effingham

Dynamic Designs…Innovative Ideas : Logan Youmans

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry

Logan Youmans is a 14-year-old upcoming freshman at South Effingham High School and the proud owner of his own apparel company, River Bank Apparel. Interestingly enough, the young man started River Bank two years ago while he was only 12 years old. Logan has specialized in the creative designs of an impressive array of hats since his company’s inception. Since, he has also added t-shirts to his product line, normally matching the logos of his hats.

     Logan has long been quite the hat connoisseur, loving to wear one every chance he gets.  In fact, that was the primary inspiration for his company, as his parents often joked with him saying that “he may need a job to pay for all of his hats.” Hence, Logan decided to put real action behind those words.

     At the time, the young, driven entrepreneur decided to responsibly use all of his birthday money to buy a supply of hats. Logan, who has always liked to draw, let his creative juices flow. He is very tech-savvy and has certainly used his skill to his advantage, as he creates all of his designs on his personal computer prior to sending it in for the creation of the final product. Logan is also very grateful for all of the assistance and efforts of Peachy Tees, the company that diligently works hand-in-hand with him to produce the finished product.

     “I design it all on my computer, then send it in to Peachy Tees in Springfield. They digitalize it all and send the hats off to the hat company to be stitched,” Logan explains.

     Most of Logan’s primary market are “younger males.” In addition to advertising on his Facebook Page, knowledge of his company and products is usually simply word-of-mouth, which have proved to yield some great results for his business. That said, Logan’s brand is well-known amongst young people throughout much of the area. He also sells at various local festivals when possible.

     “Most of the people I sell them to just spread it on, and it reaches people,” Logan states.

     River Bank does yield a satisfying profit for the young man. Though he could use the money he makes on a ton of other things, Logan has the spirit of a true entrepreneur, choosing to put majority of the proceeds back into his business. He believes in what he is doing and certainly sees the growth potential.

     “If I stopped right now and sold everything, I’d have a pretty good profit, but I want to keep it going, so most of my money goes back into making more stuff,” he asserts.

     In addition, he has to properly manage his inventory, understanding that to be another key to running a successful business; he is very committed to ensuring that products are on-hand prior to design and readily available for customers when needed, as it normally takes about “three-four weeks to get in.”

     “It pretty much replenishes itself. If it gets low, we’ll order more,” Logan says. He keeps a limited stock, often revealing on FB how many he has available to order. Prior to ordering more, he projects the amount that would be best. For instance, if he is planning for a large-scale event like a festival, “he may place a big order.”

     Logan has definitely proven that he has quite a notable work ethic. He is confident that the business is benefiting him as well.

     “It gives me responsibility and determination. I have to keep up with it. I have to sell more to get more. If I want to make this bigger, I have to go out and work for it,” he says.

      Logan’s mom Jennifer is sure that “it has given him financial responsibility, time management responsibility and given him valuable experience.” Along with all of this comes a great amount of pride and accomplishment. More so, Logan enjoys seeing others happy with what he has done.

     “I like seeing people wearing my stuff and knowing I did it,” he reveals. Jennifer agrees that Logan feels really good about his products and gets excited when he has the opportunity to see anyone wearing any of his designed apparel.

     “He’ll walk past people and say ‘that’s my hat they’re wearing,’” she laughs and says.

     Logan surely has set some great goals for himself and his company. Though now he enjoys what he does so much that he often considers it a pastime, he aspires to “expand and eventually get into a bigger market.” Logan, who plans to go into the logistics and distribution pathway upon starting high school, feels that growing River Bank Apparel into a future business profession is a definite possibility.

     “Right now, it’s just a hobby, but I can see it going into a business career,” he says.

     Logan has an incredible amount of appreciation for his mom, who assists him with numerous business matters, whether helping him place and confirm orders or finding out about upcoming festivals. He, too, is grateful for all the support he gets from his stepdad Will Smith, dad Ryan White and step-brother Zach Smith. In fact, Zach has often spread the word about River Bank Apparel amongst friends and acquaintances.

     “He has a bunch of that younger class,” Logan remarks. Logan, too, is thankful for all of the help given by Brittany and Amanda at Peachy Tees; he knows that the business relationship he has been privileged to build with the organization is priceless. Further, he feels that Johnny Zwemer, a family friend, has been an enormous asset to his business.

     “He has always promoted my stuff. Whenever I get a new product, he’s the first one to buy it and bring in new customers,” Logan states.

     In his spare time, Logan likes to go hunting and play baseball. Actually, he is a mentor for his little cousin’s baseball team. Logan also enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.

     With an endless amount of potential, Logan Youmans already possesses the drive, determination and commitment matched by few his age. Only the best is yet to come for this young trailblazer.

Local Attorney Becomes Children’s Book Author : Dennis Dozier

story by Kelly Harley   photos by Shelia Scott

If you live in Effingham County, there’s a chance you might know Dennis Dozier is. As you come into Rincon on Highway 21, there is a giant billboard with his picture and name on it. Dennis is a respected lawyer who runs his law firm, Dozier Law P.C. He has more than 23 years of experience helping his clients navigate the law. In his day job, he specializes in family law, bankruptcy, criminal law, personal injury and estate law. While practicing law is his second career choice, it’s the one he loves.

     What you may not know about Dennis is that he has a second job. Well, maybe you wouldn’t call it a second job, rather a hobby that requires some of his free time. Dennis, a prominent lawyer, has another side to him. He has a passion for storytelling and three years ago he set out on his adventure to become a children’s picture book author. The story of how he became an author dates back more than 30 years ago.

     Dennis and his wife Mary Lowell have three children who are ages 27, 30 and 33. When they were younger, Dennis told them stories about a “fictional” dragon named Pinkerton Pernelli. His children hung on to every word that came out of Dennis’ mouth and truly believed that Pinkerton was a real dragon. When they would go to Disney World for vacation, his children would search high and low for Pinkerton. While they never found him, the stories of Pinkerton never stopped. Dennis would make up plenty of them, each with a different plot. “Pinkerton was a pink dragon and he weighed a ton,” says Dennis. “He became my children’s friend and they would do all sorts of things together. Pinkerton always managed to save the day.” For years the stories continued, until of course, as time changes everything, his children outgrew Pinkerton Pernelli.

     Upon the birth of Dennis and Mary Lowell’s first grandchild, Mason, Dennis was determined not to let his make-believe character be forgotten. So, three years ago Dennis decided to put his pen to paper. “Later in life, I had an interest in poetry,” says Dennis. “So, when Mason was born, I decided to write my first children’s picture book and bring Pinkerton Pernelli to life.”

     The first book Dennis wrote, Mason Meets Pernelli, tells the story of Mason meeting the dragon for the first time. In the book, Mason’s friends tell him that there is a ferocious dragon in town. Mason, armed with his pop gun, sets out to find Pernelli with the intent of shooting him. Once he finds him, he realizes that Pernelli is actually a friendly dragon and the two become great friends. What is important to Dennis is that each story has a meaning behind it. Dennis says the moral behind this story is that we shouldn’t accept what other people say without checking things out ourselves. “I want to teach kids not to rush to judgment or conclusions. If you don’t, you might find unexpected friends in unexpected places,” says Dennis.

     There are three published books so far in the Pinkerton Pernelli series. The second book is Pernelli Gets a First Name and it’s about Pernelli needing a first name in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election. In the book, Mason encouraged Pernelli and was the one who came up with the first name, Pinkerton. The ending is perfect. The dragon finally got a first name and was able to vote. The moral of this story is to never give up. Another neat thing about the books is that the characters truly come to life. Dennis works with an illustrator and as you could guess, Mason looks like Dennis’ grandson and Pinkerton Pernelli is that giant pink dragon that Dennis created many years ago.

     Dennis’ third book is Pinkerton at the Town Celebration and his fourth book, Pinkerton Helps Ms. McDougel, will soon be released. His fifth and sixth books will soon follow. He’s even started working on his seventh book. “It takes me hours and hours to write the books and then weeks to change the words around and get them exactly the way I want them,” says Dennis. He typically “writes” at night and on his cell phone. When an idea comes, he immediately jots it down.

     Dennis admits it is a hobby that comes with challenges. One of the biggest challenges is trying to keep the word count to around 300 words. You have to think, Dennis has been known to write legal briefs with thousands and thousands of words. He’s managed to do it, though, and his books have been a huge hit. So, why would a lawyer decide to write children’s books? Dennis has a good answer. “I mainly did it because I want Mason to have the Pinkerton stories.” You might even say he did it for his own children as well. When he first showed them the books, they were amazed to see their childhood friend come to life.

     Being a children’s author isn’t about the money for Dennis. In fact, he’s given away hundreds and hundreds of books. He gives them to clients who have children or children he thinks might enjoy them. One of the most rewarding parts of being a children’s author is that each book tells a story, a meaningful one at that. While younger kids may not pick up on the lesson right away, it doesn’t stop Dennis from slipping those life lessons in each book. He tries to capture everything in life that he thinks is important for children to learn. Even if the adults are reading to younger kids, they can help explain the meaning behind the story.

     Another rewarding part of writing books is seeing the joy that children have when they read them. “When I hear from parents or grandparents on how much the children like the books; when I receive a photo of a child reading one of my books; or when a handwritten note from a child saying “thank you” is delivered, it makes it worth the effort,” says Dennis.

     Being a lawyer isn’t always the easiest profession. Dennis deals with serious cases on a regular basis, cases that can be sad. He says writing is one way he can leave work behind and slip into a world of fiction and fun. After all, Pinkerton Pernelli was born more than 30 years ago and has finally come to life on the pages of children’s picture books. How much fun is that?

     If you’re interested in purchasing one of Dennis’ books, you can find the first three, Mason Meets Pernelli, Pernelli Gets A First Name, and Pinkerton at the Town Celebration on Amazon.

Music and Ministry : Josh Holley

story by Katie Vandenhouten     photos by Shelia Scott

Josh Holley is no stranger to the arts.  He is a worship leader at The Chapel in Rincon, where he plays guitar, sings and preaches. When it comes to creative expression, he does it all. He’s a cartoonist, songwriter, and performer, but he’s most passionate about what he does every Sunday at The Chapel; leading worship in the form of song.

     Music has always been his passion. Holley started playing the guitar in the 90’s with the intention of writing his own songs, and by the early 2000’s, he had already produced his first self-titled cd. His music was popular on Myspace and college radio, but he put his solo career on hold to pursue his other creative interests.

     He was attending Young Harris College when opportunity called, and he decided to learn from experience rather than textbooks.  “I was getting a degree in liberal arts with a focus in speech and communication,” he says. “The point was that all of my friends that had graduated with those degrees weren’t doing anything, but I was already getting work and making a living doing those things. College will always be there– these opportunities are right here.”

     He began working at the Cultural Affairs Department in Savannah, and from there, he did everything from set design to community theater, improv workshops and drama camp. “I work with a lot of different mediums,” he says. “Whatever it happens to be, if it’s creative, I’m all about it.”

     When a professional theatre group came in from Branson, Missouri, and acquired what is now The Historic Savannah Theatre, people in the community told them about Holley, and he began working as the theatre’s house manager.

     Not long after he started, they needed a bass guitarist, so they asked if he could play the bass.  “I don’t know what possessed the band to say, ‘you can be the bassist,’” Holley says with a laugh.

     He had never played the bass guitar in his life, but for some reason, he agreed to try it. “At that point, I had learned God had opened a lot of really weird doors for me just because I would say yes,” Holley recalls. So he took the chance, picked up the bass, and the rest is history.

     Once he started, he performed with the Historic Savannah Theatre for the next seven years. His role in the show kept growing until he was acting and singing regularly, eventually assuming the role of Buddy Holly in the theatre’s beloved Return to the 50’s show.

     His most memorable moment was when he performed with the theatre at Picnic in The Park. “Playing for an entire Forsythe Park full of people–that was thousands of people,” recalls Holley. “It was just a cool experience.”

     Not many people get to perform for a living, so Holley was grateful for the opportunity. But even though he loved performing with the theatre, he felt like God was calling him to do more. “I left the theatre because of the opportunities that kept coming up in ministry.”

     When bandmate, Chris Fullerton, invited him to The Chapel in Rincon, Holley felt at home right away. “It was the first time I went to church where I was welcomed, and I wasn’t judged and I didn’t have to dress a certain way,” he says. “It felt like a real community that was genuine.”

     When they asked him if he would be interested in playing bass guitar for The Chapel, he knew he had to accept. This time, he wanted to use the musical opportunity to glorify God.

     The Chapel in Effingham is not like most churches. You won’t find the traditional pews and hymnals there. You’re greeted with some pastries and a cup of coffee at the cafe, and you make your way to a chair in front of the stage, where the lights are dimmed, the band leads the worship, and the diverse congregation listens to a passionate and oftentimes humorous sermon.

     It is utterly free of pretense, which is one of the main reasons Holley joined. The first time he saw one of the band members in a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt playing a ZZ Top riff, he knew he was home. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We take God and His word seriously, but none of us are perfect, and we like rock and roll. God gave us joy and rock and roll, so let’s have joy and rock and roll,” he says with a laugh.

     It wasn’t long after Holley joined the worship team (the church band) at The Chapel that he felt called to do even more with ministry. He began working with children’s ministry and then family ministry, and he now works full-time for the church as communications director and worship leader.

     Holley is fortunate to be able to do what he loves for a living. But even though he has had much success in music, he’s also had his setbacks. Like many people, he has struggled with depression and anxiety.

     “That’s not a comfortable thing for anyone to talk about, but I think the fact that we’re so uncomfortable talking about it means that people who need help don’t seek it out because they’re ashamed,” he says. “There’s a stigma attached to it.”

     “Sometimes being true and honest is not pretty and it’s not inspiring to others,” he adds. “But if I talk about it openly, it can help someone else through that.” Inspiring children is important to Holley. He loves working with youth groups, and he strives to be a positive role model.

     Some of the best advice he could give youth today is to follow through in the pursuit of their passion and to never be afraid of not being good enough. In fact, whenever Holley is required to wear a nametag, he doesn’t just write “Josh;” he writes “Joshua 1:9,” which says not to be afraid, for the Lord is with you wherever you go.

     “How many things would I have missed if I kept going through life afraid?” Holley asks. He maintains that most of the opportunities in his life happened because he wasn’t afraid and was willing to jump at every opportunity that God gave him.

     “For the longest time I didn’t do anything because I was afraid or because I didn’t think I was qualified or equipped,” says Holley. “But if I wasn’t willing, I wouldn’t have seen how He would equip me.”

     He is an avid cartoonist, and he is interested in making his own comics and providing online content for kids and families. Holley also enjoys making trading cards for kids at www.wordweirdos.com, and he wants to eventually start teaching virtual guitar lessons online.

     And even though he put his performing career on hold to work with the ministry, he has never stopped writing songs. He is working on finishing a new cd containing both Christian and secular songs.

     For now, his main goal is to expand the ministry and continue to grow the worship team at The Chapel.  “I’ll eventually finish this cd that I’ve been slowly working towards, and then I’ll have to do self promotion, but right now I’ve traded in ‘me’ for ‘we’ or for ‘HE.’”

     Whether he’s onstage or playing alone, he is grateful for music and the ability to perform. “Every time I get to play a note, it’s not just a celebration of that note. It’s the celebration that sound exists and that we get moved by vibrations– that God made that kind of a universe that there’s a potential for that,” he says.

     Whether it be music or ministry, Josh Holley makes the most of every opportunity. And though he doesn’t know where God may lead him next, for now you can find him playing at The Chapel each Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30am. Wherever he performs,one thing is certain: he makes a joyful noise.

Music Is My Healing : Dino Oliver

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Tonya Perry

When God gives you a gift, what do you do with it? For Dino Oliver, he’s using his gift to give back to the Lord. Dino’s gift involves music and when he gets behind his drum set, you’re in for a show. You can hear him play on Sundays at First Baptist Church Rincon. Not only does he play in the church’s band, he sits on the music committee and was ordained as a deacon 12 years ago.

     Dino’s love of music dates back to when he was five years old. He lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and started playing drums. When Dino was 11, his older brother’s band needed a drummer. “I asked my father if I could play in the band even though I was only 11 years old,” says Dino. “After getting my father’s blessing, I started playing in nightclubs around Boston.” Dino’s love for music continued through school and he played drums in his high school band and with another band.

     After graduating, he moved to Florida and continued working in the nightclub scene as a bouncer. It wasn’t long before he found himself traveling with the production company, Clair Brothers, running monitors for big bands such as Kiss, Marshall Tucker Band, Ricky Nelson, The Guess Who, Three Dog Night and Pure Prairie League. Sometimes he even got to sit in for a song or two and play drums. During his years on the road, one of his most memorable moments was when he was running sound for Randy Meisner, the original bass guitar player for the Eagles. “He started playing Desperado and the hair stood up on my arms,” says Dino. “It was a surreal feeling.”

     During his time on the road, he also traveled with smaller club bands. He says he enjoyed the smaller bands better because he could see more of the city he was in due to being there longer.

     In addition to all of the memories he made, he also made a special friend. That friend is Gregg Allman. Dino worked with Gregg on and off since 1982. He ran monitors for Gregg and spent a lot of time on the road with him. “The best thing about being friends with Gregg was riding around Richmond Hill and hearing Gregg’s stories about how certain songs were written,” says Dino.

     Dino will admit that through his traveling days, he didn’t always make the best decisions. He saw what those decisions were doing to his friends and he actually turned to music to help him through some of the harder times. He also credits his wife to leading him to where he is today. In 1986, a week before his wedding, was when he came off the road. “I fell in love and decided to give up the touring life,” says Dino.

     While he gave up the touring life, he didn’t give up his passion for music. In 1996, his wife and children moved to Rincon. That’s when he started attending First Baptist Rincon. He later started playing drums for Courtenay, a Savannah-raised country artist. While he was playing a gig with Chuck Courtenay at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament, he got a call to do a one-off gig for Gregg Allman, which gave him the opportunity to tour with his high school buddy from Massachusetts. “My friend was playing keys for Gregg,” says Dino. “It was great that two high school guys could get together again.”

     While playing for Chuck Courtenay, Dino says he had a hard time being in the bar scenes, so he talked to his preacher. The preacher told him to look at it differently and that those bars could be his mission field. Dino did, but eventually left and now focuses his time on his church band.

     Dino says when he first joined the church they didn’t have a band at the old sanctuary; however, he played drums at the church’s Christmas programs. When they moved to the new building, that’s when the church decided to add what is called a praise band. Currently, the band has a drummer, three guitar players, two keyboard players, a piano player and two to five singers. It’s more contemporary and appeals to the younger generation. Dino says the church also appeals to the elders and they still have a choir, a choir in which his wife sings in. “To us, we want everyone to enjoy every service,” says Dino. “To me, the music at church is a ministry. It prepares your heart for listening to God’s word.”

     Before Dino started playing full time in the band, he used to run the sound system. He also ran sound at Savannah Christian for two years.

     Another unique quality Dino has is fixing sound systems for smaller churches. He says big companies will come in and tell the church they have to spend a lot of money to fix the problems. That’s where Dino uses his skills. He can come in and upgrade a few things and rewire at a minimal price. “I can save the churches so much money,” says Dino.

     While Dino continues to make an impression with his musical abilities, he is also making an impression in the lives of his four boys. All are following in the footsteps of their father. They each play a variety of instruments and are involved in their school bands. His youngest son, Dylon, was the first freshman in 14 years to make the symphonic band at South Effingham High School.

     If you’ve ever heard the song by Florida Georgia Line called “Music is Healing” you’ll get a better understanding of what music means to Dino. It’s his passion and has lived in him his whole life. He says the song by Third Day called “Revelation” is what got him through the death of his mother. “Music is why God put me here. It’s my gift,” says Dino. His favorite quote is by Ray Charles and it’s one he holds close to his heart, “Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing and I don’t get tired of music.”

Putting Heart and Soul Into A Masterpiece : Cathy Heidt

story by Kelly Harley      photos by Shelia Scott

Tucked behind her house in Effingham County sits Cathy Heidt’s shop; you could even call it her little piece of paradise. The big red shed is filled with all of the tools she needs to create what many call unique masterpieces. The walls are lined with sheets of tin, aluminum, old shovels, gas cans, saws, big oil drum lids and pretty much any other metal you can cut. Some may look at these items as rusted or worn out tools, but to Cathy they are her canvases. Eight years ago, Cathy learned to run a handheld plasma cutter machine. That’s when she discovered her passion for making handmade creations and hasn’t stopped since. While she doesn’t call her hobby a business, Tin Signs & Backyard Creations has definitely grown over the years, and despite her humble demeanor, her products are in demand.

How She Creates 

     Cathy’s approach to plasma cutting is one she has down to a science. Self-taught by reading the tricks of the trade and making plenty of mistakes, it’s safe to call her an expert. She’s very disciplined in her approach and is adamant that safety comes first. Before she even begins cutting any piece of metal, she spends nearly a half hour doing maintenance on her equipment to ensure it is properly working. The plasma cutter runs on 220 volts of electricity and the heat coming out is 20,000 degrees. She has to check for any moisture in the compressor and air lines because if there is any, she could stand the chance of being electrocuted.

     She also dresses the part when she begins cutting. “My clothes can’t have any frays. I have to wear heavy work pants and pants with no cuffs,” says Cathy. “I also wear leather shoes, a mask and eye protection.”

     Cathy, who describes herself as a simple person, exudes simplicity while she works. The table she cuts on is actually an old cabinet that she added wheels and blocks to make it the height she needed. It’s only about 3 feet by 2 feet; however, Cathy insists that’s all she needs. Offers to make her a new, bigger table have come, but Cathy’s mentality is if it isn’t broke, why fix it. If you watch her work, you’ll see has everything she needs to make beautiful pieces of art. Fancy isn’t a necessity.

An Artistic Eye from the Beginning  

     During her younger years, Cathy recalls the love she had working with her hands. As a child, she had very few toys and spent most of her time in her father’s shop playing with tools. Her father, who was a machinist, always let her and her brothers learn how to do things. “My dad placed no restrictions on the fact that I was female,” says Cathy. “He believed in equal opportunity and instilled a great work ethic in us. I never heard him say you can’t do something.”

     Cathy says she was also given a gift by God and that gift is to draw. “If I can see it in my head, I can transpose it on paper,” says Cathy. When Cathy creates a sign or a design on a shovel or saw, she hand draws it. Her drawing tool of choice is white chalk. If she messes up, she simply uses her hand to erase it and starts over. While many other sign cutters use computers to map out their designs, Cathy won’t ever go that route. “Lines don’t have to be perfectly straight, that is what makes my creations unique,” says Cathy. “With computer-based drawings, everyone gets the same design. With my hand-drawn creations, even if I draw the same thing, no two are alike. Something is always different.”

A Passion for Creativity 

     Cathy proudly displays the very first sign she created on her barn wall; it’s a smiling sunshine. Her daughter later asked her to cut a friend’s monogram in a piece of old tin for a bridal shower decoration. From that creation, people quickly started asking her to make signs for them. Every sign she creates is done in her free time. She works full time as a Registered Respiratory Therapist at Effingham Hospital, where she’s been for 20 years. She works in the emergency room and admits some days are stressful and sad. While she loves her job, there are days when she needs to come home and decompress; that’s when she retreats to her red shed and cranks up her machine. “The machine gives me the time and solitude and I feel like I’m in a whole other world.”

     In 2014, Cathy was diagnosed with breast cancer and used her creations to get her through the treatments. After beating cancer, Cathy made a sign for herself. It reads, “Lord let me live every day as the gift that it is.” It’s one sign that Cathy says she “retired,” meaning she won’t ever make another one like it.

Design with Meaning 

     Like her sign she made for herself after beating breast cancer, there are plenty of other creations Cathy won’t recreate. These particular signs or creations are ones she makes for people and ones that have meaning behind them. People will call her and say I have an old saw or piece of tin I found in my grandfather’s shed and I would like for you to create a design on it. To Cathy, those are the ones that matter most. “When I can find those people and they get to save a piece of their history, they almost get tearful. That’s what it is all about,” says Cathy.

     Cathy also uses her talent to help local organizations. One in particular is the organization CURE Childhood Cancer. Each year she donates a sign to the Savannah, Statesboro and Springfield banquets to be auctioned off. One sign raised over $400 dollars for the organization. She also donates signs to Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center and The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society. “My God-given gift to draw and cut these signs is a blessing,” says Cathy. “A Higher Power gave me this ability and this is a way I can pay it forward.”

Always a Hobby, Never a Business 

     Cathy says business has really picked up in the past two years, mostly by word of mouth and people seeing her work. She does very little advertising and she doesn’t care to attend craft shows and festivals. She doesn’t want it to be about the money and she definitely doesn’t want it to feel like work. While she said it’s not like work, Cathy definitely pours her heart and soul into her passion. When she gets a day to cut, she will spend all day in her red shed, bringing her ideas (and those of others) to life. Her shed has no air conditioner and she uses several fans to keep cool and ventilate her space, yet she never complains. The joy she can bring to others and to herself beats having a fancy shop filled with the latest and greatest technologies.

     Over the years, it would be hard to estimate how many hours she’s devoted to her hobby. She has photo albums filled with all of the wonderful pieces she has created. If you flip through the pages of each album, you’ll notice one thing; each of Cathy’s creation is unique and each one has meaning, especially for those they are made for. “I love being able to take something that doesn’t look very nice and make it look pretty. I like to try everything I can,” says Cathy.

     And try she does. Each creation is an inspiration. It proves that using what God gave you and putting it to good use can make a difference. Cathy’s passion is certainly a driving force behind her own happiness and the happiness she brings to others.

     To see some of Cathy’s creations, you can visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/customtinsigns/.

Katie McGrory : Bringing Help, Hope and Awareness Where it Counts

“One of the most beautiful things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”

  ~Shannon L. Alder

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry

Katie McGrory, a Savannah native, has lived in the area since 2016. She has been a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist for Harmony House, her private practice, since 2009. Katie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2002; she later obtained her Master of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology from Georgia Southern University in 2006.

     Thereafter, Katie started teaching collegiate level psychology and went on to begin her counseling career. Currently, Katie does mental health counseling, treating a vast range of clients, from birth to adult.

     Katie offers 100% of various counseling and mental health services. Whether engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy with adults, helping women through challenging divorces or assisting grandparents with behaviorally challenged grandkids who reside with them, Katie’s professional scope is quite broad. She, too, offers group therapy and family counseling sessions to all who may benefit. Actually, Katie is proud to be a part of a fairly new form of group therapy; alongside Mary Close and Jessica Partain, owners of Riley’s Rescue Ranch in Guyton, Katie works with her young clients to interact with therapeutic horses. These horses are trained to maintain the “right temperament to work with kids with all kinds of issues.” The concept has proved to be very successful for her families. Katie appreciates all the promising services offered by Mary and Jessica, knowing that it is a “team effort.”

     Katie focuses largely on helping children with numerous concerns, whether ADHD, anxiety disorders or autism, only to name a few. Autism itself is defined as a “mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.” Katie specializes in treating children with high-functioning autism, which often impacts a child’s social skills in contrast with low-functioning autism, which can pose much greater challenges.

      Interestingly enough, the Harmony House logo, a house made of “puzzle pieces,” indicates that Katie specializes in helping children with high-functioning autism; it is utterly definitive of Katie’s professional plight, as she persists to fulfill her motto: “to create harmony when the puzzle pieces fit.” When parents are enlisting Katie’s assistance, she wants to figure out each detail about their child…each pattern of behavior…each motivation or lack thereof. She “looks at all that is going on with the child” to begin steps to properly fit those often misunderstood, confusing puzzle pieces together.

     Katie affirms, “Then, we can start the work of addressing their issues and begin creating harmony. When the puzzle pieces fit, things get better.”

     As a registered play therapist, Katie has specialized training in working with children. Katie is able to assess activities and behaviors during a play session, which allows her to make proper inferences.

      “I use my playroom to build relationships with children. Adults talk about their feelings, but children play out their feelings,” she said.

     Katie has long had a passion for those impacted by autism and has a sincere heart to help. She would like the community and society as a whole to understand autism better; she wants to clear up the misconceptions that have been prevalent for so long. Hence, Katie knows that most of the misunderstandings and falsities about childhood autism are directly due to a lack of information about the condition, and she certainly wants to help her clients with autistic children to understand it better.

     “I want to have more information and more support out for the autism community. I love working with kids who have high-functioning autism because I feel I understand how their brain works; I understand their challenges because I understand them. I can explain to their parents and to the schools the way they feel and why they’re acting a certain way,” she said.

     Often feelings of hopelessness and defeat may consume parents who feel that they have exhausted every plausible solution.

     Nonetheless, Katie is committed to “give support to the families,” working with each of them to cater to their own very unique situations. She strives to piece together the best course of action for their lives in order for the “child with autism to be the most functioning person they can be.”

     Many who are unaware of the effects of autism often feel that diagnosed children would benefit solely from discipline and correction. However, Katie wants to spread proper awareness to the families and community as a whole.

     She asserts, “Parents come to see me because they feel like they failed as parents, because their parenting skills are not working. This isn’t a child who’s being bad or acting up. This is a child who is confused and doesn’t understand our world, so I can meet them where they are to know how to be successful and functioning. The families are getting healthier.   The parents are grateful; I’m a support system for them, too. I think the parents feel supported and empowered to be able to handle these issues, having that support and knowing they’re not alone and knowing I’m advocating for their children. I just love the families I work with.”

     Further, Katie is aware that many school counselors, special education teachers and other educational professionals lack knowledge of the condition; therefore, it is often not given the correct attention. Katie attends 504 meetings and IEP meetings at schools to help inform educators and help them with each individual case as much as possible.

     She remarks, “These kids are like my kids. I’m very protective of them and want to make sure that they get really good counseling.”

      In addition, Katie knows that it definitely takes a village to help children succeed. That said, she receives client referrals from various community professionals, whether pediatricians, attorneys, schools or others in the lives of those children who may exhibit a need for assistance.

     Katie’s practice is doing very well and she is looking forward to the future. She aspires to one day offer an after-school program for children with high-functioning autism, those kids beyond the middle school years. She would also like to do ongoing training for counselors and play therapists, so there is more of them available to help children in the community. She, too, would like to offer a special support group for this community, where families of children with autism can meet each other and ‘connect’ kids together. She plans to offer parenting groups, those emphasizing effective parenting techniques geared towards each individual child’s needs.

     Katie knows that there is no “I” in “team.” She is incredibly grateful to Jerri Frost, who has been her colleague since 2016. Jerri is a licensed clinical social worker for kids and adults; she is presently working on her registered play therapist credentials. Jerri has helped a lot, and Katie feels that her contributions have been invaluable.

     “She has been a great help…a great addition to the community; she took some of the load,” Katie stated.

     Katie is currently on the board of Ready2Connect, an organization which helps to empower people who are unemployed and looking for work, along with those seeking financial stability.

     She works closely with DFCS (Department  of Family and Children Services), along with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), who are committed to improving the lives of children in foster care.

     In her free time, Katie, who is very big on rescue pets, likes to spend time with her rescued fur babies. She has four dogs, seven cats and even a therapeutic horse, Mocha. She also likes to read and go to catch a good movie at times.

     Katie wants all families in need of assistance to know that needing help is okay. Moreover, asking for it is courageous.

     She comments, “Needing help with their children is not a weakness; it’s not a reflection of their parenting. It’s okay to need help; it’s important to get good help. Families can get healthier…that’s the goal.”

Traci Wells : Selling Effingham County Properties

Traci Wells

Selling Effingham County Properties

Traci Wells has enjoyed great success as a Realtor for over 15 years.  Therefore, it is no coincidence that when Traci made the decision five years ago to join a local firm with global exposure, she joined Cora Bett Thomas Realty.

     As a result of this successful partnership, Traci has been able to make a difference in the lives of her clients in Chatham, Bryan, Bulloch, Effingham and surrounding counties. Interestingly, a real source of pride for Traci is the company’s relocation and referral department.  She mentions, “We have a phenomenal relocation department.  We are contacted by potential clients from different parts of the world as well.”

     More importantly, when Traci meets with clients she is actively listening to their vision along with their needs and desires for their new home.  This intuitive approach, coupled with Traci’s vast experience, is the formula for success for her clients in finding and purchasing the house they will call home.

    Whether it is a couple purchasing their first home or a client who is selling their home to move on to a different chapter in their life, Traci is enthusiastic and passionate about her work.  Helping clients fulfill their dream remains the most rewarding aspect of her career and the biggest reason Traci continues to love what she does, each and every day.

     Traci and her husband, Andy, are natives of Bryan County and now reside in Effingham. However, banking was Traci’s initial profession, though real estate proved to be a better fit.  This financial experience compliments her real estate career.  Success in both of these complex fields require great attention to detail and an ability to understand and communicate with people from all walks of life.  Traci possesses that unique ability.

     She remarked, “Banking is a great background to have!  Once I entered into the world of real estate, I was intrigued as to “how and why” these processes work.  I have always wanted to know the nuts and bolts of everything”.   With Andy’s background as an independent construction contractor, this proved to be Traci’s greatest motivator and encourager as she began to move towards a career in real estate.  “He taught me the new construction background.  Working with and learning from Andy has proved to be invaluable.”

     Traci considers it a privilege to be a part of Cora Bett Thomas Realty, who has set an unparalleled standard in the local market.  Notably, Cora Bett Thomas Realty is not a franchise, but is indeed “globally networked just like a franchise.”  The benefits include a higher degree of capitalization on meeting customers’ needs and industry demands, as well as allowing the company to have a complete customer focus and client goal-orientation.

     She explains that though the company has an inception date of 1995, Cora Bett has been in real estate industry for much longer.  Cora Bett is an expert in the ins-and-outs of real estate, enabling her to develop and maintain an exclusive brand.   Cora Bett Thomas Realty is renowned for the firm’s downtown Savannah presence.  The addition of Traci to the office allows for the opportunity to respond to the market growth demands occurring on the outskirts of Savannah.  Traci is thrilled to be able to focus on the outlying counties.   She remains confident that the company can accommodate her clients’ needs while offering an unparalleled level of service.

     Traci is thankful to be a part of such a professional and supportive team.  She asserts, “we all support each other; we work hand-in-hand together.  The company provides us with all the necessary and most up-to-date tools to get our jobs done – and done well.”

     More importantly, the market is still climbing out of the slump caused by the 2008 crash, Traci feels that the market is on a course of steady incline.  She explains, “you do not want a rapid incline; you want a steady incline – that is what makes the economy turn.”  Furthermore, Traci is pleased with the course set by Cora Betty Thomas Realty.  She adds, “I feel that the company is going in the right direction for what the market and economy allow.”

     As a Realtor, Traci has many accomplishments.  She is a member of the Savannah Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors, and has served on the Community Housing Committee for Pembroke for quite some time.  She was also named Cora Bett Thomas Realty’s 2016 Agent of the Year.   She does feel that working with an outstanding team of professionals and a company of unparalleled service while being able to fulfill dreams is her greatest success.

     In addition to her Realtor status, Traci has her Council of Residential Specialist (CRS) designation.  To obtain a CRS status, “Realtors must meet a number of stringent requirements that combine advanced hours of education and training, experience and demonstrated success in the marketplace.”  This certifies that the individual “has completed advanced professional training and demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in residential real estate.”  This small community of distinguished agents are among the top three percent of all Realtors in the United States.  Traci takes pride in her CRS designation, as it is an accolade that she takes tremendous pride in and feels it sets her apart from others in the industry.

     In her spare time, Traci enjoys spending time with her family and traveling with her husband.  They are both NASCAR enthusiasts, traveling to races whenever possible.

     Over the span of her career,Traci has employed many different methods of selling and marketing, learned endless new regulations, and scouted new markets.  She and Cora Bett Thomas Realty have set new standards as they continually strive for excellence in an ever-changing real estate world, filled with endless possibilities.

Johnny Coleman : 2017 All-Greater Savannah Softball Coach of the Year

Johnny Coleman

2017 All-Greater Savannah Softball Coach of the Year

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Shelia Scott

If you had to pick a coach, Johnny Coleman may be your first pick. The Effingham County-native is committed to teaching kids about sports, education and life lessons both on the field and in the classroom.

     Johnny is a special education teacher at Effingham County Middle School. He works with students with slight learning disabilities; students who need a little more support and attention. “It’s rewarding. The students I work with, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from anyone else,” says Johnny. “They have learning disabilities and, with a little extra help and time, they can be just as successful.”

     Johnny’s passion for teaching grew 20 years ago. He graduated from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, with a degree in middle grades education and later earned a certification in special education. His career has led him to teach physical education, geography and at an alternative school for a few years. This is his second year as a special education teacher at Effingham County Middle School.

     The work that Johnny does in the classroom extends beyond the walls of the room. As sincere as his passion for teaching, so is his passion for coaching sports. Currently, Johnny serves as the coach for Effingham County High School’s girls’ fastpitch softball team and as the coach for Effingham County Middle School’s boys’ baseball team.

     “It’s always special to see young people put a lot of effort into something and be successful at it,” says Johnny. “Because I grew up here, I know the majority of the kids I coach; I’ve known most of them since they were born.” Johnny also has the privilege of coaching his own children. His daughter plays for the girls’ fastpitch softball team and his son for the boys’ baseball team.    “Seeing them and their friends doing well, has been really enjoyable. Being around your kids more, it’s just very special. A lot of coaches don’t have that luxury,” says Johnny.

     When asked about his coaching style, Johnny says he doesn’t like to yell or scream at the kids. He takes more of a competitive approach and it’s an approach that doesn’t mean just beating the other team. “We try to have a competitive atmosphere. I want the kids to just be better than they were the day before,” says Johnny. “These kids are going to have to compete for jobs and everything else one day. I try to stay as positive as possible and help them learn and not be scared to mess up.”

     Johnny says his favorite part of coaching is seeing the kids put in the effort. He says they put in so much work on top of everything else they have to do, it’s impressive to watch them. “When they win or do something better than they did before, that’s what I enjoy. When they succeed, it means a lot,” says Johnny. “As a coach, I just try to give them the information the best ways that I can to get them better physically and mentally and hope they take it the rest of the way.”

     In 2017, his girls’ fast pitch softball team made it to the playoffs. The final eight teams – also known as the Elite 8 – played a tournament in Columbus, Georgia. While the team didn’t win the championship, Johnny says they played really well and that’s what matters. That same year, Johnny was named the 2017 All-Greater Savannah Softball Coach of the Year by the Savannah Morning News. “It was very unexpected. Last year was the first year I had coached the softball team there. We had a good program in place, talented girls and outstanding assistant coaches,” says Johnny.

     Since a young age, Johnny has been drawn to sports. He grew up in Meldrim, Georgia, and his first childhood memories were at the Meldrim ballpark. His mom played softball and his grandfather and uncle coached softball teams. Johnny started playing T-ball in kindergarten and football in second grade. He played recreation ball growing up and played baseball and football all four years while he attended Effingham County High School.

     “High school football was huge when I was in high school. There was only one high school and the whole county was behind us. It was a great atmosphere then,” says Johnny.

     Despite his love of sports, his parents always made sure he kept his grades up. If you didn’t have good grades or got into trouble, you couldn’t play. Johnny says that really helped him realize the importance of having an education and being skilled in sports.

     He says his mom always made sure he did the right thing and carried himself the right way, and his dad made sure he was doing everything right on the football field. He says the support of his family was instrumental in his success. He also credits his success to playing under really good coaches. He played for football coach Bob Griffith and baseball coach Jim Simmons; Simmons still coaches in Statesboro. “They really helped me to learn a lot when I was fresh out of college and they had a big influence on me,” says Johnny.

     It’s those same ethics Johnny is now passing on to those he coaches. He requires them to keep their grades up, to do the right thing and to work as hard as they can. “I try to be open-minded. The older I get, the more I am open to new things. I research as much as I can,” says Johnny.

     He wants his players to know that just because you’ve done something all these years, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to do it a little better.

Wiley’s Home Center

Business as Usual at Wiley’s Home Center

Effingham County is experiencing more new construction now than we have seen since 2008. The market is good.  And, the change in the market is a blessing to many.

     As the real estate market affects many businesses in our community, it has a major effect on the furniture business.  New houses are sure to equal new furniture, and the people of Wiley’s have seen the impact.

     Although Wiley’s has been a well-known name in our community for over 31 years, the amount of new clientele has increased dramatically over the last several months. “New people are walking in our store daily and being pleasantly surprised at the selection and quality we have to offer,” Says Detra Thomas, CEO of Wiley’s Home Center.

     Wiley’s is experiencing a more frequent turnover of inventory due to the residential growth. Detra adds, “You can walk in our showroom on a weekly basis and see something different.  We are constantly getting in new shipments and changing our displays.”

      “We are happy to welcome the new people into our community. It is very refreshing to see new faces walking through our doors, but just as equally rewarding to grab a hug or a kiss from those who have been loyal to us for many years.  We are all a big happy family,” adds Detra.

     And, family is important to this local business. It has been family owned and operated since inception. In April 1987, Wiley and Rosalyn Thomas opened the doors and welcomed the people of Effingham County and nearby communities in. Their daughter, Detra, joined a year later.

      When you walk in the door at Wiley’s, you immediately see a vast display of furnishings.  Most furnishing are set in a “room” atmosphere, giving you an idea of what it will look like in your home.

     Don’t forget about the 35,000 square foot warehouse, full of additional inventory. Wiley’s carries over 150 brands of furniture, appliances, bedding and floor coverings, there is something for every taste.

At Wiley’s Home Center, they understand the importance of great customer service and do not underestimate the power of trust and loyalty.  Whether you are a new customer or a repeat one, you will be treated like family.  Wiley’s Home Center is proud to serve their customers with integrity, honesty, and customer satisfaction

      When you come to Wiley’s you are always greeted with a friendly, smiling face. “We often hear customers say that there is not a store like this anywhere in the area that carries the quality of furniture for the price,” Detra states. “Our goal is to provide excellent customer service and same day delivery.”

     So, if you are looking for quality furniture at a reputable store, look no further. Wiley’s Home Center is the expert at “Helping to Make Your House a Home.”