Toombs County Magazine Fall/Winter 2021

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Toombs COUNTY MAGAZINE

Keeper of the Bees Heather Davis builds a thriving business around apiculture

Play to Win, but Enjoy the Clover

A Mother to All

Coach Fletcher Corbin teaches the value of skills and fun to local soccer players

The kids call her Coach, but Renee Bullard is more like a surrogate mom

The Power of Light Fiber optic cable delivers affordable broadband to rural parts of Toombs Co.

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


ittleAspice make littletospice to make the holidays nice the holidays nice

Chicken Tortilla Soup Chicken Tortilla Soup

Catering for all occasions FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY © 2021 CFA Properties, Inc. All trademarks shown are the property of their respective owners. Nov ‘21.

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY

Catering for all occasions

© 2021 CFA Properties, Inc. All trademarks shown are the property of their respective owners. Nov ‘21.

“It’s an honor to serve you and your families.”

–the McDade Family

Vidalia FSU • chick-fil-a.com • 9125380711

Vidalia FSU • chick-fil-a.com • 9125380711 © 2021 CFA Properties, Inc. All trademarks shown are the property of CFA Properties, Inc.

© 2021 CFA Properties, Inc. All trademarks shown are the property of CFA Properties, Inc.

Vidalia @chickfilaofvidaliageorgia


Left to right: Dr. Kacy Morris, Dr. Stewart Hamilton, Dr. Logan Christian, Dr. Rick Kimbrel, and Dr. Scotty Blanchard Jr.

We are here for you!

Whatever your dental need is, we are a team that you can trust! Our doctors offer over 75 years of combined experience. Now welcoming new patients.

Dental Center of

Vidalia

Cosmetic Dentistry • Preventive Dentistry Dental Implants • Restorative Dentistry

We offer state-of-the-art dentistry with highly-trained professionals and specialize in smile makeovers, plus: Full Service Dentistry with Two Types of Sedation | Veneers | Fillings & Extractions | Endodontics | TMJ Oral Surgery | Teeth Whitening | Licensed Orthodontics | Botox | Juvederm | Fillers and much more

Call 912.537.7048 to schedule an appointment! 311 Pete Phillips Dr., Vidalia, GA • www.dentalcentervidalia.com


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

If You’re Buying or Selling Real Estate, We’d Love to Connect Wth You!

Community Contacts Emergencies Dial 9-1-1

CITY OF VIDALIA Police 912-537-4123 Fire 912-537-4388 City Hall 912-537-7661 Public Works 912-537-4566 Solid Waste/Recycling 912-538-1714 Recreation 912-537-7913 recdept@vidaliaga.gov

Vidalia City Schools Vidalia Board of Education 912-537-3088 JD Dickerson Primary 912-537-3421 Sally D Meadows Elementary 912-537-4755 JR Trippe Middle School 912-537-3813 Vidalia High School 912-537-7931 Hospital Meadows Health 912-535-5555

Toombs County Police 912-537-4123 Fire 912-537-4388 City Hall 912-537-7661 Public Works 912-537-4566 Solid Waste Landfill 912-537-9966 Cedar Crossing 912-594-8100 Gibson/Aimwell 912-526-4216 Tomlin 912-526-4218 Johnson Corner 912-565-0810 Ponderosa 912-526-0474 Normantown 912-537-4047 Resmondo 912-293-5881 Phone Service Att 800-288-2020

CITY OF LYONS Police 912-526-3638 Fire 912-537-4388 Public Works 912-526-3626 Recreation 912-526-3084 lyonsrec@lyonsga.org

Power Companies Georgia Power- City 1-888-660-5890 Altamaha Electric - Rural 912-526-8181 Gas Companies Patriot Gas Co 912-537-1943 Conger LP Gas Inc 912-537-8722 Ferrellgas 912-537-3032 Pacific Pride 912-537-3303

Business & Tourism Toombs/Montgomery Chamber 912-537-4123 Downtown Vidalia DVA Main Street 912-537-8033 dvamainstreet@vidaliaga.gov Lyons Main Street 912-526-6445 Convention & Visitors Bureau 912-538-8687 abritton@vidaliaga.gov

Toombs County Schools Board of Education 912-526-3141 Lyons Primary 912-526-8391 Toombs Central Elementary 912-565-7781 Lyons Upper Elementary 912-526-5816 Toombs County Middle School 912-537-3813 Toombs County High School 912-526-4286

Private Schools Robert Toombs Christian Academy Library 912-526-8938 Ohoopee Regional Vidalia- Toombs Vidalia Heritage Academy 912-537-9283 912-537-6679

912-537-8885 www.lovinsrealty.com 912-537-8885 www.lovinsrealty.com Vidalia, Georgia 401401 Church Street •Street Vidalia, Georgia Church


SignaturE Sandwich

Next Time Order Ahead to fast-track your order

s ee, Craig Jone

Local franchis

and family

2705 E. First Street • Vidalia, GA • 912-538-1880 © 2021 Zaxby’s SPE Franchisor LLC. All rights reserved.


contents

40

26 PLAY TO WIN, BUT ENJOY THE CLOVER Soccer Coach Fletcher Corbin takes his teams to the next level and reminds them to have fun.

64

40 SIMPLY PRESENT At 105, Robie Banks has the best advice–live in the present and don’t worry about tomorrow.

50 THE POWER OF LIGHT Fiber optic cable will soon deliver affordable broadband to rural Toombs County homes.

64

86

THE GREAT SPORT OF FISHING Local high schools add competitive fishing to their sports clubs expanding opportunities for students.

106

74 KEEPER OF THE BEES Heather Davis took a great idea and turned it into a thriving business.

86 GROWING A SOUTHERN STAPLE Like the pecan trees his ancestors planted, Emory Mixon’s business has grown through hard work and diversification.

96 A MOTHER TO ALL The kids call her coach, but Renee Bullard is more like their mom–and one of TCHS’s biggest supporters.

106 NO HOLDING BACK Since birth, Taylor Towery has faced what most would call obstacles, but he and his family have never doubted his ability to succeed.

128 LAST WORDS Life changes sometimes bring about an empty nest, but don’t worry, it doesn’t last long.

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

at home 10

THE PIES HAVE IT Do you prefer savory or sweet? We’ve got some delicious recipes for both.

14 8 DECORATING MISTAKES TO AVOID Your home reflects your personal style, but these reminders will help you love it even more.

focus on health 20

STRENGTHEN YOUR BODY WITH ESSENTIAL VITAMINS Focus on a healthy immune system.

in every issue 116 | The Local Marketplace 118 | Vidalia Main Street 120 | Chamber of Commerce 122 | Lyons Main Street 123 | Advertiser’s Index 124 | Scenes of Toombs

About the Cover Heather Davis had an idea to help the company she worked for save money. Soon, the idea turned into a thriving business that managed and packaged bees and produced honey. Now, Heather adds a new venture to her repertoire–a retail store in downtown Vidalia that focuses on honey, locally grown products, gifts, and much more. Visit General Store 30474 to explore its unique offerings, learn about bees or just to meet one of the nicest gals in our community.


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

thriv-ival mode Everything my mama said was true. There will be “days like these” when nothing goes well. But consider it all joy because there will also be many more days of triumph. You do get wiser with age, you do learn how to cook without measuring, some things really won’t matter in the long run, and yes, grandchildren do bring the most unexplainable joy. Wow, if we would just listen to our mamas more, we would discover all kinds of hope and joy! I recently heard Sande Bailey-Gwinn speak to a room full of mamas and daughters at the ConnectHER event hosted by the Greater Vidalia Chamber. She spoke about understanding the difference between surviving and thriving. I think most moms–and even dads–can agree, sometimes it feels like we are just surviving–trying to make it to the end of the week or the next sports competition; trying to get a somewhat nutritious meal on the table and relearn calculus, so we can be helpful; trying to lay down the rules while loving unconditionally. The problem with survival mode is it leaves little room for creativity, for dreaming, or for being intentional. Consider that your hopes and dreams are part of who you are. They have been given to you for a reason. If you dream it, it can happen. But you have to take risks, stay focused, prioritize, be patient, and commit to thriving, not just surviving. You have to be intentional in what you are doing and in your circle of influence. Just surviving is easy. Thriving can be a bit more of a stretch, but the end result is worth it. I love reading our new stories for the first time. They are full of people chasing dreams and thriving. Heather Davis (p.74) had dreams of impacting the community through apiculture while offering a unique retail store. I’m sure she had doubts along the way, but she took some risks and now her dream is thriving. Emory Mixon (p.86) has the mind of an engineer who also loves farming. He’s turned the things he enjoys into a thriving business. Renee Bullard (p.96) stayed focused on her job looking after student athletes, and her thrive is impacting families throughout the community. When Taylor Towery (p.106) wants to try something new, he thrives by doing it without worrying about a disability holding him back. Never underestimate what your choice to thrive can do, or how it will affect the people around you. Think about the hopes and dreams that inspire you, and be intentional about making them happen. My mama said if you embrace the gifts and talents that you’ve been given and put them to good use, you’ll prosper. She was right about that, too.

keeping the stories alive, Stephanie Williams Executive Editor

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 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 Beverly McClellan Ann Owens Teri R. Williams PHOTOGRAPHERS

Ruth English Allison Cobb Logic4Design/Eric Love Daphne Walker PROOFING

Beverly McClellan COVER PHOTO

Ruth English

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.


Make the right call for Championship Service

Two great teams to serve you

Residential Commercial Property Management

Home Auto Business Life

Sara Stanley Brown Broker

Blake Brown

406 JACKSON STREET • VIDALIA, GA 30474

510 CHURCH STREET • VIDALIA, GA 30474

www.brownrealtyga.com

www.bigofga.com

912-537-SOLD

912-537-2111


FYZICAL: Spelled Different Because We Are Different FYZICAL is a locally owned and operated outpatient rehabilitation facility that is committed to YOU! Our highly trained and skilled team of therapists are 100% committed to YOU achieving YOUR maximum level of function to help you return to living the life you love. At FYZICAL, there is no one therapy program for all. Here, one of our therapists will assess and design an individualized plan of care for YOU and YOUR needs. Afterall, there is only one YOU! Experience a difference in rehabilitation at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Center of VIDALIA, where the care is TRUE and all about YOU!

Our services include: • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Physical and Speech Therapy Balance Training and Fall Prevention Sports Rehabilitation Stroke Recovery Neck and Back Pain Chronic Pain/Fibromyalgia Spinal Manipulation Dry Needling Cupping Manual Therapy Gait Training Custom Foot Orthotics Orthopedic Rehab (Total Joint Replacement, Rotator Cuff Repair)

Visit our two locations: 401 East 1st Street, Suite B Vidalia, GA 30474 118 Azalea Road, Suite 11 Baxley, GA 31513

912.403.3300 www.fyzical.com/vidalia


Your family’s eye health is our top priority.

Dr. Kang and his wife Jaimee with their children Liam and Emma

VIDALIA EYECARE

At Vidalia Eyecare, we understand how important taking care of your family is because we have family, too. Dr. Kang provides trusted and comprehensive eye care services to patients of all ages, so your entire family can benefit from his expertise. Additionally, our well-trained staff is focused on making your experience in our state-of-the-art eye care center a pleasant and personal event.

912-537-2020 | 206 Maple Drive,Vidalia | www.vidaliaeye.com

Now accepting new patients!


FOOD & DRINK a taste of fall

The pies have it Some historians believe pie can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. Others credit the Greeks for developing the flaky pastry shell, which they filled with savory meats. All we know is that pie is a Southern tradition found on every holiday table and at most of Grandma’s Sunday dinners. Whether you prefer savory or sweet, pie is one dish that’s hard to refuse.

SAV O R Y STEAK & MUSHROOM PIE Savory, rich and full of vegetables, this is a British pub twist on stew beef Ingredients 2 pound stewing beef 2 tablespoon olive oil ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt or to taste 1 teaspoon pepper or to taste 1 large onion chopped 4 cloves garlic minced 2 stalks celery chopped 2 large carrots cut into cubes 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 cup red wine or Guinness 2 cup beef broth 1 teaspoon dried thyme 2 bay leaves 6 slices bacon chopped 1 pound mushrooms sliced 1 sheet puff pastry 1 egg yolk for pastry wash

Hearty

and full of

Flavor

Instructions 1 Season beef with salt and pepper then toss with the 1/4 cup of flour. Sear in a Dutch oven with 1 tbsp of olive oil until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate. 2 Add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots to the Dutch oven and saute for 5 minutes until the onion softens. Sprinkle the 2 tbsp of flour over the veggies and stir. Add the wine or beer 10

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

and beef broth and stir until the flour dissolves. Add thyme, bay leaves, and cooked beef back to the Dutch oven. Cover and cook until beef is fork tender. (This can also be cooked in an Instant Pot for 35 minutes–follow manufacturer’s guide for instructions) 3 In a separate skillet, fry the bacon, drain some of the fat then add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and mushrooms to the Dutch oven. Stir ingredients and remove bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes until mushrooms are tender. 4 Preheat oven to 400˚ F 5 Pour the stew into a 9×13-inch casserole dish, then top with a sheet puff pastry–two sheets can be used if needed. Score the pastry and brush with egg yolk. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes.

TOMATO PIE Can you guess which ingredient makes this truly a Southern delight? Ingredients 1 pre-made pie crust or 9-inch pie shell 6 large, ripe tomatoes 1 tablespoon salt 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper Instructions 1 Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Prepare pie crust if necessary 2 Slice the tomatoes about 1/4-inch in thickness and arrange in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and cover again with another layer of paper towels. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Good

for any

Season


T

2021

R

E

S

B E A U T Y

B

A

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 11 4 E M E A D O W S S T. | V I D A L I A , G A

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


FOOD & DRINK a taste of fall

3 In a medium bowl combine shredded cheese, mayonnaise, fresh basil, and spices until well blended. Set aside. 4 Arrange a single layer of sliced tomatoes on the bottom of crust. Cover the tomatoes with half of the cheese mixture and repeat this step. Layer the last of the tomato slices on top, overlapping is fine, and firmly press them into the pie. 5 Place the pie into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and the crust turns a golden brown.

S W EE T G INGERSNAP CRUMB PEAR PIE The perfect pie for transitioning into the holidays Ingredients 1 9 inch deep dish pie shell topping: 1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (about 16 cookies) 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup packed brown sugar Pinch salt 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed filling: 1/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon salt 2-1/2 pounds ripe pears (about 4 medium), peeled and thinly sliced 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Hot caramel ice cream topping, optional Instructions 1 Preheat oven to 350˚ F 2 In a food processor, combine crushed cookies, flour, brown sugar and salt. Add butter; pulse until crumbly and set aside. 3 In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, ginger and salt. Add pears, lemon juice and vanilla; toss 12

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

gently to combine. Transfer to crust; cover with topping. 4 Place pie on a baking sheet; bake until topping is lightly browned and pears are tender, 60-70 minutes. Cover pie loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes if needed to prevent over-browning. Cool on at least 1 hour before serving. If desired, drizzle with caramel topping. KENTUCKY DERBY PIE Fast and easy, this is a go-to party favorite Ingredients 1 9 inch deep dish pie shell 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled 2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon (optional, but increase vanilla to 1 Tbsp if omitted) 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 pinch salt Instructions 1 Preheat oven to 350°. 2 Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. 3 Add the eggs and melted butter, and mix to combine. Stir in the bourbon, walnuts, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. 4 Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let cool before slicing.

DEC ADENT CHOCOL ATE PIE Simple and not overly sweet, yet delicious Ingredients 1 - 9-inch pie crust or pie shell 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder 2 large eggs 1/4 cup unsalted melted butter 1 - 5 ounce can evaporated milk whipped cream for serving Instructions 1 Preheat oven to 350˚ F 2 In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder. Vigorously whisk in the eggs, butter, and evaporated milk until completely combined and smooth (batter will be thin.) 3 Pour batter into the pie crust and bake for about 50-55 minutes or until the filling sets and there is a thin crust on the top. (A slightly jiggly center is fine–it will firm as it cools) 4 Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with whipped cream.


Financial Strength In A Growing Community

537-8805

300 Jackson Street, Vidalia

526-8800

142 Victory Drive, Lyons

Your Local Financial Center...

Home Loans ¡ Auto Loans ¡ Consumer Loans ¡ Mortgages Checking Accounts ¡ Savings Accounts ¡ Safe Deposits Drive-In Service ¡ ATM & Debit Cards

24-Hour Banking: 537-4540

www.vidfedonline.com


HOME design+style

8 decorating mistakes to avoid Okay, so “mistake” may be harsh. After all, your home is what you make it. But these tips will help you love your space even more.

W

hen scrolling through your reels, do you ever wonder what makes those fabulous homes you see really stand out? Creating rooms that are comfortable and visually appealing starts by giving each space some thought and avoiding common pitfalls like these.

Picking the paint first It seems reasonable

to start with your favorite color and build from there, right? Not exactly. Unless you are selecting a basic white for your home’s interior, it’s better to start with the objects that will go in the room. Create a color scheme based on some of your essential fabric furnishings (rugs, pillows, draperies, upholstery),

Shop different sources for furnishings that reflect your taste

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

then choose a coordinating color from a fan deck or set of paint chips. Finding fabrics you truly love after already committing to a paint scheme is much tougher.

Forgetting the importance of measuring

You walk into a furniture store and immediately fall in love with an oversized sofa that you can visualize yourself spending hours curled upon. You assume it will fit, make the purchase, and have it delivered only to discover that it is so big it makes your living room look cramped and uncomfortable. It’s hard to judge the scale of pieces when they are sitting on a vast showroom floor, so always

shop with your measurements. Start by taping off the available space you are willing to commit to for furnishings in your room, measure, and then head off to find a piece that fits. If you find something that is much larger than your measurements, ask if the piece is available in different sizes.

Shopping from only one place One-stop shopping is easy and convenient, but getting all your furnishings from one store usually results in a less interesting visual story. Try purchasing from different manufacturers and brands so that even if you prefer a particular style, your entire home won’t look cookiecutter.

Don’t be afraid to try something bold


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 |


Add texture, color & pattern with fabric

Buying in sets This goes along with one-stop

shopping and refers to purchasing furniture in matching sets such as an entire bedroom suite or a sofa with matching love seat and chair. While it does offer a coordinated style without much thought, it can be too “matchy.” Try mixing it up by settling on one major piece you like and looking to a different manufacturer for coordinating pieces. You can tie the pieces together with details like color, material (think wood or metal finishes), leg styles, or visual lines. The end design will show more of your personal taste meaning you will probably enjoy it more too!

Underestimating the power of fabric Fabric is an

excellent design tool that adds color, texture and pattern to any space. Think of furniture as a base and fabric as the finishing touch. Rugs, pillows, throws and even curtains can be changed seasonally or as tastes change giving any room an entirely new look without much effort.

Revisit past styles with a new twist like gold and brass elements

Need a helping hand? If you need a boost of confidence when making your design decisions, don’t worry. There are plenty of design professionals in Toombs County that can walk you through the decision making process. Here are some of our suggestions:

Accessorize It Designs, Cindy Reddick,

912-537-7008 | 1015 East 1st Street, Vidalia

Dean Architecture and Design, Lyndi Dean, allied ASID 818-216-0133 Cell| 407 Durden Street, Vidalia

Mary’s M Squared Design Firm, Mary Edmonds 912-537-4653 | 115 Church Street, Vidalia

Palmer’s Furniture, Lisa Pruitt

912-537-4644 | 1307 East 1st Street, Vidalia

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Keeping it blah It’s hard to step out of your design comfort zone in order to try something different like adding wallpaper to an accent wall or choosing a bold pattern for a rug. No one wants to regret a decision that you have to live with. But always staying on the safe side can leave you feeling unsatisfied as well. Don’t be afraid to take small risks that may lead up to bigger ones. If you choose a dramatic wall treatment, you can always layer over it with neutral fabrics and furnishings to tame the look until it feels comfortable. Going overboard Okay, you don’t want your living

spaces to be boring, but you also don’t want them to be overwhelming. As mentioned, it’s good to go bold–in moderation. Determine your focal points in each room and allow the other elements in the room to support those focal points. If you have a bold art piece, beautiful curtains or vibrant fabrics, allow other pieces to remain simple and neutral.

Leaving the past behind Most of us remember style trends that we said we’d never repeat like creamy, white walls, wallpaper, and gold or brass fixtures. Just like bell bottom jeans, home trends circulate too, and, fortunately, they improve with time. Living through an awful trend shouldn’t mean you leave behind a beautiful idea forever. Be open to revitalized design trends that offer a new twist. For example, you may have sworn off shiny gold fixtures, but keep your mind open to matte brass ones that add a hint of gold on a softer level. You may think that 70s green or 80s dusty blue would never work in a modern home, but paired with creamy white and in small doses like an accent wall or cabinet, these colors make a wonderful reappearance.


Now transactions are easier than ever

Altamaha Bank & Trust Chief Technology Officer Shan Venable and President Brent Sammons with a Deposit Enabled ATM

We understand more than ever how technology is shaping the future. That’s why Altamaha Bank is always looking for ways to make banking easier, safer and more efficient while offering the best services available. To learn more about all of your banking options, visit our Digital Banking page on our website.

www.altamaha.bank Jackson Street Branch: 912-537-1921 Vidalia West Branch: 912-537-9452 Uvalda Branch: 912-594-6525 Hazlehurst Branch: 912-375-5415


Impressive Design for your home

This completely remodeled custom kitchen by Mary’s - M Squared Design Firm has a 13’ marble slab island top supported by artisan made handturned spindles. The chandeliers and hand forged hardware were chosen to match the room’s grandeur.

The custom cabinets that I designed were fabricated beautifully by Troy Whimpey. Irreplaceable talent.... We truly miss him,

or business AFTER

BEFORE

Thank you Community Hospice for allowing us the opportunity to remodel your facility.

AFTER

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER


Searching for the perfect look? We have the perfect solution.

Design Consultation • Home Interiors • Bridal Registry • Exclusive Lines

Bridal Registry now at Mary’s

Home décor and interiors Mary’s - M Squared Design Firm offers more than gifts and accessories. Our design consultation services can completely transform your home or business. Whether it’s a single room or your entire home, Mary works within your budget to transform uninspired areas into alluring spaces. We carry exclusive lines and have access to unique products that will make any space spectacular.

115 CHURCH ST. | VIDALIA, GEORGIA | 912-537-4653 | MARYSINVIDALIA@YAHOO.COM


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

strengthen your body with essential

vitamins

a

s we enter cold and flu season–and continue to deal with that other pesky virus that keeps hanging around–it’s important to make sure our bodies are in their best shape possible. Keys to good health include a well-balanced diet, fresh air, exercise and everything in moderation. It’s also important that your diet contains the essential vitamins needed to ward off sickness and disease? During the pandemic, it became clear that a good vitamin regimen does help boost the immune system, so understanding how vitamins work is important. Vitamins are organic compounds that people need in small quantities. Most vitamins need to come from food because the body either does not produce them or produces very little. Having too little of any particular vitamin may increase the risk of developing health issues. However, extremely high doses of some vitamins, especially fat-soluble ones, can adversely affect your health, too. Mammals have different vitamin requirements. For example, humans need to get vitamin C from their diets while dogs can internally produce the vitamin C their bodies require. Each vitamin plays a different role in the body, and people require varying amounts of each vitamin to stay healthy. There are some vitamins, like vitamin D, that humans can’t get enough of from food. In this case, the amazing human body synthesizes the vitamin when exposed to sunlight, creating a valuable source of vitamin D. This is the reason your grandma always reminded you to get plenty of “fresh air and sunshine.” There are 13 recognized vitamins. Some are fat-soluble which means they are stored in fatty tissue and the liver, and can stay tucked away in your body for days or months. Water-soluble vitamins can’t be stored and leave the body quickly through 20

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

urine. Because of this, people need watersoluble vitamins more regularly. Should I get my vitamins from supplements? Multivitamins currently spur a $12 billion per year industry based on the American ideology of “quick fix.” Meaning that people take multivitamins and other supplements in place of nutrient packed food. While supplements are not necessarily bad, most experts believe that if you eat a varied, well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables and have a normal and healthy functioning digestive tract, you likely don’t need to take vitamin supplements at all. Medical professionals generally agree that multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for issues like heart disease, cancer, or cognitive decline nearly as well as a nutritious diet. Eating well also sets in motion healthy habits that are more likely to stick with you throughout life. There are some exceptions to the vitamin supplement debate. Women who are pregnant, people with restricted diets, and people with specific health issues may need supplements to target specific issues. For example, doctors do agree that supplemental folic acid for women of childbearing age is proven to prevent neural tube defects in babies during pregnancy. The bottom line: regularly choosing fresh food over processed food can give your body the vitamins it needs naturally without having to keep track of supplements. Overall, a good, smart diet will help fortify your immune system and keep things functioning properly. So, vitamins are good for immunity, but what else? If you are eating healthy but still want to give your immune system a boost, there are additional ways to strengthen

Know your vitamins Vitamin A (retinol) Function: Essential for eye health Deficiency: May cause eye diseases Good sources: Liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkins, collard greens, some cheeses, eggs, apricots, cantaloupe melon, milk Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Function: Essential for producing enzymes that help break down blood sugar Deficiency: May cause beriberi syndrome Good sources: Yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, eggs

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Function: Essential for the growth and development of body cells and metabolism Deficiency: Signs include inflammation of the lips and fissures in the mouth Good sources: Asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, green beans

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Function: Helps cells grow and work correctly Deficiency: Low levels result in a health issue causing diarrhea, skin changes and intestinal upset Good sources: Chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, milk, eggs, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, nuts, tofu, lentils

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Function: Produces energy and hormones Deficiency: Symptoms include paresthesia, or “pins and needles” Good sources: Meats, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, yogurt

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Function: Vital for the formation of red blood cells Deficiency: Low levels may lead to anemia and peripheral neuropathy Good sources: Chickpeas, beef liver, bananas, squash, nuts



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

immunity naturally. For example, sleep and immunity are closely tied. In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich enough in nutrients and antioxidants that they give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens. Limiting added sugar reduces risk of obesity which keeps your body in prime fight mode. Healthy fats, like those in olive oil and salmon, may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation. Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which live in your digestive tract and helps your immune cells differentiate between normal cells and harmful invaders. Our bodies are designed for survival, but it’s up to us to provide the nutrients and building blocks it needs for a strong barrier against disease.

Vitamin B7 (biotin)

Function: Enables the body to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also contributes to keratin, a structural protein in skin, hair and nails Deficiency: Low levels may cause dermatitis or intestinal inflammation Good sources: Egg yolk, liver, broccoli, spinach, cheese

Vitamin B9 (folic acid) Functions: Essential for making DNA and RNA Deficiency: During pregnancy, this can affect the fetus’s nervous system Good sources: Leafy vegetables, peas, legumes, liver, some fortified grain products, sunflower seeds. Some fruits have moderate amounts. Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)

Function: Essential for a healthy nervous system. Deficiency: Low levels may lead to neurological problems and types of anemia. Good sources: Fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified soy products, fortified nutritional yeast.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Function: Contributes to collagen production, wound healing and bone formation. Strengthens blood vessels, supports the immune system, helps the body absorb iron, and is an antioxidant

Deficiency: May result in scurvy, leading to bleeding gums, a loss of teeth, and poor tissue growth and wound healing. Good sources: Raw fruits and vegetables– cooking destroys vitamin C

Vitamin D* (cholecalciferol) Function: Necessary for the healthy mineralization of bone Deficiency: May cause rickets and osteomalacia, or softening of the bones Good sources: Exposure to UVB rays from the sun causes the body to produce vitamin D. Also found in fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, mushrooms Vitamin E* (tocopherol)

Function: Its antioxidant activity helps prevent oxidative stress, an issue that increases the risk of widespread inflammation and various diseases. Deficiency: May cause rare hemolytic anemia in newborns, which destroys blood cells. Good sources: Wheat germ, kiwis, almonds, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K* (phylloquinone) Function: Necessary for blood clotting Deficiency: Low levels may cause an unusual susceptibility to bleeding Good sources: Leafy greens, pumpkins, figs, parsley *Fat soluble

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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Play to win, but enjoy the clover

Fletcher Corbin never anticipated coaching soccer to over fifty kids at once, but as head coach of the Toombs County Soccer Association, he's taken on the job of teaching them important skills and how to have fun. 26

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I

“I wanted to be the parent that dropped my kid off, showed up on match day, and then complained after the game about all the mistakes the coach made,” said Fletcher Corbin. That was never going to happen. All it took was one rainy day on a soccer field “helping out” another volunteer coach for a recreaction department soccer team of four- and five-year-old kids to remind him of why he loved the game. I stopped and reread that last line. A day spent in the rain on a soccer field with four and five-year-olds would definitely not inspire me to go back for more. Who was this guy? To find out, I began with the line that follows every good Southern introduction. “Where are you from?” Home for Fletcher, I learned, was Savannah, Georgia. Growing up, he played everything from baseball and basketball to football and soccer at Windsor Forest High School. He also played soccer with the Windsor Forest Athletic Association. “This was in the mid 1980s,” said Fletcher. “It was like what we call club soccer today. My coach was from England. He didn’t want us to call him coach, so we called him by his name, Mr. Moon. He took us to play in tournaments throughout the Southeast coastal region from South Carolina to Hinesville and into Florida. He was really the one who helped develop in me a love for the game.” In 1989, Fletcher went to Brewton-Parker College (BPC) on a soccer scholarship and played on the school’s first soccer team. While there, Fletcher met his future wife, Paula Sharpe, at the college pool. “I started talking to her, and things progressed from there,” he said, his eyes

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smiling. After graduating from BPC in 1994 with a degree in psychology, Fletcher and Paula married and moved to Dalton, Georgia. (He would later further his education with a master’s degree in administration and leadership.) Fletcher worked as an investigator in child abuse investigations and foster care. “I was the ‘termination of parental rights guy.’ When a child had been lingering in foster care, I would do the background to take it to court to have the parental rights terminated so that the child could be adopted and have a permanent home rather than linger in the state welfare system.” When jobs for both Fletcher and Paula became available in Jesup, they took the opportunity to make their way south again. Fletcher’s job involved “heavier investigations of child abuse.” He said, “I did all the forensic interviews with law enforcement on child molestation cases.” During that time, Fletcher said, “We were hitting the right age with our kids to start participating in rec department sports.” As is often the case, there was a shortage of volunteer coaches at the rec department. But Fletcher had no intention of getting involved. He just wanted to be the parent on the sidelines and enjoy watching his children play. “Somehow, this lady named Martha found out that I had played soccer in college,” said Fletcher. “She started calling and called my house every single night for two weeks to ask me to coach soccer. I kept telling her, ‘I don’t think I can make that commitment.’ The last time she called, she said, ‘I found someone, but they don’t know anything about soccer.

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Would you just help out?’ I said, ‘Yes, Martha. I can commit to that.’” At the first game, the young mother who had volunteered said, “I don’t know anything, but if you tell me how to set things up, I’ll do my best.” Standing in the rain on that soccer field with a bunch of four- and five-year-old kids, Fletcher stepped into a role that came to him naturally. In 2001, Paula took a teaching position in Baxley, which brought them even closer to her parents, Ed and Frances Sharpe, in Montgomery County. The move was also an opportunity for Fletcher to take a break from his work with law enforcement. “It was difficult to do day in and day out,” he said.


For a year, Fletcher taught special education in Pierce County. Then, at the suggestion of a friend, he took a position with Satilla Counseling Services out of Waycross, Georgia. In 2003, he was offered a regional position as an investigator with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. “My wife decided to home school the kids, which made it easy to move our family to Toombs County.” Fletcher had always encouraged his children to participate in sports, but which sport they would play was always left up to them. “I didn’t ever want to push my preference on them,” he said. “My ultimate goal was that when they left home, they would have learned to be their own person and become productive adults.” The first year they were in Toombs County, his oldest child, David, decided to play both football and soccer at the Vidalia Recreation Department, and Fletcher

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Coach Corbin notes, “I've learned as much from the kids I’ve coached as they’ve learned from me.”

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supported him all the way. “After that season, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, I like all the sports, but I like soccer the best.’” Fletcher began to explore options available in the area that would give his son more focused training in soccer. He went to watch a Vidalia High School soccer game and noticed that the coach, Tim Quigley, was coaching both the girls and the boys by himself. “I asked if he could use some help,” said Fletcher. His offer was readily accepted.

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Tim introduced Fletcher to Jeremy Moore. “At the time, Jeremy was a college student playing soccer and working as a referee. My kids were in grade school, and I wanted to start a team with younger kids. Jeremy wanted to get a team together for the high school age kids. I called my friend in Jesup, John Benner. He recommended that we start playing through Georgia Soccer. He said, ‘You’re going to see a lot more competition in the kids that play there because they’re specifically focused and devoted to playing soccer.’ I didn’t realize how big Georgia Soccer was at the time.” Community support and good relations were important to Fletcher. Even though his schedule would not conflict with the rec department, he said, “I went to both Tommy Sasser and Gary Adams at the Vidalia Rec Department and Coach (Anson) Callaway at the Lyons Rec Department and told them my plans. They didn’t have All-Star soccer at the time, and all wished me the best.” According to their website, “Georgia Soccer is the authorized state youth and adult association for Georgia within the United States Adult Soccer Association, United States Youth Soccer Association, and through them is part of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF)…. In turn, the United States Soccer Federation is the recognized national soccer association within the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA), the worldwide governing body for soccer.”


Jeremy Moore contacted parents from Vidalia and Lyons that he knew would be interested, and Tim Quigley facilitated a meeting. “We all had the same mission,” said Fletcher. “To promote the sport of soccer in Toombs County and surrounding areas. Our strategy was to provide soccer players the appropriate level of play and training where technical and tactical skills, as well as life skills, are developed.” Next on the agenda was to name their club soccer association. “It was important to everyone for the name to be inclusive for families from both Vidalia and Lyons,” said Fletcher. With that in mind, they agreed on Toombs County Soccer Association. At the same time, they formed a board, and Jeremy served as their first president. From that gathering in the spring of 2004, TCSA formed a 19U boys’ team and a 12U co-ed team. Not being a soccer mom, he explained to me that 19U, for example, meant ages 19 and under. “Since we weren’t big enough to be recognized on our own, yet, Jesup helped facilitate us. We started playing out of a league run by Chatham County Parks and Recreation that was affiliated with Georgia Soccer.” Fletcher coached the younger teams where his two older children, David and Elizabeth, were playing at the time. Opponents were teams from places like Effingham County, Savannah, Hinesville, and Statesboro. They played five games at home and five games away. The older group was in the “Select” program of Georgia Soccer and coached by Jeremy. At this level, potential players were required to try out. Most games in that competitive league were played in a Metro Atlanta area and were for those who wanted to play at higher levels in hopes of a college scholarship or even playing professionally. “At the time, I had no idea when we started that playing professional soccer was a real possibility,” said Fletcher. That first year was a real learning curve. “We took our beatings, but we had fun doing it. Most importantly, kids were gaining a love for the game and gaining all these skills. Then, when they went back to school, they were having a better school soccer season.” The following school year, Jeremy became the head soccer coach at Toombs County High School (TCHS), and GHSA rules prohibited him from coaching outside the school season. Thankfully, an engineer at Plant Hatch named Chris Rogers volunteered to help with the older youth teams. By the end of that first year, TCSA had doubled in size. “We had kids playing together from Vidalia, Lyons, Metter, and Jesup. We realized early on that we had something special.” In 2007, Robert Toombs Christian Academy (RTCA) approached Fletcher about starting a soccer program. Since GISA rules differed from GHSA and would not prohibit him from coaching school and club soccer, he agreed. Fletcher began with a middle school girls’ team, and the program quickly grew to include both middle school and high school boys’ and girls’ teams.

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In 2010, which was also Fletcher’s last year coaching at RTCA, he had a group of about eight or nine boys that were “diehard” soccer guys. “We were playing Frederica Academy in a league match,” he said. “They were known throughout the state as one of the premier teams. Before the game, I showed the boys a Cuban cigar I had in my coaching bag, and I told them, ‘If you beat Frederica, I’ll smoke this cigar.’” When the boys beat the GISA powerhouse in kicks, he kept his promise, but walked off 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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campus to do so, of course. Not being a smoker, he said, “I nearly threw up.” The victory was made complete by the incredible support that came from the stands. Since neither Toombs nor Vidalia soccer teams had games that night, all the boys that played club soccer with the RTCA boys were at the game. “When we won, they all came down on the field and celebrated together. Even though they were from different schools, there was that level of friendship, cooperation, and respect because of their relationships on the club team. It was really, really amazing.” The year 2017 was an especially memorable year for Fletcher. It all began several years earlier with a group of young girls. Rather than putting them on a co-ed team, as he sometimes did, Fletcher decided to keep them together that first year. The all-girls team finished their first season 5-4 against all boys 12U teams. “We had a lot of Alpha girls on the team,” said Fletcher. “Sometimes with girls, especially when there are strong personalities, you will have divisions and cliques. I remember when something would happen on the field between two girls in my first generation of girls. It might happen in November, and when I would ask, ‘What’s going on?’ I would learn that it was retaliation for something that happened back in August. All I could say was, ‘I'm sorry, you've held on to that for so long.’”

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TCSA currently has about fifty players and seven coaches/support staff with two competitive teams playing in Georgia Soccer leagues and tournaments.

But this group of eight- and nine-year-old girls was different than any group Fletcher had ever coached. “There was none of that with these girls. There was no competition between them. No, ‘I’m better than you.’ Every girl on the team knew their role and did it.” The team of girls won some and lost some through the years. But the culmination of their determination and bond with one another came together in 2017 like the perfect storm against their opponents. When Vinny Gill, the head soccer coach from Middle Georgia, finished pre-season camp with the girls, he said, “Fletcher, you don't understand what you’ve got here and how many games you're going to win this year.” He was right. Those girls could not be beaten. They won their way all the way to the girl's Division 2 State/ President’s Cup. “Two girls were ineligible to play since the age for their division was 17U,” said Fletcher. “That meant we were down to thirteen players. These were homegrown girls from Soperton, Vidalia, Lyons, and Reidsville. The team they went up against was from Metro Atlanta. “We were up against players where hundreds, potentially thousands of girls had to try out to make it on the team.” The girls not only won their game, but nine of the thirteen would also receive college scholarships to play college soccer. But the girls weren’t the only winners that year in TCSA. “We had a group of 19U boys at the same time that were winning,” said Fletcher. “When I wasn’t coaching the girls, I would go watch their games. It was almost boring. It wasn't if they were going to win; it was how much they would win by. I remember one game where they had three

red cards against them, which put us three players short. We still won the game six to nothing. When we played against Atlanta Fire, the oldest soccer club in the state of Georgia, our boys beat them, too.” As a coach, Fletcher determined to remain teachable himself. “I’ve learned as much from the kids I’ve coached as they’ve learned from me. I can tell you that as I’ve matured in age and experiences, my approach to coaching has changed through the years. We all know communication is key. But I’ve learned there may be differences in the way I need to communicate. Girls tend to hold things in more than boys. When something is going on with one of the girls on the field, I pull that player aside and talk to her as an individual. First, I find out if she is hurt. Then, I will ask, ‘How are you feeling? Or, how did school go today?’ I make a point to ask about the people who are important in her life. ‘How’s your mama or grandmother?’ I make a point to learn each girl’s personality. If I hear one of them has a boyfriend, I say, ‘I’m going to go ahead and tell you, I don’t like him.’ They think I’m joking, but I’m not.” Of course, boys have issues just like girls, he added. 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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Fletcher Corbin's Coaching Achievements

“But, generally speaking, they tend to deal with issues differently. They see soccer as their time to escape and have fun. I tell them, ‘Boys, this is what we’re going to do today.’ And they can just put all the other stuff aside and focus on playing the game. If they have a problem with each other, they take care of it immediately. By the end of the practice session, they are buddies again.” Ultimately, both groups need people in their lives willing to listen and care. “We don’t know what these kids experienced before they got to our practice,” said Fletcher. “They’ve got so much pressure on them these days to make good grades, get good scores on the SAT, make honors, and have a certain sash at graduation. Soccer is a game. It’s an outlet. Our goal is not to get anybody a college scholarship. Our ultimate mission is to help them be a good person through the life lessons of the sport. Soccer is just a game. Maybe the top one percent 34

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will play professionally. I tell these kids all the time, ‘Find a college that has the degree you want to pursue. Then, if they have a team, play soccer while you’re there.’” TCSA currently has about fifty players with two competitive teams playing in Georgia Soccer leagues and tournaments. “Our 18U girls were 2021 President’s Cup Finalist, which means they qualified for Regional play in Dallas, Texas, the summer of 2022,” said Fletcher. Practices for all groups are held weekly beside Paul Thigpen Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership and/or Tabernacle Baptist Church, both great supporters of TCSA, according to Fletcher. “We’ve prided ourselves on keeping the costs as low as possible,” he said. “From time to time, we have people in the community who offer to help with fees when there’s a need. We try and figure out a way for any child who wants to play. If they're willing to make some kind of

2021 Head Coach of 19U boys Rose City Invitational Finalist 2018 Head Coach of 19U boys Rose City Invitational Champions 2017 Head Coach of Division 2 State/President’s Cup Champions 17U girls 2017 Head Coach Classic II Boys 19U league champions 2017 Head Coach of Athena B 19U Girls league champions 2013 Head Coach 19U Boys League Champions 2012 Head Coach 19U Boys Adidas Savannah Cup College Showcase Champions 2012 Head Coach 19U Boys Rose City Soccer Challenge Finalist 2012 Head Coach 19U Boys League Runner Up 2011 Head Coach 19U Boys League Champions 2011 Head Coach 18U Girls League Champions 2010 Head Coach Robert Toombs Christian Academy Boys Semi-Finals appearance 2010 Head Coach Robert Toombs Christian Academy Girls playoff appearance 2009 Head Coach Robert Toombs Christian Academy Boys/Girls playoff appearances 2008 Head Coach 14U Girls Toombs County Soccer Association, District Finalist State Cup For more information about TCSA, contact Fletcher Corbin at 912-253-0342 or email fdcletch71@gmail.com


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commitment, we’re willing to help. We offer fundraising programs. For example, we've sold Krispy Kreme donuts, held car washes, and recently held a raffle for a shotgun to help cover those costs.” One of Fletcher’s favorite age groups to watch play are the six-year-olds. “If you ever get the chance to watch a three v. three game, it will do your heart good,” he said. Seeing my blank expression, he explained that six-year-olds play three against three in a smaller area of the field. “When one side scores, both teams celebrate,” he smiled. “I was coaching these girls, and there was a patch of clovers in the field. A girl on my team went to school with a girl on the other team. In the middle of the game, they just sat down in those clovers and started picking flowers. In the past, I might have wanted them to focus on the game. But what I want even more now is for them to look back on that moment on a soccer field as a time they enjoyed being kids.” If kids enjoy it, that enjoyment will give them a love for the game. That’s what makes Fletcher Corbin so good at what he does. Unfortunately, many of us have witnessed the coach who believes that criticism and negativity will motivate players to play harder and better. It doesn’t. Ever. Just to be clear, I’m not

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one of those parents who believes every child should get a participation trophy so their self-esteem remains in tack. Building healthy self-esteem is not about inflating a child’s ego or preventing the experience of losing a game to a better team. There’s no question that kids who play with TCSA will gain better playing skills. But if the choice comes down to picking clovers or making a goal on Fletcher’s six-year-old soccer team, he’ll choose clovers every time. 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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Simply Present BY RENÉE MARTIN

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

At 105, Robie Banks has some great advice to offer–live in the present moment, and don't worry about tomorrow.

C

athy leaned over and whispered to Ms. Banks, “Listen, we’re about to be tested to see if we’ve got that virus. No matter what happens, you just promise me that you’re going to fight this. Don’t give up. Promise me that. Many people are dying from this virus, and at your age, they say it’s hard to beat. But I need you to beat this. Promise me.” Ms. Robie Banks whispered. “I promise.” Cathy was not surprised when she and the older woman in her care both tested positive for COVID. “How ever many symptoms there are for this virus, we had them all,” she said. In addition to COVID, Ms. Banks was diagnosed with pneumonia and spent four days in the hospital. She was still in quarantine on her birthday, which was August 16, 2021. Her 105th birthday. COVID was not Ms. Banks' first global pandemic. Born in 1916, Ms. Banks was two years old when the influenza pandemic (a.k.a. the Spanish flu) of 1918 hit. By April 1920, the virus had infected approximately a third of the world’s population. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, mortality estimates ranged from “17 million to 100 million from an estimated 500 million infections globally.” During her early years, scarlet fever, diphtheria, pneumonia, polio, measles, and whooping cough were common causes of death among the young. Cemeteries reveal just how much loss was suffered for families in the not-so-distant past–a time before vaccines, penicillin, and other antibiotics were readily available. Robie Banks was the first of twelve children born to Allean Mason. Because of her mother’s young age, she was raised by her grandparents, Charles and Polly Ann Hicks. Holding up a copy of an old photograph, Ms. Banks' caregiver, Cathy McClendon, asked, “Do you know who this is, Ms. Banks?” She smiled, which was something she often did, and replied, “That’s my Papa.” To learn more about her family, I went to thehickspreserve.org, a website maintained by Thomas Jones, a great-grandson of Ms. Banks' grandparents, and his wife, Laurell. Charles Hicks was born a slave in 1838 on a plantation in what would later become Johnson County. (Johnson County was formed from Washington, Laurens, and Emanuel counties in 1858.) At the time, his name was Charles Page, which was the surname of the

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“I started taking [Ms. Banks] fishing with me while she was in my aunt’s care,” says Cathy Mclendon, Ms. Banks's current caregiver. "[She] baited the hook herself, cast the rod, and even took the fish she caught off the hook herself.”

Robie married Elbert Banks in 1936 at the age of nineteen. Elbert would later serve in WWII as a Staff Sergeant. 42

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owner. According to the website, the slave owner was “a brutal man.” In 1860, Charles was sold to retired U.S. Army major James H. Hicks Sr., and changed his name to Charles Hicks. He served as a servant to his master’s son, Lt., James Hicks Jr., in the 14th Georgia Infantry Regiment of General Robert E. Lee’s army and accompanied him to infamous battles in places like Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. When Lt. Hicks, Jr., was wounded in action in 1864, both men returned to Georgia. After he recovered, Lt. Hicks returned to fight with his regiment in Virginia. There are different accounts of the events that followed. One states that Charles left Georgia with the intent of rejoining Lt. Hicks in Virginia. Another says


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family ties Ms. Banks's grandfather, Charles Hicks, lived on a farm in Toombs County, but during the Civil War, he had the unique distinction of serving in both armies.

BELOW standing on the back row, third from right is Charles Hicks posing with fellow veterans at a train station before a Civil War veteran reunion trip to Gettysburg.

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that he was attempting to escape. His obituary would actually assert, “[Hicks] was forced to join the Northern army and serve as a cook.” Whatever the circumstance, documents show that Charles enlisted in the Union Army on December 1, 1864, “on the bank of the Ogeechee River in Jefferson County,” and served with Sherman during the federal occupation of Savannah in the 110th U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry. After his release from federal service in 1866, Charles returned to Johnson County. In the 1890s, Charles Hicks moved to Lyons, Georgia, where he bought a farm in the 1890s. Ten years later, he married Polly Ann Banks. He was sixty-four years old at the time. According to an article that appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier on May 6, 1939, entitled, “He Served With Both Armies in the Civil War,” Charles Hicks, residing in Toombs County, who will soon celebrate his onehundredth birthday, has the unique distinction of being the only man ever to receive a pension for services in both the Confederate and Federal armies during the Civil War.” Charles and his wife, Polly Ann, a much-loved midwife in Toombs County, had six children together. At the age of 94, they purchased about sixty or so acres of land on the outskirts of Lyons and designated a portion of the land “for the purpose of building a church, establishing a cemetery and providing classroom space for the very first school to educate colored children in the local Toombs county area” (website). (Note: The Jordan Stream Baptist Church served the community until its closure in 2018.) Charles Hicks was an honorary member of the United Confederate Veterans and a veteran of the Union Army. In July of 1938, the 75th and final reunion of Civil War veterans from both the North and South was held in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Charles Hicks was there. He lived another three years and passed away only two months from turning 103. In 1998, when the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C., was unveiled, Charles Hicks’ daughter, Thomas’ grandmother Lillie B. Jones, was there to see her father’s name honored. This was the historical backdrop in which Robie Banks was raised. Even though her grandfather, Charles Hicks, was already seventy-eight years old when she was born, he would live another twenty-five years. In fact, he was still farming at 100 years old. Like most family histories, the events of Ms. Banks' early years are preserved only in the memories of those with whom she shared her life. From a manilla envelope full of documents, I found a copy of her marriage certificate to Elbert Banks on April 13, 1936, in White Plains, New York. She was nineteen at the time. “I always understood she went there looking for a better work opportunity with one of her sisters and a cousin,” said Thomas. Another document from the envelope showed that on October 6, 1942, Elbert was drafted into the army to serve during WWII. A diploma revealed his completion of a “Radio Operators and Mechanics” course. With the rank of Staff Sergeant, he was honorably discharged at the end of his service in 1946. A certificate for Radio-Television Technician provided a clue as to what Elbert’s profession might have been after his military service. In 1996, Elbert died at the age of 82. That was twenty-five years ago. At 105 years old, Ms. Banks has outlived her contemporaries as well as all of her younger siblings. With her hearing nearly gone, her caregiver, Cathy, patiently repeated my questions. Even though details from Ms. Banks' past may not come to her mind quite as


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quickly as before her recent bout with COVID, there was no doubt that she was fully present and understood everything said. “Are you comfortable?” she asked when I leaned forward from the sofa to catch her soft-spoken words on my recorder. How Cathy came to be her caregiver is quite a story in itself. “She and my aunt were neighbors in Lyons for many years. Ms. Banks was in her late 90s when my aunt became her caregiver,” said Cathy. “I met Ms. Banks at my aunt’s house when she was 102. I always enjoyed listening to her stories. She once told me that she ‘accidently’ met Dr. Martin Luther King. “How did that happen?” I asked. “Ms. Banks saw a crowd of people outside someone’s house and went to check it out,” said Cathy. “Somehow, she got pushed inside with the crowd, and in walked Dr. King.” But the thing that really brought Cathy and Ms. Banks together was their shared passion for fishing, “I started taking her fishing with me while she was in my aunt’s care,” said Cathy. “Ms. Banks baited the hook herself, cast the rod, and even took the fish she caught off the hook herself.” When Cathy’s aunt had to have back surgery, Ms. Banks went into the nursing home. She had never had children, and without a caregiver, there seemed no other option. “Because of COVID,” said Cathy, “no one could visit, and she couldn’t leave. Even though Ms. Banks was 104, I knew she was still in good health. But I felt like she would quickly decline in there alone with all the visiting restrictions.” Cathy had never worked in healthcare. After high school, she attended college in Atlanta with the intention of teaching school. But by the time she graduated with her bachelor of science in mathematics, she said, “I knew I didn’t want to teach in a school setting.” Instead, she found her niche in tutoring students outside the classroom. After Ms. Banks had been in

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ABOVE An avid fisherwoman, Ms. Banks received a congratulatory video from the 2020 and 2021 U.S. Bass Master Classic Champion Hank Cherry in recognition of her 104th birthday. 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 nursing home for two or three weeks, Cathy said, “I really thought it through. I knew it would change my life in every way. I work full-time as a supervisor in quality control at Chicken of the Sea in Lyons. But I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to try.” Cathy tried to communicate with Ms. Banks through the nursing home window. But with the thick glass and Ms. Banks' loss of hearing, it was futile. “So, I went to the store and bought a notebook and a black magic marker,’ said Cathy. When she came back, she wrote in big letters: “I’m going to break you out of there.” Ms. Banks smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Cathy consulted with a social worker and representative with Adult Protective Services. “I said, ‘What do I need to do to get Ms. Banks out of here?’” The process was complicated, but Cathy wasn’t giving up. She couldn’t give up her job, but committed to pay another caregiver to be with Ms. Banks when she was at work. Finally, Ms. Banks was released from the nursing room into Cathy’s care in January 2021. “How is her health?” I asked. I figured she must have some kind of good genes to still be moving about at 105. “COVID was tough on her,” said Cathy, “but she’s getting her strength back.” Honestly, Ms. Banks had to be the definition of resilience. I’d learned that the older woman had already survived both breast cancer and stomach cancer in her lifetime. “Ms. Banks, what is the secret to a long life?” I asked. Was it lifestyle? Diet? Her favorite things are Coca-Cola, vanilla ice cream, and fried fish, which she has as often as she can. If that kind of diet would get you to 105, somebody has been fooling us all. Ms. Banks looked up and me and smiled. “Well,” she said, “I used to think about that a lot. But I don’t anymore. You live while you live, and you die when you die. You do one or the other.” 46

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I thought about that. A lot, actually. And I came to this conclusion: Even though Ms. Banks has over a century of memories, she doesn’t live her life looking back or looking forward. She lives fully in the present moment. She hasn’t forgotten the people she’s loved, but she isn’t trapped in grief for the loss of the past nor is she afraid of the future. Her outlook on life reminded me of a Bible verse that says, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV Matthew 6:34). Even though Ms. Banks and her family are the focus of this story, it’s also about Cathy McClendon. A young forty-something woman who values the life of an elderly woman so much that she “broke her out” of a nursing home to take personal responsibility for her care. In a world where there seems little honor and respect these days for those beyond a certain age, that’s pretty remarkable. In an article on forbes.com, Percil Stanford writes, “The moniker ‘senior citizen’ tends to cast a shadow that suggests a ‘lessthan quality,’ particularly one of dependence. The ‘older person’ should be a symbol of strength and a repository of treasured experiences and wisdom. We can ill afford to not avail ourselves of all that everyone has to offer throughout their life span.” Truly, it was an honor to meet both Ms. Banks and her caregiver. Once more, I pulled up the YouTube video Cathy posted this past year of Ms. Banks discussing her love for fishing. “I don’t care if I caught anything,” says Ms. Banks. “Just the idea of being there….Sometime[s] I have my pole, and I can catch red-eye.” She laughs, and I laugh with her.

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Delivering high speed internet with

the Power of

Light

Affordable broadband is now available on a dirt road near you as Altamaha EMC brings fiber optic cable to rural Toombs County. BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH 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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i

nterrupted education and work from home necessitated by COVID-19 created many challenges. For families living in rural communities, the disadvantages were made even more disproportionate by lack of access to high-speed Internet. It wasn’t about whether you could watch a Netflix movie or check social media. It was about access to virtual doctor visits, remote learning for students, and tele-working from home. Internet was available for those who lived in cities but not for most rural communities. Once again, history was literally repeating itself. It hasn’t been that long ago that homes in cities had electricity, and those living in rural communities did not. By the end of the 1920s, most cities had electricity. The years following the Great Depression were especially difficult for Georgia where “69 percent of the population was rural in 1930…. The typical Georgia farm family had no electricity, no running water, and no indoor privies” (georgiaencyclopedia.org). In addition to the financial difficulties and lack of modern conveniences, the troubles farming families faced during the 30s read off like the list of plagues that hit Egypt in Biblical times. And if the farmer couldn’t make it, his children surely weren’t going to stay around to carry on the difficult work without running water and electric heat that was now common in the homes of classmates from the city. “The main problem was that the power companies were unwilling and/or unable to string wires over long distances, across farmland and back country, at an RIGHT Spools of bright orange cable and backhoes along the roadsides of Toombs County are a sure sign that fiber optic is being installed for nearby homes.

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affordable price” (livingnewdeal.org). In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt determined to do something about this problem and signed the REA (Rural Electrification Act). The REA enabled, “a few brave men with pioneering spirits” to band together to “bring the power to rural areas of Toombs County” in May of 1936 (altamahaelectric.com). Today, Altamaha EMC is one of forty-one EMCs in Georgia and serves portions of Toombs, Montgomery, Treutlen, Laurens, Emanuel, Tattnall, and Johnson counties. With the same pioneering spirit that brought us the power of light eighty-five years ago, Altamaha EMC is once again bringing our rural communities the power of light. This time, as fiber optic light, a cutting-edge technology that will provide our homes with the fastest broadband Internet service in the state of Georgia. The broadband project began long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. Almost three years earlier,


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“Rural areas will have the best technology, and the cities will be lagging behind. Kids will want to come to their grandparents’ house in the country with their X-boxes and iPhones,” said Phil. Phil Proctor, a contract engineer with Altamaha EMC, came across an article about a USDA project known as ReConnect Loan and Grant program. According to usda.gov, “The ReConnect program offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in areas of rural America that currently do not have sufficient access to broadband.” Phil brought the information to Romanous Dotson, CEO and General Manager of the corporation. But it wasn’t until Senate Bill 2 (SB2) was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 25, 2019 that Altamaha EMC could actually move forward. Georgia legislators understood that new businesses would be less likely to come to our state without access to high-speed Internet and those here might not remain. The bill gives “electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) in Georgia legal authority to provide broadband services” and “provides legal clarity to Georgia’s EMCs allowing them to carefully consider how they can participate in efforts to improve broadband access in their respective communities” (georgiaemc.com). With SB2, Altamaha EMC applied for the ReConnect Loan and Grant program. While waiting to hear from the USDA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also made funds available for this same purpose. “The Federal Communications Commission Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) broadband initiative is the single largest distribution of Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars made available to communications service providers in US history” (www.rdof. com). Although the Electric Membership Corporations could “participate” in these efforts, the bill

stated that monies from the electric side of the business could not be used. In other words, it meant no crosssubsidization between EMCs and the broadband initiative. “No monies paid for electricity could be used to pay to bring fiber broadband Internet to someone’s home,” said Tammye Vaughn, Manager of Marketing and Communications. When the time was right, Romanous sent out a letter to members of Altamaha EMC: We, along with the 40 other EMCs across Georgia, have faced a lack

of legal clarity when it comes to providing rural broadband services. Whether it was utilizing extra capacity in our existing communications infrastructure, partnering with third-party providers, or providing highspeed broadband services directly to members, without specific legislative authority, most EMCs were understandably unwilling to even begin exploring options. Thankfully, progress was made this legislative session with Senate Bill 2, which was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on April 26,

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“This is a platform that will enable new technologies we can't even think of right now to be supported in the future,” said Phil. “Internet in the cities will eventually have to start over just to catch up.” 56

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fulfilling one of his priorities for rural Georgians. This new legislation empowers EMCs across Georgia to evaluate how they might contribute to the expansion of broadband services in their area. “It started as a project and a goal,” Phil said just before I left the room where the interview was held. “Then, it looked like it could be a business. But after COVID, it turned into a mission.” The first course of action was to create a separate co-op for the operation, which they named Altamaha Fiber. In February 2021, Altamaha EMC received approval for $21 million from ReConnect (USDA), a “half grant and half loan” initiative. “As an electric membership corporation, we borrow money,” said Romanous. “That’s the way almost all cooperatives operate. So, we were familiar with how the process works. We were also awarded 8.6 million from Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF),” which as a “broadband initiative is the

single largest distribution of Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars made available to communications service providers in US history” (rdof.com). “There are areas of service on our map that qualify for ReConnect, and other areas qualify for RDOF,” said Phil.” With funds from both, resources were now available to put their plan in motion. “We went in with the latest technology, which allows us to start with one gigabit symmetrical. That gave us a thousand megabytes per second.” For my benefit, he explained further. “Symmetrical means the upload and download speeds will be the same, which became very important during COVID-19 when people needed to work from home. With what our rural communities have now, they’re running about three megabits per second. So, you’re looking at Internet service that will be 333 times faster than what they had before. Families in the southern parts of Toombs County will have faster Internet speeds available than anybody in the largest cities in Georgia,” he reiterated. It all sounded great. But the first thing all of us rural folk want to know is: What about costs and contracts? And service? If something goes wrong, will my call be received by someone in another country? And further, will service be a week or more out with the stipulation that someone must be at home for several hours waiting on a service person who most likely will not arrive until five minutes before the time allotted ends? Romanous said, “Customer service is very important to us. We plan to bring cooperative type service to this industry in our community as well.” He explained that, unlike other Internet providers, there would be no contracts to sign. For technical issues, our fellow southerners at EPB in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has become a top provider in the country with many years of experience, will help resolve issues. And just like the great service we receive from Altamaha EMC when there is any kind of service disruption, someone local will come help resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In addition to Internet service, other options will also be offered through


Altamaha Fiber such as telephone service and in-home wireless management. Once agan, for my benefit, Phil explained that Internet service and WiFi are not one and the same. “The internet comes to your house, and the Wi-Fi router you use is what you do with it inside your house,” said Phil. “We will offer the latest technology in Wi-Fi as an optional service as well. The Altamaha Fiber app will enable users to manage all their home devices equipped with Wi-Fi capability. For example, an alert can be sent through the app if there is motion in the home. Or, parents may want to use the app to set limits for content and duration on a child’s X-box use.” Concerning attempts from outside traffic to probe into the home, “the app has a feature called ‘Guard’ that will block and keep out intruders.” And this is just the beginning. “This is a platform that will enable new technologies we can't even think of right now to be supported in the future,” said Phil. “Internet in the cities will eventually have to start over just to catch up. They started with DSL, which was over copper phone lines. Then the cable companies started offering more with co-ax cable. We’re jumping way ahead with fiber optic technology, which does not deteriorate like co-ax cable.” And when it comes to speed, there’s no comparison. “Rural areas will have the best technology, and the cities will be lagging behind. Kids will want to come to their grandparents’ house in the country with their X-boxes and iPhones,” he smiled. So, the only question left to ask is: How do we sign up? “We’ll send a mailer in the future,” said Tammye. “And altamahafiber.com will also soon be up and running for customers to see if they are eligible for service and subscribe.” “We have a commitment with ReConnect to be finished in five years and within six years with RDOF,” said Romanous, “but we are working as hard as we can to have it done within two to three years. Our objective is to be able to serve every member at some point.” On my way home from Altamaha EMC, I noticed the coils of fiber optic cable on light poles down Highway #1 for the first time. The following week, a utility truck pulled up in front of my house. I’d seen them in the area. A young man got out and asked if he could access a power line from my yard to place fiber optic on it for future broadband Internet services. Before he could finish, I all but shouted, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Do whatever you need to do!” He smiled at my response. I’m sure it was a common one. As much as I will appreciate access to the Internet for work and even entertainment, equal access to Internet services for our children outside the city limits has become a necessity. Interrupted

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buckhorncreekconsulting@gmail.com learning, poor nutrition, dropout rates, lack of childcare, and loss of jobs were just a few of the many issues in the aftermath of this virus. Some have said that this generation of school-age children will never recover from the loss of educational opportunities and social interactions as a result of school closures in 2020. But as we look forward, redemption can be found through innovative ideas such as these. Our response in difficult times speaks of our values. And for Altamaha EMC and Altamaha Fiber, that value is in the people they serve. 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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a e t r s p g o e r h t T OF

fishing Local high schools add competitive fishing to their sports activities expanding opportunities for students

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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

I

magine your child rushing home from school excited to get outside to practice his or her school sport. “No, Mom, I don’t want to watch TV and load up on sugarfilled snacks while doing nothing. I’ve got to practice.” It’s a miracle. Your teenager is getting all the sunshine and fresh air he or she needs and taking time to de-stress and reflect in peace and quiet. Well, until that big fish hits the line. And then the excitement of reeling in the great mystical creature that has eluded generations of fishermen and fisherwomen brings out a holler. The result is a great sense of satisfaction and a good time for members of the fishing clubs at Toombs County High School (TCHS) and Vidalia High School (VHS). In the 2020-2021 school year, Georgia joined Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi to become the fifth state to sanction bass fishing as an official high school sport. The new sport collaborates with Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest fishing tournament association, and The Bass Federation (TBF) with official tournaments for the opportunity to qualify for a State Championship competition. When Joey Montford, TCHS AG teacher, held the school’s first informational meeting on the newly sanctioned sport, some seventy students showed up hoping to become anglers. There was plenty of interest in joining the school’s bass fishing angler club but not plenty of boats for fishing. According to GHSF (Georgia High School Fishing) rules, boats must meet certain specifications. For example, “All boats must be propeller-driven and a minimum of 16 feet in length” (ghsa.net). By the sign-up deadline, only two tenth-grade students, Hunter Hitchcock and Neal Braddy, turned in the paperwork and membership fees. Neal’s dad, Wesley Braddy, volunteered his boat and his time to serve as captain for tournaments. Coach David McLeod, science/ special education teacher and football coach at VHS, began their bass fishing program with four freshmen: Max Beverly, Noah Cummings, Luke Hollis, and Luke Lariscey. Local fisherman Ronnie Green allowed the team to use his boat and volunteered to serve as Boat Captain for tournaments. To begin, although an angler is a fisherman, a fisherman is not necessarily an angler. An angler is someone who fishes with a hook and line. A fisherman, on the other Toombs County High School's competitive fishing team includes Coach Joey Montford, Neal Braddy and Hunter Hitchcock. Neal's dad, Wesley, has served as a volunteer captain for tournaments. 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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hand, may prefer to bring in his or her big catch with a net, a cage, and/ or traps. Another huge difference in that weekend fishing trip and rules for high school competitive bass fishing is that fishing is about “catching,” not “keeping.” Fish caught in a tournament need to be kept alive. If the fish is not alive at weigh-in time, points are deducted. Like with any other sport, developing skills and improving knowledge is vital. According to bass fishing Coach Brian at Central High School in Northern Illinois, casting involves building skills like flipping, roll casting, and skipping. But casting skills are only one part of the picture. Bass fishing is basically about fish. Coach Brian states on

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his website, which is an incredible resource for both schools and parents, that he uses the classroom to teach “specific information about bass behavior, habitat, forage base, and seasonal migrations of the bass” (www.highschoolfishingcentral. com). (Coach Brian was also a part of “setting up the first high school fishing tournament series in the country over ten years ago.”) A “team” refers to one or two high school anglers plus one boat captain who can’t be a professional fishing guide or their high school buddy. That means that either someone’s parent, grandparents, relative, or a supportive member of the community, has to have a heart for the sport, the student,


high school fishing clubs can help create interest in many essential careers in the environmental and ecosystem sciences-all of which are important for our future

and the appropriate-size boat and motor. The faster the boat, the better for getting out there first to the best fishing spot. The winners are scored by weight total of the five fish limit. That means that if number six is a better catch, something has to go back in the water first. There’s no fishing with live bait. And, of course, everybody wears a life jacket while the boat is moving. There are more rules, but that’s the gist of things. Both TCHS and VHS fishing club members participated in the 2021 qualifying tournaments.

“Our first tournament was on January 23rd at Lake Seminole,” said Joey. “The second was on February 13th at West Point Lake. The third on March 20th at Lake Oconee. The rain and wind made for pretty tough conditions that day. And the fourth was on April 10th at Lake Hartwell. We saw everything from regular Jon boats to expensive bass boats and offshore boats.” “We fished in tournaments at Lake Seminole, Clarks Hill Lake, Lake Oconee, and Lake Sinclair,” said David. “At the Clarks Hill Tournament, Max

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PHOTO BY CARLA CARPENTER, THE DAVIS HOUSE

ABOVE The Vidalia High School fishing team includes, left to right, Coach David McLeod, Luke Lariscey, Max Beverly, Luke Hollis, and Noah Cummings. LEFT Max Beverly competes during a fishing tournament.

Beverly caught the biggest fish in the tournament overall. At Lake Oconee, Noah Cummings and Luke Lariscey placed in the top 15 out of 110 plus teams, which qualified them for the state tournament.” David has big plans for the coming fishing tournament season. “I’d like to take the anglers out on different lakes this summer and fall to continue building on the knowledge that they gained this winter and spring. I plan to research information on fishing in the lakes where tournaments will be held. We also plan to ‘pre-fish’ these lakes the day before the tournament.” Both fishing coaches hope to see more anglers join their clubs. But more opportunity comes with a need for more boats and boat captains. “We are very thankful that people in the community allowed us to use their boats and boat captain for us,” said David. “We were able to do what we did because of people like Layton Jones, Ronnie Green, and Ricky Cummings since the school does not have its own boat. I hope that before these first anglers graduate, we can raise enough funds to be able to have a boat for the school, which will enable future anglers to have an opportunity to participate.” This past season, TCHS angler Neal Braddy was invited to serve as an ambassador at a Major League Fishing Tournament. “He got to ride around with the tournament leaders,” said Joey. “It was a great opportunity. The winner 68

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Gifts for Everyone! of the professional tournament was awarded $135,000.” Neal hopes to go to the University of Montevallo in Alabama when he graduates to study Civil Engineering. The University is one of many affiliated with the Collegiate Bass Anglers Association (CBAA). According to High School Fishing Coach Brian, “[T]here are an estimated 610 college bass fishing teams in the United States, a number that continues to grow larger each year.” I’d be willing to bet no kid is ever going to ask, “Now, how is this information going to benefit me beyond high school?” But for the sake of the adults in the room, high school fishing clubs can help create interest in many essential careers in the environmental and ecosystem sciences. So much depends on this next generation understanding the importance of water quality, aquatic ecosystems, and conservation. What better way than out on the water fishing, seeing, touching, experiencing nature, and all that connects to it in our world to help impart that kind of desire? If fishing had been a school sport when I was in school, one thing is certain: my high school sweetheart, now husband of forty-one years, would have had something to look forward to other than industrial arts. Back then, playing sports meant making the football or baseball team. Clint still cringes at the memory of that one week of high school

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needs a bit more convincing, I will say that recent studies revealed “that fishing can provide both short-term relief and long-term healing for people with PTSD. And it doesn’t end there. Dealer-12Fa-ODD-4c-b1.indd 64 Angling also has great potential to help people with depression and anxiety” (fishingbooker.com). Need I say more?

Maybe your high schooler will become a professional angler and compete for the big bucks one day. But even if he or she does not, fishing will still do your child a world of good. And the fishing clubs at TCHS and VHS are a great way to reclaim the peace of being outside with nature again.

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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Keeper

of the Bees [ Apiculture thrives in Toombs County ]

As Henry released the pallet with his forklift, the box bumped against the ground. The movement was slight but just enough to anger the relocated Russian honey bees. Unfortunately, Heather’s bright red hair, a trend in hair color at the time, became the focus of their revenge. However, it wasn’t the particular shade of red that put the bees over the edge. Although bees see into the ultraviolet range, which enables them to see more colors than humans, they cannot see some colors in the infrared spectrum. Unfortunately, red is one of them. So instead of red, a honey bee sees the color black. And since the honeystealing black bear is a significant threat to the beehive, the color can be perceived as a threat to an already angry bee. Heather’s relationship with bees all began with a failed organic garden. Up until that time, her involvement with agriculture had been from behind a desk at Stanley Farms. She started as a logistics coordinator in 2006 and worked her way up to office manager of the food processing companies Vidalia Valley and Vidalia’s Best. Through the years, Heather learned everything from finance and budgeting to projections and management skills. But working in agriculture from the office end of things did not include an education in the practical side of farming, a fact that became apparent when the vegetables she had so carefully tended in her backyard garden began to emerge.

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“The squash was round, and the watermelon misshapen,” said Heather. “Everything looked strange. I asked R. T. [Stanley], ‘What am I doing wrong?’ He said, ‘You need bees.’” At the time, Stanley Farms pollinated their fields with bumblebees from California. The bumblebee is wild and makes its home in burrows or holes in the ground. Unfortunately, except for new queens, bumblebee colonies die out in late fall and have to be replaced each year. But not the honey bee, Heather discovered. And the more she read and researched, the more intrigued she became with the little insect that could not only bring health to her own garden but at least “90 commercially grown crops [that] depend on bee pollination for survival,” according to beeculture. com. Perhaps it was the commonality Heather shared with the “busy bee” that created the strong connection. She thrived best when “busy.” Heather had an Associate’s Degree in Business from Georgia Southern University (1997) and a Computer Networking degree from Southeastern Technical College (2003). And her resumé now included Payroll Clerk, Graphic Designer, Marketing Coordinator, Network Specialist & Website Designer. She met every challenge as an opportunity to learn. When Heather first contacted Toombs County

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ABOVE With degrees in both Agronomy and Entomology, Henry Price's expertise was a valuable asset to Heather's vision for a bee company. "Smoking" the bees keeps them calm so that a beekeeper can check on the hive. OPPOSITE VAS employees can easily spot a queen bee.


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ABOVE The employees at Vidalia Apiculture Services know the exact age of the eggs in a hive. In addition to building frames, boxes and packaging bees, their main goal is manipulating nature to create viable queens that can be sold across the U.S.

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Extension Agent Jason Edenfield for information on raising bees in Georgia, he pointed her to Henry Price. “Henry was the County Extension Agent for Montgomery County at the time. Jason said, ‘Henry knows all about bees.’” Henry Price graduated from ABAC in 2002 with a degree in Agronomy and with a degree in Entomology from the University of Georgia (UGA) in 2004. In 2005, he took the position as County Extension Agent in Montgomery County with the Georgia Department of Agriculture. At the time, Henry, his wife Lisa, and their four children also maintained and collected honey from their own hives, which they sold locally. “With Henry’s expertise and my work with finances, we went to R.T. with a business proposition,” said Heather. “We said, ‘Instead of buying more and more bumblebees each year, we can save you a lot of money with honey bees.’ R.T. agreed to give it a try on a small scale with the squash, which took about sixty hives.” That was in 2012. The honey bees proved such a success that Stanley Farms agreed to purchase 213 hives the following year, which covered pollination for about 1,200 to 1,500 acres. In 2014, with Stanley Farms’ initial financial investment, Henry’s bee knowledge, and Heather in charge of the finances, Vidalia Apiculture Services and Bee Company (VAS) was formed. “Henry and I maintained the hives and moved them from field to field,” said Heather. “I’d call him and say, for example, ‘The Stanleys have one hundred acres of squash. How many hives do I need to put out?’ Then, I’d borrow a trailer from him or a farmer nearby.” In 2015, Heather and Henry faced a decision they had not anticipated. “Pollinating the fields for Stanley Farms had been the majority of our business,” said Heather. “When we learned that they were selling the majority of their farmland, we had to decide to either go in bigger or get out. Because of Henry’s work, he knew firsthand that bee package sales were in high demand. Nobody ever had enough bees. He felt that if we made packaging bees our main focus, the company would be fine.” With a new direction for VAS, Heather quit her job with Stanley Farms to focus entirely on growing into a bee packaging business. In 2016, she and Henry set up shop on Georgia Highway 178 in Lyons. Things got crazy for a while. Heather was not only raising her daughter as a single mom but had decided to go back to GSU to finish a degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice. A career in social work was the plan. But as the business took off, Heather realized she had to choose. On the surface, apiculture (caring for bees) may have seemed like a complete change of direction from a career in social work. But the two aren’t quite as different as one might imagine. A social worker cares for people and the wellbeing of the environment in which they live. An apiarist (beekeeper) does the same. Moreover, bees are essential for our survival by providing pollination for 80% of the world’s cultivated crops. So in actuality, Heather’s work is about as socially minded as it gets. When colony collapse disorder (CCD) occurred in 2006-2007, “…beekeepers around the country reported massive losses—more than a third of hives on average and up to 90 percent in some cases,” as reported in an online article by Jennifer S. Holand for National Geographic News on May 10, 2013. Everything from pesticides to pollution and mites and infections were blamed, but the actual cause remains unknown. And it’s not over. “Beekeepers across the United States lost 45.5% of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021, according to preliminary results of the 15th annual nationwide survey conducted by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP)” (www. sciencedaily.com). As a result of this collected data, many research studies and documentaries have brought attention to the importance of the honey bee to the world’s food security. Today, VAS sells close to 10,000 queen honey bees and 26,000 packages, which contain about three pounds of bees, from the end of March through the end of June. Although VAS still pollinates for Generation Farms and a few smaller local farms, packaging bees is the main focus. A package includes a queen, some ‘queen candy’ (a type of fondant) and syrup to eat while in transit, and worker bees, which are all females. There is a ‘hierarchy’ within the hive, and every bee has a job. Worker bees, well, they just care for the queen and the hive. Drones, another type of honey bee in a colony, are all males and have one job: mate with the queen. Enough said about that. “Italians are very popular simply because they are the easiest of the honey bees with which to work,” said Heather. To produce Italian queen honey bees at VAS, an employee will make cell cups with wax to hold eggs. “Any egg that a queen lays in a hive can become a queen up to three days. After that, it becomes a worker bee. The queens will lay between 2,500 and 3,000 eggs a day. The employees at VAS have a system. “They know the exact age of the eggs in a hive. They’ll pick the egg up and place it into a cell with a little dab of royal jelly.” Heather smiled. “That’s the manipulation part. The process of manipulating nature to create a queen is all about diet. And if it doesn’t happen in three days, that bee becomes a worker bee. The entire queen-making process takes a total of eighteen days.” VAS employs 16 full-time and 5-6 seasonal employees. 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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ABOVE Beeswax cell cups are used to hold eggs and a bit of royal jelly. Eggs can become a queen within three days, after that if they do not become a queen, they become worker bees. BELOW Discarded cell cups.

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As one of the top three commercial apiaries in the State of Georgia, VAS received the Georgia Small Business Rock Stars Award this past May 2021 “for their outstanding, unique and impactful work across the state.” “We have customers come for bees as far away as Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. They come from all over. We can ship queens U.P.S. or Fed Ex–if the weather is not too hot–as far away as California and Washington State,” said Heather. In 2018, Heather started South Georgia Queens (SGQ) to meet the demand for specific genetic breeds of queen bees for Northern customers who require a heartier queen more resistant to cold weather (along with other traits). Two of these varieties are Russians and Carniolans. Carniolan bees are native honey bees from the Austrian Alps, Northern Yugoslavia, and the


The next step for VAS is to open a much anticipated store in downtown Vidalia in November. General Store 30474 will feature honey, locally and regionally grown products, body care items and treats for pets among other things. Heather's mission is to use her voice in the community to continue promoting apiculture, arts, agriculture and youth education programs.

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In May 2021, VAS received the Georgia Small Business Rock Stars Award this past May 2021 “for their outstanding, unique and impactful work across the state.”

Danube Valley. The Russians are – yep, native to Russia. Both are better suited for states with cooler climates. SGQ employs four full-time and two to three seasonal employees. For several years, Henry worked with the Department of Agriculture as the Lead Apiarist in Georgia for the Honey Bee Program in the Plant Protection Division and traveled all over the state inspecting beehives. Today, he works with the Department of Agriculture as a Lead Nursery Agent. In addition, he serves at VAS as Chief Operations Officer [COO] managing the annual production calendar, the woodworking shop, and overall bee production. Heather serves as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of VAS and manages the main office and sales. In addition to bee packages, nucs (honey 82

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bee colonies), and queens, she also sells the honey from her hives and other local products and equipment for beekeepers. (Ever wondered why beekeeper's suits are white? Simply put, “white” poses no threat to the beehive.) Honey is one of the many local products that will be made available in Heather’s new shop in downtown Vidalia called “General Store 30474.” The official opening is planned for November 2021. “The concept for the shop is to sell all local items,” said Heather. The shop will also contain an “observation hive and honey” for anyone interested in learning more about the process. But selling her products is only one part of Heather’s plan. In addition to her own honey, she plans to sell other local honey along with locally/regionally-grown organic and conventionally-grown produce, body care products, baby items, and pet treats/toys, which pretty much covers something for everyone. “In my budget and mission,” said Heather, “I am giving a percentage

of my revenues to local charitable organizations that support youth, arts, and education. So, for me, it is much more than a store. It is designed to be an anchor in the community that encourages education about agriculture, apiculture, arts, and other interests that will keep our youth engaged.” It’s easy to forget that what we do right here in our community makes a difference. Local farmers provide produce that feeds people all over the United States. Some of our local businesses make products that go all over the world. What we do here in this small community in South Georgia is more important than we might imagine. And Vidalia Apiculture Services and Bee Company is at the top of that list. As Heather and Henry serve the honey bee, the “Official State Insect of Georgia,” the honey bee serves us all.


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growing a southern staple BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

Pecan farming and agriculture are part of Emory Mixon's family history, but grafting trees, designing equipment and building a business are things he and his wife Monique have spent years developing.

T

oombs County’s earliest economic success depended on farmers and loggers. Before our onions were proven to be sweet enough to eat like an apple, those early farming families were sustained by crops of corn, cotton, and tobacco. Lots of tobacco. Six generations of Emory Mixon’s family grew the “Golden Weed of Virginia,” as early settlers of Jamestown first called it. Today, you won’t find any tobacco leaves hanging from the rafters at Mixon Pecan Company. But if you drop by between October and January, you will find plenty of pecans. It may have seemed as if Emory and his wife Monique were charting an entirely new course when they opened their retail and wholesale pecan business in 2000. But, in actuality, it was a family legacy with roots that went back over one hundred years when Emory’s great-grandfather Jack Mixon planted forty pecan trees on their family farm. “Jack and his mother Ann moved here from Johnson County in the early 1900s,” said Monique. “Ann’s story began with her mother dying in childbirth. That was in about 1853. Ann’s sister Jane was about three years old at the time.” Much of what she learned of her husband’s lineage has come from many years of extensive genealogical research. Three years after losing their mother, the girls’ father also died. The sisters were separated, taken in by different families for work. In the early 1900s, Ann and her son Jack moved from Johnson County and bought a farm on the outskirts of Lyons. Jane followed her sister with her own

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children. “If you’re a Mixon here, you are most likely either Ann or Jane’s descendant,” said Monique. Ann was the first to farm tobacco. “She grew it, harvested it, and dried it for her own personal stash. She rolled it up in a certain way and kept it in a box underneath her bed for her personal use.” When Toombs County was formed from parts of Emanuel, Montgomery, and Tattnall Counties in 1905, part of the Mixon farm would be in Toombs County and part in Emanuel County. Jack died in 1944, and the farm passed into the hands of his son Lester and his son’s wife, Martha. “Lester was known to be one of the strongest men in Toombs County,” said Monique. “On a bet, he picked up a 500-pound bale of cotton from the ground and set it on a dock. He won a steak dinner.” In 1958, Lester died at only forty-six years of age. Lester and Martha’s son Jimmy was seventeen at the time. But both met the challenge of running the farm head on. “We have old cotton gin books that show Martha selling cotton to the gin,” said Monique. After Jimmy married his wife Dianne, they planted ninety more acres of pecan trees on the family farm. Gathering pecans by hand from those pecan trees was a family ritual for Emory. “We pick up our pecans mechanically, but my dad still gathers his by hand,” he said, smiling. At eighty years of age, Jimmy Mixon continues to farm. This year, he harvested four hundred acres of soybeans on his own. Emory grew up in the shadow of the pecan orchard


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When local tree farmer Larry Jordan asked Emory if he knew how to graft pecan trees, Emory said "no," but he was eager to learn. Emory studied State Pecan Horticulturist Tom Crocker's technique. Then he made his own knives for the process and added grafting to his repertoire.

established by his great-greatgrandfather, Jack Mixon. Like his father, he farmed tobacco and other crops. While still in high school, he took a job with the Hiawassee Land Company and learned to graph pine trees. “We established pine seed orchards,” said Emory. One afternoon, local tree farmer

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Larry Jordan visited Emory’s parents, and the conversation turned to pecan trees. “Mr. Jordan asked my dad if he knew anyone who could graph pecan trees,” said Emory. Daddy said, ‘Emory knows how to graph pine trees.’ Mr. Jordan asked if I wanted to do it. I said, ‘If you can get someone to show me how, sure. I’ll do it.’”

That statement pretty much sums up Emory Mixon. He’s a smart guy, but not just a thinker. Emory is the kind of guy who watches and learns and then does the work himself with proficiency. After watching a demonstration by the State Pecan Horticulturist Tom Crocker at Larry Jordan’s tree nursery, Emory grafted between 500 to 600


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2020 was a good year for pecans. “Our business handled over four million pounds of pecans,” said Emory's wife Monique. 90

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trees for him with knives he made himself. He then put in an irrigation system in the pecan orchard, another skill he had learned while working with the pulpwood company. Since then, he has installed irrigation systems for everything from pecan orchards and olive groves to blueberry farms. When the Firestone Rubber Company needed someone to set up irrigation at their rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia, they asked various irrigation companies for recommendations. Again and again, Emory’s name came up. He traveled to Liberia in 2016 and 2017 and laid the foundation for the irrigation work. He also taught the process to the Firestone workers on what is the largest, contiguous rubber plantation in the world. By the time Emory and Monique opened Mixon Pecan Company in 2000, they had already established themselves as growers, grafters, and irrigation installers in the pecan business. As “accumulators,” they buy directly from growers and purchase anywhere from one and a half million to four million pounds of pecans each year. In addition to retail sales, Mixon Pecan Company also exports pecans to other countries, which has become a vast global market in recent years. Within five years, Mixon Pecan Company had outgrown their present location on State Street in Lyons. They moved the business to their current location at 322 Reidsville Highway and added a cleaning plant to their pecan operation. After observing the Mixon’s operation myself, I understood why my husband said of him, “Emory Mixon is one of the smartest and hardest working guys I know.” Coming from Clint Williams, that was saying something, I can tell you. Emory not only put the huge metal building up himself, but he also did all the mechanics, electricity, plumbing, and welding when needed, and no one else was around to do it. Taking a conveyer he disassembled from the top of a corn crib and abandoned onion bins, he reassembled it all into the perfect pecan transport and separation system. Pecans travel through a “pop remover” and then pass through the “destoner,” where a high-tech pecan sorter blows out anything and everything that isn’t a pecan. “This is the cleaner where the nuts are picked up. Air cylinders hold them here,” said Emory. “The sheller will do five hundred nuts a minute.” Falling into a trough, the nuts are moved by an elevator that takes them through the sheller and into a meat

Before the Mixons even opened their company doors, they were already known as growers, grafters and irrigation specialists.

Using natural engineering skills, Emory designed and built the current processing facility for the pecans. He used other farm parts to create an ideal transport and separation system.

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sizer and blowers. At the end of the process, one barrel catches the shells and another the “meat.” Separating, shelling, and cleaning is made more complicated by the many different varieties of pecans. “About 60% to 70% of the old groves are Stuarts. They were the first to be propagated,” said Emory. “The price of every other variety would be based on what the Stuarts were bringing. Then, it changed to Desirables.” The 150 acres planted on his family farm are a mixture of Stuarts, Desirables, and Sumners. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “The United States is the world’s leading producer of pecans, and Georgia is historically the leading pecan-producing State, typically accounting for about 33 percent of U.S. production” (ers.usda.gov). As with all farming, many factors can affect that year’s crop. “We’ve had some bad weather from hurricanes over the past five or six years that came through during a big crop and blew off the nuts before they were mature enough to harvest,” said Emory. Another variant in the size of each year’s harvest is that pecan trees are “alternate bearers.” If the trees are loaded down one year, there might barely be enough nuts for a pecan pie at Thanksgiving the following year. Ironically, while the world was dealing with a global pandemic, the pecan trees took no notice.

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“Last year, we had one of the largest crops in the history of the state,” said Monique. “Our business handled over four million pounds of pecans.” Following last year’s bumper crop, a smaller crop was no surprise this year. But the crop was even less than expected due to an infestation of web worms. Like the name suggests, the worms make webs on the branches of the pecan trees. “They will eat the leaves and impede the photosynthesis that the tree needs,” said Monique, “which interrupts the cycle causing the pecans to fall off too early.” Even though

'Desirable' and 'Stuart' are two of the most popular pecan varieties due to their excellent yield and nut quality.


the crop was less this year, Mixon Pecan Company has plenty of pecans available for the upcoming holidays. Mixon Pecan Company buys and sells pecans by the pound or in bulk. The company also shells and cleans the pecans. Other services for growers include “shaking, two types of grafting, irrigation installation, and establishing pecan orchards. When available, the company also sells different varieties of two-year-old trees. Just in time for Christmas, Mixon Pecan Company offers a variety of baked, coated, and candied pecan selections and a mail order service. I had one last question for Emory. “Do you say PEA-can or puh-CON?” It was the same question posed by the American Pecan Council in 2020. The results showed that 34.06% of Americans say “PEA-can,” while 65.94% say “puh-CON.” The issue is such a hot topic in Texas that Texasmonthly. com devoted the entire first episode of a six-part podcast called “Talk like

a Texan” to the proper pronunciation of their state nut, state tree, and state pie. The other purpose for the podcast was to “tear into those poor misguided Georgians who say it all wrong.” (Just to note. Georgia is the #1 producer of pecans in the nation and Texas 3rd. Just saying.) The conclusion? Texans are just as divided on the pronunciation as the rest of us. “The word pecan is derived from the Algonquin tribe’s word ‘pacane’ which translates to ‘nuts requiring a stone to crack’” (baganut.com). When the French, Spanish, and English explorers encountered the only native nut to North America, they gave the word their own inflection and intonation. It’s no wonder we’re still divided over the pronunciation. As I waited for Emory’s response, I could still hear my mama saying to me and my brother Rick as children, “I don’t care how your grandparents in Canoochee, Georgia, say it. It’s ‘puhCON’ not ‘PEA-can.’ A PEA-can is a can

you pee in.” But I kept that to myself. “There’s only one way to say it,” said Emory. “It’s a PEA-can.” The syllables were drawn out extra slow. “It’ll cost you more if you want ‘puhCONS’ shelled.” He smiled, but I’m pretty sure he meant it. From the beginnings of a pecan orchard planted over a century ago, Emory and Monique built a business. More importantly, they raised a family on a foundation of faith and love. “We give all the credit to the Lord God for our blessings,” said Monique. With purpose, Emory and his wife ordered their priorities as faith, family, community, and the industry that has made Georgia the #1 pecan grower in the nation. As the Mixons add their own chapter to the family history, they redeem parts that were broken and honor parts that tell of courage and commitment. It’s an enduring legacy on which their four children and five grandchildren can proudly carry on for many generations to come. 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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a mother to all BY TERI R. WILLIAMS PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

They call her coach but she is more like a mom– Renee Bullard is one of TCHS's biggest supporters and like any good mom, she takes care of her kids.

“w

e were at a middle school baseball game,” said Bill Benton, Toombs County Athletic Director, “I was walking by the concession stand when I heard my grandson, Brody, say, ‘Aunt Renee, are you really my aunt?’ She lifted her chin a bit and said, ‘I sure am.’ Brody said, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Renee Benton,’ she answered without as much as a pause.’” Three weeks later, Brody, a first-grader at the time, came running in the house with the school annual. “He said, ‘Granddaddy! They’ve got Aunt Renee’s name wrong. See? He sounded it out carefully. It says, ‘Bull-ard.’ He looked up at me. Granddaddy, she’s not really my aunt, is she?’ I said, ‘Brody, she sure is. She’s your aunt-in-love.’ He said, ‘Oh. Okay.’ She’s Aunt Renee to every one of my grandchildren,” said Bill. “She’s at every family event. Whether it’s Christmas or someone’s birthday. She’s special to us.” But the Bentons are not the only ones who consider Renee Bullard part of their family. “She’s like a second mother to everyone on the football team,” said Jay Mosley, a longtime supporter of Toombs County athletics and a Booster Club member. “The oversight she brought to the concession stands has been a Godsend. No one would believe how much work that it takes unless they’ve done it.” The concession stand is open for every home football, softball, baseball game, boys and girls soccer, track, or wrestling event because of the woman respectfully known as “Coach Bullard” to the TCHS football players. After making sure the infamous “Billy Burgers” are patted out and ready for the grill on Friday night for home football games, Coach Bullard can usually be found on the sidelines with the players. Every kid on the team is as important to her as if they were her own. Why? We’ll get to that—first, a bit of background. Renee graduated from Lyons Senior High School (now Toombs County High School) in 1986. This town had always been home. The youngest of six children,

Renee with TC Athletic Director Bill Benton. 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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“A mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship.” –P. Todd Christofferson

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she was the only one to play sports. By the time Renee was thirteen, she said, “Coach Callaway,” longtime Director of the Lyons Recreational Department, “had to carry my birth certificate with him to games and tournaments because people thought I was older than what I was.” In addition to rec sports, she played on the school softball and basketball teams and ran track. “Jacky Jones was my coach,” she said with pride. Like Coach Callaway, both men stand like giants in character in her memories. The encouragement and support each of these men gave Renee helped build the foundation on which she would model her own life. After high school, she worked with Shuman’s Cleaners as a presser. Sometime later, Renee took a position with All-Clean. While supervising the maintenance for All-Clean at the Lyons Primary School, she garnered the attention and respect of Athletic Director Bill Benton. He asked if she would take responsibility for the athletic department at TCHS, and she agreed. In addition to her job with All-Clean, Renee also oversaw all concession stands. “I’m Mr. Bill’s ‘right-hand man,’” Renee said proudly. “Whatever he needs me to do, I try to be there for him and the players and Coach Richie Marsh. He’s like a big brother to me.” As Renee sees it, that means “making sure the boys are fed, everything is clean, and the boys are safe.” If the football game is out of town, Renee rides on the bus with the players. Then, early the next day, she’s at the school “helping


Renee with TC Football Defensive Coordinator Buddy Martin and Head Coach Richie Marsh

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Renee works with Bill Benton on all things sports related whether it's stripping the gym floors, cooking hot dogs for the teams or washing uniforms. On football Fridays, she helps prepare the famous Billy Burgers and works the concession stand. But it's her encouragement to the kids and willingness to be a role model that make the biggest impact.

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Coach Marsh wash the uniforms and doing anything else he needs help with,” said Jay Mosley. “She basically works seven days a week.” During the summer months, Renee strips the floors of the gym and weight room. Sports practices keep her busy most evenings as well. A few years back, the Booster Club provided Renee with a golf cart. “It’s her only means of transportation,”

said Jay. “So, we keep it up for her. A couple of years ago, we bought a cover for Renee’s golf cart for the winter and when it’s raining.” A short time after coming to TCHS with All-Clean, Renee lost her daughter Angela to complications from seizures, which she had suffered since birth. Her daughter was twenty-one years old at the time. Renee had been a single parent and Angela, her only child. In her loss, Renee reached out to the people she knew were there for her. People like Jay Mosley, whom she considers a “father figure” in her life. “Marissa Morris,” Toombs County High School Principal, who she said, “is someone I know I can always talk to.” And, of course, the Benton family. “Mr. Bill and Ms. Rhonda are a big part of my life. They’re really special to me.” Looking back on that time, Bill said, “She faced her loss in the same way she does everything in life. She picked herself up and pushed on.” Moving through loss isn’t denial or simply choosing to forget. Even Jesus has scars. But His are scars, not wounds. The courage to heal was not a gift without price. She decided to turn her eyes to the people around her rather than the loss behind her. It was a choice she made day in and day out. And what she saw was a school full of children. “I see all these kids as my own,” said Renee. “And I love them all.” “She’s an important person for all our athletes,” said Bill. “She loves them and


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encourages them when they need it. And she brings discipline when they need that, too.” “It doesn’t matter who they are or where they are, either,” said Jay. “She’s old-fashioned that way.” He smiled. “But they listen. They respect what she has to say because they know she always has their best interest at heart.” Whether cooking hot dogs for the football team on Mondays or helping fill water bottles on the sidelines at the Friday night game, Coach Bullard gets things done. And the kids see it. They witness the way she enjoys her work and works hard. They pay attention when she speaks, even when she’s giving a much-needed reprimand. In an age when respect is in short supply, Coach Bullard stands tall in the eyes of Toombs County athletes for one reason: Because she loves them like a mother.

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. Let me just say, there is a lot of anger and hate in the village these days. And not everyone in it has the same values. Never has there been a greater need for true mothers and fathers than now. There’s a lot of blame placed on absent fathers for all the ills of society. But a mother’s love, whether mother by birth or by influence, should never be underestimated. I read recently that Winston Churchill’s father suffered from mental illness in his later years and died at the young age of forty-five. Churchill wrote of his mother, “She shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly—but at a distance. My nurse was my confidante. Mrs. Everest it was who looked after me and tended all my wants. It was to her I poured out my many troubles, both now and in my schooldays,” (My Early Life, A Roving Commission). We

can all be grateful for the impact that this nurse had on the life of the man who refused to back down against incredible odds during World War II. When I met Renee the first time, I made the connection with my sonin-law, TCHS Band Director Noah Bullard. Sharing the last name Bullard was close enough for Renee to call him “Cuz” from time to time. She smiled and said, “Oh, I just love Ava. She’s the sweetest child.” There are a whole lot of kids at TCHS. I don’t know how Renee knew Ava, but at that moment, she became our family’s “Aunt Renee,” too. Nothing is more important than those who not only love our child but give them an example that warrants respect. Whether as Aunt or Coach, Renee Bullard has our gratitude, not only for her service but for her love as a mother for the children in our community.


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BY TERI R. WILLIAMS

PHOTOS BY RUTH ENGLISH

No holding back Since birth Taylor Towery has faced what most would call obstacles, but he and his family have never doubted his ability to succeed at anything he tried.

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“Do you work Fridays, Taylor?” Tommy asked his son.

“No, sir,” he answered. Turning to me, he said, “He says working on Fridays is nonsense.” If Taylor could have seen his father’s face, I felt certain he would have appreciated the look of amusement. But Taylor had never actually seen his father. At least, not with his physical eyes. Taylor has been blind since birth. It was apparent from the first few moments with the Towerys that father and son share a sense of humor. Even


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“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” –Mother Teresa

Taylor and his family have an incredibly close bond that even extends to aunts and cousins. Every night he spends time discussing the day's events with his grandmother Mary Spivey. Spending time together means everything to the Towerys. 108

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though Taylor appreciates a long weekend, he enjoys work at Vidalia Small Engine Service–his father’s business on the outskirts of Vidalia. The driveway to their house wove past the shop and between a carefully kept lawn and pond. “He comes in at least three days a week,” said Tommy. One of Taylor’s responsibilities at his father’s shop involves putting the handles and the guards on new weed eaters when they arrive. “Sometimes his Aunt Lisa Chesser and cousin Bailey Collins come in and help him with it.” It was one of the many ways Taylor’s family makes time together intentional. For the Towerys, time together is everything. That sense of family connection extends to the guys at his father’s shop. “He used to threaten to fire someone just after every evening,” said Tommy, his eyes crinkling with a quick smile. “Now, he just tells them, ‘Who did nonsense today? We can’t keep you.’” It was one of the many matters he covers in conversation with his grandmother Mary Spivey on the phone each evening. They talk thirty minutes or so on the phone every night. If you don’t want her to know something, you’d better not tell Taylor.” On April 12, 1996, Taylor Towery was born at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, weighing only two pounds and one ounce. Rachel was only twenty-six weeks into her pregnancy. There had been no complications. No warning. Taylor’s mom smiled and said, “The doctor told us that if they knew what caused premature labor, they could In 2018, Taylor graduated from Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon. prevent it.” Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes, just retelling details from a traumatic experience said Rachel. “He went into respiratory arrest. He couldn’t can trigger emotions from that time. But as Taylor’s parents swallow and breathe at the same time,” said Rachel. As a went through the specifics of that time, I realized the result, a G-tube (gastrostomy tube) was surgically inserted story had a particular slant to it. It wasn’t denial. But each at a hospital in Atlanta. For my benefit, she explained that a memory was wrapped in genuine gratitude. Every detail G-tube was a feeding tube. of those early weeks and months reminded them of an This time, Taylor would not return home from the obstacle overcome. When their tiny baby was laid in their hospital in Macon until he was nine months old. Daily, arms, they couldn’t focus on anything over the wonder of Rachel and Tommy drove to Macon from Soperton, where their beautiful son. they lived at the time. Once home, therapies began as By the time Taylor was stabilized enough for open-heart needed. The G-tube was removed just in time for Taylor surgery to repair a heart valve, his weight had dropped to to start school at three years old. “He went to the halfone pound, six ounces. ROP, retinopathy of prematurity, day Toombs County PIP program,” said Rachel. “On was another complication. “It’s when the retinas detach,” Wednesdays, we took him to Atlanta for the Begin Program Rachel explained. Although the condition will sometimes at the Center for the Visually Impaired.” repair itself, the severity of Taylor’s ROP caused permanent When Taylor turned five years old, Rachel and Tommy blindness. contacted the Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB) in The Towerys took their son home after two months in Macon. At first, it didn’t seem as if he was going to get the hospital. But the respite was brief. “Taylor aspirated,” in. But the Towerys were not exactly the kind of people 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 Towerys don't think of Taylor's blindness as a challenge, but rather an opportunity for him to experience many things differently. Taylor enjoys hunting, fishing and helping at his father's business. 110

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who gave up easily. “We called our state senator at the time, Tommie Williams,” said Tommy. The additional support merited a phone call from the assistant principal, Teresa Harvey. The school agreed to take Taylor on a thirteen-day trial. At the end of the thirteen days, they decided to accept him into its residential program. For Taylor, the transition was quickly made. For his mama, not so much. Bus transportation to and from the school in Macon was available through the school system, but Rachel wouldn’t have it. She insisted on driving her son to Macon every Monday morning and picking him up again on Friday afternoons. “We wanted as much time with him as possible,” said Rachel. As Taylor developed physically, so did his unique personality. But, unfortunately, that sense of humor

shared between him and his father wasn’t always shared by school administrators. On more than one occasion, Taylor set off a school fire alarm. “When we got a note from the school about it, I thought, ‘That’s my boy,’” Tommy said with a grin. Taylor graduated from GAB on May 25, 2018. Since then, he’s kept a regular work schedule at Vidalia Small Engine Service. But it’s not all business and no pleasure. From his first deer, hunting has been one of Taylor’s favorite past times. How….? Wasn’t vision kind of necessary for that sort of thing? For my benefit, Tommy described the green laser mounted on all of Taylor’s guns that enabled him to shoot with precision using his father’s verbal cues. The many deer mounts that hang on his father’s business walls

are evidence of both patience and skill. One of his favorite hunts is for someone else. “A customer who doesn’t hunt will sometimes come in the shop and tell Taylor, ‘I’d love to have some deer meat this winter.’ When he gets them a deer, we’ll drop it off at the abattoir and put that person’s name on it. They’ll go by and pick it up when it's ready. He calls it ‘filling freezers for friends.’” Pictures of successful squirrel and turkey hunts and fishing feats more than proved Taylor’s sportsman adeptness. I prodded further. From the moment Taylor was born, life changed for the Towerys. “What challenges did doctors foresee?” They looked at me strangely. “I never thought of it like that,” said Rachel. “I always thought of what he could do.” Tommy nodded. “Well, I lay

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out his clothes each day,” Rachel said with a questioning tone as if to ask if that qualified as a challenge. I glanced at the white support canes with red bottoms and roller tips against the wall. Rachel smiled and got up. Holding the smaller of the two, she said, “This was his first one. They gave it to him at the school.” She looked out the window toward the engine repair shop on the hill and said, “He was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, but he can walk from here to the shop without help just fine.” It was all about what Taylor could do, not what he couldn’t do. Rachel brought in a framed memento from Taylor’s favorite football team, the Florida Gators. The frame held Lorenzo Lingard’s gloves. “He gave these to Taylor at a game.” With season tickets, the Towerys attend most games. “Josh Braun usually comes over and gives Taylor a fist pump before the game,” said Tommy. “So, you’re Florida Gators fans from Georgia,” I said jokingly. Tommy smiled. “Taylor, do we like the Georgia Bulldogs?” 112

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“Yes, sir!” said Taylor. “When do you like them, Taylor?” his father asked, barely suppressing a smile. “When they lose,” he said. Even though his dark sunglasses hid his expression, I knew the joke was on me. Back home, I glanced at the picture of Mayor Doug Roper presenting Taylor with the Sweet Onion Citizen Award this past July (2021). “Taylor,

you are an inspiration, not just to me, but this community,” the Mayor had said. What was it that empowered this young man to see his potential rather than his difficulties? To become an inspiration to his entire community? Was it perspective? A positive attitude? No, it was more than that. “Being blind isn’t the worst thing that can happen to people. Living without hope is the worst thing,” writes Jim Stovall in his book, You Don’t Have to be Blind to See. Stovall writes from the perspective of his own blindness. Tommy and Rachel had not glossed over the narrative of Taylor’s birth or the challenges that lay ahead of them. But when they held their baby, they saw the same thing they see today. They saw their son Taylor. The power of a mother and father’s love is so much more than a positive attitude. It’s seeing with the eyes of the heart. Seeing with love gave them hope. Taylor’s parents see what their son can do rather than what he cannot. And because of that, Taylor does, too.


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GilbertJonesandAssociates.com /gilbertjonesandassociates 114

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• Exceptional touch-up and spray application • Excellent hide • Perfect for residential/ commercial repaints and new construction • Our best professional finish

prattandlambert.com (800) BUY-PRAT (289-7728)

Pro-Hide® Gold Ultra Interior

Handy Andy Home Warehouse

1200 E. First Street, Vidalia, GA • 912-537-8572 • Fax: 912-537-2959


taste the difference! At Reedy Creek Meat Company, our customers come first, and we stand behind the quality of our products. That’s why we offer healthy, honestraised beef and locally sourced pork that your family will love.

204 Washington St., Vidalia, GA kim@reedycreekmeat.com

(912) 386-4625

appy health wishing you and your s a

&

holiday season

13 LOCATIONS. 23 DOCTORS. 2 SURGERY CENTERS. 13 SURGEONS. 7 OPTICAL SHOPS.

104 Charles Andrew Dr. Suite 112 | Vidalia, GA 30474 537.4447 | gaeyeinstitute.com 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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TT HH EE L OLCO AC LA MLA R ER TP MKA KLEATCPEL A C E

T H E LO C A L

MARKET Dine. Shop. Enjoy!

Make every room beautiful

Steaks • Seafood

Archie Branch

& Associates, LLC

The Lacklins, Owners

Try our Quik Decor Decorator Service

CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS

J &B’s

Palmer Furniture

Rare Welldone

1307 East First Street, Vidalia

302 East 1st Street, Vidalia 912.538.0250

912.537.4644

Discover your best look!

dale’s Hair Care Center & Gifts

119 SW Broad St., Lyons · 526-6721

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Vidalia Gymnastics & Cheer

2606 Matthews Industrial Circle • Vidalia

912.538.1000

Year-round Gymnastics & Cheer for ages 2-18 Flipping Friday EVERY Friday, 7-9 PM Register at

www.vidaliagymnastics.com

Tax Management, Accounting & Retirement Planning Services 304 E. Second Street, Vidalia 538-1275

304 E. Second Street, Vidalia · 538

Join us for the best wraps, sandwiches & desserts in town!

Downtown Bistro & Catering 101 E. MEADOWS ST. 537.7727


A UNIQUE EVENT VENUE IN

Lyons, Georgia

Your special moments require special experiences. Nine Columns

B E D & B R E A K FA S T 180 NW Broad St, Lyons • 912-293-4364 Victorwolfeconsulting@gmail.com

Wiggins Family Practice

Elements is now available for weddings, corporate events, private parties and bridal & baby showers. Full catering services provided. Pop up dining experiences focusing on local and Georgia Grown products coming in 2022. For more information contact

Gina Lane

912-585-2561 info@elementsoflyons.com

Get well faster!

Visit our friendly, caring staff who know you by name and get you on the way to a quick recovery. Mike Wiggins FNP

205 Arlington Drive, Vidalia • 912.537.2530

www.elementsoflyons.com Located at the Corner of US 1 & HHwy 292 in Lyons, Georgia O M E TO W N L I V I N G AT I T S B E S T 115


Vidalia Main Street Shop Local. Eat Local. Spend Local. Your community will thank you.

We have plenty of reasons to shop downtown and be a part of the Downtown Vidalia Association.

Watch for upcoming events and don’t miss out! @The Davis House

The Downtown Vidalia Association is a member driven non-profit that through the Main Street approach of planned economic development, historic preservation and promotional efforts develop & promote growth to bring prosperity to our community & participation of our members.

Join our team

Main Street members enjoy numerous benefits… just being connected helps you accomplish your goals.

Follow Us and Keep Up With What’s Going on in Your Hometown! www.vidaliaga.gov/dva 118

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Downtown Vidalia Association

@downtownvidalia


Don’t miss what’s happening downtown...

Downtown Vidalia is growing strong with lots of events that keep people engaged AND safe.

Veterans Day Event

The annual Spooktacular event in downtown Vidalia is always fun for both local vendors and local families!

US Army Recruiting Center receiving the Peoples Choice Scarecrow prize money, which they generously donated back to the DVA!

Coffee Before Hours at Merle Norman

Get the DVA weekly newsletter to find out what’s happening in downtown like this ribbon cutting for the Accessorize It new location

Coffee Before Hours at Peppy’s

The 5:05 with DVA at Maddie Bea 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

Business Solutions Summit The inaugural Business Solutions Summit was reviewed as a timely and successful event for local businesses and industry for solving workforce issues in our community. Dee Ann Turner, retired executive from Chick-fil-A, Founder and CEO of Dee Ann Turner and Associates, and best-selling author of “Bet on Talent” and “Crush Your Career”, spoke to attendees about selecting

Business Expo We had over 80 businesses participate with over 400 people in attendance. It was a great night of networking and business development for the members who participated. No other local event allows face to face marketing with as many other business professionals.

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the right talent and how that can impact their company in longevity. Other breakout speakers spoke on topics: How to Become a Social Media Superstar, Are you the next Ransomware Statistic, and A CEO Only Does Three things. There were over 100 people in attendance and came from communities all around. Thank you to the sponsors who marketed their

Presented by Paul Thigpen Automotive Gold Sponsors Agape Care Group Community Hospice

business with the Chamber through this event.

Presented by Chick-fil-A of Vidalia Gold Sponsors DBM Roofing Dot Foods Taylor Insurance Services


c

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.

Save the Date Legislative Luncheon January 6, 2022 Annual Meeting February 3, 2022 ConnectHER March 24, 2022 To stay updated on what your Chamber is doing, visit www.greatervidaliachamber.com and sign up for our email newsletters!

I Am the Chamber Day I am the Chamber day falls on the third Wednesday of October, and is nationally celebrated as the “Support Your Chamber of Commerce Day”. As a membership organization, our community can support the Chamber by supporting the member businesses. This year, we highlighted local programs and businesses by playing “I AM THE CHAMBER BINGO”. This allowed people to support local shops, programs, events, and restaurants at their convenience. We gave away 1 prize of $100 and $50 each in Community Bucks to the winner through a drawing of those who participated.

Presented by ADS Security

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

Promotion via Website, Email, Newsletter, Social Media, and Online Community Calendar

Ribbon Cuttings, Open Houses and Groundbreaking Events

Listing in GVC Business Directory

Chamber 101 Video Series

Shopping Locally Promotions with Community Bucks Program Discounted Workers’ Compensation Premiums And So Much More!

“Grow with Us” Luncheons

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

THANK YOU TO OUR 2021 280 SOCIETY SPONSOR

Membership Has Many Great Benefits!

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Happening in your hometown!

Look for Main Street Changes in 2022 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.

Tales from the Altamaha | April 21-30 Run What You Brung | May 6 Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby May 7 & 8 Miss SEGSBD Scholarship Pageant TBA Lyons Ribeye Roundup TBA

Text LYONSMAINSTREET TO 22828 to sign up for our newsletter

Catch the Derby Spirit Tales from the Altamaha back on stage!

We’ve missed spending time with our ‘Tales’ family the past two years, but we’re back! You won’t want to miss this year’s performance of Tales from the Altamaha “Precious Memories...from the Attic to the Outhouse”. Get ready to laugh and cry at more hilarious stories portraying the lives and stories of people living along the Altamaha River as described by the essays of Colonel T. Ross Sharpe. Grab a seat, relax, and enjoy tales of regional settlers’ lives, losses, and just plain ol’ gossip! Tickets are available online at www.lyonsmainstreet.com/tales-fromthe-Altamaha/ or at the Lyons Main Street Office.

Lyons Ribeye Roundup

Join us on Deby Hill on May 6th in the AM for the Super Kids Race. Bring your own gravity-powered contraptionand in the PM for Run What You Brung. Join us on May 7th & 8th to cheer on the Derby participants! Keep up on Facebook: Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby.

Work on your grill skills and join us for our second annual Lyons Ribeye Roundup. This event is sanctioned by SCA (Steak Cookoff Association) and has competitors worldwide. Last year, we hosted teams from Alabama, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia. The competition is heavy and the friendships run deep. Keep up on Facebook:Lyons Ribeye Roundup.

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

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Let Main Street help you locate your new business!


index of advertisers A Health Revival........................................................................ 23 AAA Roofing, Inc....................................................................... 58 Accessorize It Designs............................................................. 35 Allcare Pharmacy....................................................................... 72 Abednego Primary Care.......................................................... 73 Acute Care Clinic..................................................................... 73 Allergy and Asthma Management.......................................... 73 Altamaha Bank & Trust............................................................. 17 AmericInn Lodge & Suites.....................................................105 Archie Branch & Associates..................................................116 Arlene’s Fine Jewelry................................................................ 48 Barberitos.................................................................................103 Big Al’s Country Market.......................................................... 24 Brown Realty................................................................................ 7 Brown Insurance Group............................................................ 7 Bryant O’Connor, LLP Attorneys at Law............................. 73 Buckhorn Creek Consulting................................................... 57 CA Timber.................................................................................. 59 Chapman Healthcare Pharmacy............................................. 24 Chick-fil-A.....................................................Inside Front Cover Chit Chat Pediatric Therapy.................................................105 Community Hospice............................................... Back Cover Dale’s Hair Care Center.......................................................116 Darby Dental Services............................................................. 15 Dean Architecture and Design............................................... 95 Dental Center of Vidalia............................................................ 1 Dermatology Associates.......................................................... 21 Dixon O’Neal Agency.............................................................. 22 DOT Foods..............................................................................113 Downtown Bistro & Catering..............................................116 Edward Jones.............................................................................. 70 Elements....................................................................................117 Frame Gallery............................................................................ 31 Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center....................................... 8 Georgia Eye Institute..............................................................115 Georgia Properties................................................................... 45 Gilbert Jones & Associates....................................................114 Glow Salon................................................................................. 47 Greater Georgia Insurance..................................................... 93 Greg McKenzie Builders.......................................................... 38 Handy Andy Home Warehouse...........................................114 Ingley Roper Moore, LLC........................................................ 94 J&B’s Rare 2 Welldone............................................................116 K E Butler & Company Jewelers............................................ 63 Linda P. Bishop, CPA, PC........................................................104 Lone Pine Charolais.................................................................. 38 Lovins Realty................................................................................ 2 McLain, Calhoun, McCullough, Clark & Co P.C.................. 62

Madonna H. Paradice, PC........................................................ 85 Mary’s/ M Squared Design Firm ...................................... 18-19 Meadows Advanced Wound Care Center.........................113 Meadows Park Health & Rehabilitation............................... 22 Memorial Health Meadows Hospital..................................104 Million Pines Community Bank.............................................. 60 Mixon Pecan Company............................................................ 62 Mobley’s Well and Pump Service........................................... 94 Moses Pecan Company............................................................ 39 Mount Vernon Bank.................................................................. 49 MPHI............................................................................................ 85 New Image Salon and Spa.....................................................114 Nine Columns Bed & Breakfast...........................................117 Ohoopee Land and Timber, LLC..........................................104 One World Solar.....................................................................103 Oxley Dental of Vidalia.............................................................. 5 Oxley Park Health & Rehabilitation...................................... 48 Palmer Furniture.....................................................................116 Peoples Bank............................................................................101 Peppy’s......................................................................................... 69 Phillips Pharmacy....................................................................... 94 Red Stag Tavern........................................................................105 Reedy Creek Meat Company...............................................115 Regenerative Medicine Associates, LLC............................... 83 Reidsville Veterinary Clinic...................................................... 72 Rivers Air Conditioning & Heating........................................ 70 Roberts-Stewart Funeral Home............................................ 58 Rural Roots Beauty Bar........................................................... 11 Salter Shook Attorneys at Law.............................................. 71 Solace Hospice.......................................................................... 72 Spa On First............................................................................... 61 Spivey Orthopedic Clinic........................................................ 25 State Farm Insurance/Kailey Dees........................................ 35 Tar Land and Timber................................................................ 95 The Gathering Place................................................................. 69 The Tillery Firm PC..................................... Inside Back Cover Thriftway..................................................................................... 58 Tots 2 Teens................................................................................ 36 Vidalia Eyecare............................................................................. 9 Vidalia Federal Savings.............................................................. 13 Vidalia Gymnastics Cheer and Dance................................116 Vidalia Honey Company........................................................101 Vidalia Pediatric Clinic............................................................. 37 Vidalia Small Engine Service.................................................... 83 Webster Motor Company...................................................... 62 Wiggins Family Practice.........................................................117 Woody Folsom Automotive Group...................................... 60 Zaxby’s........................................................................................... 3

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

Toombs C

o.

W

e’re skipping right through fall with its

crisp, cool days and pumpkin spiced lattes. Kids ready for winter days make Jack-o’lanterns one week and beg to hang Christmas decorations the next. The shift in seasons adds an unexplainable excitement to the air as we all start thinking about cozy fires, holiday gatherings, soup recipes, football and hunting season. Soon there will be jingle bells, twinkle lights and holiday parties, and then the cold winter that will seem to never end. Life is a neverending cycle of seasons and change, but isn’t it great to experience it all right here in

Toombs County?

photo by | JOE CLARONI 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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“Claire is my 6 year old granddaughter. Her parents are Clint and Mindy Sumner of Vidalia. After school snacks with her are ‘the best part of my day.’” –Karen Sumner

photo by | KAREN SUMNER

photo by | DIANNE S. MIXON

photo by | JOE CLARONI


photo by | MILIZABETH MANN

photo by | JEANIE DIXON

photo by | MICHELLE WRIGHT

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.

Life Changes Wipe away those tears–the empty nest won’t last long! Well, we’ve done it. The husband and I have successfully completed 8 months of rambling around the nest alone and, although it’s been a bit of an adjustment, I can honestly say that we’re not hating it at all. The ripping off of the band-aid in March was a killer – 31 days of jampacked tears, stress, and shapewear hell. (If you’ve ever been a mother of the bride with a gut too big for a dress too small and have shopped for just the right piece of elastic that reorganizes fat under event wear, you know of this hell I speak of). On March 1st, our Abbey moved to Statesboro to officially begin her nursing career, and on March 27th, our Hannah married her favorite person and left us forever. The nest was declared empty. As if all of that was not hard enough, on March 30th I unexpectedly sat on the floor of the vet’s office, holding our family member of 15 years as our sweet Dancing Daisy dog floated gently out of our life. It was all gut-wrenching, and by April, I had nary a tear left in my body as we rambled around a house that was eerily quiet, occasionally giving each other the side-eye as if to either say “You ok?” or “What the heck do we do now?” This went on for about a week, maybe less. When the dust finally settled, (and I mean that both literally and figuratively because no one was home to clean anymore) and the pre 1994 Karl and Ann were back. It was wild–almost like I went up in the attic and brought out two people that we had packed away 27 years ago, and as soon as I pulled them out of their packaging and the air hit them, they got older, wiser, grayer, fatter, and had more insurance. But we

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were back and ready to party, which was also short-lived because apparently the drinking gene gets old and rusty over time and neither copious amounts of alcohol or WD-40 will bring it back to its former glory. As we quickly found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic remix and going out wasn’t much of an option, we built ourselves a redneck, backyard oasis with a galvanized trough / stock tank swimming pool–complete with lights and a mini fountain. It became our Friday date night spot and usually included a pan-fried steak, some really good wine, and lots of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton. Honestly, it was one of the best summers I’ve ever had, and I’m thinking he and I need to start a side hustle, installing pools for couples who are finally coming out of the attic. Side Note: if you decide to go this route, make sure you have a privacy fence or live in the country. If further explanation is required, I’ll explain at our consultation. The other really cool thing that happened this summer happened during a beach vacation with the fam. We were posing for a picture with our eldest girl when my son-in-law, who was taking the picture, said, “Ok, everybody ready? 1...2...3...Emma’s pregnant!” Wow, just wow. Their journey to parenthood has been a long and challenging one with lots of tears and sadness, but that crazy train will stop at the end of February when my grandson, Reed Allen, arrives. Good God, we are thrilled beyond words. Karl has summed it all up as some sort of master plan that is working totally in his favor. He has surmised that God gave him all girl children so that they could take care of him in his old age, but He gave him a grandson to have fun with without fear of repercussion. I suppose there’s something to that, but there will be repercussions and scolding. I’m sure of it. For me, personally, the irony of becoming a grandmother one scant year after my full-on parenting responsibilities have ended is not at all lost on me. I mean, the second month after the girls

were gone, I was sitting home balancing my checkbook when I realized that something was terribly wrong. The bank had made an error which appeared to be very much in our favor. I thought that only happened in Monopoly, right? Upon further research, I realized that there was no error. We just had money again, and it was all ours to keep–all of it, just for us. I was like the seagulls in Finding Nemo when they spotted fish and exclaimed, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Here we are saving money, minding our own business and BAM! Grandchild. I did not grasp the seriousness of it before it happened to me, and it hasn’t even really happened to me yet. I secretly laughed at my peers for being so ridiculous and dramatic about their grands. I’ve rolled my eyes at the titles they’ve given themselves like Nae Nae and G-string and have gotten downright tired of hearing “You have no idea how much you’re going to love a grandchild because there is nothing like it!” Blah, blah, blah. Then, I woke up one morning a month or so ago, apparently from a coma, and found cases of diapers and wipes in my spare bedroom and in the trunk of my car. There’s a teeny tiny outfit on a teeny tiny hanger with matching jacket, socks, and bib in a closet. There’s a high-chair in need of refinishing on my back porch and I recently tripped over a pack-n-play and some sort of walker with toys hanging all over it. Also, I have an Amazon list of things he must have and a hidden Pinterest board full of ideas for what his room will look like at our house, things we will do together, and things I will make for him. This kid is currently the size of an ear of corn and I’ve already got our first trip to Disney planned out. Jesus, take that wheel and my wallet as the madness has only just begun. Oh, and what are we going to be called? We have settled on GrAnnie and PaPa, thank you very much. I can just hear it now – “GrAnnie, can I have....” and before he can even finish his sentence, “Yes, baby, you can. As a matter of fact, take two.”


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

22 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 Home Hospice Services s The Area’s Only Hospice

s Home Health Aides & Skilled

Nursing Services

House s Grief Support & Bereavement Services s Medical & Social Workers

s Advocates Dietary Counseling s Financial Aid Available

Through Community Hospice s 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