Fran Ross : Empowering victims while creating survivors

story by Cindy Burbage     photos by Shelia Scott
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and the Effingham Victim-Witness Assistant Program will hold their Candlelight Vigil honoring survivors of domestic violence, local partners, and supporters. This year they are adding a twist: a silent auction and raffle. The event will be held on Friday, October 19th at 5:30pm at Rincon First Baptist Church. This function will have dinner and chances to win prizes. The auction and raffle items include: coolers, grills, a Go-Pro and a number of gift baskets from professional hair products to home décor. The organization plans to make this fundraiser an annual event.
In February 2018, Fran Ross was officially appointed Executive Director of the agency after having served as Administrative Assistant for years. But she isn’t new to this office. “My mom, Julia Cochran, has volunteered here as a counselor for over twenty years, I basically grew up coming to this office. It seemed like a right fit for me and my beliefs.
This is the most gratifying job I have had other than working with children. When you are able to give and do for people it’s kind of a WWJD (what would Jesus do) kind of thing and that’s how we run; not that we are a religious organization.  You know it’s like what would Jesus do in this situation. Would He help this person? Can we provide food or clothing for this person? What does person need? How can we assist? And that is why we are here. We are here to help people start over and become independent and empowered; live a fulfilling healthier lifestyle. That is our mission,” Fran passionately explained.
Fran Ross, explained the array of services the program offers, “The primary service we perform is the temporary protection order or TPO. This is an order that states that an individual cannot come within 500 yards of you and cannot have any contact what so ever, including a third-party contact.   These are usually good for up to a year. We also offer professional counseling referrals for victims; we have a few counselors within our community that help with this.  Court accompaniments is another service we provide along with pro bono attorney services. We will go to court with clients to give them the support that they need, and on the second court appearance, the individual will have an attorney by their side as well.”
With a 24-hour crisis hotline and an emergency fund for those in need, Effingham County Victim-Witness Assistance Program is ready to help. They are affiliated with Safe Haven in Statesboro; a shelter for those who have suffered from domestic violence and need safety. Victim-Witness can transfer the victim securely and discreetly to the shelter. For a complete list of services offered by the victim assistance program, please visit their website: www.effinghamvwap.org
This assistance program is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is financially supported by VOCA (Victims of Crime Act), 5% Funding and United Way contributions. The month of April is Crime Victim Awareness; Victim Witness raises awareness and funds with their annual Jeans for Justice Campaign. Local businesses and schools donate $1-$5 per person to wear jeans on Friday during Crime’s Victim week.
“When you are in a nonprofit organization it’s a lot of give me, give me, give me and not a lot of thank you, thank you, thank you. We are trying to combine an event that we can recognize and thank everybody for their continued support over the years plus try to get some income at the same time,” Fran gratefully expressed.
The agency works closely within its community. “We reach out to Family Promise and Family Connection, ready to help. We also work closely with local law enforcement,” Fran described. “We want the people of Effingham to know we are here to help people who feel like they don’t have a voice.”
Domestic violence is a growing epidemic in the United States and Effingham County has not been excluded; it is a rampant entity that does not discriminate based on race, age, gender, occupation or social status. In 1989, a group of concerned community members and leaders came together to establish the Effingham County Victim/Witness Assistance Program. It is designed to assist victims of violent crimes; with that, 90% are domestic violence related and 97% of clientele are women.
The statistics of domestic violence are fearfully alarming. According to the St. Jude House Family Violence Prevention Center and Shelter in Chicago, the following are accurate:
•  According to estimates, approximately 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the United States.
•  60% of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. More than 12 times as many women were murdered by a man they knew than were killed by male strangers.
•  One out of every three pregnant women is battered.
•   50% of all women who are murdered in this country are killed by a boyfriend or husband.
•  25% of women in college have been the victim of rape or attempted rape. 84% of these victims were acquainted with their assailant.
•  The Negative Effects of Domestic Violence Continue:
•  Children raised in a chaotic, abusive environment are seven times more likely to grow up and repeat the same behavior as adults.
•  Violent behavior in a relationship is almost certain to be repeated again and again unless there is intervention.
•  The cycle of violence is often generational. Once started, it may be handed down from generation to generation, like an unfortunate family tradition.
The Effingham Victim Witness Assistant Program thrives on teamwork. The small and personable office is full of compassionate women. “They are from Effingham and know these people. They are eager and able to assist with their dedication and hard work”, the director appreciatively described.
If you or someone you know is a victim of a violent crime, please seek help immediately. Effingham Victim-Witness Assistant Program has a 24-hour emergency hotline: 912-754-7460. Don’t become a statistic, become a survivor.

Tim’s Crane and Rigging

Family Owned And Operated Since 1997
Tim Marshlick started working for a local crane company when he was only 15 years old. From that moment, Tim’s love for cranes and machinery really took off. He worked with the same company for the next 31 years before deciding to open Tim’s Crane and Rigging in 1997, with one crane and a vision. The company was founded on Tim’s dream to give customers quality service at competitive prices and has since growning a successful business from that very vision.
Tim’s Crane and Rigging is a family owned and operated business with Tim still running the show with his two daughters, Chely Marshlick and Kris Skinner, assisting in the daily operations of the business and learning the ropes. Chely and Kris have both been with the company for many years. Kris has taken on more responsibilities at a full-time capacity, and Chely is so appreciative of her hard work and dedication, saying “I want her to know how much she is valued and appreciated.”
They have been serving the southeast for more than 21 years with over 24 cranes ranging in sizes from 8-Ton up to 300-Ton. Their fleet consists of All-Terrain, Crawlers, Hydraulic Trucks, Conventional Truck Cranes and Boom Trucks. Tim’s Crane and Rigging has over 20 CCO Certified operators, most with at least 20 years of experience.
Chely shared what separates Tim’s Crane and Rigging from the rest, saying, “we treat everyone like family, from customers to our employees, and we always strive to be the best!” That dedication to service has contributed to Tim’s Crane and Rigging being well known in the area for their safety, professionalism and customer satisfaction.
Tim’s Crane and Rigging played a part in many of the buildings in and around the Savannah area, including the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, Ellis Square, The Westin Savannah Harbor, The Bohemian Hotel and many more. They also played a major role in the Imperial Sugar fire years ago, using personnel baskets attached to their cranes to lower emergency personnel into the rubble.
Tim’s Crane and Rigging is a member of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association. They are dedicated to the safety of their personnel, customers and the public. They adhere to all OSHA standards and a safety program is in place and continuously being updated and improved. In addition, they maintain a Substance Abuse Program for all employees.
They have fully operated and maintained crane rentals for Precast Concrete Placement; Plant Maintenance; Machinery Settings; Modular Home Settings; Tower Erections; Train Derailments; Delicate Lifting – Monuments, Fountains; Building Erection – Steel and Concrete; Marine Services and Pile Driving; Ship Unloading; and Heavy Lifts. They also possess Access Authorization for Georgia Ports Authority, Southern Company/Georgia Power, Secure Vessels/Maritime Areas, multiple military bases, and TWIC Authorization.
Chely considers it an honor to work with their clients each and every day and to be available to assist them with any need they may have to complete the task at hand.  “We are available to our clients 24/7,” she added. “I’d also like to extend a special thanks to our operators, truck drivers, and office staff for all of their help and dedication,” says Chely.
Visit Tim’s Crane and Rigging online at www.TimsCrane.com or stop by their location conveniently located right off of Interstate 95 at 117 Sharon Court in Pooler, GA. Feel free to call Chely, Kris, Tim or the team at 912-748-1318 today and let the team at Tim’s Crane and Rigging assist you with your next big project.

ZACH WOOTEN : The Loft Café

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Miranda Osborn
Many people don’t find success until later in life. They work hard, put in countless hours, overcome setbacks and make it out on top. For one Effingham County business owner, he’s been through his fair share of setbacks and understands hard work is the only way to get to where you want to be. He is proving that determination does pay off and has managed to find huge success before celebrating his 30th birthday.
Zach Wooten is only 28 years old. The millennial is a self-made entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to take risks. Zach is the owner and operator of The Loft Café. He smiles as he talks about what his restaurant has become and how he tries to be different when being trendy is the new thing. The Loft Café is only open for lunch and serves what Zach calls the traditional side of the sandwich world. “Nowadays, you can’t always get traditional and that’s what we try to stick to. We serve sandwiches and salads and our salads are some of our best sellers. We’ve been voted Best Salad in Effingham County every year since we opened,” says Zach. He also offers homemade dressings, homemade dips and ensures that the restaurant only uses fresh ingredients. That’s a commitment Zach takes very seriously. He is very particular about quality service and authentic food.
When you experience what Zach has created, it’s hard to believe that the first The Loft Café didn’t make it. In 2010, Zach and his business partner opened the doors at their original location. Zach can now laugh when he says it crashed and burned, and credits the closure to location. When it closed down, Zach could have given up and moved on; however, he didn’t lock the doors for good. He kept fighting for what he wanted. In 2011, at 21 years old, he moved the restaurant to its current location and immediately saw a 300 percent increase in sales. “It was amazing. The first day of opening the doors, I was shocked at the number of people who actually showed up,” says Zach. “I took pride in seeing my idea and creation come to life. It made me want to continue doing what I love.”
It’s safe to say that many 21-year-olds aren’t thinking about opening a business. Zach tried college, but it just wasn’t for him. Neither was a party inspired lifestyle. He jumped right into the workforce. “I had nothing to lose and it was worth the risk. I had the support of my parents and I knew I could always go back to college if this didn’t work out,” says Zach.
So far, it seems to be working out. Zach has always had a love for cooking and grew up around a family who owned kitchens. At the start of his working life, he found himself in various restaurant kitchens. In fact, before opening The Loft Café he worked at a local sub shop. Zach then realized he wanted something of his own. “Why do it for someone else when you can do it for yourself,” says Zach.
Doing it for himself hasn’t always been easy. One of the biggest challenges for Zach was being so young and not having a credit history. At 20 years old, it was hard for him to get loans. Another challenge was figuring out all of the “legal stuff” that comes with running a restaurant. “I was slightly ignorant to certain laws and it was a struggle learning how to do taxes and which forms I needed. I made lots of mistakes and I paid for them,” says Zach. He admits his business partner handles the financial side of things for him, which allows him to do what he does best – serve up great food, great customer service and a great atmosphere for his employees.
Zach, who has four employees, is proud that he sees very low staff turnover. Most employees stay there for years. Brittany Safranek is the head server and has been with Zach since day one. The two went to South Effingham County High School together and have been best friends for years. “Zach is a good person and a sweet man. He’s caring and he puts good into the world,” says Brittany. “That’s what you want in a boss.”
Brittany also likes the fact that Zach values input from his employees. From creating new menu items to suggesting a complete remodel, which happened in July 2018, Zach takes what his employees say to heart. “They have the most interaction with customers and their feedback is very important in continuing our success,” says Zach.
Another quality that Zach processes is his humility; he isn’t above any of his employees. He says he won’t make an employee do something he isn’t willing to do himself. “I’ve done everything, all the way down to cleaning the toilets. I’ve served, I’ve painted, I’ve done every role in this business,” says Zach.
It’s that mindset that has helped lead Zach to success. When asked about his other qualities that make him the kind of business owner he is, he says he likes seeing people happy. From his customers to his employees, happiness drives him. “I give my customers the service they deserve. They don’t eat out to get crappy food or service. We try to be different and really focus on the personal service side of things,” says Zach. He’s also been known to close the restaurant down for a week and take all of his employees on a well-deserved vacation.
Another quality Zach has is that he is forever creative and has big goals. He would love to open a second location one day and has even thought about creating a franchise. “It’s crazy to me, thinking back on this and knowing that I did make it. I have so much pride in seeing my creation work,” says Zach. While he admits he’s long overdue for a vacation, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
When asked if he has any advice for others looking at owning a business one day, he doesn’t hesitate. “It takes hard work and dedication. If you work towards it, you’ll own it,” says Zach. “It’s not a walk in the park and some days are great and others are tough. As long as you’re hardworking and your mind is where it needs to be, you can do anything.”
The Loft Café is located at 135 Goshen Road in Rincon. It’s open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. every day of the week except Sunday.

Aiming for Archery Excellence : Kale Renfro

“If you believe you can, you might. If you know you can, you will.”
~Steve Mariboli
story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry
Thirteen-year-old Kale Renfro is quite comfortable “following his own arrow,” believing that striving and aiming towards excellence will always be right on target. The young Effingham native is an 8th grader at South Effingham Middle School, and he is already an avid archer. Kale’s mom and dad, Staci and Alex Renfro, learned of their son’s interest in the sport about three years ago. Actually, Kale’s school is affiliated with the Springfield 4-H Club, which offers an archery program. Kale’s interest in archery was of little surprise, since his dad, one of his biggest mentors, “has always loved hunting.” Though Kale “never cared much for hunting,” archery was the next best thing.
“You don’t have to be a hunter to love archery,” he said.
Kale enjoys practicing with his 4-H team and at home. Whether practicing for the indoor season in Springfield at the 4-H gym or the outdoor season at Honey Ridge plantation, Kale already knows that his skill level grows with each practice. He also understands the necessity of having good equipment. He remembers his mom and dad taking him to get his very first bow.
“It was a Bear Bow…a compound bow. It looked really cool…an orange camo,” he recalled. A compound bow “uses a cable and pulley levering system to bend the limbs;” this gives the sportsman a “mechanical advantage.” Hence, it is a great choice for beginners. The limbs are “stiffer” than those on other bows, thus “improving accuracy and power” especially over longer distances, greatly due to its uniquely modernized construction and design. That can be a plus, especially since 4-H has a maximum shooting range of 50 yards. What’s more, with the rigidity of the bow, Kale “pulls approximately 45-50 pounds each time he pulls back [his] bowstring.” That can certainly be a workout, considering how often Kale uses his bow, both in practices and tournaments. He normally uses paper targets when performing with his 4-H team. Kale values his time practicing; all of his preparation definitely pays off. Outdoor tournaments are held at the 4-H camp in Eatonton, Georgia, while indoor competitions are held at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia.
As 4-H was his introduction into archery, Kale is very grateful to all of his 4-H volunteer coaches that have helped him over the years. Alongside his dad, Nicky Smith, Steven Sewell, Henry Kessler, Derrick Zipperer and Josh Mosley have all played an instrumental role in him being the talented, young archer that he is today. Their selfless dedication to the entire team has been remarkable.
Kale, too, has been participating in Scholastic 3-D Archery, S3DA, at Warrior Archery in Tattnall County under the leadership of coordinator Aric Clements. S3DA is a nationwide program and has been rapidly growing for quite a while, allowing for both indoor and outdoor archery fun. It benefits young, aspiring archers by introducing them to the “fundamentals of archery and principles of marksmanship.” Group instruction is offered by skilled coaches with various tournament opportunities on local, state and national levels. Much like the 4-H program, S3DA strives to instill such skills as discipline and self-confidence into young enthusiasts. Kale, however, found that there were notable differences in S3DA and 4-H archery, especially the target. Targets are usually 3-D and are either paper or various animal-forms that are made of durable foam; some animals include deer, hog, boar, bear, coyote and various others. Each target features rings that are scored using a scale from 0-12, with 12 being the highest. Interestingly enough, Kale’s parents bought him a 3-D animal target for practice, a pig, who he calls “Joey.” Further, Kale now uses an additional bow, a High-Country Bow, which is commonly used with 3-D targets and is effective for both beginners and advanced archers. S3DA archers use a variety of ranges, with a maximum range of 30 yards.
S3DA offers an array of great scholarships to its high school archers who qualify, some even getting a “full-ride.” Staci and Alex are certainly excited about that. Staci mentions that many college representatives are often present at the national competition. S3DA athletes may also earn monetary rewards when they win competitions. Understanding the benefit of the organization, the parents would like to have an S3DA club in the local area, since the closest one is in Tattnall. Aric Clements is currently trying to assist with those efforts.
“He is really trying to help us get one,” Staci said.
Kale has competed in several states, but normally competes in North Georgia. In fact, he won the “Georgia State Title for Middle School Fixed Pins” this past May in Maysville, Georgia. It afforded him several medals, trophies and even a uniquely elaborate state championship belt buckle. Staci remembers that it was quite a nail-biting event, as Kale and four other competitors went head-to-head in a shoot-off.
“Only three points separated 1st and 5th place,” Kale recalled.
Staci and Alex were anxiously awaiting the outcome. The two were nervous when they noticed that Kale had “zeroed in on the wrong target,” which is very easy to do with an array of various random targets lined up and down a long range; however, hitting the wrong target will land a competitor a zero. Only seconds prior to shooting, Kale quickly and nearly unnoticeably changed his aim.
The state coordinator, who was anxiously pacing back-and-forth, yelled, “Oh my gosh…I think he’s gotten a 10!” That proved to be quite a memorable event for Kale.
“I was lucky on that,” he said.
Kale then went to nationals in Metropolis, Illinois in June. Over 1,000 other young archers from all over the US competed in various categories. He was proud to place 3rd in the “Superman City Tournament.”
Kale knows that without the consistent support of some outstanding mentors in his life, he would not be where he is now. He mentions Bill Whalley and Evan Fox. He appreciates “their knowledge and skill,” along with all of their help in the sport; their diligence and dedication have been priceless.
“I look up to both of them,” he said.
Additionally, Kale is incredibly thankful for Freddie Jones, who he feels is an “all-around mentor.” He feels very privileged to have the love, support and efforts of his mom and dad, who are “persistent to assure that he follows his dreams.” In addition, Kale is extremely grateful to have some truly supportive and proud grandparents: his “NeNe” Pam White and “PaPa” David White, along with his “Nan-Nan” Shelley Renfro. He also appreciates all of his sponsors, whose support helps him to accomplish his archery goals.
Aside from archery, Kale is an honor student with various interests, including his participation in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at school. He has been an “inventive, creative, problem-solver” for quite some time. Kale enjoys basketball and plays football for his school. He has also been deemed as quite the “handy-man” with an incredible work ethic, as he often helps his NeNe and PaPa with tons of projects around the house.
“I’m very proud of him; I can really see him going places,” NeNe stated.
Kale is going places, indeed, and the target certainly looks good for this talented young man.

Keeping Our Students Safe

The Effingham County School District makes every effort to equip our students with the educational foundation necessary to succeed in today’s society.  However, we recognize that, in order for our children to learn effectively, they must feel safe in their environment.  Recurring news of tragedies on school campuses has heightened public awareness to the undeniable need for practical and effective school safety measures, and our school district is no exception.  In response to that need, we have taken proactive steps to ensure the ongoing protection of our students and employees.  After all, preparedness is key, and no child should fear going to school, just as no parent should fear sending their child to school any more than any other public place

The Effingham County Board of Education has opted for some common-sense approaches to strengthening our safety measures.  Our Board has approved the allocation of additional dollars in this year’s budget to be utilized towards measures such as increasing our number of resource officers as well as purchasing safety vestibules for our middle and high schools.  Through the existing partnership we have with the Effingham County Commissioner’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office, we have been able to secure two additional full-time resource officers for our school system.  These officers will provide relief when a school resource officer is out or called away to another duty.  We are sincerely grateful for our remarkable partnerships with local law enforcement including the Springfield, Guyton, and Rincon Police Departments as well as the Effingham County Sherriff’s Office.   The ongoing communication and cooperation we maintain with these agencies have allowed us to offer our students a level of security that would, otherwise, be unavailable to them.
The installation of safety vestibules is forthcoming for each of our middle and high schools as well as our Effingham College and Career Academy.  We deeply appreciate our local delegation for their successful efforts to secure state dollars to help fund this project.  Plans are currently underway to begin the installation of these vestibules as soon as possible, and we are confident that these will provide an extra layer of security for our students.  In fact, each of our eight elementary schools currently benefit from safety vestibules whose purchase would not have been possible without ESPLOST revenues.  Our school district would like to thank each of the members of the Effingham community who support the ESPLOST tax that makes projects like our vestibules a reality.
Moving forward, the Effingham County Board of Education has voted to designate additional ESPLOST funds to be used towards school safety for any capital improvement.  Thoughts for the future include the purchase of additional cameras as well as the update of our current locking systems.
While our school district recognizes the need for school safety expenditures, our greatest safety resources are the eyes and ears of our teachers, students, and parents.  We ask that you always be aware of your surroundings and report anything that seems odd or out of the ordinary.  Even if your suspicions are determined to be unfounded, you will have played a critical role towards protecting our children and ensuring their wellbeing.
Thank you for entrusting your children to us each year.  We do not take this responsibility lightly, and we hope to continue earning your trust as we educate and protect your children throughout each new school day.
Randy Shearouse
Superintendent of Schools

CTAE – Career Technical and Agriculture Education Getting Effingham Students on Track for the Future

Career Technical and Agriculture, Education (CTAE), (formerly known as Vocational Education) is offered in Effingham County Schools to give our youth the opportunity to be highly skilled when they are out of school and entering into the work force.
CTAE courses will get our students on the fast track to their future. Whatever their plans may be after high school, CTAE courses and career pathways will give them a head start in many technical and professional careers.
Students participating in CTAE will attend project-based classes that give them hands-on experience in their chosen field.  This will enable them to learn whether they like doing the work in their chosen path and challenge them to gain skills they can use wherever life takes them. They will learn how to take these skills and apply them to real life.
As students complete the steps in working toward their goals, they will find that they are no longer wondering what they will do after graduation. They will know what they want to do and where they are going, and they will have the education and plan to take them there.
Effingham County School’s CTAE program offers career-related educational areas – called Program Concentrations and related Pathways. The Program Concentrations and Pathways gives students insights into the possible occupations in each program.
Todd Wall is the CTAE District Coordinator. His job is to provide expertise and leadership in the operational management and support of the program to enhance student achievement at the middle and high school levels. He also has the task of developing the system CTAE instructional budget and ensure the timely and appropriate expenditure of local, state, and federal grants and funds, all while supervising and supporting all CTAE instructors and assisting in implementing curriculum and instruction across all CTAE pathways.
Sounds like a big job?  Not to Wall, who has 17 years in Career Technical Agriculture Education.  Wall came to Effingham County three years ago as the CTAE Supervisor for the 2015-16 school year for Effingham County High School. Now, he is serving his second year as CTAE District Coordinator.
Currently, there are approximately 2100 students in the high schools and 1100 middle school students in the CTAE program throughout the Effingham County School System. To be in this program, all students must complete three elective units in a coherent sequence in Career Technical and Agricultural Education, Modern Foreign Language or Fine Arts.
The Career Pathways currently being offered in our school system are Logistics, Intro to Digital Technology, Work-Based Learning, Computer Science, Automotive Service Technology, Engineering and Technology, Healthcare Science, Culinary Arts, Agriculture, Early Childhood Education, Audio/Video Technology, Business, JROTC, Public Safety and Forensic Science. In this program, students must complete three levels/classes of instruction, plus a 4th level in some areas.
When asked about new things for the new school term, Mr. Wall shares, “Project Lead the Way… we started PLTW at Effingham College and Career Academy two years ago and we are now in our third year. As of 2018-19 school year, we starting to implement PLTW in the middle and elementary schools.”
He adds, “We piloted Computer Science at ECCA last year and this year we are in full implementation.”
Project Lead the Way provides transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers. It creates an engaging, hands-on classroom environment and empowers students to develop in-demand knowledge and skills they need to thrive. PLTW also provides teachers with the training, resources and support they need to engage students in real-world learning.
Work-Based Learning placements represent the pinnacle of the Career-Related Education experience. To qualify for a WBL placement, a student must be in grades 11 or 12 and at least 16 years old. Students must also have a defined Career Pathway in order to participate in a Work-Based Learning placement.
This is especially important for successful completion of a student’s pathway in that their job placement is directly related to the curriculum of the pathway classes they have completed or in which they are concurrently enrolled. There are several opportunities for students to participate in work-based learning. These opportunities include employability skill development, Cooperative Education, Internship, Youth Apprenticeship, and Clinical Experiences.
“We have a very strong Work-Based Learning program in Effingham County.  Our WBL coordinators, Ms. Sherry Duff at ECHS and Ms. Sherry Baggot at SEHS, do an outstanding job of placing our students each year.  This year we will have over 140 students placed in different career related jobs, internships, apprenticeships and clinical experiences throughout our area,” says Wall.  “Students are prepared and have the opportunity to enter directly into the workforce or continue their education in a post-secondary option or both.”


What Is A PTO?
 PTO stands for Parent Teacher Organization. A PTO is a group comprised of parents, teachers, and staff dedicated to improving the educational experience of all students at the Elementary School level. The goals are to encourage interaction between family and school, serve as a source of support, and work with teachers, staff, and the community at large to improve each child’s educational experience. The PTO works closely with the school administration to meet these goals.
If you look up “PTO” in the dictionary you might find words like: organize, support, help, and volunteer. The PTO organizes special events and fundraises for the schools they represent. Any parent or guardian of a current enrolled student as well as all current faculty and staff can join.
Each elementary school in Effingham County has an active Parent, Teacher Organization. Following you will find their plans for the 2018-19 school term.Blandford Elementary
Leaders: Teri Massey and Ashley Boyette
What are your goals for the 2018-19 school term?
The goal for the Blandford Elementary School PTO is to serve our teachers, staff, and administrators in any way possible in order to make this the most successful year our children can possibly have.  The core PTO team for the school coordinates the various projects throughout the year.  Our school motto is One School, One Team.
So far this year, we have several events planned.  There will be a BooHoo Breakfast for the parents of our kindergarten students, Teacher Appreciation Events, and a Daddy/Daughter dance.  We are also working to establish a Spirit Store with the help of Peachy Tees, another small local business in Springfield.  They are creating a website that will allow parents to directly order spirit wear throughout the year.  This will be in addition to the campus spirit store that will be open weekly.  The store will be staffed by our awesome parent volunteers.  We plan to create a network of local businesses that will contribute and help us throughout the year.
Our goal for the 2018-2019 school year is to raise funds to increase the ratio of available technology per student.  We are working to finalize our list of fundraising opportunities.
Ebenezer Elementary
Leader:  Kara Gelderman
The mission of Ebenezer Elementary School PTSO is to work in cooperation with our parents and teachers to reach our common goal of providing the best educational experience for our students. We support the students and school both monetarily, as well as through volunteering, while providing opportunities for our families to connect.
A few of the events that are planned for the 2018-2019 school term are Family Painting Night, Supper with Santa, Bingo for Books and the Boosterthon Program.
In the fall, Ebenezer Elementary PTSO will be offering a catalog sale which includes a variety of items for purchase. For the spring, we will partner again with the Boosterthon Program. Both of these types of fundraisers have been very successful for us in the past and we look forward to applying those funds directly to areas of the school where improvements are needed.
The Ebenezer Elementary School PTSO has a three-part goal for the upcoming school year:
1. We place great emphasis on hosting a variety of family centered events and activities to help foster connections between
our families and the school. This also provides an excellent opportunity to get involved through volunteering.
2. Through our annual fundraisers, we support the financial needs of our school which are not met by other sources of
3. Family connections and support of our fundraisers help make our third goal of providing educational enrichment a
Meeting our technology demands is something we have focused on for several years and will continue to be one of our primary objectives for the coming year.
Guyton Elementary
Leader: Heather Thompson
The mission of the Guyton Elementary School PTO is to raise funds for things that will help our children’s education. We enjoy working with parents, teachers and students to make our fundraising something that will benefit everyone.
The biggest event we have planned for this school year is our Fall Festival. Our school will be turned into a place of fun for all ages. The most popular at this event is the Haunted Hallway. Our amazing 4th and 5th grade teachers and staff make the entire hallway scary. In the past we have had obstacle courses, trick-or-treating, cake walks and hay rides, along with several other games and food. We also open The Santa Shop for a week in December. This gives students and families a chance to shop for the people they care about. It is so exciting to be a part of this event and watch how happy the kids are for the opportunity to shop. We also do a birthday celebration where we give each student a cupcake and drink during the month of his or her birthday.
We are excited about the fundraisers we have planned for the 2018-2019 school year. We like to call them “Fun”raisers because we    like to plan things that get the students and their families involved by making them fun activities. We have Bingo Nights planned, Santa Night, lollipop sale for Valentine’s Day, and we are hoping to team up with a Fun Run at the end of the year. There is a monthly fundraiser, Fun Friday, where we sell the students a snack and a drink for $1.00. This happens the last Friday of every month.
One of the goals of the PTO for this school year is to purchase a covered area that will give our students a place to sit in the shade during their recess time. Most of the school year is very hot and we feel that this will be a great way to spend the funds that are raised throughout the year.Rincon Elementary
Leaders: Tiffany Altman, Courtney Barnwell
The mission for the Rincon Elementary School PTO is to create a strong community that serves our students, families, teachers and staff. We promote communication between administration, faculty, parents and the community to enrich our children’s’ education.
We have a couple of events planned for the 2018-2019 school year. We are going to have a grand opening ceremony for the new school this fall, and in December, we are planning a Christmas Family Fun Night.
Our fundraisers kick off this fall when the students will be selling chocolate. We are also planning a Boosterthon Fun Run in January. The students approach parents, grandparents and friends for pledges for the laps that they will run or walk. The Boosterthon actually lasts for two weeks and is not limited to the Fun Run. During this time we also hold character building workshops and pep rallies for the students.
During the 2017-2018 school year, we launched a 3 year campaign to raise at least $100,000 for new school expenses. We were able to raise $30,000 that will go directly toward the new school expenses. Our goal for this school term is to continue and increase the pace that was set so that we can reach our financial goal.
Sandhill Elementary
Leader: Angela Wise
The mission of the Sandhill Elementary School PTA is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.
Some of the events planned for the 2018-2019 school year are a Boo Hoo Breakfast, Spooky Supper, Santa Shop, and Family Fun Nights.
We are planning on a fall fundraiser with the help of Otis Spunkmeyer and a chocolate fundraiser in the spring.
Our goal for the upcoming school year is to bring the families of Sand Hill Elementary School together to support and help our students grow in an enriching environment.


Some dreams do come true.  And, Effingham County is benefitting from a dream of one certain man, Josh Reddick. Josh is a former SEHS standout and now a member of the Houston Astro’s World Series Championship team.
The Josh Reddick Stadium recently opened at the Clarence E. Morgan Recreational Complex, a dream Josh has had since he was in junior high school.
The Josh Reddick Stadium has a unique field, unlike any other in the county, or in the state for that matter. This field is entirely wheelchair accessible.  The stadium has an all turf field and is accessible to all children, including those with special needs. The stadium is also fully decked out with a 10-foot by 36-foot scoreboard, covered seating with fans to cool off on those hot days and a brick dugout.
“This is a dream that I have been wanting to come true, and now that it is here, it is definitely heartwarming,” Josh says. “I think the biggest moment of it was seeing the teams that played on it.  We have a group called the Effingham Navigators, a group we sponsor for, and we couldn’t think of anyone else who should be able to play the first game there,” he adds.
The Effingham County Navigator Team, made of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their siblings, played the inaugural game, and the entire team wore Reddick’s number 22.
By “we,” Josh is referring to himself and the Josh Reddick Foundation Board of Directors.   Since its inception in 2014, The Josh Reddick Foundation has been on a mission to advocate for the youth of Effingham County with a focus on supporting students, preserving recreational parks, and helping those in need.
The Josh Reddick Foundation puts on charitable events annually to raise money for county needs and provides money for four college scholarships (two boys and two girls) at South Effingham and Effingham County high schools.
Josh was nearly 2,500 miles from home in Anaheim for a game during the stadium opening, Foundation President Trey Saxon says seeing Reddick’s dream become a reality is surreal.
“When you make it celebrity status if you want to call it – it’s weird for me to say that – you kind of get to pick what you leave behind or what you want your legacy to be, “For Josh to pick a baseball field, that’s pretty cool, “Trey expresses.
Saxon said the stadium’s longevity will likely outlive them and be a place their children and grandchildren can play.
Clarence Morgan, Effingham County Recreation Director and the namesake of the Clarence E. Morgan Recreational Complex feels the same way and said he’s grateful Reddick hasn’t lost sight of his roots.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I was watching the Astros Network about 18 months ago, and they were talking about one of the ballplayers who had done something for the community. I told my wife, ‘Josh is going to do that for us one day,’ and within two months, I got a call from Trey. In a little more than a year, we had it built.”
Clarence, who has known Josh since he was a youngster playing ball within the recreation department, continues to be amazed by the generosity of Effingham’s favorite son.  “It’s a field of dreams come true,” he says.
The Josh Reddick Stadium, which resembles the new, state-of-the-art minor-league stadiums, only continues Josh’s  local legacy. Those close to the project couldn’t have been more excited to unveil the stadium to the public. “That’s probably one of the coolest things to see, a vision become a reality, that’s even cool in itself but for something to come out way more exceptional than you already expected … that’s even cooler to be able to come out and be a part of something like that,” said Trey.
“It’s hard to describe this facility,” Clarence said. “I call the stadium the Lamborghini and the rest of the complex, the Cadillac. This is an amazing facility. Our grand opening is just what we had hoped for… a family affair. We had a great turnout.”
There is no doubt this stadium will be used by hundreds of thousands of kids over the next several decades.  This million dollar stadium given to the county by Josh and his Foundation, is a gift that one could never put a price tag on. The joy of the children’s faces seen by the many crowds visiting this Josh Reddick Stadium is priceless.
Josh Reddick Stadium is definitely a Grand Slam for Effingham County.

Our mission is to be an advocate for the youth and those in need in our community.
About JRF:
Since its inception in 2014, The Josh Reddick Foundation has been on a mission to advocate for the youth of Effingham County with a focus on supporting students, preserving recreational parks, and helping those in need.
The foundation hosts all charitable events in Effingham County and the money raised is given back to the community. Portions of all money raised go toward the recreation departments as well as the sheriff’s office, fire departments, animal shelters, the Manna House, the Treutlan House and more.
The foundation gives money back to the Board of Education by being a platinum level sponsor to both Effingham County High and South Effingham High. They also gave money to each elementary school this year and have plans to give to each middle school in the Effingham School District.
Athletics are not the only focus of the Foundation. Each year the organization awards four graduating seniors, one male and one female from each high school, a $1000 college scholarship for academic excellence. The foundation also awards a male and female high school “Athlete of the Month” every month.
On top of donations and fundraising events, Josh himself comes home during the offseason and gives back with his time. Some of the many things you can find Josh doing is reading to the elementary schools, doing speaking engagements around the county, and visiting sick children in the hospital to lift their spirits.
Board Members:
Trey Saxon, President
Donna Sheppard, Secretary
Jan Landing, Treasurer
Brian Coulter, Financial
Dino Oliver, Production Manager
Julie Hales, Marketing Director

Georgia Forestry Mulching

Georgia Forestry Mulching is a Land Management Company owned and operated by Effingham County resident, Alice Hurst. The company was formed in 2016 but the learning and research of clearing land via the mulching process was started well before then. Alice and her husband Clint’s love for the outdoors and finding a way to provide people with an affordable way to enjoy their land is what prompted them to start researching the land clearing process of mulching in 2014.  Both Clint and Alice are land owners and natives of Effingham County and have one son, Carson.

Mulching is done by using a high powered machine equipped with rotational drum style cutters to grind vegetation into mulch without the need for additional machinery.  In other words, the machine drives around and eats trees and underbrush, selectively reducing unwanted vegetation and woody debris into a bed of nutritive, soil stabilizing mulch.  This process is not right for all land clearing needs but can meet the needs of small residential tracts of land from small lots .25 acres in size up to large tracts of land 100+ acres and everything in between.  We can transform underbrush, stumps and trees up to 8” in diameter into mulch with mobile machinery in a single step while strategically avoiding keeper trees and erosion problems.  We can also create trail systems to get around on large tracts or hunting land and help owners trying to sale land by cutting paths to provide potential buyers a way to see what the land has to offer without spending a fortune to have someone bring several pieces of equipment in to clear.
I enjoy seeing the aftermath of the mulching job and seeing the owners face when they see my operator make the first pass! It’s a fascinating machine and does an amazing job.  It’s more than just about the machine though.  I can run the Skid Steer myself with the bucket and grapple and love to get in it with Carson and piddle but the forestry cutter head is a whole different ballgame.  It’s no game!  It takes someone that knows how to work the cutter head to mulch down the trees and not just “knock” them down per say.  It’s definitely a gift and a skill that my operator, Jamie Aldrich has!  Jamie is a native of Brooklet and grew up operating a variety of equipment on his family farm.  He now works with me and he enjoys the work and meeting the people just as much as we do.
It’s a true blessing and joy to be able to meet different people and provide them with an affordable service to help them reclaim their overgrown property or just to help them clean up property to sale, farm or hunt.  We’ve cleared food plots, land for owners to sale, pine tree farms, residential lots for homeowners and contractors, commercial property for surveying and several other scenarios.  There is nothing like seeing the excitement of people when Jamie gets done!  He has people trying to tip him all the time and he doesn’t understand why!  I can tell you why…it’s hard to find people to do what they say they are going to do and together that is just what we do!