Hospice Savannah Medical Director,

Julia Johnson, MD, FAAHPM

• Why are so many people afraid of hospice?

Because they think it means they are giving up. That they are going to die. The really interesting thing is that a 2010 New England Journal of Medicine study shows that hospice and palliative care actually extends life. At Hospice Savannah we’ve always known patients have a better quality of life once they get our help, but now it has been clinically proven that people can live longer with this kind of quality care.

• What if my doctor recommends 

another hospice?

There are about a dozen hospices in our area now, but the choice is always up to the patient. If you want Hospice Savannah’s care you may have to insist!

• Why Hospice Savannah?

Many people think Hospice Savannah is Hospice House on Eisenhower Drive. Hospice Savannah is much more than that! The majority of patients are cared for at home which includes nursing home and assisted living facilities. However, Hospice Savannah is the only hospice in the area with a dedicated Hospice House. It is only available to Hospice Savannah patients. This allows the full continuum of care – Homecare, Hospice House when symptoms and care cannot be met at home, respite care and now long term residential care.

• Does it make a difference that Hospice Savannah is not-for-profit?

Yes!! As a result of this earned status, we don’t have to financially support an expensive corporate structure, pay interest or dividends to investors and shareholders or pay income taxes. As a result, we have more financial resources to direct to the highest level of patient care possible and the acknowledgement as the “Gold Standard” in hospice care. It allows us to offer additional programs not part of a typical hospice program, such as bereavement support for all ages and our new Edel Caregiver Institute that provides hands-on education and support to caregivers. Isn’t this what you want for your loved one?

• What if I don’t think its time for 


Let us come talk to you without any obligation as you may benefit from another program:  Our Caregiver Institute helps family caregivers (visit www.EdelCaregiverInstitute.org) and our Steward Center for Palliative Care helps manage life-limiting illnesses (call 912.354.8014).

Hospice Savannah, Inc.

Administrative offices

1674 Chatham Parkway

Savannah, 31405



New Rehabilitation Center at Effingham Health System

story by cindy burbage     photos by luke smith

Effingham Health Systems is growing to better meet the demands of the residents of Effingham County. In May 2015, EHS added a new Rehabilitative Services Department led by Director Z.T. Howard, a graduate of both the University of Georgia and Armstrong State University.

Howard said the new facility has state of the art equipment to handle a large variety of therapies and is the only one in the county to treat lymphedema and urinary incontinence in women.

“In fact we are the only facility in the county to offer these therapies,” he said. “We have one therapist, Courteney Rainey, DPT, that has specialized training in Women’s Health.”

Therapists at Effingham Health System are able to treat musculoskeletal conditions, surgical repairs such as joint replacements and carpal tunnel, fracture repairs, and ACL, to name a few. They also treat neurologic conditions, including stroke or cerebral vascular accident (CVA),  Parkinson’s,  benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV.

The new department also allows Effingham Health Systems rehab therapists to promote such programs as the Otago Exercise Program, a fall reduction program adopted by the Centers for Disease Control for the elderly. The Rehabilitative Services Department also has partnered with Accelerated Care Plus (ACP), a company specializing in equipment such as the OmniStim, an electrical stimulation device to encourage the natural muscle activation patterns and used in most professional sports leagues.

Effingham Orthopaedic Services

In December 2015, Effingham Health Systems added Effingham Orthopaedic Services with American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery Board certified surgeon Dr. Mark Mudano.

Dr. Mudano has been in practice for more than 25 years and at Effingham Health Systems for four years. He made his way to Georgia by way of Florida, and his first practice, Tampa Bay Orthopaedics, included reconstructive knee surgery and sports medicine. Dr. Mudano was brought to Effingham Health Systems to start a full service orthopaedics practice. He is fellowship trained in Reconstructive Knee Surgery, having completed the training in 1990 under the direction of John Garrett, MD, the founder of Resurgens Orthopaedics in Atlanta.

With the new operating room and clinical practice, Effingham Orthopaedics provides every orthopaedic service currently available except for multi-trauma care and spine surgery.

“We are able to perform top-notch care for the vast majority of the inhabitants of this county and surrounding area with all the current best treatments available for orthopaedic injuries and conditions,” Dr. Mudano said. “This includes all types of knee arthroscopic procedures, ACL reconstruction, meniscal repairs, as well as all shoulder arthroscopic techniques including rotator cuff repair. We perform all hand surgeries, fracture repair procedures, foot and ankle surgeries, in addition to total knee and hip operations.”

With Effingham Health System adding these services to their menu, Effingham residents have no need to travel to receive the exceptional care they deserve. Rehab therapists and Dr. Mudano work closely together to be sure that a patient has a successful outcome.

“Patients should feel comfort in knowing that all our services are growing to accommodate them and we are dedicated to working as a team with them and their physicians to provide the best possible care available,” Howard said.

The new Rehabilitative Services Department is the only full time facility to offer physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in Effingham. The goal is to serve residents locally and provide them with the best care possible.

Ella Bothwell: Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce

story by katrice williams

photos by miranda osborn

“Whoever takes the lowly position of this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me.”  –  Jesus Christ

The unfaltering courage that a precious child exhibits in circumstances that may appear incomprehensible to most individuals is nothing short of amazing. Ella Bothwell, a 7-year-old Effingham native and the daughter of Ben and Kristine Bothwell is a beautiful little girl that exemplifies such courage.

Ella was diagnosed last April with DIPG, Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a rare form of brain cancer normally found in children ages 5-7. Only 10-150 new cases of DIPG are seen in the U.S. annually.  Prior to diagnosis, Ella started to experience recurring headaches. Her parents immediately took her to see her pediatrician, who diagnosed her with allergies due to other symptoms that were present; Ella was placed on an allergy medication. Over time, she didn’t feel any better and even became disoriented, lacked some muscle coordination and had trouble with her balance at times. Afterwards, a Cat scan revealed that Ella had a tumor within her brain stem. Consequently, the primary treatment for DIPG is radiation. Ella was treated for a while at Memorial Hospital. Her parents did extensive research on cancer treatment centers all over the country. They were most attracted to what they learned about St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Thereafter, the family flew to Memphis, where Ella was admitted to the hospital for six weeks. There, she received experimental oral chemotherapy along with radiation.

Ella’s mom appreciates St. Jude, stating, “We just prayed about it and felt like we were supposed to go, and it was an amazing experience there too. It’s like a cocoon environment where they just meet all your needs. I’m very glad we chose that facility; it’s really amazing.”

Ella and her family have held on to a great deal of faith and hope throughout this situation. Kristine is extremely grateful for all the kindness and support that so many people have shown her “Doodle,” the nickname she so lovingly calls Ella. She feels privileged to have such a caring support system in her local area.

“I can’t even imagine an environment that could be more conducive to being in this situation. Our community has been unbelievable; our church has been fabulous. All of our needs have been met. It has really been unbelievable how this community has reached out to us,” Kristine declares. Additionally, a Memphis family, who didn’t know the Bothwell’s, but knew of Ella’s condition, took the family into their home for the eight weeks that Ella received treatment at St. Jude. Kristine and Ben are immensely gracious to be shown such kindness by so many people; it has all seemed almost surreal to them. Veritably, they have spoken with parents all over the world who have kids around Ella’s age who are also fighting cancer. They, too, have offered a lot of comfort and support.

Understanding that they could not endure such a trying time alone, Kristine says, “Our faith is what gets us through this. We’ve seen God through the entire journey…how He has provided. God is what gets us through every single day.”

Through it all, Ella couldn’t be more loved. Family, friends, organizations and countless others over the world extend their love and support to her. In fact, she is currently being honored by the St. Baldrick’s Organization, which is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to funding childhood cancer research. Though over 175,000 children are diagnosed with some type of cancer each year, pediatric cancer is severely under-funded, with only 4% of all cancer research funds going towards research for children’s cancer. The St. Baldrick’s Family spearheads numerous functions to raise money, including head-shaving events and a host of other advocacy initiatives. They want to insure that every donation goes toward the best research possible. Families of diagnosed children, medical researchers, oncologists, businesses and other concerned supporters all around the world team up with the organization to help. Ella will be publicly honored for St. Baldrick’s Day on March 19. The event will take place at the Savannah City Market, where it has been held for the past five years. A host of activities are planned, and all donations will benefit childhood cancer research. Ella is the inspiration for “Team Ella,” a group of dedicated advocates striving to raise as much money on her behalf as possible. The team will be there to support Ella for St. Baldrick’s Day. Ella has one huge admirer that’s looking forward to attending, her art teacher, Morgan Webb, who plans to shave her head on Ella’s behalf.

Morgan states, “We’ll see how many people we can get on the team to honor her. I’m glad we can honor her and more people can learn about her and pray for her.”

Ella actually has limited edition pieces of art that she made that will be auctioned off at a second event that her family will attend later that same day in Savannah–Sisters on a Journey– another charity committed to raising funds for childhood cancer research; Kristine will host a table for the event.

It’s no surprise that Ella chose to go to Walt Disney World for her Make a Wish trip. The family went last July and had a boatload of fun. Ella really enjoyed herself at Magic Kingdom and rode all the rides. The park had a room set up for her so that she could rest periodically. It was agreed, however, that mom and dad needed more rest than Ella and her 8-year-old brother Conner.

Ella’s family is able to draw from her courage, which is so often shown in her strength and character. Her parents are proud that she is such a kind little girl. She doesn’t take the kindness and support shown to her for granted.

Kristine remarks, “She’ll sit down and write like a bazillion thank you notes. She just has such a gracious spirit about her. She’s very thankful…very sweet spirit.”

What’s more, Ella has a great relationship with both of her parents. However, Kristine admits that Ella is really more of a daddy’s girl.

“Her and her daddy have a special relationship. They have a similar quiet side; they can sit there at the table and do artwork for hours and not speak and just be engaged with each other.”

Anyone who talks to Ella can see that she’s an amazing little girl. She loves life and also likes to be a little silly at times, especially when she does the occasional snorting…yes, Ella snorts and is quite tickled by it. There are a couple of other things that Ella enjoys doing in her spare time. She really likes to collect stuffed animals. In fact, she has a few hundred of them. She does have a favorite one—her giant carebear, and there’s a good reason that it’s so dear to her.

“He gave me sweet dreams,” she says.

Ella’s ultimate hobby, though, is doing arts and crafts. She loves to paint and draw and is really good at it. The little artist even designed the t-shirts that Team Ella will wear for St. Baldrick’s Day. She is quite talented, and her art teacher, Morgan, helps her to build on her skills. She has been her teacher since August and gives her lessons every Tuesday.

“It has been awesome. She has taught me a lot more than I’ve taught her. I love Tuesdays; we have a fun time,” Morgan states.

Unsurprising to most, Ella also wants to be an art teacher when she grows up. However, art is one thing, but chores—something totally different. In a light and funny moment, Ella was asked if she missed doing little chores around the house. Her mom joked and said that she may soon be able to be her dog, KoKo’s, pooper scooper. In a priceless, Kodak moment with raised eyebrows and a huge oh-no look on her face, Ella did not at all concur.

Ella enjoys spending time with her brother Conner, who also loves her to pieces. She was anxious to show the pieces of beaded artwork that he made for her when they last did arts and crafts together. He made her a Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer. Conner also made Ella a little girl Minion and made a tiny Minion bow for its head. He wanted it to look like Ella, since he knows that she likes to wear hair bows.

Ella talked about a fun trip that the family took to Stone Mountain over the Christmas holidays. The park had a “Snow Mountain” theme, where fake snow was made for the sliding tubes and other attractions. Ella’s dad held on to her as they slid through the tube, but Ella really enjoyed slipping and sliding away from him most of all.

She says, “I really liked that part.”

Ella also thinks that her dog KoKo and cat Gracie are pretty cool. She mentions that KoKo jumps on her bed before she goes to sleep at night and gives her a goodnight kiss.

Ella enjoys a lot of things in life, but she did speak of one that’s pretty intolerable—her dad’s snoring. Her dad slept in her room to watch over her for a while after her diagnosis. Well, though dad always wants to be there for his baby girl, mom had to replace him as Ella’s roommate. That helped out a lot, but Ella still notices a bit of melodious sounds throughout the night.

“I can hear daddy snoring from my room,” she humorously says.

One of Ella’s favorite people in the world is surely her grandma Maureen, who she and Conner call Me-Me. Ever since they were much younger, their parents would let the two of them take little vacations to her house, which their grandma calls Camp Me-Me when they visit. The kids have a great time with activities, crafts and whatever else Me-Me comes up with.

Nonetheless, Kristine laughs and says, “A lot of things happen at Me-Me’s that doesn’t happen at home. What goes on at Me-Me’s stays at Me-Me’s.”

Ella admires the fact that her grandma has a charity to help raise money for underprivileged children in Africa. Ella was even anxious to help Me-Me with a bake sale to raise money for it shortly after she came back home from St. Jude.

Ella remembers, “Me and Conner wanted to eat everything; everything was so yummy.”

Ella seems comfortable talking about DIPG and her treatment, and she’s appreciative of all the kindness, help and support that she gets. Nevertheless, she is still an honest kid.

She candidly states, “The only thing I like about oncology is the lollipops.”

Apparently, she has gotten a whole lot of them at the hospital and doctor’s office over the course of her treatment.

Ella is a courageous little girl who is truly remarkable. She is not content with letting DIPG define her in the least. There’s a ton of love that Ella has to give and a lot more life she has to live. Ella is blessed to have a phenomenal support system, including a loving family who continues to draw on their faith in God and what He is able to do. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 1:13, Holy Bible).

To join or support Team Ella, please visit:


JULIE HALES: Effingham’s Representative for the 2016 Kiss a Pig Campaign Let’s Bring Home the Bacon for The American Diabetes Association

story by katie vandenhouten

photos by susan deloach

As the owner of Independence Day Publishing, Julie Hales has made a career of spotlighting outstanding residents in Effingham Magazine, Effingham Sports Digest, Pooler Magazine, Beaufort Lifestyle, and Chatham Isles Living. Now, she gets to take the spotlight to raise money for a cause that is personal to her: diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association has chosen her to be a part of the Kiss a Pig Campaign, which is their largest fundraising event of the year. Hales will be representing Effingham County as the team captain of “Hams from Effingham.” And she is confident that she can get the people of Effingham County to ban together to raise the most money for diabetes.

Pigs are honored by the ADA as the original source of insulin and recognized for saving lives, so creative porcine puns are a fun part of the Kiss a Pig fundraiser. This year’s theme is: “Hollywood:  Your Chance to Hog the Spotlight.” The team captain who raises the most money wins the competition and gets to kiss Lulu the pig, the official mascot of the American Diabetes Association.

Hales was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about fifteen years ago, and she was living a normal life until her health made a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse. In November, she was at a function giving a speech when she felt like something burst inside her head, and excruciating pain followed. She was taken to the ER, where her blood sugar was a dangerously high 393.

Just like that, with no warning at all, her diabetes had gone from a controlled chronic condition to a life threatening one. For that reason, it is often called “the silent killer.”  More Americans die each year from diabetes than from breast cancer and AIDS combined.

The health scare was a wakeup call for Hales. “The initial visit in the ER was bad enough, having to have a CT scan done because they thought I had a brain bleed. Then all the follow up appointments with my doctor and tests, none of which had good results,” she says. “So I am on a mission to get better.”

In addition to spearheading the Kiss a Pig fundraiser in Effingham, Hales joined her own office competition at Independence Day Publishing to raise additional funds for diabetes and to encourage herself and her employees to maintain a healthier lifestyle. She is asking people to sponsor her for each pound she loses from January to May 1.

Long-time employee of IDP, Lane Leopard, is also competing in the office weight loss challenge. She says, “Our office has always been a close group of people who really care about each other. When Julie made the decision to join the ADA campaign, and getting herself healthy, we all backed her 100% and wanted to help in any way we could. She’s always supported me in everything I have set out to do, and this is a way for me to pay that forward, and get myself healthier as well.”

Lea Allen, administrative assistant at IDP, is thrilled that Hales is raising awareness for others and making an effort to get healthy. “Ever since I have known Julie, she has always been so big into giving back to the community. I think it is amazing that she is heading up the Kiss a Pig campaign here in Effingham County to raise awareness of diabetes,” she says. “And the most amazing part is that she is not only helping and supporting her community, but also giving back and helping herself by adopting a healthy lifestyle to tackle and control her diabetes.”

Hales is no stranger to community outreach. She feels honored to be able to make a difference in the community where she grew up. “I have been involved in a lot of community organizations such as United Way, Effingham Victim Witness, Optimist Club, the Recreation Department and many others. Giving back to the community that has afforded me so much is very important to me,” she says. And that is one of the reasons she was chosen to represent Effingham County for this event.

Though she has participated in countless charities and fundraisers through the years, this one is special to her.  “This is actually the first time that I have ever been asked to be involved in something that can, and does, affect me,” she explains. “I am experiencing major health issues as the result of this disease.”

Hales is deeply committed to this cause and to educating as many people as she can about diabetes. “Trust me. It is nothing to play with,” she says. “And people need to know more about it and what they can do to prevent it and keep it under control.”

One of the frightening aspects about diabetes is that anyone can develop it at any age. That is why education is a crucial part of fighting the disease. In its early stages, many people experience no symptoms at all, which is why it is important to get screenings and to be aware of the signs, symptoms and risk factors.

Some warning signs include extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and tingling in the lower extremities. Individuals who are overweight, have a sedentary lifestyle, are over the age of 45, or have a family history of diabetes are at an increased risk. African Americans and Latinos also have a higher risk for developing the disease.

“As you can probably tell, I am very passionate about raising awareness,” Hales reiterates. “I had no idea the health problems my diabetes was causing and I feel certain there are many of our residents that have the same issues and many that have this disease that are not even aware they do.”

She couldn’t be more correct, according to The American Diabetes Association. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 7 million of them don’t even know they have it.

What’s even scarier is that 86 million people are considered to have “pre-diabetes” and may eventually develop Type 2 Diabetes if their health goes unchecked. Many people don’t realize that this disease can lead to amputations, blindness, cardiovascular disease, kidney complications and even death if left uncontrolled.

Maria Center, the Director of the American Diabetes Association for Southeast Georgia and coastal South Carolina, says it is crucial to raise awareness and educate as many people as possible of the dangers of diabetes. “I don’t think people realize how much damage this disease can do if unmanaged,” she says. “I want people to know that diabetes is serious and potentially deadly if not controlled.”

Center is confident that Hales will do an outstanding job as Effingham’s Kiss a Pig team captain. “We chose Julie because she has deep roots in Effingham County and is a well respected leader with a personal interest in diabetes. She has the ability to engage many other leaders to help the Association.”

She maintains that the best part of working for the ADA is bringing people together from all backgrounds to work toward a common goal. “It’s very rewarding to see people working for something larger than themselves,” says Center. “We also have a great time for a great cause.”

Anyone who knows Julie Hales can attest that she knows how to have fun, and so Effingham County should be in for a good time at the coming Kiss a Pig festivities. “And who knows,” she adds, “I may get to kiss that darn pig!”

Bonnie Dixon Useful, Honorable and Compassionate

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be
honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that
you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

story by julie hales

photos by kelly klotz

Useful, honorable and compassionate……those words truly describe United
Way of the Coastal Empire Effingham’s very own Bonnie Dixon. And, if
making a difference is measured by living well, Bonnie has lived, and
is still living…..very well.

She has made a difference in the lives of many people here in our
community. Her 25 years with United Way in Effingham has placed her in
many situations where help was needed and provided.

But, her “job” is not the only reason Bonnie has touched these
lives. She is one of those people who truly has a heart filled with
compassion for others and is always finding ways to help those less
fortunate than herself, giving freely of her time to many
organizations other than United Way.

About Bonnie

Bonnie Dixon was born in November of 1953 to Bill and Martha
Hardison in Savannah, Georgia, where she was raised.

In 1973, she married Jimmy Dixon.  The couple moved to Effingham
County where they raised their two children, Trey Dixon and Kelli
Dixon Arden.

Bonnie’s first job was with the first Burger King in Savannah
(Corporate Office) where she maintained inventory for the two Savannah

Later, she worked as Chatham Radiologist’s insurance clerk and
courier, transporting x-rays and other medical records between
radiology offices, specialists and Candler Hospital.

She was a secretary for the contracting firm Ballenger
Corporation and Structures, Inc. that built bridges for I-95 from
South Carolina to Florida.

Following this, she went to work for Dr. Walter Kanter as a
part-time office manager.

Later, she became the Assistant to the Director of Employee
Relations for Great Dane Trailers, and also the editor of their
company magazine, The Great Dane News.

The experience of helping Great Dane employees in their personal
struggles, along with her own family’s personal experience involving
the judicial system, led her to knowing she had to leave the corporate
world and become involved – truly involved – in her community.

In 1989, Governor Zell Miller ordered every county in Georgia to
develop a procedure for handling child abuse cases.  Bonnie
volunteered to coordinate the establishment of the first Effingham
County Child Abuse Protocol.  This protocol led to the development of
the Effingham Victim-Witness Assistance Program, where she served as
the first Executive Director.  She worked to establish the Georgia Law
that requires offenders in every court in every municipality, every
town, and every county in Georgia to pay a 5% fee/fine add-on.  This
fund now provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to programs that
work directly with personal injury crime victims in the State of

She served on the first Board of Directors for Treutlen House
during the establishment, fundraising and building phase of the
program.  In addition, she was a charter member and past president of
the Effingham Family Connection Commission.  She also served on the
committee to establish the Effingham YMCA, and was chair of
Effingham’s Emergency Food and Shelter Board for many years.

Most recently she worked to rally the community to establish the
first homeless shelter program for children and their families, Family
Promise of Effingham, the Two Rivers Health Clinic – serving
individuals with chronic disease who don’t have health insurance, and
the reestablishment of critical Parenting Classes for Effingham
residents.  She is chair of the REACH collaborative of mental health
resources in Effingham, and was a member of the Effingham Drug Free
Community committee.

She was also a charter member and is a Past President of the
Effingham Sunrise Rotary Club.

United Way

In 1990, growth in Effingham County was on a huge rise. This
increase in population was primarily due to the arrival of the Fort
Howard Paper Company.  With this came the demand for more social
services in Effingham. In April of that same year, a group of
Effingham volunteers, including Fort Howard management, came together
to discuss the needs of Effingham County families. The

committee’s primary purpose was to explore the possibility of opening
a United Way of the Coastal Empire Effingham office that would
increase awareness of the UWCE-funded agencies serving Effingham, and
provide better access to residents who had previously traveled outside
of Effingham for assistance.

The idea was to establish a “store front” of sorts, a United Way
office where citizens could walk in, discuss their needs and be
referred to the appropriate programs.

With approval from the United Way of the Coastal Empire Board of
Directors, in the summer of 1990, a UWCE satellite office was opened.

Bonnie was then employed part time as the Director of Effingham
Victim Witness Assistance Program. She was named Director of
UWCE-Effingham in 1990, and she divided her schedule between the two

Twenty-five years later, she is still the current Area Director
for United Way of the Coastal Empire in Effingham.  Over her 25 years
of service and collaboration with community leaders she has raised
more than $5.5 million in campaign funds, and provided more than
658,000 points of service through programs she has established or
brought to Effingham.

Bonnie Dixon will retire from United Way of the Coastal Empire
Effingham on December 31, 2015. She is leaving a stellar legacy of
community collaboration and hope for many residents of Effingham

After United Way

In a recent interview with Effingham Magazine, Bonnie shared her
thoughts on United Way with us and her plans for her future.

Her immediate thoughts of the future went straight to her
grandkids. Bonnie and Jimmy have three grandchildren, all six years
old, Edie Dixon and twins, Owen and Ella Arden.

“I remember how much help I received from my parents when my
children were young.  If it weren’t for them helping out with the
kids, I would not have been able to work as much.  I want to make sure
I am there for my children and help them like my mother helped me,”
Bonnie said.

She adds, “Jimmy has been retired from Georgia Power for four
years now. He already gets to do things with the grandkids. This will
give us more opportunities for us to enjoy the grandkids together.”

Bonnie is also looking forward to getting back to one of the
things she enjoys doing so much, gardening. “I love being able to work
in the yard, to work with my hands.  Now I can help Jimmy with that as
well,” she says.

And, of course, Bonnie has plans to volunteer.  There are several
organizations in the community she will be giving her time to.  She
says, “I plan on taking a year off before getting involved, but there
are a few things near and dear to my heart that I will be a part of.”

“I have been asked so many times since I announced my upcoming
retirement ‘what’s on your bucket list.’  I honestly don’t have a
bucket list.  My bucket list was things I wanted to be a part of
establishing in Effingham before I retired.  With the startup of the
Two Rivers Health Clinic, which was the last thing on my list, I am
completely satisfied!” she says.


When asked what her greatest moment  in her twenty five years
with United Way is, Bonnie’s answer was truly no surprise.  She said,
“Every day is different, and naturally some days are more difficult
than others. Each time we are able to connect someone to a resource
for assistance, it me gives me a wonderful feeling of success and
accomplishment. To define the greatest moment or put my finger on any
one special moment is difficult.  Instead, I can tell you that after
listening to a client pour their heart out with details of their
situation and then trying to locate the various resources that could
be of assistance can be emotionally exhausting.  Sure, there are
clients that are suffering from the consequences of their poor
choices, however, there are far more, that through no fault of their
own, find themselves in a situation that sometimes just requires
someone “on the outside” of their family to listen and define their
specific problem and from there, point them in the direction of
helpful resources.”

“Recently a family’s situation came to my attention through
social media.  Both parents had become unemployed within weeks of one
another.  The parent’s primary and first concern was food for their
three children – not how were they going to pay the house payment, the
utility bill, gas for the car…but feed their children.   I assured
him that thanks to the FORCE food pantries we could provide his family
with food.  After making a referral to a food pantry near their home,
I encouraged him to call our office and make an appointment for the
FORCE program’s monthly supplemental food assistance.  About a week
later, I received a note from the father.  His comment caused me to
pause and remember that people right here in Effingham are worried
about their next meal.  He said, ‘I was in the Service Center this
morning for my FORCE appointment.  I wanted to let you know how nice
everyone was that I came in contact with.  I also took note of some of
the other programs that are available to help my family.  Please know
that I will never be able to repay the kindness that has been shown to
my family during this difficult time but please know that we are most
grateful for United Way.’ So, I have to say that every time someone
shows appreciation for the assistance they have received from United
Way – is a great moment,” she adds.

Leaving a job after twenty five years can have advantages and
disadvantages. And, leaving one that has been so much of your life,
like a child you birthed, can be extremely difficult.  But, when
Bonnie was asked about how she was leaving after so many years, she
responded, “Well, I believe God puts you where you need to be.  About
7 years, ago a young lady walked into our Service Center asking if
there were any volunteer opportunities that she could help with.  She
was new to Effingham and was learning her way around.  She went on to
tell us that she loved to organize things. That was an answered prayer
at that time.  We had a ton of boxes stuffed with clothes of all sizes
and shapes that needed to be sorted and organized.  She jumped right
in and got everything in ship-shape condition. She also continued to
volunteer and recruited others to join her. About 4 years ago, the
time came for us to hire a United Way Area Director Assistant. I
called this devoted volunteer, Julie Dickey, and suggested that she
apply for the job.  It was an interesting conversation as I learned
that she had been praying that God would lead her to a fulfilling job
that would work with her family’s schedule.  Julie was selected and
began working part time in April of 2012. Over the years, she has
worked steadfast in improving so many facets of our Service Center and
direct service programs.  Her knowledge of the various software
programs, her financial background, and her love for organization have
proven her to be a very capable leader.  Add to those abilities her
fabulous customer service skills and her compassion for others makes
her exactly the right choice to fill the position of United Way’s
Effingham Area Director.”

Bonnie Dixon will be greatly missed at the United Way Service
Center.  She has been such a driving force in this community.  Her
compassion for others and her tenacity to make things happen have been
an asset to our community.

She has left an immeasurable impact on so many lives. Her work
and dedication to the United Way of the Coastal Empire Effingham and
to the people of this county will forever be acknowledged.

What a useful woman? What an honorable woman? What a
compassionate woman? Yes, she has lived well.

Joe Tallent: Sharing his “Talent” with Family Promise

story by jeff whitten

photos by luke smith

It’s said that when one door closes, another door opens. So, after a
divorce left Joe Tallent with more time on his hands than he knew what
to do with, he decided to put that time to good use.

“I was only getting to spend half as much time with my kids as I
did when I was married, and I didn’t want to be sitting by myself at
home, so I started getting more active in my church and active in the
community,” said Tallent, who is putting that part about “getting more
active” mildly. He’s currently involved in the Effingham Sunrise
Rotary Club, on the Effingham County High School Council, is a member
of the board of directors of the local YMCA and also serves with the
United Way.

United Way Director Bonnie Dixon said Tallent’s talents are an
asset to the group.

“United Way values all of our volunteers as they each bring a
special expertise and personality to our organization,” she said. “We
are most fortunate to have someone of Joe Tallent’s caliber serving on
our Effingham Advisory Board. He came into our organization ready to
help! He has embraced United Way on many levels, including serving on
the United Way of the Coastal Empire’s Vision Council, the Effingham
Allocation Panel and V-Chair of our annual Effingham fundraising
campaign! His medical knowledge has also made him a great asset to our
newest program, Two Rivers Health Clinic.”

And then there’s Family Promise of Effingham County, a nonprofit
organization which aims to help homeless families help themselves find
homes. Tallent is currently president of the nonprofit organization’s
board of directors. He got involved early in the process when friends
at Springfield United Methodist Church asked him to pitch in and help
get Family Promise off the ground in Effingham.

“It was still being formed then. They were helping to get it
going, and they asked me if I’d be interested in becoming involved,”
Tallent said. “I learned about it and decided I wanted to help. And
like many people, it’s not like I have a lot of money to throw at
things, but I can give you my time.”

Tallent has more time to give than some, because his job as
coordinator of Effingham Health System’s community outreach program
means he’s already reaching out to the community through good works
such as Family Promise.

“The hospital is very supportive of the community outreach,”
Tallent said. “Being the coordinator, the administrator gives me the
autonomy to do things out in the community. Even if that wasn’t the
case, I’d still do it on my own time, this just frees me up to do more
during the day.”

Tallent is an athletic trainer by education and spent more than a
decade on the sidelines. He was introduced to the profession while in
high school and went on to earn a scholarship at Georgia Southern,
then worked as head athletic trainer at both Johnson and Effingham
County High School before moving into management for Effingham Health
System, where he also works as operations coordinator.

“I’m still a trainer, but as you get older the hours start to add
up. You work a lot of long hours at night and on weekends, and that
takes its toll. So when I had the opportunity to move into management,
I took advantage of it,”  said Tallent, who also spends as much time
as he can with his children and is also “addicted to Crossfit. I go to
Crossfit Groundspeed in Rincon, and it’s really made a lot of changes
in my life.”

Working with Family Promise has also impacted Tallent, and that’s
not unusual, because understanding the depth of Effingham’s homeless
problem can be an eye-opening experience for anyone. In 2015, there
were approximately 235 homeless children attending local schools,
children who come from an estimated 65 homeless families.

“I really had no idea we had that many homeless people in the
county,” Tallent said. “There is a problem in Effingham, there is an
issue, but it’s harder to see in a rural area. If you’re downtown in a
city, you see people sleeping on a park bench or in the streets, but
in a rural area you don’t see them, they’re not as visible.”

Family Promise of Effingham County began in 2013 and is roughly
based on a national program which started as the Interfaith
Hospitality Network. In the Effingham County version, a dozen
“covenant” and three support churches shelter homeless families while
they go through a program of anywhere from six to eight weeks geared
toward solving whatever problem led to that family losing its home,
whether it be loss of job, budgeting skills or some other problem.
Most who go through the program, nearly 85 percent, get permananet

So far, a dozen families have found homes through Family Promise,
said Ashley Moore, the group’s fulltime director. She praises the work
of volunteers such as Tallent and those businesses that have stepped
up to help.

“Family Promise is very fortunate to have community support from
local businesses that allow their employees to be involved with our
organization,” Moore said. “Joe has done a great job as board
president by promoting Family Promise within the community and helping
the organization strategically plan for the future. Joe, as well as
our other board members has been instrumental in continuing the
mission of Family Promise and helping the organization grow.”

It’s knowing he and others are helping homeless families turn
things around that has the biggest impact on him personally, Tallent

“I know we are helping somebody,” he said. “As far as who is in
the program, I don’t know that and I don’t know their faces. As a
board member, I don’t want to know their faces. That’s Ashley’s job,
and I respect that confedentiality she has with the families. But I
enjoy it when she tells us the details and shows us the statistics.”

Those stats show a single mother with three children who is able
to find a home, and a married couple with four children who graduate
from the program and are no longer homeless, Tallent said.

“I know we’re making a positive impact,” he said. “We’re helping
the homeless people of Effingham County, these are people that are not
coming back into the program. They’re getting out there, they’re
thriving in their jobs … they’re out they’re thriving as a family as
a whole. I don’t have to know their face or their name. Just knowing
what we do has helped somebody along the way, getting them from being
homeless to having a home, that’s enough for me.”

Family Promise: What it is, who it helps and how it works, how you can be a part

Springfield-based Family Promise of Effingham County is a private
effort by local churches and concerned citizens that seeks to help
homeless families get back on their feet and find housing. The 501(c)3
nonprofit  was formed in 2014 and served its first family in June of
that year, according to Executive Director Ashley Moore.

It does so with the help of member churches who form an
interfaith hospitality network to take turns housing the families
during their time in the program. Four families were served in 2014,
another eight have been served so far in 2015, according to Moore, who
noted that the program is trying to add churches to its network.

“We’ve got 12 host churches and three support churches involved,
and we’re trying to expand the number of churches involved in the
program,” she said.

Families on average spend anywhere from 90 days to eight weeks in
the program, and rotate from church to church each week until they
make graduate. That means each church will host a family about four or
five times each year, Moore said.

In essence, the program basically gives families a safe place to
stay at night while Family Promise volunteers and others work with the
parents during the day to help them tackle the problems that led to
homelessness, whether it’s loss of income, inability to budget, legal
issues or something else.

“It’s a variety of things,” Moore said. “There’s a large
population just in Effingham County where people live paycheck to
paycheck and squeeze by every month, and then something happens and
they lose their job, or they’re making minimum wage and they get sick
and can’t work as many hours as they usually do.  They don’t have
savings and don’t have any emergency plan or anyone to help. They
might get behind on one bill and then try to catch up and get behind
on something else, and things just go from there.”

Moore said there are an estimated 1,100 families living in
poverty in Effingham at the moment. One measure of homelessness in the
county comes from the school system, which tracks those children
enrolled in local schools who are homeless.

Once a family is accepted into Family Promise, the adults get
courses in such things as budgeting, job skills, education and so on.
They also get help looking for housing. Whatever it takes, Moore said,
noting her agency even gets calls from people worried they’re about to
lose their homes and they do what they can to help.

“We do a lot of referrals with outside agencies, so for example
if they need to see a lawyer, we get them in to see Georgia Legal
Services,” she said. “If they need credit counseling then we go
through Consumer Credit Counseling; if they need to get a bank account
we work on that with them, we help them look for housing and so on.”

Daycare is available for children, who are also set up in a
school if they’re not already enrolled.

“We want to keep them in their school of origin if we can,” Moore
said. “That’s the first priority. We make sure they have everything
they need, uniforms, supplies and any extra resources they might need,
like tutoring. And we work with the local YMCA which helps out with
childcare and also with summer camp over the summer.”

So far, the program has experienced an 85 percent success rate in
terms of families who find housing; 100 percent find work. And while
Family Promise plans on expanding next year to offer more classes and
more support after families graduate, some of the problems are outside
their control.

“There are times the family will get jobs, have the money saved
and are ready to move out and there’s nothing affordable available in
the county,” she said. “That tends to be the biggest barrier to people
finding housing in the county.”

Family Promise is operating on a budget projected to be between
$130,000 to $140,000; the program is funded through donations,
fundraisers grants and the United Way.

“We just did our first 5K, and we generally do different things
throughout the year and through church outreach,” Moore said. “This is
not just our host churches, but a lot of churches in the area will
take up offerings of things for Family Promise, and so will invidiual
donors. We apply for a lot of grants.

And Family Promise can always use donations — whether it’s of
time, money, gift cards for such things as food or gas, and household
goods such as furniture, towels, linens, cleaning supplies, laundry
supplies and so on.

THE EFFINGHAM COMMUNITY ORCHESTRA: heralding in the holiday Season

What could be better than free holiday music to help herald the
arrival of that most wonderful time of year ? How about free holiday
music and homemade cookies at an excellent price?

The Effingham Community Orchestra’s Ninth Annual Holiday Concert
& Homemade Cookie Sale is on tap for 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6 at the
Effingham County Recreation and Parks Department Gym, and admission is

The Full Orchestra and its ECO Jazz Ensemble will perform what
director Andrea Huff called “fun Holiday music.” In addition to
traditional holiday tunes, the full orchestra will perform some
selections from “The Nutcracker Suite” ballet and the popular
children’s holiday movie “The Polar Express”.  The Jazz Ensemble will
treat the audience to exciting arrangements including “Santa Baby” and
“Jingle Bells.” There also will be an audience sing along.

The cookie sale follows the concert, one of three the nonprofit
community orchestra puts on each year. At the sale, assorted homemade
cookies will be available for $5 a baker’s dozen, and there will be “a
huge number of cookies in a large variety for people to choose from,”
Huff said. “Customers can make personal selections and mix or match
the cookies they want in their dozens.”

And, the Orchestra will draw the winning ticket for its fund
raising raffle. Tickets are $1 each for the chance to win a new Fender
DG-8S acoustic guitar and accessory pack, which includes gig bag,
tuner, strings, pick, strap and free Rock Prodigy software download.
Those who buy five tickets will get an additional ticket free.

All proceeds go to help fund Effingham Community Orchestra, which
was founded in July, 2007 when “a group of 15 interested musicians met
to discuss the dream and possibility of establishing a community music
group for instrumentalists,” because, “No community music group
already existed in Effingham County in which musicians could play and
continue to exercise and improve skills after completion of public
school music classes,” according to the ECO website.

Under the direction of Huff, who has more than 42 years of
private music instruction and conducting under her belt, the orchestra
has grown over the years. The group made its public debut with a
concert on Veterans Day in 2007 at the Veterans Park of Effingham
County, before some 400 people.

Effingham Community Orchestra is a nonprofit, tax-exempt,
tax-deductible organization which receives no public funding and
depends entirely on contributions from members and supporters.

For more information, visit www.effinghamcommunityorchestra.org,
email effinghamcommunityorchestra@windstream.net or call 826-5300,
ext. 110.

Effinghan County Recreation and Parks Turns 40

Clarence Morgan worried he might leave someone out as he recognized
people in the audience during Effinghan County Recreation and Parks
40th birthday party held Nov. 10 at the Rec Gym in Springfield, where
the scoreboard read 40-40 and there were 40 minutes on the clock.

“My greatest fear tonight is I’m going to leave somebody or some
group out,” he said, as he called out names and told anecdotes about
dozens of people in the gym.

The only thing more remarkable than Morgan’s longevity might be
his memory, as the longtime recreation director acknowledged dozens of
those who in one way or another helped ECRP grow from a small agency
into one which last year had 300 youth teams and 50 adult teams.

But as much as Morgan tried to make the night about the
volunteers and others involved with the department, most of the
attention and the plaudits were sent Morgan’s way during the party.
Speaker after speaker — including Georgia House Majority Leader Jon
Burns — spoke of the veteran recreation director’s dedication to
Effingham County.

“One face everybody knows is Clarence Morgan’s,” Burns said,
lauding Morgan’s love of ECRP. “He’s known all over the state of

Morgan, who introduced each speaker while standing behind a
podium in front of a wall bearing plaques and photos of those inducted
into the Effingham Sports Hall of Fame he created, spent the evening
deflecting such praise.

“There are a lot of people who made this special … I just
happened to be a part of it. You’re the reason we’re sitting here
tonight, you’re the reason we have this success.”

The event wasn’t solely aimed at celebrating the past 40 years.
There were plenty of nods to the future, as well. Effingham County is
starting work on a new $18 million recreation complex off Highway 21,
and Morgan noted that’s the biggest single expenditure on recreation
the county’s ever made.

“We’re going to spend more money on recreation in the next few
years than we’ve spent, including the budgets, in the last 40 years,”
he said. “How many people sitting in this room thought this would
materialize two years ago.”

Speakers such as Board of Education Chairman Lamar Allen, a close
and lifelong friend of Morgan’s and a long-time advocate of recreation
sports, cheered the past and sounded a hopeful note about the future,
saying the new facility won’t sit empty.

“It’s going to be used. We’ve got 258 more kids in school this year
than we had last year, so the county’s growing again. What they’re
building may not be big enough in the coming years,” he said.

It’s also worth noting the department’s roots go back  a good bit
further than 40 years. But Effingham County’s first “official” foray
into establishing recreation took place in December 1974, when a
George Allen-led board of commissioners established the county’s first
recreation commission. It’s purpose? “To provide, establish, maintain
and conduct a county-wide public recreation program for the benefit of
the residents of the county and to disseminate informaation concerning
development and progress of the movement.”

Sports have long  been a high priority in Effingham County
because there was often no other form of recreation – and from the
outset it was clear ECRP was in demand. More than 1,200 Effingham
County residents showed up to Effingham County Night at the Savannah
Braves on June 26, 1975. That’s when the county only had about 17,600
residents, and among those who made the trip to Grayson Stadium were
Morgan, Effingham County Recreation Commission Chairman Noel Conaway,
Effingham Youth Athletic Association member Leon Zipperer, 45 coaches
and more than 400 players.

Within a year, ECRP was winning state Georgia Recreation and Park
Association titles – both the 1976 Midget girls and the 1976 Senior
boys won state titles that year. They were the first, but wouldn’t be
the last, and a 60-page history compiled by Morgan and given out to
those who attended the 40-year celebration names each one, and
includes as well the names of those who served in other capacities as

Take a bow, wherever you all may be. The accolades given Morgan
at ECRP’s birthday celebration were as heartfelt as they were
plentiful, and no wonder. There have only been a handful of directors
at ECRP over the years, perhaps because Morgan has been a director or
acting director himself a handful of times over the years, and up to
1999 he did it while working full time as a teacher and coach and
athletic director at one of the county’s schools.

Meet Cooper Barker 3-year-old Effingham Boy Fighting Battle To Live A Normal Life

Cooper Barker may only be 3 years old, but he’s really quite the
fighter. So are his parents, and their story is one of love and faith,
and refusing to quit.

Cooper, the only son of Pat and Ashlynn Brant Barker of Guyton,
was born prematurely on Sept. 25, 2012 and weighed only 1 pound, 12
ounces. On Oct. 2, 2012, Cooper, then just over a week old, underwent
surgery to have a portion of his bowel removed due to a
bowel-destroying infection called necrotizing entercolitis, or NEC. He
then had two more surgeries to remove more of his bowel after NEC
reoccurred, and that made Cooper dependent on a gastrostomy tube, or
G-tube, for feeding while surgeons also gave him an an ostomy bag to
allow his bowel to heal after the surgeries.

On April 24, 2013, Cooper underwent successful bowel reconnection
surgery and the ostomy bag was removed, and he can now function
normally in that regard, but he is now having to learn to eat by mouth
due to his having been dependent for so long on a feeding tube.

What’s more, Cooper requires a lot of extra care on a daily
basis. He has undergone occupational, developmental, speech, feeding
and behavior therapies, and is now beginning a new journey at the
Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, to lose the G-tube
and learn to eat by mouth.

Cooper will continue to require intensive therapy. He will be an
inpatient at Kennedy Krieger Institute for six to eight weeks, but
insurance will only cover 10 days of that stay.

The journey has been and continues to be a huge financial and
emotional strain on the Barkers. Ashlynn, a hair stylist, will be
alone with Cooper in Maryland at the Institute while Pat remains in
Guyton, working to retain their insurance. They’ll also struggling to
pay monthly bills without Ashlynn’s income, so a page has been set up
on gofundme.com at https://www.gofundme.com/wb9rbndw  to raise money
to help the Barkers cover the costs of travel, food and other

Cooper’s story is on the  page, under the heading: Cooper’s
Journey to Eat by Mouth.”

“Please say a small daily prayer for Cooper and his family as
they move into another adventure in his healing process. Please search
deep into your heart and help them with this trial they will now be
going through,” it says. “We love and appreciate your support and look
forward to updating you on the good news that is to come as God
completes his work in this sweet baby to live without the assistance
of a feeding tube to survive.”

Ashlynn and Cooper leave Nov. 30 for Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Donations can also be made at Hair Unique Salon in Rincon.

Every Time A COW BELL Rings an Angel Gets His Wings

Need a little cheer to get you ready for the holidays?

The United Way of the Coastal Empire’s fundraising campaign was
still in its final stages as Effingham Magazine’s holiday deadline
wrapped up, but Effingham  chapter director Bonnie Dixon said the
organization had already surpassed its goal of $325,000.

“At this date and time Effingham County has collected and/or
pledged $336, 199 … which puts us at 103.45 percent of our goal!”
Dixon said November 13, seven days before the United Way’s November 20

That’s par for the course in Effingham County, according to
Dixon. “United Way of the Coastal Empire has been in fundraising mode
even before the official kick-off in September,” she said. “Thanks to
our 2015 Campaign Pacesetters – Effingham Board of Education and
Georgia Power – Effingham’s United Way Advisory Board members and
staff conducted just shy of 20 campaign meetings in July and August.
The results were very gratifying with Effingham BOE employees donating
more than $77,000 and Effingham’s Georgia Power employees contributing
close to $18,000.”

The United Way paid homage to the holiday classic “It’s a
Wonderful Life” in its 2015 theme, and kicked off its official
fundraising season September 18 with a Roaring 20’s celebration. The
goal of $325,000 reflected the quarter-century the United Way has been
in Effingham. Led by Campaign Chair Andy Lamon, pastor at Gateway
Community Church, and Vice Chair Joe Tallent of Effingham Health
System, and with invaluable assistance from Georgia Pacific Savannah
River Mill Loaned Associates Sheila Patterson and Stephen Roddenberry,
the United Way mapped out its strategy for a successful campaign.”

Dixon said the loaned associates are invaluable.

“Georgia Pacific is such a wonderfully strong supporter of United
Way in Effingham.  The loaning to us of two of their employees for a
period of 3 months to basically conduct the enormous amount of
campaign presentations is beyond measure,” she said, noting Patterson
and Roddenberry “logged hundreds of miles traveling from Clyo to Eden
to Rincon and everywhere in between.”

Patterson said she saw something while preparing for the campaign
that summed up United Way to her.

“I came across an excerpt during our training the week before
campaign kick off it read,” she said. ‘One tree can start a forest,
one word can frame a goal, one candle can wipe our darkness, one laugh
can conquer gloom, one hope can raise your spirits, one touch can show
you care, one life can make a difference. Be that one today.’”

Patterson continued: “For me this excerpt represents the United
Way in the community. The United Way brings hope and touches lives in
our community in so many ways. For me, being involved with the United
Way is important because we never know when we may need the light
United Way brings to the community.

Combined, Patterson and Roddenberry called on more than 65 people
and made nearly 100 presentations to employee groups such as Effingham
County Government ($5,000), Kroger ($7,000), Wal-mart ($3,600), City
of Rincon ($2,264), City of Springfield ($805) and City of Guyton
($1,192), Ardry Trading Company ($2,604), Reiser & Reiser ($1,590),
Renasant Bank ($712), New Concepts Healthcare ($650) and BB&T ($644).

“In addition to the employee campaign, Georgia Pacific also
conducts several special fundraising events during the campaign
period.  Everything from Chic-Fil-a sandwiches sales to the plant
managers grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for the employees … then
they raffle off the grills,’ Dixon said, adding that Georgia Pacific
employees have contributed more than $188,000. We are most
appreciative of the generosity this community has.”

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there’s a line where the
Zuzu Bailey says “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings
an angel gets his wings.”

It shouldn’t be surprising Effingham County, where cowbells are
used to signal donations to the United Way, has its own take on this.

“We translate that in Effingham to be “Every time a COW BELL
rings an angel gets his wings,” Dixon said.