August 2020

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Celebrating Greater Central Arkansas August 2020

Liberty and justice for all.

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Call Vickey Kirkemier for more information.

501-585-6800 625 Tommy Lewis Drive Conway, AR 72032

Whatever your circumstances this season



here for you As we navigate this unprecedented season together, our physicians encourage the community to continue to seek medical treatment when needed. Our hospitals and clinics practice elevated safety for the health and well-being of patients and staff at all locations. It is safe to schedule regular appointments and seek emergency care. We continue to

fight for our community and will always be here for you.

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501 LIFE


OWNERS Donna Spears, Sonja J. Keith OFFICE MANAGER Tracey Wilkinson EDITOR Sonja J. Keith


ART DIRECTORS Jennifer Godwin and Nick Walker ASSOCIATE EDITOR Levi Gilbert



DISTRIBUTION MANAGER Tom Keith CONTRIBUTORS Donna Benton Don Bingham Kellie Bishop Adam Bledsoe Tanner Cangelosi Brittany Gilbert Laurie Green Linda Henderson Vivian Hogue Karl Lenser Mark McDonald Mark Oliver

Kiera Oluokun Todd Owens Bill Patterson John Patton Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Robin Richards Jan Spann Donna Lampkin Stephens Callie Sterling Jaison Sterling Megan Stroud

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

Preston, a son of Paulette and Jeremy Higginbotham of Greenbrier, is “Loving LIFE” with the family pet, Ticket. 501 LIFE is inviting readers to send in similar photos with their pet and a copy of 501 LIFE for a future edition of the magazine. Photos and information can be emailed to or dropped off at the magazine office at 701 Chestnut St.

‘Celebrating education in the 501’ Education and the idea of “back to school” have been on the minds of many in the 501 and beyond as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to roll on. This time last year, we couldn’t even begin to imagine that the spring semester would end the way it did with schools closed and lessons delivered online or by another alternative method of instruction. Homework took on a whole new meaning on an entirely different level than what many were accustomed. In addition, for some, home also became the “office” for remote working as businesses and offices closed in an effort to help curb the spread of this dreadful virus. As we approach our press deadline, plans are still being formulated and conversations are taking place about going back to school. Most argue that in-person instruction is the best for students and 4 | 501 LIFE August 2020

teachers, but no one is sure what that looks like to ensure the health and safety of all involved. Instead of the excitement of new school clothes and school supplies, it is understandable that students, parents and educators have serious reservations as the scheduled first day of school approaches. We do, too. What we’ve learned since March, when the first cases were reported, is that there is a lot we don’t know. However, we do know that we are extremely blessed in the 501 with talented, dedicated educators (Pre-K through college and homeschool) who are rising to the occasion to provide a positive learning environment in the most difficult of circumstances. This month, 501 LIFE celebrates educators and school staff. We are proud to recognize and honor them with this month’s edition. Until next time, here’s to “Loving LIFE.” Please stay safe.

Julie LaRue Karl Lenser Lori Melton Kiera Oluokun Deanna Ott Pat Otto Jon Patrom Amy Reed Lori Ross Margaret Smith Jan Spann Kim Tyler 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

Hannah Owens Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon

To subscribe or order back issues, visit The subscription rate is $20 for one year (12 issues). 501 Advertising and Publishing 701 Chestnut St. Conway, Ark. 72032 501.327.1501 501 LIFE is published monthly by 501 Advertising and Publishing (701 Chestnut St., Conway, Ark. 72032, 501.327.1501). 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. 501 LIFE is produced on recycled paper.

August 2020


August 2020

Volume 13 Issue 4


Liberty and justice for all.

22 Guest column


University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis shares how the university was in year three of a campuswide effort to maximize the UCA budget when the pandemic hit.

On the cover

This month, 501 LIFE is “Celebrating education” with a cover story (Pages 32-35) that features comments from local educators and students on the COVID-19 health crisis: Blake Tyson (top, from left), Shawn Halbrook, Jordan Starkey, Johnny Key; Sydney Hawkins (middle); Brian Lum (bottom), Gary McAllister, Lance Nail and Yolanda Rhine. (Jeremy Higginbotham design)

24 Feature

C.J. Tanner remembers “The Big Tree” and a relic of childhood for Perry County students.

64 Pet

Methodist Family Health has initiated a special project to give individuals an opportunity to share their furry friends with others.

Lessons Learned neighbors 18 Couples

Gena and Tim Ester are loving life and their family in Conway, where they are both active in the Pine Street Backpack Program.

20 Youth

Matthew Shofner is pursuing his dreams at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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26 Morrilton

Conway County’s Mary Newsome is the poster child for education — and being a good neighbor and citizen.


28 Bryant/Conway

Two Central Arkansas teachers were among five state finalists for the 2020 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year.

66 Person of the month

501 LIFE celebrates Judy Hutchison, who recently retired after more than 40 years of service in the South Conway County School District.

64 '501 KIDS' 501 LIFE contributors Kellie Bishop and Brittany Gilbert have great tips in this month’s issue. Have a story idea or a young person you would like to see featured? Send suggestions to

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Editor’s Note Calendar Loving LIFE Home Person of the month

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

501 LIFE is you! /501lifemag

A Arkansas Dental Centers, 57

B /501lifemag

Bledsoe Chiropractic, 55

C Conway Corporation, 21 Conway Regional Health System, 67 Conway Regional Rehab, 49

D DJM Orthodontics, 54

E Edward Jones, 23 EL Clinical Esthetics, 55 English Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Center, 47

F 501 LIFE, 46 First Community Bank, 35 First Security Bank, 68 First Service Bank, 13 Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling Inc., 19

G Glenrock Apartments, 29

Get “LIFE” at home! For a limited time, 501 LIFE is offering a special subscription rate for new subscribers - have the magazine delivered to your home for only $20 for one year, $40 for two years. While the magazine is distributed through more than 700 locations in Central Arkansas, copies go fast. Home delivery ensures readers they won’t miss a single issue. Readers can visit or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.

Writers’ Room

H Hartman Animal Hospital, 65 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 25 Heritage Living Center, 5 Hiegel Supply, 43

J Julie’s Sweet Shoppe, 59

M MSC Eye Associates, 37 Methodist Family Health, 53 Middleton Heat & Air, 45

N 911 Restoration, 41

O Ott Insurance, 17

P Patterson Eye Care, 59 Pulaski County Special School District, 51

S Salem Place Nursing and Rehab, 39 Shelter Insurance, 43 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 15 Superior Nursing & Rehab, 2

U Unity Health, 3 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 27 University of Central Arkansas, 31

Tune in at 12:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month to KARK Channel 4 for a segment on the current issue of 501 LIFE.

Vivian Lawson Hogue is among the rare “native” segment of pre-mid-20th century Conway residents still living where she was born in 1943. A graduate of Conway High School, Vivian attended Hendrix College for two years and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor of science in education degree in art education. Vivian writes a regular column for 501 LIFE, oftentimes with an historical perspective. “Writing just slipped into my life by a happy accident.” To contact Vivian, email vhogue@

Donna Benton has lived in Greenbrier for nearly 25 years. She enjoys most the small town culture and community in the 501. “But most of all, my friends and family are here and that is what makes it home!” Most people probably don’t know that Donna was a rock climber, whitewater kayaker and a backpacking guide. To contact Donna, email donna@waterhousemarket. com. Check out her blog on and follow her on Instagram @ waterhousemarket and Facebook at WaterHouse Market.

Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has called the 501 his home for 47 years. “I enjoy most the people of the 501 – their heart and passion for life and for each other.” A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Don has a bachelor’s degree in communications and is a certified chef. He and his wife, Nancy, have five married children and 12 grandchildren. His interests include music, interior design and event planning. He can be reached at

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16 17 18 19 2 0 21 22 23 24 25 26 2 7 28 29 30 31 Renewal Ranch will host its annual Rally for Recovery on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the ministry’s Restoration Center on campus in Perry County. The event will include a dinner and feature testimonies of residents and graduates. The cost is $500 for a table of eight. Renewal Ranch is a faith-based and Christ-centered program for men 21 years of age and older who are struggling with substance abuse issues. Although the exact duration for each man is based on his personal spiritual growth, residents go through three phases during the program, including Phase 1, Transition Phase and Phase 2. During this time, residents will be given an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For more information, visit or email Bryce McGhee at marketing@renewalranch. net.

CANCELLED Another sporting event in the 501 has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers of the annual Toad Suck Daze Run announced June 30 via Facebook that this year’s event

This year’s Daffodil Daze Art Contest, sponsored by Conway Regional Health System, First Security Bank and 501 LIFE, was cancelled, but a few budding artists still submitted their work. Conway Junior High student Cora Mattson created “Pigtails, overalls and daffodils� for the contest, which is presented by the Daffodil Daze Committee, a group of volunteers who work to plant the springtime flowers along the trails in Conway. Organizers hope to resume the contest next year. won’t happen. Traditionally held in early May in conjunction with the annual Toad Suck Daze festival, the race has raised more than $400,000 for non-profit organizations since its inception. “Thank you for your patience with us as we’ve delayed an announcement to reschedule the 2020 Kiwanis Toad Suck Daze Run, presented by Conway Regional Health System,� stated the Facebook post. “We have been monitoring the situation closely, with our main priority the safety and well-being of the runners and their family and friends there at the race cheering them on. While our hopes are that in the months ahead we see a serious decline in

COVID-19 cases and large gatherings become more common, such as races, we have decided to cancel the 2020 Kiwanis Toad Suck Daze Run.â€? The Toad Suck 10K was started by the Conway Kiwanis Club in 1982 and held in conjunction with the Toad Suck Daze Festival. In 1984, First National Bank of Conway (now Regions) began a race in memory of a fellow employee, Randy Baker, who died of cancer. In 1986, the Conway Kiwanis Club approached Regions Bank, and the two races were combined. The Toad Suck Daze Run continues to be held in memory of Randy Baker. Organizers plan to resume the event in 2021. For more details visit

Conway Corp presents athletic scholarships Conway Corp recently presented four Conway High School seniors with $500 scholarships for their performance in the classroom and in their individual competitive arenas. Adrienne Robinson was named the Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. She is a four-year letter winner in swim and finished with a GPA of 4.537. Robinson will attend the University of Alabama. Ethan Marotte, a four-year letterman in swim, finished his high school career with a GPA of 4.4314 and was named the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. Marotte will attend Swarthmore College. Sara Holman was selected by Conway High coaches as the Ruth Doyle Award winner as the outstanding female athlete. She earned letters in track, cross country and swim each year of her four-year high school career. In track and cross 8 | 501 LIFE August 2020

country, she earned multiple all conference and all state selections. She will compete in both sports collegiately for the University of Central Arkansas. The outstanding male athlete of the year, the Frank E. Robins Award, was presented to Reed Hughes following a vote of coaches at Conway

High. He is a three-year letterman on both the Wampus Cat football and baseball teams. In football, he was twice selected all conference and all state and in his senior season led the state in tackles. He will be continuing his career in football at Auburn University. Reed was named a member of the 2019 edition of the 501 Football Team. “Promoting education has been important to Conway Corp since the beginning of our company,� said Conway Corp CEO Bret Carroll. “We are proud of the academic achievements of these students and are pleased to provide scholarships to help further their education.� Conway Corp has been providing scholarships to Wampus Cat senior student-athletes since 2001 and has awarded more than $25,000.


‘Stay at Home Bazaar’ successful The 2020 edition of the Sacred Heart Bazaar may not have included a gym and parking lot full of people, but it did include a sense of community, coming together for a meaningful purpose and a lot of money raised for the school. In lieu of the usual large dinner and midway event, organizers elected to host a virtual bazaar – coined as the “Stay at Home Bazaar.” Held the week the bazaar would normally occur – June 1-5 – event committee members asked parents, alumni, parishioners and community supporters to consider what they would normally have donated or spent at the bazaar and to instead make a tax-deductible donation in that amount. Families were encouraged to think about all they would have spent in donations toward the purchase of raffle prizes, buying bingo prizes or baking pies, providing or buying silent auction items, and paying for dinners and games, and to make their donation accordingly. “As is typical of our school family and our community, our people certainly showed up for us, albeit virtually,” said Director of Development Alisha Koonce. The committee set a goal to raise at least $80,000 – a conservative expectation $35,000 less than the usual net revenue for the event, in respect to the uncertain economic climate. The school raised more than $148,000, far exceeding the goal and the amount raised in past years. “To say we are elated is an understatement,” said

Koonce. “Like all schools and businesses, we face an uncertain school year. We rely on fundraisers and donations for nearly 50 percent of our budget and at this point, we don’t know which, if any, we will be able to host this year. This gives us a little cushion going into the school year.” The school board recently released the following statement to parents: “We have made adjustments to our budget, realizing that some fundraisers will not be able to proceed this school year, and we were still able to balance the budget with no adverse

consequences to our school. We have also received financial support through the CARES Act. We are in good financial shape and the incredible support for the ‘Stay at Home Bazaar’ only strengthened our position.” More than 500 gifts were made to the virtual bazaar by people locally, but also from all across the country. “I was so encouraged to see donations that came from people who were not even in our mailing list – people who heard about or saw it online, who may have normally attended and so instead they sent in a gift,” said Koonce. However, the school does not anticipate making this an annual tradition. “We expect and hope to be serving spaghetti, calling bingo, auctioning and raffling items, and enjoying the fellowship of our community again next year,” Koonce added. Principal Buddy Greeson was appreciative of the support. “It is with great humility and amazement that I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for the immense success of our ‘Stay at Home Bazaar.’ Nothing humbles a person more than witnessing the work of the Holy Spirit through the actions of others,” he said. “For the generosity of each and every person who contributed to make this bazaar such a great success, I want to deeply thank you.” Sacred Heart is looking forward to a successful school year and appreciates all those who supported the event. More information about the school and bazaar is available at

St. Joseph Bazaar cancelled, raffle in the works The St. Joseph Bazaar – a summertime tradition in the 501 – has been added to the list of events that have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 health crisis. This would have been the 108th annual event. It typically includes box lunches, a spaghetti dinner, a midway, a raffle, a silent auction, games and carnival food. In addition, raffle tickets are typically sold for a chance to win a vehicle and other prizes. “We are sad to announce that we are unable to have the 2020 St. Joseph Bazaar on the first weekend of August because of the current pandemic,” stated a release posted on the St. Joseph page on Facebook. “As you know, our Bazaar is a wonderful opportunity for St. Joseph families to come together and build relationships while raising money to offset operational costs of the school as well as reduce tuition costs.” Last year, the Bazaar raised $115,000 for the school. “St. Joseph Parish has a long history of supporting Catholic education, and the Bazaar is no exception,” said Austin Beam, a 1999 graduate of St. Joseph School and chairman of the Bazaar committee. “Just like the last 107 years, Bazaar proceeds ensure that the children of the parish and school have everything that is needed for an exceptional Catholic education.” Austin, who also serves on the St. Joseph School

Workers at the Country Store during the 2019 edition of the St. Joseph Bazaar were “Loving LIFE”: Carl Schluterman (from left), Olivia Williams, Whitnee Mendenhall, Amy Schichtl, Tommy Hiegel, Brian and Pam Cossey, Cash Schichtl and Quinten Motto. Board, said the event has evolved over the years since its inception in 1912. “This year, there is more of a need than ever before to evolve. Although the in-person fellowship aspect may not be possible, the core mission, rooted in an exceptional Catholic education, remains as strong as ever.”

The committee has purchased a 2019 Ford Ranger Truck and is moving forward with plans to sell raffle tickets once school resumes. Members hope to have the drawing at an event this fall. For more information, visit or the St. Joseph School page on Facebook. August 2020 | 9




Sharing the 501 LIFE spirit

501 readers are enjoying LIFE and sharing their trips and special occasions with others. Headed out on a special trip? 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. Have a special occasion or get-together coming up? Take 501 LIFE along, take a photo and send it to us. Photos can be submitted by email to or by mail to Reader Photos, c/o 501 LIFE, 701 Chestnut St., Conway, Ark. 72032. Please include the names of those in the photograph and their hometowns along with contact information. (Sorry, photos will not be returned by mail but can be picked up at the 501 office.) Here’s to “Loving LIFE.� – Sonja Keith

Josh Carolina and Kayla Ammons of Conway were “Loving LIFE� and cheering on the Tarheels during a trip early this year to the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Tarheels defeated the Miami Hurricanes, 94-71.

“Loving LIFE� on a family trip in 2019 that included a stop at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.: Stan (from left) and Mary Clinesmith with Tom and Sonja Keith.

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Marsha and Gary Wallace of Greenbrier took 501 LIFE along on a trip to Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores, Ala., earlier this year.

Esther KershnerMitchell took 501 LIFE along on a trip earlier this year to visit her son and granddaughters in Cairo, Egypt. Esther and her family took a side trip to Paris, where she was photographed with the magazine and her two grandbabies – Samantha (middle) and Lillie – in front of the Eiffel Tower. The two are named for Esther’s parents, Sam and Lillie.

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‘Loving LIFE’ and seniors Centers continue to help clients by Sonja J. Keith

Senior centers throughout the state are closed for now because of the pandemic, but some employees in the 501 are reaching out to clients in creative ways to show them they care. Debra Robinson, executive director of the Faulkner County Council on Aging Inc., said the centers closed March 16 as a preventative measure to help protect seniors. Transportation for seniors who have ongoing dialysis and cancer treatments is still provided, but center activities – like exercise classes and the Friday night dance – have been suspended until state officials consider it safe for the seniors to return. In the meantime, employees at the Ola and John Hawks Senior Wellness and Activity Center in Conway are making about 75 calls each week to check in with seniors. Debra said many of those who are called talk about how much they miss the center. “They also call us,� she said, adding that a common question is “When are we going to get to dance again?� or “When will we open up again?� In addition to the calls, Sherri Lachowsky, health and wellness coordinator at the center, has created a walking group that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Don Owen Sports Complex. She has also conducted virtual exercise classes via Facebook to help keep seniors active. Debra said with the help of University of Central Arkansas students, the senior program offered Zoom video conference training via Facebook and held a virtual trivia contest. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, seniors can drive through at the centers in Conway, Vilonia and Greenbrier to get a meal. In Conway, about 55 meals are served each day. In Vilonia and Greenbrier, about 30 meals are distributed. “We are particularly doing that for the people who would normally come to the center for lunch,� said Debra. (For more information, including how to register, visit Facebook. com/fcSeniorsAR.) In addition to the meal, the lunch program gives the seniors something to do as well as provides an opportunity for the center employees to visit with them. Debra said some of the seniors have said even if they didn’t get a meal, it would be nice to have an opportunity to say hi to the staff. “I get so excited on Monday, Wednesday and

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Workers at the Ola and John Hawks Senior Wellness and Activity Center in Conway were “Loving LIFE� as they prepared to hand out meals: kitchen manager Rick Battisto (from left), kitchen employee Velma Davie, director Debra Robinson, health and wellness coordinator Sherri Lachowsky and board member and volunteer James McAlister. Friday,� Debra said about the drive-thru meal program and the opportunity to let the seniors know how much the center workers care for them. “It’s the highlight of my day and I want it to be the highlight of their day.� The drive-thru meals are in addition to the center’s ongoing Meals on Wheels Program. Participants receive hot meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and frozen meals on Tuesday and Thursday. The Faulkner County centers provide almost 2,100 meals weekly through the Meals on Wheels Program and the drive-thru lunch program. Debra said the clients have really missed the socialization that the center provides, but with a little bit of creativity they have managed to maintain some activities. For example, the line dance group meets

once a week at an outdoor pavilion at a local park. “They’ve been creative on their own,� Debra said. “They do miss it so much.� Financially, the centers are managing and able to keep their employees, thanks to federal assistance. Debra said the center has also received donations – which are always accepted and appreciated – for the home-delivered meal program. “That’s helped out a lot while we have been shut down.� Like the seniors, Debra looks forward to the day that the center will reopen. She shared that one of the seniors commented, “I will never, ever take this place for granted again.� For more information on the senior centers in Faulkner County, call 501.327.2895 or visit or Updates will be posted on Facebook and on the website.


We are proud of our flag and the freedom for which it stands. We display the American flag as an icon at each of our locations to symbolize our patriotism and to show respect for our active military and veterans who fight for our freedom.

We are... CONWAY | 501.932.5050 | CONWAY | 501-932-9700 CLINTON | 501.745.7200 | GREENBRIER | 501.679.7300 | LITTLE ROCK | 501.801.7402



Renewal Ranch hosts Kyle Allison Golf Classic

Members of Kyle Allison’s family (front) with golfers participating in the tournament. The Second Annual Kyle Allison Golf Classic, benefitting Renewal Ranch, was held June 29 at the Conway Country Club. “The tournament went great,� said Bryce McGhee, director of marketing and fundraising at the Ranch. “We were very pleased with the turnout and were able to raise $24,000. It did rain out two teams but the rest powered through and finished!�

Winners were: First place – Don Chandler’s team, with Frank Shaw, Clay Lamey and Mike Alred. Second place – Chad Stephenson’s team, with Ed Stephenson, Ron Branscum and Dan Barden. Third place – Ryan Long’s team, with Randy Long, Michael Long and Rob Westerman. All proceeds benefit the ongoing operations and special projects at Renewal Ranch, a faith-based and Christ-centered program for men 21 years of age and older who are struggling with substance abuse issues. Although the exact duration for each man is based on his personal spiritual growth, residents go through three phases during the program, including Phase 1, Transition Phase and Phase 2. During this time, residents will be given an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this relationship, they can find freedom from the chains of addiction, forgiveness from their past and hope for their future. The Renewal Ranch Golf Classic was renamed in 2019 in memory of Kyle Allison, who went to be with his Savior in July 2018 after touching many 14 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Bryce McGhee (from left), Kelly Holt, Kim Hull, Debbie Allison, Kalyn Evans and James Loy. Frank Shaw (from left), Clay Lamey, Mike Alred and Don Chandler. lives with his story. The son of the late Walter Allison and Debbie Allison, Kyle was a lifelong Conway resident. His love for Renewal Ranch was evidenced by his tireless efforts to support and promote the ministry through his marketing and fund-raising position. Kyle was devoted to the staff and men at the Ranch, but his greatest love was for his Lord and Savior, which he was quick to share with others. The Renewal Ranch Golf Classic was Kyle’s favorite event. “We are grateful for the generosity of so many and want to thank Debbie Allison for allowing us to honor her son’s memory with this event,� Bryce said. “Thank you to all that played and made this day possible!� For more information, visit or email Bryce at

Renewal Ranch Executive Director James Loy (left) and Mike Lefler.



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501 LIFE asked Conway Regional Health System President and CEO Matt Troup a series of questions pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. When did COVID-19 hit your radar at Conway Regional? What preparations were made in the past in anticipation of a pandemic?


At Conway Regional, we have a disaster preparedness plan in place to guide our processes during times such as this. The scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented, but we prepare diligently for these situations so that our team is able to act effectively. We closely monitored COVID-19 and implemented many of our protocols very quickly, and I’m proud of our team’s adaptability, willingness to serve and passion for protecting our community.

What physical changes took place beginning early March? We have been the community’s hospital for nearly 100 years, and we are committed to be a trusted resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team has stepped up in incredible ways to meet the needs of our community. These include updating our visitor policy to best protect our staff, patients and visitors; starting a drive-thru screening and testing site; implementing telemedicine services for primary and specialty care to ensure continuity; and creating a call center for COVID-19 questions. When the virus first reached our community, we established a daycare for employees and created an onsite exercise facility and staff relaxation room to care for our staff. We believe that healthcare is local, and it is important to offer services such as drive-thru testing right here at Conway Regional. The drive-thru site was established in close coordination with our medical staff, physician partners and local primary care clinics. It is because of this strong partnership that we are able to offer our community a convenient and effective testing option that protects their safety, as well as the safety of our healthcare workers. We were the first in Conway and one of the first in the state to offer this service. We now offer COVID-19 antibody testing as part of our drive-thru services. We created an isolation unit, specifically staffed and designed to diagnose and treat possible COVID-19 patients. This greatly reduces the probability of infection and focuses our resources where they are needed most. We also launched a patient liaison service so that family members have a quick, readily available resource to connect them to their family member in the hospital. We’ve found in COVID-19 an extraordinary opportunity to innovate and remodel care.

How did employees respond? This is an unprecedented time in our field. 16 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Conway Regional Health System President and CEO Matt Troup in the special area designated for COVID-19 testing at the medical center's west entrance. (Mike Kemp photos)

However, I couldn’t be prouder of the way our team has responded to the challenge. At Conway Regional, it is the very fabric of our culture to answer the call to serve, and a time like this has highlighted that within our staff. As an administrator, when you have your staff stepping up and volunteering, that’s something pretty special and indescribable.

How many tests have been conducted onsite? In our Conway Regional drive-thru testing location, we have performed more than 8,000 COVID-19 tests.

How has the community responded? We are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve seen from our community during this time. From meals for our staff to Park & Pray events, we are continuously encouraged by the acts of kindness and generosity we experience each day. It is our community’s strong sense of partnership, dedication and compassion that strengthens us through any challenge. In particular, the Park & Pray events will stay with me long after the COVID-19 pandemic. When I’m asked by community members how to best support Conway Regional during this time, my first response is always prayer. The Park & Pray events that were organized by our community were powerful moments for our team and our patients. Words cannot express our gratitude for the generosity we’ve seen from our community, but on behalf of our entire team, I say thank you.

How has Conway Regional been impacted by the pandemic? What have been the biggest challenges? This has been a time of uncertainty in many areas of healthcare. We continue to see the general public distance themselves from hospitals for fear of infection, and healthcare as a whole is experiencing a real financial hardship. Arkansas Hospital Association’s Executive Vice-President Jodiane Tritt,

Matt Troup stands at the Wall of Honor at the medical center. stated that Arkansas hospitals lost $270 million in revenue in March and April. These are challenges felt throughout the industry. The decrease in volume and revenue has changed roles for many people. We’ve spent 4.5 years building up our culture, and we’ve experienced what a strong culture can do in the midst of a pandemic. We are truly seeing what bold, exceptional and called people can do. We have learned a lot through this process, and with experience comes wisdom. If we do have a second wave of COVID-19, or another pandemic in the future, we will be even more prepared. Our team continues to be innovative, nimble and proactive, and we are always eager to learn and adapt to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

How has COVID-19 changed the health system? I am immensely proud of our team’s adaptability, willingness to serve and passion for protecting our community. We’ve seen great triumphs specifically in innovation, with our drive-thru testing, COVID-19 call center and telemedicine offerings. Telemedicine was something we had previously talked about but

hadn’t yet implemented. We have also seen our team members live our promise each day to be bold, exceptional and called. At Conway Regional, we respond to challenges with compassion, dedication and innovation, and we will continue to adapt to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

What would you say to readers about the remainder of 2020? Please know that it is safe to visit the hospital. We have seen a concerning trend of people avoiding the ER in times of medical emergency because of fear or uncertainty. Ensuring the health and safety of our community is our top priority, and we have extensive measures in place to protect patients from infection. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke or other emergency condition, every minute counts, and fear of COVID-19 should not delay your visit to the ER. For general primary care visits, appointments with a specialist and urgent or after-hours needs, telemedicine offers care from the comfort of your own home. Don’t put your healthcare on hold because of COVID-19 — Conway Regional is here for you.

August 2020 | 17




Gena Maltbia Ester

NATIVE OF: Conway. Education: 1983 graduate of Conway High School; 1987 graduate of Hendrix College with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and business with an emphasis in accounting. JOB: Assistant vice president/ senior credit analyst, Centennial Bank. PARENTS: Lee and Barbara Maltbia of Conway. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Member of the Pine Street Backpack Program since 2008. I am responsible for grant writing and fundraising. CHURCH ACTIVITIES: A member of True Holiness Saints Center, where I serve as a team leader of the Women’s Life Group Ministry and as chair of a committee that serves to aid our pastor. HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Shopping is my greatest hobby; however, I also love spending time with my family, particularly my grandson, Zeke, who is almost 3 years old. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE

18 | 501 LIFE August 2020

YOURSELF: I am very methodical. I live to “check boxes� because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am a very detail-oriented person. I tend to analyze things to death! MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: Family dinners and family time on Sundays after church. My children come over every Sunday after church, and we have dinner. Later that evening, the party moves to my parents’ house next door, where we gather with some of my siblings and their children until dusk. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: Living in the 501 is the only place I know. When my husband and I married, we built a house right next door to my parents. We live in a “semi� country spot right on the outskirts of the Conway city limits. We have the convenience of the city because we are a couple of miles away from the Commons Mall and Lewis Crossing, and the luxury of country living on land with nothing but family and lots of acreage surrounding us.



Gena and Tim Ester are loving life and their family in Conway, where they are both active in the Pine Street Backpack Program. “The goal of the program is to provide school supplies for school-aged children starting with pre-kindergarten and going to the 12th grade,� said Gena. “We target low-income families that live predominantly in the Pine Street community where I grew up and where my husband and I are stakeholders. Our service is also extended throughout Conway and Faulkner County.� (Mike Kemp photo)


Tim Ester

NATIVE OF: Menifee. EDUCATION: I am a 1983 graduate of Morrilton High School. I attended the University of Central Arkansas my freshman year. PARENTS: The late Dorothy Lee Tolbert and Joe Nathan Smith. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Cofounder of the Pine Street Backpack Program. Prior to forming the Backpack Program, the Pine Street Community Development Center and Ester Properties hosted similar backpack programs in adjoining neighborhoods. In the summer of 2008, we decided to pool our resources and expand our territory to reach more families in the Pine Street community and other local residents. Little did we know there would be an overwhelming need, and we would serve backpacks to more than 300 children in a single day. That moment gave me the momentum I needed to ensure this program continues to benefit our community. Fast forward 12 years to 2020, and we have provided school supplies to more than 10,000 children in Faulkner County and raised nearly $200,000.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I serve on the Deacon Board and as the chairman of the Finance Committee of True Holiness Saints Center. HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: I love watching sports, mostly football. I love the Hogs, the Devil Dogs, the Wampus Cats and I am a huge Dallas Cowboy fan. WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I absolutely hate pizza, and I am not a foodie. People think that because I have worked in the restaurant industry pretty much all of my life, I would be a food lover. That is not the case. My wife will tell you that I don’t like to try things. MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: I enjoy spending time with my grandson, Zeke. On weekends, that is the time his Gigi and Papa get to spoil him, and then we send him back home to his parents. He typically wears us down to the point it takes us a couple of days to recover. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: I have lived in the 501 all of my life. Most of our family also live in the 501. I am amazed at how much Conway has grown and changed.


Tim (from left) and Gena Ester with family: grandson Ezekiel, son Timothy “Jordan,� daughter Kiera and son-in-law Seyi.


RESIDENTS OF: Conway. WHEN/HOW WE MET: We first met at a company picnic where both our mothers worked. At that time, we were teenagers in junior high/high school. The second time we met was years later (we were freshmen in college) through a mutual acquaintance who thought the two of us were right for each other. Gena always had her eyes on me from afar. She made it a point to drive past my house every day to go to class. THE PROPOSAL: I believe Tim was planning to propose in a romantic setting on one knee; however, he didn’t get that opportunity. Tim asked me what I wanted for graduation, and I told him a ring; then I went with him to pick it out. I was so eager for us to get engaged, I just decided to go to his house one day and get the ring and wear it so everyone would know we were getting married. WEDDING: We eloped to Eureka Springs on Saturday, Sept. 16, 1988. Nothing fancy, but we had the time of our lives! CHILDREN: Timothy “Jordan� Ester, our 22-year-old son who is a full-time finance major at the University of Central Arkansas and a full-time mortgage originator assistant at Centennial Bank. Kiera Oluokun (husband, Seyi), our 30-year-old daughter who is the director of community development for the City of Conway and the mother to our one and only grandson, Ezekiel (a.k.a. Zeke), our pride and joy. FAMILY ACTIVITIES ENJOYED TOGETHER: We love to travel whenever we can. Florida has been our family destination over the years, whether it is relaxing on the beach in Destin or park hopping in Orlando.

August 2020 | 19

Aim high

Shofner receives Academy appointment

20 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Matthew Shofner of Conway, a graduate of Catholic High School, has received an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He plans to study aeronautical engineering at the academy with the goal of being a pilot, a path that requires higher levels of education and additional military service. (Mike Kemp photo)

NEIGHBORS youth by Dwain Hebda

Many young men and women who enter the military — especially something as challenging as one of the nation’s service academies — are following in the line established by someone in their family who set the example. Not so with Matthew Shofner. “I’ve always known I wanted to do something military,� he said. “There’s not really anybody in my family that’s military, it’s just I’ve always wanted to for as long as I can remember.� This summer, Shofner got his wish as he reported to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., one of the most competitive and rigorous institutions of higher learning in the world. Roughly 12,000 high achievers apply for admission each year, and only about 12 percent actually get in. On average, about 20 percent of each incoming class drops out before graduation. All of that tends to attract double- and triple-A personalities, but again, Shofner bucks that trend with a laid-back mannerism. He didn’t attend any summer initiation program or even take an official campus tour prior to deciding he wanted to be a cadet. “I’ve been [to the academy] before; we went on vacation there a couple years ago and walked around the campus,� he said nonchalantly.

“I didn’t get an official tour. We just walked around and saw stuff. I was walking around like, ‘This place is really cool. I like it here.’� Shofner’s acceptance to the academy is made all the more impressive by the relatively late start he got on accumulating some of the resume material that typically catches the eye of the admissions committee. He didn’t join ROTC at Catholic High School in Little Rock until halfway through his junior year, very late by a typical applicant’s standards. “I didn’t go to Catholic High because I wanted to go to the Academy. It worked out to be better there, but that’s not the reason I went to Catholic High,� he said. “I attended St. Joseph School in Conway, went there my whole life up through freshman year, then moved to Catholic High between my freshman and sophomore years. “They don’t have ROTC at St. Joe, and when I went to Catholic High, I couldn’t do it my sophomore year or part of my junior year. So, I joined ROTC after Christmas of my junior year.� In addition to ROTC service, Shofner’s impressive high school record of accomplishments includes playing linebacker on the Rocket football team, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor club and even having a go at the CHS lacrosse team as a senior. He said well-roundedness was an important compo-


nent to his getting into the Air Force Academy. “Mostly what they’re looking for, they’re not looking for a kid with a 36 ACT or the star quarterback because they need kids that can do a little bit of everything,� he said. “What they want are kids involved in many different things, involved in some sort of sport as well as a couple of clubs, and who get good grades as well.� Shofner, 18, is the eldest son of Joan and Greg Shofner, and his younger brother Michael is a student at Catholic High. Matthew plans to study aeronautical engineering at the academy with the goal of being a pilot, a path that requires higher levels of education and with it, additional mandatory military service. “It would mean 10 total years of service,� he said. “They’re trying to keep people. The military has a big shortage of pilots, so they’re trying to keep them for as long as they can.� As the date to report to Colorado approached, Shofner made the most of his abbreviated summer break, staying in touch with his pals, accumulating the stuff he needs for school and learning Russian. As for the rigors of what lies ahead, far from home, his take-it-easy tone doesn’t waver. “I feel very, very confident that I’ll be able to handle it fine; I’m not really worried about that at all,� he said. “Mostly I’m very, very excited. I’m ready.�


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August 2020 | 21


Looking ahead

UCA preparing for ‘enrollment cliff’

Dr. Houston Davis, the 11th president of the University of Central Arkansas, is leading the school’s Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI) efforts in anticipation of the “enrollment cliff” projected around 2026. The work has also helped the university navigate a reduction in state support as a result of the recent pandemic. 22 | 501 LIFE August 2020

by Houston Davis, Ph.D. UCA President

When COVID-19 began to impact the United States, the University of Central Arkansas was already in year three of our Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI), an ongoing, campus-wide effort to maximize the UCA budget in the face of unpredictable enrollment trends and limited state funding. We have been focused on aligning our existing resources to support student success, investing in strategic initiatives, building financial reserves and retaining employees at a competitive market salary. As an institution of higher education, we were already preparing for the impending “enrollment cliff.” This refers to a time around 2026, when colleges and universities across the nation will see a rapid drop in first-time freshmen. Individuals reaching college age in 2026 were born just after the Great Recession in 2008. The birth rate declined for several years, as Americans delayed starting or expanding their families. This knowledge gave us the opportunity to start preparing and to get ahead of the challenge. With our ROI initiative, we were well on our way. Then along came COVID-19. While we were preparing for the future enrollment declines, none of us could have ever guessed that a pandemic would precede the “enrollment cliff.” Normal operations have been challenged, and state support for public universities and colleges is facing restrictions from the economic downturn. In March, state appropriations to higher education were cut by 4.4 percent, with UCA’s portion of the cut equaling $2.9 million

with three months to go in the fiscal year. In April, that cut became permanent and larger for the upcoming fiscal year, with UCA receiving $7.3 million less (-13.5 percent) from the state as we begin FY21 compared to when we started FY20. So, what does that mean for us? Because of our efforts related to ROI, we were perhaps better positioned than some other institutions in the state and around the country. In FY20, through measures like a voluntary early retirement initiative, operational savings and reconsidering positions open due to attrition, we had saved roughly the amount we needed to offset the cut in state appropriations. We were able to handle the cut and still end the year with a balanced budget. We will also have a balanced budget in FY21. However, let me be clear: The impact of COVID-19 will still be incredibly painful for us and many other colleges and universities around the state and nation. While we are thankful to be ahead of the curve, there are still many challenges ahead. To prepare for what is to come, we are taking additional measures through FY21. We have instituted a formal hiring freeze and a reduction in temporary and part-time positions. We have also centralized our purchasing controls, reduced the number of external contracts and consolidated budget reserves. Here is what we are not doing: panicking and losing sight of our core mission. In a time when many other colleges and universities are compelled to rush into tough choices related to personnel and academic programs, we have not been forced into rash layoffs or furloughs, cutting benefits, deleting pro-

grams, deferring maintenance, depleting our reserves or drawing from the corpus of endowments. As news comes out weekly about institutions all around the U.S. being faced with all of those decisions and others, we have so far been able to avoid making drastic cuts and changes and certainly are glad that ROI provides us a well-reasoned path forward. As we look to the fall semester, we see encouraging signs at every turn. Our summer enrollments are up from summer 2019, and registrations for the fall semester (as of this writing) are running slightly ahead of last fall’s registrations at this point. Reservations for campus housing are at 98.2 percent of capacity, and students and their families seem very eager to come back to campus and to learn more about the adjustments we will make for the fall semester to living and learning environments in the COVID-19 era. We are equally excited to get them back as a part of our community and family at UCA. While COVID-19 has certainly impacted our day-to-day operations in many challenging ways, it has also pushed us to work harder and smarter and find ways to adapt and ensure that every action we take is done with student success as our guiding principle. Has it been a challenge? Yes. But are we stronger for it? Absolutely. Our campus community is fortunate to have excellent faculty and staff working to help guide and support students, as well as dedicated students who are committed to their own success and supporting and uplifting their peers. Each and every day, they make me proud to serve as president. Go Bears!

August 2020 | 23


‘The Big Tree’

Remembering a relic of childhood

C.J. Tanner in front of “The Big Tree” at Perryville Elementary School. (Mike Kemp photo)

by C.J. Tanner

Everyone has something in their memory that symbolizes their childhood. It might be a song you and your cousins used to listen to on the radio, a book that your grandmother read to you, a favorite toy that you couldn’t go a day without or an endless number of other possibilities. While it’s difficult for me to pick just one such symbol of my childhood, one of the most meaningful goes by the name of “The Big Tree.” On a playground in a small town in Central Arkansas, there stands a massive oak tree. For generations, this gentle giant has watched over countless children who have passed beneath its branches. It has silently presided over perhaps hundreds of makebelieve weddings as children pledged their puppy love to one another. A select few of those “marriages” 24 | 501 LIFE August 2020

became a reality many years later, and their children have engaged in hours of enjoyment in the shade of that same tree. It has played the role of “base” for the everpresent games of tag and offered abundant shade during those hot August recesses. And let’s not forget that as long as you stand on the exposed roots of the tree, you will be safe, while the ground in between is made of lava. It was in the shadow of this playground colossus that some of the greatest friendships of my life were forged. We were inseparable as we joined up with the Power Rangers, chased after the rarest of Pokémon, and experienced legendary rounds of freeze tag. We didn’t know what a terrorist was, we knew nothing of politics, we couldn’t spell quarantine and our biggest worry was how in the world Kevin was going to get his shoe out of the storm drain (legend has it that

the shoe is still there). The world to us was like The Big Tree — huge, expansive and a bit mysterious. I recently learned that The Big Tree will be cut down due to safety concerns, and it has taken me aback. After watching generations of children come and go, its years of service are coming to an end. This news fills me with sadness, and I know the same can be said for all those who have known The Big Tree. It may sound silly to be sad about the cutting down of an old oak tree, but I can assure you that it is far from silly. I think the reason this news cuts at our hearts is that it is not only the removal of a community landmark, but a staple of our childhood. With the passing of The Big Tree comes a jarring reminder of the passing of childhood, and it fills us with a bittersweet nostalgia as we long for simpler times. Although most of us have gone our separate ways since the days of carefree recess

I recently learned that The Big Tree will be cut down due to safety concerns, and it has taken me aback. After watching generations of children come and go, its years of service are coming to an end. This news fills me with sadness, and I know the same can be said for all those who have known The Big Tree.

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— C.J. Tanner

antics, that tree is something that unites us in memory and experience. In a time where there seems to be very few symbols of unity in the world, it certainly hurts to see this one disappear. Although the removal of The Big Tree is incredibly sad, reflecting on what that old tree represents in my life fills me with renewed hope. The recesses of our youth were filled with games of our own invention. We didn’t require advanced technology or even the latest toy to keep us entertained; we only required friendship and imagination in order to have a blast. These thoughts remind me that often it is the simple things in life that are the most meaningful. There are a lot of things going on these days that tempt us to worry, and 2020 seems to have brought with it waves of insanity that threaten to capsize all that we have. The world may never be the same, and that brings with it feelings of despair and loss for so many. It is in these times that we could use a dose of the childlike creativity that fueled us for so many years. This, of course, is not the ultimate answer to our need for contentment or joy. As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate answer to those things is the love of Christ. He is the Savior that we need in order to be eternally secure. An added bonus to an eternal relationship with Christ is being able to find multiple “Big Trees” in our lives — things that help root us to the profound simplicity of enjoying the relationships with which we have been blessed. Even though the symbols of our childhood may wither, fade or collect layers of dust, the memories that we have made and the friendships that have been cultivated will last a lifetime. The impact of faith, family and friendship upon our lives should never be underestimated. The memories made around The Big Tree will continue to be cherished by those who passed their recesses on that playground. Although it will soon be gone, it will not be forgotten as long as we live. May our children have something just as special to fondly look back on when they are adults, and may we search out other “Big Trees” in the days ahead. C.J. Tanner lives in Clinton with his wife, Jaycie, and baby boy, Noah. He is a social studies teacher at South Side High School in Bee Branch. His biggest passions are his faith, family and students. He can be reached at

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đ&#x;‘Ľ A love of learning NEIGHBORS morrilton

‘To do better in life, education is the key’ by Donna Lampkin Stephens

Conway County’s Mary Newsome is the poster child for education — and being a good neighbor and citizen. Mary, 58, has spent well more than half her life — 39 years on Aug. 2 — at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. She went to what was then Petit Jean Vocational Technical College as a student in 1980, started as an “extra help� worker in June 1981 and went full-time as secretary to Director of Student Services A.O. Thompson in August 1981. After six years in that position, she spent four years as a bookkeeper in the business office. For the last 29 years, she has been assistant to the chancellor. Mary is the longest-serving employee of UACCM, which was born in 2001 when what had become Petit Jean College merged with the University of Arkansas system. She was named the school’s Outstanding Staff Member for 2000-01 and was recognized by what was then the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges. “I was thinking it was probably a stepping-stone to a different place, but someone told me if I was going to leave, I needed to do it in the first 10 years; otherwise, I’d be stuck here,� she said. “But I liked it here. I didn’t feel like I was stuck. I like what I do; I really like my job.� Along the way, she finished her associate degree in business education. In 2007, she attained her bachelor of science in education in human resources development with an emphasis in vocational education from the University of Arkansas. “If you want to do better in life, education is the key,� Mary said. “That’s how you move up to better things. You’re always learning.� Mary grew up in the Center community about two miles south of Cleveland in Conway County. She attended a segregated school there through fifth grade before transferring to the Jerusalem school for a year and ultimately to Wonderview, from which she graduated with honors in 1980 in the top five of her class. “I always loved school,� she remembered. “When summertime rolled around and we were out, I would think, ‘What in the world am I going to do?’ I wanted to go back to school. I loved learning, and I’ve tried to instill this in my kids.� Mary is the eighth of 10 children. “My mom (Modiller Canady)  was not able to work a public job, but she worked hard in the home raising us. She always told us to do the best we could and that is all she requires.� At a 4-H Club Valentine’s Day party at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Morrilton her senior year, she met Harold Newsome. They were married 26 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Mary Newsome, who serves as the assistant to the chancellor at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, is very active in her community and serves on a number of local boards. (Mike Kemp photo) in September 1981. Growing up, she wanted to be a nurse, secretary or teacher. But she decided there was too much

blood in nursing, and she has satisfied her teaching urge with more than 20 years of Sunday School at Spring Valley Missionary Baptist Church in Morril-

ton, so she spent most of her career as an administrative assistant. Her supervisors and colleagues encouraged her to finish that associate’s degree. She chipped away at her goal as she had a son, Derrick, in 1993, and a daughter, Ciera, in ‘97. “I was trying to raise a family and going to school,” she said. “It took years to get it. Then I thought, ‘I just need to go on and get my bachelor’s degree.’” She remembered Larry Crook, then UACCM chancellor, encouraging her, telling her she would need a bachelor’s degree to advance. Over the years, she has seen the school advance, too. “Back then, we were considered a trade school with just a lot of technical programs — welding, HVAC, automotive,” she said. “We still have a lot of the same programs, but now everybody’s spread out across campus, and you might go a whole week without seeing somebody on the other end of campus.” Since moving to the chancellor’s office, Mary has worked for Crook and his successors, Dr. Larry Davis and Lisa Willenberg, the current chancellor. “I’ve had great bosses, and I’ve still got a wonderful boss,” Mary said of Willenberg. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We went to school together at Wonderview. Our kids played together. I consider her kids mine, and she considers my kids hers. We’ve got that type of relationship.” Willenberg said it was hard to describe Mary with a short quote. “I could write a book about her,” she said. “When I reflect on Mary, a word that continually comes to mind is ‘commitment’. Mary has exhibited a lifelong unparalleled commitment to everything she’s involved in. This is most obvious in her great faith and spirituality, her family, marriage and children, her career and education, her friendships, and lastly her always positive and encouraging attitude. “Mary is a true blessing to all she comes into contact with.” Newsome’s pastor at Spring Valley Missionary Baptist, Dr. Sherman Whitfield, agreed. “Mary is everything that she seems,” he said. “She is certainly a critical piece of our church. She is dependable; she goes above and beyond. She is what every pastor would love to have one of, and if you have two, you

Mary Newsome (center) with UACCM Chancellor Lisa Willenberg and former chancellor Dr. Larry Davis. are more than blessed. But you are very grateful to have one, and she is all of that. “There is no pretension there. We are very blessed and grateful to have her.” Mary passed along her love for learning to her children. “I’ve been in school all my life, and I’ve loved school,” she said. “People tell me, ‘That’s why your kids are so smart.’” Derrick graduated from UACCM and went on to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is a year away from graduating from the University of Central Arkansas. Ciera graduated from the Honors College at UCA in December 2019 with a degree in math. Derrick and Ciera were named the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Youth Citizen of the Year in 2010 and ‘14, respectively. For years, Mary has been heavily involved in her community. Previously, she was on the board of the Conway County Christian Clinic and Conway County Community Foundation. She’s now a board member of the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce, CHI-St. Vincent-Morrilton, Conway County Senior Adult Center and Conway County School Counts! She also serves as secretary of the Conway County branch of the NAACP. What’s her philosophy of being a good citizen

and good neighbor? “I’ve found you have to give,” Mary said. “You have to want to help. I like to help people when and if I can and in whatever capacity. I’m an encourager. If there’s something I can’t do, I’ll find someone who can and reach out to them to try to gain insight on whatever the task is at hand. “In order to have good neighbors, you have to be a good neighbor. That’s pretty easy when you live by people you can trust.” She said her mother always said there was “good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us.” “I try to see the good and operate from that,” Mary said. “Besides my church and prayer life, that’s how I try to live. I try to be an example for others to follow, and I’ve taught my kids that same thing. You do the right thing.” Today Mary, who calls herself “a country girl”, and her husband live in a rural area outside Morrilton. Their children, as well as 5-year-old grandson Kendrick, live in Morrilton. “He is the most joyful kid,” Mary said of her only grandson. “I can’t say enough about him. He was 1 pound, 11 ounces when he was born. On June 5, he turned 5. I’m his GiGi.” In her spare time, Mary serves her church in a number of ways and enjoys Sunday afternoon drives with her husband, spending time with her grandson, shopping, cooking and dancing. “I just enjoy life,” she said. “I enjoy fellowshipping with my church family and friends. I enjoy those types of things and just love life.” About four years ago, though, she was thrown for a loop when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “He’s my rock,” she said. “Thanks be to God, he made it through that. He’s not able to work, but he’s still here, and I’m so grateful for that.” Her goal is to finally leave UACCM when she turns 62 so they can enjoy retirement together. “We want to continue to enjoy life and do the things we want to do,” she said. “We try to help wherever we are needed and treat people the way we want to be treated. “We try to be leaders and do what we can – and be positive in life. My thing is to try to lead by example. I am all about that.” UACCM is lucky to have her.

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August 2020 | 27

đ&#x;‘Ľ State recognition NEIGHBORS br yant/conway

Two 501 educators among finalists

Over a 14-year high school teaching career — the first six at Benton and the last eight at Bryant — Brenda Qualls, who has worked in the Benton and Bryant school districts, has been recognized for her dynamic teaching style. Story and photos by Dwain Hebda

Two Central Arkansas teachers were among five state finalists for the 2020 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year selected by the Arkansas Department of Education. 501 finalists Brenda Qualls (Bryant Public Schools) and Kimberly Raup (Conway Public Schools) were joined by John Mark Russell (Bentonville School District), Lauren Taylor (Dardanelle Public Schools) and Sean Gray (Marion School District). Gray was recently named the state winner. â€œIn this second year of the program, our team reviewed many quality applications,â€? said Anthony Owen, state director of Computer Science Education, in a press release. “The team unanimously agreed that these five educators demonstrate both a long-term and ongoing commitment to, passion for and impact on computer science education in Ar28 | 501 LIFE August 2020

kansas and the nation. These educators have earned and deserve this recognition.� Each finalist receives a $2,500 award from the Arkansas Department of Education’s Office of Computer Science. The winner receives an additional $12,500 award.

KIMBERLY RAUP Texarkana, Texas-born Kimberly Raup has a reputation as one of the most innovative computer science teachers in Arkansas. But while many of her colleagues found their calling, in Raup’s case, her calling kept finding her. “I took a class in high school for computer science in the early 1990s. It was fun, but I didn’t find it that impactful,� she said. “Then, as I went to college and plans fell through with what I thought I wanted to do, I found myself taking more and more computer classes, and the more computer classes I took, the more I really enjoyed them.�

After graduating from the University of Central Arkansas and seeing the job market didn’t offer anything too appealing, she went back to UCA and earned her teaching degree in business. Once again, computer science was on the periphery as an elective course, but she never saw herself teaching the subject. “I found a position that was opening up in Conway, and it was for teaching business and programming, which is what Arkansas did at that time. To teach programming, you were a business teacher,� she said. “I started teaching it and wasn’t very good the first couple years, but I learned along with the kids, and I really started enjoying it.� Since those first baby steps, Raup has found her stride, teaching computer science, programming and game design at basic and advanced levels to Conway High School students. She’s also launched two robotics programs at the school. Next year, she’ll introduce an independent study

program where students will design and develop their own computer science projects to fit their field of interest. She’s also hoping to introduce cyber security classes in the near future. Over 14 years at CHS, Raup’s innovative curriculum and engaged teaching style have earned her a number of accolades, but the things she values most don’t hang on the wall. “I’ve had female interest and I’ve had students of color interested in my programs, and I’m seeing it more and more in the classroom,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve seen an increase of about 12 percent, if not a little bit more, in my female population and in my students of color population as well. “Last year, I had one class that was almost half female versus male. Usually I have one or two females in each class. So, to have a class where half of them were female was just amazing! I was excited about that.”

BRENDA QUALLS Over a 14-year high school teaching career — the first six at Benton and the last eight at Bryant — Brenda Qualls has built computer science programs very nearly from the ground up, educating and inspiring hundreds of students along the way with her dynamic teaching style. Qualls grew up in Bryant, graduating from Bryant High School where she met the second great love of her life (the first being her husband Ronnie, cyber security manager for FIS). “My senior year of high school in 1985, they offered a basic coding class. I fell in love with it,” she said. “I wrote my first inventory program and knew this is the way I wanted to go. I was one of very few girls way back in the 1980s that wanted to do that. In college, I was pretty much the only girl in my classes.” Qualls earned a degree in computer science information systems from UA Little Rock before landing in the corporate world in programming jobs for Arkansas Farm Bureau and Alltel. When she decided to make a career change into teaching, she hoped she would have a similar impact on her students, particularly girls. “[Computer science] is still more dominated by boys, so any opportunity I have to take girls on a field trip to women’s conferences in IT or to get them to camps in the summer, I try to do that,” she said. “This year, I had a girl win an award from the National Center for Women in Technology. She won the Technology Aspirations Award because she’d taken so many classes and shown so much interest in technology and computer science.” All of the classes Qualls teaches are elective, so she works hard to make them appealing as well as educational. She takes students to multiple programming competitions, holding special gamer events to raise money to do so. Her creativity and drive have earned her two consecutive Computer Science Educator of the Year finalist designations, as well as the admiration of her students. “At Bryant High School, seniors pick one teacher out of their whole 12 years and present them a Life Impact Award. I actually got two of those last year, one from a female student and one from a male student,” she said. “If I have one kid come up to me at the end and say, ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but now I know I want to be a computer programmer,’ then that makes my whole year.”

Kimberly Raup, who has served more than 14 years in the Conway School District, has been recognized for her innovative curriculum and engaging teaching style.





METRO SQUARE August 2020 | 29


Learner’s permit: No expiration date

Vivian Lawson Hogue A native of Conway, Vivian Lawson Hogue graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She can be reached at vhogue@conwaycorp. net.

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein There is one thing I learned early about learning. There are some things you have to learn, and some you don’t, but should. There are things you shouldn’t learn, but do. Then you must learn to discern the differences! If you’re lucky, you’ll develop curiosity, and that’s the fun part. I have a mental list of learnings beginning at the age of 2 when my older, male siblings were between 6 and 19. Older brothers have agendas, and you’re not

included. A younger sister has agendas, too, and the male siblings do not want to be included. Somewhere in that mix are two parents who remain perplexed about the whole situation, but they allow and expect them all to figure it out fairly and amicably. Lesson learned: Everyone is allowed to go his or HER own way with differences worked out amongst themselves. Issues are not discussed again except in laughter at family dinners 40 years later. Some lessons are only learned the hard way. It is not advised to follow a brother’s temptation to smoke corn silks in rolled up newspaper. Never roller skate barefooted. If a neighbor warns you to not play on boards with points-up nails, then don’t. If a “friend” says to place a stem of black-seeded Dallis grass in your mouth, then close your eyes and make a wish, don’t. She’ll yank it out sideways and you’ll spit out seeds the rest of the day. Never plant Confederate Violets expecting them to stay in one place. Lesson learned: We are not guaranteed desired outcomes regardless of good intentions, so we must always have an alternate plan. One never knows when purposeful or accidental exposure to one subject can cause a lifelong learning devoted to it. A common question asked in getacquainted conversations is, “When did you find your interest that led to your career (hobbies, etc.)?” It is often seeing or hearing something that especially appealed to you, perhaps more than to others. For some, it is whatever their parents did, so knowledge started early. Hobbies and interests can start at any point of life, and they are often what gives one a sound mind and needed quiet time. Real interest in learning, whether academic or pastime, comes from curiosity and wanting to use 30 | 501 LIFE August 2020

A sled that Vivian Hogue’s Grandfather Arnold made and carved with her uncle’s initials, KEA. The crosspiece could be steered with hands, feet or the rope. His interest in woodworking began in his youth and although he was a sheriff and farmer, he followed creative woodworking into his elder years.

one’s intelligence. Yes, inquisitiveness can be dangerous in some circumstances, but used wisely, it is what brings about learning, inventions, discoveries and conversation with those of like minds! As far as I know, I taught myself to read. My mother provided books and took us to the library, and I really wanted to know what was in the books! Reading at one level always produced curiosity for advanced reading. I do recall that I would sit on the floor or in a chair near my mother as she sewed or cooked. I would read, spelling out unfamiliar words and asking her how to pronounce them. One of my “parental dictionaries” was always present for consultation. This picture is not always the case today. At home, mom is tired or harried after work, and dad has retreated to the golf course. School work and too many afterschool activities eat up family time, energy or restful reading time. The COVID-19 pandemic gave parents an idea of what, how and IF their children are learning. Many learned they couldn’t help. Most current learning comes by way of technology, and while that is handy, there is nothing as satisfying as holding a book in your hand for leisurely reading. Technology engages visual learning, but exercising one’s own imagination in print literature is equally good for the intellect. Teachers used to talk about “learning by doing,”

and it is still the best way. I often think about how new, European, “city-bred” residents to the New World of the 1600s learned the hard way, but the best way. They immediately had to learn what plants to not eat and which could be medicinal, which Native American tribes were friendly, which streams were safe for drinking, how to build a home and how to fire a rifle for food or protection. And that’s a short list, all done without a computer, YouTube, TV, cell phone or even books other than a Bible. As one who can personally contrast the youth of 1950 to that of 2020, my greatest desire is that they once more learn the basics of education and how to think, compare and contrast; to consider results of their actions; to learn the Constitution and its values; to vote; to cook; to keep a bank account; to read a non-digital clock; to use common sense; to learn to obey the laws of our governments and WHY we have them; to learn not to jeopardize their bodies and minds and know they are not immortal. Throw in some politeness; love for our flag and history; respect for their parents and the elderly; adherence to safe driving; and development of good morals. Oh, and that they remember to brush their teeth, use deodorant and go to church, best done in that order. I do not think I’m expecting too much.


A challenge to ‘raise up rebels’ Over the years, I have heard so many people talk about parenting during their children’s teenage years as terribly difficult. Often, they talk about the rebellious nature of teenagers, yet we often encourage people of all ages to rebel when they see injustice and inequality. Realizing that tension, Mark McDonald my wife and I chose to show our children Mark McDonald, a Methodist minister, has served churches in injustice and inequality in Northwest Arkansas, Booneville, whatever forms they preJacksonville and Conway. His family settled in Faulkner County sented themselves. Now, in the 1840s. He attended we didn’t simply pull out Hendrix College, where he serves the stops and show them as a trustee. He and his wife have six children all living in Central everything that was wrong Arkansas. with the world, but we did take them with us on missions to Mexico and to ministries to the homeless and less fortunate in our own community. We also strive to share equality and justice in real, tangible ways. We shared stories of ways we have

witnessed wrongs being righted, as well as stories of ways that evil and injustice have not been stopped in our community, state, nation and world. You can imagine what happened: our children rebelled against evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they presented themselves. (I’m not going to tell you that we never had difficulties with our teenagers rebelling against us, but I can honestly say that I have more struggles with many adults than

I did with my own teenagers!) This month, as 501 LIFE focuses on youth and education, I lift up the challenge for us to “raise rebels,” teaching and learning from one another. This year, as injustice and inequality have become even more apparent, it behooves us not only to raise rebels, but also to be rebels and to recognize that our youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow — they are the leaders of today.



is equipping our students to provide outstanding health care in Arkansas and

beyond. As a leader in health care education, we’re thrilled to expand our training capabilities with our new state-ofthe-art Integrated Health Sciences Building – one that will help our students build a brighter future for health care.

Go here. Go anywhere.

August 2020 | 31


COVID lessons learned

Teachers prioritize relationships with students, families by Stefanie W. Brazile and Jeremy Higginbotham

From the moment COVID-19 reached U.S. shores, many aspects of American life were turned upside down. Perhaps no group experienced such a large disruption to daily routines as did students and teachers. Throughout Central Arkansas, communities came together and proved that they were able to meet these challenges with innovative technology and by returning to the fundamentals of talking, listening and laughing together. The sudden appearance of the virus required a top-down response from education leaders, and Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education Johnny Key is proud of the way educators responded to the emergency situation. “We learned many valuable lessons as a result of schools abruptly closing in March due to COVID-19. First and foremost, we knew we had some amazing educators who are able to adapt to any situation, and what we observed during the last several weeks of school emphatically reinforced that fact. The educators of Arkansas not only met expectations, they far exceeded them!” Key said. South Conway County Schools Superintendent Shawn Halbrook said that when distance learning became the only option, district staff learned to interact with students via computers and phones. As the semester unfolded, they realized the ongoing benefits this provides. “From now on, our lessons will be recorded and available online so if we have to go off-site again, we’re prepared,” Halbrook said. “Think about this: if you have a kid struggling, they can go home at night and watch the lesson again. “Has COVID been bad? Absolutely. Do we want kids to come back because that is the greatest and most effective way to learn? Absolutely, we want to see our kids. But COVID should make us a better educational system, more reactive and personalized than what we were before. We always want to put kids first.” Area colleges and universities joined K-12 counterparts in immediately developing new ways to reach students and staff while striving to maintain valuable one-on-one interactions. Central Baptist College (CBC) adapted quickly to offering Zoom (video conference) classrooms and interacting with students remotely because most instructors had participated in their Professional Adult College Education program (PACE), according to Gary McAllister, Ed.D., vice president for academic affairs. “Boy, this has been a spring to remember, but it’s been great because it’s helped us to achieve some of the goals that I’ve ultimately wanted to achieve. Sometimes things that are forced upon you bring change, so it’s been good for us,” McAllister said. The veteran administrator talked about a 32 | 501 LIFE August 2020

UACCM Student Adan Morels Hernandez is grateful for his professor amid the pandemic. “I’m very thankful UACCM and Mr. Lum were able to reconfigure our work areas. The online simulations are just not the same as being able to do the work hands-on here at the college. Because of this, we can continue our training in the best way possible and students will be able to find the jobs they need.” (Mike Kemp photo) student, Sydney Hawkins of Conway, who had been working part time in a pharmacy and suddenly became an essential worker. Hawkins’ pharmacy

hours increased to 15-30 hours weekly while she was taking 18 hours of classes at CBC. As a senior education major, Hawkins was required to complete

Faculty at Springhill Elementary School in the Greenbrier School District produced a video to thank the families in their community for their support.

Cheri Huett Millheim‎ reads a story online to her first-graders at Morrilton Primary School. a unit plan that would determine 70 percent of her grade. Unable to attend the Zoom meetings could have been disastrous, but her instructor, LaNell Crook, assistant professor of education, went out of her way to help. “This class was the most stressful of them all, but Mrs. Crook was good about working with me on weekends and after her regular office hours so I wouldn’t be completely lost.” Hawkins credited her instructor with not only keeping her stress level

down, but also helping her achieve a 95 on the assignment. While all area schools had to learn quickly to adapt to the new environment, some school programs had to find a path to success when online learning simply wasn’t possible. The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton has an extensive Industrial Mechanics and Maintenance Technology (IMMT) Program that is housed in a 54,000-square-foot center that

opened two years ago. The state-of-the-art facility offers training in the high-wage, high-demand occupations of HVAC, automotive service technology, industrial mechanics, maintenance and welding. The college moved quickly to adapt the technical education classrooms so that essential hands-on training could continue to ensure graduates are job ready. UACCM Professor Brian Lum realized the

COVID continued on Page 34 August 2020 | 33

Enjoy the UCA Percussion Ensemble’s performance of “Together Again,” written by Blake Tyson, professor of music and director of percussion studies, at watch?v=L-QMTDpMCA4.

COVID continued from Page 33 urgency and took action, spacing out workspaces, installing Plexiglas and staggering students’ on-site classroom times. “We spaced out all of our labs to keep the technical students safe. They have their own tools and other items that they would use and even have a padlock to keep the components safe. Nobody but that student touches the items underneath the Plexiglas,” Lum said. “I knew these students needed to be here and we did all we could to make that happen.” Student Adan Morels Hernandez was grateful. “I’m very thankful UACCM and Mr. Lum were able to reconfigure our work areas. The online simulations are just not the same as being able to do the work hands-on here at the college. Because of this, we can continue our training in the best way possible and students will be able to find the jobs they need.” As other educators throughout the 501 worked to develop unique ways to reach their students, in the Conway School District, one teacher took it to the next level in the form of a pie in the face. Lance Nail has taught third-graders at Woodrow Cummins Elementary for four years and always uses technology in his classroom but knew that he would need buy-in from parents and fresh strategies to encourage students to work hard at home. One Monday, Nail challenged his young students that if they completed all of their reading goals for the week, his then fiancé would hit him with a pie in the face — live on Zoom. The 20-plus students met the challenge and moved close to their screens to watch the big event. “While COVID-19 has caused so much uncertainty in the world, I tried to assure my students that everything was going to be all right. We spent 34 | 501 LIFE August 2020

a lot of time just talking and building our relationships. Overall, this was a positive experience for my students, and myself.” The teacher promises he is brainstorming more unique ways to motivate students beyond the COVID-19 era. As the third-grade teacher was wiping whippedtopping from his face, another professor was whipping up a project of his own. Blake Tyson, professor of music and director of percussion studies at the University of Central Arkansas, knew that his homebound percussion students were not only separated from each other, but also the sophisticated instruments on campus. But he did know they all had something nearby to tap on, shimmer or shake. So, Tyson came up with the inspired idea of composing a piece of music especially for them to perform together — in an all new way. “I wanted them to know they weren’t forgotten or alone. I was getting down thinking about all the things we were going to miss — concerts, recitals, the percussion performance — all just gone. I wished we had one last chance to play together.” So, he contacted his students and assembled a list of make-shift instruments. There were some drum sets, tambourines, egg shakers and even a toy glockenspiel. After finding out what was available, Tyson composed a short piece, sent the score out and asked each student to video themselves playing their part. “Together Again” is built on the theme of UCA BEARS (Ut, C, A, B, E A, Re, Sol). “We have a sense of community and family when we play together. While that was blown apart by COVID, I wanted us to feel like we were together again,” Tyson said. He took all of the individual videos which students turned in and edited them into one harmonious piece. “Once I sent the video out, many students

told me that it was a very emotional moment for them to see everyone together and it made us feel a whole lot better.” Ensuring that no one felt alone was exactly the message teacher Jordan Starkey wanted to share as she looked into her computer camera each week to connect with her fourth graders at Springhill Elementary School. Starkey used the time to communicate with parents and to remember the challenges that kids face outside of school. “I could see right into their homes,” the teacher said. “It was constant communication. This experience showed me to pay more attention — even to kids that you may not think need it. I will always remember that all of their journeys are different and will strive to be an even better support system in the future.” Like many educators, Starkey also took time to support parents who had become at-home teachers in addition to their careers, housework and family responsibilities. “So many parents would call me, worried their children would fall behind. It gave us a chance to really talk about their student’s progress, and they would say, ‘I am so thankful you would just listen to me.’” Starkey wanted to make sure that every parent knew that no matter how their student performed at home, in the end, everything was going to be okay. “My saying this relieved parents’ anxiety and stress. They would say the communication would bring them peace. In return we saw this same support come back to us from the parents.” Once these challenges pass, Starkey plans to continue to connect with her students’ families. “The biggest lesson I took from this 100 percent was how to love people better. My job is to always love my kiddos by educating them, but now I will work

This has forced school districts to work together because we are charting the map — we’re building this ship on the water.

— South Conway County School District Superintendent Shawn Halbrook harder than ever to understand their lives outside of the school.” Another 501 teacher actually found herself on both sides of that computer lens as she watched how her two children responded to distance learning. As she helped her teenage son and college age daughter in different ways at home, Conway Christian’s Yolanda Rhine became more sympathetic to the learning styles of her students. As the semester progressed, she was reminded that many students need a teacher to provide a pat on the back and encouragement. “For some kids, the physical presence of the teacher means so much,” Rhine said. Because of the needs of one of her own, Rhine realized many of her students also needed that personal relationship through this scary and unpredictable time. “Beyond talking to me in group, some needed one-on-one time, and not necessarily to talk about school, but

Springhill Elementary School’s Jordan Starkey enjoys fun time with students on Zoom. See teacher Lance Nail’s “pie-event” as it happened live with his students at to talk about life, family, what’s going on with the world or even about sitcoms. Deepening these relationships helped me become an even better teacher.” Commissioner Key summed up the 2020 school year like this, “There are so many things we have learned that we never thought were possible prior to COVID. If nothing else, COVID-19 has taught

us that resiliency and adaptability are powerful tools in making the impossible possible. Our primary objective now is to take what we know works well, capitalize on those best practices, work to address shortcomings, and be prepared to deliver the best education possible to our students this fall no matter the circumstances. “Our students deserve nothing less.” Visit to see additional information on how the pandemic has impacted area schools and students.

Community is

EVERYONE Meet Eduard Millan. Eduard is a CBC graduate from Spain and has made Conway his home with his wife, Miah. He is key to First Community Bank’s efforts to serve everyone, no matter what language is spoken, or how much help is needed. He goes above and beyond to make banking with us as easy as possible. Call or drop by and let Eduard show you what it looks like when a bank puts the community first.

1089 Front Street, Conway

August 2020 | 35


Leading the way Technology makes diagnosis less invasive by John Patton

Dr. Alok Surana, a Conway pulmonologist, is making less-invasive pulmonary diagnostic testing more accessible for patients in the Faulkner County area. A trip to Little Rock is no longer a necessity for patients seeking an endobronchial ultrasound bronchoscopy (EBUS) procedure that is used to diagnose different types of lung disorders, including inflammation, infections and cancer. Local access to EBUS bronchoscopy gives patients a chance to continue treatment in Conway, which is more convenient for them, according to Dr. Rachana Yendala, a Conway Regional hematologist-oncologist. “It basically closes the loop for many patients. This is a major advance in our cancer care in Conway.” Surana joined the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic in 2019, and Yendala followed a few months later. During her hematologyoncology training, Yendala had access to other specialists who collaborated on cancer care. “I was really glad that when I came to Conway Regional, I had pulmonology right beside me,” she said. Lung cancer continues to be the deadliest form of cancer, and early detection is vital in treating the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Surana specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine, which includes diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the lungs, including, but not limited to, asthma, COPD, sleep apnea and pneumonia. Yendala specializes in diagnosing and treating all forms of cancer. The EBUS bronchoscopy uses a flexible tube that goes through the mouth and into the windpipe and lungs. The EBUS scope is similar to the device used during a colonoscopy, although it is much smaller. The scope has a video camera with an ultrasound probe attached to create images of the lungs and nearby lymph nodes and can accurately locate and evaluate areas seen on X-rays or scans to give physicians a closer look. Using the camera and the ultrasound, Surana examines the patient’s lungs and airway and collects samples of the lung. The samples are usually taken using a needle that is smaller than the point of a pen. EBUS bronchoscopies are performed in the Conway Regional Bronchoscopy Laboratory. Who is a typical EBUS patient? EBUS bronchoscopy can help if a patient had a chest X-ray or CT scan and an anomaly 36 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Dr. Rachana Yendala is a hematologist-oncologist at the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic. was detected. The American Thoracic Society recommends that people who smoke receive an annual lung cancer screening to detect earlystage cancer. Low dose CT scans are used for the screening. If the screening shows a suspicious growth or other anomaly, the EBUS bronchoscopy can be used for follow-up imaging to confirm whether the patient has cancer or another lung condition, according to Surana. Other diagnostic follow-up procedures are more invasive and may require a prolonged hospital stay. “With EBUS, the advantage is that you don’t have to do any of these invasive procedures,” said Surana, adding that a few hours after the procedure the patient can go home. “The risk for those procedures is significantly higher.”

Referrals Surana was trained in EBUS bronchoscopy during his pulmonology and critical care fellowship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In addition to Yendala, he receives referrals from other hematologists-oncologists, primary care doctors and other specialists. EBUS bronchoscopy has been available at Conway Regional since January.

All in one care Surana says it is helpful that Yendala also has an office in the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic. She refers patients to Surana to help make lung-rated diagnosis of cancer and other conditions. “He is very efficient,” said Yendala. “We always discuss patients between us before we see

It is an advantage knowing each other’s plan of care. That helps us in moving things ahead in a more-timely fashion for the patients, and that can really make a difference.

— Dr. Rachana Yendala

them. It is an advantage knowing each other’s plan of care. That helps us in moving things ahead in a more-timely fashion for the patients, and that can really make a difference.” “Once the patient begins to be treated by Dr. Yendala, they will need to be followed and monitored to check for a reoccurrence,” said Surana. “If there is anything suspicious, once again we can use the EBUS to take the samples and restage the patients. It’s a rule-in or rule-out kind of procedure.” “There is harmony of care between pulmonology and oncology,” said Surana. “It cannot possibly be better than this because there is only a wall separating my office from Dr. Yendala’s office.” He added that patients may be seeing him, “but we can also set up an appointment with Dr. Yendala. Having both specialists in the same clinic speeds up care.” He cites the example of a man whose cancer reoccurred after he moved from another state. “Dr. Yendala was treating him for a reoccurrence, and I used the EBUS to restage him and diagnose him.” The EBUS at Conway Regional keeps healthcare local. “EBUS was not available in Conway before Conway Regional purchased it. The only option was to go to Little Rock,” said Surana. “These patients are severely ill, and you don’t want them to exert themselves. You want to minimize their time in the hospital. It helps to coordinate their care, stage them and treat them all in one place.”

Dr. Alok Surana is a pulmonologist at the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic.

About Surana and Yendala Surana completed his pulmonology and critical care fellowship training at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Crozer Chester Medical Center in Pennsylvania. He is a member of the American College of Chest Physicians. Yendala finished internal medicine residency training at the University of Toledo. She completed her Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where she served as the chief fellow. Telemedicine and in-person appointments are available with both physicians at the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic, located on the Conway Regional Medical Center campus at 525 Western Ave., Suite 305. For more information, the clinic can be reached at 501.358.6145. August 2020 | 37


Unity Health’s Dr. Eric Robinson became the first physician in the country to use Medtronic’s latest technology for implanting heart devices.

38 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Heart health

Unity physician first to use new technology At the beginning of June, Unity Health Cardiologist Dr. Eric Robinson became the first physician in the country to use Medtronic’s latest technology, the new Cobalt™ and Crome™ devices, for implanting heart devices. Hospitals nationwide are working to educate and ease patient fears of seeking medical attention during the current pandemic. Among other measures in place, Unity Health physicians are also leveraging new technologies to help patients manage their everyday heart health. With the help of new technology, Robinson is meeting patients where they are with a new portfolio of next-generation implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) and cardiac resynchronization therapy-defibrillators (CRT-Ds). The new Cobalt and Crome devices from Medtronic offer “smart” technology to better connect physicians with patients through a mobile app, ultimately increasing patient engagement while limiting in-person office visits. “Medtronic has always been an industry leader in new pacing technology,” Robinson said. “We have been fortunate to have a great working relationship with them and the ability to offer all of our patients the best in the industry. At Unity Health, we had one of the first MRI compatible pacemaker procedures and performed one of the first on label MRI procedures in the state as well. We have also been able to offer some of our patients leadless Micra pacemakers. “Now we were fortunate enough to be the first in the U.S. to implant the newest ICD technology available. It was not planned, but being the first in the country to use this technology was an honor and brought some recognition to our community hospital. In addition, our collaboration with Mayo Clinic helps us to streamline the availability of new pacing technology.” The Cobalt and Crome portfolio personalizes treatment and utilizes advanced technology that keeps cardiac teams connected to what is happening with individual patients and their devices. With increased connectivity, providers are now able to view a patient’s data transmitted through their own smartphone or tablet, providing better outcomes and reduced followup for the patient. The Unity Health – Cardiology Clinic is located at 711 Santa Fe Dr. in Searcy. The board-certified cardiologists offer a variety of services and are committed to offering the best heart care to patients. Call 501.279.9393 or visit to find a provider and make an appointment. As the leading healthcare provider in an eightcounty area, Unity Health and its associates strive to improve the quality of health and well-being for the communities it serves through compassionate care. August 2020 | 39

Fresh mint (right photo) is perfect on crostini with tomatoes. (Mike Kemp photos)

40 | 501 LIFE August 2020

It’s worth a mint! Summer and a glass of iced tea with mint and a slice of lemon is as natural as June, July and August! I love fresh mint. It comes in all varieties and is used in a plethora of ways. My favorite way to enjoy mint is in a simple glass of iced tea, preferably sun tea. My method of making sun tea was given Don Bingham to me by Glen Williams, my son-in-law of HousRecognized throughout the ton, Texas. It involves state as an accomplished chef, a glass container with a Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television plastic lid, two to three tea programs and planned elaborate bags and an hour or two events. on the front window ledge where our house faces great sun. I carefully remove the tea bags before pouring the liquid gold over ice and adding sweetener, fresh-grown mint and squeeze a wedge of lemon. Mint can be found in teas, in frostings and candy, in fragrances for household use, in medicines, mint juleps and more! Some of the different types of mint you may be familiar with are Sweet Mint, Mojito Mint, Chocolate Mint, Organic Mint, Sweet Peppermint and Clover Garden Mint. Mints are vigorous perennials that thrive in light soil; ideally, these plants prefer their soil to be moist but well-drained. They tolerate some shade and some protection from sun. June 10 was National Iced Tea Day. I’m sorry I was not aware of this momentous day, or I would have had my own version of the tea party! Some in today’s generation do not seem interested in spending a lot of time in the kitchen or in the intensive world of culinary arts (beyond watching various cooking shows). For this reason, I have included two recipes with mint for your consideration; one is for an appetizer or maybe even a snack supper, and the other is for minted iced tea. The iced tea is wonderful! The crostini with cheese and tomato is equally as good and refreshing. It’s worth a mint!

CROSTINI WITH TOMATO AND MINT 1 lb. cherry tomatoes (preferably multi-colored) 3 tablespoons maple syrup 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons chopped mint Kosher salt and pepper 6 slices crusty white bread, toasted


4 ounces goat cheese (or other preferred cheese) Place cherry tomatoes on roasting pan. Toss with syrup, olive oil, mint, salt and pepper. Roast 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and pour off roasting liquid into another container; drizzle toast with this liquid. Spread toast with cheese, top with tomato mixture and lightly press tomatoes, if desired, to cause tomatoes to open and spread juices onto cheese and bread.

ICED TEA WITH MINT AND LEMON 1 quart of water 4 family-size tea bags 2 cups sugar 1 bunch of fresh mint 1 slice of lemon for garnish Bring water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea bags and cover with lid; allow to steep for 20 minutes. Pour sugar into a 1-gallon jug and add just enough hot water to cover sugar; stir to dissolve. Remove bags from tea water mixture and add to sugar mixture to dissolve. Fill gallon jug with cold water to 1-gallon yield. Enjoy!

August 2020 | 41

Pack a little lunch box/ container for each person attending a picnic so everyone is not crawling around dipping from all different containers trying to fix their plate. It’s so much easier to just hand out the neatly assembled container to each person and dig in! (Mike Kemp photo)

42 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Let’s go on a


Picnics are one of my favorite things about summertime! I’m not talking about the Downton Abbey picnics, where the servants carry the silver, crystal, chairs and tables and set them up under a lavish tent on the grounds. You can create an awesome picnic without silver, crystal or Julianne Milner tables. Come along with me for tips on creating A self-taught baker, Julianne a lovely, casual picnic. Milner is a caterer, seasonal stylist Today is the perfect day and owner of Julianne’s Southern Table. She can be reached at for a picnic! The weather is perfect, the farmer’s markets are in full swing, and I want to GET OUTSIDE! Planning the perfect picnic is just like planning a small, transportable party. The perfect picnic is nothing more than choosing a fun location, a good group of friends and packing some delicious food and drinks. A picnic can be held anywhere. In your backyard, at the park, lakeside, at the beach — it’s your choice. If picnicking on the ground, choose a waterproof picnic blanket. If you don’t own one, a favorite quilt, blanket or throw will do. Just place a shower curtain liner under the one you are using to keep dry in case the ground is damp. If you have an old wooden crate or two, these come in handy to pack items in or use as a shelf or stools. No need to cover them. They give a lovely, rustic vibe. A centerpiece of fruit and flowers will give you the wild garden feel that a picnic is all about. When I organize a picnic, I like to pack a little lunch box/container for each person attending so everyone is not crawling around dipping from all different containers trying to fix their plate. It’s so much easier to just hand out the neatly assembled container to each person and dig in! The website has many cardboard containers to choose from. I have also used the four-section drink containers that you get when carrying Sonic drinks home. They work perfectly, too! I used kitchen towels tied on the container as the napkin and attached a clothespin to the salad fork so it was easy to access when needed. I’m keeping my picnic food casual and rustic. I’m loading up baguettes with assorted meats, cheeses and veggies. I’m tying newspaper around the baguettes to ensure that the filling stays in. A fresh corn salad is the perfect accompaniment to the baguettes. Serving the salad in individual Mason jars makes it easy to carry and consume. I

had fun choosing an assortment of carbonated juice drinks by Izze for the picnic. The flavors and colors just add a pop of fun to the casual picnic. For dessert, a large Hello Dolly bar! These are so rich and decadent! Who doesn’t love a mixture of chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and pecans. You must try this recipe! It will become one of your favorites instantly! Wrapping them in a little paper bag keeps hands goo-free! Cornhole boards, bocce ball and ladder ball are wonderful games to set up around your picnic. Any of these are sure to keep the fun going after the meal. Don’t forget to include some wet wipes along with a large bag to gather trash before you leave. You’ll want to leave the spot as pretty as you found it and ready for the next picnic! Happy picnicking from my family to yours!

FRESH CORN SALAD 3/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt 3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears) 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper 1 cup finely chopped green onions

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Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add corn and remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Yield: 8 servings (about 1/2 cup).

HELLO DOLLY BARS 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted 1 tablespoon water 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 1/3 cup butterscotch morsels 2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted 1 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Cut off excess parchment paper around the edge of the pan. Place crumbs in a medium bowl. Drizzle with butter and water; toss with a fork until moist. Gently pat mixture into an even layer in the pan (do not press firmly). Sprinkle chips and morsels evenly over the crumbs. Top evenly with coconut and pecans. Drizzle milk evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 24 servings.

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On display A guide on finding great art Early man took shelter in a cave, rubbed some sticks together and discovered fire. As he warmed by the emDonna Benton bers, the flame cast Donna Benton is a maker of a flickering custom home furnishings and specializes in classic painted glow on finishes for antique and vintage the wall furniture. You can see her work of the at cave, and he noticed that the empty expanse of limestone would be a great place for a display of personal expression that would make his new cave a home. He grabbed a sharp rock and began to etch into the stony slab little stick men on a prehistoric rabbit hunt. It was man’s first art. I’m not a historian, but I imagine that it went something like that. For as long as humans have had walls, we have been adorning them with collections of art that reflect who we are or aspire to be. Crayon drawings tacked to nursery walls evolve into dorm room posters of a favorite band, then to affordable mass-produced framed prints from a home store. At some point, we all settle into our first real home, and we renew the lifelong quest for art that expresses our individuality and makes us feel at home. The first lesson that most new art seekers learn is that great art is usually really expensive, and even bad art is expensive because frames are expensive. Finding unique art on a budget is one of the most challenging parts of decorating your home. Art budgets are relative. You can 44 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Even though these paintings have different styles and themes, they work together because they all share the same blue-green colors. (Donna Benton photos)

Shane Westmoreland is a local vintage art dealer who lets Donna rummage through his warehouse. certainly spend all the money that you want to on a great art collection, but if you have the patience and enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you can acquire a great collection of once-loved and vintage art. Flea markets and estate sales are the places to start. I paid $12 for my most favorite floral oil painting that I will treasure for all time. There is a lot of bad art out there, but if you are willing to take on the challenge, you can find a treasure. And you might literally find a treasure. Be sure to Google those vintage finds when you get home because there’s always the chance that you will stumble upon a highly collectable piece. But don’t get caught up in value or my idea of what makes a good art collection. If you love it, then it is the perfect piece for your home, and this rule supersedes any thought that I might share. Think about all your art working together and collect pieces that work with each other. They can work together by theme, like florals or landscapes; by style, like abstract or watercolors; or by colors. One of my favorite art displays in my home is a wall of paintings that includes an Asian-inspired landscape watercolor, an abstract work and a portrait. The styles of the paintings are a total train wreck, but they all share the same blue green tones, and they look great together. Display your art in unexpected ways. My guest bathroom walls are currently full of old oil portraits, my favorite of which is an oversized 1950s librarian. I’m sure she is a librarian because her stern eyes are shushing me. Group your art in a gallery wall. It’s a great way to use smaller, inexpensive paintings to make a big bold statement. I’m terrible at hanging groups of pictures straight, so I like to arrange them in a way where they are offset from one another, “jaggered” if you will. They need to be balanced, but they don’t have to all line up in a straight line. This works great with art of different sizes and orientations. Measure the space on your wall, then lay them out on the floor to get the right arrangement. Group them by theme, style or color, or if your mix is eclectic enough, don’t be scared of a total mashup of themes, style and colors. I’m certainly no art expert, and I often wonder if I have ever passed by a masterpiece as I flipped through stacks of forgotten frames in some dimly lit antique store back room. But I know what I like, and that’s what I buy. My taste is rather eclectic, and August 2020 | 45

Don’t be afraid to try an eclectic collection of art that is diverse with no rhyme or reason. my choices don’t always meet the approval of the other members of my household, so many of my impulse buys never actually make it to the wall. Not long ago, I brought home a new acquisition. It was an abstract piece of geometric shapes and squiggles that had all the colors of my new sofa pillows! I brought it in with excitement to show my family, who in one accord tilted their heads to the left and burst into laughter. It turns out, when viewed in the intended orientation, the subject of this abstract work was clearly a naked fellow. But hey! I only paid $20 for it. Now that I think about it, I better go Google that artist!

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A collection of paintings in a gallery wall needs to be balanced, but not necessarily all lined up and square.








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‘My Life, Powered by Conway Corp’ Every year, Conway Corp celebrates public power by encouraging local students to show their energy smarts and participate in a poster, essay and video contest. Students in grades PreK-fourth were asked to create a poster on the theme “My Life, Powered by Conway Beth Corp� while students in fifth-seventh grade and Jimmerson eighth-12th grades were A long-time Conway resident, Beth McCullough Jimmerson is asked to write an essay the manager for marketing and or create a video on the communications for Conway Corp. She has a bachelor’s degree same theme. Prizes were from the University of Central awarded in each age Arkansas and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. category. She can be reached at beth. Ida Burns tary School fourth-grader Brock Fimple won first place in the poster contest. He won a Conway Corp prize pack, trophy and a $100 donation for his school’s art program. In the digital video category, Conway Christian High School student Bo Cunningham won first place. His winning video can be viewed at In the essay category, Max Owen won first place. He is a seventh-grader at Ruth Doyle Middle School. Students in the video and essay contest won cash prizes. Here is an excerpt from Max’s winning essay: “You walk into a retail store, whatever it is, and if there’s a sense of entertainment and excitement and electricity, you wanna be there.� — Howard Shultz. This quote reflects my life with Conway Corp in it. Conway Corp provides the wants and needs of my life, which provide entertainment and happiness. These days, energy is one of the needs and wants in our daily lives. Many Americans can’t make it through their day without using some kind of energy. Simple things like flushing the toilet, turning on the lights and refrigerating food use energy. The community of Conway is very lucky to have the fantastic energy company we have. Conway Corp runs many of the citizens’ of Conway’s lives by providing Wi-Fi, water and electricity. At 6:30 every morning, my iPhone rings to wake me up. My phone is powered by Wi-Fi. When I look at the weather on my phone every morning, it is powered by Wi-Fi. When I call someone on my phone, that is powered by Wi-Fi. Those are only a fraction of things that are powered by Wi-Fi in my life. Although Wi-Fi is used a lot in our lives, it is more of a want. However, 48 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Ida Burns Elementary School fourth-grader Brock Fimple with his winning poster. water is a need. Taking showers, washing your hands and drinking water are powered by the water Conway Corp provides to us. After I go to baseball practice, I come home and get a tall glass of water. This would be a challenge without Conway Corp. Conway Corp gives my family the water we need to shower, cook, water plants and drink. Conway Corp makes everything easier. My family was thinking about moving outside of Conway; however, Conway Corp has influenced my family’s life so much that we keep coming back to the City of Colleges. Finally, one of the most important utilities to the millennials these days — electricity. Everyday activities are powered by electricity: turning on TVs, lights and charging your phones. Conway Corp provides the electricity to play the music on my phone and charge it. When I turn the TV on after I come home from school, that is powered by electricity. If I get cold, Conway Corp allows me to turn the heat on.

All in all, Conway Corp makes life easier, and in the life we live in right now, Conway Corp runs many things. My life without Conway Corp wouldn’t be as rich. My family wouldn’t have as many wants in life such as electricity and Wi-Fi. We also wouldn’t have as many of our needs, such as heat and water. Just like what Howard Shultz said, electricity provides entertainment and happiness. Conway Corp provides electricity, water, heat and WiFi. These things provided by Conway Corp make our lives in the City of Colleges bright. Congratulations to all the winners of the 2020 Energy Smart Poster, Essay and Video Contest, and thank you to all students who submitted an entry. Conway Corp is proud of these students who continue to remind us how integral Conway Corp is to our daily lives. We’ve been helping power area education since our creation in 1929, and we’re looking forward to another great school year.


Writer out to change the world Kamille Mohler of Little Rock is a feisty fifth-grader who published a book last year titled “I Am Not.” The back of the book jacket states that the work “is not only a short poem. It is a movement.” A book for anyone who has been subjected to any form of bullying, Kamille Susan states, “I am breaking Peterson barriers, and I am NOT settling for anything Susan Peterson holds a PhD in education and taught less. It is now time to at the University of Central stop the plague of bulArkansas and Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. She lying and self-hatred by retired in 2004 and now spends leading with I AM just her time doing artwork (painting and pottery). She is the executive like you.” secretary of the Arkansas Reading Kamille wrote the Association, a professional organization for educators book after hearing a that has about 800 members sermon about how God statewide. could use children to change the world. She and her mother, Lakisha Stevenson, discussed the sermon later, and Kamille said she would like to stop bullying. Her mother told Kamille that if she would write a book on that topic within a week, she would publish it. Kamille completed her side of the project using the recurring phrase “I Am Not” (I am not too black, I am not too white, I am not my weight, etc.); now it was time for Mom to uphold her end of the bargain. Lakisha searched the internet and found a Memphis artist, Kenny Williams, to do the illustrations. After being fine-tuned, the book

Kamille Mohler is a young writer who has penned a book titled “I Am Not.” was ready to be uploaded on Amazon. After receiving the first printed copies in May 2019, Kamille held book-signings and appeared at a number of events. Classmates, friends and family were very supportive. When asked if she was ever bullied, Kamille answers with a resounding, “Yes.” She was always small for her age, and from kindergarten through second grade she was taunted for being so little. She feels that writing the book helped her, and she knows it has also helped others to understand bullying and how to combat it. Although her favorite subject in school is science, she is an aspiring actor (or maybe dancer

or comedian), and she is well on her way. She has a movie credit to her name, having appeared in “Tablxs,” a short, independent film about bullying in which, ironically, she plays the role of a bully. She also is a featured author on the Arkansas PBS digital series “GobbledyBook,” where she read her book. And she has posted a YouTube video of an interview with a friend about her firsthand experiences being bullied. Kamille’s book is available online from Amazon or from Pyramid Books in Little Rock. For more information on Kamille, visit her Facebook page.


A new school year Goodbye to seniors and looking ahead by Jessica Duff

The Pulaski County Special School District serves nearly 12,000 students in Pulaski County, with almost 3,000 students attending schools in the Maumelle feeder zone. The Maumelle feeder within PCSSD includes three elementary schools (Crystal Hill, Oak Grove and Pine Forest), one middle school (Maumelle Middle) and one high school (Maumelle High School). As we prepare for a new school year, we want to give a final shout out to the graduating class of 2020. The following message is from the principal, Jeff Senn, to the class of 2020. Additionally, we want to take a quick look at what we can expect in the 2020-2021 school year.

Reflecting on seniors Dear MHS Seniors ‘20, As you step into this next adventure of your life, I wanted to take a moment to wish you well, to wish you the best life has to offer and to wish you continued blessings. Each step you took as a student at Maumelle High School will carry lifelong memories for you. I hope as you look back, you can say this time in your life had a positive impact, and you will carry each memory with you wherever you go. It was my pleasure being your principal and helping to guide your high school journey through each grade. Needless to say, I, along with my staff, am disappointed in how the school year came to an end. I can only imagine how your emotions and thoughts went on a wild ride. We all experienced the same thing. We knew we had to take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe. You were always in our thoughts. This experience will never be forgotten. Hopefully, by going through it, you can take it and let it make you stronger. In closing, imagine yourself stepping into the world with someone who believes in you. I am certainly that person. You are ready. Life keeps moving forward, and we all have to put each foot in front of the other going up, going down, going on with passion toward each step of life. You are MHS strong!

Students at the Maumelle High School Powderpuff Game.

Yours truly, Mr. Jeff Senn, Principal

Looking ahead The Pulaski County Special School District is excited about providing equity and excellence to all students in the 2020-21 school year. Entering his third year as superintendent, Dr. Charles McNulty continues to shift to improving education, 50 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Members of the Maumelle High School FCCLA chapter at the Arkansas Food Bank.

opportunities and collaboration across the district. PCSSD will continue to enhance initiatives that started last year in the upcoming 2020-21 school year in a blended learning approach for those in the traditional classroom and those participating in the virtual classroom. Two of these initiatives include AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). AVID increases student engagement, promotes classroom collaboration and activates deeper levels of learning with practical, useful tools and instructional strategies. PBIS assists our schools with enhancing our school climates and provides additional support to all students. Maumelle High School will also continue its third year of DRIVEN, which is an exceptional opportunity for students who thrive in a blended learning environment. Students in this environment have to be willing to assume ownership and control of their education. They must be willing to work with teacher-mentors and demonstrate the self-discipline needed to take full advantage of the flexibility offered to them. We look forward to seeing what the 2020-21 school year will bring us. Every day in PCSSD, we are working to find solutions to continue to provide a quality education, equity and excellence to our students. The 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. Maumelle High School cheerleaders prep for the homecoming parade.



August 2020 | 51

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An uncertain time Healthy ways to help children cope The new school year is upon us and there is still so much uncertainty about how it will go and what life will look like. You may be feeling anxious or worried as you wonder if your children will be attending school in a classroom or online from home, if they will be required to wear masks all day at school, Kellie if they will be able to Bishop engage in important Kellie Bishop is a pediatric nurse social interactions during practitioner at Central Arkansas recess and lunch in the Pediatrics in Conway. She lives cafeteria, and if they in Plumerville with her husband, Greg, their son and two dogs. She will be able to attend obtained her bachelor’s degree the critical classes they in nursing at the University of Central Arkansas and her master’s enjoy so much, including and doctorate degrees in pediatric art, physical education primary care at UAMS. and music. These are all legitimate concerns and issues we wish we could plan for but cannot. While this is an uncertain time for us as adults, it is an exceptionally unnerving time for our children; however, there are some healthy ways to help your child cope with uncertainty. Children thrive on structure and routine. Most families have a routine that works for them and is very consistent. This allows the family to be efficient and the children know what to expect each day. When children know what to expect, their behavior improves, and they can perform to their full potential. A pandemic tends to throw a wrench in daily routines, which has been evident over the last several months. Imagine being a child who loves school, spending time with friends and participating in sports outside of school. Now you have to stay home, perform all your schoolwork online, and on the rare occasion that you do get to venture out of your home, you and everyone around you have to wear face masks and stay socially distanced. Our kids did not get the opportunity to say goodbye to the teachers and classmates that they loved seeing every day. They were also taken away from the academic and extracurricular activities that they enjoyed. This has caused anxiety in all ages but 52 | 501 LIFE August 2020

particularly in children who do not understand the world around them outside of their normal surroundings and routines. As parents, we strive to help our children stay healthy and happy. How do we do this during a pandemic when the world has become much different and we do not know what tomorrow may look like? Consistency. The same thing you were doing before. Of course, your daily routine may look different than it did before, but develop a new routine, a new normal, and stick to it. It will take time for your children to adjust and accept it but developing a new routine to provide consistency and structure is crucial. Next, engage with your children. Talk to them about how they are feeling and help reassure them. Acknowledge and validate their feelings while also giving them reassurance and confidence in the new normal you have developed. Finally, allow them to have some control. Their lives were disrupted as much, if not more, than ours. Children strive for independence so giving them

some control at this time will allow them to feel a little more at ease. For instance, let them decide which school subject they want to do first if they are working from home. Also, let them learn away from the computer whenever possible. Even letting them help choose and cook meals for the family will help them feel a little more in control of their lives. The goal is to ensure essential tasks are being completed while allowing your children to feel that they have some control in their daily lives. Parenting is hard but no one prepares you for parenting during a pandemic. There is no roadmap for how to navigate this new and unexpected journey. However, our children are relying on us to remain consistent. So, even though we may not know what the school year will look like or how long face masks will be a wardrobe staple, we must remain diligent in providing the understanding, routine and consistency that our children thrive on. This will not last forever and together we can navigate these uncertain waters.


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TH N O M E TH Gia Smith K I D OF AGE: 7 CITY: Conway. SCHOOL: Second grade in the fall. FAVORITE SUBJECT: P.E. MUSIC INSTRUMENT PLAYED: Piano. FAMILY: Grace (mom), Mark (dad), Ryan (brother) and Junior (my cat). FAVORITE MEAL OR SNACK: Tortellini (meal) and pretzels (snack). MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION: My diary. MORE INFORMATION: Gia has been Miss Celina’s student for two years and she has learned SO much! She enjoys going to the Conway Institute of Music and has developed a love for all things music.

August 2020 | 53

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Find purpose in this season These are not normal times. Public schools are scrambling to offer multiple avenues to meet the needs of their students. Many families have found themselves homeschooling as a last resort. How do you have education during a pandemic? Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate preparing for this new school year.

Give yourself grace There’s no blueprint for life during a pandemic. You’re doing the best you can given the circumstances. A good friend told me, “God gives you enough Brittany grace for today. He doesn’t give you tomorrow’s grace Gilbert today.� Sometimes you need to just take it a day at Brittany Gilbert is a former FACS teacher at Maumelle High School. a time, and this season definitely fits the bill for She and her husband, Levi, living life a day at a time. Just as you give yourself have three children and live in Conway. Brittany can be reached at grace, extend it to others — your children cially. They are looking to you for how to handle this season, too. A lot of times, stress looks very different for a child than it does an adult. They may be more tired, anxious, their stomach may hurt or they may act out. Practice meditating, exercising or being still together and keep an open line of communication. If you don’t like the way something is going, change it One of my very favorite things about homeschooling is that I become a student of my kids. I have changed curricula in the middle of a school year because it wasn’t working well for one of my kids. It felt like we were starting over, but it ended up being really beneficial for him. The new curriculum taught him in a way that he really understood. Don’t be afraid to switch it up. You have the freedom to do what works best for your family and your children.

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Find purpose in this season You can’t re-create public school at home, so it’s OK if your school needs to look different right now. Maybe this season is about focusing on life skills instead of team sports or AP classes. Your child’s spouse will thank you one day if you spend this season teaching them how to manage a household. Maybe it’s the season that you make family dinners at the table a priority, or even family game night. For our family, we are finding what we need to say “no� to in the future. Our schedules were starting to pick up with activities or events every single night, and while we knew we didn’t love being busy, we weren’t sure how to change our schedule. Staying at home has allowed us the opportunity to figure out what will be worth our time and energy in the future. With so much uncertainty still present heading into this upcoming school year, you may find yourself doing more schooling at home whether you want to be a “homeschool parent� or not. While it may not be the path you or your child want to follow, make the best of it by remembering to give yourself grace, being open to changing things up when something’s not working like you planned and always looking for purpose during this season.


Revolution in skin rejuvenation

Summer is definitely here, and while it’s certainly different than ever before, one constant we can count on is new beauty products — to brighten our altered vacation plans. With ongoing COVID-19 precautions, we’ve been turning to products that are the next best thing to a salon Susan Isom appointment. Very seldom do I get Susan Isom has acquired considerable experience in excited about a “new” skthe world of skin care and has incare product. Your skin received numerous awards and special recognition during deserves the best that sciher career. She has deservedly ence has to offer. That’s earned an excellent reputation in Arkansas for her skincare why I am excited to expertise. She writes monthly introduce a product that skincare articles for state and local publications. Consultations and works with your skin’s assessments are conducted in the natural healing properties privacy of her beautiful facility in a relaxed, congenial atmosphere. to help achieve transforShe partners with cosmetic mative results from the surgeon Dr. Michael Devlin of Little Rock. inside out. SkinMedica’s TNS Advanced+ Serum is the next generation in age-defying technology. SkinMedica is a skincare line from Allergan, the makers of Botox and the Juvederm family of facial fillers. As skin ages, its rejuvenative processes perform less efficiently because of the lack of cellular communication. This can accelerate the loss of collagen and impair skin elasticity. As we age, the composition,

texture and appearance of our skin will change. Signs of skin aging include wrinkles, fine lines and loss of moisture, uneven tone, and dull, tired-looking skin. There are countless anti-wrinkle creams on the market promising to make skin look and feel younger. Many anti-wrinkle creams promise everything short of a facelift or to provide the much sought after “fountain of youth.” In reality, most are just moisturizers marketed as anti-aging products. SkinMedica’s TNS Advanced+ Serum is a skin rejuvenating formula that visibly improves the appearance of coarse wrinkles and fine lines and has been clinically proven to address sagging skin. Powered by TNS®-MR and Renessensce (RSC) Advanced, this combination encourages skin cell renewal and supports collagen and elastin levels revealing a smoother, more radiant and youthful complexion The new TNS® Advanced + Serum is a dualchambered formula. Here’s the breakdown: Chamber 1 + TNS-MR®: The most intensive and advanced growth factor blend that supports all layers of the skin. Chamber 2 + RenessenSCe (RSC) Advanced: A blend of botanicals, marine extracts and peptides designed to assist the growth factor blend. Progressive results have been clinically measured over a period of 24 weeks and visible changes have transpired in just two weeks. If you don’t have the time (or energy or desire) to scroll through pages of facial creams until you find one you like, at EL Clinical we have done the research for you. LIGHTWEIGHT, MATTE FINISH August 2020 | 55

Conway County: Billy Joe Murray Wherever he went, points, victories and championships followed. From his earliest years, he refused to envision obstacles he could not overcome — not athletic, not academic, not environmental. He always believed that success lay ahead if, with “eyes on the prize” in the distance, Dr. Robert he met the challenges of Reising the moment. Arkansas athletics have spawned Dr. Robert Reising retired from the University of Central few stories more Arkansas in 2013 after holding a poignant and uplifting variety of teaching, coaching and administrative posts during more than Billy Joe Murray’s. than a half-century in education. Raised in a modest His doctoral dissertation at Duke treated literature and sports. single-parent Morrilton home, Billy Joe and his nine siblings enjoyed few advantages and amenities in their formative years. In the words of a neighbor, theirs was “a rough upbringing.” Fortunately, that upbringing was situated in a supportive community and overseen by a loving mother. The latter refused to allow her demanding out-of-home job to keep her from requiring school attendance and home-work completion from the 10, while neglecting neither Sunday church services nor weekend jobs. Roxie Murray was a hard taskmistress who also insisted that her children experience the demands, satisfactions and disappointments of spare-time physical activities, competitive and otherwise. In Billy Joe, therefore, seventh-grade basketball Coach Larry Dixon welcomed an especially promising soon-to-be 13-year-old to his Morrilton Junior High School squad in the fall of 1967. The simultaneous arrival of school integration found the Devil Pups too immersed in successful basketball play to be distracted, and, on the eve of entry into Morrilton Senior High in 1970, they claimed the Arkansas State Junior High School title. Billy Joe was their leader, and Vernon Sizemore their coach. The former had learned well from the latter, who he later said “helped me to improve every part of my game.” His mother’s attendance was not inconsequential, either; Roxie was her son’s most enthusiastic supporter as the Devil Pups proved to be Arkansas’s best. Another gifted coach greeted the champions at Morrilton Senior High. Basketball icon John Widner quickly developed the Devil Pups into Devil Dogs, with a bite far more painful than their bark. A 73-17 record, topped by a state AA championship, accompanied the extraordinary contingent to high school 56 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Billy Joe Murray with his state championship rings. graduation in 1973. No one was prouder than Roxie. She had been among the Devil Dogs’ most loyal fans as her 6-foot3 son’s proficiency increased each season: from 12 points and 7 rebounds per game as a sophomore, to 18 and 11 as a junior and to 19 and 15 as a senior. The 1973 State Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Billy Joe also garnered all-state honors for the third time. With Conway’s Marvin Delph, he earned a spot on the Arkansas Gazette’s “Super Team of 1973” while completing his public school play by

participating in the State High School All-Star Game. For six seasons, he had started every game in which he played, and he was not to break rhythm at Arkansas Tech. From the tip-off in his first game with the Wonder Boys, he was not only a starter but “a scoring machine.” His first-year total of 608 points remains the highest ever by a Tech freshman, and his 1,846 point career total ranks him seventh among the University’s best scorers; these feats were possible even without the 3-point basket but with a minor injury marring his

Members of the 1972-73 state championship Devil Dogs team on the group's 40th anniversary. final season of play. In the spring of 1977, a delighted Roxie was at her beaming best when watching Tech’s star receive his baccalaureate. Soon thereafter, Billy Joe abbreviated a tryout with the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz to pursue opportunities in his native state. In 1981, he launched a 36-year head coaching career that became the envy of everyone in the nation who respected spectacular basketball success. Seven more championships — three in consecutive seasons, with all seven averaging 30 victories — embellished his office wall. Few states in the nation could claim a coach with nine championships in 7-12 public education — two as an eye-catching player and seven as an amazing head coach. On a Thursday evening, Nov. 21, 2019, at Devil Dog Arena, his hometown and its first-ever

All-Star Coach Billy Joe Murray with his son, BJ Murray, at the 2018 All-Star Game.

high-school basketball championship team honored Billy Joe. His accomplishments in the court sport were reason enough for both, but his teammates also wanted to encourage the donor transplant that he urgently needs. They aided UAMS personnel in distributing Living Donor information sheets to

interested spectators. A few weeks later, Billy Joe confided to a 501 resident that he hoped “the Lord blesses me with a place in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.” Conway County and others in the 501 wish a second blessing also visits him: a kidney transplant.

501 LIFE is once again profiling noteworthy athletes, men and women who made their mark in the 501. The “Celebrating athletic excellence” series features one from each of the 11 counties in the 501. The 11 are representatives of the quality of athletes found throughout Central Arkansas. This is the second of 11 installments in the fourth “Celebrating athletic excellence” series.

August 2020 | 57

Conway coaches Salty Longing (left) and Craig Conner both experienced special runs in the spring. Longing’s boys basketball team and Conner’s boys swim team won state championships. The two coaches, whose friendship goes back two decades, also both won Coach of the Year honors. (Mike Kemp photo)

58 | 501 LIFE August 2020


State honors Conway coaches share special seasons by Levi Gilbert

It was a special spring for Conway coaches Salty Longing and Craig Conner. Both won championships in their respective sports — boys basketball and boys swimming — and both also received Coach of the Year honors from the Arkansas High School Coaches Association. The championships and awards capped off impressive runs for both coaches, whose friendship goes back two decades to little league baseball and basketball and civics at Bob Courtway Middle School. “I was a tiny little guy and have always been. I was a little bit of talent and a whole lot of heart. I had to work a lot harder than everybody else to accomplish anything athletically,” Conner said. “What really stood out to me with Coach Longing — I had him for Civics in eighth grade and played basketball for him — he was the first male teacher that I had in the classroom. It was a total dynamics shift for me to see a male in that environment. Everybody just loved going to his class. It was fun.” Conner said from the very beginning, the two always had a great relationship. “Getting to play basketball for him was one of the joys of my life. When you look back on your life and that age group period and you look at the people in your life that impacted you, there’s nobody that impacted me more than Coach Longing. Why I’m here doing what I’m doing today is largely due to him. What I saw him do in the classroom and on the court, he’s an incredible person. “I got into education in a roundabout way. After college, my wife and I worked in ministry for a couple years, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to find something that I would be good at and enjoy. I remember telling my wife when I made the decision to move into education and coaching, I wanted to be a coach and a teacher just like Coach Longing. We have a very similar laid-back style, and he’s just the kind of person that you can tell is enjoying every day. Every day, he made you feel like a million bucks. I knew that as a career, that would be fulfilling to me.” Longing saw potential in Conner all the way back in those early little league baseball days when Longing was umpiring Conner’s games. “Craig as an athlete always overachieved,” Longing said. “He was extremely intelligent, one of the smartest students I’ve ever taught. You find sometimes that those type of players become your best coaches. Not the guy that was always able to rely on athletic ability, but you have to think the game and outwork people and do the little things right in order to be successful as an athlete, and I think that transitions really well into the coaching profession.” Throughout the years, their mentor relationship has evolved as the two have now become peers in education and coaching. But it still holds that original friendship.

I got into education in a roundabout way. After college, my wife and I worked in ministry for a couple years, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to find something that I would be good at and enjoy. I remember telling my wife when I made the decision to move into education and coaching, I wanted to be a coach and a teacher just like Coach Longing. We have a very similar laid-back style, and he’s just the kind of person that you can tell is enjoying every day. Every day, he made you feel like a million bucks.

­­— Coach Craig Conner “The banter between us is always lighthearted or some kind of smart aleck jab being thrown at one another, whether it’s something about the Cardinals or Reds,” Longing said. “It’s more of an adult conversation and mutual respect, but it’s the same type of conversation we had when it was a coach-athlete relationship earlier.” In addition to the individual sport Coach of the Year awards, Longing also received the overall coaching award — the Lowell Manning Award. “They asked me to go on the AAA website and look at past winners,” Longing said. “I was scrolling down the list and saw that the only other Conway coach to win it was James Bates. For me, it made it really special. I assisted James for over 20 years at the junior high and high school level, and kind of what Craig and I are sharing with mutual respect, there’s just not a better person in the world. James was somebody who taught me more than just the X’s and O’s of basketball, but also how to run a program and running it with integrity and respect. Respecting the six letters across your chest. That made it more special.”

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August 2020 | 59


Taking flight Bill Patterson photos

Organizers were pleased with the turnout for the inaugural hot air balloon event atop Petit Jean Mountain. The event was held Father’s Day weekend at the Petit Jean Airport. It featured helicopter rides and hot air balloon flights. 501 LIFE Contributor Linda Henderson was among those who enjoyed a balloon ride. (See her photos in an upcoming edition of 501 LIFE.) The next event is planned Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Petit Jean. For more information, call 479.304.7777 or visit the Petit Jean Balloon Events page on Facebook or

60 | 501 LIFE August 2020

August 2020 | 61


Old treasures

Finding, photographing advertising signs


North Little Rock 62 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Hi, my name is Linda and I have a problem. I collect pictures of old signs, and my favorite finds are “ghost signs,” signage painted on the sides of brick buildings. These signs were a way for merchants to either advertise Linda their store, services or Henderson merchandise. Some Jim and Linda Henderson are of the most famous lifelong residents of the 501. signs were for soft They travel the 501 and other drink trademarks and areas of Arkansas. Jim drives and hauls equipment. Linda takes slogans. photographs of Arkansas. During Before there were their travels, they have gained appreciation and love for The billboards along highNatural State. They have found ways and interstates, the 501 has so much to offer for fun and beauty to photograph. these signs were the way to attract business for products, goods and services available in the town. Over the years they have been hidden or have been demolished as new buildings made of steel have replaced the old brick building. A majority of these signs were painted in the early to mid-1900s. They became less popular as a way of advertising as neon signs became more common. Wall signs might have been painted by a local, but many were painted by skilled wall

Hot Springs painters known as “wall dogs.” They were called wall dogs because they worked long hours, travelled from town to town and many times painted a whole wall sign in a day. They were either hired by the owner of the business or hired by a company to paint a specific trademark like Coca-Cola. As time has gone by, these signs have faded and decayed, or walls have been remodeled or painted over. Many of the signs only remain because they were painted with lead-based paints. Some old signs have been revealed when walls next to old buildings have been removed. This happened a few years ago in Little Rock. A Dr Pepper sign from the 1930s was discovered when a building was demolished. The sign was enclosed between two exterior buildings’ walls. The sign’s beautiful colors had been preserved because of its enclosure. Other signs have been exposed when the paint that was painted over them starts to degrade and flake away, revealing

Bald Knob

Bald Knob

Bald Knob

Keo (Lonoke County)

the sign underneath. Recently, in some small towns across Arkansas, I have seen old signs being repainted. It appears that attempts to match the color and the designs of the old signs are being made. It is wonderful to see that towns are making an effort to preserve these hand-painted relics of last century icons. Other towns are attempting to preserve the actual sign with products to stabilize the paint as well as the masonry that the sign is painted on. There are so many things to see and discover when out exploring old highways and the older parts of towns in the

501. Ghost signs have an almost haunting appearance; they tell a story about past commerce and are the billboards of times gone by. A few remain legible and retain their original paint in the 501, but most have likely been torn down or have completely faded away. I suggest you keep your eyes open and scan old buildings, especially in the business part of towns; or peep into an alleyway for flaking paint and fading long forgotten logos. You might find an old treasure, and if you do, drop me an email because my name is Linda and I have a problem . . . I collect pictures of old signs and ghost signs.


Little Rock August 2020 | 63

đ&#x;‘Ľ #ShowUsYourPets NEIGHBORS special friends

Methodist Family Health launches special project Methodist Family Health has initiated a special project to give individuals an opportunity to share their furry friends with others. “We started #ShowUsYourPets as a way to get everyone’s mind off of COVID-19 and focus on something that brings joy,� said Kelli Reep, director of communications. “As long as people send in their photos, we’ll accept and share them.� Methodist Family Health provides comprehensive psychiatric and behavioral healthcare to Arkansas children and their families. Its mission is to give the best possible care to those who may need help and treat the whole person: behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually. (For more information on the agency, email info@ or visit methodistfamily. org.) The instructions to participate are easy and simple: follow Methodist Family Health on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and post a pet photo with a little info about him or her. Tag submissions with #ShowUsYourPets. Photos and information can also be sent to Response@ Since the call went out for submissions, Methodist has received more than 25 photos. “We can’t wait to share them each day with our followers,� said Kellie. Like other agencies, Methodist has been impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak. “It has made everyone throughout our continuum commit more focus on our mission, which is to provide the best possible care to those who may need our help,� said Kelli. “We are still accepting patients in our acute and subacute programs. We still see children and families in our outpatient and schoolbased clinics, but we do so through telehealth whenever possible. “When it’s not feasible for a family, we use every health and safety guideline to ensure the patient, family and our team members are safe. The positive side of COVID-19 is we are looking at how we provide our services and how we can continue those in new and different ways to make sure everyone is healthy and secure right where they are.� Kellie said individuals are invited to share how their pet is helping them cope during the pandemic through #ShowUsYourPets. Kellie shared a few of the submitted photos with 501 LIFE along with the following information: Poppy Potts – She asks, “Is there anything cuter than a speckled pup?� The reply: “Not much!� 64 | 501 LIFE August 2020

Poppy Potts is living the good life with adoptive parents Dylan and Angie Potts and their three children. Poor Poppy is deaf and was found in a box beside the road. Lucky Poppy has no worries now – she’s living the good life with adoptive parents Dylan and Angie Potts and their three children. Dylan and Angie are this year’s chairs of the Methodist Family Health’s upcoming Southern Silks soiree scheduled in September. Dylan is an attorney with Gill Ragon Owen,

P.A., the presenting sponsor for the event. Angie is a volunteer with a literacy nonprofit and instructs at Henderson Magnet Middle School. One of Poppy’s therapeutic duties in the Potts household is to listen to each family member’s thoughts and feelings. Being deaf, she never judges or offers critiques. She wouldn’t anyway; Poppy’s a sweet girl.

Cy Luft, a 10-year-old cockatiel, helps Denise Mills Luft, church relations coordinator at Methodist Family Health. Cy Luft – Cy has no fur and walks on only two feet. It’s OK, though, since Cy is a bird; not just any bird, a 10-year-old cockatiel. Cy likes chicken fingers, Cheezits and cheddar cheese. He whistles the ominous Star Wars Imperial March and the jaunty Razorback Fight Song – perhaps depending on how his favorite team is doing. Cy ensures that Denise Mills Luft, church relations coordinator at Methodist Family Health, always has a shaggy therapist close at hand, as well as a rousing background soundtrack.

Penny and Lulu Lawson are on staff at Lawson & Company Graphics & Printing, where Penny is the “chief paws-ecutive officer” and Lulu is “chief barketing officer.”

Penny and Lulu Lawson – The world of graphic design and printing can be hectic, with nail-biting deadlines, continual client changes and the potential of ending up with 300,000 copies of any mistake you make. Fortunately, Gloria Lawson, who styles herself the “Bossy Britches” of Lawson & Company Graphics & Printing, has a great staff backing her, including two tousled-haired C-suite officers named Penny and Lulu. According to their official bios on the Lawson & Co. website, Penny, “chief paws-ecutive

officer,” is an opinionated Diva (just like her Momma). When she’s not spitting the peas from her food, she’s making the world safe for naps. “Chief barketing officer” Lulu is in charge of keeping the daily schedule on track. She chases the wildlife out of the office backyard and alerts the team when a discussion has just gone on long enough by subtly demanding attention. To see more photo submissions, go to or visit the Methodist Family Health page on Instagram and Facebook.

August 2020 | 65


NEIGHBORS person of the month

Judy Hutchison

CITY: Morrilton. WORK: Speech/language pathologist for 42 years; 41 years with the South Conway County School District.

EDUCATION: A bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and a master’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Central Arkansas. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO YOUR FIELD: My mother was an educator and I was influenced by her experiences with special needs kids, especially those who had difficulty speaking. When I began at UCA, the speech pathology department was in the College of Education and part of the special education program. It just seemed like a natural fit for me.

WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK: Seeing the progress of my students and

their sense of accomplishment when communicating becomes less frustrating for them.

PLANS FOR RETIREMENT: Hopefully, the world will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen to travel. There are many places I would like to visit.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: We have a wonderful

county library. I am an active member of the Friends of the Conway County Library.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Parish Council at Sacred Heart Church, where I also lector. FAMILY: My family includes my mom, Jean Hutchison; two sisters, Jo Claire Hutchison and Mary Ann Hutchison; and my brother, Jim Hutchison. I have an extended family of aunts, cousins and friends. MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION: I have a very pretty locket that my grandmother gave to my mom and my mom gave to me. MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: Socializing with friends and family.

Judy Hutchison recently retired after more than 40 years of service in education. “I have had a wonderful career in the South Conway County School District,� she said. “I would like to thank all of the administrators, teachers, staff members, students and parents for the opportunities and experiences that I have been fortunate to enjoy as a part our school community.� (Mike Kemp photo)

66 | 501 LIFE August 2020

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: I know some amazing people because I live

in the 501. I enjoy the slower pace of small-town life, but I find plenty to do to keep me busy.

A Growing Health System for a Growing Community

Left to Right: Brooke Keith, APRN, Tony Manning, MD, Brock King, MD

Expanded Access

More Specialists

Innovative Services

New Medical Offices

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August 2020 | 67

W E’R E Better TO GETHE R .

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