Kelly Heads Up City’s Planning and Development

story by julie hales

Effingham County native, LaMeisha Hunter Kelly, serves as the City Planner/Director of Planning and Development Services for the City of Rincon. In the past, Rincon has had a Planning and Zoning Department.  In Kelly’s words, “We have evolved from that, we are now called Planning and Development Services.

She and her staff handle all building and zoning needs, business licenses and special events planning.

Kelly is very excited about the commercial activity we are seeing here in Rincon that she feels will be spurred by the new Kroger project. She says, “This is a very unique project, in that it is the first of its kind in this area.  So, now when Kroger goes to places like Statesboro or Hinesville, they will bring people to Rincon to look at the project here. Rincon will be the showcase.”

“In terms of other property in the area, and other people coming to the area, I am excited about those projects and what they are going to do,” Kelly adds.

Kelly also confirmed that Chik-Fil-A is still coming.  They put off construction for the Kroger project to be complete.  With the new intersection being installed, they have changed their location to be there, and are still coming to the city.

Kroger is currently marketing the outparcels in front of the new Market Place. They also have a 12,000 square foot commercial building already approved by the city that they will be adding to the side backing up to Tractor Supply. Construction on this project should be starting very soon.  Again, Kroger’s marketing department will be handling the rental of these units so the city does not know yet what new businesses will be coming in.

When Kelly was asked, what has the new Kroger done for Rincon, she replied, “What hasn’t it done?  It has increased traffic. Most people don’t think the increased traffic is a good thing, but when you want growth, increased traffic is one of the things that comes with it.  We do ask our citizens to be patient.  We are in process of making our traffic flow easier.”

Kelly adds, ”When people talk about the number of cars and trucks we now have on 21, that’s good news to me.  That means activity. That means people are spending money in Rincon and Effingham County. That means sales tax.  That means ESPLOST. It’s all money that is coming back to the taxpayers.”

Commercial growth in our city seems to be inevitable.  “Rincon is small, but it has big city issues.  But, at the same time, it has big city potential,” states Kelly.

“When you have a big company like Kroger coming in, it brings other companies with it.  That’s called opportunity.  We have a lot of older buildings in Rincon.  I am excited to see the next phase, redevelopment. We may see some of the older buildings being torn down and new structures going up. We also have older buildings with good bones and decent sized lots.  I see those buildings being refurbished and put back to use. I am very excited about redevelopment in general.”

Residential growth is also something always on the front burner for the Planning and Development Services of the city.  “Residential is steady. Even during the recession, we still had permits coming in.  The biggest issue we face is the fact that we only have a limited amount of space.  So, at the rate of growth, and the buildable lots we have available, we have about five years before we build out,” states Kelly, “We do have numerous lots left inside subdivisions that we are actively recruiting developers for. We want to make sure we always have areas for continued residential growth.”

With an estimated build out in five years, where does the growth come from later?  Kelly says, “Annex. Annexation has been on our mind for the last 3-4 years.  We have an Annexation Master Plan.  We need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.”

With Kelly in charge of Planning and Development, it is evident that the City of Rincon’s development plans are in good hands.

Randy Shearouse: An Inspiring Vision Today, Incredible Hope for Tomorrow

story by katrice williams   photos by tonya chester perry

Randy Shearouse is an Effingham native. He and his wife Rhonda have been married for 24 years. The couple has a son Kieffer, 21, and a daughter Annah, 19, who are both students at the University of Georgia. They chose a completely different alma mater than their dad, who is a Georgia Southern University Eagle to the heart.

Randy has been the Superintendant of Effingham County Schools for 12 years. Further, it is actually Randy’s 29th year in the field of education.

Randy started his career in 1988 as a history teacher at Effingham County High School, where he taught for four years. He went on to become the assistant principal at Marlow Elementary School. Later, Randy accepted the position as principal at Sand Hill Elementary School, where he remained for eight years. Following his tenure there, Randy embraced an opportunity as the Effingham County High School Principal. After two years of service there, Randy applied for the position as Effingham County Superintendant, an opportunity that he felt very “fortunate to get.”

The Effingham County School System is “the largest employer in Effingham County,” having “eight elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools and one college and career academy.” The school system employs over 1,600 people.

As superintendant, Randy strives to make decisions that will have a positive and meaningful impact on every student in the district. Encompassing a strong leadership style and a sincere heart for education, Randy does not take his role lightly, and he is grateful for the strong team he works with. Randy confirms that their primary philosophy is…kids first.

He insists, “We make sure that every child receives a really good education. Our administrators are very committed to our school district. A lot of them, just like me, have come all the way through the school system. We really care deeply about the success of the school district.”

Most parents and educators alike want children to attain a great education, while developing into healthy and productive members of the community. Randy shares in those feelings. In fact, he’s proud to mention that the Effingham College and Career Academy has incorporated a variety of beneficial programs and a strong curriculum to insure that students have the opportunity to develop noteworthy skills in their areas of interests in order to be abundantly prepared for their academic and career endeavors.

“We need to make sure that our kids are prepared, so they can get in the very best schools. I think we’ve done a really good job of making sure that what we’re providing our students is meeting the needs of the community as well; that’s been very important to us.” he states.

Randy does not take his teachers for granted, nor does he dismiss the opportunity to hire the most dedicated, driven and caring individuals whenever possible, understanding that they are the foundation of education.

“The most important duty that we have as administrators is hiring the right teachers to be in the classroom. We’ve been very fortunate; we have a lot of folks applying to come to Effingham County, which is great. We’re fortunate that we have a great partnership with area colleges; they send a lot of student teachers into schools to intern,” Randy mentions.

As a parent himself, Randy can identify with the feelings that parents have concerning their own children, those who genuinely want the best for their kids— the best educators, academic environments and future opportunities. Knowing the high expectations that he has for his own children, Randy “wants the same opportunities for every child.”

“It’s our community—our kids. We want to make sure that we have high standards,” he proclaims.

Though the school board has implemented a variety of programs and ideas over the years, Randy is looking forward to several things to come. A new STEM Academy (science, technology, engineering and math) that is part of the Effingham College and Career Academy will be in operation beginning this school term. It will consist of students from Effingham County High School and South Effingham County High School. It will initially enroll 250 ninth and tenth graders, while “adding 125 students per year over the next two years.” Student will have a variety of career paths to choose from, including health care, computer science and engineering, just to name a few.

Moreover, Randy is happy that out of a total of 110 buses, 58 will be equipped with air conditioning this year. As the new concept is phased in, buses with “the longest routes” will have air conditioning first; however, Randy is looking forward to all the buses providing air conditioning for the comfort of the drivers and students.

He remarks, “As we buy new buses and phase the older ones out, they will all have air in the future. I’m really excited about that perk—for the drivers and students to be comfortable.”

Further, Randy talks about another goal that the community is really behind—improvement of the tracks at Effingham County High School and South Effingham High School. There are future plans to replace the old asphalt tracks, which will mean higher quality ones for the students, while giving the schools the ability to host more track meets.

Randy mentions that there are plans to incorporate more safety protocols in each school. He knows that being proactive is a necessity in matters of child safety. New innovations are underway, like “safety vestibules for interior doors.”

“We’re going to continue looking at different safety measures that we may want to put in place over the next several years, because we do feel like that’s very important—to keep our schools safe,” Randy states.

Randy feels privileged to be a part of such an extraordinary school district.

He asserts, “There’s a lot to be proud of in this district. The people are great, the community is great. I’m really proud.”

Randy loves to spend quality time with his wife; they love to travel together. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and jogging alongside his Labrador Retriever.

Randy Shearouse is looking forward to a promising future for the school system and its kids. He, alongside his entire Effingham County School System Team, has no plans to settle for less.

The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Learning

The Ebenezer Alive! Educational Program provides a hands-on approach to learning that brings education to life in vivid and memorable ways.

story by david pena    photos by tonya chester perry

When she retired in 1999 from the University of Georgia Extension Service, Beth Epling was looking forward to living a quiet life of leisure. Days filled with shopping, visits to historical sites and home improvement projects awaited her after 28 years in a successful career with the service. However, that all came to an abrupt end when, in the fall of that year, she received a call from the New Ebenezer Retreat Center. “They wanted to begin a new educational program on weekdays. While they had a good deal of summertime and weekend business, they were usually wide open during the school year, so they wanted to bring in more visitors during that time,” Epling recalls.

Originally from Athens, Beth  and her husband Jerry, who are both University of Georgia graduates, have been residents of Effingham County for 41 years. Since the center already had wonderful facilities in place, along with comfortable cottages for guests, they simply needed someone with Epling’s experience to spearhead the new program. “They knew a little about my background as head of the 4-H program along with other things I’ve been involved in,” she says. “Plus I lived in the area and was very familiar with it, so I seemed like a good fit. I also just love people, and I love putting programs together.”

Coming on board in January of 2000 as the Educational Coordinator, Beth claims that, at the outset, the resources available to her were a bit scarce, to put it mildly.  “When I started, I had a room, one chair, a stapler and a phone,” she laughs. And while the idea of starting an overnight program for school-aged children was up and running,  the actual curriculum for the program had yet to be decided; in fact, it didn’t even have a name. “I wanted to bring things ‘alive’ around here, like the history of the region, and we wanted to have lots of activities, so we ended up naming it the Ebenezer ALIVE! Educational Program.” The program was ultimately designed to be an extension of the classroom, while providing a customized, “hands-on” learning experience for students. Epling explains, “Students learn best by doing, by getting their hands dirty. So, I wanted a program that would encourage teachers and students to think outside of the box and experience things that they couldn’t necessarily experience inside of a classroom setting.” The curriculum that was ultimately decided upon had three main components to it: the History and Heritage of Georgia, Character Education, and Nature/Environmental Sciences.

Instead of learning about the three core components from a textbook or traditional lecture, students and teachers can actually experience the sights, sounds and smells of each with daily trips and activities designed to engage their minds while stirring their senses. Lessons about American Revolution come “alive” through costumed storytellers, archaeological digs, artifacts’ education, Indian lore and a troop encampment. In addition, there are trips to Old Fort Jackson, Wormsloe Plantation and historic Savannah to supplement the activities. The Environmental Sciences program teaches students to develop a deeper appreciation for the Earth while strolling through a forest, exploring farmland and wetlands, measuring water quality, fishing in a pond, and becoming more acquainted with Georgia wildlife. Additionally, there are off-site visits to such places as Sapelo Island, Tybee’s Marine Science Center as well as Jekyll Island. Students can even look forward to a “Puddle Shuttle” on the Ebenezer Creek in an eighteen passenger boat! However, as a former Home Economics major, the Character Development portion of the program is near and dear to Epling’s heart. “Character education was a big topic during my time as a Home Ec/Family Consumer major, so I feel that instilling respect for one’s self as well as others should be a key component to the Ebenezer Alive! Program.” From citizenship and proper manners to family values and The Creator, the character educational component of the program is designed to help students become better citizens and individuals by modeling effective, positive traits that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Other activities such as carriage tours, hay rides, folk dances, campfire storytellers and movies serve to round out the programs as well.

Epling is the only full-time instructional facilitator, but she has enlisted the help of two former teachers, Susan Zoller and Angie Murphey. “I really wanted to pick instructors who have a passion for what they do, and I’m very lucky to have my staff, which also includes Pat Kennedy, as part of our instructional team. We all love what we do,” she says. “Plus we have the dedication and support of the NERC Board of Directors, instructors, and all of our volunteers who have helped New Ebenezer Retreat Center become the amazing place that it is.” The program’s success is a testament to the passion and effectiveness of Epling and her staff. For the past fifteen years, the Ebenezer Alive! Educational Program has welcomed school groups from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and North and South Carolina. Each visiting school group is provided with a customized program which is designed to provide many opportunities both on-site and around the region, while still centering around the three key components. The cost per person includes lodging, meals, instruction and educational packet, while trips off-site from the retreat pose additional costs. Each visiting group is required to provide transportation to off-center sites, which include Tybee, Sapelo, Jekyll Island and historic Savannah. “Most of the groups opt for a 3 day/2 nights stay, we’ve had some stay for a week or longer, and most of the groups love it so much that they return the next school year,” Epling says with pride. “We serve students from around 30 schools ranging from 4th to 8th grades and even older, and everything is customized to their needs. The teachers are provided with a check sheet, and we construct each program based on what they’ve chosen.” Epling says that while her staff and program facilitators are responsible for teaching and guiding the students through tours and instruction, they always encourage supervision and participation from teachers and parents. “We want everyone who comes to become involved in the program,” Epling says. “Plus, it’s always inspiring to witness the students getting to see their teacher outside of the classroom as a real person, and it really helps to break down barriers. The administrators and teachers in Effingham county have been incredibly supportive, and we’ve been blessed to have their students come every year since the program began.”

Epling says there are countless examples of how the Ebenezer ALIVE! Program makes an impact on its visitors, but she recalls one from about four years ago. “We were holding our program, and I was in costume, as were the other instructors.  I did a brief slide show, and then we had basket weaving and cane grinding, followed by a museum search at the Georgia Salzburger Museum. After we listened to a pastor speak (in costume) from the nearby Historical Jerusalem Lutheran Church and the group was walking back, I asked one of the eighth grade boys if he enjoyed it. He said, ‘You know, Ms. Beth, history is really real; it’s not just words in a book.’ And that’s when a light went off; you learn by doing and through experience, and that’s what our program is all about.”

Located on the banks of the beautiful Savannah River near Rincon, GA, the Retreat Center is about a half hour’s drive from downtown Savannah.  Now poised to enter their sixteenth year, the Ebenezer ALIVE! Educational Program continues to provide an enriching educational program for students that promises to make an impact not only on the lives of the students, but on the lives of the teachers and visiting adults as well.

For more information, visit  www.newebenezer.org or contact Beth Epling, Education Coordinator at (912) 754-9242 or fax (912) 754-7781 or email at beth@newebenezer.org.

One Man Band

story by david pena

photos by luke smith

Hormone surges. Moodiness. Up and down relationships. All night gaming sessions… Ah,  the life of an average teen. They can amazingly make time for television, social media and friends, but not for school. Many typical teens only do the minimum required to get by, flying under the radar of official “trouble” while causing their parents plenty of grief and aggravation. However, eighteen-year-old Aaron Sabo is clearly not your typical teen. Having recently won the Effingham Community Orchestra’s Academic Scholarship Award, Aaron recently discussed his family’s musical legacy, his love for underwater photography, and how he learned to play over thirty musical instruments.

Born in Savannah, but having lived in Rincon since the age of four, Aaron remembers growing up in a home filled with music. “My mom and dad were always musicians, and they were both in bands when they were younger so music has always been a part of my life, it seems.” As his mother Tami remembers, “My husband and I were professional musicians, and we always had a house filled with music and instruments that Aaron would often fiddle with.” Not surprisingly, when Aaron was around seven years old, his mother attempted to get her son interested in actually taking up the guitar, but to no avail. “I just wasn’t interested at the time,” he recalls. However, his apparent lack of musical appreciation would soon subside with an epiphany three years later. “In about fifth grade, for whatever reason, I told them that I wanted to learn how to play an instrument, so I joined my school band, learning to play saxophone to start with, which I’ve been playing ever since.” Midway through his eighth grade year, Aaron started to play with the Effingham Community Orchestra. Andrea Huff, founder and director of the orchestra, remembers meeting Aaron for the first time. “I have been a music instructor for forty-five years, and occasionally I encounter a rare type of individual like Aaron. We normally do not take people his age (into the orchestra) but we decided to give him a trial run because I felt like he was really very musically inclined from the moment I met and talked with him.”  At the onset, however, joining the orchestra was understandably intimidating to the then thirteen-year-old. “It was nerve wracking at first because it was a big group of adults and I was just this little kid,” Aaron states. However, as time progressed, the experience of playing with much more experienced musicians had a great impact on Aaron, according to Huff. “Since then, he has thrived on being part of a group of advanced musicians, absorbing everything.” His mother Tami says the experience has really made a significant impact on the young musician. “He has taken (being in the orchestra) really seriously since he’s always been very serious about his music. Being surrounded by adults, I think, helped because they had the same attitude (toward music) that he did, even at his early age.”

In his junior year of high school, Aaron took off from the public school system to learn at home online, and there was one particular class that was a pivotal turning point to the talented musician. “I was accepted into a music theory class presented through Julliard called the Living Music Class, which really interested me. Honestly, the other classes online didn’t really motivate me; this class was the reason I wanted to do (online classes) so badly. It taught musical composition and chord structures that you don’t learn in band class.  It also taught how the key signatures work as well as the majors and minors, all the technical stuff that you don’t usually get taught. It was a really cool learning experience.” Since Aaron was already an advanced musician, he was allowed to forgo the first course and advance to the highly skilled second course, which dealt more with musical theory. According to Sabo, the Julliard class opened his mind to the possibility of playing other instruments besides the ones he’d already mastered, since it required the students to compose advanced pieces of music that required them. “Since I had to compose for a grade, I really wanted to play the instruments that were part of the composition I was writing. In a roundabout way, that’s how I was introduced to the French horn, trumpet, euphonium (smaller tuba) and some of the others that I now play,” he stated.  Additionally, Living Music Class required its students to combine instruments that were in different keys, so the young musician was required to compose intricate works that involved multi-layered sounds. “I tried composing when I was younger, and sometimes it would sound good; most other times it would just end with weird sounds. After taking this class, I now know how to combine harmonies that could eventually work into a composition,” he says proudly. After his online learning was completed, Aaron returned to the public school system for his senior year. “I wanted to return to the marching band since I really missed doing that, as well as the concert season band. Plus, I didn’t want to miss the social experience of being a senior and all of the activities at school,” he adds.

Emboldened by his newly-acquired composing skills, Aaron’s open-minded approach to trying new things was put to use when he was asked by Ms. Huff to play the baritone for the full orchestra because, in his words, they “were missing a lot of low brass stability.” Huff was impressed with his ability to quickly adapt to new instrumentation but not really surprised. “He’s the type of musician that can take what he’s learned on one instrument and apply it to another one really easily. He’s not discouraged with a musical bump in the road or venturing into unknown territory, and anything you want him to try, he’s willing to do it.”  According to Aaron , though, learning how to play a new instrument just comes with the territory of being a musician. He says, “It was fairly easy since the baritone is pretty much the same as a smaller tuba, so it’s been going well.” Aaron still found time to learn yet another instrument, formally at least. “I started taking piano lessons from Miss Andrea, although I sort of taught myself to play before then. I now play about thirty instruments,” he beams. For his efforts, Aaron received the orchestra’s academic scholarship in April, and this clearly was a point of pride to the young talent. He stated, “It was the best feeling to receive that award. It’s nice to get the validation (from the orchestra) after playing with them for so long, in addition to the money that will help pay for my education.”

While music has been a huge part of Aaron’s life for so long, surprisingly it’s quite a different path than the one he plans to travel in the near future. “I really do want to pursue my dream of being an underwater photographer since I already have my scuba license,” he enthusiastically says. In the fall, Sabo plans to begin his photography associates degree from the New York Institute of Photography. Aaron’s love affiar with the sea began with his first scuba diving course at the ripe old age of twelve, where he was captivated by the beauty of the unknown world of the sea. “I just love the fish, the coral, the depths of the sea, and I developed a passion for it. I watched Animal Planet as a young kid and developed a fascination with the sea and everything in it, so after taking the class I made up my mind to do it.” However, while Aaron does plan to pursue photography as a profession, he does stress that music will continue to be a major part of his life. “Underwater photography is something I’d like to make a living at and fall back on, while music is a passion that I’ll always have,” he emphasizes.

While the scholarship money will undoubtedly come in handy as far as Aaron’s photography degree is concerned, ask any parent of a child in school band and they’ll tell you that these days band instruments don’t come cheap. For example, the price for a new trumpet for a beginner is somewhere between $300 and $500, while the price for a beginner’s French horn can vary between $350 and $4000 or more. For someone like Aaron, who can play around thirty instruments, one would think that the Sabo family budget would be busting at the seams trying to keep up with cost of all of his instruments. Not so, says the young talent. “We actually find really good deals on Craigslist. I also love to go to flea markets to find stuff. I’m kind of a collector, and once I find something, I go online to check what it’s worth. In fact, just recently I got a clarinet as a graduation present, and it turned out to be 75 years old!” Tami says that his love of vintage instruments is no surprise, given his upbringing. “He literally has been surrounded by music and instruments all his life, so it’s a natural progression that he’s collected them. Any vintage instrument sparks his interest,” she explains.

“Aaron is a true musician. Music is innately part of his very being. Regardless of whatever else he may choose to do in his life, at the core of his being he is a musician,” states Andrea Huff about her award-winning pupil. So whether he chooses to snap photos from the dark depths of the sea or play a pitch perfect Brandenburg concerto in some packed concert hall, Aaron Sabo’s future is a sonata waiting to be played.  As Tami Sabo expressed about her prodigious son, “He’s just a natural. He doesn’t know any different.” By all accounts, Aaron is truly one of the rare individuals that has been blessed with superior ability as well as the motivation to succeed, so his parents have no need to worry. The Sabo musical legacy is firmly intact and seemingly knows no limitation.

Thomas Jackson: Realism with a Twist

story by cindy burbage     photos by tonya chester perry

Perception of art is in the eye of the beholder. There are various genres of art, but they all follow the same trail of perception-the first gander of the art piece, one’s impression of the art, and finally the inspiration the art delivers to the beholder.  At the young age of seventeen, Effingham resident Thomas Jackson, knows how to identify with art and truly appreciate the craft.

This rising senior at Effingham County High School has always had a knack for drawing, but it wasn’t until he was a freshman that his talent was truly revealed. Although his first love was drawing with colored pencils and charcoal pencils, once introduced to water colors and the technique of oil pastel, he found his true calling. The artistry of oil pastel, or sometimes referred to as wax oil crayon, is a painting that can be done on various surfaces. “I prefer textured paper, and I always blend and layer colors”, the blooming artisan confessed. The oil pastel and textured surface give the finished product a more dimensional effect.  Anime is also an area in which the adroit craftsman dabbled. This art form is a Japanese form of cartoons, with lively graphics, vivacious characters and fantastical themes. In spite of the attraction to Anime, it is slowly fading out as an art form.

Thomas’ most desired motif to create is that of the surrealism-a literary and artistic style based on a dreamlike quality of fantasy. He explains, “A realistic look, but the subject matter is fantasy or strange. For example a fish head on a person’s body.”  Studying his art work, the detail is impeccable, a true vision of a surreal situation. With a roaring fire blazing in the fireplace, a distinguished fox in a grayish-blue suit enjoys his glass of wine while resting in a plush executive chair. The fox takes on characteristics of a man with his facial expressions, down to his monocle. His next piece portrays what appears to be two young boys showing a mischievous grin. What pops out at the spectator are the fish eyes bulging out of their faces, adding humor to such a sweet image.  Respecting the freedom of surreal, Thomas confessed his inspiration for the fantasy, “I can do whatever I want in surrealism.”

Competition is another area the seventeen year old is comfortable. In the earlier part of 2016, Thomas took part in the Georgia Mock Trial Competition. For more than 28 years, high school students from across the state compete against one another while participating in an imitation court trial. In 1996, the Georgia Mock Trial Competition joined with Savannah College of Art and Design, and SCAD sponsored a court artist, Craig Harding for this prestigious contest. After his untimely death, in 1998 they held their first statewide court artist contest for high school students, respectfully named the Craig Harding Memorial Court Artist contest. For 2016, representing the 14th region of Savannah, Thomas Jackson brought home the prize. His prize winning masterpiece was on display in Atlanta. This year has proven to be a productive year for competitions for the adolescent, this summer before entering his last year in high school, he will be participating in the Governor’s Honor Program. He has shown his art work in local art shows, but with the help of his neighbor, one Effingham County landmark spotted his natural talent and chose to display. The gifted artist has produced two postcards for the Salzburger Museum at Ebenezer in Rincon. The first one is a portrayal of the eighteenth century historic Jerusalem Lutheran Church, which he captured true to architectural form. The Salzburger Museum, nestled in the mature hovering Pine trees in the beautiful peaceful Effingham County is the other exhibit.

From as early as his freshman year, Thomas discovered his admiration for art. He has taken full advantage of the opportunities his school system has offered. The gifted scholar takes his classes serious, participating in Advanced Placement (AP) classes to earn college credits while still in high school. In spite of the demanding work load from the AP classes, Thomas does not feel the strain, maintaining honor roll. “After high school, I plan to apply to Georgia Tech for engineering. I know it’s not art, but I do like to design and would like to get the engineer side of things. I would continue to do art as a hobby,” he related. Managing his scholastic career does not consume all of his time, Thomas also is a member of Art Club and Beta Club at Effingham County High School. “I enjoy the community service projects that my Art teacher, Donna Holder finds for us, which have included painting a mural at the Springfield Animal Shelter, one for McDonald’s and face painting for the Special Olympics.” He also attends Savannah Christian Church Youth group on Wednesday evenings.

With the support of his Dad, Mom and younger brother, Thomas Jackson’s future in art is encouraging. He elaborates, “I would like my art work to inspire people. Hopefully have people get the same look at art as I have. I see it as something that helps improve other aspects of your life. Such as creativity and in a way, leadership. I have used my art to help others with theirs.” The abundant talent that this young man possesses is natural, and has been fine-tuned with proper guidance; his skills have kept him focused on his passion, but also kept him humble.

Dallas McCorkendale: Jazz on the side

story by jeff whitten

photos by natalie mcallister

Dallas McCorkendale is one of Effingham County’s most gifted students, South Effingham’s STAR student. He will soon begin attending Georgia Tech on academic scholarships to study chemical engineering.

McCorkendale, 18, is also one of the area’s more talented young guitarists, and one who has already played professionally in Savannah and on Hilton Head. Still, one has one’s priorities.

“I  think it’s a lot easier to pursue my academic interests and pursue jazz on the side than it would be to pursue jazz full time and pursue chemical engineering on the side,” says McCorkendale, a Governor’s Honors Program finalist in jazz.

That’s right, jazz. Not the Kenny G. “smooth jazz” Muzak that gained popularity in the 90s, but the genuine article, the real thing. We’re talking the music of Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell and Chet Baker, for starters.

McCorkendale, 18, was introduced to jazz by South Effingham assistant band director Michael Nestor about four years ago and the music struck an immediate chord.

“He told me I should listen to Wes Montgomery’s ‘Smoking at the Half Note,’” McCorkendale recalls. “It’s been downhill ever since.”

Given that jazz, widely considered an art, is also just as widely ignored by much of America, the odds were against McCorkendale discovering his passion for the music without Nestor’s suggestion. McCorkendale is just glad  it happened.

“I immediately liked it, I felt it,” McCorkendale said. “All of a sudden I was seriously listening to Wes and Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell and Grant Green, and last summer when I made the Governor’s Honors jazz band I spent a month in Valdosta, that really opened my eyes to a lot of great musicians and there was a lot of broadening of horizons there.”

McCorkendale subsequently was named All State in band, and in February performed with other talented high school musicians under the direction of noted jazz musician Don Braden.  There’s video of their performances on Youtube, and you can tell McCorkendale knows his way around a six string guitar. But he’s still just scratching the surface of his own ability, in a sense, and is still developing what someday may be known as the Dallas McCorkendale Sound.

“Right now I’m trying to listen to as much as I can and take in as much as I can and then apply what I can,” McCorkendale said. “I think it kind of develops organically over time.”

Not that he lacks confidence. McCorkendale launched a handful of jazz combos in high school, though whether he made new jazz fans is an open question. He, meanwhile, says he doesn’t want to oversell his own ability.

“I’m pretty realistic about what I can and can’t do,” McCorkendale said. “I can play at the professional level, but I’m not some world-class, going-on-a-world-tour jazz musician. I can hang. I can usually pick it up and if I have time to practice on it I feel like I can play it pretty well.”

Jazz is widely considered to be America’s most original art form, but it’s hardly commercial and tends to resonate most with musicians and those who appreciate it as much on an intellectual level as they do emotionally. So why do some like jazz and others avoid it like the plague? What is it about jazz that seems to draw mostly strong reactions? And why is it so popular in Europe but not the United States?

And why is McCorkendale so much a fan of jazz?

“That’s a hard question to answer,” McCorkendale said, then gave it a shot anyway. “I think besides the obvious, which is that it sounds so good, it’s also a very emotional music. Its roots come from the African American community and when it was oppressed, jazz became an artistic outlet and they were able to channel a lot of things through the music. You hear a lot of stories in jazz, a lot of profound emotions, good emotions, bad emotions, regardless of whether you’re a musician or non musician, whether you like jazz or don’t like jazz, I think on that level alone most can appreciate jazz.”

Those who don’t get the music probably don’t spend time listening to it; either that, or they’re introduced to more out-there avant garde jazz, which can sound like so much noise to the novice ear. But some jazz can sound like noise to more experienced ears, as well.

“At a realistic level, some of it is noise,” McCorkendale says. “You kind of have to suspend your disbelief and find the stories and emotions in it. And, when you listen to that kind of music you have to know it’s something planned out and thought through and there’s a lot of musicianship involved. If you go into it with the attitude it’s just noise or somebody messing around, you’re missing the entire point of the improvisation.”

There are easily around 50 jazz genres, from acid jazz and bebop to cool jazz to Dixieland to European free jazz to jazz rap and jazz blues and jazz rock and orchestral jazz and West Coast jazz, some of it with roots stretching back to the 1920s, others of a more recent vintage.

There’s no right kind of jazz, however, though McCorkendale suggests newcomers should probably start by checking out traditional jazz, especially jazz standards from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Listen to music from his influences, which in addition to Montgomery includes Burrell, Davis, Dexter Gorden and McCoy Tyner.

Despite it’s occasional inaccessibility, jazz keeps finding a way to stay relevant locally, thanks to the non-profit Coastal Jazz Association, and find its way on the airwaves. Savannah State University’s FM 90.3 occasionally airs jazz standards and offers a weekly online podcast called Jazzscape, and Savannah has its own jazz festival, now in its 35th year. It will be held in September and Braden, whom McCorkendale got to work with when he was with All State band earlier this year, will be in the lineup.

By then, McCorkendale will be at Georgia Tech. He’ll still play, though how much will depend on classes. And then there’s what to do after he graduates from Tech armed with the degree in chemical engineering — unless between now and then he finds another academic discipline more suited to his talents.

But then, he’s only 18. There’s time.

“I’m still kind of figuring that out in a lot of ways,” McCorkendale said. “I definitely don’t want playing music to be my only source of income, I don’t want it to be my career. But I want it to be an active part of my life. I want to be a professional musician without having to do it professionally.”

There’s wisdom there. Wes Montgomery reportedly said that once he felt he was good enough to play professionally, he went on the road with a group. They starved. But Montgomery, one of the greatest jazz guitarists ever,  knew what mattered in the end.

“Regardless of what you play, the biggest thing is keeping the feel going,” he said.

Browher, Scott Serve Rincon

story by jeff whitten

Few things are as important in our day to day lives as good local government. City councils, county commissions, planning and zoning boards, all are part of the glue that holds a commumity together.

Without local government, we’d have no local fire protection, police departments, garbage pickup, and in many cases utility services such as water and sewer. That’s why it’s important to have people willing to devote their time and energy to serving the community through local government.

It’s also important that residents know those in office and why they serve. That’s why Effingham Magazine is spotlighting local government officials each issue. Up this issue: Rincon council memberfs Reese Browher and Levi Scott.

Reese Browher

Effingham Magazine: First, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Browher: I have had the honor and privilege of serving on Rincon City Council since 2000.  I appreciate the citizens of Rincon allowing me to serve.  My wife, Aleece, and I have been married for 10 years and have two beautiful daughters.  Ella is 8 years old and Ava is 7 years old.  I teach Advanced Placement American Government at my alma mater, Effingham County High School.  In 1998, I earned a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Armstrong State University, and in 2011, I earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Georgia Southern University.

My family moved to Rincon in 1983 when I was 7 years old.  My dad, Roger Browher, Jr., served as pastor of Rincon Baptist Temple for nearly 20 years.  My family and I still worship there today.  My dad and my mom, Betty, are the two people that have had the greatest influence on my life.  God has blessed me abundantly in my life, and for that I am truly grateful.

EM: Why did you first run for council?

RB: I decided to run for council because I enjoy people and enjoy being involved in local government.

EM: What are some of the things you feel you’ve helped accomplish while serving?

RB: I was instrumental in working with Councilman Frank Owens to secure funding to completely refurbish Rincon Jaycees Veteran’s Memorial Park, and I worked closely with Councilman Levi Scott in the planning and construction of Peter J. Giles Park. It is imperative that council sets a budget and policies that not only plan for the present, but also ensures that our future needs are met.  There are 435 incorporated cities and towns in Georgia, and Rincon is 1 of only 4 that does not have a property tax.  I am very proud of our past and current councils for maintaining this prestigious position since 1998.

EM: What are some of the things you want to see done while you’re on council?

RB: It is my utmost priority to keep Rincon’s mileage rate at zero.  However, the most rewarding aspect of serving on council is being in a position to help citizens with whatever problems or issues they have.  I have always and will continue to take each concern/complaint seriously.  I will not promise you a certain outcome, but I promise you I will contact you back and do all that I can to help you.  After all, I work for the people and it was them that entrusted me with the privilege to serve on council.

Levi Scott Jr. 

Effingham Magazine: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Levi Scott: I was born to the late Levi Scott Sr. and Jessie Mae Gray Scott and raised in Effingham County. I was educated in Effingham County public schools. My wife is Bertha Scott, Staff Development Coordinator at Effingham Health Systems. We have a daughter, Nakia Scott-Norman; a son, Levi A. Scott, and four grandsons, Dashod, Hunter, Tyler and Zack. I am self employed as an Environmental Services Consultant. I am a member of Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church in Rincon, and serve on the Deacon Board.

I have an Ethics in Government certificate from Kerry College of the University of Georgia and certification from the Harold F. Holtz Carl Vinson Municipal Training Institute for Elected Officials at the University of Georgia. I have faithfully served a number of organizations, including the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association; the NAACP; Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia; HYPE (Helping Young People Excel); ALM (Association of Linen Management) and I am a member of the Georgia Municipal Association.

I have also served as lieutenent governor of Optimist International Georgia District; as president of the Evening Optimists Club of Springfield; as CEO of Effingham Victim Witness Program and as a member of the Private Industrial Council of Georgia. I have served on the Effingham Development Authority, the YMCA Board of Directors; as Vice Chairman of the Rincon Planning and Zoning Commission; as a member of the Regional Development Council and as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Rincon. I’m also founder of the Peter J. Giles Community Park.

In my leisure time I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening, reading, traveling, sports and being active.

This is my fifth term on Rincon City Council and it ends in December 2017. It’s a little too soon to tell if I will seek re-election.

EM: Why did you first run for council? What’s kept you running for re-election?

LS: I did not feel like the citizens had a voice to represent them in the direction the city was heading. Realizing the growth potential of our community and encouragement from the citizens has motivated me to continue the challenge. Also, a desire to continue to represent and play a productive part in our community as it strives and continues to grow.

EM: What are some of the things you feel you’ve helped accomplish while serving?

LS: I have helped accomplish better shopping choices within the community, improved recreation for the youth and seniors, improved roads and sidewalks and eliminated property taxes.

EM: What are some of the things you still hope to see done while you’re on council?

LS: I would like to see more family restaurants, places that promote more family activities, increases in shopping choices, an upgrade of older sections of the city infrastructure and drainage. I would also like to see the completion of our sidewalk project.

Kenza Murray: Making Memorable Melodies at Ebenezer Middle School

story by katrice williams   photos by natalie mcallister

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot be silent.”

~Victor Hugo

To most, teachers are an invaluable commodity. Regardless of their field of expertise, many of them positively impact young lives in countless ways. Kenza Murray moved to Effingham in 2006. She has been the Ebenezer Middle School Band Director for over eight years now. Kenza, a Jesup, Georgia native, lives in the local area, along with her husband Tony and their three-year-old bundle of joy Colton. Interestingly enough, Tony is the band director at Effingham County Middle School. How’s that for beautiful irony?

Kenza’s musical endeavors actually date back to age nine, when she first began piano lessons. She later joined her middle school band, where she played the flute; she continued playing it throughout middle and high school. While in high school, Kenza aspired to be a band director, largely due to a huge inspiration in her life–her high school band director, Ms. Elizabeth Taylor.

Regarding Ms. Taylor, Kenza states, “She really instilled a passion. Ever since high school, it’s what I wanted to do.” She later adds, “Seeing how she impacted so many students in the program had such a positive impact on me. It really just motivated me to do the same thing and help others the way she does.”

Kenza earned her Undergraduate Degree in Music Education from Georgia Southern University and her Master’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Georgia. She majored on the flute while in college, as she could major on only one instrument.

Kenza began her teaching career in 2005 at Effingham County High School, where she was a student teacher for the band. She accepted a position as their assistant band director the following school year. Throughout her two-year tenure there, Kenza helped with the Effingham County Middle School and Ebenezer Middle School Band activities as well.

She comments, “As part of my job at the high school, I came, and I helped with the middle school every day. So, that’s when I fell in love with the middle school kids.”

Moreover, after two years at the high school, Kenza was offered the position of band director for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at Ebenezer Middle School.

“Once I got into it, I loved it,” she remarks.

Ebenezer’s Band has several notable accomplishments over the past few years. Kenza is the director of the entire middle school band, including three grade-level bands (6th, 7th and 8th grade), jazz band and Eagle Winds Honor Band. Both of the latter require auditions as part of an overall selection process.  Musicians in either 7th or 8th grade who excel in their class band are able to audition for Eagle Winds, while still remaining in the class band. Auditions are held once per school year. Eagle Winds normally practice outside of normal school hours, usually on weekday mornings before school. Established only three years ago, Ebenezer’s Eagle Winds has competed at an impressively high level.

For the past two school terms in particular, the band has “earned a lot of accolades” and has been recognized for their phenomenal talent at various competitions and conferences. They were one of only five middle school bands in the state accepted to play at the University of Georgia Middle School Band Festival, which was held in Athens, GA in December 2014. In addition, the band was bestowed the honor of performing at the Georgia Music Educators Association State Conference in Athens in January 2016, an in-service educators’ conference where only three middle school bands from around the state were selected to perform for an array of educators. Also, in March, the band was chosen to exhibit their skills at the Southeastern United States Music for All Festival, which was held in Atlanta and revealed the talents of eight middle school bands from across the Southeastern United States.

What’s more, Eagle Winds accomplished an incredible feat in May by earning the Georgia Music Educators Exemplary Performance Award, an honor given each year to only one middle school and one high school band in the entire state. A large group performance evaluation was done in March, where each band was carefully evaluated for superiority on every level of performance. A superior rating from four different judges was required. This was in addition to an earlier, extensive application process, where each competing band was evaluated across a variety of categories and achievements, including earning placement into the District Honor Band, the All State Band and earning superior ratings at the Solo and Ensemble Festival. In the end, Kenza was appreciative and flattered for her group to receive such an extraordinary honor.

Kenza is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach all the kids she has been privileged to instruct over the years.

“I spend three years with the kids; most middle school teachers only spend one. I watch them grow; watching them grow from 6th to 8th grade is one of coolest experiences for me. They’re a part of my life, and I know I’m a part of their life. They don’t realize how much they actually bless me through their time there. All the students do wonderful things. I just feel like a proud mom, because even though those are not my children, I love them like they’re my children. I really do care about them,” Kenza says.

As the children go on to begin their high school careers, parting ways is often bitter-sweet, but Kenza is truly proud to see the children grow and accomplish wonderful things.

She mentions, “They become a part of your life, and you’re really sad when it’s time for them to move on.”

Kenza holds the kids’ talents and musical potential in the highest regard and feels that she is merely a means of help along the way.

She insists, “I just like for it to be all about the kids. They’re the ones that have accomplished all of this.”

Further, Kenza likes to play her flute in some of her spare moments. In fact, she really enjoys playing it along with the rest of the orchestra at Rincon First Baptist, her church home.

She states, “I still play my flute every Sunday at church.”

Kenza loves to listen to Christian praise and worship music. One of her favorite groups is Casting Crowns, especially since they sing her favorite song – “Glorious Day.” She is touched by the truth and beauty found within the song and even used it as a lullaby for her son Colton “for about two years straight.”

Kenza states, “For the longest time, every night that I sang my child to sleep, I would sing that song for him.” She laughs and says, “I eventually had to find a new song to sing, because it became too monotonous to sing every night.”

Kenza is pleased to find time to help with the South Effingham High School Mustang’s Marching Band; she assists with the band activities during football season.

Kenza is not sure “what the future holds,” but she is grateful that she can be an instrumental part of the lives of those who are our future. She knows that she has been blessed with the ability to touch a multitude of lives through her gift of music, and she has no plans of taking that for granted.

Steve Nisbet Rincon’s Very Own Rembrandt

story by david pena

photos by luke smith

In the art world, some iconic names conjure up visions of their masterful works that few artists, if any, could hope to replicate, even after a lifetime of effort. Rembrandt. Picasso. Pollack. Renoir…. Nisbet? If that last name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, you may be familiar with him and his work fairly soon. Steve Nisbet, a forty-eight year old Rincon resident originally from New Zealand, is looking to make his impact upon the art world soon. From vibrating, light-filled passages to richly colored transparent darks, from cascading wet washes to staccato dry brush effects, Steve has attempted all types of mediums and styles of painting.  However, his palette took some time to fill.

Born in Perth, Australia but raised in Wellington, New Zealand, Steve enjoyed the beautiful vistas and natural scenes of his native land. In his early days, as he puts it, the only strokes he’d be doing would be in a pool and not on a canvas. “We lived near a large horse and sheep farm, so I spent a large amount of time exploring that,” he recalls. “I was also a competitive swimmer early on and spent morning and night in a pool, with not much time for anything else.” However, that seemed to change when he discovered one relative’s impressive artistic talent. “My grandfather Phil was a clever artist who painted with a passion. He even had a couple of his works exhibited in a museum in New Zealand, and as a child I used to watch him paint. I remember being really fascinated with his talent. He also traveled for months to photograph indigenous scenery that he would ultimately paint at home, which I thought was nice. That’s probably where I developed an interest in art.”

Thus, as Steve entered his teen years, he decided to pursue his love of art in an academic way, or so he thought. “I enrolled in an art class, but after a few weeks my dad convinced me to take a more practical approach, so I quickly changed to mechanical drafting, a specialist profession that concentrates on blueprints of machines and machine components used by engineers, and that’s where I started to understand perspective,” he explains. At the college level, he furthered his studies with computer-aided drafting classes, but always doodled in his spare time. It was around this time that the “traveling bug” bit him hard.

“I was working for an investment company at the time, and I liked it very much, but I had always wanted to see the U.S. My other grandfather is originally from Mississippi and moved to western Australia after the war, so my mother was an automatic U.S. citizen, which would make my move easier,” he reflects.

Steve abruptly told his family at the dinner table one night that he was planning to move to the states, but the news was met with understandable skepticism. About a year later, however, he made it happen and moved to Pensacola Florida. This is not altogether uncommon because, according to Steve, New Zealanders frequently travel abroad and it’s quite common for them to live up to a year or more outside of their country before returning home.

Steve attributes this wanderlust to living in a small, isolated place. “It’s almost expected of the younger generation to want to travel, usually to Europe. In fact, if the company you work for is fairly large, they will frequently save your position, if you’re a valued employee, and welcome you with open arms upon your return.” Must be nice, eh?

Soon after Steve made the move to Florida in 1990, he met his wife of twenty-four years, Janis, who he says has always motivated him to pursue his art. In fact, his ever-present doodling was not something he was conscious of at all; ironically,  it was his wife’s interest in his drawings that made him pay attention to it at all. “She’s always been the one that’s encouraged me, taking me to art shows and being supportive of my craft.” Janis and Steve soon found that his artwork proved not only to be an interesting diversion but also a healthy one. “A few years ago, I was having a lot of severe migraines, and nothing seemed to make them subside. One day we were out, and I decided to buy some paint and brushes. When we got home, I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I started painting. I went from oils to acrylics to gauche to watercolors, just trying anything. I seemed to stick to watercolors, and I noticed that when I worked on a piece of art, my headaches would go away.” This unexpected health improvement helped validate the money spent on supplies, according to Janis. “When it helped Steve’s headaches, it sort of gave him the freedom to invest in art supplies, which weren’t in our budget at the time,” she says with a laugh.

After the couple moved to Rincon four years ago, Steve began work at a financial investment company, but continues to paint or draw every day after work when he can and on weekends.  As he progressed, he drew upon his instruction at school where he first gained an understanding of perspective, which is an illusion of three-dimensions (depth and space) on a two-dimensional, flat surface. He also began to have an understanding on how to create depth in his current art, but he never lost sight of the grandfather who inspired him to first pick up a brush. “Even though he didn’t technically ‘teach’ me anything specific, nor did I ask, it was something that was ingrained in my subconscious, I guess, that I never lost,” he explains. Along with his grandfather, there are two Youtube artists, Sheldene Visagie and Lisa Clough, that also inspire and influence Steve’s current work.

Now primarily working with watercolor, graphite and colored pencils, Steve says he’s really progressed nicely in the short amount of time he’s devoted to his passion. However, it wasn’t always the case with other mediums. “Because of my grandfather, I went straight to oil painting, but that proved to be really messy and it takes forever to dry. My impatience led me to acrylic, but a lack of training with it made me quickly move to watercolor, which seems to be the medium I have stuck with, along with colored pencils.” Steve has also progressed to photo realistic painting, a genre in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium. Janis has seen quite a difference in the level of the quality of his work as well. “We both thought that the first couple of paintings he did were nice, but where he’s at now is night and day from then. It’s been amazing to see his progression,” she says.

Emboldened by his progress, Steve has begun to display some of his works that are up for sale at The Cottage of Art and Picture Framing. And in the near future, he plans to exhibit and ultimately sell more of his pieces, but he says he’s not in any hurry. For now, it’s a much-needed escape from the daily grind and gives him a peaceful and stress-free outlet for creativity, which he says has been a means to improve his health. “When I’m drawing or painting, I’m not thinking about anything else. Time really flies by, and I’m just in that moment. It takes my mind away from the rest of the world, not to mention it also helped me with my earlier struggles with migraines,” he says.

Few artistic professions carry more mystique and romance than that of the painter. We often visit their work in hushed galleries and museums, and read colorful stories about their lives and passions. However, we rarely learn much about what happens “down in the trenches,” or what made them follow their passion and develop it. Steve’s journey to rediscovering his childhood passion is one such story. Through trial and error, he’s learned that what may appear simple in execution can take years to perfect, and this quality often discourages all but those artists like Steve who have the determination and discipline to undertake the challenge of learning to paint.