2012 Notable people

Scotty Adams
Scotty Adams
Jan 24

Twelve citizens ­­­— all nominated by the public — having an impact on central Arkansas.

Little Rock’s king of crawfish

Scotty Adams plans and executes the spring’s biggest charity-party.

Scotty Adams knows way too much about crawfish. He’s been to the Louisiana crawfish farms in Lafayette Parish and seen the whole process of growing, washing and selling the tasty, bug-eyed little creatures.

He’s even got crawfish farmers calling him on the phone.

And why wouldn’t they? When a man buys and cooks upwards of 20,000 pounds of crawfish on a yearly basis, it’s safe to say he’s probably one of the biggest buyers in Arkansas.

His personalized license plate says, "CRWFISH.”

But here’s a dirty little secret: Adams is not really a fan of crawfish.

“I don’t really even eat the things,” he says. “I do like them, but I don’t like love them.”

Despite his ambivalence, he has become somewhat of an expert. In the course of planning a huge crawfish fundraiser over the past five years — first Craws for Paws and then Craws for a Cause — the North Little Rock native has had an extreme education in the crawfish business.

Long before that, his first education was in the mass communications business at the University of Central Arkansas. There he picked up skills that would later help him plan and execute the successful food-and-beer-based fundraisers in central Arkansas.

He and some friends from college had the idea to have a big party that would benefit a charity.

“I said, ‘We should have a theme party, a toga party or something.’ Obviously when the idea came up it was before any of us had kids. The idea was party first and charity second.”

That toga theme never panned out, but the charity-party idea stuck, and an expanded crawfish boil took its place. The first couple of years, the event benefitted the Pulaski County Humane Society mostly in name only.

“We never made any money at all, but it was fun while we tried it,” he says.

Then between the first and second years of the event, Adams had a son born very premature. That was his first exposure to the NICU at Baptist Health Medical Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. His experience with the nurses and staff during that ordeal caused him to change the focus of the event.

As he became more involved at Baptist Health, he had the idea to create care packages for families with a newborn in the NICU at Christmas.

He was inspired by a visit from Santa when his kid was staying at Children’s Hospital. He and his wife had stepped out for dinner and had a photo of their son with Santa and Mrs. Claus when they returned.

“After I got more involved with Baptist, we got the idea to do a care package,” he says.

They gathered monetary donations from the community, as well as baby items and treated the patients and nursing staff to dinner. The donations also covered things like hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates and pedicures for the families.

He also brought in Santa.

“It’s very hard to book a Santa Claus on Christmas Eve,” he says. “We have one who’s fantastic and donates his time. We have a photographer that donates her time and takes these pictures, and it’s a great keepsake for the families up there.”

He tells the sad story of a mother who had a baby prematurely. The baby’s health was fading, and the mother was too sick to visit. While the baby’s siblings gathered around in the NICU with Santa Claus, the photographer captured what would be the only family photo the mother would have with her newborn.

The baby died on Christmas Day.

“These families are in a rough spot, so if we can help with just a little bit of normalcy on Christmas, we will,” he says.

In the second year, Adams gathered enough donated items to outfit the babies at Baptist Health and St. Vincent Infirmary with diapers, lotions, creams and baby wipes. In all, he had 80 care packages.

Adams’ tradition of helping babies continues with a sixth crawfish event in April. This time he’s teamed up with the March of Dimes.

third degree with scotty adams:

What would you eat for your last meal?

My mother’s pot roast

When you were a kid, what did you want to be as an adult?

A professional breakdancer.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?

C & C Music Factory, “Everybody Dance Now.” My boys play the Just Dance 3 on the Wii and love this song even in the car.

— by melissa tucker

Arshia Khan
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She caught a zoo

Susan Altrui left politics for long-term work with a different set of animals.

It’s easy to assume that everyone who works at a zoo was clearly driven to their job by a lifelong love and passion for animals. Easy to think, but not true. While admittedly an animal fan, Susan Altrui, the Little Rock Zoo’s director of marketing and development, originally planned a career in law.

“All through college, I’d planned on being an attorney,” says Altrui, who studied speech and communication as an undergraduate at Arkansas State University and masters student at Colorado State University.

But when graduation time came, there was something of a change of heart.

“I wanted to find something where I could apply the same skills but wasn’t necessarily just within the field of law,” she says. “So, I asked myself, 'How do I use this and do something different with it?'”

And that’s when she went to work with animals — but not at the zoo. She went into political campaigns.

A cheap shot, perhaps, but it’s a joke Altrui admits she’s not above making herself. Indeed, when she started at the zoo and was being introduced to the spider monkeys, a species with a social group that constantly readjusts to those vying to be the alpha monkey, Altrui says she felt right at home.

“I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got this. I’ve worked in politics. I know exactly how this works.’”

Not that politics is any laughing matter, exactly. She still follows it, still stays involved. She even says she might make a run for office some day. But for the past six and half years, her career has been focused on the zoo, a job she found in the newspaper and one that excited her for a chance to stay in one place and think in the long term the way a campaign staffer can’t.

“I decided I wanted to move away from politics into something more community oriented,” she says. “Not that politics isn’t … but I wanted a different degree, something that deals with different things. It was important to me to find something where you make change over the course of several years.”

The zoo has certainly been that. While existing as an institution for more than eight decades, its growth in programming, continual focus on conservation education and physical expansion with the addition of two high profile exhibits, the zoo saw its highest attendance in 10 years in 2011 with 286,815 visitors — a 15 percent increase from 2010.

In other words, Altrui has been a busy lady.

“While most people know that we have a zoo, what they don’t know is what the zoo is today,” she says. “The last 10 years have been incredible for growth and development. So if people haven’t been here in a while, their impression is going to be very different from what the zoo is now.”

And working to get that word out comes despite a sharp learning curve. Altrui acknowledges that when she was hired, she had to hit the books to get caught up on the vast varieties of all the different animals, their habitats, diets, native geographies and so on. It’s learning that still hasn’t stopped.

“When you deal with this many species, you learn more and more every day,” she says.

The learning has been outside of work, too. Thanks to a docent, Altrui was introduced to the Junior League and has “enjoyed every moment” since, volunteering on projects from community health to education. She looks forward to the next year sitting on the research and development committee finding future projects.

She’s also in recent years found a new love for film thanks to involvement in the 48-Hour Film Project. Though having no experience in filmmaking, she was invited into a team a couple years ago and has since not only repeated the effort, but joined a project outside 48 hours to produce a documentary about former Texas governor Ann Richards that will be released this spring.

“Independent film is a lot of fun to me,” she says. “It’s more artistic [than studio film], so there’s a larger possibility for creativity.”

third degree with susan altrui:

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Omni-linguism: the ability to understand and communicate in any language at any time

Name a movie you’ve seen in the last year that you think everyone else should see, too.

Too Big to Fail

Who is your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Nicki Minaj

— by spencer watson

Arshia Khan
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‘Best job I’ve ever had’

Twice retired, Dale Prater now serves the community.

Thirteen years ago, Central Baptist Church member Dale Prater founded a food pantry and clothes closet to serve the North Little Rock community. Today, he leads a group of 25 to 30 volunteers who work to clothe those who need it and feed the hungry, especially children. The food pantry and clothes closet are open at the North Little Rock church location, at 4500 North Hills Blvd., from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“We feed an average of around 2,000 people per month. Most of the people are very low-income. If they’ve got kids, we feed them. That’s what we believe in, taking care of those kids,” Prater says.

The pantry partners with local businesses such as Panera Bread, Little Caesar’s and Daylight Doughnuts, to collect food that they would normally throw away. Prater also collects monetary donations from the church to buy canned goods to feed children from two North Little Rock schools during the weekends.

During the growing season, Prater and his volunteers head out to local farms to glean fresh produce by hand that would normally be left to rot in the fields as part of the Gleaner’s Garden project.

“We start about May and go through, well, I have picked stuff as late as September. The farthest one we go to is a watermelon patch out in Scott,” he says. “Last year we took over 240,000 pounds of watermelon out of one field. We take it to the Arkansas Foodbank network, and distribute it through food pantries throughout the state of Arkansas.”

As part of the clothes closet project, members of the church and the community donate items, and Prater has partnered with a local consignment store for other articles of clothing.

“Members of the church, they have supported our clothing closet tremendously," he says. “We take any kind of clothes, especially during the winter, I get a lot of requests for kids coats.”

Despite having retired from the U.S. Postal Service and the Air Force, Prater says serving the community through the church is the most satisfying work he’s ever done.

“I’ve retired twice over. This is the best job I’ve ever had because I get a chance to serve the Lord,” he says. “Nonpaid ministry jobs, we do it out of love of the Lord. I’ll keep doing it as long as my health holds up.”

third degree with dale prater:

What would you eat for your last meal?

I’d probably have tossed salad with ranch dressing.

Which historical era would you pick to live in?

I would probably like the early 1900s. I just think it was a time where there was not as much hustle and bustle, as it seems I am in with ministry now.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force, but my eyesight wasn’t good enough to pass the eye test.

— by melissa tucker

Arshia Khan
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Parent. Teacher. Advocate.

Brandi Shinn spends her days working with special needs children.

Anyone who has ever tried knows raising children is a thankless task, but when those children have mental or physical disabilities, the task becomes exponentially more challenging.

When those children reach school age, parents and educators find themselves trying do what’s best for the child who often needs constant supervision, one-on-one classroom instruction and expensive equipment. Many times parents and teachers are left wondering how such a child can fit seamlessly into the school day.

That’s where Brandi Shinn comes in.

She’s a behavioral consultant who bridges the gap between parents and educators and, ultimately, becomes an advocate for the student.

She’s comfortable in that role. It’s one she’s been playing — in a way — since childhood. Growing up in Malvern, her parents were very active in the foster care community, starting around the time Shinn was in sixth grade. Her parents often took in children with behavioral problems or special needs.

“It was quite interesting because we may go to bed at night, and we had a certain brother or sister there, and you had a new brother or sister sitting at the breakfast table in the morning, because the kids had been placed overnight,” she says.

The experience taught her to live in the moment.

“I think it taught us to live each day to the fullest. We never knew when that kid we had considered our brother or sister would have to leave and go back to their family. You never fought for very long, because that could be the last conversation you had.”

As an adult, Shinn now has six siblings, and only one is a blood relative. Her parents — now with grandchildren numbering in the double digits — bowed out of the foster care system to spend more time with them.

As for Shinn, she and her biological sister became special ed teachers. She also has a severely autistic stepson who is 11 years old.

This gives Shinn the ability to empathize with both parents and teachers as part of her behavioral consulting business she calls Above All Else.

“I’m called in to kinda play both sides of the fence. I taught special education and was in the classroom, but I also have a special needs child at home who is nonverbal, so I understand what it’s like to be the parent of one of those kids,” she says.

Her job requires excessive amounts of patience and never offers immediate rewards.

“I may work with a child for months before we ever see any rewards,” she says. “People can get discouraged and unmotivated because we’re used to getting instant gratification. But in this business, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes years. ... That’s the big challenge because you wonder, ‘Is anything I’m doing making a difference?’”

But in those rare moments when a child has a breakthrough, it’s all worth it.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but when an autistic child thanks you or hugs you or does something that research says they wouldn’t do or shouldn’t be able to do, it makes it all worthwhile.”

third degree with brandi shinn:

What would you eat for your last meal?

I like to eat, so picking just one meal seems so difficult, but I would have to say chicken fajitas and cheese dip. I am a huge fan of Mexican food and could eat it for every meal, much to the dislike of my other family members!

Which historical era would you pick to live in?

The era I would have most enjoyed is the Roaring 20s!  I think my personality, wit and demeanor would have fit in quite well during that time. I like the thought of the 50s with the poodle skirts and all, but I am not quite innocent and shy enough to have fit in.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be as an adult?

A teacher. My favorite picture of me as a child is from when I was about 3 years old, and I am sitting in a chair at my grandmother’s house helping my aunt grade papers. There are books and papers stacked everywhere — pretty much what my desk looks like now. I did go through a spell in college where I thought I wanted to be a TV news anchor, but that didn’t last long after I realized they had to get up so early. I quickly changed my major to education. 

— by melissa tucker

Arshia Khan
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Haynie hangs in the Balance

DJ, dad and electronic music promoter taps into Little Rock’s talent.

Balance — it’s a word that pops up frequently in Jason Haynie’s life. First, it’s his DJing moniker, the name he uses when playing electronic music at Little Rock clubs such as Ernie Biggs and Deep Ultra Lounge.

Then there is Balance Music, a music production company the 33-year-old started in early 2011 so locals could be exposed to more electronic music acts. And then there’s Balance Lighting Systems, an event-lighting service company. Less than a year old, the company regularly lights concerts at the Rev Room, Downtown Music and Juanita’s.

So this Balance thing, is there a deeper meaning?

“I’m a Libra,” Haynie says. (The constellation and Zodiac sign represent balance.) “That’s it. There’s nothing else there.”

But equilibrium is a cornerstone of Haynie’s life. Sure, there’s the DJing, music and lighting — three jobs that occupy around 20 hours of Haynie’s life during a week, but there is also Haynie’s full-time job as a web developer with west Little Rock’s Mass Enthusiasm — a “full-on advertising agency from apparel to websites to everything in between,” Haynie says. It’s where Haynie spends his days coding.

And then there is his young daughter, Presley.

“My family is my universe,” Haynie says. “The day my daughter was born something inside me changed forever. ... Every day she brings joy and meaning to my life. I can only hope I repay her by being the best father I can possibly be.”

So there is a lot of balancing in Haynie’s life, but being involved is vital for him. He was first exposed to house music in 1999 after graduating from Henderson State University. Soon he was a part of the burgeoning Little Rock electronic music movement, when some 3,000 people might show up for a rave. As the novelty wore off for the casual fans, Haynie immersed himself in the music. He’d been a longtime music fan, playing in jazz, symphonic and marching bands throughout high school and college, and playing in various rock bands in the 1990s. But the technical aspect of DJing captivated Haynie.

“A lot of the theory I had learned in school applied to DJing which allowed me to catch on pretty quickly,” he says. “I have always enjoyed psychology and moreover I enjoy watching how people react to stimuli given to them by their environment. Performing has always given me an avenue to provide that stimulation to my audience.”

A few of the more prominent artists Haynie has brought to Little Rock include Chicago DJ Paul Anthony, Oklahoma City electronic music pair Kids at the Bar and Chicago electronica legend Frankie Vega. Haynie donated a portion of the proceeds from the Vega show to the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Despite bringing national talent to Little Rock, Haynie's focus remains on local people.

“I look up to and respect all of our local talent,” he says. “I believe that Little Rock has more untapped talent than anyone realizes. As long as the environment is provided for these artists to thrive, I see massive growth potential in Little Rock.”

third degree with jason haynie:

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

I always wanted to be a pilot. I’ve always been attracted to flying, [and] actually got to fly a small plane for the first time last year.

What’s the most-played song on your iPod (or just your most-played song)?

Probably Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash.” My daughter has loved that track since she was tiny. She wants to hear it any time we are in the truck.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

I’d like to think I could play myself, but if that wasn’t an option it’d probably have to be Johnny Depp — since we are almost twins.

— by shea stewart

Arshia Khan
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In search of ‘light bulb’ moments

Sam O’Bryant helps communities identify and solve issues and grow into something better.

Sam O’Bryant’s parents didn’t have to tell him how important philanthropy is to a community. They showed him. His parents were teachers who were always volunteering their time and talents to help other people, and in turn, he is teaching those same things to others.

As the assistant director for the Center on Community Philanthropy at the Clinton School of Public Service, O’Bryant coordinates the effort to engage communities to become models of community philanthropy.

“Community philanthropy is the giving of time, talent and treasure,” says O’Bryant. “It’s the idea that you share what you have.”

Through the center, O’Bryant has been working with the communities of Pine Bluff, Blytheville and Helena-West Helena to help residents identify and try to resolve issues as a community.

“Our approach is to help the community identify an issue and identify talented people who can address the issue.”

Helping neighbors identify and understand issues is challenging but rewarding when progress is made.

“Seeing the ‘light bulb’ moment during a community meeting is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job,” O’Bryant says. “It’s that moment when someone in the community realizes what a major issue is, and figures out a way to handle it.”

The idea that you share whatever you have is the first of many philosophies O’Bryant would like to teach his young sons. At ages 5 and 2, O’Bryant’s sons are too young to fully comprehend everything their father does for these communities. For now, O’Bryant’s focus is to teach his eldest son, Sam IV, to share his games with his younger brother, Jacob.

The large-scale community teachings will have to wait a few years.

“My father is my biggest idol,” O’Bryant says.

Although he wasn’t sure what occupation he wanted as an adult, he was certain that he was going to do what his dad did when it came to serving and being a part of his community. It’s a path he hopes his sons will follow, too.

O’Bryant attributes much of his success to his wife. “She’s always believed in me, and continues to believe in me even when I doubt myself,” he says.

The O’Bryants moved to Arkansas after Jaqueline was offered a full scholarship to the UALR Bowen School of Law.

Law school was always a dream for her, and O’Bryant says the decision to move was easy.

They currently live in Bryant, which they say is a family and community-oriented town that reminds the couple of the kind of environments they grew up in.

That sense of community is what drew the couple to the town where O’Bryant is currently an elected member of the city council, they said.

“Canvassing and campaigning are great ways to learn about your community,” O’Bryant says. Though he was taught to spend “45 seconds max” on a neighbor’s doorstep, O’Bryant says he could sometimes find himself talking to people for 30 minutes or longer.

“Campaigning gives you a chance to see how people think, and gives them a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions about your campaign.”

third degree with sam o'bryant:

What would your superpower be?

Telepathy and telekinesis … I’m a huge fan of Charles Xavier.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

When I was 5, I wanted to be an astronomer. When I was 7, I wanted to be a police detective. When I was 9, I wanted to be an engineer. When I was 11, I wanted to be the Secretary of Agriculture.

What book has most impacted your life and why?

Green Eggs and Ham. Imagine being named Sam and this book is read to you and your fellow kindergarten classmates … who also happen to be experts at teasing. I’ve only picked up that book once since then. And it was because my son (who is also named Sam) saw his name and liked it. We probably read it once a week now.

— by alyssa caparaso

Arshia Khan
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Back on the upswing

First Tee director charting a new course for the public fairways.

It must be nice to get to go to work and play golf all day. Cory Biggs would agree, but despite his position as executive director of The First Tee of Central Arkansas and the suggestions of some of his friends, that’s not what he does.

Granted, he’s got an office with a killer view of acres of manicured fairways, and, when off the clock, he doesn’t struggle to get a tee time. But after around three months on the job, he’s finding that recreation doesn’t come around as often as his buddies might think.

That’s partially due to the circumstances of his hire. Not only was he brought on to replace an outgoing director who went to another education position, but the organization’s office manager had also independently departed. A decision to restructure meant Biggs started with a new associate director, a complete changeover in day-to-day management, at the same time that a new strategic plan was being launched.

“It’s been an exciting time, but also a little bit wild,” says the Paragould native, whose duties include not hitting the greens but managing staff and operations, as well as “anything that pops up, with volunteers or parents or anything” in the youth development organization. “I have to wear many hats.”

It is work that is both challenging and rewarding, but admittedly not the career path Biggs thought he’d take. A graduate of the concurrent degree programs at the Bowen School of Law and the Clinton School of Public Service, Biggs originally had his sights set on being an attorney.

“I probably figured out around year two [of law school] that it might not be what I wanted to make a career out of,” he says. “I just thought I’d be a lawyer, but here I was wanting to pursue other interests.”

That’s when he enrolled in the Clinton School, and it was through that experience that he met and studied with a lot of people involved in the nonprofit sector. It just happened that a position opened up at the right time, one where legal training helps more than a good swing.

“I’m not a good golfer, but I’m a golfer,” laughed Biggs, who says his dad and brother got him into the game. His brother is still better, but as for dad, “I think I can handle him now.”

Those roots in the game make the local chapter of The First Tee, a national organization with 200 chapters that work to teach life skills through golf, a perfect fit.

“I feel like I’m giving something back, both to me and the kids,” says Biggs, noting that many of the kids serviced might not otherwise have access to the game.

The other side of The First Tee, and one people sometimes don’t realize, is that it’s also a public golf course, open to anyone old or young. And so Biggs is head of the staff that operates that as well. That means he’s ultimately responsible for overseeing initiatives throughout the operation, whether it’s the recent addition of carts or fundraising efforts like marketing the group’s Natural State Golf Trail Passport, a one-time pay and play across the state purchase.

But the diversity of work doesn’t daunt Biggs, who can claim a service project in Rwanda and being a Jeopardy! contestant among his credits. He didn’t win the game show, but rather took second place to an eventual six-day champion, largely because he second guessed his final wager. Had he not, he would have won, but he doesn’t look back.

“You can never go wrong betting on yourself,” he says.

third degree with cory biggs:

If you could take a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Jericoacoara, Brazil. I visited a few years back. It’s a small, beach town (no paved roads) on the northeastern coast. Gorgeous beaches, great food and drink, and you can watch the sun set into the ocean every day. Oh, and it’s full of the most beautiful women in the world. Paradise would be the word to describe it, I believe.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The classic super power of being able to speak and understand all human languages. It sounds cliche, but I truly believe communication is the solution to all problems.

What’s one food you’d eat all the time if you could get away with it?

Good steak, medium-rare.

— by spencer watson

Arshia Khan
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Engaging from the stagePlaywright hopes to inspire real-life dialogue through theater.

Here’s April Gentry-Sutterfield’s quick introduction. She is a theater director, playwright, an educator, mom and a volunteer. It’s a lot of titles for the 33-year-old.

At home in the Quapaw Quarter, Gentry-Sutterfield is raising, along with husband Spencer, 3-year-old Clem and month-old Blythe.

But the freelance theater artist is also busy writing plays. Her latest is Lily & the Apple Seed, Wildwood Park’s newest Art in Education production that will tour Arkansas elementary schools through April. It’s an educational play encouraging healthy eating and active living. And she has written her one-woman show Sticky Thickets along with her workshop play Choosing Sides, addressing bullying in schools, in partnership with Horace Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School, Pulaski Technical College and Safe Places.

And the Petit Jean native, who graduated from Hendrix College before earning a master’s degree from the University of Texas, is also a homeschool teacher for Clem. She has also taught at Pulaski Technical College and directed For Colored Girls — a partnership between Pulaski Tech, the William F. Laman Public Library and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Busy — that’s a word that probably doesn’t encapsulate her fully. How does she do it?

“I think it’s really about making intentional choices,” she says. “I think one of the advantages of doing freelance work and being a full-time mom is that it forces me to make intentional choices because I can see when I am out of balance.”

A Morrilton High School grad, Gentry-Sutterfield got involved in theater her senior year through the encouragement of a “magical drama teacher.” After studying theater at a Louisiana university, Gentry-Sutterfield finished up at Hendrix where she decided on a teaching career. And while student teaching in 2001 at Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School (husband Spencer teaches there now) and working with one particular student named Cece, she witnessed the power of the theater arts and how it could make a difference. She calls it her “breakthrough moment.”

She views theater as a tool for “getting people talking to one another, as a form of dialogue, and for problem solving. As a tool for policy making.” Hence Choosing Sides, Lily & the Apple Seed and the like.

“Theater allows you a tool to ask good questions about how you’re living and also to explore how you can live,” Gentry-Sutterfield says. “[And] sometimes kids who have a lack of access, they are unable to dream some of the big dreams. I think that theater and all of the arts give them that window into what they could do so they can reach the potential of their lives.”

third degree with april gentry-sutterfield:

If we went out on a Saturday night where would we find you?

Eating Palak Paneer on a date night with my husband at Taj Mahal.

What would your superpower be?

To duplicate myself so that I could simultaneously complete work with kids, husband, students and community participants while giving each my full and undivided attention.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Katie Holmes. People have told me I look like her since the popularity of Dawson’s Creek in the ‘90s.

— by shea stewart

Arshia Khan
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Called to a ‘Big Serve’

New pastor leaps before he looks, creates a church in Cabot.

Spencer Dunlap thinks Brussels sprouts are a terrible way to judge vegetables.

“I’m a science guy,” the biologist turned pastor says. “I can tell you it’s a mutant vegetable. If it was the first vegetable I had eaten, I would never have eaten another vegetable again.”

Dunlap actually likes vegetables, almost as much as he enjoys using funny axioms to introduce his thoughts about Christianity.

“I love using the Brussels sprout axiom when I talk to people,” Dunlap says. It’s a relatable way to let people know they shouldn’t judge all churches or Christians as being bad because of a negative experience they may have had.

“The purest things you can do are love and serve people,” he says. To Dunlap, these are the fundamental aspects of being a Christian that he teaches as the pastor at Re:New Community Church in Cabot.

“I was a pastor in a church in Kansas City and was always feeling like we were supposed to start a church from scratch,” he says.

Dunlap encouraged his wife, Jennifer, to attend a conference in Florida with him that would help them understand the process of building a new church.

“She was reluctant at first, and in the end agreed to go because I promised to take her to Disney World,” he says. “By the end of the week, she was convinced that this was something God wanted us to do.”

Weeks later, the Dunlaps received a phone call from a man who helps people found new churches. He told them about a location in Arkansas where a new church was needed.

“We did what’s called a ‘parachute drop’ in Cabot, and moved to the city without knowing anyone.”

Both Dunlap and his wife had family in Kansas City, and he was reluctant to leave. This time, it was Jennifer who did the encouraging.

“She says we would always wonder if it was us or God making the changes in our community, and that we needed to make the move,” he says. “We realized it wasn’t about us, it’s about God.”

Many people in Cabot share the same faith as the Dunlaps, and a year after starting Re:New, the congregation grew to over 350 members. Part of the popularity of Re:New is the idea that the sense of loving and serving one another extends beyond the walls of church on Sundays.

During months with five Sundays, Dunlap asks that his congregation move outside the walls of their church to participate in a community service project they call “Big Serve.”

“We don’t want the church to get stuck inside the building,” he says. “I don’t think a church was meant to be stuck inside four walls all the time. We like to put feet on our faith.”

Putting faith on feet is another way the church helps the community. The Dunlaps created the “Soles for Souls” program that collects new or gently used shoes for students in Cabot. Teachers and counselors can call the Dunlaps with shoe sizes for students in need, and the couple will provide shoes for the students. Jennifer Dunlap, a nurse, had the idea to provide shoes to students who needed them.

“While substitute-nursing at schools in Cabot, my wife saw that some of the students wore shoes that didn’t fit or had holes in them, and knew that she could find a way to give them shoes,” he says.

Dunlap is continuing to find new ways to prove that it is possible to serve the community and have faith without being confined to a traditional Sunday church service.

He even holds a “Man Church” devotional service on Thursdays at The Mean Pig for men who don’t enjoy attending church, but who like to talk about their faith and eat barbecue among their peers.

You can bet Brussels sprouts aren’t on that menu.

third degree with spencer dunlap:

What would you eat for your last meal?

Chinese buffet with egg rolls from Haru Restaurant in Cabot. Maybe just the egg rolls from Haru would work, depends on why it’s my last meal. For instance, if I was going to be electrocuted for some reason, I might choose to eat handfuls of unpopped popcorn just to give the people watching something to talk about later.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

I wanted to be a part-time doctor and professional baseball player. As I grew older, I realized I didn’t care for germs much, nor being around people that had a lot of them. Nor was I able to hit a curve ball.

Which movie character is most like you?

I love Christmas movies, not so much the serious ones, but the ones that make you ask, “Why did I watch that again this year?” I certainly identify with Ralphie from A Christmas Story. I received the official Red Rider BB gun for Christmas (no compass in the stock though), almost shot my eye out by putting the target on the metal fence post, and I dropped the “f” word for my mom in sixth grade not even knowing what it meant — that was a bad day. I love Ralphie— introspective, driven, hates Lifebuoy soap, but loves Chinese food for Christmas.

— by alyssa caparaso

Arshia Khan
Click to Enlarge

Starting the press

Bryant High School teacher’s journalism class one of the best in the nation — and they’ve got the trophies to prove it.

A big part of successful teaching is motivating students to genuinely want to do the work that is required of them. It’s finding the right buttons to press to engage and interest young minds, so much so that they not only want to do it, but want to do it well.

For 33 years, the last 21 at Bryant High School, that has been a big part of what Margaret Sorrows has been doing as adviser to the school’s newspaper and yearbook, each of which can literally be called among the best in the country at what they do. Sorrows’ classroom is a trophy case and testament to that very fact, lined as it is with dozens of plaques and awards for the publications.

Ask how much pride she takes in those accolades, though, and the spotlight quickly shifts.

“My pride comes from what they [my students] produce. I’m just the adviser. I’m not writing the stories. I’m not shooting the pictures. I’m not doing the design,” she says. “It’s their product and their ownership.”

That won’t be the last time that word ownership comes up. It’s a fundamental concept of what Sorrows teaches. It’s not always content the school’s powers that be want covered, such as a revenue shortfall in the drama department because the city’s elementary schools backed out of attending a children’s theater production. But Sorrows’ philosophy is that if it’s honest information backed by credible sources, it’s a story that can be told.

“There have been times in the 21 years I’ve been here that, when the paper comes out, I didn’t leave the room,” she says. “Now of course I just get emails. I’ve been in the principal’s office a few times, but I tell the kids that if I go, you go, too.”

Remember that word ownership?

“It’s like your children. It’s hard to let your kids make a mistake, but sometimes you have to.”

And sometimes it’s not a mistake. Sorrows says she’s been proven wrong plenty of times, about the way a photo is being taken or a page is being designed. When the end product exceeds all expectations, hers included, it pleases her as much as anything.

Well, maybe not as much as seeing the school’s 2,400 students eating up the product of her kids’ hard work, because let’s be honest, kids aren’t generally big on newspapers these days. It’s a fact that pushed the paper to go online — both a little reluctantly and little late, Sorrows says — with the intent of creating daily updates in conjunction with already active social media outlets and the print edition, which will continue.

It’s a trend that speaks to Sorrows’ continued effort to keep up while teaching in a field where technology moves quickly, and that includes her classes on digital photography that aren’t necessarily news-oriented. She studied hard to make the transition from film to digital and still studies to keep up with updates to Photoshop, because “as an instructor, you’ve got to be able to teach the kids what you’re asking them to do.”

It’s perhaps no surprise that an educator would be so devoted to learning. It might be a surprise, though, that this teacher plans to continue her education upon retirement (an oft-used threat to motivate her students). When the time comes, she plans to go to law school.

In the meantime, she is content to keep asking her students for their best work because she knows from experience that she’ll get it.

“Now matter what school I’ve been in, no matter how bad the program is when I get there, I know that if I can give my 100 percent, I can find find a lot of kids who will stand right there beside me and do the same.”

third degree with margaret sorrows:

If you could travel back and witness any one event or era in history, what/when would it be?

I would like to have seen The Beatles at Shea Stadium in New York City on Aug. 15, 1965. As a young girl, I idolized them and still do.

Name a book you think most people haven’t read but probably should.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It shows students they aren’t defined by their upbringing.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The super power to eat all the cheese dip from El Chico I wanted and not gain any weight.

— by spencer watson

Arshia Khan
Click to Enlarge

Macro manager

Chris Love looks at big picture as his foundation works to improve Arkansas.

A spot on the first Mayor’s Youth Council sparked a life-long desire to change the world in Little Rock native Chris Love.

The Youth Council was created with the idea that if kids learned to volunteer at an early age, they would continue to do so as adults. Love is the poster child for the long-term pay-offs of that program. After high school, he joined the military and was deployed to Kosovo and Iraq. During operations in those countries, he came face-to-face with extreme poverty.

“It was definitely eye-opening to see the degree of poverty, particularly in Kosovo and the living conditions that a lot of people had to face,” he says. “I remember when I was in Kosovo, driving through the city on the bus, seeing homes with bullet holes, no windows, and a candle in the window that was all that they had for light.”

“That impacted the way that I saw the world, really, not just here locally but worldwide.”

When Love’s military service ended, he returned home to a job at City Year, then he decided he’d rather do community service at the macro level. He took a job at the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence and worked with one other staff member to serve the needs of nonprofits all over the state in areas like training, capacity building and technical assistance. They were also the policy voice for those groups at the state and national levels. Then he worked for Hope Through Housing, a California-based group that helped low-income families find housing.

Finally, he landed for good at the Arkansas Community Foundation, where he serves as program director. In that role, he focuses on spending public dollars to meet the immediate needs of communities throughout the state, such as feeding the hungry.

“We work with organizations both big and small ... churches, civic groups, nonprofits, quasi-governmental agencies,” but at the same time, the foundation is transitioning into a new era.

It has launched Aspire Arkansas, seven goals for the future of the state, such as education, families, health, security and economics.

Love has helped in the evolution of the Aspire program, which furnishes statistics on graduation rates, teen pregnancy, voter participation and crime rates, to each of the ACF’s affiliate offices to help them become more strategic when writing grants.

One area of Arkansas that especially interests Love is the Delta.

“I really have a passion for the Delta region. That whole sector of our state in many ways has been left behind and neglected. There’s deficiencies in education and health care and all of those things that are vital to the quality of life,” he says.

As a father to daughter Siera, he is also interested in making life better for the state’s vulnerable children and families.

“I look at the opportunities that my daughter will have, and I just want that for other kids who deserve those same opportunities,” he says.

Love likes to look at the big picture. He’s looking for a role in leadership and philanthropy in the long term. He’d like to someday lead the foundation, but he’s also toyed with the idea of running for political office. He’s also a minister preparing to start a religious venture called Community Church in the downtown Little Rock area. All he needs is a location.

“My elementary school principal told the audience at my sixth grade graduation that I’d either be a preacher or a politician because I had such a personality ... so far, I’m one for two!”

third degree with chris love:

Which historical era would you pick to live in and why?

I would like to have lived during the civil rights era. The mental and spiritual fortitude of African-Americans at that time was and is so inspiring and I would have liked to be a part of such a watershed time in our history.

If we went out on a Saturday night where would we find you?

If during the spring/fall/summer, maybe walking at the Big Dam Bridge. If in the winter, you wouldn’t see me because I’d be at home!

What would your superpower be?

The power to heal sick people by giving them a warm, compassionate smile.

— by melissa tucker

Arshia Khan
Click to Enlarge

Devoted to public service

Newly minted lawyer has already spent time in the political and community advocacy trenches.

When asked to describe her present state of mind, Tamika Silverman Edwards chooses “happy.”

The director of public policy for Southern Bancorp Community Partners, the nonprofit side of rural development bank Southern Bancorp, just learned last week she officially earned her juris doctorate. Sure, she graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law last month, but grades — passing grades in Edwards’ case — were just posted last week. It’s official.

Official enough Edwards posted the news on her Facebook page. (Another reason for her present happiness is she and her husband Quincy Edwards are also the proud parents of an infant daughter, Abigail.)

The degree — along with prior degrees from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (bachelor’s) and UALR (master’s) — accomplishes the goal of becoming a lawyer the 33-year-old has had since the age of 9. Growing up in Little Rock in a single-parent household, Edwards watched Perry Mason along with her mother, but it was a Washington, D.C., trip in 11th grade and a Supreme Court visit that solidified Edwards’ lawyerly ambitions.

So what’s Edwards’ plan for her law degree? She views it as another way to help people as she has devoted her life to public service, first in her decade-long career as a community affairs specialist for former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, and now in her current position, advocating for policies that promote new educational and economic development practices in Clark and Phillips counties in Arkansas and Coahoma County in Mississippi — the counties SBCP serves.

“We look at decreasing poverty, increasing educational attainment as well as increasing employment opportunities,” says Edwards of her job as director of public policy. “Just helping has always been a part of me, and public service is the best way to do that.”

Her passion for helping others stems from her childhood. Only one parent meant help from others, and Edwards views her current career as paying that help back.

“I knew public service was the best way to use my talents to help other people,” she says. “I’m able to connect people with so many different services.”

Serving her community is also the reason Edwards is a member of organizations from the Friends of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center board of directors to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her work with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is also an outgrowth of her fascination with history.

Besides her work with Lincoln, Edwards also worked with the Democratic Party of Arkansas during the 2004 election, and a future in politics — perhaps the zenith of public service — is something Edwards is considering. Not in the near future, but perhaps somewhere down the line.

“I think I probably will [get involved in politics] at some point,” she says. “[I’m] intrigued with it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. An awful lot.”

third degree with tamika silverman edwards:

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

If I could do anything I would slow time or reverse time. It’s such a hot commodity now, and we find ourselves just being so, so busy that we are unable to sit and cherish the small times. I don’t think we spend enough time just thinking.

What’s the most-played song on your iPod (or just your most-played song)?

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The whole album. That album was just it. ‘Doo Wop (That Thing).’ ‘To Zion.’ ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.’ My favorite song on her album is called ‘Forgive Them Father.’ ‘Beware the false motives of others/Be careful of those who pretend to be brothers.’

If we went out on a Saturday night where would we find you?

Anywhere with my husband [Quincy Edwards]. We would probably be at a restaurant somewhere. Or walking in the mall. I’ve been with him since high school. He really is my best friend, so anywhere with him.

— by shea stewart


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