New Life…New Owner Dawn Usher Takes The Reigns at New Life Flowers and Gifts

New Life…New Owner

Dawn Usher Takes The Reigns at New Life Flowers and Gifts

 It’s been business as usual at New Life Flowers and Gifts.  Not many people would even recognize any changes at all. But…there has been a big change…Stephanie Long has sold the business to long-time employee, Dawn Usher.

      “Dawn was the very first full-time employee I ever hired. She had been with me, off and on, for the past 28 years. She and I have seen a lot of changes together, and I am happy to see her moving forward with the business. The reigns are now in her hands and I wish her the very best,” states Stephanie.

      Dawn started in this industry in May of 1979 at Flowers-n-Things in Rincon.  They are no longer in business.  With a total of 39 years in the industry, her talent in floral design has just continued to grow.

      “This has been a life-long dream.  I have always wanted to own my own flower shop,” Dawn says.

      For the past several years, Stephanie has thought of selling the shop.  But, as they say, timing is everything.  So, when she was ready, she approached Dawn with her idea.

      “I had no idea if I could pull it off, but I asked her to give me a number. We were able to work it out, and here I am,” says Dawn of her recent purchase.

      The actual change of ownership happened on January 1 of this year.  Yes, it has been four months now, and the shop is running full steam ahead.  “We have been extremely busy since the change, work has been very steady,” adds Dawn.

      Dawn wants all her customers to know that New Life Flowers and Gifts still offers the same great products and services as always. Fresh flowers bring new life and energy to any space. So, always think of them when it’s time for a new arrangement for any occasion.

      New Life Flowers and Gifts is not just a florist.  It is a gift shop stocking all the latest and best gift items, and they carry unique items to decorate any room in your home.

      Dawn is proud to carry on the tradition of New Life…being the florist and gift shop that makes the ordinary, extraordinary.

     So, stop by and congratulate Dawn on her new venture.  She and her staff will continue to give you the “little extra” that helps set them apart.

Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County Making the Dream of Home Ownership a Reality

Habitat for Humanity
of Effingham County 

Making the Dream of Home Ownership a Reality

story by Kathryn Vandenhouten      photos by Shelia Scott

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization founded on the conviction that everyone deserves a decent place to live. Its mission is a simple one: Seeking to put God’s love into action to bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

     Since 1995, Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County has been working to achieve that mission by advocating for fair housing policies, constructing homes, and providing training and resources to help local families improve their living conditions. So far, they have helped twenty families build homes in Effingham, and they hope to keep adding families every year.

     Jimmy Rutland has been involved with the organization since 2004. He started as a volunteer, and the more he became involved, the more passionate he became about helping the community. Now he is the Executive Director, and he works for Habitat for Humanity full time.

     In addition to being a standard non profit, Habitat is essentially a construction company, mortgage originator and retail operation as well. “Habitat of Effingham is multi-faceted,” Rutland explains. Unlike other mortgage companies, Habitat works closely with families to maintain their debt to income ratio and to not only get them into homes, but to keep them there.

     “We’re taking people off the streets,” says Rutland. “And it’s keeping their debt to income ratio less than 43 per cent. Their total housing is only 30 per cent, including their taxes, so that’s a game changer for somebody.”

     Jim Presnell is also on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity. As a real estate agent and contractor, he literally lays the foundation for these homes. He has volunteered hundreds of hours on multiple homes, but says helping a child get into a good home is always worth it.

     “Habitat for Humanity builds homes for families. Families have kids. Kids are what make the world go ‘round,” says Presnell.  “That’s what the bottom line is for me.”

     Presnell also dispels the common misconception that Habitat families get homes for free. “The misnomer is that we build houses and give them to folks,” he says. That is not the case. “They purchase the home just like everyone else. They have a mortgage, and they also have to put in what we call sweat equity. They have to put time into building the homes with us,” Presnell adds.

     Habitat families do not need a handout; they just need a helping hand. They pay a mortgage like anyone else would, except their lender is Habitat for Humanity, and their cost is more manageable.

     Most banks won’t give someone a home loan if they haven’t maintained the same type of  job for two years, for instance. Habitat focuses less on the type of job and more on the fact that someone has kept steady work.

     Another major difference is that Effingham’s Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just build homes, they build lifelong relationships with the families. Wilhelmina Roberson can attest to that.

     She moved into her new home in December with her three children, the oldest of whom has Down Syndrome. She is grateful for Habitat and for Mr. Rutland and Mr. Presnell for their continued friendship and support. “They’re great people. I love them,” she says. “I can’t say enough, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

     Roberson calls her new home a blessing, and she knows she has a support system in Rutland, Presnell and all of the Habitat crew. “I can call them any time I need to if I need anything,” she adds. “They’re still involved. If I have any problems, they don’t hesitate.”

     Brittney Roper is another community member who can say that Habitat for Humanity has changed her life. She moved into her mother’s Habitat home when she was seventeen, and now she is getting a home of her own.

     Her new home is currently under construction, and she can’t say enough about Habitat for Humanity of Effingham. “It’s amazing,” she says. “I never thought I would be a homeowner at this age.”

     She says raising the first wall of her home was one of happiest moments of her life. “I smiled ear to ear for like thirty minutes,” she says. “I was full of emotions at the time. It was happy, and I felt like tearing up. I was just overjoyed.” For her and her two small children, this home is not just shelter, but security.

     She also says that Rutland and Presnell are not just workers for Habitat, but family. Habitat has made such a difference in her life that she plans to keep working for them long after her home is built.

     “It’s a great experience and feeling to know that you’re helping someone else in the same situation you were in,” says Roper. “I’m going to continue volunteering. Helping is a really good feeling.”

     Both Jimmy Rutland and Jim Presnell agree.  “It’s good for the heart-period. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally,” Presnell says. “Habitat does the body good.”

     One of Rutland’s most memorable moments occurred recently upon a home’s completion: “Her son came up to her and asked, ‘When are we going to have to move again?’ and she got to tell him, “This is ours. We don’t have to move any more.’”

     Stories like these abound from Habitat for Humanity, and hopefully they will continue to bless area families with homes every year. Their goal is to build at least one home each year, but they need the support of the community to do so.

     Whether it be donations of money, property, supplies or labor, any help will make a difference. Habitat Restore, located at 3065 Highway 21 in Rincon, is a retail sales and donation center whose proceeds go back into helping the community.

     The ReStore is always accepting donations of used furniture, appliances, building materials and other home goods, in addition to monetary donations. No donation is too small to make a big difference.

     For those who can’t make donations, volunteers are always needed. “We save almost half the cost of a house in labor,” says Rutland. No experience is required. “All you need to know is which way to hold a hammer and how to hold up a two by four,” he adds.

     Both Jimmy Rutland and Jim Presnell want the people of Effingham to realize that Habitat of Humanity doesn’t just help families, it helps the entire community. If they take an empty or abandoned lot and build a new home, the city gets taxes and the property value for nearby homes is usually increased as well. The entire community benefits.

     Effingham’s Habitat for Humanity is changing lives in our community. With continued local support, donations, and volunteers, they will continue helping area families by making the dream of affordable housing a reality.

     For more information on Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County, visit habitatec.org.

B & M Pool, Spa & Patio

Let B & M Pool Spa & Patio Create Your Vacation At Home

A backyard swimming pool is the perfect place to spend long summer days. Whether you want a large pool for afternoons of family fun, a uniquely shaped pool to blend in as a centerpiece within your backyard landscaping, or a simple pool for exercising or relaxing, B & M Pool, Spa & Patio can create a beautiful backyard water environment tailored to fulfill your dreams and stay within your budget.

     B & M Pools is ready for summer!  They are your complete backyard resource, specializing in in-ground vinyl liner and leisure pools and Doughboy above ground pools and Marquis Spas. They have everything it takes to turn your backyard into a summer oasis.

     And, what backyard would be complete without a grill?  There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned cookout! B & M Pools is a proud carrier of Holland Grills and they are your local retailer of the Big Green Egg.

     Searching for stress relief? You just found it! B & M carries the Marquis Spa line.  These spas provide you with the ability to relax and unwind after a long day. They are available in a variety of styles and colors to suit your needs, each of these models is suitable for your family’s enjoyment. Their creative and innovative designs that provide you the ultimate soaking experience, cost less to operate, and require the least amount of maintenance.

      Marquis also offers swim spas. The  Aquatic Training Vessel will elevate your swim spa experience. Marquis has focused on power and hydrodynamic flow to give you the ability to control the flow and adapt it to your fitness level and goals. The ATV will help you optimize your swim training, fitness, health, and wellness.

     B & M Pools also service your existing pool with renovations, liner replacements, repairs and part replacements. They stock a full product line for pool and spa maintenance, along with some very cool and unique accessories.

     B & M has everything you need to have a summer vacation…at home…in your own backyard.  Go see them today and transform your yard into fun in the sun!

Vicki and Kevin Edwards : Building Relationships One Rock At A Time

Vicki and Kevin Edwards

Building Relationships One Rock At A Time

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.”

                             ~Anne Frank

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Tonya Perry

Vicki Edwards has long appreciated the difference that a happy, healthy community can make. For some time now, she has strived to bring her community together through “friendship and fun.”  In fact, her warmth, creativity and love for community is exemplified by the efforts and initiatives that she implores through her local business, Effingham Rocks, a rock group that she started over a year ago.

     Vicki states, “It’s all about bringing the community together—to build relationships one rock at a time.”

      Actually, Vicki has been in Effingham for about two years after moving from her hometown, North Augusta, South Carolina. Vicki and her husband, Kevin, have four adult children and one little grandbaby on the way. Though Kevin admits that Effingham Rocks is Vicki’s “baby” he has played a tremendously instrumental role since its inception. Vicki’s inspiration for her rock group, the first in Effingham, actually came from her hometown, as she was a member of a local group there. Hence, she was able to experience all the fun and benefits firsthand.

     What’s more, the rock “painting…hiding…finding” phenomenon has become an enormously popular pastime, as it is “going on all across the U.S. and some other countries.” Vicki and Kevin are confident that the group is fun for all ages, adults and children alike.

     Kevin remarks, “Individuals can range from a two-year-old that just paints colors on a rock to the best of artists that have put a lot of detail into it.”

     Some people regard the idea as the most massive and ongoing Easter egg hunt of all time, only painting and hiding rocks instead of eggs. Individuals are able to register to join the group via Effingham Rocks’ Facebook page. Members can purchase rocks from various venues; Lowe’s is often a popular choice. Afterwards, they have the opportunity to paint their rocks as they please and at their leisure. “Acrylic paints and paint pens work best;” using a paint sealer is recommended, so that the rocks are not affected by normal weathering.  n

     Everyone is an artist, so there is no skillset that is too minimal. Then, they can cleverly hide them outdoors, nearly anywhere and everywhere. Popular hiding places are parks, churches, historical landmarks and businesses. Some have been found at Walmart, Kroger, dental offices, in the Lowe’s garden center and at the YMCA. Indoor hiding is not usually encouraged, except with the approval of the venue’s management.

     Vicki says, “You can just stumble across them all over the community.”

     Also, members are encouraged to “hide and seek” in safe areas; this discourages activity in very high places, brushes (unseen reptiles may be present), places that may not be easily assessible or those that may be physically challenging. Participants may choose to leave helpful hints for seekers on the Effingham Rocks’ Facebook page. Further, those who find and take a rock are expected to hide another painted one to make up for the one they acquire. This allows the amount of rocks to remain plentiful for members so that the cycle can go on.

     Vicki comments, “That’s the whole cycle of it…paint, hide, find, repeat.” Participants “may opt to keep what they have found, leave it or relocate it somewhere else.” Vicki and Kevin ask that members place the group name with the Facebook symbol on the back of their rocks. They, too, ask that individuals take pictures of their rocks and post them on the group page to share with others.

     Kevin says, “You might see one sitting on a lamp post at the grocery store; you just pick it up and take your picture. You can keep it or re-hide it.”

     Individuals are not limited to hiding rocks in Effingham but can take them on most any excursion. The couple has been astonished to look on the Facebook page and see the Effingham Rocks symbol on various rocks that have been taken to different places, whether to other states or countries like Germany.

      “It’s really neat to see where some of these rocks go,” Kevin stated.

     Vicki definitely wants it to be tons of pure fun for the entire family and “takes a Christian approach” to handling their business.  That said, there is no tolerance for “negative talk on the website.” Advertising is also not permitted. For safety reasons, a brief questionnaire must be completed by prospective members, which allows Vicki and Kevin to better understand individual motivations for joining, noting any “questionable people.”

     “We are listed as a closed group; that’s just strictly to keep our families and friends safe.

     This is family-oriented. This is straight-up fun for the family,” Vicki insists.

     Vicki and Kevin certainly get in on the action, too. They enjoy painting their own creative pictures on each rock. Vicki feels that Kevin is “very artistic” and much more of an artist than he knows, as he shows a rock adorned with a beautiful waterfall that he painted.

     “We hide rocks; we find rocks, just like everybody else. We actually bump into other people outside doing it, and it’s so much fun. This is a big thing. We love it. The parents and kids—they love it,” Vicki said.

     Vicki likes seeing that kind of happiness coming from all around the community, parents and kids alike. She is proud to contribute to that joy. She loves when parents post a picture of their kids on the Facebook page smiling from ear-to-ear holding a rock. Vicki even recalls being messaged by a lady that told her of how the rock that she found, with a special picture on it, really “made her day.” She also mentions a member taking one with her to a nursing home to share with a patient.

     Vicki adds, “It’s making a difference in the community…that’s really big with me.”

Through Effingham Rocks, Vicki and Kevin also support various local, noteworthy charities and fundraisers. They were recently asked to paint some rocks for some of their group members to take to the veteran’s hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

“We love to see them travel,” Vicki stated.

     Vicki welcomes the support of local businesses, as everyone can play a part. One of her biggest goals is to see the group grow and see participation from neighboring counties. She is also looking forward to the group’s next big “rock swap,” which is basically one big, centralized rock jamboree for members of her group. Parents and kids are able to come together to paint rocks and do some hiding and finding outside on a nice day. Various tables with rocks, paints and supplies are provided free of charge at the events for adults and kids to paint as they like. They also ask for others to bring their own special painted rocks to trade at the event with other rock painters, if they wish. Great snacks are provided as well. Yes, there is food…folks….and fun. Vicki aspires to have one or two each year. New Providence Baptist Church, where Vick works, kindly provided the location for the last rock swap, and it was a great success.

     In her spare time, Vicki loves to spend time with her pets. She has four dogs and is anxiously awaiting some chickens. Kevin jokes and says that she is about to have a little “micro-farm,” as she already has a garden, fish pond and coop for her new chickens. Vicki, too, loves to do antique and vintage furniture shopping; she really likes painting the furniture she attains.

     On the other hand, Kevin has participated in tournament fishing, specifically kayak tournaments, for some time now. At times, when he fishes at his leisure, Vicki gets out on the water with him. The couple loves spending time together and with family.

     Vicki does aspire to paint the world kind one rock at a time and is definitely doing just that with Effingham Rocks. Alongside her husband Kevin, she persists to make the difference that is needed in the world, one community at a time. In her own words, “It’s about fun, family and friendship.”

Sue Anderson of Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty Receives Top Honors

Leading the way in Effingham County

Sue Anderson of Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty Receives Top Honors

Selling real estate is more than just getting listings and buyers. It is helping people find their dream home and making it a smooth and pleasant transaction.

     Local Realtor, Sue Anderson. has been helping families find their dream homes for almost 35 years. She has earned both local and national recognition as one of the top Real Estate agents in her field. She has been awarded Agent of the Year at Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty every year since 2011.

     And, 2017 was no different. Not only has Sue Anderson been named 2017 Agent of the Year again in our local office, she has also been awarded the number three spot in the state of Georgia for Coldwell Banker.

     “When we had our awards banquet, I was in shock.  I had no idea I was ranked number three in the state.  I just don’t keep up with that sort of thing.  It’s not about the number of houses, it’s about the people you help along the way,” stated Sue of her recent accomplishments.

     “She’s an amazing Realtor and person” says Carmen Cribbs, Broker for Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty. “She is one of the most modest and kind people that you will ever meet. She is committed to her customers and clients and wants to provide the highest quality of service to them.  I am so very proud to be associated with her and have her as part of our Coldwell Banker family.”

     Sue contributes her years of success and longevity to integrity, old fashioned hard work and strong negotiating skills. Her career in real estate centers on providing quality service to her clients.

     Specializing in Southeast Georgia, Sue markets both resale and new construction. Sue’s clients remain loyal with referrals being a big part of her business. She also has a passion for decorating, which enables her to assist sellers with getting their homes in “show condition” for buyers.

     “Effingham County offers an excellent inventory of homes for sale, with home options ranging from new homes to re-sales in all price ranges. With the incredible access to the internet, the way buyers shop for real estate has changed significantly over the past several years.  I listen carefully to my clients and identify their real estate needs,” says Sue

     Sue also started doing some rental management about two years ago. At that time, she hired an assistant, Steve Ellis, that she can’t say enough good things about.  “Steve is excellent. He has grown so much in knowledge over the past couple of years. There is no way I could do all that I do without him. Not only does he list and sell as well, he is amazing in the rental part of my business,” Sue adds.

     Brandi Talton, owner of Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty, says, “I am so proud of Sue and all her accomplishments. She is definitely a leader and mentor to many of our agents. She, along with each of our other agents and staff members, help to make us the company we are today. I could not be any prouder of  our team.”

      Sue has one daughter, Danielle Young, who graduated from the Medical College of Georgia. Danielle is currently in her first year of residency in Pediatrics at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.  Danielle’s husband, Porter, is in his second year of residency as an Orthopedic Surgeon at Shands Hospital, also in Jacksonville.

     In Sue’s downtime, she enjoys going to estate sales, and spending time at her home away from home, St. Simons Island.

     If you are looking for an agent, and want one of the best, Call Sue Anderson.  Her detail to professionalism and her commitment to service is sure to make Sue the agent you are looking for.

DiAnna Jenkins and Kimberly Stalnaker

DiAnna Jenkins and Kimberly Stalnaker make up a dynamic real estate team. These ladies are both licensed with Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty in Rincon.

     They are only a “team” in the name of real estate, but they don’t call themselves a team. They are equal partners. And, this partnership gives their clients a phenomenal “two for one” deal.

     Recently, these ladies have become affiliates with the “Homes For Heroes” program. Homes for Heroes’ mission is to provide savings to heroes who provide services to our nation and its communities. Heroes include: firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, EMS and teachers. Participating sellers receive reduced listing commissions and participating buyers will receive a check about two weeks after their closing in appreciation for their service. The amount of reward is based on the sales price of the home.

     Both Kim and DiAnna are very excited about their new affiliation with this program. “It is a wonderful way for us to serve our community. We have helped so many military families and law enforcement find their dream homes. Now, we can do this as a way of giving back to those who serve us,” states DiAnna.

     “My dad was a proud veteran. He served in both the Marines and the Army. In this last election, my father had me get him an absentee ballot, so he could fill it out from his death bed. He felt it was that important to vote,” says Kim, “He died five days before the presidential election, but his vote was in.”

     Kim and DiAnna both live in Effingham County. They have both been licensed since 2003. DiAnna states, we are licensed to sell all over the state, but Effingham is the area we love.”

     These ladies start every day with prayer together. They pray for their buyers and sellers, and for their families and friends. Kim says, “We feel this is important to us. It is first and foremost that we give thanks to God for our business.”

     If you are looking to buy or sell, give this team…no…give this partnership a call. From backroads to beaches, and everywhere in between, DiAnna and Kim will get you home!

Andrea Garcia : ECHS Volleyball Player

Andrea Garcia
ECHS Volleyball Player

Story by Cindy Burbage

photos by Shelia Scott

Although volleyball is more than a hundred years old, it is just now developing into a favored sport. Local volleyball player, Andrea Garcia, proves that perseverance is the way to succeed and accomplish life goals.

     The Effingham High School athlete has been playing volleyball for almost 5 years; but getting serious about the sport in the 8th grade. “Before I started middle school, I had no idea what volleyball was. On the first day of school, there was an announcement saying that volleyball tryouts were going to be held the next day. I asked my mother if I could tryout and she said yes, thinking that I was joking with her because I had never touched a volleyball in my life. The next day, I went to tryouts; after tryouts, I looked at my phone to discover that I had about 24 missed calls from both my parents and 50 texts asking where I was. I called them and they yelled at me for 10 minutes asking where I was and why I didn’t call them. I said that I was at volleyball tryouts and they stayed quiet for about one minute. ¨You were being serious about that?¨ my mom asked me. I said yes and asked if they could pick me up at 5:00 for the next two days. They agreed to, but, they thought I would be cut from the team immediately. To our surprise, I made the team,” she exclaimed and then jokingly replied, “I even got the rookie award my 6th grade year.”

     She did not realize her calling as a volleyball player or knew that her future in the sport could change.  “I didn’t become serious about volleyball until Coach Amy Duke came to one of our practices and invited me to be a guest player for her club team. That tournament changed my life! For the first time, I got to see what volleyball was really about. I made friends with many different people, created memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life, and developed fundamental character traits, all while learning how to play. For the first time, I was excited to go to practice and to get better. Without Coach Duke, I would never have discovered the passion I had for volleyball,” she recalled.

     Andrea chronicled, “For the first two years, I played as the setter. In my eighth grade year, the coach put me in as an outside hitter. That year I also won MVP. It wasn´t until my freshman year of high school that I was told I was too short to play hitter. My dreams of being a volleyball player were crushed. That is until the high school varsity coach, Brittney Lein, told me to try playing libero. ¨Li-what?¨ I had never heard of that word. I agreed and spent the majority of tryouts passing instead of hitting. The day they announced what teams we made, I expected to be put on the JV team because I thought there were other players that were so much better than me. Seeing the amount of skill this team had pushed me to work hard and be just as good as everyone else. Though I had no idea what the libero was, I knew I had one job: to keep the ball from hitting the ground. Since then, I have been playing libero for the Effingham County High School Varsity volleyball team. And I enjoy every minute of it. Now, I can’t imagine playing any other position than Libero.”

     After playing a match against a rival school, Andrea’s volleyball careered changed. “The GACA North-South All-Star Classic is a two day event where the best players from all over the state are chosen to compete against each other. I was nominated by Coach Bob Massey from Statesboro High School. After playing against their school team, Coach Lein came up to me and said that Massey wanted to nominate me to play for North-South All-Star game. I was able to meet amazingly talented girls from around the state and bond over our love for volleyball. After putting a lot of hard work into our practices, The North-South teams faced each other in a best 3 out of 5 match. After putting our all in four sets, our team won 3-1. This was one of the best experiences of my life because I got to see true passion and determination with girls I have never even played with. I am very grateful that I got to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

     Volleyball is not the only sport that the sixteen year old Junior has mastered. “I grew up playing soccer. Since I come from a culture where soccer is idolized, my uncles, Salvador and Javier Figueroa, urged my mother to let me play soccer. For the first few years of my life, I lived and breathed soccer. I played on an all boys team coached by my uncle Salvador until the age of 13. As I got older, my mom was worried that I would get hurt playing with older boys. That is when Robert Long approached me and invited me to tryout for a new soccer club. I played for that club for two years until I decided to take a break from soccer. I thought that when I grew up, I would become a professional soccer player for the women’s national team. But as high school went on, I realized that I couldn’t be in AP classes and do both sports at once. I had to choose which sport I wanted to continue to play. It was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make, but in the end I chose the sport that made me the happiest.”

     Andrea’s drive is one that she learned firsthand from her family.  “My family has always been very supportive of me. They put a great deal of time and energy into our family restaurant, to create a good future and wellbeing for my sister and I. My parents grew up in poverty in Mexico, and started their lives together in the United States with little money and little-to-no family. After living in Houston and working in restaurants for a few years, they decided to move to Georgia to have a fresh start and attempt to pursue their dreams and open their own restaurant. Since then, my parents have successfully managed two businesses. My older sister, Nadia Garcia, has been like a second mother to me. Because my parents spent a majority of their time working, my sister has been responsible for keeping me on track with school work and making sure I had food to eat after a long day of practices and school. My family has done so much for me and I am very grateful to have them in my life,” Andrea shared.

     Andrea Garcia’s future is bright. After graduation, she plans to attend a four year college/university where she will pursue a master’s degree in both Aeronautical engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Hopefully the high school honor student will  design and build airplanes to travel around the world.

CHRIS SHEA : Effingham County’s Agribusinessman of the Year


Effingham County’s Agribusinessman of the Year

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Tonya Perry

If you’ve ever worked on a farm, you know it’s not an easy job. Even if you haven’t ever stepped foot on one, you can likely imagine the time and energy that goes into maintaining one. It involves manual labor. It depends on the weather, which could affect grain prices and ultimately your crops.  Chris Shea knows that farming requires a certain type of work ethic. “When you have a farm, you always have something to do. It’s not a 9-to-5 job, you have to work around the clock, even on weekends,” says Chris.

     Chris should know. He owns two farms, one in Effingham County and one in Statesboro, Georgia. The Effingham County-native, with his family, started the 80-acre cow farm 15 years ago and now raises 75 cows. He lives on the farm and between him and his family, they do all the work. They farm the hay for the cows and feed them. His daughters, ages 17 and 11, also play an active role on the farm. “It’s enjoyable. It takes time, but it’s valuable time,” adds Chris. They raise the calves and sell them when they get around six to eight months old, usually at a cattle auction in Swainsboro, Georgia.

     Chris’s other farm in Statesboro is a 243-acre longleaf pine farm. He started that farm about a year ago as a business opportunity. He sells the pine straw for people to use for things such as flower beds and then cuts the timber off the mature trees. Chris offers advice for someone considering farming, “If you have a passion, go after it. Do what you love.”

     That’s exactly what Chris is doing. His passion for farming, cows and the outdoors started at a young age. He calls himself a normal country boy who grew up hunting and fishing. When he attended Effingham County High School, he participated in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization. FFA was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928 with the mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.  The program teaches that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.

     While Chris participated in the program, one of the highlights for him was showing cows. He raised the Red Angus cows that he showed. He participated in local fairs and competitions. He says being part of FFA taught him responsibility and he built lasting relationships with other people who had similar interests, interests that his daughters now share. Both are part of the FFA program and they, too, show cows. “It’s really rewarding as a father to see my daughters do this. I help them with the cows and spend great quality time with them. I even teach them some tricks I know,” says Chris.

     Chris isn’t just a farmer, he’s also a businessman. After graduating high school in 1999, he attended Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton, Georgia. He then transferred to Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia, and graduated with a business degree. From there his love of buying and selling heavy equipment took off.

     “I’ve always bought and sold tractors and backhoes with my father, so in 2004, I went to work for Low Country Machinery,” says Chris. After working as a salesman at Low Country Machinery selling JCB equipment for 12 years, Chris worked his way through the ranks and, in 2016, decided to purchase the dealership. In addition to owning Low Country Machinery, he also owns the subsidiary businesses of Low Country JCB, Low Country Massey Ferguson and Low Country Kubota in Statesboro. Since 2016, Chris says his companies have doubled and he now employees 48 people. Chris says every day is different and he enjoys meeting new people.   “Customers are looking to me for advice on what kind of equipment to buy,” says Chris. “It makes me feel good that they put their trust in me. Some people work their whole lives to buy one tractor.”

     Chris’ hard work pays off, not only personally, but professionally. In 2017, Chris was honored by being named Effingham County’s Agribusinessman of the Year. The award was presented to him at the 2017 Effingham County Young Farmers Annual Awards Banquet at Ebenezer Retreat Center by Georgia State Representative Jon Burns. Ironically, Chris worked for   Jon at a feed store while he was in college.  The award isn’t something you apply for, you have to be nominated. “I was totally shocked when I received the award. I thought we were there for my daughter who was getting an award for showing cows,” says Chris. He says the award means the world to him because he went from loading bags at Ijon Webb’s feed store at age 14 to owning his own company.

     As a farmer and business owner, he is very aware of the changes in the farming industry and Chris says the farming industry is constantly evolving. Tractors are becoming automated and are equipped with GPS, auto steer and auto spray. He says the smaller farmers are fading out and bigger farmers are coming in. He credits that change to cost in equipment. “A lot of smaller farms are teaming up with other smaller farms in order to share equipment cost,” says Chris. “One farmer might have a cotton picker and the other a combine and they will help each other out. It takes teamwork to keep smaller farmers going.”

     Chris doesn’t come from a family of farmers. He learned the trade just by being around friends that had farms and working at the feed store. Of course, FFA played an invaluable role in preparing Chris for what he’s doing now. Chris recommends everyone find something they enjoy doing, especially when it comes to children. “I think everyone should learn a trade. Kids sit behind a shut door and play video games or text on their phones,” says Chris. “If we want to occupy the time of the younger generation, we need to teach them how to do something.”

     If you spend enough time with Chris, you might find his passion for farming and helping others achieve their success in farming may rub off on you. If it’s not farming, it could be his genuine interests in helping his customers or his passion for working hard every day.

Gnann’s Fix-It Shop

Gnann’s Fix-It Shop was founded in 1964 by Bowers Gnann, Jr.and was originally a small-town repair shop intended to fix small appliances such as lamps, toasters, electric irons, etc. Today, over 50 years later, Gnann’s is still running strong; now specializing in sales and service of power machinery and lawn equipment such as lawn mowers, chain saws, tillers,  and the like.

     Although this small, family-oriented business has grown considerably from its humble roots, the core values of sales and service has not shifted in the least. Gnann’s Fix-It is now owned and operated by Clarence and Charlie Gnann, two of the sons of founder Bowers Gnann. Both Clarence and Charlie grew up working in the store and both know the business from the ground up.

     Gnann’s Fix-It Shop is more than simply a repair shop. They are certified dealers of well-known and reliable brand names such as Snapper, Stihl, Exmark, Billy Goat, Briggs and Stratton, Kohler, Tecumseh, and more.

     Gnann’s Fix-It stands behind all of their equipment 100% and are always available to answer any power equipment questions you may have, even if you did not purchase it from them. Gnann’s offers full service on most equipment, and has a well-trained staff of friendly and knowledgeable mechanics and sales personnel.

     If you prefer to repair your equipment yourself, Gnann’s can also help with that. Their parts department is stocked with a wide variety of various parts for all types of lawn equipment, and if they don’t have it in stock, chances are they can get it within a short amount of time.

     If friendly, reliable, and honest service is what you are looking for, Gnann’s Fix-It Shop is the way to go. Whether you need new equipment, need old equipment repaired, or are just seeking the expertise of qualified and responsible mechanics,

     Gnann’s Fix-It can help satisfy all of your lawn and garden needs. Gnann’s Fix-It Shop is located at 1015 South Laurel Street, and is open Monday thru Friday from 8 am to 5:30 pm and on Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. Their telephone number is (912) 754-3745.

Zebrandon Gant : State Wrestling Champion

Zebrandon Gant

State Wrestling Champion 

“Failure is a choice, winning is the challenge.”

story by Cindy Burbage     photos by Shelia  Scott

Effingham County High School senior, Zebrandon Gant was first introduced to wrestling four years ago. “My friend Austin (A.J.) King and I were jumping on his trampoline one day and he said ” Z, have you ever thought about wrestling, would you try out for the wrestling team?” I was going to basketball tryouts, but I changed my mind and went with A.J. instead,” the athlete shared.

     His first year of wrestling proved he had natural ability. He went on to state as an alternate wrestler. The following seasons demonstrated he was growing as a competitor. “My 2nd year I placed 3rd in the state. Last year, I placed 2nd in the state. And this year I became the State Champion with a 57-0 record,” he humbly said.

     But the 2017-2018 wrestling season was not about the championship; it was to honor a great friend. It was to express to the world what a footprint a comrade had made in Zebrandon’s life. “My friend A.J.  was like a big brother to me. We did things together like playing basketball, riding bikes, playing football and fishing. Fishing, I have to say was our favorite. A.J. passed away in an accident on August 5, 2017. I wanted to do something that would honor him, so I went into the 2017-2018 wrestling season with the commitment to practice hard, work even harder- that was what A.J would have done. He was a hard worker. His legacy will live on in those whose life he touched while he was here. That was where the 57-0 record came in. He wasn’t the best wrestler, but he was the hardest working one. He had great work ethics”, he sadly articulated.

     It seems that sports in general is “Z”’s niche; he also participates in the football as well. “On the football field, I play several different positions, which include running back, quarterback, linebacker and strong safety. I play where I am needed to get the job done,” the team player voiced.

     The football field is not the only field Zebrandon plays on either. The Effingham Rebel is a starting striker for the school’s soccer team. “I was nominated and won at the high school level for the Wendy’s Highschool Heisman. I excel in those sports as well. Failure is a choice, winning is the challenge,” he modestly said. This award is not a simple win; with over 29,000 public and private school scouted for a Heisman winner, “Z” has proved to be that all around athlete and a role model for others.

     Being a dedicated sportsman is more than a one-person feat. Zebrandon is a member of a big family who cheer for him. “I live with my parents, Ricky and Sandra Gant. I have two sisters Miah and Ariana, three brothers Lee, Marques and Jacquavious. I also have three nieces and one nephew. I have lots of support from my other family members and my church,” he proudly admitted.

     After high school, the eighteen-year-old plans to attend college and eventually become a marriage counselor.

     For Zebrandon Gant’s size, determination and just plain ole hard work has demonstrated to be a good recipe for success. “The other thing that I would like people to know about me is that I am a gentle giant. Most people are intimidated by my size but I would give the shirt off my back and help anyone who needed it. One word that has been used to describe me is humble, it is never about me alone. The best work is teamwork. I owe a special thanks and recognition to Coach Guggino, Coach Jordan, Bobby our athletic trainer, Isiaiah Royal, Alex Williams, Lee Johnson, and my teammates Zekeil Walls and Josh Wright,” the demure gentle giant closed.