Last year, Kevin Styron and his Styron’s Lawn Service crew planted Adriatic jasmine on the hillsides surrounding the Lowndes County Soccer Complex.
As of last week, you could see and smell the sprouts of jasmine becoming more prevalent along the slopes Styron’s crew was tending, but you could also see plenty of fresh dirt. It won’t stay that way.
“We planted it because those hills kept washing out,” Styron said. “Eventually that jasmine will grow solid, and it will look good too.”
Styron has some experience with “growing solid” over time. The Hattiesburg native moved to Columbus in 1999 to complete substance abuse treatment at The Pines. He’s been sober ever since.
Nine years later he became a Christian. By 2012, he had started his own business. Today, he employs a 19-member crew when he’s at full capacity. More than two-thirds of his employees have recently completed residential treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse through Last House on the Block or Crossroads.
“People helped me,” Styron said. “People aren’t going to get over addiction without somebody helping them. … I think one of the best parts of running this business is being able to invest in other people.”
Styron didn’t really plan to make a career out of landscaping, though he certainly has the background. His father was full-time military but ran a landscaping/lawn service on the side for which Styron worked growing up.
After Styron completed treatment at The Pines, he decided to stay in the Golden Triangle to make his home, and he quickly landed a job with Smith Landscaping. Several years later, he began picking up side jobs on the weekend. Over time, he said he felt God moving him toward starting his own business.
He’s since landed contracts to maintain the First Baptist Church property on Bluecutt Road, Brickerton shopping center and Trinity Nursing Home. He also contracts with Lowndes County Recreation Authority to maintain the neighborhood parks and the areas at the soccer complex surrounding the fields (a different company mows the soccer fields).
“He does a great job for us,” LCRA director Roger Short said. “He’s probably the most meticulous and conscientious contractor I’ve ever dealt with. He’s got such a great testimony, as far as what he’s been through and what God has pulled him through. He’s a special person.”
Styron’s journey hasn’t come without challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Either through crew members being sick or his not being able to hire enough help, Styron went months understaffed. On top of that, treatment centers that sent people to programs like Last House on the Block shut down temporarily. It took until last month for Styron to get back up to full staff.
“We’re still not caught back up on the work,” he said.
One of his workers, though, has shown up reliably throughout. Styron’s father, now 73, moved to Brooksville after he retired and comes over to Lowndes County three days a week to help out.
“He’d work with me five days a week if I’d let him,” Styron said.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.