April 2022

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April 2022 501lifemag.com | 1

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PUBLISHER Jeremy Higginbotham EDITOR Stefanie W. Brazile FOUNDERS Donna Spears and Sonja Keith SPORTS AND DIGITAL DIRECTOR Levi Gilbert COPY EDITORS Jade Fitch, Andrea Lively and Andrea Miller BRAND AMBASSADORS Donald Brazile and Paulette Higginbotham PHOTO DIRECTOR Mike Kemp FINANCE DIRECTOR Debbie Flowers ADVERTISING SALES Donna Spears


Faith, hope and love abound in the 501 A

pril 17 marks the highest holiday of the Christian faith. Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is a time that followers of Christ set aside to consider the great price that Jesus paid to atone for our sins. Last summer, as publisher and editor, Jeremy Higginbotham and I discussed themes for 2022, and we thought April would be the perfect month to bring readers a "Faith in the 501" issue. Faith, or trust and confidence in someone or something, is cultivated from birth. Most children can trust that one or both parents will ensure their needs are met. Over time, we put faith in people outside our close family circle like teachers and friends. People fulfill their commitments most of the time, and sometimes they don't. We have to be careful that our ability to have faith in God and other people isn't spoiled by the few people who let us down. Every day we put our faith in gravity, oxygen, and fellow drivers. Faith motivates us to keep going when the doctor discovers cancer, when finances fail, and when people betray us. Life can tear down one’s ability to trust, but I've also learned that hope and optimism are contagious. We hope that the "Faith in the 501" issue reminds readers that there is much to believe in. One columnist writes about the person who held onto the bicycle as you learned to ride, and another tells the story of seven women who share their faith with women in prison. We’ve included stories about churches devoted to showing love, addiction ministries with successful graduates, volunteers that remind foster children that they are not forgotten, and, in one column, we see strangers coming together to mourn a loss on a cruise ship. From the stained-glass First Missionary Baptist Church on the cover to the final feature about the director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, we hope to remind you that many people dream of a better tomorrow and work each day to make those dreams a reality. This issue is proof that faith is a key reason why people love life in the 501.

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Becky Bell Don Bingham Jessica Duff Lori Dunn Jade Fitch Brittany Gilbert Laurie Green Dwain Hebda Linda Henderson Vivian Lawson Hogue Colleen Holt

Tammy Keith Meagan Lowry Beth Jimmerson John Patton Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Judy Riley Jodie Spears Donna Lampkin Stephens Rita Halter Thomas Morgan Zimmerman

FAULKNER COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Johnny Adams Jack Bell Don Bingham RaeLynn Callaway Glenn Crockett Kay Dalton Beth Franks Russ Hancock Spencer Hawks Mathilda Hatfield Roe Henderson Jerry Hiegel Mike Kemp Julie LaRue

Karl Lenser Monica Lieblong Lori Melton Kiera Oluokun Deanna Ott Pat Otto Jon Patrom Amy Reed Lori Ross Margaret Smith Jan Spann Kim Tyler Suzann Waggoner Jennifer Whitehead

CONWAY COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Mary Clark Shelli Crowell Dr. Larry Davis Shawn Halbrook Alicia Hugen Alisha Koonce

Stephanie Lipsmeyer Stewart Nelson Kristi Strain Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman

WHITE COUNTY EDITORIAL BOARD Betsy Bailey Tara Cathey Cassandra Feltrop Phil Hays Natalie Horton

Matt LaForce Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon

501 LIFE is published monthly by Make the Jump Media, LLC (920 Locust Ave., Suite 104, Conway, AR 72034, 501.327.1501) owned by Jeremy Higginbotham and Stefanie Brazile. The contents of 501 LIFE are copyrighted and materials presented may not be copied or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publishers. Articles should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Products and services advertised are not necessarily endorsed by 501 LIFE.

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Volume 14 Issue 12 4 8 10 12 14 18 22 26 28 32 34 37


List of advertisers/Writers’ Room Upcoming events Loving LIFE photos Wreaths Across America exhibit in Conway Church choir director celebrates career Faith shining through: Soos stained glass

By Donna Lampkin Stephens

Morrilton Civic Alliance welcomes governor

On the cover

By Morgan Zimmerman

Couple: Hannah & Dylan Kordsmeier Artist feature: UALR Dance professors

LIttle Rock's First Missionary Baptist which is the oldest African American church in Arkansas. Photo by Mike Kemp

By Dwain Hebda

Renewal Ranch helps Officer Joshua Kear

By Dwain Hebda

Benefits of lifting weights

By Jeremy Ray

A chaplain’s healing faith helps children

By Jade Fitch

40 Entertaining: The faithful Ward family By Don Bingham

44 46

Home: To paint or not to paint

By Donna Benton

Rock steady boxing helps patients

By John Patton

48 African American church marks 177 years By Stefanie Brazile

52 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82

A modern day Ellie May

By Becky Bell

Registration opens at PCSSD

By Jessica Duff

Sharing your faith with kids

By Brittany Gilbert

Easter is for runners

By Donald Brazile

Volunteers minister at women’s prison

By Judy Riley

Youth: Destiny Vaden of Wooster

By Becky Bell

Live by faith

By Mark McDonald

Ocean deep faith It’s all about that little mustard seed

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Herschel Hall honors namesake Celebrate 501 Day Toad Suck Daze previewed Daryl Cox’s legacy lives on

By Jodie Spears

Author: Poet Kai Coggin

By Susan Peterson

84 Energy Smart Homes By Beth Jimmerson


Athletic Excellence: Tammy Johnson-Clinton

By Dr. Robert Reising

88 Blackberry winter Linda Henderson

90 92 94


By Laurie Green

Foster children receive birthday cards

By Rita Halter Thomas

Jack Bell takes off

By Tammy Keith

Person of the month: DuShun Scarbrough

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501 LIFE would like to thank our advertising partners for their continued support and encourage our readers to visit these businesses:

You don't have to go on the hunt for 501 LIFE.


Did you know that you could have our 11-county publication delivered to your front door? For only $20 a year, you can get a subscription for yourself, or the special ones you love. Home delivery ensures you never miss an issue!

ASI, 73


Bell Urban Farm, 89 Bledsoe Chiropractic, 17


Campaign for Jim Baker, 75 Campaign for Conway School Board, 23 Campaign for Allen Dodson, 25 Campaign for Mark Johnson, 43 Campaign for Spencer Hawks, 83 Campaign for Jason Rapert, 63 Campaign for Crystal Taylor, 33 Campaign for Travis Thorn, 35 Conway Corp, 91 Conway Regional Health System, 95 Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 16 Conway Symphony Orch., 61 Community Service Inc., 66

We'll hop it right over to your front door!

Visit 501LIFEmag.com or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.


Diamond Pools, 77 DJM Orthodontics , 54 Downtown Conway, 56-57


Edward Jones, 35


First Community Bank, 69 First Pentecostal, 9 First Security Bank,96 First Service Bank, 13 First United Methodist, 9 Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling, Inc., 55




Catch 501 LIFE on KARK News with Mallory Brooks at 12:30 p.m. on April 1.


Grace Presbyterian, 9 Guy Perkins Schools. 20


Harding University, 63 Hartman Animal Hospital, 53 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 65 Heritage Living Center, 5

welcome to the Writers’ Room


Julie’s Sweet Shoppe, 61


Kilwins, 63


Methodist Family Health, 39 MSC Eye Associates, 21


Ott Insurance, 47


Patterson Eye, 61 Pulaski County Special School District, 58 Pulaski Heights United Methodist, 21


Quitman Schools, 39


RE/MAX Elite- Karen Ferguson, 44 Reynolds Performance Hall, 81


Salem Place, 51 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 15 Shelter Insurance, 61 Stoby’s, 36 Superior Health & Rehab, 2


Toad Suck Daze, 79


UAMS, 31 United Way of Central Arkansas, 85 Unity Health, 3 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 24 University of Central Arkansas, 59

Donna Benton

Donna is a hands-on full service interior designer who loves to take onceloved vintage furniture from forgotten to fabulous. You can see her latest projects and what’s going on in her workshop at waterhousemarket.com. Donna enjoys the small town community of the 501. "My friends and family are here is what makes it home!”

Mark McDonald is a retired pastor who lives in Conway, where his family roots go back to the 1840s in Faulkner County. He and his daughter run McDonald Agency (insurance), and Mark also works as a chaplain with the FBI and Arkansas Children's Hospital. He loves movies, hiking, and spending time with his wife, children, and their families.

Brittany Gilbert

is a former public high school teacher and University of Central Arkansas graduate, Brittany is now immersed in all things homeschooling. She is a director of a local homeschool community with an emphasis on classical education and also co-hosts a podcast called The Deeply Rooted Homeschool. She lives in Greenbrier with her husband, Levi, and their three kids.

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501 Events Barkus on Main Mardi Gras

United Way of Central Arkansas

12 to 5 p.m. • April 10

6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. • April 23

Dog Parade and Block Party

Casino Royale

This family-friendly event in downtown Little Rock is free. Parade begins at 2:30 p.m. at 7th and Main, traveling north to 4th and Main. Includes a beer garden, hurricane station, crawfish boil, gumbo, beads and local vendors. Located in the Creative Corridor between the 300 and 700 Blocks of Main St. Parade Registration: $20 for one dog; $35 for two. Parade & Trick Competition sign-up: barkusonmain.com

Test your luck at one of the table games, enjoy great eats and drinks, dance the night away with a live deejay, and make memories in the photo booth. It's sure to be a night of fun at the inaugural Casino Royale fundraiser benefitting the United Way of Central Arkansas. Located in the Willow Event Center at 1040 Holiday Dr. in Conway. Advance tickets are available online at uwcark.org/casino-night.

Great Escape Weekend

Chili Supper & Dessert Auction

& Easter Egg Hunt

2 p.m. April 17

Celebrate spring and the great outdoors on Petit Jean Mountain Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17. Enjoy free nature-related and familyoriented activities. The celebration concludes with an Easter egg scramble for about 2,000 eggs at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 17. Contact the park at 501.727.5441.

Art Jam 2022 Arts & Music Festival

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. • April 23

Art Jam 2022 in Greenbrier will bring visual and performing artists together in a day of festivities featuring live music, exhibits, hands-on activities and demonstrations in Matthews Park. Free to the public, there will be museum exhibits, student art exhibits, a community weaving project, kids’ activities and a silent auction. Learn more on Facebook and Instagram by searching #GBArtJam or email GBArtJam@gmail.com. 8 | 501 LIFE April 2022

6 p.m. • April 29

Benefitting the El Paso Community Library, the event will be held in the Community Center. There is no charge for the chili, but donations will be collected at the door. Pies and cakes will be auctioned to the highest bidders, with personal checks and cash accepted. This is the only library in the state where the building is owned and maintained by a nonprofit, The El Paso Parks and Playground Association. For more information, visit facebook.com/El-Paso-Community-Library.

Arts & The Park April 30-May 9

Check out the local arts scene at this 10-day festival! Produced by the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance, the festival takes place primarily throughout downtown Hot Springs. It includes live performances, workshops, children’s events and art exhibitions, with numerous local businesses participating. Learn more at hotspringsarts.org/arts-the-park-2022/.

Grace Presbyterian Church - Conway

First United Methodist Church - Conway


1610 Prince St. • 501-329-3801

Lent and Easter 2022

1010 Hogan Lane • 501-504-6899

Holy Week worship opportunities Holy Week Schedule Palm Sunday • 10:30 a.m. Maundy Thursday • Soup & Bread Served - 6 p.m. Communion Service - 6:30 p.m. Good Friday Service - 6:30 p.m. Easter Communion Service - 10:30 a.m. Our friendly congregation invites you to join us as we focus on the true meaning of Easter. gracepresconway.org • facebook/twitter@gracepresconway

Maundy Thursday • 6:30 p.m. April 14 Good Friday • 6:30 p.m. April 15 Easter worship • April 17: 8:30, 9:05 & 11 a.m. The season of Lent is under way, and we want to invite you to join in the journey. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have set aside 40 days for spiritual preparation for Easter. As a theme for this year, we are using the 23rd Psalm as our lens to explore the scriptures, renew our faith, and open our lives to God’s goodness and mercy.

Sunday worship times:

8:30 & 11 a.m. - Sanctuary. • 9:05 a.m. - Great Hall conwayfumc.org • facebook.com/conwayfirstumc

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Headed out on a special trip? Have a special occasion or get-together coming up? Pack a copy of 501 LIFE in your suitcase, snap a photo at your destination and send it to us for publication in a future issue! Photos can be submitted by email to stefanie@501lifemag.com.

The Mt. Olive Senior Saints Ministry of Guy were “Loving LIFE” and enjoying a visit to Wye Mountain.

The gang known as Julie’s Chicks were “Loving LIFE” and hanging out at Julie’s Sweet Shoppe. They are Ellie Stewart (from left), Maryon Wood, Martha Beal and Ellen Griffin. A group of friends had an incredible adventure aboard the Magellan Explorer, which took them to Antarctica. Allan Mueller of Conway (from left), Tour Guide Nicoles Flores of Chile, Karen Holliday of Maumelle, Kathleen Mueller of Conway and Anita Deason of Conway.

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Owners, business associates and friends were “Loving LIFE” on March 18 at the Ribbon Cutting for Garcia Wealth Management's new office at 800 Exchange Ave in Conway.

Marc and Maureen Willey of Conway Arkansas were "Loving LIFE" on the slopes of Breckenridge Colorado.

“The Choir of Man” was “Loving LIFE” in front of a live audience when they performed at Reynolds Performance Hall on March 8.


LEFT: Katrice Butterfly Newbill (from left) of New Orleans and Luretha Moore of Little Rock CENTER: Mikayla Bryant and Zachary Greenleaf of Little Rock. Zach won Honorable Mention for “Best Natural Beard” at the 9th Annual Little Rock Beard & Mustache Contest. RIGHT: The Porter Family: Ben, Laura, Emily and Abigail (in front).

Brandy Campbell (from left) and Julia Guenther were “Loving LIFE” in front of Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas when it ported in Cozumel, Mexico.

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 11



By Lori Dunn

Wreaths Across America gives public opportunity to acknowledge veteran's


lacing a wreath on a veteran’s grave is a simple act that also holds great symbolism. Conway residents will be able to learn about the work and patriotism that goes into each of these wreaths when the Cadron Post Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution sponsors the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit on April 19 at Antioch Baptist Church, 150 Amity Road.

will be well worth it to share this exhibit with the public. Once inside, visitors will be able to see storyboards and other visuals that highlight the mission, growth and programs that have grown due to the wreath-laying events. Visitors will be able to interact with the two WAA ambassadors that travel with the exhibit,” Rolf said.

The event is free and the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to attend the exhibit. Local officials will speak at the event, and the Conway High School Junior ROTC Color Guard will perform. Among the speakers will be Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker. Donald Brazile of 501 LIFE Magazine will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem during the 10 a.m. opening ceremony.

Part of the exhibit will be a movie on how the wreaths are made by hand. According to information from WAA, each wreath is made from 10 evergreen bouquets. Each bouquet represents a characteristic of a veteran, such as belief in the greater good, strength and work ethic, and honesty and integrity.

Wreaths Across America (WAA) is the nonprofit organization known for placing wreaths on veterans’ headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. However, in 2021, the organization placed more than 2.4 million sponsored veteran’s wreaths at 3,100 locations nationwide, including ones in Arkansas. Having the exhibit in Conway is important to local members of the Cadron Chapter. “Cadron Post Chapter is very honored to sponsor the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit in Conway,” said Carol Rolf, registrar of the Cadron Post. “This is a volunteer effort on our part and has taken a lot of hard work, but it

12 | 501 LIFE April 2022

“We hope the public will come out and see it. We have also invited school groups,” Rolf said.

The red bow placed on each wreath symbolizes the great sacrifice. Visitors to the April 19 event will have an opportunity to sponsor wreaths. “The goal of the Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit is to bring community together and teach patriotism, while remembering the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America, in a news release. The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution is a corporate sponsor of the event. DAR is a volunteer women’s service organization, with more than 185,000 members who seek to honor revolutionary ancestors and promote historic preservation and patriotism in their communities.

Top: The Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit will arrive in Conway on April 19. Bottom: Cadron Post Member Karen Holmes of Conway preparing to lay wreaths on graves at the Little Rock National Cemetery on Dec. 17.

In addition to Conway, the exhibit will visit several other Central Arkansas locations: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 15 Hot Springs Mall, 4501 Central Ave. Hot Springs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 16 War Memorial Stadium Little Rock 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 17 Jacksonville Museum of Military History 100 Veterans Circle Jacksonville 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, April 18 Beebe Auditorium Lot 1201 W. Center St. Beebe

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Church choir director celebrates life of making music By Colleen Holt


or nearly 30 years, Janet Gingerich has directed multitudes of choirs in singing, ringing, playing, and inspiring through music. Now, she is planning her next production — retirement. In October 1993, Gingerich was offered the parttime job as director of music at Conway First United Methodist Church. With two children in preschool and a husband working full time, this was a big undertaking. From all respects, she has conducted herself and her choirs with grace since. Her retirement date is June 5. A fixture in both church and secular music throughout the Conway community, Gingerich was born in England and came to the U.S. in 1984 after graduating from the University of Bristol with a bachelor of arts in music and French. Janet (née) Savage met her future husband, J.D. Gingerich, through the Student Methodist Association at the Methodist Church in Bristol. A Conway resident, J.D. brought his English bride to Arkansas. She soon started to attend worship with him at FUMC, began working with the children’s choirs for a small stipend, and teaching private piano lessons. Many of the young adults in the church are former piano students. In 1993, FUMC was looking for a new choir director and organist which was a job designed for 20 hours per week. The senior pastor came up with a plan to split the job: 10 hours for Gingerich to direct the choirs, and 10 hours for Betty Coombs Cohen to serve as organist for just a few months until a replacement could be found.

Photo by Mike Kemp

Continued on page 16

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“And here we still are,” Gingerich laughed. Cohen retired from the organ in 2018, yet remains an active member of the church and is an occasional guest organist. “Betty and I had a really good partnership for almost 25 years, and I miss her, but I’m loving working now with our new organist, Jason Saugey. We make a good team.” Janet has also taught French at the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College, was a part-time instructor of music appreciation at Hendrix, and directed the Conway Community Chorus and the Voices of Sallie Cone. She holds a master’s degree of music in piano performance from UCA and served for three years as chairman of the Arkansas chapter of the Handbell Musicians of America. “At Conway FUMC, we’ve grown from one choir, one bell choir, and a children’s choir to adding a First Service choir, a second adult bell choir, an expanded children’s music program, a children’s music associate, and have created a whole new service and Praise Band,” she said. Janet (far left) with the First United Methodist Chancel Ringers in 2018.

She also started the Under the Dome Recital Series. “It’s a way for the congregation and members of the community to perform. I feel when we share musical opportunities with the community, it’s an inroad to the church. It’s not specifically designed as an evangelism tool, but it’s always good to have strong relationships with the community, and it’s certainly the case that these kinds of events have been a point of entry for several of our members.” Other specific community collaborations were presenting Choral Evensong services, performing with the Conway Symphony Orchestra and the Conway Community Chorus, and combining with the New Sussex Singers, an English choir that included her father, Keith Savage. So, why retire now? Life changes and her husband is also retiring . “I feel this has been my complete life and soul for the last almost 30 years, and my family has taken the back seat. Yet, the family has always been involved, and this has been a way for us to make music together. It’s time now to put family first and have the flexibility to be able to come and go as needed or desired.” Retirement will allow more opportunities to visit her family in England. She has always gone to England for one month each summer, until COVID-19.

Janet directing a group of singers and instrumentalists from the church's adult and children's choirs in preparation for a special musical program almost 30 years ago.

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In the end, the thing she worries about most in retirement is the loss of this connection to her people. “I wasn’t aware when I started how much of a ministry this really was. There is so much pastoral care involved. We take care of each other. It definitely goes way beyond the music,” she said. “This is what feeds my soul.”

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Faith Shining Through Maumelle’s Soos Stained Glass uplifts and inspires By Donna Lampkin Stephens

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Page 18 Calvary Baptist Church of Little Rock. Page 19 Top left: Christ of the Hills United Methodist Church Hot Springs Village. Bottom left: Perryville UMC-Arkansas. Top right: Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Jonesboro. Bottom right: First Baptist Church of Little Rock

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ook no further than Soos Stained Glass in Maumelle for unique religious art. The company, founded in 1979 by David Soos, has created art for a number of churches in the 501 and around the world. While the company's portfolio also includes residential, restoration and protective glazing, stained glass in religious buildings has been its specialty. "Probably the most satisfying thing is when you feel that you're doing something that will enrich people's spiritual lives when they come into a place of worship," Soos said. For example, he recently received a phone call from a satisfied customer in Holly Grove, Ark., following a restoration project at a Presbyterian church. "She called me up to thank us for doing such a good job. That's what makes it all worthwhile." According to the company's website, their goal is "to always produce stained-glass windows that reflect the beliefs and spiritual strengths of our customer's religious community. The craftsmen at Soos Stained Glass act as translators to create stained glass that transforms the client's spiritual beliefs into glorious stained-glass windows. The uplifting power and beauty of stained glass can be a powerful visual addition to the liturgy, atmosphere, and inspiration of any religious congregation." The company's projects in the religious genre have ranged "from small country churches to large churches with windows of 72-feet wide by 48-feet tall." One of the largest was a church in Florida, where the company designed and installed more than 6,000 square feet of stained glass. According to the website, the company's guiding principles "are rooted in the history and traditions of the 1,000-yearold art form of stained glass." Those include the expectation that the projects should last for "hundreds of years" and "generations to come." The restoration portfolio, unsurprisingly, also includes a religious angle. "Some restorations after a tornado may begin with a small box of broken glass shards and a photo from someone's wedding that barely shows the damaged stained-glass window in the background," the website states. "While the project may start from a tragedy, there is always a satisfied client at the end, when the church is returned to its original glory." Soos, an Ohioan by birth, arrived in the 501 via his 1968-

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Jonathan Soos, general manager, restores a window, removing the lead.

72 stint in the United States Air Force. While stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base, he took various classes at what was then the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock. One was glass-blowing, which led him down the path of stained glass. His son, Jonathan Soos, serves as the company's general manager and is involved in all aspects of sales and production. David's nephew, Nathan Cathey, serves as production manager. Lynn Fitzgerald, a glass painter and design artist, has been with the company since 1980.

A couple of years ago, the company restored a Tiffany window for a church in Dyersburg, Tenn. "We had to insure it for $2 million. We breathed a lot easier once we got it installed," Soos said, chuckling. A recent project included three outdoor sculptures (20 inches wide and seven feet tall) for a hospital in Rogers. "That was the first time we've done them as outdoor pieces," Soos said. "We've done a lot of hospital chapels. Those are a little more fun because the hospital people give you more free reign." Naturally, Soos has a few stainedglass pieces in his home. "We've got a front door and a window in the bathroom in my office," he said. "We were too lazy to put up curtains, so we built a stained-glass window. That gave us privacy and light." Among the company's awards, according to the website, are the Quapaw Quarter Association Certificate of Merit and the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas Award for outstanding work in historic preservation in Arkansas.

Photo by Mike Kemp Jonathan Soos stands beside a window that has been created for a chapel at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts and will be installed soon.

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The Morrilton Civic Alliance gathered March 2 and the keynote speaker was Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Petit Jean State Bank President Charles Penick (Lions Club, from left), Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce Interim President Stephanie Lipsmeyer (Rotary Club), Edward Jones Branch Office Administrator Jenny Knight (Rotary President Elect), Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Collin Cahill (Rotary Club). Photos by Donna Evans.

Civic Alliance invites governor to experience

Morrilton Moving Forward By Morgan Zimmerman


n 2021, the leaders of three Morrilton area civic groups recognized that big things were coming down the pike for their town and the surrounding area. “We were dreaming about how we could all come together to serve the Morrilton community,” Rotarian Jenny Knight said. From that dream, the Morrilton Civic Alliance (MCA) was born. Five of Morrilton’s civic clubs now meet quarterly as a group to network, fellowship, and to hear updates from one another.

hearing updates from each of the clubs, he wasted no time before congratulating the city for hosting the Class A State Basketball Tournament and on their efforts in planning for the 2024 solar eclipse. When talks about forming the alliance first began, Knight said, “Top of mind was the upcoming 2024 eclipse and how we might generate significant economic revenue for our town that would be beneficial to all of our clubs and the Morrilton community that we serve.”

Morrilton Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, GFWC Adelaide Club, and Century League of Morrilton members all make up the Morrilton Civic Alliance. At each meeting, one club takes the lead to plan the program. Earlier this year, Knight had a chance meeting with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at a bakery in Little Rock. “I thought afterwards how great it would be if the governor was able to come to our town, see how we are coming together to serve Morrilton, and share a meal with us,” she said. She made a general appearance request through the website and was delighted when his office reached out to make arrangements for him to visit Morrilton.

Morrilton is along the path of totality for the eclipse and will be one of the best places in the state to view the astronomical event. As tourism is one of the top industries in the state, the MCA, along with city and county leaders, are joining the Morrilton Eclipse Planning Committee in its efforts to prepare the town to put its best foot forward for the hundreds of thousands who are expected to travel to central Arkansas to view the eclipse. “The MCA is collaborating with Gary Gibson at Southern Christian Home to host/facilitate a pop-up village where families can set up camp for the 2024 eclipse event,” Knight said. “We are working in conjunction with the City of Morrilton, the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations to compliment the planning committee’s offerings during this historic event.”

Fresh off of the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Northwest Arkansas, the governor attended the March 2 meeting of the MCA at the University of Arkansas Community College in Morrilton (UACCM), and after

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In addition to tourism, Gov. Hutchinson focused much of his talk on planning for the new economy and what he

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called “wins for 2022,” which include investments in workforce education, infrastructure, new economy jobs, and strengthening Arkansas families. He pointed out the major role that Morrilton’s community college will play in that effort. “I came here when you opened up part of your facility [the Workforce Training Center], and I bragged about the workforce training that is done here that benefits our entire state, and I applaud you for that. It’s an exciting part of your future,” Hutchinson said. “Whenever you’re looking at workforce education, Morrilton and the community college here, this campus, is leading our state into the future and providing the foundation for those new economy jobs that we need.” He went on to talk about the very specific need for expanding broadband access across the state and the infrastructure updates that come along with that. Most notably, he announced that Arkansas is taking a proactive approach to get ahead of the curve on those infrastructure improvements. “This summer the University of Arkansas Community College here at Morrilton will get $ 1 million to be able to train those workers in laying that broadband technology in the ground,” Hutchinson said. This investment will help address the “drain of resources” on workers with the technical skills that can get that broadband fiber laid as other states also receive funding to upgrade broadband access. “We are one of three community colleges in the state that are working with officials to lay out a plan for training technicians to expand the fiber footprint,” UACCM Chancellor Lisa Willenberg said. “Discussions are in the very early stages, but with our proven track record and experience in creating programs quickly in order to meet industry needs, we know we are the right partner to develop a highly skilled workforce for ‘new economy jobs’ in Arkansas. We are excited to have infrastructure funding coming to our campus for this purpose.” In previous rounds, $2 million in grant funding has been awarded to expand Conway County broadband access, which has reached about 5,000 residents. “There is more work to do, but it is essential to be able to attract the entrepreneurs, the small businesses, and to give the quality of life to your citizens that is needed,” Hutchinson said. For more information about the Morrilton Civic Alliance, contact the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce at 501.354.2393.

“Whenever you’re looking at workforce education, Morrilton and the community college here, this campus, is leading our state into the future and providing the foundation for those new economy jobs that we need.”

- Gov. Asa Hutchinson

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Argenta Dogtown Throwdown and Farmers Market return

Tulips in bloom; outdoor dining and live music on North Little Rock Main Street Agenta Arts District’s iconic tulips are in bloom, and just 4 p.m. Friday, April 8, through Saturday, April 9, at 10 p.m.

in time for Argenta Downtown Council’s spring production season: outdoor dining and live music during Argenta Dogtown Throwdown and Argenta Farmers Market which will return the second weekend in April.

“We want to give people as many opportunities as possible to enjoy our beautiful downtown this spring,” said Chris Kent, Executive Director of the Argenta Downtown Council. “Argenta Dogtown Throwdown, now in its third year, is a festive yet laidback event for enjoying the local culinary scene and local musical talent al fresco.” Argenta Dogtown Throwdown, during which Main Street in downtown North Little Rock is closed from Broadway to 5th Streets for outdoor dining and live music, will return at

It is held the second week of every month from April to October. The event kicks off with Dogtown Drinks, a happy hour at 4 p.m. Friday with live music by small local and regional musicians on the Argenta Library steps from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit argentaartsdistrict.org/ dogtown-throwdown.

Argenta Farmers Market, which has relocated to 410 Main Street (lot south of the library), will return from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9. The Market is held every Saturday from April to October and features Arkansas produce, bakery, meat, and craft vendors. For more information, visit argentaartsdistrict.org/argentafarmers-market.

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 25



HER STORY: WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: St. Vincent (10 miles north of

Morrilton in Conway County.)

EDUCATION: I attended high school at Wonderview. Later, I graduated with a bachelor’s from Arkansas Tech in Rehabilitation Science and then graduated with a degree as an occupational therapy assistant. JOB: Certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) at Conway

Regional Medical Center. I mainly work in outpatient orthopedics and home health.

PARENTS: Sandra and Jason Sponer of St. Vincent. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Playing music for local charity/

fundraising events in Morrilton and Conway, including Central Arkansas Battle of the Bands and Arts Festival, Munchin on Main Street, Morrilton Pocket Park/Farmer’s Market, Sacred Heart Octoberfest, etc.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Church family choir and helping with

fundraising dinners/bazaars.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Singing and writing music, working out/fitness and animals (I have three goats, three dogs, and two cats currently with room for more!) I also like camping, kayaking, and outdoor adventures. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I am a very

go-with-the-flow type person and love being with family and friends. My family introduced me to music, so I can share my love for music with them, which is very special to me.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I have an addiction to guitars and workout clothes. Haha! MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: When we are not playing music/shows, it would have to be camping and kayaking. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Be true to yourself and willing to

lend a helping hand.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: The community! Everyone is always ready to help if you

need it. Conway and Morrilton are growing every day with more opportunities to get involved in activities and bring new faces to the 501.

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HIS STORY: WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Morrilton. EDUCATION: I attended high school at Sacred Heart Catholic School. I earned a bachelor’s in computer science and minor in math from the University of Arkansas. JOB: I’m a measurement and reporting analyst with Cigna Healthcare. PARENTS: Dwayne and Karen Kordsmeier of Morrilton. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Hannah stole my answers. CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I am a member of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus and participate in the church choir. HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Music is my No. 1 interest. I enjoy producing and the technical side of writing as much as I do the musicianship. I have been really into exercise science for the last couple of years, stemming from my love for sports that I still try to play often (basketball and tennis). Lastly, kayaking/camping/hiking take up a lot of our summer when we are not playing shows. Being outdoors with my wife, dogs, and friends in the warmer months will always be my happy place. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I’m very family-oriented. I love spending quality time with my wife whenever I can. I am also hyperactive and very driven when I set goals for myself. I love learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge. WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: Two things would be: I am one class away

from finishing my second bachelor’s degree, and I stream games I play on Facebook Gaming. The degree is going to be in business administration-manage ment, and I built my own PC last year to pass time when social activity was limited.

MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: If we aren’t out “picking and grinning” as my Gran always says, you can find us either on a river with our kayaks or having some of our great friends over for a big dinner. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: All of the new venues that are popping up around

Central Arkansas, including one of our favorites, Point Remove Brewing Company.

Photo by Kimberly Jean Photography

THEIR STORY: HOW WE MET: We met through mutual friends at a pool


THE PROPOSAL: Hannah’s 20th birthday at “The Tree” on family land that we have always thought was a very special and beautiful spot. WEDDING BELLS: June 24, 2017, at St. Mary’s Catholic

Church in St. Vincent.

CHILDREN: No children yet. PETS: Dogs – Jake, Bex, and our new addition May; Cats – Penny and Finnegan, the barn cat; Goats – Mac, Fitz, and Digz. FAMILY ACTIVITIES ENJOYED TOGETHER:

Camping and jamming music.

The couple has four songs out on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. You can search Kordsmeier and find the album “Talk to God.” To stay up to date, follow their music page, Kordsmeier Music.

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 27

Photos by Mike Kemp




Stephen Stone and Stephanie Thibeault of the UALR Dance Program By Dwain Hebda April 2022 501lifemag.com | 29

the University of Maryland, joined the Little Rock faculty in 2008. North Carolina-born Stone completed his bachelor’s degree and graduate work in choreography and performance from the University of North Carolina Greensboro before joining UALR in 2011. Each instructor brings a unique perspective to their work, informed by their respective development as artists and educators. This, in turn, helps them relate to their students as they undergo their development in the art form. “At first, I don’t think learning dance came very naturally to my physical body, but to my brain it was tailor-made,” Stone said. “I think like a mover, although I never was incredibly flexible or tall or had,what we in the business call, a great facility. But boy I wanted to dance so much that every single class, every single day, I would push myself. And it was a challenge, but it was great. Somehow, I felt like I had something to offer because here I am decades later still in the same business.” “I was just the opposite, physically,” Thibeault said. “I don’t mean that everything was perfect, but I was super flexible and so certain things came easily to me. But it also took a lot of work to find different aesthetics. I’m also a very analytical person and was very much about doing it the exact, right way, and I wanted perfection. I had to learn to be spontaneous; I was always creative in my own way, but things like improv terrified me as a young dancer. I had to push myself to find different voices.”

Students have a dress rehearsal for their April performance at UALR.


ike all college instructors, Stephen Stone and Stephanie Thibeault work every day to convey knowledge and understanding to their students. However, the duo happens to do it in a much different manner than the majority of their colleagues. Stone and Thibeault are professors in the Department of Dance at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the only collegiate dance program in the state. It doesn’t look or feel like other academic classrooms, but the impact on students is just as profound. More so, in fact, as either of the longtime dance professionals will unabashedly tell you. “We are losing our souls in this world, and our souls are connected to our bodies,” Thibeault said. “We are losing the connection between our brains and our bodies, and there is no art form that makes that connection better than dance.” “In dance, you have the best of all worlds. You have the whole physical aspect, but we are also about the how and the aesthetics and the human communication that comes through that.” Thibeault bounced up and down in her chair as she talked on the subject, so passionate about the benefits of dance on the individual. Stone, while more reserved by nature, is equally insistent on the qualities of dance as a conduit for learning, culture, and self-expression. “To dance puts you in your physical body in that if you aren't intentionally physical, then you're 100% cerebral in this life,” he said. “To me, my definition of art is when someone says something in a way that’s never been explained before. In dance art, when a given piece of work says something in a unique way, then that’s when I believe it’s art.” Both instructors have been passing along their truths about the art form at UALR for more than a decade. Thibeault, a Jonesboro native who earned her undergraduate degree in Missouri and her Master of Fine Arts degree in dance at

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The duo has also been around long enough to have seen dance change and styles blend. This is something that has challenged them to adapt during their teaching careers. “This is a real thing and there were a number of years where I was really scared of this world that was becoming completely fusion-driven,” Stone said. “Now, having studied a lot more, it's inevitable that things evolve. So, you are either against the tide, or you're with the tide. And if you're with the tide, it takes you to the shore, which is where you’re trying to go.” “I talk about this a lot,” Thibeault said. “I teach a lot of modern classes, but what does that even mean? Is it modern from the 1950s or is it modern today? Some people sign up for a modern class thinking it’s a hip-hop class. But the cool thing is, we bring the best things forward from those established techniques. I teach a ‘Stephanie’ class which draws from a lot of influences, as well as the knowledge that our students come in with.” The approaching end of the school term will be bittersweet for the two educators. On the one hand, they’re collaborating on BodyWorks, a dance and multimedia performance slated for April 22-24. On the other hand, both are pondering their next professional move since UALR is working towards eliminating their dance degree program, which is the only bachelor of fine arts degree in dance the state has ever seen. Stone, while disappointed in the university’s decision, leaves the school with no regrets. “I have intentionally, and over the course of my career, developed the ability to see people,” he said. “I feel like I see people better and beyond only dance or only art, but in any situation, which is why I think I’m a teacher. If you don’t see people, then there can be no relationship, and teaching is a relationship. Even though one person is named the teacher, if it's happening as it should, then both people are learning the whole time.” BodyWorks will be performed at the University Theatre, University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus on Friday, April 22; Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24 Tickets go on sale Monday, April 11 at ualr.edu/theatre/events.


walking for a cure Danyelle Musselman may be known to Razorback basketball fans as Coach Eric Musselman’s better half, but make no mistake about it . . . she has her own voice and wants it to be heard for the causes she cares about. Since losing both grandparents to cancer, the former sports reporter has championed efforts to raise awareness about the disease that is Arkansas’ No. 2 killer – second only to heart disease. “For all those I have lost too soon to cancer and those who are fighting this devastating disease now, I am honored to host the Be A Part of the Cure Walk benefiting the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The Cancer Institute’s goal to become the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated center is a game changer for Arkansas.”

A Walk to Honor A Walk to Patients Honor ALL Arkansas Cancer

all Arkansas Cancer Patients

Saturday, April 30, 2022 8:00 AM War Memorial Stadium & Outdoor Course REGISTER | beapartofthecure.com


HIGHER CALLING SWAT Team Member a graduate of Renewal Ranch By Dwain Hebda


here are many reasons to admire Joshua Kear. A loving husband and doting father, Kear serves his fellow citizens as an officer with the Conway Police Department, of which he was named Officer of the Year in 2019. He’s also a man of deep faith, steeped in the Word and humility over having been saved for no reason but God’s love and mercy.

gallon of cheap whiskey a day became common. He didn’t have a problem when his hands started shaking so badly he couldn’t hold his camera without a few belts. He didn’t have a problem when shakes gave way to physical addiction, when not drinking meant triggering a seizure.

So, it is with no small And he didn’t measure of irony that have a problem Kear sees a portion of when he sat on the his life as valuable not back porch of his for its accolades but for carport one day, James A. Loy, Executive Director, Renewal Ranch, Rachel Kear, Joshua Kear, Patrol Officer, its weakness. It’s a dark and attempted Conway Police Department; member of the SWAT Team and Renewal Ranch graduate. chapter, something he suicide with a knows as a decades12-gauge shotgun. long shadow of a former self who, save for grace, could easily “They airlifted me to Shreveport. I’ve still got a bunch of manifest again. Joshua Kear is an alcoholic. pellets in my spine and neck area.” “In my testimony, the main thing I did was screw up,” he By the time the family moved to Conway, where Kear’s said. “The glory goes to God because He fixed the problem. People coming along with me helped me fix the problem. I parents had come to retire, even the shotgun blast hadn’t was just along for the ride. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t brought him around. It took five words from his mother to do that. do any superhuman things. I just had superhuman help.” His drinking began around age 13 or 14, but for the first decade, you’d never have known. Kear was a great student in high school and graduated from Louisiana Tech University cum laude with a fine arts degree he channeled into a photography career. He’d also met the love of his life, his wife Rachael, with whom he’d start a family, two sons. He seemingly had everything, but as life picked up steam, so did his pace toward addiction. “First year of marriage, my wife got pregnant and I was trying to figure out what being a dad looked like,” he said. “Then I had some trauma; my best friend and my mentor died. Other things happened in life and the brakes on my drinking just got cut.” Kear exhibited the classic, convoluted thinking of the addict. Even as his long chain of rationalizations wrapped tighter and tighter around him, the false mantra of being in control hummed steadily in his head throughout a dizzying downward progression. He didn’t have a problem when downing a fifth to a half-

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“The only hiding spot my wife hadn’t figured out was the spare tire on my pickup,” he said. “Two weeks here in Conway, I’m laying in my parent’s driveway under my truck, saying I was working on it. I looked down and saw my mom’s feet at the edge of my truck. She said, ‘It’s safe to come out.’ I rolled out and that was my breaking point, the look on her face.” His brother recommended Renewal Ranch for treatment. It wasn’t what Kear had in mind, but he agreed to meet with Executive Director James Loy. “I met with James and he talked about faith, hope, love, all those things. I was like, he’s a great salesman but none of that applies to me,” Kear said. “I’d done programs. I already know Christ. It’s not going to work.” He gave it a month nonetheless and despite temptations to quit – especially through the savage detox, white-knuckling it on the floor or lying in the bottom of the shower – when that month was up, he stayed for another, then another, six months in all.

“I thought for so long I was the one holding the family together instead of tearing it apart. It was just a lot of pride,” he said. “It was probably the second month that things started to take root. God forbid if I would have left early on. I stayed and God just transformed my heart.”

Funding announced for 42-unit residential apartment facility at Renewal Ranch

After graduating the program, Kear joined the Ranch staff and became a powerful ally for others walking their own path to clean and sober. He also worked in the juvenile courts to help kids in rough situations find a way through. And he joined Conway PD, which, given his background, surprised no one more than himself. Today, he freely shares his story both one-on-one and with audiences ranging from fellow law enforcement to ranking politicians. His powerful story has brought needed exposure to Renewal Ranch, recently the recipient of a $750,000 grant through BancorpSouth. Still, Kear doesn’t fully know why God chose him or how He saw something even the most beloved in his life struggled at times to see. But he’s sure not going to let his second chance go to waste. “I choose to give back and serve the community because they saved my life,” he said. “Christ did the major work in my heart, but the community walked beside me for all those years and they’re still walking beside me. “I talk to people about this all the time, including the people who I have to load into the back of my squad car. You know, as long as you’re back there, you might as well hear this: There is hope. You don’t have to do it on your own. And just because life feels like you’ve destroyed it, God can rebuild it and make it look a lot more beautiful.”

Tom Nelson, Community Bank President at BancorpSouth-Conway (from left); James A. Loy, Executive Director of Renewal Ranch; Elizabeth Jewell, Senior Affordable Housing Analyst of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas; and, David House, Chair of Renewal Ranch Board of Directors.

BancorpSouth in Conway hosted a check passing ceremony Feb. 22, and Community Bank President Tom Nelson presented a $750,000 grant to James A. Loy, Executive Director of Renewal Ranch. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas provided the Affordable Housing Program grant to help fund a 42-unit residential apartment facility for residents of the faithbased drug and alcohol addiction recovery program for men ages 21 and older. Renewal Ranch is located on 116 acres near Conway and celebrated ten years of operation last year. It serves at least 60 men and their families annually. More than 600 men have participated in the program over the past decade. The 12-month program includes counseling, 600 hours of classroom instruction, Bible study, work opportunities, and community service. James A. Loy said, "All of the men in the new residential facility will be working jobs in the Conway area while participating in Phase 2, prior to graduation. Over 60% of the men accepted into our program successfully graduate after approximately one year."

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 33

The benefits of lifting weights By Jeremy Ray, BS, CPT, fitness center coordinator at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock


ave you ever wondered why the person who consistently comes in the gym and lifts weights tends to have more shape and a leaner look than the person who comes in day after day and just runs or does the elliptical? It all boils down to muscle. If you're not lifting weights in your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people are uninformed about weight training or are intimidated about using them. No matter your reason, it’s important to not get overwhelmed. Let’s examine the many benefits and facts that come with adding weights to your workout routine. Weights provide a resistance for the body to overcome, and in return, the body responds by adding muscle. Hence, the term “resistance training.” Resistance can be applied in various ways. For example, body weight, bands, and sandbags are all viable options. Muscle growth and development is one of the most desired effects of resistance training. When you lift weights, you're microscopically damaging the muscle, and as a result, it increases the muscle’s size and strength, as well as its capacity to handle more. Why is this good? With increased muscle comes increased metabolism, better insulin sensitivity, improved testosterone levels and cognitive function, and more confidence. If done properly and consistently, you're sure to experience the positive results you’re looking for. More muscle also means more strength, and although strength is additionally obtained by neurological improvements, the muscle you build will become a more efficient power-producing tissue. Functions like squatting, stepping, reaching, and throwing are movements you’ll

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perform throughout your entire life, and your ability to perform those and many more will only improve with added strength. Increasing your metabolism is the most important aspect when it comes to weight loss. If you increase your muscle mass by 1, 2, or even 3 pounds, your metabolism will increase and your body will become a more efficient fat burner. Couple that with a healthy, nutritious diet and you’ll shed even more fat. If aesthetics is your focus, weights are a vital component to your success since more muscle equates to a more toned body. Weight training not only has these benefits but also positively contributes to longer-term health, including decreasing your risk for certain diseases and conditions. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is a risk factor for also developing heart disease. Increased muscle will help improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn will lower your risk of developing diabetes. Hormones are also affected by resistance training – in particular testosterone. Maintaining or increasing levels of testosterone is extremely beneficial because it's responsible for helping to maintain muscle mass and stimulate red cell production, which is needed to deliver oxygen. Low levels have been linked to low libido, fatigue, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies even show a link between increased testosterone levels and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Higher levels of testosterone are also thought to contribute to improved memory, improved selfconfidence, and cognitive function. These are only a few of the benefits of what resistance training and added muscle can have on your health. I encourage you to take this information into consideration before your next workout and try it so you can experience it yourself. You will not be disappointed. If you're not confident about what to do or how to execute certain exercises, get with a fitness professional to guide you along the way. Good luck, stay fit, and have fun!

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 35

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Photos by Mike Kemp

A Healing Faith

Ministry essential to treatment at Methodist Family Health By Jade Fitch


he Rev. Eva Englert-Jessen is a third-generation clergywoman in the United Methodist Church who has a heart for serving others.

I'm still a pretty fresh face around MFH,” she said. “I am still learning more about [MFH] every day; they are doing muchneeded work in the world and for the church.”

In the church, she serves as an ordained deacon, a position very important to her. “I have always felt a tug to service and ministry related to justice and alongside people who are often overlooked. The order of the deacon became home for me in embracing that call,” she said.

MFH is unique in the way it cares for patients because spiritual elements are integrated within patient care.

Her ministry work began more than 10 years ago, and during that time, she’s had the opportunity to work in environments including youth ministry, children's ministry, ministry focused on justice and environmental stewardship, college ministry, and hospital chaplaincy. You can also find Englert-Jessen serving in her newly acquired role as the director of pastoral care for Methodist Family Health (MFH). In this role, she has the opportunity to serve both children and families throughout the nonprofit’s continuum of care, including the behavioral hospital. “I began as the pastoral care director in November of 2021, so

“Spirituality has been a critical part of MFH for many years. Much of this originated in the DNA of the organization itself, which has from the beginning been connected to Methodist leaders and church folks who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who need extra love and support,” Englert-Jessen said. Spirituality is incorporated into patient therapeutic programs in a number of different ways. For example, as the pastoral care director, Englert-Jessen leads weekly small group activities and Bible studies. She also provides resources to the children such as Bibles, coloring pages, and other self-care items. “The pastoral care program also supports summer camp programs, special volunteer outings, group homes, a grief

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 37

“I love that God calls and equips us to use our gifts in so many ways.” Rev. Eva Englert-Jessen

support program, and other aspects of MFH, in addition to supporting the well-being and spiritual health of staff, who work tremendously hard,” she said.

to offer lessons, guidance or support, and sometimes it means I simply listen, hear their stories, and let people ask questions and wonder about things.”

In addition to her work at MFH, gardening is something she loves. “I'm also currently working on developing programs for kids that combine spiritual practices with gardening. This is a huge passion of mine,” she said. “I love that God calls and equips us to use our gifts in so many ways.”

Even though Englert-Jessen has only been doing pastoral care at MFH for a short time, she loves it. “I love the direct engagement with kids, teens, and young women I get to lead conversations and activities with every week,” she said.

As pastoral care director, Englert-Jessen works with patients, helping them sort out some of life’s big questions: “Who am I? What is my purpose? What gives me life? What do I struggle with? How do I make sense of life when things go wrong?” As she reflected on her role, she said, “I see my role as journeying alongside people as they ask these questions, as a kind of chaplain who holds space for people to process their pain, joy, questions, and convictions. Sometimes this means I draw from my Christian tradition and scripture

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Englert-Jessen comes from a family who loves God and serves faithfully. In 1970, her grandmother was ordained, even though this was not common practice during this time. “Even though ordination became open to women in the 1950s, it was still quite uncommon for women to be ordained, so she played a major trailblazing role in her early years in ministry, paving the way for many women,” Englert-Jessen explained. In the early 1990s, God called her mother to serve in the ministry, and she currently serves as a pastor in the Dallas area; she was ordained in 2004. Three generations with a passion for serving others!

Now hiring: • Entry-level through management • LPNs, RNs, APRNs • Nurse supervisors • Therapists • Teachers • Direct care staff • Office managers • Cooks • Housekeeping • Maintenance • and more

It's Not Just a Job. It's Your Chance to Help the Lives of Children METHODIST FAMILY HEALTH

Apply TODAY at MethodistFamily.org/work-for-us.html Competitive pay and incentives

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 39

Feasting at the Parson's Table The faithful impact of the Roy W. Ward family in the 501 The rich heritage of faith in the 501 covers unfathomable territory and expresses depth and beauty that only eternity will reveal. A myriad of pastors and their families have contributed to each of our lives. Their love and encouragement expressed through music and hospitality has been an enormous part of our faith.

Front row, from left: Marketa Evans, Loweta Turney, John Ward, Bobby Ward, Joe Ward, Bill Ward and Judy Roach. Back Row: Betty Ward, Billy Jack Roach, Jo Ward, Dena Ward and Suzy Ward.

By Don Bingham

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ne such family, the Roy W. Ward family, continues to have a profound influence through their love for good food and great fellowship, obtained through the ministry of The Ward Family Singers. The eight children of Roy and Mamie Lillian Richardson Ward (1902-1972) were accomplished musicians, writers, entertainers, politicians, entrepreneurs, professional photographers and marketers, traveling nurses, professional soloists in many genres, and most of all — great cooks! Bill Ward remembers, "When I begin to access my memory bank, I truly marvel at what all my Mom did in the course of a day in fixing three meals and caring for a preacher husband who always looked like he emerged from Berdorf Goodman's, and she still fed 10 mouths, including her live-in father, Revered G.L. Richardson." Over many decades, the family recipe favorites have survived the test of time and were compiled in “The Ward Family Cookbook” in 1995 (no longer in print). Judy Ward Roach recalls the days of the aroma of their mom's skillet cake as it made a regular appearance, always served with fresh strawberries. Suzy Ward, late wife of Bill Ward, would make amazing butter rolls, old-fashioned rolls made in a cast iron skillet, baked in the oven, then completed cooking on top

Aunt Maggie's Rolls 2 sticks butter, melted and cooled 2 1/2 cups warm water 3 cups flour 3/4 cups sugar 2 packages dry yeast 2 eggs 1 tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, butter and eggs. Add flour one cup at a time. Beat well after each flour addition. Turn into a greased bowl; cover and let rise in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Punch down rolls and pinch pieces of dough for desired size and gently roll between palms of hands to form a round ball. Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet and bake. Based upon the size of rolls, makes approximately 24 rolls.

Ham Bone and Cornmeal Dumplings 1 large, left-over ham bone 2 cups cornmeal 2 eggs 3 chopped green onions pepper and salt to taste

Cover the ham bone with water and boil until all the meat drops off the bone. Remove fat and bone from broth. Meat should remain in liquid broth. Mix the cornmeal, eggs, chopped green onions, salt and pepper to taste, and add enough broth to make dumplings stick together. Drop small dumplings into the boiling broth. Cook, covered for about 20 minutes. Adjust amounts of broth, ham, and dumplings according to the number to be fed. This recipe would feed approximately four servings.

of the stove. The final step in the butter rolls’ completion was to finish cooking by pouring boiling water over the browned rolls, allowing the water to form the thick, rich sauce on top of the stove. Joe and Dena Ward, John and Betty Ward, and several other couples were members of a Supper Club, and recipes from those days made their appearance in potlucks through all these years to the present day. Marketa Evans and Loweta Turney were great storytellers; Marketa's sour cream waffles were available most Saturday mornings for friends to stop by for enjoyment. Meals and fellowship were regulars at "the Ward family farm" and many were honored to be invited to join Joe and Dena Ward for amazing home-cooked meals. The influence goes deeper than a brief article could ever express as a wider community thinks of faith in the 501. This family added a rich heritage that continues on with its color, vibrancy, and sense of blessed fellowship through their musical recordings and amazing recipes. The recipes included in this article are from “The Ward Family Cookbook.” Bill Ward has written two books about Conway: "Conway As It Was ... As It Is" and "Beyond the River ... Stories of Life Near the Arkansas." They are available ad billwardphotography. com.

Blackberry Cobbler 4 cups blackberries 1 3/4 cups sugar 1/4 cup water 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 stick butter


4 cups blackberries 1 3/4 cups sugar 1/4 cup water 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 stick butter

To make the filling, wash berries. Combine first 5 ingredients in a saucepan, simmer until sugar dissolves. Drop small pieces of dough into the simmering mixture and cook until the dumplings are done and juice is slightly thickened. Pour into a baking dish and top with crust. Dot with additional butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees until the crust is golden brown. To make the crust, cut shortening into flour. Add salt and water and mix with a fork until dough follows the fork around the bowl. Roll out into a 1/8-inch sheet and cut into strips for dumplings, saving one sheet large enough to cover the pan used for cobbler.

Photo by Mike Kemp

My Mom's Butter Rolls 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon soda 1 heaping tablespoon shortening 21/2 - 3 cups flour 1- 2 sticks butter, very soft and spreadable, but not melted 2 cups granulated sugar (approximately, as a thick layer of sugar is sprinkled over buttered dough) vanilla to dot top of unbaked rolls 2 cups (approximately) boiling water

Mix buttermilk, salt, soda, shortening and flour to make heavier, biscuit-like dough. Roll out in rectangular shape, 1/8 of an inch thick. Spread butter over dough, being careful not to tear the dough. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Gently roll up, jelly roll style, and cut with knife or scissors into 1 ½ inch sections. Place cut rolls into a buttered cast iron skillet and place in preheated oven (400 degrees) and dot each roll with vanilla. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove rolls and pour boiling water (approximately 2 cups) on top of rolls and continue to simmer on top of the stove until the sauce thickens.

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Churned Butter by Bill Ward


visit my mother’s kitchen often, remembering and reliving breakfast in the making. I hear her softly whistling or humming as she goes about her work, at peace in her world. She died in 1972 at the age of sixtyseven. Read the rest of this story from Ward's "Beckoning Roads — A Memoir at 501lifemag.com


Photos by Mike Kemp

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TO PAINT OR NOT TO PAINT It's not even a question... By Donna Benton

uman courage: the ability to summon strength and bravery to face a task that scares the noodles out of you. Like finally telling the pigtailed girl who sits behind you that you think she’s cute, like spring break, jumping off of the biggest bluff into Greers Ferry Lake, and like painting your brick house! You know the butterflies, the what-if’s and the second thoughts. You will have to run the gauntlet of the naysayers, hearing all their well-intentioned advice. “Brick is maintenance-free for life, you will be repainting?” “That paint will peel!” “It’s just a trend!” “How will you ever decide on a color?” and “What if you hate it!!” Paint is by far the easiest, least expensive, and most impactful update that you can do to your home, inside or out. Inside the house, you can use paint with wild abandon. If the purple doesn’t work, paint it pink! On the outside however, painting the brick is just like jumping off the bluff; there is a point of no return. It’s probably not impossible to un-paint your house, but it’s sure not a task to be taken lightly. Painting brick is not the right decision for everyone but it might be right for you if you dare. If you are thinking about painting your brick, do your homework. The internet is full of examples of painted brick homes; many beautiful and classic and a few cringe-worthy ones as well. It’s a good idea to play it safe and go for a tried and true, traditional style rather than exercising your creativity, unless you thrive on being the talk of the neighborhood. Study the painted homes of your predecessors and decide what you like and don’t like and what will and won’t work on your home. Pay attention to the things that you aren’t going to change that will affect the look, like the style of your home, windows and trim color. Will all that work well with your new paint? One rule of thumb I stand by when planning exteriors is to take it easy on the colors and materials. With siding, brick, stone, soffit, windows, shutters, and roof, it’s easy to get too many things going on at once. Painted brick can help you calm down an exterior that is too busy. While it is probably true that painted brick means a little more maintenance over the life of your home, painted brick can last a long time if properly prepped and applied. There are other techniques besides simply painting, like German Schmear or whitewashing that give brick an authentic aged appearance and a painted look. And if you want to get the look of painted brick in a new construction, there are lots of new options in white or monochromatic colored brick that can give you the look without painting. And finally, if you get up the nerve to paint, don’t paint a single brick until you paint a great big sample board with the color you have chosen; I’m talking about a sheet of plywood. Lean it up against the house and look at it for a few days. Morning, afternoon, evening, and on sunny days and cloudy days. You can even look at it in the dark if you want to. If you still like it, then paint away! This West Conway home has some amazing giant painted columns, but those columns stole the show from the great stacked porches and the rest of the stately home. Once the home was painted, the columns become understated and the whole home becomes the focus instead of the columns. A whole new level of curb appeal, I think. Extra care was taken to make sure the right white was chosen, that it didn’t go “pink” or “blue” in certain light and that it worked well with the other elements of the house. New shutters and porch swings were painted light shades of grays and blues to give a subtle detail without overwhelming the look. There are lots of things to be scared of in this world, like snakes, the Fouke Monster, and that little pigtailed girl, but painting your home shouldn’t be so frightening. If you have been dreaming about painting your brick but waking up in a cold sweat, thinking you might make the wrong decision, maybe these tips will help you decide if painting is for you.

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Danny Slay of Conway, a participant in the Rock Steady Boxing class.

Rock Steady Boxing helps slow symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients By John Patton


he late Mohammad Ali, whom many consider to be the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease in 2016. The boxer was known as an activist, entertainer, poet, philanthropist, and in his later days, a spokesman for Parkinson’s disease awareness. Ali would likely smile at the irony that the sport that may have caused his Parkinson’s disease is being used to help reduce its debilitating symptoms in others. Health studies have indicated that head trauma increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Rock Steady Boxing, a national program that offers a noncontact boxing-based fitness curriculum, is designed to slow symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The new, medically supervised class is being offered at the Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center. “While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is research that indicates that more intense exercise has been shown to improve patients’ balance, posture, and other symptoms,” said Mallory Lefler, fitness coordinator at Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center. She achieved a specialized certification to lead the program and is also an ACE certified personal trainer. Tim Freyaldenhoven, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist with the Conway Regional Neuroscience Center, said formal

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clinical assessment of outcomes of the program shows improvements in balance, energy, response to medication, and quality of life scores. “I can say that, anecdotally, I have had several patients participate that feel like their energy, stamina, and balance have improved,” said Freyaldenhoven. “They also enjoy the social aspect of meeting with a similar group of patients.” Danny Slay of Conway, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two and half years ago, said he began searching for a Rock Steady Boxing class near him because of a friend who participated in one in Hot Springs. “He called it a game changer. That’s what we’re all looking for; we want to stave off the progression of those symptoms for as long as we can.” He added, “We work on balance, core, strength, and endurance - the things that Parkinson’s affects in people.” Slay adds, “Balance is big because people who have Parkinson’s have a fear of falling and it’s really helped with that. It’s helped me in every way.” Lefler has noticed improvements after a few months. “His jogging has turned into more of a run. His punches are a whole lot harder. In all of his moves, he gives 100%. I have no doubt that this class will be beneficial for Danny in the long run.” Allan Mueller, also of Conway, was instrumental in

starting the program in Conway. He was participating in a class in Jacksonville and was needing a class closer to home, so he contacted the Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center. Mueller credits Rock Steady boxing for improving his overall strength and balance. “It helps your strength because you are exercising every part of your body, and balance is one thing that most people with Parkinson’s suffer with in one way or another.” A retired wildlife biologist and avid traveler, Mueller appreciates that “everyone benefits from the class because the staff has been very good at helping people find their own level of participation.” The class also offers fellowship. Slay said, “We’re like a Parkinson’s band of brothers and sisters. The camaraderie has been good.” Slay and Mueller are part of the original group of 12 people who participated in a start-up meeting in August of 2021. The classes began shortly afterward with a brief interruption as the fitness center paused due to COVID-19.

Training like a Boxer During the course of an hour-long class, the Parkinson’s patients train in a boxer-like routine. “We use dumbbells, row machines, bicycles, balancing exercises; they do squats and jump rope,” said Lefler. “It’s not just hitting the heavy bag. If the boxer can’t fully do an exercise, we modify it so they can get the benefit.” For instance, a boxer can remain in a wheelchair while striking the bag. “Before they start the class, I take them through an assessment to determine where they are at physically,” said Lefler. Noah Bandy, an ACE certified personal trainer who assists Lefler, added, “We start with a get-to-know-you question because voice production is a key for Parkinson’s patients.” Bandy said the class overcomes reluctance to exercise. “Most of our boxers don’t believe in themselves, but once they get help and see what they can do, they start believing. It’s inspiring to see people do these things as if they don’t have Parkinson’s.” The boxers also have “corner men,” relatives or friends, who support them during class. The class progresses in intensity. “They push us so we have some pretty grueling exercises,” said Slay. However, Mueller noted that “everyone keeps coming back.” Slay added, “It’s not just an exercise class. It’s fun and everybody gets into it.” Rock Steady Boxing also affects the instructors. “They’ve made me cry a few times because of stories that they tell and the benefits that they have seen. I want them to lead a normal life,” said Lefler. “That’s what’s in it for me, a healthy life. Hearing their stories of what they are getting to experience outside of Rock Steady Boxing has been amazing.”


Personal Trainers Mallory Lefler (from left) Danny Slay and personal trainer Noah Bandy.

Rock Steady Boxing Facts • Physician diagnosis of Parkinson’s or Parkinsonism is required to participate in the class. There is no age limit. • Class meets at 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. • Cost is $70 per month. • Assessment of progress every four to six weeks. To learn more, call 501.450.9292, ext. 300.

 H O M E  B U S I N E S S  B O N D S  501.327.6711 • 831 Parkway, Conway, AR • ottinsurance.com


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the faith Oldest African American church in Arkansas celebrates 177 years By Stefanie Brazile


irst Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock celebrates 177 years of service in April as the oldest African American church in the capital city and one of the oldest in Arkansas. "The strength of our church is our faith in God," said Renee Hubbard, a trustee and member since 1961. The congregation's history traces back to the Rev. Wilson N. Brown, who founded the church in April 1845. According to the written history of the church: In Little Rock, it is known by the account of this history, that the "colored people" attended their master's church, with reserved seating. Rev. Brown attended the Missionary Baptist Church and was very impressed that God had called him to preach the gospel to his people, so much so, that he asked Major Fields if he would permit him to try to secure a house, large enough for the colored people to hold their services. Major Fields' response was, "I will consult with the pastor of the church and find out if he will be willing for the colored people to have a separate Missionary Baptist Church. The pastor consented and thus, our history begins ... The eight-page document tells how Fields and other white people worked with Brown and the congregation to build a 16foot by 20-foot building and pews. Brown had to preach three times each Sunday to accommodate everyone who wanted to learn about God, so a brush arbor was added, along with an additional 15 feet to the building. As First Missionary Baptist grew in number and faith, the congregants struggled under the horrible burden of slavery. The history states: Despite these continuous, exemplary acts of mission from the white Missionary Baptists, both local and from the north, and the astronomical number of souls saved among the colored people, the colored people were still slaves. The leaders of a church that has persevered for 177 years have a vision. "My dream is expansion, growth, and development so that we can have a greater impact on our community," Hubbard said. "I believe that we are a hidden gem and treasure in Little Rock. I hope that as many people as possible will find out who we are. We embrace the past, but we are moving toward our future. It's going to be grand. We want to do everything we can to bring people to Christ." Paul Williams agrees with Hubbard. As chairman of the Board of Deacons and a member since 1983, he has served under five pastors. "The people are still holding on. I admonish them, 'Let's

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Photos by Mike Kemp


TOP LEFT: Deacon Wyamon Stokes (from left), Deacon Paul Williams, Sister Renee Hubbard and Sister Almeta Smith are leaders and long-time members of First Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock. BOTTOM LEFT: The church was founded in April 1845 by the Rev. Wilson N. Brown, who was a slave. At that time, the site was near the city limits. In 1983, it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. RIGHT: The church proudly displays a Bible that dates to pre-Civil War era and the podium from which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1963 at the church’s 118th anniversary.

stay prayerful and continue to look to God. He has brought us through, and he will continue to bring us through.'" Both Hubbard and Williams describe a loving, friendly, and family-oriented membership. "They are a group of people that has always stood by one another with a strong faith and a Christian background," Williams said.

think back to the beginning with Rev. Brown, when it came to having money, they had zilch so we know that God was helping them. We trust and believe in God so much so that we can accomplish the things God wants us to in the coming years."

The building opened in 1882, and a Bible was moved over from the former building. Dating to the pre-Civil War era, the antique book is the focus of a $3,500 grant the church received last month from the Black History Commission of Arkansas.

Currently without a senior pastor, associate ministers Joe Adams and Braylon Everette hold Sunday morning services at 11 a.m. weekly. "We are also in the process and praying that a merger will come about," Williams said. "Instead of a lot of churches splitting, we need to come together. Both churches are really enthused about it, and they would come to our historic building." 501 LIFE Magazine will go to press before the two congregations cast a final vote. As FMBC marks 177 years of upholding the banner of faith in Christ, members draw on the determination of their forefathers and have faith that God will provide so they can continue their mission as a beacon of light in Little Rock.

"It will help pay for a conservator to do as much repair as possible," said Hubbard, who wrote the grant. Another historic item is the pipe organ dedicated in 1915 and a podium that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from in 1963 at the church's 118th anniversary. As a 61-year member, Hubbard believes the church’s past assures a successful future. "Living by faith is everything to the congregation," she said. "Without faith, you can't do any works. Without works, your faith is dead. When you

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Photos by Mike Kemp

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501 LIFE



‘A modern day Ellie May!’ By Becky Bell


hat began with chickens, has turned into old McDonald’s farm for Ava Beene, 9. Ava, a third grader at Vilonia Elementary School, had an interest in her friend’s chickens, so when they hatched chicks, she was given a few. And from there, more and more chickens and other animals began calling Ava’s home their home. “Well, they are pets, but they are my babies,” Ava said. “They are like babies because they come straight to me when I go to feed them. When they see me, sometimes they come running because they know I have oranges.” The oranges are snacks for the donkeys and pigs. But the picky pigs won’t eat the oranges whole. “You have to peel them for the pigs. The pigs won’t eat the peeling.” Ava spends each day before and after school taking care of the animals. “Every day I have to go get the eggs from the chickens and get the chicks feed and water,” she said. “When dad gets home, we go to the barn and feed the donkeys and goats and pigs, and at night we feed the dogs and put out hay for the donkeys and the goats.” Her father, Chad Beene, grew up on a farm and likes the lifestyle. Her mother, Amanda Beene, sells insurance. Her sister, Abbie, 17, is a junior at Vilonia High School and does

not enjoy the barn nor its inhabitants. “She does not like any of the animals. She’s a cheerleader,” Ava said. Ava has thirty chickens to take care of, and she enjoys the differences between how they look and enjoys selling their eggs for $3 per dozen. Her customers are primarily the secretaries at Vilonia Elementary School, and they buy fresh eggs weekly. “I have a lot of chickens. I have some red ones, some yellow ones, and I have a chicken that looks really weird. It looks like it has a beard,” she said. “Taking care of the animals kind of teaches me responsibility, and I save the money so then I have it when I want to buy something for my sister or my mom and dad.” Because Missy Ricketts, her second grade teacher knows how much Ava loves her chickens and taking care of all the animals at her home, she made her an apron to wear while gathering eggs. “It’s blue and it has roosters and hens all over it and has little pouches for the eggs to go in,” Ava said. Ricketts said Ava may have begun her class in August 2020 as a shy and timid child, but in January 2021, she became confident as the class started informative writing. “She loves to share her love and knowledge of animals, especially chickens. When given the opportunity to write

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and present about an animal of her choice, of course she chose chickens, and did an excellent job! She adores them and takes great care of them. I love when her mom posts what's going on in Ava's chicken's lives and the adventures they have.” Her current teacher, Carol Guilliams, said Ava’s love of animals is apparent at school when she shares about them. “Ava is a modern day Ellie May! She has a sweet soul and love for animals and a passion for teaching others about them,” Guilliams said. The first goats that Ava’s family purchased would not come to the family, so they had to get new ones. Family friend Erin Lassiter is helping Ava with her 4H skills and has become a mentor. “She taught me how to show goats and what to do and stuff. Some people don’t know this, but you have to hold their chain up the right way. And if the judges are on the left side, you have to be on the right side. The judges want to see the goat, not you.” Ava’s mother, Amanda, said she expects her daughter’s interest to continue as the family has purchased 10 acres in the bedroom community of Vilonia. One of her daughter’s favorite TV shows is “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” a reality show about the adventures of Dr. Jan Pol, veterinarian at his practice in Michigan. “I like it because it is really funny and helps me to learn about how to work on animals and stuff,” Ava said. The nine-year-old’s business is doing well, and her adventures are helping shape her into a confident, hardworking, caring young lady.

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A message from

Kim Williams

Director, Conway Downtown Partnership Can you feel the positive energy buzzing through Historic Downtown Conway? Maybe it's the sunshine, the return of Toad Suck Daze, the anticipation building around the opening of new businesses and the reopening of beloved businesses in the coming days, or the reopening of Elm Street with new wide sidewalks, period lighting and reconstructed streetscape. Or maybe it is a combination of all of the above. Plus, we are gearing up for our Spring Downtown Open House Celebration on Saturday, April 16. Our merchants will open their doors for browsing and open-house specials during the day. This just so happens to coincide with the Bell Urban Farm Spring Plant Sale also scheduled for April 16.

Shop, Eat, Play, Repeat in Downtown Conway

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Registration opens at Pulaski County Special School District By Jessica Duff


ulaski County Special School District is now registering students for the 2022-2023 school year. Families returning to a PCSSD school can submit a letter of intent to return to the District. Families new to the district can register their children through the online registration portal. Pre-K student enrollment is also open for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds. PCSSD’s mission is to provide equity and excellence for all students through rigorous college and career readiness instructional strategies. We serve 26 schools in Maumelle, Little Rock and Sherwood. Particularly in the Maumelle area are three elementary schools, Crystal Hill Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, and Pine Forest Elementary; one middle school, Maumelle Middle; and one high school, Maumelle High. If you live in the Maumelle area, you are zoned for one of these PCSSD schools. Below is more information about the registration processes:

Returning Students Current PCSSD families can submit a letter of intent to return to the District next school year. The letter of intent will replace the need for returning students to re-register this year. The letter of intent can be found at bit.ly/PCSS-22-23LOI.

New Students

Parents of students who are new to the district can register their children through the online registration portal. The NEW STUDENT registration portal is only for students K-12 who have never attended a PCSSD school and reside in the PCSSD attendance zone. The online registration portal can be found on the PCSSD website.


The PCSSD Pre-K program is part of the Arkansas Better Chance program and supported by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education. It provides students with a strong foundation of knowledge and skills to build on through kindergarten and into elementary school. Students must meet certain requirements. Contact prek@pcssd.org for more information.

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About PCSSD Pulaski County Special School District spans more than 600 square miles in Central Arkansas and requires highly skilled and passionate personnel to adapt educational policies and personalization to 25 schools. Every school is accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. PCSSD has served schools across Pulaski County since July 1927. PCSSD is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district that assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders.

For families who do not live within the PCSSD zone but wish to attend one of the schools, the Arkansas School Choice Act is an option. The Arkansas School Choice program enables a student in kindergarten through grade 12 to attend a school in a nonresident district. School choice applications are being accepted through May 1 this year.

If you have specific questions related to registration and school choice, please contact the Office of Equity and Pupil Services at 501-234-2021.



eed to catch up on your degree? No sweat! Summer sessions help you graduate on time or even early – meaning you could save big. Summer financial aid might also be available.

Registration is open now, so get started today.


April 2022 501lifemag.com | 59

Sharing Your Faith By Brittany Gilbert


iving in the Bible Belt, it may be safe to assume most of us have been surrounded by church and/or a knowledge of God to some extent. However, things in the world have changed drastically since we were kids. When I was a kid, the teachers still prayed in school, and many of them professed to believe in God. You didn’t have to wonder what your children were learning in regard to faith because it seemed many people were on the same page. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is, “If you don’t teach your children about who God is, the world will teach your children everything He isn’t.” Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to teach your kids about God in your home. You can’t rely on your church to do it either. Your church may be teaching Bible stories and scriptures, however, as a parent you may be missing out on important conversations and moments to connect with your child and teach them a truth or attribute about God. The goal in teaching my children about God is to help them develop a faith that is their own. Too often, when kids grow up, they’re just reciting their parents’ faith. The sad reality is that eventually they start to question whatever isn’t true for themselves. Unfortunately, whenever that begins to happen, they are out of the home and may be around other people who may be walking through the same situation and in no better shape to help them. There are many ways to teach your kids about God and help them develop their own faith. It’s important to note that as a parent you don’t have to have all of the answers. In fact, that’s kind of the point. My kids ask questions that I don’t have the answer to, but they know that we can find the answer together in the Bible. One way to teach your kids about faith is to model it. Let your children see you walk out your faith. Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.” Do your kids see you reading the Bible and praying? Do they see you obeying the commandment to love one another? Our actions speak louder than words. Another important way to teach your children about God is by studying the Bible together. You can make scripture stand out with activities. For example, when we studied the armor of God from the book of Ephesians, we created each piece of armor with cardboard. It was fun, and it helped us study each piece in depth. By spending more time on this passage, we were able to memorize the scriptures. We also did this with the fruits of the spirit. We learned songs to help memorize it, and we made it fun. There are many resources available, but the focus should always be on the scriptures. It can be difficult to model the fruits you want your children to develop. I don’t always feel like showing kindness to others. Sometimes I lack self-control and patience. However, these are also teachable moments. Hopefully, my kids will grow up remembering that while their parents didn’t get it right all the time, they were quick to apologize and seek forgiveness. It can also be difficult to make time to teach our kids about God. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” With every conversation and lesson, we are sowing seeds that will reap a harvest.

Declan (from left), Canaan and Everly Gilbert studied putting on the armor of God and created each piece out of cardboard



Pa t t e r s o n E y e C a re

A Tribute to Reynolds:

American Composers featuring Dahré Miller, clarinet

Saturday, April 30th 7:30 pm

Reynolds Performance Hall on the UCA Campus Tickets available at the Reynolds Hall Box Office 501-450-3265 or ConwaySymphony.org

2505 Donaghey, Ste 102 • Conway, AR



Easter Blessings May all the blessings of Easter fill your heart and your home!

Roe Henderson

1416 Prince St. Conway, AR 72034 501-327-3888




We’re your Shield. We’re your Shelter. ShelterInsurance.com

April 2022 501lifemag.com | 61

By Donald Brazile

Easter is for runners Are you a runner? Do you know how to tell if you are or not? In one sense, we’re all “serious” runners. So much so, that probably the next time someone asks, “How are you doing?” The best answer is, “I’m running.” Everyone runs, even those who say they hate running. We’re all runners, joggers, walkers, limpers. We run from, run to, or run for something. Which brings us to the Easter story. The gospel of John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance, so she ran and told Peter and the young man John, and they ran too. This is the only time in the Bible, I think, where three people all run in the same story. They ran with a great sense of hope and surprise. Easter is for people who are running FROM things. It’s for anyone who looks at their day and wants to “run for their lives” before it even gets started. It’s for those who are dealing with some sticky situation at work that is turning into an energy-sucking sinkhole and it isn’t getting any better. It’s for those who can’t stop doing that thing that you know you need to stop doing and start doing that thing you know you need to start doing. Easter is for that person who received terrible news from a physician. It’s for someone who recently heard the words, “I never loved you.” It’s for those who feel dangerously close to doing something stupid. It’s for those of us who’ve just done something stupid. It’s for the heartbroken. Easter is for those who have had their hope

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crucified. It’s for those who want to run far, far away from this new terrible normal. But at the same time, Easter is for those who are running TO something. They are running not to escape and avoid, but running to share the good news that the Lord still walks among us, giving hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, honesty to the deceitful, consolation to the grieving, and faith to the faithless. Easter proclaims that darkness, death, and despair do not have the last word. You have probably heard that the word gospel means “good news,” but in Greek it comes from a word meaning life-changing “headline” news. The kind of news that sends people running with joy and excitement! If for some reason you wake up on the wrong side of Easter this year without a spring in your step and the music of the Easter service doesn’t move you, could it be that you are running from what you should be running to? If the lilies at the altar don’t inspire, the message or the Messenger does not connect with you, and you remain unsure and uncertain about this whole resurrection thing, could it be that you are running from what you should be running to? Often, we do this, don’t we? We run to what we should run from and struggle with what we're running for. Which way are you running in this year’s Easter Run?

HARDING UNIVERSITY 100+ Undergraduate Christ-centered 40 Graduate & Education Majors Professional Programs

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NCAA Division II Athletics

pursue your meaning & purpose



Photo by Mike Kemp

Linda Remele (from left), Tricia Conway, Nancy Henley and Christen Higgins (in front).

Faith in action

Volunteers bring lessons of God’s grace to incarcerated By Judy Riley


f you do it for the least of these, you have done it to me” are words that Jesus spoke to his disciples in Matthew 25. And Paul, in Hebrews 13, instructs Christians to “remember those in prison.” For many, putting that kind of faith in action every day is difficult, but not for Linda Remele, Tricia Conway, and their friends. These six women from various churches in Central Arkansas meet regularly with inmates at the Arkansas Department of Corrections McPherson Unit for women near Newport. Using a common curriculum called Kairos, they conduct classes, pray with and for inmates, and generally share knowledge of God’s grace. Kairos is

a nondenominational, Christian, faith-based

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ministry that is similar to “Walk to Emmaus” that was designed to help build strong Christian leaders in the church. In the prison system, it is used primarily for the individual inmate’s spiritual growth. The Greek word Kairos means “God’s special time” or “when the time is right.” Linda Remele and Tricia Conway are retired elementary teachers. They became involved in the ministry with their husbands when they heard about men who conducted Kairos at ADC Tucker Unit. They were asked to make cookies, but felt their roles could be more meaningful. They investigated a similar program available for women, and their walk in faith began. The group now includes Beth Leverett, Djuna

“I feel, as a Christian, this is what I am supposed to do.” - Tricia Conway

Dudeck, Nancy Henley, Wrenetta Ghent, Christen Higgins, Linda Remele, and Tricia Conway. Kairos volunteers complete 36 hours of training. Over 150 volunteers throughout the state are part of Kairos ministry groups. One goal of the process is bonding team members since they all come from different churches and several geographic areas. They stick with the Bible, avoiding differences in denominations. The curriculum is designed to help participants understand God’s Grace, according to Remele. It begins with a discussion about the choices we make and explains that no one is alone as God is always with us. The emphasis is on God’s forgiveness, the need to forgive others, and ultimately forgive ourselves. The inmates have to qualify to be a part of Kairos. Only 30 out of 150 applicants are accepted to attend in November and 30 in June. They go through an interview process to determine if their reason is true, not just a way to get out of work or a way to eat special food. This is one of the few times that food can be brought into the prison. In addition to the Kairos retreat weekends, volunteers meet monthly with “Prayer and Share” sessions for prayer and Bible study. Success stories happen often. Many learn to forgive themselves and forgive those whose lives influenced them to be in prison. Remele said it’s important to “get them to realize God has a plan for their lives and it wasn’t to be in prison, but since they are in prison, they can become an instrument of God’s grace.” Remele encourages others to get involved in this type of ministry. “Prison ministry isn’t for everybody, but everybody I have convinced to give it a try is hooked!” she said. “The rewards are greater than anything I leave with them. I feel so blessed sharing God with them. Every time I walk out, I feel God has used me to maybe bring a ray of sunshine into somebody’s life that day.”

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Conway adds, “Seeing the ladies’ eyes light up when I enter the prison is worth the effort. I feel, as a Christian, this is what I am supposed to do.” Remele’s favorite Bible verse is Luke 12:48 which says that from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. “This is one of the ways I am living this Bible verse,” she said. In addition to more volunteers, Remele said the prison needs new or gently used Bibles and funds for resource materials. For more information, contact Linda Remele at lremele@hotmail.com.

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estiny Vaden, who turns 18 this month, is the kind of young woman who sees all things through the lens of God’s love, purpose, and sacrifice. Her Christianity is what helped her get through a terrible car accident last year that left her unconscious, with serious injuries. “I was with my friends in the car wreck, and we were 15 or 16 so it wasn’t that long ago. We were driving down a road that’s really pretty. We were at a light, and we were T-boned. I don’t remember the accident itself, but I had a concussion after. I woke up in an ambulance. I broke my collarbone, cheek bone, the orbital around my eye, bruised my lungs, chipped my spine, and my head was cut.” Surprisingly, Destiny only spent one night in the hospital, but weeks later she had facial reconstruction surgery because doctors told her that her face would be uneven if she didn’t. She said the facial surgery wasn’t bad, but the pain from the broken collar bone really hurt. She continues to have pain from that today. When the Greenbrier High School senior thinks about the wreck, she focuses on her survival. “I know God plans out everything that is going to happen to you, and obviously I survived. I think he has a reason for everything. Even though I don’t understand it, he has a reason for it,” she said. “It helped me to know I would be OK, and I trusted that He would heal me. I prayed that I would get through it and recover quickly.” She did heal, and she will graduate this May with the highest honors — a double completer, an associate degree, and a 4.3 GPA. Her diligence academically means she will begin college at the University of Arkansas as a sophomore or junior instead of a freshman, and will therefore be closer to graduation. After she graduates college, she plans to attend medical school and become an obstetrician. “I have always loved babies, and I have an interest in surgery. I looked up what an OB did, and I found out they deliver the baby, help the women when they are pregnant, and do C-sections. That’s what I want to do. That would fulfill my interest in surgery, and I would get to help deliver babies. I really thought God brought me to that.” The young woman said she believes in God and His sacrifice to send His son to earth so that people who believe in Him can have everlasting life. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is important to her and her

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mother, Lisa Vaden. At two and a half years old, her mother pulled Destiny from the nursery and started bringing her into her Sunday school class to learn about the role God plays in the lives of His believers. Both Destiny and her mother have remained faithful members of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Wooster, and they attend just about every time the doors are open. One thing that is clear is Lisa’s immense pride for the child she had when she was 44 years old. When Destiny was little, her mother would make an Easter scavenger hunt for her so that she could learn the true meaning for the holiday. Last Easter, Destiny continued this tradition by making a scavenger hunt for her cousin, Ryan Reynolds, now a third grader at Greenbrier Elementary. “I wanted to teach him the meaning of Easter and how we don’t celebrate this for the Easter Bunny and the eggs. This is really about God. God needs to be incorporated in this holiday, and God needs to be remembered in this holiday, and it’s not just for funzies.” But Destiny did incorporate the fun things about Easter, along with Biblical passages to help get the message across to Ryan about the sacrifice both God and Jesus made. The scavenger hunt began at her home and continued to the post office, the car wash, and finally the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church’s cemetery in Wooster. Eggs with candy were scattered at each spot with a shiny egg holding a clue for the next place to go. At the end of the hunt, Ryan found a relative’s tombstone where his main prize, an adventure Bible, was found. Destiny, her mother, and Ryan’s father, Troy Reynolds, transported Ryan to each spot. Destiny said Ryan was delighted by his scavenger hunt and felt like he had learned what she had planned. She is now becoming an example of Christianity to her young cousin as her mother was to her as she grew up. “My mother raised me in church, and I have gone to church as long as I can remember,” she said. “She was always educating me in faith and always talking about God. We always would go on little trips or to the zoo and everything she did she incorporated God into it somehow.” And now, Destiny is completing the family tradition of passing down faith in God and all of His blessings throughout the year, especially on Easter.

Story by Becky Bell Photo by Mike Kemp

Destiny Vaden created a scavenger hunt for her cousin, Ryan Reynolds, a third grader at Greenbrier Elementary, to teach the true meaning of Easter.

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By Mark McDonald

There is a story in the Christian tradition of a father who comes to Jesus, asking him to heal his son. Jesus responds, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” The father replies with a most profound statement, probably one that seems to echo how most of us feel in today’s political and cultural climates: “Lord, I believe; help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). Doesn’t that sound like how many of us feel today?! It’s hard to know what or who to believe, because two people can have strongly held beliefs that seem at odds with each other. Religious groups may be even more likely to see this. Sincere, faithful followers often claim strong, certain beliefs that conflict with other sincere, faithful followers, even in the same religious body! This can be much more personal, too. Can you think of a time you felt strongly that you needed to do something but didn’t know if you could do it? Or perhaps you wanted to do something that you knew was right but also worried that others would think you’d lost your mind (or, even worse, would think you were some kind of religious freak)? It can be as small as saying, “Hi,” to someone whom you don’t know or as big as stopping to stand up for someone who is being bullied even when you don’t know what will happen to you. That’s when we can truly relate to the father who says, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.” We know what we believe, but we still have doubts. Then, we wonder why we don’t have enough faith. Another Christian scripture explains this a little more. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” A friend of mine always paraphrased this as the very definition of faith: believe and trust. What we believe gives us assurance because we know they are true, but true conviction comes when we do something when we aren’t quite sure. When we doubt and still act on our beliefs. Abram was told by God to leave his family and land in search of a bigger promise, and he did not get a GPS with a planned route. He simply took a step in a new direction, uncertain of what that meant. The prophets had to take bold steps of faith when God called to them, often in ways they could not fully understand. What do your beliefs call you to do even when you doubt? Acts of mercy, kindness, justice? That is what “Faith in the 501” challenges us to do. We are called to live by faith in word and deed, especially when we aren’t quite sure of the consequence or what the outcome will be when we do the right thing when it’s not easy or popular.

Have some faith. Do the right thing. Make a difference in someone’s life today. Show faith in the 501. 68 | 501 LIFE April 2022


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April 2022 501lifemag.com | 69

Story and Photo by Laurie Green

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once read something that said, "Want to make God laugh? Tell Him what you have planned for the day." That being said, I knew EXACTLY what I was going to write for this issue about faith, however God had other plans and this is completely different than I had anticipated. I am a very visual learner and being that God specifically created me this way, it shouldn't surprise me that He would use one of my most favorite places to reveal the life lesson I'm about to share. First a little back story. I am an avid lover of cruise life. If I could be anywhere, it would be smack dab in the middle of the ocean. For me, this is the closest place that I physically feel like I'm in the presence of Jesus. While folks are on deck soaking up the sun, eating from an endless buffet and dancing (like no one is watching) to The Cupid Shuffle, I can be found on our balcony, captivated by the richest hues of turquoise waves splashing as far as the eyes can see. Every sunrise and every sunset is a masterpiece dancing across the water. It truly is my happy place, so it was a dream come true to spend this most recent Valentine's Day with my husband, Will, on another cruise together. While this marked our fifth cruise together, this was our first cruise to ever go without friends and it definitely proved itself different. Remember that quote at the beginning about how to make God laugh? Well, I had many plans decided, none of which included being seasick. However, on day two that's exactly where I found myself. I spent the next two days drinking ginger ale, eating ice cubes, and sleeping. My sweet husband spent the next two days taking care of me and watching folks enjoy Cozumel from our balcony. Definitely not how I envisioned our getaway. As the last day of the cruise rolled around, I finally felt up to getting out and about to enjoy the time we had left, but again, that was about to prove to be a day like no other. For reasons that I doubt can ever be understood, a lady named Robin lost her life at sea that afternoon. This is one of those rare moments that I simply fail at finding the words to describe the situation, but all I can say is the whole atmosphere changed. Suddenly the tranquility that I was so accustomed to feeling as the waves would crash against the ship shifted. I can't speak for anyone else but myself on this emotion, but all I could feel was panic, chaos, and fear. Those very same waves suddenly felt different to me, and the peace that I normally experience being so close to Jesus smack dab in the middle of the ocean was replaced with a helplessness and despair. In that tragic instance, all I could seem to do was look out at the ocean and see

how big it was and how small and alone we were. I know Robin was a wife and a mother of two young children. I know she has a host of family and friends who are completely devastated. It is heartbreaking to imagine that the last day of Robin's life is blasted on Tiktok and YouTube videos. I refuse to believe that this horrible and tragic instance should be what defines her life. I do want to add that what most people will never know is that Robin changed the life of all of us cruising that day. Many of us have been blessed to be able to send words of sympathy and encouragement to her immediate family and help collect a fund for her children. We have become a "family of strangers" in the midst of this tragedy, and I know she made an impact on me. I remember my husband and I standing on our balcony all alone and trying to pray. I say trying because neither of us could find our voice over the lump in our throats. Thankfully we serve a God who can hear our hurts and decipher our tears. I realized the reason I felt all the chaos around me was my eyes had stopped watching how BIG Jesus was in that moment and had my focus on how big the ocean seemed. God is present not only when the outcome isn't what we want, but especially when that happens! People will read stories and they will Google the events that took place on this cruise, but for my part, I want everyone to know what most of you will NEVER hear. Jesus was in our midst on this cruise. I know this because scripture tells us in Matthew 18:20 that where two or more gather as followers, he is there among them. In the moments that would follow, there were individuals who took to the ship’s microphone and prayed for us all. No one was excluded, and in all honesty, it is possible that this may have been the first time some people had ever prayed. It didn't matter the color of our skin or the places we lived, we all had a common bond of tragedy that entwined us. In the days to follow, our cruise Facebook group shifted from an information page to a place of prayer, healing, and honestly a version of therapy. I have needed this as much as everyone else on our cruise has. I have learned in life that tragedy can absolutely tear you apart without Jesus to hold you all together. In closing, I just want to say that I know without a doubt that God can and will find a way to ALWAYS make beauty from ashes. I've already witnessed Him doing that now through this tragedy. Will we cruise again? Yes, absolutely. And will I stand on that balcony surrounded by nothing but sky and water and feel OK? I like to believe that I can and will as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus and my faith as deep as the ocean blue.

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It's all about

that Little Mustard Seed By Vivian Lawson Hogue


as it “faith” or “trust” that made you keep trying to ride that bike or use those skates? Which one was it that let you sleep at night because mom, dad, or another older person was there with you? The two words are as entwined as a plastic grocery bag tied with two knots. It takes both to ensure that neither will fail. Unless, of course, a hole develops. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Trust is reliance and confidence in someone or something. One senses faith and trust about people or things when we are young although we do not know the terms to apply to them. You may lose faith in a friend if it is warranted. You learn to not trap a bee in a hollyhock bloom with your bare hand. In looking at our childhoods growing up through the 1960s, there could be long lists of things in which we had faith and trust. We took them for granted then, but we recognize them more easily now. Our current times put a strain on the growth of our little mustard seeds. (Matthew 13:31-32) Most of us had assurance that one or both parents would be home, night or day. I knew when I arrived home after school, I could have a peanut butter sandwich. No soft drinks, no candy. Supper did not come from boxes and plastic containers and certainly not by delivery. Instead, simple, healthy foods were cooked and served. No GMOs, preservatives or dyes! With no air conditioning but with open windows, we could smell other neighborhood meals cooking, and with no noisy traffic, we could hear families chatting and ice being stirred in glasses. Everyone was at the table, excused only after the meal was over. During summers, our dining table was moved to a lattice-covered, screened-in porch completely entwined with honeysuckle. A nearby cot provided breezy, aromatic and peaceful naps. Parents also trusted that the school lunches, which were spearheaded by local mothers after World War II, would be healthy, adequate, hot, and affordable. I recall having my first blueberries in a lunch-lady-made cobbler and I broke out in itches and welts within the hour. But it was worth it. We always knew we would have homemade clothing, even underwear. However, I had several nice homemade sundresses and hand-knitted sweaters and caps. We counted on churches and schools to be venues for worship and many social activities. Perhaps our greatest miscalculation of faith was believing that nothing could

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negatively affect our churches. Not in this country. No violence, no persecution, no falling away could ever happen. Schools taught the “need-to-know-no-matter-how-longit-takes” subjects of math, spelling, cursive writing, and reading, followed by American history, social studies, higher math, literature, Latin, and Spanish. Parents trusted the curriculum and the qualifications, knowledge, and behavior of the instructors. No cessation of classes for any reason except for ice and snow. Students swore that if the superintendent didn’t fall on his backside when he tested his icy driveway, we would have school. Buses only ran rural routes. Much of Old Conway was within walking distance of schools, so many students walked or biked unafraid and backpack-less. Adult employment was high in the factories. Many teenagers worked in agriculture, mowed yards, delivered papers, or worked in fast foods or downtown stores. Babysitters earned 50¢ an hour. All assumed they could trust longstanding businesses to remain, never imagining someday driving to Little Rock to work, then back for supper and bedtime. We five children never received allowances so I didn’t learn to count money until I started to make some. We knew we would otherwise be cared for. A recent bit of online humor asked, “How much allowance did you get as a teenager?” The answer was, “My ‘allowance’ was being ‘allowed to live there.’” Ron Spradlin, a long-time Conway resident, says, “I was allowed to chop and saw wood in the winter and plow with the horses and a mule from age of 7, as well as hoe and pick cotton, milk the cows, and feed the hogs. Sometimes I worked for someone else at $4 a day, the earnings of which I was allowed to purchase my school clothes. We were poor, but life was so good. I don’t want to go back there again and grow, but in times of contemplation, my heart thinks so.” Old Conway neighbors lived “within hollerin’ distance,” and most were long-timers or native residents. Even those in apartment buildings and several duplexes rented for multiple years. One duplex neighbor remained in her small abode for 65 years. This closeness and familiarity promoted caring for each other in friendship or times of need and required faith and trust in each other. Faith and trust are confidence-generating words that are God-gifts and need to be exercised daily. And both are especially needed nowadays, as our double-knotted plastic grocery bags seem to be developing holes.

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Herschel Hall honors namesake

LEFT: Stephanie (from left) and Chris Ward with Trey and Tammie McClurkin . CENTER: Bishop Gary E. Mueller, with the United Methodists of Arkansas, led the dedication and prayer. RIGHT: Lillie Aguilar (from left), Mardell McClurkin and Maridee Schoenfeld.


building dedication was held on March 17 in Greenbrier to dedicate Herschel Hall, a new events center. The Irishthemed celebration was a nod to Mardell and Herschel McClurkin, who inspired the center's name. The St. Patrick's Day theme included Irish food and emerald green décor. About 150 friends and business associates attended and joined in the happy occasion, wearing green and friendly smiles. The owners of Herschel Hall are Chris Ward and Trey McClurkin. The large facility can host weddings, family reunions, business meetings, etc. They scheduled the dedication ceremony and luncheon on the popular holiday because Trey's mother, Mardell, founded a St. Patrick's Day church fellowship in 1971 with her late husband, a Methodist minister. Every year, the McClurkin's would host a St. Patrick's Day Open House wherever he served over their 59-year ministry. These Irish celebrations were a joyous time for the church and community to fellowship together, and the couple modeled hospitality to all. Guests always left feeling lucky and blessed. Though Herschel passed away five years ago, his memory and legacy live on through his family and the many lives he touched. Mardell McClurkin was present at the event, and Bishop Gary E. Mueller, of the United Methodists of Arkansas, led the dedication and prayer.

Growing up, Trey never thought that the St. Patrick's Day tradition would serve as an inspiration for naming a business. Trey and Chris were lifelong friends who, as young adults, started a Christian music ministry called Spirit Song. Years later, in 2014, they became business partners with Elite Core Audio which manufactures and distributes audio, video, and lighting equipment to clients worldwide. When they decided to open an events center, they felt that a former grocery store's building in Greenbrier was calling to them. The large, open space was developed with a beautiful esthetic and state-of-the-art sound system. Trey and Chris credited First Service Bank for believing in their vision. During the ceremony, Donny Bradley, Tom Grumbles and Kevin Wish were recognized. The co-owners wanted the center to have a name representing integrity, community spirit, and Christian love. Chris's wife, Stephanie Ward, said, "There is not a more loving and Christian person with a purer spirit than Herschel McClurkin." Thus, the name Herschel Hall was chosen. At the dedication, many friends and family described Herschel as generous, kind, compassionate, and always living in the moment. These positive attributes are what Chris and Trey envision that Herschel Hall will bring to Greenbrier and the surrounding community — a place to feel welcome and honored and to appreciate the special moments of life.

The late Herschel McClurkin.

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April 2022 501lifemag.com | 75

Central Arkansas is ready for the second annual


501 Day! Y

ou're invited to join in community celebrations, exciting events and business specials all around Greater Central Arkansas on the weekend of April 29 through Sunday, May 1 (5/01), as part of a celebration of all of the cities that fall within the area code - 501! Celebrate 501 DAY, in its second year, is the brainchild of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership who came up with the idea and reached out to other communities in the region. If you are part of a civic or community group, a nonprofit or a business, get creative and inspire neighbors to get out of the house. After a hugely successful first year, the possibilities are endless for the fun activities our Central Arkansas communities will come up with this year.

Some events already announced include: Keo in Lonoke County There will be a Community Clean-up event on April 30. Also,

the Keo Ladies Auxiliary Group is asking the community to donate $5.01 on that day to benefit the local fire department. Visit keoar.com.

Little Rock 501Fest in SoMa is a celebration of Little Rock and

surrounding areas that are included in the 501 area code. Thousands will gather for a day of festivities, food, fun, and entertainment for the entire family. For more information, visit: 501festival.com. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 1, SoMA District, 1301 Main The annual Home for Healing Golf Classic will be held at The Country Club of Arkansas Friday, April 29. There are men's and women's divisions, and the cost is $500 per team, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Home for Healing, a local nonprofit that provides free-of-cost lodging to cancer patients, parents of infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and family members with a loved one in ICU. Walkers from across Arkansas are welcome to participate in Be A Part of the Cure Walk. The 1- or 5K walk, will take place

in-person or virtually, rain or shine. Participants can enjoy live entertainment and food while learning about prevention, treatment and research programs provided by the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. 8 a.m., Saturday, April 30, War Memorial Stadium & Outdoor Course.

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Warmer temps and friendly neighbors beckon us outside, so let’s #celebrate501 together. Celebrate 501 Day April 29 through May 1! Opportunities can be found at celebrate501.com

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The toads are back in town The festival named like no other makes its triumphant return. Here comes Toad Suck Daze!

Tinkerfest on Oak St. offers a hands-on party for people who love to build, play and create.

The family-friendly festival has something for all ages: concerts, shopping, carnival rides, children’s activities, and of course, the World Championship Toad Races starring our amphibious friends. To top it off, admission is free!

Jam-packed with amusements large and small, the Midway and Children's Midway are where you'll find carnival rides, games of skill, and if you're lucky, a few prizes!

Find everything you need to know about this year's festival at toadsuck.org.

So,what does ‘Toad Suck’ mean, anyway? Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t high enough for travel, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern, to the dismay of the folks living nearby who said: “They suck on the bottle until they swell up like toads!” Hence the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze. Since 1982, the festival has been a springtime tradition. It began on the banks of the Arkansas River in a nearby township named “Toad Suck” before moving to downtown Conway 25 years ago. During the first weekend in May, more than 100,000 people gather downtown for Toad Suck Daze. Several festival-sanctioned events sponsored by local nonprofit organizations take place throughout the weekend, as well. Perhaps what is most significant about the festival is its commitment to education. In 1985, Toad Suck Daze awarded its first college scholarship. Since then, the festival has contributed more than $1.8 million to scholarships, scholarship endowments, and more recently, preschool funding. In addition, Toad Suck Daze contributes funds to support projects in downtown Conway.

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The Toadal Kids Zone is the place to be for all the fun stuff that kids love, as well as two stages that are packed with performances by magicians, dancers, clowns, and more. Meet the official mascots of Toad Suck Daze, siblings Croaker W. and Dazey Toad, along with favorite characters from PBS books and TV. Shoppers from all over will be hopping to the Toad Market with booths including: Pottery items, Face Painting, Handmade Jewelry, Cutting Boards, Hand Castings, Henna Tattoos, Handmade Soaps, Earth Luxe Products, Sterling Silver Name Charms, Sunglasses, Handmade Musical Instruments, Custom License Plates, Wickless Candles, Leather Items, Caricature Drawings and so much more. Once again experience, Performances on the Main Stage at the corner of Front and Main Streets. The Main Stage has hosted many great acts over the years, from country legends to pop superstars, hard rockers to worship leaders. The entertainment lineup will be posted on toadsuck.org closer to the festival. Organized by the Conway Fire Department, the Crawl, Drag & Squirt is an obstacle course that promotes fire safety. Elementary students across Faulkner County have participated in preliminary Crawl, Drag & Squirt competitions at their local schools. The course will open at 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Central Fire Station. This will be the 40th anniversary of the Toad Suck Daze Race for the Kiwanis Club of Conway, and this year’s race has been designated as a Championship Grand Prix Race by the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America). Today, the Run includes both a 10K and a 5K Run/Walk, a Wheelchair event and a Tadpole Trot for children aged 4-12. Don't miss Omelets with the Toad Master! from 8 to 11 a.m on Sunday, Proceeds fund programs for Milestones Services, a nonprofit. Buy tickets in advance at $10 for adults, $5 for children. Takeout options available. T-shirts are $10.



CRAIN HYUNDAI & CRAIN GENESIS OF CONWAY April 2022 501lifemag.com | 79

Faith in the Future Melody of Daryl Cox’s legacy lives on By Jodie Spears

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10

For Daryl Cox, faith was more than a word; it was how he lived his life. That’s why even today, 10 years after his death, Daryl’s legacy is one of hope, inspiration, and love for people he never even got a chance to meet. In early January 2012, Daryl suffered a stroke. After two weeks in the ICU, seven days on a neurology floor, and four weeks in rehab, Daryl went home. He was making progress and seemed to be recovering, but after suffering a second stroke in mid-March, he died in his wife’s arms. “I was looking at him, trying to get him to breathe normally,” said Teri Cox. “He said ‘OK, Lunny.’ That was his nickname for me, a combination of love and honey. He kept looking over my right shoulder. I believe he was seeing heaven open up behind me. And that’s when I knew he passed.” Cox said that moment wasn’t easy or peaceful, but it was beautiful. It’s also a perfect example of how faith was such a big part of both of their lives. The couple were well aware of the importance of organ donation and knew about the work of ARORA, Arkansas’ largest organ and tissue recovery agency that is headquartered in Little Rock. Cox’s sister was a kidney transplant recipient in 1999. Daryl was a registered donor and he impacted the lives of 80 people through tissue donation. “Teri is an amazing advocate for organ and tissue donation,” said Beth Cameron, manager of family aftercare at ARORA. “She has shared her journey as both recipient family member and donor family member with many audiences to help people understand the vital need for donation.” Yet, Daryl’s legacy was destined to get even bigger. Cox, who holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership,

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decided her husband’s love of music and his faith in God needed to be shared with even more people. She created Daryl’s Music Makers (DMM), a nonprofit organization that provides instruments, teachers, and all of the necessary supplies to help cultivate a lifelong love of music, education, and faith in underprivileged children across the world. “We received our nonprofit status from the State of Arkansas on Daryl’s birth date in 2013,” Cox said. “Our goal is to provide hope and a future through music and music education.” DMM works with schools, churches, and civic organizations who want to offer music to students. Annually, the program serves over 1,200 children with international programs in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Philippines, as well as summer music programs in the United States. During the COVID-19 pandemic, DMM pivoted from managing international programs to providing support to Arkansas schools. Pinnacle View Middle School, Little Rock Parkview, and Pulaski Academy are the three schools that received grants from DMM for PPE (personal protection equipment) that works with instruments during the pandemic. “What folks may not realize is that many public schools did not receive additional funds in their budget to provide PPE for their band students,” said Dixie Hardin, executive director of DMM. “Band directors were challenged to fundraise for the newly stipulated face and instrument masks, totaling an additional $2,000 to $3,000 per school. However, many fundraisers were also canceled due to COVID-19. During 2021, DMM provided PPE for approximately 300 band students in the greater Little Rock area.” One way the group is able to provide financial support is through their Battle of the Bands fundraiser. Seven bands participated in the event right before the pandemic hit. They hope to host another one this fall. Hardin said that, post-pandemic, they hope to return to investing in music camps and implementing programs overseas. "Our mission from day one until eternity is to impact the lives of children and families through the amazing gift of music,” said Cox. “Whether the numbers are small or large, it is deep and rich within the individuals and families we serve. I'm quite sure that would make Daryl smile, and I pray it makes Heaven smile."

You can make a difference. Learn more about organ donation. According to ARORA, there are 114,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list and 300 of them are in Arkansas. Every day, 22 people die waiting for an organ that isn’t available in time. Sixty-four percent of eligible Arkansans are registered as organ, tissue, and eye donors, but there is still a gap between the need and donation. The ARORA team works to educate and inspire more Arkansans to register to become donors. To learn more about ARORA or to register to become an organ, tissue, and eye donor, visit arora.org/ donatelife.

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Poet Kai Coggin

By Susan Peterson

Words are free and available to everyone. We all use them. But Kai Coggin makes her living arranging words until they convey a message beyond the ordinary. Kai is a poet. She strives to make the world a better place through her poetry, and she helps others use their voices to do the same. Kai was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and lived there for the first seven years of her life. Following her parents’ divorce, her Filipino mother moved Kai and her sister to Houston, Texas, as a single mom wanting her children to have better educational opportunities and chances. During her teenage years, Kai turned to writing poetry as a means of healing her emotions and understanding her identity, “Poetry was my friend, my confidant. It helped me to be my true and authentic self,” she said. Her love of poetry led to a Bachelor of Arts in poetry and creative writing from Texas A&M University. But after graduation, she didn’t know how to actually be a poet and found that a job teaching English in Houston was a better way to pay the bills. She received her emergency teaching certification and quickly was offered a position at Taylor High School in Alief Independent School District, the same district she attended. She taught passionately for five years and excelled as a teacher, using unconventional teaching methods, such as poetry drum circles and outdoor instruction, with her ninth- and 10th-grade students. She was named Teacher of the Year, then the district’s Secondary Teacher of the Year, and was a top five finalist for Regional Teacher of the Year out of 85,000 teachers. Poetry still lived in the back of her mind, waiting in her heart. After achieving the pinnacles of teaching at 28, the urban landscape and city life proved unfitting for her spirit, and a new adventure awaited. In 2012, Kai and her wife traded the hardscape of Houston for unending miles of green hills, fresh water, and a slower pace of life that they discovered in Hot Springs National Park. Kai’s work as a poet fully developed in her new mountainside residence. The new environment and beauty of the Natural State had a profound impact on her creativity. Poems poured out. She published her first poem in 2013. Seeing it in print motivated her to compile some of her best works and submit them to a manuscript contest through an independent publishing house in New Mexico. Hundreds of entries were submitted, and Kai won. And that’s how “Periscope Heart” (Swimming with Elephants, 2014) became Kai’s first full-length published poetry collection. Her second collection of poetry was published only two years later - “Wingspan” (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016), followed by “Incandescent” (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019), and her most recent, “Mining for Stardust” (Flowersong Press, 2021).

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In “Mining for Stardust,” Kai focuses on the collective experiences of the year 2020, alluding to racial strife, political turmoil, and the pandemic. But personal poems about nature and love also abound, giving us a sense of connection and optimism. The book is dedicated “to Joann, her wife and North Star, and to the more than 4.4 million lost in the pandemic.” On Wednesday nights, Kai can be found at Kollective Coffee + Tea in Hot Springs, where she is the current host of Wednesday Night Poetry (WNP), the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country. The show has a record of more than 1,730 consecutive weeks in a row, celebrating more than 33 years in February. Kai assumed the role of WNP host in 2019, when she was asked by founder Bud Kenny to “take it into the future.” She is proud of the fact that she continued holding the program virtually during the pandemic. The online show grew in popularity and attracted many of the country’s most prominent poets, including Joy Harjo, U.S. Poet Laureate. More than 4,000 poets from six continents around the world participated in Wednesday Night Poetry, which became a global community for love, warmth, and survival for likeminded wordsmiths. This rising star has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015 and Best of the Net 2016, 2018, and 2021. She received the 2021 Arts in Education Award, which is among the Governor's Arts Awards named by the Arkansas Arts Council. In addition to her collections, she has a spoken word album, “Silhouette” (2017), and her poems have been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and other publications. Kai also found a way to continue to teach, her other passion. She is employed as a teaching artist of poetry/ creative writing for the Arkansas Arts Council and Arkansas Learning Through the Arts, a post she has held for eight years. Through her creative artistry, she imparts the healing power of poetry, giving students a place to express their feelings and access their complex and ever-changing emotions. She has had a broad reach across the state, having worked with nearly 8,000 students. Kai’s books are available on Amazon and independent booksellers across the country. To contact her for appearances or to receive a personalized and signed copy of “Mining for Stardust,” visit kaicoggin.com.

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Energy Smart Homes By Beth Jimmerson


onway Corp’s Energy Smart program is one of the many ways we’re balancing increasing demands for electricity with our commitment to providing affordable rates while enhancing the quality of life for our friends and neighbors.

High-Performance/Low-E Windows – Energy-efficient windows employ advanced technologies such as protective coatings and improved frames to help keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer while blocking ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpet and furnishings.

We’re dedicated to making homes in Conway energyefficient, and that’s why we created the Energy Smart New Home Program to recognize builders who implement efficiency construction and equipment measures. Recognized builders adhere to stringent construction guidelines, and Energy Smart Homes are proven by the U.S. Department of Energy to be 20 to 30% more energy-efficient than a standard built home.

Tight Construction and Ducts – A tightly sealed home improves comfort and indoor air quality, while lowering utility and maintenance costs. At the same time, sealing holes and cracks in a home’s envelope and in the heating and cooling duct systems reduces drafts, moisture, dust, pollen, and noise.

Energy Smart Homes combine state-of-the-art energyefficient construction, windows, appliances, and lighting to reduce home energy use as cost-effectively as possible. Energy Smart Homes save energy and money, while being more comfortable and durable.

Energy-efficient, properly installed heating and cooling systems use less energy and save money. In addition, they’re quieter, reduce indoor humidity and improve the overall comfort of the home.

Homebuyers should consider the benefits of a Conway Corp Energy Smart Home when looking for a new home. Energy Smart Homes perform better for the homeowner and the environment thanks to a variety of features, including insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, and efficient heating and cooling equipment. All homes that receive the Energy Smart designation are independently audited by a Conway Corp energy professional to ensure proper construction and guidelines have been followed.

High-Efficiency Heating & Cooling Equipment –

High-Efficiency Lighting and Appliances – Energy Smart Homes are also equipped with Energy STAR qualified products like light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines that reduce overall energy use in the home.

Low-Flow Water Products – Products like low-flow shower heads and toilets conserve water and reduce utility costs.

Energy Smart Home Features

Energy Smart Home Benefits

Effective Insulation – Properly installed insulation in

Energy Savings – Not all homes are energy-efficient. Many

floors, walls, and attics ensure even temperatures throughout the house while reducing energy use.

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builders claim their homes are energy-efficient, but Energy Smart Builders have the certification to back it up.

Lower Ownership Cost – Compared

to standard-built homes, Energy Smart Homes use substantially less energy, and energy-efficient homes deliver $300 to $ 400 in annual savings on energy bills. Over the average seven to eight years a homeowner stays in a home, that adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills.

Comfort – Properly installed energyefficient improvements deliver better protection against cold, heat, drafts, moisture, pollution, and noise. Energy Smart Homes ensure consistent temperatures between and across rooms, improved indoor air quality and greater durability. Peace of Mind – Home buying is complex

enough without having to know all the details of energy-efficient construction. An Energy Smart Home easily identifies that it is truly energy-efficient.

Independent Testing – Every Energy Smart Home is certified by a Conway Corp energy professional to verify its energy performance and ensure it meets energyefficiency standards. Smart Investment – Today, everyone is

concerned about managing energy costs. Homebuyers who purchase an Energy Smart Home can be confident it will have highly-valued features when the time comes to sell.

Cindy Watson (from left), Tom Watson and Jennifer Butler receive the award from David Avra, Conway Corp Major Accounts and Energy Efficiency Manager.

Conway Corp is proud to work with local builders to ensure homebuyers have high-quality, energy-efficient options for homeowners in Conway. Our professionals work with more than 30 companies in the city, including Tom Watson Construction that was recently named Conway Corp’s 2021 Energy Smart Builder of the Year. The company built more than 14 Energy Smart Homes in 2021 that met the Energy Smart specifications and has built more than 50 recognized homes in the last three years. “Tom has been committed to building homes that meet or exceed Conway Corp’s Energy Smart New Home Program criteria since the program was developed in 2009,” Conway Corp Major Accounts and Energy Efficiency Manager David Avra said. “He and his wife, Cindy, along with office manager Jennifer Butler are a joy to work with and take great pride in providing their customers with an Energy Smart Home.” Look for the Energy Smart sign in front of Tom Watson Construction properties and other Conway builders for homes that are certified energy-efficient. Customers interested in learning more about Energy Smart homes or builders interested in building Energy Smart homes can call 501.450.6000 or visit ConwayCorp.com/EnergySmart.





4-23-2022 U W C A R K . O R G

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athletic excellence By Dr. Robert Reising

Van Buren County's

Tammy Hodges Johnson She is not parochial, definitely not. Her distinctive, multi-whammy credentials in three mutually enriching realms — the academic, the athletic, and the international — scream for respect. Over the decades, they have catapulted her to a variety of responsible positions, as well as to an abundance of impressive honors and awards, some in athletics, others in far different realms. Clearly, in the new millennium, Tammy Hodges Johnson would excel in any American educational setting.

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Born in Heber Springs in 1964, within a year she had moved with her family to Clinton. Success and enjoyment filled her childhood and adolescence, including her public-school education. In Grades 7 through 12, she was a member of the Homecoming Court, and in her final four years, she joined the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), the Beta and the Literary Clubs, and the yearbook staff, serving as its editor as a senior. Afternoons during her senior high school years found her in varsity athletics. The winner of 16 varsity letters, she was not only an All-District performer in tennis, track and softball but also one of the state’s best point guards in basketball, an All-District, AllRegion catalyst crucial to bringing the 1983 state championship to the city she had grown to love. Campus and community were both enveloped in unprecedented ecstasy and pride when — 39 years ago — Arkansas’s highest basketball honor fell to the Women’s Team of Clinton. The pandemonium and joy were slow to disappear; the pride remains. Later in the same spring, Tammy took the stage as president of her 1983 class, minutes before receiving an honors diploma. Awaiting her was a basketball scholarship at an Arkansas university. Yet, her baccalaureate plans did not include intercollegiate athletics. At the University of Central Arkansas, she preferred to give undivided attention to her studies. Enhanced if not launched by her FBLA experiences, she desired a tight focus on marketing, with a minor in health. She believed her future lay with understanding trade, commerce, job skills, leadership, and wellness. She knew participation in sorority life could enrich her people skills, and soon she qualified for membership in Alpha Sigma Alpha, nationally respected as Women of Pride and Purpose. She later served as its president.

Photo by Mike Kemp

It bothered Tammy little that, without a scholarship, she needed part-time employment to finance her study. She completed her Bachelor in Business with honors. More importantly, she was handsomely prepared for the future she sought. Tammy called upon every strength acquired in the positions she held during the almost one quarter of a century that followed. Responsibilities were weighty, miles countless. Directing marketing and human resources (HR) involving 5,000 Texaco Refining and Marketing/Star Enterprise employees, she initially divided her time for eight years among 10 sites scattered throughout Florida. The subsequent nine years took her back to Clinton and to Voles/Belden Wire and Cable, but with “extensive travel in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.” As HR manager for Autoliv in Madisonville, Kentucky, for five years, she again traveled extensively, adding Europe to the list.

daughter, she opted for self-employment as a business consultant before accepting a teaching/coaching post at her hometown high school and enrolling for evening study at her alma mater. Although unexpected, the new chapter as business and technology teacher and coach has proven to be as fulfilling and successful as the preceding one. By the end of 2011, she had earned teacher certification, as well as her Master in Education (with her highest GPA thus far, a perfect 4.0). Her competence and confidence are inspiring as head coach of tennis and assistant coach of women’s basketball. The longer she serves as the tennis coach, the better her teams perform, the boys as well as the girls. In 2018, the girls had advanced to Top 8 in the state’s singles; two years later, the boys had leaped to its Top 4.

Prestigious honors were inevitable. In 1990, 1992, and 1995, she was named Texaco Star Performer for her excellence in marketing and human resources, and in June of 2008, Autoliv designated her “one of its top HR employees” and provided her with special executive training in Stockholm, Sweden.

Hopes are high for the tennis program but no higher than for the team Tammy yearns to accompany one year soon to a AAA State Title. On both courts, she instills a host of principles from “the world of work.” She also applies those principles in her classroom, including learn how to lead and win; teams, NOT individuals, win; and competitive sports and competitive business mirror each other.

In 2010, however, tragedy intruded. Tammy lost her husband, Doug Johnson, her Clinton High School sweetheart whom she had wed in 1987. Widowed with an 8-year-old

In Tammy Hodges Johnson, Clinton and Van Buren County have an asset best described by one of her student athletes: “Awesome!”

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Blackberry Winter April cold means sweet fruit in June Story and photos by Linda Henderson


f you are Southern born, most likely you have heard the old expression, looks like a blackberry winter. What is a blackberry winter? Blackberry winter refers to a brief period of cold, wintery weather in the spring. April is the month most probable to be called a blackberry winter. It has earned this reputation because the attractive Arkansas spring can revert to a blustery winter at the drop of a hat. Fortunately, a brief period of frigid weather does not harm the blackberry blooms that are just popping out in mid-April to early May. Blackberries are indigenous to Arkansas. The berry would have been a source of sustenance to the early pioneers and to the native people who inhabited the state. Most Arkansans who are over 50 years of age likely have a story to tell about blackberries. Many of us remember grandma’s blackberry pie, jelly, jam, or cobbler. If they do not remember the good things that come from blackberries, they may recall memories of getting chigger bites or ticks while picking them along a county road. Some may have even come eye to eye with a snake while picking wild berries in a ditch bank. Others will have stories of being bloody and bruised from the thorns of wild bushes. Blackberries are perennial plants. They are easy to grow, and they produce an abundance of harvest in early to mid-June. If you want to grow them in your backyard, they will require trimming the “canes” that come up from the root system. If you do not keep them cut back, they do tend to take over the space in which they are planted. A great investment would be the plants developed by the University of Arkansas. They have cultivated thornless versions of the blackberry plant. Not only are there no prickly thorns to deal with, but the berries are much larger and sweeter than the wild variety. In 2019, my husband and I planted eight blackberry vines in our backyard. We planted them in the fall, and by the next spring we were blessed with a bountiful amount of the sweet, luscious fruit.

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Blackberry blossom

I love blackberry jam and cobbler, but my favorite way to eat blackberries is my Grandma Hoggard’s blackberry dumplings. It has been one of my favorites since childhood. I can remember my grandma making blackberry dumplings with wild blackberries we had picked from the roadside or from around the edge of their farmland. Blackberry dumplings are made simply by adding water and sugar to a pot of blackberries. Cook the berries until they give up their juice and pulp. Strain the berries using a sieve or cheesecloth. After the berries are juiced, discard the seeds and remaining pulp. Pour the juice into a pot, and bring it to boil on the stove. Cut refrigerated, canned biscuits into four pieces and drop them into the boiling juice. Cook for about five minutes, or until the biscuit dough is no longer raw. Serve warm with ice cream. Picking or planting blackberries is always worth the effort. If you choose to pick wild berries, be sure to wear long sleeves, jeans, and boots. Remember to tuck your jeans into your boots, and spray your clothes with bug spray. Be careful of the brambles and critters that might be living in the bushes, and remember if we have a blackberry winter in April, then the berries will be sweeter in June.

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Greetings of Hope

Messages of Faith

Sheila Franklin and Mike Altland are Arkansas Foster Child Birthday Card Program volunteers from the Conway Morning Rotary Club. They prepare birthday cards at The CALL offices in Conway and Faulkner Counties.

Conway's Mike Altland creates Arkansas Foster Child Birthday Card Program By Rita Halter Thomas


ew things touch the heart and lift the spirit quite like receiving a personal note, card, or letter in the mail. Something about the effort says someone cares, even if the message contains goofy humor. Someone remembers and cares. That’s the message Mike Altland of Conway wants to send to the state’s foster care children. Inspired by a daily devotional published by “Our Daily Bread,” Altland thought foster children would find encouragement receiving a birthday card in the mail. The devotional cited decades-old research from Dr. Jerry Motto stating a simple “caring letter” reduced the rate of suicide by patients who had previously attempted suicide. It further pointed out “twenty-one ‘books’ of the Bible are actually letters (epistles) caringly written to first-century believers who struggled for a variety of reasons” to encourage

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them in difficult times. Inspired by this message and affirmed by Bible verse James 1:27, Altland felt God’s call to put feet to his faith and take action. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV) Altland, recently retired from the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), had worked indirectly with the Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and understood enough of the inner workings of the department to pitch the idea. “I approached Mischa Martin, the director of DCFS, and gained her initial approval. The linchpin was finding a source

coordinator of the CALL for Conway and Faulkner counties, who allows the program to administer the card processing from their office. Cousins Office Furniture in Conway stepped up to donate a lateral file cabinet that holds an immediate supply of cards and envelopes with the remaining stock stored at the Conway Human Development Center. Volunteers from the Conway Morning Rotary Club and the Central Arkansas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) staff send the cards each month. “All of our volunteers who administratively work on the project are vetted by DCFS,” Altland said of maintaining security and protecting the privacy of the children. “The envelopes never contain the child’s full name, only something like ‘Happy Birthday, Jill,’ and then sent to the foster parents’ address.” Chad Jobe (from left), Sarah Murphy, superintendent of the Conway Human Development Center (CHDC) and Kathy Guffey. The CHDC staff is bulk storing the birthday cards and envelopes.

There are about 12 volunteers who work the process, and it takes two or three people about four to five hours to process the cards each month, but the work doesn’t stop there.

for suitable cards and envelopes,” Altland said.

“We pray over each batch of cards,” Altland said, emphasizing that as a critical part of the preparation process. “We intentionally pray over these kids, their families, and their foster families.”

American Greetings has a presence in Osceola in Northeast Arkansas, so Altland reached out to David Oaks, the company’s regional human resources manager.

The first batch of cards was mailed in January, and in three months the birthday card program has sent more than 700 cards, averaging about 230 cards each month.

“American Greetings agreed to provide a supply of cards and envelopes for boys and girls ages 4–21,” Altland said. “This ensures, as long as children remain in foster care, they will receive a unique age- and gender-appropriate card on their birthday.”

Currently, the program doesn’t require additional resources or funding, but people can still be involved by keeping the Arkansas Foster Care Birthday Card program and the state’s foster children and families covered in prayer.

Having the support of American Greetings solidified the creation of the Arkansas Foster Child Birthday Card Program. However, establishing the logistics required all the right partners. Altland reached out to Louise Witcher,

Other ways to become involved and support foster children can be found at: thecallinarkansas.org, walkforthewaiting.org, and arkansascasa.net.

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April 2022 501lifemag.com | 91

BELL TAKES OFF promises not to fly too far away “It’s home and always will be.” - Jack Bell By Tammy Keith


ack Bell’s longtime service to his hometown of Conway had its lows, such as tracking down a missing 54-foot Christmas tree, but he ended it on a high as director of the airport. “I really do love it out here,” Bell said. The 69-year-old said he held off until Feb. 28 to retire from the Conway Regional Airport at Cantrell Field because he wanted to see two major projects completed, the construction of 12 T-hangars and of a maintenance/avionics facility. “Those two projects are huge, and I wanted to see them through,” he said. The airport opened in 2014, and Bell was involved from its inception. Bell’s trajectory with the city began 41 years ago when he was elected to the Conway City Council. He was then a school psychologist for the Conway School District, a career path he credited to the Lord. “It worked out great,” he said. Bell served under four mayors and for a total of 23 1/2 years on the council, often dealing with hot-button topics. His personality was a strength in that position. “As a psychologist, you learn to listen,” Bell said. When Bell decided in 2008 it was time for a career change after 31 years in education, he mentioned it while socializing with then-Mayor Tab Townsell. Townsell offered Bell a job on the spot. “Knowing everyone in city government and in the city’s political, economic and social networks? Generally one of the best-liked guys in town, and no known enemies. Just a good dude. This was a no-brainer,” Townsell said.

vacancy. Castleberry said complaints from pilots stopped within three days of Bell taking over. “Jack just has a real skill in working with people,” Castleberry said. “He doesn’t easily anger, and he’s just really good at listening to both sides and coming up with a solution. He always puts Conway first and has always done a tremendous job.” Bell was involved in the creation of the Boys & Girls Club of Faulkner County and served as the founding board president. He was also involved in the new baseball and softball parks, which included building the Faulkner County Fairgrounds and Expo Center. He listed his favorite accomplishments as the historic Springfield-Des Arc Bridge being refurbished and relocated to Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway; the Toad Suck Ferry being returned from Bull Shoals Lake to Faulkner County; and the purchase in 2013 of the 54-foot artificial Conway Christmas tree, which is erected each year in downtown Conway. “Those three things I’m going to look back on with pride,” Bell said. One year, though, all was not merry and bright with the Christmas tree. The lights stopped working, and the tree was sent back to the company in Springdale for repairs. Then the company closed, leaving the city treeless and clueless. Bell and Steve Ibbotson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, tracked down the tree, which was in an unlocked trailer on the defunct company’s parking lot. The men arranged for it to be returned to Conway, where it is now annually displayed at Christmas in Rogers Plaza Town Center. “I’m still proud of that tree,” he said, adding that Rogers Plaza also is “a huge source of pride.”

Bell became chief of staff, and Townsell said there was nothing Bell couldn’t handle. “He was literally my Jack-ofall-trades,” Townsell said. After the death of a City of Conway Department of Sanitation director, Townsell tapped Bell as interim director.

“We’ve had many people propose in front of the tree, take their family Christmas pictures in front of it. It’s been good. I think we’re still the tallest Christmas tree in Arkansas. Now we have a whole little festival around it with a Ferris wheel and all that,” Bell said.

“I really enjoyed that; there are great people out there,” Bell said. “Everything ran smoothly; I just kept it status quo. We were able to find Joe Hopper, and he has done an awesome job,” Bell said of the current director.

Bell said goodbye to the airport job, but not the city. He is a familiar face on nonprofit boards and in the Kiwanis Club. He and his wife, Ginny, plan to spend time with their grandchildren and travel the world, but Conway is their favorite landing place.

Bell was Mayor Bart Castleberry’s chief of staff until, in August of 2020, he asked Bell to fill the airport director

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“It’s home and always will be,” he said.

Photo by Mike Kemp

Ginny (from left), Lauren, Savannah, Jack, Lucas and Jeremy Bell.

501 LIFE



Scarbrough Sr. stands among statues of the Little Rock Nine Memorial at the State Capitol.


I recently celebrated 18 years of marriage to the lovely Angela Scarbrough. We share three children, DuShun Jr., Kennedy, and Braxton Scarbrough.


Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Master of Business Administration from Webster University in Orlando, Fla., and a Master of Counselor Education degree from Florida A&M University, Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Class of 2011 recipient of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Driving Government Performance and Class of 2014 recipient of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Leaders of the 21st Century Certification, member of the Delta Regional Authority Leadership class of 2013.


Executive Director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.


2012, 2014 nominee, 2015 finalist for Arkansas State Employee of the Year; 2017 Silent Hero finalist, National Award for Government Employees; 2018 Drum Major for Leadership Award, U.S. Department of Education; “Best Dad” Award from Children. I currently serve on several boards whose objectives and missions are to improve the lives of young people. I have varied experience in organizational management and capacity building, leadership, and promoting diversity. I also lead internal contract and expense audits and organize extensive financial reports into concise overviews to present to the Legislative Audit. My strategic recommendations have been praised as "a vital component of the agency’s fiscal health."


Dr. King spent his final months planning to launch a Poor People’s Campaign to address economic disparities. That inspired me to target the needs of economically disadvantaged communities. We hosted food giveaways during the holiday season. When we talk about service and Dr. King, we want to make sure that we are also working to serve the basic needs of individuals, which may be merely a meal or access to health care. The

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Commission provided free vaccine clinics for the unsheltered population in downtown Little Rock and in Dumas (Desha County). Our work is important because it is demonstrative of taking steps toward change. At some point, like Dr. King preached in his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, we must put the future in perspective and think about the type of world our children will live in. Since 2012, under my leadership, the commission has initiated and garnered the participation of Arkansans from across the state to assist in healing race relations in Harrison. It’s important that Arkansas is reflected as a welcoming state for economic development.


One focal point is to address violence within the city of Little Rock and other cities throughout the state that have experienced an uptick. These concerns will be addressed through educational outreach in the impacted communities.


I believe that my vision and work is God-ordained, and I’m on an assignment. The golden rule of being blessed is that you must pass it on. Dr. King’s life and teachings focused on serving others. He believed that you could never be fully fulfilled without a life of service. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is a nonpartisan agency that aligns with the mission and vision of the governor of Arkansas. Under my leadership, we host the largest day of service in the nation honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King. We have been lauded by Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. King, and Coretta Scott King as the most active Commission. We’ve been asked to use our knowledge and expertise in assisting other commissions across the nation in becoming sustainable and active. The commission also sponsors the King license plate, making Arkansas one of five states in the nation to have a plate dedicated to the late civil rights leader and nonviolence champion.

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