Eugenia Spradley : WEAVING OF WORDS

story by Karlee Collins     photos by Shelia Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darius Scott : Exceptional Teen Accepted At Ivy League School

story by Kathryn Vandenhouten     photos by Shelia Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ladies of Distinction

Serving Women, Seniors and Youth

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Miranda Osborn-Sutphen

Adrienne Boner and Deborah Enoch: “Shapers for Change”

“You were born with the ability to change someone’s life; don’t ever waste it.”

~Unknown

Many organizations strive to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. (TLOD) is certainly a noteworthy example.

With an inception that dates back to September 8, 1964, in Tyler, Texas, this “non-profit educational, humanitarian organization” was established as a heart-felt initiative of the U.S. First Lady, at the time, Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson. As an exemplary woman who believed in empowering other distinguished women to serve the community and help others in need, First Lady Johnson diligently sought to recruit a group of women “who would work cooperatively” to help combat various issues within the communities, particularly those experienced by young people.

     Several notable ladies attended an invitation-only luncheon, which was proposed by First Lady Johnson to discuss the establishment of a group dedicated to serve “youth and adults in the community.” The recipient of the invitation was Willie Lee Glass (Tyler, TX), the wife of Texas College President Dr. D.R. Glass.

      Mrs. Glass, a Texas College educator, was well-known as a “tireless advocate” for continuous improvement and change. She invited her former student, U.S. Air Force Major Ozell M. Dean (Washington, DC). Major Dean’s relative and talented music teacher Franchell Boswell (Tyler, TX) also attended.

     Many other “trailblazers” were invited to pool their skills and talents in order to address various social issues. Other TLOD founders include: Ina Bolton Brown, Ph.D. (Houston, TX), an avid academician; Augusta Rivers Cash-Latham (Memphis, TN), a noteworthy educator; Ruth Payne Smith (Austin, TX), a home economics instructor along with Georgia Bell Presswood Nelson (Dallas, TX) and Laverne Madlock, who both played very instrumental roles in the organization’s growth over the years. Further, the title “Lady” became a title of distinction for each member.

     Under the leadership of Lady Drema Lee Woldman, out of Chicago, the current TLOD national president, the organization presently includes thousands of women across the nation “working together to invest in their communities through their service and leadership.” The organization has several major focal areas, or “thrusts,” in which they dedicate their efforts. These include: Top Teens of America “Top Teens” (helping teenagers to strive towards overall excellence), Status of Women (dedicated to the empowerment of all women), Senior Citizen Service (assisting seniors with their overall needs), Community Beautification (helping to visually enhance and improve the community) and Community Partnerships (working with other organizations toward a common and beneficial interest).

     Lady Adrienne Boner is the president of the Effingham (Area IV) TLOD chapter. Actually, Adrienne initially joined the Savannah chapter and has been a member of TLOD for ten years. The Ohio native, along with her husband Benjamin, have been in the area for some time now.

     Adrienne attributes a great deal of her inspiration to join the phenomenal organization to her mom Lady Carolyn Stanley, organizer for the Effingham chapter, who has been a part of TLOD for over ten years. Carolyn is a career educator who taught Adrienne the importance of being involved in positive activities, especially those dedicated to helping others.

     Adrienne states, “Top Ladies is based on serving the youth, serving senior citizens and serving women—it’s what led me to join. They just had some really good projects that I wanted to be involved in.”

     In addition to being the chapter president, Adrienne works on the area level. She is in charge of Area IV Technology and is the Area IV Assistant Financial Secretary. Six states make up Area IV, including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. All are under the leadership of the Area IV Director, Lady Crystal C. Pittman, who is out of Miami. There are a group of states that make up each area, so there is ample coverage for the entire country.

     Adrienne, alongside TLOD, supports and participates in several meaningful projects. Some include: St. Jude’s, March of Dimes, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Council for Negro Women (NCNW) and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). Interestingly enough, most projects take place on the national level. For example, if there is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Walk or a St. Jude’s Walk-a-Thon, members from all around the country will participate in them at similar times in their respective areas, exhibiting massive amounts of unity and commitment.

     Adrienne reveals, “All over the country, everybody is holding some type of walk to raise money on that same day.”

     Much of the organization’s focus is currently on fundraising efforts. They have been thrilled with their involvement with Painting with a Purpose, which is a monthly fundraising event given by Painting with a Twist, where paint studios host events to “raise money for certain local or regional charities.” Adrienne explains that “50% of the proceeds have come back to the chapter” when it has been sponsored. The ladies appreciate all the community members that have taken part in it.

     The Effingham Chapter has been relentlessly dedicated to raise money for the Top Teens, so that they may all travel to the TLOD Area IV Annual Conference in March 2018 held in Birmingham, Alabama. The teens, themselves, are having various popcorn fundraisers to contribute to the cause–funds raised will help with transportation costs. The trip should be informative and fun. Adrienne knows that it will be a memorable experience for the young people.

     She is very grateful and considers it to be a great privilege to be a part of the group. She enjoys working alongside the other very ‘distinct’ ladies.

     “I feel like I gained another family. It’s a very humbling experience, especially when we’re serving people who are underprivileged. It keeps me aware of current issues. I love to serve,” Adrienne asserts.

     Adrienne feels that the organization is in a league all its own. There is a sincere focus on helping others, which is accomplished through the collective efforts of a uniquely diverse and talented group of women. She knows that the only prerequisite necessary to become a member is for individuals to have a genuine interest in people…a genuine interest in community.

     Adrienne states, “Anybody and everybody can be involved in Top Ladies…if they want to serve.”

     A major short-term goal that Adrienne has is to acquire more community partners. She understands that more support allows for even more beneficial opportunities and resources for the community as a whole.

     “We would love to work with some other businesses,” Adrienne remarks.

     Top Teens is one of the major thrusts of the entire organization, as the ladies understand that children are the future of this country, and it is imperative to afford them the very best opportunities that are available. In fact, it is such a vital interest, that all TLOD chapters must include a Top Teens thrust in order to exist.

     Lady Deborah Enoch, a North Carolina native, has been in the area for over 20 years, along with her husband Jaycee; the couple has two adult children and two grandchildren. Lady Deborah is a charter member for the Effingham chapter of TLOD, as she was inducted in August 2016. She, too, has been the chapter advisor for the Top Teens since December 2016.

     The group welcomes young ladies and young men in grades 8-12. It is obvious that Deborah has a beautiful heart for young people and enjoys working with them. She serves as the youth advisor at her church home, Goodwill Baptist Church. She is the owner and director of Teach, Love and Care Learning Center, caring for children ages six weeks to 12 years of age. In fact, one of her Top Teen members likes to volunteer at the center in her spare time and really has a knack for working with the little ones.

Deborah enjoys her time with the teens and feels that it is truly rewarding to positively contribute to their lives…their well-being…their futures.

     She remarks, “Our Top Teens are a fantastic group.”

     The teens have the opportunity to participate in all the overall initiatives of the TLOD, including all projects and events, and the ladies are happy to mentor the teens and lead by example.

     Deborah mentions, “In everything we do, we’re teaching them. We assist them with different projects; when we do projects, they’re there to back us up.”

     In addition to other national projects, the teens also participate in the “Blessings in a Bookbag” fundraiser. It is a national fundraiser, providing “food and supplies to kids in need.” Designated areas in each state are provided bookbags filled with goodies or supplies—based solely on the greatest need in the area.

     There are numerous opportunities the teens have to learn invaluable life skills. Deborah and the other ladies provide the teens with helpful workshops, those designed to teach about proper manners and etiquette, communication skills, speech-delivery, proper business dress and an array of other skillsets. Also, the teens will have the opportunity to compete in debate webinars and competitive spelling bee tournaments.

     Regarding helping the teens, Deborah declares, “Everybody can help somebody. These are the types of things we’re teaching them. It’s up to us.”

     The future certainly looks bright for this outstanding organization, as they are making a tremendous difference in the lives of others.

Website: www.tlodinc.org

Email: effinghamchapter@gmail.com

Shop Local : Shop Effingham

Everyone knows that the traditional Christmas colors are green, white and red. For merchants, however, black is perhaps the most important color of the season. It means enough silver and gold could come their way to get their bottom line out of the red.

     The Christmas shopping season is what puts retailers in the black. Unless you are in retail, you’re probably not aware of how expensive it is to succeed in that field and how slim margins can be. Most retailers operate at a loss throughout the year. They stay afloat because of the year-end frenzy of consumer spending.

     It is generally believed that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but that’s not necessarily the case. Typically, busiest shopping day honors goes to the Saturday before Christmas or, if Christmas falls on a weekend, the Thursday and Friday before.

     Very few people get all of their Christmas shopping done in any single day during the season. It is the entire month (give or take) leading up to Christmas that makes the merchants merry.

     The whole thing conjures up images of ravenous shoppers barreling mindlessly through stores, trampling everyone in their way, grabbing at everything in sight, and contending with one another over the last great bargain.

     But that’s not the true holiday spirit. That spirit can be found when shoppers are truly thoughtful about what they buy and where they buy it. That’s why the small business organizations in Effingham County encourage residents to spend their money in local businesses.

     Dollars spent in our  locally owned businesses have a tremendous impact on our community. When shopping locally, the dollars stay in our community, creating jobs, funding more city services, and providing more money for community development.

     Small businesses form the backbone of our local economy, generating jobs and improving the quality of life for citizens. For every dollar you spend locally, you are doing your part to help stimulate and preserve your local economy.

     And, don’t forget about the wonderful services provided by some of our local small businesses…services such  as hair salons, nail salons, and spas are vital to the local business mix, and provide thoughtful gift options.

     Our local merchants offer thousands of products and services from local artists, artisans, farmers, and other producers of celebrated goods. Buying local means more than just supporting merchants–it supports local producers as well.

     It’s also important to remember that if you have grown accustomed to shopping online, you can shop online locally, too. Virtually all local merchants have websites. If a merchant doesn’t have purchasing capabilities on its site, simply call them. You can get the best of both worlds: on line convenience and personal service from people you know. You can even save on shipping by picking up your purchases at your convenience.

     Shopping local has so many advantages,…and with all our local businesses have to offer…why go anywhere else? Shop Local, Shop Effingham…that’s what it’s all about!

Meet Our Chamber Director : Brad Carr

Founded in 1986, the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce made a commitment to support its existing businesses and attract new enterprises to its thriving business climate. What began as a need to address individual concerns evolved into a well-rounded program.  As a team of well-rounded business and community leaders, the Chamber has the ability to accomplish what no one business owner can do alone.

      Effingham County continues to grow and the Effingham Chamber has been on the forefront of changes in the county.  The Chamber has continued to serve the community by providing leadership and forward thinking to the citizens and business of Effingham.

     When a new business opens their doors, the Chamber is there to lend support, provide helpful information and to help promote them in the community.  Our Chamber takes pride in getting to know each and every member. Now, we have a new man who is out knocking on those doors.

    Brad Carr took over as the Executive Director of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce in June of this year.  Brad took over this position from Rick Lott, who retired earlier this year.

     Brad grew up in Woodstock, Georgia. He attended Georgia Southern University, receiving both a Bachelor and Master’s degree.

   Brad is now happy to be a part of all of Effingham’s communities. He has always enjoyed this area of the state. So, when the job for Executive Director of the Effingham Chamber of Commerce became available, he knew he had to pursue it. He shares, “I see Effingham as a great county with a rich history, and enormous potential for the future. I am happy to be here and be a part of that growth.”

     Before coming on board with the Chamber, Brad served with the Georgia Southern University Office of Alumni Relations since 2011. Prior to his work there, he was the Sequoyah District Executive in the Northwest Georgia Council Boy Scouts of America.

    Today’s Chamber consists of about 300 members from a wide variety of business types and sizes. Its 14 member Board of Directors represents all the businesses in our community with an eye on collective achievements and quality of life.

    Since taking this position, Brad has enjoyed being out in the community. “I have been working on meeting all of the members of the Chamber, and finding out what the Chamber can do for each one of them. I want to know what the business needs are in our county so I can better serve the people and help the Chamber continue to grow,” shares Brad.

    What began as a primarily rural county, Effingham County today is more of a mixture of country and city. We boast an exceptional educational system which has made new residents flock into our communities. With this residential growth, new businesses have arrived as well.

   This growth is the future of our county…and the future of our Chamber. Brad Carr sees that and wants to make sure the Chamber has everything needed to help our new businesses, as well as our long time existing members.

     Brad’s future goals for the Effingham Chamber of Commerce is to grow the business community throughout the county, so that all the businesses feel connected and support each other. He says, “We want the Chamber to be the place for business in Effingham County. From networking, to training on the latest business trends, the Chamber seeks to provide our membership with the very best resources for sustainability and growth.”

Josh Reddick: Effingham’s Mr. October

story by Julie Hales

photos by Andrew Yousse, Photographer for Houston Astros

You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

                                                                                              ~Jim Bouton

HISTORY

     Baseball surely has a grip on Josh Reddick. For the most part, it’s had a grip on him his entire life. Josh started playing T-Ball in Effingham when he was only 4 years old. Now, at age 30, he is still ‘in the game.’

     Kenny and Cheryl Reddick really didn’t know what to expect when their five year old son told them he wanted to play in the Major Leagues. Most parents would brush that off as a childhood whim, but these parents didn’t do that.

     Cheryl shares, “We supported him in every way we could. We wanted to make sure he had every opportunity to succeed.” Kenny coached Josh and his team mates in the county recreation department and they paid his way to gain more experience through travel ball.

     Josh then played high school ball for the South Effingham Mustangs under the leadership of Coach Kirkland, a man he admires and admits helped him find success on the ball field.

     Middle Georgia College was his next stop in his baseball career. Josh was named Region XVII Junior College Player of the Year during his short time there. As a freshman outfielder, he led the conference with a .461 batting average, he scored 57 runs on 89 hits, seven of which were homeruns and had 33 RBI’s…not bad for a college freshman.

     In 2006, Josh Reddick was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 17th round of the MLB Draft. Yes, MLB stands for Major League Baseball.  This guy’s dream was coming true.

     In 2011, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics where he played right field for his first full year in the majors. “It was a different team with different dynamics. It was very different from Minor League baseball,” says Josh about his beginning experiences with the Oakland A’s.

     But, he adapted very well. It was here, in 2012, that Josh won the Golden Glove Award.

     In 2016, Josh found himself being traded again…next home…Los Angeles. As a Dodger, Josh was immediately headed to the playoffs.  He loved playing with them and there was a much larger excitement level there than he had experienced in Oakland.

     But, his time in LA was short lived…Josh found himself being a free agent.  However, his free-agency was very short lived.  He says, “Houston came calling pretty quickly.” This made the transition a very smooth one for our favorite right fielder.

     It was in Houston where Josh continued to flourish and his Major League career reached new heights.  Here, OUR major leaguer accomplished the dream every little leaguer dreams about…Josh Reddick is now a World Series Champion!

THE MAN

     Anyone who knows him knows there is a little boy lurking somewhere within the man.  There aren’t many professional ball players that have as much fun as Josh Reddick. He will be the first one to tell you that he likes to make it fun…whether it be Spiderman climbing the fence to steal a homerun or his love for wrestling that has traveled with him wherever he goes…even to his new home, now better known by Reddick fans as “Wooston,” he is having fun.

    And, that man remembers where he came from and what it was like to be that little boy with big aspirations.

     “Winning the World Series is a childhood dream come true.  That’s any kid’s dream as a five year old in the backyard putting that scenario through their head of game 7 of the World Series, and going through the motions in the back yard of winning it. Being able to live through that is something I feel is the accomplishment of my childhood dream,” he shares.

     Most people in Effingham County have followed his career.  Many watched him play as a child in the recreation league, others followed his high school career and on to college.  Some may have only started following him when he was picked up in the MLB draft.  But, whenever they became a fan, they remained a fan.

     As a fan, they all experienced the excitement of watching him play in the big leagues and making it to the World Series. They shared in the excitement of every inning of every game.  But, no one can imagine the excitement Josh himself was feeling.

     When the series came down to game 7, the excitement turned into anxiety for many.  But, the Houston Astros proved to us all they were indeed the best team in the nation. Josh shares, “I was so excited.  My heart was racing the entire 9th inning. I remember sitting in the dugout next to Carlos Beltran, who had just recently retired. Knowing that he wouldn’t be back and being able to experience something like that with him, it being my first one and his first one in such a different age group, it was just amazing. My heart was racing. There was just so much excitement. I don’t think I have ever sprinted as fast my whole life as I did onto that field when that last out was made.”

     When Josh was asked what it felt like to be a World Series champ, he shares, “It feels really great.  I am trying to find special words to explain it. Awesome is the word I keep going back to.  Being able to hold that World Series trophy and knowing I am going to be able to bring it to Effingham for a few days. To be able to share that with my hometown is going to be something that I am going to enjoy and hopefully bring some smiles around the county as well. I want to be able to share it with the hometown that I love so much and try to help out as much as I can, the town that gives me so much back to me personally.  It is just going to be a special moment.”

     Josh is very close to his family. This man knows, and loves, his roots. Having his family at the World Series was very important to him. “I couldn’t imagine it without them.  To be in my first World Series, to have all my family around, my best friend and my girlfriend, all my loved ones, to be able to experience this with them, whether win or lose, it showed how much support I had.  I really wanted them all to be there. I can still look back to before I was in the big leagues, to when I was playing travel ball and when I was in the minors,  they all came to watch me play and supported  me and I felt they all deserved to be there. They all helped me get to where I am today,” he says.

     On his first trip home after the series, Josh was surprised with a huge pep rally at South Effingham High School.  Coaches, family, students, county officials and others were there to show their support. He says, “I was shocked. I was told to come to the high school and I really didn’t know why or what to expect.  Knowing Trey (President of the Josh Reddick Foundation), there’s not really much you don’t expect.  The sky is the limit with him. I know how crazy he can be and how crazy this foundation can be. I was very thankful for what the people at South Effingham High did for me. To be supported like that as a high school alumni there, made me feel really special.”

THE JOSH REDDICK FOUNDATION

     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.

     The Foundation hosts all charitable events in Effingham County and the money raised is given back to the community.  Portions of all money raised go toward the recreation departments as well as the sheriff’s office, fire departments, animal shelter, the Manna house, the Treutlan House and others.

     The Foundation also gives money back to the Board of Education by being a platinum level sponsor to both Effingham County High and South Effingham High.  They also gave money to each elementary school this year and have plans to give to each middle school in the Effingham School District.

     In July, the Foundation started accepting nominations for “The Josh Reddick Athlete of the Month.” The first winner was recognized in August and the contest is open to any athlete residing in Effingham County from 6th grade up.

     Athletics are not the only focus of the Foundation.  Each year, the organization awards four graduating seniors, one male and one female from each high school, a $1000 college scholarship for academic excellence.

     Josh’s desire to give back to this community has remained evident in everything he does. The Foundation is an avenue where he can continue to do this. When speaking about the Foundation, Josh shares, “In the off season, it means everything to me.  To be able to come back and run a few events and be able to give back to this county that I love so much is important to me.  I just really enjoy trying to help this county to improve  on what we  already have. If there is any way I can help, to kind of leave my mark, it makes me feel good inside to give back. This is where I got my start, this is where it all began.  I feel like I have to give back to it, to be able to help the next generation as much as I can. We are all supposed to leave it better for the ones behind us.”

THE ‘MIRACLE FIELD’

     With Houston having suffered so much devastation from the hurricane earlier this year, the World Series title was something each player desperately wanted to bring home.  Even with it being Josh’s first year in Houston, he still found himself on the streets and in the neighborhoods doing what he could to help these victims…that is the Josh Reddick Effingham County has grown to love.

     This man is always giving.  And, his biggest gift is going to be something absolutely amazing for all of Effingham County.

     The groundbreaking ceremony for the Josh Reddick Field was recently held at the new Clarence E. Morgan Sports Complex in Springfield.  This field is being built with a gift of one million dollars by Josh so that all the youth of Effingham will have a place to play.

     This will be a turf field which is being built to be accessible to children with special needs.  Josh feels like every child in our community should have the same opportunities to play, to live their dream.

     One of the most important messages Josh wanted to relay in this story was his thanks to Effingham County for all their support of him throughout his career.  Well Josh, we want to thank you for all you do for the people in Effingham County!

Tree Of Light

On the first Sunday of December, the counselors of Hospice Savannah’s Full Circle Grief and Loss Center host a Tree of Light memorial gathering to remember and honor those who have passed on before us. As bereavement professionals, they know how hard it can be for someone to face the upcoming holiday season when they carry the loss of a loved one in their heart.

     Hospice Savannah hosts a memorial gathering each quarter so that families can come together to remember those patients who died within the last month, and those who died a year ago. But in December, the counselors invite the whole community to the beautiful Demere Center for Living where Full Circle is housed. Chairs are set up on the outdoor patio, there is music, touching sharing of memories, and a candle lighting during which there is a reading of names of those being honored. 

     “Each year we have a speaker share their story of loss,” says Holland Morgan, bereavement coordinator for Full Circle, “Last year, Betsy, one of own counselors, told the story of her grief journey after her mother’s death. Her talk was entitled, ‘Even the bereavement counselor has a hard time’ and I think it was an important message to help normalize and validate the feelings that so many of us share.”

     Full Circle counselors provide year-round support sessions, individual or group, to any one throughout Bryan, Chatham, Effingham Liberty and Long counties who struggles with the death of a loved one. They also offer a children’s overnight grief camp, help children affected by gun violence, support people whose loss is through suicide, ‘Grief and Holidays’ workshops and many other programs. 

     “Our annual Tree of Light event is not only a meaningful and important grief activity, but it also serves as a major fundraiser so we can continue to offer these services at no charge,” says Kim Stangle, VP of the Hospice Savannah Foundation. “As a hospice, Medicare obligates us to provide grief support to our patients’ families for up to 13 months after the death of their loved one. But Hospice Savannah does much, much more. Our Full Circle Grief and Loss Center depends on grants and community donations to continue its important programming. Any one who donates to our annual Tree of Light campaign will receive a brass tree ornament, have their name and their loved one’s name in the event’s program, and know that they are helping us to help others.”

    To make a donation, simply visit www.HospiceSavannah.org/TreeofLight or call the Hospice Savannah Foundation at 912.629.1055. All community members are warmly invited to the 26th annual Tree of Light candle lighting and memorial gathering at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, December 3, 2017. Full Circle Grief and Loss Center is located inside the Demere Center, 6000 Business Center Drive, off Chatham Parkway in Savannah. The event can move indoors in case of inclement weather and refreshments will be served following.

     To find out more about Full Circle’s programs, please visit www.HospiceSavannah.org/fullcircle or call 912.303.9442.

Winston Hencely : Soldier and Survivor

Story By Kathryn Vandenhouten     Photos By Nelson
LaPorte

Winston Hencely doesn’t consider himself a hero. He says he was just doing his job. He never imagined a confrontation with a suicide bomber would leave him struggling to survive. He’s still on the road to recovery, but the Effingham soldier is defying expectations at every turn.

     In November of 2016, the ECHS graduate was an army specialist soon to be promoted to sergeant when he was nearly killed. He recalls knowing instinctively that something was wrong that day. Unlike most Afghan Nationals, the man looked mean and out of place, so Hencely approached him.

     “If I see something, I’m going to say something,” he says. When the man ignored Hencely after questioning him, he grabbed the man’s shoulders from behind, and that’s when he felt the vest. “He blew up right next to me.”

     The explosion killed five people and injured sixteen. Four died onsite and another succumbed to injuries later. Hencely suffered a penetrating traumatic brain injury and multiple shrapnel wounds. “Shrapnel went in the front of my forehead and lodged eight bone fragments in the frontal lobe, and the shrapnel is still back between the occipital lobes,” he says.

     He then lifts his shirt to show a large scar across his chest where he was cut open to remove even more shrapnel from his body. Immediately after the incident, a large piece of his skull was removed due to brain swelling.

     Most people celebrate their twenty-first birthdays by going out on the town; Hencely spent his 21st birthday getting a metal plate in his head.

     His mother, Vicki Hencely, says she remembers the day of the bombing like it was yesterday.” I was sitting here, and I was watching the news, and ticker tape went across the screen and it said ‘Suicide bomber on Bagram in Afghanistan kills 4 and injures 17,’” she recalls.

     When she couldn’t reach her son by phone, friends tried to assure her that she would have gotten a call if something had happened to Winston. Twelve hours later, she got a call from Fort Hood, Texas that confirmed her fears. “I just had that gut feeling. Just that uneasiness. That feeling that something wasn’t right,” she says.

     When her son arrived to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., doctors had to prepare her for what she was about to see. “It was hard to walk in and see him on life support and the machines breathing for him, and he’s just shaking because the part of the brain that controls body temperature was damaged so they couldn’t control his body temp,” she says. “It was horrible.”

     Miraculously, Hencely woke up from his coma and never looked back. Doctors said he would be paralyzed on his left side, likely never to walk again. Hencely had other plans. “I made a decision early on,” he explains. “I could’ve easily given up and just be in the bed the rest of my life. Have somebody feed me, change me-I could’ve, but what quality of life is that?”

     So he did what any soldier would do; he fought. After months in the hospital and multiple surgeries, he never stopped fighting, and his hard work has paid off. “They told me that I wouldn’t walk. Six months later I was walking. They told me that I wouldn’t run-what next?” says Hencely.

     If there’s one thing he loves, it’s proving people wrong when they say he can’t do something. “I use a lot of that as motivation,” he explains. “Sometimes you just get dealt a really bad hand. Whining about it doesn’t make your situation any better.”

     It is that determination that has gotten him this far. He still has a long way to go on his road to recovery, but after multiple surgeries, months of hospitalization, and ongoing therapy, he is proud of how far he’s come.

     “I’ll never be the same as I was, and I’ve accepted that,” he says. His mental scars will last as long as his physical ones. Since the explosion, Hencely has suffered from post traumatic stress and anxiety. The constant fear of danger is never far from his mind.

     Fortunately, a service dog, Loki, was donated to Hencely to ease his anxiety, and the two are now inseparable. “It’s just nice to have something you can talk to that doesn’t talk back but still shows some sort of love for you,” he says.

     The love and support from the community has been overwhelming as well. Hencely and his family were amazed at the homecoming he received in Rincon when he came back. Hundreds of people lined the streets to welcome him home. There are still yellow ribbons lining the road to his home, put up by friends and neighbors to honor him.

     “I’ve never seen so many people come together,” he says. “I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers and everything they’ve done for me.”  The homecoming parade, get well cards, and thousands of well-wishes on social media shows the overwhelming support he’s received from family, friends, and the entire community.

     “Americans don’t know how good they have it, that’s for sure,” say Hencely. “It’s nice being back in America.” If there is one thing he has learned from his brush with death, it is gratitude. In fact, he says the whole experience has made him a better person.

     “It took all this happening to me to realize I don’t deserve anything,” says Hencely. “I’m really more open minded now. I value my life a lot more.”

     He wears a memorial bracelet with the names of those who died that day. It reminds him how lucky he is to be alive, and he vows to do something great with his second chance at life. “I have that with me because they didn’t get the chance to live and I did,” he says. “It’s really hard. Every day is a struggle for sure. My body’s getting better, but I have a lot that I need to work on to mentally overcome.”

     He still struggles with survivor’s guilt, but he is more focused on the future than the past. “There’s a lot I want to do,” Hencely says. “I want to focus on something in neurology or neuroscience. I have a lot of interest in that and I’ve learned a lot.”

     Along with his many coins, awards, and his Purple Heart, he has an exact replica of his skull with a hole in it the size of a fist. To see it is to truly realize how lucky he is to be alive.

     Hencely’s motto is “make the rest of your life the best of your life.” No matter how cliche it may sound, he believes he is here for a reason and he plans to live life to the fullest.

     “There’s a lot more in store. I have big plans. Be patient with me. I love the support and I plan on giving back,” he says. One of the causes that have become even more dear to the Hencely’s is the Adopt A US Soldier program, which connects supportive civilians to deployed soldiers.

     Hencely himself spent months in the hospital, and his mother and grandmother never left his side. Other soldiers are not so lucky. “Walter Reed took a part of my soul away,” says Vicki Hencely. “You can’t visit a facility like that and walk away whole.”

     She says the image of sick and injured soldiers with no family was heartbreaking, which is why the Adopt A US Soldier program is so important. “It’s our young kids missing two arms, missing both their legs and don’t have anybody. Their mom’s not there. Their dad’s not there. Their family’s not there,” she adds.

     Luckily, Winston had strong family and community support throughout his entire ordeal. In fact, he says that waking up to see his family there gave him the encouragement he needed to get well. “That was key to my recovery,” he adds. “Waking up and having my family there.”

     In addition to supportive family and friends, he also gives credit to the staff at Effingham County Hospital, where he continues physical therapy. Little by little, he is regaining strength and mobility.

     Winston Hencely will never be the same person he was before he was injured, but maybe he wasn’t meant to be. And though he doesn’t like being called a hero, this soldier’s battle to recover has made one thing certain: he is a fighter.

Christopher Chavis : Conquering the Catch…Hook, Line and Sinker

“As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.”

~Izaak Walton

Story By Katrice Williams Photos By Shelia Scott

Christopher “Chris” Chavis is an Ellabell native who has lived in Effingham for over 10 years, along with his wife LeAnn. The couple has a son, Landon, 16, and daughter, Gracy, 13. Chris has been doing millwork since graduating from high school and is currently a longshoreman at Georgia Port Authority in Savannah.

     Bass fishing has long been Chris’ passion, as he has loved it as far back as he can remember.

     “I’ve been fishing ever since I was old enough to hold a fishing pole. My granddad used to carry us everywhere with him. He fished tournaments as we were growing up. That’s where I got my passion for it from,” Chris mentions. Chris’ granddad Lee Benson is definitely his biggest mentor.

     Chris fished on the local small club level as a member of the Three Rivers Bass Club for a while. During only his “second year of fishing at the club, he had several good finishes and won angler of the year in points.” After his first year, he “got more into the competitive side” of things after becoming more acquainted with that arena.

     He remembers thinking, “If those guys can do it, I can do it.”

     Early on, he knew that it would be most beneficial to “start fishing really well at home before going abroad to compete;” he was confident that after mastering his skill on his home turf that he could begin “venturing out” much more. Chris fished in team and local, open tournaments and even participated in various charity competitive events.

     Chris began competing as a co-angler, an individual who sometimes fish in the rear of the same boat as a highly skilled and professional boater at competitions; the pairings are often randomly selected prior to events, as the two usually compete independent of one another. Actually, “the very first time that Chris fished as a co-angler, he won.” What’s more, Chris fished in a couple of Bass Fishing League (BFL) Tournaments and American Bass Angler (ABA) Tournaments where he performed very well.

     Chris declares, “I never would have thought in two years that I would’ve done as good and went as far in it as I have.”

     Chris is enormously grateful for all of his accomplishments on the water. Some 2016 finishes included 1st place at the BFL at Clarks Hill in March 2016, 2nd place at the BFL Savannah River Division at Lake Hartwell in April, 1st place finishes at Catt Trail and the Savannah River Elite Anglers last September and 1st place at the Halloween Tricky Two-Day Competition last October just to name a few. Actually, he did a phenomenal job this year alone, placing 3rd at the ABA National Championship at Lake Old Hickory in April, 3rd at the ABA South Carolina Division at Lake Russel in May, 3rd at the Coastal Bass Anglers Memorial Day Open at the Savannah River in May and 2nd at the Metter Bass Masters Open in July.

     Chris has a host of other accomplishments where he led in points over the past few years. All-in-all, Chris has “fished two national events which included over 300 anglers, ten regional events having over 250 anglers and about 20 local events, which included nearly 100 anglers;” he is pleased at his placement in each tournament.

     Further, Chris began fishing as a boater this year, and he continues to exceed even his own expectations. In fact, some boater “trails to be finished” include: American Bass Anglers Ram Open Series in South Carolina, the FLW (Forest L. Wood Fishing League)/BFL Savannah River Division and the FLW/BFL South Carolina Division, all being regional tournaments. In contrast to a co-angler, there is normally more vested interest and overall responsibility with being a boater; Chris really enjoys the challenges that come along with it.

He states, “I’ve done really well as a boater for my first year. There is a lot more on the line.” Chris welcomes anyone interested in learning more about his fishing endeavors to look him up via Facebook.

     Chris has some very beneficial advice for anyone desiring to get more into the sport and compete against others. He suggests, “Make sure you are good around here, then go out and fish as a co-angler for a while until you feel really good and confident that you can do a good job against those guys on their home lakes.”

     With all of his skills, accolades and accomplishments, Chris has a sincere love for the sport—a love that would be difficult to remain over the years without the tremendous support of his wife and kids. They are his biggest cheerleaders. They are truly proud of him and are looking forward to his professional growth in the sport and all that the future has to offer.

     LeAnn comments, “We’re happy to support him. I’m excited for him. How many times do you get to support somebody trying to live their dream? He would support me in anything I wanted to do. We’re behind him completely.”

     She admits that she does go fishing with her husband on occasion and is pretty okay with leaving most of the real fishing up to him. However, she always goes with the goal of getting a catch.

     LeAnn jokes, “I like to go fishing, but I really like to go ‘catching.’ I’m like, hey, let’s go. If we don’t catch anything, I’m ready to go.”

     Chris, a genuinely humble guy, would rather talk about his family or his second love, fishing, than ever be boastful about himself or his achievements.

     LeAnn insists, “He would rather talk about anything other than himself.”

     Going forward, Chris is looking forward to working his way up to the upcoming FLW Tour or the Bass Masters Elite Series, the goal of nearly every angler striving to consistently capitalize on their professional skills. Hence, he has several noteworthy goals in mind.

     Chris remarks, “Next year, I would like to try to fish the FLW’S and the Bass Masters Open. My goal is to take it another step up and go from there and see how it goes. I’m confident enough in myself that I feel like I can go compete and do good…take the chance and go after it.”

     Chris is certainly grateful to all of those family and friends who show their support. Also, he feels very privileged and thankful for all the companies who have chosen to sponsor him, including BD Landscaping, D&V Electric, Beasley Conditioned Air and Greenleaf Construction.

     “Having the support of local companies and good friends and family—it makes a humongous difference to keep you going,” Chris asserts.

     When he is not reeling in a catch, Chris enjoys spending quality time with his family, as he appreciates all of the time that they so willingly and open-heartedly sacrifice for him to follow his aspirations.

     Christopher Chavis is looking ahead to all of the opportunities in store for him as he persists to reach other noteworthy heights. While continuing to embrace the same humility and modesty that is instilled within, the opportunities are nearly endless for this talented and accomplished fisherman.