The service journey of River City Early College senior Logan Sanderford began with a friend in need.
“I had this best friend in ninth grade, and no child learns the same, so he had a really hard time learning,” she said. “Every day, we had an hour at the end of the day when kids that played sports would leave, and me and him would sit together and work on his grades and his schoolwork. He got a B in one of his classes and came to me just crying, just absolutely ecstatic, and that really just made it all worth it for me.”
Afterward, a brief conversation with her school counselor opened up the world of service to Sanderford, showing her that good can come out of any situation.
“I came from a school where I always felt like an outcast, and it wasn’t anybody’s fault, but I was just that kid,” she said. “My counselor, Mary Richardson, just taught me to be kind to people no matter who they are or if they look different from you, speak different from you—it doesn’t matter. You just have to be kind to people because you never really know what’s going on with them. So I kind of took what she taught me and ran with it.”
Since then, Sanderford has striven to go above and beyond to help others when given the opportunity.
“Since ninth grade, I’ve been the president of our Service Club here at River City Early College, and I try to put together different events,” she said. “Like, we’ll normally have a carnival for different seasons, and it’s super fun. I’ve also done tons of coat drives, food drives, and my most successful drive was in 2015 when animals were included. I took dog and cat food, and we ended up with a whole U-Haul full of food.”
Sanderford plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi and major in business to continue her education but for now, she is content with volunteering at her favorite place in town, Jacob’s Ladder.
“I’ll always be involved in something no matter what,” she said. “I can’t just sit still, and I always want to be involved with Jacobs Ladder. They really are special to my heart, and my very best friend Pat goes there. He can’t speak. We can’t understand each other, but the love that he radiates, I feel. And I never want to not be a part of that.”
Shonna Morton-Hubbard: ‘If you want something then you have to work for it’
Shonna Morton-Hubbard was taught by her father that being determined and hard working could take you far in life.
After graduating from high school, Morton-Hubbard set out to discover her niche.
“After graduation, I was a little taller than everyone else in my class, so I tried out for basketball, and I just didn’t make it,” Morton-Hubbard said. “So my parents enrolled me in the American Institution of Modeling, and I went to school there for a year and a half. After graduating modeling school, I was told they were needing black models in Germany.”
After going through the audition process, though, Morton-Hubbard was quickly denied.
“They told me that they wanted the dark skin with the natural hair, and I was too light, and my hair was too straight. That kind of discouraged me. I was 20 years old and decided, ‘That’s OK. I just won’t try to pursue it’,” she said.
Although she was told that she wouldn’t be a model in Germany, Morton did not allow this minor setback to stop her.
She traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina and enrolled in the Paul Mitchell Academy where she received a degree in nail care. Later, Morton-Hubbard migrated to Virginia where she began working in JCPenny as a nail technician while still pursuing her dream of becoming a model.
After three years in Virginia she decided to move back to Vicksburg and help care for her father, David L. Hubbard.
“I never pictured staying here,” she said. “I just thought I’d help with my father, my daughter can meet all of her cousins and all that good stuff; however, I ended up finding a really good career here in Vicksburg.
“There weren’t a lot of African American nail technicians in Vicksburg when I came back in ‘98, so I started working at the JCPenney here for about two years before I decided to step out on faith and open my own nail salon. … Ever since then my clientele has skyrocketed, and I have a barber and hairstylist with me.”
Being one of the only African American nail technicians in Vicksburg with her own salon, Shonna’s Nails and More on Drummond Street, Morton-Hubbard built up her clientele and became invested in the community in a way that she never imagined.
As a member of the American Legion and board member for Haven House and the United Way, Morton-Hubbard has received awards from Mountain of Faith Ministries, the Mu Xi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha and other organizations in the community.
She also started a foundation in honor if her late father.
“I started the David L. Hubbard Foundation in 2016,” she said. “With that foundation, I’ve adopted the ROTC programs at Warren Central High School and Vicksburg High School. Each year I award students with a scholarship of about $500, and I wish that I could do more.”
Morton-Hubbard plans to open the scholarship to more students in the future.
Meanwhile, she tries to be an example to others as her father was to her.
“Being a military brat and the only child, I actually started working at the age of 14,” she said. “My job was to trim the grass while he cut it every Saturday morning while we were on the military base. He wanted to win ‘best yard’ on the base, which we always did.”
Her father’s commitment pushed Morton-Hubbard to take a job at Burger King at the age of 15. She credits his tough love for her strong will to always strive for what she wants in life.
“This just instilled in me that if you want something then you have to work for it,” she said. “I’m just so glad that he pushed me to work because today, I have no problem with working to get to where I want to be.”
Mike Bunch: ‘You can’t take it all in and not give back’
For as long as he can remember, Mike Bunch’s mother encouraged him to give back. Each year he would search for different ways to celebrate his good fortune and create ways for others to experience the same.
His first way of giving back was by sharing his love of music.
“I started out as a singer,” Bunch said. “What that did was allow me to give back at an early age, and my mother, Earlene Bunch, instilled that in me. She always told me that you can’t take it all in and not give back. That’s how she raised me. So from there I gained so much attention early on from singing, and I guess it kind of carried over into my adult years with people remembering me for winning talent shows and [being] recognized at an early age. That allowed me to be more productive in my giving.”
Today the Vicksburg native uses his profession as an instructor in the Vicksburg Warren School District to inspire the youth of the city.
“Now I’m an educator at Warren Central High School,” he said. “I also give back there by buying some clothes and stuff for the kids, just being here for a real reason. Some people aren’t able to do things, and I want to be that light in their lives that makes things easier. I just want them to know that I love them, and I want them to be the best that they can.”
Bunch also hosts multiple events.
“It’s the little things that count more than the big things,” he said. ” I do school-supply drives, take kids shopping for school. I do everything. I just like to make kids smile. Some parents do the best they can with their children, and sometimes they fall short, and I understand that. With all of my gifts and talents, I don’t want to take in everything and not give back. So it means a lot to me to give back to the community. I make T-shirts and own gumball machines, so I just try to get the students involved.”
Bunch says that with the help of his mother, Earlene Bunch, and his wife, Kimberly Bunch, he is able to continue the work he believes he is meant to do.
“They’re my support system,” he said.
Over the years Vicksburg has seen how much Bunch has given back to the community.
“This lady basically lost everything,” he said. “She had nothing in her apartment. I used my social media and some of my own funds, and we completely furnished her apartment. She had nothing and was sleeping on the floor. That meant a lot to me because it lets you know that there are still some love out here. Even with the recent tornado we had.
“I got up and saw that people didn’t have any lights or water. I took sandwiches out, and I wanted to feed the community because that’s what God wants us to do. I told people to come out and get a bag lunch and that meant a lot to me.”
Bunch stresses that it isn’t the recognition that he cares about; he simply wants everyone to know that he is always there.
“I just want people to remember me as a gentle giant,” he said. “I’m a gentle giant that is always willing to lend a helping hand and who approaches everyone with a smile. I’m someone who lives life abundantly.
“I also want people to know that if they need me, if I can be there, then I’ll be there and that I love them, and my love is genuine.”
Angela Turner: Helping others ‘is in my blood’
All of her life Angela Turner tried to model herself after her mother and her uncle. At a young age she recognized their willingness to help others and since then, she’s worked her hardest to do the same.
“I love being on the field helping others, and I’ve always been that way,” Turner said. “My mom, Barbara Jefferson, was always helping people so I think I get it from her. I also had an uncle who we called Uncle Cappy, and he helped everybody. So I think I get it from those two people. It’s in my blood.”
In 1989, the Vicksburg native started her journey down that path after moving to Texas and working at the Johnson Space Center. After 18 years she decided it was time to come back home where she was employed by the Vicksburg Police Department as a community resource officer and later by the city’s housing department as the housing coordinator.
Today, she celebrates two years with the American Red Cross as a disaster program specialist where she is the direct contact for the Red Cross for people who have undergone different disasters.
“I’m the first line of support for the Red Cross for our clients that we have in 10 different counties,” Turner said, “so I personally have 10 counties that I support, and they all depend on me for Red Cross support. If they have a disaster in the area, which could include a fire, I am the contact person for the Red Cross for those counties.”
After gaining a love for helping people from her family and turning it into a career, Turner tries her best to make serving others a tradition that she can pass on to her only child, Tangela, and her family.
“I get my two grandbabies, Ava and Simone, and my son-in-law involved with volunteering,” she said. “In fact, last Christmas we were here in Mississippi, and we volunteered at the [River City] Rescue Mission to feed people and hand out different handmade gifts we made the night before.”
Turner says that she enjoys her work as a disaster program specialist because it allows her to do what she loves each day.
“Red Cross is the number one volunteer organization. I’d even say they’re world renowned, so I have a lot of volunteers who help me, and we can’t do what we do without our volunteers. I have volunteers in all of my communities who are always willing to assist,” she said.
In her career she comes across so many people who need help that it is almost impossible for her to pick just one experience to demonstrate all she does.
“I’d give a story about helping others but there are just so many,” she said. “It’s just what I do. I have too many stories that it’s hard to pick just one. In general, working in the community fills your days with heartfelt memories.
“When someone is standing before you and all they have left, for the most part, is what they have on, knowing that you were able to help them keeps you going … ready to help the next person.”
Turner believes that in addition to helping others a simple gesture can also make a great impact.
“You want to make people feel special, especially people who don’t have a lot of family,” she said. “There might be some people who don’t even get a hug, so getting a smile and a hug goes a long way.”
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