Hancock Co., Miss Jul. 18, 2023 – The Hancock Chamber of Commerce is pleased to share profiles for the Top 10 Outstanding Citizens, Nonprofit of the Year Nominees and Business of the Year Nominees. From these groups, one Citizen of the Year, one Nonprofit of the Year, and one Business of the Year for each of the 4 areas in Hancock County will be elected by our membership. Ballots will be distributed by email to Chamber members. Voting will be open to until Wednesday, July 26th. Business and Nonprofit winners will be announced once votes are tallied and verified. The Citizen of the Year will be announced at the Salute to Business & Industry Awards Gala at Hollywood Casino on Aug. 24th. Click here to register.
TOP 10 OUTSTANDING CITIZENS
Jason Chiniche, P.E. – His demeanor is quiet and steady and his impact in the community is felt throughout Hancock County. Whether through his business, volunteer efforts or philanthropic work, Jason Chiniche gets the job done with professionalism and on time. Jason put these skills to work when he was elected chairman of the Hancock County Republican Executive Committee. Under his leadership, this group has become one of the most active civic organizations on the Mississippi Coast, hosting forums and fundraisers to further conservative ideals and support local charities such as Hurricane Ida’s One Coast Relief, Freedom Lighthouse Addiction Counseling and Future Heroes Mentor Program. Since 2018, he has served on the executive committee of the Hancock Chamber as Vice-President and in 2020 and 2021, served as President of the Board. He is part of numerous charitable events, serving on the board and in leadership positions for CASA of Hancock County supporting Touch A Truck, the Mardi Gras Gala, and the Annual Poker Run. A lifetime resident of Bay St. Louis, Jason graduated from St. Stanislaus College in 1997. Later he obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. The company he now owns, Chiniche Engineering & Surveying, was founded by his father, James J. Chiniche in 1973. He joined the family business in 2015, which has now grown to employ twenty-five. Some of the professional projects his firm has spear-headed for city and county government include project management of the Bay St. Louis Harbor and pier expansion, Ulman Avenue Boardwalk, Bay St. Louis Public Safety Complex, Pearl River Community College Hangar and Academy Projects and The Bayou Lacroix Boat Launch Improvements Project. Jason is an active member of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. He is married to Natalie Smith of Bay St. Louis, and they have two daughters, Bella, and Hallie.
Arthur Phillip Clementin, III, served as Assistant Principal and Principal of the Jackson Area Career Center in Jackson, Michigan. He retired in 2001 after a thirty-plus year career as an educator, coach, administrator, and community activist. He returned to Hancock County, where he continued to serve as a trustee at Valena C. Jones United Methodist Church, and as a board member of the Hancock County Library System. Education and the development of young people were two of Clementin’s passions. He taught drafting and technical drawing at Parkside High School in Jackson, Michigan, and he coached football, track, and field. He also worked as a scout with Blesto, Inc., one of the two National Football League’s scouting combines. He attended elementary school at St. Rose de Lima Catholic School in Bay St. Louis. He attended and graduated from Valena C. Jones High School in Bay St. Louis. He earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his master’s and Doctorate degrees from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He also did additional study at Jackson Community College and at Liberty University in Georgia. Clementin is being recognized posthumously. He passed away on April 24, 2023. He is survived by his wife Laverne Haynes Whavers Clementin, nine children, seventeen grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.
Karen Keith Compretta made a major impact on the lives of young girls in Hancock County as the founder of two programs that broadened and enriched their lives: Arabesque School of Dance and Camp Enchantment. Compretta opened Arabesque School of Dance in 1972 to teach dance and to share her love of dance with young girls in the community. It is estimated that more than eight thousand girls have taken dance lessons at the school in its 51-years of existence. Compretta taught dance there for thirty-seven years until her cancer diagnosis. Daughter-in-law Miranda Compretta has served as the program’s director since 2007. Compretta’s influence as a dancer goes beyond Hancock County. Her daughter Jessica Caillet is founder and director of DanceSouth, following in the footsteps of her mother, sharing the family’s love of dance with young girls in the Hattiesburg area. Camp Enchantment is another program that Compretta created and developed. The week-long annual summer day camp was started to teach etiquette and proper manners to young girls. The fun camp involved participating in farm life, storytelling, a dress up day, a sports day, swimming, and plain fun. “The kids loved to listen to her tell stories,” said Miranda. “She made everything happy and fun. She never met a stranger. She just loved people.” Karen is being recognized posthumously. She passed away on June 21, 2023. She is survived by her husband of fifty-six years, Bobby Compretta, four children, and ten grandchildren.
Mamie Hillery is the reigning Queen Evangeline VIII of the Raw Oyster Marching Club. A relative newcomer to Bay St. Louis, as far as her permanent residence goes, she is a major supporter of the arts community. She is an active member of St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church and an active member of St. Vincent de Paul. In addition to supporting local artists by purchasing and collecting their works, Hillery made a significant contribution to the local arts community when she purchased the former Carter Church building on the corner of Blaize Avenue and Sycamore Street. She then gave the building to the Arts of Hancock County, now celebrating the 20th anniversary of its founding. Hillery also supported the organization as it raised money to renovate the building. The new Arts is now thriving, hosting several monthly events that include art showings, art camps for youths and monthly membership meetings. As a supporter of the arts, Hillery strongly believes that the arts make people happy, and she is quick to point out, “Happy people do not commit crimes. ”As a member of St. Vincent de Paul, Hillery works with a team of volunteers to help those in need in our community. Hillery retired from her family’s shipping supply business in New Orleans and began building a home on the property where she had spent many weekends and summers as a child. With a commitment to recreating as much of the original design, the house was completed in 2018.
Tim Kellar is serving in his seventh term as Hancock County Chancery Clerk. He is a fifth generation native of Hancock County, and he has spent his entire life residing in the county. During his term of service as chancery clerk, Kellar has been a participant in the automation of chancery systems, providing leadership as Hancock County began rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He holds a bachelor of science degree in Resource Management from the University of Southern Mississippi, and he has been active in a number or organizations that support and uplift the county: The Jaycees, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, Hancock County Historical Society, Sons of the American Legion, Waveland Civic Organization, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Bay St. Louis Masonic Lodge, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, Hancock Leadership, the Mississippi Association of County Administrators, and he is a past President of the Mississippi Chancery Clerks Association. Kellar and his wife Jean have two sons, Jordan and Evan, a daughter-in-law, Mallory, and a granddaughter, Emmi. Kellar is scheduled to retire at the end of 2023.
Rachel Knight headed up the City of Waveland’s first Easter parade this past April. The parade drew forty entrants, including boats, golf carts, Jeeps, and dance teams, which started at the park on Waveland Avenue and strolled to the beach, then north on Beach Boulevard then west on Coleman Avenue to an Easter bash to celebrate the City of Waveland as a tourist attraction. As president of the Bay High Girls Soccer Booster Club, she helped coordinate training sessions and interactions with parents. The club’s fundraising resulted in enough money to send the high school and middle school soccer teams to camp at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi this past June. Three Bay High girls were selected to the camp’s All-Star Team. Knight helped coordinate Rotary Goes to the Races, which raised $2500 for each of three organizations: Habitat for Humanity, Magdalen House, and the Bay St. Louis Little Theater. She headed the Inaugural Taste of Hancock County, which brought together twelve area restaurants from Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, Waveland, and Hancock County. The event raised $8000 which was used to develop events throughout Hancock County. Knight is the mother of three daughters: Ashlynn Davis, a senior at Ole Miss, Chloe Knight, 16, a junior at Bay High, and Madelynn Knight, a fifth grader at North Bay Elementary.
Pat Murphy is the author of Growing Up Downtown Bay St. Louis, which pays tribute to his grandfather and the many experiences he had hanging around his grandfather’s business – Stevenson’s Electric – in downtown Bay St. Louis. The book gives the reader a great picture of what downtown Bay St. Louis looked like when he was a child, and it also includes photographs of many of the landmarks, including the old wooden bridge between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian. Murphy’s book recalls the way Bay St. Louis used to be when businesses were located on Main Street or within a few blocks of downtown. After Hurricane Camille in 1969, businesses began opening along Highway 90, which, after some time, took a toll on the downtown business community. Murphy spearheaded the Hancock Beach Festival in 1980 to revive the once busy downtown Bay St. Louis. The last festival was held in 1987, and, at its peak, drew more than ten thousand visitors to the downtown area. Unfortunately, the lack of downtown business led Murphy in 1986 to close the business that his grandfather had started in 1933. Murphy is also well known for being a popular area musician and a band leader. He played keyboards and performed with several different bands over the years. His wife, Candy, joined the band shortly after they were married in 1975.
Chris Roth is the founder of What Floats Your Boat, an annual event in Bay St. Louis, raising tremendous awareness of the Hancock County Historical Society while bringing a fun, family event to downtown. The inaugural event drew seven boat participants, growing to twenty-nine in 2022 and seventeen in 2023 to the delight of hundreds of spectators. Roth moved to Bay St. Louis in 1994 from Monroe, Louisiana to work as a risk management consultant. He retired from Hancock Whitney in 2015, where he served as manager of the Insurance and Title Insurance operations. Since retiring, Roth has remained active in a number of causes and events, including currently serving as president of the Hancock County Historical Society, finance and marketing chairman of the St. Augustine Seminary Centennial Celebration, chairman of the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor Commission, and consultant to Pat Murphy on his publication, Growing Up Downtown Bay St. Louis. He is also chairman of the Bay St. Louis Bi-Centennial Committee and active with the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club. Chris graduated from the University of Louisiana Lafayette with a BS in Management. He was a Coast Guard Licensed U.S. Merchant Marine Officer, and he served the country in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. After retiring, his passion for boating led him to work as a yacht broker. He remains active in a variety of community institutions, such as St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church, Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, and Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. Roth and his wife Connie – a retired educator – have four children and eight grandchildren.
Sarah Shelton is the founder of the Diamondhead School of Fine Arts. She moved to Diamondhead so that her son could follow his passion of playing golf. She ended up finding her own and sharing it with the whole community. Sarah came to Hancock County with an impressive resume, having worked for Alabama Ballet, Ballet Memphis and the Beau Rivage’s annual production of the Nutcracker. A lifelong dancer, she developed a team building mindset through her many years as a performer and realized that she was in a position to be of service to the community through her experience. She started offering adult ballet classes once a week as a way of giving back. As her class expanded in size and popularity, so did Sarah’s desire to have a greater impact. So, she created the Diamondhead School of Fine Arts, a nonprofit, equal opportunity performing arts institute that is fully inclusive of all students in terms of age, ability, culture and financial status. In its brief time, the Diamondhead School of Fine Arts grew from a single ballet class to over 500 students and a wide variety of programs including multiple dance genres, language arts, painting, yoga and more. Sarah is showing no signs of slowing down, either. DSFA now offers community programming including summer camps, theatre productions and events. Sarah is also quick to give back to the community. She and her students volunteer at nearly every opportunity to support the City of Diamondhead in their events. Sarah is optimistic, driven, dedicated and enthusiastic and inspires the same qualities in her students.
Heather Ladner Smith is an attorney with Butler Snow LLP. Her focus is governmental entities, with clients that include the City of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi Coast Transit Authority, Hancock County Utility Authority, Pearl River County Utility Authority and Gulfport School District. She established the Touch a Truck concept in Hancock County for CASA and has chaired the event since 2017. This year’s event attracted more than one thousand children. She organized a fundraiser to raise money to grant a Kiln child a wish through Make-A-Wish Mississippi. She led the fundraising that netted more than $28,000. She has performed pro bono legal counsel to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Hancock County, providing general legal services, including statute interpretation, contract review, and employee issues. She also assists with planning and organization for all CASA-related events. She was instrumental in the contract negotiation and purchase of the permanent office location. Her civic involvement includes Bay St. Louis Rotary Club, Gulfport Business Club, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce (having served as a board member and vice president), Our Lady of the Gulf Parish, Krewe of Nereids, Coastal Conservation Association, and Make a Wish. Heather is a 2004 graduate of Bay High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University and her juris doctorate from Loyola University New Orleans. Heather is married to Todd Smith, and they have three children: Amelia, Grace, and Charlie.
BUSINESSES OF THE YEAR
BAY ST. LOUIS
BIZ-ZEE-BEE is a children’s clothing and gift shop targeted at newborn girls ten years of age and boys up to youth size 18. They also offer embroidery service. Owner Janelle Graham opened the store in 2005 after her first child, a daughter, was born. She said that business has been good, and the expansion of downtown businesses, especially the Pearl, has improved the consistent traffic of customers into the downtown shops. The business also grew with Janelle’s family when she gave birth to a son five years after opening the store. Her son will be in ninth grade at St. Stanislaus in the fall. “It’s given me the freedom to be with my children,” said Graham. “It is a pleasant atmosphere, and it is exciting when grandparents come in to buy for their grandchildren, and when children come in. “We’ve made a lot of friends with our customers, watching their children and grandchildren grow up.” Biz-Zee-Bee is in the first block of Main Street, next to Field’s. Biz-Zee-Bee is the 2023 Winner of the Best of Coastal Mississippi by the Sun Herald.
BRIDGEWAY INSURANCE – Since its inception in 2017, Bridgeway Insurance Agency has been a trusted source of insurance solutions for the residents of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Conveniently located on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis, Bridgeway has been dedicated to meeting the diverse insurance needs of the community. As an up and coming insurance agency, Bridgeway has experienced remarkable growth, expanding its reach to serve customers in neighboring states as well. They believe their commitment to outstanding customer service sets them apart from the competition, making them a go-to choice for insurance solutions in the region. Bridgeway’s philosophy revolves around putting their customers’ needs first, ensuring each client receives tailored coverage that suits their unique requirements. One of the agency’s standout features is its team of hometown agents, deeply ingrained in the local community. Their strong understanding of the area’s demographics and distinct insurance requirements enables them to offer personalized and reliable advice to clients. Bridgeway’s dedication to excellence is evident in the glowing reviews they have earned from satisfied customers, a testament to their unwavering commitment to providing top-notch service. Whether it’s home, auto, life, or business insurance, Bridgeway Insurance Agency believes they have the expertise and resources to protect what matters most to their clients. With their customer-centric approach and a growing network of satisfied policyholders, Bridgeway believes their company is a rising star in the insurance industry. They invite you to trust them to safeguard your future and experience the difference of working with a local agency that genuinely cares about you.
FRENCH POTAGER – Martha Whitney, owner of The French Potager, takes her work home with her, and often thinks about her work when she should be sleeping. Her business creates floral arrangements, and her team creates those arrangements from what she refers to as a “whimsical vibe.” She makes sure that the flowers she uses are in season, unique, and are from local vendors whenever possible. “I think the main thing is when somebody calls and they order, they need us to execute a task, and they need us to help them to bring that smile to someone else’s face,” said Whitney. “We are a middleman. A joy ambassador.” Whitney said they love to deliver things for people, especially when they need comfort. She said people are trying to send out that beacon of love through a flower arrangement. “We take it very seriously when it comes to those arrangements,” she said. “It’s light-hearted work, but at the end of the day, it does weigh heavy on your heart because you want to make everybody happy.” She said that her work is hard because she puts herself in every arrangement “It must be wonderful. It must be perfect. I do not want to fail you in any capacity. So, I do wonder, laying in bed, wondering if the wedding went off well. Being a people pleaser is the hardest thing about the job.”
GOTCHA COVERED is a uniform supply store that caters to medical staff, schools, restaurants, and safety workers. It also offers onsite silk screening and embroidery. Owner Shawn Konkel opened the business on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis four years ago, and her timing was perfect. She discovered a niche market in school uniforms. Khakis and polo shirts were not as available as they had been at some of the chain stores, primarily due to supply chain shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Konkel, who had been in the business in Chicago for more than twenty years prior to moving to Bay St. Louis, was able to find khakis and polo shirts, particularly the hard-to-find royal blue shirts. So, Gotcha Covered has been successful in providing school uniforms for students in the Bay-Waveland School District, as well as the Hancock County School District. The school uniform business helps to keep the lights on, but the business requires a great deal of inventory, particularly on the medical uniform side of the business. Konkel said that it is important to have all sizes. So, the medical uniform side of the business is slowing gaining footing, particularly with traveling nurses. She said she is also beginning to see more traffic with local hospital staff. Gotcha Covered is also anticipating opening a second store in Gulfport near Memorial Hospital.
LAGARDE’S FINE WINE AND SPIRITS As one steps into Lagarde’s Fine Wine and Spirits, the first impression is that it is a well-appointed display of a broad variety of adult bottled beverages. A closer look provides a peek into some of the artifacts of a well-traveled wine professional: a collection of corkscrews, various-shaped wine bottles, maps of wine country, art and signed literary pieces of wine aficionados. “It’s a culmination of all my experiences,” said Alan Lagarde, owner, who has worked in various sales and marketing positions in the fine wine industry. He opened the store in September of 2022. Lagarde points out that his specialty is talking about and sharing his knowledge of wine and the products he stocks. He said he provides information and allows his clients to make the decision as to what they would like. The store is in the Depot District of Bay St. Louis and stocks a very broad variety of wines and adult beverages. The wine is organized in 1930s-style racks in the middle of the store. Other alcoholic beverages are stocked on the side walls. The store holds monthly wine tastings for groups of up to fifteen guests. Lagarde anticipates matching future wine tastings with The Blind Tiger Butcher Shop which is scheduled to open later this year.
SOCIAL CHAIR owner Yuki Northington says that what draws customers into her specialty store in downtown Bay St. Louis is a result of her efforts to provide merchandise that is different from what other stores offer. Over the course of the seventeen years the business has been in operation, the merchandise has changed. She said initially, customers were looking for everything. Although she did not initially stock jewelry, jewelry is now the top seller, accounting for fifty percent of sales. She said that she also sells a lot of candles, tee shirts and Bay St. Louis hats. “I’ve tried really hard to have different things than everybody else,” said Northington. I try to have unique merchandise my customers cannot get at other places. Northington said that she still buys what she likes, “because if it does not sell, it is going to my house. She says that this has been the key to the success of the store. “You have to love this,” said Northington of the sacrifices she has made to make the business work, “because it is hard. It is hard to be here every day. It is hard to be open every day. Northington reflected on a seminar she attended about ten years ago which focused on making a store a destination: “I’ve really tried to do that, because I believe that Bay St. Louis is worth it.”
THE EDUCATION ANNEX (TEA) provides education assistance in the areas of developmental therapy, dyslexia therapy, educational therapy, music therapy and gifted education. This fall, TEA will be adding ACT prep and SAT prep, and they expect to provide more support in Home School Supplementation. Rymsky Labat, Ed.D., opened The Education Annex at the corner of Easterbrook Street and Highway 90 three years ago. She said that the need in the community is great, and her goals are to develop programs around identified needs from parents and the community. “Any program I’ve started has been suggested and designed based on parent input,” said Labat. TEA averages twenty students each semester. With students who are being supported with identified deficiencies, Labat said that TEA uses multiple methods to teach the same skill. TEA can also do student assessments if parents have concerns about their children’s learning. TEA can then address identified needs or refer students to appropriate therapists.
PETSENSE is a pet supply store in Diamondhead. It opened in September of 2022, and the store has become a huge hit with the many pet owners in Diamondhead. Store manager Julia Allen said that the business is meeting a real need in the community. The store stocks a wide variety of dog and cat foods, including Hill’s Science Diet, Purina Pro Plan and Petsense’s brand 4Health. Also, pet owners may choose from a variety of toys for their pets. Petsense also has a broad variety of pets for the nontraditional pet owner. Ball pythons, leopard geckos, tarantulas, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and a variety of tank fish are available for purchase. The store provides dog grooming services during the week, Monday through Friday. Allen said new customers are finding the store every day, and she invites the everybody to come by for a visit. PetSense is a true asset to the community. Not only does it prevent the need for Hancock County pet owners to drive out of market for supplies, it also has pets at its heart. They always have adoptable cats in their store and host adoption events for dogs in partnership with PetSake, a local animal rescue. Petsense is owned by Tractor Supply Company.
THE CLUB AT DIAMONDHEAD provides a steady schedule of entertainment and activities for the residents of Diamondhead and their guests. Tuesday night is Bingo night. Wednesday night is Trivia Night. On Thursday night it’s either karaoke or dueling pianos, and on Friday nights there is always a band and dancing. “It’s hopping,” said Nancy Perkins, Sales and Marketing Director of the. “It’s a happy place. We want people to feel comfortable, and I think we’ve reached that goal,” said Perkins. “By providing the things that we do, they don’t necessarily have to leave Diamondhead. You see families there, you see retired people. It’s just a fun place.” The Friday night activity has been going on for as long as Perkins can recall. Karaoke has been going on for roughly four years. Bingo is relatively new, approximately a year and a half old. Perkins said that all three events are packed. “The Club is just an integral part of the community,” said Nancy Perkins, Sales and Marketing Director. “We host events, baby showers, weddings and Mardi Gras balls. Inside The Club are two restaurants, Latitude 30 Patio and Grill and The Oak Room. Latitude is casual dining and bar serving breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Perkins. Both restaurants overlook the golf course, offering patrons a great meal with a one-of-a-kind view. In addition to the regular weekly events and family events, The Club also hosts other specialty events such as festivals. The Third Annual Fall Fest will take place on October 21, ’23. The Fall Fest showcases artists and crafters, and there is a golf tournament in conjunction with the festival. The Club also has a schedule of golf tournaments for members, including a men’s championship and a ladies championship. It also hosts the Hawaiian Open, which is a couples golf tournament. The Club is also one of the sites for the Slavic Invitational.
MEMORIAL PHYSICIAN CLINIC – DIAMONDHEAD MULTISPECIALTY – The newly expanded Memorial Physician Clinic has been a game changer for healthcare in Hancock County. The new clinic has 22 exam rooms and covers everything from the Family Practice/Walk-In Clinic to multiple specialties, from Oncology to Neurology to everything in between. It has a 6-chair Infusion Center and the diagnostics area can perform mammograms, X-rays, CT scans and more. There is even a designated area for surgeries. The addition of all these medical specialties is a big win for the residents of Hancock County, who will no longer have to go all the way to Gulfport or Slidell for specialized care. The Memorial Physician Clinic has had a tremendous economic impact on Diamondhead. Not only was it a multi-million dollar construction project – it now has 20 affiliated physicians and created 17 professional-level staff positions. They are also excellent community partners, featuring original art throughout the clinic in an effort to promote Hancock County artists and to provide some beauty and cheer to patients who may need a morale boost. This development demonstrates Memorial Health System’s commitment to Hancock County and shows that they are planning for continued growth for our future.
AMUR AESTHETICS specializes in facials, waxing, permanent jewelry, micro blading and lash lifts. Hancock County women have been going to her for years to look their best, feel their best and bring a little glamour into their lives. Owner Brittany Amur has eight years of experience in the business, and since February of this year, she has been an independent business woman. She has a wide range of certifications specializing in skin care such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and dermaplaning. Since starting her own business, she has gone from working two or three days a week to six days. Brittany is energized by watching her business grow, and is looking forward to seeing it reach its full potential. “Each month is better than the previous month,” said Gill. She added that she believes what’s driving the growth is the way she treats her clients. “I feel like when you walk into my business, I treat you more like family,” she explained. “I want to make people feel better about themselves.” Amur Aesthetics is located at 314 Highway 90, Suite 102. Her business is by appointment only.
ASHMAN MOLLERE REALTY, INC. has been in operation in Waveland for more than ninety-five years. Owner Sue Ashman has been with the company for forty-five of those years, joining the company in 1978, following in the footsteps of her father who purchased the company in 1969 after Hurricane Camille. She became the owner in 1993. Ashman Mollere Realty, Inc. is the largest and oldest independent realty company in Hancock County. Ashman says the business has three revenue arms that create a consistent business formula, complimented by the fact that her father and brother were building contractors, along with the property sales component and the rental management side of the business, which is still being done today. Dick Ashman purchased Mollere Realty in the fall of 1969 after Hurricane Camille. He brought the construction arm to the business as he built homes, subdivisions and streets, condominiums, and apartments. Then Hurricane Katrina destroyed Waveland once again, including the condominiums at the foot of Coleman Avenue at Beach Boulevard and the company office on Coleman Avenue. The current office is in the Waveland Shopping Center. Ashman’s son Anthony Sheffield has joined the sales team, and he is expected to follow in his mother’s footsteps as owner one day. Ashman said one of the things she is most proud of is selling the motel at the corner of Highway 90 and Highway 603 and having such a dedicated team of agents to help put on the annual Nereids parade.
EBONY SAGE APOTHECARY offers a broad line of organic therapeutic and healing solutions, which include teas, baths, soaps, candles, oils, and incense. Owner Toni Maurice-Milburn is a Master Herbalist, who creates all of the therapies that she stocks in the Waveland store in the shopping center near Susan’s Sassy Sweets in Waveland at West Coast Plaza Shopping Center. In addition to being a master herbalist, Maurice-Milburn is also a reiki master teacher and a full spectrum doula. As a reiki master, she assists clients by using energy to help them calm their bodies so that they can heal. As a doula, she assists the parents in the birthing process as well as taking care of new mothers in the natural feeding process. Her clients are from the local area as well as Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, Rochester, New York, and as far away as Germany. Before she opened a brick-and-mortar site, she operated the business online for six years. Maurice-Milburn is partnering with SHEA (Sharing Health Education and Awareness) to bring a baby café to Hancock and Pearl River counties so that new and expecting moms can meet other breastfeeding moms and learn about breastfeeding from lactation consultants and other experts.
GET STICHED & PRINTED moved to Waveland in 2015 after spending its first three years in Diamondhead. Owner Anna Lafontaine has not looked back as her embroidery and screen-printing business continues to grow at her new location on Highway 90 in Waveland. Get Stitched clients include the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Hancock County and Bay-Waveland School Districts. For the Sheriff’s Department, the business handles all uniforms. For the school districts, it screen-prints tee shirts and polo shirts for sports teams and clubs. Additionally, Get Stitched has its own line of themed tee shirts and hats as well as local and coast themed tee shirts, hats, and beach towels. Lafontaine is a graduate of Hancock High School, and her daughter Ryleigh is a junior at Hancock High. Her son Cooper is in seventh grade at Hancock Middle School. Get Stitched is located across Highway 90 from Walmart in Waveland.
KELLY CANNON STATE FARM INSURANCE has been in operation for thirty-four years. Located on Highway 90 in Waveland, Cannon said that the Bay St. Louis and Waveland area was what he was looking for when he was searching for a State Farm Agency location. Cannon said that he wanted to be “coastal” because his family loves to fish, duck hunt and deer hunt. He says what sets his agency apart is “good old down home customer service. We invite people to come in, sit down and talk to us,” says Cannon. “I really like talking to somebody about something that’s as important as your home insurance, your car insurance or your life insurance.” The agency employs four full-time employees along with Cannon. They are Kim Gorbach who has been with the agency for more than thirty years, Melanie Peterman Delcuze with fifteen years at the agency, and Kimberly Richards with four years and Baleigh Couey with two years at the location. All members of the team are licensed to do business. Cannon says that makes it easy to do business. Cannon says that his office is equipped with a full kitchen, and every morning, somebody on the staff is cooking a full breakfast. He says that he loves to “come to work.”
SOUTHERN GIRL COOKIES – When asked about the initial success of her business which she started online in December of 2017, and has since moved into a physical location in March of 2022, owner Kimberly Marquar responds enthusiastically, “People love cookies!” Marquar was looking to find a way to make extra money when she decided on selecting decorated cookies as a niche business six years ago. She immediately began receiving requests to provide decorated cookies for all kinds of occasions. She started her business baking and selling decorated sugar cookies. The decorations come from an almost unlimited variety of themes: birthdays, weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, divorces, surgeries and just about any children’s theme. From there, she has expanded to gourmet cookies, including the most popular, the chocolate chip pecan cookie. Running neck and neck with the chocolate chip pecan cookie is the circus animal cookie, which is a favorite with children along with the Reece’s Pieces cookie. Southern Girl Cookies feature a different cookie as cookie of the week, and the display case will showcase seven different cookies at any given time. Marquar bakes her cookies on Monday, decorates them on Tuesday, and “by Friday they are gone. Southern Girl Cookies is a two-person operation, located in the Colson Building behind the Goodwill store in Waveland.
JINDAL TUBULAR is a pipe manufacturing company located at Port Bienville. The plant produces steel pipes up to eighty feet in length from raw rolls of steel to carry natural gas and oil. The pipe can be up to forty-eight inches in diameter. The company produces an average of one hundred pieces of pipe each day, and it can also produce an inner coating or an outer coating, depending on the requirements of the customer. Jindal Tubular currently has three hundred ninety workers on site, one hundred forty of which work directly for the company; the remainder of them are hired through three different staffing agencies to meet the current demands. “It’s a unique niche company,” said Bart Shacklock who is the General Manager of Human Resources, HSE and Administrative VP of Operations. “They are fully vested in how we need to do business here,” he added of the company that is based in India. “We’re on even footing with all of our fellow companies, and we continue to improve.”
LATERRE FARMS, formerly known as the Bubbarosa, was the result of COVID imposed quiet time, a time of reflection and career transition. Bubba and Teri Wyly owned the property in the Kiln located on Bayou La Terre for more than 35 years and primarily used it for timber harvesting. As Teri’s 40-year law career was coming to an end, she was looking for “what’s next.” Farm opportunities were first brought up by son Connor, a recent USM graduate, who discovered flower farming was the 2nd most profitable farming behind lavender production. That was when they began the journey as flower farmers and as proprietors of a holiday greenery business after constant learning and lots of family support. Today, they have scaled up their farming operation and now provide flowers to the French Potager and several New Orleans florists, as well as filling standing weekly orders. Teri said that the future is bright for La Terre Farms selling fresh flowers grown locally, as they last longer and reduce the carbon impacts. The holiday greenery business is growing steadily and is now a major source of revenue for their small business. Their signature magnolia wreaths and garlands are a favorite item as well as cedar and pine holiday greenery items. They also host various events at the new farmhouse such as house concerts with professional musicians from the region, farm to table dinners, classes ranging from cooking, flower arranging to wreath making and charcuterie boards, photo shoots, and bridal and baby showers, private dinners, birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, and corporate and wellness retreats. They are excited about the future of the farm and their team, which now includes Connor’s wife Adeline, and fellow flower farmer and creative force, Lisa Lamulle, bringing design and culinary experience to LaTerre Farms.
STUMP N GRIND TREE SERVICES – Vanessa Benson understands the roles that trees play in our environment, from helping to combat climate change to providing habitats for wildlife, as well as providing the air we breathe. As owner of Stump n Grind and an ISA Certified Arborist, she and her husband, Mike, address the challenges of tree conservation on a daily basis. Stump n Grind began operation five years ago whenVanessa decided to marry her business skills with her husband’s knowledge and skills with working with trees. She was working in the real estate business and her husband had worked in the tree business on and off over the years. She also became a licensed tree surgeon, and the family business evolved. Michael Sr., took on the responsibility of doing job estimates and meeting with customers. Michael Jr. learned to operate heavy equipment. The business offers standard trimming, removal, stump grinding services, preventative tree care and emergency storm work. Vanessa said that the work they do on a daily basis is “a balance between protecting the planet and people.” The Bensons also give back to the community. They maintain a list of job referrals for elderly and disabled clients, offering pro bono work on a regular basis. They have also donated in-kind services to the City of Diamondhead to assist with storm cleanup projects and general beautification efforts. The Bensons are highly respected in the community, and are recommended by clients, friends and municipalities. “We take great pride in being trusted with this responsibility.”
UNCLE JOE’S PIZZA & WINGS opened its second restaurant on October 14, 2022 in the Bay St. Louis Depot District, fifteen years after Susan Diamond and her late husband opened the first restaurant in Diamondhead. Diamond said that she has been committed to learning everything possible about the restaurant business since her husband passed away, and she anticipates continued growth of the business. She says that she is overwhelmed that UJP&W has been nominated for Hancock County Business of the Year. “It’s such an honor to know our customers appreciate us as much as we appreciate them,” she said. The company has also begun marketing its most requested sauce, Honey Heat. So now, customers may order Honey Heat flavored wings when they dine in, or they may pick up a bottle of it to take with them to cook up their own favorite wings at home. Uncle Joe’s is dedicated to supporting the community through sponsorship of youth activities. Susan believes that the best way to say, “Thank You” to their customers is to support events that are so important to the community. She said that the key to the success of UJP&W is that employees are treated “like family.” By taking care of the employees, they take care of the customers like they deserve to be treated, and as a result customers “return over and over.” The result is employees who stay and grow with the business, friendly service and a quality product.
UNLIMITED TOWING & COLLISION CENTER has operated in the Kiln for twenty-three years under the ownership of Veda Lacoste. The business operates with three fulltime employees and a parttime college student. Two of the family-owned business’s regular clients are Coast Electric and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. The business is made up of two primary services, auto body repair and towing. The body repair service makes up the majority of the business with a monthly range of repairing ten to fifteen vehicles. Lacoste’s son Logan Necaise is the main painter. Bobby Saucier is the body repairman who has been with the Unlimited for more than twenty-three years. Her son Logan Necaise is the main painter. Body repairmen is Bobby Saucier who has been with the business for twenty-three years. Harley Blanton is a college student who helps out wherever he is needed when he is not in school. Lacoste said the thing that sets Unlimited apart is that their customers know them and trust that they’ll be taken care of when their car is brought in for service.
NONPROFIT OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
100 MEN HALL has a mission is to promote and preserve the music, art, historical legacy and culture of the Hall, a centuries’ old nexus of social justice and artistic expression. Founded in 1894, the Hall is one of very few remaining landmarks within the famed Chitlin Circuit. The Hall’s enduring success is a powerful testament of art’s role as a vehicle for activism. In 2018, Rachel Dangermond was hoping to find a place to continue her writer’s workshops and race & equity community dialogues. She purchased the Hall not knowing the full extent of its rich history. Dangermond became determined to tell the story of the Hall through art – performing, spoken, visual and literary work as well as continuing the sacred act of presenting live music. Artistic preservation is one of the truest and most time-honored ways Black people remain connected to ancestors who, in the face of a racialized and inequitable American society, made outstanding contributions that moved our nation closer to the arc of justice. Today the Hall is supported by its membership organization, 100 WOMEN DBA, and in turn, the organization honors the nonprofit’s original mission, to uplift the Black community, through women. The organization issued five scholarships to high school students in 2023 and this year worked with Big Bertha’s Kitchen and Catering to help her expand her business. Ushering in a new era, the Hall’s intention is to elevate and celebrate the Black community and other underrepresented communities through A Soulful Christmas and Juneteenth Jubilees, as well, Latin (Day of the Dead), Jewish (The Matzo Ball), and LGBTQ (Drag Shows, Happy & Gay Hour). The 100 Men Hall is listed on the Mississippi Blues Trail and last year celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Hall.
BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF THE GULF COAST HANCOCK COUNTY UNIT provide a variety of services, which support children and families. Their mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. They provide caring mentors through their trained Club staff. They provide a safe place, consistently there for the children they serve. And they provide innovative, quality programs to empower youth to excel in school and lead healthy, productive lives. They do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids have a great future. During the school year, twenty-five students participate in the after-school program. The after-school program supports working parents, and it provides students with structure, guidance, and a supportive environment. Homework assistance and tutoring are also available. During the summer, the school provides a full day of guided activities. Other programs include a financial literacy program called Money Matters, Health and Fitness, STEM, and computer lab. Students participate in an annual Food Drive, last year sharing their collections with The King’s Kitchen and Hancock County Food Bank. They also provide job opportunities for students who are at least sixteen years of age. Students who have attended regularly and have bought into the goals and objectives of the Club may apply.
CASA OF HANCOCK COUNTY advocates for Hancock County’s abused and neglected children by supporting volunteers who promote safety, permanency, and resilience. This past year they recruited 77 volunteer advocates who served 222 child victims, drafting 208 written reports to the court contributing 3,268 hours of direct volunteer service. “The most important thing they do is visit the child wherever they are and preserve what is best for the child,” said Cynthia Chauvin, executive director. 95% of recommendations from CASA volunteers become court ordered. Chauvin and her five-member staff manage the processes with the support of volunteers leading four annual fundraisers. The CASA Mardi Gras Ball brings in $70.000. It is the biggest fundraiser, and it is usually the first Mardi Gras ball of the year. Touch a Truck is held in April. It is free to the public. This event raised more than $20,000 through sponsorships. The Poker Run was held on July 15, and it raised more than $30,000. The annual Red Bean Cookoff in Diamondhead is held in October, and it raised $10,000. All funds support the programs of CASA to strive to give children a safe, nurturing, and permanent home. Over the past year, CASA appeared in 26 newsprint, television, and digital print media outlets, conducted 26 community awareness presentations, and trained 18 new CASA volunteer advocates. They also maintain Mississippi’s only courthouse facility dog, Remi, helping 44 child victims in over 100 court hearings.
HANCOCK HEALTH FOUNDATION is here in the community to step in wherever there is a need, giving away over $250,000 since 2019. The members of the board are passionate and relentless in the goal of making sure Hancock County’s healthcare needs are met. Projects run the gamut across the community. Whether they are donating life-saving equipment to the local hospital, ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens have access to nutritious meals and healthcare services, they believe there is no need too great or small. This year, they embarked on a community impact project in partnership with the Hancock Library System and others to produce the “Youth Mental Health First Aid” series in time for back-to-school. This program is a nationally recognized program which focuses on recognizing when youth are in crisis or struggling or having a mental health issue. Adults who go through the training are certified to recognize and intervene, if necessary. In one of its most recent actions, the Foundation was able to support the local hospital by paying $10,000 for a second mammogram system. Board member Linda Tucker puts on an annual golf tournament, Pride with a Purpose, which raises money for the Foundation to pay for mammograms for women who do not have insurance. Last year they repackaged Moonlight on the Bay as a casual, high-energy event called Happy Days Are Here Again. This year it will be on September 29th at the Community Hall.
HOPE HAVEN CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY CENTER has been an advocate for abused and neglected children on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for more than twenty-four years. They are dedicated to helping children who are victims of sexual abuse and trauma. They support children and families each year through family advocacy programs that provide the necessary tools to respond to each child’s unique needs following sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and neglect. Hope Haven collaborates with law enforcement, child protective services and the district attorney’s office in the investigation and prosecution of child sexual and physical abuse cases. Hope Haven advocates for children through community education, advocacy, and direct assistance to families. Hope Haven provides Stewards of Children training, which is designed to help individuals and organizations which serve children with the skills to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse. Family advocates ensure that children and families get the support, education, and resources they need to help them overcome the trauma of abuse. Hope Haven is a proud member of the National Children’s Alliance and the Mississippi Children’s Advocacy Center. It is their vision to be a haven of recovery and a path to justice for children and their families.
JUNIOR AUXILIARY OF HANCOCK COUNTY in a non-profit organization of women who serve the needs of Hancock County and strive to help and service youth. The organization holds a multitude of projects and events during the year that directly impact the lives of more than 1,400 children. Share the Warmth was started five years ago to provide coats for children whose families needed help. The organization’s volunteers collected coats, had them dry cleaned and then shared them with fifty families with identified needs. Since COVID, the organization has purchased coats, and other clothing items and shared them with one hundred children. Another signature program is the bi-annual Spectrum Social, which provides a social activities for children with sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders. Spectrum Social events are held in the spring and during the Christmas season to provide children with hands-on activities. These events have been in place for five years and have earned recognition at the regional and national levels. The Junior Auxiliary holds smaller events aimed at supporting child development and smaller projects as needs arise. “Our goal is to break the cycle of dependency,” said ex officio and former president Amanda Pidgeon. “We want all children to grow to be independent adults. “It’s just incredibly impactful,” said Pidgeon of the women who work together in Junior Auxiliary. “It’s rewarding to see a group of women come together to be in service this way.”
MAGDALENE HOUSE/CHRISTIAN WOMEN’S JOB CORPS seeks to empower women and minister to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, enabling them to move from addiction, homelessness and/or incarceration to a stable and independent life. Founded by Diane Bennett and Barbara Ambrose, Magdalene House is a faith-based nonprofit organization, designed to equip women with life skills training, safe and supportive housing, and ongoing support. Counselors mentor healing and restoration through Christian counseling and teaching. Participants are encouraged to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, to provide hope, and to move them toward self-sufficiency by providing education, mentoring, and strength-based skills. Magdalene House accepts women who have graduated from drug or alcohol treatment facilities or who have been released from incarceration. They can remain in Magdalene House for up to six months. Magdalene House provides anger management classes to improve social skills and classes in job and work development skills to increase employment possibility.
ROTARY CLUB OF BAY ST LOUIS was established in 1925 by a small group of business leaders. One of the first initiatives they undertook was to establish a Chamber of Commerce for the area. Today with 77 members, the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis continues to grow and strive to make positive changes in the community and the world. With an 89% retention rate and 17 new members this year alone, Rotarians are a diverse group that shares a drive to give back. The Rotary Club also has a satellite club and together they support many worthwhile projects like helping local schools with food insecurity and providing funds for basic hygiene needs for students. The club also spearheaded a collaborative project to support global food insecurity with Rise Against Hunger, enlisting support from five other area Clubs, three Interact clubs and 85 other volunteers to provide 30,000 meals to people in need through three area churches. Earlier this year, the club partnered with the Hancock County judge to design and create a Rotary Reading Room at Youth Court collecting over 900 books. The club also hosted one inbound Rotary Youth Exchange from Germany, awarded one student a $2500 college scholarship, and sponsored one student to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership program. The club held the third annual Battle of the Bands fundraiser for Polio Eradication featuring local Rotarians raising over $9,000, matched by the Gates Foundation. Annual giving was up with $10,525 donated and two successful fundraisers were held to support the work of Rotary. In its 16th year, the Chili and Mac N Cheese Cookoff attracted 1,000 people netting $20,000. The club added a new fundraiser: “Rotary Goes to the Races” as a derby inspired luncheon and fashion show benefiting three local charities with 200 people attending raising $10,100. The club is living up to its motto: Service Above Self.