AMORY – Paul and Patty Hawkins retired in 2009 after owning Flooring Concepts in Amory for 30 years. They’re now volunteer their time at a place they believe will soon be home for their handicapped son – Itawamba Crossroads Ranch in Fulton, which is a community for special needs adults currently in the works.
“Our son, JR, suffered brain damage from extremely high fever at 18 months of age. It happened 50 years ago, and they didn’t know what to do back then,” Patty said.
JR was labeled as “educable mentally retarded.”
“His diagnosis was all about what he couldn’t do, but there is so much more that he can do,” she said.
The Hawkins are investing their time and talents in the current construction of Itawamba Crossroads Ranch with founder Renae Bennett, whose son, Marcus, was disabled by traumatic brain injury suffered from a motorcycle accident with a deer 17 years ago.
Another partner, Susan Sheffield, came on board in 2015 as Crossroads’ director of outreach and fundraising. Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier, who is a Fulton native, also got involved the same year. He was a high school classmate of Marcus, who was the drive for the project.
Bennett is a former hairdresser who took up pottery to raise funds for the ranch. Patty is learning pottery as well while Paul spends his days helping with the finish work of the lodge.
The Hawkins retired from business in 2009 after Paul suffered a back injury at work. They spend most of their time now in Fulton helping at Crossroads.
“We’re there four to five days a week. I’m learning while I mentor,” Patty said.
Patty said residents who will reside at the ranch have traumatic brain injuries from accidents and birth defects.
“They need extra help. They can achieve in their own environment,” she said.
Construction on the lodge is expected to be completed in late 2020. Bennett said the goal is for the lodge and at least five residential duplex units to be open by Nov. 2, 2020 – 18 years to the day from Marcus’ accident.
At first, residents of the ranch will all be male, although there are plans for a future unit for females on the campus.
“Men are more dramatically affected by traumatic brain injuries,” Patty said.
The ranch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established under the umbrella of the CREATE Foundation of Tupelo. Every aspect of the ranch is donor-driven.
“It’s a beautiful place, and it’s so close to us. It’s God-inspired and God-led,” Patty said.
The Hawkins are inspired by the men as they do their pottery projects at a workshop Bennett established with Itawamba County support in a building across the street from the ranch property. She named it the Skills Depot. Their pottery is sold at S&W Pharmacy in Fulton to offset Crossroads’ operational expenses.
“They are an absolute joy to be around. They laugh and cut up while they work,” Patty said. “They teach me every day. While the benefit is mutual, I believe it’s mostly for me. We’ll be there to volunteer as long as God enables us.”
Plans for the ranch include a future greenhouse to expand skills development into horticulture.
Crossroads Ranch will host the Golden Halo fundraiser on Jan. 25 at the Tupelo Furniture Market, Building 5. The event replaces the organization’s previous fundraiser, Denim & Diamonds, held for the past four years at Fulton’s Sheffield Manor.
For those who’ve attended one of Crossroads Ranch’s previous fundraisers, Golden Halo will probably seem familiar, save a shift in venue and celebrity appearances. Tickets are $100 per person. Once inside the doors, guests will enjoy multiple auctions, dinner and live music.
Dozier will serve as master of ceremonies, and Singer/songwriter Brett James, who has penned songs for enough musicians to fill the Grammy Awards’ guest list, is scheduled to perform. Among the artists who have recorded James’s songs are Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, The Fray, Luke Bryan and The Backstreet Boys.
Itawamba Crossroads Ranch is located at 716 Airport Rd. in Fulton. More information is available by visiting www.xroadsranch.com or by calling 585-3334.
Adam Armour of the Itawamba Times contributed to this story.