Toombs County Magazine Summer 2020

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Toombs County HOMETOWN LIVING AT ITS BEST Caring for the Community Jason Colbert supports families and his favorite hometown. Friend of the River Celebrating the life of Parker Waller with an annual river clean-up day. Vidalia’s Own Queen of Cheer VHS Coach Ann Michele Toole takes her team to the highest level. Susanna Haynes takes ministry to the Air Force Serving God and country
This is not a customizable Please click the download and through our preferred EARN POINTS. REDEEM REWARDS. Vidalia @chickfilaofvidaliageorgia Proud presenter of the 2020 Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Business Solutions Summit “It’s an honor to serve you and your families. Stop by and visit with us today!”

will keep you smiling

When you are not happy with your teeth, smiling for the camera can be intimidating. In addition to preventive and restorative care, the Dental Center of Vidalia offers a wide range of cutting edge technologies, specializing in cosmetic solutions such as veneers and bleaching. Our team of highly trained professionals is ready to help you achieve a beautiful smile, so you can take great selfies! Visit us today for a consultation!

311 Pete Phillips Dr.,Vidalia | 912.537.7048 |
Our Restorative and Cosmetic Treatments
We help
Left to right: Dr. Rick Kimbrel, Dr. Kacy Morris, Dr. Stewart Hamilton
put the “smile” in selfies. 912-537-SOLD We are here... 406 JACKSON STREET VIDALIA, GA 30474 912-537-SOLD Broker Mary Whitson, Associate Broker
Sara Stanley Brown, Broker Mary Whitson, Associate Broker
Home Auto Business Life
Brown for the things that matter most. 510 CHURCH STREET VIDALIA, GA 30474 912-537-2111

10 | Determined to Survive

Local businesses share ways they are coping in the midst of a pandemic.

30 | Caring for the Community

Jason Colbert is on a mission to help families deal with crisis while supporting his favorite hometown.

38 | Serving God and Country

Susanna Haynes discovers her calling as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain.

48 | Toombs County Cowboy

Farm life can be hard work, but Kirk Little loves the challenge.

60 | A Light on the Corner

Ginger Russell is helping build the community through dedication and prom dresses.



Those We Remember Well

Catching up with one of Toombs County’s memorable teachers, Mrs. Merle Wilkes.

82 | Vidalia’s Own Queen of Cheer

VHS Coach Ann Michele Toole takes her cheer team to the highest level.

92 | Shining On in Oak Park

Community groups like the Shiners, are revitalizing the Old School House in Oak Park with a festival and 21st century technology.

100 | With Art and Empathy

Helping people through the power of creativity.

110 | Friend of the River

Parker Waller’s friends celebrate his love of the river with an annual clean-up day.

120 | A Quiet Roar

Staff writer Teri Williams gets candid with Atlanta writer Randall Arthur about his latest book set in Lyons.

126 | Save a Dance for Dad

Daddy Daughter Date Night has become a treasured tradition for many Toombs County families.


144 | Last Words

Sometimes a woman’s best friend is her dog.

focus on health

8 | Technology for Your Well-Being Meadows Health takes new measures to protect your health during wellness visits.

at home

20 | The Sides of Summer

Easy recipes for your next gathering.

24 | Time for an Update

Improve your home’s value with these suggestions.

About the Cover

124 | The Local Market

126 | Lyons Main Street

134 | Chamber of Commerce

136 | Downtown Vidalia Association

138 | Scenes of Toombs

143 | Advertiser’s Index

Susanna Haynes’ career as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain is a natural extension of what she has been doing most of her life. Susanna’s father, Willie Haynes, was the founder and pastor of New Vision Missionary Baptist Church. “I was born into ministry,” said Susanna. From serving as a volunteer chaplain at a women’s shelter to serving as a youth pastor in Incheon, South Korea, Susanna would hold many ministerial positions before finally joining the Air Force chaplaincy.

82 48
in every issue
formerly Vidalia Dental Associates 912-537-2238 1618 Meadows Lane, Vidalia Come see Dr. Mark Oxley for all your dental needs. Your smile is in good hands.

FROM THE PUBLISHER pressing the pause button

Most people can recall vivid memories of where they were when they received any kind of life-changing news. When COVID-19 became a reality to us, Tommie and I were sitting in one of our favorite restaurants in Rome having a traditional plate of tonnorelli amatriciana. We commented to the waiter on the lack of patrons, and he shared the news. The Prime Minister had just issued an order for the entire country to go into lockdown that night, and the restaurant would close for the next two weeks. The waiter shook his head, and predicting the future, he said, “but we know it will be much longer than that.”

We had just loaded our calendar with weekend plans to finish out our time in Italy, but none of that would happen. Along with 60 million Italians we went home that night, shut the door and settled in for 12 weeks of confinement.

Many of our Georgia friends sent thoughts and prayers and asked what it was like in anticipation. Italy’s strict guidelines limited outdoor time to quick grocery runs and 20 minutes per day of exercise within 200 meters of the house. We had movement papers and regular police checks on the street to make sure there was compliance. The tourists disappeared, the pigeons took over the streets, the city became eerily quiet. As America would soon come to know, when we did go out, we learned how to shop while wearing masks and gloves, we waited in long lines several meters apart for our turn in a store, and we sanitized everything. The one difference we noted is that Italians only buy what they need, so we had plenty of toilet paper!

At times life was tedious. My children continued school online. Tommie and I worked from home. Some days, I had to take phone calls in the bathroom because there were trombone lessons happening in the living room, drama class in a bedroom and a zoom call in the dining room of our apartment. But, we learned that life can be put on pause and still go on. In the pause, I picked up painting again, we read books, we listened to music, we had long conversations, and most importantly, time moved a little slower.

As we were finally coming out of lockdown, the terrible news of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd hit like punch in the gut. COVID-19 gave us time to pause. These events gave us time to think about the future, teach our kids some really good lessons, and craft a plan for change to make our community whole again.

It feels at times like we are being tested on our ability to love and care for one another. And maybe that is a good thing. 2020 has taught us the value of relationships and how much we rely on them. It has taught us the importance of respecting different perspectives. It has taught us how to slow down a little and enjoy what we have been given. It’s also showed us that together, and with love, we can overcome anything. We see this profoundly our stories-the ones we share and the ones we are making.

keeping the stories alive,

To discover more that Toombs County has to offer, see our business index on page 143!

To share a story, send a note, or just get information: • (912) 293-0063

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Toombs County Magazine© is published bi-annually by Red Door Design & Publishing, LLC 148 Williams Avenue • Lyons, GA 30436 (912) 526-4195 All rights reserved. Copies or reproduction of this publication in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without expressed written authorization from the publisher. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein. Advertising is subject to omission, errors, and other changes without notice.
Toombs County MAGAZINE
Local franchisee, Craig Jones and family © 2020 Zaxby’s Franchising LLC. “Zaxby’s” is a registered trademark of Zaxby’s Franchising LLC. Each Zaxby’s restaurant is independently owned and operated under a license agreement with Zaxby’s Franchising LLC. 2705 E. First Street, Vidalia, GA • (912) 538-1880 Order Ahead at or on the app for contactless pickup

Technology for your well-being

COVID-19 has caused us all to rethink the way we manage our personal, business, and medical relationships. Because good health is imperative to fight any coronavirus, continuing your healthcare regimen is vital. At Meadows Health, we have been committed to your care and safety for over 56 years. With that commitment in mind, we’ve implemented several new forms of technology that will ensure you can continue your normal well-being routines and lab visits without compromising your safety. Discover all the ways Meadows Health is putting you first.


The next time you visit us, you will have a chance to experience our virtual waiting room. This allows us to safely see patients with technology that supports social distancing. It works


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through text messaging to enable a conversational style registration and remote check-in. It also allows typical intake forms to be digitized and contactless.


Medical screenings save lives. Those who have been putting off getting lab work due to the coronavirus pandemic now have a safer option at Meadows Health with curbside lab service. Patients can check-in from their phones, and the phlebotomist comes right out to the car to perform blood draws. The process is quick, safe and convenient.

Keeping you safe has always been our top priority. Your health is too important to delay. The trusted care you deserve is right here at home. To find out more about our safety updates and virtual waiting room visit or follow us on Facebook @MeadowsHealth

Patients scheduled for an appointment at Meadows Regional Medical Center will receive a text message reminder 1-hour prior to their appointment.

Upon arrival in the parking area, the patient should respond to the reminder notice by typing the letter “A” in the message line. The patient will receive a text message acknowledging arrival for the scheduled appointment and asking him/her to remain in the vehicle until hospital staff lets him/her know when to come in.

After checking in, the patient will also receive a text with an eForms link with instructions to complete the registration forms electronically on their phone before entering the building. If the patient chooses not to complete the forms electronically, they will receive a text telling them to come into the hospital and which registration room to go to.

Once the Registrar is ready for the patient, he/she will receive a text message with instructions on where to go.

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Upon entering each parking lot look for signage that instructs patients to go to on their cell phone.

Once the webpage loads, patients will press the “Get in Line” banner. If patients do not use text messaging on their cell phones, there is a phone number listed on the signage to check-in.

After the patient selects the “Get In Line” option, a registration window will appear on their cell phone. Patients will complete the short form and scroll down to select the blue “Get In Line” button at the bottom of the screen. The patient will need to click the box to “Send me text message notifications” and to accept the Terms of Service.

A text message will appear confirming the patient’s checkin. An additional message will notify the patient when the phlebotomist is on the way to the vehicle.

After the procedure is completed, the patient will receive a survey text message.

Outpatient Appointments Outpatient Labs

Your safety is our top priority

Your health should never be compromised. To ensure better safety, Meadows Health has implemented new technology for social distancing. We’re keeping you healthy....always.

One Meadows Parkway

Vidalia, GA 912.535.5555

Determined to Survive

Our local businesses share their perspectives on fighting COVID-19

When the news first surfaced of a strange new coronavirus affecting people in Wuhan, China, it was hardly a blip on the radar for many in South Georgia. Most people continued to make vacation plans, wedding plans and graduation plans not knowing that within a few months all of these things, along with the lives of people we loved and a thriving economy, would be severely interrupted.

COVID-19 caused confusion and shutdowns all over the country. Airlines stopped sending planes overseas, restaurants closed, beaches were barricaded and retail shops were shuttered. Small towns escaped some of the tight restrictions–people could still move about, enjoy their yards, and drive over to a neighbor's home to speak from a "safe" distance. But one thing rural communities didn't escape was the weight this global crisis would have on their small businesses.

Small businesses often start with a dream, a lot of faith and a commitment to flexibility. During this time, we've seen our small businesses get creative with the way they serve the community. We asked a few of them to give us their perspective on how to deal with a pandemic and come out stronger. And what we learned is faith, hope and creative ideas are pulling them through!

Wes Wilkes, Hardware Pizza

How has dealing with the COVID-19 shutdown changed the way you do business?

We did dine-in as long as we could with social distancing, then we went to curbside, well actually, it was outside dining. Then we were forced to do take-out only. Once we got to that point, we started looking for other ways to do business. We opened a Hardware Market to help the community because we realized that going to the grocery stores or the large retailers wasn't an option for many people. They also weren’t able to find beef, poultry, or basic staples like sugar, flour and toilet paper. We had access to those things through our distributors. Our market allows customers to buy directly from us–even frozen items and fresh produce. Customers place orders with us on Fridays and Tuesdays. Then they are able to come pick them up throughout the week by way of curbside service. It

provides convenience for them, and it doesn't require contact with anyone. One of the newest things we’ve started is Hardware to Go in which we offer some of our favorite menu items for pickup. Customers can take it home, put it in the oven and have a meal ready for that night. The experience has taught me that you have to adapt in order to survive.

What outcome do you hope to see?

When we are able to reopen, we hope our customers will realize the effort we've put into updating Hardware while they were gone. We spent many days cleaning and remodeling, and we look forward to having the customers back in here. Our biggest fear is the possibility that we may be reopening our economy a little soon. I hate to see the hardships that people are facing, but at the same time, I think we’ve got to win one battle. Right now I’m concerned we haven’t won the economy battle, and we haven’t won the Covid battle.

We believe in keeping teeth for a lifetime! Since 1909 Come see Dr. Jeremy Wood today for your new smile! Jeremy D. Wood, DMD, PC OWNER 912.537.3377 New Patients Welcome! 310 Jackson Street, Vidalia, GA

How has dealing with the pandemic made you stronger?

You know, prayer life is a big thing for me, so that hasn’t changed. I’ve had faith in God the entire time and my beliefs keep me grounded. I had someone in here awhile back and I was working at the oven making pizzas, and they looked at me and said, ”You’re gonna make it aren’t you?” And I absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, felt like we would because I knew that, from a spiritual life, God had put us in this restaurant from the beginning. There was a lot of prayer that went into it for us to purchase the restaurant, and I had no doubt that whatever was put upon us that we’d be able to get through it.

Nissa Mitchell, The Onion Inn

How has COVID-19 changed the way you do business?

It makes me more cautious about the folks checking in. We’ve put up some shields to better protect our employees. I’m not so much worried about me as I am the employees, you know, something happening to them. I think we’re taking a lot more safety precautions as hand sanitizing, steady cleaning and wiping when people leave the lobby after checking in. I think it’s just made us all more safe, more aware of our surroundings, the people that are around us and what’s going on. I think it’s made us more in tune.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

Before, we were only open for dinner, and we started doing carry out for lunch, take out and delivery for lunch. It wasn’t something that we ever planned on doing but, you know, you kind of roll with it when it happens, and it's actually been pretty popular. So we’re happy about that. I think we’re gonna keep it going.

What have you learned to appreciate during this pandemic?

I have learned to appreciate my employees. I didn’t have anyone leave, and that’s been a blessing. Our local community has been so good. I know that people are still kind of scared to go out, but we’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback and support. I bank locally, and I was able to get a PPP Loan because I have a great banker who took my situation personally and made sure that we were taken care of.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hope is that this will go back to normal soon and that this pandemic doesn’t have the impact that we were all afraid it would with deaths and all that. I’ve seen as a community everybody banding together because the most important asset that any of us have are people. This has all made me appreciate the things that I have and all that I was taking for granted.

What are you looking forward to when this is over?

The freedom. I feel like we were all sent to a corner, and put in time out for something we had nothing to do with. So, it’s definitely the freedom and being able to see each other. We are a team here, these are my family. This has made me

appreciate them more even while not working. We get in a routine and we build relationships with people, and then when that suddenly stops, it's kind of like 'Oh my gosh, what do we do? What’s going on?'

What are your hopes and fears? My hope is that they find a cure for this nasty little bug. I don’t have any fears because I believe that when you are fearful, that the devil has a hold on you, and I choose not to be afraid. I don’t want anyone to come down with the virus and get sick, but am I fearful for them? No. I’m not fearful for me because I will not allow fear to have a hold on me.

Has this experience made you stronger?

It’s definitely made me stronger in my faith because I believe that there are reasons behind everything, and every reason draws you closer to your faith. So I believe it’s made me stronger in that aspect, and I also believe that is why I’m not fearful.

Chris Cato, The Red Stag Tavern
537-9488 Mildred
Monday - Friday: 7 AM - 7 PM Saturday: 8 AM - 3 PM Sunday: 1 PM - 5 PM Your Time! Your Health! Our Priority! “Open 365 days a year” Excellent Medical Care - Quick & Convenient Care Excellent Medical Care That’s Quick & Convenient Your Health. Your Time. Our Priority Acu e Care Clinic Your Time! Your Health! Our Priority! 537-9488 Monday - Friday: 7 AM - 7 PM Saturday: 8 AM - 3 PM Sunday: 1 PM - 5 PM “Open 365 days a year”
Tuck, APRN-C
Jake Dailey, FNP-BC Mary Andrews, NP-C

Brent Sammons, Altamaha Bank & Trust

How has the shutdown affected the way you do business?

Cindy Reddick, Accessorize It!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

The number one thing it has changed is the difference in walk-in customers–being unable to have walk-in customers right now versus doing more Internet, Facebook and Instagram customers. I do a lot of business via Facebook, via Messenger, via just pictures. People will take a picture of a measurement of their window and send it to me. From there, I will send them back pictures of fabrics in the colors that they desire. We have actually done a lot of window treatments this way just through photographs. Then I have the window treatment made, and I can even go install it in people’s homes when they are not there. So, it’s worked very well.

What have you learned to appreciate during this pandemic?

Probably, to appreciate the most, would be the conversations with customers. Being a small shop, sometimes people come here just as a getaway and just kind of need to talk lady to lady for a little while. And just to share some things. So I miss being able to have that one-on-one conversation with folks that

just kind of need to spend some time with you for a few moments.

Do you have fears or hopes for the future?

Well, first of all, I’m not fearful in any kind of way. I’m just not. I just walk by faith. I know whatever is to become of Accessorize It, it belongs to the Lord, and whatever he does with it, that’s up to Him. I’m just here to run it. Hopes? I hope that I will not go back to working nearly as much as I was. I want to continue to be mindful of my store hours, be mindful of the fact that just because someone’s surfing on Pinterest at 10 o’clock at night and sends me a picture to say, “How can I do this?” doesn’t mean I have to answer immediately. Sometimes I have to remind folks I’m 9:30 to 5:30, and I’ll help you when I can, but once I get home, it’s family time.

Will you operate differently now?

It has made me realize I don’t have to have the store stocked to the brim at all times. I’m extremely mindful of how I select what I purchase to come in this store, so there’s always a nice flow. There’s almost always every price point, and I've come to realize less is more. So I’m going to be a lot more mindful of how I purchase in the future.

We have definitely seen a change in the way we conduct business as has everybody in this community. In the banking world, we had some infrastructure in place already as far as our mobile capacity–online banking–and ATM banking. We had made some investment in those areas recently that made all of this a little bit easier for the customer to adapt. We have utilized other products like Docusign so that we can simply email documents, loan documents, that type of thing out to customers, so they don’t have to come to the bank. We have definitely changed the way we operate.

What has this situation taught you to appreciate?

I think our team in all of our branches and our board really stepped up and adapted very quickly. Everybody’s been positive and just stepped up to do whatever we have to do to make it work. At the same time, our customers did the same. Even though we put up a sign that said our lobbies were closed and we can take appointments, we haven’t seen a lot of people calling for appointments. They’re content to use our other channels for banking. We’re not hearing any complaints about it. So, we are very thankful for our staff, our customers and the community for embracing the changes that we’ve all had to make.

"[We're] trying to avoid the fears and just operate sensibly, to walk by faith through this whole thing, and to care for one another as we should..."
-Brent Sammons

As generational farmers, Randall and Howard Morris understand the importance of having deep roots in a growing community. At Altamaha Bank & Trust, we share the same belief. Our staff is dedicated to helping you secure a bright future and helping our community grow. Stop in and see us today!

Altamaha Bank & Trust President Brent Sammons with Randall and Howard Morris of Morris Farms Jackson Street Branch: 912-537-1921 Vidalia West Branch: 912-537-9452 Uvalda Branch: 912-594-6525 Hazlehurst Branch: 912-375-5415

What are your hopes? Fears?

Our hopes are that we will get through this thing quickly and not see a resurgence of it. I guess that’s my fear, is listening to experts talk about the possibility of this circling back around maybe in the fall or something of that effect. Also the concern that maybe we’re just on the front side of it here in south Georgia and maybe there’s a wave coming, I don’t know. We have seen a few increases in the number of cases locally. Hopefully, that’s contained, and we won’t see that escalate. Hopefully, they can find some sort of vaccine for this going forward. But, you know, my fear is that normal is different now. We keep talking about returning to normal, but I think we all know it’s a different normal now, and it affects everything; our travel, our going to the store, even trying to buy toilet paper, meat and those types of things that have become somewhat difficult to find. So, that's my biggest fear is that it's a drastic change in how we all live our lives going forward.

How has this changed your outlook?

Well, you know, we're trying to avoid the fears and just operate sensibly, to walk by faith through this whole thing, and to care for one another as we should, to look out for our team mates, for our customers, for our community as we try to do what’s best for each other. I think as an organization we’ve stepped up, we’ve learned to do things more efficiently, and we have adapted quite well to it.

Scott Phillips, New Image Salon

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

COVID-19 has totally changed everything. We are having to provide education to our clients about hand washing, 6 ft spacing for social distancing, how to sneeze properly (into your elbow), and that we should all be wearing masks. Now, even non-healthcare related businesses like ours have to screen our employees before work and our clients as they enter the business. Before the virus, our clients would be offended to be asked to sit in their cars while waiting to be seen, but now it is the “new normal,” I suppose.

What have you learned to appreciate during this pandemic?

I have learned to appreciate our team and our clients even more than before. It was very difficult, both financially, and emotionally to have to close our doors for nearly 4 weeks, and so abruptly. I have also come to appreciate the extra steps we take in making sure detailed sanitation occurs for the benefit of everyone.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes are that this virus will leave and be gone for good. I also hope that during this time we as a community look at how we all pulled together and beat a pandemic which is unheard of in the past 100 years. I hope we will be ready and more prepared if we ever have to face this challenge again. My fear is that a second wave of the virus is coming and businesses like ours will have to close again. I also have a fear that some small businesses will not survive the struggles we have faced this past few months.

Did this pandemic make you stronger?

Dealing with this pandemic most definitely made me a stronger person, father, friend, and entrepreneur. I will be ready if ever, or whenever, another pandemic might occur. The pandemic has helped me realize that when things get tough, the people in our area will pull together and fight. I believe not only has it made me stronger, but it has made our community stronger as a whole.


Randall Morris, Morris Farms

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

The biggest thing for us was our concern with the labor situation. But here in packing we made masks available, and we did the things we felt would keep our employees safe. The biggest impact that we have seen though has been economic impact from the sales end on onions for this year. Our farm is a smaller farm in terms of onions. We’re not a major shipper to grocery store chains. We modeled ours to sell for fund raisers and online sales. Fundraisers have been greatly impacted. We have probably had half of the customers that we have been doing business with 10, 15, 20, 30 years that were not able to do a fundraiser this year because their school was closed or their civic organization was concerned about sales through door to door contact. So, they, in a lot of cases, just canceled their fundraiser for the year. That's a very direct impact on our sales. Individual online sales have been probably up a little bit over a normal year with the exception of gift orders. We had one customer that normally buys and sends gifts–probably 150 packages in a year–to their customers. They called and said, 'We’re sorry but we’re not going to do it this year because most of our customers are working from home now, and we don't have all their home addresses for the delivery.’ So they were just afraid of the problems it would create. And it’s completely understandable. We saw that coming and picked up some different avenues to market them, so we’re going to be able to move all of our onions. But it's just been a kind of a hair-raising, problem-solving year on moving them.

What have you learned to appreciate during this pandemic?

You just kind of appreciate the freedom to move around and do what you want to do and be able to go out to eat without putting a mask on your nose, you know. We were informed by the Department of Homeland Security that we’re an essential industry, so we’re supposed to work like we’ve been working. People got to eat, that’s the truth. So as far as from the work end of it, we haven’t changed a lot there. But as far as lifestyle, or personal lifestyle, it’s a lot more

difficult to go get a bite to eat. Southerners tend to be, on the average, huggers or hand-shakers. Who wants to worry about shaking hands with somebody? I guess you just learn to appreciate not having to worry about those kind of things more. And I think we’ll probably get back to that maybe, at some point. I also appreciate that we are fortunate to be in an area that we’re not heavily impacted. As bad as we think it has been here, we haven’t been impacted anywhere like urban areas. So, you know, I’ve always said I enjoyed living in the country–I appreciate it a lot more now.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope we get back to what we consider normal, you know. I hope that folks don’t get to the point that they think they can’t have the types of relationships that we’ve always considered part of our southern hospitality. You want to be able

to slap people on the back or give them a hug without worrying about catching something, you know. I hope we get back to that and kinda get over this deal. I think this will pass.

How has this made you stronger?

It learns you to roll with the punches. Life is not a guarantee of a bed of roses, we’ve always known that. I think, in the end, whenever you go through trials and tribulations sometimes it makes you a little bit stronger, and you learn how to handle things better. We think this is–especially if you listen to the national media–just the worst thing that’s ever happened to this country. I would argue that it’s probably not. It’s bad and we’re having to deal with it. But, you know, I think it will kind of strengthen us to be able to weather things. Because this won’t be the last tough road that people have to work through.




Health checks



Monday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Most Insurance Accepted

Monday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Established patients may be seen at our sister clinic Vidalia Pediatrics after hours

Monday-Thursday: 5 PM -6:30 PM

Saturday: 9 AM – 12 PM

Monday-Thursday: 5 PM -6:30 PM Saturday: 9 AM – 12 PM

303 Harris Industrial Blvd, Suite 1 | Vidalia, GA 30474 | (912) 537-9991
Tots to Teens Medical Center Keeping Kids Healthy is our top priority Acute Care Same Day Appointments
Health checks
PPO & HMO Providers
Healthcare &
Cross/Blue Shield
Established patients may be seen at our sister clinic Vidalia Pediatrics after hours
303 Harris Industrial Blvd, Suite 1 | Vidalia, GA 30474 | (912) 537-9991
Tots to Teens Medical Center Keeping Kids Healthy is our top priority
Acute Care Same Day Appointments
Most Insurance Accepted United Healthcare & Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO & HMO Providers
Vidalia Your Child , Your Trust , Our Care Medicaid/Wellcare Amerigroup PeachState PeachCare United Healthcare Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO & HMO 303 Harris Industrial Blvd. Suite 3 | Vidalia, GA Pediatric Clinic Monday – Thursday: 8: 00 AM – 6:30 PM Friday: 8: 00 AM – 5:00 PM Saturday: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM (Established patients only) Most Insurance Accepted Acute Care Same Day Appointments 912.537.9355

The Sides of Summer

Summerhas its own assortment of scents and flavors ranging from fresh, crisp and light to sultry and smoky. It is a season marked by refreshing drinks, newly harvested fruits and vegetables, barbecued meats, grilled fish and charcuterie boards overflowing with summer sausage, delectable cheese and sweet, dripping honey. We often celebrate summer with food through potluck family gatherings, holidays and beach picnics. Next time you attend one of these celebratory events, take a side dish that will have everyone lining up for the recipe.



8 cups watermelon, cubed in bite-size pieces

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon Terra Dolce Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


Toss first five ingredients in large bowl. Drizzle lime juice on top. Transfer to a serving dish.



2 pounds baking potatoes (about 6 medium-size)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

5 green onions, chopped

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese salt and ground black pepper, to taste


1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash potatoes and prick with a fork.

2 Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

3 Peel potatoes, or peel half of them and leave the skin on the other half for an authentic baked potato texture. Cut the potatoes into small, pieces.

4 Combine sour cream and mayonnaise in a bowl and stir well.

5 Add the potatoes to a large serving bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Add sour cream sauce (just enough to coat them) and stir gently to coat.

6 Add onion, cheese, and bacon, reserving some for topping. Gently stir to combine. Top with remaining bacon as a garnish. Serves 8



10 ears of corn, shucked salt and pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Terra Dolce Farms Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for brushing

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled

1/2 cup cotija cheese, finely crumbled

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Perfect for Picnics

1 Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and a generous pinch of salt and return to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain the corn and let cool slightly.

2 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, create a citrus aioli by whisking the mayonnaise with the lime and lemon zests and juices, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the mustard, garlic and cayenne. Season with salt.

3 Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the corn with olive oil and

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season with salt. Grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly, then cut the kernels off the cobs.

4 In a large bowl, toss the corn kernels with the softened butter. Stir in the citrus aioli. Add the queso fresco, cotija, parsley and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or make the aioli ahead, refrigerate, and fold into the corn before serving. Serves 8.



10 bacon slices, chopped

1 large onion, diced

1 can (15-oz) pork and beans

1 can (15-oz) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-oz) navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15-oz) butter beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar


1 Cook chopped bacon slices in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp; remove bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Add diced onion, and sauté in hot drippings 5 minutes or until tender.

2 Combine bacon, onion, beans, ketchup, brown sugar, water, and cider vinegar in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Perfect for Cookouts

3 Bake, covered, at 350° for 45 minutes; uncover and bake 15 more minutes. This can also be placed in a slowcooker on low for 8-10 hours.

Serves 10-12

All day long



Small watermelon, cut into cubes

2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Mint sprigs


1 Place the cubed watermelon into a freezer for several hours or overnight.

2 When frozen, blend the watermelon pieces, almond milk and a few sprigs of mint in a blender.



1/4 cup agave nectar

6 ounces raspberries

3 medium peaches, sliced

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


1 In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water and agave over medium heat until the agave has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add raspberries and peaches, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until

Warm summer evenings

raspberries have broken down, about 5 minutes.

2 Blend raspberry peach mixture in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute; let cool completely before straining through a cheesecloth or fine sieve.

3 In a large pitcher, whisk together raspberry peach mixture, lemon juice and 5 cups water. Place in the refrigerator until chilled.

4 Serve over ice and raspberries, if desired.



1/2 oz fresh lime juice (about 1/2 of a lime)

1 oz Limoncello, chilled 4 oz sparkling wine, such as Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling Moscato, chilled


1 Place lime juice and Limoncello in a champagne flute. Top off with sparkling wine. Stir gently to combine.

2 Garnish with a lemon or lime slice, or with lemon and lime zest if desired.

Perfect for Parties
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design decisions should be made to suit you and your family’s style while you are enjoying your home. But not everyone has the same taste. If you plan to put your home on the market in the future, make sure your designs aren’t living in the past.

out: Tile Counters

Tile countertops were all the rage in the 1970s. Inevitably, the grout lines would attract stains that were impossible to clean.

instead: If you’d like to keep your space current, ditch the tile with its hard-to-clean grout lines and replace granite with quartz, stone or marble in lighter, neutral shades. This look provides a minimalist modern aesthetic that is open and bright.

out: Eliminating Closets

A frequent mistake homeowners often make is removing closets to free up space for larger bedrooms or master baths. People need storage, so this immediately reduces your home’s value.

instead: With the right furnishings and textiles, a smaller bedroom can feel cozy and perfectly-sized. Having good storage means you can put away the “clutter” that a larger bedroom tends to accumulate. It also reduces wasted space that you are really not going to enjoy anyway.

out: Hollywood Mirror Lights

You know exactly the ones we are talking about. Large bulbs lining the mirror frame that leave you feeling like a deer in the headlights every morning. These type lights aren’t energy efficient, and they can be expensive to replace.

instead: Opt for lighting that produces a more natural glow. In a bathroom, you should have some general purpose overhead lighting and some vanity lighting. There



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are endless options for sconces and light fixtures that produce variable mirror lighting without the glare.

out: Wallpaper Borders

Whether it runs through the middle of the room or trims the top of your wall, this trend should stop short anytime after the 90s.

instead: Wallpaper, in general, took a time-out for a decade, but it’s back and more fashionable than ever. Homeowners are using it in a myriad of cool, creative ways like on accent walls, in powder rooms and on ceilings. Wallpaper can work in your home, but, seriously, the border has to go.

out: Whole House Carpeting

Carpet is relatively inexpensive and feels great underfoot, but it also stains easily and holds on to dirt and grime. Sometimes this even creates problems with allergies. If you are planning to sell your home, wood flooring is your best bet.

instead:Wood and tile still remain top choices for flooring. They are both durable and easy to clean. The bonus is you can add beautiful rugs to regain the soft touch of carpet. If opting for tile, consider neutral patterns that add interest without being overwhelming. A consistant pattern surprising seems less “busy” than one that is random.

out: Too Much White

Too much white—particularly whites with cool blue undertones—can give a room a cold, sterile, and harsh appearance.

instead: Choose warmer whites, and mix it up a bit with walls in other neutral hues, warm woods, or pops of color in textiles and furnishings.

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few kids in high school know what they want to do as a career, and Jason was no different. Two weeks after he turned sixteen, his Vidalia High School business development teacher, Wanda Youmans, stopped him in the school hallway. “Jason,” she said, “I’ve got a job interview for you with Chapman Healthcare. The job is delivering and setting up health equipment for families in their homes. I think you would be perfect for the job.”

The only reason Jason agreed to go to the interview with the company owners, Virginia and George Chapman, was because he needed money for gas now that he could drive. But the Chapmans agreed with Ms. Youmans—Jason was perfect for the job. He enjoyed caring for people. He didn’t need an aptitude test to point him toward a career in healthcare. His heart was confirmation enough.

While his classmates talked of escaping small-town life to pursue their dreams, he felt only fulfillment in serving the people in his own hometown. Jason graduated from Vidalia Comprehensive High School in 1996 and attended Brewton-Parker College for a time. For nearly ten years, he worked for Chapman Healthcare. And even though he loved his hometown and loved his work, the mentality that there was something better beyond his small-town life led him to leave. “I went to work for a company in Statesboro. But after fifteen months, I knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t home,” said Jason.

When Meadows Regional Hospital opened their own medical equipment company in 2005 called Meadows Home Medical (now called Alliance Home Medical), Jason was hired to manage it. After only a year, he was approached by the owners of Community Hospice, Vickie and Royce Ryles. “I had no idea what hospice care was even about, but they asked if I would interview for their CEO position,” said Jason. Just like his high school teacher, Ms. Youmans, the company owners were confident he was perfect for the job.

That was fourteen years ago. Now, Jason couldn’t see himself doing anything else. In 2010, he became one of the youngest in this country to ever pass the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Administrators board exam. Anyone who has ever sat for national board exams will appreciate what it takes to have CHPCA (Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator) behind your name. It’s not just a job for Jason. It’s his passion, his life calling. For families in need of endof-life care for a loved one, his work at Community Hospice represents more than a professional service – it personifies compassion and guidance during one of the most difficult times.

Jason Colbert takes caring to a new level not only by helping families through crisis, but also through supporting his favorite hometown.

End-of-life care is not something anyone wants to think about. Even doctors have been hesitant in the past to bring up hospice care simply because they don’t want the patients and/or their families to feel they have given up hope. But this misconception and lack of information about services available through hospice and palliative care have caused many to be unprepared and overwhelmed in a time that is already difficult. “It’s clinically proven that hospice and palliative care provides a much higher quality of life in someone’s journey who is dealing with advanced illness,” said Jason. “Hospice doesn’t mean it’s the end, and you’re giving up. It means you’re not alone and you have a team of compassionate, caring people you can call on anytime day or night.”

“According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 percent of the U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative,” reports the American Psychological

Association ( And that number is expected to rise as baby boomers make up more and more of the aging population.

The concept for hospice care actually began in the late 1940s with a British physician by the name of Dame Cicely Saunders who worked with terminally ill patients as a nurse (and later as a physician) in the United Kingdom. According to, “In 1963, during a talk at Yale University in the U.S., Dr. Saunders introduced the idea of specialized care for the dying, which centered on palliative care rather than treatments to cure.” Pictures she presented of terminally ill patients before and after receiving hospice care “began the discussion in the U.S. of providing hospice care to patients at the end of life.” Dr. Sanders would go on to establish the first hospice for the terminally ill in the United Kingdom in 1967 called St. Christopher Hospice.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a SwissAmerican psychiatrist, took the conversation to a whole new level

with her book published in 1969 entitled On Death and Dying. The book contained over 500 interviews with patients in their final stages of life. In her book, Dr. Kubler-Ross “emphasizes the benefits of home care over treatment in an institutional setting for terminally ill patients,” according to “In 1972, Kubler-Ross testified before the US Senate Special Committee on Aging about the right to die with dignity, a big part of which is the right to make decisions about one’s end-of-life care and to die at home.”

Dr. Florence Wald, a nurse and Dean of the Yale School of Nursing, “took a sabbatical in 1968 to work at St. Christopher’s [in London] to experience hospice first hand,” ( In 1974, she founded the first hospice in Branford, Connecticut, along with two pediatricians and a chaplain. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Medicare Hospice benefit to enable Americans and their families to receive quality end-of-life care. Hospice care is also covered by Medicaid and many private health insurance plans.

“For the first time since the early 1900s, more Americans are dying at home rather than in hospitals, a trend that reflects more hospice care and progress toward the kind of end that most people say they want,” explains a December 12, 2019 article posted on Dying at home is not about less medical attention, but about choosing the environment in which medical attention is given.

From the wealthiest of the wealthy to the poorest of the poor, death comes in one form or another to us all. But with places like Community Hospice, there are more choices for how and where the last stage of life with our loved ones is spent. Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming. According to a 2015 research report entitled,

FAR LEFT Community Hospice provides a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere and tries to make every patient feel important. Sometimes that means going to extremes. In this case, a patient in hospice care had a love of horses and wanted to see one again before her illness overcame her.


“Caregiving in the U.S.,” by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the AARP Public Policy Institute, “About 1 in 4 [caregivers] provide care for 41 hours or more each week (23%) and 3 in 10 provide between 9 and 40 hours of care (31%).”

“Hospice is about making the time you have left with your loved one as comfortable and peaceful as possible,” said Jason. Sharing the responsibility for the care of a loved one with a support team relieves stress for everyone and puts the emphasis back where it belongs on time spent together.

With eighty employees on staff, “Community Hospice provides care in any setting whether at home, in a nursing home, or in one of our twelve private beds here at the Community Hospice House,” said Jason. “We have the only in-patient hospice house in our area. We also provide pet therapy, music therapy, and massage therapy to patients, who benefit emotionally, spiritually, and physically from it.”

Hospital bills, insurance payments, medications, and medical services can overshadow time families have left together. “When we go into the home, we provide everything from

medications to medical equipment and supplies such as hospital beds, oxygen, wheelchairs, diapers, and wound care supplies,” said Jason. “We also provide around-the-clock nursing when needed.”

Instead of waiting until the end, a patient could have received massage therapy for comfort. Medications could have been delivered to the home. A hospital bed could have been provided, and the comfort of a chaplain given. Rather than a panicked trip to a hospital in the middle of the night, a nurse will come to you anytime.

With the support of the entire


Community Hospice team, the family does not have to face this time on their own. An interdisciplinary team of caregivers work with the patient and family to offer as much support as needed for whatever physical, emotional, social, and/or spiritual needs the patient and family may encounter.

“Services provided by Community Hospice are available to anyone who has a progressive terminal or advanced illness and is facing the final six months of life,” said Jason. “But some patients live a lot longer than six months and remain under hospice services, if eligible.”

Home care is overseen by the patient’s own attending physician and the hospice medical director and includes visits with Registered Nurses to “provide symptom control, pain management, and provide education on disease progression.” Nursing services are available 24 hours a day and serve as a liaison between doctor and patient. Certified Nursing Assistants are also available to assist with activities of daily living that include bathing, eating, shaving, and mouth & nail care as well as assisting caregivers with light housekeeping.”

Community Hospice also provides visits with social workers to assist

with counseling, financial resources, and future planning. These educated professionals are available 24 hours per day to provide assistance with the psychosocial, financial, and emotional needs of patients and families and provide links to community resources and grief counseling services.

Chaplains are available 24 hours a day to assist patients with spiritual counseling no matter the denomination or affiliation. Community volunteers are also a vital part of Community Hospice. “We have amazing volunteers who run errands, read books, build ramps and spend time with our patients,” said Jason.

Respite Care is another invaluable service provided for families when the primary caregivers need to be outof-town, have a medical procedure, or simply take a much needed break. Community Hospice can keep the patient at the Hospice House for five consecutive nights for each respite care stay.

S.O.A.P.S. (Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society), a non-profit organization in Vidalia, has created a collaboration with Community Hospice “to ensure that all pets owned by hospice patients and families, continue to receive the attention and dedication they deserve. The SOAPS collaborative

provides medical assistance, food assistance, and the assistance of pet adoption.”

Community Hospice is not only there for end-of-life care, but also for the days that follow. GriefShare, which is sponsored, in part, by Community Hospice, is the “Grief Recovery and Bereavement Support Group.” The 13-week course began meeting in 2012. The program is held several times throughout the year and offers a “unique, three-part approach to coping with loss and grief.”

Community Hospice serves a fourteen-county area. “We’ve never billed anyone,” said Jason. “We are a 501c3 and accept any patient that meets hospice qualification guidelines regardless of their ability to pay. We don’t turn anyone away. Hospice care is covered by Medicaid and Medicare and some insurance policies, but we’ve been fortunate. The community is our greatest supporter. We receive donations through community events, fundraisers, sponsorships, support from community businesses, and as memorial gifts in lieu of flowers.”

Community Hospice does what they can to help with any “last wishes” of a patient. “We love helping families make these wishes come true,” said Jason. “For one gentleman, that meant

Jason has always had a desire to see Toombs County thrive. Under his watch, Community Hospice has contributed to the community's success through support and participation.


coordinating with the Sweet Onion Cinema to provide a private screening of the newest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker. He watched the entire movie with his family from his stretcher,” Jason smiled.

Another patient wanted to go to the beach one last time. Jason managed to get a limo to pick him up and take him and his wife to the beach. “One of our nurses accompanied him and his wife, so they could stay overnight,” said Jason. One patient had never flown, and his wish was to fly in a plane. “We found a way to take him flying, and one of our nurses rode with him.”

It’s especially emotional for both family and staff when a patient at Community Hospice is a child. “We had a seven-year-old pediatric patient who was a John Cena fan,” said Jason. “He loved the wrestler. So, we found a way for the young boy to talk with John Cena on the phone. The next morning, he received a package with tons of stuff all signed by the wrestler. He was so excited. It was really neat.”

Whether coordinating the fulfillment of a last will for a hospice patient or volunteering for a community event, Jason has dedicated his life to serving our community. He

was one of the first graduates of the Toombs-Montgomery Leadership program and President of the Downtown Vidalia Association (DVA) from 2010 to 2013. He is a member of the Vidalia Kiwanis Club and was selected Business Associate of the Year in 2015 by the Vidalia charter chapter

of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). Jason has also served as chairman of the medical professional division for United Way and marshal of the Vidalia Christmas parade on more than one occasion, and he participates in Vidalia’s annual “Clean-up Day.”

ABOVE Jason with his sons Conner and Carson. LEFT to RIGHT Community Hospice donation plaque at the Cancer Center. Jason working on plans for the Downtown Music Festival. Delivering donated turkeys to families in need along with Community Hospice nurses. Participating in Vidalia Clean Up day. Community Hospice provides the hayride at the annual Spooktacular Fall Festival. TJ Walker and Wendy Cason with Jason at a Chamber event. Jason as Vidalia ABWA's Business Associate of the Year along with his mother Deborah Sims who was chosen Vidalia ABWA's Woman of the Year.

Jason currently serves on the board of directors for the Vidalia Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as on the J.R. Trippe Middle School Governance Council. On a state level, Jason just completed a six-year term on the board of directors for the Georgia Hospice & Palliative Care Association, where he served as chairman of the Nomination Committee. In early 2010, Jason, along with other hospice leaders throughout the state, met with Governor Sonny Perdue in the State Capital as he proclaimed the month of November as Hospice and Palliative care month.

For Jason, his most important accomplishment is raising his two teenage sons, Carson (16), and Conner (14). “Both boys are 4th generation Vidalia High School attendees,” he said proudly. “I hope I have imprinted on them a sense of community. I want them to always think of Toombs County as their home and value giving back to the people who live here to make it a better place.”

Jason’s acts of service in our community are not mentioned here as a form of flattery but as an act of honor and appreciation. “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another,” someone once wrote. Every day, Jason works to lessen the burden of end-of-life care for families in our community. From the community he never considered too small to serve, we give our heartfelt thanks.

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Serving God and country

Susanna Haynes delivers comfort and love to our service men and women.


Time was running out. Susanna easily met the education and ministry requirements with a Master in Theology and many years of service in the ministry, but the cut-off age was forty, and she was already thirty-nine. The qualification process itself could take between nine and eighteen months. But time was not the only issue. Only thirtythree out of eighty applicants would be chosen. As the last step in a long and grueling interview process, Susanna had been interviewed by the Chief of Chaplains Accessions and other senior military

LEFT Susanna's swearing in ceremony in 2019 led by Stephen Turner, Director of Chaplaincy Services at Georgia Department of Corrections and Susanna's former boss. ABOVE Susanna beginning her officer training in Alabama.

leadership personnel, including a colonel from the Pentagon, in San Antonio, Texas. Three days later, word came. Susanna Haynes was officially selected to serve as a 1st Lieutenant Chaplain in the United States Air Force.

Susanna was commissioned on June 8th, 2019, and reported for active duty in Alabama on June 9th for five weeks of COT, Commissioned Officer Training. “That’s boot camp

for officers,” she explained. With the emotional and mental part of the application process behind her, she began the physical challenge of boot camp. “All candidates are expected to pass a physical fitness test, which consists of one-minute of push-ups, one minute of sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run,” said Susanna. “We got up early at 0430 every day and did a lot of marching while being yelled at. I ate fast and learned the customs and

courtesies of the Air Force. It was quite an experience but an important part of my training to becoming a better airman.”

On July 12, she graduated from COT and three days later reported for duty at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. She was there only long enough to move into her living quarters and set up her office before returning to Alabama to attend a six-week Basic Chaplain’s Course.

Both Susanna's mother (LEFT) and father (BELOW LEFT) were very involved in church. Her father, Willie Haynes was the founder and pastor of New Vision Missionary Baptist Church. After her father passed away, she helped continue his ministry at New Vision until a permanent minister could be found. In 2013, Susanna was ordained at Full Gospel Baptist Church in Atlanta (BELOW), but that was just the beginning of the many ministerial positions she would hold.

"I was born into ministry," said Susanna.

as an Air Force

“There were a lot of exams to pass in order to continue,” said Susanna. “The Air Force takes pride in both fitness and academics.”

Even though she had been out of high school for many years, it didn’t hurt that the 1998 Vidalia Comprehensive High School graduate ran track and played soccer and softball. In fact, she was picked as “Most Athletic Female” of her high school. More importantly, the spiritual foundation that was laid in her life as a child now gave her strength to fulfill her commitment of service to God and country.

“I was born into ministry,” said Susanna. It was never something she despised or from which she rebelled but rather considered as an honor. “My father was the founder and pastor of New Vision Missionary Baptist Church.” Willie Haynes was also Toombs County Chief Tax Assessor for many years. As a bi-vocational minister, he was able to be a part of the workforce in his community while also serving as a minister. “He had a very strong work ethic. I never knew

him to be without a job,” said his daughter.

Susanna was well prepared for the academic challenges of a new career. After high school, she had attended East Georgia College and graduated in 2001 with an Associate of Arts in English. She then attended Georgia State University graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and minor in Speech. From 2009 to 2012, she attended Emory University, Candler School of Theology, where she obtained a Master of

Divinity. During her first two years at Emory, she volunteered as a chaplain at the Genesis Women’s Shelter in Atlanta. During her last year, she was chosen from hundreds of applicants to fill one of six positions as a chaplain intern at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Throughout high school and college, teachers and professors alike recognized Susanna’s gift of leadership. But it was her attitude of joy and hands-to-the-plow work ethic that made way for her gift.

Susanna's career
Chaplain was a natural extension of what she had been doing most of her life.

Serving the world

In 2012, Susanna moved to Incheon, South Korea, to serve as a youth pastor at the 2,000 plus member Good Samaritan Methodist Church. She also evangelized and taught English in poverty stricken areas. LEFT Korean children write letters to Silas Edenfield, a Vidalia child who lost his battle with cancer in 2013. Susanna later delivered the letters to Silas' mother, and she attended his home going service while she was visiting in America. BELOW Susanna celebrates her birthday with the Korean church English volunteers. BOTTOM English Christmas Party in South Korea in 2012. OPPOSITE PAGE Susanna preaches to the church congregation with the help of Senior Pastor Guhyun Kwon as a translator in 2013.


One such teacher was Terri Humphrey, now a dear friend and longtime mentor. “Terri Humphrey has always been there for me. Not because I didn’t have a great family for support. I did,” said Susanna. “But she would travel to watch me play sports. She even came to my swearing-in ceremony. To this day, she sends me cards. She’s always sending me something to let me know she’s thinking of me.” When Mrs. Humphrey retired from teaching in 2016, Susanna was asked to speak at her retirement ceremony.

It was a recommendation from one of her professors that offered Susanna the opportunity to serve as a youth pastor in South Korea after graduating from Emory.

“Dr. Noel Erskine was this awesome professor. I got to really know him when he took my class on a mission trip to Jamaica.” It was on this trip that Susanna got the opportunity to share with her professor her dream of one day traveling the world and preaching the gospel. “He never forgot it,” she said.

While in South Korea visiting the church of a former student, the professor was asked if he knew anyone who could help him with the youth. The professor said, “I have the perfect girl.” When he returned to America, he sent Susanna an email. “I was getting ready to graduate,” she said. “His email said, ‘I prayed much about this opportunity


for you, and I would not have recommended you to a setting that is not worthy of your commitment.’”

Susanna didn't have to apply for a position. She didn’t have to make a phone call or send a resumé. The respect of her former professor was all the recommendation needed. When she left home for South Korea, she said, “I walked away from everything I had ever known. I left my apartment, my furniture, my car, my job, even my clothes. I just trusted God would provide for me when I got there.”

Susanna served as youth pastor at the 2,000 plus member Good Samaritan Methodist Church in Incheon, South Korea, for three years. Each week, her Sunday messages to the youth were translated by volunteer Korean students. She also preached in the slums and taught English to children in acute poverty.

In 2015, Susanna learned that her father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She returned home to help care for him and assisted him in ministry. She also volunteered as a chaplain at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia. Unsure as to what the future might hold, she took the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam and passed, which enabled her to officially teach English as a Second Language.

In 2016, Susanna’s father passed away. Filled with a deep grief, she said, “I continued to serve in my ministerial role to the congregation until God sent the current pastor, Rev. Willie Edwards, Jr. to take up the mantle.” In 2017, she was hired as Clinical Chaplain at the Emanuel Women’s Facility in Swainsboro, Georgia, and became a bi-vocational minister just like her father.

When Susanna returned home from South Korea, one of the first people she visited was another mentor and friend, Steve Weeks, the former Director of the Vocational Department at Vidalia High School. “I visited Mr. Weeks often for guidance at his business in Vidalia, Steve Weeks Financial Services, where he offers

free financial counseling service. After my father passed away, he suggested I consider military service. But at the time, I wasn’t ready to listen. My father had just died, and I was deeply grieving. I wasn’t ready to pick up and go anywhere.”

But Mr. Weeks continued to encourage Susanna to put her gifts and talents to use in the military. “One day, I realized God was speaking to me through Mr. Weeks. I loved my

But God has blessed me with incredible leaders to help me learn. One being my supervisor and Wing Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Barker, who is such a great leader, mentor, and friend.”

“True Biblical honor is derived out of and motivated by love,” writes Mavis Kurkoski in her book Honor the Currency of Heaven. The reference in the book’s title is not to dollars and coins but to a divine exchange. Not giving to get, but giving one’s life to receive the life of Christ. Susanna readily gives honor to family, teachers, and others who have loved and advised her along the way. On June 8, 2020, she will be promoted to Captain. But regardless of title, Susanna’s purpose remains the same: to provide love, comfort, and support.

“Many are young,” said Susanna. “This might be their first time away from home, and they’re dealing with a plethora of issues from homesickness, relational problems, or perhaps depression. The one unique thing we offer that no other agency offers is 100% confidentiality. We never break that seal of confidentiality. Our airmen and women need someone they can trust. I’m here to provide comfort and love.”

country, and I knew I was willing to give my life to defend our freedom. What better way to fulfill my dream of traveling the world and preaching the gospel than in service to those who serve?”

Throughout my phone interview with Susanna, she continually expressed gratitude for leaders in the Air Force chaplaincy from whom she had been blessed to learn. “When I arrived, I felt like I knew nothing. Military culture can be so intimidating.

Joining the Air Force was not an attempt to reinvent herself with a new career. Everything Susanna has ever done has been for the same purpose: to offer comfort and love. Like the two faithful servants referred to in the parable in Matthew 25:14-29 (NIV), she has used what she’s been given and entrusted with more. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (vs. 23) The parable is not so much about judgment after death as it is about faithfulness in life.

With her upcoming deployment, she asked simply that the people of her hometown pray for her in her service to God and country. The commitment of this young woman from Vidalia, Georgia brings honor to us all.

"What better way to fulfill my dream of treveling the world and preaching the gospel than in service to those who serve?"
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Toombs County Cowboy


Like many of the young ballplayers at Partin Park, Kirk Little imagined a future as a professional baseball player. But unlike the other boys his age, playing pro ball would just be following in his father’s footsteps. In 1955, Elmer Clyde “Ace” Little had signed a Professional Baseball Contract with the Cincinnati Reds. “This was before the big million-dollar contracts. My dad got $5,000 and a new car,” he said with a smile.

When Kirk was awarded a baseball scholarship at South Georgia State College in Douglas, Georgia, his hopes of playing pro ball seemed right on target. But by the end of his second year of college, he was certain of only two things: “I was not going to play pro ball, and I needed to decide on a major.”

One college course in particular helped direct him in that decision. “The class was taught by Dr. Cunningham,” said Kirk. “As part of the class, we got to do field observation with kids with behavior disorders and graph the behavior problems. Then, we wrote a course of action on how that behavior could be changed. I

Inheriting his father's wisdom and his grandfather's love of the farm, Kirk Little found a way to balance commitment and hard work with something he loves to do.

actually got to do some behavior intervention and realized it was something I really enjoyed.”

Kirk transferred to Georgia Southern College (which later became a university) his sophomore year and majored in Behavior Disorders. Ironically, GSC, previously known as Georgia Teachers College, was where his father went to school and pitched a no-hitter in 1950. Although it may have seemed as if working with troubled kids was a different direction from the path his father had followed, it was actually right in step. Five years after signing with the Cincinnati Reds, Ace Little decided to take a coaching position at Moultrie High School, which was the beginning of a long and successful career in the educational system.

In 1975, the Little family moved to Lyons. Kirk was eleven years old at the time. “My mom’s parents, Arnie and Adrew Collins, lived here,” said

“I spent a lot of time with my Papa. He’s the reason I got into horses and cows,” said Kirk.
Kirk and Lisa with Kirk's mother Jo and stepfather Norman Sutton.

Kirk. “Papa farmed and raised cows, and that was something my dad had always wanted to do. He bought a few cows and took a coaching position in Collins.” (Ace Little would later serve as principal at both Toombs County Middle School and Toombs County High School.)

“I spent a lot of time with my Papa. He’s the reason I got into horses and cows,” said Kirk. “All I ever wanted to be was a cowboy. I would ride my horse all day long.” Old photographs from his childhood show the red-headed young boy in full cowboy get-up. In fact, he even rode his pony to Partin Park for baseball practice and games. “I’d tie him to a post just outside the field and ride him home when I was through playing. Before I left, Coach Callaway always made me clean up the poop,” he laughed.


While at GSC, Kirk became friends with a guy whose father had just bought 20 yearlings. “They needed to be broke, so I volunteered to help,” said Kirk, which is how he got his start in training horses. Around the same time, Timmy Williford and I got to be buddies, and we started riding cutting horses and competing at cutting shows. I really learned a lot from him and his stepdad about training horses.”

In 1985, Kirk graduated from GSC with a degree in Behavior Disorders. The following year he went to work with the Toombs County School system as a Behavior Disorders Counselor. But working with horses and raising cattle were never far from his mind. In 1988, he quit his job to train horses fulltime. “I wanted to see if I could make a living raising and training horses,” said Kirk. That same year, he and his father bought a small herd of Angus cattle.

Even though Ace Little understood his son’s desire to do something he enjoyed, he was concerned for his son’s financial security, as any good father would be. “Every time I'd go eat with Mom and Dad, the conversation would go, ‘How are things going?’ I’d say, ‘I’m making a decent living.’

‘You got any insurance?’ ‘No, sir.’ ‘You got any benefits?’ ‘No sir.’” Kirk smiled.

Kirk’s father had retired from public school by then and taken a job at the Reidsville State Prison teaching inmates.

“When a job opened up there,” said Kirk, “he told me, ‘If you will go and get that job, I'll give you the Gay Property,’ which was about a hundred acres of land with a little house on it. I went right down there the next morning and got the job,” he laughed.

The land was a gracious gift, and he honored his father’s wisdom. Kirk had his father’s life for an example, after all. If anyone understood how to allow dreams the opportunity to evolve while seizing the opportunity at hand with whole-hearted

TOP LEFT No working farm would be complete without cattle dogs. The Littles have Australian Shepherds and Blue Heelers to work the dogs. Kirk's wife Lisa has also started her own shepherd breeding business called Solid Ground Aussies.


devotion and gratitude, it was Ace Little. His long and successful career as both a coach and administrator spoke volumes about the kind of man he was.

Since Kirk’s degree was in Behavior Disorders, he was qualified to teach and counsel inmates classified as “high max” and “high max segregation,” inmates considered the worst and most dangerous in the state. After a couple of years, a job at the Training Academy became available and the Warden, A. D. Thomas, suggested Kirk apply for the position. “I said, ‘I’m not certified in any kind of law enforcement training.’” But the Warden was insistent. “He said, ‘Then I'll send you to school.’”

After graduating at the top of his class, Kirk took a position with P.O.S.T., the Peace Officer and Training Council. He was quickly promoted up the ladder of command from Public Safety Training Instructor 1 to manager over the Southeast Georgia Law Enforcement Training Center.

He was responsible for teaching firearms and defensive tactics to law enforcement, federal marshals, sheriffs, police departments, and basically anyone in law enforcement in Georgia that needed the training. Kirk had some incredible experiences and opportunities that included working the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the G8 Summit on Sea Island in 2004.

All this time, Kirk continued to raise and train horses

as well as help his father with their small herd of cattle. In 2000, his father passed away. “I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be impossible to try to run without Daddy.’” He sold the entire herd along with all his hay equipment. All that remained from his childhood dream was a few horses.

That same year, Kirk met his future wife, Lisa. They married the following year and began their lives together as a new family. “I had two boys, and Lisa had two boys,” said Kirk. With a new season in life came a renewed hope in an old dream. “I went to Ashburn, Georgia, with Melvin McBride, and we bought about fifty head of commercial cattle.”

When Kirk developed Meniere’s disease–an inner ear disorder that can cause hearing loss and dizzy spells (vertigo)–he eventually lost all hearing in one ear. With the right treatment, the disease was manageable, but even after two surgeries, the damage to his hearing was irreversible.

In 2009, the loss of hearing led to his retirement from law enforcement. It is doubtful that raising cattle would make the top ten list of things people plan to do in retirement, but for the cowboy kid from Partin Park, it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. With the land his father gave him all those many years ago, Kirk had everything he would need to start “Solid Ground Farms,” a name he took from a Bible verse in Psalms 143, “…May Your good Spirit lead me on solid ground.”

When Kirk's father died, he remembered thinking, "This is going to be impossible to try to run without Daddy."

Today, Solid Ground Farms produces 200 Angus-based commercial calves, 40 registered Angus calves, and 10 Wagyu calves yearly. “We sell the pre-conditioned commercial calves to different feedlots throughout the U.S.,” said Kirk, “and registered Angus calves to private treaty or keep them for replacement heifers. The bulls and Wagyu calves are sold to individuals for butcher beef.” (“Preconditioned” are calves that have been weaned for 60 days, received all vaccines twice, been dewormed, and are “bunk broke” meaning they eat from a trough.)

Seated in front of his computer, Kirk pointed to a complex list of percentages and calculations. “These are all my registered cattle. This tells me the bloodline and EPD percentiles.” EPD, he explained, stands for Expected Progeny Data or Differences. Pointing out one entry in particular, he said, “She's in the 20th percentile in docility. I’d like her to be more toward the 5-percentile, so maybe I’ll breed her with this bull,” he said pointing to the low docility EPD number of one of his best bulls.

“For everything there is a season,” wrote wise King Solomon, and never were truer words spoken than when it comes to raising

livestock. In order to determine the best time to sell at market, Kirk studies the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) Feeder Cattle Index like a Wall Street investor. “A cow’s gestation period is nine months, so I had to look two years down the road. We chose to breed our cows the first week of December, so they will calf the first week of September. I have until the first Thursday in August, about 340 days, to get my calves up to 650 to 700 pounds, which means I will work every single day of the year for that one sale day.”

Buyers start calling with bids about a week before the official day of sale. “I sell through a company called Hodge Livestock Network out of Tennessee,” said Kirk. “My broker, Romain Cartee, takes pictures and videos of my calves and posts them online so buyers can see what they’re bidding on, and the pictures go in a catalog that goes out to about 500 buyers throughout the whole country. When I first started doing this, I thought I needed to get in with one feedlot that would buy my commercial calves every year. But my broker said, ‘You don’t want to restrict yourself to a contract with one buyer. You want all the feedlots bidding on

BOTTOM There is nothing better than a good steak cooked on an open flame by a pro. Kirk, Lisa and friends share a meal prepared chuckwagon-style by Troy and Cindy Reddick of Skillet & Spurs Chuckwagon. On the menu: peppercorn crusted filets with a bourbon cream sauce. (Facebook/Skillet & Spurs)

them.’” In recent years, buyers for Kirk’s cattle have come from Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. “We sell by the truckload, and each one can hold 48,000 lbs.”

When Kirk added Angus cattle to his herd, AI (artificial insemination) became an important part of his operation. “An embryologist comes with a portable lab with all the petri dishes and microscopes. He separates the fertilized eggs collected from the donor cow, which in turn will be placed in a good surrogate mother.” A good bull can cost $200,000, according to Kirk. “Some folks can do that. I can’t just go out and pay that kind of money, but I can take a heifer and a bull with good numbers and develop a donor cow.”

Kirk talked about heterosis (crossbreeding cattle), flushing (obtaining the embryos from the donor female), and embryo transfer (removing one or more embryos from the reproductive tract of a donor female and transferring

them to one or more recipient females). How times have changed since Kirk’s grandfather’s day, I thought, as I struggled to keep up with all the scientific terminology.

One of the more surprising facts I learned was that certified Angus just means a cow that is “black-hided” according to Kirk. The other myth buster I learned was about “hormone-free” beef. “No human or animal is hormone free,” he said. “Hormones are naturally produced and are vital for growth development and health.” According to an online article posted on July 8, 2017, for meatscience. org, “…when we see a meat product that claims to be ‘Hormone Free’, in reality it should be that those animals were raised without added hormones.”

The article also addresses “antibiotic-free” labeling. “Even if an animal is given an antibiotic, farmers and processers must allow a specific amount of time to pass before that animal is legal to slaughter. This ‘withdrawal period’ allows time for the animal’s body to metabolize the


antibiotic and the residues to exit the animal’s system before it is harvested.” Remember all those soft drinks that started labeling their products as “caffeine-free” when they had never had caffeine to begin with?

Although the calves at Solid Ground Farms are “allnatural, grass-fed, grain finished, and do not use steroids, synthetic steroids, or antibiotics," Kirk said, “a person would have to eat 3,000,000 hamburgers made with beef from implanted cattle to get as much estrogen as the average adult woman produces every day. It would take 50,000 hamburgers a day to get the amount of estrogen the average male produces every day.” But here was the real kicker: “Two slices of [store bought] bread has about 45,000 nanograms of estrogen. A serving of implanted beef has only 2.”

In 2017, Solid Ground Farms expanded its stock with the addition of eleven Wagyu cattle. “They are hard to find in the United States, and the people who have them usually don’t want to sell,” said Kirk. Known for their marbling and tenderness, the high-grade beef is extremely desirable. “Waygu just means Japanese cow,” said Kirk. “There are a lot of myths about the way Waygu are raised in Japan. One is that they are massaged and given beer,” he laughed. “They are extremely docile, but they aren’t much to look at.” He smiled. “They’re slow growing, and their rudiment takes longer to develop. They’re almost two years old before you can start giving them feed.”

The USDA has eight quality grades for beef. We’re most familiar with the top 3: U.S. Prime (highest), U.S. Choice, and U.S. Select. “Waygu beef starts off at a higher quality than Prime, so it has its own classification that goes from A1 (highest) to A5. High-grade Wagyu beef

can cost up to $200 per pound,” said Kirk. “It’s so tender, you can cut a fillet with a fork.” Last year, all Wagyu beef Kirk made available for purchase quickly sold. (Waygu beef is sold to individuals for butcher beef.)

Of course, no ranch would be complete without its cattle dogs. Max, an Australian Shepherd, and Loki, the Blue Heeler, are an invaluable part of the operation. “They help separate out bulls and move cattle from field to field,” said Kirk. MayMay, also bred to work cattle, just had a litter of beautiful full-blooded puppies in March, hopefully the first of many for Lisa’s new venture she’s named Solid Ground Aussies.

Of all the many things about raising livestock that have changed over the years, hard work is not one of them. Cattle still have to be fed, dewormed, and vaccinated twice. And Kirk does it all, including the AI procedures. After his muddy boots are taken off and outside work has ended, EPDs still have to be posted and followed closely, CME prices observed. All for one day out of the year. A day he has to determine two years in advance.

Although Kirk hasn’t made the ten-mile ride to town by horseback lately, I wouldn’t put it past him. Moving cows and checking on fence lines is still best done on horseback, he insists. “I even got Lisa to compete a little bit when we first got married,” he said.

Lisa brought me a photograph. “This was my first competition. I actually got second place, and Kirk got third. Just before the photographer took the picture, Kirk switched the trophies.” Kirk shrugged and smiled.

Every day, children are encouraged to follow their dreams and pursue their heartfelt passions. It’s a well-meant message but often contributes to cycles of disappointment and disillusionment when things don’t go as planned. And things won’t go as planned. If the focus is on finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, we miss the miracle of the rainbow right over our heads. Instead of turning inward when plans changed, Kirk looked up and saw the rainbow. He gave his best regardless of whether he was training a horse or counseling inmates. Just like his father. And in my book, that’s what I call a real cowboy.


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Making dreams come true with Ginger Russell


said Ginger Russell as we walked into the sewing room where her mother, Elaine Trull, and aunt, Helen Connell, altered prom dresses. They didn’t just live in Normantown. Her family was Normantown. In 1914, Ginger’s great-great-grandfather, Norman Williamson, officially passed Georgia law No. 404 incorporating the town.

Although both sides of the family have lived in and around the area for many generations, Ginger’s grandmother Dorothy Williamson was the family's central figure in more recent years.

“It’s where we all got our strong work ethic,” said Ginger. “My grandmother farmed and raised seven children on her own after her husband left.” The unexpected

hardship was met with strength and resilience, the same qualities of character that Ginger relied on this past March in the midst of what should have been her busiest time of year.

When her order was placed in August for the prom dresses and formal wear for the upcoming 2020 season, most had never heard of COVID-19. It all seemed so sudden. But as the days and weeks passed, time seemed to stop. Oh, the beautiful dresses continued to be changed twice weekly in the window at G. Marie’s Formal Boutique, a practice that has kept all of Lyons guessing as to what might appear next. But with the pandemic, it soon became all too clear that the interruption was not going to suddenly go away.

This was not the first time Ginger had relied on her

grandmother’s legacy for strength in the face of the unexpected.

After graduating from Toombs County High School in 1992, she left Normantown for Andrew College in Cuthbert, Georgia, where she had received a softball and tennis scholarship. After only a year, she returned home to help care for her sick mother. Instead of playing sports at Andrew College, she went to Southeastern Technical College and got a paralegal degree.

The journey from paralegal to prom dresses was not one for which she planned. The wheelchair sometimes used in her window displays is not a prop but a reminder of that journey. “The wheelchair represents a part of us,” said Ginger. It is also a message of hope. “We want other people to know that just because you have

“We all live in Normantown,”

All the Glamour...

Ginger Russell turned an idea into a business and used her strong work ethic to make it successful. OPPOSITE PAGE Ginger holds a dress that her mother Elaine handmade for Ginger's senior prom. ABOVE, CLOCKWISE Ginger and her staff look through dress selections. Ginger enjoys working with customers to make each event special. G. Marie's also carries a line of accessories. Ginger's mother Elaine at work in the sewing room making alterations.


Turning G. Marie's into a first-class formal wear boutique was no easy task. “We worked down to the dirt in some places and up to the sky where the entire ceiling had fallen in in others,” said Ginger.

some limitation doesn't mean you have to be limited from living your life.”

When her daughter Kennedy was born, she had a condition called bladder exstrophy. “Her bladder was outside her body,” explained Ginger. “She had her first major surgery when she was one day old.” In all, Kennedy has had seventeen major surgeries, some of which made it impossible for her to stand for long periods of time. “For one, her pelvis bone was broken in four places. If she got out of the hospital on Wednesday, she wanted to be

at church Wednesday night. That’s just Kennedy. So, we got her a wheelchair so she could be there. We never held her back from anything she wanted to do.”

Kennedy was nine years old when Ginger learned of an experimental procedure.

“Bladders were being grown from a patient’s own cells. We actually visited a doctor in North Carolina who was doing it.” There was only one problem.

“None of it was covered by insurance,” said Ginger. “But they put Kennedy’s name on the list. When it came her turn, we

would have to pay for half of the surgery upfront.”

Ginger’s church held a big yard sale as a fundraising event for Kennedy, and one of the donations was five prom dresses. Since prom season had just passed, the dresses did not sell that day. When it was prom season again, Ginger put the dresses on social media. “A lady contacted me to buy one of the dresses. When she came, she bought one prom dress and gave me five more that had belonged to her daughter,” said Ginger. The exchange was one of many in the coming weeks


and months, which was the catalyst for opening a consignment shop in Vidalia in 2010 named Kennedy’s Closet.

“That same year, Obamacare came into effect, and the trial for the experimental procedure was stopped,” she said. “Later, doctors were able to create a bladder for Kennedy using 30 centimeters of her intestines. Instead of only a life span of only eighteen years, she now has many wonderful years of life ahead.”

Ginger continued to work full-time as a paralegal opening Kennedy’s Closet only on Saturdays. When a building came available in downtown Lyons, she saw it as her chance to go full-in. The building required extensive renovations, which were all done by Ginger and her husband Justin. By February 2015, she was ready to open Broad Street Formals for business. “From the beginning, I realized I would need more space than what I had there.”

Two years later, the unexpected came as a terrible tragedy. On October 4, 2017, Ginger’s family received news that her nephew, Staff Sergeant Dustin Michael Wright, had been killed during combat operations in Niger, Africa. It was a devastating loss for the family and the entire community. Weeks later, Ginger woke from a dream in which she saw a mural on the side of a corner building in downtown Lyons. In the mural, there was a tribute to Dustin as well as other scenes that represented Lyons.

Ginger made a drawing from the images and drove to the building she had seen in her dream. It was on the corner of Highway #1 and NE Broad Street. It just so happened that the owner, Brenda Aaron, was there that morning. “The store had been sort of a ‘picker’s place,’” said Ginger, “but Ms. Brenda had to close it to care for her sick family members. Over time, it became more of a place for storage.”

When Ginger shared her dream

with the building’s owner, she learned that the building was actually for sale. “We agreed on a price right then, and within thirty days, Ms. Brenda had cleared out everything she wanted to keep. What was left, we gave away.”

By that time, Ginger and her husband had already accomplished several renovation projects, but this was without doubt going to be their biggest challenge. It wasn’t just about having a bigger building and more space. It was about the town Ginger now loved. This project was about her community and revitalizing the downtown district.

“We worked down to the dirt in some places and up to the sky where the entire ceiling had fallen in in others,” said Ginger. “Even though the building was in bad shape, it had ‘good bones.’” The pieces of tongue and groove wood flooring that could be salvaged were under six layers of flooring. We also discovered a quarter of the floor was concrete. Someone told us it was for the car lot that was there in the 20s.”


History on Main Street

When Ginger and her husband Justin began restoring the corner building in downtown Lyons that would become home to G. Marie's, they found a treasure trove of memorabilia from past businesses. The original door used as far back as the 1950s now rests against a wall inside the store. It still has the hand-painted store hours on it.

Work on the floor turned up many interesting discoveries. Ginger and Justin found piles of car parts and other relics tossed into a hole in the flooring. “It had been a gas station at some time, but in the 1960s, it was an auto parts store,” said Ginger. “We found letters from Firestone in Ohio to Lyons Auto. We even found an old newspaper from Jacksonville with an article in it about the Panama Canal.”

An original door used in the 1950s leaned against the wall with the store’s hours hand-painted on it: Open 6 a.m. to 9. p.m. Two stickers remained that read, “U.S. No. 1 Highway Association October 1, 1958—October 1, 1959, and “Member Lyons-Toombs County Chamber of Commerce.”

Hearing all the memories people in the community had to share was the most enjoyable part of the renovation project. “Mr. Joe Smith told us that when it was an auto store, a deer jumped through the window one night and went down all the aisles before jumping out

through another window. He said he told the owner that the deer came in looking for a part and was so shocked at the high prices, he ran out again,” said Ginger and laughed.

Some stories were more hearsay turned into small town gossip, such as the tales surrounding the trap door. Ginger smiled. “Some said it was where they put moonshine during prohibition. Others said it was where the Dixie Mafia put people they wanted to punish.”

At another point in time, Toombs Manufacturing temporarily moved into the building. “There was a whole set of wiring in the floor for those machines that were separate from the regular wiring. No matter how much sanding we did, we still had to remove some of the boards because of the machine oil they used.”

After months of hard work, G. Marie’s Formal Boutique officially opened on December 1, 2018. Ginger’s new business lit up the corner of Lyons bringing new life and elegant style to the downtown district. The list of designer brands at G. Marie’s includes Jonathan Kayne, Rachel Allan, Dave and Johnny, Tiffany, Alisha Hill, and many others. “We have prom, pageant, and special occasion gowns, including a full bridal line with bridesmaid


and mother-of-the-bride dresses. And my mama is my seamstress. She can make anything,” said Ginger. Soon, customers were coming from all around, including out of state.

Eight large dressing rooms, including one wheelchair accessible, are surrounded by a room full of ceiling to floor mirrors. In addition, G. Marie’s carries beautiful and reasonably-priced accessories such as crystal jewelry for pageants as well as special occasion shoes. Other services include bridal consultation, pageant rentals, and tuxedo rentals. (Note: Every dress is registered, which means the same dress in the same color is not sold to someone going to the same prom.)

A signed poster of Jovani model Madison McLachlan hangs on the store wall reminding patrons of the Jovani Casting Call that G. Marie’s hosts each year. “Girls can come in and try out to be a model for Jovani. We actually have three girls who have been hired to model from our scholarship program we do in January.”

In addition, G. Marie’s holds a fashion show each year in January at STC. “It’s for anyone,” said Ginger. “It’s our way to raise funds for our scholarship programs and events like the Toombs County Special-Needs Prom and

the CASA Pageant. We also sponsor kids in DFCS and dress them for prom or for their first pageant.”

The business that began with five prom dresses donated to a yard sale has become a vital part of what helps Lyons live up to its namesake: Lyons, France, the “City of Lights.” As for Kennedy, she just graduated in May from Brewton-Parker College with a degree in communications and minor in business. She’s already trying her hand in retail with her own small accessory shop called Dandelions a few doors down from her mother’s boutique.

Even though G. Marie’s is open by appointment only during this unprecedented time of crisis with COVID-19, Ginger has not been idle. Like her grandmother, she had no time to focus on disrupted plans and lost business. Instead, she brought in an extra sewing machine, and everyone got to work making masks. When Ginger realized the thread guide was missing on the extra machine, she took an empty wine bottle and wrapped it with wire to make it work. Her mama looked up and smiled. “You’re just like your grandmother,” she said. It was the greatest complement Ginger could have ever hoped to receive.

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Merle Wilkes remembered the moment from eighty years ago as if it were yesterday. “There was no such thing as dating. If my four older brothers were going to something at night, my parents let me go with them.

Those we remember well

Catching up with Mrs. Merle Wilkes

That was the only reason I got to go to the school cookout that night down at the river.”

Even though J. C. Wilkes, a firstyear student at the University of Georgia (UGA), had graduated from Lyons High School the year before, he and Merle had never met before that night at the river. When J.C. asked Merle if she would like to go for a ride

with another couple, she said, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask my brothers.”

To his credit, J.C. accepted the challenge and faced the Pye brothers’ questions and interrogations. “They let him know in no uncertain terms what was expected of him on that car ride, and they never let him forget it,” she laughed and added, “They teased about that for years.”

“It felt like an electric spark.”

Like many families in Toombs County during the 1920s, Claude and Ethel Pye were farmers. Merle was born in 1924, the first daughter after four sons. (There would be thirteen children in all.) In addition to farming, her father also drove a school bus, which is how the family often traveled. “When the school was getting rid of the old buses, my dad actually bought one for us. There were so many of us, and we were always visiting someone. Mother would bake cakes and pies, and we would load up in that bus to visit relatives.”

Merle was sixteen when she graduated high school since there were only eleven grades. In her last year of school, she represented Lyons High School (now called Toombs County High School) in a literary writing competition. “There was a list of ten things to choose from. I had no idea what the first nine were about, but there was something just familiar enough about the tenth one that I could shoot enough bull to get a thousand-word essay out of it,” she laughed.

Late that night after the competition, the Pye family awoke to the sound of a car horn blowing outside their house. “It scared us all. With four older brothers, you just never knew what they might get into. But Daddy went outside to find out what was going on, and when he came back in, he said, ‘That was Mr. Williams.’ He was the school principal,” she explained. “He said he just found out that I had won the literary competition.” As a result, Merle was offered a scholarship to UGA.

Five days before she was to leave for college, she gave the Valedictory speech at Lyons High School. “When I was told I was the Valedictorian, I had no idea what that word even meant,” she smiled. “Then when the librarian, Mrs. Williams,” who was also the principal’s wife, “found out, she got permission from one of my teachers to let me miss class without being counted absent and helped me get my speech together.”

If the school principal and his wife had not taken a personal interest in Merle’s future, this story might have turned out quite differently. “I was very quiet, believe it or not,” she laughed. “Mr. Williams went with me and my dad to UGA. When we got there, there was


ABOVE J.C. and Merle pictured at the home of her Aunt Kate Kicklighter in Lyons before they were married. Merle lived with her aunt when she first started teaching. TOP RIGHT Merle and J.C. celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. RIGHT J.C. and Merle with their youngest grandchildren during Christmas in the late 80's.

this long line. I don’t remember why, but Mr. Williams walked with a limp. I’ll never forget, he said, ‘Come on. Let’s go.’ And I remember him limping all the way to the front of the line with me following. He walked up to the desk, and they took me next.”

When the registrar asked her major, Merle said, “I had no idea what she was talking about. But the lady was real nice, and she didn’t want to embarrass me. She just asked, ‘What is your favorite subject?’ I said, ‘I guess, literature.’ She said, ‘Okay, you’ll major in language arts.’” Then she said my dorm room was at the top of the stairs on the right. So, Daddy and Mr. Williams took me up there, dumped out all my belongings, and left. I had never been away from home for more than two nights in my whole life. I was one homesick person.” Thankfully,

Merle’s roommate helped her find her classes and get settled in. “She was very motherly and took me under her wing.”

One afternoon, the young man Merle had met at the river the previous summer came riding up to her dorm building. “He was in some sort of little pickup that had been converted into a car. It was the oddest little thing. I was hoping none of my friends would see it,” she laughed. “We rode around in that little jalopy all over the Ag campus [at UGA]. It was our first date at the University. After that, it was pretty steady.”

When Merle came home for Christmas break her second year of college, the Lyons Elementary School principal came to see her father. “He hadn’t been able to fill a position at a little school out in the county all year. He asked my dad if I could stay home and teach it just until the end of the quarter.” The class was 6th grade math.

So, instead of returning to UGA, Merle began her teaching career. “They were all country kids—and such good kids. They never got to go to town, so going to Lyons was like going to the big city for them. One weekend, a friend


loaned her the use of his car. “The one thing my brothers had taught me was how to drive. We never even thought about getting a driver’s license. I packed all eleven of those kids in it and took them to town. Their parents trusted me wholeheartedly.” She smiled. “We had the best time.”

But Merle wasn’t at the county school for long. “They found another young girl for that class and the principal asked if I would take over the entire math department at the high school,” she said shaking her head. “I might have had one math class in high school. It was something I was never particularly interested in. So, in order to teach geometry and advanced math students, I had to study five hours a night just to prepare for the next day.”

While teaching and supervising the high school math department, Merle continued her education with night and summer classes at Georgia Southern University (named Georgia Teachers College at the time). “I discovered a love for math that I did not realize before.” Merle graduated from UGA with her masters in both Language Arts and Mathematics.

After graduating from UGA with a degree in agriculture engineering, J.C. enlisted in the Air Force. “He really wanted to fly planes,” said Merle. “But they didn't send him to flight school because the war was winding down.” Instead, the Air Force utilized his talents as a plane mechanic. Years later, his son Greg would remember his father as “a master mechanic. He could fix anything,” he said. (After his time in

the service, J.C. did get his pilot license and flew his own small plane, which he used for crop dusting.)

Merle and J. C., married on February 9, 1944, at the First Methodist Church in Lyons. She would spend the following two weeks at Moody Air Force Base, where J.C. was stationed at the time. “We had plans.” She smiled. “We were going back to UGA when the war ended. They had offered J.C. a great job in the Ag department.” And Merle would have no problem finding a teaching position at one of the schools in Athens.

But plans changed, as plans often do, when it became clear that J.C.’s father needed help on the farm. Like many farming families across America at the time, it would take years to recover from the hardships of the Great Depression. “J. C. was the oldest of three brothers,” said Merle. “One brother was married and had already moved away, and the other brother was

a senior in high school and wanted to go to UGA.

“I think Dad was the only one of the boys that really had any interest in farming, anyway,” Greg added. “He always intended to own his own farm one day.” In fact, when the property adjacent to his father’s land became available, he bought it and began his own farm.

J.C. and Merle had their first son, John Clarence Wilkes, Jr. (known as Larry), in 1947 and their second son Greg the following year. The boys were two and a half and eighteen months old when their father lost his hand in a farming accident. “Dad was auguring some corn into a truck, and the tip of the work glove on his left hand got caught,” said Greg. “It yanked his hand down into the augur, which is spinning.” Dr. Aikens, the family doctor, had no choice but to amputate J.C.’s mangled hand.

Only a few weeks later, Merle and

Merle and J.C. reconnected while both studying at the University of Georgia. "We rode around in [his] little jalopy all over the Ag campus. After that, it was pretty steady."
RIGHT Merle with her long-time coworkers (Victor Wolf, Vicky Moore and Gail Edenfield) after receiving a Teacher of the Year Award before her retirement In May 2000.

J.C. miraculously escaped another near tragedy. J.C. was in his workshop when he heard two-and-a-half-year-old Larry screaming for his daddy. Somehow, he managed to understand from his son that his eighteen-month-old brother had fallen into the pond. J.C. ran from the shop to the pond straight into the water and pulled his son out. With the use of only one arm, he somehow managed to get him breathing again.

In the years that followed, Merle and J.C. had three more children:

Cynthia, Deidre, and Lydia. In 1955, the same year Lydia was born, J.C. received the Georgia Young Farmer of the Year award. As the family grew, the small wooden house they lived in became even smaller. In 1963, the family moved a half-mile from their old house on John Wilkes Road (named for J.C.’s father) into the new brick house their mother “designed and had built.”

“Some years later, I had the 10acre yard enclosed with a thick hedge of shrubbery as a barrier from the

road,” said Mrs. Wilkes, the name by which so many of us know her. “The grandchildren had a go-cart, and they were never to go outside that hedge. They would just ride around and around and around,” she laughed.

“As a kid, I remember all five of us piling into the family car to go to school,” said Greg. “I never thought about Mother going to work and getting us to school every morning. But the rules were that if we weren’t ready, she was going to leave us,” he laughed.

When the school needed a counselor, the principal asked Mrs. Wilkes if she would be interested in the job. Of course, that would mean going back to school while raising a family and teaching fulltime, which is exactly what she did. When she completed her sixth-year certification in counseling, she spent her last years in the Toombs County School System helping students find their way just as Mr. and Mrs. Williams and others had done for her all those many years ago.

Mrs. Wilkes lost her husband to congestive heart failure in December 1998 after fifty-three years of marriage. In 2000, she decided to retire. In the fifty years she served in the role of teacher and/or counselor, Mrs. Wilkes was chosen Teacher of the Year more times than she could count. At the end of her career, she was still as remarkable and gifted as ever.

“Mrs. Wilkes’ last year at Toombs County High School was my firstyear there and only my second-year teaching,” recalled Meredith Brodnax, the art teacher at Toombs County High School. “You could give her a scheduling problem for a student, and she would pick up a piece of paper and a pen and scribble a few things down and hand it back to you with the problem resolved. It was all in her head. She was truly amazing.”

Following her retirement in May 2000, Mrs. Wilkes’ heart stopped during a routine colonoscopy. She was

LEFT Mrs. Wilkes has fond memories of her family and her years teaching in the Toombs County School System.
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resuscitated and stabilized. A few days later, Dr. Carruth put in a pacemaker. Dr. Carruth, or “Joe” to Mrs. Wilkes, had been one of her Sunday school students when his father served as minister at the First Methodist Church in Lyons. In 2004, Mrs. Wilkes left the house she and J.C. had built together on the farm and moved into town. “The doctors kept telling me that I needed to be closer to town with this pacemaker. They said it would last about ten years before it would need to be replaced,” she said. “That was almost twenty-years ago,” she said with a smile.

Mrs. Wilkes leaned her cane against the kitchen table and reached for a card she had just received from President Carter and his family. She proudly told me that her daughter Cynthia had served in the White House all four years of the Carter administration. In fact, Cynthia’s husband, Tim Smith, was a personal aide to President Carter. I smiled as she spoke of each of her children’s careers and accomplishments like any proud mother would do. These were the memories she holds close to her heart. No wonder it’s still going

strong, I mused.

Every time one of her children come for a visit, they always take a drive out to John Wilkes Road and other familiar sites around the county. In 2016, her oldest son Larry spent four days with his mother doing just that. Each detail of that time with him is still etched into her memory. “I wanted him to leave early enough to miss the Atlanta traffic on his way back home, but for some reason, he kept putting off leaving. Later on, I realized that he somehow knew it was going to be the last time we were going to see each other.”

When he finally got ready to leave, Larry hugged his mother and went out to his car. After a moment, he came back inside and hugged her again. “I could tell he had been crying,” said Mrs. Wilkes. “I knew in that moment that this was the last time I was going to see my son.”

Larry died a short time later from an aggressive strain of pneumonia he developed while in the hospital to have a pacemaker installed. “I was so thankful we had those four days

riding around in the country together remembering things that happened when he was growing up,” said Mrs. Wilkes.

A lot has happened since 1924, the year Merle Wilkes was born. But the memories she recalled were not what one might expect. She made no mention of the hardships of the Great Depression or of all the many differences between life now and then. Instead, the ninety-five-year-old retired teacher spoke of the people who had helped her find her way and the joy she found in helping others.

I recently read a quote by the famous American journalist Andy Rooney that said, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.” It’s true. The only way to end this article is by saying for us all, “Thank you, Mrs. Wilkes, for the generations of Toombs County families you have loved and helped along the way. It is an honor to remember you.”

Merle pictured with her children in April 2014 at her grandson Alex's wedding.
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Vidalia High School Coach

Vidalia's Own Queen of Cheer

Ann Michele Toole takes her girls to the highest level.

ann Michele Toole would have never watched the Netflix documentary series Cheer if she had not been told by several people in the community that she reminded them of the show’s Cheer Coach Monica Aldama. The Vidalia High School Head Cheer Coach wasn’t sure what to think about the comparison, but after watching the series, she considered it a compliment. Competitive, passionate, and driven by excellence. These words could describe either woman. Like the “Queen of Cheer” in Corsicana, Texas, Ann Michele values the relationship the sport enables her to have with those on her team most of all.

Vidalia’s championship cheerleading coach did not grow up chanting to football players and fans from the sidelines. “I enjoyed collegiate cheerleading, but I was more interested in the football game, to be honest,” said Ann Michele with a smile.

After graduating from Georgia Southern in 1997, she was offered a job teaching science at Dublin High School. But there was one stipulation: She had to agree to coach the spirit cheerleading team as well. “I needed a job, so I thought, I guess that means I'm going to coach cheerleading. I really didn't realize the commitment I was making for my first year of teaching,” said Ann Michele.


Hard work that pays off

Cheerleaders work as a team and it takes hours of practice to achieve the skill level and consistency required for competition. The girls practice four days a week, compete on Saturdays and meet on Sunday afternoons to watch videos of their previous performance and discuss ways to improve. Like any sport, it requires commitment and hard work to win a state title.


Rising to the top

In 2016, and again in 2019, the Vidalia High School Competition Cheerleaders won the GHSA State Championship. BELOW Ann Michele with assistant coach Julie Spivey.


Thankfully, she received much needed support from a couple of coaches. “They just took me under their wings and showed me what to focus on and what to make a priority to have a great team,” she said. She joined the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association and later trained to become an official for the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), which qualified her to serve as a judge at cheerleading competitions. The experience as a judge provided her with greater understanding of the scoring process, and gave her insight on what components to focus on when forming her own team and planning choreography.

In 2000, Ann Michele took a position teaching chemistry at Vidalia Comprehensive High School. Even though she continued to judge competitions, she had no plans to ever coach cheer again. But when Phyllis James and Jan Barfield, the present coaches, asked if she would take over the program at Vidalia, she realized Dublin had only been the beginning of

a new and unplanned venture.

In just a year’s time at Vidalia, Ann Michele became Head Cheerleading Coach of all three teams: football cheerleading, basketball cheerleading, and competitive cheerleading. “Many of the girls were on all three teams when I first started coaching,” she said. “But as competitive cheerleading gained popularity, adjustments were made by the Georgia High School Association giving more flexibility on how teams could be organized.”

Ann Michele met the challenge full-on. “I aligned myself with experts in the sport and made great connections with others in the GCCA. I really wanted to learn from the best.” She also identified schools with successful cheer programs and used them for models to build her own program at Vidalia High School.

The history of organized cheerleading in America goes back to the late 19th century when the University of Minnesota appointed a team of six “yell leaders” led by Johnny Campbell. That’s right—the

first cheerleaders were a group of guys. Cheerleading would continue to be an all-male sport until 1923 when the University of Minnesota agreed to allow female students to join since there was no other collegiate sport for females at the time. Sad to say, other colleges were slow to follow their example. The shift from male to female cheerleaders didn’t occur until the 1940s when WWII took many of the male students off to war.

Lawrence Herkimer’s Cheer Camps reinvented cheerleading in 1948. Herkimer had been a cheerleader at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Cheerleaders may recognize his name for the “Herkie Jump,” something he said he did quite on accident. He founded the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) and invented (and patented) the pompon. (The pompon is often incorrectly called a pompom. Pompon is French for “ornamental tuft.”) He also founded both the Cheerleader Supply Company and the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA).


In the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders helped recreate the image of cheerleaders as pretty and energetic girls dressed in skimpy outfits. But it was actually an ESPN broadcast of the National High School Cheerleading competition in 1983 that “gave way to more stunting, flying, and tumbling than cheerleading had ever seen before,” according to

American films like Bring It On and the five sequels that followed continued to present cheer as a highly competitive sport into the 2000s. And with Netflix’s 2020 docu-series Cheer, attention has once again been brought to the sport. But this time, it’s not high school girls proving themselves to one another in dance offs but a realization that cheerleading is indeed a competitive sport in its own right.

One of the first things Ann Michele purposed to do as Head Cheerleading Coach at Vidalia High School was to educate both students and the community about the sport with performances and radio interviews with local sports reporters. In the early years, she even offered extra credit to students who sat in practices for competitions to give the team an audience.

“We performed at pep rallies,” said Ann Michele. “Then we started holding a community event at the beginning of each season to showcase what the team’s upcoming season would look like. This event has proven to be motivational and advantageous for us over the years because it gives us an opportunity to be in front of our people in advance of our first competition.”

All the exposure helped everyone to see what competitive cheerleading was really about. The team even earned the respect of the football coaches in the weight room when they saw how hard they worked, the commitment of time, and the athleticism required to be a success. “There’s probably more respect and support for the sport on our campus than most. Of course, winning championships has helped.” Ann Michele smiled.

“Julie Spivey is my Assistant Coach,” said Ann Michele, “and I attribute my success to our partnership. We’ve been coaching together for about fifteen years. We complement each other well. Julie teaches fifth grade at Sally D. Meadows. We actually started the middle school competition cheer program together in 2011. Tiffany Smiley Toole is currently the middle school cheerleading coach now, and she does a great job.”

The Indians first big win came in 2004, which was only Ann Michele’s second year of coaching competition cheer. “We had gained a little exposure, and several kids that had the skills we needed had joined the team that year. We actually had ‘five fulls’ that year, which is a high-level skill

for tumbling. It’s almost unheard of for a AA school to have that many advanced level tumblers.”

Tumbling skills are not gained overnight. “It’s something you have to work on year-round,” said Ann Michele, which is why cheerleaders are required to take a tumbling class on their own in addition to competition cheer practices. “Those skills require muscle memory and that takes time.”

The training schedule is no small commitment. Practice is four days a week with competitions on Saturdays. Sunday afternoon, the team comes together to watch the film of their performance the day before to go over their scores and set goals for the following week. “The only day off is Friday, unless you also do spirit cheer, which means you perform game nights, too.”

Practices begin with 30 to 45 minutes of conditioning, flexibility, and strength training including drills for stunting and jumps. “We also have a small workout room where we lift weights. We regularly do agility training with resistance jump bands to work on quick action for jumps.”

In the last 45 minutes of practice, the focus is on stunt group chemistry and timing. Stunt groups are made up of four people: two bases that lift, a flyer, and a safety person in back. “During the summer, we continue conditioning, drills and stunt progression training, which includes work on the four basic body positions performed by the fliers: the heel stretch, scorpion, bow and arrow, and scale.”

Competition and spirit cheerleaders each have a week of summer camp, which means some will go to both. “We do both fundraising and conditioning in the months of June and July,” said Ann Michele. “We also meet with our choreographer, Happy Hooper, in Alabama during the month of June. He has a fantastic All Star program called Ace AllStars of Alabama. We’ve been going to ACE for the past six years for him to put our routine together, which is two minutes and thirty seconds; approximately forty 8-counts. August and September are spent putting together the elements of the choreography for our first competition, which is usually the third weekend of September.”

One look at the score sheet explains the need for all the

“Competition cheer is not for everyone. I completely get that,” said Ann Michele. “You have to consider both the time and the risk involved.”

Accessorize I t Designs

practices and preparation. Scoring is based on three panels of judges. Panel A scores degree of difficulty and execution in jumps, cheer, and dance components. Panel B scores degree of difficulty and execution in standing and running tumbling. Panel C scores the team’s degree of difficulty and execution of partner stunts and pyramid.

“The majority of points are combined in the tumbling and stunting categories,” said Ann Michele, “which is why we practice so often. Points are based on 50% or more of your team doing a skill. Having those who can perform the higher-level skills can increase scores.”

Even so, competition cheer is truly a team sport. “The chemistry that connects the cheerleaders as a team is as important as their individual abilities to the performance. We’ve yet to have the number of skills and tumbling on the team since 2004. Even so, we’ve remained competitive,” an undisputed fact proven by state championship wins in 2016 and again in 2019.

“Competition cheer is not for everyone. I completely get that,” said Ann Michele. “You have to consider both the time and the risk involved.” In an article published on September 10, 2013, for, Lenny Bernstein reports, “According to a 2012 report and policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, cheerleading ‘accounted for 65 percent of all direct catastrophic injuries to girl athletes at the high school level and 70.8 percent at the college level’ between 1982 and 2009.” Statistics like these explain why Cheer Coach Monica Aldama preaches: “You keep going until you get it right. And then you keep going until you can’t get it wrong.”

If I had not been assigned this article, the chance that I would have watched Cheer was zero to none. But for the sake of an article, I’ve done some pretty crazy things. I figured I could at least endure the first episode. By the time the credits rolled by at the end of episode 6, I had a whole new respect for competitive cheerleading as a sport. AndI had watched the entire season in one sitting.

Some may wonder, “Why the time and risk when cheerleading has no future?” One episode of Cheer reveals just how difficult it would be to make a college cheer team. The same could be said for other school sports. How many kids in other sports will actually play on a college level, much less beyond college? The benefits are not in a future career but in all the many ways team sports help prepare our children by instilling discipline, commitment, and social connections. Above all, sports like competition cheer give opportunity for mentors to partner with parents in providing positive influence in the lives of our children.

“Even more than love for the sport itself,” said Ann Michele, “I value the role that athletics plays in the lives of our students. Building relationships through this sport has allowed me the opportunity to make a difference in their lives and ultimately help them be their best.”

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“Even more than love for the sport itself, I value the role that athletics plays in the lives of our students.”
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Shining On n Oak Park

Oak Park is a former railroad town with a rich history that, at times, has been overshadowed by tax and legal issues. It's been decades since the town received any media attention, but now the community is working to change that by uncovering its roots through the use of 21st Century tools and an annual festival.

The Oak Park Moonshine Festival has been held at the Oak Park School House for the past eight years. The festival is hosted by a community group (called the Shiners) as a fundraising event to support the renovation of the property. What began as a grassroots effort of concerned local citizens has become a cultural heritage celebration of the rural southern moonshining community with partners from many sectors. The 2019 event held last September featured a concert by Craig Campbell, local performance artists, a car show with more than 100 entries, and 40 vendors.

The festival also included the first ever 5K run held in honor of Mick Lindsey, an Oak Park native and son of the current mayor. Because September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, the town became a sea of gold to honor Mick who was not able to overcome his battle with cancer over a decade ago. It was also a reminder of another child battling the disease: Carson Akins, great-grandson of Oak Park resident Rev. Homer A. Aspray, Jr. (who occupied what was formerly Ide’s Café).

Using 21st Century technology, Oak Park historians uncover lost records in order to pursue funding that would help revitalize the town and the Old School House.
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ABOVE Despite its name, Oak Park's annual Moonshine Festival isn't really meant to promote the sale of moonshine. Rather, it is a historical nod to Oak Park, and its purpose is to promote the restoration of the town and the Old School House.

During the festival, the Kingdom Players (students of a local homeschool co-op) performed an original play called Petticoat Rule. The play is based on the 1934 Oak Park elections which led to an all-female government and made national headlines. This is only one effort of the community’s efforts to celebrate, document, and preserve its history in order to be designated as a “Preserving America Community.” Keep Thinking, a social entrepreneurship that specializes in development, education

and social support, is assisting in the process. Owner Michael Nancy Edge, has deep ties to the community and hopes to assist in its revitalization. Seeing youth use the school house that has been vacant since before her birth is a dream come true for her. Her love for the old building is what led to the discovery of Oak Park’s incredible, forgotten history.

Look around Oak Park today and the only business you will see is the newly-built Dollar General located beside Highway 1. Since the expansion of Highway 1 into four lanes, Oak Park is often passed completely. Like many small towns, Oak Park's success has always been dependent on transportation. In the past, Oak Park was able to change as needed in order to survive as a community. They are

betting on this resilience as they move forward with plans for revitalization.

Records of Oak Park were not kept within the community, and many records from Emanuel County have been destroyed. While many records exist elsewhere, they often survive in small summaries in anthologies of public records. For the first time ever, we have the ability to document and analyze this information, as well as capture and preserve family histories, to give a more complete picture of the town. The effort has become known as the Oak Park History Project led by Keep Thinking, Oak Park citizens, the Shiners and Ladson Genealogical Library.

In 1885, Horace can be found on a map of Emanuel County in the location of what is now known as Oak Park.


A publication of local history reports that the town was named after Horace Williamson, whose family had occupied the land since shortly after the French and Indian War. During those times, waterways were the main mode of transportation. Oak Park is close to the Ohoopee River and heavily wooded, which was perfect for the timber industry because they would use the waterways to transport the timber.

By 1907, Horace had been changed to Oak Park. Although previous researchers were unable to locate the original town charter, a Google search in 2019 led to the discovery of a 1907 charter. This charter further demonstrates the dependence of Oak Park on transportation; the city limits are set as a one-half mile radius of the train depot. While the train depot and

rails no longer exist, this information revealed the location of the depot to have been where the park and community house sit today.

Finding the first charter was followed by finding a repeal for that charter. Two charters for the city have been located thus far, but it is likely (from the dates of each charter) that there are at least one, and more likely two, more charters in Oak Park’s history. Discoveries like this are not uncommon and lead to a more complete picture of what Oak Park looked like at its peak. Similarly, finding information about the first train in Oak Park was exciting. Imagine the delight of the community when it was discovered that two separate trains came through town!

Local train history is difficult to follow because of the frequent

ABOVE The Oak Park School was built by John T. Ragan and Company of Vidalia in 1922 for $10,000 and taught grades 1-12 until the 1960s. It then served as an elementary school until its closure in 1983. The town purchase the school from the Emanuel County Board of Education for $100 that year. It remained vacant until the past decade. Concerned citizens in the community who call themselves the Shiners fund-raise and host the Moonshine Festival annually to support renovation efforts. The Oak Park History Project is working to preserve the 20th century history of the town that will be featured in an exhibit at its centennial celebration in 2022.

changes made to lines, as well as the frequency with which they added new lines and the innumerable amount of depots found throughout the rural south. Much of the history has been lost and what railroad history does


ABOVE Using modern research tools like the Internet, Keep Thinking has been able to piece together more information about the history of Oak Park. Being a railroad town, some of Oak Park's data can be pulled from whatever railroad history remains.

remain focuses on the larger trains that survived. Technology, like Google search engines and digitized historical records, helps finding the small tidbits of information concerning these smaller lines that are often contained in public records. Once this data is organized and preserved, it will help provide details for each of these communities, which can then be submitted to libraries (like Ladson and DLG). This will, in turn, provide a more comprehensive history for the region that will be available to historians anywhere in the world.

This is just one example of how 21st Century technology is being utilized to resurrect the history of Oak Park. Technology developed in the past two decades has given everyone who possesses a device with Internet capabilities the tools they need to assist with the documentation and preservation of their local history. Cell phone cameras and online property records have proved useful to expedite

the research process. A decade ago copies of maps would need to be made from each individual source and then compared side-by-side, often accompanied by hand-written notes, books and magnifying glasses. Now one can snap a picture of an old map in a reference book using their cell phone and then use the Internet to search county property records. Using the screen shot feature, one can then copy and paste the old map on the current map and save the image. Analyzing the two maps becomes much easier because the zoom feature on a device can be used to enlarge hard-to-read text. That image can then be shared on social media for community input for an instant dialogue. Facebook has turned into an asset for small communities, like Oak Park, who are attempting to revitalize their communities based on heritage tourism.

While Oak Park has uncovered much about its roots in a short amount of

time, there is still much to learn, and the task is challenging. The Preserving America Community application requires supplementary documentation that Oak Park still needs to recover. There are always renovation needs at the School House and many of the leaders of the community are aging. Partners, like Ladson Genealogical Library, face budget cuts and depend on the support of the community for funding of this and similar projects. The new government of the City of Oak Park continues to work diligently to overcome misdeeds by the former administration.

While organizations have expressed interest in using the Oak Park School House for programs, the issue of insurance has been raised. Immediate needs to move forward include fundraising of $3500 to cover the costs of insurance, Internet and supplies for the Oak Park History Project to continue programs for the next 12 months.

Plans for the Oak Park History


Project include the submission of a grant application to support an oral history project of Oak Park, documenting yearbooks of the Oak Park School, mapping the town of Oak Park during each decade of the 20th century and identifying news articles of the area that can be used to develop more original plays like Petticoat Rule. Ladson Genealogical Library will be assisting with the preservation of local history. Anyone who wishes to donate collections for replication or be a part of the oral history project is encouraged to contact the library directly. You do not need a library card to participate, and there are no fees associated with the use of materials owned by the organization.

2022 will mark 100 years since the Oak Park School House was built. While that is several years away, they already have their eyes set on a Centennial Celebration with an exhibit that features the history of Oak Park as a 20th century town. If you have knowledge you would like to share with the project, contact Michael Nancy Edge on Facebook, email or contact Ladson Genealogical Library.

The 2020 Oak Park Moonshine Festival and Car Show is scheduled for September 19, 2020 at the Old School House. Po Box 487
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With Art Empathy


Helping people through the power of creativity.

“On a psychological level,

I know that art helps kids and adults cope in difficult situations. Kids can’t always speak about how they feel and the trauma they have experienced. But often times, they can process it through art,” said Leigh-Anne White. Although she is a Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC, NCC, her understanding of the healing power of art and music did not begin with information she learned from a textbook but from her own personal experience.

The youngest of four children, Leigh-Anne was in the third grade when her childhood was interrupted by divorce. Her mother took all four children and moved to Macon, and her father moved to another state. “I was uprooted from everything I knew,” said Leigh-Anne. “I didn’t understand what was going on. I just knew it hurt really bad, and I didn’t have anyone to check on me. My mom was a single parent now and trying to make ends meet. We were all just trying to survive. Art became my coping mechanism.”


Things went from bad to worse when her mother remarried and found herself in an extremely abusive relationship. “I was in the seventh grade when he put a gun to her head, and I had to call 911,” said Leigh-Anne. “My mother divorced again. Financially, we were again back to square one with just trying to survive.”

Throughout her teenage years, Leigh-Anne tapped out. “I was that troubled child that would do anything and try anything.” Even though it seemed as if she were alone, there were people speaking into her life. Two of those people were the pastor and youth minister at the church she attended. In an ironic twist, Pastor Jim Smith and his wife Diane, her former youth minister, moved to Vidalia in 2017 when he took over as pastor of Vidalia First United Methodist Church.


“One day,” said Leigh-Anne, “I left my office [on East Second Street in Vidalia] and walked across the road to the church to see them. I said, ‘I know you didn’t think I was listening because I kept making wrong choices, but I was listening. You walked through all of that with me.’ They literally saved my life. I wanted them to know that I actually made it.” Their love and words had taken root even though the fruit could not yet be seen.

In her senior year of high school, all the love and wisdom she’d felt and heard gave her the strength she needed to make a change. “I went to my school counselor and asked what I needed to do to get into college. She was kind of harsh because my grades were really bad. She said, ‘You’ll be lucky if you can get into college.’ It hurt to hear, but it was the honest truth. It was what I needed to hear to get serious about how things were. I was on track to graduate, but barely,” said Leigh-Anne.

When she learned that her best friend Leah had been accepted into Georgia Southern University, LeighAnne started classes at East Georgia State College on the Georgia Southern University campus so she could be with her friend. “I knew I would have to prove myself before I could transfer into GSU,” she said.

College proved a real turning point. “I got connected with some girls in my apartment complex, and we started doing some prayer groups. I was also invited to rush for a sorority, which was the accountability I needed to keep up my grades and get involved in community service.”

Leigh-Anne planned to become a teacher. That is, until she discovered she would be required to take a certification test. With all she’d been through in her childhood, she struggled with self-confidence. “I just didn’t believe in myself enough to think I could pass that big test.” To avoid the test, she changed her major to


family development. “I still had to take a certification test to become a certified counselor,” said Leigh-Anne with a quick laugh.

Another big development for Leigh-Anne at GSU was meeting her future husband, Bobby White. The two married in 2001 and moved to Virginia for Leigh-Anne’s internship as a victim advocate for children with a domestic violence shelter called DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended). The time there was also enough to convince Bobby that Virginia was no place to be in the winter. “That winter was one of the coldest winters the area had ever had,” laughed Leigh-Anne.

In 2003, the couple made Bobby’s hometown of Vidalia their home, and Leigh-Anne went to work at The Refuge Domestic Violence Shelter. After a year or so, she decided to look for work in mental health. “I really wanted to make a difference in the sector of mental health, so I went to work at Pineland Behavioral Health / Developmental Disabilities.” Her job in “supported employment was as an advocate to help people with substance abuse and mental health and developmental disabilities find work in the community.” When a position opened up for site coordinator, she applied and was accepted. While working at Pineland, she also completed her masters in counseling and psychology.

In 2009, after six years at Pineland, Leigh-Anne took a position with Melinda Graham and Associates out of Hinesville as lead counselor on an Intensive Family Intervention Team for Toombs County and the surrounding areas. “We provided intervention services to keep kids in our community out of the youth detention center, psychiatric hospitals, and long-term facilities.”

After three years, Leigh-Anne knew it was time for a change. “It was good work, but I could feel myself beginning to burn out,” she said. In 2012, she was hired by the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) to provide their boys with art therapy. “The course was called ‘Creative Fitness.’” She introduced the young men to acrylics and oil pastels. “We

ABOVE Leigh-Anne offers a variety of therapy and counseling services. BELOW The artwork hanging on the walls throughout Leigh-Anne's office is a reminder that sometimes art can be as important as words.

even used trash to make collages one semester,” said Leigh-Anne. “Some of the art was even displayed at the art gallery in Elements Bistro and Grill in downtown Lyons.”

In 2016, she opened Leigh-Anne White and Company in Vidalia. Whether working with women and/or children in domestic violence shelters, individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities and/or addiction challenges, or in a Christian residential home with troubled youth, Leigh-Anne’s understanding and abilities have developed with each experience. And in each place, she has realized the benefits of art and music in therapy.

At Leigh-Anne White and Company, “Art, Play, and Relaxation Therapy are used in a variety of ways with all ages as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Family Systems Therapy.” Counseling services include: Individual Therapy, Art/Play Therapy, Relationship Therapy, Family Therapy, Psychodrama Group, Group Therapy, Grief/ Trauma/Loss Therapy, and Substance Abuse/ Addictive Disease.

Simply put, that means help when you’re hurting. Whatever the issue: disappointment, anger, bitterness, abuse, trauma, ADHD, depression, anxiety, grief, and/or loss, Leigh-Anne and her associate Maggie Hoffman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, are “equipped to help you through any struggle that life might bring your way” (

“Sometimes we have clients who see a psychiatrist for medication management, but they don’t always provide therapeutic or counseling services and will refer them to us,” said Leigh-Anne. “I see a lot of results when that is the case, but there are families who don’t want their child on medication.” She honors that decision, and creates a treatment plan with that in mind.

Trauma is a word thrown

around so much these days. It’s like hearing the word migraine thrown around by people who might have had a bad headache. “People experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] may have flashbacks, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating at work or school. There are children who go through unimaginable pain with the loss of a parent. Sometimes the circumstances are pretty harsh, such as death by murder and with sexual abuse.”

On a professional level, Leigh-Anne has continued to expand her knowledge as new developments in counseling are made. In 2018, she completed an intensive year-long training called

Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “Emory University provided the training through a grant from the Department of Justice and the Child Advocacy Program,” she said. In 2019, Maggie also completed the course.

Continuing education is important for Leigh-Anne in every aspect of therapy. In addition to the exploratory classes on art and therapy she received in college, she has taken educational classes, workshops, and retreats on the use of art in trauma. Leigh-Anne is presently receiving private art lessons from a professional artist. She continues to use both art and music with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and


Family Systems Therapy to create the therapeutic technique that best suits the individual.

Leigh-Anne’s personal experiences have given her empathy. According to Enid R. Spitz in an online article for, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Cognitive “connects on an intellectual level.” Emotional “involves directly feeling the emotions that another person is feeling.” And compassionate empathy is “the balance between the two.”

Cognitive empathy offers an intellectual answer with fixing the problem in mind. Emotional empathy feels what the other person is going through. By itself, this type of empathy will sometimes do more damage than good by enabling repeated cycles of emotional distress. Leigh-Anne works to empower those she serves to recover their true selves and live free by

maintaining the fine balance between the two.

Referrals come from many places including schools, pediatricians, doctors’ offices, and occasionally from the court system. Leigh-Anne White and Company works weekly with five different schools in our area. No referral is needed to make an appointment, and most insurances are accepted. “We don't exclude,” said Leigh-Anne. “If someone doesn’t have insurance, we work out payments based on financial means.”

Counseling isn’t just for those with emotional and/or physical trauma. There are times when the perspective of someone outside of family and friends is needed. Truth be told, we could all use an outside voice of wisdom from time to time. In an article entitled “8 More Reasons to Go to Therapy” by Ryan Howes PhD, ABPP for psychologytoday. com, Howes writes, “Therapy is unique in that it acts as the psychological

ABOVE Leigh-Anne at her office in Vidalia.

BELOW Leigh-Anne's associate, Maggie Hoffman, is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

equivalent of both the M.D. and the gym. We go to therapy to treat problems as well as improve an already decent life.”

Several pieces of artwork from the young men Leigh-Anne taught at PAYH hang throughout her office. As important as the words she brings to her clients, it is sometimes the art a client creates that connects him/her to the healing process. I sometimes wonder what would happen if we began each day like God. Okay, maybe we can’t paint a new sky every morning, but we can color. We can draw. It’s a great place to start the healing journey.

“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to,” writes author Brené Brown. The journey is one LeighAnne has traveled herself. And she’s given her life to make that journey with anyone who finds himself or herself in need of words of wisdom balanced with a heart of compassionate empathy.

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One of the many possible ways to describe a life would be as a series of encounters with various bodies of water. Time spent in or under, or near water interspersed with the periods thinking about where, when, and how to reach it next.

from Blue Mind

friend of the river I

Parker Waller was a true custodian of Georgia rivers and waterways. Now his friends celebrate his life through an annual clean-up day along the Altamaha.

never knew Parker Waller, but his life still ripples across the hearts of those who did. Dedicating a day to clean a section of the Ohoopee River, one of many rivers in the area he loved to canoe, is the best tribute his friends could offer in his memory. The first Parker Waller Ohoopee River Clean-Up Day coincided with Earth Day, April 20, 2018, the year of his passing. The following year, the group gathered on June 22, 2019 for what has now become an annual event. There were several themes this article could have followed from environmental responsibility to our need for connection with nature. But as I sifted through conversations with Parker’s friends and fellow river lovers, I decided that the best way to talk about Parker and the day set aside in his honor was through their memories. For the rest of us, I’ll begin with a little history gathered from Parker’s wife Judy and four longtime friends, Karl Owens, Mark Miller, Mark Dorsey, and Kirk Little.


Parker grew up in Vidalia. He and his friend Mark Miller graduated from Vidalia High School in 1976. Mark Dorsey, Parker’s neighbor, was one year behind them. For as long as either of them could remember, they were following Parker to some river.

After high school, Parker enlisted in the Army and spent some time in Germany. When his four years of service ended, he came home long enough to pack a few things and head to Nantahala, North Carolina. “He just took off and left everything to work as a river guide for a year,” said Mark Miller. “He lived with the other guides at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The job paid next to nothing.” But everything he needed was right there on the river.

After a summer working as a river guide, Parker returned to Vidalia and eventually went to work with Georgia Power in transmission construction. “We had been dating about four years,” said Judy Waller. “He was

working near Lake Hartwell in October 1992 and had asked me to come up to visit one weekend. When I got there, he asked me what I wanted to do that weekend. I suggested we drive over to North Carolina to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. He showed me a ring and said, ‘I thought we could get married.’ I immediately said, ‘Yes!’ We got married in Walhalla, South Carolina on October 31, 1992. On April 6, 1999, we were blessed with our beautiful daughter, Jenny Brooke. Now 21 years old, she has grown up loving the river just like her father.”

Judy understood she would share Parker, not only with the river but the “river people” who were as much his family as kin. “In the spring of 2012, I noticed that Parker had begun forgetting and losing things,” she said. “I even made him an appointment with our doctor, Dr. Geoffrey Conner, with whom Parker had grown up. Dr. Conner referred him to a neurologist in Savannah as the symptoms continued


to worsen. On December 4, 2012, he got lost in Atlanta on a job that he knew like the back of his hand.” Parker was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia on March 8, 2013.

“His symptoms grew worse every day,” said Judy. “It was very difficult to watch my soulmate, one of the strongest people I have ever known, not even being able to do normal daily activities.” Parker passed away on March 14, 2018. “We miss him every day, but I am sure he is canoeing in a golden river in heaven and helping anyone that needs help along the way. I feel blessed to have spent almost thirty years with him.”

Parker’s obituary read, “He was a member of the Ohoopee Canoe Club,” a “canoe club” Karl Owens describes as simply “a bunch of friends who liked to paddle and hang out.” Unlike other environmentally minded river groups, there was no political agenda, no statement to be made by the group’s river trips. The river brought them together, and

keeping it clean was a responsibility each one took to heart. There are times when peaceful protests have helped give “freedom of speech” a platform for needed change. But signs and shouts without personal responsibility speaks only of a quest for identity in something meaningful, which is like slapping a label on an empty package. Last year, I encountered a group of teenagers returning from a protest about environmental irresponsibility. With chins high, they carried their posters with angry slogans of accusation against authority, and not one bent to pick up even one piece of trash littered everywhere beneath their feet. It was certainly not indicative of all those who stand up to speak out, but the contradiction was heartbreaking.

“If you were on the river with Parker, every day was clean-up day,” said longtime friend Kirk Little. His friends are no different. They have all stopped to remove garbage from the Ohoopee’s white sandbars and pull items out

OPPOSITE Good friends Mark Miller, Parker, and Mike Reeves hiking the Jacks River. ABOVE, CLOCKWISE Parker and his daughter Brooke on their pond. In 2005, Parker and Brooke won the Ohoopee Canoe Club Poker Run. Parker canoeing in the Okefenokee Swamp.
“If you were on the river with Parker, every day was cleanup day.”
–longtime friend Kirk Little

of its dark, murky waters. Like the friend they followed, they instinctively understood: You can’t be grateful and irresponsible at the same time.

It was this same spirit of gratitude for the life of their friend that brought them together in his memory for the Parker Waller Ohoopee River Clean-Up Day. This year’s event was once again planned for Earth Day–April 18, 2020–a plan made before COVID-19. The date has now been changed to June 20th. All are invited to join in. The event will be carried out on the black waters of the Ohoopee River with its ancient

cypress swamps, one of Parker’s favorite rivers to canoe. The message in the Parker Waller Ohoopee Clean-Up Day is simply this: If you love it, care for it. In caring for the rivers, Parker’s memory is honored. The following is a tribute to his memory from friends who canoed and/or kayaked with him through the years.

How would you describe Parker Waller?

Judy Waller: He was one that never met a stranger and was always there to

lend a helping hand to anyone in need. He was so very kind and loving.

Karl Owens: He was a good friendslow to anger, honest, interesting and unique, friend of the environment and lover of all things outdoors, damn good canoe paddler, all around solid man.

Mark Miller: [He was] Easy going and had an immense appreciation for the outdoors. Everyone loved his one of a kind sense of humor, playful mischievousness and his humorous unpredictability.

The message in the Parker Waller Ohoopee Clean-Up Day is simply this: If you love it, care for it.

Mark Dorsey: Parker Waller was an original. He followed his passions with determination and gusto. He loved outdoor activities and his family. He was always trying out new things in the outdoors from teaching me Dutch oven cooking, camping in the wild, to white water canoeing and paddling across the Okefenokee Swamp.

Kirk Little: Parker and I were friends for forty years. He was not counterfeit; What you saw is what you got. When Parker died, the last thing he said to Judy (his wife) was very “Parker-like.” She was sitting on the edge of his bed crying, and Parker said to her, “It will be all right.” And then he died. That is how Parker lived his life—knowing that it will be all right.

sometimes dangerous adventure trips creates a bond and a brotherhood that is basic and lasting.

Mark Miller: He influenced me by the way he cared for the river and his desire to conserve it.

Mark Dorsey: I will always love the river. It has given me so many lifelong friends and pleasures that will last a lifetime.

Kirk Little: Every time I paddled with Parker, it felt like a new experience, and I would always learn something new about the river we were paddling and/or the land that we were paddling through. But the best thing that Parker taught me was how to approach life. He would tell me how he would handle a certain situation, and it was always in a way that was easy going and non-combative. And this was exactly how he would paddle a river! He would take what the river gave him with a grateful attitude, even when the waters were rough. He was always calm and steady. He never got rattled, and even when he turned over, it was always taken as a natural part of paddling the river.

What are some of your favorite memories with Parker?

fire. The next morning, I went trout fishing on another stream. When I got back later that afternoon, the fire was still smoking and his things were still around, but Parker was gone. After a while, I began to worry. I finally found him in the middle of the stream in his Canoe chair drinking his favorite beverage and reading Canoe and Kayak Magazine without a care in the world. That memory symbolizes Parker for me.

Mark Dorsey: I was lucky to get to experience being on the river with Parker all my life. Traveling on rivers and streams that were the first highways in the world, we shared seeing all kinds of wildlife up close, knowing that these pathways had been traveled since the beginning of time by the native people of America and first settlers.

Pointing to a picture, Mark said, “We were canoeing down the river, and he saw this log. He jumped right into the river and swam over to it. I hollered, ‘There’s probably snakes in there!’ He said, ‘I don’t care about no snakes,’ and he swam up in it and popped his head up.

Kirk Little: We enjoyed canoeing, camping, hunting, hiking and just about anything that a person can do outdoors. We canoed many rivers together such as the Nantahala, Little Tennessee, Chattahoochee, Suwanee, Amicalola Falls, and the mighty Chattooga, where the movie Deliverance was filmed.

How did Parker influence your appreciation of nature/the river?

Karl Owens: He was a leader and expressed that leadership by example. Whether it was organizing and leading a river clean up on the Ohoopee or he and I paddling to meet up with our camping buddies on a moonlit night, he was never afraid or too lazy to just go do it. Some of my closest and dearest friends are paddlers. Spending extended periods of time with kindred souls on uncomfortable and

Karl Owens: Whether it was a 3-day river whitewater weekend trip to the mountains, an 80 mile/4 day trip down the Altamaha, or 3 to 4 nights sleeping on islands and platforms throughout the Okefenokee Swamp, there was always an adventure out there to experience with Parker that didn’t include an attendant and a safety belt.

Mark Miller: One of my personal favorites is when he and I went camping on Noontootla Creek in the North Georgia mountains. That night, Parker slept on the ground by the

In 1988, Parker and I spent a week in the North Carolina mountains together. The trip was during a time that I was really having trouble dealing with a particular part of the river (life), and I needed some time and a good place to plan how I was going to run this rapid. We talked about different subjects like God, family, friends, women–much of the time was spent not saying anything. I think Parker knew that I needed some time to heal and a friend to just be with me.

We read the Bible every day and discussed the meaning of many verses. As a result of that trip I read the Bible


“Our rivers

In 2018, Parker's friends celebrated his life by doing what he liked most–canoing down the river and cleaning up the trash people left behind. This started the annual Parker Waller Clean Up day.

are one of our most cherished and beautiful natural resources, and it is heartbreaking to see the amount of garbage that is thrown in the water and in the sandbars and banks.”
–Ann Owens

every day now and come across many underlined verses that Parker and I shared while on that trip. I will never forget that week and how important it was for me to have a friend like Parker. I started a new and very different way of life as a result of that trip. I still find myself asking what would Parker do in this situation? The trip also helped me to understand that it was important for me to be a friend to other people and how important it is to let people know that I am always there if they need me.

Have you seen more trash in/on the river this year with school cancelled and families looking for things to do during the COVID-19 crisis?

Karl Owens: The water level has been consistently higher this year and out

of its banks. It’s flooded properties on the river two or three times in recent months. Because of the flooding, there have been a lot of larger items in the river like refrigerators, water heaters, dock lumber. A lot of the shacks and cabins litter their parts and pieces when the river rises. Sometimes it’s poor or inadequate construction. In other cases, it’s simply people just failing to secure the contents.

What does participation in the Parker Waller Ohoopee River Clean-up Day mean for you?

Karl Owens: For me, cleaning up the river hopefully means we foster an appreciation for our rivers and the other natural resources we've been blessed with. This is why Parker was

so passionate to participate when other groups held clean-up days on the rivers. There is no better way to remember and honor him than by keeping events like these going. We try to take care of the Ohoopee because it's our "home" river. Hopefully, there are and will continue be others to work on ALL other rivers.

Mark Miller: It means honor and respect for Parker’s friendship and remembering his love for the river.

Mark Dorsey: The clean-up is a small way of giving back to the river that has given me so much pleasure over the years. If we all do our part cleaning up the river, no matter how small it seems, it will make a large impact that will be noticed in future generations.

For more information, visit the Parker Waller Ohoopee River Clean-Up Facebook page or call Ann Owens at the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce at 912-537-4466.

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A RoarQuiet

Staff writer Teri R. Williams gets candid with Atlanta writer Randall Arthur about his latest book set in Lyons.

Lyons is known for many things including “Tales of the Altamaha,” an annual play based on stories of folklore and cultural history; the Real Squeal BBQ and Music festival; the Soap Box Derby on Derby Hill, and the Dustin Michael Wright Memorial Highway. And now, we can add a new claim to fame as the setting for Randall Arthur’s book A Quiet Roar. In the interview below, Randall explains how he came to choose Lyons as the backdrop for what is surely a firestorm of controversial material –and the evolution of our fictionalized town’s redemptive transformation.

Q | Your bio states that you and your wife are “career missionaries.” Can you elaborate?

RA | My wife and I have served as full-time missionaries since 1975. We lived in Europe for twenty-two years where I planted and pastored churches in Oslo, Norway; Munich, Germany; and Berlin, Germany. For the last nineteen years, I have served as the European representative for a nondenominational mission agency, basing my ministry out of Georgia. In this role I have coordinated and led

over 100 short-term mission trips, primarily to Europe. I write Christian fiction on the side.

Q | Did you grow up in the South?

RA | Yes, I lived in downtown Atlanta for the first ten years of my life. At that point, my father purchased property twenty-five miles south of Atlanta and moved our family to a rural setting. I spent my pre-adolescent and teen years in the 60’s enjoying a typical country lifestyle—roaming the woods and fields with my friends, eating homecooked meals, and struggling to get through school. I then moved away at the age of seventeen to go to a big-city college.

Q | How/Why did you choose Lyons for your setting? Do you have a personal connection with this area?

RA | I have no personal connection to Toombs County. Yet, the idea for the book was conceived there. Several years ago, my wife and I were traveling to Savannah on backroads. As we passed through Vidalia and Lyons on Highway 280, my wife and I were talking about women in ministry. I asked out loud, “I wonder what would happen if here in a

small rural town like Vidalia or Lyons the most prominent church in the area announced they were bringing in a lady pastor?” Well, being a Georgia boy, I knew what would happen. And for the next forty-five minutes my wife and I had a blast imagining how such a story would unfold. And there in the car, A Quiet Roar was born. I should note, however, that the story of A Quiet Roar is not town specific. It is a narrative that could easily reflect real life in Claxton, Metter, Hazlehurst, or any other small southern town.

Q | Did you talk to any locals before and/ or during the writing of this book?

RA | During the four and half years while writing the manuscript, I purposely did not interview anyone in the area or do any research regarding any of the Toombs County churches. I wanted my book to be completely innocent and free of influence. As I say in the ‘final notes’ of the book, “Some denominations, such as the Methodists and Presbyterians, commonly allow ladies to serve as senior pastors. In order to create a sense of realistic tension and controversy in the story, I needed to select a denomination that typically does not permit ladies to serve


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as pastors. So, I opted to use the Baptist denomination. With that said, the Baptist denomination is not a target in this narrative. I have no personal agenda to undermine Baptist Churches. As a matter of fact, I believe that the tens of thousands of Baptist Churches across our nation have through the years been a pillar of moral strength in our culture.”

Q | You included several local places in the story. Can you name a few?

RA | Roxy’s Diner. Partin Park. Pecan Drive. West Oglethorpe Avenue. Elements Bistro and Grill. Marathon gas station at I-16. Cross-Eyed Cricket Sports Bar. Steeplechase Grill. Walmart. Hampton Inn. Quality Inn.

Q | Why do you feel this is your “perhaps most controversial” book to date?

RA | For one, the subject of “female pastors” is a highly contentious subject right now in Baptist circles. The book also deals with other divisive issues such as racism in churches, and the abuse of women within a certain world religion. Having said that, my first novel Wisdom Hunter published in 1991—got me fired from a Christian organization.

Q | On your webpage, you state: “These books were also born out of personal struggles and/or partial real-life experiences.” What personal experiences influenced this particular book?

ABOVE Randall's overseas mission teams in action.

RA | During my college years I was trained in a church environment where the pastors were authoritarian, legalistic, and verbally abusive. Consequently, I became just like them. The first church that I planted in Europe—made up of people from more than twenty different nations—graciously helped me see how destructive I was becoming. My journey out of this legalistic mindset was long and painful. So, it’s true; my first three novels were birthed out of a therapeutic need to put into writing the things I learned and witnessed during my painful transition from strict legalism to gracious freedom. A Quiet Roar, however, was simply written to provoke further discussion, further debate, and further study on the subject of female pastors. And I felt that the rural south would be a great and fun setting for this subject matter.

Q | In what way do you feel writing fiction personally helps process the “nonfiction” hardships in your own life?

RA | A good work of fiction, I believe, can convey important messages that we will listen to, messages that we wouldn’t listen to if conveyed by a real person. We are not as defensive when we are standing on the outside reading “someone else’s” story and are suddenly slapped with a stinging rebuke or selfrevelation. I find that my characters— though fictitious—talk to me, teach me, and correct me in a way that wins my respect and gets my attention.

Q | Talk about some of the main topics that drive this particular storyline and why you chose these particular themes. (i.e., personal tragedy, racial prejudice, religious misogyny, lack of connection in the community toward Hispanic families etc.)

RA | I’ve learned through the years that we all have blind spots. If we only associate with people who look like we do, think like we do, and believe like we do, then we will all be blind in the same areas and never know we are blind. The mark of a wise man is someone who welcomes correction. All the abovementioned topics that saturate A Quiet Roar are areas where many of us are blind. I selected these particular themes to help us become aware of our blind spots and to promote healthy changes.

Q | Where can readers buy a copy of your book?

RA | The book, either as an e-book or paperback, can be purchased from Amazon. An autographed copy can be ordered from my website at www.

A Quiet Roar is available now on Amazon (both in paperback and e-book versions). Autographed copies, along with wholesale copies, are available at
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Discover Main Street

The Lyons Main Street program understands how important a downtown area can be, so we work to improve our Main Street every day. In addition to helping new businesses locate, issuing assistance grants, planning networking opportunities and coordinating beautification projects, we help host and plan a variety of events to engage the community. Take a look at some of this year’s funfilled events and how they improve our community!

All of our events have their own Facebook page so make sure to like them, and visit us regularly at to see what’s happening in your downtown

Mark your calender! Southeast
The Real Squeal
Winter WonderLyons and Lyons Lighted Christmas Parade December 5, 2020 Contact Lyons Main Street for application.
Georgia Soap Box Derby Rally Race August 29 & 30, 2020 October 31 & November 1, 2020
BBQ & Music Festival October 9 & 10, 2020
Let Main Street help you locate your new business! If you enjoy meeting new friends and being active in your community, Lyons Main Street is the place to be! All of these events are sponsored locally and run by volunteers. 126 TOOMBS COUNTY MAGAZINE Text LYONSMAINSTREET TO 22828 to sign up for our newsletter Join the Fun! Rally Races August 29 & 30 and Oct 31 & Nov 1 See How Lyons has Grown! The 2019 Community Impact Report reveals that business is thriving in Downtown Lyons. 22 building rehabilitation projects 10,598 volunteer hours 9,335 attendance at promotional events promotional events 3 new or expanding businesses 5 private/public investment downtown $910,074 new jobs created 6 $615,000 used for building rehab


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Save a dance for dad

For a few nights every year, all over the country, something special happens at Chick-fil-A restaurants. Little girls wearing their prettiest outfits walk into dining rooms filled with flowers, holding the hands of one very special guy: Daddy.

The traditions began in 2008 when a Chick-fil-A franchise owner wanted to create an event where fathers and daughters could have a memorable evening together. Now, hundreds of Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide are hosting their own events, each with their own unique touches - flowers on tables, red carpets, even carriage rides or live music - to create lifelong memories for families.

When Britt McDade, owner/operator of Chick-fil-A Vidalia, and his wife Candace moved to Toombs County, they had a similar vision to positively impact the community. Just a few months after opening, Chick-fil-A Vidalia hosted their first Daddy Daughter Date Night in February 2014. It began as a one-night event at the restaurant with multiple seatings. Flowers and balloons filled the dining room, and guests were served by the staff. "CFA always made DDDN special for those


attending," said George Holcomb, who provided live music for the event in its first six years. "It is a great opportunity to encourage father/daughter relationships and for them to see the importance of doing so."

The idea behind Daddy Daughter Date Night is to impact the community in an extraordinary way by promoting family. "Dads and their daughters get the opportunity to spend intentional time with one another," said Marissa Brown, Senior Director. "At the beginning of the night, dads and daughters ask each other questions like 'What do you look forward to most about growing up? Why?' and 'What has been the best day of your life so far? Why?' These moments open up conversations that may

have never happened before. We have had some dads who have kept the place mats with the questions and answers and go back to them throughout the year, continuing the conversations." The participants are also not limited by age. In the past, they have had guests that included a 75- yearold father and his daughter as well as a daughter who drove home from college because she didn't want to miss the event with her dad.

Due to the increasing number of guests wanting to participate each year, Daddy Daughter Date Night expanded to two nights with additional seating each night. In 2019, all the reservations for two nights with 5 seating times were filled within 48 hours. This was a turning point

She was so excited and really in awe. She couldn't stop talking about it afterwards.
– Daniel O’Conner

for Chick-fil-A Vidalia. "We had outgrown our restaurant space," said Mindy Morrison, Senior Director. "We believe that this event was one of the most special nights of the year for our local dads and daughters, and we wanted to continue to provide a great experience for them."

The solution to a problem often takes a community effort. "Due to our relationships with community partners such as the City of Vidalia, we secured the Vidalia Community Center for our 2020 Daddy Daughter Date Night," said Mindy. The space provided the perfect location for a magical night and quickly sold out to seat 350 dads and daughters.

The girls arrived that evening looking like princesses and were greeted by the Chick-fil-A cows and the team while they eagerly waited in line. Once inside, each girl was given a flower and tiara and then seated at their reserved table. The hall was beautifully decorated with balloons, flowers, and cupcakes on each table. Paul Dixon, who is a strong community supporter and previous team member, performed as DJ and provided a fun, music-filled atmosphere for the entire evening. Dance instructor, Carly Benton, taught a few dance moves to the group. A


photo booth was available to capture special memories of the event. "We also had a group of community partners that graciously volunteered to serve," said Mindy.

Although the evening might seem to focus on the girls, it is just as special for the dads. "I love the community side of it and getting to see other dads," said Chad Ritchie. "The girls were talking about it months in advance. [My daughter] Rachel felt so important and all grown up, like a princess." Brad Waters has been participating in the event even before moving to the area. "The girls view it as being more special than something that would be super fancy," he said. "We put it on the calendar every year and don't miss because it is a highlight. This event lets daughters understand how a lady is suppose to be treated. It is a really big deal."

Greg Hudgins, who has participated for the last five years, has twin girls, so attending the event is double fun for him. "Being able to have special moments with them shows them how they should feel special," he said. "This year at the community center felt like a prom."

By the time many of these girls reach prom age, dates with dad will more often be replaced by friends and social events. Daddy Daughter Date Night is a great way to establish a custom early on of communicating and spending important time together–something every princess needs.

Chick-fil-A Vidalia will continue using the Vidalia Community Center, and Daddy Daughter Date Night will be held each year on the Thursday before Valentines Day.

DDDN gives dads and daughters time to talk about what's important to them and what their dreams are. The event is fun, but it also creates space for communication that can easily be neglected when life gets busy. LEFT Chick-fil-A Vidalia owner/ operator Britt McDade and his family.

We’re Creating Great Leaders

Become part of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program

Leadership Toombs-Montgomery is designed to bring together new, emerging and potential leaders from the area to address pertinent community needs, strengthen individual leadership abilities, and encourage participants to personally commit to assuming new leadership roles in the community. The program is designed to enhance a participant’s awareness of our community and its needs by examining how leadership in the historical, geographical, educational, economic, governmental, and cultural segments work together to perpetuate and advance the Toombs-Montgomery area.


The Chamber implemented Leadership Toombs-Montgomery in 1994. Jack and Lynette Dell helped develop the program and served as Program Co-Chairs for three years. Since then nearly 400 community citizens have graduated. These are people who share the common knowledge of our community’s assets and are

aware of opportunities to further growth and prosperity. Many of these individuals serve as elected officials, on boards of community organizations, on festival and event committees, manage or own large or small businesses – in essence leadership graduates are involved in every segment of our community. Leadership ToombsMontgomery is a powerful tool that helps make our area a great place to live and do business.


Applicants should:

· Demonstrate leadership in his/ her community

· Have an interest in furthering his/her knowledge about the Toombs-Montgomery area and community leadership

· Commit to full participation in the Leadership ToombsMontgomery program. The program requires a significant time commitment. Please be sure you can make this commitment before applying.

· Applicants to Leadership

Toombs-Montgomery will be

Toombs-Montgomery Youth Leadership Program

The Toombs-Montgomery Youth Leadership program is for high school juniors and seniors. The program is designed to develop leadership potential and to acquaint participants with community needs and resources through interaction with community leaders and decision-makers.

How Are Participants Selected?

Applications are available through each high school counselor. A selection committee will review all applications and will select participants based on the contents.

Five Reasons to Apply:

Expand your leadership capacity through immersion into the realities and opportunities of our community

Collaborate with the region’s top community leaders and organizations

Develop deep relationships with a network of diverse colleagues

Gain valuable insight into the most challenging issues facing our region

Ignite change in our area

expected to become active participants in advancing the community and making a positive contribution to the Toombs-Montgomery area.

How Long Does the Program Run?

The length of the program is from September through February with graduation in March.

2 3 4 5

Dee Ann is a 33-year veteran of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Prior to retirement in 2018, she was Vice President, Talent and Vice President, Sustainability for Chick-fil-A, Inc. Selected as the company’s first female officer in 2001, she was instrumental in building and growing Chickfil-A’s well-known culture and talent systems. Today, she leads her own organization, Dee Ann Turner & Associates, LLC, writing books, speaking to over 50 audiences per year and consulting and coaching leaders globally. She is the author of the best seller, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture. Her latest book is Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture and Win the Hearts of Customers was released in September 2019.

Become a part of the Chamber today! To stay updated on what your Chamber is doing, visit and sign up for our email newsletters! Join the Chamber Fun! The Annual Meeting provides an opportunity to learn more about leadership and to network with other chamber members. Get Insight! The Legislative Luncheon gives members a valuable perspective of what is happening in the Georgia legislature. 00313429 ADMIT ONE Save the Date September 15, 2020 Business Solutions Summit with guest speaker Dee Ann Turner

Vidalia Main Street

Shop Local. Eat Local. Spend Local. Your community will thank you.

Creating a Vision for the Future of Downtown Vidalia

2020 has presented us with different challenges and forced us to unfortunately cancel many of our usual events. We’ve had to change our way of thinking and doing. Supporting local is a lifestyle, and it is important now more than ever. Our world has become a one-click society that is honestly has a negative impact when it comes to supporting and sustaining local. Shopping local means we are supporting local families and puts money into our local economy. It is about keeping that dollar local and makes much more of an impact locally than the alternative. So whether you think you support local or you can truly say you do, we must make a conscious effort to think local and buy local first, if the option is available. It is literally what keeps a community alive and thriving. We thank you for thinking local!

2019 finished strong with “There’s No Place Like Home for Christmas” Parade and our DVA members enjoyed a tacky Christmas sweater Jingle Mingle (some of them brought tacky to a new level-LOL). In February we had our 2nd Chocolate Walk with grand success! Over 125

shoppers enjoyed special deals and delicious chocolate treats provided by 18 local merchants. We even had the merchants get a bit competitive by having the shoppers vote for the Best Chocolate Treat award. Participants seem to love this event, and we plan to continue it annually.

The Design and Economic Committee was pleased to roll out a new BOOST grant, which is a 50% matching grant up to $1500 for business improvements. These grants will be awarded on a quarterly basis in an effort to aid our business owners.

Membership continues to remain strong and supportive. New members are a delight, and they indicate the value of being a part of our organization. I love hearing the success stories of networking at Coffee before Hours or The 5:05, of gaining new customers because of our social media presence, or of having record sales on a DVA event day. Those stories are why we do what we do! Remember to shop local, eat local, spend local; your community will thank you.

2020 Board of Directors


Heather Mead

Million Pines Community Bank

Vice President

Valerie McLendon Altamaha Bank & Trust


Rhonda Jones

Dermatology Associates


Bill Bedingfield

City of Vidalia

Greg Hudgins, GA Power Co.

Charles Tapley, Lovins Realty

Tish Holland, Arlene’s Fine Jewelry

Gaston Crue, Gaston Crue

Lifestyle & Interiors

Jessie Carter, J Leigh Hair Studio
our team Main Street members enjoy numerous benefits… just being connected helps you accomplish your goals. Downtown Vidalia Association @downtownvidalia Follow Us and Keep Up With What’s Going on in Your Hometown!


Altamaha Bank & Trust

Dermatology Associates

Dixon Management Group

Million Pines Community Bank

Toombs County Commissioners


Appling Healthcare Group of Vidalia

Arlene’s Fine Jewelry

Chic-Fil-A Vidalia

GA Power Co.

Kailey Dees State Farm Insurance

McLain, Calhoun, McCullough, Clark, & Co, P.C.

Mount Vernon Bank

Peoples Bank

Vidalia Federal Savings Bank


Accessorize It! Designs

Clarke Appliance Sales & Service

Darby Dental Services

DOT Foods

Gaston Crue Lifestyle & Interiors

M & M Realty

Phillips Pharmacy

Ronald V. Hall Funeral Home

Shoney’s Vidalia Communications


Accordia Urgent Care & Family Practice

Alliance Home Medical Altama Museum of Art & History

AmericInn by Wyndham

Ameris Bank

Brown Implement

Brown Insurance Group

Brown’s Jewelry

Brown Realty Group

K E Bulter & Company Jewelers

Chicken of the Sea

Counting the Days Travel

Dean Architechure & Design

Downtown Craft House

Edna’s Marketplace Boutique

Edward Jones-Brad Owens

ERA Southeast Coatal Real Estate

ESG Operations

Estroff Properties

Farmers Insurance

1st Franklin Financial

The Garden House

GA Eye Institute

Handy Andy Home Warehouse

Ingley, Roper, Moore

J Leigh Hair Studio

The Law Firm of Smith & Tillery, P.C.

Lovins & Associates

Lovins Realty & Investments

Maddie Bea/Robin’s Nest

Mary’s/M Squared

Design Firm Massie McIntyre, P.C. Meridy’s Uniforms Merle Norman Cosmetics Mimosa Gift Boutique Northland Communications The Onion Inn Karl & Ann Owens Oxley Dental of Vidalia Palmer & Associates Insurors The Printed Word Republic Service Rhodes Electric Services The Sandwiche Shopppe Second Blessings Shuman’s Cleaners Sign & Stamp Solutions S’Moore Coffee Shop Soothing Sensations Sugar Britches Tappas Terry’s Flooring The Temples Company Tippett Legal Services Tom Peterson Realtors Toombs County Magazine Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Tri-County Clinic of Chiropractic The Unique Boutique Vidalia Honey Company VL Graphics Webster Motor Company Wilkes Office Machine FRIENDS Nick & Jennifer Overstreet Brian & Kathy Sikes David Sikes Ronnie L. Stewart Ann Todd Thank you Members! BOARD OF DIRECTORS AT THE JINGLE MINGLE 9-11 MEMORIAL PROGRAM SPOOKTACULAR COFFEE BEFORE HOURS AT ALTAMAHA BANK CHOCOLATE WALK GIFT CARD WINNER COFFEE BEFORE HOURS AT DOWNTOWN CRAFT HOUSE DON’T MISS WHAT’S HAPPENING DOWNTOWN... TOTALLY TACKY AT THE JINGLE MINGLE CHRISTMAS PARADE WITH DALE CANNADY COFFEE BEFORE HOURS AT MILLION PINES COMMUNITY BANK CBH DOOR PRIZE WINNERS EDNA’S MARKETPLACE BOUTIQUE THE 505 AT ACCESSORIZE IT! HOMETOWN LIVING AT ITS BEST 137

“My husband and his brother have a small crop of field corn, sweet corn, and an array of other vegetables. My boys are close in age just like my husband and his brother. I caught this sweet photo of them in the corn that their daddy and uncle planted.”

photo by | Keeley Spell
–Keeley Spell

Scenes of Toombs Co.

This has been an unusual, mixed up spring for sure, buT iT has given us plenTy of Time To sTop and focus on The beauTy ThaT surrounds us in naTure, family and freindships. as we conquer These gray days and puT Them behind us, leT us remember all The blessings we have gained from living in

by | diane mixon
Toombs County! phoTo
photo by | Milizabeth Mann photo by | John henry tinnett photo by | Joe Claroni photo by | JaCk WilliaMs photo by | Joe Claroni photo by | Diane Mixon
Submit your favorite scene of Toombs County to
photo by | MereDith broDnax
We’ll Come to Your Doorstep We hear it all the time. Readers don’t want to miss an exciting issue of Toombs County Magazine. Now you can make sure a copy is delivered right to your home, so you’ll never miss a story. o Yes, I want a 1 year subscription to Toombs County Magazine, that's 2 issues for $14.00 o Yes, I want a 2 year subscription to Toombs County Magazine, that’s 4 issues for $28.00 Begin my subscription with o Fall/Winter Issue o Spring/Summer Issue Name Address City_____________________________State____________________________Zip Phone Email Send to (if different): Name Address City_____________________________State____________________________Zip Payment o I am enclosing Cash, Check or Money Order Amount submitted______________ o Please charge my: [ ] Visa [ ] MasterCard [ ] AMEX Credit Card #____________________________________Exp._________________ Card CCV Code__________ Billing Address, City, State, Zip___________________________________________________________________ Name on card________________________________________________________________________________ Families...Since 1999 30474 Lic. #138135H Hospice the area’s leading hospice provider. Our staff comfort, but spiritual and social care, too, for the the finest, full-family care program available ome Hospice services area s o y Hospice House rief support & Bereavement services edicaL & sociaL workers ome H LtH aides & ski ed nursinG services dvocates dietary counseLinG inanciaL aid avaiLaBL tHrouGH community H on-profit foundation COMPASSION DIGNITY CARE Toombs County MAGAZINE HOMETOWN LIVING AT ITS BEST Making His Own Contribution He’s a martial arts master, but Dewitt Davis’s greatest talent is teaching youth the value of selfdiscipline and respect. Encouraging the World Through Art Art and worship are one for Meredith Raiford who has traveled the world inspiring others with her murals. a picture of Hard work, determination and a strong sense of vision led Jesslyn Johnson to discover a gift that she built a successful business around. SPRING/SUMMER 2018 Taking Her Faith to the Stage Celester Bacon has many talents, but writing and directing local plays that encourage others is one of her greatest accomplishments. success Detach and return bottom portion with payment to Red Door Design & Publishing, 148 Williams Avenue, Lyons, GA 30436 S20
Shop local. Eat local. Spend local. Enjoy local. Invest in your community. A Health Revival ....................................................................... 59 AAA Roofing, Inc...................................................................... 77 Accessorize It Designs ............................................................ 90 Acute Care Clinic/Abednego Primary Care ...................... 13 Alexander Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning 28 Allcare 70 Altamaha Bank & Trust ............................................................ 15 Altamaha EMC .......................................................................... 90 AmericInn Lodge & Suites .................................................... 109 Arlene’s Fine Jewelry ............................................................... 81 Altamaha Animal Clinic ........................................................... 58 Barberitos .................................................................................. 93 Big Al’s Country Market ......................................................... 28 Brewton-Parker College 25 Brown Insurance Group ........................................................... 3 Brown Realty Company ............................................................ 2 Bryant O’Connor, LLP Attorneys at Law ............................ 93 Canoochee EMC ...................................................................... 97 Chapman Healthcare Pharmacy ............................................ 81 Chick-fil-A.................................................... Inside Front Cover Community Hospice .............................................. Back Cover Dale’s Hair Care Center 125 Darby Dental Services 11 Dental Center of Vidalia ........................................................... 1 Dixon O’Neal Agency ............................................................. 70 DOT Foods ............................................................................. 107 Downtown Bistro & Catering ............................................. 124 Edward Jones ........................................................................... 108 Face 2 Face Global Hair Studio .......................................... 124 Georgia Eye Institute ............................................................... 46 Georgia Properties 98 Gilbert Jones & Associates 77 Glow Salon ................................................................................ 91 Handy Andy Home Warehouse ............................................ 80 Ingley Roper Moore, LLC ....................................................... 99 K E Butler & Company Jewelers ......................................... 109 Kilgore Animal Hospital .......................................................... 98 Lasseter Implement Company .............................................. 69 Linda P. Bishop, CPA, PC ....................................................... 121 Little Folks Farm & Childcare 121 Lone Pine Charolais 79 Madonna H. Paradice, PC ....................................................... 37 Meadows Advanced Wound Care Center .......................... 70 Meadows Health .................................................................... 8-9 Meadows Park Health & Rehabilitation ............................ 119 Memory Lane Catering & Cakes .......................................... 91 Million Pines Community Bank ............................................. 71 Mobley’s Well and Pump Service .......................................... 58 Mount Vernon Bank ................................................................. 23 New Image Salon and Spa ...................................................... 58 Ohoopee Land and Timber, LLC 108 One World Solar 57 The Onion Inn ........................................................................ 119 Oxley Dental ............................................................................... 5 Oxley Park Health & Rehabilitation ..................................... 99 Palmer Furniture .................................................................... 124 Peoples Bank ............................................................................. 80 Phillips Pharmacy .................................................................... 108 Prime Cut Steakhouse 69 Red Stag Tavern 97 Reidsville Veterinary Clinic ..................................................... 91 Rivers Air Conditioning & Heating ....................................... 36 Salter Shook Attorneys at Law ............................................. 79 Serenity Hospice Care ............................................................ 71 Solace Hospice ......................................................................... 77 Solid Ground Farms .............................................................. 109 Somers Realty & Investments .............................................. 123 Spa on First 47 Spivey Orthopedic Clinic 29 State Farm Insurance/Kailey Dees...................................... 121 Tar Land and Timber ............................................................... 46 Terra Dolce Farms ................................................................. 127 The Law Firm of Smith & Tillery .............. Inside Back Cover The Gathering Place .............................................................. 125 The Tree House Grill............................................................. 107 Thriftway .................................................................................... 80 Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce 134 Toombs County DUI 125 Tots 2 Teens ............................................................................... 18 Vidalia Federal Savings ............................................................. 27 Vidalia Gymnastics Cheer and Dance ............................... 125 Vidalia Pediatric Clinic............................................................. 19 Vidalia Small Engine Service ................................................... 21 Wiggins Family Practice ........................................................ 124 Windmill Restaurant ............................................................. 125 Woody Folsom Auto Group 108 Zaxby’s .......................................................................................... 7 index
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LAST Words

The Mysterious Rocky

Living in the country, we’ve had our share of transient and drop-off animals. For the last 12 or so years, we’ve had Daisy, a mutt that we rescued from the shelter that could use some CBD gummies due to high anxiety. We’ve had Lily for 8 years, a sort of dachshund looking thing with weight issues, seizures, breath that will melt your face, a high-pitched bark that will give YOU a seizure, feet that smell like Fritos, and the life of a Kardashian. But my guy, my dude, my spirit animal, and the object of my affection is Rocky, a/k/a The Most Mysterious Dog in the World.

Rocky showed up at our house in the spring of 2014; just wandered up like he owned the place. He was ridiculously affectionate and liked to sleep on the outdoor chairs and on top of the picnic table. The first time I sat outside with him, he crawled up in my lap and rested his head on my shoulder. That was it, folks, he and I were officially tight.

It became immediately clear that he was not to be contained. I mean, we live on what once was a dirt road with just a few neighbors, so we have always let our dogs ramble a bit. But this piece of work would stay gone for days on end, so we assumed he must have a permanent address but was also digging being with me. It wasn’t too long before I found out that he was hanging out with several of our country neighbors and going by the names of Black Dog, Earl, and Buddy. I’m not gonna lie, I felt betrayed. Here I was, feeding this guy, worrying about him when he was gone, loving on him when he came around, and I find out that I’m not the only woman in his life, to say the least. He didn’t live with any of these people, he was just showing up and charming them for food and

affection just like he did with me. See, here’s the thing I’ve learned about my friend–he’s a total free spirit. I don’t know where he came from or how he ended up in my neck of the woods, but he will never be a kept dog. I am convinced that he smokes unfiltered cigarettes, has a Thursday night poker group that he never misses, has a mouth like a sailor, is a frequent flyer at the local tattoo parlor, and that his ultimate weakness is fast women and cheap liquor. He has been known to kill a rabbit or fifty, small deer, medium deer, and I shudder to think what else. He enjoys the company of a local goat, and steals toys, hats, and shoes from the residence across the road–leaving them all in my yard so that I will look like the bad guy. He has come “home” after nights of debauchery with various, nasty, bloody holes and gashes in his body that have cost me a fortune in vet bills. Honestly, he’s been prescribed more antibiotics in the last 6 years than I probably have in my lifetime. We had him spayed early on when someone took it upon themselves to tie off his man parts with a rubber band and left him to suffer. Of course, he didn’t go to where they call him Black Dog, Earl, or Buddy, he came to me because he knows that I’m a sucker for his face and I’ll always take care of him, regardless. It wasn’t until 2016 that we had our first complaint regarding his behavior, and a neighbor threatened to do him in. I won’t go into any details, but let’s just say that chickens were involved along with allegations of chasing an old woman into her house and scaring her half to death. Pretty sure he just wanted a couch to rest on, but I didn’t blame them and was very grateful that they didn’t unload a shotgun on him when they had the

chance. We had a talk, he and I, and I cried, knowing that his days were now probably numbered, and I officially put him up for adoption on Facebook but had no takers, thank God.

In 2017, he apparently decided to settle down and brought home a young, beautiful black lab to meet us. They were a thing for almost a month, but then she wised up and dumped him because, chances are, she figured out she wasn’t his one and only. He was seriously and truly depressed, moping around for almost a week, and then he disappeared again to drown his sorrows, I’m guessing.

I don’t mean to sound like he’s totally selfish and ungrateful for what we’ve done for him. One day, in the wee hours of the morning, he got into an awful growling, gnashing fight with a large animal right outside of our bedroom. I still have no idea what that animal was, but I’m pretty sure Rocky got the best of him. He escaped with a nasty gash, took a trip to the vet, and got to come in the house to convalesce where he slept for 12 straight hours. Then there was the time that little, fat Lily thought she could take on the big dogs from across the road (she was so wrong), and Rocky appeared from absolutely nowhere to her rescue, beating both of those dogs to a pulp and sending them home crying. He got to come in the house then, too, and he earned an entire can of chicken soup.

Much to the dismay of my husband, Rocky has earned many days and nights in the house–when it’s too cold, too hot, bad weather, or just whenever the prodigal son finally decides to come home again. I am forever amazed he has lived this long. I will continue to get nervous when he’s gone for awhile because I know, with the life he leads, one of these days he just won’t come sauntering up my driveway, looking tired and walking with a limp that he seems to only have when I’m looking. I keep hoping that, before it’s too late, we can retire together, and I can convince him to write his memoirs… because that has got to be one hell of a story.

Sometimes a woman’s best friend is her dog.
Ann Owens is a writer, creative genius, entrepreneur, mother, and wife who enjoys pondering what makes the world click.
Smith & Tillery, P.C. Tommy J. Smith, Attorney at Law • Blake Tillery, Attorney at Law Personal Injury • Wrongful Death • Worker’s Compensation Social Security Disability • Real Estate Closings • Wills/Probate 404 Durden Street, Vidalia, GA 30474 • 912.537.3030

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