Chevron brings the heat in Dragon Boat race

Things were heating up in Gulfport with Chevron at United Way of South Mississippi‘s second “Fire on the Lake” Dragon Boat Race.

 

A dragon boat is a human-powered water craft decorated to resemble the mythical creature with origins tracing back to ancient Chinese civilizations. In modern day, dragon boats serve as the vehicles in racing competitions with teams consisting of 20 rowers and one drummer to keep paddling in rhythm. 

Teams from all across the Gulf Coast representing various businesses and organizations gathered at The Dock Bar and Grill Saturday morning. Teams from other sponsors like Mississippi Power, Yates Construction, Coca-Cola and IP Casino Resort Spa competed in the races.

“We actually did dragon boat racing last year in Mobile,” said Alyssa Brannan, a design engineer at Chevron and one of the rowers. “At that event we supported the Fuse Project, which supports children in the Mobile area. This year we decided to come back across the state line to help Jackson County.”

Even though the event was held in Harrison County, Chevron was able to have some of their funds put toward helping the United Way in Jackson County.

Teams competed in a total of three races that lasted little more than a minute each. Even though not long, the races were intense for the rowers.

“We got our trainers at work to give us a couple of workouts to prepare us,” Brannan said.

Friends and family of the Chevron team gathered around the tent, making the race more than a competition, but rather a festivity. 

However, by the end of the day, everyone was exhausted. 

“It’s only a minute-long race, but it works you,” said materials engineer Jackie Modist.

While Chevron did not place, coming in fifth out of the 21 teams, the team walked away helping the United Way and knowing how to improve for next year.

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Chevron employee gives back to honor those who helped him

We all know that there never seems to be enough time in the day. Between work, family, running to the grocery store to get dinner on the table and just everything that life throws at you, it can be hard just to enjoy a cup of coffee, let alone give back to the community. However, none of this stops Michael Seales.

A Chevron employee in Maintenance and Reliability, Michael is said to volunteer at every event that Chevron participates in.

“I’m just paying it forward. People have helped me out through my life in various ways growing up, so I want to give back and help others.”

Michael volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club of Jackson County, the Moss Point Baseball League and the Moss Point Recreation Department.

“When I was coming up as a kid, we had guys like me helping out in the recreation department teaching us different sporting skills, and it has led me to volunteer at things like sporting events. I also enjoy helping people in their homes, like installing smoke detectors. I want to do the things for others that people did for me.”

Michael enjoys volunteering with children’s organizations because he cherishes making an impact on children’s lives.

“I feel like you have to start with them young in teaching them the right things and things they need in life in general. My hope is that you teach them values now and they can hold on to that as they get older.”

 

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Win a Yeti Prize Package!

Screen-Shot-2017-04-20-at-9.42.46-AM-300x246 Win a Yeti Prize Package!Everyday from April 22nd- May 18th, a new species of plant or animal that is native to South Mississippi will be featured on JaxCoHome’s Indigenous IQ page.  

With each daily feature there is a chance to win a Yeti Prize package, valued at over $400.

Follow these easy steps to win:

Each post is another entry and another chance to win.  

For a bonus entry, Facebook users can follow us on Facebook (click the Follow button below the entry form).

Entering more than one time per day will disqualify your entry.

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Coast couple uses business to explore waterways, promote conservation

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Imagine that you have never visited Jackson County before. You aren’t from the area at all, and you want to know what to do on your first visit. Considering this area of Mississippi is home to one of the largest free-flowing rivers in the United States, that is a site that should definitely make the agenda, and one of the best ways to see it is through Eco-Tours of South Mississippi.

 

Owned and operated solely by Captain Kathy and Jeff Wilkinson, the couple bought the business in the spring of 2006 after Hurricane Katrina.

“My husband and I have had boats and spent time on the water our wholes lives, so it was just a natural progression,” said Kathy Wilkinson. “All along we had hoped to do some kind of business that involved boats. We tossed around a lot of ideas over the years, and we settled on the eco-tours because the river is such a valuable resource. We thought it was important for people to get out and see it and the wild life and ecosystem first hand. They can also see the importance of conserving it because it’s such a unique resource.”

 

They enjoy being one of the unique small businesses in the Jackson County community.

“We’ve had guests from all over the world,” Kathy explained. “We feel like we’re making a good contribution to the economic impact that tourism has on our area. Visitors tell us they will plan their eco-tour before they even leave their homes, so they ask us where to stay and where to eat. That gives us a chance to refer them to local small businesses, and we enjoy that opportunity. Your typical eco-tourist appreciated the opportunity to patronize small businesses.”

 

The couple also works to do community outreach with their small business.

“This Saturday we are partnering with the city of Gautier for Earth Day and offering free boat tours,” she mentioned. “We also do little outreach events through out the year like that one. We will donate boat trips to charities and fundraisers. In fact, one of the offshoots of our Eco-Tours business is that my husband started a nonprofit to promote having litter-free waterways.”

Kathy said there were instances when she would be conducting a boat tour and as the boat turned a bend, there would be coolers and refrigerators littering the area.

“It distracts from the message that this is supposed to be a pristine, natural environment. It’s kind of shocking for some people to see that, but it also relays to people the importance of volunteering in the community. When I hear people complain about any trash they may see, I tell them don’t wait for the city to do it but to go out yourself. I try to stress the importance of securing things so they don’t blow out of your boat or truck and get washed into the river.”

The Wilkinsons will try to pick up any trash they do come across during any tours, but it’s not easy keeping the area clean.

“We don’t go out looking for trash or make it it a mission to pick up all the trash because we just wouldn’t finish our tours in time if we picked up every piece of trash we saw.”

Not only does the business offer motorboat tours, but also kayak tours, overnight trips and rides out to the barrier islands. 

“We started our business doing two-hour motorboat tours. We spent more and more time doing those motorboat tours and I ended up not having time for my personal kayaking, so I decided to add that to the business. We decided to add the trips to the barrier islands because we love to go out to Horn Island and Petit Bois Island, which are both nationally designated wilderness areas. We like going to those islands because not everyone gets the chance. There aren’t any ferries going to those islands, and I hope there never are. Ship Island, for example, is a lot more developed, but Horn Island and Petit Bois Island aren’t like that. It’s not for everyone, but it’s something really special and unique for people to do. We figured the more services we offered, the more opportunities have to serve people.”

Because the couple are the only ones that operate the business, they have a lot of responsibility.”

“We work really hard and work year-round. We do everything. We maintain the boats and wash kayaks and do the tours. We when have overnight trips we do all the food prep. We work together to do it all, so it’s a really good bond for us too. We enjoy working the business together.”

However, this also offers some flexibility.

“We’re able to offer tours all year long and we can customize our trips to do just about anything, except fish and jet ski.”

While they do operate a business, the Wilkinsons are still very passionate about conserving the Pascagoula River.

“It’s a great experience, taking people out there. It’s another opportunity to show people how important it is to conserve natural resources and preserve our area. It’s unique in its designation as a wilderness area. It gets to be a teaching moment. Like, the ride out to the barrier islands is interesting because you can see different sea birds and dolphins and stingrays. At this time of year the water is really clear. It’s not necessarily a secret because a lot of locals go out, but some people don’t really understand what a barrier island is or where they are located. It’s really a great experience.”

After speaking with Kathy about the business, it is clear this couple is passionate about what they do.

“If you can find a business to do that’s your passion, it’s not like work at all; it’s just fun. We get to meet people from all over the world, and they are just like sponges. They are ready to be informed and they’re interested. I feel like it is a privilege for us to be able to do this, and the fact that we make money from it is icing on the cake.”

To get your own Eco-Tour experience, visit their website for details and call to book a reservation.

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Scientist preaches importance of estuaries

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is filled with unique ecosystems provided by its estuaries. Estuaries are usually found where rivers meet the sea, creating a body of brackish water, which is a mixture of fresh and salt water.

Often called nurseries of the sea, estuaries provide vital nesting and feeding habitats for many aquatic plants and animals.  Estuaries also help to maintain healthy ocean environments. They filter out sediments and pollutants from rivers and streams before they flow into the oceans, providing cleaner waters for marine life. Birds, fish, amphibians, insects, and other wildlife depend on estuaries to live, feed, nest, and reproduce.

NERR-frog Scientist preaches importance of estuaries

With how many species depend on estuarine environments, places like the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the people who work there are so important, such as Dr. Ayesha Gray.

NERR-frog Scientist preaches importance of estuaries

Gray is the director of Grand Bay NERR who studies aquatic ecosystem functions and the effectiveness of habitat restoration projects. She develops and conducts ecological research with her colleagues to better understand how fisheries are supported by wetlands.

“We aim to understand how this special estuary works and what it does, so we can know what actions are best in managing it,” Gray said.

However, Gray doesn’t just focus on working with her team, but also educating the community on the importance of estuaries by developing the reserve’s outreach programs.

NERR-frog Scientist preaches importance of estuaries

“I think it is important for people to understand what ecosystems do, because they do such important things for us – create food, clean our water and air, absorb storm surge, etc.,” Gray explained. “Estuaries are important nurseries for fish and shellfish, where commercially caught fish often grow up before moving offshore.”

However, Gray’s focus isn’t just on education, but also on allowing people to enjoy the estuaries.

NERR-frog Scientist preaches importance of estuaries

“I also think estuaries are beautiful and special places than enrich the human soul,” she said. “We often conduct kayak tours and encourage our visitors to see the marshes from the water. Kayaking is especially nice way to see the marshes because it is a quiet way to travel and you can see all the birds and fish and other critters as you go along.”

In short, Gray just wants to make sure the Jackson County community understands the beauty and importance of the many local estuaries the way she does.

“Estuaries are vital to the coastal way of life, and I find the more people know about them, the more people love them and want to protect them.”

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Local scientist works for education, conservation

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Boasting numerous educational programs for all age groups, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center has become a staple in Jackson County.

Serving the largest free-flowing river in the United States, the center promotes education about the river and leads conservation efforts to the surrounding environment. Leading the effort the whole way is Dr. Mark LaSalle. 

Mark LaSalle is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award. As the Director of the Audubon Center in Moss Point, LaSalle is responsible for coordinating the continued development of the center as well as expanding the center’s educational programs.

“My focus has always been on environment education and wetland restoration, so it was natural that when I learned about the possibility of this center coming to be that I wanted to be part of it,” he said. “I’m always looking for a challenge, so building something like this from the ground up for the past 10 years has been fun for me.”

LaSalle is a wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. Not only does he help to educate visitors to the Audubon Center, but also everyone in the surrounding community about the unique resource that is the Pascagoula River. 

“I work promoting and protecting this resource,” he said. “I like to think of conservation as a three-legged stool that is held up by educational programs, the science to back it up and public policy to make it all happen. We are constantly working on engaging the community about a resource we are trying to protect. We work to be a partner with the community and promote nature-based economic development. My world is education.”

However, LaSalle stressed that nothing would be possible without his partners at the center who execute everything he dreams. 

“I couldn’t do it without them.”

Another passion of LaSalle’s is to educate the youth of the community on the area’s natural resources. He feels they are the future.

“I feel like this younger generation is not as connected to nature as when I grew up, with all of the technology that is now so readily available,” he said. “Also, children are the building blocks for keeping resources like the river protected. I can get current elected officials on my side, but if I don’t work on the future elected officials then I’m in trouble. Yeah, not everyone will run for office or get elected, but these children will grow up and vote. We might not get an immediate result from these education programs we coordinate, but we will see it down the road.”

Anyone who has the chance to speak to LaSalle about his work can easily hear the passion in his voice about everything he does. He offers a great piece of advice that can apply to anyone, no matter their interests.

“You have to love what you’re doing or you have to do something else,” he said. “Find something you love doing because you’re going to be it a long time.”

Pay it Forward Fridays

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

 

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25th annual soap box derby to be in downtown Moss Point

The 25th anniversary of the Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby will be held in downtown Moss Point on Saturday, April 29.

The race, sponsored by the Chevron Black Employee Network (BEN) and Moss Point Active Citizens (MPAC), draws participants from across the Southeast. It is open to children between the ages of 7 and 17 who build their engine-less cars from kits purchased from a designated supplier.

Winners of the Moss Point divisions will travel to Akron, Ohio to compete in the All-American Soap Box Championship.

Originally known as the Magnolia State Soap Box Derby, the event’s name was changed to honor Deborah Washington after she lost her battle with breast cancer. Washington started the event in 1992, and was a beloved Refinery employee known for her active community involvement.

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Yacht club chef returns to Food Network

One of the great things about the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the amazing food the region offers.

It isn’t just because of the local seafood or the proximity to New Orleans. All of those assets would mean nothing if not in the hands of talented chefs such as Food Network-featured Stacie “Cheffy” Vande Wetering.

cheffy-ggg Yacht club chef returns to Food NetworkWetering has been featured on Beat Bobby Flay and is now returning to Guy’s Grocery Games as part of a Winner’s Tournament after winning on the first episode she competed in, which was a whirlwind of an experience.

“I remember getting a call on a random Wednesday afternoon in October asking if I would be interested in auditioning for Guy’s Grocery Games. I did a Skype interview that Friday and then had 48 hours to submit a three-minute video of myself to determine if my personality would be right for the show. It was a long process of lots of phone calls and being asked the same questions over and over again.”

Wetering flew out the week before Thanksgiving and ended up appearing on a special episode of the series.

“It turns out I’m working with another chef during this competition who I’ve literally never met before. You’ve got two people crammed into this cooking station that is really only meant for one, and he’s a foot and a half taller than me on top of that.”

Guy’s Grocery Games is a show, hosted by Guy Fieri, that sends four chefs shopping for ingredients in a grocery store set to then make a dish for the challenge. However, things are not as straightforward as they seem because the challenge also lies in the different parameters set for the shopping and cooking, such as a budget or an unexpected added ingredient all while under a time limit for the shopping and cooking.

“I just remember it all being a whirlwind,” Wetering recalled. “Those clocks are for real and that was the fastest 30 minutes I have ever experienced in my life. You just go into automatic pilot. Even though we had just met, [my partner and I] worked together like we had been working together for 20 years.”

Wetering and her partner won the competition for that episode, and now she is returning to the Flavortown Market.

“I got a phone call asking if I would be interested and available to compete in a winners’ tournament and I said of course. While I can’t say much about it now, I will say I ended up competing against my partner from the first episode I was on. We keep in touch, but we didn’t know we were both invited back until we were flying out.”

Competing on Food Network programming is just the latest accomplishment Wetering has made in her culinary career.

Wetering has had a passion for cooking since early in her life, inspired by her father. She decided early in her college career that her ideal classroom was the kitchen and her instructor a professional chef.

“I’ve been cooking for almost 27 years now,” she said. “I started a formal two-year apprenticeship under a German chef in Orange Beach, Alabama, working from 1991-1993. I’m not knocking culinary schools, but I firmly believe I would not have gotten as far in my career as I did if not for my apprenticeship.”

Wetering’s culinary career has included working under five different Certified Master Chefs, the highest level of achievement from the American Culinary Federation.

“At any one time, there are only 55-65 Certified Master Chefs in the world,” Wetering said.

Wetering has experience with cuisine in the style of classic French, Italian, Asian, Central and Southern Mexican. She can do everything in her kitchen from managing the menu to washing the dishes.

“In cooking, you have to pay your dues,” Wetering said. “As a chef, you need to be able to do everything in your kitchen to have the respect of your staff. A lot of my career I’ve been choosey about who I work for. I knew what I wanted to learn and what I wanted to do.”

Wetering has worked in numerous restaurants throughout Atlanta as well as New York and various locations in Alabama. She now finds herself as General Manager and Executive Chef at the Singing River Yacht Club in Pascagoula.cheffy-ggg Yacht club chef returns to Food Network

“If you had asked me five years ago if I would be interested in moving to South Mississippi running a private yacht club, I would say you’re insane,” Wetering joked.

Wetering’s previous position was working as the Executive Chef at a tennis club in Fairhope, Alabama.

“I had a lot of freedom with my menu and a great crew,” she recounted. “But even if I’m happy in my position I’ll talk to anyone because you never know what might happen. I was asked to interview for this position at a club where the board felt it was time for a change. “

Change is exactly what Wetering brought with her.

“I’m all about a challenge. I’m a fixer. I’m type A. Over my career I would go into a kitchen, and whatever it was the kitchen may or may not have been functioning as best as it could. I would fix it and then I would need something else to challenge me. We’re still a work in progress, but in nearly two years, we now have a waiting list for members, which has never happened before. We have tripled profit and now this is where everyone wants to be. I still have a way to go and still so much I want to do with it. I’m not trying to make it fancy or high end, but a great family-friendly yacht club.”

While the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a change from Atlanta and New York, Cheffy is happy to call Pascagoula her home.

“We have no plans to go anywhere. We’re even buying a house. You just can’t beat where we leave.”

 

 

 

 

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Pascagoula lawyer inducted into Ole Miss Hall of Fame

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A Jackson County lawyer was honored on March 25 by being inducted into the University of Mississippi School of Law Alumni Hall of Fame.

Raymond Brown has been practicing law in Pascagoula since the 1960s after he graduated from Ole Miss and the University of Maryland in 1962. Upon graduation, Brown was able to serve as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, a rare occurrence for graduates fresh out of law school.

“I believe my induction has to do with a number of things, including my clerkship, but also serving as president of the Mississippi Bar and other positions I’ve held in my professional career,” Brown said.

Brown’s time in law school was an unusual one. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in 1958, Brown played professional football for the Baltimore Colts for three years as safety and punter helping lead the team to two NFL World Championships in 1958 and 1959. During his football career, Brown attended the University of Maryland in the fall semester and Ole Miss in the spring until 1962.

Brown’s other achievements include being inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, the Ole Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2000, the M-Club Hall of Fame in 1988 and served as president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association from 1991-92.

“You spend your career in a profession trying to be professional, be ethical, treat people right, do the right and things, and then when something like this comes along, you think ‘Gee, I did it right,'” Brown added. “They gave me this honor based upon what I’ve done, so I must have done it right.”

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Volunteers Partner for Home Fire Prevention

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Chevron Pascagoula Refinery recently partnered with the American Red Cross, Pascagoula Fire Department and U.S. Navy volunteers to educate local residents about fire safety. More than 50 volunteers gathered on Feb. 3 to go door-to-door in east Pascagoula to pass out educational material and install free smoke alarms in homes where there are no working smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, or alarms that were not installed correctly.

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