Chandler Fritts Young Gun, Old Ways

Story By: David Pena

Photography By: Shelia Scott

Local country crooner Chandler Fritts would rather stick to his roots than follow the current musical crowd.


Musician Chandler Fritts has always been something of an anomaly. The recent Georgia Southern graduate says he doesn’t really listen to the radio much, preferring instead to listen to more “traditional” country music like Merle Haggard and George Jones. And with his easy, self-deprecating manner, he is quick to downplay his own abilities, opting to let his music speak for itself. Ah, if that attitude could only be bottled and sold to today’s artists. And although Fritts is not a huge fan of any of today’s country crooners, he feels that all artists should have the same basic goal in mind: to convey a genuine emotion to the listener. “Music has always been about ‘feel’ to me. A musician should try to convey to the audience exactly how they feel, while at the same time trying to evoke the same feelings in them,” says Fritts. “All the songs I play are true to who I am; that’s why I picked them to begin with. The first time I heard (each song), they had an immediate impact on me. That’s what I’m about, and that’s what I want my audience to experience with me.”

Aside from attending GSU in Statesboro, the twenty-three-year-old musician has always called Rincon his home and remembers getting bitten by the musical bug quite early in life. “As long as I can remember, I’ve always been musically inclined,” Fritts recalls. “I started out playing percussion in my middle school band and just went on to a full drum set from there. I practiced every chance I could at home.” Being more of an athlete, however, Fritts soon abandoned the drums for the grid iron. “After about the eighth grade, I really didn’t have too much time to play (drums) since I started playing a lot of sports in high school. Once he graduated, however, Fritts had something of a musical epiphany. “After I finished high school, I pretty much decided out of nowhere that I wanted to learn to play the guitar,” he says with a laugh. So he bought his first guitar before leaving Rincon to attend the University of North Georgia in Athens.

Despite the new and exciting change of scenery, the move to Athens actually helped Fritts as a musician. “There wasn’t much to do there, so I ended up playing a lot of guitar on my own. I’ve never needed any kind of music lessons because once I figured out the chords, I picked the guitar up pretty quickly. In fact, I started playing complete songs about three or four months after starting to play, and it just progressed from there.”

After playing guitar for only about six months, Fritts started to also develop his voice, so it was only a matter of time before he could play and sing songs well enough to perform for others. When he started developing his repertoire, Fritts didn’t have to look far to find musical selections that reflected both his taste and style; all he really had to do was break out the family record collection. “My parents and my grandparents really influenced me in terms of the music I listen to, especially my Papa. I know it’s kind of strange, but I really don’t listen to the radio. That’s because I grew up loving traditional country music with folks like Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings,” he explains. “But at my gigs I’ll throw in the occasional Alan Jackson song for good measure.”

After changing his major from agriculture to business, Fritts decided to attend Georgia Southern University, which was also closer to home. It was actually upon moving back that he started taking his music a bit more seriously.  “At first I did a few open mics before opening for local groups around Statesboro. I really just wanted to get my name out there. But beginning in my sophomore year (2013), I started playing professionally at venues like Retrievers Sports Bar, where I played my first real gig.” Despite having the butterflies that night, the young singer quickly knew he had found a calling once his first song was underway. “I got up there in front of my friends, which made it a bit easier. However, once I started playing the first song, I just felt a giant release of all my nerves. That’s when I knew that I was meant to do this. Soon I moved on to places like the Millhouse and RumRunner’s, where the audience response was amazing.”

About a year into his musical career, Fritts got involved with William Bridwell of Airbound Entertainment. That’s when he says his number of bookings increased dramatically. “I was playing three or four shows a week. After a while, it was a bit much, and I actually had to turn down gigs.” Although the number of gigs might have decreased, Fritts found himself playing to bigger audiences in more upscale venues. This culminated with an opening slot for national recording artist Corey Smith at South City Tavern in Statesboro. Around that time Fritts joined forces with guitarist Riley Lowery, who’d just returned from Nashville where he had been working steadily as a lead guitarist. “He’s such a fantastic musician and has become a really good friend. I was really lucky to get him,” Fritts says.

The pair played as a duo for few months until they picked up a drummer, then finally hired a bassist to round out their sound. The band played its first show during the opening week of school in 2016 to rave reviews. And although Fritts says he prefers performing with a band, there’s a new kind of pressure that accompanies making music with others. “It’s kind of unsettling because there’s so many moving parts within a band. Plus the band is named after me, so I want it to go well. I feel I’m responsible for anything that goes wrong, but it doesn’t help that I’m probably the weakest musician in the band by far,” he says with a laugh. Despite all the “moving parts,” he loves the reaction from the audience that only a band can evoke. “The crowds are usually more into the music, and you actually don’t work quite as hard being part of a band as opposed to being a soloist. You do a lot less singing and with all the camaraderie, it’s definitely way more fun playing with the guys.”

Lately, however, it’s not been all about picking and grinning for Fritts. The recent college grad will soon be working for Colonial Fuel and Lubricant Services in their management training program. “Even during my last semester of school, I had to pull back on the reins a bit. I didn’t really play nearly as many shows as I had in previous years. At this point, I’ll probably stick to weekend gigs and staying closer to home doing shows primarily in Statesboro and Savannah. I just do it for fun now,” he says. But although he now considers himself to be a part-time musician, Fritts is quick to point out that his passion for music has not subsided; he just prefers to be a realist about his music. “The biggest thing I’ve realized sadly is that the kind of music that I play doesn’t make the radio anymore, and I’m not really willing to change in order to be commercially successful. I’d rather stick to my roots and play music I love for people than become part of the (music industry) machine.”

With that said, Fritts is quick to point out that even though his musical schedule is a bit more limited at the moment, he’s not ruling anything out. He has the familial and financial support to take it to the next level. “My family has been super supportive of my music. They helped me get all my guitars, so they’ve been fundamental in everything. I couldn’t have done it without them.” In fact, when Fritts was thinking about going to Nashville, he said his folks were surprisingly positive about the move. “They said if it was something that I wanted to do, and my hang up was money, then they would do what they had to do to make that happen.”

Whether he’s playing a show at the Millhouse in Statesboro or the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Fritts is grounded in the fact that his purpose will remain true. “As an artist, I’m trying to evoke some really strong emotions from the audience. I love the fact that people can go to a concert and just forget about anything that’s negative in their lives, even if it’s just a couple of hours. They can feel good about life or themselves for that brief amount of time. The best songs are either going to make you smile, make you laugh, or make you cry. If you’re not doing that (as an artist), then you’re not really experiencing what music is all about.”

108 Ale House: “Kind of a Family Thing”

story by cindy burbage

photos by shelia scott

Comfort food traditionally is described as having a flair to produce nostalgic charm. It is prepared with ingredients such as hard work, great memories and most of all compassion for just great food. Nestled on Wisenbaker Road, just off Highway 21, is one of Rincon’s newest restaurants- 108 Ale House.

This establishment has been open for a little more than a year, however, New Jersey natives, sisters and owners Lizzie Keith and Kelly Douglas are no strangers to the restaurant business. Food and service have always been a major dynamic in their family. Their parents have owned and operated a few restaurants throughout the sisters growing up process. “Our Dad, Walter Keith, came back from out west for a quick little visit and was like hey let’s do it. I’m tired of seeing you guys do this for other people. You might as well do it for yourselves. So, he helped us get it started and stuck with us for a few months,” Kelly shared. “We still get a lot of help from our other sister, Kathleen Brian, Kelly’s husband, Jason Douglas, and our Mom, Patrica Keith,” Lizzie added.

The 108 Ale House menu gives their customers an array of appetizing dishes to choose from. From their hand patted Bangin Burgers and Specialty Burgers to their other mouthwatering sandwiches. The 108 sandwich is a popular local favorite version of the French Dip, and according to their menu: “Trust Me it’s Worth it!!!” Their Rueben, a family recipe, is a monstrosity of a sandwich. But choices do not stop there, they also offer quite a few different platters which include steak and seafood. And no meal is complete without a yummy dessert.

Like craft beer? No reason to travel to Pooler or Savanah, the 108 Ale House establishment offers an amazing selection of craft beer. “This was our main focus, we wanted to bring craft beer into Effingham County,” Lizzie admitted.  “We have a great happy hour”, Kelly offered. A few of the names include: Bold Rock Hard Cider, UFO White Wheat, Inshoreslam IPA, Hi-Wire Brown Ale, Pontoon No Pants Pilsner and Savannah Brown Ale.  Be sure to like their Facebook page for updates of their draft line up.

“We are just a small place with real food trying to keep it simple. We work hard and try to keep everyone happy”, Lizzie shares.

What is the secret to their success? 108 Ale House is a family style restaurant that has something to offer everyone. Yet, it is the behind the scenes actions that is the major contributor to this fantastic establishment. Lizzie and Kelly are hands on owners and are dedicated to all aspects of their business. “We have a really good staff that helps us out; I think because they see how hard we work,” Lizzie clarified. “We are always here, there is never a time one of us is not here,” she continued.

Over the past year, 108 Ale House has quickly become a household name. Within their short time of being open, they have been voted best burger and best wings in Effingham County; also have won the hearts and appetites of their patrons. This restaurant creates the atmosphere of home, with delightful aromas and tasty food.

Be sure to check out their daily specials which include oldies but goodies such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but also new favorites as a Fiesta burger that is snuggled in between two quesadillas with all the fixings.  “Fresh food, good portions, good price; it’s where you can go with friends or you can also bring your kids,” Lizzie explains. “We’re pretty serious about our food,” Kelly concluded.

Michael Maddox: Think Globally, Act Locally

story by susan lee   photos by shelia scott

The Salzburgers were an industrious group that took to building both of their settlements right away, planted crops sufficient for surrounding areas and in spite of hardships advanced the industry of the community they built from scratch.”  –Armstrong State University’s Undergraduate Journal of History

Michael Maddox stands on the front porch of the country cottage he designed and built on family land in Guyton. “When it rains and it’s windy outside, you look out these giant windows and it’s almost like you’re watching a movie or the nature channel,” he said. “The woods give off this special kind of energy and smell when it rains.”

His home is set on six of the 25 acres of land on Zittrouer Road that he inherited in the 1980s. The Effingham property, originally 200 acres, has been in his family since 1798, when his Irish immigrant ancestors, the Conaways, received a land grant from the governor.

For the past several years, Michael has committed much time and effort to creating Green Bridge Farm, an ecologically-friendly subdivision with a motto of “think globally, act locally.” “This community is for people who are interested in building energy efficient houses, growing their own food, and collectively reducing their carbon footprint,” he explained.

Once Michael received approval for the subdivision from the county zoning commission in 2008, the sustainable living project got underway and the nine wooded lots went up for sale. One family bought three of them. As of the end of March, there are currently four 1.5 acre lots left, priced at $45,000 per lot.

Approximately four acres have been set aside for community space, including existing organic vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. According to Michael, gardening is not mandatory, but this project provides a unique opportunity for those interested in growing their own food.

In order to preserve Green Bridge’s commitment to sustainability, the neighborhood association does have a few stipulations for residents. Covenants include sufficient setback to ensure privacy and aesthetic appeal, a maximum 10% loss of woodland for house sites, and square footage and height limitations. Homes must also be equipped with environmentally friendly geothermal heating and cooling systems. Earthcraft or LEED home guidelines are encouraged but not mandatory.

Now that the project is nearing completion, Michael said he has no plans to embark on a new development. “Once all the lots have sold, that’s it,” he said. “It was a one-time project for me.” Not surprising, after years of research and planning as well as a complicated approval process.

For example, he was initially told the subdivision was required to have asphalt roads throughout. Determined to find another way, he ended up using recycled concrete from a broken-up landing strip at an old airport about 10 miles down the road.

“It took a while to get through all the red tape but once local officials and the Army Corps of Engineers finally understood what I was doing, that I wasn’t building a commune out here, they were on board,” he said.

The response to Green Bridge Farm has been enthusiastic. Environmentally conscious individuals and families constantly reach out to Michael for more information through the community’s website and Facebook page. And, not surprisingly, the most frequently asked questions relate to tiny houses. This trend toward a simpler and less expensive way of life has grown over the last few years into a movement. An increasing number of people of all ages and economic status are rejecting the notion of sprawling homes and “Mc-mansions” and opting for tiny houses, which are typically 200 to 400 square feet and often on a small trailer.

“The problem with tiny houses is that if they’re less than 400 square feet in size, they’re registered as RVs,” Michael explained. “If more than 400 square feet, then they’re classified as modular houses. However, for a permanent primary residence in Effingham, the minimum square footage is 520.” He’s currently working with local officials to explore all options for Green Bridge and possibly pave the way for building and zoning regulations that accommodate smaller homes.

Even though Michael’s roots are in Effingham and on his mother’s side he’s a Salzburger (thanks to a Conaway marrying a Shearhouse), he actually grew up in Indiana. His father, Carl Maddox, was a WWII veteran originally from Bloomingdale who after the war went to work as an electrician in the construction of nuclear plants. His job took the family up to Ohio and eventually to Franklin, a town just outside of Indianapolis.

Michael said his was a Southern family in the midst of what he describes as a melting pot of ethnic groups. “My mom, Joyce, grew up on the Conaway family land here in Guyton, so she said y’all a lot and cooked traditional Southern food,” he said. “We were the ones that actually ate grits the way they’re supposed to be eaten, with butter, not sugar the way they do up there.” Family vacations with his parents, brother Carl Jr. and sister Sheila would include trips down to Georgia a few weeks each year to visit relatives in Effingham and Bloomingdale.

Michael was a teenager through the war in Vietnam and he said it was during this period that his social conscience was born, most profoundly impacted by the Kent State shootings of unarmed college student protesters. In 1975, he hit the road to Texas, following some friends to attend Sam Houston State. He stayed out there a few years, embarking on his first ecological venture, a farm that he describes as almost self-sustaining. He finally made the move to Effingham in 1983 and not long after inherited the acreage from his mother. His sister, Sheila, lives nearby on Noel C. Conaway Road in the home where their mother grew up, the family home that was built in 1870 by their Conaway great great grandfather.

After working as a landscape supervisor for the City of Savannah 25 years, Michael took early retirement in 2013. His wife, Annette, recently finished nursing school and works at Memorial Hospital. When he’s not farming and developing the Green Bridge community, the admitted hippy spends his free time playing guitar and appreciating nature and his beautiful surroundings, trailed by the couple’s dogs, Momo, Frida and Sylvie.

And as far as Michael is concerned, he lives in paradise. “It’s basically a state park that you can live in,” he said. And on top of that, if you’re interested in your health and nutrition, you’ve got a working organic farm right here. So this place pretty much has it all.”

Megan Johnson: Philanthropy and Beauty Titles

story by karlee collins     photos by tonya chester perry

When Megan’s mom entered her in her first pageant as a toddler, she had no idea how far that journey would go. “My mom put me in because she thought I was cute,” Megan Johnson laughs. “She never thought I would take it this far.” Now, Megan is a part of the Miss America Organization which has opened many doors of opportunity for her. “What I like about the Miss America Organization is that it’s very service involved and their main goal is philanthropy,” Megan explains.

Through the organization, she has developed a platform for the Ronald McDonald House and has been able to contribute to the overarching platform of the Miss America Organization which gives to the Children’s Miracle Network. “What I like about the Miss America Organization too is that they are the number one provider of scholarships for women,” she continues. School and service are two important areas in Megan’s life and through her involvement in the organization, she is able to develop in both aspects.

Megan’s journey began after winning many local titles, like Miss Strawberry Festival, Miss Relay for Life and her favorite Miss Flying Pig. “I love telling people that I was Miss Flying Pig!” she laughs.  At thirteen, Megan won a pageant that had a monetary prize and decided that she would continue to do these as a way to pay for her future schooling. Megan won South Effingham High School’s scholarship pageant, and there was no turning back from there. “I am currently Miss Middle West Georgia. I’m going back to Miss Georgia again in a few months.” Megan says. “So yeah, little titles progressed into big ones.” Those “big” pageants are not easy competition.

Megan has high praise for all the women

that are working toward the wider scale

titles: “These women are some of the smartest, brightest most intelligent young women I’ve ever met and they’re confident.” She is well-deserving to be right in the mix with them all.

The titles and scholarships are a big part of Megan’s love for the Miss America Organization, but more importantly, she is passionate about the work that she is able to do for her platform, the Ronald McDonald House. She got started with the Ronald McDonald House in the 2015-2016 school year when she was elected RMH chair for her sorority. “I was able to be the liaison between the Savannah chapter and Alpha Delta Pi,” Megan says. “It was a little bit of everything. It was the planning, the fundraising, as well as the collecting items.” From there, Megan fell in love with the outreach of RMH, and she decided that it was the platform she wanted. She says, “I love being in the social services aspect of it.” She has done things like coordinate and serve meals and work to plan fundraising events. She enjoys working hard in service of others.

In addition to her personal platform for the Ronald McDonald House, Megan has the opportunity to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network alongside the rest of the Miss America Organization. “We also have a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Savannah,” she says. “I’m able to work with them as well as through the Ronald McDonald house which is awesome because I get to do two platforms at once.” In the past ten years, Children’s Miracle Network Hospital has received approximately 30 million dollars in funds from Miss America Organization’s work and generosity. Megan gets to be a part of this legacy. She says, “What I get from my donors stays local. It goes to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital here in Georgia.” The money raised by Megan and her colleagues goes toward totally funding the hospital. “Making sure the staff gets paid, the training gets paid for, any medical supplies they might need…

everything the children need to recover, that’s what that money goes toward,” she says.

Amidst the bustle of her philanthropy and pageant title winning, Megan’s scholarships are paying off as she double majors at Georgia Southern University. She is both a nursing major and a sociology major. “I finished my nursing prerequisites my sophomore year in college and I never applied to the nursing program. I was always too scared to, but then I realized, at the time, I really love sociology. I love pre-law, and I love social services. I love advocating. I love politics,” she explains. “When I graduate, I’m either going to law school or I’m going to nursing school, and I really have not decided yet.” She is passionate about both things. As a people person, Megan feels that both avenues of work are a fit for her. After graduation in December of this year, she will move forward in her career path. Wherever she lands, her passion for service is sure to make her shine.

Although school is her main priority, Megan has one more interest that takes up a portion of her time. She works as a florist assistant for a company in Statesboro which is another profession that she could see herself in for a long time. “I work at a flower shop, and they’re really well known. We do a lot of events in South Carolina, in Atlanta, in Florida, and I so enjoy working with them,” she says. She loves weddings and event planning, and this is another area where Megan’s social personality gets a spotlight. “What I love about a flower shop is you get to work with someone with every major event of their life, whether that be a birth, a wedding, or a death. You’re able to provide something to those families, a memory. It’s an important aspect of every life event,” she shares.

Megan has a life full of commitments, but she says the key to doing it all is balance. “It’s busy. It’s a lot of breakdowns. It’s a lot of balance. School comes first. I know that,” she explains. “It’s a busy schedule but I love it. I’d rather be busy than not doing anything at all.” Megan’s schedule keeps school as the main priority with work, service, fundraising, and pageants all falling in closely behind. Spare time is a gem for her. “My schedule is always busy but I love it when I can have some down time,” she shares. For her, quality relaxation includes lots of watching Netflix and napping in the sorority house with her sisters. She also enjoys going to the beach and planning vacations that she does not have time to take. Taking time to rest is just as important as getting everything completed on her “to do” lists. “I can make spare time,” she says.

“You don’t have to have it all together,” Megan shares. “I’m everywhere all the time. If it looks like I have it all together great, but when you really get to know me everything is everywhere all the time,” she says. She is not ashamed of this either. In fact, she attributes these things as part of what makes her unique “My bedroom is a mess. My clothes are always wrinkled. But that’s what makes me, me! And I still manage to get it all done!” She may feel like a mess, but she is able to be successful in all of her activities. She is a wonderful example of hard work and caring about the service of others.

Plan Your Trip to Mars Soon

story by david pena     photos by shelia scott

Coming off a successful 2016, Springfield’s Mars Theatre is looking forward to 

expanding its horizons in more ways than one this year.


Over sixty years ago, when Jack and Harry Ramsey opened a small, independent theater in the quaint little town of Springfield, little did they know the venue would soon became a fixture for local residents. In its original heyday, The Mars Theatre premiered such classics as War of the Worlds and From Here to Eternity for its Effingham patrons, but after closing its doors in 1958, the theater stood empty until it was occupied by various businesses throughout the seventies. The grand venue was given new life, however, when the Springfield Revitalization Corporation adopted the Mars as its project with the intention of refurbishing the town’s historic theater.

However, a lot has happened at the Mars Theatre since reopening its doors almost three years ago. More than 47,000 tickets have been sold for movies with visitors coming as far away as from Anchorage Alaska. Allison Newberry, Theater Director for The Mars, attributes the theater’s success to a very simple formula. “Affordable movies and concessions are why many people keep coming back,” she observes.

Not satisfied with resting on its laurels, in addition to the theater’s regular offerings, the kids’ movie series “Two for Tuesdays” will return this summer with show times at 10 am and 2 pm. Classic Movie Matinées will also take place one Sunday a month at 3 pm. “People have really enjoyed seeing these classic movies in a historic theater,” she adds.

Entertainment options at the theater aren’t just limited to films, though. The Mars features highly eclectic musical acts who performing everything from bluegrass and southern rock to gospel, Motown and country. Last year there were sell out shows for Motown favorite the Drifters and country legend John Anderson. Looking back on the success of the previous year, Newberry is excited about the upcoming events planned for 2017. “We’ve got our first gospel concert in May featuring the Anchormen, one of the premier quartets in Christian music.” A tribute to legendary Johnny Cash is scheduled for July, and country acts Two Way Crossing and Backroad Anthem are also slated to appear this year. Actor Bill Oberst Jr. is scheduled to perform Louis Grizzard “In His Own Words” on August 26, not to mention a holiday show featuring a capella group Eclipse 6.

In addition to the diverse mixture of performances and movies to come in 2017, the theatre is also planning an expansion project that will take place this fall. City Manager Brett Bennett said, “The upcoming expansion will allow us to bring larger acts into the theatre. Right now our performers have to use city council chambers to change and eat before shows. It will be nice to have everything under one roof.” This includes expanding the size of the stage, adding a green room and dressing rooms for the artists, as well as needed storage space.

In addition to providing affordable entertainment, Newberry also attributes the success of the theater to its uniqueness and community support. “I think people love the fact that they can see a movie or a live concert right here in Effingham County.” She also credits the Mars’ success to a group of businesses, and individuals collectively known as the “Friends of the Mars.” “We owe them much gratitude for helping to bring more well-known live events to the theater. The number of sponsors has increased each year. Although sponsorship of a movie theatre may seem a bit unorthodox, becoming a “Friend of the Mars” shows that you are interested in building our community, both economically and culturally.” There are unique benefits that sponsorships allow. For example, depending on the level, a business could receive recognition on the screen before every movie and their logo on the digital marquee located on Highway 21. Another unique benefit involves sponsoring a live event or blockbuster movie premiere; businesses are recognized on-line, on the theatre marquee and verbally during live event show introductions. Tangible benefits can include tickets to live events, gift cards, movie passes and popcorn vouchers.

Proving that it’s not all about profits and popcorn, Newberry says the staff of the Mars tries to give back to the community in various ways. “We have partnered with Coastal Pet Rescue and Live Oak Libraries, and we have held several fund raising events for area schools,” Newberry says. “Most recently we brought the ECHS Show Choir in to perform songs from their spring musical at no charge to the public.” The Mars is also available to rent for private functions and field trips. If you don’t want to see what is currently in the theatre, another movie can be ordered for your event.

You can find information about the theater at www.marstheatre.com, or visit the venue’s Facebook page.

Betty Waller Alongside the Springfield Garden Club: Creating Brilliant Beauty

story by katrice williams

photos by shelia scott

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Betty Waller has been a proud member of the Springfield Garden Club since 1998; the club is an affiliate of National Garden Clubs, Inc (NGC) and is a part of the Oleander District of Garden Clubs. Betty, a Springfield native, is a retired home economics teacher who joined the club just a short while after retiring. She is presently the NGC State Chairman and the Oleander District Chairman for Garden Week in Georgia. Further, Betty has been the treasurer for the club for some time now; she accepted the position after concluding her tenure as president, a role that she held for many years.

In April of 1939, The Springfield Garden Club became a federated member of the NGC after being locally organized and developed by Mrs. Georgia Faucett and Mrs. J.H. Shearouse, who originally began the overall initiative in July of 1937 after anticipating the added value that it would bring to residents.

The club shares the same mission as all other garden club affiliates of the NGC, which is to “provide education, resources and national networking opportunities for its members to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility.”

National Garden Clubs, Inc. presently has 6,000 clubs in the nation with a total of about 200,000 members. Georgia alone currently has 364 clubs with over 10,000 members. The Springfield members welcome those individuals seeking such a rewarding organization to be a part of. Prospective members may come by word-of-mouth, member referrals and some even transfer from other garden clubs after moving to the area.

“Anyone that has an interest in gardening and the activities we do, we welcome them in,” Betty insists.

In addition to Betty, there are several other noteworthy members whose wonderful efforts make the club the successful organization that it is today. Presently, officers include: Beth Mosley (president), Gail Winskie (vice president), Polly Tate (secretary) and Marty Carnegie (co-treasurer).

The Springfield Garden Club is looking forward to their 80th anniversary on April 22nd. The members have been preparing for the special occasion for quite some time. There are a variety of events planned, including the locally renowned Standard Flower Show, an annual event that started over ten years ago. It is co-sponsored by both the Springfield and Rincon garden clubs and is sure to be a success. It makes for a great social event for the community. The affair is open to the public and free of charge. All who want to take part in observing a bounty of beauty and become familiar with the organization that spreads a lot of that same splendor around the area are encouraged to attend. Various beautiful flower exhibits may be viewed, each being previously judged in one of three categories according to contest guidelines by a team of skilled judges.

Since its inception, the club has been a vital part of the community, while adding a profound amount of beauty along the way. The club has always kept busy with a host of programs and projects throughout the area designed for community enrichment. Betty, along with the other members, strive to give back in many ways.

She states, “From the time the Springfield Garden Club was organized, it has been very active. I’m grateful that the Lord has let me live to give to the community after I retired.”

The club has long embraced the ongoing responsibility of maintaining the grounds at the historic center. Moreover, members sponsored a shrubbery sale many years ago, which led to “the planting of much of the shrubbery at the court house, library and post office;” many Crape Myrtle Trees were also planted on Laurel Street. Additionally, the garden club sponsors the outdoor Christmas decorations for the city each year, which has “succeeded in making the town beautiful during the Christmas season.”

Betty asserts, “That’s a big deal. That keeps Springfield decorated. We promote that.”

The club is proud to have sponsored the Blue Star Memorial Marker that was posted on the grounds of the American Legion post 209 in November 1999 as an ongoing “tribute to the United States Armed Forces” to honor Effingham’s very own veterans. The garden club wants them to have that little reminder of how much their tremendous sacrifice will always mean to the community. Betty also speaks about one of the city projects sponsored by the club –the Dogwoods that were planted along Railroad Avenue.

She mentions, “We planted them in 2001. They’re in full bloom.”

What’s more, Betty is responsible for creating the Springfield Garden Club Birthday Calendar, which helps keep members informed of the birthdays of family and friends.

She says that the club has several goals for the future. They would like to organize a youth garden club in the local area. As a former teacher, Betty has a big heart for the youth and wants them to be taught to appreciate the beauty around them and embrace some degree of responsibility for it.

She comments, “You have to teach children.”

Betty feels that a huge goal of the garden club is to encourage and inspire the “beautification of home and community.” She understands that a little effort goes a very long way.

“I enjoy plants and flowers. I want to see Springfield beautified…well-kept,” she remarks.

In fact, even when she is at home, Betty is often found outdoors. She loves her own personal horticulture, and anyone can very well see that when looking around her yard at her various plants and the beautiful array of flowers that have bloomed.

Betty knows that she is truly blessed and is thankful for her various accomplishments.  She is a nationally accredited NGC Flower Show Judge. Betty is also a Historic Effingham Society Honorary Trustee and Charter Member, where she has served in a multitude of roles over the years including that of president. In her spare time, Betty teaches Sunday School at her church. She is also a lecturer for the Ebenezer Live Youth Program, which she has participated in for nearly 17 years.

Betty Waller has had a long and beautiful life of service to Springfield. She, along with the Springfield Garden Club is truly defining what community grandeur truly is.

Adam Heidt: Taking Archery To The Olympic Level

story by susan lee

photos by tonya chester perry

Adam Heidt has a strong sense of focus. Whether he has his eye on an archery target during a national championship or he’s contemplating the steps in his Olympic journey, his focus is unwavering.

What started out as a hobby has turned into Olympic hopes for the teen. At the moment, he’s getting settled in as a Resident Athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.

The Effingham teen, who just turned 17, became interested in archery when he was in elementary school. “I was always into hunting and fishing,” said Adam. “My dad was into bowhunting and I would always be outside with him when he was practicing. He never did it competitively but he enjoyed it and that’s how I was introduced to it. Then, of course, the Hunger Games came out and it got me really interested.”

It wasn’t long before Adam got a simple recurve bow and started shooting in the backyard. “I was addicted from the start,” he said. “Then, on TV, I saw the U.S. archery team competing in the 2012 Olympics. I didn’t even know archery was an Olympic sport, but from then on I was really into it.

When it was time to move up to the next level of bow, Adam and his dad, Chris, headed out to The Range, an archery shop in Statesboro. That store happened to be owned by Carl Greene, a U.S. Archery Level 5 coach (the highest level). “It was their first meeting, but Carl talked to Adam for two hours about archery and competitive shooting,” recalled Chris. “He could tell right away how interested Adam was.”

Greene also happened to be the coach of the 4H archery team in Statesboro, and he invited the young archer out to practice. He also set up Adam with a new bow, this time an Olympic style recurve bow.

Since Effingham at the time didn’t have a 4H archery team, he became a permanent member of the Statesboro team. He joined the 4H team in Statesboro, also coached by Tim Cooper and Tim Wall, and started shooting in state tournaments. It wasn’t long before Adam started earning recognition. “I got invited to the national championships, which were held in Ohio at the time,” he said. “Even though I was only 13, I competed in next age group, the 15-to-17-year-old division. It was my first national competition and I ended up getting 16th in the country. After that, I really started training harder.”

Next, Adam set his sights on the Olympics. “I knew it could have just been a dream, because I know lots of kids dream of going to the Olympics,” he explained. “But then I thought that I might be able to do it if I really work hard.”

Since that first meeting at the archery shop, Carl Greene has been Adam’s coach and is now his primary archery coach.

In 2015, Adam tried out for the 2016 Olympics, competing in the adult division at the age of 15. He almost made the first cut. “I was in the 11th position, but then this huge storm came through and the wind was horrible, tents were flying everywhere,” he said. “I got completely messed up and bumped to 30th. I still had a quarter of the competition to go and I did end up climbing back up to 20th, but I just couldn’t recover.”

Although he didn’t make the Olympic cut at that tournament, Adam did make the national team for his age group, the Cadet Division for 15 to 17 year olds. He earned the 5th spot on the 5-person team.  This past year, he finished in first place and became the team captain for the division.

Since then, Adam spent the year competing in a variety of national tournaments throughout the country. In 2016, he won two gold and four silver medals.

In November of last year, Adam took a major step toward Olympic competition when he tried out for the Resident Athlete Program. “The Olympic team is almost always comprised of resident athletes, which are the athletes who train at the Olympic Training Center in California,” he explained. “I knew that if I really wanted to get into the program I had to move out there so I went out there in November for the two-month trial process. I ended up doing really well.”

After a Christmas break, Adam went back to finish trials at the center in January and then returned home to Effingham. A few weeks later, he got the call that he had made it and was invited back to train permanently at the center. Now he’s on a direct path to making the Olympic archery team.

Adam’s life at the Olympic Training Center is a dramatic change from his home, where he lives out on the farm with his dad, mom Annika and 12-year-old brother Alex. “I was really excited at first about going out to California and being on my own,” he said. “Then I got out there and it was all a bit overwhelming and I just wanted to go home.”

Adam said he has since gotten more comfortable at the center, but his parents understandably are still anxious about him living so far from home. “I worry about him all the time and text him a lot,” admitted Annika. “He’s so far away, it’s not like you can be there in a couple of hours. But I think he’s grown up a lot and the experience has made him more responsible. I also feel like he appreciates things a lot more when he’s home.”

“We’re very excited for him, but nervous at the same time,” added Chris. “But all we can do is put our faith in God, in Adam and all the people watching over him out there at the center.”

At the facility, Adam’s week consists of full days of archery practice as well as intense workouts. “A lot of people think we mostly just use our arms in archery but most of it is our back, shoulders and core,” explained Adam. “So we do a lot of core workouts, targeting our abs, obliques and lats. We also do cardio, because tournaments can be really long and tiring, so you need to have pretty good stamina.”

Adam said physical fitness is also important because the archers at the Olympic Training Center use the National Training System, a technique that no other country in the world uses. “It’s a biomechanically efficient method of shooting a bow, so you really have to know the muscles you’re using,” he said. His coach at the center is USA Archery head coach Kisik Lee.

The athletes, who range in age from 16 to 22, are off on Sundays and Adam spends his free time hanging out in the dorms, sightseeing in San Diego or working on homework. He’s been attending school online this school year because his frequent competitions made it impossible for him to continue at Effingham County High School. “The school worked with me as much as possible, but I knew I was going to be shooting in even more tournaments than normal this school year so it just wouldn’t work,” he said.

While at the training center, Adam will still have a full calendar of national competitions. He has hopes of making the team for the world championships in Mexico City this year.

As for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Adam said he has a lot more work to do before the tryouts in 2019. “There are only spots for three men and three women, but everyone here says they’re going to be on the team, so it’s really competitive,” he said. “We’re all planning to go all the way.”

And Effingham County will be cheering for him.

Tiffany Laumeyer: Fitness for Life

story by katie vandenhouten   photos by tonya chester perry

The new year is always full of resolutions and new beginnings. Not surprisingly, weight loss is one of the most popular resolutions that people make, which is why gym business booms in the first months of the new year.

Effingham native Tiffany Laumeyer is a bodybuilder and personal trainer, and she wants everyone to know that fitness is not just a new year’s resolution–it’s a way of life. She wants people to stop seeing fitness as a seasonal solution, but as a lifetime journey.

Graduating from Effingham County High School in 2000, she describes herself as a music nerd in high school who didn’t participate in school sports. So when Laumeyer set foot into a gym for the first time at age 17, she considered it her own personal playground and there was no turning back.

“When I got involved with fitness, I knew that was where I was supposed to be,” she says. She has been a personal trainer for 16 years now, and she has made a name for herself as a successful trainer who gets results.

She always had a knack for fitness, but she never imagined she would attain this level of success as a personal trainer. That is, until she trained her first client. In just a year and a half, she helped that very first client lose 133 lbs, and she has been helping others achieve their fitness goals ever since.

Laumeyer is more than a personal trainer. She is also certified in group training, sports nutrition, special populations nutrition, kickboxing and yoga. No matter your size or your fitness goals, she has something for everyone.

In fact, she got involved in bodybuilding so that she could serve an even wider variety of clients. She wanted to be able to train obese clients while also being able to help her fittest clients get show ready at the professional level.

Laumeyer herself was officially show ready in 2006. That is the year she won her pro card, becoming a professional bodybuilder with the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation and later with the International Federation of Bodybuilders.

Most bodybuilders never achieve professional bodybuilding status with one organization, so for Laumeyer to go pro with two organizations is an incredible feat. But even with all her professional success, her proudest accomplishments are not her own.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of every single trophy that is collecting dust in our office, but that’s not what I’m about,” she says. To her, every client’s success is a personal victory.

She says the most rewarding part of her job is giving others confidence. ‘It’s really a compliment to me when I see someone else really happy with themselves,” she says.

She has worked out and maintained an active lifestyle her entire adult life, motivated by a family history of health problems. “My dad’s side of the family, everyone passed from cancer and other health issues,” Laumeyer explains. “I had to make sure that I stayed as healthy as possible.”

Good health is the ultimate goal. Self confidence and looking good are just the side effects. “It’s more than looking good in a bikini,” she explains. “But people tend to be very vain at times. We all are guilty of it, but we need to focus on our health first.”

Once healthy habits are started and maintained, everything else will fall into place. And that is what Laumeyer instills in her clients.

“The most important thing you could do for yourself is be comfortable in your own skin,” says Laumeyer. Her main focus is not numbers on a scale. She encourages her clients to achieve and maintain healthy habits as a way of life.

Tina Seckinger first attended Laumeyer’s boot camp in September of 2015. She was hooked after that. She had just turned 40, and she was the heaviest she had been in her life. Seckinger doesn’t know exactly how much weight she has lost, echoing Laumeyer’s mantra that being healthy isn’t about a number on a scale. “I am in the best shape I have ever been in, and I know I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for Tiffany,” she says.

Maranda Smith has been training with Laumeyer for a year and a half. She went from a size 14 to a size 5, and she ran two half marathons in 2016. “Tiffany changed my life. I am an active, healthy, 31-year-old who can go outside and run and play with my children and not feel sluggish, tired and out of breath,” Smith says. “Never in a million years would I have thought I could be this size and fit.”

Laumeyer also worked her magic on Jenny Clements, who went from 37 per cent body fat to 19.6 per cent body fat in her forties. “I am in the best shape of my life and I owe it all to her and her guidance and tough love as my personal trainer,” says Clements.

When it comes to fitness and nutrition, Laumeyer knows what works. Her best workout advice is to make it fun. “Find something that you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be working with someone like myself,” she explains. “It can be doing Zumba class, doing yoga, hitting the pavement–whatever your knack is, whatever you enjoy, you need to roll with that.”

The main goal is to make physical activity enjoyable so it becomes a way of life. “You have to keep it switched up and fun,” she reiterates. “If you start resenting it, it’s the first thing you’ll drop.”

Knowing that nobody is perfect, Laumeyer has an 80/20 rule: do what you’re supposed to do 80% of the time, but allow yourself to cheat a couple times a week. “It’s all about balance,” she says. “You can’t cut yourself off. Psychologically, that just sets you up for failure. That’s the way I’ve always handled fitness in general. Too much of anything is a bad thing. You have to be able to enjoy a cheeseburger!”

And when her clients do backslide, slip up on their nutrition plan, or miss a few workouts, Laumeyer encourages them to get back in the saddle and never stop pushing themselves. “Most of my clients get away with splurging twice a week,” she says. “I like to make sure that we’re in it for the long haul, and it’s really important to pat yourself on the back. Don’t be too hard on yourself!”

Her clients rave about how positive and encouraging she is as a trainer, but Laumeyer has had to overcome some struggles of her own. She and her husband Dave have struggled for the past two years to conceive a child, and at one point, it seemed impossible that they would ever have a baby.

Even after going through IVF, her chances of having a baby were slim. But miraculously, Laumeyer and her husband beat the odds and are expecting a baby girl in May.

“Finding out we’re having a baby–it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me,” she beams. “And I’ve done some pretty cool things!” She is having fun proving that pregnant women can still be physically active.

She has trained women before, during and after pregnancy, and she wants pregnant women to know that it is safe to remain active and fit. “So many women are scared of being active throughout a pregnancy and I’ve definitely proven that wrong,” says Laumeyer.

When asked about her goals for the future, motherhood is her primary focus. “That’s the only goal that I haven’t reached yet,” she says. “I want to be able to say that I have a baby and I’m competing as a professional athlete while still working full time and helping other people get into shape.”

And Tiffany Laumeyer is on the path to do just that. All in all, she wants people to know that fitness is not a short term resolution, but a way of life. Anyone can make the change if they just stick with it. “You cannot undo years of neglect in weeks or even months,” she says. “Granted, I have worked some miracles– some magic, but slow and steady always wins.”