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Recreation Department offers activities for Summer fun

10 Summer Veggies

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In this issue: • In Step With Sally Toler

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• Summer fun Youngsters enjoy Summer activities

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• Scenic Rivers

Scenic Rivers recieves funds

Agency receives funds for upgrades

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• Artist of the Quarter Susy Sanders passionate about art

From the Publisher

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On the cover: Pike County Allstar player Pooh White gets a little practice in before starting tournament play. Cover photo by Matt Williamson

Staff t has been quiet work over the last few years, but the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance is making a difference for its members in this part of the state. The alliance, whose members include five Southwest Mississippi counties plus the city of McComb, has a number of notable achievements. A couple of years ago it took over management of the Quail Hollow Golf Course at Percy Quin State Park when the

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state was thinking of closing it. It also manages the Bogue Chitto Water Park. Most recently, it took over management of the Ethel Vance Natural Area in Amite County and is working to acquire land for tourism and recreation at Okhissa Lake in Franklin County. Quality of life is important, and as you will see inside this edition, Scenic Rivers is helping to improve this area’s.

Publisher - Jack Ryan Editor - Matt Williamson Advertising Manager - Vicky Deere Advertising sales-

LeWair Foreman, Steven Sawyer & Margie Williams.

pulse is a publication of J.O. Emmerich & Associates Inc. and is produced in association with the Enterprise-Journal, 112 Oliver Emmerich Dr., McComb, Mississippi. For more copies or advertising information, call 601-6842421, write P.O. Box 2009, McComb, MS 39649 or e-mail advertising@enterprise-journal.com.

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In Step With:

Sally Toler

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Sally Toler leads Amite, Pike Medical Services By Ernest Herndon Sally Toler got the best of jobs in the worst of times. In April 2020 she was named executive director of Amite County Medical Services Inc. — a month after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. She and some family members even came down with the virus, but got through it OK. ACMS has three clinics — Amite, Pike and Liberty Dental — plus two mobile units for schools. Now Toler and ACMS are full steam, to the point of constructing a new building for the Pike clinic behind the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center walking track. Toler knew from the beginning she wanted to go into healthcare. After graduating from Southwest Mississippi Community College, she worked for Southeast Mississippi Rural Health in Hattiesburg — a community health center like Amite Medical Services but larger — while a student at University of Southern Mississippi. She went to work as administrative assistant for Amite County Medical Services before getting her B.S. in health promotion, going on to become finance director there until 2011. Toler detoured into real estate until 2017, when she returned to ACMS as finance director. She was named assistant executive director in 2019 and executive director last year. She replaced Pam Poole, whom she has known all her life. “I knew that I wanted to help people in some capacity, but not necessarily handson,” Toler said. Amite County Medical Services gets a grant through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, enabling it to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. ACMS uses a sliding fee discount program based on federal poverty guidelines. “Everyone is expected to pay based on the guidelines in which they qualify. It’s not a free program,” Toler said. In 2016, ACMS opened a clinic in the Medical Arts Building in McComb — which it has since outgrown, hence the new building.

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Sally Toler stands outside the Amite County Medical Services administrative offices in Liberty, MS

The clinics provide comprehensive primary health care, which includes mental health and dental care, plus two mobile units to Amite County public schools. The clinics have one full-time doctor, a part-time pediatrician, three full-time nurse practitioners, one full-time and one part-time dentist, a full-time dental assistant, part-time dental hygienist, licensed professional counselor and dietician, plus nurses, billing staff, front office workers and administration staff — a total of 45 employees. “We have a great staff here,” Toler said, noting employees helped out with various tasks during the pandemic and kept the clinics operating. “Everybody came together,” she said. “It’s really been a team effort.”

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She also praised the clinics’ 11-member community-based board, of which 51% must be clinic patients. “Some of them are retired and they give of their time willingly,” Toler said. ACMS received the HRSA National Quality Leader Award for the top 1 to 2% of all 1,200 health centers nationwide, as well as the HRSA Health Center Quality Leader Award. In 2020, the two clinics saw 3,879 patients for a total of 12,596 visits. The mobile units didn’t get to visit schools in 2020 due to COVID, but in a typical year handle 700 student wellness visits and dental screenings. Much of Toler’s job involves keeping up with all the paperwork and accountability the clinics require, such as HRSA site visits, Uniform Data Systems reports, annual audits,


grant management requirements and much more. The clinics collaborate with partners like SMRMC, McComb eye doctors and oral surgeon Dr. Eric Lewis, referring uninsured patients for various specialized services. When COVID struck, “it was pretty much a whirlwind,” Toler said. “It was almost like we were trouble-shooting and brainstorming every day.” ACMS officials had to get into telemedicine immediately, allowing patients to see doctors online or over the phone — immensely complicated by the shortage of broadband service in rural areas and the lack of technology by many patients, especially the elderly. Nevertheless, in three days ACMS had its telehealth program up and running with a special app for patients to consult with providers via phone, computer or iPad. Special hours, 3 to 5 p.m., were designated for patients with potential COVID symptoms, and they were instructed to pull up to the back of the clinic, call a special “If you come here, number, then come in the back door. you’re going to get the “We’re looking to best comprehensive care kind of transition out of that can be offered. We that in the next few months,” Toler said. also provide great Meanwhile, people customer service from looking for a family doctor, dentist or therathe front to the back.” Sally Toler pist would do well to consider medical services, Toler said. “If you come here, you’re going to get the best comprehensive care that can be offered,” she said. “We also provide great customer service from the front to the back.” When she’s not on the job, Toler and her husband Chris, who works for Denbury Resources, are heavily involved in family activities with their daughters, Logan, 17, Laura, 12, and Lizzy, 9. “I like to go to the gym to work out,” Toler added. “That’s sort of my stress reliever.” n 2021 Summer Issue

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Summer fun Ann Marie Carr awaits ball during recent softball practice session.

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Activities keep youngsters busy By Travis Connolley Summer time in Pike County can be summed up largely as blazing temperatures, unpredictable rain showers and kids out of school to name a few. But with the children not in school until August, the McComb Recreation Department is helping to find fun activities for the children to partake in during the summer. The MRD offers multiple sports including football, baseball, softball, gymnastics, soccer and kickball. The wide variety of activities available is something that the MRD wanted to provide, not only for children but also for adults. "We really wanted to offer and bring in a lot of new programs and things to offer, not just for kids but for adults as well," MRD Programmer Paris Ratliff said. "Last year, we really realized that life can just stop at any moment. Nothing went on last year because of coronavirus. This year we really wanted to come out swinging with different programs, not just with our existing ones, but we really didn't have a lot of things to offer for kids like community days or fun days. We wanted to come up with more programs for the summer because we were stuck in the house for a whole year with nothing to do." As far as kickball, Ratliff said that the new activity is already creating a buzz with participants asking if there could be a fall league set up for the adults. "We got a lot of positive feedback for kickball," she said. "We only had two teams for summer kickball for adults and we had a lot of people come out on our first night of playing. They were so excited about it. We already have five teams that have signed up for a fall kickball league for adults." The MRD also assisted the Junior Flag Football League in making a comeback after a year off as well, by allowing the JFL to use the multipurpose field. Recently the JFL held its annual combine ahead of its season opener. JFL President Marcus Gatlin said he was thrilled to bring the league back for the children ages 6-12 by providing another activity for them to participate in for the summer. But for Gatlin, it is also a way

"We really wanted to offer and bring in a lot of new programs and things to offer, not just for kids but for adults as well." MRD Programmer Paris Ratliff

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Marques Wells prepares to throw football during recent flag football game.

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Neely Walker makes a pitch in recent softball activity.

of providing something for the children to keep them away from the threat of violence. "The message that I would like to express throughout McComb being a law enforcement officer is we have to stop the violence," he said. "We have our young kids out here and we want to show them a way to have fun and a way to do it in a safe manner." Even though the restrictions were put in place and the league was canceled for the year, participant Lee Brown found time to stay in shape preparing for the return the year after. "I would play every once in a while (with my Dad)," he said. While the JFL did not play at all in 2020, the Pike County Youth baseball and softball leagues were the first to test the waters last July after some COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed by state and health officials. Youth softball 8U coach Cam Sharp said he is thankful to get a full year in after the shortened 2020. "It feels very good," he said. "You have a lot of excited kids, a lot of excited girls who were ready to play. They missed a lot of ball last year and they were ready

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Parker Robinson throws ball in baseball action.

to hit the fields this year. The (level of excitement) was through the roof from the first day of practice all the way through the season and into all-stars." His daughter — eight-year old Paisley — added that she was also very excited to get back out on the field and that she enjoys playing with her friends. Looking back on the MRD program, Ratliff is very thankful to see it continue to grow due to interest from the community. "It is amazing to see this all come to life," she said. "Putting it on paper and trying to get people to even try and get interested is the hard part. That is where all of the legwork comes in. Because you can come up with a lot of great ideas, but if you don't get the feedback and participation, it only stays a dream or an idea. But if you put in the hard work and go into the community and pass out flyers and see people come in and get excited, it makes it all worth the while." n

Ashton Lucky makes a run for it in recent flag football game.

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Scenic Rivers Development upgrading and improving area facilities

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Joseph Parker overlooks overgrown area at Bogue Chitto Water Park.

By Connor Raborn Parks and other recreational areas of Southwest Mississippi’s great outdoors are poised to see upgrades over the next two years. Scenic Rivers Development Alliance, a regional agency that seeks funds for recreation facilities, has secured millions of dollars of state bond money for work in Pike, Amite, Walthall, Franklin and Wilkinson counties. While bond money has been relatively plentiful so far, the range of projects across the region is wide. Spending needs to be paced efficiently, and work has to be done around seasons and weather. Overseeing those matters is Joseph Park-

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er, the executive director of Scenic Rivers. “As these one-time dollars are coming through, you want to be smart about how you spend them,” Parker said, pointing out frost-proof valves that were recently added to campsite water hookups at Bogue Chitto Water Park. Additions like that save money in the long run by avoiding the costly work of repairing broken water lines. They’re also just one of several upgrades to the water park in eastern Pike County since this past fall, which also include resurfaced gravel roads which doubled in width, new wells and pull-through sites, one of the most popular requests of campers. Pull-through sites allow RV campers to

Recent improvements made at cabins at Bogue Chitto Water Park.

pull into a site for water and electrical hookups then drive out the same direction when they leave, no driving in reverse required. The water system is being upgraded in phases with the possible supplement of American Rescue Plan Act funds to finish it. Coming attractions to Bogue Chitto Water Park include a 6-foot-wide, ADAcompliant, paved path over the nearly milelong trail that loops through the park near the river. Parker said Neel-Schaffer’s work on that could start as soon as November. New gutters and air conditioning units are being added to the six cabins. Plaques identifying the many trees in the park, a


Road work being done at Bogue Chitto Water Park.

paved path from the camp store to the pavilion and a possible disc golf course are on the horizon. “The most important thing is getting the infrastructure back in place—the water, the sewer, the roads, bringing the gravel back in,” Parker said. The schedule of work on these types of facilities is always in flux and can change “at a moment’s notice,” he said. “You know you have to cut the grass, but you didn’t know you had to cut the tree out of the road.” Parker recalled a day in early June when he was working in another county but got a call that canoe rental business Gator’s couldn’t get a vehicle to the park’s boat ramp because trees were down across the road. “OK, let me get my chainsaw,” he told them. There are hundreds of trees down at the Amite River in Ethel Vance Park, which Scenic Rivers is managing as of July 1. “The trails that go along the Amite River are going to need some serious rehabilitation. It’s going to take some logging,” Parker said. The alliance has a full rehabilitation planned for the park’s arena. They’ve already ordered new rodeo and cattle equipment like bucking chutes and roping chutes. There will be reconfigured bleachers, new gates, more sand, a new irrigation system, upgraded elec-

Angela Harvey and Michelle Sandifer at Ethel Vance Park where improvements are due to be made.

trical system and new paint. “The nice part about it is, most of it’s under a roof. A lot of that work can continue over fall and winter,” Parker said. Scenic Rivers will begin rehabilitating the park’s ball fields this fall. Parker reflected on the alliance’s origins and the realization that having municipalities and counties from all over Southwest Mississippi speak with one voice would help get more money on the state level to help everyone in the region. “One of the most important aspects of this alliance is the cooperation of these municipalities and counties. You can see the successes of the areas that have come together,” he said. “When you take a region and put all these numbers together, you’re much more attractive to a business or industry. “Relationships. That’s what this is all about. Scenic Rivers is relationships, building relationships.” That singular voice has also helped get funds for projects in Franklin and Wilkinson counties. Scenic Rivers is close to acquiring the deed for 150 acres on the north end of Okhissa Lake in Franklin County. In Wilkinson, the county’s industrial board is working with the alliance to fence and landscape Wilkinson County Park on Hwy. 61 in

Woodville. There are plans to repair the Lake Mary boat ramp, delayed by river flooding. Parker hopes to order a full study on the Buffalo River Basin, where downpours have flooded roads and houses. Ongoing work in Walthall County includes 16th Section land for the sheriff’s office, Lake Walthall and Walker’s Bridge Water Park. A piece of 16th Section land just off Hwy. 98 on Old Hwy. 24 East is being turned into a shooting range for Walthall County Sheriff’s Office. Berms of earth will also open the land up for archery contests. A pond there can be used for youth rodeo fishing. “It’s taking some land that has not been developed in the past and helping it see its best use,” Parker said. Scenic Rivers will refurbish a gazebo and rehabilitate the parking lot and picnic areas at Walker’s Bridge Water Park. With potential help from a T.R.A.I.L.S. grant that’s been applied for, a trail may be cleared around the 55-acre Lake Walthall to allow bank fishing. There’s plenty of work for Parker and his agency. Once he finished looking over Lake Walthall, he headed back to Bogue Chitto Water Park to lay more gravel. For more information on Scenic Rivers’ facilities and how to make reservations, see visitscenicrivers.com. n 2021 Summer Issue

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Artist of the Quarter

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Susy Sanders passionate about art! By Ca le b McCluskey Flowers, architectural studies, and abstractions fill artist Susy Sanders. When asked about her art, she will flash a wry smile and say “I guess I’m a flower painter, unfortunately.” and chuckle. Sanders was born in Trenton, Tenn., a small town located in the northwest section of the state near the city of Jackson. Growing up in a town that had less than 1,000 people at the time, she said there “wasn’t much art to be had,” but it was always in the corner of her mind. “I made paper dolls and cardboard furniture for them, and I was able to recreate Christmas cards. I was the best tracer in my school,” she said. This affinity for art lasts to this day. Her aunt and uncle, who raised her after the untimely death of both her parents, encouraged her to go

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One of Sanders’ impressive pieces of artwork.


Sanders’ artwork includes various scenes from her travels including Sayulita, Mexico. Above is a portait of a woman she did while in a workshop. into art when she went to college. She majored in commercial art and spent time teaching art in a Memphis junior high school and working as an advertisement creator for a local company, among other things. It wasn’t until she had her children and was married that she started getting into painting wholeheartedly. She started going to night classes, workshops and college lectures on painting, architectural design and pastels and found a true passion for her new hobby. “I was dying to paint,” she said of her time as an art teacher and advertiser. After her sons, Jay and Sam Sanders, moved out on their own and she had an empty nest, she moved from easier to clean mediums like watercolor to more abstract mixes and mediums. 2021 Summer Issue

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“Watercolors served me well when I was raising a family and needed a way to quickly clean up,” she said. “I love color, and I just want to make beautiful colors.” Flowers to Sanders are an amazing expression of humanity and symbolism. “Flowers are a lot like life. There is rapid growth in the beginning, then the flowers blossom and peak in their beauty and slowly wilt,” she said. “Not that I’m making any hugely profound statement with that.” Sanders sees flowers in Susy Sanders everything, with multiple abstract paintings of hers morphing into flowers over the course of the piece’s construction. For a time, Sanders owned a gallery named Burke Street Gallery. She said she loved her time as a gallery owner. “I was in business for 10 years and barely made a dime, but it was great,” she said. Sanders uses her hobby as an artist to take trips across the country and even to other countries such as Italy, Croatia and France. She said she loved going to different places for workshops, noting she met many life-long friends through them. On a wall walking into her studio is a painting of her and a friend at one such workshop. She is leaning over speaking to her friend about a paint pallet. Sanders planned to visit one such friend she met in a workshop in late June, taking a plane to Michigan soon after her interview with the Enterprise-Journal. Sanders has commissions all over the city, from giant canvas flower paintings at Camellia Estates to the enormous mural at Pike National Bank. She said she used to fall into a hole of making art for commission, but now she tends to “make art for art’s sake.” Lately, Sanders has been experimenting with different mediums and styles, leaning toward a process of “putting paint on a board.” and she said she has been enjoying the newfound freedom to make a mess and get creative. Sanders said she is a chronic “rule follower” and had become a

“You have to paint hundreds of bad paintings before you can paint a great one. I don’t know what I would’ve done here during the pandemic. I am glad I have a passion. It is a blessing.”

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shut-in when the pandemic locked the country down. She said it killed her productivity for a time, but she is following her own advice to younger artists and pushing through the block. “You have to paint hundreds of bad paintings before you can paint a great one,” she said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done here during the pandemic. I am glad I have a passion. It is a blessing.” Her next advice was to not sweat finding your style, noting it is already with you and ever changing as you pull influence from other artists. When asked which of the hundreds of paintings in her home was her favorite, Sanders said, “The next one I paint will be my favorite.” n

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Vegetables Summer’s treasure

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Cooking....Southern style Though not a Southerner by birth, I've lived here long enough to appreciate the outburst of Ouiser, from the movie “Steel Magnolias.” You know the time she flings sacks of fresh tomatoes around to friends in the beauty shop and collapses into a chair and proclaims, “I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly LIZ clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. MCDANIEL Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules!" Summer garden fare — cucumbers, squashes, corn, beans, zucchini, peas, peppers, okra and, of course, my favorite homegrown tomatoes — is ripe for the picking — and cooking. This season you may have a bumpercrop of tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers on your hands. If so, why not try a new recipe that just may turn out to be a favorite on your Summer table.

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Lizzie’s Tomato Pie 9-inch shallow pie shell, bake according to directions. Let cool. 3-4 fresh tomatoes. Sliced thin. Place in colander, sprinkle w/salt. Let drain 10 min. 3-4 fresh basil leaves, torn 1 teaspoon dried dill 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion In a bowl, combine: 3/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 cup shredded mozzarella 1cup shredded colby-jack, 1/4 cup chopped chives Dash of Louisiana hot sauce Fresh ground pepper. Mix. Set aside.

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Layer tomato slices in pie shell, overlap slightly. Fill to almost top. Sprinkle chopped onion. Place a few basil leaf pieces on filling and dust lightly with dill. Evenly spread the mayo-cheese mixture on top, cover entire pie. Finish with fresh ground black pepper, more dill, & tomato slice if desired. Bake at 350° until bubbly and golden. 30-40 min. Serve warm. For a brunch, I make "mini" pies in tartlett shells for individual portions. Use sliced cherry tomatoes, red or yellow... and a heaping teaspoon of the topping per mini pie. Bake about 15-20 minutes. Yields 10-12 mini-tart size pies. n

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Iron Horse Festival

The Iron Horse Festival was held June 12 in Downtown McComb with a great turnout. Pictured clockwise from top: Children play around stalls at the festival; a line of antique cars on Railroad Boulevard for the car show; Ransakk guitarist Jonathan Moran performs; Billy Gaudin performs with New Orleans band Category 6; Fireworks conclude the festival; a visitor dances to music; DJ Aaron Tullos throws shirts to the crowd; local rock band Alibie performs.

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Mississippi Adopt a Hero’s

Hero Dash

Recently a group of athletes competed in the Mississippi Adopt a Hero’s Hero Dash at the Bogue Chitto Water Park. Event organizer Jamie Stone said the event was a great success. It raised money to provide equipment and sponsor events for local first responders.

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Juneteenth Celebration

Participants in the recent Juneteenth celebration included, clockwise from left: Rebeka Williams playing violin; Roshana Williams on keyboard and Monica Williams singing; and Hilda Casin receiving a plaque at the celebration.

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