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2019 profiles

ROCKDALE • NEWTON BUTTS • HENRY COUNTIES An Annual Publication of Rockdale/Newton Citizen Henry Herald Jackson Progress-Argus 2019 PROFILES MAGAZINE

JANUARY 2019 • 1

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Profiles How do you define community? This edition of Profiles magazine explores the people of Rockdale, Newton, Henry and Butts counties who give of themselves to help build strong, robust and compassionate communities. Our Profiles subjects are not the residents who have the highest profile or who hold elected office or who have political power. Rather, they contribute in ways that are often unseen and unheralded by the community at large.


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In these pages you’ll find stories about residents who volunteer to help others rebuild their lives, who support youngsters in need of a mentor, who work to provide the basic skills needed for success in life, who provide spiritual guidance and who strive to ensure that our communities grow and thrive. We hope you enjoy this edition of Profiles magazine and come to better know some of the special people who make up the fabric of our communities.

Bill Blair Cathy Dobbs Mathea Elliott Nita Hardwick Brooke Hewett Mia Johnson-Thompson Felecia Kennedy Pamela Kimbrough Tricia Kuhn Ed Laposki Connie Malone Teresa Martin Cheryl Mitchell Tami Moody Cindy Moon Jamie Peterson Rick Spires Kristy Stubbs-Henderson Pat Swords Smith Rhonda West


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2019 profiles

Blair Barksdale..............................................Page 6 Nina Daigle....................................................Page 7 Tony Elder......................................................Page 8 Theresa Hamm-Smith.................................Page 14 Jessica Lamb...............................................Page 18 John King.....................................................Page 20 Laura Bertram.............................................Page 22 Shenan Griffin..............................................Page 26 Sarah Billups................................................Page 29 Beverly Barnes............................................Page 30 Clayton Carte...............................................Page 35 Charlotte Joy............................................... Page 35 Dary Myricks................................................Page 38 Beverly do Carmo........................................Page 39 Lisa Johnson...............................................Page 41


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2019 profiles

Blair Barksdale is a renaissance woman By Hunter Terrell

A teacher, coach, mentor, council woman and whoever her students need her to be. Blair Barksdale, a native of Rockdale County, has been teaching at Heritage High School since 2010. “She’s like a mom,” said Devron Harper, senior at HHS. “She does things she doesn’t have to.” “Ms. Barksdale is one of the best things that happened to me,” said Justin Everett, senior at HHS. “She motivated me throughout my high school life. When my brother died, Ms. Barksdale was the one who kept me in school. She texted me, made sure I was coming to school; she was there for me when no one else was.” Barksdale earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Presbyterian College, bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a concentration in literature and composition from Georgia State University, her M.A.T. in special education from Georgia College and State University and an EdS in educational administration and policy from the University of Georgia. “Blair is like Leslie Knope from ‘Parks and Rec’ — she takes on way more than one person can handle but somehow can balance and succeed at all of it,” said Laura Freeman, social studies teacher at Heritage. “I’ve had the opportunity to see her as a teacher, a coach, a leader and as a friend.” “Every story I have of Blair, it always goes back to the kids,” said Kelli Mayo, credit recovery director at Heritage. “She advocates for them in and outside of these halls.” “She’s a try-hard, she does everything to the fullest and won’t tell anybody no,” said

6 • JANUARY 2019

Blair Barksdale, a native of Rockdale County, has been teaching at Heritage High School since 2010.

Brandon Stewart, Heritage’s boys soccer head coach. “I’ve known Blair my whole life, and she’s been an amazing person to this day.” Prior to her work at Heritage, Barksdale worked as an intake officer at the Newton County Juvenile Courts. She found

that she wasn’t making as deep an impact as she hoped and decided that teaching is her true passion. Barksdale came to Heritage as a learning support instructor, later becoming a Spanish teacher, assistant soccer coach, graduation coach and an admin-


istrative assistant. As of 2018, she teaches American History, is still the graduation coach and an administrative assistant and is in her third year as head coach for Heritage’s girl soccer team. “I love Blair,” said Heather Hausser, HHS assistant princiSee BARKSDALE, Page 11

2019 profiles

CPA volunteers to help change lives at Phoenix Pass By Beth Slaughter Sexton

family left Bogota and moved to New York City to join the rest Attending an all-girls’ of her mother’s family. Catholic school in Bogota, “I didn’t speak a word of Columbia, Nina Daigle said she English,” she said. “Now I’ve and her friends would get so been here most of my life, excited whenever it was field but I don’t ever forget where trip time. No matter that every I came from. It’s not as bad field trip was always to the there (Bogota) as they make exact same place — the local it seem on TV … We wanted convent — she remembers the to see what America was all nuns made sure they always had about and come here for better a good time. In fact, it was such opportunities.” fun that Daigle said she and 80 Daigle finished middle and percent of her classmates dehigh school in New York before cided when they grew up, they graduating from Binghamton were all going to become nuns. University with a degree in acIn the years since, much has counting. Her husband, Danny changed and much has not for Daigle, who was also from New Daigle, who likes to remind York, finished his undergraduate friends they would be calling degree and was offered a scholher Sister Nina had she chosen arship to finish his master’s at that path. Now a wife, mother Georgia Southern. Their plan and professional certified public was to live in Georgia for two accountant, Daigle left Bogota years and then go back to New in her early teens and moved York. But Southern hospitality intervened. to New York before eventually As a CPA and partner with the Antares Group Inc., Nina Daigle “When you don’t know any calling Georgia home. But she spends her days helping clients with their financial needs. In her different, all you know about never forgot the giving nature spare time, Daigle volunteers as a board member for Phoenix Pass the South is what you see from and lessons she learned from in Rockdale County. (Staff Photo: Alice Queen) the movies,” Mrs. Daigle said. the nuns who taught her to “…When it came to Southern serve others and have a higher free apartments for homeless ing of the nuns along with that hospitality, we thought it was purpose than herself. mothers and their children. The of her own mother, but Daigle As a CPA and partner with women work through a twofound it easy to empathize with a myth. But it’s for real. When you live in the South, it’s oh, the Antares Group Inc., located year program that teaches them these women and, as she says, wow, it’s so beautiful here. on Iris Drive in Conyers, Daigle how to save money and other “put myself in their shoes.” We’ve been here for 18 years.” specializes in sales and use life skills. Daigle said Antares’ When Daigle’s father died, Mr. Daigle teaches math and tax, tax compliance, business board has long been involved her mother Gloria was left to is the baseball coach at Archer valuations and consulting and with Phoenix Pass and then a care for the family. High School in Gwinnett Counfinancial analysis. She also client began sharing stories with “She has influenced my life volunteers as a board member her about it, so she decided to so much and has inspired me to ty. The Daigles are the parents for Phoenix Pass in Rockdale check it out. be the woman and mother I am of Sebastian, 12, and Sofia, 5. Despite being busy with her County. After meeting and hearing today,” Daigle said. “She taught career and family, Mrs. Daigle “It’s an unbelievable profrom some of the women, some me that hard work and dedicasaid she knew she wanted to gram that helps homeless of whom had once lived in their tion always pay off. She was volunteer with Phoenix Pass women with children get back cars, and learning how Phoea single mom and had to work and to teach her children about on their feet,” she said. “They nix Pass helped turn their lives really hard to get us through helping others. follow a program to become around, Daigle said she was school and help us be the suc“I’m committed to it,” she self-sufficient. The women who inspired to get involved. cessful people we are now. said. “Like I tell my kids, once come through this program “It’s very rewarding to see She still works really hard and have fallen into bad situations these ladies change their lives,” gives 110 percent on everything you’re committed to the team, you’ve got to be there. This is … When they graduate, a lot she added. “This program truly she does. She is a wonderful bigger than just me. It’s a group of them buy their own houses. works, and I’m blessed to be mother, friend and amazing of people changing lives one at There’s a great success rate.” part of this wonderful board.” Nana — grandma to my kids.” Phoenix Pass provides rentPerhaps it was the teachDaigle was just 13 when her a time.”


JANUARY 2019 • 7

2019 profiles

Pastor seeks to provide guidance through daily devotional book By Beth Slaughter Sexton

and newspaper columnist Rev. Tony Elder employs in writKidnapped! That was the ing his first book, “Everyday startling truth I discovered a Encounters with the Lord.” A few days before Christmas as devotional guide filled with I drove in front of our house substance and thought featurto turn into the driveway. ing stories from his own life Baby Jesus was missing from meant to encourage and inspire our outdoor Nativity scene. I readers each day of the year, stopped the car to check out the book comes out just in the situation more closely, time for the fast-approaching making sure that the child 2019. hadn’t simply fallen off his The pastor of Wesley Commakeshift manger. I found munity Fellowship in Conyers everything else in its proper and a long-time Rockdaleplace, but the baby was noNewton Citizen columnist, Elwhere to be found. There was der has collected many of his no doubt that someone had best columns to include in the absconded with the lighted book, which he has fully titled figurine of the Savior. With “Everyday Encounters with a mixture of anger and sadthe Lord: Meeting God and ness, I wondered why anyone hearing His Word in everyday would resort to such a crime. experiences. A year of daily A prank? Pure meanness? devotional thoughts,” which Some kind of message about was released Sept. 11. an empty manger or a Christ“I didn’t choose the Sept. less Christmas? I don’t know, 11 date,” Elder said. “The but I decided to go ahead and publisher did. It just happened report the incident to the loto fall on that significant day. cal authorities. After all, the But my devotional for that day many clones of that child in refers to ‘defining moments’ other people’s yards might be and the book coming out that in danger of the same fate. I day is certainly one of those felt that I should at least let for me.” someone know about it. The Elder counts a number of deputy was very kind and defining moments in his life, helpful, but I was somewhat beginning with his salvation disappointed when she didn’t experience at the age of 10. offer to put out an Amber Alert “Although I was a ‘good for the missing child. I gave kid,’ I came to realize somea perfect description of the thing was lacking in my life, victim — tiny, with a plastic especially in relation to God,” peaceful smile on his face, last he said. “I saw something in seen wrapped up in swaddling the lives of others, such as my clothes — and oh, he still had godly Sunday School teacher, the cord attached. that I was missing. About that That excerpt from the Dec. time, I came to understand the 22 chapter titled “A Grinch message of the gospel for the Didn’t Steal Our Christmas first time and about what Jesus Spirit,” is just a glimpse of the did through his death on the humor and talent local pastor cross. My mom was concerned

8 • JANUARY 2019

The Rev. Tony Elder, pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship in Conyers, has authored a book of devotionals entitled, “Everyday Encounters with the Lord.” Elder has been a regular columnist for the Citizen newspapers for 16 years.

about me, invited the pastor over to my house and he led me to the Lord in my own living room. For the first time, I knew I was at peace with God and sensed a change in my heart.” But what came next was surprising to everyone, most of all to Elder. When he was in junior high school, he said he experienced another significant spiritual event. He said some might call it a full commitment, a total surrender or being spirit-filled. “Not long after that, I was reading my Bible one day when I sensed a clear calling from God to ‘preach the word’ — from II Timothy 4:2,” Elder said. “Being very shy or quiet-natured, I denied

“Everyday Encounters with the Lord” is available on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. The author said he will have a few copies available for those who are not comfortable with online shopping. For more information, visit www.everySee DEVOTIONAL, Page 10 dayencounterswiththelord.com.





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2019 profiles Devotional

it — even tried to blame the devil for it — and struggled over it for months before finally letting others know about it and becoming willing to go in that direction. It did not seem to go with my nature or personality, so I really had to trust God to enable me to do what he had called me to do. And I can testify that he has proven himself faithful over these many years.” A native of Gainesville, Elder graduated from Vennard College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, with a bachelor’s degree and from Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Miss., with a master’s of divinity. He was then called to his first pastorate and the one he would still be serving 32 years later. Elder began leading Wesley Community Fellowship in 1985, when the church was in the pro-

cess of moving from DeKalb County to Conyers. The congregation met in a couple of Rockdale day care centers for several years before building its current facility on Owens Drive in Conyers. This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the church being in its own building. “The people at my church have been very supportive,” Elder said. “They are a loving group of people who are seeking to draw closer to God, to stay true to his word and be a light for him in our community.” The pastor said his church is part of an association of independent churches that consider themselves Wesleyan/ Holiness in doctrinal beliefs. Elder currently serves as executive director of that group, which is titled the National

Association of Wesleyan Evangelicals. “I grew up and was saved in a church in Marietta that was part of a small denomination, the Evangelical Methodist Church,” he said. “I served in that denomination until our church, along with a few others, withdrew from it a few years ago.” About 16 years ago, Elder wrote a letter to the editor of the Rockdale Citizen responding to a column written by a Methodist who seemed to suggest everyone would make it to heaven. “I felt the need to let people know that not all Methodists believe that,” he said. “A few days later, I got a call from the paper asking if I would be interested in writing a column myself. I quickly saw it as an open door from God to reach

more people outside of our local church. Little did I know that would lead to a book, as well.” Elder said he is excited about “Everyday Encounters with the Lord” and adds that he hopes people will consider it as a Christmas gift possibility. “Daily devotionals make wonderful gifts, and many people think about starting a new one at the beginning of a year,” he added. Elder’s book is available on the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The author said he will have a few copies available for those who are not comfortable with online shopping. Such information is available at Elder’s website www.everydayencounterswithSee ENCOUNTERS, Page 11


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2019 profiles


the place where the child lay, staring in paralyzed silence at the empty hay.” He said the “wise men” were no help and couldn’t even offer a vague description of the perpetrator. “Likewise, the shepherd seemed to bow his head in silent shame, knowing that he was the only one present with a weapon, yet had failed to use that staff to protect the child,” Elder writes. “The only one talking was the sheep. And he kept repeating the same thing we already knew — ‘It was a baa-aa-aad, baa-aa-aad person.’” Using humor, scripture, spiritual principles and stories, Elder said he hopes this book will help others long remember the life-changing biblical truths he shares in “Everyday Encounters with the Lord.”

pal. “She’s adaptive, dependable and reliable. I know as an administrator, if I put Blair in charge of something, I do not have to micromanage — and I hate to be cliche, but she really does it all.” “She is the most dedicated coach I have ever had,” said Rylee Breese, sophomore. “Soccer is a really big deal for me emotionally, and she makes sure to stay on top of things.” “She is our hype-woman,” said Sophie Mosely, senior. “She is always prepared and will do whatever it takes to ensure our self-confidence.” “I try to be immersed in school,” said Barksdale. “As much as you can give them (the students), I believe they give us 10 times more. They need us just as much as we need them, and it really makes it all worth it.”

Outside of school, Barksdale was elected to the Conyer’s City Council as District 1, post 2 representative in 2017. “I love Rockdale County,” said Barksdale. “I want to serve my community and the people; I can’t see myself leaving. Conyers has changed and will continue to grow, but I know this is where I am supposed to be.” In her precious free time, Barksdale likes to travel, go to UGA football games, and spend time with her dog Cooper and her four nieces. In the future, Barksdale would like to move into an administrative role in Rockdale schools and even see where politics could take her. “I don’t know where it will quite go, but as long as I can do something to help my hometown, my students and the community, I know I am on the right path.”


thelord.com. The author said it is hard for him to pick out a favorite entry in the book, but said he loved writing the stories about his five grandchildren — ages 12, 10, 8, 6 and 7 months. He and his wife Cheryl are the parents of three children, Melissa, Shannon and Nathan. Mrs. Elder is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator who works for St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens. Elder also said he enjoyed sharing stories from life, such as the basset hound the family once had. And then there was the funny story of the kidnapped Baby Jesus. Writing with wit, Elder went on tell how the “only witnesses weren’t talking.” He said Mary and Joseph could still be found “kneeling beside



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2019 profiles

International opera star, music teacher and now author: Hamm-Smith writes ‘Hero Finds His Voice!’ By Beth Slaughter Sexton This all started as a little something she heard early one morning while sitting on her front porch. Off in the distance, Theresa Hamm-Smith heard the bold, clear cock-adoodle-doo of her neighbor’s rooster. It was soon followed by a warbly, funny and weak little cock-a-doodle-doo. She had to laugh. It turns out, this was the rooster’s son, who was desperately trying to copy his father and crow out a big cocka-doodle-doo. She learned the little rooster’s name was Hero, and as the weeks and months followed, the daddy rooster announced to the world it was morning each day, loud and clear, followed by Hero’s little, struggling cock-a-doodle-doo. Hero worked every day to sound like his father. And as each morning arrived, the little rooster was sounding better and better. Soon Hamm-Smith realized Hero had finally found his voice. He was crowing his cock-a-doodle-doo with confidence and boldly announcing the day had arrived. With the little rooster as her muse, Hamm-Smith of Conyers has penned a series of children’s books. “I am so excited,” HammSmith said, adding that she has written children’s stories for years, but “Hero” is the first one she has ever published. There are two more books in the series, “Hero Didn’t Know He Could Scat Like That!” and “Hero Doodle-Doos In His Opera Voice Too!,” scheduled for release in 1919 and 2020, respectively. “Hero Finds His Voice!” is a 24-page paperback book about

14 • JANUARY 2019

a little rooster who wants to have a mighty cock-a-doodledoo like his great-grandfather, grandfather and father. HammSmith said he tries his hardest and learns the joys and benefits of setting a goal, working hard and following his dreams. She writes in a rhythmical, rhyming style as she shares the story of the little rooster. The book sells for $12, and is available on Amazon, Shopify and at the author’s music studio, Bella Musica, where she says, “Everyone finds their voice.” This is a new career turn for the Rockdale County native who traveled the world as an international opera star. The daughter of the late George and Rena Hamm, HammSmith’s family has lived in Conyers for four generations. A 1981 Heritage High School graduate, Hamm-Smith received a degree in vocal performance from Shorter College in Rome. She continued her vocal study in Texas with the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Program. Her career began with a string of vocal competition wins, beginning as a Metropolitan Opera National Council Finalist. She went on to win The Grande Prix Lyrique in Monte Carlo, where she represented the U.S. and dined with His Royal Highness Prince Ranier III of Monaco.

Opera singer Theresa HammSmith has penned a series of children’s books that were inspired by a young rooster learning to crow. The first in the series, “Hero Finds His Voice!,” is available on Amazon, Shopify and at the author’s Conyers music studio, Bella Musica, where HammSmith says, “Everyone finds their voice.” (Special Photo)

Hamm-Smith also won the New Jersey State Opera Auditions, the Mobile Opera Competition and received a study grant from Opera Index. Performing in the Houston Grand Opera’s touring production of “Porgy and Bess” was her first professional job. She said it remains one of her favorite operas for its “beautiful music” and because it took her around the world singing the roles of Serena and Bess. It was also in a production of this opera that she met her husband, Ronn. The two recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and are the parents of 14-year-old Jackson. After living for many years in New York, Hamm-Smith and her husband moved back to Georgia in 1999 so HammSmith could be near her mother and the rest of her family. She and her husband continued to travel and perform across the world, but home base was Conyers and especially so after Jackson came along. Motherhood was lifechanging, she said. Jackson was 3 and it was around


Christmastime and HammSmith was preparing to leave for a concert in China. “He said to me with those sweet little eyes, ‘Go to China and do your work and then come back for Christmas and then go back to China,’” Hamm-Smith said. “I called my producer and said, ‘He’s only going to be 3 once. I won’t be able to go to China.’ I had and have a clear idea of the kind of mother I want to be. … I had an idea of what motherhood looked like for me and wanted to do all those little things with him. That’s when I made the decision to stop traveling. My husband did the same soon after.” Ronn Smith is now retail manager for Cracker Barrel. But before she quit traveling, Hamm-Smith made her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s “Requiem” and later sang this work with the Knoxville Symphony. Through the years, she also performed Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9”, the RequiSee HERO, Page 33






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2019 profiles Jessica Lamb is helping survivors transform their lives By Larry Stanford Jessica Lamb, founder of Atlanta Redemption Ink (ARI), is a survivor of sex trafficking and drug abuse, and is helping other survivors get a new lease on life. ARI focuses on restoring dignity to survivors of exploitation, trauma and abuse by turning marks of hurt (tattoos, scars, burns) into depictions of hope, recovery and freedom. Lamb grew up in a loving Christian home in Gwinnett County. She started struggling academically in school and had a teacher tell her that she was a lost cause with no hope for the future. Lamb said those comments resonated within her for a long time. While she was in high school, her parents, both active in ministry, invited a man from their previous church who was going through a divorce to stay with them. Lamb said when she was 14 years old that man began sexually abusing her. “I buried a lot of shame from that and felt like I was to blame,” she said, “so I took it out through self-harm, and I started smoking pot and sneaking out from the house at night because I knew that was when he was going to come in my room.” Lamb began struggling to get along with her parents, and she began acting out and dropped out of high school. When she turned 17 she started looking for a job, thinking she could make it better on her own. She found a job advertising free room and board for customer service representatives. After talking with the man who placed the ad, the next time she left home she called him and said she needed the job. That began six months of terror. “I was lured in by a (sex) trafficker,” she said. “I drove to Griffin, and he told me that he wanted me

18 • JANUARY 2019

Jessica Lamb founded Atlanta Redemption Ink as a way to help the victims of sex trafficking, self harm or abuse heal their scars.

to see where I would stay, and I walked in. From that point, for six months I was trafficked throughout Atlanta. During that process, I was forced to get a tattoo to show ownership of me. I was there with two other girls, and we all had the same tattoo.” One night, Lamb told the man she couldn’t do it anymore and wanted to leave, and she was beaten. The next morning she was able to escape from the house to a nearby Salvation Army Center and they took her in and called the police. The sex trafficker never faced charges related to Lamb, but was later arrested and convicted of murder and is now serving a life sentence behind bars. Lamb hid at her grandmother’s, scared that the man was going to come after her. Lamb began using drugs to stay awake, fearful of going to sleep. She began doing heavier drugs and became addicted to methamphetamine by the time she was 18. For the next five years she moved from house to house and from one bad relationship to another. “I was 22 in 2007 when I was arrested in Rockdale and did three months in jail for possession of meth,” she said. “When I got out, I

A before and after trafficking cover.

went into rehab, and the day I got out, I walked into my new church in Conyers (The Father’s House) and met my husband. I was back on the streets again for another year, but in 2008 God reconnected me and my husband and we began dating. My husband and I married in 2011; our daughter was born in 2016.” In 2016 a friend paid for Lamb to get her tattoo covered. Her friend passed away in the spring of 2017, and Lamb wanted to pay her friend’s kindness forward by starting ARI. Lamb had also been volunteering since 2013 at 4Sarah, a nonprofit faith-based organization in Rockdale and Newton counties that empowers change in the life direction of exploited women and girls in the sex industry. Lamb said the founder, Kasey McClure, encouraged her to share her story and experiences. “I told her that I wanted to start this non-profit and she backed me up 100 percent,” said Lamb. “She helped me pursue it, and so between them and my church, I


started ARI. Kasey went with me to my first cover appointment. There were a lot of tears shed for this survivor experiencing freedom from her trafficker’s mark.” Initially, ARI began with just covering up trafficking tattoos, but word about the new organization quickly spread. “It started out as trafficking covers, then self-harm covers, and from that we started doing domestic violence covers,” said Lamb. “Recently, we’ve branched out into covering track marks on former drug abusers who have been in recovery for an extended amount of time. We also assist with former gang tattoos and hate marks, so if there is a racial slur or symbol on somebody, anything that projects hate, we cover them or we have the tattoo removed.” Lamb said victims seeking to have marks covered or removed must have a letter of recommendation from some type of recovery program, counselor or sponsor See REDEMPTION, Page 42

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2019 profiles

The sky’s the limit for Covington Municipal Airport Manager John King By Larry Stanford John King sees the Covington Municipal Airport being an integral part of the future growth of the city, and he is proud to be a part of it. King was named the airport manager in August 2017 following the retirement of Vincent Passariello. King is currently overseeing the widening and lengthening of the runway, as well as several other projects illustrating the growth of the airport. King was born and raised in Covington, graduating from Newton High School in 1991. After two years at Georgia College in Milledgeville, King joined the Navy for a six-year tour. While he got to see a lot of places he never would have been able to see otherwise, when he neared the end of his tour of duty, he decided it was time to come home. He got a job with General Cable Corporation in Athens. He soon learned that manufacturing was not the career for him and King moved on to work for Habitat for Humanity about a year, then for a couple of lumber companies. King got into parachuting as a hobby and later became a sky diving instructor. But around 2004, he decided he’d rather fly in the sky than fall out of it, so he moved to Eastman and started working on his private pilot’s license During a visit home in 2005, he ran into a girl he had gone to Newton High with and they started dating. That romance resulted in him moving back to Covington in May 2006 and looking for a job. Having had firefighting training in the Navy, in October he was hired by Newton County Fire Rescue. In November he and his girlfriend got married. Katy King is now an art teacher at General Ray Davis Middle School in Conyers, and

20 • JANUARY 2019

The future looks bright for Covington Municipal Airport Manager John King, as the airport begins a runway widening and lengthening project that will help bring more people and industries to Covington. (Staff Photo: Larry Stanford)

King gives her all the credit for his achievements. “I would attribute my success to my wife, because she’s the one who had pushed me. She’s supported all of my decisions with going back to school and my flying and my decision to apply for this job.” When he wasn’t on duty, King continued with his flight training and got his commercial pilot’s certificate. To earn a little extra money King decided to look for work at the airport, which was run by a private company at the time. He got a job as a line technician fueling airplanes, etc. In 2010 the city took over operations and hired everyone working at the airport. “In 2012 the city offered me a full-time job, which I took, primarily because I had gotten my commercial pilot’s certificate. We are open seven days a week at the airport. I had a handful of clients that I flew for on an irregular basis, but if they called and asked me to fly for them on a Wednesday, I could take that day off as one of my two days off a week. It was a really flexible schedule.” In 2015, King decided he wanted to finish his bachelor’s degree in aviation science. He found a program at Utah Valley University

that would credit his flight training. He got his degree in 2016 and decided to get his master’s degree in management at Troy University’s satellite campus in Covington. In August 2017 King received his degree. It was the same time that Passariello retired as airport manager. King applied and was selected as the new manager. King stepped into the role a month after the new airport terminal opened, and he has been on the move ever since. His biggest project to date is the widening and lengthening of the runway, including updating the runway lights. Total cost is $3.54 million, with federal funding through the Georgia Department of Transportation providing 75 percent of the cost. “The runway expansion is primarily for safety - a longer runway and wider runway is always going to be safer,” he said. “The runway is currently 5,500 feet. We’re going to extend it to 6,000 feet and widen it to 175 feet. “We’re not trying to attract bigger aircraft, but when aircraft are here, they will be able to take on more fuel,” added King. “I use Three Ring Studios as the scenario, since it is nearby. Most motion picture companies are headquartered in Los Angeles. So when they fly


their executives or their producers to Covington for the studio, when they leave, they’ll be able to take on enough fuel to get back to L.A., instead of having to stop threequarters of the way to get fuel. “Another reason for the expansion is when an industry is out looking for a place to call home, they look for where the nearest airport is, because their corporate executives don’t want to go to the Atlanta airport and stand in line for two hours and take their shoes off before they get on an airplane. They want to know that there is a place that they can have their jet come pick them up and take them back. From what I’ve been told, that is a deciding factor for a lot of companies. So we’re one spoke in the wheel of economic development.” King is also busy working with tenants of the hangars owned by the city and also of the office space in both the old and new terminals. Space in the new terminal was left for a restaurant, but when that didn’t work out, a local company called Aerodox rented it. Aerodox writes technical manuals for airlines. Since King took over, the airport has secured three commercial tenants, including Aerodox. Southern Air Group, an aircraft maintenance company, is in the old terminal, as is Goldberg Aviation, which does high-performance turbine training for many aircraft. Another business tenant hoping to be open in January is a flight school. King also works with aircraft owners renting the hangars. “We have tenants that rent the T-hangers from the city, and tenants that have land leases,” he said. “I think the best part for me at this airport is my relationship with the tenants and the people that come in,” he added. “We get really good reviews on a couple of the websites like AirNav.com and See SKY, Page 22

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2019 profiles

Laura Bertram finds her calling building strong, literate families in Newton County By Beth Slaughter Sexton When her husband lost his job, Laura Bertram was hoping to find a little part-time work to help her family get through a temporary rough patch. That was almost 30 years ago, and that little part-time job opened a door for Bertram she never knew existed. “I was privileged growing up,” she said. “I had two parents, a stable home life. So did my husband for the most part. So it was a total surprise to me that people did not have a stable and happy home life. I wasn’t aware that such things existed. As I became more aware, I began to understand more about the issues of poverty and what it can do to a family and how quickly we can be beset with poverty.” Bertram found that first job through her church and went to work right away for the local chapter of the American Red Cross. For 10 years, she served as executive director of the local chapter managing volunteers, conducting forums, establishing leadership partnerships, offering training for CPR and helping victims of fires. She also established relationships with state and regional administrations — a part of her work that would grow for the next 28 years in one capacity or another with other non-profits. A Newton County resident since 1984, Bertram continues to work tirelessly on behalf of the county and remains one of its staunchest supporters. “What I found with the Red

Laura Bertram has spent nearly three decades working to better the lives of Newton County residents. Today, she is executive director of the Newton County Community Partnership. The mission of the NCCP is to be the facilitator for family-focused collaborative partnerships that build strong, literate families and a thriving community. (Special Photo)

Cross is that I really loved working with volunteers and do to this day,” she said. “… I have seen the heart of this community come out and volunteer for everything from helping with literacy to the Boys and Girls Clubs. This community has a very open heart and willing hands.” Bertram left the Red Cross and went to work for the University of Georgia as an educational program specialist in the Department of Foods and Nutrition, where she helped develop two national awardwinning videos, including Lovin’ Spoonfuls: A Nutrition Education Program for Infants and Toddlers. In 2002, she began working with the Newton County Community Partnership (NCCP),

becoming its executive director in 2009, a position she still holds today. The mission of the NCCP is to be the facilitator for familyfocused collaborative partnerships that build strong, literate families and a thriving community. Part of the Georgia Family Connections Initiatives and Certified Literate Community program for the county, the non-profit provides training and evaluation, directs volunteers for adult literacy and engages leadership and funding for programming. Bertram said she and her co-worker, Mollie Melvin, find strong support from NCCP’s board of directors, adding that Chairman David Ozburn is “just a very compassionate and caring person.” A certified Nurturing Parenting Trainer, Bertram serves on advisory boards for Opportunity Community, Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s Adult Literacy and Early Childhood Literacy, Newton County’s Resource Courts, The Truancy Prevention Initiative, the Community Health Improvement Plan and the 21st Century Aftershool Program. Her educational credits are extensive, including a psychology degree from Troy University with other studies at Stetson University, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and Syracuse University. She has numerous designations, including that of certified substance abuse prevention specialist and is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. After almost three decades serv-

ing the community, Bertram still speaks with urgency and concern for the children who will go to school she says almost doomed to fail. She and Melvin stay concerned about the 30 percent of children under age 5, living in low-income homes who will not be in a pre-K seat. She said while the state lottery pays for early learning, there is not enough money and those not able to go to pre-K face what professionals call “the 30-million word gap.” Children by the age of 3, who live in low-income homes, hear 30 million fewer words than other children, Bertram explained. “That’s not talking; that’s hearing,” she said. “So by the time they come to school, it’s like speaking German or French … We go into homes and work with moms so they learn how to play with their child and read with their child. Read, sing, laugh, hug and play with your baby once a day and that child will be ready for school. I want to put that up on a banner.” Bertram has always loved to read and gets excited to share books with her three grandchildren, whom she and her husband Bob see every chance they get. Nathan and Bri Bertram of Covington have Kendall, 6, and Georgia, 2. Micah and Charlotte Bertram Lancaster live on St. Simons Island with their son, John Bertram Lancaster, 4, who was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer last year. Bertram said she is thankful for everyone in the community who has been praying for him and asks they pray for his continued recovery.

Sky ForeFlight.com. People fly in and they can rate their experience by stars. We have good reviews. “We’re going to be seeing some more growth here soon.

22 • JANUARY 2019

We’ve got letters of intent to build more hangars. It is not cheap to build a hangar. There is a lot that goes into it, especially planning. Since we receive federal funds,

any of the plans that people want to build on the airport have to go through our engineering consulting firm to get approved.” When he is not busy at the


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2019 profiles Shenan Griffin volunteers with the Henry County Humane Society. She’s pictured with her dogs and her rescues. (Special Photo)

Henry resident’s passion leads to saving animals’ lives By Heather Middleton Shenan Griffin loves animals. She grew up in Florida helping her grandmother nurse baby bunnies, squirrels and opossums back to health. “My grandmother was a volunteer with the Department of Agriculture, so as a child we always had things like that in our house,” Griffin said. “There was never a problem when I brought a stray home.” Griffin followed in her grandmother’s footsteps as she grew into adulthood, though instead of bunnies and squirrels, it’s cats

26 • JANUARY 2019

When Shenan Griffin rescued Dash he was heartworm positive and scared of his own shadow. He’s since been treated for health and personality challenges and lives in Chicago. (Special Photo)

and dogs. For several years, she’s dedicated her time to rescuing animals independently and the last five with the Henry County Humane Society.

“Working with the homeless animals is a passion very dear to me,” Griffin said. Over the last two years she’s headed up the Humane Society’s


fundraisers and photographed animals for the shelter’s annual calendar as well as fostering dogs. “I’m a firm believer they bring us a lot of happiness,” she said of the animals. Though, she said it’s satisfying work, it comes with its fair share of heartache. “You have to be strong willed,” she said. “We can’t save them all, but must save all we can. The rewards outweigh the sadness.” Of all the animals she’s helped save, Griffin said two stand out. The first is Dash, a heartworm See PASSION, Page 29



JANUARY 2019 • 27

28 • JANUARY 2019


2019 profiles

Sarah Billups a strong voice for the power of the vote By Robin Kemp Sarah Billups knows the value of the vote. As the community coordinator for the Henry County branch of the NAACP, Billups says she can’t count the number of people she’s registered. Born in Ellisville, Ala., she says, “I grew up with “Black” and “White” signs. My mother had to go to the back door of people’s houses when she was cooking and feeding their kids, and they didn’t want to use the same bread pack.” Her mother was a member of the NAACP at a time and place that doing so was very dangerous. “My mom joined the NAACP and got my membership when I was still a kid,” she said. “So it’s not that she didn’t know. It was an environment where you had to be very careful with the things you did.” The family moved to New York, where she credits her mentor, Charlie Gray, with bringing her into the NAACP and training her as a community organizer for voting rights: “If you live in a place, you have to be invested in a place. You’ve got to give back,” she said. The first time she voted, she was 19.

Sarah Billups demonstrates her enthusiasm for voting during a registration drive in Henry County. Billups, who is the community coordinator for the Henry County branch of the NAACP, said she learned at a young age the importance of voting. (Special Photo)

“I just feel very strongly that your voice is your vote. That’s the only voice that we actually have to effect changes in the political world, and everyone needs to exercise that voice. It is a right, not a privilege —not just for people of color. Before, it was women who were not allowed to vote.” Billups is a licensed clinical social worker who earned a master’s degree from Adelphi University and was named Suffolk County Social Worker of the Year in 2005 and New York State Social Worker of the Year in 2006.

Those skills serve her well at the registration table, where voter registration is partly about getting people to sign up and partly about getting them to follow through at the polls. “It depends upon who you’re talking to, the approach you take,” Billups explained. “But the one thing that’s irrefutable is that every single vote counts. You can’t always convince people. I’ve had people who refuse and say, ‘I’m not gonna do that,’ but that’s a very ignorant attitude.” For example, she says, “You know elections are won by one

vote. And they’re doing a coin toss right now in states where people came in with the exact same number of votes. That has to be the message. Every vote counts. It doesn’t matter who you talk to or what kind of promises they make, but a vote counts.” She encourages young people who want to engage potential voters “to get involved with some of the local groups in the communities: youth groups, NAACP, National Council of Negro women. You know I’m coming from an African-American perspective, so I’m going to be looking at groups we have created that have had a real role in changing our destiny.” Billups remembers taking her mother to vote for the first time in New York in the 1970s. “In Alabama, people were not encouraged to vote. We were very poor. My mother had a fourthgrade education and worked hard all of her life, and we lived in an environment where people didn’t see us as first-class citizens. So I sincerely believe in voting. I’m a voting advocate.” For anyone still on the fence about whether his or her vote actually counts, Billups says, “Things changed because people put their lives on the line for them to change. They must vote.”

Passion positive puppy found wandering the streets, who was energetic, mischievous and “scared of his own shadow.” During his time with her, Griffin was able to help Dash become less fearful of the world around him, including humans. Once his personality issues were under control and his heartworms were treated, Griffin posted a photo of him online. “A dear friend of mine in Chicago had been following Dash’s story and felt a connection

to him,” she said. Turns out Dash resembled her friend’s childhood dog and even had the same name. “Our dilemma was getting him from Georgia to Illinois,” she said. With the help of friends and fellow animal lovers, Griffin was able to get Dash to his new home. “He is now living happily ever after, and I’m always getting updates,” she said. The second rescue that stands out is Reba, a pregnant dog who had been shot. As Reba was

recovering from her wounds, she gave birth to three puppies. Griffin said she quickly found homes for the babies, but nobody seemed interested in giving Reba a forever home. Again, through social media, a friend in Michigan saw Reba and knew instantly she wanted to adopt Reba. But just like with Dash, distance was a problem. Like before, friends rallied and money was raised to send Reba to Michigan. “She is living the life of


luxury on the lake and even has a little sister to spend time with,” Griffin said. Griffin said it’s success stories like these that make the effort worth it. “I’m a huge animal lover, and I’m happy to be part of the Humane Society,” she said. Griffin lives on a 10-acre farm in Locust Grove with her husband of 13 years, Rodney, where they care for goats, chickens and four dogs.

JANUARY 2019 • 29

2019 profiles

Beverly Barnes has volunteered with Haven House for 16 years, nine of those spent managing the shelter’s Blessings Thrift Store. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

Blessings Thrift Store helps domestic violence victims start a new life By Heather Middleton

similar to a college dorm. Katie Tucker, Haven House executive According to the Geordirector, said the facility serves gia Commission on Family about 700 residential clients and Violence, 121 people died as a 800 outreach clients. result of domestic violence in Many of those fleeing their 2016 and more than 53,000 calls situations often leave with only were made to the state’s domes- the clothes on their back. That’s tic violence agencies seeking where Haven House’s Blessings help. Thrift Store comes in to help. For those who need to escape The store, run by Haven a violent situation in Henry House volunteers, accepts donaCounty, many times that call for tions of all kinds — from clothhelp is made to Haven House, ing to household goods, kitchen a domestic violence shelter in items, furniture and appliances McDonough — it’s all needed to help abuse Haven House offers a safe Household goods and decor line the hallway at Blessings Thrift place for up to 50 residents, See BLESSINGS, Page 32 Store in McDonough. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

30 • JANUARY 2019





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2019 profiles Blessings

victims start a new life. “They receive everything for free, and everything is needed,” Tucker said. Items not needed by residents are sold at the thrift shop. Tucker said 100 percent of monies and donations come right back into the community to help those in need. “We help people with doctors appointments, medications and obtaining things like identification and birth certificates or even gas money for relocation,” she said. Those in need also receive counseling and help from legal advocates if needed. “Our outreach component is significant,” Tucker said. “We have three legal advocates on staff that can help with things like obtaining a temporary protection order. Beverly Barnes has been a

Haven House’s Blessings Thrift Store is located at 86 Workcamp Road in McDonough. The shop is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

volunteer at Haven House for 16 years, with nine of those managing Blessings. She said the store is very much needed in the community. “Many of our customers need this store,” she said. “We help a lot of different people, especially those in the shelter.”

Bric-a-brac and decor are a few of the items available for purchase at Blessings Thrift Store. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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off at Blessings Thrift Store, 86 Workcamp Road in McDonough, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Depending on the location, pick ups can be arranged. For more information, visit www.henryhavenhouse.org or www.blessingsthriftstore.com.

2019 profiles Hero

em of Brahms, Mozart, Foure, Poulenc’s “Gloria,” Handel’s “Messiah” and many works of Vivaldi and others. Her Metropolitan Opera credits include “Porgy and Bess,” “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” and “Parsifal.” She appeared in the New Jersey State Opera’s production of “Nabucco” and debuted as Donna Anno in “Don Giovanni” with the Chatauqua Opera. She made her San Francisco Opera debut in the world premiere of “Dead Man Walking,” receiving excellent reviews for her portrayal of Sister Rose, which she recorded on the Erato label. Hamm-Smith has also performed with the Atlanta Symphony as the countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and other works. She performed in Off Broadway productions and once even sang backup for

New Kids on the Block. This past fall Hamm-Smith played the role of Ursula in Theatre Covington’s “Once On This Island” production. She said she enjoyed it and might do more acting if invited to do so. “I’m just trying to live a full life and use every skill God has given me while glorifying him in the process,” Hamm-Smith said. “I want everything I say and do to be a good representation of what God is to me. I feel very strongly about how we want God to say, ‘Well done.’ I really do. I want God to say to me, ‘Well done.’” Hamm-Smith continues to share her many talents as she teaches others to sing at Bella Musica — which means “Beautiful Music” in Italian — the music studio she opened

in Olde Town in 2015. She teaches voice from a classical music technique, and students are also able to learn piano from instructor Angie Bobbitt. Voice lessons are offered for adults and children age 10 and older, and piano is for adults and children age 7 and older. She enjoys spending time with her large family of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, and especially her sister, Valerie Hamm, who introduced Hamm-Smith to her love of music and who was an opera singer herself. The two sisters traveled and performed together on stages around the world. Valerie now works for Georgia State and sings with the Atlanta Opera Chorus. Their sister, Sharon Hamm, is a retired respiratory therapist, and the three sisters remain best friends and close with


all three within 15 minutes of each other. They had a brother, Gregory, who is now deceased. Hamm-Smith said she enjoys living in a community where people have known her all her life and where she still talks to friends, teachers and other mentors who influenced her through the years. One good friend, fellow Conyers resident Paula Estes is the illustrator for the Hero books. “I feel a heart responsibility to give back to the community where I live,” HammSmith said. “It’s a great place, and I want children to know people love them. … As the mom of a young boy and trying to instill a work ethic, tenacity and stick-to-it-ness, I was really inspired by Hero. … That little rooster will never know the impact he has had on me.”

JANUARY 2019 • 33


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2019 profiles Henry college student one of county’s leading voices on transportation By Joe Adgie

which provides an in-depth look at transportation projects ongoThe committee responsible ing in Henry County, including for the next Special Purpose projects conducted by the Georgia Local Option Sales Tax program Department of Transportation and in Henry County is headed by a the county. 22-year-old student of Clayton “Moving Henry Forward is State University. meant to let residents know about Clayton Carte, a political sciClayton Carte is the head of the everything going on transportaence junior at Clayton State, heads Henry County SPLOST Commit- tion-wise in Henry County,” Carte tee. (Staff Photo: Joe Adgie) up the committee that oversees said. “We have a lot of projects everything from how much the is such a vital program, when the happening and not a lot of coverprogram will cost to what projects question was raised who wanted age on those projects.” will be included in the next to be chair, I was quick to raise Many of those projects, Carte SPLOST, which will come before my hand because I see the value said, are in the preliminary stages voters in November. of SPLOST, and I really want to of development. “I’m very blessed that county do as much as I can to make sure “Moving Henry Forward is Chairwoman June Wood took an we have the best set of projects.” focused on letting the residents interest in me and wanted to help For Carte, one of the leading know about all of those projects,” me succeed,” Carte said. “I’m experts in transportation in Henry, Carte said. “It has grown since its fortunate she appointed me to the the seat of committee chair was initial concept.” SPLOST Committee to represent a natural fit. Carte runs a website For example, last year, Carte Henry County, and since SPLOST called “Moving Henry Forward.” worked on the land use committee

for the county’s comprehensive plan. Since then, Carte has started covering rezoning proposals as they also affect transportation projects in the county. “I’ve always had an interest in transportation, but around 2016, I started to research the SPLOST program, not only within Henry, but within the state, and what GDOT was doing with the transportation funding. I noticed they’re doing a lot in Henry County, but no one was talking about that.” Carte said he wanted to inform the people of Henry County on the different transportation projects ongoing in the county, even if they hadn’t seen the work underway. For example, Carte said the See VOICES, Page 38

Charlotte Joy feeds students’ minds and souls By Hunter Terrell

Chef competition and was selected as a sponsor for FCCLA where “I have always wanted to teach she took her students to state comand pour into young folks; help petitions on multiple occasions. shape their future,” said Charlotte After showing hard work and Joy, a Newton College and Career exemplary success through her stuAcademy CTAE culinary arts dents at Redan, Joy was recruited instructor. to join the Newton County School Joy has been an educator for 35 System in 2015. years, starting her career as middle “I aspire to help my students school family and consumer sciany way I can,” said Joy. “I want to ence teacher in Vero Beach, Fla., show them how to be respectable until 1992, when she relocated to models for each other because a DeKalb County at Redan High lot of kids don’t have that at home. School and finally ended up in Whatever expectations I have for Covington at the Newton College them individually, I make sure to and Career Academy in 2015. model it for them — to let them “I realized early on that I am know I care.” blessed to do what I am able to Joy graduated from Murray do,” said Joy. “I love to teach.” State University with a bachWhile at Redan, Joy won elor’s degree in home economics, Teacher of the Year twice, won received her master’s in education several trophies in the county Iron from Troy University and received

Charlotte Joy was recruited to join the Newton College and Career Academy in 2015. NCCA Director Chad Walker and co-worker Chef Scott Quinlan are very impressed with Joy’s hard work. “We are beyond grateful to have an instructor with her passion, professionalism and experience in our school,” said Walker. Joy was recently named NCCA’s CTAE Teacher of the Year.

her culinary certification from Johnson and Wales University. “We are beyond grateful to have an instructor with her passion, professionalism and experience in our school,” said Chad Walker, NCCA director. After being named Employee of the Month and NCCA CTAE Teacher of the Year, Joy is now in the running for being the 2018-19 NCCA Teacher of the Year. “Coming to the Newton Career Academy gave me the opportunity


to look at teaching from a different perspective,” said Joy. “A regular high school doesn’t focus on the professional aspects like a career academy does; we try to expose our students to what really goes on in the industry.” Joy is also frequently requested to cater events and used to bring students along with her to help them gain experience. Now that she is older and has kept in touch See JOY, Page 39

JANUARY 2019 • 35

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2019 profiles

Myricks makes impact by expanding his toolbox By Darryl Maxie Dary Myricks was maybe a year out of high school when he realized he could be a differencemaker. “Jeffery had this book where you fill in the blanks and one of the questions asked, ‘Who’s your hero?’ And he had my name beside it,” Myricks said. “That’s when I realized that the way you carry yourself and what you do matters. I started trying to make sure I spent quality time with him. Usually, I would find my buddies and take off.” Jeffery Myricks was in sixth grade at the time, but the impact remains. He turned 35 this month, and is an assistant football coach on his brother’s staff at Jackson High School. “I always wanted to be like my big brother,” Jeffery said. “I wanted to play football because he played football. I got into coaching because he’s a coach. How he treated his kids is how I treat my kids. He’s a great reason why I am the man I am today.” At 42, and for as long as that number grows, Dary Myricks intends to be one of the reasons why many become the adults that they become. He chased his pro football dreams through a preseason camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars, through stints in the Arena Football League with the Georgia Force, the Carolina Cobras and the Detroit Fury. But he’s doing this in Jackson, his

is the one that helped Dary — and a whole lot of other young men — to realize they had potential. They saw him as coach and teacher, but also a businessman as the owner of an insurance company. Known for his no-nonsense demeanor, Johnson would round up young men in a van and tour colleges. “He didn’t ask us; he told us,” Dary said. It was one thing to tell them what they could be; Johnson drove them to the places where they could take the next steps in their developDary Myricks strives to be a positive influence on young people, ment: Fort Valley State, Albany both on the football field and within the walls of Jackson High State and other historically black School. (Staff Photo: Michael Davis) colleges and universities along hometown, because of Jeffery. over, it was crystal clear what the way. “Actually, he was the reason I wanted to do,” Dary said. They became dentists and I came back,” Dary said. It was Thirteen years later, he became pastors, good husbands and fa2000, the Jaguars had released Jackson’s head coach. thers — positive impacts on their him early, and Dary decided to That said, the coach doesn’t community. stop in and check on Jeffery, define himself by football. “All of us, without a doubt, who was in high school. Then“Football is a tool, just like a owe it to Obie Johnson,” Dary head coach Mike Parris saw hammer and nail,” he said. said. Dary and chatted him up. As a Eventually, Dary sees himself Dary Myricks continues to recent graduate of The Citadel, broadening his impact as school pay it forward because his posiDary was still weighing his opadministrator, maybe even a tion makes it possible. Because tions — NFL Europe or maybe principal. “I know I can’t be a of his mom, whom he never something involving his business football coach forever,” he said. wanted to disappoint. “I ask kids degree? — when Parris asked For now, he’s a high school who the person in their life is him, “How ‘bout coaching some graduation specialist and takes that they don’t want to let down football while you wait?” more pride in a non-athlete’s and I’m amazed when they say, Red Devil fans of long good report card than he does a ‘Nobody.’ “ memory know how that turned good pancake block or a touchThe late evangelist Billy out. Jackson had its best season down. Graham once said, “A coach will impact more people in one year ever, 12-2, reaching the Class Dary models himself after a AAA semifinals at the Georgia “legend” Jackson residents likely than the average person does in an entire lifetime.” Dary Myricks Dome where they lost to state know well — Obie Johnson, is counting on that as he keeps runner-up Fitzgerald. the former Henderson Middle moving forward. “By the time the season was School football coach. Johnson

Voices county has more major road widening projects in the works than the rest of the state. “We have about six corridors, approximately $300 million programmed within the next five years of GDOT’s work program,” Carte said. When those projects go to

38 • JANUARY 2019

construction, it will represent around 20 miles of state and local highways. While Carte would like to see transportation projects advanced for the upcoming SPLOST, he stressed it was up to members of the Henry County public in meetings throughout the year, leading

up to the possible sales tax being on the ballot in November. “The public are our eyes and ears,” Carte said. “They sit in traffic across the county.” The SPLOST Committee hosts meetings throughout the year across the county; the meetings are free and open to


the public. During the meetings, members of the Henry County public are encouraged to submit ideas and ask questions of Carte and the rest of the SPLOST Committee members. Moving Henry Forward can be found at www.movinghenryforward.org.

2019 profiles

Piedmont Henry volunteer makes sure auxiliary runs smoothly By Robin Kemp Beverly do Carmo is allergic to bees. But a bee sting five years ago now has do Carmo buzzing around with about 130 other volunteers at Piedmont Henry Hospital. “I moved to Georgia about five years ago from Massachusetts,” do Carmo explained. “I’ve always volunteered wherever I live. I went to Piedmont Urgent Care for a bee sting — I’m allergic to bees — and on the counter, they have “We Need Volunteers.” I said, ‘oh, that sounds like a good place to work, Piedmont Henry Hospital, I’ll give it a try.’ So I did, and I’ve been here ever since.” A retired management analyst for the U.S. Army and mother of three who lives with her daughter in McDonough, do Carmo enjoys eating out, watching movies and reading. She volunteers about 20 hours a week at the hospital. She started out in the hospital gift gallery, then took on special projects like blood drives. “Every time they needed a volunteer, I did extra volunteering,” she said. Now, as president of the volunteers, she still works the gift gallery and the information desk. “When you assume the president’s responsibilities, it gets to be

Beverly do Carmo works as an auxiliary volunteer at Piedmont Henry Hospital. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

almost like a job,” she said. Those responsibilities include “making sure the auxiliary runs smoothly. Solving problems takes up a lot of time. We have orientation for new volunteers, and we have to make sure they get placed in new positions. Doing our fundraisers and making sure we have people in charge of these areas. But I have to make sure that everything runs smoothly.” She has a lot of help. Although the number fluctuates, do Carmo says, roughly 130 volunteers are active at the hospital. “All our volunteers are required to work a minimum four-hour week in a particular area,” she explained. “Once they get used to that area, if they want to take on another day, they

can, and if they want to change from the area they’re working, they can also do that after about two months.” At the hub of it all is the information desk. “You come in at 8 o’clock, you clean up your area, you get your phones, you turn your phones on, and then once you turn your phones on, you’re busy,” she said. “The phones start ringing. Family members are calling in for the room numbers of their patient, or pastors are calling in for room numbers, or health care are checking on patients. So you get busy doing all of that, and there are patients coming in the door, wanting to know where to go. So you send them in the direction that’s where they need to go.” The reward is knowing that she and the other volunteers were there to lend a hand during painful, frightening, stressful and even joyous times. “When volunteers come to me now that I’m president, and they tell me of their experiences that they helped a patient get through, say, the emergency room, and the patient is so thankful that there was a volunteer to help them, I get those stories every day, of our volunteers helping different patients doing things,” do Carmo said. “We had one volunteer dur-

ing the hurricane, I think it was Hurricane Michael we just had down in Florida, and we had all the evacuees come up here,” she said. “Well, there was one patient that came here and we had one volunteer on the desk over here, Sandy. The patient came to us saying she was ready to give birth, but she was an evacuee. She was living with some family member in Georgia here, and she was ready to deliver.” The woman asked a few questions about the hospital, then turned to leave with her two children. “But Sandy noticed that she was really ready to deliver! And Sandy went over to see her and said ‘no, don’t leave yet, don’t leave yet, you need to see a doctor, you need to see the nurses.’ So she convinced her.” What’s the hardest part of volunteering at Piedmont Henry? “I really don’t think there’s a hard part to doing this job,” do Carmo said. “It’s just your willingness to volunteer, and that you’re sincere about volunteering, love what you’re doing, and I don’t find it difficult at all. I just love meeting people and helping people. That’s my goal, is to help everyone, and I just enjoy meeting and helping everyone.”

Joy with several graduates, she is able to give them real recommendations. “I have kept in touch with many of my past students,” said Joy. “I know one young lady I taught owns her own catering business, another is opening her own bakery right here in town and she is only 23 years old. Those who come to me with the desire to do culinary, I try to feed into that desire and expose them and encourage them.” “Chef Joy was one of the best

teachers I ever had,” said Marcus Slater, former NCCA student who is further pursuing his culinary dream of becoming a chef. “I have never had a instructor more passionate, driven or dedicated to her students. She puts in a lot of hard work.” Every day, Joy greets her students at the door with a handshake and leaves them just the same. “When I think about culinary arts and teaching, I like to feed the student, but I also like to feed their soul and their mind,” said

Joy. “Because you can feed their bodies, but there may still be a part missing. You can look at a kid and just know you have to dig a little deeper.” Joy grew up on a farm in Brooklyn, Ill., with her aunt, uncle and cousins and said they “raised everything but cornflakes.” While in school, Joy started as a busser at a restaurant owned by the L.A. Dodgers, only to start serving two weeks later. As a little more time passed, she went to managing the dining room, doing


payroll “the whole nine,” said Joy. “That’s when I realized I wanted to combine my love for teaching with my love for food.” “I’m plain and simple,” said Joy. “I love my students, my husband, my church and the beach. Life has been a good journey so far, and I am grateful to be able to get up, go to work and love what I do.” Within the next two or three years, Joy hopes to retire from education and pursue her next career as a health inspector.

JANUARY 2019 • 39

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2019 profiles

Hospital exec is a giver to family, friends and community By Beth Slaughter Sexton She started out as the voice on the other end of the line. “Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?” After moving from Baltimore, Md., to live with her sister in Georgia, Lisa Johnson landed a job as a 911 operator for Henry County. Taking those calls put her at the forefront of saving lives, and while she is no longer answering such emergencies, she still stands firmly on the front lines of saving lives. Johnson is now the vice president and chief nursing officer (CNO) for WellStar Spalding Regional and Sylvan Grove Hospitals. Tasked with making sure residents in the Griffin-Spalding and Jackson-Butts County communities have safe, quality patient health care, Johnson offers years of leadership and support for her nursing teams. At 16, Johnson and her best friend served as volunteer candy stripers for the Greater Baltimore Medical Center where she had her first experience working in a hospital and her first thoughts about becoming a nurse. “My mother thought it was hysterical,” Johnson said. “She’s deceased now, but she always thought it was so ironic because I always screamed bloody murder going to the doctor and dentist.” Johnson got her degree from Gordon State College in Barnesville and took her nursing boards in 1996. She continued to pursue her education and received a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2010, followed by a

always been personal for her, but in March 2017, it became even more so. She was diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer. “I’ve been that patient in the bed after surgery with a terrible diagnosis,” she said. “But today, knock on wood, I’m good. Health care is complex, but even myself being a nurse 23 years, everything else shuts down and you become a patient. When it’s you or your family, after they say the word cancer, everything else kind of stops. “Navigating health care in today’s society is tumultuous to Lisa Johnson strives to give back to her community, whether it’s through say the least. As a patient, as an her work in health care or in civic life. (Staff Photo: Michael Davis) advocate, as a nurse, we have a master’s in nursing from Walden Henry. The Johnsons are the par- responsibility to be advocates, University in Baltimore. ents of Kevin, 26, and Nicholas, educators and at the end of the day, we want patients to have a She brings 23 years of nurs16. good experience. We want to be ing experience to her role at Active in the Rotary Club WellStar Spalding and Sylvan and on the board of Partners for empathetic and that listening ear when we need to be … SomeGrove. During her tenure, Smart Growth, Mrs. Johnson Johnson was promoted from said it is important to participate times just being nice to someone and taking the time to sit and charge nurse in the emergency in community events for her listen means so much.” department to emergency depart- personally, as well as for the Her diagnosis and subsequent ment manager in 2003, and then hospital system, adding that the operation meant the removal of assistant director of nursing hospital takes part in numertwo thirds of her esophagus and service in 2004. She became ous events from fall festivals to the top third of her stomach, director of nursing services in Christmas parades. leaving her stomach now sitting 2005. Johnson was named CNO “We are a community hosatop her diaphragm. in 2013 and in October of 2018, pital at the heart of everything “It’s a new normal,” Johnson she was promoted to CNO of we do …” she said. “For me said. “I have to eat differently. Spalding Regional Hospital personally, I’ve always been a while still managing her role at giver. Always been a fixer. I feel Sleep differently. It’s ongoing. Every six months I have to have Sylvan Grove Hospital. the most joy when I’m giving a procedure to see where I am. As her career continued back, so for me being a part of I’m doing well. Part of the reaits upward trajectory, so did the community and especially son I took this job at Spalding is Johnson’s personal life. While working in health care and the after being faced with your own working as a 911 operator, she hospital, I just feel an inherent mortality, when these opportunimet her husband, Brad Johnson, calling to give back and be a a Henry County firefighter. After loyal servant. Helping people get ties come up — I thought this was the best time for me to grow 30 years with the fire departaccess to health care, navigate ment, Mr. Johnson, a Jackson and get what they need is really as a leader. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Seize the native, is now deputy county important to me.” day. Seize the opportunity.” manager and safety director for Johnson said her work as


JANUARY 2019 • 41

2019 profiles Redemption

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2019 Profiles  

2019 Profiles