Disabled veteran has a passion for helping other veterans


By Victoria Simmons

The Byron Buzz

On any given night in the United States, there are between 120,000 to 200,00 homeless veterans. In the Atlanta area, according to 2013 statistics, there are 1200 and even right here in our own communities, there are homeless veterans, men and women.

Veterans have served their country  and some come home wounded or injured or with post traumatic stress syndrome or other ailments. The very government they served seems, at times, to care very little as evident in the news about VA  (Veterans Administration) hospitals and services.

We owe them much, yet do we really care? Dean Terrell does care and he began helping veterans in 1995. A disabled veteran himself, he started Help A Veteran, a non-profit organization, on a local level in 2012. He has put his heart into helping veterans and has had to fight his own VA claim.

Terrell, who lives in Warner Robins,  is quick to say he is not a VA lawyer and doesn’t know everything there is to know about VA law, but what he doesn’t know, he knows how to find and can enlist the right people.

Terrell wasn’t in a war zone; in fact, never has been to one. He was stationed in Key West with VF-45 and his squadron worked as an East Coast Top Gun outfit. When Desert Storm began, Dean’s squadron went from launching out three to four airplanes an hour to 10 to 12 an hour.

”I enjoy helping Veterans who have P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome),” he said.

The first claim he worked on was for a Vietnam Veteran. Within two months the veteran went from 50% disability to 100% disability. Following helping this Veteran, Dean began gathering more information to enable him to help more Veterans.

In 1995 Dean suffered and almost died from a brain tumor which was removed in January of 1996. Once he realized he was going to live,  he decided to dedicate his life to helping other Veterans. He has never regretted nor looked back on that decision.

”I know personally how life can be taken from any person and I enjoy helping Veterans and their families get the disability they rightfully deserve,” he said.

Additionally, he has helped military personnel while they were still serving their country. He has plans to integrate the Help A Veteran Organization into helping military personnel transition out of the military and help them understand what they deserve from the VA.

Terrell is so passionate, that years ago, he and his mom, Marion, drove to Pennsylvania to rescue a veteran named Joseph Perry, who is also an American Indian. He has lost touch since that time and wishes that he could find him again.

Dean has even opened his home to homeless veterans this past year because the VA wouldn’t help them.

On his facebook page you can find forms to download to help with claims  including an Adult Disability Starter Kit.

Dean, with his own health problems, is in a lot of pain and has spent tens of thousands of dollars helping veterans. So much so, he finds himself even struggling to pay his own bills but to him it is all worth it.

Alison Feliciano met Dean when her husband, Marcus,  was going into the ER at the VA hospital in Atlanta. Dean was behind them talking to another Veteran and as she listened, she found him very knowledgeable so she introduced herself. Dean helped her and her husband and Alison became a team member of Help A Veteran Organization. She said helping Dean is a way for she and her husband to give back. ”We are honored to stand alongside him and be a part of the team,” she said.

”Dean’s heart is so big,” she said. If you are ever driving around with him and he spots a homeless person on the side of the road, he will stop and see how he can help, she said. ”If it were feasibly possible, Dean would help every single Veteran in America.”

Help A Veteran provides assistance in helping to manage and wade through all the red tape, fill out paperwork, keep lights on, provide food and clothing and anything else which might be needed. The organization also serves as an advocate and someone will even go with the Veteran when they file a claim. If there is a problem with credit, Alison helps with that aspect and will help with a budget. Immediate needs, of course, like food and clothing, are met first. Sometimes all is needed is a listening ear and volunteers for Help A Veteran are able and willing to do that and to assure Veterans they are not alone.

Dean recently began coffee breaks for CB radio operators and truckers where they serve coffee and talk. They also do CB Radio work for the truckers. All donations go towards helping Veterans.

Just recently Help A Veteran has partnered with Genesis JOY House Homeless Shelter Inc. Genesis JOY House, which started in 2011 is a 301 (c) organization which helps displaced female veterans. The number of homeless female Veterans doubled between 2006 and 2010. Finding homes for the displaced female veteran is the first priority and that is not an easy task. Margaret Flowers is the Executive Director and she is excited to be joining forces with Dean’s organization. They have many plans in the works to help veterans. All members of both boards are volunteers and work other jobs so all donations go to the Veterans.

Regardless of the path taken, Flowers says the end game is the same which is to achieve successful reintegration into the community, sustainable self-sufficiency and permanent independent affordable housing. At this time Flowers says they are in search of 10-12 female Veterans who were formerly homeless or currently homeless to treat to a soup and salad fellowship luncheon. The meals were donated to the non-profit agency. Flowers said they are also looking for volunteers to serve on various committees including fundraising, Public Relations, Volunteer Recruitment and others.

Help A Veteran and Genesis JOY House are in the process of finding homes which can be used as Veterans Homes. They are working on fund-raisers to help with this endeavor. They can get some help from the VA Homeless program and the homes must be zoned commercial. It is Dean’s desire that no Veteran be homeless. He wants to see them off the streets and not living under a bridge. This time of year, he notes is really tough on Veterans.

Dean operates Help A Veteran out of his home and Feliciano says that even if one day they were blessed to have a dedicated location, everyone would still work elsewhere to ensure most of the money was going to the Veterans.  There are some days he wonders if anyone else cares, but that doesn’t deter him from continuing to help everywhere he can.

If you care and would like to help you can do so by donating either financially or your time. Check out Dean’s Facebook page and website:

Help-A-Veteran.org; http://www.help-a-veteran.org. Or text him at 478-960-0932 or Feliciano at 678-402-1328. You can also check out his page:  Truckers and CB Operators Coffee Break

Also check out Genesis JOY House Homeless Shelter, Inc. on Facebook; their website at http://www.genesisjoyhouse.org; or call Flowers at 478-918-7606.

While you are warm and cozy in your bed, remember some of our veterans are not so let’s get our Veterans off the streets. Stay tuned for updates from both organizations on fundraising events.

”And a child shall lead them” Nine year old wants to give back for her birthday

The Georgia Post

 By kristi watkins

The Byron Buzz

Most ten-year old girls want games, dolls, movies or something else for their birthday.  Alyssa Skinner, 9, has decided for her 10th birthday, which is August 18, to give back to the men and women in the armed forces who are overseas. 

 Alyssa told her mother, Crystal, she would like to make care packages for the troops overseas instead of having a birthday party. Shocked by her daughter’s decision, her mother decided to obey her wishes and posted a picture of Alyssa with a letter she wrote on Facebook.  Less than 48 hours later, the picture was shared over 200 times. 

  “These people are fighting for my freedom and they don’t even know me,” Alyssa said. She would like our military to have something since they are not able to be at home with their families on their “special days”. Crystal said…

View original post 355 more words


By Victoria Simmons

The Byron Buzz

Byron’s North Peach Park will be jammin’ Saturday (June 28th) for the Pre-July 4th Celebration which will conclude with a fireworks display and includes live music.

Thanks to Byron Main Street and CVB, Josh Gracin will headline Saturday’s event in the park. ” We are super excited to celebrate the best summer pasttime of all, live music and fireworks with Josh Gracin who served in the United States Marine Corps, was a finalist on American Idol, and now Country Music Superstar. Byron is honored to have you in our town for this special celebration,” stated Tiffany Peavy, MainStreet and CVB Director.

Gracin is a Michigan native who grew up listening to country and R&B Music. He catapulted to fame after auditioning for the second season of the hit television series ”American Idol”. At that time Josh was still serving in the United States Marine Corps. He quickly became a favorite and won the hearts of viewers with his strong fourth place finish on ”Idol”. Many stated they thought he should have won or at least finished second.

Following his appearance on the series and completion of his military service (honorably discharged in 2004), Josh released his self-titled debut album that summer. Three Top Five singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart later, the Recording Industry Association of America certified the album gold.

”Gracin Nation” was wanting more and Josh delivered in the form of his sophomore album, ”We Weren’t Crazy,” which was released in 2008 and produced five more chart singles, including a top ten in its title track. ”Redemption,” Josh’s third album, was released in 2011 and showcased his growth as a writer, artist and producer with the hit single, ”Long Way To Go” making its way up the adult contemporary charts.

Now, intermission is officially over, The Josh Gracin Drink It Gone Tour is rolling through the country playing sold out shows to fans from the East Coast to down South.

When he’s not on stage, Josh is in the studio writing and recording the next generation of country music hits for his upcoming album, ”Dust Off Your Boots.” Get ready, Josh Gracin is back and Byron gets to be one of his stops.

”I am looking forward to playing in Byron! Not only does it give me a chance to play in the great state of Georgia, but I am celebrating the Independence of the greatest country in the world,” Josh stated.

In addition to Gracin, will be Stevie G. and the Rockerz, combining their musical experience with a show featuring hits of their favorite artists and some ”stories from the road” for good measure. The band draws from time on tour with ”original artists” like Dennis Yost & the Classics IV, Archie Bell and the Drells, The Tams, The Drifters and more. They present a new sound and old school groove that will keep the party going with hits from the 60’s through the 90’s. The group has been on tour promoting their new CD, ”Big News In a Small Town” which features


11 original songs for a high energy addition to any gathering.

The evening will also include Willie Raines – Feats of Strength. Food vendors will be on site as well as inflatables for the kids. This is a free community event you don’t want to miss this Saturday from 6-10 p.m. There will be a live remote from 4-6 p.m. Gracin’s performance begins at 8 p.m. and Pyrotecnico fireworks conclude the night starting at 9:30 p.m. Bring your blanket or lawn chair and cooler for a fun evening. See you there Byron.!!

Women’s conference to focus on getting back to the basics

Three very talented women will be speaking at the It’s NOT About You: Back to the Basics women’s conference on Saturday, March 29. Presented by A Light in the Darkness Ministries, the conference will focus on taking God out of the nice, little box we tend to put Him in and get back to what His word says. 

”We have become complacent in our relationship with God and this is not acceptable to Him,” stated Victoria Simmons, founder of A Light in the Darkness Ministries who will be speaking about getting back to those basics.

Author and speaker, Nancy Gibbs, will be speaking on ”Complacent No More…Moving Closer to Jesus”. Gibbs left for a mission trip to Romania this week and will return just in time for the conference on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

In addition, Audrey George, best known as the Executive Chef and owner of Chef Audrey’s Bistro and cooking segments on 13 WMAZ-TV will be speaking. In addition to being a Christian Comedian, George has a facebook ministry and is a minister in training. She became an Associate Minister at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in May of last year. George will be sharing some of her experiences and what God is teaching her. She will also be sharing her musical talents at the conference.

Soul’s Desire, Linda Taylor and Connie Bass will also be performing.

The conference will be the inaugural debut of Sisterly Love brought to you by sisters, Wanda Rowell and Donna Oliver.

Beth Ware will be sharing a testimony and there will be praise and worship and prayer times.

Registration begins at 9:15 a.m. at Georgia Bob’s off Hwy. 96 in Warner Robins. The address is 120 Howland Avenue. Conference begins at 9:30 and there is no charge for attendance. There will be a charge for lunch. The conference will end by 3:30 p.m.

”You will be blessed and your faith will be renewed,” stated Simmons.  

The event is non-denominational. For more information call 478-542-4187.

Pritchett to speak at RISE event at MGR Saturday


By Victoria Simmons

The Byron Buzz

Preaching at a conference in another country, Marc Pritchett saw eight boys outside the gate. Pritchett noted that it was a pretty rough country. He asked someone in charge if the boys could possibly come into the conference. Pritchett was taken aback by the response of ”You don’t want those kinds of kids here.” Those words, he said, haunted him.

Jesus didn’t pick and choose or not speak to someone because other people thought they were unacceptable. Pritchett said Isaiah 6 came to mind  which is Isaiah’s commission and he told the Lord to ”send me”.  When the conference was over Pritchett went back to the gate and five of the boys were still there. He shared his faith with them and all five prayed and accepted Jesus. ”I never knew what came of those other three,” Pritchett said.

After that, while on the way back home, RUSH (Reaching Unchurched Students for Him) was born. That was in 2004 and the ministry has grown by leaps and bounds since that time. Pritchett is the founder of RUSH. Originally RUSH was a weekend event held in LaGrange with several churches but it has grown into so much more.

In 2009 Pritchett partnered with S. Truett Cathy (Chick-Fil-A founder) and held an event at The Rock Ranch. There were over 1200 students and 138 decisions made for Christ at the event.

Pritchett is speaking at this Saturday’s event to be held at Middle Georgia Raceway known as RISE; a youth event aimed at sharing the gospel of Christ with the youth of middle Georgia. Registration for the event begins at 1 p.m. Check out http://www.elevatewr.org/rise for more information about the event. The main event is from 6-10 p.m. and includes Pritchett, the Change a Life Tour featuring Audio Adrenaline, Kutless and Finding Favour. This year is the 10th anniversary of the event and a celebration is scheduled May 2 and 3rd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It  will feature Colton Dixon and you can find more information at http://www.rushministries.com.

Pritchett is passionate about putting an end to the sexual exploitation of children and one of the events at RISE will be a Run for Life where you bring your old cellphones or a monetary donation for CellPhones4Life and you can run around the tracks. Proceeds help fight human trafficking. Pritchett noted that Atlanta has become a hub for human trafficking, which is very close to home.

As part of his ministry, Pritchett said he helps other ministries get started and RISE is one of those as he helped them put on their first event. ”I have passion for the things I do,” Pritchett said. He said that though young people may not come to a religious event, they do go to car shows and other events and he hopes they stay and hear the gospel preached. RUSH has teamed up with Sprint, Verizon and AT&T so that you can text to give just by adding $10 to your phone bill. Pritchett said 100% of the proceeds through the text to give goes to the cause including working to get laws changed in Georgia concerning the sexual exploitation of children. ”These people are coming to our state and are now praying on the smaller towns,” Pritchett said.

As for RISE, Pritchett said he is praying a lot of people will come to this event and that 100’s will be saved. Many people often attend who have never attended church, he noted.

Unity is something Pritchett said is preached a lot but sometimes in church you do not see that unity and people develop a preconceived idea of what it is supposed to look like. ”I believe in unity coming from Christ and trying to make a difference by sharing the good news.” He went on to say people show up who have no hope or stability and may have even contemplated taking their life. Then they hear the word, he said, and they get a lot more than they were bargaining for by attending. If you know someone who might benefit, Pritchett urges you to make a phone call and take them to the RISE event, this Saturday, March 22, at Middle Georgia Raceway.

Cheryl Lowery semi-retiring; Bennett Financial takes over

The Byron Buzz


Cheryl Sims Lowery operated her CPA firm out of her house for two years before opening at the location on Hwy. 49 in Byron 10 years ago. Now she has decided to semi-retire and has sold her business to Bennett Financial.

Owned by Will Bennett, he also has an office in Fort Valley and Warner Robins. Bennett and Lowery were colleagues and got to know each other when he opened the office in Fort Valley five years ago. They would also bounce questions off each other from time to time and did talk about joining forces.

Though Lowery enjoyed the flexibility of owning the firm and being able to attend functions when her kids were younger, she did not like the grueling hours. They are especially long during tax season. ”I was tired of working until four in the morning,” she said.

She will still work some, just not as many hours which will allow her to have more family time. This change will allow her to get back to the nuts and bolts of accounting which has always been her passion and she will be a Client Executive.

Clients, says Lowery, will not notice a difference. The employees  — Julie Presley and Marie Giordanella, as well as Cheryl — will be the same and thanks to technology which links all three offices together, they can help each other when questions arise. Bennett Financial will offer the same level of service, Lowery said. Clients were notified by letter of the change which officially took effect January 16, 2014.  In the letter from Bennett, it states that the fee structure will not change either; neither will the phone number.

Bennett stated that with the firms joining forces, they will be able to provide you with many new services and areas of expertise in the future. 

”We are looking for the business to grow,” said Lowery. ”I’m excited about this new venture.”

Bennett stated in his letter, ”We look forward to getting to know each of you better in the coming weeks and months. We are grateful to you not only for giving us the opportunity to provide you with accounting services but for your loyalty and friendship. We are confident our new affiliation will serve us all well.”Image

Middle Georgia’s Colby Dee Named as 2014 Artist To Watch

By Victoria Simmons

The Byron Buzz


She has been singing since she was a little girl and has been compared to Carrie Underwood. That comparison does not bother Colby Dee. In fact she views it as a huge compliment because she is a Carrie Underwood fan.  ”I look up to her as a singer, so to be compared to her means a lot to me. But I’m really just shooting for being Colby Dee and defining my own sound.”

You can get a feel of her country sound with her newly released ”missed the Exit” CD. All songs are based on different aspects of a relationship. Once Dee realized this, the songs were put in order based on the relationship cycle. The first song, is a ”girls night out song”, then the other ones take you through meeting the right guy, falling in love, hitting the rough spots and ultimately losing the relationship. Because of this, Dee says the CD tells a story. ”Missed the Exit” is getting great reviews including on Billboard.com

She grew up listening to a wide variety of artists which influenced her, from Shania Twain to Michael Jackson. Listening to the variety of musical styles has helped make her the powerful vocalist she is today. 

Dee was born in Canada but raised primarily in Georgia. Her mother’s side of the family is from Georgia and her grandmother still lives in Warner Robins which she considers her hometown. She visits regularly to play shows and see her fans.

Musical talent runs in Colby’s family as she said her sister has a great voice. Growing up her sister was in a lot of musicals and Colby wanted to be like her and emulate her singing. When she was seven,  her mother heard her singing in her room and asked Colby to come into the living room. ”She wasn’t sure it was me singing,” Colby said. ”The next thing I know I’m singing the National Anthem at a professional hockey game in front of 7,000 people! I definitely felt the adrenalin rush from the crowd response and knew it’s what I wanted to do.”

Though being a country star was always her dream, Colby played competitive basketball for 14 years and planned to attend college on a scholarship and play. However, after a few injuries and concussions, she hung up her shoe laced and began focusing on her music. ”I learned so much from playing basketball that some of those lessons have carried into my career now. I’m very thankful for the path I am on now.”

The music industry has its ups and downs. Colby said the biggest challenge is choosing your music and wanting the production and distribution process to take less time than it actually does. ”However, I have an excellent producer, Daniel Dennis, and his hard work and talent made the process of producing the recent CD much easier.”

Colby said the upside is the giddy feeling you have when your ”babies”, the songs you’ve written, come to life. ”Watching talented and legendary musicians come in and add additional color to the songs you wrote is quite the experience,” she said. ”Hearing them tell you that your song is a ”hit” is an incredible feeling. And then listening to the final product — it’s goose bumps time!”

Colby gets inspiration for writing songs from personal stories of her own, along with stories of her friends. ”For me it is so much easier to write about real life events. The song comes much more natural and my fans can more easily relate,” she said.

When asked where she wants to be in five years, Colby said she hopes to be touring, have a signed record deal and ”most importantly, continue to meet my fans and play my music!”.

Colby moved to Nashville a little over two and a half years ago, at the age of 19 and says she is loving every minute of it. ”When I first moved here I expected everyone to be very competitive and honestly, not that friendly. However, thankfully, I was wrong,” she said. ”While there is definitely a competitive spirit, it’s a healthy one. This town is amazing in the sense everyone wants to help each other succeed and it is inspiring to watch the growth of others and realize your own growth as an artist.”

And though Nashville, as well as the music business can be daunting at times, Colby believes that ”any stage is home”. ”There’s nothing like connecting with your audience while playing live. I’d rather be on stage than anywhere else in the world.”

Since moving to Nashville, she has collaborated with top-notch songwriters. Her sound has been described as youthful but mature, powerful, classy and vibrant. Colby says her style is fun and fashionable. Her songwriting skills are also getting noticed as she has been invited to perform at two prestigious songwriters’ festival in May. She will travel to Canada to be a part of the ”Tim Pan North Songwriters Festival” and also to Key West, Florida to be part of the ”Key West Songwriters Festival”.

Though she is pursuing her career, she has appeared in several other music videos with other artists including Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan and Scotty McCreery, just to name a few. At the 2011 CMA Awards she appeared with Lady Antebellum. Colby is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, Broadcast Music, Inc. and the Musicians on Call program is Nashville. She is also a proud new voting member of the Country Music Association.

This past year has been good for Colby and she has received much deserved recognition. ITunes editors selected her single debut ”He Don’t Know” as one of the ”new and noteworthy” as well as the Editors Choice of ”What We’re Listening To”. ITunes also recently selected her Missed the Exit” seven-song CD as one of the New And Noteworthy as well as Editors Choice of ”What We’re Listening To.”

This summer she competed her first radio tour promoting ”He Don’t Know” which encompassed 12 states, over 11,000 miles and 70 radio station visits with performances and interviews.

She was spotlighted in articles in July and November on Billboard.com. She was a headlining performer at the Georgia National Fair, performing 10 shows in five days and received rave reviews.

She was the 2013 CMA Fest performer on the GAC Stage the Bridgestone Arena. For the second year in a row, she was the exclusive featured performer for the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure flagship event in Washington, DC in front of the  Washington Monument. Her song, ”I Will Fight On”, is a song she co-wrote for her friend battling breast cancer and has been described by fans as a ”cancer fighter’s battle cry”. She performs at a variety of Komen events during the year and was in Peach County’s event in October of this year. Over Thanksgiving break she performed at the Mellow Mushroom in Macon.

Since 2012 she has been featured in over 300 media outlets — print, TV, radio and a Times Square marquee.

For her second hometown concert, she packed the historic Cox Capitol Theater in Macon and afterward fans lined up for hours to meet and greet Colby Dee.

She headlined an After Party for the Jason Aldean/Luke Bryan Concert in Athens and has been nominated for the BMMA ”Canadian New Artist of the Year” and Artist to Watch in 2014 by Country Rise. She recently appeared in the TV show Nashville.

Regardless of who she has been compared to in the past, Colby Dee is making her own unique mark in Nashville and country music.  If you haven’t checked out her music yet, what are you waiting on? Colby is definitely one to watch and one that we can lay claim to in middle Georgia.

”Kitten” of ’Father Knows Best’ says you can overcome anything

Laura Chapin at the home of Dan and the late Claudine Gatlyn on December 6, 2013.

Laura Chapin at the home of Dan and the late Claudine Gatlyn on December 6, 2013.

By Victoria Simmons

The Byron Buzz

Sitting in the late Claudine Gatlyn’s chair, Lauren Chapin, looked very much like the character Kathy “Kitten” she played on Father Knows Best. Talking with her was almost like talking to your best friend, as conversation flowed easily between us as did the laughter.

For seven years Lauren played Kathy “Kitten” Anderson on the domestic comedy which presented situations to which viewers could relate about family life which were resolved in the last minutes of the show. Previously a radio program, the television version premiered October 3, 1954 with some changes. From 1959-60 the show was ranked the sixth most popular program in prime time.

Lauren starred in many TV and radio programs, other movies and commercials. She received five Jr. Emmy’s for Best Child Actress and as an adult has been awarded “Honorable Mayor” of different cities in at least three states.  Today she is involved in ministry and is an ordained minister at Immanuel Church of Vero Beach, were she now resides. She has traveled to Israel but continues to do autograph sessions as “Kitten”. She has appeared on Regis and Kathy Lee, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight ,Oprah Winfrey and more. She helped found “A Minor Consideration”, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting child actors. In addition, she has appeared on several magazine covers including TV Guide. She wrote an autobiography titled “Father Does Know Best, the Lauren Chapin Story, which is no longer in print but she is trying to acquire the rights so she can do reprints.

Chapin was in town recently to speak at the Retired Military Full Gospel Fellowship (RMFGF) Christmas banquet which was held in Forsyth.

While life may have seemed perfect on the television series, for Chapin life was not perfect in real life. Her mother was an alcoholic and she was abused as a child. But she overcame all those obstacles and wants to encourage other women, that they too can overcome what life may have thrown at them.

The time spent on Father Knows Best, Lauren calls “magical”. TV was relatively new at the time and was not demeaning like many shows today. Most shows taught something; there was a problem and a resolution in the time a show would air. Children then, Chapin said, were allowed to be children; the father was the head of the family; children looked to the mother for comfort.

When not filming, Lauren would go to school and would go into other sets. Because she was so “precious”, Lauren says she could get away with a lot.

Lauren doesn’t watch a lot of TV these days but does like “The Voice” and HGTV. She also feels that social media has done a disservice to  our children. “They have lost the art of imagination, they depend on  technology and it has stolen their ability to be imaginative,” she said.

From the show, Lauren is still in touch with Billy Gray (James “Bud” Anderson, Jr.,) and Elinor Donahue (Betty “Princess” Anderson, They still do autograph sessions together from time to time.

Even as a child, Lauren was aware of God’s presence in her life. She says she was about five the first time she felt God’s presence and that He heard her and His angels were near. But, as you grow, Lauren said, you sometimes lose that connection to God and you find you have a vacancy to fill which you try to fill with things of the world. “I lost myself until I was age 33,” she said. Her son, Matthew, kept after her to go to church with him. Her heart had hardened some by this time, she said and  she didn’t think God cared so she wasn’t really interested in attending church. However, her son was persistent  and she went to church.  It took a while before they found the right match. Many of them she said were cold and unresponsive and she didn’t feel like church should be like that.  About eight churches later they found one that loved and welcomed them. She was 33 and at that time and smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. When she walked into this church in Orange County, California, she saw people talking to each other and happy to be going to church. She walked down to the front that day and she cried; something she hadn’t done in 12 years. “It’s been a wonderful ride. When you forget your first love (God), He holds out for you to come back,” she said.  “Running from God does not bring you happiness.”

Lauren’s desire these days, is to share the love of Christ with everyone. “The world needs love,” she said.  She adds that she loves helping people. “It’s a calling.”

In addition to her son, she has one daughter and four grandsons.

She has quit smoking and “is sold out to Jesus”.  “There is no way to live life without Christ. Whatever I’ve done does not compare to what I want to do for Him.”

The number one most asked question from people, Lauren said, is “What happened to your pig tails?” (No explanation needed!)

Fame, she said is a different and sometimes a difficult coat to wear. She said it hasn’t given her a big head. Once you were famous and then you are not, helps keep you  humble according to Chapin.

Humble, genuine, down to earth and sold out to Jesus; that pretty much sums up Lauren Chapin these days.

Work of love, comfort delivered to Connecticut

By Victoria Simmons
The Byron Buzz

Whenever there is a tragedy somewhere, our hearts go out to the people affected and many feel compelled to help. For Julie Love, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary became personal when she learned one of the victims (6-year-old Emilie Parker) was from her hometown in Utah. Julie wanted to do something and since she quilts, and is founder of the Comforting Quilters group, she knew her love for quilting was a way to make a difference.
She and the ladies in the group began making quilts of comfort, personalizing them for each victim and also making one for the Newtown Police Dept. It was a project of love and every stitch was sewn with that love. The quilts were even blessed at a ceremony in late September once they were finished and kept on display until ready to be packaged for delivery to Newtown, Connecticut.
The project began in January and finished with the quilts being delivered in November. Quilts were accepted by Tom Maxwell, Grand Master-elect for the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. for the state of Connecticut. He also presented the seven ladies making the trip with Grand Master pins. His wife, Nancy, works at Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization started for victims and their families which seeks to prevent causes of gun violence by educating and empowering parents to help prevent such tragedies.  Several parents and spouses who lost loved ones that tragic day, serve in the organization.
These ladies toured the Sandy Hook area and were sent to a lot behind the Masonic Lodge, downtown. This spot is just over the hill from the school where a large stone from Maine and a Memorial was placed with the names of the victims engraved in the stone. It is also lit. Love says she wished she could have seen it at night. ”This was a humbling experience to see. Many items such as ducks, flowers and stones had been placed on the memorial. There were no words needed at the site. It was a quiet moment for our group to reflect on the tragedy which struck this small town,” Love said.
The group left one of their Sandy Hook pins, made by one of the members on the memorial, as  a tribute. A pin, embroidered angel ornament, card and a documentary photo book of the project, were included with each personalized quilt.
Sandy Hook Elementary is in the process of being torn down and is completely fenced and kept under guard. No one is allowed to drive in that direction, Love said. Every brick and stone of the school is crushed and pulverized before taken off site to ensure no profits are made. ”The community is very close knit and enjoys their privacy,” Love related.
She said the trip was blessed at every stop. ”Many saw our sign in the back of the RV and thanked us for coming.”
The group was surprised to meet a couple in Paducah, Kentucky, visiting their 92-year-old mother who was from this Connecticut town. ”We enjoyed their company at the hotel for two evenings and enjoyed a lovely dinner with them as well.”
Though it was a long drive from Byron to  Sandy Hook, Love says it was worth every mile. Love’s husband, Mike, chauffered the ladies. ”Many thanks to the people and organizations of Middle Georgia who helped make this trip possible. We certainly would not have been able to make this trip without the strong support of not only our great City of Byron, but also the surrounding areas. Without the loving hands of the quilters of Comforting Quilters, these quilts would never have come to fruition.”
Group members working on the project along with Love, included Kathy Percel, Rita Pirc, Katrina Stokes, Rosa Cooper, Janice Reichenderfer, Dona Robinson, Joan Ray, Scott Piorc, Affrica Rumph, Dianne Holmes, Karla Chidester, Bonnie Gehling, Bonnie Brant, Barbara Schlafer, Donna Knowles, Debra Blackburn, Mike Love and many donors and others.
Thank you notes have been received from Sandy Hook Promise and the Sandy Hook Police Dept. The police department is displaying their quilt for all to see.
With this project complete the group will continue to make their quilts of comfort for others in need, continuing to sew love in every stitch.Image

Help honor Lil’ Man’s 9th birthday wish

By Victoria Simmons
The Byron Buzz

”He’s my little man,” said Cathy Holland, of grandson  Robert ML Davis (Lil’ Man).
Lil’ Man was born at 26 weeks, weighing 2 lbs. 10 oz. with Pulmonary atresia, a congenital malformation of the pulmonary valve in which the valve orifice fails to develop. Since the valve is completely closed it obstructs the outflow of blood from the heart to the lungs. The body requires oxygenated blood for survival.
This eight-year-old has endured numerous operations to try and correct the problem but for him, there is nothing which can save his life because there is nothing in his body to attach a transplant to, which would be a lifesaver. He is on five liters of oxygen and has less than one third of one lung.
The doctors say, according to Holland, that he should not be alive. ”God has him here for a reason. I just take care of him,” she said.  Doctors have not given him a length of time to live, it could be at any time.
His Nana, (Holland) says it is a miracle he is still alive though the prognosis is not good. In fact, doctors have said it is time for Hospice to come in but Holland is not yet ready to relinquish her care of him because she is doing everything which needs to be done now,  noting that when things do get worse she will yield to Hospice.
Lil’ Man will turn nine years old on November 5th. He is a fanatic about Legos’ and the one thing he would like for his birthday is to visit Lego Land in Atlanta.
Karla Chidester, chair of the Battle of Byron Committee, wants to help make that wish a reality for him and his family. She is asking people in the community to donate $9, or whatever they can toward this goal to honor the birthday wish. If checks are made to the Battle of Byron, a non-profit organization, donations will be tax deductible. (If you do write a check please note on the memo line for Lil’ Man’s birthday wish.)
A while back Lil’ Man had requested to see his favorite singer, Natasha Benefield, through the Make A Wish Foundation. They said she was unavailable and instead gave them tickets for attractions in Atlanta and did not help them get there or give any help with Lil’ Man who has to carry an oxygen tank.The oxygen tank has to be changed out every few hours and of course, Lil’ Man has to use a wheelchair to get around for long periods at a time. Holland is appreciative of what they did but also a little disappointed.
Lil’ Man, is a typical eight-year-old, Holland says. He is home-schooled and just recently managed to ride his bike without training wheels. His oxygen tank makes the bike off balance so, that in itself was quite a feat. In addition to Legos, he loves music. Because of no immune system, the Hollands do not take Lil’ Man into enclosed areas, only open spaces. ”He has been through it,” Holland said, ”But he still acts like nothing is wrong. He’s a tough little guy.”
Lil’ Man, the son of Kathryn Danielle Davis and William Morgan, has been with his grandparents, Cathy and M.L. Holland for most of his life. He has one sister, Mya Morgan and one brother, Steven Todd, which he sees from time to time. His other grandparents are Robert and Lyla Morgan. Cathy’s husband, M.L., has terminal lung cancer so she has her hands full as a caregiver to both. She never complains, though and considers it a privilege and takes care of both men in her life with love.
With Legos, Lil’ Man will put two or more small sets together to build something better, like the more expensive bigger sets. Holland says he wants to be an architect and some of his projects built with Legos are amazing.
He has good days and bad days and lately, Holland says there are more bad than good but Lil’ Man is still smiling and carrying on like a kid his age. And for now, he is beating the odds.
If you want more information or want to make a donation to make Lil’ Man’s birthday wish come true, contact Karla Chidester at 478-954-4592. Karla would like to raise enough for the family package, gas for the trip and so they can stay in a hotel at least one night so the trip will not be so rough on Lil’ Man, or the family.Image