Pine Belt residents honored as Spirit in Action winners during annual event
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (March 30, 2017) Five Pine Belt residents were honored for their commitments to caring for the community as winners of the Spirit in Action Awards, presented at the annual Spirit of Women Spring Event on March 30.
Taya Kyle, widow of Chris Kyle, author of the New York Times bestselling book and Academy Award-winning motion picture, American Sniper, shared her powerful story of love, war, faith and renewal. Taya believes every person alive seeks love and faith in something. Every person struggles and fights some sort of battle. Ultimately, we are looking for renewal. Taya’s story was about withstanding and persevering even when life brings uncommon and unforeseen circumstances to our door.
Before Taya began her talk, the Veterans of Foreign Wars color guard opened the event with the presentation of colors. The VFW entourage was escorted by the Presbyterian Christian School Drum and Bagpipe Corp as they played America, God Bless America, and Grand Old Flag. This was followed by a beautiful performance of the Star Spangled Banner by the Victory Belles from the National World War II Museum. Eagle Scouts, Gannon Priebe and Evan Preusch, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the invocation was given by Forrest General Chaplain, Charles James Parker, a 17-year combat veteran.
During the event, five special attendees were surprised by being called to the stage as winners of the 2017 Spirit in Action awards, recognizing their work in making the Pine Belt a healthier, safer and more inspirational place to live. This year’s winners were:
Jan Lacey – Jan’s community service includes involvement with Leadership Pinebelt, the Area Development Partnership, the United Way of Southeast Mississippi, Hattiesburg Country Club, and many others. Among her proudest accomplishments is the creation of Hattiesburg Area Habitat for Humanity. The Hattiesburg chapter was formed by Jan and four other members of the 1989 Leaders For a New Century class, and to date, it has built more than 65 homes.
Russ Hendley – Russ has always been involved in the Hattiesburg community through organizations such as the Roundball Express Basketball Showteam for area youth, which he founded, Hattiesburg Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Education Foundation for Hattiesburg Public Schools, among others. Russ has served as chair for the area American Heart Association Walk and pacesetter chair, campaign chair, and board president for the local chapter of the United Way. In 2002, he was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Hattiesburg Junior Auxiliary.
Kent Oliver – Kent, a husband and father of two young daughters, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of incurable cancer, and his life was put into a spin. His dream of organizing a comedy show, Laughs 4 Life, was born when he and his family became aware of a noticeable lack of joy and laughter in their day-to-day lives following his diagnosis. Using his own diagnosis as a catalyst to help others, Kent organized a comedy fundraiser. Because of Kent’s efforts, nearly $124,000 was raised for The International Myeloma Foundation and the Forrest General Cancer Center.
Debbie Thomson – After the loss of her son, Quinn, Debbie began to look for ways to help other parents who had lost a child. She founded a support group for grieving parents that meets on a monthly basis. She is also responsible for single-handedly securing sponsors to bring Christina Rasmussen, bestselling author, speaker and philanthropist, to Hattiesburg for a free workshop about dealing with grief. Debbie constantly reaches out to other parents dealing with the loss of a child – whether she knows them or not.
Jay Slaughter, posthumous – For over 20 years, Jay served as director of HMP Nursing, a division of the HMP Management Corporation here in Hattiesburg. Jay had a passion for helping others, and HMP Nursing Services was the perfect venue for his skill and talent.
After graduating Leadership Pinebelt, he went on to serve on the Steering Committee for 10 years. Jay also served on the University of Southern Mississippi Nursing Advisory Board, the Board for Wesley Manor Retirement Center, Partners for the Arts Board of Directors, and South Mississippi Alzheimer’s Association Board. Jay served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Parkway Heights United Methodist Church day care, Early Encounters, as well as the Staff Parrish Relations committee. He served as treasurer of the Oaks District Neighborhood for several years. He and his wife, Susan, taught children’s Sunday school for 8 years and together served on the Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant Board of Directors.
Jay was a fighter and did so with great persistence while continuing to work and serve his community and family. He will be missed greatly but his fun-loving spirit and tenacity for life will always be with us. Jay’s wife, Susan, and his children, Kathryn and Cade, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Each of these Spirit in Action award winners make the Pine Belt a better place to live and work,” said Millie Swan, Forrest General chief marketing and medical staff services officer. “They often provide aide to the most vulnerable members of our community, and through their leadership, show others where they are needed to serve,” said Swan.
About Spirit of Women:
Spirit of Women is a national network of American hospitals and healthcare providers that ascribe to the highest standards of excellence in women’s health, education, and community outreach. With more than 8,700 members, Forrest General is the exclusive Spirit of Women hospital for South Mississippi, having attained Premier status in recognition of strong efforts in moving women to take action for their health!
CAPTION: 2017 Spirit in Action award winners – left to right: Russ Hendley, Kent Oliver, Jan Lacey, Debbie Thomson, Susan Slaughter, Kathryn Slaughter, and Cade Slaughter