Pay it Forward Friday: Scott Lemon Awarded Humanitarian Award

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Last week, The Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA appointed Scott Lemon as the 2017 recipient of the John R. Blossman Humanitarian Award at their annual banquet. Scott has been a key leader in the Gulf Coast area for the past three decades, serving the area not only through his profession, but also by his dedicated volunteering and the high standard he has set through his example as a husband, father, grandfather, and colleague and friend to many.

After graduating from Mississippi State University, Scott began his career in textile manufacturing. However, it wasn’t long before he felt led to follow in his grandfather and father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the insurance industry. He and his wife, Barbara, moved to Ocean Springs with their three daughters where Scott stepped into his dad’s shoes to co-manage Lemon-Mohler Insurance with Mark Mohler after his dad’s retirement.

Scott’s influence has been and continues to be widely felt along the Gulf Coast. He is involved with numerous boards, associations and affiliations, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Young Life, the Women’s Resources Center and the Home of Grace. He values integrity and accountablility, which stem from his deep faith in God, his love for the church, and for his family. “We certainly believe the young people of our community are our future and that’s why we support these organizations”, says Lemon. 

Scott knew when he married Barbara 29 years ago that he “married up;” she is gracious, genuine, and compassionate with a servant’s heart. Scott says she completes him. He and Barbara enjoy spending time with their daughters and families, which now includes grandson, Charlie, and they are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their second grandson.

The John R. Blossman Humanitarian Award was created in order to recognize individuals, like John, who put his fellow man first and is given each year at a banquet proudly hosted by the Beau Rivage Resort Casino. All who knew John Blossman felt his deep love for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Much of his life was spent in service to organizations that positively impacted the lives of others. The sponsorships and proceeds from the banquet help support the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign. With your financial assistance through sponsorships or donations, the YMCA is able to have a lasting impact on thousands of Gulf Coast children, teens and their families every year.”The YMCA has been a huge part of my life”, he said. “I’ve grown up there and have seen the organization help so many people through working with the mind, body and spirit”, says Lemon. 

It is clear that Lemon makes consistent efforts to help others and is a deserving community member to receive this award. When asked how people can get can get involved in the community, he encourages others to seek out and help your neighbors in times of need. “Find an organization you dearly love and serve it with all your heart and soul, and you won’t feel like you’re giving anything up.”  

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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Pay it Forward Friday: Lana Watts

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Lana Watts, a Pascagoula High School nurse, recently earned her National Board School Nurse Certification and was celebrated with a surprise reception. 

As administrators and staff gathered in the conference room, PHS Anthony Herbert called Nurse Watts to come to the conference room to “check his blood pressure”. When she opened the door, she was surprised to find her colleagues with a cake that read, “Congrats Nurse Watts!”. 

Nurse Watts has been a nurse with the high school for 3 years. 

“I really just enjoy helping the kids. I love being a nurse, especially within the schools,” says Watts.

With this certification, she is now specialized to work within schools and become an expert in school nursing. 

Nurse Watts is one of only 40 National Board Certified School Nurses in the state of Mississippi and the second one in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District. 

“We just wanted to show how proud we are of her and how much we appreciate her”, says Herbert. 

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Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont

After Harvey slammed through the coastal lines of Texas and Louisiana, many volunteers rushed to aid those in bigger cities, such as Houston. But one man wanted to help with relief efforts in a smaller town and made a personal trip himself, along with a few others, to bring supplies and donations to the people of Beaumont, Texas. 

Wes Eubanks is a local Chevron employee who felt an overwhelming desire and connection to aid the people of Beaumont. Eubanks has always had a passion for helping others, but this time he knew he had to help with the city of Beaumont- because they had once also helped Jackson county from a previous disaster. 

After Katrina’s devastating destruction to the Coast, Westgate Memorial of Beaumont sent out a group of volunteers to help clean up and mud out efforts and get the people of Jackson County back on their feet. The church worked diligently and graciously to restore the county. Unbeknownst to them, Beaumont would need the same help themselves twelve years later. Fate aligned when Wes was referred to Westgate through a friend who was heading out to Beaumont, and he knew it was his turn to give back to the same group who had helped his town before. 

On September 8, Wes and his team packed up over 100 of JaxCoHome’s flood buckets, clothes, food, cases of water, rakes, shovels and carpentry tools and loaded them into a trailer to head out and deliver to the people of Beaumont.pic3-300x179 Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont “There were over 30 people at the church the day we arrived, but was told they are 200 strong working out in the community”, says Eubanks. The group spent the entire day handing out supplies and helping in any way possible to give back to Beaumont what they gave to Jackson County. Eubanks credits his team by saying, “They are working hard to rebuild the community and surrounding communities and help the people get stabilized.”

Wes Eubanks is no stranger himself when it comes to helping others in times of need. In fact, he frequently visits local homeless and rehab shelters, such as The Half Way Home, to bring gifts and make the residents feel special. pic3-300x179 Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont

During the holidays, Wes visits these shelters and hosts a Christmas party for the residents so they can feel and be a part of the Christmas spirit and celebrate with one another. “We have them open gifts and my band will play for Christmas songs for them. We just want to show them they are not forgotten”, said Eubanks.

Because of his consistent efforts to help others, JaxCoHome would like to dedicate our “Pay It Forward Friday” to Wes Eubanks from the Pascagoula Chevron Refinery. Thank you Wes for all that you do, not only for Jackson County, but also for anyone, anywhere who needs a helping hand. 

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Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief – Hurricane Harvey Aftermath: Project Flood Bucket


Do you want to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey?

Residents of the Gulf Coast have sat watching Hurricane Harvey pound the Texas coast all weekend. Flood waters have literally submerged major areas of Houston and thousands are left with homes in ruin. This hits very close to the residents of Jackson County. We don’t NEED to help, we HAVE to help. Some of the major needs for Texas victims right now are bottled water, and cleaning supplies. Thousands will return home to the muck we experienced during Hurricane Katrina, and we all know the monumental task of cleaning up that is ahead. is calling all Jackson County residents and surrounding areas to join in relief efforts by joining “Project Flood Bucket.” Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief

Important: Do not donate old clothes!


JaxCoHome has partnered with 3 strategic drop off locations in Jackson County. You may drop off supplies or assembled “flood buckets” at any of these locations. Assembled flood buckets preferred!


Jackson County drop off locations:

First United Methodist Church, Pascagoula, 2710 Pascagoula Street – Map

Heritage Funeral Home, Moss Point, 9721 Hwy 63 – Map

Ocean Springs Lumber, Ocean Springs, 1611 Government Street – Map

Bring bottled water, supplies for buckets, OR ASSEMBLED flood buckets to any of these locations by Sunday, September 3rd, afternoon. Transport will be taking supplies early next week. We invite you to include a personal note to the recipient. Share words of encouragement that you feel they need to hear during this tragic time. Knowing that their Gulf Coast neighbors are thinking of them may be the boost they need to get through the recovery phase. Be sure to enclose in a ZipLoc bag so not to get ruined during delivery. Let the victims know we are thinking about them here in Jackson County!

FloodBucket-Infographic-614x1024 Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief - Hurricane Harvey Aftermath: Project Flood Bucket

Some other suggestions you can include in your flood bucket (as long as the lid closes securely):

  • A Walmart gift card
  • Scouring pads
  • Fully wrapped and bagged candy or treats

This is our turn to give back Jackson County! Let’s help our brothers and sisters in Texas. Pay it forward and pay it back!

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This Teacher Has Dedicated 45 Years to Jackson County Schools

IMG_1066-300x225 This Teacher Has Dedicated 45 Years to Jackson County SchoolsOne name that is synonymous with Jackson County schools and administrators is Elizabeth Benefield. For the past 44 years, “Mrs. B” has been instrumental in teaching Jackson County students. The past 17 years she has been the principal at Resurrection Catholic Elementary School, which has two campuses in Pascagoula. During 2017-2018 school year, RCS will be transitioning. “The 2017-18 school year, I will be wearing a different hat.I will be working in collaboration with Noah Hamilton who will become our head master. It will be a new administrative arrangement for Resurrection where I will be providing extra administrative support, primarily at the secondary campus” Mrs. B explains. The transition initiated by the Biloxi Diocese is to create a vision of one school two campuses as Hamilton takes over as the primary administrator. Next year will be another adjustment for RCS as it marks the 18th year Elisabeth Benefield has served as the elementary school principal, and where she will officially retire.

Earlier this year RCS honored Mrs. Benefield at their Spring Fling celebration for all of her years of service. “Being the principal here has been very different here than it has been in other places. The sense of family I think really has made the difference. The good Lord working for all of us here keeping us together, makes it a pretty amazing place to be. When you begin every single day with prayer with the staff for the children roaming the halls, that’s a pretty amazing thing,” says Mrs. B.

We are happy to announce that Elisabeth Benefield is the “Pay it Forward Friday” recipient. Thank you for all your years of service to our Jackson County students.

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Pay It Forward Friday: Jenafer Gurley

This week’s Pay It Forward Friday is Jenafer Gurley, a 36 year-old artist from Pascagoula. Gurley was born in Pascagoula but lived in South Carolina up until 11 years ago when she decided to plant her roots in the beautiful coastal city of Pascagoula. From early 2014 to late 2016, Gurley owned an art studio that was located in Anchor Squares and eventually moved to downtown Pascagoula. On occasion, Gurley will “abandon” a piece of her work around the area so that other people can find it and enjoy it.

“I’ve had a few people email me telling me they found it and it’s a really neat idea,” explains Gurley.

Art isn’t the only thing Gurley is passionate about; she loves helping others and giving back to her community. Some of the projects she’s done around town include a food drive, a prom dress drive, free art lessons for kids and an annual drive for school supplies.

“All of my business owner friends and friends in bands chipped in with donations.  I loved having the parents and children come in to collect supplies,” says Gurley.

Gurley has also donated some of her time to Our Daily Bread and hopes to volunteer with other committees as well. She has just recently joined Emerge Pascagoula, which is a team of driven young men and women that promotes Pascagoula as a great place to live and visit.

“I feel Pascagoula has helped me grow so much since I moved back here I want to help take care of this city and its residents,” says Gurley.

Gurley is excited for the future of Pascagoula and has faith in the positive direction and progress that the new city government can bring.

“With our leaders showing so much spirit and motivation to do the right things, I’m hoping that will rub off on all of our citizens to step in and do the same positive things as well, with the same positive outlook,” says Gurley.

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Pascagoula Pastor on a Mission to Empower the Community

Hawkins17-223x300 Pascagoula Pastor on a Mission to Empower the CommunityThe JaxCoHome “Pay it Forward Friday” recipient is Pastor Larry Hawkins of Union Baptist Church in Pascagoula. Pastor Hawkins has served at Union Baptist Church for the past 28 years. He is married to the former Ms. Carol Hammock, with two children, Larry II (Trenay) and Nicole.

“My passion is to empower others to maximize their potential to fulfill their God given purpose,” says Pastor Hawkins when asked about his mission in Pascagoula.

Larry Hawkins is also serving as 2nd Assistant Recording Secretary to the General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, INC; Former 3rd Vice-President to the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of MS Inc; Immediate Past Moderator of the Gulf Coast District Missionary Baptist Association, presently serving as Special Assistant to the Moderator.

He is also the founder of Operation Excellence Tutorial Program targeted for grades K – 12.

Pastor Larry has many civic affiliations as well to include, Board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Jackson County, Former member of Advisory Board of the Salvation Army of Jackson County, former member Board of Directors Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director of Total Man Ministries and, former Board Member Excel By 5.

To say that Pastor Hawkins has done a lot for the community of Pascagula is an understatement as he explains, “We just one the Flagship award for a recreational ministry which is designed to emphasize the importance of living healthily, it is an exercise class that meets three times weekly Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings. In conjunction with the recreational ministry, we offer a nutrition ministry. It is designed to teach individuals how to make better food choices and eat more healthy. This class meets on Tuesday evening weekly. We have an academic excellence program every 9 weeks during school, geared toward encouraging our children to excel academically. The program offers monetary incentives for all “A’s” “A&B’s” and a honorable mention category, as well as recognizes the individual awards of the students. We have seen the academic efforts of our children increase due to this programmatic effort. We partner with Central Elementary School in the Pascagoula Gautier School District to help assist in mentoring, teacher appreciation week, and wherever else the Central family need.”

“The future of our community is bright. I feel that as long as we see the path forward as an inclusive one and not allow selfishness or personal agendas to cloud our making the best decisions for all, we will definite move into a brighter future.” JaxCoHome is honored to make Pastor Larry Hawkins our “Pay It Forward Friday” recipient.

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Director dedicates life to service

Life isn’t always easy. Everyone could end up falling on hard times at some point, and people might not always know where to go for help. At least for residents of Jackson County, there is the Jackson County Civic Action Committee, working under the direction of Diann Payne.

“We serve 637 people in Jackson County, with centers in Vancleave, Moss Point, Gautier and Taconi,” said Executive Director Payne. “Our main focus is to help people become self sufficient. Our motto is ‘Helping people, Changing lives.’ We deal with a lot of low to moderate income people who, for various reasons, can’t be self sufficient. For whatever reason, a 40-hour work week is not enough to take care of their living expenses. We assist them thorough case management to assess the household and everyone in it. We see if any non-contributors can become contributors.

“If anyone needs a GED or any specialized training, we’ll arrange that through the community college or GED program. We have our Head Start program as well. I think education is so critical to what we do here. I think if children get a quality education, they will be better citizens. They will be contributing members of our community, our state, and ultimately our country, so I really believe in education.”

Other services the center offers are income tax preparation, a senior center and summer day care.

The path that led Payne to the position of executive director was not a direct one, even commenting that she didn’t expect to be here with her educational background.

“I have a background in accounting, a masters in business, so I was the finance person here,” she said. “My husband and I moved from Memphis 32 years ago, so now I consider Jackson County home. So I was the fiscal officer, then when this job became open, I applied. I think it fits well for my passion for service. That’s probably more aligned with my natural inclination. I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandmother was always helping someone. I think you get that early on; you can build an ethnic of service in children when you teach them to help others. I worked in banking, so I probably thought I’d end up in banking, but this path i think it has suited me well.”

While Payne is in charge of everything under the JCCAC, she also stays heavily involved by volunteering in her local community.

“This job lends itself well to volunteerism because we rely a lot on volunteers, but even as fiscal officer I was a board member of local Red Cross and did family support with local Habitat for Humanity,” Payne said. “I worked with families in the process of receiving home. I track equity and help them with a budget and continued to work with them a year after getting home. I served on the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service. I served on the Governor’s Commission for Recovery and Renewal and worked in both the health and human services subcommittee and the education subcommittee. I’m the treasurer for the Pascagoula Rotary Club, and they believe Service above Self. If I didn’t know better I would say they created it for people like me. I do wear many different hats, but it’s easy to wear them when you enjoy what you’re doing.”

While the JCCAC and Payne are dedicated to helping residents of Jackson County, the goal is for people to be self sufficient. 

“Some people are in a situation where they are a flat tire away from missing a day’s work, so we try to remove barriers for them; they don’t want a hand out, but a hand up,” she said. ” It is a basic human responsibility, barring a disability or illness, to be self sufficient. I think most people want to. I don’t think anybody would choose not to be. Hard work does pay. Honest work is good. With hard work, determination and initiative you can be self sufficient. Some people do get discouraged, but that’s why we’re here to encourage them, they don’t have any type of safety net or social support so we do that.”

After living in Jackson County for over three decades with her husband, Payne is happy to live in such a supportive community.

“Jackson County is unique in that while you have four municipalities, I think the county is so cohesive, and to some extent it’s all for one and for all, and you don’t see that a lot of places,” she said. “It’s not 100 percent true, but it’s more evident than in some other places. I think they really support and really help each other, the leadership does. While it’s a large county, I can see if you engage in the community you get what you give. I’ve been so blessed to be able to serve, and feel very comfortable in that no matter where I am, I’m going to know a lot of people there. We all have that opportunity here.”

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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Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure

People, and mainly children, are spending a lot more time indoors in the past couple decades. Not only does this affect a child’s health, but it also has an impact on the adults they become. 

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center offers so many programs to get people outdoors, and so much of it is thanks to Programs Manager Erin Parker.

“My responsibility here is over all of the education programs, all the school groups, the programs calendar, speakers and workshops,” Parker said. “Any classes we have, I help set those up. I do a lot of the teaching, a lot of teaching biodiversity of the area and getting people outdoors.”

While the Audubon Center began this year’s summer camps this week, the center offers programs all year long to give people of all ages a chance to get outdoors.

“We have programs for every age,” she explained. “One program we have during the school year is Toddler Tuesdays. It’s for children ages 2, 3, and 4, and it’s all about getting kids and parents comfortable with being outside. We have everything from that to tours for senior citizens. There is really something for everyone here. We do a lot of school programs, college students will come, and we have adult classes like learning how to identify birds.

“One program we have is Birds and Brews. It happens every third Thursday of the month and there is always a theme. It’s a great way to relax after work and enjoy a beer or wine. We have snacks, trivia, guided hikes, and it’s a great way to explore center without kids while getting to hang out outside of a bar.”

The PRAC’s summer camp is also a way to get kids outdoors in a fun way through arts and crafts and some hiking activities for older children.

Parker is a perfect fit for this position, as she has always had a passion for teaching and the outdoors.

“I’ve always been really outdoorsy,” she said. “Every day is different. When you set out on a hike or boat ride, you never know what you’re going to find. You find more and more things you don’t know about.

“This is my dream job. I get to work with people, especially people that have never been outdoors. It’s really fun and interesting, and your own backyard is way more fun than anything you’re going to see on a screen.”

Also, working at a center devoted to the Pascagoula River is a huge added benefit for Parker.

“It is so biodiverse down here, and everything changes seasonally, so always I’m always learning new things,” she said. “I love talking to people about how we help protect these wild, incredible places that we get to explore. It’s pretty neat to be here in Jackson County in our own center, teaching locals and people from out of state. I get to teach them about how great Mississippi and Jackson County is.”

With National Get Outdoors Day on June 10, Parker is passionate about getting to explore the natural habitats that surround them.


“Especially as adults, we are spending so much time on phones or computers and it is really important to have screen-free time,” she said. “Kids and parents don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, meaning we don’t get to use our senses to explore. Now we feel like the world has changed, and we can’t let kids out of our site, but this is such an amazing place to grow up because there’s so many different habitats and it is always changing.”

For anyone interested in the programs the center offers but aren’t too familiar with the outdoors, Parker offers one important piece of advice.

“Come on out and visit,” she said. “There is no better way to explore than with someone who is very comfortable outdoors. Having someone who is very comfortable being out there is the best way to introduce someone to nature. We will take people out kayaking for the first time, for example, and they almost always come back.”

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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Ocean Springs woman works to end hunger in community

Hunger is a problem for Mississippians, with ore than 20 percent of residents do not have consistent access to nutritious food. 

Some people can’t afford food. Some people aren’t able to get to the store to purchase food. People facing food insecurities are grateful for places like The Lord Is My Help soup kitchen in downtown Ocean Springs, and its founder Kay Woods.

After working with the Peace Corps for three years, Woods was asked to assemble a group from many diversified occupations to create a project that would benefit local citizens in need as her final project.

“We had a lot of meetings to discuss what was needed, and we felt like the community needed a soup kitchen for the elderly and shut-ins and the homeless,” Woods explained. “At that time, fruit pickers went through town on their way to Florida with their whole families, so they also needed a place to eat while in town.”

In 1983, Woods brought together the first group of volunteers to establish The Lord Is My Help.

“Churches got involved and we had a local building donated to us to serve as the soup kitchen, ” Woods recalled. It was a definite need in the community. People on social security got so little that they couldn’t leave decently on what they received. Even in the early days, we served a lot more people than you could imagine.”

From the very beginning, The Lord Is My Help assisted many of those in need through multiple facets.

“We were only supposed to last three years because we got the building donated for temporary use,” Woods said. “The first day we opened we didn’t even have a stove. The local ladies brought crock pots full of food. That first day 20 people came for lunch, and we though that was a lot. Now we serve up to 250 meals a day. Through the years we also had a job bank through an employment agency in Biloxi to help find jobs for people. We also formed a clothing bank. St. Alphonsus Catholic Church donated the building for that, but it had to be torn down. It wasn’t restored because by that time the Salvation Army was established here. We used to be able to give gas money to help with travel but as more things came into place, we had to keep putting more effort into our pantry and soup kitchen. We used to actually help with doctor’s appointments, but we can’t do that anymore. We have too many people to feed now.”

With the volume of meals prepared daily by The Lord Is My Help, it may be heard to believe that out of everyone that puts in time with the organization, only people are actually paid for their work.

“We only have two paid employees, our cook and general manager,” Woods explained. “We pay them because they have to be there every day, and we have to count on them 100 percent. However, the rest of the organization is run by volunteers. We’ve never even paid the director. A lot of local churches donate money, but now we do have to pay rent and utilities on our building, so it takes a lot of money to keep everything running.”

A group of young adults in the community saw the need to financially assist The Lord Is My Help, so they came together to create Feed the Need.

“It’s made up people 18-38 years old that meet once a week all throughout the year just to plan one large event to raise money for our soup kitchen,” Woods said. ” They are their own group, but do have a liaison on our board. They are just young people that decided to help support us. In the first year they raised $8,000. Last year they raised $22,000, and we needed at that because expenses are so high, we do have collection jars in different businesses to help as well.”

Today, 30 years after Woods first established The Lord Is My Help, the overall goal of the organization has not waivered. 

“We just want to help people,” Woods said. “Besides feeding people through the soup kitchen or delivering meals, we also have an emergency pantry. It might help people who are on food stamps or a single woman with a large family. Many of the other facilities like ours are in Pascagoula, and that kind of commute can be difficult for some. We want to be here to help the community.”

For anyone in need, the doors to the soup kitchen open at 6a.m., offering cereal, donuts and coffee for breakfast. A hot lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

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.

Learn more »
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