WALDEN: Investing in people

The board of directors for the Macon Rescue Mission is acknowledging the expanded reach of the organization with its new name, Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia. Since 1991, Jaime Kaplan has spearheaded a weekend golf tournament, the annual benefit that helps fund the services offered by the mission.

During the years, Kaplan has lassoed the elite from the world of sports to participate in the tournament and for sponsorships. With her winning sales pitch, she has garnered local and national sponsors such as the Five Star Automotive group in Macon, which has been a major player since the beginning.

The increased popularity of the tournament required more than Idle Hour Golf and Country Club could accommodate, so the Brick Yard’s course was added this year for the 58 teams of golfers and duffers that met Nov. 6 for the opening event, an auction of fantastic opportunities and art work at Idle Hour. Kevin and Candace Brown, the celebrity hosts for the event, joined other luminaries, among them, John “Blue Moon” Odom, in raising almost $115,000, which was matched by Five Star.

To appeal to outdoorsmen, a clay shoot was held earlier at the Ocmulgee River Gun Club with 17 teams participating, five more than last year. In recent years, guests have been invited to share personal accounts of their experiences as recipients of the assistance offered by the Rescue Mission.

This year, the featured speaker was Tommy Neesmith, COO of Christy Capital, who recounted his first Christmas memory of fleeing a dangerous encounter at home to spend the night with his mother at the old Rescue Mission on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when he was 5 years old. Charlie Cantrell, president of the board of the Rescue Mission, and his wife, Tammy, were in the audience to hear a man, proficient in telling his clients how to invest in stocks and bonds, talk about the importance of investing in people, especially those who might lose all hope for a purposeful future. The contributions the Rescue Mission has made to so many lives in Middle Georgia were not lost on a crowd hushed by a true and touching story of success.


Fran Thomas likes to see what she is painting and travels the coastal regions of Georgia and the picturesque cities of Italy to capture the essence of her subjects, which range from still life to landscape, in layers of jewel-like color such as those seen in the fall leaves that surround us this time of year.

Thomas’ work is part of Macon Arts Alliance’s monthly exhibition, which opened Nov. 7, where she is joined by the Middle Georgia Woodturners, whose sculptural pieces in exotic and native woods reflect the warmth of Thomas’ paintings. The textural interest of her subjects and the wood creations of these masters of the lathe had patrons enthralled by their techniques for achieving such unique works of art.

The French term for painting in the open air or on site, “en plein air,” is a practice embraced by Thomas. Although she owned a gallery in Savannah for seven years, she closed it in 2010 to spend more time doing what she likes best -- interpreting her “signature style, scenes as far as she can see,” according to Heatherly Wakefield, director of fine art for Macon Arts.

Thomas grew up in Macon and has been painting since she could hold a brush and palette. After graduating from Auburn University, she pursued her career in earnest, taking additional courses from internationally known artists including Henry Hensche, who is known for intense color blocking for maximum effect. His student was a quick study, for Thomas’ daring brushstrokes are not for the faint of heart.

Gary Kostick, one of the 10 woodturners represented in the gallery, carved a tribute to the Trail of Tears in two pieces, each of which was turned from one piece of wood and embedded with garnets, turquoise and ebony, then polished to a fine patina. A flared vase made from 540 fused pieces, turned by Chip Nasworthy, required unbelievable mathematical skills to produce the vortex of color with such precision.

Fred Morris, like all of the woodturners, was delighted to share the secret to his open work urns delicately carved and topped by elegant finials. In their zeal to see their craft accepted as an art form, the woodturners have a reputation for enthusiastically sharing and promoting their work with anyone, no matter the skill level. As Wakefield said, “There is an unsurpassed level of sharing and giving among this group, a quality that is rare in most fields of arts and crafts.”

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or