March 2023

Page 1

501 is turning 15

This month’s theme focuses on my three favorite aspects of life: faith, friends and family. Each is essential to a well-rounded life, and Arkansans value all three.

Few magazines will broach the subject of faith, let alone give space to stories about religious people and ministries. But 501 LIFE is a magazine that reflects the values of the people who live in Central Arkansas. We write about those who work hard, value their beliefs and hang out with friends and family on the weekends. In this issue, you’ll meet folks who work together to accomplish challenging goals, supporting one another and having a good time along the way.

That’s our story at 501 LIFE. We’re a team of high achievers who want each issue to be engaging, informative and entertaining. And next month the issue is devoted to celebrating our 15th year of publishing a monthly magazine. Looking back to our roots, we will revisit a story from each year dating back to 2008, and we’ll let you know where they are now. The colorful issue will feature some “back in the day” photos, surprising facts, and fresh stories to entertain and inspire you.

Our regular columnists will celebrate with us, and I want to invite our readers to be part of our 15th birthday edition. You are invited to answer any of these questions in an email or note to us by March 12:

1. What do you look forward to seeing in each issue?

2. Tell us about a particular story that stood out to you and why.

3. Why is 501 LIFE Magazine important to Central Arkansas life?

4. Or, send a congratulatory message!

Send an email to In the subject line, type BIRTHDAY. After typing your response, please give us your name and phone number. If mailing, send to: 501 LIFE Magazine, 920 Locust Suite 104, Conway, AR, 72034.

I hope you will participate in this historic moment in the life of our positive publication! I also love to see your “Loving Life” photos, so continue to send those to


Jeremy L. Higginbotham


Stefanie W. Brazile


Donna Spears and Sonja Keith


Donald Brazile


Paulette Higginbotham


Donna Spears


Levi Gilbert


Mike Kemp


Andrea Lively and Andrea Miller


Debbie Flowers


Becky Bell

Don Bingham

Jessica Duff

Lori Dunn

Laurie Green

Dwain Hebda

Faye Hedera

Vivian Lawson Hogue

Tammy Keith

Beth Jimmerson

Mark McDonald

Nancy Breeden Mitchell

Susan Peterson

Dr. Robert Reising

Judy Riley

Carol Rolf

Donna Lampkin Stephens

Rita Thomas

Morgan Zimmerman


Johnny Adams

Jack Bell

Don Bingham

Jessica Brown

RaeLynn Callaway

Glenn Crockett

Beth Franks

Russ Hancock

Spencer Hawks

Mathilda Hatfield

Roe Henderson

Jerry Hiegel

Mike Kemp

Julie LaRue

Karl Lenser

Monica Lieblong

Lori Melton

Deanna Ott

Pat Otto

Jon Patrom

Amy Reed

Lori Ross

Margaret Smith

Jan Spann

Kim Tyler

Suzann Waggoner

Jennifer Whitehead

Kay Wood


Mary Clark

Shelli Crowell

Dr. Larry Davis

Shawn Halbrook

Alicia Hugen

Alisha Koonce

Stephanie Lipsmeyer

Stewart Nelson

Kristi Strain

Jim Taylor

Morgan Zimmerman


Betsy Bailey

Amy Burton

Tara Cathey

Cassandra Feltrop

Phil Hays

Natalie Horton

Matt LaForce

Mike Parsons

Brooke Pryor

Judy Riley

Carol Spears

Kristi Thurmon

501 LIFE is published by Make the Jump Media, LLC (920 Locust Ave. Ste. 104, Conway, AR 72034, 501.327.1501) and is 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. Advertisements are not necessarily endorsed by 501 LIFE.

4 | 501 LIFE March 2023

March 2023

On the cover

The Chapel at Four Winds, located in West Conway, is a charming, beautiful and old-fashioned chapel with stained glass and a warm and inviting atmosphere.

6 | 501 LIFE March 2023 Volume 15 Issue 11
52 20 94
Photo by Linda Henderson
4 Letter from the Editor 8 Upcoming events 9 Daffodil Daze Art Contest 10 Loving LIFE photos 12 Greenbrier Polar Plunge By
14 Beauty blooms with downtown mural By Carol Rolf 18 Couple of the Month: Delbra & Milton King 20 George Hoelzeman Touching the face of God By Dwain Hebda 26 Youth of the Month: Josie Williams of Conway By Carol Rolf 30 Entertaining: Let's do family dinner By Chef Don Bingham 34 Harmonies of Heber Springs Community Bells By Donna
Stephens 38 The Covington Centennial By
44 Kids of the Month: Aiden Guzman and Declan Moore of Conway By
46 Extra Opportunities at PCSSD By
48 Pet of the Month: Goose the cat finds a home By
50 Faith is at the center of it all By
Mark McDonald 52 Friendships and faith at Grace Bible Theological Seminary By Stefanie Brazile 56 New mayor is big believer in Fairfield Bay By Lori Dunn 58 My Life Powered by Conway Corp By Beth Jimmerson 59 APPA honors Conway Corp Marketing 60 First Presbyterian Church designated Cool Congregation 62 Artist of the Month: Steve Hurd By Tammy Keith 66 Oliver's Ovation: Morrilton honors basketball legend By Morgan Zimmerman 68 Medical careers bring spouses to Conway Regional 70 Author of the Month: Eli Vega By Susan L. Peterson 75 Faith, friends and family By Vivian Lawson Hogue 76 Athletic Excellence: Donald and Ronald Fulcher By Dr. Robert Reising 80 Aerial agriculture - utilizing drones By Judy Riley 82 Suitcase snacks By Laurie Green 84 100 Faces of Conway By Faye Hedera 88 The bridges we build By Dwain Hebda 92 Harding's “Play That Goes Wrong" awarded 94 Where we worship by Linda Henderson 98 Person of the Month: Kellie Wall - Maumelle
Stefanie Brazile
Nancy Breeden Mitchell
Jessica Duff
Becky Bell

go on the hunt for

Bledsoe Chiropractic, 23


Central Baptist College, 37

Christian Perspective Counseling, 51

Conway Corp, 59

Conway Regional Health System, 99

Conway Regional

Rehabilitation Hospital, 69

DJM Orthodontics, 27

Edward Jones, 43

Engage Management, 25

Explore Springdale, 90

Fairfield Bay Conference Center, 57

First Community Bank, 41, 98

First Security Bank, 100

First Service Bank, 13

First United Methodist Church, 55


Heating and Cooling, 65

FUMC Early Childhood Center, 87


Grace Presbyterian Church, 55

Harding University, 93

Hartman Animal Hospital, 49

Harwood, Ott & Fisher, PA, 55

Heritage Living Center, 5

Jack Fancy Band, 83

Kilwins Little Rock, 36

MSC Eye Associates, 36

Ott Insurance, 79

Pulaski County

Special School District, 47 _____________________________________

Reynolds Performance Hall, 73

Rise Above Alcohol & Drugs, 29

Salem Place, 91

Shelter Insurance, 25

Sissy's Log Cabin, 17

Springhill Baptist Church, 55

Stoby's/Patticakes, 33

Superior Health & Rehab, 2

Toad Suck Daze Run, 67

Unity Health, 3, 61

University of Arkansas

Community College Morrilton, 81

University of Central Arkansas, 61

Velda Lueders -

Coldwell Banker, 8, 18

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

Writers’ Room

Judy Riley lives in White County. She holds degrees from the U of A and Texas A&M University-Commerce. She retired as a full professor for the U of A Cooperative Extension Service. She currently helps her husband, Tom, with a hay production and beef cattle farm and is a board member for several nonprofit community foundations.

Dr. Robert Reising retired from the University of Central Arkansas in 2013 and held a variety of teaching, coaching and administrative posts during more than a half-century in education. His doctoral dissertation at Duke treated literature and sports.

In 2009, he co-authored “Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams’ Doc Graham.” Contact him at

March 2023 | 7
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Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Presents Jurassic Park

7:30 p.m. • March 11 • Little Rock

Kicking it on the Yard

8 p.m. • March 25 • Little Rock

The action-packed adventure pits man against prehistoric predators in the ultimate battle for survival. Featuring visually stunning imagery and groundbreaking special effects, audiences can experience “Jurassic Park” as never before: projected in HD with a full symphony orchestra performing the iconic score live to picture. Visit to learn more.

First Ever 20th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 17 • Hot Springs

The iconic Village People will perform a free public concert on March 18, the day after the famous 98-foot parade. The Molly Ringwalds band will rock the night immediately after the parade on Bridge Street. The Parade Starter is Christopher McDonald, known for his nefarious role as Shooter McGavin in “Happy Gilmore.” Visit to learn more.

Robinson Performance Hall in Little Rock welcomes a new musical written and directed by Nate Williams titled “Kicking It On The Yard –The Musical.” Billed as a one-of-a-kind entertainer, Williams is a clean comedian who is versatile, laid-back and an Arkansas native. Known for famous impersonations, Williams will leave you wanting more. Buy tickets at

Munchin on Main Street

March 25 • Morrilton

Downtown Morrilton’s food truck and music festival returns with live music, food trucks, children’s activities, face painting, a Baggo tournament and more on Railroad Avenue from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. The event is free, and the Chamber of Commerce is heading the event. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair. Learn more on Facebook at “Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce.”

Amy Grant Live in Concert

7:30 p.m. • March 31 • Conway

Conventional wisdom has it that Amy Grant put contemporary Christian music on the map, becoming the first CCM artist to have a platinum record, the first to hit No. 1 on the pop charts, and the first to perform at the Grammy Awards. She has sold more than 30 million albums. Grant will perform at Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway. Visit

8 | 501 LIFE March 2023


“Our magazine loves this partnership with the Daffodil Daze committee to celebrate the artistic talents of Faulkner County youth,” said 501 LIFE Advertising Director and Dazzle Daze Art Contest Chairman Paulette Higginbotham.

“There is not a more welcoming sign of spring than beautiful daffodil flowers. We are excited for this annual art contest showcasing this delicate and hardy flower by Faulkner County students,” said Higginbotham. “Students are invited to draw, paint or photograph around the subject of daffodils. The flowers bloom throughout Faulkner County parks and along our trails. Both lend beauty and creativity to the world of Conway. Last year we had a record number 373 entries, and we hope to have even more entries in our contest this year!”

• The Daffodil Daze Art Contest is open to all Faulkner County students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

• Entries must be submitted on 8.5 by 11 inch paper in any art medium, including photos. The subject can be any variety of daffodil flower(s). This can be still life, landscape or narrative in nature. Encourage students to think outside the box.

• On the back, please list the student’s name, school, grade, teacher, phone number and email address.

• Entries will be judged in three school divisions: elementary (kindergarten through fourth grade), middle school (fifth through eighth grade), and junior high/high school (ninth through 12th grade).

• Monday, April 3, is the deadline to submit entries at the 501 LIFE Magazine office in Conway at 920 Locust St., Suite 104. Winners will be announced in 501 LIFE and will also be honored at a Daffodil Daze reception. For more information, call 501.314.2061,



Headed out on a special trip as the weather gets better? 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

10 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Vendors were “Loving LIFE” at Point Remove Brewing Company’s Second Annual Galentine's Brunch and Mini Market in Morrilton on Feb. 11. More than 400 attended the event to sip, shop, eat and enjoy live music.
March 2023 | 11
Main Event General Manager Bobby Sokhanvar (from left) was “Loving LIFE” on Feb. 17 with Jeremy Mays, director, at the VIP Sneak Peek Party in Little Rock. Nell Hightower and friends at Needs Creek Baptist Church in Greenbrier were “Loving LIFE” when they enjoyed a Valentine’s Dinner and celebrated Nell, their oldest member. Smitha Thomas, MD, and James Thomas, MD, were “Loving LIFE” at the ribbon cutting held Jan. 26 for Conway’s new Courtyard by Marriott. Tracy Wells (from left) and Teresa Ricketts were “Loving LIFE” at Conway’s Courtyard by Marriott. Wells is general manager and Ricketts is regional director of sales. Team member Jordan Hughes and Preston Higginbotham are "Loving LIFE" at the Main Event Hoops Challenge. Jordan (from left), Brooklynn and Michelle Moll were “Loving 501 LIFE” at the State Beta Convention in Hot Springs. Jordan and Brooklynn represented Morrilton Intermediate School. First Security Bank Gold Club of Saline County was “Loving LIFE” while on a 12-day trip to Hawaii aboard the Pride of America cruise ship.

Getting Cold for a Cause

Greenbrier Polar Plunge a huge success for Arkansas Special Olympics Area 17

More than 100 people were freezing for a reason on Feb. 18 at Greenbrier’s Polar Plunge. The annual event benefits Arkansas Special Olympics Area 17 and was held at Woolly Hollow State Park. This year’s theme was: Be Hip! Take A Dip!

“Donations are still coming in, but we raised about $16,000,” said Brenda Dowdy, chairperson for Area 17. “I’m just really thankful to each one who took the time to dress up and take the plunge. We support athletes with intellectual disabilities in more than 20 sports, and it’s all about taking care of the expenses for anyone who wants to participate.”

Area 17 consists of Faulkner, Van Buren, Conway, Perry and Pope counties. They sponsor sports competitions for people with intellectual disabilities, and Polar Plunge proceeds help cover the cost of equipment, hotel rooms, uniforms and other expenses. Part of the monies raised by Special Olympics Arkansas Area 17 will sponsor Coach James Winnem from Morrilton and two athletes who will compete in June in the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.

To increase the event’s fun and raise more money, a dessert auction was held at the event that raised nearly $3,000. “We had 90-plus desserts, and I appreciate everyone who donated a dessert,” Dowdy said.

There were also contests, including best costume, youngest participant, Cool Church and Cool School. Dowdy is proud of the support from law enforcement and firemen. There were teams from Guy, Greenbrier and Conway police departments, the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office and area firemen. Several schools also participated, including Clinton, Vilonia,

and Conway high

Additionally, individuals, churches, businesses, clubs and nonprofit organizations took the plunge. When it’s time to dunk in the freezing water, participants can request that a favorite song is played.

The winner of the Cool Church was LifeSong Baptist Church, and Clinton High School won Cool School. To donate, contact Dowdy at 501.450.0395.

12 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Greenbrier schools. From “Stranger Things” and Bob Ross to Lady Bugs and Smurfs, teams and individuals made the most of their plunges. Photos by Jeremy Higginbotham
14 | 501 LIFE March 2023

beauty blooms beauty blooms IN

Photos by Mike Kemp

Jessica Jones creates riveting mural

As Conway residents ventured out mid-morning in advance of a winter ice storm last month, one woman took time to slow down and “smell the roses.” However, the flowers were not roses, but a variety of brightly colored blooms painted on the side of a building.

“Who’s the artist?” queried the driver as she saw the artist at work. The answer: Jessica Jones.

Jones could be seen recently in downtown Conway painting one of her latest outdoor murals. This one is on the side of the U.S. Pizza Co. at 710 Front St. Jones received a commission for the mural from restaurant owners Esther and Hunter McClellan and Don Henderson, who received a grant from the Downtown Conway Partnership (DCP).

Kim Williams, executive director of the DCP, said the grant was a Main Street Arkansas Downtown Revitalization Grant. “The Conway Downtown Partnership receives this grant each year,” Williams said. “It is made possible by Main Street Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Heritage, and we distribute the funds locally. A total of seven projects in Conway were awarded grants this year.

“It’s a 50/50 matching grant,” Williams said. “It’s for $2,500. This mural project well exceeds that amount, but the owners were willing to make up the difference.”

Esther McClellan said she and her co-owners bought half of the building that was torn down and rebuilt in 2009 and renamed Satterfield Station.

The revitalization project was led by Greg Nabholz, CEO of Nabholz Properties Inc., and M.M. “Branch” Satterfield III, president of M.M. Satterfield Oil Co. McClellan said the original plan for the building included residential living and office space. Currently Nabholz Properties has its corporate offices in the other half of Satterfield Station.

“We knew of Jessica’s murals in other locations and

wanted her to do this one,” McClellan said. “She is so darn good, and we are so excited to see it nearing completion.”

The mural features Rosie the Riveter on one end of the building connected by flowers and other designs to the other end, which features a stylized version of an old Satterfield gas station. “We wanted to do this as an homage to the Satterfields,” McClellan said. “Versions of Rosie the Riveter are used in many of the U.S. Pizza locations. The finished mural will also include the circle logo for U.S. Pizza, which features Uncle Sam eating a slice of pizza.”

The McClellans and their partners also own a U.S. Pizza Co. in Cabot and one in Springdale. “When we started thinking about opening U.S. Pizza locations, I just knew Conway would make a perfect location,” she said.

In creating this mural, the Conway-based artist said she used a special order spray paint made strictly for murals. “It’s more forgiving than latex, which is more sensitive to the cold weather,” said Jones, who was assisted by Indi Minett of Conway. Jones said she uses an iPad to create sketches for her murals. “It’s easier to use the computer with a special program for artists than to draw out sketches on paper,” she said, laughing.

“Esther liked the idea of using Rosie the Riveter, and I did, too,” Jones said. “Rosie is a symbol of strength. This mural shows her strength, and the flowers symbolize this building coming back to life.”

Jones, who was born in Florida, has lived in Arkansas for about 10 years. She has a degree in equine reproductive science and is a self-taught artist. She has created indoor and outdoor murals in Conway and other parts of Central Arkansas, including several in the Little Rock-North Little Rock area and in Jacksonville. She also has work on display in the Fayetteville area.

16 | 501 LIFE March 2023


Photo by Mike Kemp


WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: McGehee (Desha County).

EDUCATION: I earned a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).

PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT: Retired from Green Bay Packaging-Arkansas Kraft Division.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I am an associate minister of New Zion Temple Church of God in Christ.

HOBBIES/SPECIAL INTERESTS: I love traveling, going to sporting events and hunting.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I am a family man. I enjoy participating in my family gatherings and family reunions and supporting my grandchildren in their activities.

ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: I have visited all 50 states and 11 countries, and I am a serious person, but I smile a lot.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO: Find a way to win because winning is out there. You have to make up your mind about what you want, ask the Lord for it and then look for it.

BEST THING ABOUT HAVING A LARGE FAMILY: l love that we get to share life’s experiences. You can see yourself in many different ways as you watch your children grow.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG COUPLES WHO ARE RAISING KIDS: I advise young couples to love and trust God, love and trust each other and work together. Children don’t come with manuals, so you must learn how to raise them. Some things that worked for your parents will not work for your situation; you must be willing to learn what to do together.


We met at a college basketball game in 1976 when UCA played Hendrix at UCA. Milton’s cousin, Rose, was coming to see him and had invited Delbra to come too. We were casually introduced and would not see each other again until two years later. A very special event had happened in both our lives before we saw one another again — we had, independently of the other, given our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ.

We met again at Veasey Hall, which was Rose’s dorm. Music was one of our common interests, so Rose and Milton planned to meet in the parlor and practice singing. Once again, he was unaware that Delbra and another friend would be joining the cousins.


WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Hope (Hempstead County).

EDUCATION: I earned a Bachelor of Arts from Hendrix College.

PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT: I teach eighth grade science for Conway Public Schools.

FAMILY: Alisha King Conway, Geneva King, James King, Kamela King, Coy King (deceased), Jeremy King (deceased), Joshua King, Christopher King, Carrington King, Mykela King McGill and Justus King. We have six grandchildren.

CHURCH ACTIVITIES: I belong to the New Zion Temple Church of God in Christ in Conway, where I serve as chairperson of the Missionary Circle. I also am a member of the Young Women’s Christian Council and teacher of the Prayer and Bible Band Auxiliary.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: I am a person who loves people. I love to see them become the best version of themselves. I am a helper by nature and sometimes it is hard to say no, but I have learned that every person or situation doesn’t require me to physically help. Sometimes the requirement is for me to pray.

WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: Most people don’t know that our family was featured on the nowsyndicated TV show “Rescue 911.” It aired on Jan. 11, 1994, and can still be viewed on YouTube. It is titled “Baby on Board.”

BEST THING ABOUT HAVING A LARGE FAMILY: Our family is like a sports team with the spirit of true champions. We support each other in the wins and the losses. We have had our share of both, but it’s great and very sobering to know that you have each other's backs. Literally.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG COUPLES WHO ARE RAISING KIDS: I encourage young couples to remember that God gave them His best when He blessed them with their children. It was not accidental that those children were given to them and not, say, to me, to love, train and enjoy. They are your greatest asset, and they grow up way too fast!

We sang and enjoyed the evening, but before we left, I took the chance to talk to her and asked her out. We started dating and were inseparable; a few months later I proposed, and she said yes. We were married Oct. 6, 1979, in Hope. The name of the church, which is still standing 43 years later, is the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ.

We continue to have a weekly date just to go somewhere and spend that special time with each other. Sometimes we eat somewhere, and other times we go to a movie or walk on the Tucker Creek Trail. We consider ourselves best friends, and neither of us could imagine walking through this life without holding the other’s hand.

March 2023 | 19
Delbra and Milton King are proud that all of their children have two- or four-year degrees. They are (from left, standing) Christopher, Kamela, Geneva, Mykela (the bride), James, Alisha and Joshua. In front (from left) are Justus and Carrington.


One of Michaelangelo’s most famous quotes came at the inquiry of where his inspiration for carved statues came from.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it,” the great master is supposed to have replied, “and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Liturgical artist George Hoelzeman chuckles at the wellworn quote and the sly hint it provides that art has always been a terse dance between talent and marketing, a reality experienced by even one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

“There’s a lot of work involved in creating art. Especially, there’s a lot of work involved that doesn’t look like work to most people,” Hoelzeman said. “To develop something that’s meaningful and yet beautiful and artistic, there’s this long creative process. The reality is you sit there, and you look at it. You can think you’re doing nothing because you’re just staring off into space, but your brain is just plowing through ideas.

Another knowing chuckle.

“Michelangelo can say what he wanted to, but he was actually promoting his own legend at that point.”

It’s been more than three decades since Hoelzeman delivered his first commissioned project, a series of plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross for St. Augustine Catholic Church in North Little Rock. In the time since, he’s become a sought-after artist for sacred spaces, creating artwork and sanctuary elements such as tabernacles and altars for faith communities in multiple states.

It's a complicated line of work, interpreting the image of God in ways that are creative enough to provoke thought,

yet familiar enough to connect a congregation – individually and collectively – in ways known and comforting.

“It is an indescribable experience to see and hear of people being moved by one’s work in a way that heals, uplifts, encourages, inspires or otherwise draws a person more deeply into the spiritual life,” Hoelzeman said. “Ultimately, one has to silence one’s own conceit and recognize that God will and does use the work as He sees fit. The piece, or pieces, have their own life, even in the process of being designed and made.”

The son of a carpenter, Hoelzeman graduated from Sacred Heart School in Morrilton. He initially saw his path leading to the priesthood, and after completing St. Joseph Seminary in Covington, La., the plan called for entering Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco (Logan County).

“I kept holding out the idea that I was going to go back to monastery until I met my wife and then it was like, ‘OK, I think I know where I really want to be now,’” he said with a laugh.

Hoelzeman’s path in life may have changed, but his formation up until that point had already permeated the way he viewed the world, particularly through his art.

“I was apparently pouring a lot of the monastics, spirituality and stuff into it even before I knew that I was,” he said. “In about 1986, 1987, I was going around trying to market myself as a freelance artist to various ad agencies in Little Rock. In an interview, one of the art directors down there said, ‘Have you considered doing religious art?’ I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ He said, ‘Everything that you’ve done has a religious or spiritual theme to it.’ I didn’t even recognize it at the time.

Continued on page 22

20 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Photos by Mike Kemp George Hoelzeman created the sanctuary crucifix at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church in Little Rock. It is inspired by medieval crucifixes and measures approximately 4-feet wide by 6-feet tall.

“Somebody I knew at the time had a book called ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’ It was one of these self-help things to help you figure out what to do with your life. I read it and took the little test and at the end of it, I concluded that my best options were either A, go back to the monastery and be a monk, or B, do something that had to do with art, history, theology, the church, etc. So, that pointed me to liturgical art.”

Today, a monastic influence still radiates throughout his work, starting with his preferred medium, wood carving. As a religion, Roman Catholicism is rich with symbolism, and in assessing his work, Hoelzeman views his art through that lens.

“Wood is living and gives life, both as a tree and a material for art and construction,” he said. “In life, trees produce oxygen, which is essential for our life. They also purify the air and they accomplish all this by their silent presence. I think this is a good model for our life in Christ and is particularly meaningful in the context of my monastic

background. Trees are a common symbol throughout Scripture going back to the creation story in Genesis.

“Trees also endure, sometimes, centuries of the challenges of survival. These hardships and injuries are recorded in their wood, and in that wood those sufferings are transformed into incredible beauty. The more a tree has been traumatized, the more spectacular is the figure of its wood. Again, I find this a meaningful metaphor not only for the passion of Christ, but our own challenges in living a life in Christ.”

Hoelzeman's talent shines in finished pieces, imbued as they are with a certain irresistible life force. He’s visited churches where his artwork has been installed and seen lipstick on the pieces, so moved were people to kiss an image as a sign of devotion. He said all good work connects with its audience similarly, the distinction between true art and a manufactured commodity, another tightrope every creative must navigate.

22 | 501 LIFE March 2023
‘Like wood, we can all be made more beautiful through our willingness to suffer the difficulties of life with grace.’
Continued on page 25
- George Hoelzman
George Hoelzeman stands next to the altar he created for Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church in Little Rock. In 2001, he won the BENE National Award for the altar. The competition was sponsored by Ministry and Liturgy Journal, now out of print. George Hoelzman carved two, near life-size statues which stand in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morrilton. Pictured above is Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Christ is on the following page.

“One of the things that drives my colleagues and I nuts are parishes that go straight to a catalog because that’s all they know," he said. “Well, that may look nice and pretty, but it’s just manufactured; it doesn’t have the same life and depth. It’s not the same experience.

"There have certainly been times when I felt like I was starting to get into a creative rut and I needed to expand my horizons. If you don’t do that, you’re not an artist anymore and you’re certainly not a liturgical artist anymore. You’re just a manufacturer. You’re just going to shrivel up and die as an artist, as a creative person, or frankly, as a human being.”

Another cause for Hoelzeman's zeal for the process is that for as much as his finished work gives his audience, it’s the unfinished work in progress that continually refreshes his own wellspring of faith.

“Monastic spirituality has taught me the critical importance of humility,” he said. “As such, I don’t really think in terms of God owing me any favors or special treatment. God doesn’t owe me anything. When I’m working on a sculpture, I am aware that I’m taking that which was created by God and applying abilities, which He has seen fit to bless me, in order to create something of beauty that draws others to goodness and truth – in other words, to God himself.

“The challenges and difficulties I face in the process are part of the way I can advance my skills and vision. Likewise, the difficulties of life are crucial to spiritual growth and maturity, God’s way of teaching me humility as well as faithful patience.”

March 2023 | 25
Photo by Mike Kemp



Josie Williams is a winner not only on the basketball court but also in school.

The 17-year-old senior at Conway Christian High School plays point guard for the Lady Eagles and averages 19.5 points a game. She also scores high in academics, maintaining a 4.26 GPA, and will graduate in the top of her senior class in May.

She had offers to play basketball from multiple colleges but has signed to play at Harding University.

Josie, the daughter of Ryan and Wendy Williams of Conway, has attended the local Christian school since prekindergarten. She has three brothers – Tyler, 22, Thomas, 20, and Jack Ryan, 10. Her older brothers are graduates of Conway Christian, and her younger brother is in fifth grade.

Josie scored her 2,000th point in her varsity career on Jan. 20 when her team won at Magnet Cove.

“I never set out to score 2,000 points, but I always wanted to be the best I could be in every game,” she said.

“Josie is extremely driven. She works hard and puts her whole heart into all of her efforts,” Conway Christian Coach Trey Lynch said. “This approach provides her the opportunity to accomplish many great things going forward.

“Scoring 2,000 points in a high school career is an exceptionally rare feat,” he said. “She should be proud to have reached such a milestone.”

Lynch said the team finished the regular season at 24-5 and clinched the 2A-5 Conference championship. Postseason play began the week of Feb. 14.

Josie began playing basketball when she was in first grade.

“I grew up playing basketball in the backyard with my brothers,” she said. “We also played baseball … that’s how we grew up.”

She also enjoys hunting and fishing with her family, which includes grandparents Mona and Jerry Williams of Conway and Linda and Roger Craft of Glenwood. Jerry Williams competed in professional fishing tournaments for several years, and Josie credits him for her interest in fishing.

Josie joined the Arkansas Dazzlers, a youth touring basketball team, when she was in second grade and played with the team through sixth grade.

“That’s what really got me going,” Josie said, smiling.

Mario Thomas, former coach of the Dazzlers, called Josie a “special player and equally a special person.

“I have sat back and admired her dedication to the game over the years,” Thomas said. “She was going into the second grade when I first met her. At the time, we were already loaded with strong guard play, and I wasn’t looking to add another player when she came to a workout. Well in just a couple of minutes into the workout, I realized we would have been foolish to pass on her. Even at such a young age, you could see the passion, the drive, the grit and her God-given talent.

“People see the individual milestones that she has achieved, but what they don’t see is the hours in the empty gyms, the struggles along the way, and the sacrifices made

Continued on page 28

March 2023 | 27

to being better,” Thomas said. “I have seen her live this, and (it) puts a big grin on my face every time I think about it.”

Josie had a setback in her basketball career when she was a sophomore. She had multiple injuries and had to miss the second half of that season.

“It was tough,” she said. “But it helped me with my leadership skills. I had to lead in a different way sitting on the bench. It opened my eyes about leadership, about ways to help the team while I was off the court.”

Josie showed her leadership skills at Conway Christian earlier this school year when she and others came together to plan REVIVE 2022, a revival-type service for students in grades seven through 12 that included special guests and worship.

“We saw a need for a revival. We saw a need for us all to come together and love each other, to have each other’s backs and to come back to Jesus,” she said.

“Josie is a great example of a servant leader –putting others before self,” said Jason Carson, CEO of Conway Christian School.

“We recently opened our new facility and wanted to create an opportunity to have a time for worship, games and have a guest speaker,” Carson said. “Early on, Josie and some of her classmates got together to brainstorm and pray about how to do this. Her family and others met on Sunday afternoons and came up with our first event – REVIVE.

“We took a half day and had lunch together, played some games, had a worship service and had a guest speaker,” he said. “Josie helped challenge other students to become leaders and own their faith and their future.

“She’s been a great leader at our school,” Carson said. “The new facility has new high school classrooms, as well as an art wing and an athletic wing. We held the REVIVE event in mid-December before school dismissed for the Christmas break. We plan to hold this REVIVE event every year.”

Josie said the students plan to hold a similar event – REJOICE – later this spring.

She also plays other sports at Conway Christian. She plays softball and volleyball and was part of the golf team that won two state championships. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club and participates in drama and FBLA activities.

Josie plans to major in sports psychology at Harding University.

“I’m looking into becoming a college coach,” she said.

When asked if she hoped to stay in Arkansas after college graduation, she said, “I’m fine with whatever, wherever the Lord takes me. I’ll travel down whatever path comes my way.”

Josie Williams has played basketball since first grade on competitive teams. In 2017, her team won 8th Place at the Girls Basketball National Championship Division 1 held in Hampton, Va.

28 | 501 LIFE March 2023
‘I never set out to score 2,000 points, but I always wanted to be the best I could be in every game.’
- Josie Williams
The Williams siblings enjoy a day at the lake. Thomas (from left), Jack Ryan, Josie and Tyler. The group also enjoys playing basketball in the backyard.
30 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Photo by Mike Kemp

Family Let's do Dinner

Few things are more meaningful than getting together with family! The family, whether an extended unit in annual family reunions or as the family that still lives in near proximity and can easily meet together, has always been the perfect opportunity to share stories, traditions and favorite recipes. It's also a good time to build cross-generational relationships and pass on family history.

All of our five children, along with their spouses and grandchildren, live within 20 miles of our home, except for one daughter and her family in the Houston area, and she is able to fly home often. Thus we are always up for celebrating around the table! For thirty years, my wife has prepared Sunday dinner for everyone; in recent days, the family has become so large with marriages and grands that we have limited our gatherings to holidays and the impromptu meal or potluck. We believe the family unit to be God-ordained and the dearest pathway to communicating encouragement, to persevere, to overcome and to strengthen our faith, and for this we are most grateful.

Just before writing this article, we decided to call a family Sunday meal following church. We even called our

Texas daughter to fly in, if possible. For this gathering, we will hear about the arrival of the first great-grandchild, the adventures of a Disney Cruise, the ventures of a grandson's new job, and the joys of a new Aussiedoodle dog (which could double as a small Shetland pony). We'll laugh, maybe cry a little, remember many grand experiences and just be at home! We have not done a good ole southern menu in some time–at least since December–and we will do chicken and dumplings, turnip greens, sweet potato casserole, blackberry cobbler and, of course, cornbread.

There could be up to 24 of us this Sunday, while other times there are just three of us.

Whatever the number, we pray nightly for all the adult children, the grandchildren, and for God's protection in the twists and turns of life. I know all of our readers are immeasurably thankful for family gatherings and even for family phone calls and texts from those who are separated by distance and time. Included here are the recipes for this Sunday's meal! Enjoy the rich treasure, anytime possible, of faith, family and friends!

Recipes continued on page 32

March 2023 | 31


Your Own

Sweet Potato Bar

Sweet potatoes

Olive oil or butter

Foil or parchment paper Cookie sheet

Lightly brush sweet potatoes, skin on, with olive oil or butter (number to be determined by servings desired and size of sweet potatoes available).

Place potatoes on parchment or foil-lined cookie sheet, then bake potatoes at 350 for an hour or until potatoes are tender when a knife is inserted.

While the potatoes are baking, prepare small separate serving bowls with condiments consisting of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, marshmallow cream and nuts to create a selfservice buffet of toppings. Guests will enjoy dressing their own sweet potato!

Chicken and Dumplings

1 whole chicken


3 or 4 whole carrots

4 celery stalks

1 large onion

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of flour for dumplings

Place chicken and raw vegetables in a large pot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper to taste; about 1 tsp. each is a good start. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until chicken is tender. Butter may be added to broth for additional rich flavor, if desired.

Remove chicken from pan to a plate; cool. Skim and save the broth for cooking dumplings. Strain off the cooked vegetables, onion and celery and discard. Remove meat from bones, then remove skin and discard skin and bones. Cut or tear chicken into medium-size pieces. Place in a shallow baking dish. Cover so chicken will stay moist and set aside.

To make dumplings: place about four cups of flour in a mixing bowl. Add chicken broth from cooked chicken (or use milk if desired), enough to combine flour and broth mixture, approximately 1-2 cups of liquid. Mix to form dough to roll out on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thickness. Slice into 1- by 3-inch strips. Dough should be the consistency of biscuit dough.

In a large pot, bring reserved broth to a boil and drop in strips of dumpling dough. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Pour dumplings over chicken pieces; mix gently to combine. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Turnip or Collard Greens

1 bunch of turnip greens or collard greens

3 cups water or chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. butter

Greens must be washed thoroughly; soak greens in water for at least 30 minutes, wash each leaf individually, and drain water. Wash leaves twice more, rinsing well each time. Greens are gritty and dirty and must be washed carefully. The center membrane may also be cut out, if desired. After individually washing each leaf, front and back, stack the leaves and cut in inch-and-a-half wide strips. Place greens in a saucepan with water or chicken broth; bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until greens are tender and the liquid is reduced by half. Stir occasionally. Serve immediately, adding sliced ham, sliced or chopped onions and Tabasco Pepper Sauce as desired.


1 tsp. vegetable shortening or vegetable oil to coat the pan

¼ cup oil

1 large egg

1 1/3 cup buttermilk

2 cups Martha White Self-Rising Enriched White

Buttermilk Cornmeal Mix

Heat oven to 450. Spoon shortening into an 8-inch oven-proof skillet or 8-inch square or round baking pan. Place skillet or pan in oven to heat for about 5 minutes.

Whisk egg in medium bowl. Stir in milk, oil and cornmeal mix until smooth. Batter should be creamy and pourable. If too thick, add 1-2 Tbsp. of additional milk or oil. Carefully tilt skillet to coat bottom with shortening. Pour batter into skillet.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Helen's Cabbage Slaw

1 head cabbage, shredded or finely chopped

2 heaping Tbsp. granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)

2 heaping Tbsp. vinegar

¼ cup mayonnaise

Mix sugar and vinegar until sugar is dissolved; add mayonnaise to mixture. Toss cabbage with dressing. Sprinkle poppy seeds or celery seeds to taste if desired. Serves 6.

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Neighbors and friends enjoy living ‘ringside’ to community bells

A gift from home fragrance icon Aromatique to the city of Heber Springs nearly 30 years ago continues to bring a down-home atmosphere to the community.

A Schulmerich Tyme Stryke Carillon 115 plays bells from the Cleburne County Courthouse on the hour from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., sending out tunes from the tower that can be heard for nearly 10 blocks.

According to, “Nothing demonstrates harmony more than hearing bells ring. Imagine hearing hourly chimes and music pealing from Town Hall, Town Square, a civic center, the library or cultural center, the museum, a city park, or an historic downtown area. Wherever the location, carillons add majesty and a sense of peace that unites communities together.”

Chad Evans, president and chief operating officer of Aromatique, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding in Heber Springs last year, said the company just wanted to give back to the community.

“This community has been good to us,” he said.

He credited Dick Upton, husband of Aromatique’s late founder Patti Upton, for the idea.

“He was usually thinking about something like that for the community,” said Evans, who joined the company a year after its founding in 1982. “One of our locations is

about two blocks from the courthouse. We bought and donated (the bells) about 1994 or ’95. Aromatique wanted to do something for the county. We thought that would add something to downtown Heber Springs.

“It’s something a little different for people to remember their visit to Heber Springs.”

He said he still gets positive feedback, particularly in fall and spring.

“I hear about it especially on cool, crisp mornings or afternoons as people walk down the street,” he said. “It brings something back to them. We have Christmas bells, bells for the Fourth of July. As you hear them, it makes it sound like small-town USA.”

A carillon is a set of fixed chromatically tuned bells sounded by hammers controlled from a keyboard. AutoBelCards are inserted like the old floppy disks, and programmers choose playlists, which can include patriotic hymns such as “America the Beautiful” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; popular patriotic selections such as “God Bless America,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy;” songs of love, including “Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”; popular selections such as “Moon River,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Yesterday,” “Hello Dolly” and “Climb Every Mountain”; as well as classical music and German folk songs.

Continued on page 36

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Photos by Mike Kemp Roger Wynne (from left), maintenance director for Cleburne County, and Chad Evans, president and chief operating officer of Aromatique, enjoy hearing the bells that play each hour from the courthouse in downtown Heber Springs. Wynne programs the system that Aromatique donated nearly 30 years ago.

And, of course, Christmas carols, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “The First Noel,” “What Child Is This,” “Deck the Halls,” “Away in a Manger” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” Evans said the bells are usually programmed related to the season.

According to the company website, “Schulmerich electronic carillons are widely known to have the most realistic bell sounds of any manufactured in the world.” The company’s founder, George J. Schulmerich, “revolutionized the art of bell making” and “invented the ‘electro-mechanical’ carillon when he discovered that tiny rods of cast bronze struck with miniature hammers produced audible and pure bell tones that could be amplified electronically to produce a rich, sonorous tone. He called his invention carillonic bells.”

Evans said his wife, Cleburne County Clerk Rachelle Evans, whose office formerly oversaw programming of the bells, reported that if the bells were offline for a period of time, people would notice.

“She said it was amazing how many people call and say, ‘The bells are out; the bells aren’t ringing,’” Evans said.

A few years ago, lightning damaged the bells in the 1914 Jeffersonian Revival-style courthouse, and when insurance didn’t cover the damage, Aromatique had them repaired and updated.

“They do their purpose,” Evans said. “They draw interest to Heber Springs.”

36 | 501 LIFE March 2023
This Schulmerich Tyme Stryke Carillon 115 plays bells from the Cleburne County Courthouse on the hour from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. It arrived at the courthouse as a gift from Aromatique to the city of Heber Springs nearly 30 years ago.


Conway institution celebrates 100 years

It takes a lot of grit and patience to begin any business endeavor, but to sustain a business for 100 years and four generations takes hard work, determination and business expertise passed down through the family. That is the legacy of Covington Roofing and Sheet Metal Company of Conway.

The company began when founder George Allison Covington set up a sheet metal shop in 1923 on Front Street. As the family marks 100 years of business, the company’s president is proud of the heritage. “I’m so fortunate to lead a company founded by my forefathers that has been built upon with each generation,” said fourth-generation President George Edward Covington Jr. “I take pride in leading one of the oldest family companies in Conway, with great employees and great customers.”

As a tinsmith, the original George made tin pails and metal awnings for the front of many of the downtown buildings. His wife, Willie, assisted in the office. He added roofing to his business portfolio, and the business grew to include one truck, a wood-fired asphalt kettle and three

employees. Expanding its business offerings resulted in the company securing work on the Arkansas State Capitol roof in 1936.

Covington was also a member of the Conway Chamber of Commerce and a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Conway. George Allison’s sons, George Willie and Fred “Jack” Covington, worked with their father during their teenage years gaining experience as sheet metal workers in making patterns and shop drawings, preparing estimates from blueprints, and gaining sales experience. The Great Depression and World War II impacted their lives. After attending Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC), now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), they were called to duty to serve during World War II. Due to an illness, Jack was given a medical discharge, and he returned to the tin manufacturing business until ill health forced his retirement. He died at age 29.

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His brother, George Willie Covington, received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from ASTC in 1932. During the Great Depression and World War II, George W. worked for the government as a sub journeyman, a scientific aid in a materials testing laboratory, an inspector for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an instructor and trainer for youths in sheet metal shops for jobs in the defense industries and a supervisor for other chemists in analyzing chemical munitions manufacturing.

In 1946, with the war behind him, he was free to step in to help his father in the roofing and sheet metal shop. George W. took over the business in 1954 and his wife, Fannie Moffet Covington, assisted in the office. During his tenure, Covington Roofing Company expanded work across the state, gaining a reputation for excellence that continues to this day. He passed away in 1983, leaving the business in the hands of their son, George Edward.

“My grandfather and father were very involved in making sure that every job was done with a standard of excellence,” George Edward said. “We always inspect the work that our crews perform so that we deliver a first-rate quality product. I am very proud to follow in their footsteps. Making it to 100 years is quite an accomplishment for our family and employees.”

George Edward also attended what is now UCA. He apprenticed under his father during high school to become a third-generation roofing contractor in 1970. His wife, Janette, played a vital role in the business, maintaining the day-to-day office operations for years. In 1983, he saw the need to renovate several downtown Conway properties that had fallen into disrepair. Witnessing the decline of so many small towns in Arkansas, he decided that saving downtown Conway would be a major focus of his attention. So he established Covington Properties. Another factor also played into this decision. “Our employees are like family. We also started remodeling old historic buildings to keep our roofers busy on rainy days,” George Edward said.

Later, Covington Construction and Equipment Company was established to remodel buildings and perform tenant finish-outs for Covington Properties. And Covington Real Estate Group was established to oversee the leasing, buying and selling of properties. Another development–a fun one–of Covington companies is Covington Classic Automobile Sales.

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA), George Edward has been active in many community organizations as a board member and/or chairman. The company has been the recipient of numerous City Beautiful Awards for renovations. In 2008 he was honored with the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award, and in 2012 became the recipient of the Faulkner County Leadership Institute’s Dan Nabholz Award. George Edward and Janette have three children who currently work in the family business: George Jr., Jason and Stephanie.

George Jr. joined the family business full-time after graduating in 1993 from Hendrix College with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Like his father and grandfather, he started his career working with Covington companies in some capacity during his high school and college years. His wife, Brandi, works with him, like all the Covington wives before her. He now serves as the fourth generation President of Covington Roofing and Sheet Metal Co.

“Over the years, each generation has expanded the roofing company – from hot asphalt roofs to modified bitumen, to single-ply roofs made of PVC and TPO (Polyvinyl Chloride and Thermoplastic Polyolefin) roofing membranes,” George Jr. said. “We install lightweight concrete decks. The metal side of the business specializes in standing seam roofs, curved roofs and architectural metal wall panels. We are also one of the first contractors to install garden roofs on projects such as the University of Arkansas, UCA and CARTI. We attribute our long-lasting success to our great employees, customers, and friends.”

‘My grandfather and father were very involved in making sure that every job was done with a standard of excellence’
- George Edward Covington
George Allison Covington George Willie Covington George Edward Covington George Edward Covington, Jr.
Continued on page 40



Jason Covington (seated from left), Stephanie Covington, Christian Covington, George Covington Jr.


Brianna Pinter (standing from left), Bret Pinter, Katherine Covington, Abigail Covington, Amy Covington, Ashley Hutchcraft, Janette Covington, George Covington Sr., Lucas Covington, Brandi Covington, Nicholas Covington, Savannah Brorman, Levi Brorman, Braden Brorman

Witnessing the decline of so many small towns in Arkansas, George Edward Covington Sr. decided that saving downtown Conway would be a major focus of his attention.

So he established Covington Properties.

Photo by Mike Kemp
Continued on page 43
March 2023 | 41
‘Our family has been part of the Conway community for six generations now. We strive to improve the community for future generations.’
- Jason Scott Covington
George Allison Covington George Edward Covington working in the sheet metal shop 1970s. Fannie often accompanied George W. inspecting a job.

George Jr. has served on numerous boards to better his trade and community. He and Brandi have two daughters, Savannah Brorman and Brianna Pinter, and two sons, Nicholas, and Lucas Covington. They have one grandson, Levi Brorman. After graduating from UCA, Savannah began to serve the companies as an accountant, becoming the fifth generation Covington to do so.

George’s brother, Jason, joined the company in 1993 and works to improve the commercial business landscape. His role as a developer, executive broker, builder and manager of commercial property puts him square in the middle of industrial, retail, and office leasing for Covington Properties. As President of Covington Construction Company, he has played a major role in building a portfolio of renovations throughout Conway.

“Changing the Face of Conway” has not only become their motto, but also their passion. “Conway is a great place to live and raise a family,” Jason said. The company has been recognized for efforts in saving old downtown buildings through preservation and renovations rather than tearing them down.

Jason and his wife, Amy, have two daughters, Abigail and Katherine. Jason and George’s sister, Stephanie Covington, also became involved in 1999, fulfilling office duties and landscaping the company properties. She managed the Old Gin Special Event Center and then Covington Classic Cars, which was established to showcase and sell antique automobiles.

Covington Real Estate Group was formed to manage nonfamily properties and third-party sales. “My brothers have their real estate licenses too, and can show and sell properties,” Stephanie said. “We all help each other out and function as one unit.” She serves as Principle Real Estate Broker and has served on the board of directors of the Conway Downtown Partnership. Stephanie and her spouse, Ashley Hutchcraft, have one son, Christian.

The Covington family is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company this year. As one of the oldest and largest commercial roofing and sheet metal companies in the state of Arkansas, the company is in committed and capable hands and will no doubt continue to be a bright, shining star in the Conway and Arkansas business landscape for many years to come.

March 2023 | 43
Conway siblings Annsley Alexander, Aiden Guzman and Declan Moore. Photo by Mike Kemp



A person’s values and character begin showing when they are young, and brothers Aiden Guzman and Declan Moore have proven they are brave and unselfish. They are true heroes.

Mid-December, the boys and their younger sister were visiting their grandmother in White County when two pit bull-mix dogs came onto her land, started barking and running toward the youngest child, 3-year-old Annsley. Declan, who is 6, moved between his sister and the dogs and shielded her from the attacks, suffering deep bites. Then Aiden, who is 10, intervened and sent Declan away with Annsley. The dogs viciously attacked Aiden until their grandmother arrived at the scene. She was also bitten.

If Declan and Aiden had not sacrificed themselves, their young sister would have been seriously injured or possibly worse.

“This was just them loving their siblings and each wanting to keep the other safe,” said Caitlin Mayo of her children. “I tell the boys ‘thank you’ every single day. They are the strongest people in the world, and I cannot imagine being as brave as they were.”

The boys were transported to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and their grandmother was also taken to an ER. Mayo was at work and learned about the attacks from voicemails. It was a horrifying and uncertain drive from her job in Conway to the hospital in Little Rock.

Since then, life has been a series of surgeries, procedures and wound care, but Mayo is thankful that her children are gradually healing physically and emotionally.

Having a sister was always important to Aiden. In fact, he began asking for a baby sister when he was a toddler. “Around age 7 when she was born, he would say, ‘If anyone ever tries to hurt my sister, they’ll have to go through me’,” Mayo recalled. His actions in December proved that those weren’t mere words; he and Declan sacrificed their safety because of their loving commitment to one another.

The family lives in Conway and the boys’ heroism was recognized by Mayor Bart Castleberry and the City Council at the Jan. 24 meeting in the Council Chambers. Aiden is a student at Ruth Doyle Middle School. He has undergone four surgeries and four procedures and sees a plastic surgeon regularly. This will continue for another one to two years. He is using a walker and has physical therapy sessions to rebuild strength in the leg.

Declan is a student at Ida Burns Elementary School and his wounds also went to the bone. He continues to heal and see a physician regularly. Fortunately, Annsley was not attacked.

“The dogs had attacked a man around Thanksgiving, and after my kids were attacked, on Dec. 31 they hurt two little girls and their stepdad,” Mayo said. “Arkansas doesn’t have strong laws about dog attacks.”

Although the terrifying situation still affects their daily life, Mayo, her mother and the children continue to love one another and enjoy life together. More than words, the actions of Declan and Aiden proved their deep commitment

March 2023 | 45
Conway City Councilman Mark Ledbetter and Mayor Bart Castleberry honored the boys at the January City Council meeting. Ledbetter and Castleberry are former Conway Fire Chiefs who recognized the bravery that the Aiden and Declan showed. Bobby M. Kelly III photo.


The Pulaski County Special School District is committed to providing a quality and equitable education to all students, which includes lessons both in and out of the classroom. In addition to the in-class courses offered from Pre-K to 12th grade, PCSSD offers a number of extracurricular and club activities for students to join at many different grade levels.

There is a wide variety of extracurricular activities and clubs offered at all schools in the Maumelle feeder. Each school has different opportunities for its students based on the interests of students and staff. Two of those activities we’d like to highlight are archery and chess.

Crystal Hill Elementary and Maumelle Middle both provide students with the opportunity to learn about and participate in archery.

“Archery is a sport that anyone can participate in and is very inclusive,” said Coach Crystal Wofford at Crystal Hill Elementary. “As long as you can hold the bow correctly, we can teach the students how to shoot. Furthermore, students must learn patience and motivation.”

Maumelle’s archery teams have seen success in the past few years, even going to the state tournament for the first time last year. It is available to fourthand fifth-graders at Crystal Hill Elementary, as well as students at Maumelle Middle.

“Archery takes time to learn because most of the students have never done anything like this before and because, if not done properly, archery can be dangerous,” Wofford added. “That is why safety rules are very important and the students must learn them to be able to participate.”

Meanwhile, Pine Forest Elementary offers a Chess Club for students. They meet weekly and play against other students, watch video lessons, and even play against the computer on

“Chess Club provides players an opportunity to play casually, socialize and participate in a yearly tournament,” said club facilitator Deborah Jones. “The chess classes link to many facets of the curriculum — from higher-order thinking skills to math, science and reading. The children not only develop critical thinking skills but also show more self-esteem and self-worth as a result of learning the game.”

PCSSD is proud to offer a number of unique extracurricular activities and clubs for students across the feeder. You can find a full list of extracurricular opportunities on each school website.

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Pulaski County Special School District spans more than 600 square miles in Central Arkansas and requires highly skilled and passionate personnel to adapt educational policies and personalization to 26 schools. Every school is accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. PCSSD has served schools across Pulaski County since July 1927.

PCSSD is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district that assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders.

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Photo by Mike Kemp


Longest resident of Gibson’s Cat Café has new home, new name

First impressions may be important, but they are not always correct, according to Marli Brandon about her rescue cat, Goose.

Marli adopted Goose, whom she renamed, from the Gibson’s Cat Café in downtown Conway in January. Goose was the longest resident of Gibson’s Café, having lived there 117 days before being adopted.

Although she earned the nickname “Queen” for her fierce and dominant nature, which included hissing and clawing at potential adoptees, she nevertheless became a popular resident in the special café designed for the enjoyment of coffee and cats. Facebook posts showed love and an outpouring of support when she finally found her furever home.

Marli, 23, of Arlington, Texas, said she did not have pets while living at Bear Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus and studying to be a teacher. But later in her college career, she moved back in with her mom in Conway to get serious about finishing her education degree after having the “college experience” and to have the chance to have pets at home again.

“Since I was born, we had dogs and cats, so I don’t know what it’s like to not have them. It just doesn’t feel right,” she said. “When I got on my own, it felt weird to not have an animal. It felt odder to me not having an animal than to have one.”

Marli said she knew about Gibson’s Cat Café because her brother’s girlfriend frequents the unique business, and she told her about it. So, she had been following the café’s Instagram posts. She said Goose had been in a shelter environment since 2019, and she estimates she is maybe 4 years old. Even though social cats do well in an environment like the café, cats like Goose need a more one-on-one environment, and that’s what Marli provided for Goose.

“I think she got overlooked and I know she wasn’t the

nicest. She was getting poked by kids and inundated with people every day,” Marli said. “She’s aggressive, and she bit my hand and I was bleeding before I left the café. But everything just kept telling me, ‘She hates it here.’”

So, Marli took Goose to her home in Little Rock, where she spends time in the evenings relaxing after coming home from being a 10th-grade English teacher at Sheridan High School. Counting her commute, the first-year teacher puts in 12-hour days.

She said she let Goose, whom she renamed after searching Google for cat names, and also due to her mostly fluffy white hair, explore the apartment. She didn’t touch her but gave her space.

What happened next was something Marli thought might take days or weeks, but it didn’t even take a full hour until she saw a different side of Goose, a side she knew was underneath all that fluff and false advertisement. “I brought her home and she was a new cat,” Marli said. “I walked around and got on my bed and realized she might be under my bed. She jumped up with me and started biscuiting my blanket, and she cuddled up with me around my arm. It didn’t take her 45 minutes to get to know her surroundings.”

Marli had decided on adopting a cat over a dog because she didn’t think having a dog left alone for long workdays would make sense for a pet who needed to run and play. However, Goose, who spends about 16 hours of her day sleeping, doesn't mind the downtime while her mom is at work. At the end of the day, she spends time with her favorite toys, which include ponytail holders and a fascinating little laser that goes everywhere and somehow can never be caught.

“It’s just amazing from what I got from the shelter to what I brought home,” Marli said. “I keep in touch with one of the owners of the café, and she’s like, ‘I still can’t believe this is the cat you have.’ All the customers wanted her to find a home and now they say, ‘The Queen finally has her palace.’”

March 2023 | 49

at the center of it all

This month, 501 LIFE focuses on “Friends, Faith and Family.” When I heard that theme, my first thought was, “Faith is in the middle of our friends and our family, right where it belongs!”

Several words can be used to define faith: loyalty, fidelity, sincerity and belief. However, my favorite definition, drawn from both the dictionary and from scriptures, involves trust. My favorite definition is “belief and trust.” Faith is not just trusting or just believing, but a unique combination of both. To understand what faith is and why it is central to our family and friends, we want to consider both.

One of my brother’s favorite scriptures is Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief.” From that story of a father wanting to believe his child can be healed, we often assume that the opposite of belief is doubt. While doubt tests belief, it does not negate it. Some say that the opposite of faith, therefore, is not doubt but fear. Fear that our child will not be healed because it’s not medically possible. Fear of loss or fear of failure. Belief is challenged more by our lack of belief than any outside force.

There is a familiar saying, “Trust and verify.” A friend once challenged me: “You either trust or you verify. If you verify, you obviously don’t trust.” I struggled with that for years, especially when I began to realize my trust in God was not unwavering. Psalmists have cried the same cry, and even Jesus asked God why God had forsaken him on the cross. Surely the scriptures teach us that trust is not absolute, but grows and fades and then grows again with time.

Belief and trust work in balance with each other, so when

we struggle with our belief, we can rely on trust. When we struggle with mistrust, we can lean on what we know to be true. When my toddler told me he would go clean his room, I trusted he was sincere, but I also believed he would be distracted before he did it. So, while my belief in his actions wavered, my trust in his sincerity balanced that lack of belief. We remain faithful, even with fear, doubt and mistrust in our midst.

If we can have faith in friends and family even when we struggle with doubt and mistrust, it only makes sense to have that same struggle in our relationship with God. Scriptures bear this out, and so does our world today.

In a world in which we often focus on fear, doubt, mistrust, suspicion and accusations, we also live in a world overflowing with faithful relationships and we should focus on those relationships. In the 501, there are people and organizations that are faithfully providing food, clothing, shelter, compassion, encouragement, support and so much more. We have wonderful faith communities. They are not always perfect, and we cannot believe or trust in them absolutely, but faith allows us to find a balance of belief and trust in every relationship we have.

Faith is at the center of every relationship … not just our relationship with God, who is always faithful to us (even when we are not faithful to God). It is the center of each and every relationship, and when we view it through the lens of belief and trust, it is unstoppable. It endures all things.

Let’s celebrate the faithfulness we see every day in the 501!

50 | 501 LIFE March 2023


Tucked alongside a main thoroughfare in Conway is a growing theological seminary. As professors train the next generation of pastors, church planters and missionaries, deep friendships are forged.

Grace Bible Theological Seminary (GBTS) began as a Bible institute and, in 2019, did a ribbon cutting for the beautiful facility at 1706 Harkrider St. About 80 students attend classes either in-person or virtually as they work to complete 100 hours and obtain a Master of Divinity degree or to complete 60 credit hours and 12 hours of mentoring for a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies. The Bible-based

school is in the advanced stages of an intense accreditation process with the Association of Reformed Theological Schools (ARTS) and will have its site visit in April.

Christian Santos is a seminary student who grew up in Peru and lived in Virginia for a decade. He moved his family to Conway eight months ago to attend GBTS and met a friend the first Sunday they attended Grace Baptist Church, which is connected to the seminary. “Zak was very friendly and offered to help us unload and get settled in the community,” Santos said.

52 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Continued on page 54
Zak King (from left) and his friend and fellow seminarian Christian Santos. The pair met eight months ago when Santos and his family moved to Conway to attend seminary.
‘Student friendships at GBTS are founded on Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners. He alone can take those who are enemies by nature and make them brothers.’
- Dr. Jeff Moore, director of admissions and assistant professor of New Testament studies,
at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. Photos by Makenzie Evans

Zak King grew up in Little Rock and has spent time in Ecuador and Colombia. The men connected over their love for Hispanic missions. They also connected over the grill. “I’m a single guy, and I don’t have a grill and all of that, but I offered to bring over hot dogs and have a cookout with Christian’s family,” King said. Looking back to that encounter, the two chuckle about the awkwardness of the offer, but acknowledge that they became fast friends over hot dogs. “I like to help people get to know the area and feel at home,” he said.

Santos appreciates his seminary experience. “Your professors are professors, but they are also truly your friends,” he said. “Right away, I felt the difference. When I saw the character of the professors, I thought, ‘I want to be like him.’”

Another situation impacted Santos. Not long after moving to Conway, he and his daughter were driving on the interstate one night and his car broke down. “It was dark and I was thinking of my options, and I just called Zak,” he said. “He was like, ‘OK, we’ve got you. We’re on our way.’”

Soon after, King and Dr. Jeff Moore, director of admissions and assistant professor of New Testament studies, showed up to help. Santos was relieved.

“We’re family here,” King said. “Even with the faculty, the relationship with them is similar to family.”

Besides studying together, students and faculty pray together early each Thursday morning and this helps to

develop camaraderie. About one-third of students live in the 501 and attend classes and the other two-thirds are present live, but virtually, according to Dr. Owen Strachan, provost. GBTS also requires “on-campus intensive courses” and every seminarian must be on campus for a few days each year.

Because they are a smaller school currently, many students get to know one another because they are renting places to stay or staying with families in the church during the on-campus courses. The men are also engaged in ministry projects to apply what they are learning.

Santos and King have ministered together to homeless people in Little Rock. Other students visit nursing homes on Sundays, providing Bible studies and encouragement to residents.

Regina Pryor is the administrative assistant at GBTS. She and her husband are deeply impressed with the camaraderie they witness. “To see them encourage one another, fellowship with each other, and challenge each other is one of the most fulfilling things I experience as a staff member,” Pryor said. “To see them support each other in such a way keeps me going.”

The seminary has tripled in size in the past two to three years, according to Strachan. “We train men for pastoral ministry within a biblical framework and we are glad to talk with anyone who is interested.” Learn more at

‘We have a real heart for this region. We have men serving in churches and ministries here and in Little Rock. Ministries like Renewal Ranch. We believe we’re here to be a positive presence in Conway and the area.’
- Dr. Owen Strachan
Zak King (from left), Dr. Owen Strachan, Austin Chaney and Brandon Henderson visit before classes at the seminary. Photo by Alexandria Irons.

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March 2023 | 55
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big bay believer

Jackie Sikes, familiar face to community, becomes Fairfield Bay mayor

Exciting new things are happening in Fairfield Bay. Jackie Sikes, a longtime, active member of the community, is the new mayor. Sikes served as the Chamber of Commerce director for four years and running for mayor seemed like the logical next step, she said.

"The motto we used is ‘I believe,’" Sikes said. "I believe in the Bay, and I want the city and the resort to work closely together. We want to work efficiently together and have open communication. It's time to celebrate successes and focus on the positive.”

Sikes was elected mayor during a run-off election in December 2022 and began her term at the beginning of the year. "It was a very close race," she said. Sikes hopes to improve communication between the city of Fairfield Bay, the Fairfield Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Fairfield Resort that the area is known for. Sikes said she views Fairfield Bay as "a three-legged stool. The resort, the chamber and the city. We have the best of all things."

The Fairfield Conference Center is a real asset to the community. "It's our hidden gem," Sikes said. "Having a conference center is a major part of our community, and we have to make sure it succeeds.” Conferences in Fairfield Bay have included county and state government meetings, school district conferences and a large group of scrapbookers who set up their materials on tables and crafted for days. The conference center can also accommodate wedding events and family reunions. The main conference room can hold about 350 people. The roof and deck have recently been repaired after damage that occurred during a heavy snowstorm.

"It's been revamped and updated," Sikes said. "We want to celebrate this year, so we are hosting a new event on March 8. It's called ‘A New Day in the Bay,’ and it is a celebration that will be free to the public.

The population of Fairfield Bay is about 2000 full-time residents. That number jumps dramatically in the summer when the tourists visit. "Summer is very busy, and fall is pretty busy too," Sikes said.

Fairfield Bay Resort includes two 18-hole championship golf courses and a 40,000-acre stocked lake that is popular for fishing, water skiing and boating. The resort operates a full-service marina. One thing unique to the resort are the UTV trails. Visitors can bring their own utility vehicles or rent one nearby.

Sikes is excited about the potential for the community. A lot of her positive outlook came after her husband suffered a serious health scare. "My husband is a miracle. It changed

our perspective on life and made us more grateful. It also helps us look at the positive," she said.

Being mayor is also something she really enjoys. "I'm having a lot of fun. I'm a planner and doer," she said.

The Fairfield Bay Conference Center is located at 110 Lost Creek Parkway, Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. For more information visit

56 | 501 LIFE March 2023


Annual Poster, Essay and Video Contest Announced

Electricity powers our lives.

We rely on it 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support the life we enjoy. Conway Corp has been powering our community since 1929, and we’re proud to provide dependable and reliable services to our friends and neighbors.

Consider a chargeable gadget like your cellphone, the clock radio that jolts you awake or the TV that brings you the latest entertainment. The water heater that keeps your shower hot and the refrigerator that keeps your soft drinks cold. The automatic sprinkler system that keeps your lawn green and the toaster that turns your bread a crisp, golden brown. The washing machine that sends you off in clean clothes and the automatic garage door that welcomes you safely home — it’s all powered by Conway Corp.

What powers your day? Students, show us how Conway Corp powers your life by entering the annual Conway Corp Energy Smart Poster, Essay & Video Contest.


The poster contest is open to students in Pre-K through fourth grade in Conway. Using markers, crayons, colored pencils or paints, posters should illustrate the contest theme, “My Life, Powered by Conway Corp.”

Entries will be judged on creativity and theme representation. Prizes will be awarded to students, and the classroom of the overall winner will be awarded $100 in that student’s name.


The essay and video contest is open to students in fifth12th grades in Conway. Students should submit a typed essay of 500-1,000 words or a digital video between 30 seconds and two minutes on the contest theme, “My Life, Powered by Conway Corp.”

Essays will be judged on content and syntax. Videos will be judged on creativity and production. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners in two age categories: fifth through seventh and eighth through 12th grades.

All winning submissions will be featured on Conway Corp’s website and social media. Winning essays will be published in the 501 Life August 2023 edition.

All students in Pre-K through 12th grade who live in the Conway Corp service area are eligible for entry. Students can ask school officials or visit EnergySmartContest for an entry form and contest rules.

Poster and essay entries should be submitted to participating teachers or postmarked to Conway Corp, P.O. Box 99, Conway AR 72033 by Friday, April 21. Essay entries can be shared via Google Docs or emailed to marketing@ Video entries must be shared via Google Docs. A copy of the entry form plus contact information must accompany all electronic submissions. Please put “2023 Energy Smart Contest” in the subject line. Entries can also be dropped off at the Conway Corp Customer Care Center at 650 Locust St.

For more information about the contest, including entry forms and complete rules, visit EnergySmartContest or call 501.450.6000.

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APPA honors Conway Corp marketing

Conway Corp’s Marketing Division was recently recognized with two awards by the American Public Power Association during their Excellence in Public Power Communications Awards ceremony.

Conway Corp received the Award of Excellence in the print/digital category for its 2021 Annual Report titled “Always On.” Conway Corp Marketing/ Communications Manager Beth Jimmerson and Marketing Project Coordinator/ Events Specialist Margaret Smith worked with the advertising agency Eric, Rob and Isaac to produce the campaign.

The video category saw the company honored with the Award of Merit for its “Light Up Navajo 2022” video. The video, produced by Jeff Matthews, manager, video production and local programming and Javan Massey, production coordinator, showcased Conway Corp’s work in the Navajo Nation to help connect residents there who have been living without electricity.

The annual awards are designed to encourage and recognize excellence in communications. Awards were given to those that showed ingenuity and creativity in telling their stories through outstanding copy, design, financial data presentation, graphics, social media engagement, video editing and web layout and interactivity.

“We have a great story to tell and this team works hard to clearly and creatively tell that story,” CEO Bret Carroll said. “This recognition shines a light on their work and the value it brings to Conway Corp and to public power.”

The awards were announced at the APPA’s Customer Connections Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November. The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. It represents public power before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve and the 93,000 people they employ.

March 2023 | 59
Jeff Matthews and Javan Massey


First Presbyterian Church receives designation from Interfaith Power and Light

First Presbyterian Church in Conway is the first house of worship in Arkansas to be named a Certified Cool Congregation and is hosting a reception at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 2, to celebrate.

The congregation received the designation from Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) at the 10% reduction level after reducing their carbon footprint by 36 tons per year with energy-efficiency upgrades to their facility.

Additionally, First Presbyterian Church is a certified Earth Care Congregation through Presbyterian USA. They have been working to reduce their impact on the environment for many years, but applying for certification as an IPL Cool Congregation required them to report energy-use data. “We are delighted to be able to measure our progress in tons of carbon dioxide we have reduced,” said member Scharmel Roussel. “We are more aware of our energy usage and are inspired to reduce it further.”

"As an Earth Care congregation, First Presbyterian Church has a long-standing commitment to creation care,” said Pastor Mike Ulasewich. “Our faith is in a loving God who cherishes all that God has made and we take joy and wonder in all creation. I am proud of our congregation's dedication of resources toward energy conservation. Becoming a certified Cool Congregation is a reflection of our love for God's natural world."

Conserving energy consumption at the heavily used 25,000-square-foot facility is challenging. The facility includes a preschool and a cradle care program for the infants and babies of teenage mothers at Conway High School next door. And the congregation serves large numbers of meals to those in need in the area.

The Green Team, Mission Committee and Property Committee worked together to accomplish their goals. For many years, the Property Committee made energyefficiency improvements as repairs and replacements were needed.

Over the last three years, a new energy-saving water heater was installed, the HVAC was replaced with one with greater efficiency, a new furnace was installed and a lighting retrofit was completed. The cost of the upgrades was $15,000, and they are saving about $2,000 annually on their energy bills. They have plans to install motion detector lights in bathrooms and other improvements.

As part of their Earth Care designation through the Presbyterian Church, the congregation is committed to conservation, environmental justice, protecting fragile ecosystems, sustainability, reducing energy consumption, lowering utility bills and setting an example for members and the community. Nearly all of their worship services include an element of earth care, and many of their outdoor banners express their commitment to preserving the planet for future generations. The Green Team also addresses other areas of environmental impact: ensuring that church meals eliminate plastic, styrofoam and bottled water; working in a community garden that is open for anyone to pick vegetables; and facilitating recycling and hosting an EV Demo Day in October 2022.

"Like all congregations, ours must make choices about how to allocate resources like our time and money,” Roussel said. “The Green Team appreciates this cherished recognition from Interfaith Power and Light for our efforts toward faithful, sustainable living."

60 | 501 LIFE March 2023
The church's Green Team presented a certificate to the Rev. Mike Ulasewich on Jan. 22. Green Team members are Ann Owens (from left), Jan Spann, Betsy Gillaspy-Williams and Scharmel Roussel.
March 2023 | 61



Conway architect Steve Hurd’s eye for design, woodworking skills and faith come together to create special pieces used in worship at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

“It’s what I’ve been told is my ministry,” Hurd said. “I’ve made quite a few things for the church.” Those include the processional cross, an Advent wreath, candlesticks used during Lent and the bookstand for the altar. Before he joined the church, Hurd was asked to brainstorm how to extend the height of the balcony railing to make it safer, and he sketched a design and built it himself. “They loved it. I got to install it, and that was my first public installation of something,” he said.

The Rev. Greg Warren, rector of the church, praised Hurd’s contributions and unique design. “He used wood and steel for the railing, which are two of the media he uses, but he did something wonderful. In one section, a piece of wood sort of flows up a bit, almost like in music, you might hit a high note. It animates what could be just a railing in a really cool way. It brings it to life,” Warren said.

He also pointed out Hurd’s design of the Petrucelli Walkway that connects the church and Parish Hall. The covered brick walkway with its gothic arches was named for late members Fred and Lillian Petrucelli and paid for with a gift from their estate.

Continued on page 65

62 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Photos by Makenzie Evans
March 2023 | 63
‘It means as much to me as anything I’ve done … for Fred and Lillian, their memory, as a contribution to the church, and it was just a labor of love.’
- Steve Hurd, on his design of
the Petrucelli
at St. Peter’s
Episcopal Church

“What strikes me most, it’s really the first time I appreciated what great design can do in a building, because if you stand in that walkway, there’s always a breeze,” Warren said. “It’s a simple piece, but for some reason the way it’s framed, the air flows.”

Hurd said he was honored to design the project. “It means as much to me as anything I’ve done … for Fred and Lillian, their memory, as a contribution to the church, and it was just a labor of love,” he said.

Hurd’s interest in church design goes back to his days as a student at the University of Arkansas School of Architecture when the first model he built for a class was of a French cathedral.

His interest resurfaced in 1989 when he designed a set of cathedral blocks and had a carpenter build them. Because they started as a one-of-a-kind set, his son, Christian, was allowed to play with the blocks only with supervision. “I couldn’t lose one,” Hurd said. After he found a manufacturer for his blocks, his son “played with them all the time.”

So did children all over the world. Hurd sold them at toy shows internationally in the beginning. His cathedral blocks, as well as castle blocks he designed, are on display in the Learning Museum of the Castle de Saint Fargeau in France and Saint Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland.

“I played with my blocks in the castle in France and in Ireland, too,” Hurd said. The employees of the visitor’s center in Ireland, where his building blocks are sold, “treated me like a rock star. It was cool,” he said, laughing.

“It tickles me inside. I’m like that 10-year-old. I love playing with them and getting feedback that someone’s

child or grandchild loves playing with them.”

Hurd takes custom-block orders for buildings and churches and donated a set to St. Peter’s children’s department.

His inventory has expanded to include made-fromscratch items: wooden ornaments, spirit boxes, tea lights, petit four boxes and lamps made of cherry wood. Another of his more popular creations is Crossword Cubed for children, which is a set of nine wooden blocks with letters on all sides to spell three-letter words. His original Crossword Cubed is in the permanent collection of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, formerly known as Arkansas Arts Center. That toy and other pieces will be sold in its museum store when the building reopens in April after being remodeled. Hurd said he took woodworking classes at the center when he was 10, “so it’s special to me” to sell there. He also sold smaller pieces and blocks for four years at the worldrenowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, which rotates the artists represented.

Hurd said his satisfaction comes from making clients happy, not awards, but he was honored to receive the Conway Alliance for the Arts Gene Hatfield Outstanding Individual Artist Award in 2022. Hurd’s work can be seen on his website,, and his Instagram account, @westwork_designs.

“Cathedral blocks will always be my baby, but my connection with art and faith … is really St. Peter’s,” he said.

Warren said Hurd’s skills have enhanced the atmosphere at St. Peter’s for parishioners and guests. “We are so blessed; he is so talented. The church is a more beautiful place because of him,” Warren said.

March 2023 | 65

Oliver's Ovation

Devil Dogs retire number of basketball legend

Family, food and basketball — that’s what keeps former Morrilton Devil Dog basketball star and retired National Basketball Association player Jimmy Oliver coming back to the 501. Oliver, who now lives in a small town outside of Akron, Ohio, where he started his family while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the early 1990s, returns to Arkansas often to visit friends and family. His latest visit was made extra special as his alma mater honored him Feb. 17 by retiring the No. 40 jersey with the Oliver name, which is now on display in Devil Dog Arena.

“It’s an honor. I believe it’s something that not a lot of people get to experience and I’m humbled by the gesture and the recognition,” Oliver said.

Born and raised in Menifee (Conway County), Oliver is one of seven siblings, most of whom still live in the Morrilton area, along with his mother, Johnnie Oliver. He visits at least a couple of times a year, and when he’s in town, the family comes together for food and fellowship. You won’t find his favorite spot to eat in the 501 on Google. “When I come home, I spend most of my time with my family. My sister is one of the best cooks I know and she learned from the best, my mother,” Oliver said.

Oliver grew up playing basketball with his cousins on a pine pole at the park in Menifee and didn’t play organized sports until ninth grade. He was a standout player in the late 1980s at Morrilton High School. In 1987, as a senior he was honored as the Gatorade Player of the Year for

Arkansas. He went on to play college basketball at Purdue University, was selected in the second round of the NBA draft and played professionally in the United States and overseas until retiring in 2007.

“I didn’t have any intentions of going to college. I was going to go straight to work,” Oliver said. However, he was pursued by a community college and signed a letter of intent to play, but before the year started, Coach Webber from Purdue University reached out and offered him a full scholarship. “I always played hard because I loved it and that created opportunities for me. If you play like you're being watched even when you're not, someone will take notice,” Oliver said.

Ever curious about human behavior, Oliver decided to study sociology at Purdue and planned to return to Arkansas after college and go to work. Then, opportunity knocked again. “When I was in college, I never planned to play professionally. I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to,” he said. “I had a lot of great experiences playing in the NBA, but the one that really stands out was my rookie year with Cleveland. We made our way to the conference finals and we played against the Chicago Bulls, and I had a front row seat to see Michael Jordan play.”

Oliver also represented the country on the U.S. National Team in the 1998 FIBA World Championship, finishing with a bronze medal. He describes the experience on the team as a “true blessing.”

66 | 501 LIFE March 2023
Jimmy Oliver’s alma mater honored him (center in a dark suit) on Feb. 17 by retiring the No. 40 jersey with the Oliver name. Photo courtesy of Arkansas Action Photography

“How many people get to actually represent their country outside of the military? I considered it an honor,” he said.

For Oliver, opportunity and success were the result of hard work, faith and the support of his family. “My family has supported me 100% through everything. I always knew I would have their support,” he said.

His father and mother raised him with a strong faith in God. He attended Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church in Menifee throughout his childhood. “Religion has been with me my whole life. God has guided me and I have taught my daughters to be Godfearing, respectful individuals,” Oliver said.

He has used that foundation of faith, and also his degree in sociology, since retiring from the NBA by pursuing a career as a change-maker in his Ohio community.

In 2008, he began working for the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center and in 2018 transitioned into a position as a family liaison case manager for the juvenile court. He moved to the court side to work with The Parent Project, a national program created to develop parent-training programs for parents raising difficult or out-of-control children.

“At the detention center, we would see a lot of repeat offenders. I wanted to try to change the destructive adolescent behavior we saw every day by changing the environment they were going back into,” Oliver said. The program achieves this by working with the parents. “If people actually do the work and decide they want to make a change, they can do it,” he said.

The former professional player looks forward to returning to Conway County to visit family and friends and seeing his retired number in Devil Dog Arena.

March 2023 | 67
Morrilton Primary School first grader Julian Gressett attempts to give former NBA player Jimmy Oliver a “high five.” Photo by Morgan Zimmerman


Medical Careers Bring Spouse Physicians to Conway

The pursuit of medicine by two married physicians spanned two continents before ending in Conway.

Sohaib Rana, MD, and Rimsha Hasan, MD, both graduated from the Jinnah Medical and Dental College in Karachi, Pakistan. After they began a friendship as a part of a five-year study group during medical training, their bond eventually led to marriage.

Hasan had a strong inclination toward cardiology, which led her to pursue training in the United States. After completing training at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in cardiology, followed by interventional cardiology, Hasan joined the Conway Regional Cardiovascular Clinic as an interventional cardiologist in July 2020.

Rana left his surgical training in Karachi to relocate to the United States, where he finished his United States Medical Licensing Examination and was matched into the Conway Regional Graduate Medical Education Internal Medicine program as a resident physician in 2022.

More than 7,700 miles from their families in Pakistan, Sohaib Rana and Rimsha Hasan have found the support they need for their medical careers while raising three young children. “The Conway Regional community is an extended family,” said Hasan. “Your work environment can make or break it because that’s where you spend most of your time. It’s intense at times because there is often another life at stake.” As an interventional cardiologist, Hasan diagnoses and treats cardiovascular disease and structural heart and vascular conditions through catheter-

based procedures, such as angioplasty and stenting.

Their support system received an early test. Shortly after the family’s move to Conway in December 2021, Rana’s father became gravely ill. “We had a situation. Everything was in boxes. I stayed with our three children; he had to fly to Pakistan because his father was in the ICU. It was a very dramatic time in our lives.” Rana was also interviewing with residency programs in Central Arkansas, and Hasan was about to begin a shift of being on-call for 24 hours at Conway Regional.

The clinic staff banded together with administrative support to make sure the children and Hasan were supported. “It kept us afloat,” she said. “I don’t have enough good things to say about my colleagues. They have been super helpful. It was intense, but I never felt I couldn’t call on anyone.”

After experiencing the support his family received, Rana was convinced he wanted to begin his residency in Conway. His first day of residence with the Conway Regional Graduate Medical Education internal medicine program was in July of 2022.

Early impressions have been positive for Rana. “Our program director (Greg Kendrick, MD) is amazing, as well as the other hospitalists that we round with,” said Rana. “The most interesting part of being a resident is the learning,” he said. “You learn something new every day.”

He is grateful for his fellow residents. “The camaraderie among the residents is something that I enjoy. Everybody wants to be here,” Rana added.

March 2023 | 69



Hot Springs author brings community together to create renditions of 30 famous paintings.

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"The Milkmaid" (above) by Johannes Vermeer and "The Banjo Lesson" (below) by Henry Ossawa Tanner are two of the pieces Vega recreated for his latest book. Submitted photos.

expectations’ might

He was born in a railroad boxcar. It served as his parents’ makeshift home while they were working in Wyoming. As migrant workers, they followed work from Texas and into the Northwest, never remaining long in one place. Growing up, Vega spoke only Spanish at home, so it was no surprise that he failed first grade due to a language barrier.

But during his adolescent years, Vega decided he wanted to “change his story.” He wanted to live a life he envisioned for himself, not one that others expected of him. And he did.

As a young child, he always loved art and drawing. After graduation, he attended Texas Tech University and majored in art. But when he compared his work to that of other students, he realized his limitations as an artist. Instead, he followed a different, more lucrative path. After earning degrees in sociology and later human resources (HR) management from the University of Utah, he worked in the HR field with firms in Texas and Colorado.

Vega realized that corporate executives and others who worked with him would not have guessed he was from such humble origins. It was for this reason that he decided in 1993 to publish his first book, “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody (But, I Settled For Much More: Me).” His intent was to motivate others and let them know that no matter where you start, making good decisions and doing your best can lead to positive outcomes. He often passed up parties, choosing instead to work on the book at night and on weekends for more than two years. He describes the finished product as “a book about what to do when you don’t know what to do.”

After a decade of working in HR, he picked up a camera and rediscovered how much he enjoyed the creative process. Winning a photography contest gave him a boost of confidence. He started selling photos for postcards and magazines, then began to amass a strong client base. People were coming to him.

After a 20-year career in HR and doing parttime photography, Vega again rewrote his life script. In 2010, he opened his own full-time photography business in Colorado.

Vega’s photographs received high praise. He credits his artistic background, which gives him insights into elements of composition and design. People tell him his photos look like paintings.

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very well be Eli Vega’s tagline.
This photo entited "The Gods at Night" appears as the front cover of Vega's award-winning book ”Right Brain Photography: Be an Artist First.”

In 2016, Vega moved to Arkansas, drawn here by the beauty of Hot Springs and the lower cost of living as compared to Colorado. In 2017, he published the fourth edition of his award-winning book, ”Right Brain Photography: Be an Artist First.” He began giving workshops across the U.S. at various national parks and taught classes for several colleges and universities.

Last year, he published a third book, “Renditions of Famous Paintings.” It was developed over a two-and-ahalf-year period, using Hot Springs and its citizens as a prop. “It truly was a community project,” he said. “I had a support team that involved a city manager, the owner of a costume store, the Chamber of Commerce, and many others.”

“Renditions” includes his interpretative illustrations of such well-known artworks as the “Mona Lisa” and works by famous painters like Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper and Grant Wood, whose “American Gothic” rendition appears on the cover. In the book, Vega also gives details on how he created all 30 scenarios by using a combination of photography and photo editing software.

Vega truly has succeeded in writing his life story. On the way, he has shared his love for personal and artistic endeavors with many others. One can only wonder what adventures might be included in this creative artist's next chapter.

More about Vega can be found on his website, EliVega. net. His books, photographs and prints are available there as well. You can also see his weekly postings on his Facebook page, Eli Vega Photography.

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Eli Vega uses a combination of photograhy and photo-editing software to create art. Above: Watercolor Willows Bottom: La Luz de Concepción


Where do we find friends? Or maybe even better, WHEN do we find friends? They can come to us by accident or by “happenstance.” Perhaps we’re “thrown together” in school from pre-school upward. Maybe by way of a small business you frequent. All of those determine what sort of friends they are – the one you see often at church or work; a now-and-then type; a stay-in-touch type; or a friend for life, as close as a sibling. Not everyone has to be a friend but may still be a personable, trustable acquaintance.

I have, or have had, all of these and they all have a niche in my existence. The passing of my lifelong best friend left a gap that will be filled back up one day. I’ll know by the giggle, the way she wound her hair around her left forefinger and most certainly a closet full of shoes. Another “bestie” who has passed said all she wanted in Heaven was her old John Deere tractor and green grass to mow forever. Another long-time friend has stuck with me through opposing political views, and that says a lot.

I even have a few frequently emailing friends whom I’ve “met” when they contacted me years ago about my columns or genealogy. They live in Mississippi, California and Texas. Except for one, I do not even know what they look like! I cannot fail to say my husband is also my friend for life. Our relationship has that friend/spouse aspect that is so much needed today. We met as parent and teacher at a high school parent-teacher night and married eight

months later. Soon married for 31 years, we still haven’t found anything to argue about. Not once!

Family can also be friends as is often demonstrated by physical and mental closeness in hugs, exchanging confidences and keeping in touch. A rift within this group can be devastating as it is a matter of figuratively disuniting shared DNA. In my hobby of genealogy, I run into gaps where I can only go so far and there is a sudden silence of information. Was there a chasm in the family that couldn’t be bridged? Who didn’t keep up with Great-Aunt Rebecca’s birth and death dates? Did courthouse records burn in Georgia with the onslaught of Union soldiers? I’d really like to know Aunt Rebecca, but apparently no one even knows where she is buried. Somewhere there is an unmarked grave, the contents known only to God. But I suppose that’s all that matters anyway!

We can’t choose our heritage or from where or whom we came, but we can choose friends. Upon consideration of a person’s possible friendship, we all have to ask ourselves some questions, regardless of our age. These would be about common grounds regarding spirituality, interests, treatment of self and others, and the qualities of faith and trust. Whether family or friends, it is the faith and trust that together make the two end knots that keep a chain of stitches from raveling.

athleticcelebrating excellence

Saline County - Donald and Ronald Fulcher

Late every Sunday evening they huddled around the family radio. As youngsters, the twins were faithful fans of the weekly “Frank Broyles Show” as the legendary Razorback Head Football Coach updated his followers on Hog happenings and hopes. Those thirty minutes with Fayetteville’s royalty were cherished, among the week’s most precious half-hours for the blossoming athletes.

Their respect was profound and enduring, and on January 1, 1976, it reached its zenith when both were members of Broyles’s illustrious final post-season bowl winner. The 31 to 10 come-from-behind Cotton Bowl trouncing of the University of Georgia capped a regular-season 9 -and-2 record and a three-way tie for the Southwest Conference (SWC) Championship. In their eighteenth season under the man who was soon to devote all his time to heading the University’s Athletic Department, the Razorbacks outscored their opponents by a combined point total of 336 to 123. It is not surprising that, upon request for over 40 years, Don and Ron Fulcher have proudly displayed their large and handsome 1976 Cotton Bowl rings.

Key in the exceptional season was a 31 to 6 upset of Texas A&M in War Memorial Stadium, one of the most memorable contests in Razorback history. Despite Ronald’s disabling

ligament problems, the twins proved invaluable on the eleven that earned seventh place in final AP (Associated Press) national rankings and their coach recieved lavish praise for his gridiron genius.

In 2023, the sons of Benton educators Daska and Melton Fulcher fondly recall their intercollegiate sports careers at the flagship university, where, together, they earned five letters — two for Donald and three for Ronald — for Varsity play under the winningest coach in Razorback football history.

Born three weeks before Christmas in 1953, both were grateful recipients of football scholarships for their stellar performances at Benton High School. Coach Broyles knew that they could help his nationally acclaimed program, and they did, Don at defensive end, Ron at offensive guard, both also on his Special Teams.

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Neither, however, was a one-sport athlete in high school. Almost 6 feet and approaching 220 pounds, Donald had been a three-year letterman in basketball in addition to being a star fullback and defensive end on the gridiron. Despite a broken leg in 1968, he lettered in three seasons of football, while gaining All-Conference honors twice and a place on the All-State Team in 1971.

Ronald was no less accomplished before moving to Fayetteville. Slightly taller and heavier than his twin, he garnered three letters as a shot putter on the school’s Track Team, Arkansas’s AAA State Champions in 1971, when he also participated in the Meet of Champions. As a guard and a linebacker in football, he gained All-District honors three times and in 1971 won a spot on the All-State Super Team.

In January of 2023, Benton native and retiree Greg Johnston, MD, reflected on the play of the twins when, as a running back, he was their 5’6’, 150-pound eleventh-andtwelfth-grade teammate. He confided that in one-on-one practice drills his silent mantra was “Anyone but Donald or Ronald. Anyone but Donald or Ronald.” Nor was he without a convincing reason: hitting either of the two, he confessed, was “like hitting a brick wall!” Then he added, “And you can’t finesse a brick wall!” Half a century had not dulled the physician’s memory of the “quiet fellows,” his label for the monolithic twins.

At Benton High, Ronald was also memorable for his exceptional academic record. President of the senior class,

he graduated with honors and was a member of the National Honor Society. Rigorous preparation was crucial, he realized, for success in the civil engineering degree he envisioned at the university. He proved to be wise. Years earlier he and Donald had both agreed with their father that staying out of school for a year would be advantageous because of their December birth and their start of school at age 5. Their year of odd jobs in their neighborhood and chores at home allowed them to graduate in 1972 with their peers, at age 18.

It was also their now-deceased father who quietly and unobtrusively had balls, bats and other sports gear available to them years before adolescence and arranged for their travel to playgrounds and ball fields to put their acquisitions to appropriate use. From “Teeny Ball” through American Legion competitions, the twins were never without inviting opportunities to participate in sports of their choice. Long before they enrolled at Benton High, they knew the pleasures and demands of organized, competitive athletics.

Their loving mother acquiesced and supported their endeavors. Athletics became a part of her daily routine, and the twins adored her for her unending acceptance, as well as for her exemplary culinary skills and maternal instincts. Now in her nineties and ill with heart problems, she merits her twins’ superlatives when asked about her. “A perfect mother,” Donald and Ronald term her, and neither Richard, their younger brother, nor Jean Ann, their “baby” sister, disagrees.

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Ronald (on left) and twin Donald Fulcher were part of the Arkansas Razorbacks team under Coach Frank Boyles who in 1976 achieved the 31 to 10 come-from-behind Cotton Bowl trouncing of the University of Georgia. Photo by Mike Kemp

The twins are now retired — Donald in Benton after a successful public school teaching and coaching career in Arkansas, and Ronald in Houston following comparable success as a civil engineer.

Benton, Saline County, and the 501 may never see their like again, athletically gifted twins whose achievements have brought respect and pride to their native soil.

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Drones helping farmers make field inspections easier and faster

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Could it be a drone? Absolutely! Drones flying over fields in Central Arkansas are more and more common.

Drones have historically been used in weather reports, real estate photos and military applications. More recently, drones have become a big deal in Arkansas agriculture. As agriculture practices continue to evolve, producers are looking for new and exciting ways to increase their yields while also conserving resources and limiting their impact on the environment. Drones are one of many technological tools farmers use to evaluate and care for their crops and animals.

Drones are the latest wave in a series of applications broadly referred to as tools in precision agriculture. “Precision ag includes use of several computer systems: global position system (GPS), geographic information systems, real-time kinematic positioning and normalized difference vegetation index,” said Lee Riley, program associate with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (UADA). What does that mean in lay terms? Farmers manage irrigation, pinpointing areas that are getting too much or too little water. They identify small areas of a field that are not growing properly, needing

more fertilizer, or assessing the level of insect or weed infestations. And they do all that from the edge of the field with their drone’s data sent to a computer. They basically “stitch” together the drone’s photographs to make visual topical maps.

The obvious benefit is saving time. “My drone photographs allow me to make decisions without having to physically walk my fields,” said Matt Morris, a rice, corn and soybean farmer from Carlisle. “My dad and I farm over 1,200 acres and we can do that quicker and more accurately. I feel like I am carrying on my family’s legacy using the latest technology. My great-great-grandfather was the first farmer to bring rice production to Arkansas in 1897. He was an innovator and my family has been since. Part of the land we farm includes his original 30 acres, still in rice production today.”

“Whole field inspection is often difficult and laborious,” said Dr. Jason Davis, application technologist with UADA. “The aerial perspective of an entire field via drone makes those inspections easier and faster. Additionally, the processing of field imagery can help make decisions in optimizing dirt work and irrigation planning from season to season.”

Right: This topical map of a corn field was created because of images that the drone sent to Morris' computer. The areas of the field in green are the healthiest, denoting high levels of chlorophyll. The areas in yellow/ orange/red show corn that is not so healthy. Based upon the images, he can apply fertilizer exactly where it’s needed.

Farmers use the term “input costs” when evaluating their bottom line. That includes the cost of seeds, fertilizers, chemicals for weed and insect control, water, fuel and electricity to pump water. Because of mapping provided by drones, farmers can select certain plants that might need more fertilizer or spots of insects or disease that need chemicals, saving chemical use and the cost of applying it. Water is a huge necessity for any crop, especially rice. Protecting and conserving as much water as possible reduces the cost of energy for pumping.

Morris utilizes “multiple inlet” technology developed by engineers with UADA. Water flows through Polytube, commonly called Polypipe. The tubing is rolled out flat along the edge of the field, and it expands like a balloon when filled with water. A computer program is used to determine the hole size and location for the most efficient use of water based on field elevation, row spacing, field shape, and row length. All this is data collected via drone. Morris stores his topical maps in a cloud service, uploads them to his cellphone and makes needed changes in irrigation flow, right from his cellphone.

Saving resources is at the forefront of Morris’ farming. His passion is saving water and minimizing inputs. He and his dad have implemented several methods of saving groundwater to avoid pumping water from wells, thereby saving water levels in the alluvial aquifer. They have built

reservoirs to collect surface water, even ways to circulate irrigation water, commonly called tailwater recovery systems. Use of drones allows farmers to save water, one of our state’s natural resources, for other uses.

In short, Arkansas farmers have gone high tech to manage the business of producing food and fiber by developing sitespecific management plans for their farms. The data that the systems provide includes field boundaries, elevations, row spacing, row length and plant stress. The information is used to make computer-aided decisions. There is a lot of science-based information needed to maximize farmer efforts.

What does all that mean to the average consumer? Drones and their application make it possible for farmers to produce a high-quality product with fewer strategically placed inputs and much less impact on our state’s natural resources, protecting water in both quality and quantity. That is a benefit to us all.

The future for advanced technology in farming is limitless. “As drones get cheaper and more available, they will likely become just another tool in every farmer’s tool chest,” Riley said. “We could see a future where farmers have their own little swarm of drones autonomously spottreating their field for a certain weed. Hey, Alexa, release the swarm to weed the back 40!”

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Left: Matt Morris of Morris Farms established in 1892, flies a drone over his fields to take photos of his crops. Field imagery allows him to make decisions about water and fertilizer needs, as well as insect and weed infestations, without having to walk his 1,200 acres. Photos by Tom Riley

I always look forward to the opportunity to share stories of faith and family, because for me the two are tightly entwined. I had an idea in my head about what I wanted to share, but as I started writing, I felt God tug my thoughts in a different direction. Hence the title "Suitcase Snacks" and the curious thoughts as to what that has to do with faith or family.

Family is often defined as a group related by birth, marriage or adoption, so when I discovered, while reading my Bible, that Ephesians 1:5-6 says it was “always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus,” it got me thinking. Have you ever watched one of those cheesy movies where the main character struggles their whole life, but suddenly towards the end of the movie, they discover they are actually royalty? Instantly, untold wealth and good fortunes await them simply because of their newly discovered identity. And while it makes for a great story, the truth is, if we believe the written word of God, then we should all be behaving in such a manner that represents who our Father in Heaven is. Unfortunately, many of us don't know or just can't wrap our thoughts around the whole idea.

It reminds me of a story I once heard that involved a cruise ship. It's always stuck out to me because I absolutely love to cruise! The story goes that an elderly couple was gifted a weeklong cruise by their children. The couple had never cruised before, and they couldn't wait to experience a whole week at sea. They carefully packed their bags and set sail. The children couldn't wait until the week was over and they could hear all about the fabulous adventures that mom and dad enjoyed while onboard. The unending food, the entertainment, all the fun. As they all gathered to share the details, the kids excitedly asked, "How was your cruise? Did you eat steak? Did you try lobster? Or

did you eat both?" The parents' faces scrunched up in confusion. What were they talking about? The mom broke the awkward silence and explained how they didn't have the extra money to spend on food and entertainment. She had carefully packed a suitcase that was full of crackers, peanut butter and snacks. Each day at mealtime, they would sit in their room and enjoy their "suitcase snacks" together. Sadness swept the faces of the whole family as they all realized the missed opportunity. Their parents didn't realize everything was already included — the food and the entertainment. It was available to them, but for lack of knowledge, all they ate was suitcase snacks.

So that brings me back around to an important question. Do you know what a wonderful and good Father you are an heir to? You can be someone who is at church every time the doors are open, or someone who hasn't seen Jesus' love represented well by people who claim to be Christians, and still do not realize that your Father in Heaven has a table set just for you! You are an heir to The King! Because of who your Father in Heaven is, you can boldly approach his throne and lay all the burdens you've carried at his feet. Galatians 4:7 says: We’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has — for we are heirs because of what God has done!

You see, you get the opportunity to be the main character in this journey called life. While you may have spent much of it struggling and striving just to survive, you've discovered you are royalty! A crown has been placed upon your head, my friend, so do yourself a favor. Stop eating those "Suitcase Snacks" and come and feast at the table of The King!

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The Conway County native started playing guitar and singing when he was a teenager. His passion turned into playing shows for his hometown friends. Even then, his ultimate goal was to form a band and he admits he had the name picked out even before he even had band mates. Based on a high school buddy's nickname, they would be Jack Fancy.

“I always kept that name in the back of my mind thinking it would be a cool band name like "Sawyer Brown.”

After an long and extensive search for likeminded players with ambitions to match his own, Kevin discovered Randy Tokarz through an unconventional source, an online musician's ad.

Randy came from Pulaski County, played bass and was also a singer. The two immediately hit it off thanks to compatible styles and musical interests. Then, a couple of years later, the duo became a trio when Ben Higgs joined them. Another 501 talent, the Saline County drummer was a natural fit to complete Central Arkansas’s next country and rock sensation.

Celebrating 10 years together, Jack Fancy now plays live shows throughout the entire state, with many gigs played locally. They promise a high-energy performance playing a variety of top-notch hits to sing along to. Fans can expect to hear everything from Merle Haggard to Journey, George Strait to The Black Crowes — just to name a few.

From all indications, the crowds are loving what they hear. “We see so many familiar faces every weekend,” Kevin said. The trio lovingly refers to them as their “Fancy Fans” and the band considers them family. "They are the heartbeat of the band,” he said.

These supporters are so important to the band that Kevin actually created a "FancyFans" Facebook page in addition to the band's own account. The "FancyFans" page is filled with pictures of the fans joining Jack Fancy on stage. "We strive to put out as much social media material as anyone around, keeping the focus entirely on our fans and upcoming schedule."

In fact, it's not only "Fancy Fans" who are getting in on the act. Kevin and band mates know one thing that separates them from other performers is how they get the crowd into the shows — literally. "Each night, we select crowd members to come up on stage and play anything from cowbell to tambourine. We always find a way to incorporate as many as possible into the show and they love being on stage!"

This year, the band has started their “Bringing Back the Hat” tour. "Arkansans love to go out for a night in their cowboy hats and we are giving them a reason to," Kevin says. "Wear your cowboy hat to our show, and receive a discount on all band merchandise!"

The band has big plans for this tour with more performances in their home state and beyond. They are also available for private occasions like corporate events and weddings. They promise, cowboy hat or not, you're going to have an evening of nonstop fun, you'll not soon forget!

Kevin Gottsponer always knew music would be his future.
Contact Kevin Gottsponer at or 501-499-2350 to schedule a performance at your venue or event. UPCOMING SHOWS: 3/4 Cedar Lounge, Morrilton 3/11 Betty’s Big Country Dance Hall, Arkadelphia 3/17 JJ's Grill, Conway 3/18 Los Roosters, Bonnerdale 3/24 Blitzed Pig, Hot Springs 3/25 JJ's Grill, Little Rock
Ben Higgs (from left), Kevin Gottsponer, and Randy Tokarz


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Jill Ragan, Farmer & Author Brady Billingsley, Swimmer, Candy Enthusiast Jessica Crum, CEO Silverlake Design Studio Carise Echols, Elementary School Principal


Marvin Williams, Student Success Coordinator, UCA Jeremy Higginbotham, Publiher 501 LIFE Nakeya Palmer, Curator, UCA Barbara Satterfield, Ceramic Artist Johnny Passmore, Realtor, Teacher, Actor

January rolled in quietly this year, following a loud and joyful holiday season. There are still a few unpacked boxes tucked away in the garage. The whirlwind of adjustment has finally settled; we are done with the exhaustion of relocating from Florida.

My year was an open book. I sat in my studio and stared at the disorganized bins of paint scattered around, reflecting on the months that loomed ahead. I’m familiar with the specific loneliness inherent in human migration. The foreign city is not your own; its family lore and catastrophes are not in your blood. You are cut off from knowing the silent history of place.

For months prior, I had returned again and again to this quote: “You still haven’t met all of the people who are going to love you." It gave me hope that the suffering of an isolated pandemic had not removed the potential for giving and receiving generosity and warmth. I fully believe that love multiplies love. As I was pondering this, the idea came to me in an “Emily of New Moon” flash. These visions are rare for me and I have learned from experience that they are not to be ignored. Quickly grabbing a pencil and a sheet of paper, I scribbled it down.

100 portraits of my new community.

Their stories, written in their words and shared. All of us creating a beautiful snapshot of who lives beside us.

Before I could begin to doubt myself, I reached out to five people who had already touched me in some way, asking if they would want to participate and if they knew other people who were doing good things. Their responses of excitement and curiosity gave me enough bravery to venture onward. The project blossomed as nominations for participants began to flow.

A few days after the initial inspiration, I picked up my brush and set my palette beside the very first empty canvas. Verdell Bunting was the perfect intro to the project, an elementary school teacher who has been courageously inspiring young minds in Conway for 25 years. As the next

faces followed, each one presented a different view of my new hometown.

The man who makes delicious meals for the hungry. The woman with a passion for making gardening accessible to all. The artist who is known for introspective and intelligent work. When people ask what my ideal stipulation for a nominee is, I will say that I want to paint nice people who are loved. Their eyes light up when they immediately think of someone who fits perfectly within those parameters.

From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted to give the portraits away. I was searching for a local organization that was already doing incredible work, and it was through a nomination that I came across Haven, a nonprofit that provides treatment and housing for adolescent girls who have experienced trauma in the Arkansas foster care system. I knew immediately that I wanted them to benefit from my work. The message I want to convey with this project is that we are all connected, sometimes in more exquisite ways than we realize. That truth resonates so well with what Haven is wanting to communicate to the girls in their care. When the portraits are completed, we will have an exhibition of all 100 faces. Each one will be sold at a cost the subject can afford, and the proceeds will go directly to bettering the lives of our Arkansas girls.

As I sit in the early morning light of a day inching closer to spring, my coffee is ready for a refill. The project is still new as I get my studio ready for portrait 11, Deborah Edwards.

She has devoted her life to rescuing injured and orphaned wild animals for rehabilitation. One of the best parts about starting this adventure is my continuous surprise at the variety and depth of the other humans here. Each day, I have the privilege of reading your stories and painting your features, getting to know this vibrant place I now call home.

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Editor’s note: Nominations remain open until all 100 spots are filled. Submit nominations by email to Faye Hedera paints a portrait of Associate Vice President Outreach & CommunityEngagement at UCA, Dr. Shaneil Ealy.


As part of the nomination process, Hedera asks the participants to reflect on what the community means to them. She also asks those who nominate someone for the project to describe why he or she should be a ”Face of Conway." Some of the responses she received are printed below.

"When we moved here from Los Angeles, it was really a trust fall ... we honestly weren't sure what our careers would look like here in Conway. To our surprise, this has been the birthplace of new creative dreams for the both of us and an amazing place to raise a family."

"Despite moving to Conway and beginning a new career in the middle of a pandemic, my wife and I knew immediately we were home ... there is something special about this town and it's people. You know it when you live here but you realize it even more when you're away."

Marvin was overwhelmed when many of his friends in Conway, from Little Rock and even his hometown in Osceola, showed up with food donations. It was a very special day."



"I was 5 years old when my Mom and I moved to Conway. I have autism, so change is sometimes hard for me, but I quickly fell in love with my new school ... I use an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app to communicate and was soon telling my Mom where I wanted to go. I would type on my AAC, 'I want eat Stoby's hamburger' and she would take me. I love their cheese dip too."


"I saw my first art exhibit at Hendrix, my first musical at UCA, and checked out my first novel (Ivanhoe) from the Faulkner County Library ... after the librarian called my mother to make sure to do so would be appropriate. Having too many good memories to have a favorite is reassuring ..."


"I was given the opportunity to be the Art Liasion at UCA downtown and there I was able to grow as a curator and connect with amazing artists! I have found an enriching personal and professional life through the arts here in Conway!"




"I was Assistant Principle at Carolyn Lewis Elementary at the time and walked into the cafeteria with the entire school present ... it was such an honorable moment that I will never forget. It has brought so much joy to my life ..."

"One of my biggest passions is working with students ... I teach because I want to be the kind of teacher that I needed when I was a student. I always strive to be as inclusive and accepting as possible, to be a voice of those who may be marginalized."




"During the pandemic, Marvin celebrated his 50th birthday. Instead of a party and gifts ... he invited the community to bring non-perishable items to further his community meals and support the UCA food pantry.

"I remember the first downtown event I participated in as a farmer; I was beyond nervous and wasn't sure if anyone would even come to visit my booth, but before I knew it, we had lines backed up. When I envision this movement for Conway, I dream big and hope to ... continue to raise awareness of the importance of supporting local farmers."


March 2023 | 87

The Bridges We Build

There are some things in this world Mike Kemp never had to wonder about.

He never had to wonder if he was loved; his mother and father and later his wife and kids all saw to that. He never had to wonder about his life’s calling, as for decades he has lived on his passion and talent in photography.

And he never had to wonder where he came from, at least up to a point. Kemp was adopted; his parents never made any attempt to hide that fact from him. And perhaps because of this, being adopted never felt like that big of a deal, kind of like having a birthmark below the neckline. The people who knew him best knew about it, and the rest of the world never had a reason to ask.

“I was around five years old when they told me, which would have been about the age where I could understand what ‘adopted’ meant,” he said. “It was never a case of feeling like I was being treated any differently. They’d tried for several years to have children and just couldn’t do it, so adoption was the clearest choice for them.

“The family dynamic never felt any different growing up. As a child you have moments where you feel maybe you were abandoned, but then as you get older you appreciate the life that your adoptive parents have given you and come to understand that life doesn’t work like you see it as a child. Circumstances are what they are.”

Whatever it was that didn’t bother him about being adopted fed a largely laissez-faire attitude about finding his birth parents. If anything, he was merely curious, although over time that curiosity grew. But it might not have ever set firm roots had his adoptive mother, Robbie Kemp, not kept bringing it up, notably after his father died in 2010 and after his sister died in 2014.

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“I’ve never really asked her why,” he said of his mother’s motivations. “I know losing a child and losing her spouse were huge blows to her. I don’t know that she was doing that as a way of pushing me away; I think quite the opposite. Maybe after those events she felt the tug from being a mother. ‘Wouldn’t you want to know where you came from?’ I think that probably played into it.”

Kemp, of Conway, finally decided to take the first tentative steps into searching for his origins after learning that Missouri law had changed, allowing adopted children to gain a copy of their birth certificate which, of course, contained the names of the parents. He sent in the requisite paperwork knowing well that surrendering parents can elect to have their name redacted. If that had been the choice of his birth parents, his quest would likely end before it ever got started.

He settled into waiting, trying to put the matter out of his head as much as he could. “It kind of made me go into it thinking it could be good or it could be bad or you could hear nothing,” he said. “Mentally, I feel like I had prepared myself for several outcomes.”

Eventually a letter arrived. Kemp took a deep breath and opened the envelope to find the blanks all filled in, including his mother’s name, Linda Herbert. She was surprisingly easy to track down; she’d not left the area where Kemp was born, and in the age of the internet it takes an awful lot to remain anonymous. Kemp estimated it took about 20 minutes to pinpoint her whereabouts, and a few days to work up the nerve to send an introductory message via her Facebook page. That didn’t yield anything, so he sent a registered letter to help ensure his message reached her, whatever the outcome.

“She told me afterwards that she was out and they left a slip in her mailbox saying you’ve got some registered mail. She kind of shrugged it off,” Kemp said. “When she went and picked it up, that was June 12, 2019. And it’s really funny because that’s now kind of our ‘gotcha day.’”

Being able to track the letter online, and not hearing anything back, Kemp began to climb the walls. He and his wife, Crystal, took a ride over to Petit Jean Mountain to take his mind off things and on the ride home, his phone buzzed.

“I’m driving, so my wife picks it up and looks at it and she said, ‘It’s your mom,’” he said with a chuckle. “I think I may have said, ‘My mom doesn’t text,’ and she went, ‘No, it’s your other mom.’ She sent me this text saying, ‘Yes, it’s me. You found me.’ My wife’s reading it to me in tears. It was crazy.”

The original message shared Linda’s pain over having given him up, coupled with the joy and hope that she might now know him. She asked his forgiveness and praised his courage in seeking to find her. Arriving home, Kemp responded and the two texted the first of what would become many pieces of a relationship more than 50 years in the offing.

“One thing that I didn’t anticipate: I started the search for myself, not thinking that it would turn into something that was also beneficial for my birth mother,” Kemp said. “She’s told me how much guilt and shame she carried all these years, thinking that I would resent her for having put me up for adoption.

“This has helped her deal with some of those issues. To be able to finally have a physical manifestation that can help you be OK with your decisions has been a big blessing for her, I believe.”

Continued on page 90

Robbie Kemp (from left), Mike Kemp and Linda Herbert, his birth mom.

“It was a little bit overwhelming to meet them all, but they were so incredibly welcoming that it put me at ease very quickly,” Mike Kemp said.

Kemp not only gained his birth mother, but also several siblings and their families, all of whom have welcomed him in a way that, if he’s honest, he might have had a hard time showing had the roles been reversed. He's taken the time to soak up and share everything missed by circumstance. They say you cannot choose your family and that’s probably true, but in Kemp’s case, he got to discover one.

“Over Labor Day in 2020, Mama Linda spent a night or two here,” he said. “My mom had told me, ‘I would like to meet her. I would like to be able to tell her thank you for giving me a son.’ Of course, Mama Linda was saying, ‘I would like to thank your mom for taking such good care of you.’ So they got to meet. It was touching.

“What I’m noticing now is how really natural this feels. It feels like this is how it always has been, even though it’s only been three, four years now. To be accepted that readily and that easily is surprising to me. I didn’t want to be disruptive; even through the whole process, my fear was just parachuting into their lives and disrupting things. But I’ve kind of learned to get over that now. I feel like we’re good.”

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MUCH GOES RIGHT WITH ‘THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG’ Searcy Performance takes Best Play, Best Costume Design, Best Direction, Best Performer and Best Scenic Design

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Photos by Madison Meyer

In August 2022, the Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre, which is presented by the Department of Theatre at Harding University, premiered “The Play That Goes Wrong.” BroadwayWorld Arkansas nominated the production for seven awards, and it received five in January, including best play overall. The awards represent excellence in professional, educational and community theaters across the region.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is a comedic murder mystery set in the 1920s. The characters attempt to perform an embedded story — a play-within-a-play — called “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Mayhem breaks across the set as characters misplace props, set pieces break and the actors break character. It creates a fun, engaging atmosphere in which the audience participates.

“It is an honor to be nominated, and a joy to win,” said Dr. Steven Frye, professor of theatre and department chair at Harding. “It speaks to the quality of our patrons, our productions, and most of all, to the creative talent of our people who constantly prove that theatre is alive and well in Searcy at Harding University.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Frye has produced and directed Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre productions for 29 years. For 28 years, he has also been Director of Spring Sing, an annual musical revue involving more than 1,000 students. An award-winning teacher, playwright, director and producer with extensive experience in live theater, film and video, Frye is excited to create art and entertainment for the region.

“Working in a summer-stock environment generally means an accelerated rehearsal schedule,” Frye said. “In terms of Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre, that often means three or four weeks of rehearsal before the performance. With “The Play That Goes Wrong,” we stretched that to five weeks to allow more time for our tech crew and actors

to work with the ‘fall apart’ nature of the set. Things fall off walls, doors come off hinges, a second-story landing collapses, things catch fire and props break at the worst possible time. It becomes an exercise in choreographed chaos.”

Senior Asher Patten, who won the award for best performer in a play, reflects on the joy that the production brought, both from performing with his fellow cast members and from feeling the audience’s energy.

“It was one of the most fun experiences I have had on any set or stage, and our cast was so full of spirit and fun,” Patten said. “We genuinely had a blast being together for the whole summer. When the show opened, each night was different as the audience would respond to different bits uniquely, and it would sort of shift the energy, or our reaction to things, in the moment. It just felt like a really fun improv exercise with a script as a guideline. It was so great, and I’ll never forget it.”

Harding University has a robust theater program because of the generosity of donors. One significant donor was Mary K. Murphy, who was a regular patron for several years. After she died in 2002, her son, Dr. Charles Murphy, informed the university that Mrs. Murphy included a bequest to permanently endow Searcy Summer Dinner Theatre because of her love for Harding and the summer performances.

“The Mary K. Murphy Endowment is an amazing example of the servant hearts of our patrons,” Frye said. “Mrs. Murphy's generous gift annually provides equipment, costumes and many other things that allow us to keep the overall ticket cost down for such high-quality productions. Searcy is our home, and we are honored that patrons like Mary K. Murphy and her family support what we strive to bring to our home each year.”


A look at churches in Central Arkansas


Photos by Linda Henderson


This month, Linda Henderson takes us on a tour of a houses of worship in the 501 that she has found particularly beautiful. Her photos begin with the chapel we chose as our cover image for our Faith, Family and Friends Edition — The Chapel at Four Winds in Conway.

A charming, beautiful and old-fashioned chapel with stained glass and a warm and inviting atmosphere, Four Winds is located in West Conway at the junction of Highway 60 and Lee Andrew Lane, within natural surroundings.

Robert and Pat Ott constructed the New England-style chapel in 1995. It was a labor of love for them, making it a treasured place for the Ott family. Once construction was finalized, the Otts had Robert’s parents reburied near the chapel. Now, Robert and Pat are also laid to rest on the grounds, along with several other family members.

The 700-square-foot building holds many mementos of faith from the Conway community and from the Ott family. The Chapel at Four Winds features the pulpit that was once

used in the “old” Church of Christ at Robinson and Center. The pews are from the former University Church of Christ that was located at the corner of Donaghey and Bruce. The pulpit Bible belonged to Mrs. Ott’s family; the table in the entrance hall belonged to Robert’s grandmother from Tennessee; the oak bench came from the Noble Smith Estate on Caldwell Street; and the stone used in the posts for the brick wall are from the original Faulkner County Courthouse, which was constructed in 1877-78.

It is built of white wood and has a steeple that houses a bell, which is a replica of the bell Mrs. Ott used when she taught kindergarten. The Chapel at Four Winds is a nostalgic place for the Ott family and for guests. It holds 40-50 people and can be rented for micro weddings, spiritual gatherings or custom events.

Enjoy other churches that hold a special place in the hearts of believers throughout the 501 in the pages that follow.

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FAMILY: My husband, Stephen, and I have been married 22 years and have been residents of Maumelle for 10 of those. We have three children, Emily – age 25, Spencer – age 18, and Macy – age 17. Stephen is an Allstate Insurance agent, and together we own a food truck, sugARush Snoballs, that serves New Orleans-style shaved ice.

EDUCATION: I grew up in Mississippi and graduated from Washington School in Greenville, Miss. I then continued on to the University of Mississippi and graduated with a Bachelor of Public Administration and minored in sociology.

WORK: I became the new executive director at the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce in January. I am coming over from the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, where I served as the president/CEO since 2018. In my early career, I worked in the state office of federal legislators. I have worked in government since graduating from college and took the leap to the nonprofit world in 2018.

PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS: I was honored to be a graduate of Leadership Arkansas class XVI in 2022. I currently serve on the boards of directors for the following groups: Arkansas Economic Development and Chamber Executives, the Little Rock Air Force Base community council and the Camp Robinson/Camp Pike community council.

WHY I CHOSE MY FIELD: After several years, I decided I wanted to use my experience and my efforts in work that would better my local community and, in turn, my home state of Arkansas. I began community development in 2018 and have continued to further my education in this field at the Institute for Organizational Management and through yearly economic development/community development seminars. I recently


began taking courses with the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas. I love being the connector to help further workforce development, community development and educational efforts in my community.


and I are members of Fairview Park Church of Christ and help coordinate efforts with younger members for community outreach. I also work with local school districts to help train future leaders with classes in local/state government, economic tours, etiquette classes, the basics of job interviews and community outreach programs.

MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION: As a mother, my family and my children are most cherished. If I had to choose an item as most cherished it would be my Bible. I find myself turning to God’s word when struggling with any decision.

Maumelle is a great city, and we feel very lucky to have been able to raise our children here during their formative years. Maumelle has the advantage of the small town feel where your neighbors are concerned about you, and all want to work together to better the local community. We have beautiful parks, walking trails, neighborhoods and family activities, including a splash pad, public library, fishing and community/aquatic center. Maumelle officials continue to improve the quality of life with future plans for an all-inclusive playground, extended bike paths and a pickleball complex. It is a blessing to be able to work with such a wonderful community, and I look forward to a great future for the people of Maumelle.

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Photo by Mike Kemp
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