first grandchild is on the way<br />

– all the more reason for his zeal in making the world a safer place.<br />

This lifelong law enforcement official realizes that he cannot make this<br />

happen on his own, but he can hopefully show that it is possible to make a<br />

difference in his area. He challenges, “If we all can do just a small part, then<br />

the change can be quantified.”<br />

40 • NOVEMBER 2022

Ashley Davis<br />

“Ashley exemplifies the definition of never letting any obstacle<br />

or challenge define you or keep you from fulfilling your dreams.<br />

She was a teenage mom at 17 yet got her diploma and continued<br />

to college to earn a degree. She met the love of her life, Matt<br />

Davis, and at 21 married, and they had four children together.<br />

She has immersed herself in the community in the Junior<br />

Civic League, pursued a very successful career in hospice while<br />

raising her five children that are all involved in sports and the<br />

community. She inspires me every day with her energy, tenacity<br />

and drive to sacrifice and do whatever it takes for her family.<br />

She never let any judgement or disbelief from anyone ever stop<br />

her from achieving all that she wanted. It’s rare that someone<br />

so much younger than yourself can become your hero, but<br />

Ashley Durr Davis is definitely my hero.” – Anonymous<br />

“Be the Light!” This is the send off reminder that Ashley and Matt Davis<br />

give their five children whenever they go anywhere. In fact, it’s been a<br />

family motto since Ashley and Matt were married and began growing a<br />

family of their own.<br />

Ashley’s story could have been much different had she allowed the<br />

challenge of being a teenage mother keep her from her dreams. But the<br />

challenge didn’t dissuade her from getting her high school diploma at<br />

age seventeen. Four years laters she met Matt, and together they have<br />

continued to realize their dreams.<br />

Ashley grew up as an Army brat and not having a permanent home.<br />

When her dad retired, the family moved to Brandon, the place that her<br />

mom still called home. Brandon has been home now for seventeen years.<br />

For the past five years, Ashley has been the small-business owner of<br />

Datin Medical Supply. Presently, she and Matt own and operate a postacute<br />

company, nationwide, still working out of Brandon. The couple’s<br />

goal has been to serve others through their occupations which is why<br />

they started both companies. Their focus is on the elderly and disabled<br />

populations to ensure their necessary care. Their business has expanded<br />

to help home health and hospice agencies throughout the country which<br />

results in helping to meet their goal of caring for the sick and elderly.<br />

Ashley’s motivation comes from 1John 4:19 – “We love each other<br />

because He first loved us.” That has been the life commitment by her<br />

family, and God continues to bless them with opportunities to serve<br />

Him and His people. Their family’s favorite ministry is the special needs<br />

hunt at Tanglewood.<br />

The Davis family is the typical busy family with school and extra<br />

activities. There’s Emily-age 16, Atleigh-11, Charli and Maddi-9 year old<br />

twins, and Levi-6. Even though family is always a priority with Ashley, she<br />

stays involved in organizations where she’s able to use her God-given<br />

gifts. The Junior Civic League has been a great outlet for her service.<br />

“Surround yourself with those who have the same servant’s heart,”<br />

is her advice to any who have gifts to share. There’s no job too large or<br />

small that Ashley won’t attempt to fulfill her motivation to love others.<br />

While she’s always involved in helping others where possible, her children<br />

are watching and modeling their lives after her example. That’s what she<br />

hopes to see in her children’s futures and in the generations to come.<br />

That hope has foundational promise because “Love never fails.”<br />

–1 Corinthians 13:8<br />

“Surround yourself<br />

with those who have the<br />

same servant’s heart”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 41

Jamane Williams<br />

“Jamane Williams is an inspiration to anyone realizing the<br />

impact he and his family have made on so many people –<br />

especially youth. In obedience to God, Jamane planted a new<br />

church – The Bridge Church in Pearl eleven years ago. Since<br />

then, he and his family have reached out to the surrounding<br />

communities and invited any and all to join in the work of<br />

bringing the lost to Christ. So many other ministries have<br />

followed, all visions of what the Williams family see as eternal<br />

work that pleases God. We who have watched our pastor leader<br />

work tirelessly are honored to nominate such a worthy<br />

individual.” – Anonymous<br />

“Knowing that I<br />

am pleasing God<br />

with the work that we do<br />

is my primary motivation...”<br />

Jamane Williams would definitely qualify as a visionary – a visionary<br />

with a heart for people. His outreach base is The Bridge Church, where<br />

he serves as co-pastor with Alecia Williams, his wife of twenty-three years.<br />

Pastor Jamane felt God’s call to leave the family’s home in Katy, Texas,<br />

to move to Rankin County to plant The Bridge Church in 2011. His latest<br />

vision, launched in January of 2018, is Bridge Builders Leadership where<br />

he serves as co-founder with his wife, and president in a volunteer<br />

capacity. This nonprofit organization provides free after-school and<br />

summer programs to 100+ families in Rankin County.<br />

Moving to Rankin County and launching the church and Bridge Builders<br />

Leadership began as visions that Jamane credits God for delivering and<br />

implementing. He also credits God for his motivation: “Knowing that I am<br />

pleasing God with the work that we do is my primary motivation. Also,<br />

as we see the impact that our program is making in each of our students’<br />

lives, as well as the collective impact that is being made on our community,<br />

motivates us to be diligent, faithful, and always be improving the<br />

excellence of our program.”<br />

Family is a resource that supplies support and energy to Jamane’s<br />

visions. He explains, “We homeschooled all of our children prior to our<br />

move from Texas to Rankin County. This allowed us to build really close<br />

relationships with each of our children, as one of us was with them 24/7.<br />

Their oldest daughter, Jadyn, recently graduated from Mississippi<br />

College and now works as program coordinator for Bridge Builders<br />

Leadership. Their son, Judah, is a college student studying computer<br />

science, and youngest daughter, Jordyn, is also a college student<br />

studying film and dance.<br />

Jamane is confident that every fond memory and moment of<br />

empowerment that those under his ministry have experienced at The<br />

Bridge Church or any of its ministries were orchestrated by God for<br />

them. The Williams family is dedicated to showing God’s love to others<br />

– the same love that each family member has experienced.<br />

Love definitely has ripple effects. Jermane believes that one act of<br />

love done for others can have great positive impact on their community<br />

and the world around us. He also believes that God has given each of<br />

us an assignment of good works. When we are obedient to God’s<br />

assignments, we can address every person that is important to God<br />

(which is all of us) and every need.<br />

That would be a mind-boggling accomplishment. May each of us<br />

catch such a vision!<br />

42 • NOVEMBER 2022

Marlys Myers<br />

“To know Marlys Myers is to love her. Her compassion for others<br />

and her desire to help lift up others are just a few of her many<br />

wonderful traits that make her such an outstanding person.<br />

As the founder of Rankin Career Women, she has touched the<br />

lives of hundreds of women by encouraging them to “Love Their<br />

Story.” Marlys never misses an opportunity to lift up others,<br />

promote a Rankin County business, or lend a hand to those in<br />

need. She is a visionary with a heart for others and is truly the<br />

Heart of our Hometown.” – Angie Miles<br />

“We get this one life to live,<br />

and I know we as women,<br />

want to do it well.<br />

The tragic news shocked Marlys - how was it possible? Her good friend<br />

had unexpectedly and shockingly taken her own life. This was the friend who<br />

was the wife of a great guy, mother to a senior in high school and a career<br />

woman. She had a special gift, and had always invested her life in the life of<br />

her son, in addition to investing in kids that were not her own.<br />

With seventeen years of experience as a paralegal, Marlys is currently a<br />

realtor with Southern Homes Real Estate and is employed as executive<br />

administrative assistant to the director of a state agency. Even still, Marlys didn’t<br />

think she was too busy to consider helping women who might be pivoting on<br />

emotional challenges or dealing with issues never shared with others.<br />

In 2019 Marlys began strategic planning and looking for ideas to<br />

implement her vision. After several weeks of research, reaching out, and<br />

meeting with other successful career women and local chambers, she was<br />

still unable to locate a career women’s group that was addressing the elements<br />

that she was seeking. She said, “I wanted to hear about the business successes<br />

and strategies. But because of my friend’s death, I was looking for women<br />

willing to keep it real, be transparent, and cheer others on!” She was looking to<br />

experience live get-togethers, connecting women to rethink the possibilities.<br />

In the almost three years of Rankin Career Women (RCW), the organization<br />

has evolved into a vibrant and encouraging meeting of women’s minds and<br />

experiences. Shanna Spann, Katrina Phillips, and Angie Miles, who were<br />

complete strangers before beginning RCW, are board members, consistent<br />

and faithful in the planning, development, and promotion each month.<br />

Every other month, the group meets for a catered lunch at The Vault<br />

venue in Brandon. Luncheons include fun door prizes, decorated tables, and<br />

takeaways for each attendee. Marlys added, “I believe the thing that sets us<br />

apart from other career luncheons are the incredible keynote speakers, along<br />

with a second speaker that begins our meetings by sharing her personal<br />

story.” These stories are shared by women in the community in how they<br />

moved from tragedy to triumph or mediocre to unbelievable success with<br />

God’s help. This is the “Love Your Story” portion of RCW.<br />

Marlys intends for all that join the meetings to gain inspiration through the<br />

stories of real women who are in-the-know and succeeding in their industry.<br />

Instructions and information are also given to help achieve success. “We want<br />

women showing up and telling the truth, keeping in mind that everything that<br />

is true does not need to be said, however everything that is said, needs to be<br />

true,” Marlys added.<br />

Success in the future for career women is a goal that Marlys seeks because<br />

she has a future generation of her own she loves and values. She and husband<br />

Michael have two adult children who live in Rankin County, Britney Barnett<br />

and Brower Myers, and three grandchildren.<br />

Marlys sums up her aspiring goal: “We get this one life to live, and I know<br />

we as women, want to do it well. However, we need each other. When we<br />

share our stories and connect with each other, without regard to race or<br />

economic status, there’s just something about the ’power of same.’”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 43

Janet Brown<br />

“I am thankful for my mom who is 24/7 always trying to serve<br />

others. I cannot tell you the numerous lives she has touched over<br />

the years through teaching, ministering to those in need in our<br />

community, using her talents to play piano for over 50 years,<br />

teaching her grandkids how to encourage others, (numerous<br />

examples: leaving garbage men snacks, baking home goods for the<br />

local police department, writing encouraging letters to shut-ins/<br />

widows, adopting students for Christmas and buying them toys/<br />

clothes/food/jackets or belts that were needed out of the kindness<br />

of her heart, constantly “secretly” paying for peoples items at stores,<br />

etc.). My mom wakes up every day and asks the Lord to use her,<br />

and He does just that. She is constantly blessing her community<br />

and is such an example of, “Love God, Love People.” My mom hasn’t<br />

always had an easy life, but she has always pushed through with<br />

the Lord’s strength. She never stops helping others. She never stops<br />

telling others about what the Lord has done in her life and I know<br />

she will continue to be an encouragement to everyone she comes<br />

in contact until her final breath. I am thankful for my mom and<br />

the legacy she has taught me and her grandkids and can’t think<br />

of a better deserving person to win this distinction.”<br />

– Brandi Chancellor<br />

If you were to ask Janet Brown what makes her who she is, she could<br />

probably have a long list. But at the top of the list would be two admonitions<br />

instilled by her parents – love the Lord first, and always be true to your word.<br />

Those two guides carried her into church ministries of caring for others<br />

and playing the piano for fifty-one years – thirty-one years in Pelahatchie<br />

Baptist Church and twenty years in Park Place Baptist Church.<br />

Janet is transparent in sharing how God was calling her into ministry<br />

when she was nineteen. All she could hear was AFRICA. “I selfishly told God<br />

if I could first get married then I could do whatever he needed me to do. But<br />

you see, God doesn’t bless disobedience, and it affected my life. My marriage<br />

failed, and my path was not the path God had planned. Yet, we serve a God<br />

of second chances. He blessed me with my two beautiful children, son Benji<br />

Brown (and wife, Lauren,) and my daughter Brandi (and husband Justin), and<br />

five amazing grands. I had the privilege to teach for 20+ years at East Rankin<br />

where I got to be involved in so many wonderful children’s lives.” Another<br />

move to Morton gave her the opportunity to touch lives from all over the<br />

world. She is an encourager to all that only God can take our mess and make<br />

it beautiful!<br />

Even though Janet’s life has been one of service and ministry, another<br />

major turning point altered her life about a year ago. Her daughter’s family<br />

took a Disney trip that had been in the making for several years. The family<br />

headed to Orlando along with her husband Justin’s mom and dad. It was to<br />

be a trip of a lifetime in the “happiest place on earth.”<br />

Janet remembers the fun and laughter the family enjoyed on their way to<br />

Disney. Justin and his dad seemed to lead in the family laughter.<br />

Shortly after arriving and before checking into their resort, they decided<br />

to make a brief visit through Epcot. Within an hour Justin’s dad began having<br />

difficulty breathing. He fell to the floor, and Justin began pumping his chest.<br />

A cardiac nurse saw the emergency and took Justin’s place. Before they<br />

could get his dad to the hospital he was gone.<br />

It’s been more than a year, but Janet can still feel the pain of<br />

seeing this life end in a last breath and with eye-witness emotion<br />

says, “This precious dad’s death taught me that today could be my<br />

last day to live. I am not promised tomorrow, the next hour or even<br />

the next minute. It has made me do things I’ve been waiting to do. It<br />

has made me hug more, tell people I love them more, give, go, cry,<br />

listen, and quit whining about my life!”<br />

A statement that the preacher said during Justin’s dad’s funeral<br />

has stayed with her –“Justin’s dad thought he was going to the<br />

happiest place on earth, but you know, he went to the Greatest<br />

Place anyone could ever go, into the arms of Jesus!”<br />

Janet’s heart for Rankin County is for each person to live each day<br />

as if might be the last. She’s intentional about not wasting a single<br />

day. As a teacher she was reminded that there are days some<br />

children never have a hug or are told they are loved before going to<br />

school. The elderly aren’t always given the respect they deserve.<br />

Janet is convinced that the opportunities to show love and respect<br />

are all around us. Her life verse is Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you<br />

do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not man.”<br />

And she’s an adamant proponent of the faithfulness of her God of<br />

the Second Chances. Her church is planning a mission trip to Africa,<br />

and yes, Janet Brown’s name is on the list!<br />

44 • NOVEMBER 2022

Aubrey Prigden<br />

“Aubrey is the epitome of a Heart of Hometown man. He is<br />

the founder of All things New Ministry, and he also leads<br />

the Rankin County jail ministry. Numerous lives are touched<br />

everyday by his sweet spirit. He’s so deserving of this<br />

nomination.” – Maggie Harper<br />

All Things New, Inc. sounds like an interesting concept – one that<br />

Aubrey Prigden believes is a perfect description of his ministry and service.<br />

That would be leading as many people to Christ as possible – leaving<br />

the old, destructive way of life into the abundant, eternal life as a child of<br />

God. Aubrey’s devotion to this ministry comes from one of his motivation<br />

factors: “I know Jesus’ heart breaks for the hurting and so does mine.”<br />

It’s easy for Aubrey to step into the jail cells to share the love of Christ<br />

because Aubrey has experienced hitting rock bottom, being sentenced<br />

to jail for a DUI, and losing his home, car, and everything he had ever<br />

considered his own.<br />

It was in this pit of despair that Aubrey gave his life to Jesus and<br />

changed direction in his life – dramatically. He remembers getting to work<br />

in the jail’s mechanic shop and making friends there who didn’t treat him<br />

like trash. He was also freed from all his drug and alcohol addictions.<br />

By the time Aubrey was released in 1997, he knew that doing wrong<br />

was in his past. However, his new direction in life was opposite his wife’s,<br />

so a divorce ended their marriage. He moved in with his dad, and with a<br />

job offer, life appeared to be looking up, especially when he met<br />

Debbie. In 2002, they were married and began attending church but<br />

soon realized that they “weren’t living life the way Jesus was leading.”<br />

That’s when they turned to Jesus as Savior and Lord.<br />

Life took on a positive and new meaning. Both Aubrey and Debbie<br />

were bringing home great wages and growing spiritually. Aubrey was<br />

invited to Copiah County jail to share his testimony and minister to the<br />

incarcerated. The experience felt right; he was being drawn to the jail<br />

ministry.<br />

Soon the couple heard news from Rankin County about “Celebrate<br />

Recovery” – a twelve step program for anyone struggling with hurt,<br />

pain, or addiction. After renewing old friendships with Sheriff Bryan<br />

Bailey, Aubrey and Debbie were appointed jail chaplains and were able<br />

to add their experiences and gifts to the program.<br />

The couple was instrumental in getting over fifty churches participating<br />

in the “Celebrate Recovery Program.” Aubrey and Debbie began an<br />

extension of this program, calling it “All Things New, Inc.” Through this<br />

branch they could oversee the Celebrate program in the Rankin County<br />

jail and churches. They set up mentors, group counseling, and educational<br />

classes for the inmates along with providing supplies to inmates<br />

such as Bibles, reading glasses, underwear, etc. Inmates re-entering<br />

society need monies for childcare, utilities, groceries, and clothes for<br />

employment. Some inmates need bus ticket money to travel to families<br />

living out of town.<br />

In late November of 2019, Aubrey would meet the most catastrophic<br />

challenge of his life. He and Debbie were diagnosed with COVID. Aubrey<br />

recovered; Debbie did not. God chose to give Debbie eternal healing on<br />

New year’s Eve of 2019.<br />

Aubrey admitted that there was a brief period after her death that he<br />

didn’t think he could continue the programs. However, God’s strength<br />

enables him to go forward with his life’s work.<br />

All Things New, Inc. continues to grow as Aubrey devotedly points<br />

the hurting, the addicts, the jailed, and the homeless to Jesus and walk<br />

with them until they, too, rise out of life’s wreck.<br />

“I know Jesus’<br />

heart breaks<br />

for the hurting<br />

and so does<br />

mine.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 45

Blessings<br />


Come home to The Blake at Flowood<br />

where you’ll find a vibrant lifestyle, unique<br />

amenities and premier service.<br />

Call (601) 401-4906 to book a tour today!<br />

Mississippi’s Premier Assisted Living and Memory Care Community<br />

350 Town Center Way | Flowood, MS 39232 | blakeliving.com/flowood<br />

46 • NOVEMBER 2022

Together,<br />



Who We Are and Who We Serve<br />

Who We Are and Who We Serve<br />

Since Make-A-Wish Mississippi’s inception in 1984, more than 2,528 children with critical illnesses have experienced<br />

life-changing Since Make-A-Wish wishes. We Mississippi’s serve children inception the 65 southern in 1984, most more counties than 2,528 in the state, children spanning with every critical socioeconomic<br />

factor illnesses and ethnic have background. experienced We’ve life-changing never turned wishes. away a We child serve eligible children for a wish. in the A family’s 65 southern financial most status, race, or<br />

religion counties has in no the bearing state, on spanning whether a every child will socioeconomic receive a wish. factor and ethnic background. We’ve<br />

never turned away a child eligible for a wish. A family’s financial status, race, or religion has<br />

Our no continued bearing on success whether at Make-A-Wish a child will receive Mississippi a wish.<br />

only achieved with great people and great relationships.<br />

It’s through the generous support – our community of donors, staff, volunteers, medical professionals and sponsors –<br />

the Our real continued heart and soul success of the at organization Make-A-Wish – that Mississippi we will reach is our only vision. achieved with great people and<br />

great relationships. It’s through the generous support – our community of donors, staff,<br />

On volunteers, August 11, a medical kick-off social professionals for W.I.S.H. and Society sponsors (Women – the Inspiring real heart Strength and and soul Hope) of the was organization held at Char Restaurant<br />

in – Jackson. that we Twenty-three will reach our women vision. were As being you honored read through which means the information that twenty-three in the wishes Fiscal will Year be 2022 granted for<br />

deserving annual report, kids fighting please to overcome remember unimaginable how important odds right you are here to in all Mississippi. the progress we have made …<br />

and all that is yet to come. Your impact is profound and meaningful.<br />

Thank you for your commitment to our organization and the precious lives we transform each year.<br />

Thank you for your commitment to our organization and the precious lives we transform<br />

each year.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 47


Millie Baker<br />

Meeks Cockroft Agency<br />

Shelter Insurance<br />

Insurance Agent<br />

When I was in school at Ridgeland<br />

High School, we lost a friend in our<br />

class to cancer and Make-A-Wish<br />

was able to send his family to the<br />

Augusta Nationals in his honor.<br />

I’ll never forget that. Through that<br />

experience, I was forever touched,<br />

and I desired to continue a friend’s<br />

legacy of inspiration by being an<br />

honoree for W.I.S.H. Society.<br />

A specific philanthropic achievement<br />

that I will forever be grateful for is<br />

raising over $15,000 for malnourishment<br />

supplements for But God<br />

Ministries in Haiti. I then got to help<br />

distribute them during my summer<br />

internship in Haiti. It was a massive<br />

honor that I will forever remember.<br />

Being an honoree for W.I.S.H.<br />

Society is a great honor. Having a<br />

platform to help grant wishes in my<br />

home state of Mississippi is the<br />

highest honor. I’m very grateful!<br />

Heather Bennett<br />

W.G. Yates & Sons<br />

Construction Company<br />

Corporate Counsel<br />

Make-A-Wish is a wonderful<br />

organization that has a lasting impact<br />

on people and one that I love very<br />

much. My goddaughter was gifted<br />

with a trip to Disney World several<br />

years ago. She was still healing from<br />

a life-threatening illness and her<br />

two sisters and parents were all<br />

tired, scared, and in need of JOY!<br />

Make-A-Wish brought so much<br />

joy to them.<br />

I am thrilled and excited to be given<br />

the opportunity to help give to an<br />

organization that has given so much<br />

to others and to meet and work with<br />

other like-minded women.<br />

Tameika Bennett<br />

Bennett Law Office, PLLC<br />

Owner/ Managing Partner<br />

I am truly humbled to be a W.I.S.H.<br />

Society honoree. I believe that this<br />

opportunity will help me be of service<br />

to those in need and encourage me to<br />

reach out and assist deserving people.<br />

Helping others experience joy is<br />

something that is very important to<br />

me. In this exciting and fulfilling<br />

experience as an honoree, I hope to<br />

serve others!<br />

Lorraine Boykin<br />

Currie Johnson & Myers<br />

Attorney<br />

I’ve seen firsthand the power that a<br />

wish can give to a family! I’ve worked<br />

with several children whose wish was<br />

a Disney vacation, and I’ve seen the<br />

value to these families of time away<br />

together! Instead of focusing on<br />

hospital visits and medical treatments<br />

ahead, these families had the ability<br />

to enjoy their time together and<br />

make memories that they will always<br />

cherish. I wanted to be a part of the<br />

W.I.S.H Society to help raise funds<br />

to provide even more wishes to<br />

Mississippi children through<br />

Make-A-Wish.<br />

I am thrilled to be among this<br />

group of women bringing awareness<br />

to Make-A-Wish and what this<br />

organization does for families. Every<br />

child should be able to just be a kid,<br />

and that’s what happens when a<br />

wish is granted. It gives me great joy<br />

to know that our efforts will help<br />

provide even more opportunities to<br />

Mississippi families.<br />

48 • NOVEMBER 2022

Katie Browning<br />

CDFL Architects & Engineers<br />

Ginny DeHart<br />

Pediatric Physical Therapist<br />

LaVerne Edney<br />

Butler Snow Law Firm<br />

Tanya Ellis<br />

Forman Watkins & Krutz LLP<br />

Principal<br />

Owner McB’s Bar & Grill<br />

Attorney/ Partner<br />

Partner<br />

I have had the privilege of working<br />

in healthcare design throughout my<br />

career. I work with providers and<br />

clinicians to create spaces that promote<br />

healing and allow medical professionals<br />

to provide exemplary care. In<br />

doing so, I have had the opportunity<br />

to meet patients and learn more about<br />

the medical needs in our community.<br />

Most recently, working on UMMC’s<br />

new Children’s of Mississippi project<br />

and the Children’s Center for Cancer<br />

and Blood Disorders, I have met<br />

numerous professionals who are<br />

working to care for the children in<br />

our community. By participating as<br />

a W.I.S.H. honoree I can support<br />

Make-A-Wish, honor our health care<br />

community, and provide another<br />

level of support and encouragement<br />

to children in the metro area.<br />

I am humbled to be recognized as a<br />

W.I.S.H. honoree. Community is<br />

incredibly important to me because<br />

when we work collectively to lift one<br />

another, we can do great things.<br />

Make-A-Wish is an organization<br />

that inspires hope and strength for<br />

so many and our efforts and support<br />

will enable them to fulfill their<br />

mission and positively impact lives.<br />

After graduating college, I worked in<br />

hospitals and clinics doing therapy<br />

with kids and adults. In 2006, I<br />

made the decision to start a similar<br />

business providing therapy to<br />

children. As a pediatric physical<br />

therapist, I work closely with children<br />

and their families in helping them<br />

achieve their gross and fine motor<br />

skill milestones. The children are<br />

happy with the achievements made<br />

with therapy; however, being able to<br />

help a child’s wishes and dreams<br />

come true through this organization<br />

helps them on a much grander scale.<br />

I personally believe that being a part<br />

of a child’s big wish and dreams<br />

coming true is the ultimate gift–<br />

there’s nothing that compares in<br />

their eye!<br />

It is an honor to be invited to<br />

represent the W.I.S.H. Society that<br />

helps to make the wishes and dreams<br />

of children come true. As a true lover<br />

of children, it is the best feeling to<br />

make a child smile or laugh or have a<br />

good time. I have accepted this role<br />

because I will be involved, in not<br />

only making a child happy but in<br />

making their wishes and dreams<br />

come true.<br />

This role will allow me to be a part<br />

of making children’s wishes come<br />

true. Before accepting the role of<br />

W.I.S.H. honoree, I did my<br />

independent research. I was pleased<br />

to see the mission of the organization<br />

and the many lives that have been<br />

changed by the generous donations<br />

of others. After confirming the<br />

organization’s mission and the<br />

impact it has had on children in the<br />

world, I gladly accepted the role of<br />

W.I.S.H. Society honoree. I’m<br />

honored to be a part of a good cause.<br />

Knowing that it is not about me, but<br />

about how I can help others makes it<br />

even more worthwhile and honorable.<br />

I am looking forward to seeing<br />

children happy when their dreams<br />

become reality.<br />

The past few years have been hard<br />

for all of us. There is rarely anything<br />

positive in the headlines these days,<br />

and divisiveness seems to be the new<br />

norm. Amidst all of this, Make-A-<br />

Wish is serving as a light to families<br />

and children in the darkest of<br />

times- something we can all support.<br />

I’m serving as an honoree to be a part<br />

of that light and help this amazing<br />

organization continue its work. I am<br />

humbled by this opportunity and<br />

grateful to be a small part of this<br />

extraordinary effort.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 49


Whitney Foster<br />

Material Girls & Highland Park<br />

Kathleen Grigsby<br />

Jackson Public School District<br />

Sue Grisham<br />

University of MS Medical Center<br />

Tondra Hall<br />

Nissan Manufacturing<br />

Owner/ Founder<br />

I am grateful to have been selected<br />

as a W.I.S.H. Society honoree.<br />

I cannot wait to help with the<br />

Make-A-Wish organization and<br />

aspire to bring more awareness to<br />

Make-A-Wish Mississippi. I hope<br />

to assist in sharing more about the<br />

organization and spreading the word<br />

about Make-A-Wish being a local<br />

non-profit organization in our area.<br />

Assistant Superintendent of<br />

Elementary Division 1<br />

I am truly humbled to be selected<br />

to serve in this capacity as a W.I.S.H.<br />

Society honoree. I am looking<br />

forward to meeting others who<br />

embody the idea that we are all one<br />

part of the whole. This will be my<br />

first time engaging with Make-A-<br />

Wish on a project, and I am so<br />

excited. I accepted the role of<br />

honoree simply because I want to<br />

help the organization in achieving<br />

its vision!<br />

Pediatric Hospitalist<br />

I have had the honor for almost ten<br />

years of taking care of the children<br />

and families of Mississippi during<br />

some of their most challenging times.<br />

I see firsthand the complexity of<br />

health care challenges in some of<br />

our patients and the joy that an<br />

experience such as this can bring.<br />

I have witnessed the difficulty of<br />

families and patients trying to<br />

navigate life when it changes in the<br />

blink of an eye. This is an organization<br />

that I am thrilled to be a part<br />

of to positively impact these precious<br />

children in need. Through this<br />

opportunity, I hope to serve these<br />

children and help fulfill wishes they<br />

will treasure, give them the opportunity<br />

to make memories, to dream,<br />

sustain hope, and feel celebrated<br />

and loved.<br />

Senior Manager, HRBP<br />

Make-A-Wish Mississippi is near<br />

and dear to my heart, and I am<br />

grateful for the opportunity to help<br />

make a difference. My first interaction<br />

with Make-A-Wish came over<br />

twenty years ago when I was a<br />

manager at our local Toys-R-Us.<br />

I remember the smiles on the<br />

children’s faces as they filled their<br />

shopping carts during their shopping<br />

sprees. I was happy to assist them<br />

with their wishes then, yet, I wanted<br />

to make a bigger contribution to<br />

their lives. I was fortunate enough to<br />

begin serving on the board in 2019<br />

and my wish has been granted to<br />

make an even larger contribution<br />

to these children through this honor.<br />

I am excited to accept this great<br />

responsibility and I look forward to<br />

working within our community to<br />

address the needs of these deserving<br />

children. I intend to partner with<br />

individuals, organizations, and<br />

businesses who have traditionally not<br />

been approached to offer their<br />

support to Make-A-Wish Mississippi.<br />

It is an absolute honor to serve our<br />

community through Make-A-Wish<br />

and I am looking forward to<br />

extending that privilege to everyone<br />

who is willing to serve and make a<br />

child’s life better.<br />

50 • NOVEMBER 2022

Kye Handy<br />

Balch & Bingham, LLP<br />

Attorney<br />

I accepted the role of honoree<br />

because I appreciate that all the<br />

money raised helps children in<br />

Mississippi. It is an amazing cause<br />

to put a smile on the face of children<br />

and families going through the most<br />

challenging time of their life.<br />

Community is extremely important<br />

to me, along with giving back to the<br />

community. Make-A-Wish Mississippi<br />

makes such a huge impact on so<br />

many lives and it is an amazing honor<br />

to be a part of that process.<br />

Mamie Herron<br />

Skinny’s Nutrition Studio<br />

Owner<br />

When I was in the Disney College<br />

Program in 1995, I volunteered with<br />

the Make-A-Wish program’s<br />

Parent’s Night Out and it was a really<br />

rewarding opportunity for me as a<br />

college student that I will never<br />

forget. I have always loved fundraising<br />

opportunities, and I feel that I have<br />

been given the opportunity to know<br />

so many generous individuals that<br />

love to support this type of event.<br />

Together, in the past, we have been<br />

able to accomplish great things!<br />

From this experience, I am excited<br />

to be able to contribute to fulfilling<br />

a wish through my efforts.<br />

Wendy Lewis<br />

The Winning Smile<br />

Dental Group<br />

Co-Owner/ Dentist<br />

I am truly humbled to have been<br />

thought of as someone who would<br />

represent this organization well. It<br />

gives me so much joy to know that<br />

others see me as someone who<br />

continues to use my God-given<br />

talents and abilities to bless others<br />

beyond just my practice. It is an<br />

incredible honor to not only have<br />

the opportunity to raise money and<br />

bring awareness to this great cause<br />

but also to do it alongside such<br />

amazing women who inspire and<br />

motivate me to be a better version<br />

of myself. Having worked with the<br />

Make-A-Wish foundation previously<br />

and being passionate about continuing<br />

to use my platform to bring awareness<br />

and smiles to others in our state and<br />

community, I knew this would be an<br />

incredible opportunity to make a<br />

difference by doing just that. I hope<br />

to leave this experience feeling as<br />

though I was successful in meeting<br />

the goals that we set. I pray that even<br />

one life will be changed for the better.<br />

My mentor, Dr. Heber Simmons, Jr.<br />

always said to “leave the woodpile<br />

higher than you found it.” I look<br />

forward to meeting and working<br />

with other women who share this<br />

mission and like-mindedness.<br />

Mona McBride<br />

Mississippi Pharmacists<br />

Association<br />

Executive Director<br />

It is such an honor to be able to serve<br />

others in this capacity as a W.I.S.H.<br />

Society honoree because I desire to<br />

help others. I accepted the role of<br />

honoree without hesitation to be<br />

able to help make a difference in the<br />

lives of critically ill children and see<br />

their wishes become a reality. I have<br />

always had a servant leadership heart<br />

and I am committed to helping<br />

others. From this experience, I strive<br />

to help a child’s dream be fulfilled.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 51


Mary McNeely<br />

I am humbled to be recognized as a<br />

W.I.S.H. Society honoree, but even<br />

more excited to bring awareness to<br />

the Make-A-Wish organization. I<br />

look forward to sharing the mission<br />

of the Make-A-Wish organization<br />

and the value it has in our community.<br />

My husband and I love supporting<br />

different non-profits in our state.<br />

Having five children in our blended<br />

family, we see value in the Make-A-<br />

Wish mission. I am excited to<br />

support this wonderful organization.<br />

Krystal Minor<br />

BFAC.COM<br />

Chief Operations Officer<br />

I love children. Watching little ones<br />

grow into the leaders God called<br />

them to be is very special to me.<br />

I felt honored to be asked to<br />

represent or take part in an effort<br />

that will bless our future leaders.<br />

This organization’s goal is to provide<br />

hope and courage for kids as they go<br />

through medical treatment, and I<br />

want to be a part of this important<br />

effort. To be honored in this capacity<br />

is to know that the honor is in the<br />

cause and the mission to give a gift<br />

of hope to children who are going<br />

through life-altering illnesses. From<br />

this experience, I want to help raise<br />

enough money to at least help one<br />

child get his/her wish and to continue<br />

to bring awareness to this important<br />

organization.<br />

Susan Murphy<br />

Diabetes Foundation<br />

of Mississippi<br />

Board Member<br />

I’m honored to accept this role in the<br />

W.I.S.H. society. What a privilege to<br />

raise funds and awareness for<br />

children with critical illnesses and to<br />

grant more wishes throughout our<br />

state of Mississippi. I’ve accepted this<br />

role because I’ve found that helping<br />

children in need has been the most<br />

rewarding philanthropic thing I’ve<br />

done. Being honored in this capacity<br />

helps me to know that my charitable<br />

actions are truly making a difference.<br />

I hope that this experience is a<br />

springboard for future opportunities<br />

to continue to serve with W.I.S.H.<br />

and other organizations in our<br />

community.<br />

Swayze Pentecost<br />

First Presbyterian Day School<br />

Advancement Director<br />

Make-A-Wish will always hold a<br />

special place in my heart. Working<br />

with families and seeing firsthand<br />

the impact of a wish is something<br />

that I will never forget or take for<br />

granted. These children continually<br />

have their childhood robbed by<br />

disease. They miss out on school,<br />

birthday parties, and just general<br />

“kid” things. Make-A-Wish lets<br />

them feel normal, even if for just a<br />

day. Because of these things, I happily<br />

accepted the role of honoree.<br />

Make-A-Wish has such an incredible<br />

community of volunteers and<br />

supporters. To be asked to participate<br />

in the WISH Society was such an<br />

honor and one that I do not take<br />

lightly. It is important to continue to<br />

support this incredible organization,<br />

and I am grateful to be a small part!<br />

I want to share with others the<br />

impact that Make-A-Wish has had<br />

on my life. I am excited to be<br />

involved and share the stories that<br />

have forever stayed with me from my<br />

time at Make-A-Wish. I hope it<br />

encourages others to get involved!<br />

52 • NOVEMBER 2022

Amy Ramsey<br />

The Fit Soul, LLC<br />

Liz Walker<br />

Ergon, Inc.<br />

Chianti Woodfork<br />

Prestige Dental Care<br />

Melanie Burrow<br />

2022 W.I.S.H. Society Chair<br />

President & Owner<br />

Healthy & Lifestyle Coach<br />

Independent Brand Partner<br />

for Savvi Corporation<br />

Founding Brand Partner<br />

in new athleisure company<br />

Accepting the role of honoree for<br />

W.I.S.H. Society was an easy “yes”<br />

for me as their mission aligns with<br />

my personal values and beliefs to<br />

make an impact by serving and loving<br />

others. I receive this role of honoree<br />

as an incredible privilege to be able to<br />

grant a wish to these precious children<br />

and their families battling critical<br />

illnesses, and maybe for a moment,<br />

deliver the gift of hope with an<br />

unforgettable experience. Being<br />

recognized as a female leader in our<br />

community and serving alongside<br />

other like-minded women, where we<br />

can use our talents, strengths, and<br />

resources to make a difference through<br />

Make- A-Wish Mississippi is an<br />

incredible honor, thank you for the<br />

opportunity!<br />

I am passionate about serving my<br />

community and especially children.<br />

I am excited to be a part of the 2022<br />

W.I.S.H. Society. I have seen firsthand<br />

what it means to a child and his/her<br />

family to have a wish granted.<br />

As a pediatric oncology social worker<br />

for 13 years, I referred many patients<br />

to Make-A-Wish. When I began<br />

working with children and their<br />

families at Children’s of MS in 1991,<br />

my very first referral from Dr. Pullen<br />

was to find a way to make Edward<br />

Earl’s wish to go to Disney World<br />

come true.<br />

Edward Earl had been approved to<br />

have his wish granted but he had<br />

taken a sudden turn and was not<br />

expected to live. The wish coordinator<br />

and I brought Disney World to<br />

Edward Earl. We got a Mickey Mouse<br />

costume, and the wish coordinator<br />

became Mickey. Her husband came<br />

with a video camera. We decorated<br />

his hospital room with all things<br />

Disney!<br />

Owner/ General Dentist<br />

I am passionate about serving my<br />

community and building relationships<br />

with those around me. I knew I<br />

could build long-lasting relationships<br />

and serve my community further by<br />

being an honoree. Being an honoree<br />

for W.I.S.H. Society is a uniquely<br />

incredible opportunity to not only<br />

inspire but be inspired by other<br />

like-minded women and leaders in<br />

the community. Make-A-Wish is an<br />

organization with a long history of<br />

bettering individuals’ lives. I was<br />

more than happy to accept this role<br />

and responsibility.<br />

I’ve had the opportunity to see a<br />

wish granted, firsthand. It’s such a<br />

special moment for everyone involved.<br />

The excitement is contagious. I’m<br />

honored to serve as chair this year.<br />

I am most excited about seeing what<br />

these phenomenal women will<br />

accomplish, and the joy that will be<br />

brought to all these kids, as a result<br />

of their efforts.<br />

Allison Tyler<br />

President & CEO /<br />

Make-A-Wish Mississippi<br />

I will never forget Edward Earl<br />

opening his eyes for the first time in<br />

days as we sang the M-I-C-K-E-Y<br />

song to him. I knew right then that<br />

Make-A-Wish makes a difference!<br />

Allison joined Make-A-Wish in 2019,<br />

and under her leadership, increased<br />

it’s fundraising by double digits.This<br />

continued level of funding will allow<br />

Make-A-Wish Mississippi a chance<br />

to grant every critically ill child their<br />

wish on time.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 53

54 • NOVEMBER 2022

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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<br />

not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or veteran status in its educational programs and activities. We recognize our responsibility to provide an open and welcoming environment that fosters a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion for employees and students to collaboratively learn, work and serve<br />

our communities. The following have been designated to handle inquiries regarding these policies:<br />

EEOC Compliance: Marquise Kessee, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion , Box 1100 Raymond MS 39154; Phone: 601-857-3458 or Email: EEOC@hindscc.edu.<br />

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Hometown RANKIN • 55

56 • NOVEMBER 2022<br />

Ben & Stephanie Kitchens, Ellie Kate, 8 - Luke, 6 - Levi, 3 - Caroline, 6 months

the Kitchenses<br />

“Our beautiful and unique family<br />

came together in God’s timing.<br />

The journey to grow our family<br />

has been full of twists and turns,<br />

joy and grief, and God has used it<br />

all to create our family.”<br />

After listening to Stephanie and Ben Kitchens and<br />

watching Stephanie wipe tears away as the two shared about<br />

their adoption experiences, it was obvious that they were so<br />

blessed by each of their children.<br />

Stephanie and Ben met for the first time on a mission trip<br />

and have been married for ten years. They talked about<br />

adoption before they were married, and both knew they<br />

desired to grow their family through adoption one day.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 57

Because the adoption process is almost always a<br />

lengthy procedure, Stephanie and Ben began the<br />

adoption journey six months after their first child,<br />

Ellie Kate, was born. They chose to adopt from<br />

Ethiopia, and they were close to being matched<br />

with a child when the country shut down<br />

international adoptions.<br />

The path to adoption has had its share of<br />

disappointments and closed doors, but the Kitchens<br />

continued to feel God leading them to adopt. After<br />

the birth of their second child, Luke, they began<br />

the domestic adoption process through Lifeline<br />

Children’s’ Services.<br />

Friends put them in touch with “Hearts of<br />

Compassion,”– a ministry of Colonial Heights<br />

Baptist Church that holds an annual 5K race<br />

each November, along with a silent auction to<br />

help raise funds for families pursuing adoption.<br />

The ministry also connects adoptive families<br />

and provides encouragement and support that is<br />

invaluable, according to the Kitchens’ experience.<br />

The Kitchens now love to return to the race each<br />

year to gather with families and support other<br />

families in the adoption process.<br />

Stephanie said, “While adoption is beautiful,<br />

it is also formed from brokenness and comes with<br />

deep loss. When God calls us to adoption, He calls<br />

us to step into that brokenness.” Ben reflects on a<br />

quote from the Lifeline director, Herbie Newell,<br />

stating “The hope is not found in our home, but<br />

the hope is found in Jesus.”<br />

Speaking from a mother’s heart, Stephanie<br />

shared how she and Ben grieved for the birth<br />

mothers’ losses. She explained that there are so<br />

many reasons why mothers make adoption plans<br />

for their children. Making this selfless and very<br />

difficult decision comes with deep grief and<br />

tremendous love for their children.<br />

58 • NOVEMBER 2022

The Kitchens shared the process of creating<br />

their profile book that adopting parents provide<br />

for the expectant moms. After studying the books,<br />

the mother chooses the family for her child.<br />

Stephanie and Ben desire to honor their children’s<br />

first mothers in their hearts and home and desire<br />

to have relationships with them.<br />

Parenting is a challenging journey, regardless<br />

of how a family is formed. In order to always have<br />

open communication with their children as they<br />

process their adoption stories, Lifeline encourages<br />

Stephanie and Ben to begin talking with them about<br />

their adoption from birth. They do this now<br />

through talking in age-appropriate ways and<br />

reading children’s books. The Kitchens are grateful<br />

for amazing friends who share their children’s<br />

ethnicity who are like family, helping them with<br />

many things from hair/skin care to helping their<br />

children develop confidence in who they are. The<br />

supportive community of other adoptive families<br />

has been truly invaluable.<br />

Levi’s name means “to be joined together,” and<br />

God joined the Kitchens together with him after<br />

a 5-year process. They later began the process<br />

to adopt again and have recently brought their<br />

beautiful daughter Caroline home. While each<br />

of their children came into their family in different<br />

ways, they share special and close bonds with one<br />

another. The boys share a room, and Ellie Kate is a<br />

little momma to baby Caroline. Luke didn’t want<br />

to let anyone else hold Caroline when she came<br />

home, and Levi is always looking for “his baby.”<br />

He recently held his arm up next to Caroline’s and<br />

shouted with excitement that her skin was brown<br />

like his! Ben shared that when the children are<br />

questioned by others, Ellie Kate loves to tell<br />

people, “Families don’t have to match!”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 59

60 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 61

62 • NOVEMBER 2022

Leigh Ramsey<br />

God’s Heart for Orphans<br />

“The story of Zacchaeus in the Bible is found in Luke 19:1-10. In this passage, we read<br />

that Zacchaeus’s life was forever changed when he encountered Jesus that day in the tree.<br />

Jesus radically changed my life as well on two very different occasions during the<br />

adoption of our two daughters.” Chris Gray of Brandon shared the inspiration<br />

behind the name of the adoption ministry he and his wife, Andrea founded.<br />

The ministry is called the Zacchaeus Tree Adoption Ministry.<br />

In 2008, the couple felt led to pursue<br />

adoption after struggling with infertility. They<br />

decided to adopt from Russia. Andrea had the<br />

idea that the couple should purchase birthday<br />

gifts for the little girl, Hannah Claire, who<br />

would soon be joining their family. They made<br />

a list of items they would get her for ages three<br />

through 18. One of the gifts they were searching<br />

for was a Bible written in Russian.<br />

On December 2, 2008, the couple went to<br />

Russia to meet their daughter. They visited her<br />

in the mornings. The afternoons and evenings<br />

were free to go sightseeing and find the items on<br />

their list. They visited street vendors, souvenir<br />

shops and bookstores searching for the perfect<br />

gifts. Each stop, they’d ask for a Bible, but were<br />

unable to find one.<br />

The couple later returned to Russia for their<br />

final trip. They’d be coming back to the U.S. with<br />

their daughter. It was extremely cold, and they<br />

were warned by the adoption agency that Hannah<br />

Claire would not be used to it and should not<br />

be taken out. But the clock was ticking–they<br />

still hadn’t found a Bible. Chris prayed, “God,<br />

how will I find a Bible in less than 24 hours?”<br />

They boarded a bus that was completely<br />

full except for one empty seat across from Chris.<br />

An older gentleman took the vacant spot, and<br />

began doing hand motions. He never spoke,<br />

just kept moving his hands. Chris and Andrea<br />

became nervous. Eventually, the mysterious<br />

stranger moved to the back of the bus. When<br />

the bus stopped and it was time to exit, they<br />

locked eyes with the older gentleman, who was<br />

now sitting on the steps of the bus.<br />

He stared at Chris and slowly stood to his<br />

feet, while putting his hand in his coat pocket.<br />

Chris began to step off of the bus, and the man<br />

put an item in Chris’s chest just before the doors<br />

closed. Chris knew immediately what he had<br />

been given, a New Testament written in Russian.<br />

Chris reflects, “That man changed my life<br />

forever. I hope to meet him in Heaven one day<br />

and thank him. That encounter was the<br />

cornerstone for starting the adoption ministry.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 63

In January of 2012, the Gray family felt led<br />

to adopt again. Chris remembers thinking,<br />

“There is no way we’ll have another experience<br />

like we did with Hannah Claire’s adoption.”<br />

The couple had started the process and paid<br />

$27,000 toward the adoption. They were<br />

devastated to learn that Vladamir Putin had<br />

banned Americans from adopting Russian<br />

children. The money put toward the adoption<br />

was lost. The couple chose to start the adoption<br />

process again, this time in Moldova. Six<br />

months into that process, Moldova’s adoption<br />

process came to a standstill as well. The couple<br />

lost their money again.<br />

They eventually started the work to adopt<br />

from Poland. In January of 2014, Chris<br />

attended a Wednesday night church service at<br />

Pinelake. He had turned in a prayer request<br />

card that read, “God, if you want us to continue<br />

this adoption process, you’ll have to provide<br />

for it because we have lost so much.” Chris<br />

watched as Chip Henderson, the senior pastor<br />

at Pinelake, stepped onto the stage and held<br />

Chris’s prayer request and announced the<br />

prayer need to the congregation.<br />

Eight months later, Chris felt led to fill out<br />

the paperwork for an adoption grant. The<br />

grant was for $5,000 to help cover the cost of<br />

an adoption. But time slowly passed and both<br />

Chris and Andrea assumed they had not been<br />

selected for the grant.<br />

In November of 2014, Chris visited Target<br />

on his lunch break. He decided to check his<br />

email while he was there. He was surprised to<br />

see an email reading, “Congratulations Gray<br />

Family.” They had been awarded a $20,000<br />

grant. Chris shared that it touched his heart<br />

that God showed how much he loves and cares<br />

for orphans through providing a Bible for<br />

Hannah Claire and the money for Ava’s<br />

adoption.<br />

In 2015, Chris was attending another<br />

Wednesday night service at Pinelake. The<br />

sermon was on Jonah. Chip said, “If you’ve<br />

been running from something God has asked<br />

of you, stand and we will pray over you.” Chris<br />

stood, knowing he had been asked to encourage<br />

others who are in the process of adoption.<br />

He has now spoken about adoption and<br />

foster care at over 90 churches in Mississippi.<br />

He also teaches a class to families considering<br />

adoption or fostering at Crossgates Baptist<br />

Church on the first and third Wednesday of<br />

each month. He started the Zacchaeus Tree<br />

Adoption Ministry, which offers adoption<br />

grants to Mississippi families. Families can<br />

raise up to $2,500 toward an adoption, and<br />

the ministry will match it through Lifesong<br />

for Orphans. So far, the ministry has helped<br />

ten families fund their adoptions.<br />

Chris was recently recognized for his work<br />

in helping families who are on the journey<br />

toward adoption and fostering. In September,<br />

the Gray family traveled to Washington D.C.<br />

to receive this recognition. He said of the<br />

event: “It was an honor to be selected by U.S.<br />

64 • NOVEMBER 2022

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith for the Congressional<br />

Coalition on Adoption Institute Award in Mississippi.<br />

I am so proud to have had the opportunity to meet<br />

with Senator Hyde-Smith, and to know that she<br />

is a strong supporter of adoption. I had the<br />

opportunity to talk to her about creating legislation<br />

for a “Certificate of Foreign Birth” bill to help<br />

families who are adopting or who have adopted a<br />

child from a foreign country, so that these families<br />

would be able to get their child a birth certificate<br />

in Mississippi. It was interesting to learn that the<br />

CCAI, which was created by congress, is the<br />

largest bipartisanship caucus in Washington.”<br />

Mr. Gray shared how God has repeatedly<br />

revealed that He is a God who cares about all of<br />

the details that seem so small to us. Chris shared<br />

a bit more about how God’s character had been<br />

revealed to him through this journey, “I also find<br />

that God is quite humorous in that the street that<br />

I grew up on in Pearl was named Sycamore, which<br />

is the type of tree that Zacchaeus climbed up to<br />

see Jesus.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 65

REAL<br />

MEN<br />

WEAR<br />

PINK<br />

September 22<br />

The Faulkner<br />

66 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 67

November 10th - 21st, 2022<br />

Save Now, Gift Later!<br />

Purchase online at 3in1GiftCard.com<br />

In person at BRAVO!, Broad Street, and<br />

Sal & Mookie’s<br />

Digital and physical gift card options<br />

No Limit to how many you can purchase<br />


Plus, We Give 10% to Charity!<br />

Select 1 of 12 community chosen charities,<br />

and WE will donate 10% of your total gift<br />

card purchase to your selected charity.<br />

Plus, we will feature one of the 12 selected<br />

charities each month in 2023, and they will<br />

receive additional donations from each<br />

68 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 69

Susan Marquez<br />

The Brandon Amphitheater will be transformed into a light-filled venue<br />

for the holiday season. The lights will be turned on for the drive-through<br />

holiday-themed display starting on Friday, November 18, 2022,<br />

and will shine nightly through Sunday, January 1, 2023.<br />

70 • NOVEMBER 2022

The event will feature dozens of light displays, illuminated canopies, and digital animation,<br />

all constructed with over two million lights, including one million individual LED lights.<br />

“With our focus toward being a quality community for families to live, work, and play, the<br />

Brandon Amphitheater is the natural destination to host an enjoyable, drive through<br />

Christmas presentation of this caliber for people of all ages,” says Brandon<br />

Mayor Butch Lee. “Our efforts are geared towards transforming our Quarry Park<br />

Trails that surround the Brandon Amphitheater into a magical experience filled<br />

with memorable moments for years to come. We are excited this year to be<br />

one of 21 locations in North America to host a Magic of Lights show. Attracting<br />

a show of this magnitude, with sister show events in locations<br />

such as the NFL Gillette Stadium in Boston, and the Daytona<br />

National Speedway in Daytona, Florida, speaks well for our<br />

hometown and life in Brandon.”<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 71

The Magic of Lights display will be produced by Family<br />

Entertainment Live, a family-oriented entertainment holding<br />

company headquartered in Medina, Ohio. The event is<br />

presented by WLBT-TV. “We are excited to bring Magic of<br />

Lights to the Brandon community and the Brandon Amphitheater<br />

for the first time ever and hope it becomes an annual<br />

holiday tradition,” says Ken Hudgens, CEO of Family<br />

Entertainment Live.<br />

Ted Fortenberry, Regional Vice President and GM of WLBT<br />

says, “We are excited to present the Magic of Lights at<br />

Brandon’s Amphitheater. It is the perfect setting for this<br />

fantastic family holiday experience. Helping to bring in<br />

events like Magic of Lights so families can create lifelong<br />

holiday memories fits perfectly with WLBT’s commitment to<br />

serve the communities of Central and Southwest Mississippi.”<br />

Visitors to the event can enjoy the tour’s displays from the<br />

comfort of their own vehicle. Displays will feature a 32-foot<br />

tall, animated Mattel’s Barbie, and prehistoric Christmas<br />

display featuring life-sized dinosaurs celebrating the season.<br />

Other displays will include Big Foot Monster Trucks, Winter<br />

Wonderland, as well as Magic of Lights favorites including the<br />

Twelve Days of Christmas, Toyland, and the 200-foot long<br />

Enchanting Tunnel of Lights. “Magic of Lights is a nostalgic<br />

and festive experience for guests of all ages,” says Hudgens.<br />

The numbers to create the event are staggering. The total<br />

Magic of Lights event will use 12.6 miles of light cord. It takes<br />

3,750-man hours to set up each Magic of Lights event. Each<br />

Magic of Lights event uses about ten miles of steel to build<br />

the displays and ten miles of LED lighting installed inside of<br />

the displays, which are designed, bent, cut, and welded into<br />

about 800 frames that are combined in different color<br />

configurations to create each show’s giant winter holiday<br />

scenes. Each frame of each scene is designed using state-ofthe-art<br />

technology. And each display is hand-built in-house<br />

from fifteen pages of design specifications. Scenes are as<br />

high as 32 feet tall, and as long as several hundred feet.<br />

Magic of Lights shines nightly from 5:30pm until 10pm.<br />

Mayor Lee says more than 10,000 vehicles are expected<br />

to drive to Rankin County to experience the event. “This<br />

Christmas light event will pave the way for this to become<br />

an annual, family friendly show in the years ahead.”<br />

Tickets for this festive holiday event are on sale now and<br />

can be purchased for any day starting at just $15 per vehicle,<br />

for a limited time. For a complete schedule and to purchase<br />

tickets, visit MagicOfLights.com/Brandon.<br />

72 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 73

74 • NOVEMBER 2022


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Hometown RANKIN • 75

Staff Sides<br />

Squash Casserole<br />

• 3 lb. cooked squash<br />

• 1 small onion<br />

• 1 cup sour cream<br />

• 1 cup grated cheese<br />

• 1 cup Minute Rice<br />

• 1 stick butter, melted<br />

• 1 can cream of mushroom soup<br />

In a large saucepan, steam squash<br />

with onion, stirring occasionally.<br />

Once tender, gently combine with<br />

other ingredients. Transfer to<br />

a glass baking dish, and bake<br />

35 minutes at 325.<br />

LEXIE<br />

Broccoli Salad<br />

• 5 cups broccoli florets<br />

• 1 cup bacon, cooked and<br />

crumbled<br />

• ½ cup sliced almonds<br />

• 1 cup grated cheddar cheese<br />

• ¼ cup red onion, chopped<br />

Add broccoli, bacon, almonds,<br />

cheddar, and onion in a large<br />

mixing bowl.<br />

Dressing<br />

• 1 cup mayonnaise<br />

• ¼ cup sugar<br />

(or your preferred sweetener)<br />

• 1 Tbsp. white vinegar<br />

• Salt and pepper, to taste<br />

In a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise,<br />

vinegar, sweetener, salt, and pepper.<br />

Add dressing mixture to broccoli<br />

salad and toss to combine until<br />

evenly coated. Refrigerate one hour<br />

and serve.<br />

Carrot Souffle<br />

• 3½ lbs. peeled carrots<br />

• 1½ cups sugar<br />

• 1 tsp. baking powder<br />

• 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract<br />

• 6 eggs<br />

• ½ lb. margarine softened<br />

(butter works too)<br />

• 1/4 cup flour<br />

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.<br />

In a large pot filled to just below the<br />

steamer with water, add the carrots.<br />

Steam for 12-14 minutes or until<br />

very tender. Into your blender add<br />

carrots, sugar, baking powder, vanilla<br />

extract, eggs and margarine. Mix<br />

until creamy with no chunks of<br />

carrots. Add flour and pulse a couple<br />

of times until just combined. Bake in<br />

a 13x9 casserole for one hour until<br />

golden brown on top.<br />

MARY ANN<br />

ALISHA<br />

76 • NOVEMBER 2022

Strawberry Pretzel Salad<br />

Pretzel Crust<br />

• 2 cups crushed pretzels<br />

• ¾ cup butter melted<br />

• 3 Tbsp. sugar<br />

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.<br />

Combine crushed pretzels, butter,<br />

and sugar in a bowl and press into the<br />

bottom of a 9x13 pan. Bake 10<br />

minutes and cool completely.<br />

Creamy Filling<br />

• 8 oz. cream cheese softened<br />

• ¾ cup sugar<br />

• 8 oz. Cool W hip, defrosted<br />

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese<br />

and sugar with a hand mixer on<br />

medium until fluff y. Gently fold in<br />

Cool W hip. Spread mixture evenly<br />

over the cooled crust and refrigerate<br />

at least 1 hour.<br />

Strawberry Topping<br />

• 6 oz. strawberry Jell-O<br />

• 2 cups boiling water<br />

• 4 cups sliced strawberries<br />

In a large mixing bowl combine<br />

Jell-O and boiling water until jello<br />

is dissolved. Allow mixture to sit at<br />

room temperature until completely<br />

cooled. Place sliced strawberries over<br />

the cream cheese mixture.<br />

Pour cooled Jell-O overtop.<br />

Refrigerate until firmly set, at least<br />

4-6 hours or overnight.<br />

TAHYA<br />

Loaded Hash Brown<br />

Casserole<br />

• 1 20 oz. package shredded<br />

hash browns (thawed)<br />

• 1 cup cooked bacon (about 16<br />

slices), chopped into crumbles<br />

• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese<br />

• 1 can cream of chicken<br />

or cream of mushroom soup<br />

• 3/4 cup sour cream<br />

• 4 Tbsp. butter, melted<br />

• 1/2 cup green onions, chopped<br />

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.<br />

Spray11x7 baking dish with nonstick<br />

cooking spray. In a large bowl,<br />

combine hash browns, half of the<br />

bacon and cheese, cream of<br />

mushroom/chicken soup, sour<br />

cream, and butter. Mix well and<br />

spread evenly into baking dish.<br />

Bake 50-55 minutes or until<br />

potatoes are tender. Top with<br />

remaining bacon and cheese and<br />

return to oven to bake for an<br />

additional five minutes or until<br />

cheese is melted. Remove from<br />

oven and top with green onions.<br />

Serve and enjoy!<br />

NIKKI<br />

Green Bean Casserole<br />

• 2 lb. fresh green beans, ends cut off<br />

• 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces<br />

• 3 cloves garlic, minced<br />

• ½ whole large onion, chopped<br />

• 4 Tbsp. butter<br />

• 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour<br />

• 2½ cups whole milk<br />

• ½ cup half-and-half<br />

• 1½ tsp. salt, more to taste<br />

• Freshly ground black pepper<br />

• 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper<br />

• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese<br />

• 4 oz. sliced pimentos, drained<br />

• French fried onions<br />

Cut green beans in half, blanch and<br />

drain, set aside. Cook bacon over<br />

medium heat for two minutes, add<br />

onion and garlic, continue cooking for<br />

3 to 5 minutes, until bacon is done<br />

and onions are golden brown. In a<br />

separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter<br />

over medium heat. Wisk in flour to<br />

evenly mix into the butter. Cook for a<br />

minute or two, pour in milk and half<br />

and half. Continue cooking, whisking<br />

constantly, while sauce thickens, about<br />

2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, cayenne<br />

and cheddar. Stir while cheese melts.<br />

If sauce is too thick, splash in some<br />

chicken broth. Turn off heat. Add<br />

pimentos and bacon/onion mixture.<br />

Stir to combine. Pour over green<br />

beans and stir gently to combine.<br />

Pour into a baking dish and top with<br />

French fried onions. Bake at 350<br />

for 30 minutes or until<br />

sauce is bubbly.<br />

Sweet Potato Casserole<br />

• 4 cups large sweet potatoes,<br />

peeled and cubed<br />

• ½ cup packed brown sugar<br />

• 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted<br />

• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract<br />

• ½ cup milk<br />

• 2 large eggs<br />

• ½ tsp. kosher salt<br />

• 1 cup packed dark brown sugar<br />

• ½ cup all-purpose flour<br />

• 4 Tbsp. butter, melted<br />

• 1 cup chopped pecans<br />

• 2½ cups mini marshmallows<br />

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a<br />

9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.<br />

Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and<br />

cover with water. Bring to boil, reduce<br />

heat and simmer until tender, about<br />

15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly.<br />

In a large bowl, stir together sweet<br />

potatoes, sugar, butter, vanilla, milk,<br />

eggs, and salt until smooth. Pour<br />

into prepared dish. In a medium bowl,<br />

stir together sugar, flour, and butter<br />

until it clumps. Stir in pecans, then<br />

spread evenly over potatoes. Top<br />

with marshmallows. Bake until<br />

cooked through and golden, about<br />

30 minutes.<br />


DANIEL<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 77

POOLS<br />


601-591-CLUB<br />


gROUP<br />

78 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 79

Pass the Gavel<br />

Breakfast<br />


80 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 81

82 • NOVEMBER 2022



Come enjoy our special programming at the<br />

museums this fall!<br />

Country Music Trivia Night - Sept. 1<br />

Women in Country Music: Songs and<br />

Conversation - Sept. 15<br />

Country Music Fashion Show - Oct. 20<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 83

84 • NOVEMBER 2022

Camille Anding<br />


Patriot<br />

“Patriotism is not like it used to be,”<br />

the centenarian said as he recalled images and memories<br />

from his military days in the Navy. One listens closely to a<br />

veteran sporting one hundred years, still with a mobile<br />

body and amazing quick and accurate recall.<br />

Soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, Clyde Lacey got his draft notice<br />

but not before he had decided to put his own future on hold so he could<br />

do his part in defending his country. His Army physical considered his<br />

serious sinus issues sufficient to classify him as a 4F. Lacey refused to<br />

let that ailment keep him from serving, so he signed up with the Navy<br />

and was trained as an aviator mechanic. After more training in several<br />

states, his squadron was shipped to the Philippine Islands where he<br />

was never far from the war zones<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 85

Most military vets who ever served during a war have their own wartime<br />

memories. Lacey’s nightmare happened when he and one other sailor were<br />

pulled from their troop to join some Marines working on a fighter plane.<br />

A major explosion sent him rushing to the runway where the plane with<br />

members of his squadron had exploded. “My job was picking up limbs and<br />

body parts of sailors I knew.”<br />

Lacey’s eighteen months in the Pacific were challenging. Along with war,<br />

the men experienced a scarcity of food. No supply ships could come to them,<br />

so the only fresh meat they had were fish that they could catch.<br />

He will always remember his happiest memory – seeing the Golden<br />

Gate Bridge on his safe return home. “The GI Bill was the best thing<br />

our government ever did for vets,” Lacey asserted. During his<br />

military time, Lacey had decided he wouldn’t go back to his<br />

carpentry job; he would go to college. He earned a<br />

mechanical engineering degree from University of Kansas.<br />

He and his wife and two sons moved to several states with<br />

his work, but West Virginia was his retirement home for<br />

he and his wife.<br />

Ten years ago, his son Rick told his dad, “You’re getting<br />

old! You and Mom need to move closer.” Brandon is now<br />

home where Lacey lives alone after his wife of seventy-five<br />

years passed in 2018.<br />

His 100th birthday was celebrated with a special flag and<br />

certificate presentation by Representative Michael Guest. A family<br />

reunion in Ogden, Utah, with his two sisters and 150 relatives, were also<br />

part of his 100th celebration.<br />

This military veteran should also earn recognition for his stamina and sharp<br />

mind. He never naps and wakes at six each morning. Then he hoists Ole Glory<br />

high on its flagpole and retires at 10pm after taking down his flag. His mornings<br />

follow a schedule of light exercises and some time on his treadmill. He<br />

watches westerns on TV, “fools around” on his computer and enjoys reading.<br />

His favorite pastime is playing golf with his friends at Bay Pointe – a<br />

standing appointment for most weekdays to which he drives himself. His last<br />

driver’s license is good to age 106. Vitamins for his eyes are his primary medicine,<br />

and his favorite food is navy beans and cornbread which he eats for breakfast.<br />

I guess you could call it the breakfast of champions and centenarian<br />

patriotic veterans.<br />

86 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 87

88 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 89


90 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 91

5S Farms<br />

Pumpkin<br />

Patch<br />

October 1st & 7th, 2022<br />

Hosted by the Smith Family of Puckett<br />

Jerry & Heather Smith<br />

Sam Smith, Addie Smith, Dylan & Selby Sanford<br />

“A few years ago we had the most adorable miniature<br />

donkey born before Easter. At church one Sunday, I asked<br />

Ms. Frances Dotson, the owner of After School Care in<br />

Puckett, if the children at the daycare could come out and<br />

see the baby donkey, so we planned a day! On the day the<br />

children visited, I read a story about Jesus riding into<br />

Jerusalem on a donkey, and they were able to make that<br />

connection from just petting the little foal. We also played<br />

with bunny rabbits, games, and blew bubbles. The children<br />

had the best timelooking for clover to feed the rabbits.<br />

I will never forget the laughter coming from those sweet<br />

angels. It wasn’t a giggle, it was that wonderful laughter that<br />

comes from deep inside - the make-your-belly-shake kind of<br />

laughter! I remember thinking to myself, the power of the<br />

innocence of a child is one of the most special things on<br />

this earth. There we were - totally technology-free,<br />

running around and playing in the grass, and it was<br />

the funniest thing in the world to the kids!<br />

I told my husband about our day, and right then and<br />

there he decided we would plant pumpkins the following<br />

summer and have a pumpkin patch for the daycare kids.<br />

The next fall we had pumpkins galore and it was another<br />

great day with these special children. Every year 5S Farms<br />

has two non-profit days full of pumpkin patch fun!<br />

One day is for family, friends, and neighbors in the<br />

Puckett community, and the other day is for the daycare.<br />

Puckett is one of the great towns in small-town America,<br />

and we are so proud to live in Rankin County!”<br />

- Heather Smith<br />

92 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 93

SALUTE<br />

to First Responders<br />

What made you decide to work in law enforcement?<br />

Initially, I decided to be a police officer as a child because it looked<br />

cool. As I got older, I learned that being a police officer meant<br />

I could be a part of the change I wanted to see in the world,<br />

and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.<br />

How long have you been with the Rankin County Sheriff’s<br />

Department?<br />

About a year and a half but have been in law enforcement nine years.<br />

Tell us about your family.<br />

My family is small and has mostly been spread out since my<br />

generation got older. We use holiday and birthday celebrations<br />

as a staple to keep us connected.<br />

What is the toughest thing you have experienced in your job?<br />

The toughest thing I’ve experienced about my jobs in law enforcement<br />

is having to disconnect from the people or cases I encounter; that can<br />

range from the teenager I stopped for speeding that was having a bad<br />

day to the family grieving the loss of a loved one.<br />

Share some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.<br />

In my spare time I’m usually all over the place! I adopt and drop<br />

hobbies and usually get a new one so fast that I never get a chance<br />

to master any. I’m currently focusing on skating and learning to play<br />

my guitar, using YouTube.<br />

What are three things on your bucket list?<br />

My bucket list has stayed pretty consistent, and I’ve been fortunate<br />

to be able to knock a few things off of it. The top three things on<br />

my bucket list right now is to take a cross-country road trip, take<br />

a mission trip, and to take my kids to Disney during Christmas.<br />

Investigator<br />

Shanta<br />

McNAIR<br />



Who is someone you admire and why?<br />

My mom. As a child, that’s something that a lot of us say. But the<br />

older I get the more I admire her. Growing up, my mom was always<br />

a working mom and prepared home-cooked meals in addition to<br />

keeping our house clean. With the struggles of working, homemaking<br />

and everyday life, she always did it all with such grace and made it<br />

look easy. Now that I’m older I realize it definitely wasn’t as easy as<br />

she made it seem.<br />

94 • NOVEMBER 2022

If you could give one piece of advice to<br />

a young person, what would it be?<br />

When you quit, you fail - just keep going!<br />

What is your favorite thing about<br />

the city of Brandon?<br />

My favorite thing about Brandon are the<br />

places to eat. I love the variety of places<br />

to choose from without having to go far.<br />

What is your favorite thing about<br />

Rankin County?<br />

My favorite thing about Rankin County is<br />

the culture. I love the comradery between<br />

the law enforcement agencies and the<br />

down-home southern feel of the community<br />

itself. I’ve met and worked with some of the<br />

best people I know in Rankin County.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 95

96 • NOVEMBER 2022

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Hometown RANKIN • 97

Golf<br />

Tournament<br />

October 7<br />

Pearl Municipal<br />

Golf Course<br />

98 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 99


Jackson Prep<br />

Jackson Prep celebrated Homecoming on September 23, at Patriot Field against Copiah Academy.<br />

This year’s homecoming court was represented by (Back L-R:) Meredith Hawkins (Sophomore), Hartley Craddock (Sophomore), Ava Moak (Junior),<br />

Anne Melton Hewitt (Freshman) and Brookelyn Johnson (Freshman) and (Front L-R:) Margaret Dye (Junior), Candace Holman (Senior),<br />

Anders Morgan (Senior), Kimmons Sheppard (Senior), Ryleigh Wells (Senior) and Kennedy Cleveland (Junior).<br />

Elam Roberson, a senior at Jackson Prep, was recently<br />

named an MAIS All-Star Cheerleader for 2022.<br />

Congratulations to the 2022-2023 National Merit Semifinalists<br />

Will Upton, Ben Tiller, Jake Mathews, Chase Thompson, and Kimmons Sheppard.<br />

100 • NOVEMBER 2022

Pearl Public School District<br />

Pirates Wear Pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To honor those who lost their fight, survived, or continue to battle breast<br />

cancer and to raise awareness for breast cancer research, Pearl Public School District encouraged everyone to wear pink on Friday, October 7.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 101


Pisgah<br />

The 1st Annual Rankin County School District Junior High Honor Choir Festival was held on October 13th at Northwest Rankin’s Performing Arts Building.<br />

The event was a collaboration of Pisgah, Richland, Florence and Northwest Rankin choral directors and students. Chosen by their directors, the singers rehearsed<br />

selected pieces at their home schools and came together for an afternoon of rehearsal and instructional time led by their directors. A free concert followed at<br />

7:00 that evening. The All-District Choir performed “Gloria Festiva” by Emily Crocker, “Jubilate Deo” (traditional) and “Praise His Holy Name” by Keith Hampton.<br />

Special thanks to choral directors Linsey Smith, (Pisgah) Rachel Dennis, (Richland) Darbie Woods, (Florence) and Kristi Brumfield and Hunter Cannette (NWR).<br />

Thank you also to Northwest Rankin for hosting the event on their campus. There are plans already in place to make this an annual event for the students of RCSD!<br />

102 • NOVEMBER 2022

McLaurin Elementary<br />

Falling leaves, autumn breeze, sparkling jewels, and bow ties; McLaurin Elementary School Pageant was a night to remember! With fall décor and candid lights, the pageant<br />

was sponsored by the McLaurin PTO. Sixty-seven beauties and beaus were judged on poise/modeling, overall impression, and beauty. Contestants were judged by Barbie Bassett,<br />

Nelda Sistrunk, and Kim Barber. Contestants were crowned by Miss Teen Magnolia State Emma McNeer and the master of ceremonies was Miss Magnolia State Hayley Shue.<br />

Captured moments were taken by Reckless Grace Photography.<br />

The upper elementary Most Handsome and Most Beautiful were Gunnar Dearman and Madyson Clay. Fifteen beauties between the grades of 4th and 6th grade were crowned<br />

top 15. Two beaus were crowned top two. The lower elementary Most Handsome and Most Beautiful were John Luke Brashier and Layla Davenport. Twenty-five beauties between<br />

the grades of PreK and 3rd grade were crowned top 25. Five beaus were crowned top 5. The crowned youth are expected to be recognized in the Star Christmas parade, December 17th.<br />

Hometown RANKIN • 103

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104 • NOVEMBER 2022<br />

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Hometown RANKIN • 105

TheTime COIN<br />

Camille Anding<br />

Miracles! The word draws us and creates<br />

mystery and a bit (or a lot) of awe in most.<br />

We long for miracles and often just hearing of miracles renews our hopes and captures our<br />

attention again.<br />

I’ve read of many miracles, beginning with so many in the Bible. Some believe those kinds of<br />

miracles disappeared with the days of the disciples and apostles. I don’t! I believe miracles are still<br />

here - as long as we believe in a miracle-working God and his indwelling Spirit in his children.<br />

However, I’ve never witnessed a body of water split for a dry walk-through, and I’ve never had<br />

my spiritual eyes opened enough to see an army of angels encircling me. I’ve never watched anyone<br />

walk on water or heard and seen a single command turn a stormy sea into a glass-top surface.<br />

I would have been mesmerized to see thick clouds fall over a mountain and hear God’s Voice<br />

boom through the darkness, and to actually see the sun stand still would have been beyond my<br />

comprehension - but oh how I would have been an eager spectator.<br />

Yet, when I stop and consider miracles, I realize they are all around me - so<br />

many that I just take for granted. Gravity isn’t a subject that takes up any of my<br />

thinking space, but it’s a constant miracle in my life. Without gravity, I would float<br />

off into space along with anything or anyone that wasn’t tied down!<br />

Our universe is measured in billions, and there are galaxies that are so distant,<br />

a telescope has never come near them - and yet, here on earth’s planet, humans<br />

live and function daily - on the only life-inhabited planet that’s known.<br />

Even the animal kingdom is a network of the miraculous. Birds annually fly<br />

thousands of miles to migrate to warmer climates and then find their way back to<br />

their original location without any gadgets or road signs. When the hummingbirds<br />

return to my summer feeders, I never consider the miracles of their nonstop<br />

flights of up to 500 miles in a single day.<br />

It’s obvious that the scientific world can write volumes on the unexplainable and the hypothetical,<br />

but when I consider everyday miracles, I run out of brain space. The ability to see a rose in bloom<br />

and smell its fragrance, to be immediately sensitive to the touch of hot and cold, to hear sounds<br />

and have a brain to transmit their origin and meaning, to need sleep and stay in that mode for hours<br />

each 24-hour cycle, to be able to satisfy hunger with food.<br />

The list could be endless. Scientists continue to find unexplained miracles operating in the human<br />

body. So many of these scientists spend their lives in attempting to find a “how,” “where,” or “why,”<br />

to our universe and its occupants. I’m extremely grateful that God opened my spiritual eyes to his<br />

creation and miracles and gave me faith to believe in four simple words: “In the beginning God...”<br />

106 • NOVEMBER 2022

Hometown RANKIN • 107





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