Toombs County Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

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Toombs COUNTY MAGAZINE

Just Sing! Wilson Johnson has used his voice for many things, but the greatest is for spreading unity

Taste & See

Wild at Heart

Jackson Heights

Shelby Morrison turns a personal challenge into a thriving business

Greg Johnson’s partnership with raptors displays the true essence of trust

A look at Vidalia’s historic neighborhood

H O M E T O W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T


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For the BEST quality care and comfort, choose our team

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If You're Buying or Selling Real Estate We'd Love to Connect With You

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Community Contacts Community Contacts CITY OF VIDALIA

Emergencies EmergenciesDial Dial9-1-1 9-1-1 TOOMBS COUNTY

CITY OF LYONS

CITY OF LYONS Police

BUSINESS & TOURISM

Toombs TOOMBS/MONTGOMERY CHAMBER POLICE County POLICE 912-526-3638 Police 912-537-4123 912-537-4123 912-526-3638 Business & Tourism CITY OF VIDALIA Fire 912-537-4123 DOWNTOWN VIDALIA DVAChamber MAIN FIRE Police FIRE FIRE Toombs/Montgomery 912-537-4388 Fire STREET 912-537-4388 912-537-4388 912-537-4388 912-537-4123 912-537-4123 Public Works 912-537-4388 912-537-8033 CITY HALL Downtown Vidalia DVA Main Street CITY HALL PUBLIC WORKS Fire 912-526-3626 City Hall dvamainstreet@vidaliaga.gov 912-537-7661 912-537-7661 912-526-3626 912-537-8033 912-537-4388 Recreation 912-537-7661 LYONS MAIN STREET dvamainstreet@vidaliaga.gov City Hall 912-526-3084 PUBLIC WORKS PUBLIC WORKS RECREATION Public Works 912-526-6445 Lyons Main Street 912-537-7661 912-537-4566 912-537-4566 912-526-3084 lyonsrec@lyonsga.org 912-537-4566 CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU 912-526-6445 lyonsrec@lyonsga.org Public Works SOLID WASTE/RECYCLING SOLID LANDFILL SolidWASTE Waste Power Companies 912-538-8687 Convention & Visitors Bureau 912-537-4566 912-538-1714 912-537-9966 Landfill POWER COMPANIES Georgia PowerCity abritton@vidaliaga.gov 912-538-8687 Solid Waste/Recycling GEORGIA POWER- CITY 912-537-9966 RECREATION 1-888-660-5890 CEDAR CROSSING abritton@vidaliaga.gov 912-538-1714 1-888-660-5890 912-537-7913 912-594-8100 Cedar Crossing Altamaha Electric - Rural TOOMBS COUNTY SCHOOLS Recreation recdept@vidaliaga.gov 912-594-8100 BOARD OF EDUCATION 912-526-8181 ALTAMAHA ELECTRIC - RURAL Toombs County Schools GIBSON/AIMWELL 912-537-7913 912-526-3141 Gibson/Aimwell 912-526-8181 Gas Companies 912-526-4216 Board of Education recdept@vidaliaga.gov VIDALIA CITY SCHOOLS 912-526-4216 Patriot Gas Co LYONS PRIMARY 912-526-3141 TOMLIN GAS COMPANIES VIDALIA BOARD OF EDUCATION Tomlin 912-537-1943 912-526-8391 Lyons Primary Vidalia City Schools 912-526-4218 PATRIOT GAS CO 912-537-3088 912-526-4218 Conger LP Gas Inc Vidalia Board of Education 912-526-8391 912-537-1943 TOOMBS CENTRAL ELEMENTARY JOHNSONCorner CORNER JD DICKERSON PRIMARY Johnson 912-537-8722 Toombs Central Elementary 912-537-3088 912-565-7781 912-565-0810 CONGER LP GAS INC 912-537-3421 912-565-0810 Ferrellgas 912-565-7781 JD Dickerson Primary 912-537-8722 LYONS UPPER ELEMENTARY PONDEROSA SALLY D MEADOWS Ponderosa 912-537-3032 Lyons Upper Elementary 912-537-3421 912-526-5816 912-526-0474 FERRELLGAS ELEMENTARY 912-526-0474 Pacific Pride 912-526-5816 Sally D Meadows Elementary 912-537-3032 TOOMBS COUNTY MIDDLE SCHOOL 912-537-4755 Normantown NORMANTOWN 912-537-3303 Toombs County Middle School 912-537-4755 912-537-3813 912-537-4047 PACIFIC PRIDE 912-537-4047 JR TRIPPE MIDDLESchool SCHOOL 912-537-3813 JR Trippe Middle 912-537-3303 TOOMBS COUNTY HIGH 912-537-3813 Resmondo Toombs County HighSCHOOL School RESMONDO Private Schools 912-537-3813 912-526-4286 912-293-5881 912-293-5881 912-526-4286 RobertPRIVATE Toombs SCHOOLS Christian Vidalia VIDALIAHigh HIGH School SCHOOL 912-537-7931 Academy 912-537-7931 ROBERT TOOMBS CHRISTIAN LIBRARY Library PHONE SERVICE Phone Service 912-526-8938 ACADEMY OHOOPEE REGIONAL VIDALIAATT Hospital HOSPITAL Regional Vidalia- Toombs Att Vidalia 912-526-8938 Heritage Academy Ohoopee TOOMBS 800-288-2020 Meadows Health Meadows Health 912-537-9283 800-288-2020 912-537-6679 VIDALIA HERITAGE ACADEMY 912-537-9283 912-535-5555 912-535-5555

POLICE 912-537-4123

912-537-6679

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contents

36

24 WILD AT HEART By training raptors, falconer Greg Johnson learns the importance of building trust.

36

24

TASTE & SEE Shelby Morrison turns a personal cooking challenge into a thriving business with macarons.

48 ON A MISSION FOR SAFETY Captain Robert Tillman protects children and families in our community through fire safety and education.

58

58

THE GOLD COIN STANDARD Elizabeth and Mauricio Ibarra have created a business empire based on hard work and the American dream of a bright tomorrow.

103

70 LOOK WITH THE HEART When you let God do the work, amazing things can happen.

80 JUST SING! Wilson Johnson has used his voice for many things, but the greatest is for unity.

91 60 YEARS OF TRANSFORMING LIVES The Paul Anderson Youth Home celebrates a milestone.

95 BLACK BELT OF HONOR When Shane Harrelson stepped on a Jiu-Jitsu mat fourteen years ago, he discovered a lifelong dedication to discipline, character and honor.

103 JACKSON HEIGHTS One of Vidalia’s first neighborhoods, Jackson Heights has stories to tell from past and present.

118 THE VIDALIA ONION FESTIVAL As seen through your eyes. 4

TO O M B S CO U N T Y M A G A Z I N E

128 LAST WORDS Becoming a grannie is not so complicated after all.

at home 10

JUST PEACHY Peach dishes to brighten your summer table.

focus on health 20

HEALTHY HABITS NOW Prevent metabolic syndrome by creating a plan for a healthier future.

in every issue 114 | The Local Marketplace 120 | Vidalia Main Street 116 | Chamber of Commerce 122 | Lyons Main Street 123 | Advertiser’s Index 124 | Scenes of Toombs

About the Cover Wilson Johnson is a man of amazing talent and amazing stories. Years before he worked in television and radio and became a well-known community leader, he was an entertainer. Working alongside some of the greatest R&B and Jazz musicians to come out of Miami, Wilson’s eighteen piece orchestra was a regular act at some of Miami’s finest establishments. He never thought of the job as work. “Performing music was always just entertainment to me,” said Wilson.


Our family is here for your family

Your smile is in good hands at Oxley Dental

Come see Dr. Mark Oxley for all your dental needs.

912-537-2238

Text: 912-205-3983 1618 Meadows Lane, Vidalia info@oxleydental.com oxleydentalvidalia.com


FROM THE PUBLISHER

Toombs County

invest in each other 9 months. That’s how long I’ve had the joy of watching this tiny human grandchild grow into a person that loves spending time with me and laughs at everything I do. I know I had similar moments with my own children, but I think those moments were tainted by piles of laundry that needed washing or work that needed to be done. Grandparents don’t feel like they need to be in a hurry. We can walk in the yard and talk about birds and trees or sit in the floor and count colored blocks with the confidence that in time everything will get done that needs to get done. We fully realize that life on this earth is limited, and the most important thing we can do is invest our time in the next generation. More than ever, I take stock of where and how I am investing my time. A glance at the news or a scroll through social media might make you feel like you’re safer turning inward and investing in yourself. It’s easy to get discouraged by the world or let our emotions pull us in a hundred directions. But truthfully, we need to invest in each other. We all have something to offer and something to learn. Finding the humility to walk in the balance is tricky, but realizing the importance of our giving is lifechanging. Investing in others is a selfless act and a common thread I often see in our stories. It happens when people are willing to sacrifice their time for someone else’s benefit. It’s a simple concept really, and the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Oh, and did I mention the rewards? Immeasurable. As always our stories in this issue have wonderful nuggets of gold that highlight people making time investments as they do ordinary day-to-day things. Robert Tillman is investing in kids and families by teaching them to protect themselves through fire safety (p. 48), Greg Johnson is investing in wildlife, and in turn, is learning about trust (p. 24), the Ibarra’s are teaching their family the ethics of hard work and a positive mind set (p. 58), and Leah Lee is providing daycare for working families and a ministry for her neighbors (p. 70). We all have a people around us that could benefit from our time, and that is the most important gift we can offer. As I sit on the floor surrounded by toys, I’m investing in the future right here...one colored block at a time.

M A G A Z I N E

PUBLISHER

Red Door Design & Publishing, LLC EXECUTIVE EDI TOR

Stephanie Williams C R E AT I V E | D E S I G N

Elizabeth Beasley Stephanie Williams A S S I S TA N T M A N A G E R

Nikki Anderson DIRECTOR OF MARKETING A N D M E DI A R E L AT I O N S

Madison Beverly SALES

Dottie Hicks Randall Montague Daphne Walker CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Renée Martin Ann Owens Nancy Stanley Teri R. Williams PHOTOGRAPHERS

Ruth English Daphne Walker PROOFING

Megan Morris

keeping the stories alive,

COVER PHOTO

Ruth English

Stephanie Williams Executive Editor Hagan Beverly

To discover more that Toombs County has to offer, see our business index on page 123! To share a story, send a note, or just get information: toombscountymagazine@gmail.com • (912) 293-0063 Follow us on: For more stories, visit us at www.toombscountymagazine.com 6

TO O M B S CO U N T Y M A G A Z I N E

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.


Two great teams under one roof Brown Realty Company and Brown Insurance Group now offer you the same expert service from one location. Visit us at 202 Jackson Street in Vidalia to plan and protect your future.

Residential Commercial Property Management

Home Auto Business Life

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Blake Brown

202 JACKSON STREET • VIDALIA, GA 30474

202 JACKSON STREET • VIDALIA, GA 30474

www.brownrealtyga.com

www.bigofga.com

912-537-SOLD

912-537-2111


Comprehensive Eye Care with a Personalized Touch Dr. Ronald Yancey and the Yancey Eye Center team strive to provide the finest in optometry services. We are a full service eye and vision care provider serving the surrounding area for over 24 years. Our professional care and one-on-one approach to optometry makes Yancey Eye Center the vision care providers of choice in the Vidalia area.

State of the Art Technology Our entire Vidalia optometry staff is committed to ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of each and every patient. We take your eye health seriously offering the best equipment and services, such as:

Yancey Eye Center provides the following high-quality optometry services:

Comprehensive Eye Exams Contact Lens Exams Glaucoma diagnosis & treatment Macular degeneration diagnosis & management Dry Eye evaluation and treatment LASIK consults

Zeiss Cirrus OCT Zeiss Visual Fields IOP cc NCT Corneal Hysteresis Corneal Topography Zeiss Clarus Retinal Imaging Reichert Digital VRX Refraction ERG-VEP In House Lab

Vision by Design Explore our collection of designer frames featuring: Nine West, Calvin Klein, Lacoste, Polo, Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, Etnia Barcelona, RayBan, Costa, Oakley, Coach, Kate Spade, Vera Wang, Dana Buchman, Harley-Davidson, Nike, Flexon, Adidas, Dolabany, Guess, Marie Claire, Charmant, Lilly Pulitzer and more.


Complete Eye Care Services • Over 1500 Eye Glasses in stock In House Optical LAB • Large selection of sunglasses We fill outside prescriptions.

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FOOD & DRINK a taste of summer

just peachy

Peaches were introduced to North America by Spanish monks around St. Augustine, Florida, in the mid-1500s and slowly began to travel up the Southeastern coast. They were originally considered feral trees, but in 1879, the development of the Elberta peach in Marshallville, Georgia, cemented their legacy as a successful fruit crop and gave birth to the Georgia peach industry.

SAV O R Y CHILLED PEACH SOUP WITH FRESH GOAT CHEESE A sweet and tangy summer soup created by Chef Jason Franey proves the versatility of peaches. Ingredients 3 cups sliced peeled peaches (about 4 peaches) ¼ cup finely diced peeled seedless cucumber (plus thin slices for garnish) ¼ cup finely diced yellow bell pepper ¼ cup diced dried apricots 2 tablespoons honey 3 tablespoons crumbled fresh goat cheese (plus more for garnish) ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (plus more for seasoning) ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt 1 large garlic clove 2 cups diced baguette Basil leaves (garnish) Ground black pepper

Eat

outside

the Box

Instructions 1 a bowl, toss the peaches, diced cucumber, yellow pepper and apricots. Add the honey, 3 tablespoons of goat cheese, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. Add the garlic. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 2 Discard the garlic. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a blender and puree. Add 1/4 cup of water and puree 10

TO O M B S CO U N T Y M A G A Z I N E

until very smooth and creamy; add more water if the soup seems too thick. Season with salt and vinegar to taste. Refrigerate the soup until very cold, about 1 hour. 3 Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the diced bread and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croutons to paper towels and season with salt. 4 Pour the peach soup into shallow bowls and garnish with the sliced cucumber, sliced bell pepper, goat cheese, croutons and a sprig of basil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season with black pepper and serve. BLUE CHEESE GRILLED PEACHES Wow your guests with this beautiful sweet and savory dish provided by cookingontheweekends.com that can be served as an appetizer or dessert.

Ingredients ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 1 large peach, ripe but firm ⅛ teaspoon sugar ¼ teaspoon grape seed or canola oil 2 tablespoons blue cheese 2 large blackberries Instructions 1 Make the glaze. Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until the vinegar has reduced by about half. Set aside. 2 Grill the peaches. Preheat a stovetop (or outdoor) grill, cut the peach in half, lengthwise, and remove the pit. Drizzle the oil on the surface of each peach half making sure it is evenly coated. Sprinkle each one with a pinch of sugar. Place the peach halves on the preheated grill, flat side down. You should hear a strong sizzling sound to indicate the grill is hot enough (This


Like Georgia Firsts, Our New Name Sprang Up Naturally. The Bank of Soperton and Million Pines Community Bank are now Georgia First Bank. We’re excited to roll out our new name and look from the same bank that’s put our communities first since 1903. From pioneering the pine tree planting movement to sweet Vidalia onions, Georgia is known for many amazing firsts.

Georgia First Bank is here for yours.


FOOD & DRINK a taste of summer

creates the char marks and adds flavor.) Grill the peach only until it’s nicely charred, about 1-1/2 minutes. 3 Fill the peaches. Remove the peach halves from the grill, and place them on a baking sheet, flat side up. (You can slice a bit off the bottom to keep them from rolling over.) Add a tablespoon of the blue cheese to the center of each grilled peach half and spread around to edges. 4 Broil. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for about 30 seconds -- just long enough to slightly melt the cheese. 5 Serve. Place the peaches on a serving plate, drizzle with balsamic glaze and top with a few blackberry pieces. (If the glaze has become at all firm, simply place it over low heat until it’s thin enough to pour.)

SW E E T PEACH CRUMB BARS Deliciously peachy, this recipe by savingdessert.com can actually be made with any fresh summer fruit. Ingredients crust: 1 cup granulated sugar 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 cup unsalted butter cold, cut into cubes 1 large egg lightly beaten 1 9 inch deep dish pie shell peach layer: ½ cup granulated sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 5 large peaches, peeled and diced (about 4 to 5 cups) 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice icing: 1 cup powdered sugar ¼ teaspoon almond extract 1 tablespoon milk (more or less for desired consistency) 12

TO O M B S CO U N T Y M A G A Z I N E

Instructions 1 Preheat oven to 350˚ F (glass pan), or 375°F (metal pan). Lightly grease or spray a 13x9-inch baking pan and set aside. 2 For the crust: In a medium bowl whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Using a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the lightly beaten egg and mix until the dough starts to hold together, but is still crumbly. Gently press a little more than half the dough into the prepared pan. 3 For the peach layer: In a large mixing bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Add the diced peaches and toss to combine. Drizzle the lemon juice over the peaches and toss to coat. Pour the peach mixture over the crust and spread evenly. 4 Using your hands, press together handfuls of the remaining crumb topping to create clumps. Scatter the clumps and remaining crumbled topping over the fruit layer leaving some peaches showing through. 5 If using a glass pan, bake for 50-55 minutes or until lightly browned. If using a metal pan, bake for 40-45 minutes. 6 For the icing: Whisk powdered sugar, almond extract and milk. Drizzle on the bars after they have cooled and just before serving.

PEACH MOUSSE Cool, refreshing dessert from natashaskitchen.com Ingredients Mousse: 1 lb ripe peaches, peeled, diced 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup cold water 1 Tbsp unflavored gelatin 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 cup heavy whipping cream Topping: 1 ripe peach, peeled and thinly sliced 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons granulated sugar mint leaves, optional Instructions 1 Peel and dice peaches (you should have 3 cups diced), transfer to a blender or food processor, add 2 Tbsp lemon juice right away to keep from discoloring and blend until pureed. Keep puree in the blender jar until ready to use. 2 In a small sauce pan (off the heat), add 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle top with 1 Tbsp gelatin. Let sit 5 minutes to soften then stir in 1/3 cup sugar and place over medium heat, stirring just until sugar has dissolved (1 to 2 min) then remove from heat don’t overcook. 3 Add gelatin mixture to the fruit puree and blend until well combined. Cover with lid and chill in refrigerator until mixture begins to thicken (2 hours). 4 Once puree starts to thicken, beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into fruit mixture, mixing until smooth. Divide evenly between 6 ramekins or serving glasses and refrigerate until set. 5 In a small saucepan, combine sliced peach, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Place over med/high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before spooning it over your peach mousse. Garnish with mint if desired.


EST

B

E

202 1

COMPLETE SALON SERVICE HAIR CARE PRODUCTS HAIR EXTENSION SERVICE M I C R O B L A D I N G + S P R AY TA N

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912-805-2998

W W W. R U R A L R O O T S B E A U T Y B A R . C O M


Keeping Kids Healthy is our Top Priority

Acute Care Same Day Appointments Physicals Health Checks Vaccines

Most Insurance Accepted United Healthcare & Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO & HMO Providers Monday-Friday: 8 AM–5 PM Saturday (seasonal): 9 AM–12 PM

Top row, left to right: Callie Wilkes, PA-C, Carlie Poppell, PA-C, Anglia Dailey, FNP-C, Santoria Felton, FNP-C; Bottom row, left to right: Kelli Shartpon, FNP-C, Etta Boss-Cole, MD, Sam Oates, APRN, CPNP

Tots to Teens Medical Center 303 Harris Industrial Blvd, Suite 1 | Vidalia, GA 30474 | (912) 537-9991


Your Child, Your Trust, Our Care

Vidalia Pediatric Clinic Acute Care Same Day Appointments 912.537.9355

Most Insurance Accepted Medicaid/Wellcare Amerigroup PeachState PeachCare United Healthcare Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO & HMO Monday-Friday: 8 PM–5 PM Saturday: 9 AM–12 PM* (*Seasonal, Established patients only)

303 Harris Industrial Blvd, Suite 3 | Vidalia, GA 30474 | (912) 537-9355


We know a little about birthdays, of them. we’ve had

99

From Bridal and Baby to Friendship and Family, we’ve been supplying gifts to celebrate every occasion in life for 99 years!

Brown’s SINCE 1923

115 MEADOWS STREET, VIDALIA

537-4616


We love smiles.

Since 1909 At Darby Dental Services we believe in keeping teeth for a lifetime, which starts with good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. No matter what your needs, Dr. Jeremy Wood can help your family create a dental routine that ensures a lifetime of smiles.

New Patients Welcome! 912.537.3377

Jeremy D. Wood, DMD, PC OWNER

310 Jackson Street, Vidalia, GA | www.darbydentalservices.com |


DISCOVER A HAPPIER, HEALTHIER YOU...

naturally

Rebuild + Restore + Re-energize Dr. Spence and his expert team offer comprehensive restorative services for patients seeking pain relief and better health through regenerative medicine approaches. At Regenerative Medicine Associates, we focus on the right mix of nutrients and protocols to give your body what it needs to function at its best. Our services are designed to help your body perform at maximum function while fighting off major disease and pain. We are proud to have Dr. Leaver-Williams join our team to offer treatments that focus on the individual and their concerns for both functional and aesthetic desires. Dr. Leaver-Williams focuses on combination therapies that can aid in increased beauty, function, and overall well-being. Our services include:

Comprehensive Physician Consultation

Neurotoxins

Multi-Vitamin IV Infusions

Thread Lifting

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy

Hyaluronic Acid Fillers Laser Therapies

Regenerative Joint Injections Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)

Non-surgical face, neck, and breast lift Sexual Health Restoration Female stress incontinence treatment

IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback Therapy Physician skin and body consultation

Hair loss solutions for men and women

www.regenmed.io 912-537-0221 info@regenmed.io 1009 E 1st Street, Vidalia, GA 30474

at Regenerative Medicine Associates

@regenmed @erasure_by_dr_tracey


We'll always always be be at at your your side sideon onthe thepath pathto to We'll financial success. success. financial

November1,1,2021 2021-November Transactionfinalized finalized Transaction Officialowners ownersofofLarry's Larry's Official GiantSubs SubsininVidalia Vidaliaand and Giant Brunswick Brunswick

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H E A LT H s t r o n g b o d y

healthy habits now Create a plan for a healthier future and prevent metabolic syndrome

a

BY DR. NANCY STANLEY

s we move into summer it’s important to take a little time for introspect and to “go within.” One of my favorite quotes by Neale Walsch, “If you don’t go within you will go without,” is so true when it comes to our health. And often, what we don’t know is what hurts us. So, I want to challenge you to think beyond today. For example, what would 10 years from now look like if you continued on your present health journey? Did you know that almost 9 out of 10 Americans are considered unhealthy. I know this was not an attractive way to start off an article about health but stay with me.... there are juicy nuggets inside. 88% of Americans are metabolically inflexible. So, what does that mean? Hang on I’m about to fill you in. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of biochemical and physiological abnormalities that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Sounds scary right? Yes, you are right. It is scary but not untreatable or unpreventable. Metabolic syndrome includes: • Elevated blood pressure (above 130/85 or greater) or using an HBP medication. • Elevated fasting blood sugar (100 mg/ dl or higher). • Excess body fat around the waist (for women 35 inches or higher and men 40 inches or higher). • Abnormal cholesterol levels (high triglycerides 150 mg/dl or higher or using a cholesterol medication. • Low good cholesterol (HDL) or using cholesterol medicine.

20

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To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three of these risk factors. This may not mean you have been diagnosed with diabetes or cardiovascular disease, but understanding how your body works and taking preventive steps will certainly help deter these diagnoses in the long run. Understanding the Risks One of the risk factors often overlooked that contributes to Metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use glucose-- a simple sugar made from the food you eat- as energy. Your body becomes resistant to insulin when you take in excessive amounts of carbs. The average American takes in 13 times more carbohydrates than is needed for good health. This excess causes your cells to literally shut off to the energy your body has created from the foods you take in. When you have extra sugar and insulin in your body but cannot use it for activity, you become tired and listless, your energy levels plummet, and eventually it may lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is also intricately connected to having excessive weight around the middle. Obesity, especially abdominal obesity, is increasingly common and proves to be an increased risk for diabetes. If you have this excessive belly fat, there are additional tests beyond fasting blood glucose that your doctor can perform that can give you the best information about your risk of diabetes. One test to ask your doctor about is a HOMA-IR test. This test tells you how much insulin your body needs to keep your blood sugar levels in check. This test was designed to measure insulin

resistance, an early stage of type 2 diabetes that increases your risk of many chronic diseases. It generally cost about $21 to get this test done. Other factors that play a role in metabolic syndrome include hormonal imbalance and smoking. The Good News Here are 4 things you can start today that will help reverse or prevent metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance: • Cut Carbohydrates. Having some carbs are important, but getting them in a normal range– for most people cutting them a lot– will drastically lower your blood glucose levels. • Eat whole, “real” foods. Stay away from processed foods. If it says low fat, low calorie or fat free then leave it at the store. • Eat more healthy fats like butter, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, grass fed meat. • Eat only when you are hungry • No GPS (Gluten, Potatoes and Starches). These have proven to cause dysregulation of your blood sugar and therefore increase the need for insulin. If you have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you might be anxious. But think of it as a wake-up call. It is time to get serious about improving your health. Making simple changes to your habits now can prevent serious illness in the future. Dr. Stanley is founder of A Health Revival, which offers health education and coaching. She is a certified John Maxwell Coach, Physical Therapist and DISC and Health Coach.


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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Wild at

Heart

Falconer Greg Johnson doesn't try to control the raptors he trains. Instead he builds a partnership based on a bond of trust–one of love's greatest aspects.

Greg wasn’t going to take up knitting. He had no interest in singing in a community choir or learning to ballroom dance. He already had a dog. Two dogs, in fact. But he’d seen what could happen. Nothing to do and nowhere to go sounded great in the middle of an outage at Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Power Plant, where he worked as a mechanical engineer. But without purpose and focus, retirement would quickly turn into isolation and boredom. Besides, Greg had not given thirty-two years of his life to a career just to sit around and stare at the walls. While searching the Internet for ideas, he came across a YouTube video on falconry. That was seven years ago. Today, Greg Johnson is one of the 219 falconers in Georgia and the only one in Toombs County. March 14, 2022: “I’m calling it a season. 2021-2022 has been my most successful season, and today we are ending it on a high note. I took Mary out this morning. It was sunny and cool. I could tell she was ready to hunt…. (Facebook post) If there is a redeeming quality to Facebook, in my opinion, Greg had found it in his ruminations about falconry and parallels to his Christian faith. I scrolled through post after post about the exploits of the beautiful redtailed hawk he’d given the name Mary. I stopped on October 24, 2021: This bird, who I named Mary, is mine. I have a special permit, a special license given by the State of Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which allows me to take her from the wild. She belongs to me. I feed her every day. I house her. I make sure she is safe. I even have a camera in her housing to keep a close eye on her. I trained her, and together we create a partnership. A bond built on trust. I love this bird. When you take care of something every day, you get attached. She knows the sound of my voice. She knows the sound of my call. I call to her. She hears my call and responds…. During the time of the above post, Greg had trained two red-tailed hawks he named Mary and Lazarus. Of course, I asked: “Where’s Martha?” Greg 24

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smiled. He had captured five hawks this season before settling on which to keep. He turned Martha loose early on simply because she was the smaller of the three. “Typically, females are a third larger than males,” said Greg. “You want a bigger bird for its strength as a hunter.” Greg had named his first hawk after the prophet Elijah. There was

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a theme here. And, of course, Elisha took up Elijah’s mantle, so he was next. Then, for some reason, Greg’s prophet theme took a strange turn. He named his next two birds Delilah and Rahab the Harlot. He returned to a more prophetic theme by giving his next bird, an American Kestrel, the name Samson. Never mind that the story of this long-haired Judge of

Israel was a very complicated story indeed. Still, he’d brought things back around this year with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Then again, naming a bird Lazarus might have been tempting fate. Although no resurrection miracle was needed, Greg did have to spend six weeks nursing Lazarus back to health following a squirrel bite. “When


“Typically, females are a third larger than males,” said Greg. “You want a bigger bird for its strength as a hunter.”

the hawk takes down a squirrel, there is always the risk of a bite,” he explained. “Without proper care, a bite can lead to permanent damage.” With medications and an avian veterinarian’s care, Lazarus completely healed and, in time, was able to be released back into the wild. By then, Mary had become Greg’s main hunting companion. The unique bond between falconer and raptor has a long history. The ancient sport often referred to as the “sport of Kings” may bring depictions of Atilla the Hun and the Great Khans of Mongolia to mind. But many experts believe there is substantial proof that the history of falconry actually goes back much further than that with references in the epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and on bas-reliefs on ruins discovered during excavations in the ancient Mesopotamian civilization of Assyria. Today, the decision to become a

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“Letting go of the first bird I’d trained was like taking my first child to college. It was heartbreaking and a bit traumatic," said Greg. LEFT Greg's first hawk, Elijah, provided a valuable learning experience. He had Elijah for two years before he released him. RIGHT Greg says his current hawk, Mary, doesn't necessarily like him, but they have a mutual bond of trust.

falconer is no small commitment. The process for Greg began with a written test given by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “[A] pplicants are required to successfully complete an exam (administered by the department) relating to the basic biology, care and handling of raptors, literature on raptors, and laws and regulations pertaining to raptors” (gadnrle.org). And, “passing” the test means answering at least 80% correctly. The next step was finding a falconer with a general or master license to sponsor him. (A general falconer has completed his two-year apprenticeship. Master level may be

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reached after practicing falconry five years with a general license.) “The person who sponsors you,” said Greg, “has to be willing to be your mentor during your two years of apprenticeship,” said Greg. Fortunately for him, Steve Hein, a master falconer and the executive director of Georgia Southern University’s Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q Ball, Jr. Raptor Center, agreed to become his sponsor. Before Greg could begin his search for a juvenile red-tailed hawk, he had to build a mews, the enclosure in which his hawk would live. Even the

size had to meet regulations set by the DNR. A weathering yard, which is the secure environment where the bird can spend time outdoors tethered to a post under the watchful eye of the falconer, also had to be in place ahead of time. In fact, pretty much everything you need to be a falconer and care for a bird must be in place before you can even think about going out and trapping a bird. Some of the necessary equipment for the bird includes a leather anklet, jesses (leather strips), and a leather hood, just to name a few. The hood was critical during the first days of training. “When you first


capture a bird, it will be terrified of you,” said Greg. “When you put the hood on, they can’t see anything. So, the bird immediately becomes calm.” With all the requirements met and a DNR inspection of his facility, equipment, and provisions for the bird in place, Greg was finally ready to trap his first bird. The only type of bird an apprentice in the United States is permitted to capture, and train is a juvenile,” said Greg. “You can tell the age by the color of the tail feathers. In the first year, the tail feathers are brown. Then, they get their red adult feathers when they are a year old.”

For three or four weeks, Greg drove around in his truck with his trap while searching the limbs of trees and telephone poles. Finally, on September 30, 2016, he caught sight of a juvenile hawk. Slowing almost to a stop, he pulled off the road, tossed the trap out of the truck as close to the tree as he dared without startling the hawk, and eased away. The trap was a round dome with a wire mesh top covered in fishing line nooses with big loops. Inside of the trap, Greg had placed a live mouse. “When the bird tries to grab at the mouse with its claws, their toes get hung up in the loops of the fishing line,” he said.

Continuing on for one hundred feet or so, Greg eased off the road again and turned his truck around. As soon as he got his binoculars in place, the bird descended. With his talons clutching the trap, he was held fast. Greg covered the falcon with a beach towel until he could slip the hood over its head. This was Elijah. Greg learned as much from that first experience as Elijah learned from him. However, when it came time to release him at the end of the season in mid-March, Greg wasn’t ready. Most falconers release their birds at this time and begin the process with a new bird when the season resumes

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in August/September. This was also the time when they molt. “It happens slowly. A few feathers fall out at a time until the bird has a full set of new feathers and their red tail,” said Greg. The following year, he and Elijah returned to hunt the woods around his house. But when the second season ended, he knew it was time to let go. “Letting go of the first bird I’d trained was like taking my first child to college. It was heartbreaking and a bit traumatic. I’d kept him for two years. And when you care for something every day, even though you know it is a wild creature, you love it. But the next time, when you take the second child to college, you walk away and say, ‘See ya!’” Until Mary. The day I met Greg and his redtailed hawk Mary, the sun shone brightly, and a rather gusty wind stirred over the fields. The first day of spring was only weeks away. He led me down to the weathering yard where Mary sat tethered to her post. Her bearing was regal. To all appearances, she seemed content to bask in the morning sun. Still, she was a bird. “She won’t try to fly away?” I asked. Greg smiled. “Nope. We had a successful hunt yesterday. She’s well-fed.” It was not a guess. Greg could have told me her weight down to the very gram. Managing a bird’s weight and food intake was one of the keys to being a successful falconer. “I know from trial and error, Mary needs to be plus or minus 20 grams from 1,240 grams,” said Greg. “We measure by grams because it’s the smallest unit of measurement. If I take her out to hunt when she’s full, like today, she would just go out in the woods and find her a tree to sit in until I called to her. But if she’s too far below that weight, she’s not going to be properly nourished and won’t have the strength to hunt. It’s kind of like with us.” He smiled. “When it gets lunchtime, we’re ready for a meal. When Mary is hungry, she’ll want to hunt.” The trust between the falconer and his bird comes from weeks and weeks of working together before ever going out on a hunt. And it was all about the hunt. All the work that went into training and the daily care for the bird all came down to the experience they shared in the woods. “You said she was a red-tailed hawk, right?” I asked.

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Perceiving the underlying question, he said, “Yes. But hunting with any diurnal bird of prey is called falconry.” In addition to falcons, falconry includes hunting with hawks, kestrels, eagles, and owls. “Falconers hunt with native birds to their area. I would guess that about 90% of the

falconers in Georgia hunt with a redtailed hawk. Some hunt with kestrels. As for what falconers hunt with their birds, “About 80% of the falconers I know in Georgia hunt squirrels with their falcons, although I know a few do hunt rabbits.” Greg set a “tidbit,” which is a small

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piece of meat, on his leather glove and called to Mary. He had positioned himself with her tether in mind. The falcon immediately responded to the sound of his voice. She stretched out her wings and flew to him. A line from William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming” came to mind.

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“The falcon cannot hear the falconer / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” The balance of the world, according to Yeats, depended on one hearing the other’s voice. As Mary settled onto Greg’s arm, her black eyes shifted to the stranger next to him, namely me. I felt like one of the seven sons of Sceva. “Jesus, I know, and I know about Paul. But who are you?” (ref. Acts 19:15) Quickly, she shifted her wild gaze back to Greg, and I breathed a sigh of relief. And

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then he said, “Here, you give it a try,” as he sat Mary back on her post and passed the glove to me. Now, I can’t tell you that I am making plans to build a mews anytime soon, but it was an experience I won’t soon forget. As this past season drew to a close, Greg made the decision to keep Mary another year. She would stay with him through the summer months of molting. By fall, she would have her beautiful red tail feathers. And once again, Greg and Mary would hunt the woods in search of prey. Even though she is the only hawk Greg has ever trained that has allowed him such physical contact, he said, “She doesn't love me. She doesn’t really even like me. But she trusts me.” No, Mary was not Greg’s pet. She would not follow him around the yard like one of his dogs. She is wild at heart, which is perhaps what makes the relationship between the falconer and his bird so special. Trust. “Mary understands that I'm not going to hurt her,” said Greg. “She knows I will provide her with food and a safe environment, which are the two things these birds instinctively search for in the wild. And Mary also knows I’m a pretty good hunting companion, too.” He smiled.


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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH & SHELBY MORRISON

Taste & see WHAT STARTED OUT AS A

CHALLENGE TURNED INTO

A THRIVING BUSINESS FOR SHELBY MORRISON AS HER FLAVORFUL, DELICATE MACARONS FIND THEIR WAY ONTO TABLES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY.

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a

merican cuisine is as diverse as the countries from which our ancestors originated. Even so, it’s doubtful hotdogs bring to mind German ancestors or doughnuts Dutch forebears. But whenever we see a macaron, we think French. Ironically, the word macaron is Italian, and for good reasons. The origin of the delicate cookie, much like the recipe itself, is complicated. It’s not the kind of dessert you could whip up on a whim. Shelby Morrison might never have tried her hand at macarons had it not been for Hadley Williams, who was eight years old at the time. When Shelby’s friend Candace shared that her young daughter had successfully baked a batch of macarons, Shelby took it as a challenge. She enjoyed trying new recipes. Her idea of fun was an afternoon rolling out thin layers of dough for a pan of baklava. Shelby would need all that experience as she set out to make her first batch of macarons. Everything to do with macarons was specific down to the most minute detail. Mixing, folding, whipping to a certain point, drying, resting, weighing ingredients to the gram. Overbaking or underbaking meant starting over from scratch. By her second attempt, Shelby’s macarons were a success. Such a success, in fact, that in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day (2022) she baked and sold over a thousand macarons. As a child, Shelby had always enjoyed baking. Whenever there was a school event, she always volunteered to make desserts. However, it was not a culinary school that she would attend after graduating from Vidalia High School in 2014. “It was natural for me to lean toward the medical field,” said Shelby. Her mother, Jeanie Allen, is a nurse practitioner at Cardiology Associates of Vidalia. Her sister, Chelsea Powell, is also a primary care nurse practitioner. That is not to suggest Shelby had followed the wrong career path. As a Registered Nurse (RN), she values


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the opportunity to serve people in need of medical care. After graduating from Southeastern Technical College’s nursing program in 2017, she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from South Georgia State College in 2019. Following her graduation, Shelby worked at Meadows Regional Medical Center in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU) for a year and a half followed by two years at Meadows Advanced Wound Care. In 2021, she took a PRN position in surgery at Memorial Health Meadows Hospital (formerly Meadows Regional) and worked the COVID-19 overflow Unit during the 2021 Delta surge. Shelby currently works in surgery and PCU when needed. (Thankfully, there is no “COVID-19 overflow” at this time). While eating lunch at Tappas Restaurant in Vidalia one afternoon, Shelby mentioned her success with the macarons to her friend, Eneas Salati, who is also one of the restaurant’s owners. “They made and sold macarons 38

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from time to time,” said Shelby, “but because of the expertise and time required, they didn’t make them often. He said, ‘Why don’t you bring some up here, and we’ll see how they do?” That first week, Tappas sold eighty macarons. And the rest, as they say, is history. Speaking of history, the origin of the sweet dessert is as complicated as the recipe. The puffy almond/ meringue delicacy we call a macaron did indeed originate in France. More specifically, the Ladurée Bakery in Paris, which was opened in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée. His grandson, 40

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Pierre Desfontaines, first put two macarons together and filled the middle with a “delicious ganache.”* The Ladurée Bakery chronicles the evolution of the macaron through the findings of food and kitchen historian Dominique Michelle. “She finds its origins in Arabic countries, where the earliest records for the base of Macarons, almond paste, and sugar, was shown there because the almond tree is native to the Middle East” (ladorure.com/history-of-macarons). Of course. That would explain why Aaron’s rod budded with almonds to denote which tribe God had chosen

to serve as His priests. (Ref. Numbers 17) The shepherd’s rod would have been made from the native almond tree. Of course, a limb cut from an almond tree and made into a rod suddenly budding and producing almonds overnight is less explainable. The historian from the Ladurée website found that “almond paste and sugar, in the form of marzipan, the raw base of any Macaron,” made its way from these Mediterranean lands into Europe. By the 8th century, macarons were already popular in Venetian monasteries, which explains why “macaron” is from the Italian word “maccarone.” Home to Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Of course, the macaron originated in Italy. So, how did an Italian cookie become a 16th century dessert for French nobility? That credit goes to the Italian noblewoman Catherine d’ Medici. In an arranged marriage by her uncle, Pope Clement VII, she became queen consort at the age of fourteen to the French prince who would later become Henry II. There are countless stories surrounding the life of Catherine d’ Medici, which have given writers and producers plenty of dark material with which to work. Notwithstanding Catherine’s notorious hand in the religious persecution and political upheaval of the time, we can still appreciate the Italian macarons brought to the tables of France by her Italian chefs. The chef and cooks were not the only Italians familiar with the macaron recipe who accompanied Catherine d’ Medici to France. As previously stated, macarons had been made in monasteries in Italy since the 8th century. So, it’s no surprise that the next time the almond cookie debuts, two nuns are at the center of the story. In 1793, the monastery where Marguirete Suzanne Gaillot and Elizabeth Morlot served had to close its doors. The nuns found refuge with a doctor in the city of Nancé. They survived the times by baking and selling macarons. The macarons made by the nuns were also called “priests’ bellybuttons.” Some have speculated that the nickname had something to


A flavor for every season Shelby continues to add new flavors to her recipe book, many of which reflect the season. Her creativity shows through the blend of colors and flavors she uses. Shelby's concoctions can be found in local shops and eateries.

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do with the almond cookie’s lumpy shape. But we’ll leave it at that. Today, the “Macaron Sisters,” as they are remembered, are honored in Nancé with the street where they baked the sweets bearing their name. About seventy years later, we arrive at the opening of the Ladurée Bakery in Paris in 1862. But, of course, you already know the rest of the story. The macaron is celebrated each year in Paris and other international cities, including New York City, on a specified day in March. In Paris, patrons can receive a free macaron with their order in participating bakeries, and a portion of profits made that day are given to a chosen charity. But before you put it on the calendar and plan a celebration, there’s something you should know. Macaron and macaroon are two different cookies. It all has to do with the extra “o” that turns the macar“awn” into a macar“oon.” The base of both is meringue. But that’s where the similarity ends. Although Ladurée is credited with the sweetfilled double-decker French macaron, there’s no famous bakery or street named after nuns to give credit for switching out the almond flour with shredded coconut and drizzling a little chocolate on top. One “o” makes all the difference. For Shelby, the one “o” cookie called a macaron continues to open doors of opportunity. Some doors are only opened with persistent knocking. And there’s nothing quite like persistence for building all the enduring stuff you need throughout life. Those are the experiences 42

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that teach us that we must never surrender our hope. The reward of perseverance is the joy discovered in divine opportunities. These doors don’t open because we kept knocking, but as a result of faithfulness with what we have and where we are. Macarons are the door she didn’t have to knock to open—her divine opportunity. Shelby is continually adding new flavors to her repertoire. You could eat a different flavor every day for two months before starting over again. Today, red velvet and cookies and cream macarons are top sellers. Last summer, blueberry lemon and pink lemonade were two customer favorites. On average, Sh’Macarons, the name she gave her new business venture, sells over a thousand macarons a month and twice as many during Valentine's Day and Christmas. Cookies are available for purchase in local restaurants and

shops, including Tappas, The General Store, and Scoops Ice-Cream Shop. Now that she’s a local business owner herself, Shelby has a new appreciation for “shopping local” and its impact on the community. It’s easy to appreciate the impact of Shelby’s work as an RN. But I’d like to suggest that her macarons' beauty, creativity, and great taste have an important impact of their own. What this little French version of an Italian cookie brings to the table is an infusion of color and flavor. And while the presentation is important, ultimately, it’s all about the taste. Taste is so powerful that it can affect our perceptions and even our beliefs. The Psalmist wrote, Taste and see God’s goodness. (Ref. Psalms 34:8) Everything we do impacts the world. Even baking macarons. Sometimes it just takes an adventurous eightyear-old girl to show us the open door right in the center of our faithfulness.


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4/14/22 10:45 AM


BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

On a Mission for safety As a fireman, safety

instructor and youth pastor, Captain Robert Tillman is working hard to protect children and families in our community.

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here was no warning—nothing to prepare Robert and Felicia Tillman for the stillbirth of their daughter Alicia at full term. Two more pregnancies would end in early miscarriages in the years that followed. As the years passed, every milestone not shared with their daughter was a harsh reminder of loss. Many years passed before they had processed through the grief of loss enough to talk about it with others. For Captain Robert Tillman, the path forward would lead to a life of service focused on safety for the children in our community. Robert and Felicia met in their church youth group. In 1998, after dating for several years, the two married. For a few years, he worked as a truck driver. In 2003, Chad Ford, one of Robert’s best friends from school, suggested Robert join him in volunteering as a firefighter with the Vidalia Fire Department (VFD). “To be honest, I didn’t know enough about the work of a firefighter to think it would even interest me as a career,” said Robert. Like most people, his only reference for the work of a firefighter was the red engine with flashing lights and a siren rushing to a fire. But as Robert went through the training to become a volunteer, he quickly realized that there was a wealth of knowledge, skill, and expertise involved. Firemen may also educate the public on safety, investigate arson, inspect buildings, or participate in search and rescue. In addition, technical rescue incidents necessitate specialized training for structural collapse, rope rescue, confined-space search and rescue, vehicle and machinery rescue, water search and rescue, wilderness search and rescue, and trench and excavation rescue. In 2010, Robert took a full-time position with the VFD. By that time, he was also an ordained minister. Knowing this, the other firefighters jokingly put “Chaplain” on the side of his fire helmet. But Robert decided to make it official and took the required classes for his certification to become chaplain of the VFD. “I’ve been a part of the Firefighter’s Chaplain Association since 2012.”


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Robert passed his Fire and Life Safety Educator certification in 2014 and began teaching educational programs on safety in schools. “We have an entire curriculum that teaches kids based on grade level,” he said. “For example, you would teach a three-year-old that if their clothes were on fire, to ‘stop, drop, and roll.’ When you get to middle school-age 50

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kids, we can talk further about the fire triangle: fuel, heat, and oxygen. Without just one of those ingredients, a fire can’t progress. And then when you get to the high school level, we go deeper into an understanding of fire and fire safety and talk about chemical reactions.” Of course, Fire and Life Safety is not just for kids. “I teach practical

things,” said Robert. “When I talk to seniors, I tell them, ‘I know you love that fuzzy bathrobe, but don’t cook in it. If it catches fire and you ‘stop, drop, and roll,’ you’re going to break a hip.” Robert smiles. “I tell them, ‘Either roll up those sleeves or put on regular clothes before you go and cook.’” After teaching a Fire and Life Safety Educator’s course in


Montgomery County, one of the teachers taking the course with a two-and-a-half-year-old son implemented a safety plan for her family. When the fire alarm went off in her home, she made her way to her son's room where she found him climbing out of his window.” Another time, a young student from JD Dickerson who had learned about fire safety from Robert and the Safe Kids Toombs team was with her grandmother when the kitchen caught on fire. “She grabbed her Grandma and told her to get low,” said Robert. “After they crawled outside, the young girl called 911 just as she’d been taught.” Robert’s training courses also took him into daycare facilities and senior complexes, which require a Fire and Life Safety course to operate. Even when teaching a CPR and First Aid class to potential foster parents in one of the seventeen counties he served for DFAX, Robert took time to go over fire safety. In addition, Ms. Bonnie Brantley with Safe Kids Toombs and Surrounding Counties asked Robert to provide fire safety and CPR training at her events. Unfortunately, when Ms. Brantley retired, the program in Toombs County came to a halt. Two years later, Safe Kids of Georgia Operations Coordinator Laura Coleman approached VFD Chief Brian Sikes at the Georgia Association for Fire Chiefs (GAFC) with hopes of reestablishing the program in Toombs County. The Chief had the perfect candidate in mind to manage the program. Robert’s experience in the field and specialized educational training made Robert started as a volunteer with the Vidalia Fire Department, but in 2010, he took a full-time position, eventually becoming a certified chaplain and Captain. His safety educator training and his work with Safe Kids have made a significant impact in our community and surrounding areas.

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LEFT While Robert spends a lot of time teaching Fire and Life Safety in schools, it's not just for kids. “I teach practical things,” said Robert. Even adults can learn from his lessons.

Robert and his wife Felicia (RIGHT) started a ministry through their church called Alisha's Baby Closet Delivery (ABCD) in memory of their late daughter who would have been 16 this year. The ministry provides gift packages filled with essential items for new mothers in the community.

him a Captain in 2015. In August of 2019, Robert also took over the position of Coalition Coordinator for Safe Kids Toombs. “Safe Kids is a worldwide organization,” said Robert. “It helps us get grants that help provide safety equipment and injury prevention education to families in our community. We can provide the right car seat for an infant or child or fit a child with a bike helmet through these grants. We do this as a team. Safe Kids Toombs is a collaborative made up of many organizations. The care of our kids takes us all.” According to the CDC, “Leading causes of child unintentional injury include motor vehicle crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, 52

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fires, and falls,” with drowning the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years of age. (Half of those occur in small amounts of water other than pools.) “You can’t protect them from everything, but education and giving them the right safety equipment can make a huge difference,” he said. It’s a difference Robert is willing to give his heart and soul to see accomplished. Six months after Tillman assumed management of Safe Kids Toombs, Covid struck. As the months of isolation continued, Robert and other organizations that supported Safe Kids Toombs came to a decision that no matter what, they would continue the mission. It was an idea that Safe Kids Worldwide chose to present at

the Safe Kids 2021 PrevCon, “…the largest meeting in the world dedicated solely to the field of unintentional childhood injury prevention” (www. safekids.regfox.com). In a video presented at the conference, Robert is surrounded by the Safe Kids Toombs collaborative spreading the message. “I heard again and again from team members, ‘Whatever it takes, we’re here to help.’” With that support and encouragement, Robert determined to either “find a way” or “make a way.” One solution was utilizing a mobile “Safe Kids” trailer. The trailer is used for everything from transporting car seats to unserved areas to operating as a mobile first aid station. In 2021, with all the challenges


In 2021, Robert began training for the Georgia SPARTAN Firefighter Program in Douglas, Georgia. Out of 48 applicants, he was one of the 12 selected to participate. At the age of 44, he completed the rigorous challenge officially taking the title of Spartan #59.

created by Covid, Robert began training for the Georgia SPARTAN Firefighter Program in Douglas, Georgia. Only twelve are chosen to participate each year. Out of the fortyeight that applied in 2021, Robert was among them. “The class stresses physical and mental preparedness, firefighter survival, interior search and rescue, and live fire during the class” (cityofdouglas.gov). “The goal is to push you beyond your physical means,” said Robert. “You have to rely on basic skills and muscle memory. There were minimal breaks and minimal food to eat during the short breaks. The gear you have to carry can be anywhere from an extra 60 to 80 pounds. The point is to show you that you can go further than

your body tells you. The challenge is to prove that you can do more than you think you can do.” Only eleven completed the challenge. At fortyfour, Robert completed the challenge officially taking the title of Spartan #59. The Spartan Challenge was a demonstration of the courage we associate with the work of a firefighter and evidence of Robert’s commitment to persevere under pressure. In 2019, the same year Robert took the position as Safe Kids Toombs Coalition Coordinator, he also became the Youth Pastor at his church, Becoming One Outreach. “I have three kids in heaven,” said Robert, “and twenty-seven Godchildren I serve as a youth pastor. My wife and I have more than enough love for all of our

children.” Last year marked what would have been their daughter’s sixteenth birthday. “We both processed our grief differently,” said Robert. “It took us about ten years before we learned to talk together and share our loss. It especially stuck us deep this past year on Alicia’s birthday last year. She would have been sixteen and driving.” Five years ago, Robert and Felicia Tillman started a ministry through their church called ABCD. It stands for Alisha’s Baby Closet Delivery in memory of their daughter. Since then, they have provided countless gift packages filled with essential items for new mothers in the community and surrounding areas. Courage. Perseverance. Service in H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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the community. All have merit. But the thing that speaks louder than all of these is in Robert’s commitment to stay. Even though the grief process was different for him and his wife, the two walked through it together. It takes another kind of perseverance and courage to stay and grow in love. Robert and Felicia both understood that walking away from relationship

this responsibility is Robert’s mission. His life of service as a firefighter, Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator, and youth pastor is, without a doubt, admirable. But even more, we acknowledge the courage he demonstrates as a father and husband who loved enough to let his love endure. Surely, this commitment is the greatest mission of all.

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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

the gold coin standard

Mauricio Ibarra's coin is a reminder of the hardworking spirit of the hispanic people and the courage to let go of the past for a brighter tomorrow.

Sixteen songs and top-shelf tequila. There is a good reason why the title of so many songs and the name of Mexico’s #1 tequila bear the name “Centenario.” It is the same reason Mauricio Ibarra and his wife Elizabeth chose the name of the Mexican gold bullion coin for their restaurant in Vidalia. Centenario is the Spanish word for “the 100th anniversary of an important event,” and commemorates the 100th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule in 1821. For Mauricio and Elizabeth, and many others, the coin is a symbol of the heart and soul of the Hispanic people. It speaks of both remembering the past and the courage to let it go in the hopes of a better tomorrow. Mauricio was only ten years old when he and his eight-year-old sister came to America. His father had come first and eventually sent money for his mother to follow. For months, the children had lived with their maternal grandparents in a two-room hut. The money his father faithfully sent from the pay he received bailing pine straw covered the cost of basic needs. When their father had saved enough money to pay their way, he sent for his children. Mauricio did not know the people who drove him and his sister across the border and to his family in Toombs County. But he stayed focused on the promised bicycle his father told him he would get, a luxury they could never have afforded in Mexico. There are programs today for non-English speakers entering the public school system, but in 1999, most schools were not yet prepared for the influx of migrant workers and their families. With no understanding of the language, Mauricio spent a frustrating 5th grade in the back of the classroom playing games on a computer. The following year, the school promoted him to the sixth grade. Halfway through the school year, he said, “I told my dad, ‘I don’t know what they’re saying. I just go to school and play games. I could do more good by helping you.’” At eleven, he was raking straw from sunrise to sunset. Within a couple of years, young Mauricio was in charge of his own pine straw crew.

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When he was sixteen, he noticed a pick-up truck for sale on the road side in Soperton. The owner of the truck was a man named James Taylor. “I asked if he would sell it to me,” said Mauricio. “Mr. Taylor said that he would give me the truck if I worked for him. I asked, ‘What kind of work is it?’ He said, ‘Drywall.’ I didn’t know what drywall was.” Mauricio took the job and the truck. His first job at Taylor Drywall,

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Inc. was picking up trash behind the sheetrock workers. But as he cleaned up, he watched and learned. Before long, he was not only hanging sheetrock but in charge of his own sheetrock crew. Mauricio and Elizabeth met through mutual friends at the Silverado Dance Hall in Lyons. It may have seemed the two were from different worlds. The young girl from Jefferson County was born in

America. Her father was from Mexico, and her mother was an American. As a child, her first language was Spanish. “My parents knew I would only hear English once I started school, and they thought this was the best way so I would not forget.” Elizabeth’s father was thirteen years old when he crossed the border illegally into America with three of his brothers. They came for one purpose: to work to send money home


“Everything in the restaurant except the TVs on the wall was handmade and handpainted in Mexico,” said Elizabeth. to their parents to care for the sisters they had left behind. “In Mexico, my father’s family lived in a two-room shack made of clay and dirt with wooden panels,” said Elizabeth. “The floor was dirt. My dad had already lost two siblings who had medical conditions because there was no money for a doctor. When he crossed the border into the United States, he only had enough money in his pocket to buy a grape soda.” Mauricio and Elizabeth married in 2010. His work with Mr. Taylor seemed the perfect break. “I’ve always loved construction work,” said Mauricio. “Most of the work we were doing was at Wingate hotels and Hotel Inns at the time. I was learning all kinds of things about building.”

When Mr. Taylor died of cancer in 2011, his drywall business shut down. “I did a couple of jobs on my own,” said Mauricio. But there was just so much he could do as an illegal immigrant. When some friends offered him work framing houses, Mauricio saw it as another opportunity to learn new skills. These skills would benefit him in the future in ways he could never have imagined. With a wife and two children now, Mauricio could wait no longer. He had to pursue his citizenship. There was always the risk that he would be sent back to Mexico, but it was one he had to take. In 2013, Mauricio hired an attorney in Atlanta to help him navigate the complicated process. That same year, he also encouraged Elizabeth to further her education. “We didn’t know what would happen,” she said. “Mauricio wanted to make sure I had something to fall back on if something happened, and he wasn’t here.” Elizabeth started nursing school at South Technical College. With her grades, she had no trouble obtaining scholarships. Meanwhile, Mauricio returned to work in the pine straw H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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fields to cover the costs not covered by scholarships and to provide for their family. Because he was not yet legal, Elizabeth realized she would need to be the one to establish a line of credit. “My mom co-signed for me at Farmer’s Furniture when we married.” Elizabeth slowly began to build their credit with a little furniture and a single-wide trailer. Once the paperwork was complete, Mauricio had to return to Mexico to obtain residency in the United States. “You have to go back to your country, and basically ask for forgiveness,” he said. In Mexico, Mauricio was fingerprinted, and a background check was run on him. Then, on the fourth day in Mexico, he had his final interview. This one was with the American Consulate and Immigration, where he was granted residency. “At that time, he became naturalized,” said Elizabeth, “but he had to be a resident for three years before applying for citizenship.” But now, with his residency, Mauricio could legally work, pay taxes, and travel back and forth out of the country. They officially established Ibarra Pine Straw. Mauricio managed his workers and kept up the equipment, and Elizabeth did the office work. In 2015, she graduated from STC as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nursing) and, for two years, worked at the Cancer Center at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia. In 2017, she went back to school to become an RN while working parttime as a telemedicine nurse. Elizabeth graduated in 2018 and went to work at Meadows Regional Medical Center as the Diabetes Nurse Care Coordinator. The year 2018 was momentous for the Ibarra family. It was the year Elizabeth graduated as an RN (Registered Nurse), and Mauricio received his citizenship. Until then, Elizabeth had been the sole owner of Ibarra Pine Straw. Now, it was legally their business together. In addition to Ibarra Pine Straw, the couple started a trucking company called Centenario Trucking Company. The following Centenario Tienda y Taqueria, is a general store and grocery located adjacent to the Ibarras's restaurant. It's a great place to shop for everything from Hispanic and South American pottery and essential cooking supplies to fresh produce, meats, and handmade western wear. “We went to Mexico and designed our own clothing brand, Centenario Western Wear,” said Elizabeth.

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year, they bought an old warehouse in Wrens, Georgia, which was in the same county where Elizabeth grew up. Their plan with the warehouse was to turn it into a restaurant With Mauricio's knowledge and skill in construction, he transformed the old warehouse into a 180-seat Mexican restaurant. Never mind

that neither had ever worked in the restaurant business. Nevertheless, they were willing to learn and, just as importantly, willing to work hard to make it a success. The “American Dream” was not a handout for the Ibarras but an opportunity. “I always wanted to own a restaurant,” said Mauricio.

El Centenario Mexican Restaurant in Wrens opened in January 2019 and was a great success. “There had only been small cafés in Wrens before, so it was a big deal to bring in a restaurant that could seat that many,” said Elizabeth. For most people, the year 2020 will always be known as the year of

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ABOVE The Centernario Event Center, formerly Silverado Dance Hall, is where Mauricio and Elizabeth first met. LEFT The shelves of Centenario Tienda y Taqueria are lined with authentic Mexican products.

the Covid-19 global pandemic. That year, Elizabeth transitioned from working part time in the diabetes clinic to working in a vaccination clinic. But 2020 will be remembered by the Ibarras for another reason altogether. For months, Mauricio had been working on renovations to the old Sears and Radio Shack building. By March of 2020, as businesses and restaurants continued to close their doors, the Ibarras were ready to open their new business–Centenario Mexican Store (Centenario Tienda y Taqueria)–with Mauricio’s sister Zuleima, who is part-owner and manager. 64

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The store was a great addition to our community as a great place to shop for everything from Hispanic and South American pottery to fresh produce, meats, and authentic western wear. The meat counter offers a variety of meats daily. The cooler held Carne Arrachera, Al Pastor, ribeye steaks, smoked pork chops, quail, and lamb shoulder that day. Another display case offered fresh fruit cups, handmade popsicles, and ice cream. In addition, essential products for cooking like shells for tamales to make homemade tortillas and spices and herbs for authentic Hispanic food lined the store shelves.

A favorite section for many is the western wear. “We went to Mexico and designed our own clothing brand, Centenario Western Wear,” said Elizabeth. She showed me handmade leather vests and jackets of exceptional quality. The ornate Mexican saddles in the aisles were worth coming to the store just to see. Western-style boots made of everything from gator to snake skins lined the walls. In addition, the store also offers children’s wear, communion, and baptismal apparel, hats, sombreros, shirts, and work boots. Elizabeth and Mauricio drove


back and forth to Wrens for two years to oversee their restaurant. “We took cooks and managers from here in Vidalia. One of us made the hour and a half commute one-way every day. It got really hectic with the kids,” said Elizabeth. “And then we had another baby.” The Ibarras had to choose: Move to Wrens or start over again in Vidalia. And since Vidalia was home, there really was no choice. They would use the remaining space in the old Sears building to bring the Centenario Restaurant to Vidalia. “Everything in the restaurant except the TVs on the wall was handmade and hand-painted in Mexico,” said Elizabeth. The tables, chairs, booths, floor tile, and an exquisite bar that took six months to build and paint all reflect the beauty of Hispanic workmanship. The Centenario Mexican Grill in Vidalia had its grand opening on March 23, 2021. The accomplishments made by the Ibarras are a reflection of many Mexican families who come to this country to work. In an article entitled “Starting From the Bottom: Why Mexicans are the Most Successful Immigrants in America,” writer Mitch Moxley reports on a study from the University of California for the online magazine Slate.com. “…contrary to stereotypes, Mexican-Americans are the most successful secondgeneration group in the country,” he writes. “The reason is simple: The study considered not just where people finished, but from where they started.” It is inequitable to compare the competency and/or accomplishments of immigrants from countries where parents have college degrees to immigrants from countries where families struggle to provide food and shelter. It was no small thing to break out of poverty. It is important to understand that all poverty is not equal. According to federalsafetynet.com, “In the United States, the definition of poverty is an individual with income less than

The accomplishments made by the Ibarras are a reflection of many Mexican families who come to America to work. Currently, "MexicanAmericans are the most successful second-generation group in the country." $36 per day or a family of four with income less than $72 per day. This is set by the U.S. Census Bureau and is called the Poverty Threshold.” The level of poverty that led the Ibarra family and Elizabeth’s father and his brothers to leave their homes was not just about better opportunities. It was about survival. And perhaps the chance for a father to buy his son a bicycle. Mauricio held out the Centenario coin hanging from a gold chain around his neck for me to see. “It belonged to my father,” he said. “One day, it will belong to my son.” One side of the coin depicts the image of Winged Victory, also known as “The Angel of Independence.” The angel holds a laurel wreath in one hand and broken chains in the other. Two famous volcanoes in Mexico, Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl, rise behind her. The year 1821 commemorates the year of Mexico’s independence from Spain. The year indicated on the right denotes the year of production. The reverse side depicts the Mexican coat of arms, a Golden eagle on a prickly pear cactus devouring a rattlesnake, an important symbol of good overcoming evil. The gold coin represented more than monetary value. It represented

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the heart of the Hispanic people. It characterized their courage in great hardship. Like every other country in the world, the United States has a complicated history. In a book by University of Notre Dame Professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto entitled Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, he writes, “Hispanics preceded the United States in what is now national territory. Their presence has been a longer part of the history of the land than that of any other intruders from across the Atlantic, including Anglo-Americans”. No country in the world is safe without secure borders. Without question, our border should be protected. And yet, there are American companies and businesses on every street today desperate for workers. Many, like Mauricio, came here as children. Others, like Elizabeth’s father, came out of desperation. Countless immigrants are without the means to hire an attorney to help them navigate the complex immigration system. Only one thing is certain: The Hispanic people in this country are not only a part of our past but also an important part of our future. Author and speaker Danny Silk writes, “…the path of fulfilling our dreams always requires us to walk through struggle, hard work, and

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tests of character, because only in that context can we discover who we truly are and who God is for us.” Amid all the turmoil and uncertainty of the times, Mauricio and Elizabeth continued to work to make their businesses successful. Neither had been raised to give up and quit when times got tough. Instead, they moved forward and made way for new growth and opportunity for others in our community. In addition to the restaurant, the store, Ibarra Pine Straw, Centenario Trucking Company, and newly renovated rental properties in Vidalia, Mauricio and Elizabeth have already begun with plans to open two new restaurants before the end of the year. One will be an authentic Mexican restaurant across from Lowes. The other will be in Swainsboro and styled after the Centenario Mexican Grill in Vidalia. “We couldn’t have done any of this without God,” said Mauricio. “And I’m especially grateful for Tres Herin,” AVP (Assistant Vice President), “at Altamaha Bank for helping me. He is a great friend, adviser, and always believed we could do it. And for Alan Thigpen,” CEO and President at Mount Vernon Bank. “When no one else would loan us the amount of money we needed to buy the building for the restaurant and the store, he said, ‘We’ll do it.’ It’s

not always easy to borrow money as a Hispanic. It was no small investment, either. These men took a chance and believed in me. They believed that I could make it happen. And it took their belief in me to make it happen. I will always be grateful to them.” In November of 2021, Mauricio and Elizabeth had the opportunity to purchase the old Silverado Dance Hall where they first met. Today, it is the Centenario Event Center and has been completely renovated and remodeled. The beautiful event center will be used for everything from weddings and birthday parties to quinceaneras. “It was in bad shape and needed a lot of work. But it meant something to us,” said Elizabeth. If there is one thing that could possibly save small-town American life, it will be this sense of value for what once was and faith to see in the deterioration that which is yet to be. Values are preserved and communities sustained by people like Mauricio and Elizabeth, who see the places that tell our stories as significant and worth saving. Toombs County is indebted to our Hispanic community for many reasons. Not only for the work they do, but for who they are as families and business owners in our community.


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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

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Look with the heart When you let God do the work, amazing things can happen

“When we were looking for a place to start a daycare, people said this area would be too dangerous,” said Leah Lee. “Through the years, the buildings on the

property, which were little more than shacks, had been everything you can imagine. I was standing there looking at this place when I heard a child call out, ‘Miss Leah!’” It was Niya Wright, one of the children she and her late husband, Jim Watkins, picked up every Sunday for church. “She was coming one way, and her brother was running toward us from the other way. Both were barefoot and smiling. Until that moment, I’d been seeing everything with my natural eyes. But when I saw those children, God spoke to me and said, ‘They’re running around barefoot and playing. They are perfectly fine and healthy. I’m taking care of them. I can certainly take care of you and your daycare.” The idea of turning the place into a daycare took no more courage than leaving their home in Douglas, Georgia, to come to Toombs County in the first place. They had no family here. Leah had never met Bill Vansant, the man who called and asked the couple to come to visit. Her husband had not seen the minister since going to church with his mother in South Florida as a little boy. “Pastor Vansant told Jim, ‘I’ve been praying for the both of you.’” Leah’s recent encounter with Jesus had changed her life. “I just felt like God had something for me to do. So, I called all the churches in Douglas,” where they lived, “and asked if any of them needed help with anything. They all said, ‘No thanks.’” She smiled.

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“We started with four children,” said Leah. By the end of the next year they had increased to seventy children adding employees and buildings along the way. 24

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“Pastor Vansant asked us to come to Vidalia to visit. As crazy as that seemed, it felt right,” said Leah. “He and his wife were so kind to us. They took us out for lunch and asked what we had been doing through the years. We were shocked when Pastor Vansant said, ‘We need a couple to pastor our youth if you’re interested.’” So, they decided to take the job. When Vansant left to pastor another church, Leah and Jim felt it was time for a transition of their own. “While we were youth pastors, Jim worked part-time for Ms. Carolyn Calhoun at the Vidalia Fish and Ice House,” said Leah. Jim mentioned to his employer and friend that he and Leah hoped to open their own daycare one day. “She said, ‘I’ve got some rental property if you want to look at it.’” After looking at several places, “Ms. Carolyn mentioned a building in Lyons, but she said it would need a lot of work,” said Leah. “We had been youth pastors and homeschooling our children. No bank was going to loan us money,” said Leah. But Ms. Carolyn graciously loaned the couple the money. “Many people helped,” said Leah, “including Ms. Carolyn’s son, Matt. He worked right beside us that entire year.” Leah and Jim just painted over the building’s stucco walls, not wanting to spend money unnecessarily. “I’ll never forget painting over some bad language someone had ABOVE Leah with her husband Chris Lee. carved into the building,” said Leah. “You can still see it if you know where to look. It always reminds me that At the end of that first year, her husband joined her in when God covers us, the worst of us can become something the work at the daycare. “With both of us working together, good and usable.” the daycare went from four children to seventy in one year. While they worked on the building, Leah took the The first month we made more than it cost us to cover our required classes to become certified as a daycare director. expenses, I literally cried.” As the daycare grew, the couple By December 2012, they were ready to open the Chapel added on to the buildings. Everyone who passed by took Christian Academy. “We started with four children,” note of the transformation. The work on the outside spoke said Leah. “The youngest was just an infant. I was still of the couple's value for the work inside. homeschooling, so I also had my two girls there doing Tragically, Jim died of cancer in 2019, and Leah became schoolwork. We couldn’t yet afford to hire anyone, so it was a widow. She was only thirty-eight-years-old at the time. just me working from 5:00 a.m. until we closed at 7:00 p.m.” H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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When Leah first saw the old building, she admitted that it was difficult to see its potential. But then, she realized, “I’d been looking with my natural eyes.” When God opened her heart to see, Leah saw the fulfillment of the dream of a daycare.

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With a capacity of 106, the daycare was nearly full at the time. Thankfully, her oldest daughter, Zoe, and Zoe's husband, Adrian, moved from Texas to help Leah. Sometime later, Leah met Chris Lee, a former physical therapist in Millen, Georgia. They have since married and he has joined in the work at the daycare. Chris also began his own ministry in the community. Pointing to a big tree across the road where locals often congregated near a couple of run down buildings, Leah said, “People told us we would get shot if we went over there.” Instead, her husband found a receptiveness to the gospel. “Pastor Vansant loaned us chairs to set out on Sundays, and we began to share messages from the Bible with the locals. They turned down their music to listen. When it rained a few weeks ago, Chris invited them to come into the Chapel to hear the Word. We’ve been meeting in there ever since. We have donuts and coffee

with our neighbors before church, and we usually pick up something to share with them for lunch after the meeting. But they never expect or ask for anything.” They called their ministry Chapel Christian Church. “Most are older men. Some are homeless,” said Leah. “They park their cars and sleep in them at night,” said Leah pointing across the way. “Some rent rooms in shacks without running water or electricity.” She pointed to the run-down buildings across the road. “We could turn places like that into homes for them. Not a homeless shelter,” she clarified. “Homes.” And why not? This December, Chapel Christian Academy celebrate its 10th Anniversary. All those years ago, when Leah first saw the old shack, she admitted that it was difficult to see its potential. But then, she realized, “I’d been looking with my natural eyes.” When God opened her heart to see, Leah saw the fulfillment of the dream of a daycare.

It wasn’t until I met with Leah that I remembered a creative writing piece I’d written about this place years earlier for a creative writing college class. Looking for inspiration on my way to Georgia Southern that day, I’d noticed a woman standing in the door of what was now Chapel Christian Academy. Finding it among my files later that day, I was surprised by how relevant it now seemed. Even now, some will always see the brokenness of the past when they pass by this building. A curse word carved long ago into a stucco wall. But once you see with the eyes of the heart, the wildest of dreams can become a reality.

The Woman in the Broken Building (November 2007)

She wore a floral dress and opentoed shoes. Novembers’ end blew through her. Even for the South, she was dressed for the wrong season. She stood between the door of a H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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dilapidated building. It may have been a house, but from behind the closed windows of my passing car, I knew it was not a home. One sleeve hung precariously off her shoulder. The other barely held to her body at all. The red light of her burning cigarette dangled between stained fingers. With her other hand, she wiped the sweat from her eyes. The heat of something other than the weather caused her to sweat. I slowed my car. She seemed not to notice. I was not her type. I looked in my rear view mirror for one last glance.

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Somehow in that search for a story, we exchanged something visceral. For a moment, I stood in her out-of-season shoes and felt the normalcy of her broken spirit, her split soul, the battered body. I sensed within her the struggle to hold onto a small piece of something I might have called sanity. But it was more. What came across as a careless, empty stare was an attempt to protect this small place in her heart where she held hope. Like Mary Magdalene, it was easy to judge. Much like the men who abused her broken position. The subject of many a sermon, “Go and sin no more,” is proclaimed by the man on the stage. But the message most missed is in that first word. “Go,” said Jesus. There would always be accusers—those who defined her present by her past. My heart bent with the weight of courage it must have taken to go beyond the limits of the labels still etched in her skin, yet covered with great love. Mary. The one Jesus sends to tell those hiding in fear that He has risen from the dead. Mary. The one to whom He would appear before ascending to cleanse Heaven’s courts with His blood. Mary. The first Apostle. As I read back over those words I’d written five years before the building’s transformation, I added a new ending: A few years later, some people began to work on the old shack. I’ll be honest. I didn’t have much faith in the possibility of a transformation. It looked too far gone. It had been abused for much too long. And yet, in the place where the woman I’d seen years earlier once stood, a meeting place for the message of the gospel emerged. The message once entrusted to Mary. A message she would bring to those hiding in fear. The hope only those who look with the heart can see. LEFT When Leah's oldest daughter Zoe and son-in-law Adrian moved here from Texas to help Leah with the daycare.

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! g n i S t s

u J BY TERI R. WILLIAMS PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Wilson Johnson has used his voice for many things–musical performance, politics, radio commentary, juvenile support– but his greatest message comes through an expression of unity he's built his life on.

I i

t would take little effort to craft a compelling biography of Wilson Johnson. The list of his many accomplishments was long. Shuffling through newspaper clippings and pictures of the radio host, newspaper columnist, church and community leader, I picked up the only picture of Wilson as a young man. The same photograph had once advertised sold-out performances in upscale hotels and nightclubs in South Florida as well as casinos in the Bahamas. Before Wilson Johnson was the Chaplain of the Sons of Allen and founder of Community Project Hope (CPH), Inc., and The Concerned Citizens Coalition of Vidalia, he was blazing a path for black Americans in both business and music to follow. Everything he does today is because of everything that came before. The fourth child and first son of Seymour and Selena Johnson’s eleven children, Wilson’s home in Vidalia was a haven of love. It was here that he developed a strong foundation in faith, respect for himself and others, and value for education. Like so many other great performers of that time, Wilson’s earliest musical influence came from the church. “My daddy took me to St. Paul AME church every Sunday,” said Wilson. “I was about two years old when he took me to the front of the church and held me high over his head to dedicate me to God. Then, when I was about fifteen years old, the messages I had heard every Sunday suddenly became real, and I made that commitment for myself.” In 1959, Wilson graduated from Dickerson Training School in Vidalia, Georgia. (The name was changed to J.D. Dickerson High School the following year). He joined the Air Force and left for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After a short time serving in Japan, Wilson was sent to Anderson Air Force Base on the Western Pacific island of Guam. Far from family and home, he did the one thing that came most naturally— he put together a band. Wilson called the singers The Kingsmen and the musicians The Checkmates. The band's nightly performances kept up the morale of his fellow service members and the people on the Island. Wilson laughed and said, “It saved me from a thirty-day stint in the brig on one occasion.” He explained that he had stayed in town, as he often did when a performance ran late. The guards always looked the other way when he slipped in past curfew. They depended on his regular entertainment on their nights off. But on that particular evening, someone higher up the chain had called for an unexpected curfew check, and Wilson was sent to Air Base Wing Commander to account for his absence.

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“The Commander recognized me from the performances,” said Wilson. “I’d been told that his wife had not wanted to move to Guam because she liked to party. Guam wasn’t exactly Vegas. But someone sent her a recording from one of our performances,” and Wilson’s band convinced her that living in Guam might not be so bad after all. “The Commander shook his head and said, ‘Johnson, now what am I going to do?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, sir.’ He said, ‘If I give you article 15, the band won’t be able to play, and I won’t be able to get in the house.’ Finally, the Commander came to a decision. Wilson gave me a hint of a smile. “He said, ‘Johnson, whatever happens in here today, when you walk out of that door, leave it in here.’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ The Commander nodded for the guard to let me pass, and I went straight to my job.” Wilson moved to Miami, Florida, at the end of his four years of military service. “I had a sister who lived in New York, a sister who lived in California, and a younger sister in Miami. Each one wanted me to move close to them,” he said. However, the choice to move to Miami was not based on which sister he preferred, but rather on his dislike of cold weather. Miami proved pivotal for Wilson in both his work and his music. As the first black sales representative for the wholesale pottery industry in the region, he paved the way for others of color to follow. And, like

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Living in Miami during the 1960s was pivotal for Wilson from both a music and work perspective.


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With 22 years of experience as an entertainer under his belt, radio and television came easy for Wilson.

ABOVE Wilson hosted a television political forum called The Johnson Report through WPHJ station in Vidalia. He was also the radio commentator for “The Bottom Line” from Vidalia’s FM station.

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all pioneers, there were obstacles to overcome and bridges to build where none had existed before. Everything was segregated, from schools to bathrooms to water fountains and lunch counters. Racism was – is – an insidious union of the heart’s oldest

adversaries: pride, which is simply an exalted perception of oneself, and fear that seeks a false sense of security through controlling others. Wilson’s first memories of Miami seem like scenes from another world. But segregation in the South was all


too real. “… African Americans, even stars like James Brown, Mohammed Ali, and Aretha Franklin, had to have a written pass to come across the causeway into Miami Beach, and a strict curfew prohibited them from being in Miami Beach past midnight,” writes Bernard Hacker in an online article for the Standard Hotel in South Beach. Even in such an environment, Wilson was respected. Once when Wilson was pulled over for speeding, the officer instructed him to follow his patrol car to the police station. There, he learned he would have to pay a $50 cash fee before leaving. Not having that much cash on hand, Wilson called a shop owner in the area he served. After the white shop owner paid the fine, the officer asked if she wanted a receipt to ensure Wilson repaid his debt. The woman shook her head in disgust. It was obvious which of the two men she considered worthy of her trust. In the early years, Wilson both sold and delivered the orders for pottery. On one occasion, as Wilson waited at the front of a store in Hialeah for payment, he realized persons of color were expected to use the back entrance. Not seeing Wilson, the store owner referred to the delivery man who had made such a mistake with very offensive language. He merely stepped forward for the check she held in her hand. “When she realized I’d been standing there and heard her, she was so ashamed of herself that she added seven more pieces of pottery to her order,” said Wilson. “And I sold them to her. I don’t ever let words bother me.” It wasn’t that he was impervious to such derogatory language. It was simply that Wilson’s confidence, his sense of self-worth, was not dependent on what someone else said, good or bad. “A person can say whatever they want about me. They can call me any name they want. It doesn’t change who I am.” Wilson’s statement was as much a tribute to his upbringing as it was to his character. As noteworthy as Wilson’s work as the first black salesman in the

wholesale pottery industry in South Florida, he was best known as a professional entertainer and the lead singer for “Wil Johnson’s AllStar Review.” While Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other brave men and women were blazing a righteous path of civil rights across the South, a new sound from an old South was taking the nation by storm. Rhythm and Blues and Jazz did what words alone could not. In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. penned an essay for the first Berlin Jazz Festival. He wrote, “Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music…. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.”* The R&B music from Florida is often overshadowed by memories from Memphis, Muscle Shoals (FAME Recording Studios), Chicago, and Detroit. But, according to John Capouya’s book, “Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band,” “In the thirty-five-year swath between 1945 and 1980, Florida produced some of the most electric, emotive soul music this country’s ever heard” (pg. 4). Legendary groups that formed in Miami during that time include Sam and Dave (“Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m A Comin’”), and KC and the Sunshine Band (“Get Down Tonight,” “That’s the Way (I Like It).” Even today, these songs can get people on the dance floor when nothing else will. Few know that the great soul singer Ray Charles

was from Florida “…known during his Florida decades by his given name- Ray Charles Robinson- was raised here, went blind here, became a musician here, and made his first recordings here,” (Capouya, pg. 8). You won’t find Wilson Johnson’s name in the history books, but he was there right at the forefront of the Miami sound with an eighteenpiece orchestra of horns, trombones, trumpets, drums, upright bass, and guitars. One of his musicians was a former horn player for James Brown. “Wil Johnson’s AllStar Review” played “big band style” music for high-end hotels like the DuPont Plaza, the Americana, and Miami’s Fontainbleau beachfront hotel. “Celebrities and entertainers, ranging from Elvis Presley and Bob Hope to Lucille Ball and Judy Garland…” were among those who performed at the Fontainebleau. The upscale hotel was also the setting for “numerous major Hollywood productions including,

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Goldfinger, The Bellboy, Scarface, The Specialist, and The Bodyguard.”* Opening acts for his shows included singers like Gwen Dickey, who would become the front-woman with Rose Royce (“Car Wash” and “Wishing on a Star”), Gwen McCrae (best known for her 1975 R&B hit “Rocking Chair”), and Betty Wright (her song “Clean Up Woman” hit gold on the R&B charts in 1971). As much as he enjoyed singing, Wilson never thought of the shows as his work career. “I had a job in the wholesale pottery industry. Performing music was always just entertainment to me,” said Wilson. Over time, he did less and less of his own shows and moved more into the management side of music for others. But by 1986, he found himself at a crossroads. With a recent divorce and three young daughters, Wilson said, “God allowed me to experience a lot of things. He allowed me to make some mistakes, but He never left me. He always had his arms around me. But I knew it was time to make a change. God said to me, ‘Son, why don’t you go back home and start over.” The past was a teacher, but it was not an anchor for Wilson. Before he left Miami, he taught himself to weld and started an ornamental ironworks company called Johnsons Ornamental Ironworks. When he moved to Vidalia, one of his first customers was a woman named Lorance. A year or so later, the two were married. That was over thirty-five years ago. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Wilson. “She’s no stepmother. My daughters always looked to her as a mother.” He also renewed his membership in Vidalia's Saint Paul A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. The following year, Wilson was appointed president of the local chapter of the Sons of Allen, an organization the A.M.E. church established for men in 1984. The organization's name is in honor of the denomination’s founder, Bishop Richard Allen. Wilson now made supporting and encouraging young men his primary mission. But his philanthropy was not confined

to those within the church walls. He also founded the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Vidalia in 1987, “a political voice for the community. In addition, he served as a commissioner on both the Vidalia Board Housing Authority (1989) and the Concerted Services Board (1990). With twenty-two years of experience as an entertainer, it’s no wonder Wilson found his way into radio and television. He hosted “The Turner-Johnson Round Table Discussion” (1989), which was a political talk show. His television talk shows included The Television Talk Show from a station out of Baxley, Georgia (1995), and The Television Political Forum called “The Johnson Report” from the WPHJ station in Vidalia. He was also the radio commentator for “The Bottom Line” from Vidalia’s FM station (2008). In 2010, Wilson founded Community Project Hope Inc., a Christian-based program that gives the court system an alternative to prison for juveniles who have committed less serious crimes. The inspiration came from a woman he met in Miami named Georgia Jones


Ayers. “I learned so much from her example,” said Wilson. “I called her my ‘Miami Mama.’ Her impact was so important that the police station even gave her space for an office.” Of all the church and community work Wilson has done through the years, he considered his most significant accomplishment his contribution to the reinstatement of the Hope Scholarship at Morris Brown College. With his leadership, he helped facilitate meetings with Governor Sonny Perdue, Bishop William Phillips Deveaux, State Senator Tommie Williams, and Dr. Stanley Pritchett. As a result, Wilson played an essential part in reestablishing this important scholarship for the school. Wilson has been honored by many groups for his innumerable contributions through the years. In 2012, the A.M.E. church in the 6th Episcopal District honored him with a Living Legacy Award. He was again honored with a Living Legacy award in 2016 by the Sons of Allen of Georgia. More recently, Wilson was presented the Sweet Onion Citizen award of the month by Vidalia Mayor Doug Roper for his service in our community (May 2021). Honor often speaks of achievements, but the most honorable man or woman is the one who can give honor to another. The burgundy jacket worn by members of the Sons of Allen, which numbers approximately

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Little Foks Farm & Childcare is a nature based childcare learning center that offers an interactive environment where children enjoy outdoor farm adventures, arts and crafts, fresh healthy meals and lessons about nature and science. We treat your children like our own. To learn more about us, follow our adventures at

LittleFolksFarm LISA WILLIAMS, OWNER 1392 GA HWY 56 E, LYONS • 912-565-0262

ARTS & CRAFTS

A VISIT FROM GEORGIA FIRST LADY MARTY KEMP 88

LEARNING ABOUT ANIMALS

PLANTING A GARDEN

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DISCOVERING NATURE

FAMILY EVENTS

100,000 worldwide, is an important expression of honor for its members. Like Joseph’s coat of many colors, the jacket speaks of a son highly favored by his Father. After the successful reinstatement of the Hope Scholarship to Morris College, Wilson invited Senator Williams to a gathering of the Sons of Allen across Georgia. There, he presented the Senator with a burgundy jacket of his own as an honorary member of the Sons of Allen. To the best of Wilson’s knowledge, it was the first and only time a white person had ever received such an honor. The jacket was the most significant expression of gratitude he could show Senator Williams for all he had done for Morris Brown College. Wilson continues to serve the Sons of Allen in the capacity of Connectional Chaplain. But his greatest joy is, and always has been, his family: his wife, Lorance, their three daughters, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. “I have a daughter with a P.H.D.,” he said proudly, “and another has her masters.” Once a week, Wilson talks to his friend in Chicago, Harry Hall. Harry served with Wilson in Guam. “He was the other lead singer in The Kingsman and the Checkmates,” he said. “We have a great time reminiscing about all the music we played and things that happened in Guam.” It would seem that memories are all he has left of his life as a professional entertainer. But that’s not really true. The world Wilson’s children, grandchildren, and great-children now know is a different world from the one in which he grew up. And he was a part of that change. While Bob Dylan was singing his 60s anthem, “Times They Are A-Changin’,” he had the vision and the courage to live the difference. Wilson not only has character, but he also has talent. Not many can say Al Green (“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”), Bobby Womack (“California Dreaming”), and the Chi-Lites (“Oh Girl”) showed up for one of your concerts. “Somebody came back to the dressing room and said, ‘Four limousines just pulled up. When I looked out at the audience, they were all sitting together.” “Where did you learn to lead an orchestra?” I asked. “Did you have any musical training?” Wilson looked surprised, “No.” He then smiled and said, “I just sing.” Many of the songs Wilson covered from the 60s and 70s are still popular today. Songs like Bill Withers’ 1972 hit song “Lean on Me,” one of the greatest soul songs of all time. Unfortunately, copyright laws prevent me from quoting the lyrics, but I’d bet the title alone was enough to put the song in your head for the rest of the day. In a sense, it’s a message by which Wilson has lived his life. We need each other. All of us. Music doesn’t need a sermon to bring a message of unity and healing. It just needs people like Wilson who will “just sing.”


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60 Years of

Anderson used his fame to promote his faith success stories span decades, with graduates Anderson used his fame to promote stories span decades, with graduates found in Jesus Christ to promote youth found all overspan the country. Anderson hisand fame toand promote his physical faith success his faith used in Jesus Christ to promote all over stories the country.decades, with graduates fitness. While speaking at a reform school, inyouth Jesus physical Christ and to promote physical found all over the country. fitness. While youth speaking at he saw young offenders incarcerated with “Rather than facing a life of crime, jail time, fitness. While speaking at a reform school, a reform school, he saw young offenders “Rather than facing a life of crime, jail hardened criminals, he felt led to help young and poor adjustment, young people heincarcerated saw young offenders incarcerated withhe “Rather than facing a life of young crime, jailneed time, with hardened criminals, time, and poor adjustment, people people. continued support and counseling as well as hardened criminals, he felt led to help young and poor adjustment, young people need felt led to help young people. need continued support and counseling structuresupport and discipline, which ourwell Home people. continued and as has as well as structure andcounseling discipline,aswhich Thus in 1961, Paul rode a bicycle from provided for decades,” said Glenda Anderson he Paul Anderson Youth Home is structure and our Home has Thus in 1961, Paul rode a bicycle from our Home hasdiscipline, providedwhich for decades, ” he Paul Anderson Youth Home is Vidalia, Georgia to Omaha, Nebraska while provided Leonard. “Our boys who have completed overjoyed and blessed to celebrate its Thus in 1961, Paul rode a bicycle from for decades,” said Glenda Anderson Vidalia, Georgia to Omaha, Nebraska said Glenda Anderson Leonard. “Our heoverjoyed Paul Anderson Youth Home is and blessed to celebrate GlendaGeorgia followed a van.Nebraska They were pubthe program are living of how this 60th anniversary thistoyear. This fully to in Omaha, Leonard. who examples have while Glenda followed in a van. Theywhile boys who“Our haveboys completed the completed program overjoyed and blessed its Vidalia, its 60th anniversary thiscelebrate year. This licizing the opening of the Paul Anderson ministry turns lives around and helps accredited and licensedthis home offers second Glenda followed inthe a van. They of were the are living of how them this were publicizing opening thepubare program living examples of examples how this ministry anniversary year. This aoffers fully fully60th accredited and licensed home Youth Home, a Christian residential program become men of character who are an asset to chance to young men in crisis. Tucked away licizing the opening of the Paul Anderson ministry turns lives around and helps them Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Christian turns lives around and helps them become accredited licensed home men offersinacrisis. second a secondand chance to young and on-campus school young men betheir on a beautiful piece ofcrisis. property in Vidalia, Youth Home,program a Christian residential program become men of character are an residential andfor on-campus school men ofcommunities.” character who arewho an asset to asset their to chance to young men in Tucked Tucked away on a beautiful piece ofaway tween the ages of 16 and 21 struggling with it’s a special place that’s an alternative to jail and on-campus school for young men betheir communities.” for young men between the ages of 16 and communities. ” on property a beautiful piece of property in Vidalia, in Vidalia, it’s a special place that’s behavioral and of anger, The Home continues to thrive and with wistroubledplace young menanand boys who the agesproblems of 16 behavioral and 21issues struggling with 21 struggling with problems it’sfor a special alternative to need jail a tween an alternative tothat’s jail for troubled young depression, or drugs. dom and continues guidance our and Heavenly Father, chance. and issuesproblems of anger,and depression, drugs. The Home continuesfrom thrive andwith withwisissues ofor anger, The Home totothrive forsecond troubled young menneed and aboys whochance. need a behavioral men and boys who second looks forward to a long wisdom guidance our Heavenly depression, or drugs. dom and and guidance fromfrom our Heavenly Father, second chance. Themission mission has has remained remained the the same for the looks future of transforming Paul Anderson, who was declared “the stronThe same for Father, looks forward forward to a long Paul Anderson, who was declared “the past 60 years, as has thethe need for for alternatives lives of young gest man inman the world” after the 1956 Melthe past 60 has years, as has need tothe a long future of men. mission remained the same for the future of transforming strongest in the after thestron1956 The Paul Anderson, who wasworld” declared “the to prison. If necessary, each young man in the bourne Olympic games, was a gold medal alternatives necessary, each transforming the men. past 60 years, to as prison. has the Ifneed for alternatives the lives of young games, a gold gestMelbourne man in theOlympic world” after thewas 1956 MelHome’s care receives counseling, academic winner and weightlifting legend. To this day, young man in the Home’s care receives lives of young men. to prison. If necessary, each young man in the medal winner and weightlifting legend. bourne Olympic games, was a gold medal assistance to complete their education, job no one has exceeded or even matched his feat counseling, academic assistance to Home’s care receives counseling, academic To this no one haslegend. exceeded or even winner andday, weightlifting To this day, training,toand substance abuse therapy.job The lifting 6,270 lb.ofin aeven backmatched lift. lb. his complete their education, job training, complete their education, matched his feat 6,270 in afeat assistance noof one has exceeded orlifting and substance abuse therapy. The success training, and substance abuse therapy. The back lift. of lifting 6,270 lb. in a back lift.

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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Black Belt of Honor Fourteen years ago, Shane Harrelson stepped on a Jiu-Jitsu mat for the first time and discovered a lifelong dedication to discipline, character and honor.

“Action!” Shane froze. Recovering quickly, he stepped into character as Frank Cosgrove, Jr., son of the Kansas City Mob boss on the Netflix series Ozark. Until that day, he had never even been on a film set. But no one would ever suspect that the man in the ballcap strolling through the riverboat casino on the set for Ozark was Toombs County businessman Shane Harrelson, a Procurement Forester, co-owner of Ohoopee Land & Timber, LLC. The call came only the day before. According to the casting company, Shane’s height, weight, and overall appearance made him a perfect match for a body double for actor Joseph Sikora. It was not exactly the kind of work he had in mind when he submitted his profile, but Ozark was one of his favorite Netflix series. The opportunity was just too good to pass up. “Joseph Sikora is a great actor,” said Shane. “He also played Tommy on the crime drama series Power. Jason Bateman,” one of the main characters on Ozark, “is also one of my favorite actors.” Shane smiled. “Between takes, I looked over, and he was sitting next to me eating peanuts. It was surreal at times,” quickly adding, “and a lot of work. It may take twenty times to get one scene right, which is why they use a body double for some scenes.” As much as Shane enjoyed the experience, acting had never been his goal when he submitted his profile to the casting company. His hope was to make connections and get some experience in film so that he could eventually offer input in his area of expertise in mixed martial arts, particularly, Jiu-Jitsu. The idea came after seeing the fight scenes on movies like the neo-noir action thriller John Wick in which Keanu Reeves applied “numerous martial arts like Brazilian JiuJitsu, Wushu, Boxing, and Krav Maga,” according to jiujitsu-news.com. “With all the filming they were doing in Atlanta and Savannah, I thought I might could be a stunt double and perhaps help choreograph fight scenes,” said Shane. For someone else, such a statement might have seemed outrageous. With a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, an accomplishment that takes an average of ten to fifteen years of disciplined practice to reach, it was quite reasonable. There were no martial arts classes where Shane grew up. “I lived on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere near Alamo, Georgia. I don’t say that as a bad thing,” he said with a smile. “I grew up running the forests and creeks at my house, which helped make me who I am. I wouldn't have wanted to grow up any other place.” Even so, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for kids to do any sport other than football, basketball, and baseball. But while other kids were playing school sports, Shane was either working in the diesel mechanic shop with his father or skateboarding. Every time a new Thrasher Magazine arrived in the mailbox, he would study the trending skate tricks and freestyling maneuvers and then spend hours perfecting each skill. By the time he was fifteen, he and his parents had worked together to build an entire skateboarding park in his backyard. After high school, Shane moved to Tifton, Georgia, to pursue a degree in forestry at ABAC (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College). An introvert by nature, he had always found the woods

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Shane was always active growing up, whether he was working in his father's diesel shop, karting, or skateboarding. Even with fitness being a priority in his life, Shane wasn't prepared for the hard work and dedication Jiu-Jitsu would require.

a place of contentment and consolation. Work among the trees seemed the perfect career choice for Shane. In 1997, he graduated with his associate’s degree. Shane took the state board exam and became a registered Forester. In 2002, he moved to Statesboro to work with Sabine and Waters, Inc., a forestry consulting company. While working full-time, Shane enrolled in classes at Georgia Southern University (GSU). In 2006, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and took a job with Gillis Ag and Timber out of Soperton. Even though his athletics had not followed a conventional path, fitness had always been a priority for Shane. One day, at the gym where he regularly worked out, a friend invited him to a class in Jiu-Jitsu. “This was in 2007. I’d put on a few pounds during those years working and going to school full time, so I was looking for something more to do than just weight-lifting. He said, ‘Man, it’s unbelievable. It’s total body conditioning. You’ve got to try it.’” Shane spent his first trip to the Jiu-Jitsu studio watching from the sidelines. “I had no idea what they were doing. I went back


the next week and watched again. At the end of class, Timber, LLC. I couldn't do it without her.” a guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I saw you here last In December 2021, Shane hired Jonah Smith as a fullweek. Why don’t you come out on the mat?’ He showed time Procurement Forester. Jonah is a forestry graduate me a couple of moves, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ The from Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College. He and his following week, there were guys on the mat half my size. wife Dahlia live in Montgomery County. “Jonah's skills in I thought, ‘This is going to be a joke.’ But when I got out procurement are a great asset to everything we do,” said there, they just slaughtered me. Right then and there, I Shane. decided this was something I wanted to do.” In 2020, Shane and Sandra made the move to Toombs Jiu-Jitsu, which is “a combination of grappling, County. Since Ozark, Shane has worked on several other wrestling, and judo all mixed into one with the addition films, including Underground Railroad and Intentions (both of joint manipulations and chokes,” according to Shane, on Amazon Prime), Lovecraft Country (HBO), a 2021 became popularized in the early 90s by Brazilian Ultimate reboot of the Marvel movie Suicide Squad, The Sim Racer Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Royce Gracie. “He (set to release on Amazon Prime this year), and others. dominated guys from every other combat sport.” Royce’s “I was able to choreograph and act in my first fight scene father, Hélio Gracie, and others in the Gracie family in The Sim Racer,” said Shane. He also landed lead roles in founded what became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (also Delusion and Choice, two SCAD films currently in postcalled Gracie Jiu-Jitsu). production. Each experience has been an opportunity to “The progression of belts,” said Shane, “begins with move him closer to his true passion and the reason he white for beginners and progresses to blue, purple, brown, began his journey in acting: to utilize his skills in Jiu-Jitsu and black. Each belt has four degrees or ‘stripes.’ Each on screen. stripe can take a year or two to accomplish. The black belt has nine degrees of expertise, and it takes on average from ten to fifteen years for someone to advance to the level of black belt.” At the time, Shane was thirty years old. It was no small challenge to balance the responsibilities of life. “I’m married. I have a business to run. But I knew practicing Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t a sprint. It was a marathon.” In 2009, Shane and his wife, Sandra, moved to a place on the Ohoopee River in Tattnall County, which allowed him a more central location for his work. Continuing JiuJitsu was his greatest concern. “Back then, it was hard to find anywhere to train.” Fortunately, he found Brent Coleman, a Jiu-Jitsu instructor in Shane has enjoyed the Hazlehurst. “He has since relocated to Baxley, filming process, but his which is perfect for me. His school is part of goal was never acting. Southeast Jiu-Jitsu under the leadership of He hopes to make Scott Devine. Scott is out of Brunswick. He was connections that will a student of Relson Gracie and one of the first allow him to offer insight to black belt on the East Coast from someone to movies utilizing mixed in the Gracie family,” which is an especially martial arts scenes. meaningful detail to anyone who practices JiuJitsu. In 2015, Shane brought his experience in forest timber management and timber procurement It’s been fourteen years since Shane first stepped together to start his own company called Ohoopee Land onto his first Jiu-Jitsu mat in Statesboro. He continues & Timber, LLC, which serves customers within about a his practice in Baxley and Brunswick as well as with a few hundred-mile radius of Toombs County. “I love helping friends each week in his own home. From time to time, he landowners manage their land to get the maximum return will teach a class of Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense. “It’s been from it. It’s a passion for me,” said Shane. The following proven that about 90% of the time, someone much smaller year, his mother, Bernice Harrelson, took over the office than an attacker can get free by just knowing three or four side of the business. “She’s a vital part of Ohoopee Land & moves in Jiu-Jitsu.” H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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RIGHT At Southeast Jiu-Jitsu, which operates under the leadership of Scott Devine, Shane was able to hone his skills and continue working towards his black belt. BELOW After years of hard work, Shane received his black belt from Scott Devine in November 2021. OPPOSITE PAGE Shane and his wife Sandra moved from Tattnall County to Toombs County in 2020. It's been 14 years since Shane first stepped on a Jiu-Jitsu mat, and he continues to practice his skills and use them on screen whenever he can.

According to toplevelmartialarts.com, “There is [ ] no contention on the fact that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is considered the most difficult black belt to earn in all of the martial arts.” The result of Shane’s fourteen-year “marathon” came on November 6, 2021. Standing before Scott Devine, he was presented with his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. The precedent for such an honor is based on more than skill alone. “You have to prove you have both commitment and character. Scott has said again and again that he can only honor those with a black belt who not only have the skill, but also have the kind of character he would want his children to grow and become like,” said Shane. People talk about commitment. They praise character. But the true test for both cannot be 98

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“There is a difference between a fighter and a martial artist. A fighter is training for a purpose: He has a fight. I'm a martial artist. I don't train for a fight. I train for myself. I'm training all the time. My goal is perfection. But I will never reach perfection.” –Georges St- Pierre, UFC Champion 100

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measured in weeks or months but in years. In decades. In a lifetime of choices. In what we do with both victories and failures. In winning and losing. Real victories are measured in lifetimes rather than weekend retreats. There are no shortcuts. When Shane began his journey with Jiu-Jitsu at thirty, he never saw his age a limitation or considered himself too old for the challenge. Jiu-Jitsu was not something he set out to conquer but the person he committed to become. Whether he’s procuring trees or using hooks and sweeps for a fight scene on a movie set, Shane has proven himself worthy of the distinction and honor of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt.


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Jackson Heights BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

One of the first neighborhoods in Vidalia, the tree-lined streets of Jackson Heights have beautiful stories to tell from both past and present.

N

ames of places often give clues to a town’s stories of origin. More often, the pioneers of a place are as forgotten and distant as an epithet on a stranger’s tombstone. Jackson Street and the historic neighborhood designated as Jackson Heights might have become one of those lost links to the past had it not been for a handful of residents who decided to form the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association in 2013.

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i

It all began with a neighborly chat. Jackie Moses had seen Mike Cochran, her new neighbor from two streets over, walking his dogs. On that particular morning, she put aside her gardening tools and introduced herself. Eventually, talk turned to growing concerns about the neighborhood. At first glance, Jackie and Mike might have seemed an odd pair to unite in defense of an old neighborhood. One was a Vidalia native. The other, a transplant from Illinois. But it wasn’t any more peculiar than the original families that first came here and built many of the homes in the neighborhood. Before relocating to Vidalia, Mike worked in Illinois for Gates Rubber Company. In 1983, he and his wife Meridy decided to make a permanent move to Vidalia and eventually opened a uniform business named after his wife. Twenty years later, they sold the uniform business and retired. About ten years ago, the couple sold their home in the country and moved to town. They first purchased a house at 500 Church Street with intentions of remodeling and making this their permanent home. The

house had been built in 1939 and they found the complete renovation would be extensive. After some remodeling work, the Cochrans rented the house to a real estate company, and it has recently been sold. The couple built a home on the lot located behind the old house, and that is where they live today. 104

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When Jackie’s husband, Harry, learned that a businessman was attempting to get the neighborhood's zoning changed from residential/office residential to commercial, the three came together. “We fought this at City Hall because this change would have affected zoning in our area and across the entire city,” said Mike. As they talked with others in the neighborhood, they quickly found support. Jackie has lived in Vidalia most of her life. As a young child, her family lived at 500 Durden Street. Her grandfather, Jay Gould Mosley, who served as Toombs County Clerk of Courts for many years, built the house for her father, Jack Mosley, when he and her mother married. Jackie’s family moved to Hinesville when she was five, but returned two years later. In 1977, she moved into a house in her childhood neighborhood with her two children. It wasn’t just nostalgia for her childhood that made the neighborhood special. It was bigger than that. Many of the old houses there had been built in the early 1900s. Many of the first families have been in the community for generations. Knowing Jackie’s love and appreciation for the old houses in the area, Peggy Matheson, a realtor at the time, told her about a house soon to come on the market at 801 Jackson Street. “She said, ‘You need to buy that house.’ So, I did,” laughed Jackie. That was in 1980. “The house was built in 1938 by the Estroff family. Since then, it had only been a two-owner house, and it was in pristine condition. The kitchen was the only thing that needed updating.” 801 Jackson Street was home for Jackie and Harry Moses for the next thirty-three years. In 2011, they bought the house at 105 East 6th Street. “We bought it fully intending to ‘flip it,’” said Jackie. “It was built in 1920 and had not been lived in for twelve years. It needed significant repairs. There was a lot of water damage and damage caused by an old fig vine growing inside the house that had broken through the concrete on the back porch. But it had beautiful floors,” she smiled. “We found the original doors between the living room and the music room in the rafters in the garage.” The original builder was DeCosta Pattillo, a lawyer in Vidalia. “I researched deeds at the courthouse from that time and found his name on literally hundreds of documents,” said Harry. “This was during the Depression when people were losing their properties. Pattillo was


The Jackson Heights neighborhood covers several blocks and includes many homes that have been updated while still keeping their original character.

buying lots all over the place for taxes due. He was the City Clerk of Courts for a long time.” “When he got sick, his family moved away,” said Jackie. “After that, there were several owners. Then, in 1946, the house was purchased by Henry and Brunelle McArthur, relatives of Reid McArthur,” a longtime veterinarian at Altamaha Animal Clinic. “In 1964, Mose Coleman bought the house, and we bought it from his children in 2011.” By the time renovations were complete, Jackie and Harry had fallen in love with the house. “It was just so much fun to see it come to life again.” But as much as they loved the house on East 6th Street, the neighborhood was another story. Some of the old houses in Jackson Heights had been bought by investors with no ties to the community and had become cheap rental properties. “We watched drug deals, and prostitution take place right from our front porch,” said Jackie. Her growing concern was shared by her new neighbor, Mike Cochran. As they talked on the sidewalk in front of her home, a plan began to form. Of course, the families in the neighborhood had reason to be concerned. But Mike and Jackie believed preserving the historic neighborhood should be a concern for all. This was Vidalia’s history. The oldest house in the neighborhood is at 601 Durden Street. It was built in 1901 and now houses Comfort Care Hospice. Many of the homes ranged from eighty to over one hundred years old. A look at old maps revealed that the area was known as Jackson Heights. In 2013, Mike, Jackie and Harry spearheaded the formation of the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association. “We began with seven or eight families,” said

Jackie. “The area covers thirty-two blocks. It starts on 2nd Street and goes to where Jackson Street and Church Street Extension come together and from Church Street to Green Street.” The group of families joined together to preserve the legacy of Vidalia’s history. So, who were these families that had a vision for this town? According to the georgiaencyclopedia.org, many of the first settlers were Scots Highlanders from North Carolina. Malcolm McMillan received the first land grant as a Revolutionary War soldier in 1800. A marker in “The Old Vidalia Cemetery,” next to the Vidalia Primitive Baptist Church on Church Street, reads, “An early settler to the area now Vidalia was Malcolm McMillan, who pitched his camp near this site circa 1800, and built his pioneer home…” Other Scots and Scotch/Irish families soon followed, as evidenced by the name on tombstones and wooden markers, such as Campbell, McBryde, McCord, McIntosh, McIntyre, McLeod, McQueen, and McSwain. The oldest known grave in the cemetery dates to 1834. Ownership of the land passed to Roderick McMillan, who sold the original land grant to Daniel McIntyre. When Daniel died, he left his property to his granddaughters, Elizabeth and Caroline. Thomas and Freeman Thompson owned the land next to theirs. The McIntyre sisters and the H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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ss

The U.S. Library of Congre

TOP The Jackson House from which the neighborhood took its name was located next to the library in the area that is now the library parking lot. MIDDLE The Leader-Rosansky House was built in 1922 by a Polish immigrant family who owned one of the first general stores in Vidalia. BOTTOM The oldest house in the neighborhood was built in 1901 and now houses Comfort Care Hospice.

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Thompson brothers entered into a contract with the Americus Investment Company in 1890. Historical materials state that the four agreed to make a land swap and gave what is now downtown Vidalia to build a railroad depot and for development. The year 1890 was also the year the city of Vidalia was incorporated. (Until Toombs County was formed in 1905, the city was part of Montgomery County.) One year earlier, Warren T. Jenkins had moved to the area from North Carolina. After forming a partnership with a large landowner in the area named Jim McNatt, the two set up a turpentine business right next to the projected location for the train depot. Their prospects paid off. By 1910, Vidalia had four lines serving the city: Seaboard Air Line Railroad; Macon, Dublin, and Savannah (MDS) Railroad; Millen and Southwestern Railroad; and Georgia Coast and Piedmont Railroad. In addition, W.T. Jenkins established the first Post Office, which he operated out of his “Jenkins-Meadows Druggist” building in downtown Vidalia. The Jewish community also played an essential part in Vidalia’s establishment. Aaron Rosansky and his brother-in-law Moses Leader were immigrants from Poland. They moved to Vidalia in 1894 and opened a general store called Leader & Rosansky. According to the “Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities” website, “When the store had a grand re-opening one day in 1922, it employed 100 clerks for the event and gave away 3,912 bottles of Chero-Cola to customers.” The Leader-Rosansky house was built in 1903 at 403 Jackson Street. It now houses Lovins and Associates. The house was built by architect Ivy Crutchfield, the same architect that built the Brazell House (Altama Museum and Gallery) and many other historical sites in Toombs County. The Jackson house from which the street and the surrounding neighborhood took its name was at 608 Jackson Street, presently a parking lot for the Vidalia-Toombs County Public Library. Although it no longer stands, pictures of the house are posted on the Library of Congress website as the RiddleJackson House. Interestingly, it was built in 1911, the same year as the Brazell house, which is still standing across the street. Pictures of the former house from the Library of Congress identify it as the “Riddle-Jackson” house, and “contributor names” as Dan Riddle and Ben P. Jackson. According to documents in the Historic American Building Survey of the National Park Service (NPS), “the house was purchased by Ben P. Jackson, Sr. and Estelle Walker Jackson in 1932 and remained in the Jackson family until 1988.” Ben Poole Jackson Sr. and his son, Ben Jackson, Jr., (b.1926—d.1998), were well-respected in the


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community. According to the genealogical website geni.com, Ben Poole Jackson, Sr., (b.1884-d.1972) graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Law in 1909. His wife, Estelle, taught school in Vidalia. In addition to practicing law, B. P. Jackson, as he was known, served as mayor of Vidalia from 1920-to 1923. (His picture hangs on the wall in Vidalia City Hall today.) In 1947, he had a part in forming the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce. B. P. Jackson's son, Ben Jackson, Jr., served in the Navy until the end of WWII. Like his father, he graduated from UGA Law School. He joined his father and Duncan Graham’s law practice when he returned to Vidalia. Many still remember Ben Jackson, Jr. for his incredible photographic memory. Even though the house for which Jackson Heights was named no longer stands, the street and the neighborhood are a legacy to the Jacksons and other families who lived, raised families, and worked to make this town a place their children and grandchildren would be proud to call home. Today, there are fifty-two residences and twentyeight businesses in the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association. Each one is unique. Some of the families who live within the boundaries of Jackson Heights have been in Toombs County for generations. Like the first families of Scottish Highlanders and immigrants from far away, others have only recently made Vidalia home. From the beginning, Mike Cochran has served the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association as President and worked tirelessly for the good of all the members. Harry and Jackie Moses have also done a great deal by restoring several of the old houses in Jackson Heights and reselling them to new owners. The rental property across the street changed hands. “We had a couple of nice families come in,” said Jackie. When the house came on the market, the Moses were able to purchase it. After much renovation

Kirk Little, Owner

work, the 1920s house on 106 E 6th Street was sold to Cathy Collins Lewis. The house at 109 E 6th Street has an especially interesting history. It was built by Mrs. Howell. “She made her front door oversized so her coffin would go through it when she died,” said Jackie. “Mr. O.C. Eidson, a bookkeeper for the old Darby Bank, bought the house. When he died, he left it to his unmarried daughter, Barbara.” She would ultimately become known as “the cat lady” because of the hundreds of dogs and cats she took in over the next thirty years. Barbara was a Library Science professor at UGA and librarian for the state. When she died, she left her property to Harry and Jackie. The house was gutted and renovated by the Moses, then sold to Brenda Currie. Whether old families or new, the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association is committed to preserving a place where future generations can remember the past and build the future. A place where the stories of the past are valued. Where neighbors still look out for neighbors. Where street names remind us that towns are about families. And because of them, the history of Vidalia’s first neighborhood will continue to have a tell its stories to generations to come. A verse in Haggai 2:9 reads, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house…” (NIV). Some may ask, “Why not just replace the old with something new? Wouldn’t it be less work?” Probably. But that’s the glory in redemption and restoration. In restoring what was damaged and no longer usable, there is new life. And that’s what Jackson Heights Historic Neighborhood is really all about. All the houses in Jackson Heights have unique histories. The neighborhood is full of interesting stories. The following is a series of short interviews with just a few of the members.

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Jackson Heights

DENISE & DEREK MCDONALD 701 DURDEN STREE T

“Everybody just waves at me,” the New Zealand native told his wife after a few weeks in Vidalia. Denise smiled. “Just wave back. This is the South. That’s what we do.” Her husband, Derek, thought he was doing something wrong. But Denise, a Southern girl from Florida, assured him it was only a friendly gesture. After long-distance dating, they married, and she left Savannah, Georgia, where she lived at the time, and moved to Derek’s home base in Long Island, New York. A former professional rugby player, Derek had spent the last twenty-four years working for the United Nations as a Transportation Supervisor. His work had taken him all over the world, including two years spent in Iraq. In 2021, Derek retired from his job with the United Nations. Their plan was to buy a house and move to Savannah. Denise put in her notice as manager of a dental office, but the dentist in New York for whom she worked said, ‘You don’t need to quit. You can manage the office from home.' When they started looking for a house in Savannah, Denise said, “Every time we put in a bid someone would literally outbid us by $50,000 to $70,000,” said Denise. So, they expanded their search out from Savannah. When they came across a house in Vidalia, Georgia, they bought it. Except for a few pictures online, they purchased the house sight-unseen. In fact, neither had ever even been to Vidalia, Georgia. “We really didn’t even know what we were getting into,” said Denise. “We knew the house was built in 1945, so we thought we would have to do a lot of renovations. Even though years and years of layers of paint prevented the windows from opening, the house was amazing.” Since the McDonalds were only the third owners, the house had not suffered from multiple occupants. But they did encounter two unexpected revelations about the house. The first was an uneven staircase hidden behind a door that led to an upstairs room the entire length of the house with beautiful wooden floors. The pictures they had seen online had not even shown an upstairs existed.

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The second surprise was a hidden safe. “We got a call from the previous owner,” said Derek. “The guy said that the first owner who built the house, a Mr. Shuman, didn’t trust the banks and was known to hide money in his house.” Mr. Shuman was the proprietor of Shuman’s Grocery Store in Vidalia. “The guy said he knew the location of a hidden safe, but he had not been able to open it. However, he would tell us where it was if we agreed to split whatever we found.” The safe was buried in concrete beneath a hidden floor. From previous attempts to get into the safe, Derek was able to insert a small scope. “It was empty,” he said. But, of course, the true treasure was the house and their new friends in the Jackson Heights Historic Neighborhood Association. As soon as the McDonalds had settled in, Jackie Moses knocked on their front door to welcome them to the neighborhood. “I told them about the neighborhood association,” she said. Then, noticing a couple of big pickup trucks on the street nearby, she added, “So, if you have any trouble with loud neighbors, just let us know, and we’ll do what we can to help.” Derek and Denise both looked at Jackie with puzzled expressions. The only sound heard was the rustling of the wind through the trees. Then, noticing the trucks parked nearby, Denise smiled, “Jackie, we’re from New York!”


ELIZABETH & JIMMIE MONTFORD 503 DURDEN STREE T

Elizabeth Montford graduated from Vidalia High School in 1971. She and her husband Jimmie have lived and worked in Mt. Vernon for many years. “In 2020, Jimmie got Covid and, as a result, had a stroke,” said Elizabeth. “The stroke left him completely disabled.” She had no idea how to begin to make changes to accommodate access for a wheelchair. When Elizabeth’s son, Jeremy Morris, came home for Thanksgiving, he suggested his mother and step-father move to Vidalia. “He lives in North Dakota,” she said. “He wanted to buy me a house that wasn’t so far from the hospital and stores. But he had only seen this house on Zillow.” The house was built in 1943. Information available pointed to a Grenade family as the builders. On a cold day in December, Elizabeth met with the realtor at 4:00 in the afternoon. When she stepped through the front door, she said, “It's got twenty-six windows and old hardwood floors. It was beautiful. It literally brought me to tears.” That was six months ago. Elizabeth joined the association and proudly posted a “Jackson Heights Historic Neighborhood” sign in front of her house. “Open Doors built a nice wheelchair ramp for Jimmie,” she said. Elizabeth not only found the perfect house but also gained a neighborhood of new friendships.

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Jackson Heights

BLAKE & ASHLEE NICOLE TILLERY 402 DURDEN STREE T

Blake Tillery’s parents first came to Toombs County in the early 80s for work at the Nuclear Plant. After he graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in 2010, Blake came back to Vidalia and went to work with Tommy Smith’s Law Firm. When one of the oldest houses in Jackson Heights came on the market in 2012, Blake bought it at what he thought was a great price. “When I bought it, I thought it would be a fun renovation project,” said Blake. But there was a good reason for the low price. Large sections of the wood in the house built in 1903 were too damaged by termites even to save. There was no subfloor. What had been a 13-foot ceiling had been dropped to ten. The floor-to-ceiling heart pine and beadboard were painted a Pepto Bismol pink.” Blake worked on the house for three years with help from his father, brothers, and friends Phillip Edge and Tracy Jackson. “We literally cut 13x13 timbers out of the house with a chainsaw where termite damage made it beyond saving. We would cut out that part, jack up underneath, and build a new footing,” he said. During the renovation, Blake discovered various items hidden in the walls that belonged to previous families that lived in the house. “We were able to return those,” he said. “I have a wallet that belonged to someone we weren’t able to locate.” With Jeremy Moore as his roommate, the two moved into the house and continued to work. By the time Blake and Ashlee Nicole married in 2016, the house was ready to begin a new chapter. That same year, Blake was elected our State Senator. In 2020, the house went through another round of renovations to accommodate the Tillery’s expanding family. In 2021, their son John was born, and the old house is alive with the sounds of love and new life. When the Tillerys remodeled their home, they exposed the brick of the original fireplace to retain some of the home's historical character.

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As it goes with older houses, many of the owners are familiar with renovation projects. Jackie and Harry Moses have completed several renovations to homes in Jackson Heights including this one on E 6th Street.


BOB & BECKY NADEKOW 410 D U R D E N S T R E E T

Three of the houses on Durden Street are members of the same family: Bob Nadekow, District Court Administrator at Eighth Judicial Administrative District of Georgia, his father, Robert Nadekow, and his son, Jonathon Nadekow, and daughter, Crystal Moutabakkir with her three children. Bob grew up in Connecticut and Florida and came to Georgia at eighteen to attend school at Mercer. In 1999, he returned to Vidalia and moved in across the street from his parents on Durden Street. His parents, Bob and Patricia Nadekow, had moved from South Florida to live out their retirement years closer to family members in Vidalia three years earlier. Their house at 409 Durden Street was built in 1928. Bob’s house at 410 Durden Street had suffered a great deal of damage as a rental property. With his four children, Bob took a sledgehammer to the wall separating the two sides of what had been a duplex and began what would become years of repair and renovations. Even though his house was built in 1943, much later than his parent’s home, the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen was only five feet tall and about 28 inches wide. The question, of course, is, Why so small? Sources on the subject suggest that doorways in older houses were smaller to keep heat in and wind out. Of course, we can only speculate. But the doorway was just one of many aspects of the house that had to be torn out and renovated. When Bob and Becky married in 2002, the former duplex became home to three of Bob’s children and Becky’s four. “With seven kids in the school system, we always had three or four extra friends at the table at supper time,” said Bob. Thanks to the Nadekows, the Jackson Heights historic neighborhood gets considerable publicity every Christmas. “We’ve been doing it for so long that we now have secondgeneration families,” said Bob. “We’ve had a ‘live Grinch’ and Santa Claus. We show movies on a big screen in front of the house, and people come and sit on the hay bales with their families to watch.” Twenty-one years and countless renovations later, the house holds over two decades of memories. Bob lost his mother in 2021, but his father is still just across the way and some of their kids and grandkids just up the street. For the Nadekow family, Jackson Heights is a place where neighbors know neighbors and family is near. It’s a closeness few families get to enjoy these days. Family, home, and a sense of community: These are the values held by families like the Nadekows in Jackson Heights.

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Jackson Heights

FRED & LYNDI DEAN 407 D U R D E N S T R E E T

When Lyndi moved home, she meant to stay. “I never intended to go back to California. But it took Fred a little longer to shut down shop and move here permanently,” she said, smiling at her husband. Vidalia would always be home for Lyndi Dean. Her parents, Louis and Frances Cowart, came to Vidalia in 1955, one year before she was born. “There were only four houses in Meadows Estates at the time, and they were the first to live there,” said Lyndi. She graduated from Vidalia High School in 1974 and got a degree in Art Education from Georgia Southern University. After college, Lyndi moved to Atlanta to work. While there, she met Fred Dean. The two were married in 1983. Fred is originally from Columbus, Ohio. He came south to attend Georgia Institute

HARRY & REBA ZEIGLER 902 MOSLEY STREE T

“I guess you could say I moved from Jenkins County for a man,” said Reba. She and her husband Harry laughed goodheartedly. The Zeiglers bought the house on Mosley Street from Ms. Mary Coursey in 1998. First built in 1943, it had been well cared for and required minor repair. The couple has both served the community through social work. Reba worked at Oxley Park Health & Rehabilitation for many years. She also worked in the counseling center at Pineland Mental Health. After her retirement, Reba continues to work as a sitter with the elderly. Harry previously worked with the Energy Assistance Program. Today, he works with Action Pact Incorporated, formerly known as Concerted Services as a Medicare Specialist with the Division of Aging Services. The Zeiglers raised their four daughters in the Jackson Heights neighborhood. It was a home filled with friends and sleepovers. A place where neighbors looked out for neighbors. Now that their children are grown, visits with the Zeigler’s eleven grandchildren continue to fill the house with joy. And three generations know the house on Mosely Street as a place with memories made and years of new memories to look forward. 112

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Fred and Lyndi's house was formerly Pearl Price Florist (BELOW), but underwent extensive renovations after they moved in. BOTTOM AND OPPOSITE Writer Teri Williams meets with Jackson Heights neighbors at the Dean's home.


of Technology (Georgia Tech). He spent his senior year of college in Paris, France, through a study abroad program where he attended the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1978, Fred graduated from Georgia Tech with a Master of Architecture degree. After only eighteen months of work with a registered architect, Fred passed his licensing exam and started his own company called Dean Architecture and Design, LLC. After they married, Lyndi went back to school. She graduated with a BFA in Interior Design from Georgia State University and immediately went to work for an interior design company in Atlanta called Carson Guest. “We did corporate interior design,” said Lyndi. At the time, Fred had a lot of residential work for “young couples building big houses. So, I also did the interior design work for some of his clients.” In 1990, Fred was hired to design a large estate in Malibu, and the couple moved to Los Angeles, California. “We were on-site for six years, which is not uncommon for a large estate. It can take over a year to get just one permit in California,” he explained. And, no, he could not reveal the name of his clients. (Of course, I asked.) “Non-disclosure” agreements were part and parcel of work for high-profile clients in Malibu. In addition to her work in interior design, Lyndi worked as a manager with California Closets. Again, a non-disclosure agreement prevented her from giving me the inside scoop on the closets of the rich and famous. Firmly established in California, Fred was also hired for consultation work by an international asset management company. “They manage executive’s assets. That’s about the only way to put it,” he laughed. “They needed an architect

because many of the assets involved buildings.” The work for this company took him to places like India, Australia, Malaysia, England, and Spain. In 2010, Lyndi’s mother died at the age of ninety. “My father was ninetyone and living by himself. So I came back to Vidalia and rented a place to be closer to him,” she said. Lyndi's father died in 2013. “When I came home, I was always going to stay.” Both Lyndi and Fred continued to travel back and forth between California and Georgia for work. With most of Fred’s work at the time in California, he spent more time there. But as word got out that he was in the area, that has changed. In 2015, Fred made the permanent move to Vidalia. While still having a presence in California, currently he also serves as Architect for Low Tide Designs in Bluffton, South Carolina, as well as maintaining his architectural practice Dean Architecture and Design, LLC in Vidalia. With his knowledge and analytical skill as an architect, and her prolific vision as an interior designer, he and Lyndi together serve clients both locally and regionally. In 2018, Lyndi discovered the house on Durden Street. “It was built in 1928 by Mr. Whatley; I believe he worked for the railroad” she said. His son was attorney, Will Whatley. After him, Mrs. Lewis lived there. But what most people remember is the Pearl Price Florist. She ran it out of the house for about fifty years. When she died, her grandson, Andy Thompson, fixed it up a bit, and it was rented to some x-ray technicians

for a couple of years.” When Lyndi looked at the house, she knew she had found the home for her and Fred in Vidalia. Even though Fred has designed many new houses, the couple has never built or bought a new house. “It’s just not us,” said Lyndi. Perhaps it’s the challenge of restoration or simply the joy of rescuing what some might consider a lost cause. Whatever the draw, the house was about to undergo some loving restoration. All that remained of the kitchen was a sink hanging on a wall. The front still looked like a greenhouse from the days of Pearl Price Florist. But there were ten-foot ceilings. Two spacious bedrooms. A gracious hallway. The Deans opened up the kitchen and family room areas by removing two walls. Tucked away behind a narrow cabinet door was an original ironing board. The kitchen cabinets and shelves were the original bead boards. “We just added some extra support,” said Lyndi. The Deans plan to add a bathroom and expand the family room area in the future. What impressed me most about Lyndi and Fred Dean was not their long list of accomplishments (minus the famous names) but their willingness to open their home for me to meet some of the members of the neighborhood association. It’s almost a lost art, this openness to engage with both and old and new friends. Perhaps the more significant restoration work is not the old houses in Jackson Heights but the restoration of neighbors sharing community life again.

For more information about Vidalia's downtown history visit this resource: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/96001020_text H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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Rooted in Every Layer of Business! Become part of the Greater Vidalia® Chamber

Growing Leaders- Growing our Future The Greater Vidalia® Chamber graduates two leadership classes Adult Leadership: Leadership Greater Vidalia® Class of 2021/2022 graduated on Friday April 15th at Partin Park in Lyons. After 8 months of sessions which included an Orientation, Agriculture, Education, Culture & Leisure, Government, Health & Social Services, and Economic Development, the class is excited to go out into the community to begin practicing their leadership skills. Graduating this year were Amber O’Connor, Jordan Robins, Eric Smith, Justin Quarterman, Pat Mitchell, Leitha Barfield, Michelle Branham, Laurie Holland, Tonawanda Irie, Amelia Lane, Wil Ledford, Will NeSmith, Charleen Norfleet, Stephanie Wardlaw, Madison Barwick, and Gabrielle Daniels. Youth Leadership: The Greater Vidalia® Youth Leadership class culminated on Monday, March 21st at Lyons First Baptist Church for the graduation of the 2021-2022 class. The graduation ceremony gives the students

the opportunity to show their parents, program sponsors, and the participating school officials what they learned during the program about themselves, our community, and how they can contribute as future leaders. Program co-chair Marissa Brown stated, “This group of students really is impressive. They developed so much throughout the year, and I cannot wait to see them come back to lead our community one day.” During the program the students learn about different business sectors in our community such as: Agriculture, Economic Development, and Healthcare and Community Services as well as develop themselves in sessions titled Orientation, Professional Development, and Putting Your Best Foot Forward. Thank you to our program Presenting Sponsor, Southern Nuclear and our Graduation event sponsors, BrewtonParker College, and The Temples Company.

2021/22 Leadership Greater Vidalia Class includes: Front Row L-R: Pat Mitchell, Ann Owens, Gabrielle Daniels, Jordan Robins, Madison Barwick; Second Row L-R: Charleen Norfleet, Michelle, Branham, Laurie Holland, Stephanie Wardlaw; Third Row L-R: Amelia Lane, Tonawanda Irie, Eric Smith, Amber O’Connor; Back Row L-R: Garrett Wilcox, Blythe Wilcox, Leitha Barfield, Wil Ledford, Will NeSmith, Gerriell Craig, Justin Quarterman 116

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Save the Date Summit: A Business Leadership Conference September 22nd Business Expo October 13th I AM THE CHAMBER October 19th

Youth Leadership members: Back Row L-R: Cameron Coleman, Mason Beacham, Hughes Graham, Daniel Hodges, Jackson Newton, Bryce Davis, Henry Hagan, Dalton Henriott; Middle Row L-R: Maggie Beach, Matlin Mead, Maggie Herrin, Rileigh Robinson, Bailey Holland, Riya Patel, Danni Thompson, Moriah Wardlaw, Tate McDaniel; Front Row L-R: Emma Tapley, Makaila Wardlaw, Aspen Johnson, Jada Lawrence, Mikkelle Peters


ConnectHER ConnectHER, A Gathering For Women, was established in 2020 to provide women in our community an opportunity to gather for food, drinks, shopping and sisterhood. The event has grown in attendance every year since it’s inception with almost 200 women at this year’s event. This year’s shopping featured local women owned shops and service providers including Mary’s/ M Squared Design Firm, Terry’s Flooring and Blinds, Peppy’s, Edna’s Marketplace, Terra Dolce Farms, The General Store and Vidalia Honey, Appearances Beauty Studio, and Regenerative Medicine Associates. The speaker for the evening was Darla Harms, CEO of Small Town Girls Play Big. Her non-profit focuses on empowering women to love themselves, and love each other. She encouraged all of those in attendance to love themselves in the season they are in, and a copy of her book “No Fat Chicks: Overcoming Body Shame and Living in Authenticity” was provided to each attendee. This event was Presented by Mary’s/ M Squared Design Firm with Gold Sponsors Accordia Urgent Care and Family Practice, Dermatology Associates, and The Georgia Power Company.

Why Join the Greater Vidalia® Chamber? Our mission is to prepare, develop, and promote our businesses and community for economic growth. The Greater Vidalia® Chamber (GVC) is the strongest and largest business /leadership organization in our community. Simply put: We’re in business to help business. If you want to start a business, grow a business, take part in leadership development or advocacy programs, the Greater Vidalia® Chamber is for you! Perks of Chamber Membership include: SizeUP® Business Analytics Tool

Members-only Business Referrals

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Ribbon Cuttings, Open House, and Groundbreaking Events Chamber 101 Video Series

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Listing in GVC Business Directory

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And So Much More!

For more information, please contact Membership Services Director, Dana Brown via email at danab@greatervidaliachamber.com or directly by phone at 912.537.4466.

To stay updated on what your Chamber is doing, visit www.greatervidaliachamber.com and sign up for our email newsletters!

Invest locally with... Investing In Our Community’s Future

What are Community Bucks?

Community Bucks are checks that can be spent at over 70 chamber member businesses. There is no fee to purchase a gift check. For a complete list of accepting businesses, go to www.greatervidaliachamber. com, click on Member Directory and search for “Community Bucks Participants.”

Why Buy Community Bucks?

The Chamber provides this as a service to our members and to encourage residents to buy local.

Membership Has Many Great Benefits!

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THE VIDALIA ONION FESTIVAL We asked our facebook community to share some of their best views of Onion Festival Weekend and the pictures did not disappoint.

through your eyes

PHOTO BY BROOK BLANKENSHIP

PHOTO BY DESIREE GALBREATH

PHOTO BY ELSA QUINTERO

PHOTO BY TERESA JONES

PHOTO BY JAMIE SMITH

PHOTO BY LISA YOUNG 118

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PHOTO BY CARLA LOVELESS

PHOTO BY TERESA JONES

PHOTO BY SABRINA WOODRUFF

PHOTO BY SABRINA WOODRUFF

PHOTO BY LISA YOUNG


PHOTO BY SABRINA WOODRUFF

PHOTO BY CHRISTINA STORKAMP

PHOTO BY SABRINA WOODRUFF

PHOTO BY ELSA QUINTERO

PHOTO BY TERESA JONES

PHOTO BY ED WONN

PHOTO BY CHRISTINA STORKAMP

PHOTO BY JADA CLARK

PHOTO BY JORDAN ELLIS

PHOTO BY BROOK BLANKENSHIP

PHOTO BY IVETTE TORRES

PHOTO BY SYLVIA GARCIA

PHOTO BY TERESA JONES

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STINNETT

PHOTO BY LISA YOUNG H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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Vidalia Main Street SHOP LOCAL. EAT LOCAL. SPEND LOCAL. YOUR COMMUNITY WILL THANK YOU.

Forward Thinking 2022 has been about forward thinking. Yeah, we have some great things going on now… but what about the next few years? We want to continue to keep thriving downtown! Earlier this year, I was nominated to be a member of the Georgia Downtown Association Board of Directors; I’m one of around 15 members from across the state who unite to strengthen downtowns throughout Georgia through networking, advocacy, and professional development. We are part of a grass-roots program with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government in order to develop a Downtown Professionals Program. I am excited to be a part of this group and know it will benefit our local downtown as well as others across the state. Our organization is membership based. When we began looking at our membership levels at the end of 2021, we noticed a need for change: the bulk of our members were in the “general” category. General? Hmmmm….our members are anything but general — our local businesses are what make us who we are! So “general” members are now supporters, which work alongside our sustainers, partners, and champions. Those words describe us much better because they illustrate what we do! If you’re not a member of DVA, we’d love to have you! In February, our Board, along with members from the Downtown Development Authority, participated in a strategic planning session with the head of Georgia Main Street and their economic development specialist. We assessed and prioritized things we want to see happen downtown, and let me tell you: great things are coming! In early May, I attended the kick-off session for CREATE, a twoyear cohort program focused on Cultivating Rural Entrepreneurs And Transforming Economies, which is sponsored by Georgia Power. Our community was chosen as 1 of 6 from around the state to receive a $5,000 seed grant to kick-start implementation of ideas as part of the strategic planning process. All of this information and networking is going to greatly enhance our organization, our downtown, and ultimately, our community.

2022 Board of Directors PRESIDENT Greg Hudgins, GA Power VICE PRESIDENT Valerie McLendon, Altamaha Bank & Trust TREASURER Amy Murray, City of Vidalia SECRETARY Julie Palmer, Palmer & Associates Insurors Rhonda Jones, Dermatology Associates Jessie Carter, Rural Roots Beauty Bar Wendi Cason, Community Hospice Cindy Reddick, Accessorize It! Designs EX-OFFICIO DIRECTORS Doug Roper, Mayor Nick Overstreet, City Manager Bob Dixon, City Council Liaison Jennifer Evans, City Council/DDA Liaison Wendell Dixon, County Commissioner Alexa Britton, Convention & Visitors Bureau Ann Owens, Great Vidalia Chamber

Keep Up With Local Events! www.vidaliaga.gov/dva Downtown Vidalia Association @downtownvidalia 120

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DON’T MISS WHAT’S HAPPENING DOWNTOWN...

Chocolate Walk Chocolate Walk volunteers

Enjoying the Chocolate Walk

Sweeten your Ride volunteers

Onion ring tent volunteers

Sweeten your Ride Check Presentation Yumion says “No! Don’t cook me!”

Sweeten your Ride volunteers from the Young Gentlemen’s Club at JR Trippe Middle School

Members of Young Gentlemen’s Club touring the VFD fire truck

Downtown Chalk Walk

Working at the Onion Ring fundraiser during the Vidalia Onion Festival Strategic Planning Session

President Greg Hudgins with new Board members Wendi Cason and Cindy Reddick

Coffee Before Hours at The Hair Company

THANK YOU MEMBERS! CHAMPIONS

Altamaha Bank & Trust GA Power Georgia First Bank Toombs Co. Board of Commissioners

PARTNERS

DOT Foods Mt. Vernon Bank Dermatology Associates Chapman Pharmacy Arlene’s Fine Jewelry

Vyve Communications Kailey Dees State Farm

SUSTAINERS

Accessorize It! Designs Peoples Bank Ann & Karl Owens January’s Boholic Boutique Phillips Pharmacy The Temples Company Vidalia Honey Co. Sign & Stamp Solutions Shoney’s

SUPPORTERS

The Garden House Pix Photography Pix Photo & Gifts Peppy’s KE Butler and Company Jewelers Goin’ Postal Second Blessings Vidalia Motorsports Meridy’s Uniforms Soothing Sensations Sugar Britches Boutique Massie McIntyre P.C.

Wilkes Office Machine Accordia Urgent Care Republic Services Dean Architecture GA Peach Clothing & Co. Great Vidalia Chamber of Commerce Dixon Management The Printed Word Brown’s Jewelry Merle Norman Cosmetics The Unique Boutique SensiPlay Pediatric Therapy

Palmer & Associates Insurors Royal T’s Rural Roots Beauty Bar Webster Motor Co. Red Door Design/Toombs County Magazine Bishop-Durden Insurance Brown Insurance Group Jennifer McComas P.C. Maddie Bea 1st Franklin Financial Radio Jones Group Brown Implement & Milling Co.

Bill’s Donuts & Bake Shop Mimosa Gift Boutique The Altama Museum Lady Luxe Boutique General Store 30474 Mary’s/M Squared Designs The Hair Company Vidalia Onion Committee Southern Creations Florist & Gifts Greater GA Insurance Accordia Urgent Care

NEW BUSINESSES

The Brice House Dental Center of Vidalia Doodlebugs Hibbett Sports KC’s Kitchen and Café McIntyre’s MDesigns, LLC Nic & Nat’s Boutique Sh’macarons Taylor’s Classy Paws Bryant O’Connor Law Firm Agape Care Group Burlap & Twine

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Happening in your hometown!

Great things are happening in downtown Lyons!

Soap Box Derby Rally Races August 6 & 7, November 19 & 20

Lyons Main Street will be relocating to the building next door. It is under renovation and will allow for the museum to be open during business hours. Our office, Welcome Center, and Museum will be in one building. A new park on the corner of NW Broad St. and N Washington St. is under construction. We have wonderful volunteers dreaming up a special place for the community to meet, relax and have a good time. Our website has been updated. Go to www.lyonsmainstreet.com to find a list of businesses, community calendar, walking map, information about Lyons, how to start a business, facade program, and other useful information.

Real Squeal October 7 & 8

Scare on the Square TBA

Winter WonderLyons and Lyons Christmas Parade December 2

Text LYONSMAINSTREET TO 22828 to sign up for our newsletter

Tales from the Altamaha is back!

Catch the Derby Spirit

After two years with no community theater, we are happy to say “Tales is back!”. Our committee has been hard at work since January to make the show go on. We had eight great shows in April with the addition of some new talent. Three of our young folk received $1000 scholarships and another won $100 in the Interview an Octogenarian Contest. New friends were made and our little family of friends pulled each other through another season. The Blue Marquee Theater has had some renovations during those off years. There is a nice rounded front to the stage with a new stage floor and trim. If you thought it looked a bit different, you were right. It’s a wonderful addition to our hometown theater and we are proud to be part of its history. If you’ve ever thought about acting or helping backstage, give us a shout, there is always a job to do. Planning for next year’s play will soon begin and a new set of tales will be gathered to weave into a new chapter of Tales from the Altamaha. Car Show

October 7th & 8th

Street Dance Fireworks Disc Golf Tournament Arts & Crafts Indian Artifact Show and MORE!

We’ve had a wonderful year racing! Four rally races were held throughout the year so racers can earn enough points to race in Akron, OH at the International Soap Box Derby. Our local race was held the last weekend of April starting on Friday with the Super Kids Race. This race is for mentally and physically challenged racers. Special two-seat cars were built and wrapped in Super Hero skins so they can race down derby hill with an experienced driver. We have three winners (stock, super stock, and masters division) headed to Akron in July with $1000 each to help on their journey. Miss Soap Box Derby Pageant was a great success. We have a new court of queens and they have been busy. You may have seen them at the Onion Festival, Special Olympics, covering Inspection night on Facebook, and at the derby. These young ladies are giving back to the community and won a total of $2350 in scholarships.

PHOTO BY EZ-E PHOTOGRAPHY

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. 122 TO O M B S CO U N T Y M A G A Z I N E


index of advertisers A Health Revival........................................................................ 21 AAA Roofing, Inc....................................................................... 90 Agape Care Group................................................................... 55 Accessorize It Designs............................................................. 31 Allcare Pharmacy....................................................................... 56 Alston Saw Shop......................................................................114 Altamaha Animal Clinic............................................................ 89 Altamaha Bank & Trust............................................................. 19 Altamaha EMC........................................................................... 56 Arlene’s Fine Jewelry................................................................ 34 Barberitos................................................................................... 56 Big Al’s Country Market.......................................................... 89 Brewton Parker College.......................................................... 43 Brown’s Jewelry......................................................................... 16 Brown Realty................................................................................ 7 Brown Insurance Group............................................................ 7 Bryant O’Connor, LLP Attorneys at Law............................. 34 Buckhorn Creek Consulting................................................... 65 Canooche EMC......................................................................... 90 Chapman Healthcare Pharmacy............................................. 44 Chick-fil-A.....................................................Inside Front Cover Coca-Cola................................................................................... 47 Community Hospice............................................... Back Cover Dale’s Hair Care Center.......................................................114 Darby Dental Services............................................................. 17 Dean Architecture and Design............................................... 68 Dental Center of Vidalia............................................................ 1 Dermatology Associates.......................................................... 22 Dixon O’Neal Agency.............................................................. 89 Doodlebugs..............................................................................114 DOT Foods................................................................................ 69 Downtown Bistro & Catering..............................................114 Edward Jones.............................................................................. 54 Elements....................................................................................117 Farmers Insurance.................................................................... 32 Floor, Decor and More............................................................ 46 Frame Gallery............................................................................ 31 Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center..................................... 35 Gabby’s........................................................................................ 92 General Store 30474................................................................ 90 Georgia Eye Institute................................................................ 76 Georgia First.............................................................................. 11 Georgia Properties................................................................... 76 Gilbert Jones & Associates...................................................... 68 Glow Salon................................................................................. 66 Greg McKenzie Builders.......................................................... 57 Ingley Roper Moore, LLC........................................................ 67 J&B’s Rare 2 Welldone............................................................114

K E Butler & Company Jewelers............................................ 44 Little Folks Farm & Childcare................................................. 88 Lovins Realty................................................................................ 2 Madonna H. Paradice, PC........................................................ 77 Meadows Park Health & Rehabilitation.............................102 Memory Lane Catering & Cakes........................................... 86 Mixon Pecan Company..........................................................102 Mobley’s Well and Pump Service........................................... 90 Moses Pecan Company............................................................ 45 Mount Vernon Bank.................................................................. 23 Neurological Center of East Georgia................................... 32 New Image Salon and Spa....................................................... 46 Nine Columns Bed & Breakfast...........................................115 Ohoopee Land and Timber, LLC..........................................102 One World Solar.....................................................................101 Oxley Dental of Vidalia.............................................................. 5 Oxley Park Health & Rehabilitation...................................... 57 Palmer Furniture.....................................................................115 Peoples Bank.............................................................................. 55 Peppy’s......................................................................................... 65 Phillips Pharmacy....................................................................... 68 Red Stag Tavern.......................................................................... 78 Reedy Creek Meat Company................................................. 92 Regenerative Medicine Associates, LLC............................... 18 Reidsville Veterinary Clinic...................................................... 78 Rivers Air Conditioning & Heating........................................ 54 Roberts-Stewart Funeral Home............................................ 79 Rural Roots Beauty Bar........................................................... 13 Salter Shook Attorneys at Law............................................101 Solace Hospice........................................................................109 Solid Ground Farms..............................................................107 Spa On First............................................................................... 79 Stacie Avery, CPA, PC............................................................... 78 State Farm Insurance/Kailey Dees........................................ 92 Tar Land and Timber................................................................ 93 The Hair Company................................................................... 86 The Tillery Firm PC..................................... Inside Back Cover Thriftway...................................................................................102 Tots 2 Teens................................................................................ 14 Vidalia Federal Savings.............................................................. 33 Vidalia Gymnastics Cheer and Dance................................114 Vidalia Honey Company.......................................................... 93 Vidalia Pediatric Clinic............................................................. 15 Vidalia Small Engine Service.................................................... 69 Wiggins Family Practice.........................................................115 Woody Folsom Automotive Group...................................... 77 Yancy Eye Center.................................................................... 8, 9 Zaxby’s........................................................................................... 3

Shop local. Eat local. Spend local. Enjoy local. Invest in your community.

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photo by | DEBRA HUDDLESTON 124

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Scenes of

Toombs C N

o.

ature is pretty amazing. A single late spring frost can swoop in and reduce the landcape to barren brown patches of dead grass and foliage. Then within a few days, an outdpouring of

rain can quickly bring healing as shocked buds burst into full bloom and trees bear thick green leaves again. Southerners are resilient like that. We know how to work through hard times and keep going until we feel the warmth of the sun shining on us again. This is another great reason it’s good to be part of

Toombs County!

photo by | DIANNE S. MIXON H O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T

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photo by | DIANNE S. MIXON photo by | JOE CLARONI

photo by | DIANNE S. MIXON

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photo by | JOE CLARONI


photo by | DIANNE S. MIXON

photo by | HUNTER HITCHCOCK

photo by | ED WONN

Submit your favorite scene of Toombs County to ToombsCountyMagazine@gmail.com


LAST Words

Ann Owens is a writer, creative genius, entrepreneur, mother, and wife who enjoys pondering what makes the world click.

Becoming GrAnnie It’s not so complicated after all. In case you are living under a rock and haven’t heard yet, I am the proud owner of my first grandson, Reed Allen “Bubs” Hamilton. By that, I don’t mean that everyone should be aware of what is going on in my life, what I mean is that I just can’t quit talking and bragging about this kid to anyone who will listen. I’ve been called “obnoxious” not once but twice, and I have no regrets. If you see me coming and you don’t want to hear about him, I suggest you go in the other direction and do not make eye contact. This baby… he’s like a male Mary Poppins and is “practically perfect in every way”. He’s got this gorgeous complexion, eyes to melt into, a perfectly round swirl of hair on the back of his head, and lots of chins and thigh rolls just like his GrAnnie. He has found his smile and giggle and uses them a lot to force me into submission and wield his power over me. I just can’t even tell you how delicious he is and how much I love him; there really are not enough words. But ya’ll, things have changed so much in the baby world since I was in it. I’ve had to catch myself up to speed on the “necessities” and it is truly astounding what is available now for babies and moms. It’s too much, really, and it makes me grateful that I didn’t have instant access to blogs, vlogs, podcasts and social media groups that will offer hundreds of differing opinions on any subject from breastfeeding to poop color and consistency, providing you with a constant measuring stick to see if you’re doing motherhood right. There are thousands of baby items for every possible scenario; I have already gone down that rabbit hole and it is incredible. With the accessories available today, your baby should never have to be uncomfortable, unstimulated or unmonitored. The number of shapes, sizes and types of baby bottles and pacifiers is astounding. You can get vegan organic muslin bibs in a 3-pack for $29.00, and they 128

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now make onesies with magnetic closures, 2-way zippers, or just the plain old snapsin-the-crotch for us poor people. There are humidifiers shaped like mountains that change colors, sound machines that take baby to the rainforest, the ocean, or a bird sanctuary, and hundreds of different styles of burrito swaddles that I had no idea were an absolute necessity in sleeping soundly. There are strollers that convert to a car seat and car seats that convert to rocket ships for thousands of dollars and if you haven’t understood what I’m saying yet, the baby accessory business is the business to be in. Somebody needs to invent a stroller that grandmothers can use without having to enlist the help of 4 different people including the Mayor of Vidalia. This may or may not have happened to me just last week, but no worries, we finally got it thanks to our Georgia Power guy. That experience brought new meaning to the term, “It takes a village”. Since I knew I was going to be babysitting him for a while, I equipped myself with all those accessories that other grandmothers and mothers told me I would need to build a successful GrAnnie/Bubs environment. I got all the seats that do all the things, the monitor, the crib, the changing table, the bouncy chair, etc., and in the process, realized that I had forgotten some very simple and important things about loving and caring for a baby, things I didn’t think I would ever forget. I was simply trying too hard. Here’s the thing, this grandmother doesn’t need a seat that vibrates or a chair that swings because I’ve got built in pillows and his bottom fits perfectly in the palm of my hand while I gently pat him and bounce him up and down. I didn’t need a changing table because the ottoman works perfectly. I don’t need a baby monitor because I have mama ears and they hear everything. And, best of all, I don’t need machines that make the sound of the ocean to calm him down or help him go to sleep because

one day, totally unexpectedly, I found my Grandmother Magic and trust me when I tell you that it is a very real and beautiful thing. We were in the rocking chair, and I was trying to get him to sleep, but he was so agitated that nothing was working. I began talking to him in a very calm and quiet voice and telling him the story of what his life was going to be like as he grew up. I told him all about the farm and how Papa would give him and Carson (my next grandson due in July) a bucket to pick up pecans. We talked about how they would have little boy work boots that we kept in the barn and how they would each have different colors. I told him they would have fishing poles and cricket baskets and recited the poem…”Fishy, fishy in the brook, Papa catch him on the hook, GrAnnie fry him in the pan, Bubs eat him like a man.” I told him what it looks like at the farm–when it’s hot and how to blow gnats, when it rains and how to wait it out on the barn porch, when it’s cold and all the leaves are gone, and what it feels like to watch the sunset on the other side of the pond. I told him about mud and worms and snakes, how peanut butter sandwiches go with ice cold glasses of milk, and how fun it is watching cookies bake through the oven window. The whole time I was telling him these stories, he was looking straight into my eyes and was totally captivated and still. Every once in awhile he would smile so big that his pacifier would fall out, and I swear if he could talk he would have said, “Tell me some more stories, GrAnnie. What color will my boots be and what color will Carson have?” It all happened in that very moment and in that very chair. I caught my groove and I caught the magic and I was officially a grandmother. I was so overwhelmed and couldn’t help but burst into tears because this was a big day for me, and I knew it. I knew with everything in my heart that the only thing my grandchildren will ever need from me and their Papa are our stories, our hands to hold and our laps to sit in. I shall leave all the accessories and bottles and seats and organic linens to their parents because that is no longer my job. I’m in a new club now, and I am really going to like it here.


The Tillery Firm, P.C. New Name, Same Exceptional Service

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

www.tilleryfirm.com


COMPASSION DIGNITY CARE

C E L E B R AT I N G

23 Y E A R S O F S E R V I C E

Community Hospice Reaching Out To Families...Since 1999 At Community Hospice your loved one will receive the best possible care by the area’s leading hospice provider. Our staff is professionally trained to provide not only physical and emotional comfort, but also spiritual and social care for the patient, family and significant others. Quality of life is our goal and we offer the finest, full-family care program available in Vidalia and 14 surrounding counties. s s s s

Home Hospice Services The Area’s Only Hospice House Grief Support & Bereavement Services Medical & Social Workers

s s s s

Home Health Aides & Skilled Nursing Services Advocates Dietary Counseling Financial Aid Available Through Community Hospice Non-Profit Foundation

Locally Owned & Operated Vickie & Royce Ryles Founders

Jason Colbert, CHPCA Jason Colbert, CHPCA, CEO

Chief Executive Officer

912.537.0063 | 800.477.4758 | www.vidaliahospice.com 904 Mt. Vernon Road, Vidalia, GA 30474 Lic. #138135H

/Community Hospice