By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The impact of the Vaughns ranges from the classrooms of Tipton-Rosemark Academy to the hallways of any school in across the world.
Cary Vaughn is the CEO/President of Love Worth Finding Ministries, the radio, TV, Internet and social media ministry of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. While that ministry broadcasts in 196 countries, Cary’s wife Lalania might see 96 students throughout the week at TRA as director of the Fine Arts Department.
With a foundation in God, bond of love and driven by a mission to serve, the Vaughns were voted the 2018 Millington Star Readers’ Choice Man and Woman of the Year for their efforts in 2017.
“I’m humbled,” Lalania said. “I was very shocked but humbled with this award.”
“This is amazing,” Cary said. “Very humbling and it’s a real honor to win this alongside Lalania.”
For the first time in the award’s history the voting was done primarily online. Thousands of votes came in on behalf of the couple. Since they made their home in Millington in the early 1990s, Cary and Lalania have been active.
Cary’s day job is in Bartlett at Love Worth Finding Ministries.
“We are blessed to receive donations and contribution from 48 states,” he noted. “We are a worldwide ministry reaching the globe with the Gospel message. As CEO/President, my main function is to go out and connect with all of our donors, supporters, listeners and contributors.”
The ministry has 2,500 radio outlets and the potential to reach into 700 million households. Love Worth Finding has 250,000 Facebook followers and 12,000 on Twitter. Cary also chairs the board for Love Worth Finding Canada.
While growing the ministry worldwide, Vaughn always makes time for growing home.
“Millington is my home turf,” he said. “I grew up in Millington. I remember the 51 Drive-In. I can go back to the 70s and 80s. And every major movie I saw growing up from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to the first Superman, I saw all of those major motion movies at the 51 Drive-In. Which is now Chili’s. Millington has always been my home turf. But for me it has always been a point of giving back.”
Cary’s late father Lt. Ed Vaughn of the Memphis Fire Department taught his son that giving is one of the greatest responsibilities of a Christian.
After he graduated from then Rosemark Academy in 1989, Cary attended Lambuth University to play football. It was there he ran the pigskin and chased the future love of his life.
With the encouragement of his dorm mate, Cary was pointed in the direction of a co-ed that was the top soloist in the choir and lead actress for most of Lambuth’s productions.
That student, Lalania, was soon joined by Cary in the choir and a part of a group called Kaleidoscope.
“All of sudden I began to sing with Lalania and got a chance to get to know her better,” Cary recalled. “We ended up doing the play Grease. She was Sandy and I was Danny. We did the play Grease for Lambuth University and have been together ever since.”
By 1992 the couple was married and living on Pam Drive in Millington. The home they currently reside in was built a year later. During that process Lalania was making a life decision.
“I remember very clearly God giving me the sense of ‘This is not what I called you to do,’” she said. “I thought I was going to be a professional singer. That’s all I ever wanted to do. That had been my goal as a child because I had a passion for music. Little did I know that God was going to call to Rosemark.”
Growing up in Georgia, the music bug infected Lalania early in life. She developed and groomed her talents into college.
Her vocals were so strong that Lalania had songwriters, a producer and label lined up in Nashville to pursue her dream. But her heart was with TRA and it’s going on 20 years of the loving partnership.
“I am very dedicated to Tipton-Rosemark Academy,” she said. “Love that school, love what I do there and especially love those kids. I think that’s why I pour so much of my time and energy into that program.”
Lalania days normally begin about 7:15 in the morning and she might finally drive off the campus about 9 p.m. Numerous awards, sold-out performances and thousands of dollars in scholarships motivate Lalania to put in the long hours for her students.
One of her bittersweet rewards is the annual TRA Commencement when she directs her seniors one last time as Rebels.
“Most of the students I see graduate on that stage, I have either worked with from the time they were in elementary as their private voice teacher up to high school,” Lalania said. “Or maybe they came over to Tipton-Rosemark Academy during their middle school years and I was able to watch that talent grow over the 7 years that they were there. They’re more like my own children. It’s that emotional release seeing them up there at that point. They have come so far.
“I’ve told so many people, I know I was called to Tipton-Rosemark Academy,” she continued. “I know it was a true calling. So what I pour into those students is so much more than a music and theater appreciation. It is pouring into them, mentoring them and loving on them. And teaching them its more to living in this world. It’s about being a strong Christian, good conduct, good morals and making a difference in your own community. Wherever the Lord leads them, they will make a difference in other people’s lives from what they’ve learned.”
Cary said he was fortunate to learn on that same campus almost 30 years ago. In the past three decades he has taken those lessons and given back to Millington.
Cary set on the TRA Alumni Board for 6 years working to improve the school. He is Chairman of the Millington Education Foundation the past 6 years helping to raise nearly $100,000 for Millington Municipal Schools. He said it is a pleasure to work along side other dedicated individuals like Karla Hornsby, Mark Healy, Sam Cox, Chuck Hurt Jr., Beth Hearn, Leanna Dagen, Rebecca Fears, Carroll Warberg, Carole McCullough, Justin Inskeep and Randy Hart.
Cary graduated from Leadership Millington in 2008 and has been a part of its Steering Committee the last 10 years. A member of Rotary for 13 years, Cary served as the president in 2009. He was elected District Governor for the Rotary in 2015.
For 3 years Cary was the president of the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce and now he sets on the Chamber’s Board. He is also a current member of the Millington Family YMCA Board, an organization he has been a part of for 13 years.
“No man or woman does anything solo,” Cary said. “But there’s two hallmark events that standout in my mind as far as 2017. No. 1 is I chaired the Millington Family YMCA campaign last year. We were able to raise more than $100,000 in the Millington community. We were the top branch out of 10 branches around Memphis and the Mid-South.”
Cary said helping the Millington Y become the flagship of the organization in the area was a benchmark moment of 2017. Adding another $12,000 to the Millington Education Foundation’s to Millington schools last year was another big achievement.
Meanwhile Lalania was racking up awards through her Fine Arts Department. In charge of TRA’s sixth to 12th grade students, Lalania puts on three theater productions, two concerts and numerous performances throughout the area with her students.
In 2017 the middle school students put on Alice and Wonderland including fourth and fifth graders. Then this past holiday season, the high school students performed White Christmas.
“We had great performances,” she noted. “Hundreds of people came out to see it. Our next production this Spring is Guys and Dolls set for April 4-8.”
The students of Rosemark can be heard at the school’s annual Veteran’s Day program, the Millington Military Appreciation Breakfast and doing the National Anthem at Memphis International Raceway.
The students are the face of the program. Lalania said she is blessed to be the one instructing them, instilling skills in them and creating avenues for them to showcase their talents.
Even one of her former personal voice students Calvin Ellis is currently the Choir Director at Millington Central High School. But for a one moment in 2011 Lalania was the star on stage when she brought to life legendary Country Music singer Patsy Cline for Playhouse 51.
It was the first musical production for Playhouse 51 and heavily involved Cline’s estate. The Cline family selected Vaughn to deliver the performance after her overwhelming audition.
“It was a dream come true to play that,” she recalled. “It was a huge success. We had sellout performance to the point we had to add a couple of performances.”
Other honors received by Lalania over the years include being nominated by the Orpheum for Outstanding Music Director the last four years winning in 2016 for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
She has served at West Tennessee Vocal Educator Association as president over all of West Tennessee from 2014-16.
Lalania is currently on that Board of Directors and on the board for the State of Tennessee Music Education Association.
The TRA Fine Arts Department has racked up numerous awards from the Orpheum, All-West and in addition students Lexi Dillard and Mason O’Brien received a prestigious honor.
“The program has grown in 2017,” she said. “There was no Choir program when I came to Tipton-Rosemark Academy. The first year we had 20. then we went to 40. Now we’ve easily got more than 80 kids.
“We had two students selected from Tipton-Rosemark Academy for National Honor Choir,” Lalania added. “They were 2 out of the 6 for the state of Tennessee. And they were chosen from Tipton-Rosemark Academy. Little Tipton-Rosemark Academy in Millington, Tenn., representing the National Honor Choir.”
Now Lalania and the students are ready to achieve even more in 2018 including another trip to New York. In 2009 and 2013 TRA’s visits to the Big Apple resulted in championships.
“I want to stay the course,” Lalania said. “I want to keep moving forward, never looking back. Looking back can be good but you don’t want to stay living in the past. You want to look toward the future. I hope the program continues to grow.
“I’m praying that God will continue to bless the work Cary and me both are doing at home, in our community and church,” she continued. “The work that we have, I want to grow closer to God in 2018. I want to continue to be a person people look to and say she makes a difference in our community.”
Cary plans to make a difference in 2018 through his roles with the MEF and Chamber.
“This will be my first year to serve on that board. I want to pour myself more into the Chamber and into the local businesses in Millington,” he said. “One of the personal things I would like to do is be more instrumental in some way of attracting jobs to Millington and North Shelby County. And matching those jobs up with the viable, educated, local workforce.
“I believe with 385 and I believe with all the property we have up and down 385, if economic development is going to happen in Shelby County,” Cary added, “it’s going to happen in Millington.
Then when you talk about a viable, educated local workforce, to me it’s the military. Those young men and women who are retiring at 40 and 50. They’re staying here. Why can’t we connect the dots with some of those local retirees living here.”
Cary said the wise resources of the Navy will benefit Millington and the surrounding areas. Wisdom is something Cary seeks daily drawing from the words of General Jimmy Dolittle saying ‘Nothing is as strong as the heart of a volunteer.’
He combines those words with the lessons he learned from his father Ed.
“He was a Memphis fireman but he did all of his business in Millington,” Cary said. “He did business at Roland’s Tire Store. He did business at Carey’s Body Shop. He did business back in the day when it was Hodge’s Car Care. I’m going back when Navy Road was really thriving.
“I remember Daddy always patronizing Millington,” he concluded. “There were two things he shared with me. My father would stress to me that relationships are the key. The salt of the earth people in Millington are what makes Millington, Millington. It’s not the landscape. He would say Cary it’s all about the relationships you develop with people. It’s the people you serve with that make Millington, Millington.”
Ed taught his son by example and through a statement that has stuck with Cary.
“The second thing he told me, ‘When it comes your time son, learn to give back,’” Cary concluded. “He know I was a kid going to Rosemark Academy I would probably come back to that area. He said when it comes your time try to give back. And that’s what I try to do. At times I may even try to give back a little too much. But that’s why when Lalania and I graduated from Lambuth we moved back to Millington. We’re all about Millington.”
Lalania said being recognized as the Man and Woman of the Year is special to her family but the true honor goes Above.
“God is at the center of all of this,” she said. “We know it was God-ordained that he brought us together at Lambuth. And it was no accident when we moved to Millington. Cary always said he wanted to build a home and be in the community I grew up.
“So we build our lives there and never left,” Lalania concluded. “We try to stay and serve. And Jesus has to be at the center of everything. You’ve got to serve the people because Jesus served the people. I don’t want to waste a single moment. I don’t want to waste a day. I want to know I did something that honored God.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.