July 2022

Page 1

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 1

2 | 501 LIFE July 2022


July 2022 501lifemag.com | 3

Camped Out Let’s show our age. When I mention camping in a tent, what scent

comes to mind? If you immediately remember a heavy chemical/musty scent, then you probably don’t sleep in a tent anymore because you can afford a camper. For those too young to relate, the smell I recall is as memorable to me as when I mention the scent of Play-Doh or movie popcorn to you. I loved camping as a child, but in my teen years “roughing it” was less fun, even if I was camping with my best friend’s family. Distinct memories of waking-up on the hard ground, stuck to plastic because the air mattress gradually deflated overnight, still brings a scowl to my face. And the last time that happened I was expecting our daughter, and that’s when I made a Scarlett O’Hara level declaration: “I’ll never go tent camping again!” But I love the outdoors, and the way a campfire crackles and dances, mesmerizing you like a snake charmer. I love how bright the stars shine when you’re away from city lights, and how much better a hot dog tastes when seated around a picnic table. I love the hush that falls over a campground at night, and the quiet voices that wake you in the morning. (And, if you’re really lucky, there’s also the smell of bacon frying, and you’re not the one cooking it.) Our cover story is about David and Mary Gulley and their love for vintage Airstream campers. They are infatuated by campers and love to connect with people who share their interests. This issue is themed “Collecting in the 501” and we bring you several unique collections such as meteorites, heritage chickens, vintage space toys, Matchbox cars and steampunk “Gizmos.” As you turn the pages, you’ll also receive sound financial advice and tour a modern, multi-story home on one of Central Arkansas’s popular bluffs. We begin a three-part series by Linda Henderson. She toured every state park (that’s 52) this year and has divided them into categories: Part 1 is scenic parks, part 2 will focus on historical parks, and September’s issue will feature parks with outdoor sports. Also, be sure to meet our Youth of the Month, a young woman who has recruited a group of teen musicians who travel to senior centers and perform to bring them joy. The 501 LIFE Magazine team has worked hard to assemble another bundle of good news for you. Take us to your next appointment or on your next camping trip — we’re sure there’s a story for you.

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

CONTRIBUTORS Becky Bell Don Bingham Laurie Green Jennifer Gulley Dwain Hebda Linda Henderson Vivian Lawson Hogue Colleen Holt Beth Jimmerson

Tammy Keith Beth Jimmerson Susan Peterson Dr. Robert Reising Judy Riley Carol Rolf Donna Lampkin Stephens Rita Halter Thomas Morgan Zimmerman

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

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

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

Stephanie Lipsmeyer Stewart Nelson Kristi Strain Jim Taylor Morgan Zimmerman

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

Matt LaForce Mike Parsons Brooke Pryor Carol Spears Kristi Thurmon

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

4 | 501 LIFE July 2022


Volume 15 Issue 3 4 8 9 10 12 14


Letter from the Editor Upcoming events YARN hosts art camp in Mayflower Loving LIFE photos Dragon Boat race/Annual fishing derby River City Men’s Chorus returns

On the cover David and Mary Gulley are fascinated by vintage Airstream trailers and outfit them with era-appropriate antique collectibles. Photo by Mike Kemp

By Stefanie Brazile


Gulley’s Travels By Jennifer Gulley

20 22

Couple of the Month: Kassi & Kaleb Posey of Mayflower Collections: Great balls of fire By Dwain Hebda

26 28

Youth of the Month: Ann Gao of Maumelle Conway High trains future cooks By Chef Don Bingham

30 34

Making cents of your finances A grand view in Conway By Rita Halter Thomas


Wilson plays his cars right By Lori Dunn

45 46

Partnerships that work Miss Arkansas promotes online safety By Carol Rolf


Conway Kiwanis’ partners with Head Start By Stefanie Brazile


Faulkner County dream team


By Donna Lampkin Stephens


Collections: Chick magnates


Save money with an energy audit

By Judy Riley By Beth Jimmerson


If I can think it, I can make it! By Vivian Lawson Hogue


Conway County Library is unique By Morgan Zimmerman


Artist of the Month: The McGaha Gizmo By Dwain Hebda


Author of the Month: Crystal C. Mercer By Susan L. Peterson


Pet of the Month: Boomer the Arkansas Ambassador By Becky Bell

72 73 74

Kid of the Month: Jude Nichols of Greenbrier Centennial Bank golf tournament Arkansas State Park Great Adventure By Linda Henderson


Athletic Excellence: Coach Eddie Hipp By Robert Reising


Vintage space toys By Tammy Keith


Person of the Month: Itzel Velazquez of Little Rock

6 | 501 LIFE July 2022


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

Collecting your own 501 LIFE is never a tough journey.

B Bella Rustina Market, 66 Bledsoe Chiropractic, 57

C Cardinal Investments, 30 Centennial Bank, 39 Conway Corp, 55 Conway Regional Health System, 83 Conway Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 9 Crews & Associates, 31 & 84

D DJM Orthodontics , 41 Downtown Conway, 60


E Edward Jones, 33

F First Community Bank, 44 First Security Bank, 84 First Service Bank, 13 Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling, Inc., 19

H Hartman Animal Hospital, 71 Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 51 Heritage Living Center, 5 Hot Spring Arts & Crafts Fair, 77

K Kilwins Chocolate, 73

Plus, for only $20 a year, you can get a subscription for yourself or as a gift. Home delivery ensures you never miss an issue! Visit 501LIFEmag.com or call 501.327.1501 to subscribe.




Catch 501 LIFE on KARK News with Mallory Brooks at 12:30 p.m. on July 5

welcome to the Writers’ Room

M MSC Eye Associates, 73

O Ott Insurance, 38

P Patterson Eye, 59

R Reynolds Performance Hall, 25 Rise Above Alcohol & Drugs, 26

S Salem Place, 43 Sissy’s Log Cabin, 15 Shelter Insurance, 30 St. Joseph Bazaar, 63 Superior Health & Rehab, 2

T Toad Suck Daze Race, 49

U Unity Health, 3 University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, 42

Vivian Lawson Hogue

is a Conway native and local historian, and even resides in a 112-year-old historic house in the city. She 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.

Don Bingham

Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, he has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and planned elaborate events. He was the administrator of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion for a decade and his wife, Nancy, was the First Lady’s Assistant. They have five children and 12 grandchildren. Contact him at donaldjbingham@gmail.com.

Linda Hoggard Henderson

A resident of Central Arkansas for most of her life, Linda shares her love of photography and traveling Arkansas each month. A graduate of UCA and retired from the Conway Human Development Center, she and her husband, Jim, have a son, John Mark. Contact Linda at lindahenderson@ conwaycorp.net.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 7

July Events

Beats & Eats – United We Stand 5 to 10 p.m. • July 4 • Searcy

World Championship Cardboard Boat Races 10 a.m. July 2 • Heber Springs

The Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce will host the day-long event, with timed heats for kids and adults on Greers Ferry Lake. Boats should only be made of corrugated cardboard and decorated with a circus theme. See rules for how they can be constructed. Boats will range from simple rafts to stunning ships and must complete four heats around a course. Awards will be given. Visit heber-springs.com.

Taking place at the Searcy Event Center at 1300 Higginson, there will be live music headlined by the Grammy Award-winning bluegrass band, The SteelDrivers. Free concert and huge fireworks show with other attractions and food for purchase. Air Force flyover, fun zone, food trucks, exotic petting zoo and pony rides. Wear your red, white and blue. For updates, visit facebook.com/searcybeatsandeats.

International Trombone Festival July 13-16 • University of Central Arkansas

Freedom Fest

6 p.m. • July 3 • Conway

Conway’s premier fireworks show and music festival, Freedom Fest brings the community together to celebrate the Fourth of July at Beaverfork Lake. There will be food and dessert trucks from Central Arkansas, music from local artists, and a fireworks show at dark. Free admission. Dog friendly (leashes required). For updates, visit freedomfestconway.com.

Red, White and Rodeo

An annual, multi-day event featuring all things trombone. Artists, teachers, students, professionals, industry leaders and hobbyists gather to celebrate and explore the many facets and styles of trombone playing, teaching, and making. There will be a youth workshop for kids 12 to 17 and a composer’s workshop. Learn more at trombonefestival.net

Mud Run

6 p.m. • July 27 • Little Rock

4 p.m. • July 4 • El Paso

Be a part of the free 4th of July celebration ’Red, White and Rodeo’ at Crossroads Cowboy Church, 3071 Highway 5, El Paso. Free admission and everyone is welcome. Barbecue dinner, rodeo and fireworks display at dark. Kids’ Calf Scramble, Ladies’ Steer Riding, and other rodeo events. 8 | 501 LIFE July 2022

After a five-year pause, Little Rock’s Dirtiest 5K returns to War Memorial Stadium. Not your average 5K, the run is for the adventuresome spirit and is a family-friendly race. Participants can run, walk, skip, trot and even cavort through the scenic trails of Two Rivers Park. Learn more raceroster.com/ events/2022/60187/the-mud-run.

A Colorful Camp

Youth Advocate Resource Network Summer Event brings together local youth and international artist. Budding artists were all smiles

at the Summer Art Camp hosted by Youth Advocates Resource Network (YARN) in mid-June at their center in Mayflower. Founded in 1985 by Berthenia Gill, the nonprofit hosted international artist Alice Aida Ayers. Twenty-five youth, ages 5 through 18, participated in separate sessions, each receiving age-appropriate instruction and personalized attention from Ayers.

Internationally-recognized artist Aida Ayers took part in the Mayflower event.

Ayers is based in El Paso, Texas, but has lived throughout the U.S. and in a few African countries. She holds degrees in fine art, design and art education and has exhibited work in America, Europe, Mexico and several countries in Africa. As a teaching artist, she has conducted residencies in more than 250 schools, colleges and community centers and has painted over 20 public murals. During the camp, the group painted a mural that depicts people visiting national monuments and historical places. “It was exceptional!” Gill said, smiling. “The 25 children of all colors left with a feeling of belonging.” In the past 37 years, Gill has organized trips for children and youth that took them to historical and national landmarks in the U.S. The community leader wanted to see kids in Faulkner County dream bigger.

Several teen students work on a section of a mural that will represent landmarks from around the world

The Summer Art Camp was sponsored by YARN, Ayers, Centennial Bank, First Security Bank, Bank OZK, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Simmons Bank, Conway Copies, Hearne Fine Art, C&V 4 Seasons Publishing, and Buff Blass.

One One Step Step Closer Closer to to Home Home The only certified acute inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Faulkner County

501-932-3558 On-site Physician • Certified Rehab RNs Physical Therapy • Occupational Therapy Speech Therapy • Average Stay 10-14 Days

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 9

The National Society of Accountants board of directors was “Loving LIFE” in May at the Marriott Hotel in Little Rock. Board members are Kaya Klotzek (from left), Stephen Hill, Chris Freeland, Eric Hansen, Melissa Longmuir, Brian Thompson, Marchelle Foshee, Joel Grandon, Debra Cope, Brad Crain, Ruth Godfrey and Joshua Caulfield.

Jerry Mathis (from left), Loretta Higgins, Marilyn Mathis and Phillip Lipsmeyer were “Loving LIFE” at a picnic.

The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton hosted a fishing camp. It’s “oh-fish-ial,” both instructors and students were “Loving LIFE” while reeling them in.

Joseph Pinion was “Loving LIFE” when he signed an agreement with Erik Sward to be the spokesperson for Bell and Sward Men’s Clothier in Conway. Pinion, of Morrilton, is the No. 4 overall prospect from Arkansas Razorback Basketball program.


10 | 501 LIFE July 2022

The adult tai chi class at Faulkner County Library was “Loving LIFE” and celebrating World Tai-Chi and Qigong Day. They meet Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. Tai chi is supported by the Arthritis Foundation of America. Back row: Gary Almqist (from left), Xiao Fan Wang, Chon Lan Yao, Harold Booher and Carol Clark. Front row: Ursula Smith (from left), Linda Howard, Mai Chu, Instructor Sachiko Halter, Lis Kelly and her 93-year-old mother, Raiko Kelly.

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

Arkansas Platinum-Hawthorn, a fast-pitch softball travel team from Hot Springs, was found “Loving LIFE” when they played in the Hiland Dairy Youth Classic Tournament in Conway in early June. Brian Porterfield (center) was “Loving LIFE” at Haynes Home Center’s Outdoor Power Showroom in Morrilton when Chamber members and local business representatives celebrated a ribbon cutting May 26. Porterfield is the COO & Executive VP.

Fabiola Reyes (from left), Matthew Ramirez, Philip Shell and Haley Turney were “Loving LIFE” at Arvest’s open house for the Home Loan Center in Conway.

Bronnie Rose was “Loving LIFE” and sharing information at the Arkansas Parkinson’s Disease Moving Day fundraiser at War Memorial Park Pavilion in Little Rock on May 21. Rose is the facilitator for the Conway area Parkinson’s Disease Support Group.

Wesley (from left), Charile, Antonio and Grayson were “Loving LIFE” at the 2022 Conway Morning Optimists Fishing Tournament.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 11

River Cities Dragon Boat Festival a huge success! T

The River Cities Dragon Boat Festival reached the goal of raising $150,000 to support the expansion of the Children's Protection Center - Little Rock. The need for expansion is evident because of a record 300% increase in the number of abused children receiving services over the past three years. According to childrensprotectioncenter.org, the agency’s mission is to provide a child-friendly facility where professionals work together to protect and treat child abuse victims and their families, to prevent abuse, and to hold offenders accountable. This year marks the 15th year of service. Currently, a remodel is underway at the current facility, and a satellite facility in north Pulaski County has been secured where services will also be provided in the future.

Team “Cargo Boat” represented the Arkansas Department of Human Services. DHS Secretary Cindy Gillespie (from left), Jeff Dean, Amy Webb as Poppy, Scott Gann, Mischa Martin, Damian Hicks and Courtney Brown.

The Dragon Boat Festival drew participants from numerous businesses, organizations and individual teams. During the second weekend of June, the teams competed at Maumelle’s Lake Willastein for the champion title in Arkansas’s Dragon Boat Competition. Billed as "the ultimate family-friendly tailgate party," the festival included kid's activities, food trucks and costumed teams who chose individual themes. Organizers were unable to have the event in 2020, but it returned last year. They have tentatively set next year’s event date for June 9 and 10, 2023.

12 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Miles Erwin (from left), Cole Lansden, Nick Crowe and Cameron Smith made up team “Juice Box”

Photo by Rebecca Wilson

Back in fine-tune

River City Men’s Chorus returns to form with trio of concerts A

fter a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, The River City Men’s Chorus (RCMC) performed three concerts mid-May at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock aptly titled “Together Again!” The hourlong concert included songs of all kinds: inspirational, humorous, upbeat, sacred, and international. Favorite selections were "What a Wonderful World" and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Each was performed to a responsive audience, who was excited to hear the talented group perform again publicly. Bound by a love of music, the male choral company of around 60 members enjoys a camaraderie known to few groups. “The men of the chorus work towards the common goal of providing excellence in musical experiences to the Central Arkansas community, always free of charge,” said Conductor/ Artistic Director David A. Glaze.

Patty Tanner (from left), Drew Irvin and Nan Squire

Rachel Lipsey played the flute and piccolo, Max Campbell accompanied on bass, and Brandon Brockinton kept the beat on percussion. Glaze accompanied each song on piano. Several soloists with beautiful voices were also featured. In December 2002, Glaze started the chorus with 35 men who performed a concert of holiday works to a full house. Encouraged by the audience’s enthusiastic reception, a board of directors and a nonprofit organization were formed, and the RCMC was founded. Beginning with the first full season in 2003-04, each of the three seasonal concerts was performed only once. Because they experienced consistent overflow crowds, the chorus began adding performances, and now three performances are offered every season.

Gail Hocott (from left), Rebecca Wilson, Kim Bird and Lori Hart

The chorus has enjoyed two concert tours of Europe, including singing in a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, and was selected to sing in the American Choral Directors Association Southwest Division’s 2014 conference. Concerts are recorded and sold for a nominal price. Beginning in the fall, the concerts will be offered on USB thumb drives. Past concert recordings are available on CD. Donations are appreciated, and the volunteer-based organization is always looking for singers, volunteers, board and audience members. If interested, email rcmc@rivercitymenschorus.com. Michelle Mann (from left), Cindy Brown and Mary Lu Cash

14 | 501 LIFE July 2022



16 | 501 LIFE July 2022



Little Rock family with vintage Airstream collection restores campers to their former glory By Jennifer Gulley


y parents, David and Mary Gulley, began their cherished history with Airstream trailers when they were very young. Both of their childhoods were spent traveling all over the country in various types of campers. “My first memories of an Airstream were when I was a young child and my parents purchased their first one in 1965,” David said. “They enjoyed their Airstream so much that they owned three of them over the span of twenty years.” Their enthusiasm for the brand caught on with other members of my family, such as aunts and uncles. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, they attended many Airstream-related events, rallies, and even the 1976 International Rally in Louisville, Ky. “It didn’t take long for camping cross-country in Airstreams to become a family tradition,” David said. “Because Airstreams became a symbol of spending time with our families, it was only natural that Mary and I would have an Airstream of our own when we became adults. What we didn’t realize, however, was that our first Airstream would end up being the last one that my parents ever owned.” My grandparents sold their custom 1976 Airstream in the 1980s. My dad did not lay eyes on the trailer again until a decade later when my parents were driving near Hot Springs and they miraculously spotted it for sale. “I knew it was my parents’ old trailer because of the custom green sunshade that my mother had chosen,” David said. “The faded imprint of their WBCCI membership number could still be seen above the front window. There was no mistaking it.” (WBCCI stands for Wally Byam Caravan Club International, now known as Airstream Club International; Byam was the inventor of Airstream.) My parents purchased the trailer on the spot. It had been completely redone on the inside and they spent the next two years renovating it back to the original design that my grandparents had ordered it 20 years earlier. Rediscovering the 1976 Airstream served as inspiration for my family to become involved in the Arkansas Airstream Club. “We were young parents at the time, and we loved sharing our happy memories of camping in Airstreams with our two children,” David said. “It was, after all, a family tradition to grow up in an Airstream. We have spent the past 30 years involved in our local club and our membership has allowed us to travel, make friends, and form life-long connections with other people that are just as passionate about Airstreams as we are.” The club has also provided us an opportunity to become exposed to a variety of other types of vintage trailers from the 1930s through to the 1960s. This exposure sparked our interest in both original unrestored and restored period-correct trailers. We are deeply fascinated by the history, ingenuity, and craftsmanship, of Airstream and other brands dating back to the early 1920s. “For many years, we have strived to find forgotten vintage trailers that contain a rich history and restore them to their original state and former glory,” David said. “We research the era it was built to ensure accuracy in not only the restoration, but also when decorating these treasures in period-correct décor.”

Pictured Left: A Gulley Family 1956 caravan trailer in front of the Heritage Center at the Airstream Headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio. This particular trailer has traveled to Mexico, Canada, Cuba, Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland and France.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 17

“It was, after all, a family tradition to grow up in an Airstream.” - David Gulley

Above: The 1976 Airstream that found its way back the Gulley family after more than a decade. Below: The interior of the Airstream was retrofit to match the interior design of his family's 1970s trailer.

“We have been amazed at what a formal affair camping was in its early beginnings,” Mary said. Vintage pictures show families dining by their campers in dress attire, using fine china during meals, and setting up candlesticks for lighting. In the 1950s and 1960s, during the mid-century modern boom, the style of camping accessories changed from the formal to the brighter and more whimsical. The decade saw colorful chairs and ice chests, eye-catching awnings, water coolers and lanterns that popped in their design, picnic tables and baskets full of personality, and every other imaginable camping accessory. In this timeframe, the interstate system was developed to allow families the luxury of traveling with ease, as well as to accommodate the tremendous influx of travelers who were visiting national parks and monuments. In contrast to the bold accessories of the mid-century modern trailers, more contemporary and present-day photos show trailers outfitted in a more low-key, practical way, stocked with essentials and battery-powered accessories that offer casually-clad campers all the modern-day conveniences of home. “Even though our family has grown up and expanded, we carry on the tradition of camping together,” David said. “We are so fortunate to live in Arkansas, with all its beautiful state parks, mountains, and lakes so close by. Our beautiful state allows us to enjoy camping virtually yearround, and our family tradition of taking our Airstreams for a spin will carry on for years and years to come.”

See additional exterior and interior photos of three Gulley restored Airstreams at 501lifemag.com 18 | 501 LIFE July 2022

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 19




WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: I was born and raised in the Ouachita Mountains of Western Arkansas, in the town of Mena (Polk County).

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in strategic communication at Arkansas State University.

EDUCATION: I earned my B.B.A. in management of information systems and my Master of Business Administration with a concentration in information systems at the University of Central Arkansas.

Arkansas, Jonesboro area.

JOB TITLE: Owner of Kassi’s Cookies. PARENTS: Glenn and Kristi Loyd of Marked Tree (Poinsett County).

FUN FACT: I’ve been singing in church since I was 2. Praise and worship is such a huge part of who I am.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: Spending quality time and making memories with my family and friends is always at the top of my to-do list, but I also love branching out and trying unique foods/restaurants I’ve never had before.


grown man at a crawfish boil.

MOST ENJOYED WEEKEND ACTIVITY: I love taking my goldendoodle puppy, Poppy, to the Conway dog park as well as shopping/eating local in Conway.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Anything is possible with hard work, determination and a good attitude. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501: My grandma

and my mom are both from Little Rock, and my great uncle, David Kinley, is a former Mayor of Conway. He played a major part in making Conway the city it is today. I’d say my favorite part about living in the 501 is the family history and heritage I have here.

JOB TITLE: Co-owner of Kassi’s Cookies, LLC and solution architect at Cheetah Digital. President of the Mayflower Area Chamber of Commerce. PARENTS: Jason and Amanda Posey of Mena COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Through my role in Chamber, I spend a lot of time coming up with new ideas and activities for the community. We have started a lot of new initiatives that highlight the city of Mayflower and everything the community has to offer. CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I always look for the opportunity to serve wherever I am. I help teach youth on Wednesday nights, help run livestream, and do whatever I can to help further the gospel of Jesus Christ. HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: I just picked up golf less than a year ago … I’m not very good at it, and that infuriates me, so I play constantly. I’ve also always had an interest in general aviation. I want to start working on my private pilot’s license soon. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it. We can’t always control the things that happen in our lives, but we can absolutely control how we react to those things. I choose to make the best out of every situation and always look for the positive in people and our community! WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING IN THE 501:

I love the opportunity that exists in Central Arkansas. There are so many things for people to do and so many different avenues for individuals to explore and grow in! It is a beautiful part of Arkansas and a great place to raise a family!


Our pastor introduced us.


At sunset on a romantic bridge nestled in the Hot Springs National Park with photos of our journey strung across the bridge.


Jan. 11, 2020, at Oak Hill Farms in Sheridan (Grant County).

CHILDREN: None yet but hopefully soon! PETS: A goldendoodle puppy, Poppy. FAMILY ACTIVITIES:

Kaleb golfs, and Kassi drives the cart. Photo by Logan Hunt Photography

20 | 501 LIFE July 2022




Photo by Paula Cheavers Photography

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 21


Out Of This World

By Dwain Hebda

Great Balls of Fire I

n his long career as a pharmacist, Robert Woolard’s life has been all about precision, dispensing medications by exact and painstaking formulas. And in his spare time, he’s no less stringent with hobbies that lend themselves to numbers. His first affectation was arrowheads, of which he found and collected 10,000. His next passion carried him 105,000 air miles and 22,000 land miles to five states and four foreign countries — all in pursuit of the 2,000 meteorites he’s gathered, catalogued and collected, a captivation that’s held him for 30 years. “I cannot remember when I very first started being interested in space, but it was as a child,” he said. “I can say that by age 8 or 9, I was interested in looking up at the sky. “When I was about 12 years old or so, my parents bought me a little rinky-dink telescope from the pawn shop, and I took it outside and started looking at things. When I saw the rings of Saturn, I still remember the awe and sense of wonder I got, even from that long ago. Nearly 70 years later, I remember the thrill of seeing that.” That said, Woolard may not have found his way in the orbit of meteorite collecting had it not been for a chance broadcast overheard by a friend of his back in the 1980s. One of David Letterman’s guests that fateful evening was Arizona meteorite aficionado and entrepreneur Robert Haag and when his friend told him about it, Woolard was intrigued. “I instantly picked up the phone and called that guy,” he remembered. “I ordered 10 small meteorites from him, and I remember the day I saw the postman pull up. I tore out there, got the box and tore into it. I was in hog heaven, actually.” Through Haag’s customer catalog, Woolard learned of meteorite hunting trips and a new hobby was born. “I worked with a fellow pharmacist friend, and I said, ‘Man, wouldn’t this be awesome to go on a meteorite hunting adventure and actually find rocks from outer space?’” Woolard said. “He said, ‘Yeah, that’d be pretty cool.’ I said, ‘Hey, would you go with me?’ So that’s how it all began.” During his three-decade odyssey, Woolard has become an authority on fallen celestial matter. His finds have ranged in size from smaller than a marble up to 75- and 125-pound monsters, and most everything in between. He also relishes the chance to share his knowledge of space rocks with others, starting with their various species.

TOP: A 75-pound meteorite from the Portales Valley, sitting on porch railing. It measures 12-by-12-by-9 inches. MIDDLE: Robert beside the 75-pound meteorite in its impact pit in the Portales Valley in New Mexico in 1998. BOTTOM: Robert’s son, Robert Christopher Woolard, in 2009 with one of his Ash Creek, Texas, meteorite finds. This stone meteorite, next to the GPS, had fallen to earth only five days before.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 23

“By age 8 or 9, I was interested in looking up at the sky.” -Robert Woolard “When an object is in outer space and it’s fairly large, the size of a trash can or bigger, it could probably be called an asteroid. They can be up to 500 miles wide,” he said. “If it’s smaller than that, it’s usually referred to as a meteoroid. If it happens to get to Earth’s atmosphere and comes falling through the sky and you see this bright light up there, that is a meteor. Anything that makes it to the ground that you can pick up in your hand is a meteorite.” Meteorites, in turn, fall into three basic classifications, depending on their composition. Stony meteorites broke off from the crust of an asteroid; iron meteorites comprised the asteroid’s core. And from the thin band where the rocky crust meets the metallic innards, we get stony iron meteorites. Despite hunting for three decades, Woolard has never found a stony iron specimen. Nor, he’s quick to point out, has he ever found a meteorite in Arkansas, despite having lived here his whole life. And he’s not alone; regardless of what the movies tell you, meteorites aren’t that much different in appearance to Earth rocks. Which means unless you’re standing right under them when they land during a meteor shower, they’re easily dismissed by the naked eye as field stones or common

gravel. That’s too random for a guy like Woolard, so he takes steps to improve his odds of success, from searching terrain without a lot of vegetation (unlike Arkansas’s) to tracking meteor showers. One prize of his collection — most of which he’s donated to University of Arkansas - Little Rock, by the way — is a chunk of the moon, which was found in a desert in Oman by a meteorite hunter in his party who shared a piece of it with him. Upon returning home, Woolard was moved to do the same. “None of the Apollo astronauts were allowed to keep any of the Apollo moon material they brought back, because it was all taxpayer-funded,” he said. “They weren’t allowed to keep even a tiny BB-sized piece, nothing. “So, I sliced up the lunar meteorite and I sent a piece to Neil Armstrong as well as one to Alan Bean, the fourth man on the moon. It just seemed an injustice that the first men on the moon didn’t even have a piece of it.”

ABOVE: A lunar meteorite that was found in Dhofar, Oman. One of the “Holy Grails” of meteorite hunters, this confirmed piece of the moon was launched during an asteroid impact upon the moon’s surface. Eventually it fell to earth, where it lay for thousands of years before its discovery. This was the 67th meteorite found on Robert’s trip to the Omani desert. It is 4-by-2-by-1 inches. LEFT: Robert pointing to two fragments of another meteorite that he found in the Dhofar desert of Oman in 2005. The exceedingly bare and desolate desert landscape is ideal for meteorite hunting.

24 | 501 LIFE July 2022

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 25

Photos by Mike Kemp

26 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Ann Gao founded the “Our Songs Project” in March . The group of 75 student musicians performs at senior adult living centers. Recently, she and Stephen Graham presented a concert at The Lakes at Maumelle – Health and Rehabilitation.


nn Gao uses her musical talents to bring joy to senior adults, and their encouragement fuels her desire to perform. Since March, the 17-year-old has founded the “Our Songs Project” which has presented more than 45 music concerts at 25 senior living and nursing facilities. A natural leader, Ann has inspired 75 youth performers to join the project. She herself is a talented flute and piano player who takes private lessons. “I started learning music when I was five, and I loved performing and getting positive responses from my audience,” Ann said. “When I was younger my local piano teacher, Linda Kennedy, and my middle school band would go to nursing homes, schools, and hospitals, and it made me fall in love with playing piano and flute for my community.” When Ann started high school, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and her performance opportunities dwindled. She missed them. “In March, I wanted to revive playing for the community,” the incoming senior said. “It started really small, and after our first few concerts our audience members were so kind and supportive that we wanted to make this bigger.” Ann reached out to friends who play instruments with her in the Little Rock Central High School band under the direction of Brice Evans. As they joined in, they invited their friend groups. Now at 75 performers, leadership roles have been assigned. As the “Our Songs Project” director, Ann focuses on planning concerts by reaching out to senior living centers. There are also project managers who oversee communication with the group via email, while other project managers record performances or create programs. There is also a member who handles social media and the new website, oursongsproject.org. Many would ask, how you can motivate 75 teenagers to coordinate 45 concerts for senior adults over a four-month period? Ann would tell you that it’s a gift from the performer to the audience, and the audience reciprocates with smiles, affirmation and sometimes tears.

“Generally, in Arkansas, our older residents are sort of a marginalized group and rarely have visitors or entertainment,” Ann said. “It is really fulfilling to be able to play for an audience who really appreciates our work because we practice every day.” The teen recalls many meaningful moments, but one stands out. “At our first concert at Woodland Heights, my friend Jessica Doss was singing ‘Amazing Grace’ and I saw a lady in tears. As young musicians we have been learning music and for so many years we have had such a power to make people smile, cry and recall memories, and we hadn’t had the opportunity to use it.” This summer Ann is also reading and dancing ballet. Because she is interested in the medical field, she is volunteering at UAMS through the HEALERS (Health Education Active Learning Experience for Regional Scholars) program, which is a hands-on, interactive program open to junior and senior high school students in Pulaski County. She is grateful that her parents, Yang Ou (mom) and Jun Gao (dad), started her on piano at a young age. “They have encouraged me on my entire musical journey,” Ann said. Her brother, Joshua Gao, will be a sophomore and he also performs through “Our Songs Project.” This is the third consecutive year that Ann will be the drum major for her high school band. There are tryouts each year. She takes piano from Naoki Hakutani, a piano professor at University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and flute from Dr. Carolyn Brown, a flute professor at the University of Central Arkansas. Ann continues to plan performances in the region and looks forward to entertaining senior community members. “Their praise inspires us to keep getting better at our instruments,” Ann said. “Specifically, since we are all young, bridging that gap between the youth and the elderly is really important. We enjoy speaking with them because they are older and wiser, and they really give us a lot of support.”

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 27


From a hydroponic garden to gourmet spreads, Conway's Leslee Tell creates cooks of the future.

Left side of table, front to back: Maddie Haylie, Janessa Page, Anna Coffman and Melanie Morales. Right side of table, front to back: Mrs. Leslee Tell, Haylie Henry, Camille Davis, McKenzie Espinosa, Jaiden Coreals, Emily Batty and Jack Roach.

By Chef Don Bingham


he future of the nutrition and culinary world is in good hands! I found an amazing program, directed by Instructor Leslee Tell, that focuses on training students at Conway High School in Consumer Science, Food Safety, Advanced Nutrition, and Servsafe Food Safety. Mrs. Tell, a teacher for 19 years, brings “much to the table” in her understanding of the latest in food technology and preparation. The recipient of more than 17 awards for excellence, she has influenced myriads of students and their potential careers. Mrs. Tell loves teaching, cooking and instilling in her students the motivation for quality, and excellence is her driving passion. Among these honors are the National Board Certified Highly Qualified Teacher Award, the University of Central Arkansas Distinguished Alumni Award from the Family and Consumer Science Department, Arkansas Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year, Conway Regional Women’s Council Classroom Impact Award, Baptist Hospital Nutrition Education Award and Grant, Silver Dollar City “Dream Big Do Good” Award and grant, and the American Farm Bureau Federation’s On the Farm STEM Scholarship Award for Professional Development, just to name a few!

28 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Mrs. Tell’s class runs a hydroponic garden that provides herbs and fresh vegetables to use in cooking labs. The funding for many of the class projects and equipment has come from awarded grants, including a prestigious federal Carl D. Perkins Grant. Included in the impressive equipment list are: a camera for kitchen demonstrations and three large smart TVs in the cooking lab, the hydroponic garden, an InBody 570 BMI Machine, a Digital Die Cut Machine, and a set of iPads in her teaching classroom. The day we visited the classroom, the students were preparing an elegant presentation of breakfast items on charcuterie boards. This included selecting fresh herbs, grocery shopping, preparation, cooking, arranging for photo shoots, and making necessary arrangements for invited guests. Oh yes, did we mention the art of “clean-up” is also covered in this classroom experience? “This class has taught me many things,” student Jack Roach said. “From all of the field trips to farms to all of the interesting lessons, this class has really been fun. I’m happy I decided to take it.” Another student said, “I have had Mrs. Tell’s class for 3 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Each year I’ve learned more about nutrition, and it has actually influenced me to want to become a registered dietitian. We have been able to go on a few field trips to see the farm-to-table style and it was such a fun experience. I am thankful that I decided to take this class, and it will influence my thinking for the rest of my life.” Both nutrition and sanitation certifications are offered to students willing to put in the required time and energy. I find comfort in knowing the future generation is not totally given over to fast food and fast technology that can result in fast weight-gaining issues.

See recipes from Mrs. Tell’s Nutritional Sciences Program, including this Loaded Vegetable Quiche, at 501lifemag.com.

Photos by Mike Kemp

Leslee Tell's

Cinnamon Roll Casserole 2 tubes cinnamon rolls (17.5 oz) ¼ cup butter melted 4 eggs 1 cup heavy whipping ream 3 tsps. cinnamon ¼ tsp. nutmeg 2 tsps. vanilla extract Icing from cinnamon roll packages

Items needed:

9 X 12 baking dish Mixing bowl Measuring spoons Pastry brush

Directions: Melt butter and coat a 9X12 baking dish with the melted butter. Preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla together. Open canned cinnamon rolls and slice each one into eighths, like a pizza. Place cinnamon roll pieces into the bowl of egg mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. Then pour the coated pieces into the greased baking dish and spread out evenly. Any remaining egg mixture may be poured or brushed over the top of areas that look like they might get dry. Bake at 350 for 1825 minutes or until light golden brown. Deeper pans may require additional time. It’s best to keep an eye on things and check one of the middle pieces to be sure the dough is set before removing from oven. Add icing to the top of the warm casserole. Serve warm to guests.

How can I be financially stable? It’s a question we’ve all asked. So, we reached out to experts in the field and assembled some essential questions and answers for readers. These companies have a comprehensive knowledge of how to handle personal finances and how to make sure that you and your family are prepared for the future. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, contact one of the companies in this section and they will guide you to the best decision for you.

You can be get where you want to be financially. Seeking skilled advice is part of the answer.

Happy 4th of July!

Roe Henderson

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




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

30 | 501 LIFE July 2022

What is the value of working with a Financial Planner?

What are some important financial choices I can make in today’s environment? Inflation is creeping into personal and family budgets, so taking steps to improve personal finances has never been more important. We’ve put together a few helpful tips that everyone should incorporate into their day-to-day lifestyle. Track your spending. You may know it costs more to live today than it did in years past, but if you don’t know exactly where your money is being spent it’s difficult to make improvement. Create a Budget. Certain expenses are fixed and required to live, but others can be considered discretionary. Start with your household take-home pay and create a realistic, workable budget. Create an emergency fund. Having an easily accessible amount of money set aside for unforeseen events is imperative. $ 500 is a great start. Plan to Pay Off Debt. Start with your higher interest balances and work from there. Invest for retirement. If your workplace offers a company match on a retirement account then try and contribute at least the minimum required to take advantage. ROTH or Traditional IRAs are very popular methods to save for the future due to their tax advantages.

— First Security Bank

The biggest value is peace of mind. One of our cardinal rules is to help our clients sleep well at night. However, there are also more tangible reasons. A study published in the Journal of Financial Planning showed that households that work with a professional financial planner were more likely to make better financial decisions than those without a planner, considering investment portfolio risk, savings habits, life insurance coverage, credit card balances, and emergency savings. Most people have goals for the future, and having a plan can make a big difference; but, more importantly, having someone to walk hand-in-hand with them on that journey is a game changer. We find that most people on their own have been randomly putting money away and are trying to stay out of or get out of debt. But, with a professional planner, the efficiency of reaching their goals and the likelihood of success is dramatically improved.

— Cardinal Investments

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FUTURE TODAY! Advisory Services | Municipal Bonds | Corporate Bonds Stocks | Mutual Funds | Life Insurance & Annuities Derek Whitehead SVP, Financial Advisor 501.450.1871 DEREK WHITEHEAD – ARKANSAS INSURANCE PRODUCER LICENSE NUMBER 17889345

A First Security Company



July 2022 501lifemag.com | 31


This article was written by Edward Jones.


his month, we observe Independence Day, an opportunity to celebrate all the liberties we enjoy in this country. Of course, there are different types of freedoms – such as financial freedom, which can open the doors to many other opportunities. What steps can you take to gain your financial independence?


Save, invest … and repeat. There’s really no shortcut to achieving financial freedom – you do have to save and invest for many years. And that means you should take full advantage of the opportunities available to you. If you have a 401(k) or similar retirement plan at work, try to put in as much as you can afford each year, and when your salary goes up, increase your contributions. Even if you have a 401(k), you may also be eligible to fund an IRA. Both a 401(k) and an IRA offer tax benefits and an array of investment options, so they are powerful retirement savings vehicles. Invest for growth. How much you invest is obviously a key factor in reaching your financial freedom. But how you invest is also important. If you’re going to accumulate the resources you need to retire comfortably and meet your other financial goals, you will need to devote a reasonable percentage of your investment dollars to growth-oriented vehicles, including stocks and stock-based mutual funds. Of course, these investments will fluctuate in value, so you’ll need to be prepared to accept a certain level of risk. Your individual risk tolerance will help determine how much of your portfolio should be devoted to growth investments.

32 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Put financial windfalls to work. Whenever you receive a financial windfall, such as a bonus from your employer, a tax refund or even an inheritance, consider putting some of it to work in your investment portfolio. Over time, these windfalls can add up.

Reduce your debts. It may be easier said than done, but try to reduce, or eliminate, as many debts as you can. The less money you have to pay each month on your debts, the more you’ll have available to save and invest. Of course, some debts, such as your mortgage, can’t be easily erased, but if you can find ways to cut down on spending, you may be surprised at how much progress you can make toward debt reduction. Prepare for the unexpected. Life is unpredictable – and some unforeseen events could threaten your ability to achieve, and maintain, your financial independence. For example, if you were unable to work for a while due to illness or injury, you might be forced to dip into your savings and long-term investments just to help meet your cost of living. You can help protect yourself from this risk by building an emergency fund containing several months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. And you may want to consult with a financial professional to learn about other protection strategies. It will take a concerted effort to reach your financial independence – but, like all freedoms, it offers immense benefits.

What’s the difference between term and variable life insurance? Term life is usually available for 10, 15, 20, and 30 years or longer, depending on one’s age. The premiums and coverage are usually guaranteed for the respective period. There are usually no cash values, and the premium typically increases after the initial term period. Variable life has a death benefit and a cash value, which is usually tied to the performance of underlying sub accounts associated with the stock market. Some contracts offer guaranteed death benefits, while some do not. Premiums and coverage duration are often flexible.

What is long-term care insurance and how does it pay? Long-term care insurance has changed drastically over the past 10 years. Until this time, most long-term care plans offered coverage for nursing or home healthcare benefits for the insured’s lifetime. Due to people living longer and the rising costs associated with nursing homes and home healthcare, most companies now offer benefits in flat dollar amounts. For example, someone may get $300,000 in benefits payable at $ 5,000 per month, which would be 60 months. Most companies’ maximum-issue age for coverage is 79. A new option available with some carriers is a life insurance contract that can pay longterm care benefits.

— OTT Insurance

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 33

a grand view By Rita Halter Thomas Photos by Makenzie Evans


ne doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of architecture or understand the differences between a mid-century modern, contemporary, or modern-contemporary design to appreciate a Conway home living up to its address: Grandview Heights. The clean lines and asymmetrical geometric shapes of this modern-contemporary two-story, owned by local entrepreneur Philip Young, stands on a ridge offering more than a view of blue skies and city lights. Near wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass on the south side of the home gives a broad skyscape view from almost every living space in the house, including bedrooms. “I wanted as much glass as possible to take in the beautiful skyline. Conway is such a unique place. I wanted to enjoy the views of the city but have the quiet feel of the country. I feel like we get that here,” said Young, who occupies the home with his two boys, 14-year-old Lexton and 8-year-old Abbott. “I love waking up to the sun on my face in the morning,” Abbot said about the amount of glass in his room. “My favorite is when a storm comes through. I love watching the magnificent lightning show of a thunderstorm,” Young said. “It reminds me of when I was a kid. I would sit under the carport, shelling peas with my grandparents, watching a storm roll in and just talking. I always thought the lightning

was spectacular.” A picture of his late grandparents and their house hangs just inside the front door as a sentimental remembrance. As if all the glass of the house isn’t eye-catching enough, the 2,000 sq. ft. home features a 12 foot-by-30 foot deck, complete with seating and a gas fire table. This deck, available through sliding glass doors off the open kitchen, living, and dining areas of the entrance level, towers over the treetops with a sharp drop in the landscape below. “One of the most challenging things about this build was driving the steel beams into this rock hillside,” Young said. An iron and cable railing system offers security and aesthetics. For a more elevated view, an iron spiral staircase leads up to a semi-private upper-level deck, with additional access from sliding glass doors off the master. While the glass and decks are the most prevalent features of the house, an iron-rail staircase with thick solid oak steps catches the eye. A light stain showcases the natural wood grain. Three bedrooms, two full baths, and a common area occupy the upper floor. The lower level is an open-floor plan of the kitchen, living and dining room, plus the laundry, a half bath, and a two-car garage. A gas fireplace, for both ambiance and function, completes the esthetics of the home as the centerpiece of the living room. Strategic lighting sets off each feature of the home inside and out.

Article continues on page 38

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 35

“I love waking up to the sun on my face in the morning.” Abbott Young Phillip Young enjoys the view with his 14-year-old son Lexton and 8-year-old son Abbott.

36 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Continued from page 34 Young said his vision for the house began years ago, though building didn’t begin until February 2021. “I’ve always had an affinity for architecture,” Young said. “Before I went into healthcare, I spent 10 years in banking and drove back and forth to and from Little Rock. Whenever I crossed the I-430 bridge, I’d see all those houses on the bluff. I always wanted a house like that. One day, I just sat down and figured out what it would take to make it happen.” While Young had the design in mind, he needed professionals to make his dream a reality. He hired trusted companies and the family moved in around Christmas. Young considered an interior designer but opted to allow the house to reflect its occupants. “The boys were very involved in the process, helping me pick out this and that,” he said. “It makes you feel more connected with the house when you have the opportunity to help make decisions and choose things,” Lexton said. Young, who possesses a less-seen artistic side, played various sports growing up, which brought him to Conway in 1997 to play baseball for the University of Central Arkansas. “I came here in a roundabout way, from Wynne, to Rogers, to Mountain Home, then here to play baseball at UCA. I fell in love with Conway and stayed,” he said. Young, whose day job is the director of marketing for Home Instead Senior Care, said, “I’ve been blown away by the interest in the house. I know it is different, but I never dreamed it would draw so much attention.” Young simply wanted to build a calm, peaceful place to live and raise his boys. Sure, traffic noises and city lights mingle with sounds of nature and the occasional glimpse of wildlife, but peace settles in at the close of the day while gazing out at such a grand view.

38 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Centennial Bank is Ranked #1 in America


| Centennial Bank | Member FDIC | July 2022 501lifemag.com | 39

Hot Wheels collector and painter Jimmy Wilson

Plays His Cars Right By Lori Dunn

Photos by Mike Kemp


ars of all makes and models get Little Rock resident Jimmy Wilson's motor running. "I've just always been fascinated by cars," he said. Wilson, who grew up in Sherwood, is a buyer for a food distributor, but model cars are his passion. He has thousands of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars on display. “As a child, my parents started buying me Matchbox cars," Wilson said. "But at age 11, I became enamored with Hot Wheels. They were so fast, so different, and had the orange track."

As a boy, Wilson didn't collect the cars to display in pristine packages. He collected them to play with, and the cars were eventually banged up like most well-loved toys tend to get. After he graduated high school, the cars were passed down to his nephew. Years later as an adult, he became interested in collecting again. In the mid-2000s, Hot Wheels released its Bone Shaker series, designed by model car designer Larry Wood. The Bone Shaker series is a line of hot rods that feature a distinctive skull on the front. They became one of Hot Wheels’ most iconic models.

Article continues on page 38 40 | 501 LIFE July 2022

“I've just always been fascinated by cars.” - Jimmy Wilson

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 41

Continued from page 40 "It was the hot rod that sparked my interest in collecting again. I started buying Hot Wheels every year when new ones were released," he said. "I probably have about 6,000 of those both loose and carded (packaged).” He also started looking at Hot Wheels’ redline VW Bug that was released in 1968. In recent years, Wilson has developed an interest in customizing model cars by taking them apart, painting them, and adding graphics. Instead of making them look new, he prefers them to look old. "My real interest is making them look like an old car you would find in a barn or a junkyard. It's really an art form, because it's not easy to make a car look rusty or old," he said. His tools for customizing require a very fine paint brush, a very specific type of paint, a magnifier and special glasses. He finds many of the cars he works on at flea markets, and they already look a little rustic from years of being played with. Sometimes he customizes newer model cars but never ones that would be considered highly collectible in their original form. Wilson paints the cars in his basement, but everything else car related he does in the kitchen. "My wife is patient and lets me do it in the kitchen. She does needlepoint in the living room and I'm in the kitchen and we can talk," he said. The Wilsons’ also have two grown daughters who are always on the lookout for cars for him.

Wilson is removing defects in the casting of a car body that has been stripped in preparation for painting. “These mass produced cars can be pretty rough and I like to get them as smooth as possible to show off the paint,” he says. Wilson will sand and polish the body until it has a “mirror-like” shine and paint it with bright candy color paints which resemble the original “spectra flame” paint finish.

Wilson interacts with other car collectors on Facebook, attends live trade shows, and finds some on eBay. There are regional swap meets every few months and national conventions annually. "It's great to go and meet like-minded collectors," he said. Both Matchbox and Hot Wheels have interesting histories. Matchbox was introduced in 1953 and was the first die-cast toy car. It is now owned by Mattel. The brand was given its name because the original cars were sold in boxes similar to the ones matches were sold in. Hot Wheels came along years later and appeared brighter and faster. Mattel introduced them in 1968 for children, but they are very popular with adult collectors. Wilson said for him collecting cars is a "throwback to childhood. It's about being an adult but having an outlet for toys," he said. “Toy cars are much cheaper than real cars and easier to store.”

Named the “Bone Shaker,” this is Wilson's favorite modern casting. Hand-painted and weathered to resemble a vehicle that was raced heavily, discarded and eventually became a “barn find.” The garage diorama is also hand-painted and detailed to add weathering and rust streaks, oil stains on the concrete and even grass and weeds.

Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Technology

F O R W A R D T H I N KING Get an affordable, quality education close to home § General education credits for seamless transfer to a university § Hands-on training leading to high-demand, high-wage jobs WWW.UACCM.EDU | 501-977-2000

42 | 501 LIFE July 2022

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 43

THE OXNER FAMILY - RED RIVER FARMS “First Community Bank has played a key role in the success of Red River Farms. They provide us with timely and sufficient financing which allows us to make better management decisions. We treasure the relationships we have made with the employees who we know and trust. They are like family to us, and that is exactly why we bank there.”


CONWAY 766 Harkrider | 1089 Front St. 501.764.9640 firstcommunity.net 44 | 501 LIFE July 2022

501 LIFE Magazine presents


that work

The term partnership conveys the idea of two willing parties working together to accomplish a goal that neither could achieve without the other. This section features inspiring stories of individuals and businesses that are working together to make a positive difference for others. As partners, they reach a common goal and make life in Central Arkansas better than ever. July 2022 501lifemag.com | 45



Ebony Mitchell's pageant platform builds on statewide partnerships to promote online safety By Carol Rolf


bony Mitchell, 25, was crowned the 84th Miss Arkansas on June 18 at the Robinson Center in Little Rock. The Harrison native competed alongside 44 candidates, and the win fulfilled a childhood dream. “I feel amazing … incredible … just everything,” said Mitchell, just a few hours after winning the crown. “It’s a dream come true.”

Each candidate has a social impact initiative, and the message that Mitchell has worked to share is A Responsible Digital You. The beauty’s efforts to keep Arkansas youth safe online is a cause that she cares deeply about. Mitchell started her first Facebook account when she was 13. “I was not a responsible poster … not at all,” she said, smiling. “I gave my age, address … all the things you are not supposed to post. I’ve had several embarrassing moments come back to me. That information can never be erased.” Mitchell had a young friend who was a victim of internet stalking. “It was horrible,” she said. “I began to know then that I wanted to do something that focused on online safety awareness … something I could use to make a difference. It can and does happen anywhere, not just in New York City or Chicago. It can happen in your hometown.” Mitchell has developed a social impact initiative concerning online safety awareness for elementary school children, which she has shared for the past several years as a contestant in the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant. She has sought and found partners to help spread her message. Mitchell, who participated in this year’s pageant as Miss Dogwood 2022, reached out to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office seeking a partnership to help promote her platform, A Responsible Digital You. “I was Miss Metro 2021 then,” said Mitchell, who was first

46 | 501 LIFE July 2022

runner-up in last year’s pageant. “I saw that Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was interested in protecting children from online predators and set up a meeting with her office.

“We talked about what we could do together,” Mitchell recalled. “Her office provides me with all of the materials I send out, which includes coloring books, workbooks, and stickers. As a titleholder, I agreed to work with her office. during and even beyond my years as a titleholder.” According to Rutledge, “Ebony is a fantastic example of the next generation of leaders in Arkansas.

“With a shared goal of educating Arkansas’s children about being safe online, Ebony has dispersed over 2,500 of the office’s Internet Safety booklets to schools across the state,” Rutledge said. “Internet safety is an important topic to discuss with children of all ages, and we thank Ebony for teaming up with our office in this endeavor.” Working with the Attorney General’s Office, Mitchell has distributed safety training packets to elementary school students in all 75 counties in Arkansas. She has also presented materials to civic clubs, school organizations, and even to parents. “I do some in-person presentations, but since the pandemic it’s been mostly virtual,” Mitchell said. “I do like to go into schools and see the kids. It’s really been fun. They are receptive to what I want to say.” In April, Mitchell spoke at the annual conference for the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media about online safety, and she will be part of a panel discussion on social media and internet safety at the Arkansas Department of Education Division of Elementary and Secondary Education 2022 Summit on July 12 in Hot Springs. She also has been a part of the Arkansas Department of Education podcast, SMACtalk (Social Media Awareness Campaign) for teachers. Additionally, Mitchell has collaborated with the Attorney General's Special Investigations Division Cyber Crimes Unit.


that work July 2022 501lifemag.com | 47

Mitchell graduated in December 2019 from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in business and marketing and from John Brown University in May with a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on health administration. She now lives in Conway and works in the marketing department at Conway Regional Health System. “My dream is to be an administrator of a nonprofit hospital,” she said. Mitchell’s participation in the Miss Arkansas Pageant system began when she was a young girl, participating in the Miss Arkansas Diamond State Princess/ Prince Program. She competed in the Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen pageant for a few years and then began participating in the Miss Arkansas Pageant when she was a sophomore in college. Besides the glittering crown, sash and lifetime honor, Mitchell won a $30,000 scholarship and more than $75,000 in awards, wardrobe, transportation and gifts. As Miss Arkansas, she will compete at the Miss America 2023 pageant in Uncasville, Conn. in December. “I have met so many people during these last several years,” Mitchell said. “These pageants have led me to some great partnerships.”

“I have met so many people during these last several years. These pageants have led me to some great partnerships.” - Ebony Mitchell, Miss Arkansas

48 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Mitchell has worked with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who provides informational materials to educational materials to protect children.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 49


that work

Mara Pruitt-King checks out the book "Three Little Engines" on April 23 when she received her personalized bookcase and bag of books. Bob McKinnon, author of the book, provided a personalized bookplate for each child this year.

A Good Read

Kiwanis’ partnership with Head Start encourages literacy By Stefanie Brazile


his spring, an annual partnership successfully placed 50 new, personalized bookcases with preschoolers enrolled in Head Start. The Kiwanis Club of Conway has hosted the Bookcase Project for 18 years in collaboration with the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas, Inc. (CAPCA). At the annual event, the children receive a wooden bookcase built by Kiwanians and a starter set of one dozen books and a Bible. One girl was so excited that she opened a book and began turning the pages before her bookcase could be loaded into the vehicle. Kyal Pruitt and Kameron King recall their daughter’s enthusiasm at the event. “Mara [Pruitt-King] was really excited,” Pruitt said. “We read books every night, and we’re glad to update her books because that can get really expensive. We set up the whole bookshelf when we got home.”

50 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Each bookcase has a brass plate on the front with the child’s name on it. They are also gifted a stuffed animal “Reading Buddy,” and a personalized bookmark. The children are encouraged to read to their new buddy. “The bookshelf is well-made and beautiful,” King said. “And it’s personalized. Mara immediately recognized her name. She has a keen eye for finding things and noticing emotions in characters in books. She has a fantastic memory and has figured out certain books we read often, and she will finish sentences.” “If we constantly expose Mara to words and make reading important and fun, then we hope she’ll like to do it when she’s older,” her mother said. The Bookcase Project was started in 2005 by author and syndicated columnist Jim Davidson of Conway. At that time, he was not aware of a similar project in the U.S. He started the bookcase effort because he saw a need to improve literacy development in young children as a means to create a better life for people

Destiney Leavy, left, a member of Circle K International at the University of Central Arkansas, and Kiwanis member, Bruce Hendricks, team up on April 9 to assemble a bookcase at the Faulkner County Library.

from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Three years ago, Davidson resigned as director, and he passed the torch to fellow Kiwanian Richard Plotkin. Six members of the service club provide functional oversight to raise the money to purchase lumber and supplies to build the bookcases. Davidson remains involved and continues to promote literacy and the importance of good character. Last year, Plotkin received a note from one mother, Mireya Hurtado, who wrote: “Thank you ‘muchas gracias’ to you and your team for this amazing project [and the] beautiful bookcase my son received last year! I really appreciate it!” In addition to the Kiwanis Club, Conway Trophy & Awards donates the personalized brass nameplates, Crystal Spellman purchases the reading buddies, Patsy Desaulniers crafts bookmarks, and the books come from the Faulkner County Library and the Life 10 Sunday School class at First Baptist Church. Members of the Circle K International at the University of Central Arkansas helped assemble the bookcases. It is a collegiate branch of the Kiwanis International family.

The Alliance Family of Companies

John S. Harwood,


Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA is in the business of helping individuals and businesses achieve their financial goals with accounting, insurance and retirement strategies. From tax returns and retirement to business and personal insurance – and so much more - our firm is committed to providing the best in personal service with a “total client service” approach. Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA (HOF) Certified Public Accountants Tax return preparation/planning Financial statement preparation Consulting Services And many more... Alliance Insurance Group of Arkansas, Inc (AIGA) Independent Insurance Agency Business and personal, Health and life policies, Employee benefits

L. Tray Ott, CPA, PFS

Alliance Financial Group, LLC (AFG) Retirement Strategies Retirement plan analysis both business and individual

Connie Cody Fisher, CPA

Included in the bag of books is a note from Plotkin. One section reads: “Our collective hope is that you will fill your child’s bookcase over time with books given as gifts for his or her birthday and for Christmas. As you do this, always remember that reading — which develops critical thinking and communication skills — is a gateway to their future. More than 43 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level, according to a fact sheet from proliteracy.org. The organization states that “bringing all adults to a sixth-grade reading level equivalent would generate an additional $2.2 trillion in annual income for the country.” At this time, the Bookcase Project has been adopted in several other communities across Arkansas and a few surrounding states. Davidson’s goal is to see the program functioning in every state.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 51


that work

dream team A look back at the Faulkner County

By Donna Lampkin Stephens Photo by Mike Kemp

52 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Allen Dodson has believed in the value of teamwork practically his entire life. And early on in his judgeship, that belief was put to the test. “I

’m thankful we live in the United States of America,” he said, looking back on his baptism by fire shortly after he was appointed Faulkner County Judge on Jan. 31, 2013. He received the 23-month appointment from Judge Preston Scroggin, who resigned to become director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission. Dodson never imagined that one of the largest disasters in Faulkner County history — the March 29, 2013 ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower — was about to happen on his watch. Two months after assuming office, on Good Friday afternoon, he was driving to check on some roads in the southern part of the county and received a call from Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management Director Shelia Bellott notifying him of a break in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline. According to insideclimatenews.org, the breach was along “a defective 22foot seam, spewing 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil diluted with large quantities of harmful solvents.” Dodson remembers asking Bellott, “How bad?” She didn’t know. “I said, ‘It’s a big pipeline, so we’ve got to expect the worst,” he remembered, and he headed to the site of the spill, the Northwoods Subdivision along Lake Conway. Responders from the Faulkner County Road Department and Office of Emergency Management (OEM); the Mayflower police, fire, street and water departments; the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management; the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas State Police began gathering. “We needed to pull back and start thinking this thing through,” he remembered. “There was a lot of oil coming this way, a little over 3,500 barrels eventually.”

people of Mayflower and Lake Conway what was going on every bit of the way. We knew they’d trust us.” He had gone through Unified Command Training shortly after taking office. “Virtually everyone who goes through that training wonders how you’re going to make that work, with all those allegiances, but we made it work, and it worked really well,” he said. “The cleanup didn’t come to an impasse.” Before it was over, Dodson said, every department of county government, as well as the Arkansas Department of Health and Mayflower Public Schools, was involved. As a seventh-generation Faulkner County resident, Dodson’s roots run deep in the 501. The extended family maintains his great-grandfather’s farm along the Arkansas River. As an appointee, Dodson was ineligible to run for a full term in the 2014 election. After a stint in private law practice, he has been the Lonoke County Attorney for five years. Nine years after that Good Friday call, he remains proud of the teamwork he witnessed. And, remarkably, 13 months later he witnessed it again when another disaster — this time a devastating tornado — swept through Mayflower and Vilonia. In the case of both the oil spill and the tornado, said Dodson, “I couldn’t be more proud of the city of Mayflower, Faulkner County, the state of Arkansas and all the agencies, You can’t get a response that quickly and that effectively without all that teamwork from those who’ve developed the system through the decades.”

The oil was coming from a cove, and the responders were able to block it through two four-foot culverts, keeping it from contaminating greater Lake Conway. “Sand was going to be difficult, so we looked at the city street department and asked them, ‘Do you have any gravel?’ They were already building dikes,” Dodson said. “It was 100 percent a partnership from the beginning, just the plugging of the oil into the cove and preventing it from getting into the lake.” Local officials plugged the culverts and trapped the oil in the cove within a couple of hours. Dodson called it “a massive win for Faulkner County.” The cleanup, on the other hand, took several months and more collaboration through the National Incident Management System. “The Incident Command System provides protocol and roles and procedures and allows you to build an organization and scale disaster response rapidly,” Dodson said. “We had approximately 650 responders at the peak.”

After the March 2013 break in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, the Faulkner County road and street departments blocked the oil through two culverts in the cove, keeping it from contaminating greater Lake Conway.

The unified command system comprised four entities: federal, state, local and the private responsible party. For the oil spill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the lead for the federal government, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for the state, Faulkner County OEM for local and ExxonMobil as the private entity. “I was the local on-scene coordinator,” Dodson said. “Typically, the local government tends to pull back, but I knew the people were going to trust their local government. That was apparently the first time the local level had stayed involved. Usually they step back to the ADEQ and EPA, but we saw that value there and wanted to keep our head under the hood so we could tell the

On April 27, 2014, a tornado cut a swath of destruction through the small towns of Mayflower and Vilonia. Sixteen people died and 400 to 500 homes were destroyed. The twister left a 41-mile trail of destruction and crews from Arkansas helped with clean up.

When it comes to poultry collecting, brothers Joe and Richard Turney are leading the way. Story and photos by Judy Riley

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? For Joe Turney of Cabot, it was definitely the chicken. At the tender age of 10, he launched what would become his life’s passion when his dad let him buy a pair of bantam chickens. Joe and his brother, Richard, have 86 breeds of heritage chickens. In chicken circles, that means the chickens are purebred with the same characteristics they had when settlers raised them. Together with help from their dad, the brothers turned their passion into a business. Joe and Richard grew up fascinated with chickens. Today they operate as Turney's Poultry and sell to prospective poultry buyers mostly by word of mouth. And they are regular vendors at the Beebe Flea Market on Saturday mornings. They breed, hatch, and raise their own chickens on their farm in the Cabot area. Richard takes care of the hatchery while Joe manages the brooding house. That’s where baby birds are given special attention, including specific food and heated or cooled surroundings, depending on the weather. They sell eggs ready to eat and eggs ready to hatch, as well as a sampling of heritage breeds. Joe says his most popular selling birds are the Chocolate Mottled Orpingtons. They grow quickly and lay large brown eggs. Many buyers prefer brown eggs. The color of the shell is not an indicator of quality or different nutrient content, according to Joe. He thinks it’s more of a nostalgic thing; it makes people think of the eggs served at their grandparents’ breakfast table. Another breed commonly sold for backyard flocks is the Welsummer. They are large red and black chickens often depicted on weather vanes and were the icon on Kellogg’s cereal products. The Turney’s novelty birds include Polish Puffs. The females have what appears to be a powder puff on

54 | 501 LIFE July 2022

their heads, while the males have a head plume that looks like a feather duster. One of the positive outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic was an increased interest in folks knowing where their food comes from and having time to raise chickens. According to Joe, there was an explosion of interest in the beginning of the pandemic. In towns where rules permitted, people were quickly buying various heritage varieties to produce their own eggs. A good hen can lay up to one egg a day and continue doing that for two to three seasons. If a rooster is involved, the eggs can become fertile, making it possible to raise baby chicks. Joe and Richard take pride in the quality of their birds. They are certified through the National Poultry Improvement Plan, which means they follow USDA-recommended practices for how they care for the birds. None of their birds are allowed to be free range in order to protect the health of the flock from diseases transmitted by migratory birds. The Turney’s like selling “face to face” so they can talk about the heritage of the birds and answer questions about their care. Joe and Richard are, in fact, chicken collectors. They love caring for the birds and doing their part to perpetuate heritage breeds. In their own way, they make the world a better place, creating satisfied customers who can raise their own flock. With a Saturday morning trip to the Beebe Flea Market, one can learn about the diversity and value of heritage poultry and tap into an experienced poultry man’s knowledge of all things chicken. Joe and Richard will show examples of different birds and the eggs they produce. With a little help from the Turneys, it’s possible to get into backyard poultry with a continuing supply of one’s own homegrown eggs or meat.

Joe Turney displays a Welsummer rooster.

Joe and Richard Turney developed an interest in chickens as children.

g e t h o m e e n t e r t a i n m e n t that d o e s n ’t h a v e t o s t ay a t h o m e . s t re a m i n g t v | c l o u d d v r | l i v e s p o r t s | l o c a l c h a n n e l s | m u c h m o re Introducing ConwayCorpTV – delivering everything you love to watch – movies, shows, live sports, Wampus Cat coverage and more – on your TVs and mobile devices. No boxes. No cables. No limits. Make the switch today.


Powering Conway since 1929.


(501) 450-6000




July 2022 501lifemag.com | 55

Stay cool and save money this summer with a Conway Corp Energy Audit T

By Beth Jimmerson

his summer season, you probably want to save money on your energy use while still providing comfortable living conditions for you and your family. While you might see your utility costs rising thanks to summer temperatures, sunny weather isn’t the only reason for higher statements. You might find your home’s HVAC system is always running hard but can’t adequately cool your home, or maybe some rooms in your house are cooler or hotter than others. Maybe you noticed a mold or mildew problem in a room other than the bathroom. You can help find and begin solving these problems with a home energy audit. Conway Corp’s Energy Smart program offers free residential energy audits to help customers identify how much energy their homes consume and what measures may be taken to make their homes more energy-efficient. The analysis will show a homeowner the problems that may, when corrected, save significant amounts of money over time. A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes while evaluating what measures you can take to make your home more energy-efficient.

How does a home energy audit work? During the audit process, a Conway Corp-certified energy professional will perform a walk-through inspection of your home using a variety of techniques and equipment to determine its energy-efficiency level. The inspection will help you understand the efficiency level of your home’s heating and cooling systems, look at how your windows and doors seal, inspect insulation levels, show you ways to conserve electricity, and help identify leaks in your home. An energy audit looks at several specific features of your home, including your home’s thermal envelope: walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and skylights. Each of these has a specific R-value, which is a measurement of the resistance to heat flow. The higher the resistance – or R-value – the better the insulation quality. Another factor

is the leakage rate or how much outside air infiltrates your home. Drafty doors and windows are the primary culprits here; however, other features of your home’s construction, including age, orientation to the sun, and physical condition, will have an effect. A third area to look at is your home’s mechanical system – the heating/ventilation/air condition as well as the heating water. Annually, homes that have received a free audit from Energy Smart save more than $1.8 million combined in utility costs. Over the lifetime of the program, these homes have saved more than $10 million. Some solutions are simple and inexpensive. For example, a $4 tube of caulk might save you $100 in energy costs. Other improvements might be more expensive but can be done over time like installing efficient low-wattage lighting fixtures, adding insulation or upgrading to Energy Star-rated appliances. In addition to the residential audit program, Energy Smart also offers 0% interest loans to Conway Corp customers for home improvements like replacing old appliances or installing attic insulation. The loan program, funded by the City of Conway through the American Recovery Act of 2009, is available only to Conway Corp customers. Although there are no income limits, applicants must have a good credit history with Conway Corp. Loans are available between $ 500-$2,500 and are repayable over a 36-month period. To date, Conway Corp has provided nearly 400 loans totaling more than $1.1 million. Scheduling an energy audit this summer will show you where to start saving money to cool your home, and it will help identify heating problems that could potentially cost you during the cold winter months too. Take the first step and schedule a free energy audit today to identify areas for your home’s improvements and develop a plan of action. To learn more about residential energy audits, the 0% interest loan program or the Energy Smart program, contact Conway Corp at 501.450.6000 or visit ConwayCorp.com/EnergySmart.

Each month, catch Editor Stefanie Brazile on Conway Corp. Channel 5's “Here and There.” 56 | 501 LIFE July 2022

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 57

“If I think it, I can make it!” By Vivian Lawson Hogue


ucked away in a quiet office mall on Wingate Street in Conway is a shop called Sew Unique, operated by Birder Harris. It is aptly named because she can make ripped cloth look like nothing ever happened or alter something to seemingly take 10 pounds off with a few nips and tucks. “Birda” was born in Benton, Mo., with its fields and land where families made their livings raising crops and animals. “My mother was a seamstress who was a clothing factory supervisor in Cape Girardeau, Mo.,” she said. “My father was a pastor who loved God, and from that love, he pastored two churches. In addition, he was always working on building houses, working the fields, or whatever brought in money. He kept the nine of us siblings busy with cooking, cleaning, and other chores.'

58 | 501 LIFE July 2022

“My parents owned some land where they farmed with a horse, a goat, cows, pigs, chickens, a couple of dogs, and lots of cats! The cows and pigs were sold or processed for our freezer,” she said. “We also had gardens where we raised vegetables for canning and winter storage. Our peach trees provided fruit to preserve or freeze, and plum trees produced fruit from which wine was made. “My mother was a seamstress and a factory supervisor. She taught my sisters and me how to sew. We had a sewing center on our property near where clothing factories discarded manufacturing rejections. My father would take us to the factories, and we would collect items, taking apart hats from the hat factory, then use pieces to make quilts, hats, coats for ourselves or to sell. In this, I always did my best, an attitude

Photos by Mike Kemp “Birda” Harris, of Conway, does not need a pattern to make something. If she can think it, she can make it.

I still hold today. I have always loved the thought of making something from fabric that comes from God’s creation.” She explained her observational experience with cotton plants by adding, “We also worked in the fields, and that is where I found my passion in cotton! I picked cotton as fast as I could so I would be free to enjoy God’s nature. I noticed a cotton plant was simple but held lots of potential. To the eye, just a green bush, but as it ages, it adds lots of little balls, which grow into knots. As they enlarge, they are filled with cotton packed tight and shaped like orange slices. They grow until they burst, and as they burst, the white tips show. The sun dries the bolls, and the cotton fluffs up and spills out of the boll. A newly formed boll can be pulled and show tiny strands of fiber packed together like a tiny rope. Had you looked where I stopped on my rows, you would see where I pulled them apart learning how they formed and matured. “After high school, I worked at the factory where my mother worked. She found the hardest job for me. We made jackets for the Army, and I began in the section that made the front zipper on leather jackets. My best experience also came from bridal shops and a car seat factory. Before opening my alterations shop, I took a tailoring class at Southeast Missouri State. I also taught a sewing class for 10 years through the University of Central Arkansas outreach program. All molded me into who I am today,

giving me knowledge and skills used in my shop. “As a child, I took things apart and put them back together and it taught me how to measure and fit. I once made a groom’s mother’s dress with just the fabric and her measurements! I do not need a pattern to make something. If I think it, I can make it!” Birder does occasionally sew for herself but likes sewing for others best. “I sometimes give private lessons in my shop to people who want to learn to sew, and I hope they will find the same joy that I know,” she said. “I have had my shop for 14 years, beginning on a machine where you use foot rhythm to make it sew. I now work on computerized machines. I may have an order to hem sleeves of one shirt, or an order of 350 shirts with the same need. I have all kinds of machines and I use them all! “I plan to sew until I can’t. My husband, Fred Swan, is one of the best husbands in the world. He is a 9-to-5 kind of person, but I can go to my shop any time of day or night and he won’t say a word. He may bring me something to eat, check on me, and give me time to finish up my work. My daughter, Geminesse Bell, and sons, Adrean Harris and Danieel Swan, all know how to sew and make something from a piece of cloth, but aren’t really interested.” But I’ll bet they haven’t studied a cotton boll lately either!

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 59

A message from

Kim Williams

Director, Conway Downtown Partnership July is here, and that means holiday gatherings. What better way to kick off the July 4th weekend than with our amazing Conway Community Band Concert in the Park at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 1. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy ice cold Andy’s Frozen Custard. July is the month when summer really gets rolling, and what better way to be prepared than visiting Historic Downtown Conway for all your holiday needs? You will find great shopping, dining and entertainment right here! Your Place is Here in Downtown Conway.

60 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Historical Conway County Library is

One for the Books By Morgan Zimmerman


itting at the cross section of Church Street and Division Street in downtown Morrilton, you will find the Conway County Library. This particular library is more special than most; it’s one of only two Arkansas libraries built with grant funds from the Carnegie Foundation that are still in operation as libraries. A total of four Carnegie Libraries were constructed in Arkansas in the early 1900s. The Eureka Springs library is still operational, one in Little Rock was demolished in the 1960s, and one in Fort Smith is now being used for another purpose. The Conway County Library was originally established by the GFWC (Greater Federation of Women's Clubs) Pathfinder Club, which had a private collection of books that they wanted to share with the public. They purchased an old church to house their collection and began a membership program. In 1915, the club members partnered with the city to apply for a Carnegie Library Grant and were awarded $ 10,000 to build a free public library, the facility that still houses the library today. The library building is made of concrete, brick, and ceramic tile and was designed by Thomas Harding II. The architecture is similar to most of the more than 2,500 Carnegie grantfunded buildings of the era. It is simple and formal, and the original front entrance is elevated to symbolize how one might elevate their position in life through education.

62 | 501 LIFE July 2022

The library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Patrons now enter through a more modern and handicap-accessible rear entrance that was added during a library expansion completed in 2000. The Friends of the Library organization also raised funds and purchased an adjoining lot in 2001 for future expansion. The library has been home to many special collections during more than a century of operation. It began with the GFWC Pathfinder Club’s acquisition of a collection of 1,800 books from W.S. Cazort, who had purchased the books from Chicago engraver William H. Porter. The books today form the Porter Collection. Library Director Jay Carter said, “The collection is now housed at the state archives in Fayetteville and can be viewed by appointment. “We still have a collection of old and rare books on display on the top floor that no longer circulate,” he said. “The collection includes a history of the Civil War, which is the only one of its kind in existence.” In 2022, the library received a grant to purchase microfilm digitization equipment, which has allowed them to digitize their genealogy collection and local newspaper archives. This technology allows the reader to zoom in and focus on the images and also makes searching microfilm easier.

This year also saw the completion of a project more than two years in the making. Led by program director Alexis Scroggins, a group of teens who frequent the library on Saturday afternoons worked to complete a LEGO® display of Hogwarts Castle, made famous by the Harry Potter book series. The completed castle is made up of more than 6,000 LEGO® pieces and is now on permanent display at the library in a glass cabinet built by Daniel Phillips, the father of cataloger Casey Beal. Since Carter took over in 2006, the library has commemorated the release of books and movies from the series with elaborate public celebrations. “I dressed up as Hagrid one year for a big outdoor event and our other staff members dressed as Hogwarts professors,” he said. The Conway County Library remains a staple of the Morrilton community that it has served for more than 100 years. The library is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with regular programming during the school year and throughout the summer. The staff also serves rural areas of the county with the Conway County Library Book Mobile, which makes rounds weekly. For more information, visit conwaycountylibrary. org.

h t 0 1 1 al Annu

A completed LEGO® Hogwarts Castle made of more than 6000 pieces is housed in library.

The Conway County Library in Morrilton has a rare collection of books that includes a history of the Civil War, which is the only one of its kind in existence.

Fun fo All! r Friday & Saturday, August 5-6, 2022

Join us on the Midway, 5:30-11:00 PM, for food, games, silent auction, & great prizes!

Bazaar Grand Prize 2021 Ford Escape!

Second Prize

Third Prize

$1,000 gift card from Total Tire

Members Mark Pro Series Pellet Smoker from Sam's Club

Purchase tickets at St. Joseph Endowment Office: $2 each / 6 for $10 / 18 for $20 / 100 for $100

Benefiting Quality Education provided by St. Joseph School

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 63

Local man’s ‘hobby’ gains steam By Dwain Hebda

Cliff McGaha has always been a wizard when it comes to

things with wires. The former audio-video technician enjoyed a long career in broadcast and live events for a laundry list of local on-air talent and national touring musicians of every stripe. For all of these gigs, the object remained the same: make them look good and make them sound good. So, when the North Little Rock native found himself sidelined with a heart procedure a few years back, it was only natural that he would fill the time with the things he knew best. “A few years ago, I had open heart surgery, and when you have that, they make you sit down,” he said. “In my recovery, I got bored, and I started making lamps from some stuff I had around the house. My wife and I frequent flea markets, so I started finding cute stuff to make lamps out of.” During this time, he discovered a style called steampunk, which features a heavily industrialized vibe thanks to the use of pipes, gauges, and valves in the design. “I made a few lamps that way, and then one day it just struck me, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if one of these played music?’” he said. “I had enough stuff just laying around the house from all my previous hobbies and work that I put something together.” The result he dubbed a Gizmo, so named because he didn’t want to pigeonhole future creations according to a single function. The first prototype had an industrial look while

being outfitted with Bluetooth capabilities that, thanks to his professional background, sounded great. More out of curiosity than anything, he took the original Gizmo to a local shop, and started flipping switches. “My brother-in-law introduced me to the owner, and when I turned the Gizmo on, it started lighting up and the sound came on,” McGaha said. “He said, ‘How much do you want for that?’ I had never even thought about what to charge for it. He said, ‘I can’t consign this. I’m going to buy it. I’m going to write you a check for it.’ So, he did. “In just a couple of weeks, he calls me and says, ‘I’m going to need you to make me another one because I just sold that one for four times what I paid you.’” Thus began McGaha’s unplanned and unlikely cottage industry, a one-man show that has found a ravenous market for his handmade, one-of-a-kind contraptions. With time and experience, he’s made more elaborate Gizmos, utilizing everything from gas cans to a retired pump organ according to what catches his imagination. “It seems like the more switches and blinking lights that I can put on these things, people go nuts, men especially,” he said. “I think it’s got something to do with the busy box that used to be on the side of a crib where you turn a knob and something would buzz.”

Article continues on page 67

Photos by Mike Kemp

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 65

66 | 501 LIFE July 2022

“It seems like the more switches and blinking lights that I can put on these things, people go nuts, men especially!” - Cliff McGaha

Continued from page 64 McGaha has filled the gallery space that the store provides him with these creations, some themed to certain bands and others just individual works of audio art. Each one-of-a-kind Gizmo is made by hand and has been met with a rabid response that’s gratifying and even a little puzzling to the artist, especially considering the price tag. “I’m amazed at how much we get, to tell you the truth,” McGaha said. “Just to give you an idea, the small ones that are table models average about $2,000, and the floor models made out of the big radios, the average on those now is $4,000. So, I’m getting what I call used car money for these things.” The hobby has evolved in other unexpected directions. McGaha will get unsolicited calls and emails from people with whom he might have spent five minutes in

the store, people who have found something at a local flea market or antique store and offer to ship it to him free just to see it made into something. Others have reached out for more personal items. “Someone will contact me and say, ‘I’ve got the radio that came out of my parents’ house. Can you make this look just like it did? I don’t want any bells and whistles on it, but I want the stereo,’” he said. “So, I’ll go in and I’ll hide the lights underneath and behind it and put all the stereo gear inside. I keep it like it was when they were laying on the floor in front of it in their parents’ living room. “A lady literally asked me for that. She said, ‘My mom used to have to step across me when I was laying down listening to records.’ They’ll share those kinds of memories with me. Those are pretty special.”

Crystal's Vision

Little Rock author mixes art with activism By Susan L. Peterson Photos by Joshua Asante


rystal C. Mercer describes herself as a paradox of power in between a gentle breeze and raging storm. She is a Black “create(her)” who uses multiple art forms in her work as a storyteller and social justice activist. Named after her father, she is the daughter of the late civil rights lawyer, attorney Christopher C. Mercer Jr. Social activism is nothing new to her. Her family knew Alex Haley, Thurgood Marshall, Daisy Bates, the Little Rock Nine, and many activists of the movement, known and unknown. It was her father who encouraged her to use her voice and speak her truths in order to create not only a more beautiful world, but a better world. Her first published work was a book of poetry titled “A Love Story Waiting to Happen.” She vividly recalls studying haiku poetry in the third grade, and she knew then that she wanted to be a poet. Her love of poetry grew during adolescence, and she discovered that words gave her power and a certain liberty. She kept a notebook sectioned into thematic topics throughout junior high school. While Mercer was in graduate school, a friend connected her with Iris Williams, owner of The Butterfly Typeface Publishing Co. in Little Rock. “A Love Story Waiting to Happen” was published in January 2018. Her rhythmic poetry and candid photos explore topics of grief, mourning, and courtship. Like Mercer herself, it is a book full of dichotomies: ebb/flow/disruption/chaos/calm/good/bad/ ugly/lovely. In 2018, Mercer spent nearly a year in Ghana as a part of her graduate studies with the Clinton School of Public Service. It was a pivotal time for her, and she reveled in exploring more deeply her lineage and legacy. There, she also expanded her knowledge of working with textiles and how they can be used to tell a story. While in Ghana, Mercer wanted to keep in touch with two nieces. As a way of staying connected, she would write notes and doodle pictures for them. She was unaware at the time that she was laying the framework for her children’s book "From Cotton to Silk: The Magic of Black Hair” (Et Alia Press, 2021). It is an homage to the natural, magical hair of two sisters and encourages melanated children everywhere to love themselves as they are.

68 | 501 LIFE July 2022

What is unique about the 32-page book is that all the original images are hand-stitched, quilted, and embroidered by Mercer. Each page is a work of art that took anywhere from 17 to 30 hours to complete. In total, they represent 467 hours of work. “I didn’t sleep for four months!” she said. In addition to writing, Mercer is the founder and creative director of Columbus Creative Arts + Activism and the lead designer and merchant of Mercer Textile Mercantile. She has performed in plays and musicals in Canterbury, England; Accra, Ghana; New York; and Arkansas. She has written music and produced a short film, “Black Glow Matters” (2020). This dedicated public servant and multi-talented businesswoman is a graduate of Central High School, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the Clinton School of Public Service. She has chosen to remain in Little Rock to support voices of color and explore multiple ways for them to be heard. She is currently working on another book of poetry and is collaborating with her nieces to write more children’s books. Her books are available at local bookstores, from Amazon, and from Et Alia Press. Use code 501Life at etaliapress.com to take 15% off your order for a limited time.

Mercer wraps herself in a Ghanaian flag quilt she made that is 32 feet, 5 inchesby-12 feet. It was made from African wax fabric, quilted cotton and vintage cotton and took 157 hours of hand and machine stitching. Mercer named it "Black Star."

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 69

Downtown Little Rock

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

The top of Sugarloaf Mountain

Petit Jean State Park

Boomer hangs-out in Little Rock's River Park with friend Waffles.

Even hiking ambassadors can get tuckered out after a day on the trails.

A look back at the Faulkner County

Happy Trails &

Happy Tails

Meet Arkansas Hiking Ambassador - Cedric Boomer Diggory By Becky Bell


izzy Hethering and her best friend haven’t climbed Pinnacle Mountain once–they have done it 30 times. And when they go, they do not take the easy side. They enjoy the challenging side where it is most difficult to reach the top.

“In June of last year, he was named an Arkansas Ambassador. It’s mostly for people,” Hethering said. “He’s the only dog for this year, I think. He is both a Dog Ambassador and a Hiking Ambassador.” Find him on Instagram with the handle hotdiggorydog.

Hethering said her friend is a better hiker than her though, and it might be because he has two more legs than she does. That’s because her best friend is a 4-year-old long-haired Dachshund named Cedric Boomer Diggory. Hethering, 35, said she got the dog, known as Boomer, because she has always liked to hike and wanted a buddy to hike across Arkansas with her.

It’s obvious that Boomer has made an impact on his owner’s heart, and it might surprise you that he is her first dog. “Oh, my goodness. He is, like, very playful but very cuddly. He is very, very protective of me. He thinks he should have been a watchdog in another life,” she said.

But with her living space in a downtown apartment in Little Rock, the size of the dog she would select mattered. She did her research on the popular dog and decided this was the breed for her.

Beyond his walks around downtown Little Rock and his hikes on trails and mountains, Boomer also has time to get a brain workout, too. Hethering said the dog trainer she hired for him has suggested mental stimulation for him, as most people lean to more physical stimulation and forget a pet’s brains need a workout, too.

“I wanted a little dog who was going to be happy in the city,” she said. “And Dachshunds are super good hikers, even though they are low to the ground. I think they were bred to catch vermin and stuff and move through crevices.” As soon as the vet gave her the go-ahead, Hethering introduced Boomer to Pinnacle Mountain at its base trail and he’s been a hiker since. He was 6 months old for that first hike. Hethering said there are 52 state parks in Arkansas, and she and her short-legged friend have been trying to go to all of them. Some of their favorite hikes so far are Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area, just west of Pinnacle State Park; Petit Jean State Park in Conway County; Lake Catherine State Park, located several miles outside Hot Springs; and Mount Nebo, located near Dardanelle. She takes photos of Boomer on their adventures and posts them on Instagram. Boomer has his own handle, @hotdiggorydog. But that’s not all this famous wiener dog with lovely long locks has going for him. Because he was made famous for visiting scenic places in the Natural State, the Arkansas State Board of Tourism named him an ambassador.

“He is very smart, and I’ve recently been doing enrichment activities with him. He does puzzles, he does scavenger hunts for treats. In one of the puzzles, he uses his nose to open little doors for treats. You can get these things on Amazon and Chewy.” The native upstate New Yorker said her dog has helped her build a rich community in Little Rock at the patio restaurants and any other place she and Boomer walk together. She thinks the mental stimulation is good for her best friend. “I think it helps him focus and makes him feel more stimulated and more connected to you. What is true about him is that he will never leave my side. That’s his preference because that is the bond he feels because that is the time we spend together,” she said. Boomer is just a doggo exploring the world and he’s never as happy as on a hike. If you are in Central Arkansas hiking, you just might get to see him, or you can always follow him on Instagram.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 71

Photo by Mike Kemp


JUDE NICHOLS Jude Nichols plays first base for Greenbrier Storm. His dad is the assistant coach and Jude loves practicing at home with his “Coach.” Jude likes to work on hitting without the tee and wants to pitch so Dad can hit. Both his mom and dad played first base in softball and baseball respectively. His mother said, “It makes our hearts happy that Jude loves first base, too.” He wears his dad’s number on his jersey. (#5)

AGE: Six and he will be a first-grader at Springhill Elementary. CITY: Greenbrier. FAVORITE SUBJECT: Science. FAMILY: Jana and Derrick, Mom and Dad; brothers

are Jaden and Jackson; and, sister is Pamela.

FAVORITE SNACKS: Pancakes and grapes, granola bars, fruit snacks, and applesauce. 72 | 501 LIFE July 2022

FAVORITE THINGS TO DO: T-ball, building things with LEGOS®, drawing and coloring. WANTS TO GROW UP TO BE:

A scientist and police officer.

PETS: Dogs are named Marty and Max. FRIENDS HE PLAYS WITH: Elizabeth, Dayson

and Harley.

Centennial Bank golf tourney raises $ 100,000 for officers’ families C

entennial Bank raised more than 100,000 for the Arkansas State Police Foundation at the 2nd annual John W. Allison Invitational golf tournament. The proceeds will be used for college scholarships and to support the families of troopers who are injured or who have made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty. $

“This event is monumental to the Foundation,” Centennial Bank Division President and ASP Foundation Board Member Greg Sanson said. “The families of state police troopers occasionally get overlooked. The support we get at events like this, from local and statewide folks, help us assist the families of the ones who sacrifice their lives.”

Centennial Bank Director Jim Hinkle (from left), ASP Foundation Board Member Joe Thielke, Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry, Centennial Bank Chairman and ASP Commissioner John Allison, Centennial Bank Division President and ASP Foundation Board Member Greg Sanson, ASP Foundation Board Member Mike Shepard and ASP Foundation Board Member Todd Smith. Lindsey French (from left), Charleigh Albrecht, McKenzie Hart, Marsha Joyner, Cynthia Frost, Destiny Lankford and Jeannie Hill.

The event was held June 13 at Conway Country Club and 72 golfers participated.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 73

Story and photos by Linda Henderson

Sunset at Mount Magazine

74 | 501 LIFE July 2022


o, how do you fill the time of a man who must be busy, but still needs time to heal and recover from shoulder surgery? You start the “visit all of the Arkansas state parks while Jim recovers from shoulder surgery tour.” We set a goal to visit all 52 in three months, and we achieved that goal in only two months and five days. We drove over 33 rivers and visited all 75 Arkansas counties. I am not sure how many miles we drove, but I am sure it was well over 3,000. You see, my husband loves to drive and found the seats in our fourrunner to be very therapeutic. Our adventure started with acquiring a copy of the Arkansas State Park Guide and an Arkansas State Park Passport. We used the guide and a state map to plan our trips. Our passport stamps and a photo of each park’s decorative sign served as our record of our visit. For years, visiting all of Arkansas’s state parks had been on our bucket list, but we had never had the time to visit all of them. Each park is unique, and all are free to visit. According to the Arkansas State Park Guide, the system comprises 52 parks on 54,400 acres with 1,800 campsites, 208 cabins, and five lodges. Our system serves more than 8 million visitors every year. As we visited all the parks, we started to realize that there were three themes to them: scenic nature, history, and outdoor sports. Even though we did not spend a lot of time at each park, we did take the time to tour each Visitor Center and drive or walk through the park. Most have Visitor Centers, which have exhibits that present the story of that park. There is no way to cover our trips in one article, so over the

next three months I am going to write about our parks by the themes that we found as we visited each one. These themes were strictly our categorizations and nothing that you will find in the Arkansas State Park Guide. We found 13 parks that we consider scenic nature parks: Petit Jean, Pinnacle Mountain, Woolly Hollow, Mammoth Springs, Cossatot River, Crater of Diamonds, Logoly, Queen Wilhelmina, South Arkansas Arboretum, Devil’s Den, Mount Magazine, Mount Nebo, and Withrow Springs. We started our tour with what we called “The Four Sister Parks:” Petit Jean, Mount Nebo, Mount Magazine, and Queen Wilhelmina. All four have lodges that offer first-class accommodation to a rustic mountain inn. All have grand sunrise and sunset overlooks. All four are built on flat-top mountains. The parks are nestled between the Ouachita and Ozark Mountain ranges. All grace the western side of our state. Three are surrounded by lakes and above the winding Arkansas River Valley. An interesting fact: From Petit Jean’s Red Bluff drive, you can see Mount Nebo, and from Mount Nebo, you can see Mount Magazine. Petit Jean is located west of Morrilton and was Arkansas’s first state park. It was established in 1923. The park offers hiking trails along streams, down into canyons, atop mountainsides, across massive turtle rocks, a 95-foot waterfall, and historical 1930s-era architecture built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp). Mount Nebo is west of Dardanelle and has camping sites with spectacular views. The sites are positioned along the mountain bluff, allowing for views below into the surrounding towns of Russellville and Dardanelle.

76 | 501 LIFE July 2022

Mount Magazine is west of Paris. It is the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet). It is known for being a butterfly habitat and hosts the annual Mount Magazine International Butterfly Festival. The lodge has panoramic views of the Arkansas River Valley and 60 miles of wilderness hiking trails. Queen Wilhelmina is north of Mena. The park is atop Rich Mountain, the second highest peak in Arkansas. The park is situated on the Talimena Scenic Drive, which runs across the Ouachita Mountains from Mena into Oklahoma. A lodge with panoramic mountain views sits high above the deep canyons on the western edge of the state. The park features camping, hiking, a 2-mile miniature railroad track, and train. In the southwest region of the state is the Cossatot River State Park. This park is a wilderness beauty extending along the wild and free-flowing Cossatot River. The river is best known for its white-water rapids which are considered the toughest white water between the Smokies and the Rockies. The river’s rapids are for experienced white-water rafters, but according to park’s staff, there are plenty of slow-running swimming holes for tubing. Mammoth Springs State Park sits atop one of the world’s largest springs. The spring has an average daily flow of more than 216 million gallons. The park is only 497 feet from the Missouri state line. It features the remnant of a mill, a hydroelectric plant, an 1886 train depot, and a museum presenting the history of Mammoth Springs. South Arkansas Arboretum State Park is in El Dorado. The park is a 12-acre wooded site that features a walking trail planted with native and exotic plants. During our spring visit, the park’s azaleas and dogwood trees were in full bloom and the paths were a peaceful place for a leisurely walk.

first environmental education park and its natural resources include a mineral spring, unique plant species, and an old growth forest. Pinnacle Mountain in Little Rock is a woodland oasis in the middle of Arkansas’s largest metro area. This park is day use only but boasts the best views of the Arkansas River as it rolls through Central Arkansas. Woolly Hollow State Park is northeast of Greenbrier. The park is built around Lake Bennett, a 1930s Soil Conservation Services’ watershed lake. The park may be small, but it has more than 250,000 visitors every year and some of the best Central Arkansas camping, hiking, and biking, and there is an 1882 one-room family homestead that history buffs will love. Devil’s Den State Park is in Northwest Arkansas near West Fork. The park was built around 1930s North Arkansas icon the Lee Creek Valley. The CCC built rustic-styled cabins and trails among the woods, boulders, and creeks at the site. The park has unique rock formations, caverns, and a rock dam that spans Lee Creek and forms Lake Devil. Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville is a delightful green gem located in a canyon surrounded by limestone bluffs along the War Eagle Creek. At the time of our visit, the canyon was filled with hundreds of blooming red buds, dogwoods, and early blooming wildflowers. It is a beautiful location in the heart of the Ozarks. Without a doubt, there are plenty of places to escape and enjoy our beautiful state. Next month, I will present the historical parks where we can learn about Arkansas’s geographical and cultural history, the state’s Native American people, and Arkansas in the 20th century.

Crater of Diamonds State Park is among the pine forests of Southwest Arkansas. It is the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the public with a finders-keepers policy. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds in a 37-acre plowed field that is an eroded volcanic crater. More than 32,750 diamonds have been found by visitors since the state purchased the park in 1971. The average diamonds found at the park are the size of a match head, but several diamonds every year weighing over a carat have been found by park’s diggers. Along with diamonds, other semi-precious gems have been found at the park. The Visitors Center houses a museum that features the mine’s history of ownership, diamond mining techniques, and history of the surrounding area. During the summer months, there is a water park where you can cool off after digging for gems. Hiking trails and picnic areas are available. We were there during spring break season. The parking lot was overflowing with license plates from the surrounding states as well as 25 other states. Logoly State Park is not one of the better-known parks in the system. The park is located not far from Magnolia. It is Arkansas’

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 77


athletic excellence By Dr. Robert Reising

Cleburne County 's

Eddy Hipp

Photo by Mike Kemp

78 | 501 LIFE July 2022

His record as a head coach of girls basketball was amazing, absolutely spectacular. Not only did he win a mind-boggling 732 games, but his multi-decade winning percentage of 72% came on the heels of a dismal, discouraging, three-season coaching debut of just 14 victories in 69 contests. Moreover, in an era in which winning coaches were seldom one-school fixtures, the imagination is staggered when asked to believe that in the subsequent 28 years, his teams suffered but two losing seasons while ending 25 with 20 wins or more, nine with at least 30 triumphs and all at one school. Eddie Hipp revived girls basketball at West Side High School and proceeded to bring statewide respect to his program while gaining iconic status that any coach, anywhere, at any level, can envy.

LEFT: Coach Eddy Hipp played center for West Side High School. CENTER: Hipp speaks to the team during a game. RIGHT: Hipp led the West Side Lady Eagles to the Class B State Championship at the close of the 1994-95 season. The community celebrated and he was honored with a plaque.


leburne County has been the sole recipient of Hipp’s lifelong love of place. Born in tiny Prim on April 9, 1951, he received his first three grades of education in a one-room schoolhouse before transferring to the facility he was to enjoy far into the future. In May of 1969, armed with an A and B transcript, he proudly graduated from West Side High. Supplementing his commendable grades was participation in ninth- and 10th-grade junior varsity basketball, followed by two seasons of varsity play. In his senior year, he came into his own, leading the Eagles in rebounding and foul shooting while gaining the team’s Most Valuable Player honors. His impressive credentials qualified him for sizable financial assistance at Lyon College, where standing barely an inch over 6 feet tall, he soon learned that he was an undersized basketball center destined for virtually no playing time. At age 18, however, he was mature beyond his years, and accepted the end of his playing career while devoting full-time attention to his studies and his marriage. Just three months after earning his diploma, in August of 1969, he wed his high-school sweetheart, Deborah Bittle of across-county Quitman. In a handful of weeks, the couple will observe their 53rd wedding anniversary. Completing his four-year Lyon program in the spring of 1973, he immediately launched his career in math teaching and girls’ basketball coaching at his alma mater. The challenge of the latter was daunting. The school had been without girls’ basketball for a decade. At the time, it was vastly different from the men’s sport he had played, and few of his players were mature juniors or seniors with experience in any high school sports. Few, too, had played organized basketball anywhere or had even shot or dribbled basketballs in backyards. Hipp’s first seasons held little chance for success. He admits he was discouraged. As the first seasons passed, the flood of defeats overwhelmed his soul and psyche. Finally, well into the three years, he sought a new path, abandoning his apathy and surrendering to the religion of his youth. He renewed his Christian faith, desiring in return only success for the girls he coached, that alone. Also, vowing to immerse

himself in the study of girls’ basketball, he committed to perfect attendance at clinics, lectures, and workshops on the topic within driving distance of West Side. During the same period, the West Side Girls, gameexperienced or not, toiled to improve their capabilities in the revived sport. Spending extra time in school practice by arriving early and/or staying late, challenging friends elsewhere in one-on-one playground competition, studying more advanced players in action, playing alone against invisible foes in their backyards far into the twilight — these and other strategies typified their commitment to exceeding the norm in their quest for improvement. From the new routines and exhausting labors emerged miraculous results. Thirteen consecutive victory-filled seasons suddenly exploded upon coach and players, among them West Side’s first two 30-win campaigns. Hipp and his teams were elated and grateful as county, conference, district, and regional titles fell to them in abundance. By 1994, they had soared to a Final Four spot in the state tournament, only to have the state title escape their grasp. Yet confidence quickly replaced disappointment. The next year would be different, Hipp and the Eagles vowed. Between seasons, they worked ultra-hard on and off the court, and another trip to the state tournament brought them the success they sought: the state title. They were Arkansas’s Class B best. Players and fans were ecstatic; Hipp was proud but selfeffacing, attributing the championship to “my players and the Almighty.” Nor did the final nine seasons of his career ever witness a change of belief. Through his final game in 2004, his third consecutive 30-win season, his religious fervor remained unshakeable. Retired in Cleburne with his wife, he enjoys the two farms he owns and Woodrow Baptist Church, near Prim, where he has taught Sunday School for almost 50 years. Only rarely and reluctantly does he discuss his superb credentials. West Side, Cleburne County, and the 501 all have reasons galore to be proud of Eddie Hipp, an exceptional coach, and a better human.

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 79

In the world of space toys, Leslie Singer is a

Shooting Star By Tammy Keith


eslie Singer’s childhood obsession with space launched a vintage toy collection that’s out of this world. The 78-year-old Little Rock man, a retired creative director and copywriter, grew up in Long Island, N.Y., in the height of science fiction television shows such as “Tom Corbett Space Cadet,” and “Space Patrol.” “As a kid, my friends and I played space cadet more than we played cowboys and Indians,” he said. “And one of the cool things about playing space was you had a ray gun.” Singer knows the exact moment that sparked his desire to collect vintage ray guns. It was right after he moved to Arkansas in the 1970s, and he found an old ray gun in an antique store. “I bought it, and I said, ‘I’m going to start collecting ray guns.’ In addition to the guns, there were little space men, rocket ships. They just lit me up,” he said. “I had a very happy childhood. Half was the nostalgia of them, and half of it was the futuristic, optimistic design of the ray guns, for sure. They were Art Deco; they had fins and lightning bolts. The designs themselves were very intriguing to me.” He traveled to antique toy shows all over the country as part of his pre-internet odyssey searching for space toys made from the 1930s to the 1960s. He gravitated toward ray guns like he had as a child, such as the “Space Patrol” smoke gun. “It was a prop on the television show. You filled it with talcum powder; a puff of smoke came out and that put you to sleep.” He still has the small red gun. Singer’s ray gun collection, later fueled by online auctions, grew so large that it could fill a book, so he wrote one: “Zap! Ray Gun Classics” was published in 1991. He said it sold well and spurred a movement. “That book was the book on ray guns, and it started a national ray gun collection fad. Up until then, it was mostly robots,” he said. Artist Peter Max of New York City found out through a mutual friend about Singer’s book and asked him if he’d trade some of his collection for a painting. Singer, who is a fan of Max’s work, sent him 50 “really good” ray guns and asked him to re-create the cover of the book.

80 | 501 LIFE July 2022

“The painting is precious to me because he reproduced the cover of my first book in exchange for part of my collection,” Singer said. He published a second book in 2018: “Do you Read Me? Vintage Communication Toys.” “They’re all walkie-talkies that didn’t really work, just pieces of wood that had an antenna sticking out, or some of them worked through a wire, very poorly. None of them would broadcast over the air. My whole thing is about the imagination,” Singer explained. Unlike some collectors, the collector never wanted mintin-package toys; he preferred ones that had been played with. He has a rusty, 1936 Buck Rogers Atomic Disintegrator given to him by a friend who found it buried in his yard. “It looks like some post-Atomic artifact,” Singer said. His three grown children don’t share his interest in space, he said, so he has streamlined his collection. Although he once had hundreds of toys, he sold all except 50 of his favorites that include a handful of ray guns. The world isn’t exactly as Singer imagined it as a child when he was pouring over science fiction comic books and running around zapping galactic villains. “As a kid, I was always fascinated with what I thought the future would be. A lot of it has come true: a phone where you can see who you’re talking to, space travel, just new technology,” he said. Singer never let go of his childhood dream to go into space. “Back in the ‘50s, I signed up to take a rocket to Saturn. I remember sending away 50 cents to make sure I had a ticket for that. I’m still waiting on it,” he said, laughing. If it comes, he’ll be ready. Have ray guns; will travel.

Photos by Mike Kemp

July 2022 501lifemag.com | 81

501 LIFE





Parents are Araceli and Helder. Siblings are Melissa, Nancy and Christopher.


I am a proud University of Central Arkansas alum, #GoBears, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies, and I hold a Master’s in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago.


I am a business consultant for Conexion de Negocios Latinos (CNL), a nonprofit based out of Northwest Arkansas. I also am the Capital Access Manager for the Little Rock Kiva Hub, powered by Forge Fund.


“El Sueno Americano” League of United Latin American Citizens, 2019 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow. I am excited to be able to work with Latinx entrepreneurs in Central Arkansas and work alongside other organizations and individuals to provide resources in Spanish such as networking events and workshops.


I have been passionate about working with the Latinx community since my time at UCA in Conway. I started out interested in college access and higher education but started to see barriers and challenges that Latinx entrepreneurs faced

82 | 501 LIFE July 2022

that were exacerbated by the pandemic. I am glad to be able to support Latinx entrepreneurs and their businesses with CNL and Kiva, both recent initiatives. I want Latinx entrepreneurs to have access to all resources available.


Serve2Perform: Latinos CENTRO S.E.A.L Member (Service Empowered Advanced Leaders), Junior League of Little Rock member, board member for Create Little Rock and the Women’s Leadership Network, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council #750-Little Rock Scholarship committee member.


My family and two dogs, Tobi & Luna.


We recently launched the Kiva Hub in Little Rock this past May. Kiva Little Rock is a partnership between Kiva, an international nonprofit, and FORGE, Inc. FORGE is serving as a local hub of Kiva. The Kiva Little Rock Hub is funded through a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Through the Kiva Little Rock Hub, I am able to support entrepreneurs throughout the application, fundraising, and repayment process to help them succeed. Through Kiva, you can receive a loan between $1,000 to $15,000 with 0% interest. Visit kivalittlerock.org to learn more. Information is available in both Spanish and English.

A Growing Health System for a Growing Community Left to Right: Dawn Hughes, MD, and Stacey Johnson, APRN

Expanded Access

Innovative Services

More Specialists

New Medical Offices

Conway Regional Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center of Arkansas The new Conway Regional Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center of Arkansas, led by Dawn Hughes, MD, and Stacey Johnson, APRN, offers care for women with complications found prior to or during pregnancy and for their unborn baby. Each woman's journey to having a baby is unique, which is why our highly-skilled specialists collaborate with ob-gyns, neonatologists, and pediatricians to provide each patient with a special, individualized care plan. Navigating healthcare can be challenging. Let us help you find the healthcare services you need. Call our Patient Navigation Center at 501-506-CRHS (2747).

We’re not just growing—we’re growing together. July 2022 501lifemag.com | 83



Our Financial Advisory and Investment Services team provides trusted advice and investments to serve our clients’ financial needs and attain their goals. We work with each client to review their current investments, develop an investment strategy and then execute the plan to build the future our clients envision.*

ADVISORY SERVICES • STOCKS • MUTUAL FUNDS • MUNICIPAL BONDS CORPORATE BONDS • AGENCIES • LIFE INSURANCE & ANNUITIES Our Financial Advisory and Investment Services team provides trusted advice and investments to serve our clients’ financial needs and attain their goals. We work with each client to review their current investments, develop an investment strategy and then execute the plan to build the future our clients envision.*

Jack Bailey

Financial Advisor Springdale 479.927.4128

Barry Burch

SVP, Financial Advisor Searcy 800.819.0828

Jack Bailey

Financial Advisor Springdale 479.927.4128

Clay Partridge

Financial Advisor Little Rock 501.534.2387

Al McKay

SVP, Financial Advisor Rogers 479.751.3400

Barry Burch

SVP, Financial Advisor Searcy 800.819.0828

Matt Wylie

Al McKay

SVP, Financial Advisor Rogers 479.751.3400

Tony Brainerd

SVP, Financial Advisor VP, Financial Advisor Clarksville Maumelle Clay Partridge Tony Brainerd 479.979.6206 Matt Wylie 501.217.4514

Financial Advisor Little Rock 501.534.2387

SVP, Financial Advisor Clarksville 479.979.6206

VP, Financial Advisor Maumelle 501.217.4514

Derek Whitehead

SVP, Financial Advisor Conway 501.450.1871

Derek Whitehead

SVP, Financial Advisor Conway 501.450.1871

Jim Liles

Alex Behel

Jason Jennings

Financial Advisor Searcy 501.279.3402

Alex Behel

Financial Advisor Searcy 501.279.3402

VP, Financial Advisor Searcy 501.279.3436

Jason Jennings

VP, Financial Advisor Searcy 501.279.3436

Chris Robinson

VP, Financial Advisor Sr. Vice President Searcy Mountain Home Jim Liles Chris Robinson Al Deininger 501.207.6640 870.424.8060 VP, Financial Advisor Searcy 501.207.6640

Sr. Vice President Mountain Home 870.424.8060

SVP, Financial Advisor Little Rock 501.534.2383

Al Deininger

SVP, Financial Advisor Little Rock 501.534.2383



individual team members have different licenses areas of expertise. inquire about the services each team member may provide. NOT FDIC INSURED • MAY LOSE*Our VALUE • NOT BANK GUARANTEED • NOTand A DEPOSIT • NOTPlease INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY • MEMBER FINRA & SIPC *Our individual team members have different licenses and areas of expertise. Please inquire about the services each team member may provide.