Cheryl Tobey : Founder of Coastal Empire Dressage Association

Story by Karlee Anderson Photos by Nelson LaPorte

When Cheryl Tobey’s oldest daughter turned eight, she gave her the awesome gift of a horse. Cheryl did not know then of the exciting journey that she was starting, not only for her daughter, but for herself. She was a school counselor for nineteen years, and while she worked, she grew a passion for horses and riding through the influence of her daughters, Emma and Kate. “They dragged me into it,” she laughs. Now, Cheryl is the president of the Coastal Empire Dressage Association, an affiliate of the United States Equestrian Federation. She started this group three years ago to help support and grow the community around her hobby that she has grown to love.

     “I had always fiddled around and trail rode,” Cheryl shares. “As the girls grew and went off to college, they left the horses here…I said, ‘They’re here, so I might as well start riding.’ And I started getting more serious about it.” That start was about eight years ago, and within a couple of  years, she had begun to take her riding to the next level by competing in dressage. “I’m only about training or first level,” she says. Dressage is a progressive training plan. A beginner will start with basic walk/trot movements and add more difficulty as he or she progresses. The levels are introductory, training, first, second, third, and fourth; after fourth level, the dressage competition progresses to a more major scale. “You can work your way up to the stuff you see at the Olympics which is called FEI…the highest level,” she explains. At each level of dressage, a rider can compete and show with three different tests. When Cheryl and other dressage competitors practice, they know the test to work on and practice the parts.

     When the time comes to compete, Cheryl is given a very specific time to begin; being even one minute late can disqualify a rider from the competition. There is an arena that is sixty by two hundred meters and is surrounded by large letters. “They’re not in alphabetical order; they make no sense whatsoever,” Cheryl laughs. “When it’s your turn you go in and you go around the outside of it. The judge is sitting in the middle at the far end.” Each competitor must pass by the judge to make sure they know who they are and what number they have. “They blow a whistle or ring a bell, something so you know, and you have forty-five seconds to get yourself in the arena,” she explains. All of the tests have around twenty movements that have to be performed with precision. “Each one of those things is given a score from zero, which means you didn’t do it at all, to ten, which is absolutely perfect,” she says. “They will add those up and divide it by the total possible score so that you get a percentage. If you’re in the sixties, you’re real happy. Someone who can get a 70-74 is ecstatic!”

     Cheryl’s own joy and excitement led her to begin the Coastal Empire Dressage Association which averages twenty-two members. “It is just a community, so you can get together and do things. We put on two schooling shows a year,” she shares. “About every other month we will hold a meeting and have a speaker so members can come and learn.” Currently, the association is preparing for their fall schooling show on October 28 at Echelon in Guyton. As president of the group, Cheryl is highly instrumental in hosting this show. She works with her vice president and treasurer as well as any of the membership that wants to be a part of the planning. “We have sort of this ad hoc committee, and they’ve divided up the duties and taken care of different parts of the show,” she says. The upcoming show is something that Cheryl is really thrilled to share with the community.

     Even prior to her own ventures in dressage competition and association leadership, Cheryl became licensed as a C2 steward and a technical delegate for the United States Equestrian Federation. “I’m hired by horse shows, big horse shows to come and make sure people and the shows are following the rules that the federation has set up,” she states. “I spend two to three days or a week making sure that everyone –  the show management, the judges,  the participants – all are playing fairly and equally.” Usually, this job requires her to travel to surrounding states like Florida and South Carolina; however, this summer she has traveled as far as Texas for a show. “I’ve been a steward for probably close to ten years, and I’ve been a technical delegate, which only does dressage, I think about five years now. It’s two separate things,” she says. Those two separate things each required their own licensing. There is a clinic to attend, apprenticeship, application and an exam. Cheryl completed that licensing process for both positions with the encouragement of a friend. “At the time, the United States Equestrian Federation was looking and seeing that a lot of their stewards were getting very old and that they would have a shortage,” she explains. She decided to fill that gap and because of her enjoyment of dressage specifically she decided to be a technical delegate as well. “There aren’t many people in the country that do both things,” she shares.

     Cheryl’s family is important to her, and they support her in her passion differently. Her husband, Tony, is not as interested in watching long hours of competition. “It’s like watching grass grow to him,” she laughs. For a local show, Tony is there right on time to see Cheryl compete, like he will be for the upcoming show at Echelon.  “Because it’s my club, he’ll come and help me set up, and he runs the concession if I need him to,” she says. Her daughters were the inspiration and motivation that got her started in the hobby. The love for horses, specifically Arabians, is shared by the three ladies, and they are passing it on to a new generation. Cheryl has young grandsons that are enjoying getting to learn about horses alongside their mamas and grandma. With the support of her family, Cheryl is succeeding in her pursuits in dressage and enjoying the day-to-day fun of being a horse owner.

Savannah Hospice : It’s all about the small stuff

It’s all about the small stuff or 

When light returns after the eclipse of the sun

In 1997, Richard Carlson wrote a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …and it’s All Small Stuff.  In most circumstances in our lives, I would agree with that sentiment. But when we experience the death of someone we love and we are grieving, the pain oftentimes comes from the absence of the small stuff. 

     What is it that you miss about the person who has died? Is it simply not having their presence? That is probably part of it, but when the grief wave hits; when the pain shoots to your very core, what is it that triggers those grief attacks? Usually, it’s the small stuff.

Keep Me in Your Heart was the last song
Warren Zevon wrote while he was dying from cancer.

“Sometimes when you’re doin’ simple things around the house

Maybe you’ll think of me and smile

You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse

Keep me in your heart for a while.”

     There is nothing much simpler or smaller than the buttons on your blouse. He is talking about the connection we have with our loved ones that permeates everything we are and everything  we do. Do you think of your mother just as an amorphous idea?  I wouldn’t think so. Do you think about cooking with her when you walk into your kitchen and grab her cookbook with all of your grandmother’s recipes?  Or, do you think of her when you find the quilt she always had on her bed when you were a kid? The same quilt she would wrap you up in when you didn’t feel well. Do you wrap yourself in it now to remember her? This is the small stuff… 

     How about your Dad? Do you remember his cologne? When you hear an old song, do you remember dancing on the toes of his shoes? Do you have his robe that he wore every weekend morning to read the paper? Do you feel his strength if you put it on like he has his arms around you? This is the small stuff…

     Brothers and sister…cousins and friends…these are the people that anchor us to times and places and are oftentimes the unseen compasses in our lives.  Do you think of your sibling when you reach up and touch the scar on your chin from where they pushed you out of the bunk beds? Did you clean out your attic this spring and find the Rick Springfield poster your best friend who just died of breast cancer gave you for your 14th birthday? How many nights did the two of you stay up talking about Rick Springfield? Don’t you wish you could call your friend or sibling and hear their voice again? This is the small stuff…

     Warren Zevon goes on to sing…

“Hold me in your thoughts, 

Take me to your dreams

Touch me as I fall into view

When the winter comes 

Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you.”

     How often did you sit next to your spouse on the couch or in the car holding hands? Do you think of them as your hand brushes against their pillow at night? Do you feel sad and a little foolish when you still walk in the house after being gone and say out loud, “Honey (or darling or sweetie …) I’m home”? The rush of the recognition that they are not there comes at you like a gale force wind but in the quiet breeze afterwards you might still hear, “Welcome home Sweet Heart.”  This is the small stuff…

     In grief, it can feel like the “small stuff” will always have the potential to overwhelm. Pushing memories and unbidden thoughts away may feel like the only way to survive. But, in the long run, the small stuff is what keeps us connected and staying connected is what helps us heal. The small stuff is what life is made of and telling the story of the small stuff brings our loved ones back to life in our hearts and memories. 

     Sometimes it can feel very much like the light has been turned off on that part of our lives. Virginia Woolf wrote, “How then does the light return to the world after the eclipse of the sun? Miraculously. Frailly. In thin stripes. It hangs like a glass cage. It is a hoop to be fractured by a tiny jar. There is a spark there.” The spark is hope. Hope is what moves us forward in our grief. Hope that the memories will bring more smiles than tears. Hope that the pain will lessen. Light comes back after the eclipse of the sun. It returns to light the path of your grief journey and too illumine the small stuff that is, in the end, the enduring connection to those that we love… Because love is always stronger than death.

Betsy R. Kammerud, LCSW, MVF-CSW, ACHP-SW is a Bereavement Counselor with Full Circle Grief and Loss Center located at 6000 Business Center Drive in Savannah. Grief counseling is provided to any child, teen or adult at no charge as a community service of not-for-profit Hospice Savannah, Inc. Reach Full Circle at 912.303.9442 or visit 


NOVA MUSIC, formally known as Island Guitars

Miss Nova-Rae, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, has had a passion for music since she was a young girl. She started playing the drums and realized how much she truly loved it. Raised on southern rock music, she began taking music lessons at the age of six

     Nova played in a few rock bands growing up and shared this passion with her sister. She proved to be a master of many trades, as she took the stage playing both the drums and the guitar, as well as singing in several punk and rock bands.

     Nova’s family always owned businesses as she was growing up.  Their guidance and knowledge were instrumental in helping her open her own business.

     Nova could always be found doing her homework while sitting behind the cash register in the family business. Later, she would find herself working in this same spot.

      “I pretty much grew up behind the cash register after school. So I knew business was definitely in my future. It seemed so interesting. It just seemed right. By the time I was about thirteen or fourteen, I knew that I wanted to have a music store.”

Moving on to bigger and better things

      “I left high school and got my GED. I opened my store when I was eighteen here in Rincon. At that time, the store was named Island Guitars. It was scary, it was a lot of work but I had my family behind me, and a lot of mentors.  I learned really fast that it wasn’t rocket science,” she says jokingly.

     “I know some people probably didn’t think I was making a smart choice by leaving high school to open a business, but I was ready to start my career. And, since then, I have gone back to school and will soon complete my Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.” She adds.

     “As long as you care and you follow the rules, do things according to the book—really care about what you are doing, then it’s not that hard,” she expresses.

     Nova proved that stepping into familiar tunes by owning her own business was the smart note to play. While she started at a young age, she powered through and has had continued success.

     What can customers and clients expect when walking into Nova Music?

     Nova Music is a musical instrument store that sells mostly used and vintage instruments. The store also facilitates music lessons on a number of instruments with professional instructors, at a fair price. These lessons are held right at the stores location in Rincon and run during after school hours.

     Nova’s extensive knowledge on instruments, music and running a business in every aspect, has ensured the success of her store. She explains that the music lessons are the most important part of the business. She says, “People come in and they see all of the guitars on the wall and all of the accessories, someone re-stringing a guitar, people buying stuff… but three quarters of our facility are lesson rooms. So we have on average anywhere from one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty students come in for their lessons once a week. It is huge! I’m so thankful that the community has supported us on that. Effingham needed a reputable place to bring their kids for music lessons, one that is organized. By bringing their kids here, they don’t have to worry about having to go in someone else’s home, or having someone come to theirs.”

      Parents can rest assured that Nova and her instructors will take good care of their children while providing professional music lessons. Take the hassle out of it, book your next lesson at Nova Music.

Scott and Sons Trucking

Roger Scott lives in Rincon with his wife, Sonja, and three sons, RJ, Darius and Isaiah. There, he has built a lovely life for himself and his family. One filled with integrity, honor, hard work and generosity.

A Business Man From The Start

     Mr. Scott takes us back to his high school days when he was a master of the basketball courts. “I used to dunk basketballs,” he jokes, “I’m Dunkin Donuts now.”

     “I’ve always been an entrepreneur. It really started in high school. We had a fundraiser selling M & M’s so we could see the Atlanta Hawks play the LA Lakers. I sold all of my M & M’s. But the trip was going to be cancelled because not enough sales were made. So, I took everyone’s candy and sold theirs too. What kid wouldn’t want to go to an NBA game? I sold all of them and the coach told me I was an entrepreneur and that he saw me owning my own business one day. Coach’s brother bought a lot of jogging suits and asked me to sell them because I knew a lot of people. He gave me six and I sold them in an hour. He came back with a truck load and I sold some more,” he adds.

     It was a no brainer from that moment on, Roger knew how to sell. He knew how to make a profit. He started out owning a clothing store in Springfield after college. Sometime later, he opened a restaurant next door. Mr. Scott’s store and restaurant were very successful. However, the town went under some changes, causing him to move in other directions.

    He then opened a tire shop. After much thought and advice from a friend, Roger bought his first truck and later earned his first contract work. He then moved on to purchasing more trucks and hiring drivers. “Before I knew it, I had about eight or nine trucks. I realized there was a decision that had to be made.  I saw how well the trucking business had grown and I have been trucking ever since.

   Roger and Sonja started the Scott and Son’s Trucking together. Roger is the president and Sonja is the vice- President. Sonja handles the administrative side: contracts, payroll, communication with Georgia DOT and DBE.

   “After all the different businesses I’ve tried, I found my niche and this business has been my success… a success that would lead me into a great retirement,” adds Roger.

   The Scott’s three sons are a huge part of his inspiration.

    Roger enjoys the work and speaks of his business and employees with integrity and joy. Currently Dionne Jenkins is the dependable administrative assistant.  Roger and Sonja both know how blessed they are to have Jenkins on board for the past seven years.

Showing Appreciation And Gratitude By Giving Back

     Mr. Scott and his family host an annual Christmas party for his truckers, a thank you and a joy to share good times with his dedicated employees. “Many of our drivers and their wives rarely get at attend a semi- formal affair ….so we enjoy celebrating them during our Scott & Son’s Trucking ‘Christmas Gala,’” adds Scott, “The Lord keeps blessing me—the more I give, the more I receive….so we enjoy celebrating them during our Scott & Son’s Trucking “Christmas Gala.”

   Mr. Scott also holds a back-to-school rally. He gives back to the community and anyone in need of school supplies. Scott and Son’s Trucking has paved a way of success for Mr. Scott and his family, allowing him to live a life by design and give back ten-fold.

     Mr. Roger Scott would like to give a special thanks to his parents, grandfather and Douglas Smallwood, the man who talked him into purchasing his first dump truck. “We owe our start from supportive parents, friends and family. My wife believed in my dreams and has helped in every aspect of starting this company. I am a blessed man,” he adds.

Scott and Son’s Trucking provides hauling of a variety of building materials.  Some of their recent projects include Pooler Tanger Outlet, Backriver Bridge and warehouses along the 95 corridor. They work with private, state, and federally funded contracts.

They are proud to have have extremely dedicated customers who support their business.

Premier Dental Designs

Story By David Pena

Dr. Canfield and her team at Premier Dental Designs have been helping to keep the smiles healthy and bright in Rincon for over ten years.

     Since it first opened in 2005, Premier Dental Designs has been providing families in Rincon with the very best dental care available, and Dr. Angela Canfield takes pride in serving this ever-growing community for more than a decade now. “I love being a general family dentist here because you get to be a part of each patient’s family and get to see their children grow up,” she says. “Every day is different, and I truly love working with and educating my patients. Helping them to participate in the best oral and overall health that they can obtain is the number one reason I chose to become a dentist.”

     Born and raised in West Virginia, Dr. Canfield attended West Virginia University, where she majored in biology, specializing in nutrition and gerontology. She graduated from the West Virginia University School of Dentistry in 2005 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (DDS). From there she completed advanced courses in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as orthodontics and periodontics. Dr. Canfield is a member of the American Dental Association, the Georgia Dental Association, and the Southeastern District Dental Association, and she is licensed by both the Georgia and National Boards of Dentistry.

     For the past twelve years, Dr. Canfield and her team at Premium Dental Designs have been dedicated to preservation of their patients’ health, and although aesthetics are a very important factor in looking and feeling great, their primary goal is to see that each of their patient’s dental health is the best that it can be in order to improve overall health. Thus, they use only state-of-the-art technologies for all procedures, which help Dr. Canfield and her staff to detect dental concerns at the earliest stages. They can then treat their patients’ dental issues with precision and provide stunning customized restorations. Their premium dental software system also helps to maximize time as well as the efficiency with which they treat each case.

     Premium Dental Designs offers preventative, cosmetic and orthodontic dentistry for the entire family. In addition to providing regular cleanings, fillings and extractions, their procedures also include dentures, root canals, crown and bridge work, as well as the treatment of perio disease. The staff also takes pride in the fact that their office always maintains a very friendly atmosphere. For example, the they are pleased to provide amenities such as complimentary hand waxing to each of their patients. In addition, New Patient Forms are now available on-line so that new patients can complete the forms at their leisure.

     “When you visit our office in Rincon, you can be confident that you will be receiving the finest and most advanced dental care available,” promises Dr. Canfield. For their efforts, Premier Dental Designs was voted best dental practice in Effingham for 2010, 2011, and 2012. “At Premier Dental Designs, we believe we have to earn your trust in order to be your dental care provider. That is why we go above and beyond to deliver outstanding exceptional service to all of our dental patients and friends in Effingham.”

MANNA HOUSE MINISTRIES : Feeding The Hungry In Effingham County

Story By  Karlee Collins   Photos By Shelia  Scott

It began over 25 years ago when basically five churches came together to put the resources together to help people that were in need,” Lisa Bush, the Manna House director, explains. “And it grew and snowballed into what it is today.” The Manna House is a ministry of food assistance to Effingham county residents that find themselves in need.

     Lisa Bush has been a part of the ministry since 1999 and has been the director for ten years.

     Today, the Manna House is a food pantry that serves approximately nine hundred families every month. “The families can come every month and get that food assistance. They normally receive anywhere from 100-150 pounds of food when they come in,” Lisa shares. “For a lot of them, we are their only hope for food assistance, and they really depend on coming here and getting that food, and without us they just wouldn’t have it.”

     Partnerships are what make this project possible. “We partner with all our grocery stores in our area,” she says. “That gives us the benefit of getting donations on a corporate level and we’re able to secure a lot of food to pass out to people who need it.”

     In addition, the Manna House is now supported by over twenty-five churches and partners with the school system and other businesses and programs to continue having plenty of food and man power.

     Lisa is one of two paid staff for this ministry; the other is Liz Quarterman, Lisa’s assistant. Volunteers are what make the impressive numbers possible. “We have about sixty volunteers that come every week, and some of them give over fifty hours a month,” Lisa shares. “We’re open three days a week to the public, so we have some very dedicated volunteers that give of their time, and we could not operate without them.”

     Liz has been at the Manna House for four years, and one of her favorite parts is seeing the unity of the volunteers in helping their fellow Effingham County residents. “There’s so many people from different walks of lives, denominations, church backgrounds coming together for one common cause, and that is to meet the needs of the people of Effingham county,” Liz says. The volunteers help to sort and distribute the food donations as well as run the thrift store that helps financially support the ministry.

     When a family or individual comes to the Manna House for the first time, they go into the office area and are asked to show proof of residency and identification. After the paperwork has been completed, the family is taken to the food pantry building where they are given a cart full of groceries. “The first time clients are always the super best ones,” Liz explains. “We bring out the cart, and I don’t know what their expectations are and then they start crying.”

     Each cart is equipped with staples like grains, canned goods, and dairy products. Depending on what donations have come in, there are many special things, like fresh fruits and veggies or baked goods. Lisa shares, “They’re basically like ‘is all that for me?’” Liz explains that the food may not get them through the whole month, but it will free up some money for whatever is causing pressure in their lives. “People live their lives every single day with needs and a lot of people think ‘homeless,’ but you know what, it can be anyone,” she says. “Anyone that’s had an unexpected bill, a sick baby, a car break down, the house flooded, husband got laid off a job…it can be anything, and they can come here and get food. The money that they were going to buy food with they can help with the need.” Whatever the case may be, the Manna House is full of loving people and ready to assist as much as possible.

     Throughout the fall, some projects will be going on to further assist residents in need and to get more people involved in supporting the Manna House ministries. “We will be doing our Fall Food Drive,” Lisa shares. “We reach out to the community, businesses and individuals in our churches that are interested in taking one grocery bag.” Each bag comes back filled with goods that help stock the food pantry. She says, “We put that plead out and it’s usually an overwhelming result.”

     In addition, the Manna House is partnering with the school system and Woodmen of the World for an exciting project. “It’s going to be an effort within the schools to raise awareness for hunger and to allow the schools the opportunity to earn a thousand dollar grant from Woodmen of World for their school by participating in a food drive,” she explains. Both of these initiatives along with the donations of other supporters will help with the upcoming Thanksgiving project. Each fall, families register for a special Thanksgiving meal box that comes with a turkey and many of the other side dishes that are usually on the Thanksgiving table. “That’ll just be something to help them so they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to get their Thanksgiving meal,” Lisa says. “We usually do anywhere from seven to eight hundred families in addition to what we already do each month.”

     Both Lisa and Liz give all the credit to God for the work that is being done. Liz says, “God’s hand is on Effingham County in so many different ways. If you never knew anything about the Manna House, it is amazing to see how big He works here. We all grew up thinking that He was big, but we see it truly in every day.”

     Lisa and Liz have watched as provisions have been made in unexpected ways, and they give God all the credit. Lisa shares one particular incident: “We needed somebody to help with some maintenance issues outside, and out of the blue, I get a community service worker that we don’t know the guy, but he shows up and he’s a master electrician and a master carpenter.”

     Liz adds, “Last year 1800 gallons of milk showed up right after the hurricane.” The Manna House had no power, but all this milk and bread was provided along with plenty of volunteers, and they created a drive-thru for those that needed assistance during that tough time. “To me, it was the most exciting thing that has happened here. When people couldn’t buy milk and they couldn’t buy groceries, He provided enough to feed hundreds,” Liz shares.

     The Manna House’s main purpose is to provide food to those in need, but it gives so many other gifts to the community through uniform assistance for school kids, the thrift store for the public, volunteer opportunities for students with disabilities, community service opportunities, workman’s compensation partnerships, and much more.

     Effingham County is blessed to have an organization full of people willing to serve and help, but there are always needs to be filled in order to make this ministry function at its best. “We’d like for the community to know, we’re an entity here that can use your financial support,” Liz says. Monetary donations can help to ensure that operations continue smoothly and can also help purchase food in bulk for better prices than can be found in a grocery store.

     Donations of food for the pantry and items for the thrift store are also great ways to be involved in this community ministry. The Manna House’s team plans to continue serving well and wants to grow to serve better, and the community has a wonderful opportunity to rally behind this mission!

Inspiring Environmental Awareness One Student at a Time

story by Katrice Williams          photos by Sheila Scott

Zeal can be defined as a substantial amount of energy or enthusiasm when pursuing a goal or objective. Interestingly enough, Jessica Lyons is an impressive reflection of that definition. She has been teaching at South Effingham High School for nearly 13 years.

     Jessica has always maintained a noteworthy passion for education and strives to be a meaningful inspiration to all of her students. She currently teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science, though she has also taught Physical Science and Biology I and II.

     Jessica has lived in the area for about 13 years along with her husband David and 16-year-old daughter Laila. The Illinois native grew up in Rhode Island prior to receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Savannah State University and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Armstrong State University.

     “I love learning. I really love science and studying the world around us and how things work. My goal is to try to find out what works best; there are a lot of things to try but not everything works. I wanted to be able to share that with students,” Jessica reveals.

     Jessica always wants to make a significant impact on her students, as she also persists to show them the necessity of being responsible citizens and the true relevance of environmental consciousness. That said, Jessica feels privileged to see the growth and success of each individual student.

     She remarks, “I think that it’s very rewarding when you form relationships with your students and see that they’re excited–to see that they’re succeeding…to see who they are and what they’re doing in their lives. I learn from the students; they teach me a lot also.”

     As Jessica’s love for science was a big factor in her deciding to be an educator, she is always eager to pass that passion along to her students in hopes that they might embark upon new and exciting scientific interests of their own.

     “I hope to inspire a love for science in my students. I hope they appreciate the environment as well. My goal is to make the information relevant and rigorous. I want to challenge them.  I’m giving them a good foundation. I hope they go on to be global leaders…community leaders. I hope they go on to make the world a better place; I hope to contribute to that,” Jessica states. She feels that all teachers should be concerned with helping to properly connect with each student while motivating them to reach their highest potential.

     She comments, “Everyday good teachers are trying to solve the problems: How can I reach the kids? How am I making this interesting for them today? How am I going to get their attention today? You’re definitely competing for their attention sometimes.”

     Environmental science is probably Jessica’s favorite scientific field thus far. Actually, she has long been an avid nature lover.

     “I grew up in a family that was always outdoors—we camped, we hiked…went to the beach. Environmental science is just a good fit for me. I’m really passionate about the environment. A lot of times, people think of the environment as something to exploit. I want to pass on to my students that it’s associated with human health. I think there are more sustainable ways to meet our needs. I don’t think we’re there yet; I think we need to go in that direction. It starts with being aware and being educated on the issues,” she asserts.

     In order to educate her students in the most interesting and impactful ways possible, Jessica uses a variety of approaches. Her students may watch documentaries, complete Internet-based labs, do projects or even travel to Skidaway Island to participate in workshops. They have also been able to visit the island’s Institute of Oceanography to enhance their researching skills in that area. In addition, Jessica allows her students to participate in open and thought-provoking educational debates on vital issues like the Georgia-Florida Water Wars and the construction of dams. She has found that many of them “really enjoy the debate format.” Some of the kids appreciate the “hands-on aspect” of some of the nature-based studies, like Tree Frog Studies, that Jessica incorporates into the curriculum. Jessica wants to steadily promote a dynamic and exciting learning environment for each of her students.

     “If you’re doing what you love and teaching topics that you love, it’s easy to be enthusiastic in the classroom and spread it to the students,” she insists.

     With such a remarkable perspective and enthusiasm, it is no surprise that Jessica recently won an international scholarship, the Key Issues Institute Scholarship offered by Georgia Pacific. The scholarship is “geared mainly towards science teachers.” After completing an extensive application process last school term, her qualifications and overall field acumen were reviewed and accepted by sponsors. Jessica learned of her phenomenal accomplishment just before school ended. The scholarship allowed Jessica along with other select international scholars to participate in the week-long Keystone Institute Program. The program, titled “Bringing Environmental Issues to the Classroom,” was held in Keystone, Colorado and began on July 11, 2017.

     The program relied a great deal on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related approaches to educational development and enhancement. Many of the tasks and objectives of participants involved “investigating and reviewing STEM issues and topics.” This incorporated a substantial focus on environmental issues. Whether tangible or intellectually-based, educators were “provided with tools to help students be good leaders” in order to “inspire student problem-solving, broaden perspectives and encourage them to be engaged citizens.”

     Jessica declares, “STEM areas are so important. I feel that students will really benefit from them in today’s world.” She is excited to take beneficial tools acquired during the program “back to the classroom to increase academic vigor.”

     Some areas addressed involved incorporating environmental sustainability and proper research and data analysis into the class curriculum. Jessica appreciates the “amazing opportunity.”

     In her spare moments, Jessica loves spending time with her family. Whether traveling, relaxing at the beach on Tybee Island or attending music festivals, she feels that their time together is priceless. Moreover, Jessica coaches the boys’ soccer team at South Effingham High, as she does “love soccer” and being able to work with the athletes on their skills. What’s more, she enjoys being outside with her four dogs that she adores. In fact, Jessica volunteers some of her time at the One Love Animal Rescue. Further, she likes gardening and yardwork, though she is quick to admit that her husband David is “better at it” than she is.

     By doing what she enjoys in a field that she loves, Jessica Lyons encourages students to have a sincere interest in their education while developing a healthy appreciation and responsible attitude towards the environment. She is making a real difference in and out of the classroom.

Mary Warner Boss Lady

Sitting on an end table in Mary S. Warner’s home is a large, glittery pink mug that reads “Boss Lady.” It was a gift from a friend at Effingham County High School, where Mary worked for almost three decades, and it sums up the way everyone at ECHS — from preschoolers to principals — feels about her. For the past 28 years, that’s exactly what Mary has been – the boss. As head custodian at ECHS, she led a team of coworkers and “checked to make sure everything was okay to begin the day” every morning before school started.

     Mary is a lifelong resident of Effingham and began her career at the original ECHS, working as a substitute custodian for two years before becoming one of the first employees to enter the current ECHS in 1987. After only a year, she became head custodian and maintained her leadership role until she retired in early June.

     Every day, Mary awoke at 5:30 AM to get ready for work. Throughout the years, her schedule shifted to later hours, but she always rose before the sun. Since retiring, Mary hasn’t set a single alarm and doesn’t plan on doing so any time soon.

     At one point a few summers ago, Mary jokingly hinted to Dr. Yancy Ford that she was approaching retirement. The next day, she arrived at work to find a sign with her name marking a parking spot at the entrance of the school.

     “Mr. Ford put my reserved parking space right at the front. He gave me that so I could come back to work, but I wasn’t quitting anyway!” She laughed. “I was just messing with him, but I got my own parking spot!”

     To this day, Mary remains the only custodian to have a designated spot. Though she no longer needs to park at ECHS, Mary is relocating her sign to her home for safekeeping.

     During her time at ECHS, Mary formed a special bond with colleague Gloria Davis. The two did everything together, including Mary’s favorite task: waxing floors.

     “I love waxing floors,” she said. “At the end of the year after the teachers and the kids leave, they take out all their desks for us, and we wax the classrooms.”

     The two women were partners on the job until Gloria passed away last January, and Eric Warner, Mary’s cousin, joined her team. In addition to Eric, Mary recruited some seasonal assistants to help tidy the school when the hallway traffic was light.

      Every summer, she took two protégés, Jim Ford and Graham Mongin, under her wing. While the classrooms were empty, Mary taught her apprentices how to clean floors and operate scrubbing machines. Together they ensured the school would be sparkling by the time teachers and students returned in August.

     Over her 28 years with the Rebels, Mary experienced multiple changes. She worked with every principal who passed through the current ECHS and witnessed multiple additions to the school’s architecture, but one thing always remained the same: her adoration for the students.

     “All the kids love me, and I love the kids. Pre-k…that’s my heart. They know Mrs. Mary. ‘There’s the boss! That’s Mrs. Mary!’ That’s what they’d say,” She laughed.

     The students were not alone in their admiration for the Boss Lady. When Mary tied the knot with her “wonderful husband” Frank Warner three years ago, many ECHS employees attended the ceremony, including her summer pupil Jim, who was a member of the wedding party.

     From attending prom and grad bash to gaining the respect and appreciation of every student who walked the halls, Mary certainly left her mark on ECHS. But all things must come to an end, and Mary felt it was time to close the curtains on her stint at ECHS.

     “I really enjoyed working at the school all these years,” she said. “That was everything to me, but it’s all about Mary now!”

     In the past, Mary has taken breaks, temporarily retired and made surprise returns to her position at ECHS, but she doesn’t think she will be reprising her role as head custodian any time in the future. For now, she is looking forward to the simple pleasures of retired life, including “watching her soap operas and sitting on the front porch with her cat!”

The Josh Reddick Foundation Lending A Hand In Effingham County

story by Tessa DeMeyer     photos by Nelson LaPorte

For most of the year, Josh Reddick is 954 miles from home, but due to an organization he created that strives to give back to the county, Effingham residents feel like the hometown hero never left. Since its inception in 2014, the Josh Reddick Foundation has been on a mission to advocate for the youth of Effingham County with a focus on supporting students, preserving recreational parks and helping those in need. These efforts are spearheaded by Josh and the foundation’s president, Trey Saxon. With the help of a knowledgeable board of directors and countless volunteers, the two organize multiple events every year that improve various aspects of the county.

“We try to do all the events here in Effingham, and all the money raised is given back to the county,” Trey said. Portions of all proceeds acquired go toward the rec departments as well as “the fire department, K9 Units, the animal shelter, the Manna House and the Treutlen House.” The foundation is a “platinum level corporate sponsor” for Effingham County High School and South Effingham High School with future plans to make $250 donations to the physical education programs of every elementary and middle school in the Effingham County School District.

Perhaps the most well-known of all the foundation’s functions is the charity concert held annually at Freedom Park. The family-friendly mini country music festival, which has featured food vendors, face painting and inflatable attractions in the past, will return for a fourth year in late January or early February 2018, and the foundation plans to continue its tradition of working collaboratively with other nonprofit organizations in order to disperse the profits around the community.

In addition to the highly-anticipated concert, the foundation hosts a home run derby which directly benefits Effingham. The derby will remain at Sandhill Ballpark for the seventh consecutive year, and though the event always welcomes anyone who wants to step up to the plate, Josh hopes to see some new faces at the seventh installment of the competition. “Girls can participate in the derby! It’s always [been open to] boys and girls, but we never have girls show up. We would love to have females in it as well.” In the past, an annual charity golf tournament was held at local courses, most recently Lost Plantation Golf Club, but will not return in favor of more inclusive events.

In late July, the foundation began accepting nominations for their “Athlete of the Month” contest with the first winner being recognized in August. Open to Effingham athletes in the sixth grade and older, the winner will be presented with a certificate and a gift card from one of the organization’s local sponsors. Another new event set to make its debut later this year is a 5K.

“Run the Town with Reddick,” coined by Trey, will be held in November, and competitors will race through Springfield in pursuit of prizes awarded at the finish line.

Athletics aren’t Josh’s only concern, nor are they the sole focus of his foundation. Each year, the organization encourages students to pursue higher education by awarding four graduating seniors, one male and one female from both high schools, who displayed academic excellence with a $1,000 college scholarship. Josh also emphasizes the importance of reading by visiting local elementary schools for storytime. Most recently, he stopped by South Effingham Elementary and Springfield Elementary to share a story with fifth graders.

In June, Josh brought smiles to more children when he and Trey visited patients at Memorial University Medical Center, and the foundation later supported Zach Norton, a young man with a rare form of cancer, during his Celebration of Life Event. Earlier in the year, the foundation sponsored Zach and three other boys battling cancer by donating $1,000 as well as additional items to their families to help cover medical expenses.

With the MLB season in full swing, the foundation consistently works to sustain the connection between their namesake and the county they serve. Though plans have not yet been finalized, Josh revealed that he “wants to work in another [charity] event during the season” to maintain involvement despite being in Houston. Dedicated board members like Vice President Brian Coulter, Treasurer Jan Landing and Secretary Donna Shepard along with the help of the two newest additions, Productions Coordinator Donald Oliver and Media Specialist Julie Hales, ensure that the Josh Reddick Foundation and its positive impact on Effingham will continue to grow.

The future of the organization looks promising, and Trey has confidence that it will continue to expand and improve with time. “Considering the age of the foundation, I think it’s off to a great start. Great things are definitely in store for us.”

To keep up with all upcoming events and developments, like the Josh Reddick Foundation page on Facebook or check out http://www.joshreddickfoundation.org.

Using Honey Ridge Farm To Teach Our Students

story by Susan Lee          photos by Sheila Scott

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed. If in terms of ten years, plant trees. If in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

     That’s a quote by Confucius and it seems to perfectly sum up last fall’s purchase of the 310-acre Honey Ridge Plantation by Effingham’s Board of Education.

     The seeds for the county’s  future have now been planted.

     The school system bought Honey Ridge last fall with $1.2 million in education sales tax dollars. County residents were curious and intrigued from the start: more than 600 people showed up for the farm’s open house in May to enjoy hay ride tours and hear more about the plans for the property.

     Todd Wall doesn’t seem surprised at the interest and support from the community. He grew up on a farm just across the Ogeechee River from Honey Ridge and was hired last year to direct the Young Farmer programs for the county and as Career Tech and Agriculture Education supervisor for Effingham County High School. Wall is now the program’s district coordinator, managing the career tech and agriculture  programs at ECHS, South Effingham High School, and the Career Academy as well as the Young Farmers program and Honey Ridge Plantation.

     “When I was first brought into the discussions about Honey Ridge and asked to help get the program off the ground, of course I said yes right away,” he said. “The farm will give students in the various career pathways the chance to get real life exposure. I can’t think of a better way to learn.”

     The purchase of Honey Ridge just made sense. For Wall, for Effingham’s school board members, and for Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

      “Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Georgia, and it is a field that clearly incorporates all aspects of STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineerin and Mathematics,” said Dr. Shearouse. “As a result, Effingham County students involved in any of the various agricultural programs within our school district will get hands-on experiences at Honey Ridge that they can carry with them for life.”

      The superintendent added that Honey Ridge will not only benefit agriculture students. “We also plan to expand property access for school programs beyond those that are agriculturally related such as elementary field trips, ROTC and cross country activities,” he explained. “I feel that there is tremendous potential for how we can utilize Honey Ridge, and I believe great opportunities abound for our students!”

     And now at just the beginning of the school year, Wall is already knee-deep in projects and plans at Honey Ridge, especially those involving the youngest of students. They’ve just planted pumpkins for this fall’s pumpkin patch and are also planning a corn maze. They’re also planting blueberry trees and next spring will have a vegetable garden.

     “Every first grade student in the county will come out to learn about farm life and see the cows, goats, chicken, sheep and ducks,” said Wall. “The best part is that those tours will be conducted by FFA students from the middle schools and high schools, so they’ll be able to practice leadership and public speaking. Students of all ages will benefit from the experience.”

     That exposure to farming, once a part of life in Effingham dating back to the Salzburgers, is now not as commonplace in the county. As one of ECHS’ FFA advisors Meredith Arrington, puts it, many children in the the community have never seen a farm or its animals up close. “Most families are two to three generations removed from farming, and most students I teach don’t know where their food comes from,” she said. “ Out of a class of 25 students, maybe 5 live on a farm or is part of a family involved in production agriculture. Honey Ridge will be a place where they can learn how their food gets from the farm to the table, how corn grown on a farm becomes the cornflake in their cereal bowl.”

     Arrington added that no other county in Georgia offers the type of experience and opportunities available through Honey Ridge. “Instead of seeing pictures or videos in the classroom, the students will be able to have classes out at the farm. Instead of just talking to them about deworming cattle and trimming goat hooves, we’ll be able to show them.”

     Her sentiments are echoed by Alisha Richardson, one of SEHS’ FFA advisors. “It’s a new avenue for the students, one they’re very excited about,” she said. “There’s so much out at Honey Ridge, more than most people realize, so the students will be exposed to more than just agriculture and forestry.” Richardson knows better than most people what the farm has to offer, as she lives on the property with her husband, Ben, an FFA advisor at ECHS. The couple helps out with the animals and other tasks around the farm.

     In addition to the Richardsons, Honey Ridge is staffed part time by Trent Dickerson, an agribusiness student from Ogeechee Tech, as part of the farm’s new work-based learning initiative. According to Wall, the team will be joined this fall by a high school student in the program.

     Honey Ridge Plantation’s previous owner was Effingham County’s Sam Zemurray, who bought the property in 1978. Throughout the years, he acquired many top line bulls and cows, and sold cattle to big name enthusiasts and breeders from across the country. Zemurray even owned a bull with country singer Kenny Rogers (named “High Voltage”).

      Wall said they still maintain cows at the property. “Right now we have about 25 head of beef cattle, and our goal is 50,” he said. “Some of them are purebreds but some are commercial cross breeds as well.” In the spring, FFA students went out to the farm to administer vaccinations and deworm the cattle.

     Several local students have even been picked to show Honey Ridge’s cows. Makenzie Driggers, a junior at ECHS, has been actively involved in FFA since middle school and is excited to have been asked. “As soon as she walked into her first ag class, she fell in love with it,” said her mom, Cathy. “So when Todd came out to our farm and asked if she would show one of their cows, of course she jumped at the chance.”

      Makenzie, who hopes to attend the University of Georgia to study animal nutrition, had been focusing on feeding the cow but recently started training it. She’s also understandably excited about the future of Honey Ridge. “It’s a great way to generate community involvement in agriculture, which is the most important industry as it provides food, fiber and shelter to many individuals,” she said. “Many people do not have much knowledge on the many parts of agriculture, and Honey Ridge is a way to teach them of how broad the industry really is and will inspire individuals to become more involved in our community.”

     Makenzie’s mom is equally excited about the new educational program at the farm. “So much of the focus in any school is usually on sports, with very few offerings for students who have other interests,” said Cathy. “Now our young people will have plenty of opportunities in so many areas and the county and schools can stay relevant. I can understand if some people who were questioning the project might not see the big picture, but it really is in the early stages. Just like with the Career Academy or STEM, it will evolve and our community will benefit for many years to come.