Al Allred

Al Allred, Comptroller

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Tonya Perry

Al Allred serves as Effingham Health System’s (EHS) comptroller. With more than 30 years of experience in healthcare financial accounting, he’s taking a proactive approach when it comes to strengthening EHS’s financial leadership in the changing healthcare market.

     “One of the greatest challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system is access to care,” says Allred. “EHS is a critical access hospital, which means it is the entry point into this system now being defined as an integrated population health model.” An integrated population health model is designed to improve the accessibility of care, quality and satisfaction, and reduce duplication of efforts and costs. An integrated population health model better integrates health and social care systems with other public services and the communities they serve. “The keys to providing quality patient care are collaboration and communication between the various healthcare services provided throughout the patients’ continuum of care,” says Allred.

     One of EHS’s initiatives that focuses on better access to quality care, is a telemedicine health program, which is a collaborative effort between EHS and the Effingham County School System. The telemedicine program connects students and faculty at two local elementary schools directly with EHS physicians and healthcare professionals. “Thanks to this school-based telemedicine program, the school nurse can be connected to the EHS expert physicians and conduct an evaluation of the patient without leaving the school,” says Allred.

     Due to the success of this program, the goal is to expand this service to all elementary schools. “This integrated program has provided the students and faculty (patients) access to healthcare they need when they need it, and in the setting of the school where they are,” says Allred.

     “Healthcare has become a highly competitive business and healthcare organizations are asked to provide more services, but are being paid less for those services,” says Allred. “Under the direction of our chief executive officer (CEO), EHS has a very dynamic strategic vision and mission that is supported by the organization’s strong financial position.” Allred adds the strategic plan is supported by financially sound business practices that generate a positive contribution margin or, as they say, a positive bottom line. EHS is a non-profit organization which means the organization pays no corporate income tax. This allows EHS to reinvest the positive bottom line results back into the organization so that physicians and healthcare professionals can meet the healthcare needs of the patients and communities that EHS serves.

     Allred began his career at EHS in 2017 and reports directly to the CEO. Allred is responsible for the daily operations of accounting, payroll, accounts receivable and accounts payable. He also oversees the preparation of monthly financial statements, as well as, the annual year-end audits, annual regulatory cost report filings and tax return preparation.

     Allred is a certified public accountant, a Fellow with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, and a Fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives. Prior to coming to EHS, he served as the vice president of Finance for a healthcare authority hospital in Southeast Florida.

Salon Nevaeh

Sharonda Bowman always dreamed of having her own salon. After being in business for 16 years with her father in his barbershop, she realized it was time to spread her wings and fly. In March of 2014, Salon Nevaeh’s journey began.

     One of Sharonda’s favorite scriptures is Phillippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” She keeps this in mind in everything she does at Salon Neveah. “I love what I do, making people look good, as well as feel good.”

     Salon Nevaeh is not only about haircuts, they are a full service salon who specializes in hair loss replacement. It is a nonsurgical type of hair replacement that is pain free. People who have lost their hair due to chemotherpy treatments, illnesses or any other reason can find comfort in Salon Neveah.

     They go out of their way to make their clients feel comfortable providing a private room in the salon for the hair replacement procedure. It’s a procedure that most insurances will cover, and they work with each client through the process. They also have a 3,6 or 12 month payment plan that requires no credit check. It’s a hair club program set up so that everyone can get the help they need.

     Salon Neveah is a full service salon that that does weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and any special occasion. They offer wig shampoos for a set house fee. There is also a monthly payment plan for men and women who want to have regular appointments with the salon.

     Sharonda Bowman and her staff at Salon Nevaeh feel they are doing much more than just helping clients look their best. They provide people with confidence to get through life’s challenges. They offer consultations to anyone interested, and are always ready to do what they can to help people find their strength and feel good.

Advanced Alternative Medicine Center

Why can’t I get healthy? 

     Your good health begins with you. You owe it to yourself to learn what good health is and what you can do to have it. When you are feeling less than healthy, the most important question you need to ask is why you have a health concern to begin with.

Most health problems begin with an underlying imbalance. Find the cause of the imbalance, address it, and you can restore your health. This mean bringing yourself back into the natural balance of the body known as homeostasis. Living in this balance provides you your birthright: the right to be healthy.

     Do you know that not all approaches to healthcare are the same? And that you don’t always have to wait until you have symptoms to know you have a health problem? Often, long before you develop symptoms, alternative healthcare professionals can detect an underlying imbalance and help return you to optimal health. With the aid of specific hands-on treatment and the use of nontoxic nutritional supplements that address the cause of the imbalance, they can keep the imbalance from leading to a serious problem—and do so without subjecting you to toxic medications or unnecessary surgery. A skilled alternative healthcare professional can also advise when surgery is your best option.

     When you go to your medical doctor, you encounter a completely different approach, the result of a different medical model. Instead of helping to prevent problems from occurring, medical doctors must wait until you are afflicted with full-blown symptoms before they treat you. Then and only then will you be examined, treated and possibly be given medications to treat your problem. You’ll likely go through a battery of tests to find out what is wrong with you, have to take prescription medications, and then deal with their multiple side effects—all without necessarily solving your health problem. In fact, the side effects of medication, including the dangerous interactions of different medications with each other, may prove to be worse than the original malady that brought you to your doctor. It’s currently estimated that as many as one in four medical conditions are caused by medical treatment.

In truth, what you are receiving should be called sickness care. It’s quite different from healthcare. Wouldn’t you rather find a gentler way to be healthy? There is another way.

     Real healthcare begins with understanding the underlying cause of a health imbalance, then working cooperatively with the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Remember, it is natural for your body to seek a healthy state. If you cut yourself, without any help the cut will heal. If you catch a cold, after it cycles through your body, your body‘s natural immune system will fight off the virus and you will become well again. This is the natural course of events when it comes to health.

Tackling the underlying cause of your symptoms allows them to subside naturally, because the imbalance causing them has been properly addressed. Once addressed, the body can resume healing itself, unimpeded. It’s now possible to restore your health—even to free yourself from having to take prescription medications.

     As an alternative healthcare practitioner, it is my role to assist your body‘s natural ability to heal itself. This includes helping you to learn why you’re sick in the first place. Understanding the reason that any health imbalance occurs empowers you with understanding and knowledge, making you able to choose the best solution to turn your health around.

Dr. Richard Huntoon (Doc Rick)  is a chiropractor who practices holistic healthcare at Advanced Alternative Medicine Center located at 138 Canal Street, Suite 404, Building 400 in Pooler Park, Pooler, GA. With more than 30 years of experience, Doc Rick addresses health concerns from seven perspectives, including emotional, toxicity, nutritional, allergy/sensitivity, structural and physiological.

There are several ways to get the help you need: Call Doc Rick’s cellphone directly 845-561-2225 to learn what you can do for your health naturally. Or listen to his weekly radio show “When Your Health Matters” Saturdays from 9p-10p on WTKS-AM with a simulcast on the AM1290 and 97.7FM signal as well as on the iHeartRADIO App. If you want to learn about natural solutions to hundreds of health concerns before you call, visit Dr. Huntoon’s informative website: www.spineboy.com.

Success Stories From CCDS In Our Community

Callie Alligo -1

Jim Ford

Jim Ford, born and raised in Effingham, is a noteworthy part of the community. Jim has been a valued member of the Rincon Transmission team for over six years. He enjoys his job, and his co-workers appreciate his vibrant personality and incredible work ethic. Jim assists with maintenance of parts and has custodial responsibilities.

     Jim feels that the company is a second home, as the overall company environment seems very welcoming and personable.

     He insists, “I’d rather be here. I like the boss [Brad Young]. He’s really good; he’s real nice.”

     To add, Jim mentions that his favorite duty is working in the transmission rebuild room; he enjoys any part that he is able to contribute and learns a lot just from observing.

     Jim’s manager Brad speaks highly of him, especially regarding the hard worker that he is and the noticeable interest he takes in his job.

     Brad asserts, “Jim is awesome. He’s always on time and very dependable. Jim is very loyal. He has good family support, and that’s really helpful.”

     Noah, Brad’s son, has also spent a lot of time around Jim over the years and appreciates his professional contributions.

     He says, “He’s good with all the employees. He’s a hard worker.”

     Besides his job, Jim is very active in the community, with his favorite past-time being anything involving Rebels Football.

      Jim smiles and states, “I go to all the games; I like it.”

Actually, Coach Buddy Holder made Jim an assistant coach, and Jim loves to help out. Jim says that Coach Holder is one of his biggest mentors. Others include Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie, brother-in-law Ryan Edwards and his friend Kyle Edwards. Additionally, Jim enjoys volunteering at his church, Clyo Methodist, especially for the church barbeques. He also supports the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer research foundation. Jim is happily looking forward to showing his support for the cause by shaving his head soon.

     Jim certainly enjoys independently earning his own money. He even mentions the fact that he is saving to buy a new 4-wheeler storage unit. Yes, he loves his 4-wheeler. What’s more, he knows that the independence that he is privileged to experience in his life is absolutely irreplaceable.

Karly Aligo

Karly Aligo, originally from New Jersey, has worked with Edwards Interiors in company care and maintenance for nearly one year and really likes her job.

     “So far, it’s good. All the people are very nice,” she stated.

     Karly, who loves to get the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible, is known to be very assertive and detail-oriented. She is very conscientious about the job that she does. As an employee, Karly holds herself to an incredibly high standard. More so, she enjoys the freedom and increased amount of self-sufficiency that working offers.

     In her spare moments, Karly loves to draw. She also likes to read, as she feels that it can greatly help with spelling and articulation; she enjoys that challenge.

     She states, “I like reading. I read to help me with spelling and pronunciation. I love to keep my brain active.”

     Laura Jackson is Karly’s supervisor and has truly wonderful things to say about her.

     Laura admits, “I love Karly. She’s very energetic. I’ve never seen someone as happy as her to be at work. She does everything you ask her to do. I tell everybody that Karly is one of the best people that I have ever worked with. She’s very detailed, and she doesn’t complain.”

     Blake Harnage, a manufacturing engineer, also sees the value that Karly adds to the company.

     “She’s exceptional. She comes in and does her job. She communicates with people right here on the floor, and she has a sense of humor. She’s charismatic and a pleasure to be around,” he states.

     Blake really appreciates what CCDC is doing, proving that disabilities are only abilities waiting to be successfully tapped into.

     “It’s very beneficial, not only for them, but for us also. I believe in CCDS 100%,” he mentions.

     Blake believes that individuals said to be developmentally disabled can “be productive members of society.” He adds, “They have just as much a right and chance to life as we do.”

     Regarding the career opportunity that Karly has well-embraced, Blake says, “I believe it can give everybody with disabilities inspiration, showing others, ‘if she can overcome and achieve all the things in the workforce with the disability she faces, so can I.’”

Mandy Cook : Effingham’s Employment Specialist with CCDS

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Shelia Scott

The Coastal Center for Developmental Services (CCDS) is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization that “provides employment-related services, training and community integration opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities.” While Savannah is home to the primary branch office, the organization’s Effingham presence has certainly grown over the years. Established in 1951, CCDS has assisted countless individuals on their “road to independence.” Understanding that multiple thousands of Georgians, alone, have various developmental disabilities, CCDS knows that individuals should have the right and opportunity to live the significant and purposeful lives that they deserve, as every person deserves the ability to be a functioning member of society.

     An ongoing and critical goal of the organization is to partner with employers to show them, first-hand, that CCDS candidates can positively contribute to the overall success of their businesses. Utterly, the organization’s overall objective is to “train and place individuals with developmental disabilities with community wide jobs.” CCDS has firmly established impartial and merit-based standards, as each employee’s professional credibility is based on what they are able to contribute to their company, dismissing notions that “sympathy or empathy-based” employment decisions are expected or acceptable. The company is driven to make visible the reality that it is needed, no, imperative, to “focus on the ability rather than the disability.”

     For their community partners, CCDS provides pre-screened applicants who are ready and willing to work hard. The organization offers “customized job placement,” insuring that every employee has the necessary qualifications and is a proper fit for their potential position. Further, CCDS provides ongoing prevocational training for employees to prepare them for work; individuals can receive training in catering, promotional printing or warehousing and electronics. This allows for beneficial onsite training prior to going into the workplace.

     Dr. Ken Boyd, originally from Philadelphia, has lived in Effingham for a long time. Though he has been affiliated with CCDS for over 10 years as an active board member, Ken has been the executive director for the organization in Savannah for over a year. He believes strongly in what CCDS stands for and what is being done for those deemed developmentally disabled.

     “What we can offer to the community is a population of people that is extremely motivated and highly trained to go to work,” Ken said.

     Ken knows the notable work ethic of the individuals that his organization trains, when given the same opportunity as everyone else to demonstrate their abilities.

     He declares, “Give someone with a developmental disability a chance, and they’ll show you they’re great.”

     Ken explains that the organization is set to take on a new name in February—one more adequately representative of the diverse, qualified and talented group of individuals they represent. The new name, EmployAbility, does just that. It is all about “getting people employed and maximizing their abilities to do certain things.”

     Ken aspires to eventually see all businesses within surrounding communities with “an integrated mix of workers.”

Further, the organization takes pride in their continuous follow-up services, allowing them to be aware of current conditions after placement. Besides prevocational training, which helps bring out the skills that individuals need to possess a successful career, CCDS offers a day habilitation program, day-hab, for those who may not be as independent; whether physical and occupational therapy assistance or other self-help initiatives, day-hab helps individuals attain the resources that will address their particular needs. Health services are also available to make sure that employees have care when needed. Additionally, CCDS provides transportation for employees with onsite jobs, or those provided directly by the organization.

     Mandy Cooke has lived in Effingham for some time now, along with her husband Jeff and four children. Actually, Mandy, who adores Effingham, is proud of her community and wants to see it continue to thrive. “I love the community; I love the feel of Effingham,” she stated.

     Mandy is an employment specialist with CCDS; she began her career with the organization in 1996. After investing many years, she took some much-treasured time off to be a stay-at-home mom for her family; Mandy then returned in 2010, aspiring to help CCDS develop and service the Effingham community. She loves what she does and knows that it makes a big difference and adds tremendous value to the lives of others.

     Mandy comments, “I love to see individuals who are labeled ‘developmentally disabled’ take the disability and turn it into an ability; I get more joy out of that than anything. It’s not a job to me; it’s something I do. I love my people.”

     As an employment specialist, Mandy helps individuals with community integration through job training. She visits each business partner to find out what their needs are, then evaluates the individual’s abilities and strengths to match them properly. She, too, helps them through the application and interview process. Upon starting their first day on the job, she is there to provide job coaching to “help them train for the job.” After an employee has become comfortable and competent within their position, Mandy begins the process of “fading out,” where she no longer visits their job site on a consistent basis. She visits twice each month and provides ongoing support. Hence, she insures that there is “always a presence,” which keeps both the employee and business in mind.

     Mandy explains that there are several ways that CCDS identifies individuals that may greatly benefit from their assistance. One of the biggest ways is through Project Search, “a high school transition program for adults with developmental disabilities.” The program helps individuals “discover their capabilities” through “workplace immersion, classroom instruction, career exploration and job skills training” in order to gain good employment. Both Effingham Hospital and the Effingham Board of Education participate in Project Search.

     Mandy appreciates her employee partners in Effingham and knows that much of the program’s success is attributed to their support. Some include: Rincon Transmission, Edward’s Interiors, Effingham Hospital, Effingham Board of Education, Ebenezer Retreat, YMCA, Wiley’s, Harvey’s, Chevron and Arby’s, to name a few.

     “Effingham has been very accepting. We’re educating people and bringing our community together, breaking down the walls…the barriers,” she affirms.

     Because they are so driven to overcome the barriers and stereotypes in society, individuals with development disabilities often do exceptionally well on the job. Most want the opportunity to show that they are responsible citizens with worthwhile contributions to make to businesses.

     “Our individuals help bring out productivity and the bottom line in a lot of businesses, because they are so focused. Our safety ratings are outstanding,” she mentioned.

     Mandy knows that the independence that CCDS provides for individuals is truly “amazing.” Her major goal is “to get everybody to be included” and feels that there are countless ways that businesses and the overall community can get involved.

     She states, “I want every business here in Effingham to somehow, whether it’s hiring an individual, donating or volunteering to get involved with CCDS.”

Genesis Vascular


enesis Vascular is a leading provider in the treatment of Peripheral Vascular Disease. Located in Pooler Georgia, Genesis Vascular’s experienced team led by Board Certified Physicians is committed to the detection and treatment of Peripheral Vascular Disease. Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is commonly known as a collection of diseases of the circulatory system that affects blood vessels. One of the most common types of PVD is Peripheral Arterial Disease.

     Peripheral Arterial Disease, also referred to as PAD, is a condition when plaque build-up causes a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels. Just as a heart attack is caused by a blocked artery in the heart, PAD is the same kind of blockage – only it takes place in the arm, leg or other part of the body. Nancy Sutton, Education Specialist for Genesis Vascular says “PAD is very prevalent in this area, effecting almost everyone to some degree.” Risk factors for PAD include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A strong family history of heart disease and stroke is also an important risk factor.

     PAD affects at least 8 to 12 million Americans and the leading cause for amputation.  The disease prevalence increases with age and 12% to 20% of Americans age 65 and older have PAD.

     PAD can occur in any blood vessel throughout the body, though it typically affects the legs, ankles, and feet. Half of the people living with PAD don’t show any symptoms. Others might have early symptoms, like pain while walking, pain at rest, burning or aching in the feet and toes, or cold feet. Over time, PAD can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. Those with PAD are also more susceptible to stroke and heart attack.

     Genesis Vascular Nurse Practitioner and Center Manager, Jana Bevill, states, “Peripheral Vascular Diseases are not as well-known as heart disease and stroke, it is an understudied and under diagnosed disease.” “Early detection is crucial when it comes to PAD,” Jana and her Genesis Vascular team strive to educate the community, physicians and staff on the importance of screening and testing patients to detect PAD before the disease becomes severe enough to lead to complications. A Doppler ultrasound or an Ankle-brachial index (ABI) are common noninvasive tests used to diagnose PAD. An ABI compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm. To get a blood pressure reading, your doctor uses a regular blood pressure cuff and a special ultrasound device to evaluate blood pressure and flow.

     Treatments for PAD may include lifestyle changes, exercise and medications first. If these treatments do not help, Genesis Vascular’s highly skilled Physicians can perform a minimally invasive procedure to open up the narrowed vessels, thus improving blood flow and preventing the condition from worsening. The procedures are safely performed in Genesis Vascular’s state of the art facility where patients experience minimal down time and superior outcomes while the patients and their family’s needs are catered to.

     Genesis Vascular also offers treatments for patients with Venous Disease such as Venous Insufficiency and Venous Compression.

     Genesis Vascular accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurances and serves South Carolina and Georgia.

Talk to your doctor if you are having symptoms of PAD so the cause of your symptoms can be identified and treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. Should you have questions contact 912-662-0223 and Genesis Vascular team member will be able to assist you. EARLY DETECTION IS THE KEY!

South Coast Health

Seeing Medicine Through A Child’s Eyes

At SouthCoast Health Pediatrics, we see the world of medicine through a child’s eyes. That’s just one of the reasons our office in Rincon has earned such a sterling reputation for leading-edge, high-quality care among parents in the community. Our physicians and medical professionals treat kids of all ages- from newborns and infants to growing children and adolescents as old as age 21.

     SouthCoast Health began its pediatric services in Rincon in 2006.  Dr. Amanda Hendricks, Dr. Jami Scanlon, along with nurse practitioners Kalen Rogers and Haley Dickerson promote wellness by focusing on growth and development for each child and provide up-to-date medical care in times of sickness. Our pediatricians are certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and have trained exclusively in pediatrics for three years after medical school to learn to diagnose and treat a wide range of childhood illnesses. We combine that highly specialized training with excellent communication skills and an engaging manner, to create an environment in which children are more comfortable and parents are less stressed. We then work closely with parents to educate them on the healthcare needs of their children as they progress through various growth stages.

     SouthCoast Health Pediatrics in Rincon, is the only Pediatric Group in Effingham County that has been awarded recognition by the National Committee for Quality Assurance Patient-Centered Medical Home Program. This recognition attests that our practice has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time.

     A patient-centered medical home is a model of care that strengthens the physician-patient relationship by replacing episodic care with coordinated care and a long-term healing relationship. Each patient has an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who leads a team at a single location that takes collective responsibility for patient care, providing for the patient’s health care needs and arranging for appropriate care with other qualified clinicians.

      SouthCoast Health Pediatrics is pleased to offer same day appointments for your child during the week and urgent care services on Monday evenings from 5:00pm-7:30pm. Urgent care services are also available on the weekends at our pediatric offices in Savannah and Richmond Hill.

3 Year Old Piper Hill Battles Cerebral Palsy

3 Year Old Piper Hill Battles Cerebral Palsy

story by Karlee Collins  photos by Tonya Perry

Everybody falls in love with Piper. She’s just so happy,” says Debbie Floyd of her three-year-old granddaughter Piper Hill. Piper is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia, which means she lacks muscle control in all four limbs. In addition to her CP, Piper has CVI which is Cortical Vision Impairment and Epilepsy, and due to these diagnoses, she has  significant global developmental delays, which means she is behind in all areas of development that the average toddler should be able to perform. Piper and her big sister, Caralina, are being raised by their grandma, Debbie. Debbie works full-time and is fully responsible for Piper’s care. She gets to see Piper for the beautiful girl that she is. “I like to say her little body is broken but her spirit is fully intact. She is such a happy baby. She, in her little three years, has taught me so much about life and living and love,” she shares.

     “Unless something is hurting her or she’s hungry, then she’s laughing,” Debbie says. “She loves music, any kind of music really, but her favorite is praise and worship.” When Piper hears music, she stops what she is doing and directs all her smiling attention to the sounds. Despite her issues with her vision, she enjoys watching music videos too and tries to stay focused on them the best that she can.

     When it comes to play time with her sister and cousins, she loves to be tickled. “She loves for them to come up and tickle her. They can just make the sounds and touch her like they’re going to tickle her and she will laugh,” Debbie explains.

     The only thing that really makes Piper upset is when she is hungry! “She would make the perfect participant on a Snickers Hangry commercial. You let her get to that point where she’s just beyond hungry and she’s ‘hangry,’ she’s going to scream,” laughs Debbie. As long as mangos are not on her menu, then she is going to be satisfied with anything she’s given. “She does love her vegetables,” says Debbie. “But we all love vegetables.”

     Each week Piper attends multiple therapies to help her grow and develop and stay healthy. “She’s getting Speech Therapy and they are working on trying to get her to say the sounds because she is nonverbal,” shares Debbie.“She makes her little sounds, but she doesn’t say any kind of words or even try to form words.” Her biggest form of communication is her laughter, but her therapist is working on increasing her sounds. She participates in two types of Occupational Therapy. With one therapist, they work on reaching and purposeful movement. With another therapist, she is working on feeding and working on chewing. Right now, Piper’s diet is strictly purees. To round out her therapies, Piper gets Physical Therapy to help keep her little body moving.

     This year, Piper started three year old preschool. “She’s going to school two days a week for a half a day. That is a good start,” Debbie says. At school, she receives some of the same therapies that she is already working on and gets to play and learn with some awesome teachers. “This past week the teacher said that they were working on animal sounds, and Piper was loving the animal sounds. The teacher sent me a picture of her with a huge smile on her face,” Debbie says. “And my little baby is riding the bus!” The days of school are already encouraging for Debbie. Piper is getting extra support from those who are working with her at school, and the activity and busyness of a half school day seems to be helping with the insomnia that she battles. Her little brain is so active from her epilepsy that Piper struggles to sleep at night. “Her neurologist said that her neurons are just firing all the time and she has a hard time shutting her brain off. Some nights she just lays there and plays, but some nights you can tell she just wants to go to sleep so bad and can’t.” says Debbie. For a grandma to see her baby struggle to sleep, it can be heartbreaking. Debbie is thankful for school and hopes the pattern continues where busy school days lead to nights of good rest for Piper.

     Debbie is a single parent to Piper and her sister. She shares that there are not any support groups in our area that are specifically related to families facing Cerebral Palsy. “All the support groups around here are either for Autism or Down Syndrome,” she says. “CP is such a large diagnosis.”

     Many that are diagnosed with CP may only have issues with one body part and it may not be an obvious struggle. Others, like Piper, have difficulty in many areas and the CP affects all parts of her life. For a family that is dealing with CP, a network of help and support is so needed. Fortunately for Piper and Debbie, the Effingham County   Navigators have welcomed them into their support group. Although this group is not targeted to families dealing with CP, it has been a blessing to Debbie. “We’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from that group. It’s just a monthly meeting that you go to and then they have events that you can go to. They had a Christmas party in December,” she says. “It was pretty cool.”

     CP is a broad diagnosis and the awareness about CP is much less than other disabilities. For Piper and Debbie, the need for greater awareness in our area is great, and Debbie hopes that by sharing Piper’s story people will see the need to seek out and support Piper and others that are battling this lesser known disability.

     Currently, Debbie’s mission is to raise the funds necessary to purchase a handicap van to assist in transporting Piper to her many doctor’s appointments and therapies. “I’m only five foot three, and she’s already three feet tall. It’s just only going to get harder and we know it’s going to take us a while to come up with this money, and that’s why we’re starting now,” she says. “It’s getting to the point where we just need to be able to transport her.” Right now, Debbie moves Piper from her car seat to her wheel chair and back in again every time they need to go somewhere. During cold or rainy weather, this difficult process becomes more taxing, and as Piper continues to grow, it will be nearly impossible for Debbie to go through this process. A better mode of transportation is necessary in order for Debbie to leave Piper in her chair and roll her straight into the van, but a handicap van comes with a 50,000 dollar price tag. The fundraising has begun, and they are just shy of 3,000 dollars.

     Piper’s story can be followed on her Facebook page, “Prayers for Princess Piper.” There, information can be found to donate toward her handicap van via GoFundMe and get involved with upcoming fundraisers. The page will be carrying information about a Boston Butt sale in honor of Piper’s van fund that will take place March 30-31. As a community, Effingham should rally around Piper and be aware of the needs of those that battle a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis.

Eugenia Spradley : WEAVING OF WORDS

story by Karlee Collins     photos by Shelia Scott

In June of 2017, ninety-one year old Eugenia Spradley published her first book called Weaving of Words. The book includes poems about her family’s stories, beautiful places she’s visited, lessons she’s learned through the years, and more. In each one, her love for the Lord is an obvious inspiration. “It’s spiritual poetry,” she says. “I’ve got to give God the credit because the words come to me through Him laying them on my heart.” She explains that once she began writing it became easier and easier as time went on: “In fact, I’ve got enough stuff here to write a couple more books. It’s just something that I like to do.”

     Eugenia has been writing for many years. “I remember even in the fifth grade having a desire to write,” she shares. Through the years she wrote poems and stories occasionally. However, it wasn’t until 2003 that her writing hobby became something of more importance to her. “When I had ovarian cancer the third stage, I felt that, if I was going to write, that it was the time to do it now because I didn’t know how many more years I had,” she says. “I said, ‘God if you’re ready for me, I’ll just change my address to heaven and if you’re not ready for me yet, then give me something to do.’ That’s when I started seriously writing.” Eugenia’s doctor had discovered the cancer, and she was able to have surgery. There was still much in store for her to do.

     “My nephew is an army chaplain married to just a wonderful lady,” she shares. “Over the years, during their marriage, I have corresponded with her and I would send her poems all along.” Through this relationship of written words, Eugenia’s niece-in-law, Ricki Walker, enjoyed the poetry so much that she took it upon herself to make sure that the work got published. “She wrote and said ‘Aunt Jean, I’m gathering up all the poems you’ve sent me and I’m sending them to a publisher.’ She decided to use my work for some benefit to others,” Eugenia says. “I had made an attempt earlier, but I could never get any cooperation from the person I was talking to about it. So, I just gave up. Thinking maybe it isn’t the Lord’s will.” She believes God’s plan was better because with her niece handling the business side of things, she was able to just enjoy the excitement of becoming a published author. “I’ve got to give her credit,” Eugenia says. “Ricki took all the problems so I appreciate her for that. She had to do a lot of work.”

     Ricki was not the only loved one to get involved in celebrating Eugenia’s writing. “A friend of mine gave me a book signing. They had it at Carey Hilliard’s in Garden City. It was exciting, exciting!” she shares. Friends and family came from all around to show their support and admiration for Eugenia’s accomplishment, including Ricki and her husband who traveled down for the event.  “I just sat at a table and people would come to me and talk to me,” she explains. “Well at the end of the day, my friend handed me about five hundred dollars’ worth of checks; people had bought books!” This gift of writing that Eugenia had been sharing only with close friends for many years had become something to be shared with many, and she is still filled with excitement.

     Eugenia gives God all the glory for her writing abilities: “It was more or less taking words that God laid on my heart and weaving them together into poetry.” She has led a beautiful life and in thankfulness, she writes about it to allow others to peek into her experiences.

     One source of her inspiration comes from childhood memories of her grandfather. “Grandpa loved to sing to us,” she says. “In the evenings, all of us would sit on the front porch and Grandpa would sing to us.” She recalls songs that she loved to hear from him and the joy she shared with her siblings and cousins at being in his presence. “He’d play string games with us. And everything we learned at Sunday school or Bible school or school, we’d have to remember. Because he would sit on the wash bench in the backyard under the chinaberry tree, and we would have to tell him about the things we learned and memorized,” she reminisces.

     Another relationship that has inspired her writing is the one she had with her sister, Sarah. Eugenia was three and half years older than Sarah, and they shared a close bond throughout their lives. In the later years of life, the relationship became a little different:  “She had Alzheimer’s for nearly ten years and was in a nursing home in Richmond Hill.” During that time, Sarah lost her ability to communicate, but Eugenia continued to visit her. On the last visit that they had before Sarah passed away, Eugenia was blessed with what she calls “a farewell party.” She explains, “That day, the big room, where all the people usually are, was totally empty except for Sarah and me. And she began to clap her hands. She was alert. When she started to clap her hands, I started singing Jesus Loves Me.” Sarah and Eugenia spent two hours of singing and clapping and hugging. “No one came into the room. God knew it was our farewell party and God didn’t let anyone come in and disturb us,” she says. “God knew that we wouldn’t see each other on this earth again.”

     A love for family is a huge part of Eugenia’s writings. She and her husband, William, were married at fourteen years old and celebrated fifty-nine years together before he passed away in 1999. She remembers him with fondness and stories of him and her children are included in her book of poetry. “My husband worked in a grocery store most of his life as a produce manager. When each one of our sons got old enough, he’d put them to work in the store with him,” she shares. Her two sons decided after working with their father that they would pursue different careers, but the early example of a hardworking man was important in shaping their motivation. Eugenia is very proud of all three of her children and what they have become, and that pride is evident in her work.

     Eugenia has now been writing “seriously” for almost fifteen years. “I’ve got a box under my dining table full of more work,” she laughs. She is already considering publishing again, and has a publisher pursuing her for a second book. “I’ll have to gather my work together and see what’s appropriate,” she says. “I would not only use poetry because I’ve got a lot of other things that I’ve written that are about experiences that are not poems.” She is already exploring ideas for the name of her second book. While waiting for the sequel, Weaving of Words can be purchased through her website www.weavingofwords.com. The book is a special treasure filled with Eugenia’s life wisdom and insight that she hopes God will use to touch many lives.

Darius Scott : Exceptional Teen Accepted At Ivy League School

story by Kathryn Vandenhouten     photos by Shelia Scott

Darius Scott has big plans for the future. The talented SEHS senior has already done what most people will never do; he has been accepted into an Ivy League school. When it comes to American universities, the Ivy League represents the pinnacle of academic success, and Scott’s recent acceptance into world-renowned Cornell University is a dream come true.

     It has been quite a journey, but Scott says his whole high school career has led him to this point and he is proud of how far he has come.

     “It started freshman year when my counselor recommended that I try this speaking engagement,” explains Scott. The contest was a Rotary high school speech competition. Little did he know that the contest would lead him to a higher calling.

     He decided to speak on the topic of human trafficking, which is a worldwide problem that he wanted to address. “My first year I won second place,” he says. “I was happy that that was my first time speaking at all and I placed.”

     The next year, Scott’s speech on human trafficking won first place. Since he began competing in public speaking, he has won multiple speech competitions, including the Rotary Area Exhibition for Metropolitan Savannah and the Ann Owen Oratorical Competition.

     Scott certainly has a niche for public speaking, but the subject of human trafficking moved him to action. He didn’t just want to speak about it; he wanted to do something about it.

     “I have my own little creative idea. It’s called a “Be Free Bracelet,” and on the outside it has a positive message or theme… and on the inside it has the human trafficking hotline,” he explains. He spends his own money making the bracelets, and has given hundreds of them out at various events. Eventually, he wants to create a website and facebook page to promote his Be Free Bracelets to keep raising awareness.

     “I just thought it would be right for me to not just speak about it, but to do something about it as well, so I figured this is a good way to do it,” he says.

     Unfortunately, many people don’t know that Savannah and Atlanta have become hotbeds of activity for human trafficking, and everyone can do more to be aware of their surroundings and be on the lookout for suspicious activity. The signs may be difficult to recognize, but he wants to raise as much awareness as he can so people remain vigilant and know there is a hotline to call if someone suspects human trafficking.

     He created the bracelets in March, and they have already brought international attention to the cause. A woman from Scotland recently heard about Scott’s Be Free Bracelets, and contacted him in regards to human trafficking. “In her small town, they had just found a human trafficking pimp,” he recalls. It made him realize that human trafficking is not just a “big city” problem and that he has made an impact.

     In addition to tackling worldwide humanitarian issues and delivering winning speeches, Scott is also a multi-talented athlete. He plays basketball and competes in track and field, but the past two years he’s been honing his newfound talent: the triple jump.

     “I’ve improved my marks so much in the past two years,” he says. “I’ve gone to the Junior Olympics twice. I went to State twice, and I’ve placed at State and Junior Olympics.”

     His success did not come easily, though. Last season he even contemplated quitting. “I scratched and fouled out of six consecutive meets, and on that last meet where I fouled out I was contemplating on whether I should stop, whether I should switch events, or am I even athletic enough to play track and field?” he recalls.

     Fortunately, he kept going, trained harder, and finally started seeing results. He said it was tedious driving forty-five minutes to Northern Lights Training in Savannah every day during the summer, but it definitely paid off. Last season at the State competition, he jumped a full two feet farther than he had ever jumped before. Not only did that jump set a personal record for Scott, but it also set the SEHS school record for the triple jump as well.

     “It’s been a very fun, heartbreaking and rough experience, but it’s taught me a lot of life lessons,” he says. “And it’s taught me a lot of ways to overcome adversity and keep pushing through no matter what.”

     Scott recently committed to Cornell University’s Men’s Track and Field Team, and is thankful for the opportunity to compete in the Ivy League. “I’m grateful that I’ve qualified for the track team. For them to recognize me as not just an athlete, but a student who can perform well– I’m very excited.” he says. “Just getting in is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

     He says he couldn’t have done it alone. He credits coaches Kim Wilson, Laura Soles and Rosemarie Whyte-Robinson for investing their time training him, Michelle Coburn and Dr. Mark Winters at SEHS, his pastors and church family at the Pentecostal Miracle and Deliverance Center of Guyton, his loving grandparents,and his parents, Roger and Sonja Scott.

     “First and foremost, I want to thank my parents. They are my backbone. They support me in everything I do,” he says. “My mother has been a motivator, a prayer… I can’t even explain where I’d be without her right now. My father invested in my dreams. All of the trips, flights, hotels-he was there.”

     He also has two brothers, R.J. and Isaiah, of whom he is very proud. He and his younger brother, Isaiah, will be representing SEHS for the 2018 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of The Year program. Every dollar they raise for LLS will count as a vote, and if they raise the most money, they will earn the LLS title of Students of the Year.

     Whether they win or lose, the Scott brothers are making an impact in the community, which is the ultimate goal for Darius Scott. “However you can influence the world, find it, and go and connect with other people who you want to be like,” he advises. “Find opportunities to volunteer, find opportunities to make a difference in the community that you’re in now, because you have to start small.”

     He encourages students to reach out to their school counselors. They are often an untapped resource. “Counselors have a whole bunch of opportunities that students can get into, but nobody goes and asks about opportunities like that,” he says.

     He feels it was no accident that his ninth grade counselor, Yutasha Lloyd, first encouraged him to do that first speech competition. “I think that was the first step in the journey that God was going to take me on, and my spiritual relationship with God has really taught me to humble myself and really just wait on God, because He will elevate me whenever it is my time to shine.”

     Scott says his faith plays a huge role in his attitude, service, and his overall success. “Being a Christian, God is the head of my life and He has been leading me down this path.” That path has lead him to serve others, and he plans to major in Biological Science at Cornell and become a Physician’s Assistant.

     No matter what path he takes, Darius Scott is sure to achieve success at every turn. With his determination, positive attitude, and work ethic, he is definitely going places. His next stop? The Ivy League.

For more information about Be Free Bracelets or to join or donate to Team Scott for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser, contact Sonja Scott at 912-660-4357.