Searcy Living Issue 6 2017-2018

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issue 6 2017

The Writing On The Wall 14 Marta: Just A Common Heroine


The Path Back Home 48 A Name For Life 54 A Unique Bond 58 Duck Hunting In Arkansas


The Whisper Of Wings And The Building Of Bridges 62 John Paul Capps 76

Publisher’s Note 10

“Devote yourself to your community around you and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” ~ Mitch Albom

Over The Counter 16 We The People 18 Out & About 38


Financial Focus 40 Imagine & Believe 68

On the Cover Robert Jenkins Photo by george dillin 501-268-9304 9

Where Is My Village? You’ve heard it said that it takes a village.”

However, recently I learned that villages are built with intention. They need to be thought out, invested in and planned. And yet, along the way there will also be people that cross your path that you didn’t even know were supposed to be a part of your village… but they were. They were always meant to be a part of it, you just didn’t see it before. I am pretty sure my life looks a lot different than that of most people. Some things are by choice and others are by consequence, but it always seems to work out with lots of lessons learned and, sometimes, a plethora of miracles. My journey with orphan care has been both tough and rewarding; both connecting and lonely. At times I have been so amazed by the community’s outpouring of caring; and, honestly, other times I have been shocked at the lack of concern. We should, of course, grieve and help families that have lost loved ones due to accidents and illness, but God help us to never forget the children who just have no one and no hope of anything except a stranger who may or may not come along and care. Those kids really need a village. Recently, I had a surgery that really took me down, and then an emergency surgery a week later. So here I am, Ms. Independent, and suddenly I am helpless, hopeless and at a loss as to what to even do with basic everyday responsibilities. You see, for years I connected so well with the plight of the orphan, because I truly do understand how it feels to live in a place where everyone has sisters, brothers, cousins and other family, and I do not. There might be a sense of great loss that comes from that, but it also gave me an empathy that I thank God for. It’s sometimes a bittersweet gift, but still a very cherished one.

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The days and weeks after surgery made me so appreciative of these friends and co-workers who stepped in as family [and kept the magazine going]. They took care of my children, brought me food, and several even sat and waited for the surgery to be over and met with the surgeon afterward to get the report. That simple act of giving a few hours to wait for my surgery to be over took away so much fear that I would have experienced just being there alone. The days of recovery were still tough, and sometimes lonely. But, it gave me time to reflect on my village. It also helped me to realize that everyone needs one. Even those surrounded by biological family. Even those that we take for granted are ok. So, where is my village? It is where I build it, with my investment and care into others. I am sure there are plenty of times I have failed at that, but this experience has really made me more aware. I have lots of goals for this next year. I am even excited about about where some of these goals might lead. However, one of my many goals this next year is to strengthen my village by investing in others, because everyone needs a a great village. Because not only do I want mine to grow and be strengthened, I want to invest in the strength of others’ villages. As always, thank you for reading Searcy Living.

Remember The Extras On 11

Publisher Christine Walker

Art Director & Webmaster Garrett Johnson

Editorial Assistant Cherie Sewell

Makeover Coordinator Evelyn Moss Contributing Independent Photographers Kimberly Brackins (501)279-1515 George Dillin (501)268-9304 Taylor Howard Photography (870)917-8012

Feature Writer Cecelia Wilson

Searcy Living Locally Owned and Operated 812 South Main Street Searcy, AR 72143 (501) 368-0095 For subscription information go to

Copyright 2017 Shark Promotions LLC. Searcy Living, Cabot Living, and Your Hometown Magazine are trademarks of Shark Promotions. All rights reserved. Ownership, rights, and logos are property of their respected businesses. No part may be reproduced without written permission. Shark Promotions LLC is not responsible for claims, misprints, discrepancies, advice of any kind, or content in advertisements or editorials, but will rectify errors in forthcoming issues.

Copyright Š 2017 Shark Promotions LLC

Searcy Living Magazine is a subsidiary of Shark Promotions LLC.

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“Don't write on the walls.” As young children into these messages for Shalanda and her daughters, Shaniyah and this is something we are taught, with the lesson usually coming Marshae. after we have drawn a masterpiece scribble with a crayon or Realizing it was perfectly acceptable to write on the walls, pen on the walls of our own home. We quickly learn this is not Marshea wrote her own message of thanksgiving on the wall of the socially acceptable. room that will be hers. She wrote, Marshae Poe, age 9, knows this, “Lord, it has been a good day. Our too. But this day was an exception to house is almost done and people “In one day they put in place that rule, not only for Marshae, but came to help. Love, Marshae for everyone that poured love into her 2-25-17.” every board and nail necessary home. Participating in putting the for the walls to be up and the On February 25, 2017, Habitat walls into place brought a sense for Humanity of White County, AR of accomplishment and pleasure roof rafters on.” assembled a group of volunteers, and as this group's writings were family and friends of the Poe family to then seen standing in place all help raise the walls on her new home. throughout the home and in the In one day they put in place every roof. Shalanda and her daughters board and nail necessary for the walls will wake up every day knowing to be up and the roof rafters on. they are surrounded by love, prayers and well wishes. Every night, What an exciting time for Habitat for Humanity's partner family, no matter what kind of day they have had, they will still know that the Poes, as they watched a concrete slab become a house! A house they are surrounded by love and prayers and well wishes in the for them. A place of stability. A place to call home. house that love built. Before the walls were in place, the volunteers were given a Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, volunteer based organization sharpie marker and asked to write blessings, congratulations and and an equal housing builder. If you or someone you know would well wishes on the boards. Everyone was eager to pen their love like to inquire about qualifying for a new home and are willing to 14 Your Hometown Magazine

partner with Habitat for Humanity, please feel free to contact our administrator, Leigh Anne Hawthorne, at 501-268-5589 to set up an appointment. If you or your church, youth or social groups are interested in volunteering, please feel free to contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Kathy Lowrey, at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore located at 3207 E. Race Ave. in Searcy, or phone (501)268-5589 for more information.  Back Row: Rick Eichhorn - Habitat for Humanity of White Co. Executive Director, Leigh Anne Hawthorne - Administrator, Habitat for Humanity of White Co. Partner Homeowners - The Carpenters. Front Row: The Poe family

“...they are surrounded by love and prayers and well wishes in the house that love built.”  The Poe Family: Marshae, Shaniyah, and Shalanda 15

Over the Counter Rodney G. Richmond, RPh, MS, CGP, FASCP Harding University College of Pharmacy

Physical Inactivity – Let’s Start a New Year’s Resolution Today! By Randy Dumornay, PharmD Candidate, and Rodney G. Richmond, RPh, MS, BCGP, FASCP New Years is right around the corner so it’s time to draft up some New Year’s resolutions, right? Well, why wait until New Years to get started on a lifestyle change that can help you lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, spend more time with family, and be less stressed? Let’s get more active today! According to the American Heart Association, being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke, Arkansas’s No.1 and No.4 causes of death. They suggest 30 minutes, five times a week as an easy goal to remember. They also state that you will experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10–15 minutes per day. Furthermore, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention goes on to say that regular physical activity is one of the most

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important things you can do for your health. It can help: control your weight, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, reduce your risks of some cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mental health and mood, improve your ability to do daily activities and prevents falls, and increase your chances of living longer. I know that this sounds too good to be true but let’s give it a try. Just make sure to start slowly and talk with your doctor to find out if you have any limiting conditions, in any way, of your ability to be active. Ultimately, the health benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks of you getting hurt. 17

Visit our Unity Health - White County Medical Center campus to join the conversation on heart health in our community! On the first floor, take a photo on the red sofa and use #hearthealthcentered. Your hometown cardiologists encourage you to be mindful of your heart health this season and all year long! #RedSofaTour

Red Sofa Tour visits Unity Health Grassroots Campaign to Raise Awareness of Heart Disease, Stroke he American Heart Associations’ Red Sofa Tour, T sponsored by BHP, arrived at Unity Health this week and will be at the Unity Health – White County Medical

Center campus first floor until Tuesday, Dec. 12. The tour’s purpose is to spark conversation around the number one killer of women, heart disease. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three women’s deaths each year, yet many women do not recognize heart disease as their greatest health threat. The Red Sofa Tour provides a fun, lighthearted way to begin this critical, sometimes heavy conversation. Community members are invited to sit down, snap a selfie and post to social media using #hearthealthcentered and #RedSofaTour, sharing the impact of cardiovascular disease in their lives as well as the steps they are taking toward better health. By posting to social media, individuals reach the audiences most important to them – their friends and family – with powerful heart health information and poignant stories of perseverance. Through this engagement, the tour seeks to highlight not only the prevalence of the disease but also that it is preventable and treatable – often with lifestyle changes and working with your doctor to develop a plan for your heart health. Building educated and active communities remains a commitment that BHP has for Central Arkansas. The Unity Health Cardiology Clinic serves the area with an elite team of cardiologists including Dr. Leon Blue, Dr. Katherine Durham, Dr. David Evans, Dr. Bradley Hughes and Dr. Eric Robinson. The team serves patients through the treatment and diagnoses of diseases and conditions of the heart and cardiovascular system. Specialties also include rhythm management and interventional cardiology. “Cardiovascular diseases kill approximately one woman every minute. That is a startling statistic and one that BHP wants to help change through education and awareness,” said Joyce Taylor, Executive Director of the Central Arkansas American Heart Association. To tag or follow the tour on social media, use #RedSofaTour – to get more information about women’s heart health, visit the American Heart Association’s Facebook page, ahaarkansas or visit Unity Health cardiologists pose with the red sofa for the American Heart Associations’ Red Sofa Tour, Dr. Leon Blue,

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Dr. Bradley Hughes, Dr. Katherine Durham, Dr. David Evans and Dr. Eric Robinson. About the American Heart Association: The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallasbased association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. About BHP: BHP is a leading global resources company. Our purpose is to create long-term shareholder value through the discovery, acquisition, development and marketing of natural resources. BHP’s Petroleum business has exploration, development, production and marketing activities in countries around the world, including significant positions in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, onshore U.S., Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Across our global operations, we are committed to working in ways that are true to Our BHP Charter values of Sustainability, Integrity, Respect, Performance, Simplicity and Accountability. ABOUT UNITY HEALTH – WHITE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER: As the leading healthcare provider in an eight-county area, Unity Health and its associates strive to improve the quality of health and well-being for the communities it serves through compassionate care. Unity Health is the largest employer in an eight-county area with more than 2,000 associates. The Searcy facility has a combined total of 438 licensed beds and a medical staff of 150 physicians that specialize in various areas of healthcare. In addition to the White County Medical Center and Specialty Care Campuses, Unity Health in Searcy includes Unity Health – Clarity Health and Wellness, Unity Health – Family Practice Associates, Unity Health – After Hours Clinic, Unity Health Orthopaedic and Spine Center, Unity Health – Searcy Medical Center and Unity Health – Searcy Medical Center, West, Unity Health – Westside Family Medical Clinic, Unity Health Cardiology Clinic and Unity Health Oncology Clinic. 19

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White County Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Inc.

2017 Fall Scholar/Donor Reception Photos by John Baker he White County Single Parent Scholarship T Fund, Inc. recently held its 2017 Fall Scholar/ Donor Reception at Harding University in Cone Chapel. Emcee for the event was Craig O’Neill of KTHV Channel 11 in Little Rock. Keynote speaker was Tom Martin, whose mother, Betty T. “Nanga” Martin, raised him as a single parent and spent 50 years in public education. 21 scholarships were awarded with a combined value of $14,087.50. Since its beginning in 1999, WCSPSF, Inc. has awarded 582 scholarships with a combined value of $335,449.00. The deadline for applying for the spring 2018 semester is January 7, 2018. For more information, contact Executive Director Dan Newsom at 501-230-2414 or

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Two Named Officers of the Month


wo Officers were chosen as Searcy Police Department’s Officers of the Month recently. Detective Corderro Earls and Officer Jason Denison were presented with this honor. Detective Corderro Earls has been in law enforcement since December of 2007. He graduated from Des Arc High School and has an Associate’s degree from Remington College. His favorite part about working for the Searcy Police Department is that it is a family he can always depend on to help him or anyone in a time of need. Earls was named Officer of the Year for 2015. Chief Eric Webb said “Detective Earls is an outstanding officer. He is dedicated to assisting his fellow detectives as well as carrying his own load. Detective Earls has been instrumental in the investigation of several important and time-sensitive cases. I am very proud of him and his

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dedication to this community. Detective Earls is a great example of a leader within this department.” Officer Jason Denison is a patrolman and was hired in August of 2012. He graduated from Rose Bud High School and attended college at Arkansas State University, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology. Denison is proud to “be a part of the Searcy Police Department and work with a group of such outstanding individuals.” “Officer Denison is a dedicated, hard-working, young officer. He is observant and always willing to lend a helping hand. I am proud of him, and I look forward to seeing him develop into a leader within our department,” said Chief Eric Webb.

Searcy Living Magazine traveled with Irene Gray and Peggy Yancey to Sydney, a harbor town on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada, where they stood by the Big Fiddle, the world’s largest fiddle, which greets guests at the Sydney Marine Terminal. The fiddle is 60 feet tall, made of solid steel and weighs 10 tons. 25

Favorite Facebook Quotes

Sometimes in God’s grace, He allows the very thing we fear losing the most to be taken away to reveal that we have sought our identity in something other than Him. As He grows us in understanding that our true identity is in Him, we are then freed to enjoy and glorify Him in the unique ways He has created us. Suffering gradually changes our earthly perspective into an eternal one.

~ Stephanie Purnell Kleypas


Baptist Church

Corner of N. Moss St. and E. Moore Ave. Photo by Al Fowler

A Searcy native’s decorative storefront in the Heights. 26 Your Hometown Magazine

12 Babies of Christmas Unity Health New Life Center welcomed 12 babies of Christmas in one week! Thanks to the Unity Health Auxiliary for providing their precious caps and stockings. Congratulations to the dozen new families during this holiday season! 27

“Rice Is Life” for Beebe Students wo hundred twenty Beebe fourth graders learned T firsthand the intricacies of rice farming, thanks to the efforts of White County Cooperative Extension Service and

White County Farm Bureau. Coordinated by Brian Haller, Extension Staff Chair, the students toured the Michael and Sarah Oxner’s Red River Farm, north of Bald Knob. The tour was the culmination of a unit called “Rice is Life,” taught by teachers Dawn Clevenger, Dana Strickland, Dawn Lay, Jennifer Curtis and Lauren Gunter as part of their science curriculum. Students learned the germination process and actually planted rice seeds prior to the field trip. Haller had assistance from Extension staff Amy Heck, Brett Gordon, Amanda Daley, Sherri Sanders and Farm Bureau volunteers Fredese and Johnny Wheetley, Bobby and Danna Cofer, Lauren Martin and Dana Stewart as well as the Oxners. Students rotated through learning stations including a guided tour of a rice field, a tour of a grain storage facility, a demonstration of rice milling and a display of rice products. In addition, Oxner let students actually sit high up in the driver’s seat of a tractor, a favorite of most. The day ended with students snacking on juice packs and rice crispy treats. This activity was part of joint efforts by Extension and Farm Bureau to educate youth about where their food comes from and the overall importance of agriculture to our health and economy. For more information on other educational services, contact Brian Haller at the White County Extension Service.

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he Searcy 4th Grade All Stars recently won their state championship tournament. T After experiencing a loss in the first round vs Jonesboro, Searcy All Stars fought back to win out their remaining games and had the opportunity to face Jonesboro again for the title. Scoring

in the last minute of the game, Searcy clinched the state title as time ran out and the defense squelched Jonesboro’s last attempt at scoring. It was a hard fought battle, and the team showed tremendous character to bounce back and claim the victory for Searcy. Front row left to right: Trevion Greer, Hudson Green, Lawson Faulkner, Robert Mohr Jr, Justin Ellis, 2nd row: Paten Oxner, Curtis Goodrich, Parker Dabbs, Luke Eubanks, Carson Tucker, JaMarcus Murray, 3rd row: Parker Gardner, Lawson Wimberley, Colin Poore, Zachariah Ellis, Josiah Swindle, Simon Oakes, Cade Cook. Coaches: Jarrod Gardner, Tommy Lee Watson, Zach Ellis, LV Wilson Not pictured Cooper Jones 29

FC Dallas - Central Arkansas ’03 Girls Red soccer team won the U15 State Championship recently. The team will represent Arkansas at the US Youth Soccer Regional tournament held in Greensboro, North Carolina in June 2018.

Searcy Fire Dept. presents a check to White County Kicking Cancer. 30 Your Hometown Magazine

Beebe Out & About 31

5th Grade Airport Day Photos by Al Fowler

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Second Grade STEM Day at Sidney Deener STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM is an idea centered on educating students in all four areas as one unit, instead of just teaching them as separate entities. This idea "STEMmed" from research that showed fewer high school graduates today were interested in careers in STEM related fields. Because of this, we are working toward getting students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math at an earlier age, in hopes that they might pursue a career in a STEM related field after high school. Our students, parents, and teachers had a wonderful time designing and building sails for boats, catapults to launch candy pumpkins, and small foil boats that can withstand heavy cargo. They also enjoyed coding on the computer using a program by, and observing and learning about 3D printers. This day would not have been possible without all of the help from our teachers and the community! Among our volunteers were the Harding University's Math and Science staff consisting of Ben Carrigan, Tim Brister, and Allen Henderson. From Searcy Public School's district office we had Betsy Bailey, Christine Harrell, Patti Kitts, and Amanda Price. Kristi Smith from McRae Elementary School was a volunteer, along with Wendy Lentz and Jaclyn Seiders from Sidney Deener. Even our occupational therapist, Russell Tucker was a volunteer today!

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St. James Catholic Church’s 10th Annual

I n t e r n at i o n a l F o o d F e st By Larry Binz reparations have P been well under way for weeks for St. James

Catholic Church's 10th Annual International Food Fest, set for Saturday night February 3, 2018 in the St. James parish hall. Michael Willems took over the helm this past fall with the departure of Joe Giezeman and his wife Kathy, who made a career move to Denver after serving as IFF chairman and co-chairperson respectively since its inception in 2008. "We appreciate all the diligent work Joe and Kathy Roberta Spencer, St. Richard’s did during their years of parish council president, has service to our churches (St. coordinated the silent auction. James and St. Richard, Searcy and Bald Knob, respectively), the IFF and the many communities," Mike Willems said recently. Mike Willems and his wife Cathy have played key roles in past years. Willems shouldered several logistical duties, turning to several men from the church to make adjustments in and outside of the parish hall. One of the best features was the construction of a permanent walkway with temporary covering on the south side of the parish hall to accommodate patrons. Likewise, Cathy Willems once again will work with other IFF volunteers in setting up rooms to allow patrons to move down the hallways selecting the many kinds of ethnic foods that will be available. The Willems have also participated in the serving of their own selected ethnic dishes. Father Polycarp Ssebbowa became the pastor of the two churches last summer after Father Mathew Malapati departed for his native India after serving six years as pastor.

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During an early IFF Committee meeting in November, Ssebbowa recalled his attendance at the 9th IFF last February as a visitor during his time as pastor at Catholic Churches in Batesville and Newport. A native of Uganda, Ssebbowa says he enjoyed sampling various foods prepared and served by parishioners. In past years, ethnic foods spanned the globe from the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Puerto Rico, Holland, Italy, Scotland, Poland, Philippines, Belize, Nicaragua, India, Spain, Africa, Spain, Vietnam and other Asian and Latin American countries. Harding University and Harding Academy students along with those from area public schools have volunteered their time at the IFF. Aside from sampling ethnic foods, area businesses and industries and private citizens have provided items for the silent auction bidding. Jim Palmer, St. James parish council president, has handled the live auction, donning an iconic Green Bay Cheese Head that dates back to the first and second Super Bowls he attended in the 1960s. Guest tickets will be sold in advance and at the door. They will be available at St. James Church, 1102 Pioneer Road in Searcy; and at St. Richard's at the corner of Hickory and Cleveland Streets in Bald Knob; and through church members. Michael Willems has been named chairman for the 2018 International Food Fest set for February 3, 2018 at St. James Catholic Church’s parish hall. His wife, Cathy Willems, also shown in the photo, will serve as co-chairperson. Both will handle a large share of the background preparations for the IFF.

Searcy Swim Center Ribbon Cutting Photos by Al Fowler

Robert Jenkins enjoys a morning duck hunting and letting George Dillin capture the moment for Searcy Living. 37

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Art/Photography by Sydney Rasch

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Photo by Al Fowler 39

Financial Focus:

Time to Review Your Investment Strategy f o r

t h e

Y e a r

It’s a good time to review your progress toward your financial goals.

But on what areas should you focus your attention? Of course, you may immediately think about whether your investments have done well. When evaluating the performance of their investments for a given year, many people mistakenly think their portfolios should have done just as well as a common market index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500. But the S&P 500 is essentially a measure of largecompany, domestic stocks, and your portfolio probably doesn’t look like that – nor should it, because it’s important to own an investment mix that aligns with your goals, risk tolerance and return objectives. It’s this return objective that you should evaluate over time – not the return of an arbitrary benchmark that isn’t personalized to your goals and risk tolerance. Your return objective will likely evolve. If you are starting out in your career, you may need your portfolio to be oriented primarily toward growth, which means it may need to be more heavily weighted toward stocks. But if you are retiring in a few years, you may need a more balanced allocation between stocks and bonds, which can address your needs for growth and income. So, assuming you have created a long-term investment strategy that has a target rate of return for each year, you can review your progress accordingly. If you matched or exceeded that rate this past year, you’re staying on track, but if your return fell short of your desired target, you may need to make some changes. Before doing so, though, you need to understand just why your return was lower than anticipated. For example, if you owned some stocks that underperformed due to unusual circumstances – and even events such as Hurricanes

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Harvey and Irma can affect the stock prices of some companies – you may not need to be overly concerned, especially if the fundamentals of the stocks are still sound. On the other hand, if you own some investments that have underperformed for several years, you may need to consider selling them and using the proceeds to explore new investment opportunities. Investment performance isn’t the only thing you should consider when looking at your financial picture over this past year. What changed in your life? Did you welcome a new child to your family? If so, you may need to respond by increasing your life insurance coverage or opening a college savings account. Did you or your spouse change jobs? You may now have access to a new employersponsored retirement account, such as a 401(k), so you’ll need to decide how much money to put into the various investments within this plan. And one change certainly happened this past year: You moved one year closer to retirement. By itself, this may cause you to re-evaluate how much risk you’re willing to tolerate in your investment portfolio, especially if you are within a few years of your planned retirement. Whether it is the performance of your portfolio or changes in your life, you will find that you always have some reasons to look back at your investment and financial strategies for one year – and to look ahead at moves you can make for the next. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. 41

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Just a Common Heroine By Cecelia Wilson I never met Marta Röpke. She was born in Bremen, Germany in 1900 and died there in 1985. But, I know her story of courage during World War II, and I can honestly say she is one of the most inspiring women I never had the privilege to know. In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, his Army sent soldiers to her home, taking her husband from the family dinner table and out of her life and the lives of their eight children for most of the next decade. The Röpke family was not Jewish, but I had never stopped to consider what a typical Christian German family faced during WWII. The city of Bremen built warplanes and U-boats, so the Allies’ bombing raids targeted the Röpke hometown often. No one could be trusted. The Gestapo was keen to overhear any neighbor relay traitorous talk about fellow Germans. Listening to foreign broadcasts had dire consequences. Keeping her children safe from her own government meant keeping her children quiet; keeping her children safe from the Allied forces meant keeping them protected and together. The decisions Marta made and the risks she took over the course of the war literally meant the difference between life and death for her family. Their eventual capture by the Soviet Red Army in 1945 meant a monumental choice between brutality at the hands of their “War forced Marta to find an inner strength and courage she probably never knew existed within herself to do whatever it took so her children might survive.” captors, or death if escape was considered and was unsuccessful. Even after the war’s end, Marta struggled to rebuild her home and regain some sense of normalcy for her children, without the benefit of her husband and oldest son by her side. What inspires me most about Marta’s life during the bombings, and the fear and the death she encountered in Nazi Germany, is that she was not some notable figure in history. She was not a politician who knew how to maneuver the minefields of the Nazi regime with finesse. She was not a famous individual who could look to friends in high places to pull strings for herself or her family. She was not known for her power, her strength, or her high intellect. She was a common mother whose highest ambition (and rightfully so) in life was to raise her children to be happy, productive individuals. War forced Marta to find an inner strength and courage she probably never knew existed within herself to do whatever it took so her children might survive. Powerful men and women are placed on pedestals, with their long list of feats appearing almost superhuman. It is daunting to try to live up to their long list of accomplishments. Perhaps that’s why I love Marta. She didn’t juggle a family and career, she didn’t have a long list of social engagements, and she certainly didn’t have the money or fame to make her a household name to be applauded. She had a single focus: her children’s survival during World War II. She was simply a woman who found the courage to do what had to be done to become a heroine for the eight faces looking up to her. That is a woman I can aspire to become: a common woman who finds inner strength to do what is necessary in extraordinary circumstances.

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I never knew Marta, but it feels as if I do. I would encourage you to meet her as well. If you’re looking for an inspirational story to read this Christmas, consider “Back to Bremen.” It is Marta’s story, but it is a reminder that none of us need be superhuman to become heroes. Website: Facebook: Sold in hardcover, paperback, and e-book at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million

Thanks to all those who came out to the The Bible House, Inc. book signing and special thanks to Dennis Kelly and staff for hosting. What a great reception! 45

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By John Calloway


don’t think, growing up, I ever wished that made me happy and still managed to fit God into my weekly “when I grow up I want to be an ex-convict.” I can schedule. I began to drink during my last two years of High School, remember wanting to be a sports figure, a pilot, a and began to struggle with pornography. I am thankful every day super hero, but never an inmate. On September 6th, 2016, that I didn’t have access to internet or cell phones growing up. that is exactly where I found myself. Looking back, that will Some would say that these choices are just part of growing up. I remain one of the hardest days of my life. Oh, I had many hard can tell you that these choices led to many others as I grew up, and days leading up to that. September affected my heart and my relationship 2012, having to tell my boss that I had with God. Being the oldest child in been stealing money from the company. “God uses the broken, the ones my family, when it came to graduation December 2015, pleading guilty to one time, I honestly didn’t have any idea of with scars. Well, I have been count of wire fraud. July 2016, being broken, and God has healed me. what I wanted to do. After watching the sentenced to 18 months in Federal movie Top Gun, I decided to join the I have a story to tell.” Prison. But September 6th would be the NAVY. I learned about leadership and hardest of all. I couldn’t sleep much the strength. During this time, my anger night before. I had to report by 2 p.m. and my language became a struggle. I that day, and I had given my children increased my drinking and pornography the option of going with me. I wanted it use. Yet, still I made time for God. to be their choice. Emmi, my youngest, Again, He was just part of who I was. chose to go to school that day. I got her Looking back, I can tell you that I things together and drove her to school. thought I was ok - that the Bible tells I walked about 10 steps before the tears me that I am going to sin, therefore I poured down my face. I was able to was sinning, but that God’s grace was gasp out “I love you” and “Goodbye” as big enough to cover me. she continued into the building. Shelbi, You don’t have to be behind bars to my oldest, had planned on going, but as be in prison. I look back and realize it came time to go, she couldn’t bring that I was a slave to sin for the better herself to go. So, I hugged her at the part of 47 years. After my service in gym, saying my goodbyes, and let her the military, I came to Searcy to attend go. It came down to Traci, Grayson Harding. After claiming for many and Lolo going with me. I had asked years that I would never be a minister a friend to ride with us so that he could like my father, that is exactly what I drive them back, knowing how hard went to school for. I majored in Bible separating was going to be. It was a and Psychology. Wanting to do youth 70-minute drive to the Forrest City ministry, I threw my life into it. I began Correctional Facility. It was a quiet ride working with a church in Northwest and I couldn’t help but contemplate all Arkansas and met my future wife at my choices that had led me here. school. Things seemed to be falling I was raised in a Christian home. My father was a preacher, and into place for me, but I still struggled with anger, pornography, I knew about God from the time I could remember. As I look back, alcohol, language, and now pride. I have been blessed with the I can see where I gave God part of me for most of my life. I think gifts to teach and preach. God has always given me success in many people would say that I was a typical teenager. I had some my ministry, but I would often attribute the success to my talents. rebellious streaks, worked a lot when I could, focused on things I went to work full time in Northwest Arkansas, got married, and 48 Your Hometown Magazine

“You don’t have to be behind bars to be in prison.” began to devote myself to my ministry. This turned into my god. We struggled badly in our marriage, and I answered that struggle by working more. Traci and I were falling apart and I had no one to turn to. I was completely overcome by the fear of telling others what my struggles were. How could I, a youth minister, admit to struggling with pornography, alcohol, anger, control and pride? As I looked around our church, no other marriage looked like they struggled. We felt alone, and I refused to get help. Eventually we moved back to Searcy to be closer to her family. The next few years in ministry led me to another decision. I was tired of being broke. Money became a big focus of mine, and I left ministry to chase it. Claiming that God wanted more for me, I had the opportunity to work with a local restaurant franchise group. It was like flipping a switch. I was good at running the business, but I was not the man God made me to be. It was an environment that allowed my anger and desires to peak. The more success I gained, the more I wanted. In the years that followed, I made more money than my father had during the many years he was preaching. I squandered it, buying all the things that I thought we “needed.” Material possessions and money became my focus. Sure, we did some good things with it, but mostly I fed my heart’s desires. I can honestly say that I loved money more than anything in my life. I felt that if I gave my family everything they ever wanted, then I was being the man I was supposed to be. During these many years, we were off and on for church. God continued to take a back seat to the life I was living. Still a slave to the sins in my life, I began to play cards.

“I can honestly say that I loved money more than anything in my life. I felt that if I gave my family everything they ever wanted, then I was being the man I was supposed to be.”

“I was guilty and now I was in a place that was full of guilty people.” My gambling became more than just a hobby, it was an obsession. It didn’t matter if I won or lost, I was enjoying being a “big player” in the Little Rock area. Already living outside my means, I began to take money from the company I was working for. Now, it wasn’t just the gambling; I was taking it to cover all the things I felt I “needed.” Now, I had all my addictions and sins working at the same time. During 23 years of marriage leading up to prison, I had been addicted to the love of money, gambling, pornography, alcohol, pride, control and anger. I had been a thief, adulterer, liar, and now a convicted felon. All of this lead up to September 6th, 2016. I was guilty and now I was in a place that was full of guilty people. I don’t know if you really understand how prison is. Most think it is a place of rehabilitation and punishment. You would be wrong. Yes, it is a place for punishment, but the prison administration has no desire to rehabilitate the inmates. I learned quickly that guards and administration alike believe one phrase, “Once an offender, always an offender.” I wanted to continue my recovery classes, but none were offered. The men locked up receive very little opportunities to better themselves. It was a cesspool. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, and gambling were available to anyone and everyone. I went in planning on fixing myself. I still had a lot to learn. I began to read the Word. Starting from the beginning, I went back through page after page. Reading it from cover to cover. Yet, after just 5 weeks, 49

I found myself killing time at the poker table. The very habit that created most of my issues, and I was using it to pass the time while in prison. Soon, my anger and language got out of control. You can’t walk anywhere in prison where foul language isn’t in the air. Everything started to make me angry. Pornography is in every cell on every locker. You can find a poker game and a sports betting ticket every day and not one person will judge you for what you do. And every night I would go to bed, weeping and depressed. I was still so lost. I was worshiping with a small group of men every Sunday. I could talk the talk, but struggled in walking the walk.

It was a Friday night and I was an hour into the poker game when God clearly spoke to me. He said, “Get up and be done with this!” I cannot accurately describe what I was feeling at that moment, but I got up from the table and walked away from it. I never played again. I went back to the Word and realized that I couldn’t “fix” myself. That had been my problem for so many years: I wanted to do it myself. Psalms started jumping out at me, and I realized that I had much in common with David. I wanted God to create a clean heart in me. I recognized that He was my Savior. I began

preaching in the Pentecostal church at the camp. I was finally recognizing the work the Spirit was doing in my life. I was filled with a joy and peace that is indescribable. Still in a place full of sin, I could be joyful. I missed my family terribly, but I knew the time was coming when I would be home. I needed to continue to let God change me into the man He created me to be. James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Proverbs 28, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confessed and renounces them finds mercy.” Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long… then I acknowledged my sin to you ….” These scriptures and many others spoke to me. I had allowed my heart to be filled with darkness. Darkness created by my desires, the things that I wanted or felt I needed. I created other gods that took the place of the true God and from a heart filled with darkness, my life spun out of control. I got out of prison on June 27th, 2017. I was a different man. Genesis reminds us that God made us in His image. I finally felt that I was aligning myself with that image. I truly wanted to get back into ministry, but was told by several that because of my background it would be an uphill battle. I was over a million dollars in debt, 48 years old and unemployed, but I never felt better. I was willing to tell my story and give my testimony to anyone who would listen. Then I met with Dr. Jeff Kreh, and he told me about Likewise College, a ministry designed to take Christian education into

“I had allowed my heart to be filled with darkness. Darkness created by my desires, the things that I wanted or felt I needed. I created other gods that took the place of the true God and from a heart filled with darkness, my life spun out of control.”

50 Your Hometown Magazine

“God has taken all my previous choices, both good and bad, and created a ministry where I can give my testimony and lead others to Christ.”

Arkansas State prisons and allow inmates to get their education at no charge. This enables inmates to change their way of thinking. This ministry also works with the inmates, as they are close to release, to set up interviews and gain employment. Then they are plugged into sponsoring churches, giving them a solid foundation. Because it is a Christian based degree, one of the first courses they take is the Book of Luke. More important than any job we could help them find, we introduce them to Jesus Christ, giving them a hope that is far above what they will find outside of prison. I knew that God was calling me to this ministry. I had thought about going back to McAlister’s, where I would make $50,000 a year. Much needed money. Likewise, I had very little funding, no promise on what I would make. I called my wife, who after a brief breakdown about the money, sent me a text. It simply said this: (Romans 8:28), “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” She was right. God has taken all my previous choices, both good and bad, and created a ministry where I can give my testimony and lead others to Christ. I am also able to help raise much needed funds to allow 17,000 men and women in 23 state prisons to gain their education and have a hope that extends beyond the gates that encloses them. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your life as you are reading this? Maybe your heart is right with God and you are committed to His ways. If that is the case, then I plead with you to begin telling your story. Everyone has a story of how God took the mess in our lives and made it beautiful. If you find yourself chained with sin, let me encourage you to look up. Our God is a chain breaker. Only He can break the chains of slavery that you may find yourself in. Luke 15 tells us the prodigal son found himself in a pig pen. He longed to eat what the pigs were eating. His choices led him there. He had the world in his hands and he wasted it, setting his sights on what his heart desired. Scripture says, “he came to his senses.” Sure, he was afraid of going home. He didn’t even think himself worthy of being a son again, he just wanted to be a servant. But his fear didn’t keep him in the pig slop. He got up and went home. His father was waiting, watching, longing for his return. He loved him no matter what. Our God loves you no matter what, but you must come to your senses. Take an inventory of your heart, your life. Are there things that have become your god? Your work, your family, your possessions? Are there addictions keeping you chained? What will it take for you to allow God to break you free? Prison? You’re already there if you’re not God’s child. Yet, He loves you… no matter what you have done. He thought you worthy enough to send His Son to die for you!

My life is different today. I have been an adulterer, gambler, alcoholic and thief. I have struggled with pornography, lust, control, anger, and pride. I have served other gods: money, profession, and material possessions. Yes, people still judge me. I work at Gym Stars, as well as Likewise, and people have removed their kids from the gym because I am home. I get it, and I am no longer offended by how others judge me. God uses the broken, the ones with scars. Well, I have been broken, and God has healed me. I have a story to tell, a testimony to give, and my life must reflect the testimony. I will go anywhere, to any pulpit, classroom, auditorium, or service club to tell my story. My life must reflect Jesus and lead others to Him. If you are prayerfully looking for a ministry to support, please check us out at Through God’s blessing, we will have the opportunity to go into all 23 prisons in the state. If you are interested in having me speak to your group, church, or class, please reach out to me at john.calloway@

“If you find yourself chained with sin, let me encourage you to look up. Our God is a chain breaker.” 51

52 Your Hometown Magazine 53

54 Your Hometown Magazine

By Cecelia Wilson


eremy and Jennifer James gave their firstborn son a name with meaning. The baby boy was born a week before Christmas 2002, and his 96-year-old great-grandfather, Jesse James, “rejoiced [at the birth] of his namesake.” But, the newborn also bore the name of one of his father’s favorite poet/songwriters, Bob Dylan. So it was that Jesse Dylan James was armed for life, bearing a name with history and significance. To the outside world, he was quiet like his mother, but at home he was anything but. He was an avid reader, a Marvel Comics fan, a trumpet player, a video game aficionado, a computer coder, a Star Wars fan, and a writer. He loved baseball, fishing, and golf. A straight-A student at Searcy High, he was a member of the Chess Club and the Searcy High Marching Band. The young man attended Westview Missionary Baptist Church, AWANA at First Baptist Church, West Race Baptist Church, College Church, and was a member of K-Life youth center. In 2015, he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Jesse was living up to his name and, true to his gentle demeanor, it turns out Jesse was also a poet. His great-grandfather could not have lent his name to a more promising young man. Despite all Jesse’s unique qualities, there were those individuals who either didn’t recognize those virtues or didn’t take time to look for them. School had always been easy for Jesse; he enjoyed it. But, entering high school and being placed in courses with upperclassmen was difficult for the shy 14-year-old. Bullying set in. Perhaps those who made remarks to Jesse thought it was all in good fun, but his mother Jennifer sees it differently: “Even if you just think you’re joking around, you don’t know how that other person is going to accept those words or take those words,” Jennifer warns. “So making fun of anyone about their name, their hair, their clothes…verbal bullying is worse than physical bullying because you don’t see how deep it cuts that person. Just joking around is not always fun for everyone involved.”

Jeremy and Jennifer recently learned their academically-gifted son would finish his classwork early, and then be asked by others for help with their own work. Jesse didn’t take that as flattery for his intellect, but believed he was being used for what he could bring to the table. Though he may have expressed his frustrations within his own circle of friends, he never divulged that information to his parents. He put on a happy face at home and insisted nothing was wrong. Depression was not discussed—it didn’t appear to be an issue. Suicide prevention had first been presented in school in earlier grades, so Jeremy and Jennifer didn’t talk in-depth about it to their eldest son. It never occurred to them it was a subject they would need to review. Jesse hid his innermost turmoil well from his family. The morning of September 29, 2017 dawned like any typical weekday. Jennifer went to wake Jesse up, only to discover her son was not in bed. Her quick search in other rooms and outside proved fruitless. She woke her husband, the police were called, family and friends arrived. But somewhere in the background was a slow, gnawing realization that life was never going to be the same again. That became painfully evident when Jennifer went through Jesse’s backpack and found his leather-bound journal. The letter she found inside was entitled, “The End.” In very matter-of-fact language, Jesse wrote about the Continued on next page 

“ Each time a young person is saved by hearing Jesse’s story, Jesse, the poet, will live on, and that life will add deeper meaning to his name…” 55

“Definitely talk about bullying [with your child]...” face-to-face bullying he had endured. “He was being antagonized and used and milked and overrun by other people at school,” his father Jeremy shares. After reading Jesse’s note, the couple feared the worst. Within a few hours, a family friend found Jesse’s body near a pond on the next farm, less than a mile from the James’ home. Jesse had shot himself. Sometime after Jesse’s death, his mother felt compelled to express her emotions. She did so by writing a brief account of that day. Her words paint a picture of a mother’s intense pain and confusion: “The moments that followed were so immensely suffocating and too hard for me to handle. I was in a whirlwind of chaos and disbelief. My heart exploded, my mind shut down, and my voice silenced. Everyone was speaking words of kindness and love, but I couldn’t process anything except the numbing pain that flooded my entire being. I just didn’t understand how such a beautiful life could be gone. What happened to him to make this decision, why did he feel the need to leave, when did this begin, and how can it be true? The questions continue without any answers.” Though forever changed, Jennifer now has a more fervent focus on her younger son Jonas (11) and her husband Jeremy. But, there is also a drive to see that her son’s decision is not repeated by other children and endured each day by their parents. She is committed to raising awareness of bullying and suicide prevention. A “Jammin’ for Jesse” fundraiser was held in Searcy recently for that very purpose, with the proceeds going to the Jesse Dylan James Foundation to provide scholarships to deserving band members. Jesse will also be remembered by family and friends when they attend the newest installment of the Star Wars saga in December — the day before Jesse’s birthday. The George Lucas movies were favorites of the James family and quotes from Luke, Leia, and other characters were cited often during everyday life within

the household. From the thrilling opening chords of the Star Wars theme to the life-affirming heroics of Jedi warriors, Jesse’s force will be felt strongly. It will also be a reminder that Jesse’s passing may bring a “new hope” for those harboring the darkest feelings of distress. Jennifer wants parents to be proactive. “Definitely talk about bullying [with your child]… If your child doesn’t want to come to you, then encourage them to reach out to someone other than friends, because [their] friends will hide it for [them]. Talk to your children about suicide. I never felt I needed to. It’s not the only option… it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It’s not an option; there are so many other options.” Overt bullying is certainly easy to recognize; harsh words said in “jest” can be just as harmful. Once said, those words can never be taken back and their damage can never completely be undone. Messages in any social media setting can never truly be deleted. Educating individuals of all ages on those basics seems elementary, but is fundamental. But, the flip side is helping those devastated by bullying understand suicide is not the answer. Jesse’s life was full of possibilities and, had he fully grasped the potential his future held, perhaps he might have considered other choices. Life is worth fighting for, and Jesse’s passing has spurred his family on to see that students learn that lesson. With his mother’s newfound calling to educate others on bullying and suicide, there is hope that Jesse’s death will encourage others facing similar difficulties to reflect before making that final decision. Each time a young person is saved by hearing Jesse’s story, Jesse, the poet, will live on, and that life will add deeper meaning to his name… May your heart always be joyful, May your song always be sung, May you stay forever young, Forever young, forever young, May you stay forever young. ~Bob Dylan

“Jesse’s life was full of possibilities and, had he fully grasped the potential his future held, perhaps he might have considered other choices. Life is worth fighting for, and Jesse’s passing has spurred his family on to see that students learn that lesson.”

56 Your Hometown Magazine

“God often uses our deepest


as the launching pad of our greatest

calling .” –Unknown 57


A Unique


By Blake Wright


rom a very young age I have loved Augusta, Arkansas. My grandparents, Charles and Virginia Wright, lived in a house across the street from the county jail, and my cousins and I loved to visit. I enjoyed going over to Augusta as a toddler. It was a place where I could get away with being an overactive child that had an innate ability to find trouble. My father, Scott Wright, took me on my first duck hunt when I was 4 years old. We went to Hurricane Lake WMA and I was hooked after one hunt. Watching those mallards come through the trees is a feeling that cannot be explained in words, you just have to experience it to understand. It is hard for most people to understand why anyone would enjoy duck hunting. Waking up hours before sunrise and making your way through the darkness to stand in knee deep water in below freezing temperatures sounds like torture to most. For me, it is that moment just before the sun starts to peek through the trees, when everything is quiet and it is just you and God’s creation – that is perfection. Watching a group of mallards work your spread, knowing all the time, effort, and practice it took to get to that moment, is priceless. Duck hunting isn’t all about the killing, in fact some of my most memorable hunts we didn’t fire a shot. Being outdoors with friends and family builds a bond that can’t be accomplished in any other setting. “Being outdoors with friends and family builds a bond that can’t be accomplished in any other setting.“ One of my most memorable hunts came when I was in college at the University of Arkansas. It was towards the tail end of the season, and due to very little water it wasn’t our greatest year, so I decided to stay in Northwest Arkansas instead of making the 3 1/2 hour drive to Woodruff County. It was Friday night, and three of my buddies and I were eating dinner and trying to decide what we were doing for the weekend. Somebody asked why we weren’t duck hunting tomorrow. We then finished up dinner and decided to hit the road around midnight, ensuring we

58 Your Hometown Magazine

Thank you to Blake's mother, Janet Wright, for providing photos.

would be back in plenty of time to load 4 wheelers and all the gear. All the stars aligned that morning, and everything worked out for us. We told all kinds of lies, shot our limit, and shot a band… Still to this day we debate who actually shot that band. Another great story happened a few years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first child, due to have a Valentine’s Day baby. We’d had a fantastic season that year, so I decided to stay with her for the last weekend. I was hunting with some friends up in Northwest Arkansas when my cousin sent me a text, “10 gun limit by 8 am,” with a picture of mallards lining a log. I asked a simple question… is there room for one more tomorrow? When he said yes, I gathered my things and headed home to do some serious begging. Luckily, I married the most amazing and understanding woman in the world. She gave me the ok, and I got in they truck and hit the road. The next morning was something that I will never forget. It was easily the best hunt of my life. We shot an 18 gun limit in flooded timber. It was absolutely beautiful. My wife had our baby girl 3 days later. And now another baby girl is on the way... during this duck hunting season. “For me, it is that moment just before the sun starts to peek through the trees, when everything is quiet and it is just you and God’s creation – that is perfection.” 59

Duck Hunting in arkansas

By Ed Covington, Jr. Duck hunting in Arkansas, is one of my favorite

things to do in the Natural State. I’ve been duck hunting for about 17 years, but I haven’t always been a duck hunter. I grew up in Searcy, Arkansas in a deer hunting family. We would deer hunt every weekend until season went out, but I always felt that something was missing. At the ripe age of 9, I finally figured that out.

Where it all began It was a very cold and very early December morning. My dad, my uncle, and I were set up in the brush on the edge of a rice field north of Augusta, Arkansas. As I recall, we got to the field about an hour before sunrise to set up decoys and find our hiding places. I had always been a deer hunter, so I thought I had to act like I was deer hunting, very still and very quiet, but I was wrong. My dad and uncle were talking and joking around with each other, which I felt was odd since we were hunting. I told them to be quiet or they were going to scare the ducks off. They just laughed, knowing that I didn’t know any better and told me it was ok, we could talk and move around until the ducks started working. I thought to myself, “This is great! I won’t be so bored like before, since I’ll have people to talk to.” Since then, that is one of the things that has kept me hunting, the company and camaraderie.

The people and places I’ve duck hunted just about all over Arkansas throughout the past 17 years - from flooded timber in north east Arkansas to the flooded fields in the delta but my all time favorite type of duck hunting is flooded timber. From watching the sunrise come up through the trees, to hearing the whistling wings of a group of mallards sailing above the tree tops, there’s not much that can top that. I’ve met a lot of people through the years, some good and some not so great. That’s one of the things about duck hunting; you will find out who your true friends are. The people 60 Your Hometown Magazine

that hunt with you day in and day out, rain or shine, sleet or snow are the guys that are more than just hunting buddies, they are true friends. You can count on them to not take others to the places you hunt, or even tell people where when they get asked. You just gotta know who you can trust with your hunting spots. As one of my best friends would say, “Loose lips sink ships.” We hunt a lot of public ground all over the state, but one of our favorite areas is around the Augusta area. There are just so many different opportunities there. The White River and the Cache River are the two main river systems that surround the Augusta area. Also, there are a few wildlife management areas that offer great hunting. Augusta has always kind of been a home away from home to me. During the winter I spend just about every weekend there. There are a few outdoor shops in town, including White River Outdoors and White River Supply. They sell all sorts of outdoor related items, from boats and firearms, to lawnmowers and side-by-sides.

Most memorable hunt My most memorable hunt happened during the 2014-15 season. I was with one of my friends, Heath and his lab Teal, and his grandpa in the flooded timber in an area I cannot say (remember, we don’t disclose information like that) during mid December. We had motored down the river about a mile and driven the boats into the timber. The river had crested there during the night and a cold front had entered the state, so it was kind of a magical thing. We tossed out a dozen mallard decoys, rigged a jerk string and waited

for shooting time (30 minutes before sunrise). About 5 minutes ’til shooting time, the distinct sounds of mallards and wood ducks filled the air and the woods. After what seemed like an eternity, shooting time finally came. We started calling at the first group of mallards that passed over the hole, working the jerk strings and kicking water, and it was like they had read the script. They made one pass and came fluttering in the timber, right in our faces. We ended up shooting a 3 man limit of mallards (4 mallards each) in 15 minutes. It was fast and furious. We had finished our hunt before the sun had risen above the trees, so we just kicked back and enjoyed watching ducks come in and out of the hole for the rest of the morning. It’s a morning that I will never forget.

All in all Even though it’s cold and wet and I get sleep deprivation 3 months out of the year, I wouldn’t want to do anything else during those months. I drink more coffee and drive more miles than any person should. I’ve got a great wife and children who put up with me being gone every morning on the weekends and sleeping for a few hours when I finally make it home, and I thank them for that. I will definitely be passing on the tradition of hunting and fishing to my children one day, just as my father did. I’d like to say thank you to all my family and friends and God for allowing me to live life to the fullest during the most wonderful time of the year, duck season.

“The people that hunt with you day in

and day out, rain or shine, sleet or snow are the guys that are more than just hunting buddies, they are true friends.” 61

62 Your Hometown Magazine

Pictured: Chris Eldridge (Eldridge Supply), Shandon Nichols (Mighty White Marine), Boyd Wright (WR Farm & Home Center), and Rebekah Allen (Augusta Chamber).

By Mandy Lawson

and the





Chris Eldridge is chamber president of Mallard Masters and a local farmer and business owner. He is married and has three estled on the east bank of the White precious littles at home. He said, “Some of the best hunts that I’ve River in Woodruff County is a little gem just 18 been on, we didn’t see a bird fly.” Duck hunting is a love that is miles from Searcy called Augusta. To duck hunters, shared from generation to generation and that love, and maybe some Augusta is not just a gem; it’s a diamond in the curiosity, has increased thanks to the beloved Robertson family rough, being the mallard capital of the world. According to the and their popular show, Duck Dynasty, on A&E. A regular on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, most of the mallards end show and employee of Duck Commander, John Godwin, shared their migration in the timbers along something very special with me the Cache River with the majority about his duck hunting adventures settling into Woodruff County. In in Augusta, Arkansas. “For me, “To duck hunters, Augusta is not November, duck hunters from all personally, it’s the nostalgia. The just a gem; it’s a diamond in the over the United States begin their family we hunt with have a blind on travel plans to Arkansas to take a Cypress Lake that has been there rough, being the mallard capital advantage of access to over 100,000 [since] before the Depression. The of the world.” acres of Arkansas Game and Fish blind has been remodeled, but the Commission and U.S. Fish and floor is still intact. 4 generations Wildlife land, which includes 30 have hunted from the right side of lakes and five waterways/rivers. that blind, and it’s still one of the These men and women spend all year waiting for these 60 days. best places in Arkansas to hunt. I always love to come to Arkansas, 60 days to get up before dawn, bundle up, load up their gear, gather not just because of the great hunting, but also it has great people!” the duck pup, and head to the blinds. Vacation days are taken and Boyd Wright, local business owner and avid hunter, has a great plans are made to spend every free morning in the duck blinds. love of duck hunting which began around 1980 when his brother Some go alone, but most like to hunt in groups. Duck hunting is took him on his first hunt. Wright went to Augusta High School an interesting sport, because it is a social game; a time to bond. and, after trying the “Hallmark life of moving to the beach and

– Diamo n d i n the R o u g h –

“ Duck huntin g is a love that is shared from generation to generation and that love, and maybe some curiosity, has increased...” 63

“They wanted to create something to showcase what wonderful attributes the Augusta area has for not only hunters, but for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.” ~ Boyd Wright

Three Parks Photography

“ Mallard Masters is a 4-man team hunt where the ducks are given certain point values, with Mallard worth the most.”

“Some of the best hunts that I’ve been on, we didn’t see a bird fly.” ~ Chris Eldridge

64 Your Hometown Magazine

buying a boat,” moved back to Augusta and is developing property and businesses there. He is investing in his home and his love. Wright says Duck hunting is a fever and, “Once you get the fever, it never goes away. You want to be a duck hunter your entire life. You may stop because you have children or responsibilities for a little while, but you always want that whisper of the wings cuttin’ through that timber.” Wright continued, telling me that Augusta has unique attributes and is a special area in the Delta. Before Greer’s Ferry Lake, Augusta used to be the tourist destination and home of Camp Howdy, a type of resort that was along Taylor Bay where families could come to fish, swim, canoe, hike, water ski, and play. The Cypress Garden Ski Shows would come and perform. These are shows where the entertainers would create pyramids and do other tricks while water skiing. The area had cabins where I’m sure many campfires were built, songs were sung, and stories told. Due to the erosion of the population, the resort was deserted. The resort may be gone, but Taylor Bay and the many other waterways are still there; still flowing and being enjoyed by many, especially duck hunters.

– Ou t of t h e A s h e s – Sitting around the campfire on a duck hunt, Chris Eldridge and Boyd Wright, along with other local business owners, decided that there had to be a way to save Augusta, to stop the erosion, to create a spotlight on their beloved town. They looked at what Stuttgart does, but didn’t want to copy. Everyone wants to do duck gumbo cook-offs or duck call competitions, but they wanted to do an actual hunting competition. Talking around the campfire, they began to discuss what could put them on the map, and out of the ashes came the Mallard Masters. With a sparkle in his voice, Boyd Wright told me, “They wanted to create something to showcase what wonderful attributes the Augusta area

has for not only hunters, but for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.” Mallard Masters would not only put a spotlight on Augusta, but would hopefully help the local school. They took the idea to the Augusta Chamber of Commerce and found complete support, along with the local businesses. With the Chamber picking up their cause and sanctioning it, the Mallard Masters became their event, which allowed them to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The goal was to educate people on all the outdoor activities that Woodruff County has to offer and hopefully offer some sort of scholarship to an Augusta High School graduate with the money raised.

– Le t t he Ga m e s B e g i n – Mallard Masters is a 4-man team hunt where the ducks are given certain point values, with a Mallard worth the most. This year, there will be a polygraph administrator from Big Buck Classic at the checkpoint to remind all hunters that this is a fair hunt. The teams are allowed to hunt all over Arkansas, with Augusta being the check-in point, and ending with the annual chamber dinner called Tailfeathers and Tamales, catered by the Tamale Factory. This event has live music, a chili cook-off, silent and live auctions, and special guests. The dinner is also a ceremony for the winning team of the Mallard Masters Competition. Each member of the winning team receives a beautiful green jacket. Eldridge and Wright had no idea how big this campfire dream would be until the numbers started coming in. At first, they had sold tickets to around 200 people and needed to give a number to the Tamale Factory by Monday. Over the weekend, the event went viral with over 700800 people wanting to attend the event. With all the tickets sold and 10-11 Platinum sponsors jumping on board, Mallard Masters would not only put that spotlight on Augusta, but would be able to give many scholarships. In fact, any Augusta High School Senior who qualifies for the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship can apply for the Mallard Masters Scholarship. This scholarship will match the Lottery Scholarship dollar for dollar and extend through their 4 years of college. This year, the amount of Platinum sponsors has doubled!

– Co n n e c tio n s – This is a really special way to connect to their community and show the younger generation that Augusta is a great place to invest in and keep their families there. The entire county is supporting what Augusta is trying to do, and Searcy should join in, making it a beautiful marriage of communities coming together to support one another. Woodruff County has all the outdoor fun you can imagine with premium duck hunting, fishing, boating, skiing, hiking, canoeing, and more. White County has hotels, restaurants, shopping, movies, skating, bowling, swimming, biking trails, parks, gyms, churches, and fishing on the Little Red. We live in a special and beautiful part of the Delta. Working together is essential to prosperous living in our hometowns. Only 18 miles separates the two…let’s build a bridge.

Above photos by Three Parks Photography

“Let’s build a brid ge.” “Once you get the fever, it never goes away. You want to be a duck hunter your entire always want that whisper of the wings cuttin’ through that timber.”

~ Boyd Wright 65

It benefits you!

Produced by

66 Your Hometown Magazine 67

What Foster Parents Are Saying

Amazing Donors


Imagine a world where every child has a safe and loving home. Believe it can happen! Your Hometown Magazine

foundat i on Only a few are willing to give their time, their home and their life to serve orphans. But the rest of us can be an amazing support team!

Find Us On The Imagine & Believe Foundation has office space, utilities and Foster Care Boutique space that is 100% donated by a local business. Your donations are put to great use in the serving of foster children.

Please send donations to:

Imagine & Believe Foundation • P.O. Box 2042 • Searcy, AR 72145 Phone (501) 593-5263 My check is enclosed to help wherever needed.

 $5

 $20

 Other: ______________

 I want to donate my time. My talent is: ___________________________________

Imagine & Believe is a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) • Donations are Tax Deductible 501.593.5263 69

What is the purpose of the

Imagine & Believe Foundation? We provide the Foster Care Boutique, which is where your donations of clothing and diapers are connected to foster parents.

We connect seasoned mentors (former foster parents) to new foster and adoptive parents, giving them a resource to ask questions and glean wisdom from someone who truly understands their journey. We help new foster homes get set-up with things such as play pens and child safety gates. We help fill in the gaps. There are so many things to get and do to prepare to be a new parent of a child or children of varying ages. We know

the journey of fostering and adopting is very rewarding, but it can also have great times of discouragement and loss. We try to be an encouragement system and reminder that this community really does care about the orphans and the caretakers of the orphan ministry.

If a foster family does not have the time to come by the Foster Care Boutique, we deliver the clothing and diapers to them.

Thank You All Volunteers & Donors!

Thank you to Hopkins Braces! 70 Your Hometown Magazine

Thank you to the College Church Supper Club!

Thank you to NorthStar EMS for the spaghetti fundraiser they did to benefit the Imagine & Believe Foundation. They raised over $500.00! A special thank you to Tonya Hale for coordinating these efforts. 71

What Is The

H ope Believe

Foster Care & Adoption Boutique? * The Imagine and Believe Foster Care and Adoption Boutique is simply a room in the Searcy Living business office that we have dedicated for use in helping foster & adoptive families, and sometimes emergency situations. Our awesome Searcy Living readers bring in donations, enabling foster parents to be able to ‘shop’ for what they need for foster, adopted and disadvantaged children, at no cost. Our office is located at 812 S. Main Street in Searcy. We welcome gently used or new items. Thank you, Searcy, for your generosity and time spent to support the Foster Care Boutique!

L o cat e d I n

Imagine a world where every child has a safe loving home. Believe it can happen!

72 Your Hometown Magazine

T han k Y ou to

Volunteers & Donors! 73

A special thank you to Greenway Equipment for the recent diaper drive to re-stock the diaper closet at the Imagine & Believe Foster Care Boutique.

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John Paul

Capps: by Hannah K. Robison

A Small Part Of An Enormous Success; The Story Of History And Hope For Unity Health


hough many people call Searcy home by Judge Forrest Waller. The election would take place in November and have been treated at or served for the hospital of of 1961. The Jaycees worked diligently to look into the options of our area, one founding father within White County federal funding and gauging the interest of residents in the area in has worked to leave a legacy for Unity Health. A man of great supporting the county hospital construction. “Well, we immediately gained a lot of support,” Capps said. talent and tact, one of the longest-serving members of the Arkansas state legislature, and a kind soul, John Paul Capps is “And, of course, with that we gained opposition to it as well. So we truly a living legend among the history of healthcare in central took the campaign throughout the county; we spoke to every civic club that would let us. We went out in the country. I can remember Arkansas. Capps was born and reared in Steprock, Arkansas, a few miles us getting lanterns and hanging them up in trees out in rural parts outside of Searcy. In the 1950’s, he began his career in the radio of the county. As president of the club, I would make the speech, industry and enjoyed a love of news and broadcasting. Spending and other members and officers of the club would go with me for time in both television and radio, these outlets propelled Capps moral support. And we conducted a fairly vigorous campaign.” Among the lantern light, Capps to pursue a career in politics. At began to rally citizens of the the age of 28, making him among community, and they naturally the youngest representatives believed Searcy, as the county in the state, Capps was elected “John Paul Capps is truly a living legend seat, would be the appropriate to the Arkansas House of among the history of healthcare in location for the hospital. CountyRepresentatives in 1962. central Arkansas.” owned hospitals were growing in When a need for a hospital popularity throughout the state, arose in White County, the area of making the need in White County Arkansas he called home, Capps’ even more apparent. history intersected with healthcare. The polls were opened on Nov. 28, 1961, and the proposed In the early 1960’s, Searcy’s medical community consisted of a select few hospital locations and physicians, but a desperate need $900,000 bond issued for the construction of the hospital was for more space and services led to a campaign for a county hospital. voted on, with federal matching Hill-Burton funds being available The campaign was formed by Dr. Tom Formby and Dr. A.R. to aid in creating a $2 million dollar facility. With great confidence and gusto, the Jaycees were certain the Brown to pursue the hospital project. Also interested in this prospect were members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, election would be a winning one. “As it turned out that night,” Capps said, “when all the returns started coming in, it was about better known as the Jaycees, led by President John Paul Capps. “We wanted to adopt a project: a project that would make 50/50. And then there were some precincts in the county that were something happen in the city. We talked to a lot of people about late in returning the votes. We lost by 250. We were devastated.” With two functioning hospitals at the time and one closing soon what would most benefit our area,” Capps recalled. “Someone mentioned the hospital facilities. We needed a new one, so after after the election, the citizens, business leaders and physicians further discussions and interviews, we thought we would pursue it found themselves more motivated to reconsider the campaign and in terms of coming up with support for a hospital. We thought we county hospital construction. Nearly two years after the original election in Nov. of 1961, the second election was held Sept. 10, had seized upon an idea that would really benefit White County.” Through circulated petitions for an election for the construction 1963 and the millage passed. The bond was issued in February of of the county hospital, support grew and the election was approved 1964 in the amount of $683,000. 76 Your Hometown Magazine

Plans were proposed and a location was approved by the Hospital Advisory Commission of the Arkansas State Board of Health, and Race Avenue in Searcy was selected as the hospital’s new home. Due to lengthy court litigation, however, construction on the actual site was delayed until the summer of 1965. On Sunday, Aug. 1 of 1965, a hospital ground-breaking ceremony was held, and John Paul Capps had been asked by Judge Forrest Waller to give the keynote address. “I remember telling him I thought there were others who deserved more than I did to speak, but I would be honored to do it. I accepted, and was happy he asked me,” Capps said. “I remember I was working the morning announcer’s shift at the radio station on that Sunday. I realized that I hadn’t written my speech, and at the radio station we had the preachers on Sunday mornings from 7:30-9:30 a.m., so I didn’t have much to do. During that period of time I started making my notes on what I thought I ought to say at the ground-breaking speech. At 11 a.m. we had a remote broadcast from the First Methodist Church here in Searcy, which

Notes from his original address.

gave me 60 minutes of freedom where I could sit in the office and type up my speech.” In his keynote address, Capps spoke the following: “Judge Waller, Mayor Carmichael, and distinguished guests and friends, it is a great honor this afternoon for me to have the privilege of making a few short remarks at this groundbreaking ceremony of this new facility, for this is truly a historic occasion. With so many of you, and others who are not present here today from throughout the county, I’ve watched the planning of this facility with intense interest from its very inception. I recall vividly when even the thought of added medical and hospital facilities could only be considered a dream… But it became more than a dream. For with the combined efforts of hundreds and hundreds of progressive-minded people around the county, with no selfish motives or reasons except progress in this field and the wellbeing of the public, this turned from a dream into a reality… Who among us can say that White County citizens are ready to become complacent in our prosperity and growth without working towards an even brighter future hand in hand, and heart to heart, one with another — may our actions now and in the future be inspired only by kindness and generosity and an awareness of our public and private responsibility. These things we must always keep in our minds now and in the future, so that our combined efforts may be for the good of all the people, and may the wisdom of those who will supervise the facility be great. And may the blessings of our Creator be with them in this important venture.” Fast forward 52 years and John Paul Capps is once again a keynote speaker for the Unity Health 50th Anniversary Celebration and Recognition Dinner held in August of this year. Continued on Page 80  77

78 Your Hometown Magazine 79

“It is really a blessing. I think we’re still wondering how much it means to us. Just imagine what life would be like without this hospital. It is a real beacon for people who are sick, who are hurting and who are suffering, and it is a safe haven for so many. In a small way, I’m glad I had a part in it.” Capps thought the notes from his original address had been lost, but in recent years he and his late wife, Elizabeth, found the 3x5 cards in their attic. Still intact, with every word typed clearly and streaks of edits in blue pen included, Capps carried these notes to the dinner, in honor of the day the founding fathers broke ground for the county hospital. “They say the older you get, the happier you are to talk about the past, so I’m really happy tonight,” John Paul Capps opened as he spoke at the event. Capps recalled the story of the hospital and told in great detail his role within its history. “It was 52 years ago today, we had the groundbreaking on Sunday, under a beautiful, stately oak tree… It was a good event, everybody was happy and it was a great day. One of the things we had run across in the opposition to this was that many people told us, ‘Well, I don’t think we need a new hospital…’ Nine days. Nine days from that groundbreaking, there was an explosion on the missile base on Highway 16 toward Pangburn. It killed 53 people and wounded probably a hundred. There was no way there were enough medical facilities to handle a catastrophe like that. It was a shame and a tragedy, but we never heard any more about, ‘...we don’t need any more facilities.’ After that I think they all came together, and, of course, the 50 bed hospital was built. It’s not 50 beds today, much has been done to it. I can’t believe what all has happened. Can you imagine? 50 years. It’s almost surreal to talk about something that happened 52, and in our case, 56 years ago. The people made the right decision, and today we have this big, beautiful, expanded hospital, offering the very finest in medical and healthcare. It is really a blessing. I think we’re still wondering how much it means to us. Just imagine what life would be like without this hospital. It is a real beacon for people who are sick, who are hurting and who are suffering, and it is a safe haven for so many. In a small way, I’m glad I had a part in it.” Capps spent a total of 44 years representing citizens of White County, and, for a while, White and Lonoke Counties; in the Senate, he represented Searcy, South White County, North Pulaski County and the Eastern portion of Faulkner County. He served 18 consecutive two-year terms as a state representative, was elected Speaker of the House in the 1983-84 session, and ended his service in the House of Representatives at the end of 1998 due to term limits. The owner of his own radio stations in Searcy, KAPZ and KKSY which sold in 1999, he re-entered politics in 2002, ran for the Arkansas State Senate Dist. 29, and was re-elected in 2006. In 2010 he left the life of politics, but he never let go of the initiative to help others or his home state. Capps has served as a transformational figure in the state of Arkansas and his hometown. Always caring, working toward the best for his family and friends, and sharing his love for radio and politics, Capps will always be known as an incredible man of his word, a pillar of the community, and a founding father in the history of healthcare in White County.

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Keep your head up. God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers.

Show your support for life and help raise money at the same time! Purchase an official Choose Life Arkansas License Plate for the rear of your car. You can obtain one through direct purchase from the Department of Finance and Administration. Let’s make the readership of Searcy Living the BIGGEST supporters for life in the state! 81

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