Woolwine Ford Lincoln opens new, state of the art dealership in Collins

“It’s all because of God. I’ve done what little bit I have done, but it’s all because of Him and what He has done.”
That’s the way Richard Woolwine explains the growth of his business, Woolwine Ford Lincoln.
Woolwine started out in 1971 washing cars in Collins at Sanford Sullivan Motors. He worked his way up into the parts department and then to the title of Parts and Service and Body Shop Manager.
“I then moved over to sales and worked my way up to general manager,” Woolwine said. “I have to thank Gerald Sullivan and Tom Sanford for giving me the opportunity.”
During his time at Sanford Sullivan Motors, Woolwine had watched the Ford dealership, D.L. Ford, in town become for sale.
“It had been for sale for a couple of years,” he said. “In July 1991 I contacted Mr. Stuart Leggett and Mr. Bobby Joe Dykes about the dealership. God gave me the chance, and He had a plan. It had nothing to do with me. I never dreamed of anything like this.
“My mother (Ivell Woolwine) used to say, ‘God can do exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.’
“Growing up, my daddy (Cecil Woolwine) used to say that if you were not working by 7 a.m. you had wasted half the day.”
Doing abundantly more than Richard Woolwine could imagine is what God has done with Woolwine Ford Lincoln.
When he was about 10 years old, Woolwine went to work on his neighbor’s chicken farm. When he received his first paycheck, his mother had words of wisdom for him.
“She told me, ‘You’re supposed to give 10 percent to the Lord, but to love the Lord is to give much more,” Woolwine said. “That’s something I’ve tried to live by.”
Woolwine was determined that his business would be based on faith.
“On our first day, August 17, 1991, I had our preacher Brother Billy M. Lowery on the dealership floor to pray with us.
“I’ve always said the blessings were because the Lord did it, if it’s been messed up it’s because I did it,” Woolwine laughed.
Today, in a new building, the dealership continues to grow, and Woolwine has brought on his two sons John and Daniel to work alongside him. His philosophy hasn’t changed. He still treats every customer with respect.
“That’s what has kept us going,” said John. “Our numbers have grown because people have come in and had a good experience.”
Richard agreed.
“We built this building for our customers and employees,” he said.
In recent years, the dealership had become a tight fit for the employees, cars, and customers.
“We were on top of each other,” said John.
“Ford asked all the dealers to upgrade their facilities,” said Richard. “It had been in the back of my mind for the last five years. One of the people from Ford was in the dealership and told us that we could be the last to change or the first to change, but that at some point we were going to have to change.”
“We knew we had to follow the company’s policies,” John added.
Woolwine Ford Lincoln was one of the first dealerships to build a brand new building.
When Richard made the decision to build a new building, he began looking around locally for someone to do the construction.
Using local people is exactly what the Woolwines did. Richard Woolwine contacted Sammy Davis of Davis Construction in Collins about the project.
“All of our bids were from local people,” John said.
Ultimately, Davis Construction won the contract on the building and went to work.
“Sammy went above and beyond on this building,” said Richard, “and I think it’s turned out to be a great thing for Collins.
“I’ve had owners of other Ford dealerships all over Mississippi calling me to tell me how good it looks on the highway as you come into Collins.”
The construction of the building took about 18 months and including very specific instructions from Ford.
From the color of the tile in the showroom to the paint color to the type of furniture in all the offices, Ford was very stringent on the details.
“We built the building using their ‘theater look’ parking lot that had to be approved by Ford Motor Company,” said John.
John described the theater look as the building sitting up higher than the parking lot so that it looks down on the cars on the lot.
“Every single detail had to be approved by Ford Motor Company,” Richard added.
The Woolwines agreed that the building was built for their customers. From the comfortable waiting area complete with large screen tv and fireplace to the latest technology offered to customers, every detail was thought out and planned for an enjoyable experience.
“We’ve doubled our shop space so that when our customers bring in a vehicle for service we can get them back on the road quicker,” John noted.
In the dealership, the sales offices went from 10 to over 20 office spaces.
“We’ve got a spacious parking lot with more room to display our cars,” said John, “and Blain Company in Mount Olive did all of our paving.”
“We are truly blessed to have a place like this in South Mississippi,” said Richard.
Looking ahead for Woolwine Ford Lincoln means looking to the next generation. Sons John and Daniel went to work as boys in the dealership washing cars and mowing grass and now work alongside their father.
“I started working in the summers when I was 14,” said John.
For the family it’s about continuing a tradition of sales, service, customer satisfaction and community service.
“We want people to have an enjoyable experience because we treat them like we want to be treated,” Richard said. “First of all we want to thank God. Secondly, we want to thank our loyal customers. We also want to thank our employees.”
Richard went on to thank the City of Collins and Covington County.
“They have been good to us over the years, and we want to thank Collins, Covington County and the surrounding counties for their support.”
A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting was held Thursday, April 7 at the dealership on Highway 49 in Collins.

Collins is finalist for ‘FD of the Year’

The Mississippi Burn Foundation recently honored outstanding firefighters for exemplary job performance in 2015-2016. Top firefighters and fire departments were recognized during “Hearts for Heroes,” a special awards gala presented by the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc. Event sponsors included Merit Health Central, Southern Pine Electric Power Association, McClain Lodge, Capital City Beverages, Southern Beverage Company, E&J Gallo Winery, and Soirée, LLC ~ Event Planning & Public Relations. Held at McClain Lodge in Brandon, the event featured cocktails, a seated dinner, and live music by songwriter and firefighter Shannon Sandridge accompanied by Matt Ellis and Rob Lehman. Finalists and winners received awards sponsored by Colonial Pipeline and Emergency Equipment Professionals. Nominations were received from across the state in the following categories – Fire Chief of the Year, Fire Officer of the Year, Firefighter of the Year and Fire Department of the Year. Fire Department of the Year nominees must have demonstrated both spirit and service to the community and state through “courage into the fire.” The Collins Fire Department and Tupelo Fire Department were selected as finalists. The 2015-2016 Fire Department of the Year was awarded to Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department.
Established in 1949, this department maintains a stellar reputation as one of the most aggressive smaller municipal fire departments in the state. Staffed as a combination of Career & Volunteer firefighters, this department is rated a “Fire Protection Class 5” and was one of the very first in the state graded under the new State Rating Bureau guidelines. Collins was also one of the very first in the state to participate in the NFPA “Learn Not To Burn” fire prevention and injury education program geared toward school-age children and was selected as one of 10 “Champion Communities & Departments.” They are very charitable as well and support their local daycares, schools and Boys & Girls club along with hosting their annual “Christmas Cheer” drive providing gifts, blankets and fruit baskets to local nursing home residents and indigent members of their community.

Booth named head football coach at Collins High School

The Collins Tigers have a new football coach.
Eric Booth has been named the head coach of the Tigers who boasted their second straight state title last fall.
The Bassfield native was approved last week as Collins’ new football coach and athletic director, replacing Ryan Earnest, who became Ridgeland’s coach in January.
“Coach Booth is going to be a good fit for Collins,” said Dr. Arnetta Crosby, Superintendent of the Covington County Schools. “He has 12-15 years of coaching experience and was an all start athlete at USM.”
Booth led the nation in kickoff returns in 1997 with an average of 34.8 yards per return with two touchdowns for Southern Miss.
He was previously the offensive coordinator at Prentiss, a position he has held since 2010. He went to Prentiss after spending 10 years as an assistant at Lawrence County.
“He was instrumental in the successful program at Prentiss,” Crosby noted. “His Superintendent in Jeff Davis County told me that Coach Booth is one of the finest young men he has ever met.”
Collins has won two straight state championships in Class 3A, but will graduate 25 players from last year’s team. Booth noted that he is excited about what he believes will be a “rebuilding year.”
“I’ve been watching them for the past couple of years and I know that I have seventh, eighth and ninth grade classes coming up,” Booth said. “I knew they were losing about 25 seniors, too. I thought it was a good place to start building my own program.”
He will utilize the spread offense during the spring and expects to have several holdovers from Earnest’s staff.
He also believes his experience as a former Division I college football player will benefit him as a first-year head coach.
“It has a big impact,” Booth said. “You can tell them exactly what the college expects from them. I tell them that when they leave here, things will be totally different. I try to tell them everything I learned in college to help them get ready for college.”
“It’s going to be a time of rebuilding for our football team,” said Crosby. “I would hope that everyone realizes that, and will give Coach Booth a little time to build his program.”
Booth was a football, baseball and track star in high school. The Blue Jays drafted Booth out of high school to play baseball in the 34th round in 1993, but he chose to play football at Southern Miss, where he ran for 1,679 yards from 1994-97.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a football player,” Booth said. “I decided to stick with football and ride it out. I like the way it has turned out and here I am now ready for this new part in the game.”

Police investigate ATM machine theft

Collins Police are investigating a burglary at the Junior Food Mart in Collins. The burglary occured early Friday morning, March 25.
“At 2:48 a.m. a pick-up truck backed up to the building and knocked an ATM machine off it’s anchors,” said Police Chief Joey Ponder. “The thieves then loaded the ATM machine onto the back of the truck and left the scene.”
The truck backed into the building shattering the window.
“They went through pretty hard to knock the ATM machine off its blocks,” he said.
According to Ponder nothing else was taken from the store.
“We are still waiting to find out how much money was in the machine when it was stolen,” he continued.
Ponder added that they are looking for two suspects.
The investigation is ongoing.
“We are collecting evidence now,” he said.
If anyone has any information, they are asked to call the Collins Police Department at 601-765-6541.

Bryan Russell retires from City of Collins

City of Collins employee Bryan Russell was honored with a retirement lunch on Thursday, February 25 at the train depot.
Russell joined the city in 1991 and was the original technician for the city’s cable system.
“We can all take a lesson from Bryan,” said Public Works Director Bob Shoemake, “he has always been ready to go with a good attitude.”

Crowd comes out for Black Heritage parade

The 19th annual Black Heritage Celebration was held Saturday, February 27, 2016.
This year’s theme was “United We Stand.”
The annual Heritage Museum was set up at Carver Middle School and included Carver High School class photos;  family portraits; community pictures, paintings from local artists, antique tools, farm equipment, posters, memorabilia and more.
The grand event was the parade in downtown Collins.
The Grand Marshal for the parade was Dr. Arnetta Crosby, Covington County Superintendent of Education.
Immediately following the parade, was a Battle of the Bands was held along with live music, children’s entertainment and concessions.  These events took place at the Collins High School football field.

Aldermen adjust water, sewer rates to help residents

The Board of Aldermen heard the concerns of Collins residents regarding the city’s water and sewer rates and went to work  to help them.
In the fall of 2015, the board voted to lower the usage of water by 1,000 gallons.
“Before, the rate was $14.00 for 3,000 gallons,” said City Clerk Suzette Davis.  “In the fall the board voted to lower it to $14.00 for 2,000 gallons.”
But after hearing from residents who have attended the board meetings and receiving phone calls at City Hall, the Aldermen answered with a change in the rate.
“The board decided to go back to the old rate,” Davis added, “of $14.00 for 3,000 gallons of water.”
The city charges an additional $3.35 per 1,000 gallons thereafter.
As for the sewer, the rate is $11.00 for 3,000 gallons or less with an additional charge of $3.35 per 1,000 gallons over that.  The board also adjusted the rate by 1,000 gallons.
While the change will help residents in the city, Davis noted that there was some shifting done within the budget to allow for the change.
“I don’t think people really realize what gets paid out of our water and sewer departments,” she said.  “Each department stands on its own, and we have salaries and upkeep that must be paid in each department.”
With a budget amendment which will take place later this year, the city was able to move an employee from the sewer department to the street department.
“With that shift we were able to lower the rates,” Davis added.
The adjustment in the rates does not mean that it could not go back up as the city plans its budget for next year, according to Davis.
“We have to show the State of Mississippi that we are making 10 percent off of our water and sewer in order for them to pay their matching part for some of the grants the city is able to receive,” she said.
Recently, the City of Collins had the Mississippi Rural Water Association come in and do an analysis of their water and sewer rates.
“The suggestion they came back with was for the city to make the adjustment that was made in October,” Davis said.
The Board of Aldermen went with the suggestion and adjusted the city’s rates.  Meanwhile, residents were upset with the change.
“The changes impact the person who uses a lot of water,” said Davis, “but an elderly couple on a fixed income, who use the minimum amount of water will not be impacted.
“At this point, the board went to work for its residents,” she said, “but they will have to look at it again when it’s time to work on the new budget.  They are always aware of the concerns of the residents and want to do everything they can to help them.”

Collins Police get new SUV

The City of Collins purchased a new vehicle for the Collins Police Department.  The 2016 Ford Explorer will be equipped with an in car video system and radar.  It will be patrolling the streets of the city.  Pictured above are Chief Joey Ponder, left, and Mayor V.O. Smith with the new vehicle.  The SUV, according to Chief Ponder, makes for easier access while officers are on patrol.

Meal program feeds needy seniors in Collins

Residents of the City of Collins came out with an overwhelming support for the senior adult feeding program to  be held at the Senior Citizens Center.
“We are very appreciative of those who came in to apply for the meals in an effort to help us bring this program to Collins for those residents who truly need it,” said Suzette Davis, City Clerk.
The program is a service of the Southern Mississippi Planning District Area Agency on Aging and the City of Collins.
In partnership with the Department of Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services and the U.S. Department of Human Services, Administration for Community Living, the Area Agency on Aging serves as the public advocate for the development and implementation of comprehensive and coordinated home and community based care systems responsive to the current needs and future growth of the aging population.
The agency has a contract with the City of Collins to offer congregate meal planning at no cost to seniors once they have been through the application process and have been approved.
A congregate meal is a nutritionally balanced meal served in a specific location such as a community or senior center. Congregate meals are primarily for the fairly mobile Senior population. In order to qualify for this program individuals must be age 60 or older, or be the spouse of an eligible person.
The contract specifies that the city will receive 20 meals to be served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. beginning February 16.
“We are only allowed 20 meals to serve each day,” said Davis, “and those meals are handed out on a first come, first served basis.
“This program will help us to feed the elderly residents in the area who might otherwise not receive a meal because of a number of reasons,” said Davis.  “It might be because it’s an elderly lady in the community who is existing on her social security benefits and does not have the extra income to buy a hot meal every day, or it may be an elderly couple who just are not able to prepare those types of meals for themselves.”
While the service is one the Mayor and Board of Aldermen hoped could provide meals to all senior adults in the community, Davis noted that the Agency on Aging explained that the program was set up to help those seniors who would otherwise not have a meal without the program.
“We want to be sure our seniors are cared for and getting a hot meal,” said Davis.  “This way we know that they are able to get a meal and not skip it because they cannot afford it.”
Davis emphasized that this program is just one of many offerings that will be available at the Senior Citizens Center.
“The center was built as a place for seniors to come out and socialize and participate in activities throughout the week,” said Davis.
Activities that will be offered will include quilting, games, exercise classes, health classes and informational sessions.
“The center is open to all of our seniors,” Davis added. “This one meal program is a six-month pilot program to see if it is something the city wants to expand.  It’s a program designed to help with a need among our seniors who may otherwise not get a meal.  That doesn’t mean that we won’t have many other offerings and activities going on for all the senior adult community.  We are in the beginning stage of operating this facility.”

Family Care Express Clinic extends hours in Collins

To better serve the community, Family Care Express of Covington County Hospital has extended its hours. The clinic is now open one hour earlier than before, at 8 a.m., on weekdays.
The extension means the clinic serves patients for 11 hours each weekday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is also open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Walk-ins are always welcome.
The friendly, professional staff remains committed to quick service, pledging to get patients from seated to treated in 30 minutes or less.
“During the past year, Family Care Express has experienced tremendous growth.  Our goal has always been to be there when you need us and we feel that opening up earlier during the week helps us to do just that,” comments Gregg Gibbes, Clinic Director for Covington County Hospital.
Family Care Express, a clinic of Covington County Hospital, is the only after-hours and weekend clinic in Covington County. The clinic is located at 3275 Highway 49, Suite E, in Collins in the shopping center with Subway and Pizza Hut. For more information, call 601-765-6292 or visit the Covington County Hospital website at covingtoncountyhospital.com.