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Ashley News Observer- Features

Ashley County Alzheimer's Walk set for Saturday
When Linda Watkins’ mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Watkins didn’t know where to look for help as a caretaker.

Crossett Mayor Scott McCormick, left, declared November Alzheimer’s Month in Crossett and issued a proclamation urging all residents to participate in the Alzheimer’s Walk Nov. 18. He was joined at the issuance of the proclamation by Kinda Knight, the walk’s grand marshall, and Kenneth Knight. (VERSHAL HOGAN/News Observer)
Now, she’s working to make sure others don’t have that same experience.

The sixth annual Ashley County Alzheimer’s Walk will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at Crossett High School’s Yarbrough Field fieldhouse.

“My mother has had Alzheimer’s for 14 years, and I was the caregiver, and there was nowhere to turn,” Watkins said. “This is one of those diseases that people don’t want to admit that a loved one has it, they will say, ‘Oh, my dad is just forgetful,’ or, ‘She’s just getting older,’ but it is very present, and the more I talked to people, the more I wanted to do something.”

When she first looked into more information about the disease, Watkins said she found out the number of cases would likely quadruple in the next 10 years.

So she founded the walk, which was initially branded as the Crossett Alzheimer’s Walk. The first year, the funds raised were given to Alzheimer’s Arkansas, but — in an effort to include the entire area — the next year the walk was renamed the Ashley County Alzheimer’s Walk and the funds were given to the Area Agency on Aging.

“In Ashley County, we are considered rural, and we don’t get a lot of help from outside organizations,” Watkins said. “When we give the money to the Area Agency on Aging, they are earmarked for Ashley County. Local people are paying the money, and I want local people to get the benefits.”

Watkins said she is working on getting a 501(c)3 designation for her organization, and hopes to eventually have a small board that helps distribute the money.

“That way, we can say we are giving an elderly person a life alert button, or we helped a person get a wheelchair ramp built,” she said.

The walk will include a number of vendors, five raffles and a dog show. Those who attend can also order shirts to support the cause. This year’s grand marshall will be Linda Knight.

“This disease, it is not racist, it doesn’t care if you are male or female, “ Watkins said. “I pray for a cure all the time, and I would love for people to be able to get treatment for this the same way you do with cancer. But until then, we have to do something, and that includes helping the caregivers.”

For more information about the walk, contact Watkins at 870-364-5236.

CMS fields robotics team
The Crossett Middle School robotics team finished ninth out of 20 teams in the qualifying rounds of a competition at the El Dorado Boys’ and Girls’ Club last weekend.

Crossett Middle School teacher Charre Todd and student Evan Kelley work on a robot in the classroom last week. (VAL GAUGHT/News Observer)
The team also got to be a team captain in the illumination rounds.

“It was disappointing because our robot wasn’t working properly,” robotics team coach Charre Todd said. “In the practice field it did fine, but in the match it messed up.”

Todd said this is the first year for the middle school to have a competition team. The nine members of the robotics team are all second year students in Todd’s robotic’s class.

Todd said she chose the team based on the student’s interest, the potential demonstrated in class and his or her ability to work with a team.

“They have so many electives to choose from — robotics, apps creator, EAST lab,” Todd said. “Some choose robotics and then find out it’s not for them.”
Todd only has one team this year, but she is expecting to have two next year.

Three eighth graders on the team, Belle Tucker, Damean Bailey and Evan Kelley, were all working after hours with their robots last week.

“We practice anytime we can,” Bailey said as he worked on his robot after school Thursday. “We actually practice a lot.”

Tucker, who was also working after school Thursday, said she was excited about Saturday’s competition. Tucker said her favorite thing about building robots was the freedom to be creative.

“I enjoy getting ideas that might work, and trying them out,” she said.

Bailey said his favorite thing about working with robots was being able to code them.

In the competitions, the robots are placed on a 12x12 playing field. The students have to control the robots and guide them to stack cones in the order instructed. Once the cones are stacked, the robots have to complete a small obstacle course. The students are scored on multiple things, including how high they stack the cones and how they perform moving around the course.

The students are also required to keep an engineering notebook and complete interviews with the judges.

--For the complete story, see the print edition.

From Malawi to home: Local families pursue overseas adoptions
Two Crossett families are in the process of bringing home babies from Malawi through adoption.

One of the families has a match and is expecting their new daughter any time now. The other family is still on the waiting list.

Alan and Lindsey Brewer have been residents of Crossett for six years and have wanted to adopt for longer than that.

Lindsey said they were living in Ohio and they got to be there when their friend brought a child home from Ethiopia.

“When I saw her take that baby in her arms, God just started working on my heart,” Lindsey said.

The Brewers said it hasn’t been an easy process for them. They waited three years for a baby from Ethiopia, only to find out that Ethiopia shut down adoptions temporarily and they lost their spot on the waiting list.

Around that time, they found out that a local child needed a home, and the Brewers opened their home. Even though their household size had grown from 5 to 6, they still felt the need to pursue the overseas adoption.

“It’s loving someone you haven’t met yet,” Lindsey said.

Little did the Brewers know, their door to adoption was in a grocery store. In the summer of 2015, Alan was shopping in Little Rock when he met a couple who had just adopted from Uganda.

“Alan is not shy,” Lindsey said. “He will talk to anyone”

The couple in the store got Alan in contact with Jason Carney, founder of a charity program called 2nd Milk and the owner of an adoption agency.

The Brewers contacted Carney and asked how soon they could get the ball rolling.

“We don’t have families waiting, we have children waiting,” they were told in August 2015.

The Brewers waited almost 18 months, but finally on Feb. 20, 2017, they got their match.

Lindsey said they still have to go to court in Malawi, but they are hoping to have their daughter in their home by Christmas.

The Brewers already have pictures of their new daughter, Clara, in their home.
Lindsey said Clara was their new daughter’s birth name and they weren’t planning to change it once Clara comes to the United States.

“Clara was actually one of the names we had picked out for Ella,” Lindsey said about her middle daughter.

The Brewers have four children, and Clara will make five once they finally bring her home.

Lindsey said her children are excited and waiting on a baby is something their youngest child Silas has done his entire life.

“He was one when we started this process six years ago, so waiting on a baby is all he’s ever known,” she said.

Jeremy and Mandy Mills attend the same church as the Brewers and had been thinking about adoption since the Brewers first moved to their church six years ago. Mandy said they were watching a documentary on Cambodia and God really started to put it on their hearts to adopt.

“These kids need to be rescued,” Mandy said.

In November 2015, the Mills officially started their adoption journey.

Mandy said God confirmed in a dream that she needed to adopt from overseas.

The Brewers got Mandy and Jeremy in contact with their agency and the Mills started the long application process.

--For the complete story, see the print edition.

One last meal: Class of 1981 visits Crossett High School for final time
Members of the Crossett High School class of 1981 say they’re one of the most unified classes to pass through the halls even after 36 years.

Members of Crossett High School’s class of 1981 gathered for a cafeteria style meal at the school so that they could have one last visit at the old school before it is demolished next year. (VAL GAUGHT/News Observer)
Last week, they gathered so they could pass through those halls together one last time.

According to 1981 graduate and prom queen Suzanne McElroy Ballard, the class has regular reunions and they go all out. Ballard said the class got together after five, 10, 25 and 30 years, and now the class has met back up again to celebrate 36 years.

Class of 1981 graduate Barry Burchfield said people thought it was odd that he wanted to get together a 36 year class reunion.

“They said that’s odd, and I said no, it’s even,” Burchfield said.

Burchfield said he wanted to gather his classmates at a non-traditional time because the high school building is scheduled to be torn down next year. Burchfield said he thought it would be nice for his class to all be together in the building one last time.

“This cafeteria is exactly the same as it was in ‘81,” Burchfield said as he walked around the lunchroom last weekend.

The class gathered Saturday for a final tour of the high school and a special lunch served to them high school style.

“Barry said he wanted chili, cinnamon, rolls and a cheese stick, just as we had in school,” Ballard said.

The students lined up in the cafeteria and were served on trays just as they were 36 years ago.

Before the chili was served, Burchfield announced that instead of providing mints, he had placed antacids on all of the tables.

“You know we are getting old,” Burchfield said as he distributed the medicine to each table.

--For the complete story, see the print edition.

Four Ashley County graduates on UAM Homecoming Court
Four Ashley County natives have been named to the University of Arkansas at Monticello homecoming court.

Cassandra Pollock, Sydnie Ware and Mackenzie Pierce graduated from Hamburg High School, while Maggie Senn from Crossett High School.

The UAM homecoming court is selected through an interview process. Candidates have to be nominated by a recognized student organization.

Nominees must have at least 48 credit hours, a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average, and be active in at least one organization. Twelve students are selected for the court, and the students of UAM later vote who will be queen.

The queen is announced before the homecoming football game.

“I was very nervous leading up to the interview, but once I read the email announcing who made court, I couldn’t have been any more excited for such an awesome opportunity,” Pollock said.

Pollock is a 2012 graduate of Hamburg and currently a senior at UAM. Polluck said she plans to teach school after graduation.. In high school, Polluck was active in choir and band, and she carried her love of music to college. Polluck credits Hamburg choir teacher, Barbara Jones, with encouraging her to join the UAM Concert Choir.

“Mrs. Jones would always stay after school and help me prepare for All-Region and All-State Choir Auditions,” she said. “She’s one of the teachers I couldn’t thank enough for how much she’s helped me in all the years I was a student of hers.”

Senn is a 2014 graduate of Crossett, and is a senior at UAM studying natural science and dental hygiene. Senn said she plans to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. Senn said her favorite teacher at Crossett is Judy McCay.

“Everyone loves JuJu,” she said.

Senn is a former UAM cheerleader and a current member of the Biology Team and College Republicans.

“I was very surprised,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be able to represent this university.”

Pierce said she was also surprised to make the court.

“I was surprised to make court because there were a lot of great girls nominated,” she said.

Pierce graduated from Hamburg in 2014, and is a double major in biology and biochemistry. Pierce said she plans to attend medical school at either the University of Arkansas for Medical Science or at Tulane University in Louisiana.

Pierce said her favorite Hamburg high school memory was when the table at the pre-prom dinner caught on fire in a church fellowship hall.
Ware, a 2015 HHS graduate, also has interesting memories from her time at HHS.

“My favorite high school memory would have to be the only time I ever got in trouble throughout my entire 12 years of school,” she said. “I skipped school and ended up with a jail visit, and 4 days of in-school suspension.”

Ware said she can look back and laugh at it now, but she knows she learned a very valuable lesson.

Ware is a senior exercise major and said she plans to attend a graduate program in either physical therapy or sonography.

Ware, Pollock, Senn and Pierce will all be at the coronation Saturday along with the eight other members of UAM’s court.

The queen will be announced Saturday during the pre-game homecoming activities. The introduction of the court and coronation ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 Saturday afternoon, and the Boll Weevils will kick off against Southern Nazarene university at 3 p.m.